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Always By Your Side

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Ashlyn’s tongue subconsciously swiped across her bottom lip as she watched Ali’s olive skin glisten under the Punta Cana noon day sun. She had never really enjoyed just sitting out in the heat to bake, preferring to carve waves and become one with the ocean, but the blonde had to admit there was a definite payoff when the beach baking included her gorgeous wife...who was now shooting her that expectant look. What? Ashlyn’s brow furrowed a bit, she had been caught staring and had obviously missed something.

 

“...right, babe?” Ali repeated, her eyes conveying her expectation of a response.

 

“Uh...yeeeess?” Ashlyn drawled out, the end sounding more like a question than a definitive answer.

 

The blonde’s cheeks colored as an older couple laying out next to them laughed at her clueless response. 

 

“Doesn’t sound like you are convinced. Is that because you want more or less?” the man innocently inquired.

 

“Puppies?” Ashlyn blurted out, still lost on the subject of their conversation...damned if Ali’s sexy body wasn’t always getting her in trouble.

 

A fresh wave of laughter and Ali’s eyes narrowing let the keeper know her guess was about as far off as she could get. Ashlyn’s eyes darted back and forth, quickly surveyed the immediate expanse of sand around them for clues to what the conversation could have been about, but they were in the middle of a pretty indistinct group of sunbathers. No help there.  

 

“Seriously Ashlyn...puppies?! Why am I not surprised.” Ali threw her hands up exasperated and then shook her head, it was beyond obvious that her wife had checked out on their conversation with the couple several minutes ago.

 

“Yeah puppies.” Ashlyn repeated with more conviction, “I mean, it only makes sense. We are married now, and I’d like to get a cute Frenchie pup or two. We need fur babies. They will be adorable, and cuddly, and cute, and...and...and require us to learn new skills that will be helpful when dealing with our eventual children.”

 

Ali crossed her arms in front of her chest, “Skills like what?”

 

“Like learning how to clean up puke and poop without tossing cookies.” the blonde retorted, proud of herself for coming up with something plausible so quickly.

 

“You already have experience with that, remember when I got the flu, oh, and the time I got food poisoning from that bad shrimp cocktail. You may have heaved and choked the bile down, but you stayed in the bathroom and held my hair up for me.” Ali reminded her keeper, not buying her wife’s logic for a second.

 

“Oh yeah...and I even had to clean up after you when it was flowing out both ends at once.” Ashlyn recalled out loud, much to Ali’s horror.

 

“Ashlyn!” Ali blurted out, her flesh deep crimson behind her hands that she had buried face behind.

 

The older couple chuckled as they watched the blonde dig herself in deeper with her patient wife. This was better than a soap opera.

 

“Ok, but having puppies will also teach us how to potty train our kids.” Ashlyn continued, trying to give her wife something to focus on other than the image she just gave the old couple of Ali puking in the toilet while shitting herself.

 

Ali shook her head and gladly supplied the older couple with a new vision, “Only if we want them to poop on newspapers before learning how to pee on trees. Not sure our neighbors would approve of that one, Stud.”

 

The amused old couple laughed at the newlyweds ‘fight.’ Finally, the old lady reached out and patted Ali on the arm, “Congratulations and good luck, dear. It is quite apparent you have your hands full with this one.”

 

“Oh you have no idea.” Ali replied and nodded politely, the color in her cheeks finally starting to return to normal.

 

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, our Andrew had his hands full with Zachary. Such a free spirit! Of course, they were never allowed to get married before cancer took him. I’m so glad I lived to see the end of that ‘one man one woman’ sanctimonious bullcrap, please excuse my language. You two make a lovely couple, and don’t you ever believe anyone who tells you otherwise. I’d just work on her ‘hearing’ if I was you.” the old lady jerked a thumb in Ashlyn’s direction, sparing a wink for Ali. 

 

“Thank you. I do know how lucky I am...most of the time,” Ali paused and shot Ashlyn a pointed look as the couple laughed again, “and I will never take one day I get to spend as Ashlyn’s wife for granted, or forget the struggles of everyone who came before me and made that possible. We still have a long way to go, but god does being Mrs. Krieger-Harris feel damned good.”  

 

 The older couple turned over to give them privacy, and resumed their sunbathing while the brunette turned back towards Ashlyn. The blonde curled her lips into the most adorable smile she could muster and shot her wife her best puppy dog eyes...the ones that usually got her out of the dog house. Ali shook her head at the younger woman and rolled her eyes...puppies! 

 

“We really should get some puppies, Alex. Adorable little Frenchies. Just think how much fun they will be!” Ashlyn continued on her train of thought.

 

“We can’t right now, Stud. You know that. Hell, between the NWSL and National team we are barely home. Who would look after them while we are out chasing our dreams?” Ali reasoned.

 

“We have family...and Nikki. Besides, we could train them to be really really quiet and we could sneak them into our rooms inside our suitcases. The team would love them!” Ashlyn conspired with a twinkle in her eye.

 

“Absolutely not! Can you just picture Jill’s face if she came for a room check and a puppy piddled on her feet?!” Ali exclaimed in mock horror, “We would be off the team faster than you get naked when we are about to have sex.”

 

“Damn, that is pretty fast.” Ashlyn conceded momentarily, “But why would she? I mean, we have players that bring along their kids, why couldn’t we bring along ours?”

 

“Oh I don’t know, Ash, just taking a wild stab in the dark here...maybe because their kids are human?!” Ali sassed as she looked around her towel for her bottle of suntan oil.

 

“That’s discrimination! They can bring their human babies, but we can’t bring our fur babies? I think we should sue.” Ashlyn deadpanned.

 

“Oh sure, sue US Soccer Federation. Won’t win.” Ali replied, picking up the bottle of suntan oil laying on her towel and spreading some on her legs under Ashlyn’s appreciative gaze, “That’s the silliest idea you have come up with yet.”

 

“Come on Alex, two puppies. It’s not like I’m asking for the moon here.” Ashlyn softly begged.

 

“No.” Ali replied as she slowly spread the oil up her muscular thighs.

 

“Ok, one puppy.” Ashlyn bartered, trying in vain not to be obvious as her eyes wandered roguishly over Ali’s glistening flesh.

 

“No.” Ali replied again as she squirted some in her hand and spread the oil over her bare chest to where the small bikini covered her pert breasts, Ashlyn’s eyes following her every move.

 

“But…” Ashlyn started before Ali placed her forefinger against the keeper’s lips.

 

“It’s not happening, Stud. I’m sorry, I really am, but it isn’t the right time yet. Hell, we can’t even have real babies right now, but I promise as soon as we are staying home more, we will go out and get you two of the cutest Frenchies in the world.” Ali expressed with gentle finality.    

 

“Fine. But just for the record, it isn’t fair and it sucks, and sometimes I wish we didn’t always have to  sacrifice things we really want for football.” Ashlyn conceded as she took the bottle of suntan oil from her wife, motioning for her to lay down on her beach towel.

 

 Ali smiled and rolled over onto her stomach, “I know how you feel, babe, but it isn’t forever. We aren’t getting any younger and unfortunately our playing days are numbered. We have to play while we still can, and sometimes that means we have to make sacrifices...unless you are ready to hang up your boots.”

 

Ali squealed as Ashlyn playfully squirted suntan oil directly onto her back and mockingly challenged, “Who are you callin’ old, Princess?!” 

 

Before Ali could utter her reply, Ashlyn’s strong hands began to massage her back, the suntan oil allowing the blonde’s hands to glide across her flesh. The brunette’s eyes fluttered closed, her retort dying on her upturned lips. 

 

“Oh god that feels good, babe.” Ali mumbled appreciatively.

 

“You like that, huh.” Ashlyn replied, slowly sliding her hands down Ali’s back to just above her wife’s bikini bottoms before teasingly running her fingers along the edge of the bikini and then back up the brunette’s back.

 

“Mmm...yesssss.” Ali moaned, moving her head to give Ashlyn more access to her neck.

 

“Can I touch you here?” the blonde teased as her hands glided slowly down Ali’s long neck, across the defender’s ribs and slipped under the bikini top to the sides of the brunette’s small breasts.   

 

“Ooooh yesssss.” Ali quietly moaned, grateful that she was on her stomach as she felt her nipples tighten.

 

“Can I touch you here?” Ashlyn asked as she ran her hands down Ali’s back and over her bikini covered ass.

 

“Mmmm...yesssss.” the brunette moaned as she raised up slightly to meet the blonde’s large hands.

 

Ali’s breath hitched as Ashlyn’s hands continued down the backs of her powerful thighs, trailing her thumbs along the insides. When she reached the backs of Ali’s knees, Ashlyn changed direction and started up again...agonizingly slow...watching as her wife broke out in goosebumps. The blonde ghosted thumbs up the inside of Ali’s thighs...closer and closer to her center...the brunette biting her lower lip to keep from moaning loudly while her legs spread just the tiniest bit as an ache started deep within. 

 

“Can I have a puppy?” Ashlyn husked, her thumbs grazing across the damp fabric covering her wife’s core.

 

“Oh god yessss.” Ali moaned, a heartbeat later Ali’s eyes flew open as she realized what the blonde had just said, “Ashlyn Michelle Harris!”

 

“That’s Krieger-Harris, Princess...and you said yes!” Ashlyn declared with a smug smirk as she jumped up and made a mad dash for the ocean, a playfully indignant Ali chasing her.  

 

“That’s cheating! And don’t you be sullying my good German name!” the defender exclaimed as she caught up to her wife in the short surf.

 

“You said yes...you said yes…I get puppies...you said...” Ashlyn’s sing song voice taunted.

 

Ali launched a wave of water at the blonde’s face, effectively cutting off the keeper’s taunt as the water hit her mid-sentence. Ali giggled at the water dripping off her favorite human’s surprised face as Ashlyn sputtered. Suddenly a wall of water splashed the brunette’s face, and her left eyebrow arched. The situation quickly devolved into an all out water fight, each woman throwing as much water as fast and furiously at the other as she could, laughter ringing out over the waves. 

 

When they had tired themselves out with their ‘water war’ the newlyweds made their way out of the ocean. Ali searched the beach for their towels, not knowing exactly how far the currents had carried them. As her eyes scanned the beach, she recognized that same red-headed kid from a few days before. The brunette watched as the kid skipped through the sunbathers and reached down, scooping up a small blue gym bag next to the old couple they had been talking to earlier. Ali noticed they continued to lay face down, unaware of the theft.

 

“Alex?” Ashlyn uttered in surprise as Ali took off running. 

 

Determination etched on the brunette’s face as she sprinted through the sand, her finely tuned body able to change direction on a dime and avoid crashing into people as she tried to chase down the little thief. ‘Playing soccer would be great preparation for a career in law enforcement’ Ali thought as she juked right so she didn’t plow over a toddler who waddled into her path. A quick spin move prevented her from knocking over a woman chasing down a volleyball. 

 

Ali caught up to the kid halfway down the breezeway between the resort lobby and the first building of rooms. The kid yelped in surprise as the brunette reached out and grabbed the girl’s shoulder.

 

“Hey, where are you going with that bag?” Ali asked pointedly.

 

The girl looked up at Ali with big green eyes that narrowed into street hardened pools of jade...surely this pretty woman wasn’t one of them. She had been so careful. No matter what happened, she wasn’t going back!

 

“Get off me, bitch!” the youngster seethed.

 

The girl yanked her shoulder out of Ali’s hand with surprising strength. Ali’s eyes narrowed as well, and she reached out for the youngster’s arm, holding it with both hands this time. The red headed girl muttered to herself as she reached up with her free hand, and pulled the strap of her dirty tank top down off her shoulder, mussed her hair a bit, and then reached into her pocket. 

 

“Stop struggling! We are going back...” Ali stated in a tone that brokered no discussion.

 

The girl pulled a whistle from her pocket and started blowing for all she was worth, struggling against Ali’s tight grip. It wasn’t long before people started coming. The girl’s face suddenly softened, then changed again to a look of pure fear as she continued to blow the whistle and fight against Ali.

 

Ali looked up as angry voices got closer. She noticed people looking from her to the little thief and back to her...except that kid looked like a scared choir girl at the moment...uh oh. Ali retracted her hands from the girl like she had been burned and held them up at shoulder height.

 

“Para! Dejala!” a man yelled at Ali.

 

“It’s not what it looks like. She stole that bag! I was just trying to get it back to the old couple.” Ali tried to explain as the crowd pressed around them, talking in excited Spanish. 

 

God, why couldn’t she have taken Spanish at some point in school?! Ali watched helplessly as the girl smirked, stuck out her tongue, and ran off with the bag slung over one shoulder as the defender tried to explain that she wasn’t some disgusting Paedophile to a bunch of angry people who didn’t speak English. Ali went along with the mob who took her into the lobby, scared that they might try to hurt her if she didn’t. She was roughly shoved inside a security office, and the door locked behind her with a sliding bolt and padlock. It was a small windowless room with paint peeling off the walls that smelled like fear and sweat. A rickety desk with three chairs occupied the space. The brunette sank down onto the closest wooden chair to wait for an officer who spoke English to arrive. What a mess this had become! Ali chewed her lower lip. Who the hell was that kid?! 

 

Ali looked up when she heard the padlock being jiggled as a key worked through the sticking locking mechanism. A moment later she heard the slide being pulled back, the door swung open, and a resort security officer followed by a local policeman and one of the resort executives filed in. 

 

“Hello, I’m officer Perez. I’m told you are an American.” the policeman introduced himself in a heavy accented English.

 

Ali nodded her head, “That’s right. Look this is all just a huge misunderstanding.”

 

“That’s why I’m here. To take your statement. I have statements from several witnesses who say you attacked a child in the breezeway. What do you say?” Officer Perez asked as he took out a pen and pad of paper from his breast pocket. 

 

Ali fidgeted in her chair under the scrutiny of the men, “I was coming in from playing in the ocean when I noticed this red headed kid steal a gym bag from an elderly couple who were sunbathing and didn’t notice that she took it. I ran after her and caught up with her in the breezeway. When I grabbed her and told her that I saw her take the bag and she was going to come with me to give it back, she messed up her hair, pulled her shoulder out of her tank top, and used a whistle to make it look like I was attacking her. I don’t know Spanish so I couldn’t explain to everyone what was really going on.” 

 

“I see. And can you identify this ‘old couple’ so we can ask them if they have had anything stolen from them today?” Officer Perez inquired as he continued to furiously write out Ali’s statement.

 

“Of course!” Ali blurted, eager to get this misunderstanding fixed.

 

“Come, take me to this old couple then.” Officer Perez motioned for Ali to stand, “But don’t even think about trying to run from me.”  

 

Ali leads the men out of the security office, and sees Ashlyn standing next to the couple who are already talking with another police officer. She looks back at Officer Perez and points over to them.

 

“Actually, that’s them over there.” Ali supplies with a small smile.

 

The security guard puts a hand on Ali’s shoulder to remind her that she isn’t free to go while Officer Perez goes to speak with the elderly people across the lobby. When the officer starts speaking, Ashlyn’s head whips around as she searches the lobby. Their eyes meet as the blonde’s lips curl into a relieved smile, the dimple in her left cheek peeking out. Ali could tell her wife had been worried.

 

It doesn’t take long for the young officer to take the statement from the couple and return. He motions for the security guard to release Ali.

 

“It seems we have a young thief in our town. You are free to go with my apologies.” Officer Perez stated, his tone warm yet professional.

 

“I know you were all just doing your jobs, and I’m actually glad to see you take it this seriously. I’d hate to have real predators get away because nobody believed the child.” Ali replied honestly.

 

Ashlyn cautiously approached as the group of men dispersed from around Ali. She placed a gentle hand on the brunette’s shoulder.

 

“What happened? You ok?” Ashlyn asked, searching her wife’s eyes.

 

“I’m fine...now. Can we talk about it over lunch? I’m starved.” Ali suggested, wanting to get away from the resort for awhile. 

 

“What? Didn’t they feed you in the clink?” Ashlyn smirked and winked as they walked to the front entrance, “I thought you were supposed to get bread and water at least once a day.”

 

Ali playfully smacked Ashlyn’s shoulder, “Guess I missed that.”

 

Ashlyn held the door open for Ali, “Maybe I shouldn’t eat lunch with you. I mean, think of the damage hanging out with a hardened criminal like you would do to my sterling reputation.”

 

“Yeah, wouldn’t want that to happen. Perhaps you should sleep in another room too...I mean, you can’t be too careful and all.” Ali sassed back, and fell into step with Ashlyn as the blonde headed for the bus stop.

 

Ashlyn paused and tapped her chin in fake concentration, “I suppose I’ll chance it...for you.”

 

“Aren’t you just too sweet.” Ali deadpanned as they approached the bench at the bus stop. 

 

***

 

Ali pulled her legs up and crossed her ankles in front of her as she sat on the blanket Ashlyn had spread out for them, looking over at the gorgeous waterfall across the small clearing. She sighed and leaned her head against her keeper’s shoulder. Lunch had been good, and Ashlyn had been sweet about the whole incident, but it still had the brunette unsettled. She was happy that her keeper had suggested this little private outing after they ate. Nature and Ashlyn’s arms never failed to calm Ali. She took a deep breath and tried to push thoughts of that little red headed twerp out of her head. Thankfully the sound of the water rushing over the edge of the falls had a very soothing effect, and soon her thoughts turned elsewhere.   

 

“This is soooo beautiful, Ash.” Ali dreamily mumbled, breaking the silence.

 

“Not nearly as beautiful as you.” Ashlyn replied, pressing a tender kiss to her wife’s forehead.

 

“Mmm. You aren’t so bad yourself.” Ali stated as she lightly traced the intricate tattoos of her wife’s left arm.

 

“I know. It’s hard being this damned perfect.” Ashlyn deadpanned.

 

“And so modest too. I don’t know how you are gonna fit that fat head of yours through the door when we get back to the room. Too bad...I had plans for my wild monkey tonight.” Ali teased, ghosting her well trimmed fingernails up her wife’s muscular arm.

 

“Oh I’m sure we will think of something.” Ashlyn chuckled as she wrapped her right arm around Ali, allowing the brunette to cuddle further into her side as a companionable silence fell over them once again. 

 

Ali closed her eyes and slowly took in a deep breath, inhaling the clean peppery bergamot and sun kissed beach that was distinctly Ashlyn...the smell of home. Her lips curled into a serene smile. Nothing felt as good...as safe...as natural as having the blonde’s arms around her. Nobody had ever made her feel as loved...as cherished...as worshipped as her soulmate. Ali released a deep contented sigh. It was easy to picture their future. Championships. Gold Medals. House on the water. Kids…lots of kids…even cute little Frenchie pups. This woman at her side was going to be such a fabulous momma. 

 

“What’s on that beautiful mind of yours, Princess?” Ashlyn inquired.

 

“Mmm. Nothing really, maybe everything.” Ali mumbled in a reflective mood.

 

“I see. And would this ‘nothing really maybe everything’ include a certain gorgeous brunette princess with a swollen belly?” Ashlyn pressed, and Ali softly giggled...it was uncanny how the blonde read her like an open book at times. 

 

“Am I that obvious?” the brunette queried as she drew lazy circles on Ashlyn’s chest.

 

Ashlyn chuckled and tucked strands of Ali’s silky sable hair behind her ear, “Not at all, just a lucky guess.”

 

Ali cupped Ashlyn’s face and they locked gazes.

 

“I guess I feel so full I could burst because I can see it all. I mean...I see us winning all these gold medals, buying a house, having parties, and filling our home with lots of love from friends and family...I see us with kids, Ash...a house full of them. I see birthdays and holidays and so much love we don’t know what to do with it all. I see what a great momma you are, what a great wife you are...and it just makes me feel...whole...loved...and definitely lucky.” Ali finished in a near whisper of revelation.

 

Ashlyn blinked her watery eyes and swallowed down the huge lump in her throat that Ali’s sweet words had put there, and she leaned forward capturing the gorgeous brunette’s lips in a very emotion filled deep kiss. 

 

Ashlyn leaned her forehead against Ali’s when she finally broke the kiss and whispered, “Yes please.”

 

“Yes please what?” Ali whispered back, her eyes closing.

 

“I want it. All of it...with you.” Ashlyn replied, sliding her hand through wind blown dark locks and gently cupping the back of Ali’s head.

 

“Good. We should probably look at our options and pick out what we want so when the Olympics are over…” Ali allowed her thoughts to trail off, hoping that she and her wife were on the same page.

 

“We will be ready to make a baby. It’s Perfect, Alex, my love...just like you.” Ashlyn replied as they both smiled into a tender kiss.

 

***

 

Ali swatted Ashlyn’s hand away from her plate, “Get your own tostones, Stud!”

 

“I did. I already ate them all.” Ashlyn whined as she leveled her sad puppy dog eyes at her wife, “Besides, now that we are married, technically half of that is mine.”

 

“Oh I see. So where is my half of your food?” Ali inquired as she popped another delicious mashed and double fried plantain into her mouth, moaning a little just to rub it in, “Mmmm. Soooo goood.”

 

“You are evil, woman. Eeeeeeeevil.” Ashlyn jokingly huffed and crossed her arms across her chest. 

 

Ali giggled and popped another of the Dominican specialty into her mouth, savoring the flavor as the blonde’s bottom lip turned out into a pout. She was very happy that they had found this highly recommended side walk café 

 

“Here, big baby.” Ali tossed a couple tostones on her wife’s empty plate.

 

Ashlyn flashed Ali a dimple bearing grin as she triumphantly brought one of the plantain treats to her mouth and paused, “Aw, you are the best, Princess.”

 

“Hmph. The best evil woman you know, huh.” Ali winked while the blonde happily crunched her tostone.

 

“Mmmhm.” Ashlyn hummed with exuberance, allowing the tostone to sit on her tongue bathing her tastebuds in fried salty somewhat sweet goodness.

 

“Good thing you’re cute.” Ali commented as she looked out at the people hustling up and down the streets, and the tourists window shopping.

 

A flash of red across the street caught her eye and she gasped. It was that little red headed menace from the other day, ducking into one of the shops! 

 

“Ash, look!” Ali blurted out, pointing. 

 

Ashlyn turned around in her seat and her forehead scrunched in confusion, “Look at what, Alex?”

 

“C’mon, we gotta go!” Ali insisted as she got to her feet quickly, grabbing for Ashlyn’s hand.

 

“Hey, slow your roll, we still have to pay for our lunch.” Ashlyn replied and quickly added up the bill in her head, doubling it so she was certain there would be enough plus a generous tip. 

 

Ashlyn took three thousand Dominican pesos out of her wallet and slapped them down on the table before she allowed the determined brunette to pull her to her feet. The blonde reached back and snagged the last tostone off her plate as Ali tugged her forward and led her through the small sidewalk café to the entrance. Once they were back on the public side of the fence divided sidewalk, Ali attempted to make a beeline to the store on the other side of the street. Just as she was about to step off the curb, Ashlyn gruffly pulled her back. A couple of seconds later, cars zoomed past in both directions.

 

“Sorry baby, but the light had changed. I didn’t want you getting splatted. That would kinda ruin our whole honeymoon.” Ashlyn apologized for being so rough with her. 

 

“Always looking out for me.” Ali grinned as she allowed Ashlyn to steer her up the street to the light and the crosswalk.

 

Once the light changed, Ali and Ashlyn power walked across the street and hurried towards the store that Ali had seen the girl enter. The focused brunette hadn’t taken her eyes off the door. That girl was still in there and she was going to find out who the hell she was, and why her parents were letting her run around like a little street thug. Ashlyn noticed the sparkling jewelry in the huge front window display and did a double take as Ali reached for the door handle. The blonde grabbed Ali and pulled her back.

 

“Holy shit, Alex! Look!” Ashlyn exclaimed, pointing to a very familiar set of rings in the center of the display.

 

Ali’s eyes widened, and she let out an excited squeal. Their wedding rings were right in front of their eyes! 

 

***

 

“Here ya go, $500 pesos like I promised you.” the short man with the big round belly behind the wall to wall display cases of jewelry fanned the bills out as he spoke.

 

“Thanks.” the dirty red headed girl replied and quickly grabbed the money from his hand, stuffing the bills into her front pocket.

 

They both looked up at the sound of a woman squealing in joy. The girl’s eyes got big and she looked over at the hallway behind the counter.

 

“Hey, I’m just gonna use the back door, ok?” the girl nodded in that direction.

 

The shop owner gave her a knowing look and smiled, “Sure thing. I’ll keep them busy.”

 

Relief washed over her face and the girl took off as soon as the owner picked up the built in countertop gate, giving her access. As the red headed thief carefully closed the back door, she heard the unmistakable chime of someone entering the front of the store. She sighed and took off sprinting down the alley, navigating around the broken beer bottles, pot holes, and passed out homeless guys at break neck speed. As soon as she could, the girl rounded a corner to stay out of sight if anyone chasing her got to the alleyway, her heart pounding wildly in her chest. It had been quite a while since a tourist had managed to get that close to busting her.

 

***

 

Ashlyn held the door for her wife and followed her inside. They both looked around at the empty jewelry store, and Ali’s shoulders sagged. How? How had she disappeared? They had been so close!

 

“Hola! Hello! Please, come in. Welcome to my shop. What can I help you with?” the heavy set man behind the counter called out to them in a very friendly voice.  

 

“For starters, you can get our wedding rings out of your display here.” Ashlyn replied, trying to keep her voice neutral.

 

“Oh excellent choice. We have beautiful rings. Which ones are for your magical day?” the shop keeper replied, his voice sugary sweet.

 

Ali’s head snapped towards the man and her brow furrowed in anger, “We aren’t paying for our wedding rings twice, you…”

 

Ashlyn quickly covered Ali’s mouth to muffle the rest of her angry tirade. She received a death glare for her efforts, and the blonde felt a stab of guilt even though she was only protecting her wife from herself. She was pretty sure two police encounters in as many days would probably be frowned upon, and she certainly didn’t need the brunette starring in the next episode of ‘Locked up Abroad.’  

 

“What my wife means is that those are already our wedding rings. I had them made for us several months ago. If you look inside the band with the gorgeous pink princess cut diamond, you will notice it has been engraved with ‘ABKH defender of my heart.’ Our room was broken into a few days ago and these were stolen.” Ashlyn explains as Ali slowly calms down.   

 

The shop owner ran his fingers through the short brown hair that circled his head like a wreath, and scratched his neck, “Let me get my keys.”

 

Ashlyn turned to Ali when the man disappeared into the hallway behind the display case. Ali’s eyes had softened a bit, but her annoyance was still palpable. 

 

“I’m sorry, Alex, I just didn’t want the guy to call the cops on a couple of rowdy tourists. After yesterday I thought maybe it would be best if we laid low for awhile.” Ashlyn quietly confessed.

 

Ali blew out a breath and closed her eyes. Ashlyn probably had a good point if she were being honest, but damn…

 

“Fine...but we are gonna talk about this later.” Ali conceded as the corners of her mouth turned up into a very tight lipped half smile. 

 

They turned as the man came back into the room carrying a large specially made key. He flipped up the counter top gate and squeezed through, then waddled across to the front display. The shop owner slid the key into a slot in the wall and turned it. Once it was unlocked, he opened the back of the case and reached in, grabbing the rings the couple had described. After he inspected the band, the man shook his head sadly.

 

“I paid top dollar for these. That old guy told me he was in gambling debt and needed to pay it off or else, so I felt sorry for him. Happens a lot around here. Now I’m going to be out money and I’ve got five kids, a wife, and her mother to feed. Oh well…” the man lamented as he turned the rings over to the blonde.

 

Ali’s right hand covered her mouth and her eyes misted over with tears as Ashlyn carefully grasped her left hand, rings ready. The world shrank until it was just the two of them, the shop owner and window shoppers long forgotten. Tears fell unchecked onto Ali’s cheeks as her rings were slid on her slightly trembling left ring finger.

 

“With these rings, I choose you, Mrs. Alexandra Blaire Krieger-Harris...always.” Ashlyn stated, her loving voice strong with conviction before she brought Ali’s left hand up to her lips and reverently kissed her ring covered finger. 

 

Ali took Ashlyn’s ring and grasped her left hand, “With this ring, I choose you,  Ms. Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris...always.” 

 

Ali held her wife’s kind hazel eyes as she slowly slipped the ring on her left ring finger. Repeating Ashlyn’s actions, the brunette brought her wife’s left hand to her lips and placed an emotion filled kiss against the ring covered left finger. 

 

“You may now kiss your bride.” Ali pronounced around the lump in her throat. 

 

Ashlyn leaned forward as Ali pushed up on her tip toes, their lips meeting in the middle, their hands twined. The two reluctantly pulled apart as they heard an awkward throat clearing behind them, and leaned their foreheads together as their lips curled up into shy smiles. Ashlyn pressed one last kiss to Ali’s nose and then straightened. She turned and faced the shop owner, and pulled out her wallet. 

 

“Even though we have already proven that we are the rightful owners of these rings, here. I hope this helps soften the blow.” Ashlyn said, tugging ten one hundred US dollar bills out of it.

 

“Thank you. It will help.” the man replied, taking the money and smiling as he noticed he was going to be making a huge profit.

 

Ashlyn wrapped her large hand around Ali’s and they walked out of the store, hand in hand. As they made their way towards the bus stop at the corner the blonde noticed her wife’s mega watt smile directed at her.

 

“What?” Ashlyn inquired, feigning ignorance.

 

“You are amazing, Stud...and you are all mine. You know that guy was most likely full of bullshit, but you didn’t want to take the chance kids would go hungry if you didn’t give him something. I absolutely adore your huge tender heart.” Ali explained as she continued to look adoringly at her wife.

 

“Bah, I have no idea what you are talking about. I’m a big lean mean ball stopping machine...a brick wall. I have no heart.” Ashlyn playfully protested, “And don’t be spreading those lies around or you will ruin my badass reputation.”

 

Ali pulled the blonde to a stop and placed her left hand reverently over the center of Ashlyn’s chest, the sunlight casting multiple dancing prisms of pink over the keeper, “Don’t you worry, Ms. Krieger-Harris, your secret is safe with me. I’ll always be the defender of your big beautiful heart.” 

Chapter Text

The young thief made her way slowly across town. She thought about the pretty brunette woman who had nearly caught her. The woman was soooo pretty it nearly knocked the breath out of her, but she had tried to take her back. How could someone so normal be involved with...that place?! And who was the tall blonde she was always with? Why did the thought of them kissing make her feel so...the girl shook her head. It didn’t matter. They weren’t any different than the other people at the school. They were trying to hurt her...destroy her. The girl’s face hardened and she angrily swiped a tear from her cheek. No. She wasn’t going to cry about it...ever again. 

 

Once the red head was past the ‘tourist zone’ of shops and resorts, the houses quickly deteriorated. The girl dipped her head as she walked up steps made of red dirt, trying not to draw attention from the people who lived in shacks made from whatever material the residents could salvage among the garbage heaps piled twenty feet high that dotted the slums. Most of them were made from sheets of old rusted tin and rotting wood. She tried to breath shallowly to avoid the overwhelming stench of rotting food, disease, and open sewage that assaulted her nose, but it permeated her senses and made her gag. 

 

The girl stopped at the top and swallowed down the bile rising in her throat. She wasn’t going to give in to the urge to puke and waste the precious few calories she had consumed earlier. Once she had gotten control over her protesting stomach once again, the little thief started down the other side. It wasn’t far now. The red head subconsciously held her hand over her loose shirt, covering the area where her money belt hid beneath the fabric.

 

At the bottom of the slums, the houses started to gradually improve and the air wasn’t nearly as pungent. She smiled as she entered the neighborhood where her destination rose up at the end of the street...a ramshackle two story house with bars on the doors and windows, and the sun-faded orange paint peeling from its wood. She quickly slipped past two bloody teenage boys involved in a machete fight, a common sight where abject poverty gave the boys more incentive to protect their only asset...their reputation...from any slight, no matter how ridiculous or petty over their very lives. What good was being alive if you had the reputation of a coward? 

 

As she neared the house, she was stopped by a short, squat man with rotting teeth. He openly leered at her as he patted her down for weapons, making no attempt to hide his ulterior motives as his hands groped her budding breasts and rubbed excessively between her legs before she was spared by another of the men that guarded the gangster who owned the house and the surrounding neighborhood. 

 

The girl closed her eyes and took a second to shake off the fear that always accompanied her when she had to come here, then she followed the second guard inside. So far she hadn’t been robbed or raped by one of Saulo’s men, but she knew every time she came the odds were increasingly against her. 

 

She stopped by the door and waited for Saulo’s man to go inform him she was there to see him. She prayed he would see her without an appointment. She focused on the sole of her right shoe so she didn’t have to watch Saulo’s prostitutes hanging on the men in the room. She pushed the front of her shoe against the dirty tiled floor, the glue had failed around the toe and it was more like a flap now. She pictured her shoe as a hungry mouth, chewing her foot up, and smiled. 

 

“Come on, T, Saulo doesn’t have all day. If you want to see him you need to hustle.” the bodyguard’s voice boomed, startling the girl back to reality. 

 

The red head followed the bodyguard to a back den where Saulo sat on a well worn couch, a few lines of cocaine cut on the small coffee table in front of him. The small time gangster leaned over and placed a rolled up bill to his nose over one of the lines and snorted it up. He blinked a few times and then rubbed the side of his nostril. Saulo looked up and smiled at her, the gold on his two front teeth shining in the sunlight that poured in from the windows. He motioned for her to come in and she had to force her feet to move.

 

“Ah, Tallulah Jameson, it has been quite a while. To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit today?” Saulo asked, his heavily accented voice patronizingly sweet. 

 

The girl schooled her features before she answered him. She hated him using her name. She hated everything about the name...the way it sounded...the way people laughed at it...but mostly, that it reminded her of the people who had abandoned her on this God foresakened island. It would do her no good to make Saulo mad, however, and that was one thing she understood all too well.

 

“I want to go to Florida with your sea captain friend. I have all the money.” Tallulah replied. 

 

“How much do you have now?” Saulo inquired as he lazily sucked a bit of cocaine from beneath his fingernails. 

 

“One hundred thousand, just like you said last time.” Tallulah answered evenly, her strong voice covering the nerves that threatened to have her puke all over the gangster’s floor.

 

“Let’s see it then, girl.” Saulo ordered, his eyes narrowing at the young budding tween.

 

Tallulah sucked in a breath and lifted her shirt just enough to reveal her money belt. She unzipped it and grabbed the carefully stacked cash out, lifting it so the gangster could see.

 

“Don’t waste my time, Tallulah! That is a wad of pesos. My friends deal only in American dollars. One hundred thousand American dollars will get you to Florida, nothing less.” Saulo barked angrily, the cocaine flowing in his veins making his temper even worse.      

 

“But I don’t have American dollars! Maybe you could just ask him to do you a favor…” Tallulah’s eyes snapped shut as she realized too late what she had just blurted out.

 

“Ask for favors?!” Saulo boomed before breaking out into salacious laughter, “You don’t get it do you? So young. Let me tell you how you can earn that money really quickly. Listen up, Tallulah, and listen good. If you want to ever get off this island, you will be able to make enough money to pay the captain in only one way. I have rich men who travel here from all over the world. They will pay top American dollars to be the one who gets your virginity. It is the only thing of value you have, girl.”

 

The girl’s emerald eyes widened and she shook her head. No...no, no, no...NO! 

 

“I won’t do that. I won’t ever do that, Saulo! I will take more risks and steal more from tourists, but I will never do...that.” Tallulah spat out, shoving the wad of pesos back into her money belt.

 

“Suit yourself, but mark my words, Tallulah, one day you will come crawling back to me. Let’s just hope you have kept yourself pure and valuable.” Saulo dismissed her with smirk and wave of the hand.

 

Tallulah turned and ran through the house and out the front door. Saulo turned to his bodyguard and most trusted henchman.

 

“Want me to go get her? Tie her up? We could inject her with heroine. I’m sure the tourists will pay either way.” Juan asked.

 

“No. It needs to be her idea. She needs to come to us, to be a willing partner to get the best price. We can only sell her once for top dollar so make sure nobody touches her, and let’s turn up the heat. Call the headmaster at Escuela Caribe and tell them we have seen their little runaway.” Saulo replied, confident that the girl would come running back to him for protection, and a way out of this hell. 

 

Juan nodded and picked up the phone. He smiled as he rang the operator. Saulo was a brilliant man, and he was proud to work for him.

 

***

 

Adoration showed in Ashlyn’s eyes as she watched her wife’s expression change the closer the gorgeous brunette got to coming completely undone as Ali rode her tongue hard. A kaleidoscope of vivid colors danced across her flesh as the defender’s small breasts bounced with each desperate thrust of her hips, and the blonde reached up to cup one...pinching...rolling...pulling the already hardened nipple between calloused fingers and thumb. Ali gasped at the extra sensation and sucked her lower lip into her mouth, biting down hard to keep from screaming out her pleasure. A few more frantic hip thrusts and the brunette’s powerful thighs quaked as her ambrosia flooded Ashlyn’s mouth, rewarding the blonde’s efforts with the sweet musky essence that was pure Alexandra Blaire Krieger-Harris. Nobody tasted as good as her wife, and Ashlyn greedily consumed the gift that was given to her as the brunette rode out her intense orgasm.

 

Ali carefully peeked over the back of the pew that hid them from view from the alter below as her body continued to convulse in waves of pleasure before collapsing on the floor next to her keeper. She closed her eyes as Ashlyn gently used a wet wipe from her fanny pack to remove any ambrosia that had been missed by the blonde’s talented tongue. Ali quietly moaned into Ashlyn’s mouth as the blonde kissed her deeply, the brunette tasting herself on the keeper’s tongue. 

 

The defender smiled shyly and shook her head as she watched the colorful bits of reflected light dance over Ashlyn from the huge stained glass window depicting Mary holding baby Jesus on the wall above them. She tucked a strand of sweaty blonde silk behind Ashlyn’s ear.

 

“Well, that’s it. We are sooooo going to hell now. How did I let you talk me into a quickie in the balcony, anyway?” Ali quietly mused, not wanting to draw attention from their abandoned tour group below. 

 

“Well you see, it all started in the back of the bus when I dragged my fingers…” Ashlyn started and was cut off by a playful hand over her mouth. 

 

“Ashlyn Michelle Harris…” Ali whisper yelled and Ashlyn pinned her with a hard look before the brunette amended, “Fine. Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris, if you finish that sentence I’m not going to be able to look at our tour guide ever again, and we will have to walk back to Punta Cana. So zip it.”

 

Ashlyn waggled her eyebrows at Ali, and smirked roguishly against the palm of the brunette’s hand. 

 

Ashlyn gently removed Ali’s hand from her mouth and stated cockily, “You can’t deny that you loved every second of it. Remember, you were the thongless one humping my face like your life depended on it, Mrs. Freaky Pants.”

 

Ali buried her crimson face in her hands, “Oh my god, Kyle was right. You are such a bad influence on me. In baby Jesus’ house no less.”

 

“A bad influence on you maybe, but definitely damned good at giving you orgasms.” Ashlyn retorted as she made a big show of licking her lips clean.  

 

“Oh geez, we better leave before that head of yours swells so much you can’t squeeze it out the door.” Ali deadpanned as Ashlyn helped straighten her dress and tuck her small breasts back inside the colorful fabric prison, “Now how are we getting out of here?”

 

“We gotta crawl for it, Princess. After you.” Ashlyn replied, motioning towards the doorway to the empty stairwell. 

 

Ali pushed herself up onto all fours and started making her way to the stairwell, the wooden pews hiding them from the people milling about below. Ashlyn followed behind, enjoying the extra sway the brunette was putting into her hips as the brunette crawled in front of her.

 

Ali smiled and whisper yelled, “And stop staring at my ass!”

 

“If you don’t want me to look at it, stop wiggling it in front of my face. You know dat ass is my kryptonite woman!” Ashlyn whisper yelled back.  

 

Ali smiled smugly. She knew indeed, and loved the affect her muscular ass had on her Stud, though she would never admit it...especially not in church. The defender bit her lip in a vain attempt to suppress the devilish smirk her lips wanted to curl into. Oh god, her mother would kill her if she ever found out about this escapade! Kyle would be so proud.  

 

Once they were in the stairwell, Ashlyn helped Ali to her feet, and kissed her tenderly. The brunette used her thumb to wipe some of her lipstick off of the blonde’s slightly swollen lips.

 

“I love you so much, Ashlyn.” Ali said quietly as she paused at the top of the stairs.

 

“Even when I’m convincing you to do naughty things?” Ashlyn challenged with a wink.

 

“Ugh. Yes, even when you convince me to jump into your hand basket.” Ali confirmed with a sassy flip of her long sable hair.

 

“My hand basket?” Ashlyn asked, clearly at a loss to the reference.

 

“Yep. The one we are going to hell in.” Ali replied, playfully patting Ashlyn’s face.

 

“Oh that one. Well, there is nobody I’d rather go to hell with than you, Princess. And I’ll fight all the demons in there to get you a glass of ice water. That’s how much I love you.” Ashlyn responded as she took Ali’s hand and started down the stairs.

 

“You know, I think you really would, Ash.” Ali mumbled under her breath as she followed the blonde.

 

At the bottom of the stairs there were two doors. Ashlyn pushed open the door to the outside and pulled Ali behind her. The brunette gasped as she looked up and saw the red-headed menace plucking a wallet from the back pocket of an elderly man waiting to board their tour bus. She wasn’t getting away this time!

 

“Alex!” Ashlyn called out in surprise when Ali sprinted past her towards the bus. 

 

Ali pointed ahead of her to the thief and Ashlyn rolled her eyes. Good god, that kid was gonna be the death of her wife. The blonde started running after the two, knowing there was no way in hell she would be able to keep up with Ali. Her only hope was the kid wasn’t a fast runner. 

 

Tallulah suddenly felt eyes on her and she looked around. Holy shit! It was that beautiful crazy woman from Punta Cana...and boy could she haul ass! The girl took off and looked back, glad that the tour group had mostly gathered around the bus. It gave her a few seconds to make it to the alley and hopefully disappear before crazy could see her. She only had to get on the bus going north out of town before the tourist caught up to her. 

 

Ali kept her eyes on the little thief, not willing to lose her a second time. Unfortunately, an elderly woman suddenly changed direction and pushed her walker in front of the brunette. Unable to avoid the walker, Ali collided with it and went crashing to the ground. By the time she regained her feet, the defender just barely noticed the red head ducking into an alley across the way.     

 

Ali popped back up to her feet and handed the woman back her walker before she took off again. She would make sure the cops came and got that little menace this time!

 

Tallulah smiled as she lifted her leg to climb the steps onto the bus. She had made it! Just then, she felt a tug on the back of her shirt and she was pulled backward. The girl spun around to face her captor.

 

Tallulah’s eyes narrowed as she looked up at the pretty brunette who had a fist full of her shirt. The red head’s face scrunched up in irritation and she pulled her right foot back as far as it would go before she unleashed a powerful kick to the crazy woman’s shin. Her face fell as the brunette smirked down at her, seemingly unfazed.

 

“I play pro soccer, kid. I get kicked in the shin harder than that fifty times a practice. Nice try though. You are coming with me this time.” Ali stated unamused.

 

Tallulah looked up as she heard brakes screeching in the next block up. Her eyes widened in fear. NO! How had they found her?! The school bus emblazoned with ‘Escuela Caribe’ stopped, and the doors opened. She had to get out of here now! 

 

Ashlyn sucked in a painful breath as she neared Ali. Her wife had a good grip on the kid’s shirt. Just then Ali’s scream pierced the air as Tallulah reached up and grabbed a hold of the defender’s right nipple in a vise like grip, cruelly twisting it until the brunette released her hold on the kid’s shirt. Ali bent over in surprised pain just long enough for the red head to jump onto the bus. The bus’ doors shut, and it pulled away from the curb as Ashlyn finally reached her wife. They watched helplessly as the little thief ducked down into one of the seats, disappearing from view.

 

“We need to work on your cardio, Stud.” the brunette stated the obvious as she caught her breath. 

 

“Poor Betty.” Ashlyn cooed as she reached for Ali’s abused breast.

 

“Don’t touch it!” Ali blurted out, still in pain before she picked her head up and looked at the blonde, “Wait, did you just call my breast, Betty?”

 

“Yeah. So?” Ashlyn shrugged.

 

“So you named my breasts?” Ali wanted to clarify.

 

“Well, yeah. The right one is Betty and the left one is Cindy Lou.” the blonde admitted, her right hand rubbing the back of her neck.

 

“You are a weirdo, Stud.” the defender shook her head.

 

Ali finally stood upright as the pain subsided and she looked back at their tour bus pulling away from the curb without them. Ashlyn reached for the brunette’s hand and twined their fingers. 

 

“Awful nice day for a stroll, don’t you think?” the blonde commented.

 

“Good thing, huh. I can’t believe I got us stranded here, and still didn’t catch that little…” Ali started before Ashlyn cut off the rest of her sentence with a tender kiss.

 

“It’s all good, Alex. It’s a beautiful day, I have a beautiful wife, and nothing is better than spending time with her...no matter what we are doing. Come on, I think I saw a taxi stand over by the church.” Ashlyn said, nodding in the direction from where they had just come.  

 

They fell into step with each other along with a companionable silence as they walked through the square towards the church. Ali smiled thinking about how sweet Ashlyn had been about the whole thing. Suddenly her smile fell. She pulled her hand from Ashlyn’s and folded her arms across her chest.

 

“Did you say you named my left breast Cindy Lou...as in Cindy Lou Who the smallest Who in Whoville?!” Ali broke the silence as she caught on to the blonde’s inside joke.

 

“Um…” Ashlyn tried to rack her brain for something that would save her from her impending stay in the doghouse but came up empty, “Well, yeah...but I didn’t mean anything by it. I always thought Cindy Lou was the cutest Who in all of Whoville.” 

 

Ali’s shoulders relaxed, she dropped her arms and shook her head as she reached for the blonde’s hand, “Ok, that was pretty smooth, Stud. Let’s go back to the room. Betty isn’t feeling well, but Cindy Lou says she could use some attention.”

  

“Man, that cute little Who is insatiable!” Ashlyn teased, picking up the pace just a bit.

 

“Watch it! You keep that up and the Grinch may make an appearance.” Ali sassed.

 

“Well he can’t, it’s not even close to Christmas. There are Grinch rules, woman. They can’t be broken!” Ashlyn smirked as the couple reached the taxi stand.

 

Ashlyn pulled the door to the taxi open and held her hand out to help Ali inside. The brunette spared a small smile for her wife as she took the blonde’s hand and sank into the seat. Ashlyn slid in beside her and gave the driver the name of their resort in Punta Cana as she wrapped her inked arm around the beautiful defender. Ali nuzzled into Ashlyn’s side and sighed. 

 

“So Ms. Krieger-Harris, what do you want to do tomorrow?” Ali inquired as the taxi pulled away from the church.

 

“I hear there is a sacred waterfall somewhere in the jungle north of here. Maybe we could go defile it.” Ashlyn replied, kissing Ali’s temple.

 

“Mmm, you really are determined to get us sent to hell.” Ali replied, snuggling in closer and draping an arm across Ashlyn’s tight abs, loving the thought of an adventure in the jungle with her wife, “Count me in.”

 

***  

 

Chapter Text

Tallulah’s stomach growled again. It had been a bad night; a strong thunderstorm had blown over the island nation and she had lost her fishing equipment along with any fish that had been on the line. She stayed off the main roads and made her way to the back door of the kitchen at the Eden Roc resort’s restaurant in Punta Cana. After seeing the bus from Escuela Caribe pull up at the same time that pretty brunette lady from Punta Cana caught her confirmed her suspicions...the crazy woman was trying to send her back! She was going to have to lay low for a few days until they gave up again.  The little red head opened the back door and meowed into the cavernous galley. She quietly closed the screen door and waited patiently. 

 

Tallulah jumped as the door next to her swung open. She looked up and saw her friend, Hasiel standing there. He was one of the dishwashers and when they had bumped into each other at the trash dumpster where she had been scavenging for food, they had become fast friends. 

 

“Fish not biting today, mi little Ally Cat?” Hasiel inquired as he held out a bag to the girl. 

 

“My pole got washed away in the storms last night.” Tallulah explained quickly as she took the hefty bag from Hasiel, looking inside and grinning, “Wow. There must be at least five fish heads and guts in there! Thanks!”

 

“Don’t know if they were cleaned or not, so make sure you clean them good, and double-check that the gallbladders were removed. Those are so bitter!” Hasiel reminded his little friend as he looked over his shoulder for anyone who could catch him giving away the meat, even though it was destined for the trash bin.

 

“Thank you again, mi pana. I know you risk your job doing this for me.” Tallulah thanked the older boy, crimson rising in his cheeks.

 

“Well, I can’t let you starve. Mi mama.” Hasiel dismissed her with a shrug and friendly wave, turning back into the kitchen.

  

Tallulah grinned, it was going to be a good day after all. 

 

***

 

Ali punched the accelerator and smiled at the throaty roar of her quad runner as she zoomed past Ashlyn and cut back in front of her wife, hitting the large puddle first, her big back tires spinning up a huge wave of mud that splattered over the blonde. The brunette looked over her shoulder and nearly crashed into a small palm tree as she dissolved into a fit of uncontrolled laughter. The defender’s quick reflexes allowed her to swerve and avoid the hazard. She slowed to a stop and bent over the handlebars laughing. Ashlyn pulled up alongside Ali, and bit the inside of her mouth to keep from grinning as she pulled her goggles up and left them on the top of her helmet. The blonde tried to look intimidating as she feigned indignant. 

 

“Something funny over there, Judas?” Ashlyn inquired, as she raked her long fingers up her torso and flung the muck she collected from her shirt in Ali’s direction. 

 

Ali squealed as big globs of the sticky gunk flew in her direction. She turned her head and put her hands up trying to block the red sludge from getting a direct hit. While the brunette’s head was turned, Ashlyn hopped off her quad runner and took a few steps towards her wife. Ali’s head whipped back around as she felt the blonde’s arms suddenly hugging her tight, and her protest was cut off by Ashlyn crashing their lips together. Ali worked an arm free and slid her hand over an inked shoulder, up her wife’s neck to the blonde’s mud caked face, cupping Ashlyn’s angular jaw and pulling her closer as they both laughed into the kiss. Finally Ashlyn stepped back and broke the kiss, placing a dab of red muck on the tip of Ali’s nose with a wink.

 

“Couldn’t wait to get your dirty hands all over me, could ya, Stud.” Ali giggled, patting the blonde’s face.

 

“Well see, technically half of this mud is yours now, so I wanted to be sure you got your share.” Ashlyn teased, “I’m not a hold out like some people around here.”

 

“Hey, all bets are off when it comes to tostones.  ” Ali replied with sass.

 

Before Ashlyn could protest further, Ali gunned the accelerator and sped off, splattering the blonde with another tidal wave of mud. Ashlyn raked the mud from her face, placed her goggles over her eyes, and jumped back onto her quad runner. The keeper took off after her wife in a huge spray of mud as her tires spun through the muck, both of them laughing as the chase was on.

 

***  

 

Ali finished wringing out their clothes and hung them over a low branch by the beautiful waterfall and shallow pool they had rinsed the mud out in. The five foot waterfall had helped beat the mud out of the fabric against the rocks. Satisfied that the hot sun overhead would dry their clothes while they enjoyed a swim, the defender jumped back into the cool water and swam over to the blonde. She snaked her arms around her keeper’s shoulders and wrapped her legs around her wife’s waist. Ashlyn’s flesh erupted in goosebumps from the feel of Ali’s naked body against her own. The brunette smiled as she watched Ashlyn’s eyes close and the blonde’s head tilt back as her wife enjoyed the sensation of their warm bodies pressed against each other amid the cool water that engulfed them up to their shoulders. 

 

“Mmm, you feel so good, Princess.” Ashlyn sighed as her strong arms tightened around the brunette’s waist, pulling her gorgeous wife even closer.

 

Ali slowly bent forward and captured Ashlyn’s lips in a languid kiss. A low moan escaped the blonde’s throat as petal soft lips moved against her own, tongues dancing together to the rhythm of their hearts beating as one. Ashlyn shivered as she felt Ali’s satiny core start to grind against her taut abs, the well trimmed patch of dark curls causing a fresh wave of goosebumps as their passionate kiss ignited a fire deep within each of them. Ali’s hands made quick work of her wife’s loose bun and she shook out her favorite blonde mane before burying her fists in the long silky locks. 

 

Ali gazed deeply into the adoring hazel eyes that reflected back her love...her desire…her hunger, and the brunette felt her emotions thick in her throat. Ashlyn lifted Ali higher as she nipped her way down the defender’s luscious neck, stopping to gently suck at her pulse point before reaching her destination. The blonde nibbled on a hardening pink nipple then sucked it into her mouth, loving the way it tightened to a taut pebble on her tongue. She felt Ali’s grip in her hair pulling her closer as the brunette’s need grew. Ashlyn placed hot open mouthed kisses between Ali’s breasts and worked her way back and forth, lavishing attention on both. 

 

“Please Ash…” Ali managed to moan as the friction from the blonde’s abs were no longer enough.

 

Ashlyn slid her hands down and filled them with the brunette’s ass cheeks. She carefully slipped two fingers of her right hand inside Ali’s satin temple as far as they would go from that angle, and slowly pumped them in and out. 

 

“God yeeeesss…” Ali moaned loudly as her eyes screwed shut.

 

Ashlyn’s heart felt as if it were about to burst. Nothing in this world was as beautiful as Alexandra Blaire Krieger-Harris in the throes of passion...passion for life…passion for the game...but especially passion for her. The blonde would never take that passion for granted, and her eyes misted at the thought of how she was the only one that would be given this gift...this wonderful woman’s love...this perfect treasure that was her soulmate. 

 

With each stroke of her long fingers, Ashlyn tattoo’d her love across Ali’s most intimate flesh. With each heartbeat the blonde took her wife closer to the edge. Ali leaned down and desperately mashed their lips together in a searing kiss as she rode her keeper’s fingers hard. She was close...so close. 

Nobody had ever made her feel so beautiful...so wanted...so completely cherished as Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris. With that thought, Ali came completely undone in the arms of her soulmate, her name tumbling from the brunette’s mouth. 

 

***

 

Ali closed her eyes and sighed as she snuggled further into Ashlyn’s side. The heat of the sun on her drying skin felt nearly as good as her keeper’s arms wrapped around her. 

 

“I love it here. So peaceful. Can we just stay forever?” Ali mumbled.

 

“And miss the Olympics? Are you high?!” Ashlyn teased with a smirk.

 

Ali playfully swatted the blonde’s shoulder, “Are you saying that you’d rather play in the Olympics than stay here with me in your arms?!”

 

“Not at all. I’m saying that you would never be satisfied missing the Olympics to stay here in my arms...and I wouldn’t allow you to make such a sacrifice because I love you too much, my Queen.” Ashlyn back tracked.

 

“Mmm. Nice save, Stud.” Ali grinned and kissed the deep crevice in her wife’s cheek before settling back into the blonde’s arms.

 

“So what do you want to do with the rest of the afternoon?” Ashlyn asked as she pressed a kiss to Ali’s temple.

 

“I saw a trail on the other side of the waterfall. I’d love to go for a hike and see what’s over there.” Ali replied, noting with satisfaction that wasn’t the answer the blonde had been expecting, “We need to work on your cardio, remember?”

 

Ashlyn clutched her chest and screwed her eyes shut dramatically, “Oooh, you wound me, woman!”

 

Ashlyn opened one eye and looked at her wife to gauge how well her playful guilt trip worked.

 

“Well maybe if we find another waterfall…” Ali replied, raising an eyebrow suggestively.

 

Ashlyn’s other eye popped open and she pushed Ali off of her chest as she sat up suddenly, then quickly made her way to her feet as the brunette fell back onto the blanket the keeper had laid out for them.

 

“Why didn’t you lead with that?! C’mon, let’s go explore!” the blonde loudly enthused as she quickly closed the distance to the branch that held their now dry clothes.

 

Ali giggled and shook her head. She may have just set a record at how quickly she was able to get the blonde to agree to do anything cardio related.

 

***

 

“Mmm. Do you smell that?” Ashlyn asked as her stomach growled loudly.

 

Ali leaned her head back and sniffed the air. She smiled as she got a nose full of the aroma of fish cooking over a campfire wafting on the breeze.

 

“Damn, that does smell good.” the defender replied, “We should probably find a spot to sit and eat our trail rations.”

 

“Oooorrr we could go be cute and charm our way into some of whatever smells so good.” Ashlyn offered an alternative with a smirk.

 

“Oh honey, I’m not sure you are that charming.” Ali teased, patronizingly patting her wife’s face.

 

“Good thing you are pretty damned cute then.” Ashlyn replied with a wink, setting off along the trail again towards the delicious scent.

 

Once they rounded a bend in the river, the path opened up to a small clearing. A tent fashioned out of a couple of worn tarps and a rope hung between two trees. A downed tree trunk had been dragged over by a fire ring made of river stones, and a large well worn iron pot with a lid sat on top of a healthy sized fire in the center. The breeze picked up the delicious aroma and carried it over to the two women who looked around. 

 

“Hello?” Ashlyn called out, getting nothing but the sounds of the river rushing past as an answer.

 

The blonde turned towards Ali and shrugged, “Doesn’t seem to be anyone home.”

 

Ali poked her head inside the ‘tent.’ A small pallet of palm fronds and tree moss provided a bed, and it looked like whoever slept there used a ratty towel as a blanket. There was a stack of newspapers next to the pillow that had an old white pillowcase with ‘Paradisus’ embroidered on it that time had stained yellow. A small stand constructed from strands of palm frond weaved around deadfall wood was at the bottom of the ‘bed’ and held a single clean plate and cup, both stamped with ‘Excellence El Carmen.’ 

 

Intrigued, Ali crawled all the way inside and noticed that the cup held a fork and spoon that had been fashioned from an old coke can crudely hammered out and reshaped. A hand made friction bow was laying next to the stack of papers with an old butane lighter peeking out between the top folds. The brunette shook her head, it was like she had stepped into the pages of Robinson Crusoe or something. Ali made her way to the back of the ‘tent’ and crawled out. Hanging over the rope leading away from the ‘tent’ was a small, very familiar looking, wet tank top. Ali’s dark eyes narrowed as her brow furrowed. Surely not. The loud clanging of metal against metal brought the brunette out of her thoughts, and her head snapped in the direction of the commotion.

 

“Hey! Stop it!” Ashlyn yelled as she swung the huge pot lid up to protect herself from another vicious machete blow.

 

“I’m not going back!” Tallulah screamed as she swung the machete wildly towards the blonde again, and the trees around them cleared of birds from the booming clank.

 

“Kid, I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but I don’t want to do anything but maybe try a bite of this yummy smelling food ya got in the pot here.” Ashlyn tried to get the girl to drop her deadly weapon.

 

Ali came around the tent just in time to see Ashlyn block a series of machete blows by the young thief. Her face contorted in rage, the defender didn’t even think before she marched towards the two combatants, hands on hips.

 

Enough! That’s enough! Now drop it!” Ali screamed with more force than she had ever used before, her face beet red with a large vein popping out between her eyebrows that split into two further up her forehead, giving her the appearance of having suddenly grown a pair of vein-horns.

 

Tallulah and Ashlyn jumped, their hands automatically releasing their grip. Both the machete and pot lid fell to the ground as they looked over at the enraged brunette in stunned silence. Ali leveled an exasperated glare at Ashlyn and rolled her eyes.

 

“Not you.” Ali clarified.
     

“That’s ok. You’re kinda scary right now.” Ashlyn replied with her empty hands up in supplication, noticing the small nod of agreement from the wide eyed girl next to her.

 

Ashlyn side eyed the kid, and saw the twitch in her muscles from adrenaline dumping into her system...the girl was about to run. 

 

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Ashlyn confided, “Ali is really fast, and just look at her. I mean, I’m not entirely certain she isn’t possessed by a demon at the moment, and I’ve known her for a long time.”

 

Ali’s nostrils flared and her eyes narrowed at the blonde as she jerked her head towards the little thief. Ashlyn sheepishly put a hand on the girl’s shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze before the kid shrugged her off. 

 

Tallulah didn’t trust these two women as far as she could throw them, but right now she knew she couldn’t out run the pretty dark haired one. It would be best to play along until they slipped up and she found a way to escape.

 

“Ok, so first things first, what’s your name?” Ali inquired, her voice coming out harder than she had intended.

 

“Nunya.” Tallulah sassed, her arms crossed tightly in front of her chest.

 

Ali blew out an exasperated breath and Ashlyn bit the inside of her mouth to keep from chuckling. The blonde could already see the war of wills between her wife and the little red head. God help them. 

 

“Is that the best you can do? It’s not very original.” Ashlyn commented, trying to break the ice between them, “Look, I’m Ashlyn and that pretty lady is Ali.”

 

Tallulah shifted her hard gaze to the blonde, but was shocked at the kindness she saw housed in the hazel eyes looking down at her. Hell, she had tried to hack the tall woman to pieces with a machete and the blonde didn’t look like she wanted to do anything bad back to her. Was this some sort of trick they taught them at Escuela Caribe?  

  

“Alright ‘Nunya’ is this your campsite?” Ali tried again, her voice remaining even.

 

Tallulah shrugged. She wasn’t going to give these Escuela Caribe bitches anything to use against her.

 

Ali closed her eyes and tried to calm her spiked blood pressure. This kid was beyond infuriating.

 

“Ok, where are your parents? Do they stay here with you?” Ali asked, her voice finally thawing a bit.

 

Tallulah’s eyes narrowed at the brunette, and she pulled her shoulder away from the blonde’s large hand...she was done playing thier game, “Oh, like you don’t know my mom dumped me here for that dumb ass school you guys teach at. Stop acting like you don’t know! I don’t care what you say, I’m never going back! I’ll...I’ll kill myself first!”

 

Ashlyn kicked the machete out of the girl’s reach as she lunged for it, “Whoa, there! Slow your roll, kiddo. We really don’t have any idea who you are, and certainly don’t teach at any school. We are professional football players.”

 

“Women don’t play football. Stop treating me like I’m stupid!” Tallulah shot back, looking defiantly up at the blonde.

 

“No, seriously, we do play. In fact, we are going to be playing in the Olympics this coming summer.” Ashlyn replied, flashing the girl a dimpled grin. 

 

“Everybody knows football isn’t an Olympic sport. Stop lying to me! I fucking hate liars. My mother is a liar.” Tallulah spat out, shoving Ashlyn hard, hoping to get some separation to make a break for it, but the blonde was too strong.

 

“Oh, I mean...soccer. We play women’s pro soccer, and for the US National Team. You must be from the United States, most other countries call it ‘football.’ Sorry for the misunderstanding.” Ashlyn explained, noticing the girl gauging whether or not to believe her.

 

Ali slowly closed the distance to the girl and looked down at her. The girl was so wounded, she was trying to use anger to shut out the world. Why would her mother have abandoned her here? What was this school?

 

“So you ran away from this Escargo Caribna? Why?” Ali asked gently.

 

Tallulah looked up and her breath hitched. That lady was so pretty she couldn’t breathe, and her soft voice was soothing. She really, really wanted to trust someone...well...she really, really wanted the beautiful woman to not be one of them. The red head took a deep breath. If they were with Escruela Caribe she would simply off herself at the first chance she got. It would be much better than going back to that hell hole.

      

“You wanna know why...because they make me feel like I am better off dead, ok?! I’m a fucking abomination and no matter how hard I pray, no matter how many beatings I take, or how many times they show me the good touch, my Brain. Is. Still. Broken!” Tallulah blurted out, punctuating her last sentence by hitting herself in the head with each word.

 

Ali’s chest tightened. She knew that feeling. It hadn’t even been two years since she felt like something was terribly wrong with her because of her attraction to Ashlyn. 

 

Ali squatted down so she was eye level with the red head, “Honey, why do you feel like your brain is broken?”  

 

“Because...I...I...I have ‘unnatural thoughts’ about other girls! My mom won’t let me come home until I’m fixed. But I can’t stop them.” Tallulah finally admitted it out loud, tears streaming down her face.

 

Ali’s heart broke for the little girl, and one glance at Ashlyn let her know they were on the same page. The brunette reached out for the red head, but she pulled back, still not trusting.

 

“Don’t touch me!” Tallulah screamed as she swiped the snot running from her nose on the back of her right hand.

 

“Oh honey, I know how you feel…” Ali started, her voice tender and full of emotion.

 

Tallulah’s eyes narrowed as she interrupted the brunette, “You don’t know how I feel. You don’t know what it’s like to have people tell you that you are broken and that God hates you...that you are going to burn in hell if you don’t stop choosing to disobey Him.”

 

Ali shook her head sadly. She gazed deeply into the girl’s eyes and tried to convey her sincerity.

 

“You’re wrong. I do know. I know because I fell in love with this gorgeous woman right here, and my dad didn’t handle it too well at first, but then he gave me away at my wedding when I married her.” Ali confided as she pointed at Ashlyn.

 

“What? You...you did? How? Two women can’t get married.” Tallulah tried to wrap her head around Ali’s confession, “Are you lying to me?!”

 

Ali stood up and closed the distance to her wife. She felt the girl staring at them as she snaked her arms around Ashlyn’s neck and claimed her keeper’s lips in a passionately possessive kiss...one that could never be mistaken as a kiss between friends. Ali and Ashlyn heard the gasp that left the girl as their tongues danced inside the defender’s mouth with the blonde’s arms securely wrapped around the brunette’s waist, pulling her body closer as the kiss deepened even further. They were both breathless as Ali finally stepped back, breaking the kiss. 

 

The brunette turned around in Ashlyn’s arms and noticed the look of awe on the girl’s face. 

 

“Tallulah...my name’s Tallulah.” the red head managed to get out around the big lump in her throat.  

Chapter Text

Ashlyn and Ali were stunned by the little girl’s ingenuity as Tallulah showed them around her campsite. After the quick tour, Tallulah sat down in the soft sand in front of the log by the fire and leaned her back against the familiar wood. Ashlyn followed suit and pulled Ali into her lap. Tallulah kept stealing glances at the couple, amazed by their easy intimacy. Ali faced the girl, and absently twisted a strand of Ashlyn’s blonde mane in her fingers, the keeper’s arms wrapped loosely around the brunette’s waist.

 

“This is an amazing home. I am so in awe of you, Tallulah. How old are you?” Ali inquired, as she continued to look around the area, finding new details of the girl’s life tucked away from society in the jungle. 

 

“I just turned thirteen...but I can hold my own, you know.” Tallulah replied, not wanting the beautiful woman to think she was a helpless little girl. 

 

“Wow. Thirteen?! I think when I was thirteen I didn’t even know how to make my own bed, let alone make an entire campsite from whatever materials I could manage to scrape up. You are such an amazing young woman.” Ali complimented.

 

“Hell yeah, the only thing I did with fish when I was your age was smack boys across the face. I had no clue how to cook ‘em.” Ashlyn added as she noticed crimson invade Tallulah’s face from Ali’s praise, “How long have you been out here?”

 

“I think about six months. It’s hard to tell time anymore.” Tallulah answered with a shrug.

 

“So what is in the pot that smells so good?” Ashlyn asked eyeing the pot over the fire, still hungry from their hike.

 

“Fish head soup. Would you like some? It’s not fancy or anything, probably not what you are used to, but I like it.” Tallulah answered as she dug her toes in the sand, embarrassed that she didn’t have anything better to offer the women. 

 

Ali noticed the blonde’s eyes widen and she squeezed Ashlyn’s shoulder as she cut her off, “We’d love some, right babe?”

 

“Uh, yeah, right.” Ashlyn exclaimed with forced a grin.

 

“Ok. I’ll be right back.” Tallulah stated as she got up and walked behind her tent.

 

Ashlyn waited until the little girl was out of sight before she turned back to Ali, a look of dread on her face.

 

“Fish head soup? You mean, we gotta put that in our mouths on purpose?!” Ashlyn grumbled. 

 

“Oh stop. Did you see the look on her face? She thinks she is beneath us. We need to build her up.” Ali quietly explained her logic, “Poor kid.”

 

“Poor me. Fish head soup.” Ashlyn mumbled.

 

“Don’t knock it until you try it.” Ali winked, “As Kyle would say, I’ve had worse things in my mouth.”

 

Ashlyn chuckled, “I’m afraid to ask.”

 

Ali playfully swatted Ashlyn’s shoulder as Tallulah came back to the fire pit with two coconut shells. She carefully dipped each one into the pot and filled them with hot soup. 

 

“I use these to carry water in, but I thought they would make good bowls. Sorry I only have one spoon.” Tallulah commented as she handed first Ali then Ashlyn a coconut shell full of her soup, and then held up the homemade spoon.

 

“Let the Princess have it. I can drink mine out of the shell.” Ashlyn said as she tried to think of a way to spill hers accidentally on purpose.

 

Tallulah blushed as she handed Ali the spoon and their hands brushed each other. 

 

“Thank you. Mmm. Looks good.” Ali stated with a conspiratorial wink.

 

A deep purplish crimson rose from Tallulah’s neck all the way to the tips of her ears. Ashlyn watched Tallulah trying to figure out what to do with herself after the little wink from Ali, and wondered what she would have done had she met her wife as a clumsy thirteen year old. She kinda felt bad for the kid.

 

“So what are these chunks in here with the fish heads?” Ashlyn asked to rescue the girl.

 

Tallulah let go of the breath she didn’t even realize she was holding and grinned at the couple, “It’s zapote fruit. I found some growing not far from here. I like it.” 

 

Ashlyn grabbed one of the chunks with her fingers and popped it into her mouth. She sent a dimple bearing grin towards the red head.

 

“Mm. Tastes like sweet potato.” the blonde announced around a mouthful of the cooked fruit.

 

Ali steeled herself and dipped the spoon into the soup that was definitely looking back at her. The last thing she wanted to do was make the girl feel worse, and with that thought firmly in her head, she brought it up and closed her lips around the spoon. As the hot liquid hit her tongue it wasn’t nearly what she was expecting. The brunette could taste fish, but there was a kick of sweetness from the zapote, and a peppery spice as well. Ali loved anything sweet-hot, and she flashed Tallulah a nose crinkling mega watt smile.

 

Ashlyn raised an eyebrow noticing Ali’s reaction and took a small sip. It wasn’t nearly as bad as she was expecting, and the sweet pepperiness of the broth explained her wife’s smile.

 

“Wow, this is really good!” Ali commented, earning her another blush from the teenager as she enthusiastically dug into the coconut bowl for another bite.

 

“So where did you live before here?” Ashlyn asked before taking another polite sip.

 

“North Carolina. My mom made us move in with her stupid boyfriend, but his house is on a beach so it wasn’t too bad. At least I could go surfing.” Tallulah elaborated, watching with pride as Ali enjoyed her soup.     

 

Ashlyn’s face lit up, “You like to surf?”

 

Tallulah nodded her head, “Hell yeah! Best. Thing. Ever!”

 

“Right on! How many boards do you have? I have like, four.” Ashlyn asked.

 

“Four?! Wow. I only had one, but...that was a long time ago. I can’t...I can’t even think about it now. I’m kinda stuck here.” Tallulah sadly reminded the blonde as she gestured to the campsite and surrounding jungle.

 

“Can you tell us about that? I mean, how did you get here? Where is your mom? What happened to make you run away from that school?” Ali peppered the girl with questions.

 

Ashlyn placed a hand on Ali’s cheek, “Let the poor girl get an answer in edge wise, Princess.”

 

Tallulah giggled at the looks the two gave each other. What she wouldn’t give to have some beautiful girl look at her that way. 

 

“Um. Well back home there is this pretty girl on my team…” Tallulah started.

 

“Oooh, what kind of team?! Soccer?!” Ashlyn interrupted.

 

“Let the poor girl get done answering the first question, Stud.” Ali sassed.

 

“Um, no not soccer. It’s uh...the debate team. I’m not cool enough to play soccer.” Tallulah answered, shyly toeing the sand at her feet.

 

“There is nothing wrong with the debate team. Most jocks end up taking orders at McDonald’s for the smart kids after high school is over, anyway. Besides, there is nothing more attractive than a smart, confident woman. Just remember that.” Ali interjected.

 

“Yeah, and you surf so technically you couldn’t be any cooler!” Ashlyn added.

 

“Thanks.” Tallulah looked down at her toes as she felt her face get hot again.

 

“So about that pretty debate team girl…” Ali prompted.

 

Tallulah sighed, “Becky. Her name is Becky and she is gorrrrrrrrrgeous. Like a model or something. Anyway, she was always really nice to me. One day she asked me to meet her in the library behind the history section. She showed me a book about civil rights, and when she turned to the part about something called the Stonewall riot, I thought she was telling me that she liked me.”

 

Ashlyn cringed, she could already tell where this story was headed.

 

“So I kissed her. Her lips were so soft, and she smelled soooo good. She freaked out and slapped me so hard I thought my teeth were gonna fall out. She ran and told everyone. Mrs. Dennis called my mom who called our preacher. They said that my brain was broken and needed to be fixed due to my unnatural thoughts about Becky. All week long my mom told me how God hates fags and carpet munchers.” Tallulah paused and looked up at Ali and Ashlyn, “What is a carpet muncher, anyway, and what has that got to do with me thinking Becky is pretty?” 

 

“Oh honey, it’s just a crude way to call you a lesbian.” Ali explained, placing a comforting hand on Tallulah’s shoulder.

 

“Oh. Well that doesn’t make any sense. Nobody eats carpets. I’m pretty sure lesbians eat the same kind of stuff that everybody else does.” Tallulah commented, her face scrunched up in confusion.

 

“We eat more fish.” Ashlyn deadpanned and grunted as Ali elbowed her. 

 

“Really? Fish is pretty healthy for your diet.” Tallulah replied.

 

“It suuuure is.” Ashlyn smirked while holding Ali’s arm away from her.

 

Ali glared at the blonde and mouthed ‘stop it’ before returning her attention to the teenager, “What happened after that?”

 

“Anyways, mom and her boyfriend kept asking me if I liked boys and when I told them I didn’t feel any different, they would take turns hitting me with his belt. They didn’t let me go back to school or see any of my friends. After that week, I woke up in the middle of the night to mom and some people I had never met. They made me get dressed and mom said I was going away to a school where they could fix me. She said I wasn’t coming home until I was normal. She...she said she could...never...never love a...a dyke.” Tallulah finished through her tears before whispering, “Those people brought me here, to Escuela Caribe school.”

 

“Oh Sweetie, I am so sorry your mom and her boyfriend treated you so bad. Nobody should be hit like that.” Ali cooed, trying to comfort the girl. 

 

“Yeah. What fucking cowards!” Ashlyn added, her voice seething with barely controlled rage. 

 

“You said that school made you feel like killing yourself. Why? What did they do there?” Ali asked wanting to get the whole picture so she could figure out a way to help Tallulah. 

 

Tallulah’s eyes got big and she shook her head violently, “No. NO! I can’t talk about it. Nahuh. You want to know about Escuela Caribe, you go see for yourself.”

 

Ali held her hands up and tried to calm the girl, “Shhh. It’s ok. Nobody is gonna make you talk about that place, or go back there. I just need to know what we can do to help you is all.”

 

“Get me off this island.” Tallulah replied, looking up at Ali and Ashlyn with the first glimmer of hope in her eyes since she had arrived in this hell hole. 

 

“Well, that’s the plan.” Ashlyn confirmed and smiled warmly at the girl.  

 

“But first, let’s get you a room close to ours. I can’t bear the thought of you out here alone.” Ali stated, looking around the little campsite again. 

 

Tallulah’s eyes misted over and she searched the brunette’s sparkling topaz jewels, “You mean I can sleep in a real bed again?”

 

“Yes baby girl, you can sleep in a real bed.” Ali smiled sadly at the red head, her heart breaking for how mistreated the little waif had been.

 

“Ok, but I’m not a baby.” Tallulah replied.

 

“Of course not, it’s just a term of endearment. My mom has always called me that. I guess it just sorta slipped out. I didn’t mean anything bad by it.” Ali explained as she reached out and tucked a strand of long red hair behind the teenager’s ear, “Why don’t you get your things together so we can take you back and get you settled into a room, ok?”

 

Tallulah’s face was flushed and she nodded before quickly turning away. She still found it hard to breathe around the gorgeous brunette, and when Ali touched her…the red head’s lips curled into a shy smile. She definitely wanted to find a pretty girl who made her stomach feel like that from a simple touch. 

 

Ashlyn waited until Tallulah had gone inside her tent before she leaned over and whispered, “Seems like somebody has quite the crush on my wife.”

 

Ali turned to face Ashlyn and gazed deeply into her kind hazel eyes, “We have to help her. We can’t let those awful people get a hold of her again.”

 

“Yes ma’am. Don’t you worry. I’m not gonna let anything bad happen to either one of you.” Ashlyn promised as she cupped Ali’s face.

 

Ali pushed up on her tip toes and kissed her wife soundly, “That’s one of the many reasons why I love you so very much, Ashlyn...that big smooshy, protective heart of yours.”

 

***

 

Chapter Text

Ali gently knocked on the bathroom door, “Hey Tallulah, before you jump into the shower, why don’t you come in here and pick out something to sleep in. I’ll take your clothes and wash them tonight, and then in the morning we can go shopping and buy you some more that fit.” 

 

The door cracked open and a mop of dirty red hair and one green eye appeared, “Really? You would use your money to buy me clothes?”

 

“Of course, baby girl...I mean, Tallulah.” Ali corrected herself and smiled warmly at the girl mostly hidden behind the bathroom door.

 

“Oh she ain’t no ‘baby girl,’ Alex.  Tallulah is a fierce wave carving beast! She is more of a…hmm…‘T-dog’ I think.” Ashlyn opined and received a fist bump from behind the door. 

 

Ali rolled her eyes and shook her head, “T-dog sounds like a rapper name.”

 

“Oh I love rap!” Tallulah piped up.

 

“T-dog it is then.” Ashlyn smugly stated.

 

“Fine. Since you love rap why don’t you wrap a towel around you and come pick out something to wear to bed.” Ali stated to the girl.

 

“Your puns need work, Princess.” Ashlyn laughed at the groan from the teenager, Ali shooting her a distinct middle finger. 

 

Once Tallulah emerged from the bathroom with a soft white towel wrapped around her body, Ali led the dirty red head over to their dresser and opened a few drawers to show her the choices. Tallulah’s eyes widened as she recognized a pair of tiger covered Ethika boxers that had gotten mixed up in their shorts drawer. She turned and searched out the couple’s left ring fingers, noticing their rings for the first time. The teenager quickly looked away, her chest heaving with guilt. Ashlyn was ‘tiger in his pants man?!’ And those pink diamonds had belonged to beautiful Ali. 

 

“What’s wrong? They can’t all be that hideous. I mean, some of them are mine.” Ashlyn teased.

 

Tears flowed freely down Tallulah’s dirt caked cheeks, creating little rivulets of clean. She turned toward the bathroom, and Ali gasped at the angry scars that were visible above the towel covering the teenager’s back. The red head ran to the bathroom and shut the door, turning the lock.

 

“Hey, you don’t have to wear anything to bed if you don’t want to. I mean, you do have your own room. Please open the door and tell us what we did wrong.” Ali tried to get the upset girl out of the bathroom. 

 

When the bathroom door opened, Tallulah was dressed in her dirty clothes. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying. 

 

“Oh sweetheart, what’s wrong?” Ali cooed, sincere concern evident in her voice.

 

“Don’t. Please don’t say that. It only makes it worse!” Tallulah pleaded as she tried to push past the brunette.

 

“Where are you going, T-dog?” Ashlyn asked, stepping in between the teen and the front door.

 

“Let me go! I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve any of this! Now get out of my way.” Tallulah screamed. 

 

“No. Not until you tell me why you think you don’t deserve our help.” Ashlyn challenged, still blocking the teen’s path.

 

Tallulah’s shoulder’s sagged. They deserved to know the truth. She was nobody. Less than nobody. She was a common criminal...a thief.  

 

“I can’t let you spend money on me because I...I...I was the one who stole your wedding rings and sold them to the jeweler in the square. I don’t deserve any of your kindness.” Tallulah confessed before breaking out into sobs again.

 

“Oh honey, we already knew that.” Ali said and wrapped the teenager in a tender hug. 

 

Tallulah pushed against Ali for a few seconds, trying to break free, before totally breaking down in the defender’s arms and clinging to the kind brunette as she apologized repeatedly. Ashlyn joined them and sandwiched the red head in a group hug that conveyed the women’s acceptance and forgiveness. 

 

Tallulah didn’t know how long it was before her legs began to tire and Ashlyn scooped her up, and carried her to the bed. Ali walked alongside, gently rubbing her back. The women got into the bed on either side, and the blonde deposited the young teen in between. When Ali opened her arms, Tallulah laid her head on the brunette’s chest and let go of all her pent up pain as the young couple held her and stroked her dirty hair. After all her tears were spent, Tallulah’s breathing evened out as she fell asleep in the safety and warmth of Ali’s arms. 

 

Ali looked over the mop of dirty red hair and shook her head at Ashlyn, “We aren’t leaving her, Ash. Look at the poor baby. I can’t even imagine what she has been through.”

 

“I know. We will figure something out. Maybe she can go live with her father, or an aunt or uncle. Let’s ask her in the morning if she knows where any of her other relatives live.” Ashlyn suggested, her heart swelling at the sight of Ali tenderly holding the girl.

 

“Sounds good. Let’s see if we can get her a bit more comfortable. I think she may be out for the night.” Ali suggested.

 

Ashlyn carefully untied and slipped off Tallulah’s sneakers. The blonde held one up for Ali to see, and flopped the loose sole against the body of the shoe. Ali nodded, mentally adding a couple pairs of new shoes to the growing list in her head. Once she had set the shoes by the wall, Ashlyn brought a pair of her USWNT shorts and t-shirt over. Ali helped in the ‘magic trick’ replacement of the clean t-shirt for the dirty one, Tallulah barely stirring from her emotional and physical exhaustion. Ashlyn carefully picked up the small teenager so Ali could slip off her dirty shorts and underwear and slip on the clean pair of shorts. 

 

No words were needed as Ashlyn was already on the same page with Ali, and laid the girl back into her wife’s arms. Tallulah would sleep in between them for the night, and soak up all the loving support the women had to offer. The blonde sent Ali a dimpled smile and she leaned over to capture her wife’s lips in a tender kiss.

 

“Motherhood looks good on you.” Ashlyn commented when the kiss ended.

 

“You too, Stud.” Ali replied, settling into the crook of Ashlyn’s elbow so the blonde could hold her as well as Tallulah. 

 

Ashlyn and Ali both fell asleep gently rubbing circles on the teenager’s back. 

 

***

 

When Ashlyn opened the door to her resort room, she noticed a clean Tallulah wearing a fluffy robe sitting on the floor in between Ali’s legs, the brunette carefully detangling the mop of wet red hair. The girl’s face was beet red and she was sitting statue still, almost afraid to breathe. Ashlyn had to hide her smirk. The kid’s crush was too damned adorable.  

 

“Hey guys, I picked up some breakfast on my way back from the laundry room. Who’s hungry?” Ashlyn called out as she held up a bag. 

 

“Definitely me! Tallulah’s hair has been quite the workout on my arms.” Ali teased, tapping the red head’s shoulder with her knee, the girl’s face getting nearly purple.

 

“Well to be fair, your arms are kinda puny.” Ashlyn smirked as she made a big show of flexing her biceps as she set the food down.

 

Tallulah shot up off the floor and Ali popped up off the edge of the bed behind her. They walked over to the desk where Ashlyn had deposited the food. 

 

“At least I don’t have chicken legs.” Ali winked as she playfully hip checked the blonde. 

 

“Nope. You have tree trunks.” Ashlyn agreed as she swatted Ali’s muscular ass before pulling out one of the two chairs at the small table for her wife.

 

Tallulah watched the exchange with a goofy grin on her face, imagining what it would be like for her if she could find somebody her own age with a personality similar to the feisty brunette. She sighed dreamily, life would be pretty great alright.   

 

Tallulah felt her face flush again as she was brought out of her thoughts by Ashlyn snapping her long fingers in front of the girl’s face. The red head sheepishly looked up at the two women.

 

“Yeah?” Tallulah asked as she nervously twisted the belt of her bathrobe.

 

“I said why don’t you take this and go sit next to Ali?” Ashlyn repeated as she absently handed the red head a container full of Los Tres Golpes. 

 

Tallulah’s eyes widened, “Is that all for me?!”

 

“Uh, yeah, what’s wrong? Don’t you like it?” Ashlyn asked, unsure of the girl’s preferences.

 

“No, it’s great. I like fried salami n eggs, and fried cheese is yummy, but my favorite is the mangu! I mean, who doesn’t like mashed plantains covered with sauteed red onions?!” Tallulah gushed, looking at the plate like she had been handed a treasure.

 

Ashlyn’s lips curled into a warm smile, “Whew, I’m glad. I wasn’t sure what you liked to eat...other than fish heads and I don’t know the first thing about getting you those.” 

 

“So you told us about your mom, what’s up with your dad?” Ali asked as she cut a bite of her salami and brought it to her mouth.

 

Tallulah’s shoulders sagged a bit and tears welled in her eyes before they grew hard, “He died in Afghanistan. Mom didn’t even wait a whole month before she was fucking other guys.” 

 

“Oh baby girl, I am so sorry.” Ali said as she wrapped a comforting arm around the young teen’s shoulder, pulling the girl into a side hug.

 

Ali shot Ashlyn a heartbroken look over Tallulah’s head and the blonde smiled, giving her quiet strength in return. Tallulah closed her eyes and stiffened just a bit. It was hard to let this beautiful woman past all of her walls. People always let you down, it was best not to rely on any of them...even when your heart yearned to.

 

***

 

Ali pulled a cute sundress off of the rack and grinned, fingering the fabric as she looked over her shoulder at the red head. She hung it back as soon as she saw the look of horror on the girl’s face. The brunette sighed, this little girl was definitely not a princess. She walked further down the isle until they hit the boys clothes and Tallulah’s eyes brightened considerably. 

 

Ali pulled several button downs off the rack and held them out to the red head, “Here. Let’s start with these.”

 

Tallulah’s eyes widened. She searched the soft topaz jewels and saw nothing but kindness housed in them. It had been so long since any adult had looked at her without judgement in their eyes it made her chest tighten. The girl took the shirts from Ali and followed her to the dressing rooms.

 

“I’ll wait for you right here. I can’t wait to see you in these. I bet you look dashing.” Ali commented, and her nose crinkled as she spared the girl a brilliant smile.

 

Tallulah looked at all of the options and selected a short sleeved green linen shirt with a stitched blue marlin fish design. She slipped it on and ran her fingers over the stitching of one of the fish over her heart. Taking a deep breath, the red head opened the door and walked out to show Ali.

 

Ali’s eyes lit up and she sent a dazzling smile to the teenager, “Oh my god, you look so handsome!”

 

Tallulah looked at her feet as she felt her face burn from the compliment. Ali placed her fingers under the girl’s chin and gently directed her face up. 

 

“Please let me look at your eyes. I bet the colors of this shirt make them pop.” Ali gently requested.

 

Tallulah looked up and watched as Ali smoothed the fabric over her shoulders. 

 

“Oh, it’s perfect baby girl. You look so good. This is definitely a keeper.” Ali winked, “Now what’s next?”

 

“I think the black pirate ship one.” Tallulah replied, now eager to try them all on for the beautiful brunette.

 

“Sounds perfect, but I want to take a picture of you in this one for Ashlyn first. Is that ok?” Ali inquired, knowing that the blonde would most definitely approve.

 

“Sure!” Tallulah easily agreed and shot Ali a wide smile as the brunette raised her iphone, snapping a quick picture.

 

Ali sent the picture in a text to her wife as the youngster bounced off to try on more clothes.

 

Princess: See somebody properly appreciates clothes shopping around here. ;)

 

Ali grinned as her phone buzzed a reply.

 

Stud: That’s only because she isn’t being dragged all over Frankfurt looking for the perfect tux! Tell her she looks very dapper. I approve! 

 

After purchasing several of the options at that store, Ali and Tallulah headed down the street carrying several bags. Ali slowed and pointed out clothing options in windows as they passed. Neither one saw the old red 1964 Chevy Impala convertible that pulled up behind them.

 

***

 

Saulo reached over and swiped his buzzing cell phone off of his desk. His lips curled into a feral smirk as he gazed at the picture that had been sent by Juan, his right hand man. His eyes undressed the gorgeous brunette that had apparently taken an interest in his little soon-to-be whore. She would make the perfect addition to his personal body slaves. 

 

Saulo dialed the number. It was answered almost immediately.

 

“Pick them both up. I want that woman with Tallulah. Make sure nobody touches her, she is mine.” Saulo instructed, a lecherous grin on his face.

 

Saulo lightly stroked himself, yes he was going to enjoy breaking that brunette. 

Chapter Text

Ali smiled approvingly at Tallulah as she came out of the dressing room wearing a pair of  black board shorts covered in green palm trees, and a green t-shirt. The teen shrugged her shoulders at Ali and grinned.

 

“Hey, if that’s what you want to wear swimming, then that’s what you wear. Though you might find it easier to swim in a bikini top or sports bra instead of that t-shirt. Ashlyn does that with her board shorts.” Ali explained as Tallulah contemplated it.

 

“Yeah, I guess so. I’ve never worn a bikini. Can you maybe help me pick one out?” Tallulah asked, her face burning again.

 

“Of course, baby girl.” Ali answered and then caught herself, “I mean, T-dog.”

 

“It’s ok if you want to call me ‘baby girl.’ When you were taking a shower Ash explained how you were turning into your mom.” Tallulah replied, nonchalantly. 

 

Ali wrapped her arm around Tallulah’s shoulders, “Oh she did, did she? Well, remind me to thank her when we get back to the room.”

 

“Yeah, besides, I don’t really like T-dog that much. I have a friend who calls me Alley Cat. I like that a whole lot better, but the best is just T.” Tallulah elaborated.

 

“Ok, I’ll try to remember to call you T, but sometimes baby girl might slip out.” Ali confessed as they walked over to the bikini section.

 

Ali looked Tallulah over head to toe. She was kind of small, definitely borderline malnourished, so she started her search with the rack housing the extra smalls. Tallulah looked pretty unsure about the whole bikini thing, so Ali tried to find tops that provided more coverage. 

 

“So you don’t really like your name that much, huh.” Ali commented as she fingered through the bikinis.

 

“Duh. You try being named ‘Tallulah’ sometime. People always make fun of it.” Tallulah replied her voice dripping with contempt.

 

“Fair point. What kind of name is it?” Ali asked as she selected a black bikini whose top looked like it would provide more coverage than most.

 

“I think it’s Irish. My daddy was Irish anyway.” Tallulah shrugged as Ali held the bikini up to her chest to get a good idea of how much it would cover.

 

“So is that your heritage? Irish?” Ali inquired as she started a ‘to try on’ section and hung the bikini on the endcap.

 

“I think I’m Irish and Mongrel.” Tallulah replied.

 

“You mean Mongol.” Ali corrected.

 

“No, I mean my dad is Irish and my mom is a bitch.” Tallulah deadpanned before breaking out into a fit of giggles.

 

Ali laughed along with the girl. She was so happy to see Tallulah opening up and enjoying herself. What a perfect day. Tallulah pulled her unruly red hair straight before releasing it and it kinked back up.

 

“See? Poodle.” Tallulah commented and sent Ali into a fresh wave of giggles that ended in a snort.

 

When Ali finally stopped laughing, she handed the girl several bikinis to try, “Remember, you just have to try on the tops, unless you want to wear the bottoms like underwear underneath your board shorts. It’s up to you.”

 

As Tallulah came out of the dressing room, she looked up as the bell at the front door chimed. She gasped. It was Juan and another guy she didn’t know. What were Saulo’s men doing in here? Ali’s gaze followed the teen’s and her brows creased in confusion.

 

“Do you know them?” Ali asked, confused because of how much older the men were to the young girl.

 

“Come on.” Tallulah desperately pulled on Ali’s arms to get her to move, “We gotta get out of here. Those evil men are looking for me!”

 

Ali looked over her shoulder, the men who had entered the store did seem to be looking for someone. Well, she would be damned if they found Tallulah. She took the teen’s hand and they quickly found the back door. The brunette noticed that the door was alarmed, so she knew as soon as they opened it, the men would know where they had gone. She stopped Tallulah from opening the door and kneeled down to face her at eye level.

 

“Look T, when we go through that door, an alarm is gonna go off. Don’t panic. Do you know this part of town?” Ali quickly inquired.

 

“Yeah. I think if we go left we can follow the alley down to another alley on the right, and double back to the bus stop.” Tallulah said as she closed her eyes, picturing the town in her head.  

 

“Ok. I’m following you.” Ali stated, placing her trust in the teenager, “Let’s go!”

 

Tallulah’s heart was pounding as she pushed through the door and a loud alarm sounded. She didn’t look back as she could hear Ali’s feet hitting the ground behind her. She knew the brunette could out run her, but she was choosing to stay between Saulo’s men and her. Why would Ali put herself in danger to protect her? 

 

Tallulah skidded on the gravel and changed direction where the alleyways crossed. She put her head down and willed her legs to move faster. Her lungs were burning and she knew she wasn’t going to be able to go much further without slowing. The girl smiled as she noticed the two loose wooden fence slats. She reached behind her and grabbed Ali’s hand pulling her over to the left side of the alley. She pointed to the slats and stopped in front of them.

 

The red head pulled on the bottom of the slats and scurried through the gap, followed quickly by Ali who turned and pulled them back into place. They were now huddled between the wooden fence and the back side of a thick bush in someone’s back yard. Ali pointed to her nose and demonstrated how to slow your own breathing. They had to get it under control quickly or the thugs might be able to hear their hard breathing. Tallulah followed Ali’s lead and consciously slowed her breathing, noticing that her pounding heart started to slow down as well. 

 

Ali held her breath as she heard gravel crunching beneath feet on the other side of the fence. The brunette reached over to Tallulah and held the teenager tightly against her chest. The red head could feel Ali’s heart thumping, and it’s rhythm was definitely a comfort. If Saulo’s men were looking for her, it couldn’t be good. Tallulah closed her eyes and felt the warmth radiating off of Ali, she hoped they could get her off this island before it was too late. 

 

Tallulah’s eyes popped open as the loud metallic bang of a pipe striking a large dumpster not far from the fence caused them both to startle. The red head felt Ali’s arms tighten around her protectively, and the woman kissed the top of her head. They would be ok, they just had to stay quiet until the men gave up searching for them. 

 

“Come on out, Tallulah. We know you couldn’t have gotten too far. Make it easy on yourself. Come out and nobody has to get hurt...especially that pretty woman with you.” Juan called out in english.

 

Tallulah looked up at Ali with guilt filled eyes. Ali shook her head and placed a finger gently over the girl’s lips. The red head quietly took a deep breath, the confident fire in the brunette’s whiskey colored eyes was reassuring, despite the sound of the gravel crunching underneath Juan’s shoes getting closer to the fence.

 

Suddenly, a deep growl followed by loud barking came from inside the yard, quickly getting closer. They could hear Juan jump away from the fence. A large wire haired mutt’s paws were just visible on the underside of the bush they were hiding behind, and they could hear the large beast huffing in their scent. 

 

“Fuck this.” Juan grumbled as he figured nobody could be in that yard with such a large unfriendly dog in there. 

 

Juan took out his cell phone and called Saulo’s other henchman, “I got nothing. Did you find anything?” 

 

Ali winked at Tallulah when they heard Juan pause.

 

“Alright. Meet me at the car. Saulo isn’t gonna be happy.” Juan stated, kicking an old discarded beer can in frustration as he hung up.

 

The dog continued to bark along the fence as Juan walked back the way he had come. Once the man turned onto the other alley, the dog trotted back over and loudly huffed the bushes. Ali quickly grabbed Tallulah’s arm and stopped her from reaching through the bush to pet the dog.

 

“I used to sleep in here. Duarte is a good boy.” Tallulah explained as she reached for the scruffy dog and received an enthusiastic lick.

 

“Sorry, I just didn’t want you to get bit.” Ali explained. 

 

“C’mon, I think it’s safe now.” the red head assessed, and climbed over Ali’s lap in the small space, Duarte already waiting on her at the end of the bush.

 

Ali followed Tallulah through a small opening and out into the back yard. Duarte excitedly jumped up and knocked the red head to the ground, he pounced on her and covered her face in wet dog kisses. Tallulah laughed and ruffled his fur, scratching behind his ears.

 

Ali silently watched the young teen with the dog. She couldn’t even begin to fathom what the girl had been through, or how she had learned to survive on the streets alone, but maybe having a father who had been a soldier had something to do with it. Perhaps he had taught her some of those skills. At least the girl still seemed to find joy in the small things. Suddenly Duarte jumped off Tallulah and ran around the yard like a crazy possessed beast.

 

“Ok, let’s go now while Duarte is preoccupied.” Tallulah suggested, and crawled back under the bush.

 

Ali quickly followed and as they fled back out from between the loose slats, Duarte had already started whining. The defender stood in the alley for a second and looked around, absently chewing her lower lip. She should call the police, but something in her gut told the brunette that not every police officer on this island could be trusted. Ali steered Tallulah down the alley away from the shop. Once they got back to the resort, she would call the police to report the incident, and the shop to arrange payment for the bikini Tallulah was wearing and delivery of the items they had left there. Her first priority was to get them safely away from town where these men were probably still hunting them. Ali looked over her shoulder and then down at the teenager at her side. What had this girl gotten them into?!

 

Ali kept up her vigilance as they made their way back to the bus stop. It took them about five minutes, but with the bus pulling up to the curb ahead of them, the defender sighed. It appeared as though the thugs had taken off. Ali looked down at Tallulah and smiled. 

 

Suddenly, Ali heard tires screeching behind them and she felt a hard bump that knocked her to the ground. She saw Tallulah laying on the ground a little ways from her and her mind tried to make sense of what had just happened. Before the brunette could get to her feet, strong hands pulled her up and painfully twisted her arm behind her back. Sweat mixed with testosterone and cheap cologne assaulted her senses as a man roughly shoved her towards a an old red convertible. 

 

“No need to take the bus, Saulo insisted we pick you up.” Juan taunted as he continued to shove Ali by the arm he had firmly twisted behind her back.

 

Ali’s eyes widened as she looked around. Wasn’t anyone going to come to their aid? Surely this wasn’t business as usual here. When she saw a police officer round the corner and stop taking in the scene, the defender felt relief wash over her. Her relief was short lived as the man promptly turned on his heels and went back the way he had came, disappearing around the corner. Fuck, they were on their own.

 

Ali grit her teeth as she focused on pushing back against the man. She didn’t want to get in that car with him no matter what. 

 

“Tallulah, are you ok? Get out of here!” Ali yelled, not able to see that she too was struggling against a full grown man. 

 

“Oh don’t worry pretty lady, Saulo sent for Tallulah too. She is coming with us. Rico is escorting her to the car.” Juan ensured her, “Now don’t make me mess up that pretty little face of yours and get in the car.”

 

Ali picked up her right foot and drove her heel into the inside of the man’s ankle. Juan howled in pain and twisted her arm harder. The defender’s eyes screwed shut from the searing jolt that shot through her arm. She knew if he twisted any harder, her arm would break. 

 

Suddenly the pain in her arm was gone, along with the tension. Ali blinked as she heard the heavy thud of Juan hitting the side of the car. 

 

“You fucking get your goddamned hands off my wife! I am gonna end you, motherfucker!” Ashlyn screamed as she blindsided the thug, dive tackling him into the side of the convertible.

 

The two bodies bounced off the car and landed heavily on the asphalt. They rolled on the ground, fighting for the dominant top position. Ashlyn managed to get mounted on Juan’s chest and started raining down thunderous blows to his face and head, ignoring the blows to her side the man returned.

 

Once Ali’s brain had caught up to the situation, she looked around for the red head...seeing her on the other side of the car still struggling with the other man. 

 

Tallulah!” Ali called out as she made up her mind that Ashlyn had things well in hand, and the girl needed her more. 

 

Ali sprinted to the other side of the car. Tallulah was biting the man’s arm and he slapped her. The defender’s eyes narrowed in rage as she pulled her right foot back and managed to land the hardest kick she had ever attempted between his legs. As long as the three of them would live, they would not forget the sound that left the thug’s mouth that day. It was somewhere between rage and dying moose. He instantly released the girl and crumpled to the ground. The injured thug was unconscious before he hit the dirt, his pants wet from defecation, piss, blood and semen. 

 

Ali grabbed Tallulah’s hand and they ran around the car to the other side where Ashlyn landed an elbow strike to the man’s throat. Juan’s eyes bugged out as his throat spasmed, making it difficult to breathe. 

 

“Ashlyn...Ashlyn stop! Ashlyn you are going to kill him...stop! Ash!” Ali yelled as the blonde continued to beat Juan. 

 

The brunette laid a hand on Ashlyn’s shoulder. The startled keeper looked up at her wife, and Ali gasped. She had never seen Ashlyn’s eyes so full of hate and rage. As her brain finally recognized Ali, Ashlyn’s nostrils flared one last time and her eyes softened. She looked down at her bloodied hands and shivered. 

 

“Let’s go before they get up!” Tallulah blurted out, pulling on Ali’s hand. 

 

Ali helped Ashlyn up and as they turned to run, the blonde paused and reached into the car, pulling out the keys. She shoved the car keys into the pocket of her shorts and the three of them ran away from the town square in the direction of the beach and resorts. Ali was amazed that nobody seemed to bat an eye at the scene that unfolded in front of them. Were they in the fucking twilight zone?! 

 

They slowed to a walk three blocks away from the square, and Ashlyn hailed a cab. As they piled in, Ali held Tallulah’s hand and nuzzled into the crook of Ashlyn’s inked arm. They were safe. They were really safe. Tears started to flow as the defender felt Ashlyn kiss the top of her head.

 

“Are you guys alright? Did they hurt you? What the hell happened back there?” Ashlyn asked, her breath still coming in ragged gasps, the adrenaline continuing to dump into her system.

 

Tallulah’s shoulders sagged and she turned to face the young couple that had helped her so much. 

 

“It’s all my fault. I should never have gone to him, but I was desperate to get off this fucking island.” Tallulah confessed.

 

Ali gently tucked the girl’s hair behind her ear and encouraged her to continue, “It’s ok. Just tell us what happened baby girl, and who the hell is Saulo?”

 

Tallulah took a deep breath, they deserved to know the whole truth, “Saulo is kinda like what a mob boss is in New York City, but only from the islands. He runs everything in Punta Cana. From what I can tell, there are other guys who run other towns here. When I ran away from Escuela Caribe, I needed a way to get back to America. The school locked up my passport, and I don’t exactly have lots of money.”

 

Tallulah stared at her new tennis shoes and felt guilt twist in her gut. How could she tell them everything? They would probably dump her at the nearest police station and be done with her. The teenager looked up at Ali and tears pooled in her eyes. What if Saulo had gotten his hands on her? How would she live with that? Maybe it was better if they washed their hands of her. 

 

“So you made a deal with him?” Ashlyn asked, trying to connect the dots.

 

“I asked him if he knew anybody who could help me, and he said he had a sea captain friend who could smuggle me in with his drugs. I would have to pay him a hundred thousand for the trip though.” Tallulah admitted, closing her eyes from the shame.

 

“Is that why you have been stealing?” Ali gently inquired.

 

Tallulah nodded, unable to answer around the lump in her throat. 

 

“So why did he send his men to grab you? And why were they trying to get Alex into the car as well?” Ashlyn nearly whispered the last sentence, almost afraid of the answer.

 

Tallulah’s shoulders shook as she cried. Ali rubbed soothing circles on the back of the teen’s shoulder to calm her. After a minute or two, the girl’s crying ebbed and she wiped the snot coming out of her nose with the back of her hand and looked up at the couple. This was going to be the hardest of all to tell them. What Saulo would have done if he had gotten his hands on the pretty brunette. Talllulah shuddered.

 

“He...Saulo...he...he kidnaps pretty women and either sells them or keeps them as sex slaves and prostitutes. The ones who do it willingly get treated better. He, uh...he told me the last time that if I wanted to get off the island I should let him sell my...virginity.” Tallulah managed to croak the last word out around her closing throat.  

 

Ali gently covered Ashlyn’s hand as it tightened into a fist. She could feel the anger coming off of the blonde in palpable waves.

 

“Honey, I want you to be real honest with us, did Saulo ever…” Ali started and Tallulah looked up at her in wide eyed disgust.

 

No! Never! I wouldn’t let any of those scumbags touch me!” Tallulah cut the defender off. 

 

 Ashlyn released the breath she didn’t realize she was holding and her fist loosened just a bit as Ali continued to rub small circles across the back of it with her thumb. The blonde adjusted her position on the seat so she could look the teenager in the eye over Ali’s head.

 

“We want you to know, we aren’t gonna let anything happen to you. Promise. We are going to find a way to get you back to the the US, and back to your family.” Ashlyn swore.

 

NO! I don’t ever want to see my mom again as long as I fucking live!” Tallulah screamed and reached for the door handle to jump out.

 

Ali grabbed the girl and wrapped her arms around her tightly, “Shhh. Ash didn’t mean your mom. We were thinking maybe you had an aunt or uncle you would like to live with. Shhh...please don’t run. We aren’t going to let anything bad happen to you. I swear to you.”

 

“Fucking promise me! Promise! I would kill myself before I ever went back to live with her. God I don’t know what to do...who to trust...fuck!” Tallulah blurted out before breaking down into a sobbing mess in the brunette’s arms. 

 

Ali kept one arm around the teenager and reached back for the blonde's clenched fist. At the soft contact, she felt Ashlyn’s fist unclench and the blonde’s fingers entwined with her own, lending silent strength and support. The brunette kissed the top of the mop of unruly red hair.

 

“You can trust us, baby girl. We aren’t going to let anything bad happen to you.” Ali cooed in the girl’s ear, “I swear to you on my life.”

 

The brunette’s words hit Tallulah in the gut. Nobody had ever promised her that they would take care of her or die trying. Maybe these two women were the answer to her prayers...if she believed in a god, anyway. Tallulah snuggled deeper into Ali’s shoulder and tried to believe that there were adults who didn’t break their promises...that maybe things would work out ok for her in the end. The red head’s eyes closed as she felt the genuine warmth of the woman holding her...maybe.

 

*** 

 

Chapter Text

Ashlyn hung up the receiver and looked up at her wife, shaking her head. Ali’s eyes closed and as the blonde pulled her closer, she sank onto her favorite lap, curling into her wife’s warmth. The brunette sighed as the keeper’s arms wrapped around her and Ashlyn kissed her temple, this was going to be harder than they had imagined. Ali glanced at the bathroom door where the water in the shower had just been turned on. They had a few minutes to discuss it before Tallulah would be able to hear them.

 

“What did he say?” Ali asked, chewing her bottom lip.

 

“We would have to get a new passport for her at the Consulate. The problem being, our last names don’t match hers so they wouldn’t automatically assume we were her parents. Bottom line, without proof, best case scenario they would deny her the passport, worst case...they would probably arrest us for child trafficking.” Ashlyn explained.

 

“Damn. Is he sure?” Ali asked, desperate to believe they had some hope.

 

“He said he practices immigration law, so I would assume he knows passport laws too.” the blonde replied, “But he could be wrong.”

 

Ali absently traced the intricate lines of Ashlyn’s Athena tattoo as her mind raced to find a solution. 

 

“I think I should go check out that school. Maybe I can find out where they stash the passports and possibly even get a chance to swipe it.” Ali stated, knowing the blonde was not going like her plan.

 

“Hell no, Alex! Did you forget there is some damned Saulsalito out there who wants to make you a sex slave?! If I hadn’t been there…” Ashlyn’s voice drifted off as she shuddered just thinking about it.

 

“Why were you there, Ash? I have been meaning to ask. It was like, my mind was screaming for you and all of a sudden, there you were...my badass superhero.” Ali asked, her hand snaking up the keeper’s arm so she could bury her hand in the back of the blonde’s long wavy mane.

 

“Well, I wanted to prove to you that Tallulah isn’t the only one who properly appreciates your shopping skills, so I figured I’d walk around the square until I found you.” Ashlyn replied, feeling her cheeks color a bit, “But back to badass superhero…”

 

Ali smacked Ashlyn’s shoulder playfully, “God, if that head of yours swells anymore you won’t be able to fit it through the doorway!”

 

Ashlyn leaned in and captured Ali’s lips in a tender kiss. She had come so close to losing everything…

 

“I have to go do this, Ash. We only have three days until we fly back to the states...and straight to camp I might add.” Ali stated after they broke away from the kiss, her hand cupping Ashlyn’s jaw.

 

“I know. We are running out of time...but why does it have to be you? Why can’t I go instead?” Ashlyn protested, leaning her forehead against the brunette’s.

 

“Well Stud...that in itself is your answer.” Ali stated as she pecked Ashlyn’s lips to take the sting out of their reality.

 

“What?” Ashlyn’s brows creased in confusion before it hit her like a lightening bolt, “Oh. Super Christ E McChristians wouldn’t trust me because I’m not as feminine as you. Yeah, I get it...I just don’t like it.”

 

“I know baby, but...we are kinda running out of options here. I know I can do this, Ash, and I will be very careful.” Ali promised, gazing deeply into the blonde’s concerned hazel eyes.

 

“Fine. But I’m gonna take a taxi and go rent us a car for the rest of the trip. No more public transportation for either of you. I just don’t want to take that chance.” Ashlyn compromised, and kissed Ali’s nose.

 

“You don’t wanna take what chance?” Tallulah’s voice behind them startled the couple, and they nearly bumped heads as they jerked in surprise.

 

“Alex is going to do some…” Ashlyn paused trying to figure out a way to explain without explaining.

 

“Research. I gotta do some research so we can get you off the island, baby girl.” Ali supplied, squeezing the blonde’s shoulder.

 

“Yeah, and I don’t want either of you taking the busses or taxis anymore. I just don’t think it’s safe, so I’m gonna rent a car while you two eat breakfast tomorrow.” Ashlyn finished.

 

“Oh. Ok.” Tallulah shrugged as she made her way over to the shopping bags that had been delivered earlier in the evening.

 

As the red head rummaged through the bags to pick out some clean clothes to sleep in, Ashlyn made a reservation for a rental car online. She would pick it up in the morning. The blonde closed her laptop and watched Ali as she made her way over to the young teen. Her dimple peeked out as she watched the girl blush from her wife’s compliments. Ashlyn sighed, she wasn’t sure there was a god out there listening, but right now, she just wanted to hedge her bets. 

 

“Please, please watch over her tomorrow. My heart can’t beat without her. She is my everything.” Ashlyn whispered, her eyes welling up at the thought of harm coming to Ali.

 

***

 

Saulo’s eyes narrowed as Juan limped in. He shook his head in disgust at his right hand man. The dangerous thug sat sandwiched between two scantily dressed women who were hanging on him, rubbing their bodies against him. Saulo unceremoniously untangled himself from the women and pointed at the door. The two women obediently left the room.  

 

“What the hell happened? I sent you to pick up a bitch and a little girl, and you come back without either of them. I hear you lost my car too. This does not make me very happy, Juan.” Saulo growled.          

 

Juan could barely see out from behind his swollen black eyes. His broken nose was twisted violently to one side, but he had been afraid to let the doctor set it. The defeated criminal hung his head, it was never good to disappoint Saulo. 

 

“I’m sorry Saulo. I was taken down from behind by a huge man...the bitch has a husband. He did this to me, but what the bitch did to Rico is even worse. I’m very glad I didn’t bring her here to you. She made Rico’s balls explode with one kick!” Juan reported, his right hand involuntarily cupping himself protectively at the thought. 

 

Saulo leaned forward and gestured for Juan to lean down. As soon as Juan was in arm’s length, the crime boss grabbed his shirt and pulled him violently face first into the coffee table. Fresh blood spurted from Juan’s re-injured nose. Saulo then pulled his right hand man’s head close so he could speak directly into the hurt man’s ear.

 

“You lie. No woman could ever do such a thing. Don’t ever lie to me again, Juan. If Rico can’t handle a kick from a woman...he needs to retire. See to it he has a nice party.” Saulo stated flatly, and Juan swallowed hard before the crime boss roughly shoved him back, “Take my boat. Boat parties are much more fun.” 

 

“Yes, Saulo. Whatever you want.” Juan replied while backing out of the room, just happy that he wasn’t being retired along with his brother.    

 

***

 

Even though they had acquired the room next door to theirs for Tallulah, neither one had wanted the teenager out of their sight since the incident in the square earlier in the day, so Ashlyn had called down to the concierge and had a roll away bed brought to the room. They had decided on a quiet night in, watching a movie on their laptop with the red head snuggled between them. Somewhere after Tallulah had rolled her eyes at the title and before Merida had to protect her mother and brothers from her confused father, the teen had drifted off to sleep. After the credits rolled, Ashlyn picked up the girl and carried her over to her twin sized bed where Ali was waiting on them, the sheets turned down and pillow properly fluffed. The brunette helped her wife get Tallulah tucked in before they each left a kiss on the girl’s temple. 

 

Ashlyn wrapped her large hand around her wife’s and gently pulled her towards the sliding glass door to their balcony that overlooked the ocean. Once they had stepped out onto the small space, the blonde quietly slid the door shut. She turned to find Ali leaning against the carved stone railing, looking out at the dark water covered in a star studded night sky, the moonlight dancing off the waves breaking just off shore. The brunette shivered slightly, her flesh breaking out into goosebumps as Ashlyn kissed the back of her neck, and she melded into the taller woman’s body. Ali slowly slid her hands down Ashlyn’s forearms that wrapped around her waist to the keeper’s large hands, and the defender twined their fingers with a soft sigh. The defender’s eyebrows creased as she noticed how swollen her keeper’s knuckles were.

 

“Ash…” Ali uttered, and in that one word conveyed all her fears as she gently traced a knuckle with the pad of her thumb.

 

“It’s fine. I’ve played with worse.” Ashlyn replied, leaning her chin on the smaller woman’s shoulder and deeply breathing in the slight scent of vanilla, almond, and plumeria flowers from Ali’s shampoo and body wash that still lingered on her skin. 

 

Ali felt Ashlyn’s chest start to heave, and she turned around in the blonde’s arms. She looked at her wife’s watery eyes and pressed up on her toes to kiss her soulmate. Ashlyn’s dam broke at the contact, and tears streamed down her cheeks unchecked as their needy kiss turned hungry. The blonde’s hands freely roamed as their tongues danced with each other inside the brunette’s mouth. She needed to feel every inch of Ali...to know that she was truly there...that she was truly uninjured...that she was truly safe.

 

Ashlyn’s kiss screamed her need, and Ali pushed her backwards towards the padded lounge chairs in the corner of the balcony. Once the back of the blonde’s knees hit the edge of the lounger, Ali’s nimble fingers made quick work of the tie on her wife’s board shorts, and they slipped off her hips to pool at her feet. The blonde shivered as the night breeze touched her most intimate flesh. She moaned her wife’s name into Ali’s mouth as the brunette’s hands slipped under her t-shirt to cup a bikini covered breast. The defender felt Ashlyn’s already half hardened nipples tighten to pebbles as she pinched and rolled them between her fingers...the thin layer of cotton that separated their flesh only adding more fuel to the desire coursing like lava through their veins. 

 

With a gentle push, the blonde sank onto the lounge chair, taking in a couple gulps of air. Ashlyn raised her arms above her head so Ali could pull her t-shirt off, and then their needy lips found each other again, the blonde’s hands cupping and squeezing her wife’s muscular ass cheeks. The brunette kissed and nipped her way along Ashlyn’s jawline and down her long neck. As she sank her teeth into her keeper’s pulse point, Ali untied the blonde’s bikini top, and as she soothed the bite with her tongue, she pulled the last remaining barrier away from her wife’s body. 

 

“So beautiful.” Ali mumbled as she paused to take in her naked wife.

 

Ali slowly reached down and grabbed the bottom hem of her sundress and pulled it off, dropping it to the ground next to her feet while Ashlyn reached up and unsnapped her bra strap, slipping it off as they locked gazes. Ali leaned down and crashed their lips together as she pressed the blonde back into the lounger. She broke the hungry kiss only long enough to slip out of her matching lacy red thong. 

 

“God, Alex.” Ashlyn breathed out, the adoration evident in her voice as the blonde’s eyes swept lovingly over her wife’s bare form in the moonlight. 

 

Ali straddled her wife’s hips and slowly brought herself down, settling with her hot, wet core against  well manicured blonde curls...eliciting another moan from Ashlyn. The brunette reached up and released her messy bun, her luscious sable hair cascading over her shoulders. 

 

Ashlyn’s hands gripped her wife’s hips as she started to sit up, aiming to start a trail of kisses between Ali’s perfect breasts. Before she got half way to her destination, the defender firmly pinned her shoulders back against the lounge chair. One look into those intense, lust-darkened, hungry eyes had Ashlyn feeling her own ambrosia seeping out onto her inner thighs and down the crack of her ass. Ali lowered herself to fully lay on top of her wife, and as their flesh met, they both moaned softly at the electricity that shot through them. 

 

Ali kissed her wife fervently, her hands moving from the blonde’s shoulders down to her keeper’s hips as she felt Ashlyn grinding against her, desperately seeking some friction to ease her growing ache. The defender slowly kissed and nipped her way down the blonde’s neck, over her collarbone, and sank her teeth into the flesh just above her heart, soothing the bite with her tongue before sucking it into her mouth hard...repeating the process over...and over...until she had left a haphazard trail of reddish purple marks all over her wife’s chest, to a symphony of soft desperate moans. 

 

Ashlyn buried her hands in Ali’s hair, nudging her towards her achingly hard nipples. Taking the not-so-subtle hint, the brunette flicked her tongue against the closest hardened pebble, delighting in the full body shudder and moan her action elicited, before she fully sucked the nipple into her mouth. Ali trailed hot open mouthed kisses back and forth between the blonde’s breasts, lavishing both with nibbles and firm tongue strokes until the blonde was writhing beneath her, desperate to be touched...desperate to feel Ali on her...in her...wrapped around her very soul...desperate. 

 

Ali raked her short fingernails over Ashlyn’s hips and thighs as she trailed her tongue over the blonde’s taut abs, feeling the muscles flutter underneath goosed flesh. Just before she reached her destination, the brunette paused, her mouth watering in anticipation, and waited until they had locked gazes before she plunged her tongue as deeply inside her wife as it would go...both of them moaning. 

 

A flood of Ashlyn’s sweet musky ambrosia welcomed Ali’s hot hard tongue as she worked it all around the satin walls of the blonde’s temple. The sight of the gorgeous brunette feasting on her nearly pushed the keeper over the edge, and she fought to keep her eyes open...to watch as Ali loved her. It was a sight she would never take for granted. Ashlyn’s hips canted to match Ali’s tongue thrusts...desperate for the delicious friction her soulmate was providing. 

 

The blonde felt wave after wave of pleasure surround her...lifting her higher...pushing her towards the edge of ecstasy. Each stroke comforting Ashlyn...reminding her that her wife was safe. When Ali replaced her tongue with two curled fingers as she swirled her tongue against the crowning jewel of the blonde’s temple...the keeper’s body stilled. A heartbeat later Ashlyn’s body convulsed hard as she came completely undone. Ali moved up and held her wife tightly...whispering her words of love in her soulmate’s ear...holding Ashlyn until the blonde’s emotional storm had played itself out. 

 

***

 

Ali focused on the road so her mind wouldn’t wander back to the look on Ashlyn’s face as the blonde had watched her drive off. She knew her keeper fears were justified, but this was something that had to be done. Tallulah needed that damned passport so they could get her back to the states. She had never seen her wife that scared...not even when she had slid down the side of that stupid hotel to reach her. Ashlyn Harris...no Ashlyn Krieger-Harris did not scare easy. Ali blew out a frustrated breath and rolled her eyes at herself as she switched on the radio as a distraction. This ‘not thinking about how dangerous this situation was’ was all she could think about. Ali ran a hand through her silky hair and she shook out her curls. Looking up she saw the long winding driveway that led to the school announced by a small sign with the name Escuela Caribe painted in faded yellow letters. Ali focused on the music as she turned her car onto the driveway and started singing along with Sam Hunt as the music from her ipod flowed from the car speakers. Unfortunately all Body like a Back Road did for her was make her mind wander back to last night and her head between Ashlyn’s legs...which led her thoughts to how scared Ashlyn was about her coming here, and how bad the blonde was at hiding it. 

 

Ali cursed under her breath as she finally...finally pulled up to the front of the school. It looked pretty run down, and basic from the outside. She hoped the inside was better, otherwise those kids were not likely being well cared for. The brunette touched up her light make-up in the mirror set in the visor. She reached into her clutch purse and pulled out the cross necklace Ashlyn had picked up for her when the blonde had gone into town for a rental car, and closed the clasp at the back of her neck. Ali blinked at the matronly reflection before she took a deep breath and opened the door. She was ready to do this...for Tallulah. 

 

Ali walked up the dirt path that led to the front doors of the school and quickly swung the closest door to her open, walking inside before she lost her nerve. Just as she had feared, the inside looked even more dilapidated than the outside. Old time-yellowed paint peeled from the walls and hung down in splotches all along the hallway. Different bible verses had been printed out and hung up along the hallway as well. The brunette followed the sign that pointed in the direction of the office and her heels clicked against the linoleum as she walked. 

 

As Ali opened the door to the office, an old woman wearing a plain black dress and large gold cross looked up at her and smiled. 

 

“Hi, you must be Alexandra.” the woman remarked, pointing to a sign in sheet. 

 

“Yes. Alexandra Pierce. Pleasure to meet you.” Ali replied, picking up the pen and stopping herself from signing the wrong last name at the last second.

  

“So how did you hear about us, Alexandra?” the woman casually inquired, the intensity in her eyes not quite matching her tone. 

 

“Oh, I’ve been trying to find a place for my Sandra for nearly a year now, and one of the ladies at my Wednesday sewing group told me how this place turned around her poor confused daughter and saved her soul.” Ali replied, trying to give just enough detail without giving any at all.

 

“Mm, I see. Well, we are in the business of saving prodigals. Dr. Valerio will be with you shortly to show around. Please have a seat.” the woman directed and turned back to her paperwork. 

 

Ali sat down on one of the three chairs that lined the wall inside the office and waited patiently with her hands resting on her lap, her knees pressed lightly together and legs crossed at the ankle. Time seemed to drag by, but eventually she was greeted by a tall thin man with a halo of short gray hair. He smiled down at her and extended a hand to help her to her feet. Ali swallowed down the lump of disgust in her throat and reached out to take the offered hand, allowing the man to help her to her feet. 

 

“Hi, Alexandra, I’m Dr. Jay Valerio, director of Escuela Caribe.” Jay introduced himself as he helped the pretty lady to her feet.

 

“Pleasure, Dr. Valerio. I was wondering if you might give me a little tour of your facility here. I am looking for a place to send my daughter, Sandra. She is...confused.” Ali recited her rehearsed lines.

 

“Mm. How old is Sandra?” Jay asked as he opened the door for Ali.

 

“Thirteen.” Ali replied quickly, moving into the hallway.

 

“That’s the perfect age for us to intervene and save her.” Jay smiled at the woman as he led her to the courtyard.

 

Ali focused on keeping her features neutral, seeing the lust in the man’s eyes when she mentioned her ‘daughter’s’ age. Fucking perv. Outside, the brunette noticed kids on their hands and knees scrubbing the stone walkway with toothbrushes under the hot noon day sun. 

 

“We find it helpful to instill a strong work ethic.” Jay mentioned, gauging the woman’s response to the scene in front of them. 

 

“Idle hands are the Devil’s playground.” Ali replied, nodding her ‘approval.’

 

“After they clean the stones, they will go to bible study, followed by more manual labor, and then dinner. They take a shower on a rotating schedule every other day, and then it’s lights out.” Jay explained their schedule.

 

Ali nodded, not trusting her voice at the moment as she watched a young teenage boy ask the man standing over him permission to stand up. The man checked his work, and roughly shoved the boy to the ground, shouting at him to start over since he didn’t do it correctly. As they walked past, the brunette had to pretend to straighten her dress so she didn’t reach out for the boy and blow her cover. They walked a little ways further and came to a small building. Jay purposefully rushed her by the building, and Ali tried to crane her neck to get a peek inside the single barred window. Her eyes widened as she noticed two small hands gripping the bars. 

 

“There is our well.” Jay stated, trying to refocus the woman, “It’s the job of zero level students to haul water from the well to the kitchen.”

 

“Zero level?” Ali repeated, confused.

 

“Yes. We find it works best to assign our students levels. When they first get here, they are level zero. They have no privileges. Those are earned through good behavior and following the rules. As students acclimate to school, their levels increase. Infractions cause them to lose levels and privileges.” Jay explained, noting with satisfaction that the woman didn’t appear to be off put by the idea.

 

“Is that all? No punishments? Spare the rod and spoil the child, I say.” Ali pressed, feeling like the man was definitely hiding something from her.

 

Jay gave her a tight-lipped smile as he directed her towards the chapel at the top of the hill. While they walked on the path, Ali noticed a teenager holding her arms straight out from her sides, palm up with two bibles stacked in each palm. Her face was red with beads of sweat dripping from her chin due to the strain, and tears flowed from her eyes. Another child was duck walking up and down a small hill. What the fuck was this place? 

 

Jay opened the door to the chapel and motioned for the pretty brunette to go inside. Ali noticed that the chapel was packed. A ‘preacher’ stood at the pulpit, giving a sermon on obedience. As she looked around, she noticed that all the children appeared shell shocked. None dared to look up from their bibles. Poor babies. Jay had Ali sit in the back and observe the service. It made her skin crawl. She had to keep focusing on her mission...find the passports...swipe Tallulah’s and get the hell out of there. 

 

Once the service was finally over, the kids filed past her. Jay stopped an obviously gay boy. He had the lad face Ali.

 

“So Lance, why don’t you tell Ms. Pierce here how you are feeling today. Has Escuela Caribe cured you?” Jay inquired.

 

“Yes sir. I used to be a faggot. I’m now cured through the word of God. Hallelujah.” Lance quietly stated, his eyes anything but joyful.

 

“That’s good. Go join the rest of your house for dinner.” Jay instructed, and the boy shuffled out the door.

 

Ali turned away from Jay and pretended to be examining the scriptures on the wall. What a fucking nightmare! 

 

“So what is Sandra’s problem? How can we here at Escuela Caribe save her?” Jay asked as they walked to the kitchen.

 

“She thinks she is a carpet muncher and is very rebellious both to our Lord and to me.” Ali felt bile rise in her throat as she spit out the words.

 

“Ah. Confused. It’s quite common you know. Have you allowed her to play sports? That is usually a big cause of this confusion. Many women coaches are lezzes who prey on young girls...turn them gay. We have a wonderful track record of conversion back to normal.” Jay stated proudly, his chest puffed out a bit. 

 

Ali felt like throwing up just being close to the man. She was definitely going to report what was happening here to the authorities back in the United States. There had to be a way to shut this place down! 

 

“So what happens if Sandra runs away. She is an intelligent girl. She could use her wiles to get someone to buy her a plane ticket. How do you stop that?” Ali asked, hoping Jay would show her where he stashed the passports.

 

Jay stopped and turned to face the woman. She certainly asked a bunch of questions. He scratched his shoulder a moment before directing the brunette to the small building they had passed by earlier in the day.

 

“Well, we confiscate their passports when they arrive and lock them up for safe keeping. If a child runs away, we find them and then put them into the QR, or ‘quiet room.’ They have every privilege taken away from them, and must start with either getting their hair shorn or shaved, depending on their gender. They are put into the QR and left alone to meditate about their transgressions. They aren’t allowed to look at anyone or speak to anyone. Food is passed on a tray under the door. Once they have successfully passed the first several days without anymore rebellion, they are given a mattress to sleep on. A few more days and they earn a pillow, then a blanket. It continues until they have earned the right to rejoin their house, but they are back to being at level zero. Then they go back to their normal schedules and continue to advance in levels as their behavior dictates. It’s highly effective. I’ve never had anyone try to run away more than once.” Jay boasted, taking out a key and shoving it into the locked door.

 

Ali’s heart broke at the sight she saw in that room. A child about Tallulah’s age curled up in the fetal position in the corner. There was nothing on the cold concrete floor for the child to sleep on, and just a dirty bucket to use the bathroom in. There was nothing else but a single barred window to let in some light. Ali’s hands balled up into fists and she willed them to straighten out. She nodded and turned away from the sight that sickened her beyond measure. The defender had to get out of there soon, or she was going to explode on the man...and that would do Tallulah no good. 

 

“So let’s go back to my office and we can discuss tuition, and when you’d like to get Sandra enrolled.” Jay stated warmly as he slammed the door shut and turned the key, the deadbolt sliding back into place.

 

Ali tried to focus on her breathing...on her heartbeat...anything but the what she had seen. Anything but the desperation in these children’s eyes. When she felt like she was about to scream and start punching Jay, she closed her eyes and pictured Ashlyn...the way the blonde’s skin and hair smelled when she got out of the shower...the way the keeper’s arms felt so safe wrapped around her...the dimpled smile that made her weak in the knees…

 

“Alexandra?!” Jay repeated louder.

 

Ali snapped out of her head and looked up, “Oh I’m sorry, I was just picturing what my daughter would be like when we get her back all cured.”

 

“Ah yes. You will be amazed at her transformation. No more rebellion, and with natural affections.” Jay reminded his potential new client, “As I was saying, tuition is twenty-thousand per year, but we only bill one year at a time as most of our kids don’t need too long to shape up.”

 

“A steal.” Ali mumbled, and rubbed her temples, the tension she was carrying had caused a terrible headache.

 

“Let me just get a contract for you.” Jay pushed on and he removed a picture of Jesus off the wall revealing a safe built into the structure.

 

Ali watched as he quickly spun the dial to the proper combination of numbers and opened the door. She inwardly cursed that the numbers were too small for her to catch as the defender saw a stack of passports inside next to the paperwork. Jay grabbed a contract and shut the door, re-locking it before turning back and handing her the document to fill out. Ali’s shoulders sagged. There wouldn’t be any way to swipe them out of a wall safe...well, without a stick of dynamite anyway. The brunette scribbled a made up address, name, and bank account number before signing the contract and handing it back.

 

“Great! Welcome to the Escuela Caribe family. We look forward to saving Sandra.” Jay remarked as she shook the woman’s hand.

 

“Thank you. I’m sorry, Jay, but I seem to have developed quite the headache. I’m going to go back to my hotel room before I fly out in the morning.” Ali stated as she turned towards the door.

 

“Certainly, Mrs. Pierce. I’ll call you in a couple of days and set up a time for us to collect Sandra.” Jay replied and opened the door for the woman.

 

Tears of frustration and disgust welled up in the brunette’s whiskey colored eyes as she fled to her car. Ali quickly shoved her keys into the ignition and started the engine, slamming the car into drive and mashing the accelerator pedal. Her car lurched forward, around the circle, and back down the winding driveway, away from the hell she had witnessed. About ten minutes down the road, Ali pulled to the side of the road and quickly opened the door, the contents of her stomach violently splattering onto the dirt. 

 

***

 

Ashlyn glanced up from the desk as the door to their room opened and her wife strode inside. Relief washed over her as she watched the defender make a bee line for the red headed teen and wrap her arms tightly around the girl, showering the top of her head with kisses.

 

“I’m so so sorry, my baby girl. God...I can’t even...what you went through….I’m so so sorry. I’m never going to let anyone ever hurt you again! Fuckers will have to come through me first.” Ali pledged, shaking her head 'no' to answer Ashlyn’s questioning eyes.  

    

Tallulah snuggled into Ali’s embrace. She felt safe and finally validated. Someone else had seen. Now maybe...just maybe these two would live up to their promises, and get her the hell off this island. 

Chapter Text

Ashlyn looked up from her computer. She couldn’t stop thinking about the details of that school both Ali and Tallulah had shared with her. The girl was still pretty traumatized, but after Ali had started with what she had seen, the little red head finally opened up about the type of abuse she had been through, and how it had made her feel. The blonde’s fingers involuntarily curled into fists above her keyboard as she thought about people abusing her little T that way. She wanted to go bursting through the doors of that place and start kicking asses. How could anyone force kids to be watched while taking a shower? Force kids to ask permission to enter a room, or pick up a mop, or even ask permission to take each and every bite of their food...it was beyond nauseating. Who in their right mind would ever punish a kid by taking a leather belt to their bare skin? Ashlyn took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Tallulah deserved some happiness for a change. The little red head had been cooped up in the room all day with her waiting for Ali to return, and it was time to get both her girls out for a little fresh air...and if she were being completely honest...she needed the distraction this promised before she went to the school and committed murder with her bare hands. The keeper paused with her hand hovering over the keyboard and gazed at Ali for a few moments. Was this the right thing to do? 

 

“Hey guys, what do you say we get out of here for awhile?” Ashlyn, making her decision, called out as she mashed the return key on her keyboard, sending the confirmation email.

 

Ali and Tallulah looked up from their card game on the bed and smiled. 

 

“That sounds fabulous, babe!” Ali enthusiastically agreed, and the red head smirked.

 

“Only ‘cuz you are losing so bad!” Tallulah replied, folding her hand to reveal a flush of spades.

 

Ali shook her head as she flipped her hand containing two pair, “Don’t play this kid in Vegas Ash, she will clean you out!”

 

Tallulah reached between them and scooped up the pile of nuts and candies to add to her growing bank. She popped a chocolate kiss into her mouth and smiled at Ali.  

 

“Well maybe I’ll buy-in when we get back. Teach her how to lose.” Ashlyn winked as she padded over to the bed.

 

“OK, but buy-in is five kisses, seven sour patch kids, a tootsie pop, and a bag of airplane peanuts.” Tallulah informed her.

 

“Wow, you guys are real high stakes, huh.” Ashlyn replied as she playfully tousled the mop of red hair on the teen’s head, “Just remember it’s all fun and games until somebody loses a tootsie pop.”

 

Tallulah rolled her eyes. She and Ali groaned at the lame joke. 

 

Ali stood up and pressed a kiss to Ashlyn’s cheek, “I’m going to go get freshened up a bit. I can’t go outside like this.”

 

“Of course not, because how in the world could anyone see Mrs. Alexandra Blaire Krieger-Harris without perfect mascara. Hell, I don’t think I’ve seen her without perfect mascara, and I’m the lucky person who married her.” Ashlyn teased and Ali swatted her shoulder, playfully.

 

“Ass. You have seen me without mascara.” Ali retorted, sticking out her tongue at the blonde as she walked to the bathroom.

 

“Don’t flaunt it unless you plan on using it later.” the keeper smirked.

 

“Ugh, you wish. And stop being such a bad influence on my baby girl, Ash!” Ali reminded her wife of the innocent ears right next to the blonde.

 

Tallulah looked back and forth between the two, “I don’t get it.”

 

Once the bed was cleared, Ashlyn flopped down next to Tallulah. She put her arms behind her head and looked over at the girl.

 

“If you are gonna date little hotties, the first thing you have to understand is patience. They take forever to get ready to go somewhere. The next thing is you have to learn how long it takes her to get ready on average, and incorporate that lead time into your plans. So I know that Ali takes at least fifteen minutes to ‘freshen up’ and sometimes up to a half hour if she wants to curl her hair…” Ashlyn explained before she turned and yelled in the direction of the bathroom, “Which I hope she doesn’t because we need to get our asses to the dock.”

 

Ali poked her head out of the bathroom, one eye with flawless make-up, the other still a work in progress, “Oooh. Why exactly do we need to get our asses to the dock, Stud?”

 

Ashlyn gazed over at her wife, and her face softened. She simply smiled at the beautiful brunette, her dimple on full display. Ali shook her head. She knew that look all too well.

 

“Fine. It’s a surprise, but can you at least give me some hint on what I should wear?” Ali continued.

 

“Dress warm and casual. We will have everything we need once we get there.” Ashlyn replied cryptically, remembering the details from the email.  

 

Tallulah watched the two women interacting and felt a tug at her heart. The love between the two was so obvious and effortless. It was the way she had always hoped her parents would start acting again...like they had been before her daddy lost his job and joined the Army...but then he had been shipped off to die in some stupid war, and her mom had started fucking other guys, abandoning her to  drown in her grief alone. The red head sniffled quietly and rubbed her watery eyes. Why was she so unloveable that her mommy couldn’t stand to be around her? Better yet, why couldn’t these women have been her parents instead? 

 

***

 

Ashlyn’s dimple peeked out as her lips curled into a wide smile. Both of her girls looked excited as they made their way down the dock towards the long wooden ship with three tall masts that was moored at the end. Its main square sails were white with huge red Spanish crosses painted in the middle. The main mast was the tallest. It was set into the center of the ship, and was crowned with a crow’s nest where one sailor would sit and look out over the ocean with a spy glass to detect any threats to the vessel, as well as locate other ships and islands. Attached to the crow’s nest was the sailing vessel’s flag. This one was flying a large black flag with a white skull and crossed cutlasses beneath it...the flag of Jack Rackham. The ship was a very detailed replica of a sixteenth century Spanish galleon, captured and captained by the infamous pirate...Calico Jack. 

 

Tallulah looked up at Ashlyn with bright green eyes full of hope, “Do we really get to look at that kickass boat?”

 

Ashlyn chuckled, “Yeah, T, we really get to look at that ‘kickass boat’. In fact, we more than get to look at it, we are going for a sunset dinner cruise on it.” 

 

“Whoa! Shut. Up. Really?!” Tallulah blurted out as her eyes widened, and Ali raised a sculpted eyebrow at the blonde, silently questioning her as well. 

 

“Yeah, really.” Ashlyn confirmed as she winked at her two girls.

 

Tallulah turned and skipped ahead of the couple, her fears forgotten in her excitement. Ali leaned into her wife and entwined their fingers, her heart swelling at the surprise, and the way it temporarily transformed the red head back into the little girl Tallulah must have been before the awful people at Escuela Caribe had stolen her innocence. 

 

Ali bumped her shoulder into her wife’s inked arm and flashed her a mega watt smile, “You did good, Ash. Real good, baby.”

 

“Yeah? I was hoping you would like it too. I mean, I kinda figured any kid that was as good as T in poker would probably like pirate stuff...but my princess?” Ashlyn explained as they watched the excited youngster slowly walk along the dock, checking out the ship from stern to bow. 

 

“Mhm. I love anything that puts that expression on my baby girl’s face, Stud.” Ali clarified, running her fingernails lightly over Ashlyn’s Athena tattoo, loving the way goosebumps erupted on the blonde’s flesh at her touch, “And just so you know, I wouldn’t drink too much ale tonight because you are definitely getting laid.”

 

“Yes ma’am!” Ashlyn replied, raking her eyes roguishly over her wife’s body, amazed how anyone could make on oversized shirt and leggings look so damned good.

 

Tallulah ran back to hurry the couple along, pulling them each by one hand. She wanted to get on board that pirate ship! At the bottom of the gangway, a woman dressed up as a sixteenth century serving wench with her ample bosoms heaved up by a fancy corset held onto a scroll and quill. 

 

“Good eve, might I have thy name, me Lord?” the woman asked Ashlyn as she slowly dipped the feathery end of her quill into her cleavage, flirtatiously.

 

“We are the Krieger-Harrises.” Ali replied curtly, leaning in closer to her wife, “Party of three.”

 

Ashlyn kissed Ali’s temple, and possessively wrapped her arms around the brunette’s and the little red head’s shoulders, pulling them closer to her. Tallulah sighed and closed her eyes, taking in the moment and how it felt like she had parents again. Parents who loved her. It felt...perfect. 

 

“What an adorable little family. So Pirate, Wench, or Female Pirate?” the hostess asked, her gaze lingering on the blonde a little too long as far as Ali was concerned.

 

“Pirate!” Tallulah enthused.

 

“Aye, pirate it ‘tis then.” the hostess exclaimed, handing a slip of black paper to Tallulah.

 

“Same. Pirate.” Ashlyn added, rubbing soothing circles on Ali’s shoulder with the pad of her thumb.

 

“Aye, and a swashbuckling choice it ‘tis.” the hostess flirted, handing the blonde a slip of black paper with a wink before turning to her attention to the fuming brunette with the death glare, “And for you, me Lady?”

 

“Wench.” Ali replied in a near growl.

 

“Aye, a beautiful lass ‘twil be.” the hostess commented as she handed Ali a small piece of pink paper. 

 

“Good lord a wench costume?! My wife is trying to kill me!” Ashlyn blurted out as the three walked up the gangway, much to the brunette’s satisfaction.

 

Stepping off the gangway onto the ship felt like stepping through a time portal. They were surrounded by actors that doubled as their servers, dressed in various pirate, wench, and female pirate costumes. The ship had three decks, and up next to the wheel stood a tall, imposing figure with long dirty blonde hair tied back with a tawny silk bandana adorned with sparkling jewel pendants. His large gold hoop earrings peeked out between his hair and scruffy beard. His faded light blue ruffled shirt was open past his chest, but a blood-red satin baldric overlaid with a dark brown leather sash was worn over his left shoulder to his right hip where it twisted so the sash wrapped around his waist and was tied off. This in turn was covered by a fancy tawny colored velvet vest with gold stitching and cord along the edges. A long curved cutlass sword hung from his right hip, and a flintlock pistol was tucked into the sash around his waist. Fancy buckled boots peeked out from underneath the man’s light brown breeches. No doubt about who this man was...his outfit screamed Captain Calico Jack. 

 

“Whoa.” Tallulah uttered in awe.

 

“Yeah. Wanna bet that’s the captain?” Ashlyn replied, equally impressed, and the red head nodded.

 

“Right this way, landlubbers. ‘Tis time to make pirates outta ye.” a man’s voice broke the spell.

 

The three were led down below deck to different small enclosed cabins where attendants of the same gender would show them clothing options in their size based on the color of their scrap of paper. They were given a key to the empty locker of their choice where they would store the clothes they wore to the ship. Once they were finished changing, they were taken to their assigned seats on the top deck.

 

Tallulah sank to her knees on the bench she had been shown to along the bow of the ship, and looked out at the beautiful crystal blue waters. How many times had she seen this ship sailing off the coast and never had the opportunity to experience it? She had lost count. This seemed like a dream come true. Maybe these women really did care about her. 

 

“Avast there, Matey. Have ya seen a gorgeous wench around here yet?” Ashlyn growled out in her very best pirate accent.

 

Tallulah looked over her shoulder at the blonde and shook her head, “Nope. No Ali yet.”

 

“Well, I’m sure when she comes out I’m going to have to beat all the other pirates off with a stick.” Ashlyn commented as she copied Tallulah’s position and leaned against the railing next to the red head.

 

“Oh my god, aren’t you two adorable!” Ali exclaimed as she walked up behind her two pirates. 

 

Ashlyn and Tallulah turned their heads, and the blonde’s breath caught as her eyes turned hungry from the sight of Ali in her costume. Ashlyn absently pulled her eye patch off with her right hand, and her tongue swiped across her bottom lip as she devoured her wife with her darkening eyes. The beautiful brunette had on a full length maroon skirt with a simple white, drop shoulder, low-cut linen blouse. Two perfect mounds of Ali’s sun kissed flesh peeked out from the top of her blouse, pushed up and together by a simple maroon bodice to form the most ample cleavage the blonde had ever seen her wife display. The brunette’s long silky hair cascaded in soft natural curls over her left shoulder, and two large gold hoop earrings completed her ensemble. 

 

“Wow, Alex.” Ashlyn managed as she pictured ravishing her wench. 

 

“You aren’t so bad yourself. You remind me of a blonde Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean.” Ali replied, looking her wife over from head to toe.

 

Ashlyn’s wild hair was tamed into a wind curled ponytail, held together by a brown leather hair cinch. Her maroon linen shirt was stuffed into brown breeches and the broad sash wrapped around her waist was a zig zag pattern of maroon and green over a golden base. The handle of a ‘stage’ dagger protruded from a smaller brown leather belt that topped the sash. The keeper wore a thin canvas overcoat that stopped mid-thigh. It was adorned with weathered brass buttons down the long length and around the wide cuffs. The finishing piece was a brown leather baldric that hung from her left shoulder to right hip, held together by an big weathered brass buckle to match the buttons of her overcoat.  

 

“You guys match.” Tallulah pointed out. 

 

“Ugh, we have turned into that couple.” Ali playfully complained.

 

“What, you don’t want to look like we belong together? You wound me woman.” Ashlyn replied, grabbing at her chest and pretending to keel over the railing dead.

 

Tallulah laughed and jerked her thumb in Ashlyn’s direction, “With all that drama, we should call her princess.” 

 

“Hey now, be nice or I’ll have the captain make ye walk the plank. Ye can be fish food.” Ashlyn teased back as Ali and the red head high fived each other.

 

Ali claimed the spot on the bench next to the young girl, and joined her two pirates looking out over the horizon. The sun was getting low in the sky as the sailboat finally pushed off from the dock and slowly made it’s way out into open waters. Big strapping men brought tables up and locked them into place in front of the guests, while serving wenches came by to take drink orders. Everywhere they looked, the ship was alive with colorful characters. When two bumped into each other, a challenge was issued, and they were treated to their first pirate duel...which ended in a cheater turning early and firing his flintlock pistol into the back of the other. Ashlyn was pleasantly surprised at how well done the whole thing was, and she absolutely loved how caught up in the fantasy of it all Tallulah had become. She sighed as a pang of guilt tugged at her...they didn’t know. If only she were here to simply enjoy some fabulous dinner theater adventure. 

 

A soft touch on the inked arm she had resting on the top of the bench behind Tallulah brought Ashlyn out of her thoughts. Her gaze drifted beyond the small fire haired pirate to meet shining whiskey colored orbs. The blonde’s lips curled into a smile as her wife mouthed ‘magical.’ The moment was lost when a serving wench set down three wooden mugs of pirate grog, although this version was ‘family friendly’ and made with rum flavored syrup instead of the alcohol. 

 

It wasn’t long before the servers brought out wooden bowels full of pinto beans and salted beef with large metal platters piled high with huge biscuits for the tables to share...traditional fare of Caribbean pirates and seafarers during the eighteenth century. Ashlyn chuckled at Tallulah diving right in and eating with her hands while Ali took a more measured approach and a biscuit as a spoon. As they ate, a group of pirates came out and started singing some traditional sea shanties while others combined dance and work ‘swabbing the deck,’ using their mops and buckets as dance partners.  

 

Ashlyn looked up at the wheel and saw the Captain nod before turning it over to his first mate. She took a deep breath. It was show time. The blonde got Ali’s attention by massaging her wife’s neck behind the red head’s back. 

 

“I need to use the little pirate’s room. I’ll be back.” Ashlyn excused herself, Ali nodding.

 

Ashlyn made her way around the servers and entertainers to the staircase that led below deck. She had watched ‘Calico Jack’ descend the stairs a minute earlier. The blonde hesitated at the top and nervously tightened her ponytail, was she doing the right thing? She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and blew it out before starting down the stairs...what choice did they have, really. She only wished she had talked it over with Ali first.  

 

Ashlyn paused at the bottom of the stairs and looked around. She nearly jumped out of her skin when a voice came from the shadows behind her.

 

“Master Krieger-Harris?” a gruff voice inquired.

 

“Yes. Are you…” Ashlyn started.

 

“I am. Follow me.” the man stated as he stepped into the dim light and past the keeper.

 

‘Calico Jack’ led her towards the stern of the ship to another staircase and down into the bowels. When they stepped off the stairs inside the hold, Ashlyn was stopped by the hostess that had checked them in at the gangway. She smiled lecherously at the keeper.

 

“Arms out to your sides, sexy.” the woman in the wench costume ordered.

 

Ashlyn looked up at the man she had followed into the ship’s hold, “Is this really necessary?”

 

“Sorry, but we can’t afford to take chances that you might be a plant, either from Interpol or one of the local gangs. You understand.” the man explained as he motioned for Ashlyn to submit to the search.

 

Ashlyn blew out an exasperated breath as she raised her arms straight out from her sides. Good thing Ali didn’t know about this or she would rip off heads...starting with the woman who was getting far too much enjoyment from patting her down...well, feeling her up would be a lot more accurate. The blonde maintained eye contact with ‘Calico Jack’ as the woman’s hands slowly felt their way up the keeper’s arms one at a time, pausing to appreciate her well developed biceps. Next, the wench squeezed around Ashlyn’s breasts, cupping the undersides and finishing with a little pinch of her nipples before they slid over her taut abs. The blonde could only imagine what Ali would have done to the woman if the fiery brunette had seen her pressed up against her own body until their breasts were rubbing together while the woman felt up and down her back, taking her time to squeeze each ass cheek. 

 

“Very nice.” the woman purred into Ashlyn’s ear before she dropped down and slid her hands up each leg, finally rubbing her hands against the crotch of the blonde’s thin breeches. 

 

Ashlyn’s hands curled into fists as she kept her anger in check while the sleazy woman practically sexually assaulted her under the guise of a ‘pat down.’ She kept reminding herself that she and Ali needed them, not the other way around. The blonde swallowed down the bile in her throat. She felt ill having this other woman’s hands all over her. It felt like a betrayal to Ali, even though she knew in her head it wasn’t. Finally the woman turned around to the man dressed as the pirate captain.

 

“She’s clean.” the woman confirmed. 

 

“Good. Get back to your station, you’ve had your bit of fun for the night.” the man dismissed her with a wave of his hand.

 

Ashlyn released her breath once the woman had climbed the stairs out of the hold. 

 

“So, what seems to be your problem that you need fixed?” the man asked, his dangerous blue eyes sizing up the blonde in front of him.

 

“We ran across a teenager who has been held in this country against her will at some torture camp posing as a christian school.” Ashlyn started.

 

“Escuela Caribe.” the man interjected with a nod, “Go on.”

 

“Uh, yeah, that one. Anyway, they have her passport locked up in their wall safe. It’s behind a big picture of Jesus in the school’s office. We need to get her passport back so we can get her back to America. On top of that, I guess she heard of some thug named Sausalito, Salto…” Ashlyn continued.

 

“Saulo.” the man supplied, “He’s not a guy you want to cross.”

 

“Yeah, that guy. So she went to him for help and he tried not only grabbing her, but my wife too. I was kinda hoping you might have an option for some added security until we leave as well.” Ashlyn finished up, rubbing the back of her neck nervously.

 

“I see. And how long do we have to complete the job and provide security for the three of you?” the man asked. 

 

“Three days.” Ashlyn forced her vocal chords to work, knowing how impossible it would sound.

 

“Three days?! You don’t ask for much do you?” the man chuckled, secretly loving the challenge, after all, it was what his reputation was built upon. 

 

“Look, I know it’s a lot, but I am kinda out of options here. Please. Please at least try. That kid doesn’t deserve to end up as some street hooker for that fucking bastard.” Ashlyn begged, shuddering at the thought of T as a used up shell of herself by the time she was fifteen.    

 

“Fine. We will try to make your miracle happen. Did you bring the donation that Maria told you about?” the man asked.

 

“Yeah, it’s inside my locker in my fanny pack. Five thousand US dollars, cash. Here’s the key. It’s number eleven.” Ashlyn replied as she held out the key to the locker she had chosen earlier in the evening.

 

The man took the key from the blonde, “Once we have the money I will have a server bring this back to you. I will have four of my guys with you at all times. Don’t worry, they know how to blend in. You won’t know they are there unless you guys get into trouble. You can leave a seven thousand US dollar donation in a gym bag in the hallway tomorrow. I’m sure you will need to go by a bank.”

 

“The passport is for Tallulah Jameson.” Ashlyn supplied the last bit of information the man would need, the blonde reaching out to shake the man’s hand, “And thank you. I’m not sure I could deal with Saulo on my own. I’ve never had to deal with a thug like that before.”

 

“Don’t thank me, football star. Some would say that Saulo and I are the same...I just have higher quality clientele, and a beautiful boat.” the man smirked at Ashlyn as he gripped her large hand tightly, loving how surprised the keeper was that he knew exactly with whom he was doing business. 

  

Ashlyn swallowed hard, she was so in over her head here. What had she done?! Why couldn’t she have just taken Ali to a quiet little honeymoon in Florida instead?!

 

“Fuck.” Ashlyn exclaimed as she climbed the stairs back to her girls, what kind of fool puts her trust in a pirate?

 

Chapter Text

“Fuck...” Ali moaned as her hips canted into Ashlyn’s long strong fingers thrusting deep inside her pulsing core, “yessssss. Baby, fuck me so good.”

 

Ashlyn swallowed the rest of Ali’s moan as she kissed her wife deeply, pressing the brunette’s back into the cool tiles of the shower, glad for the hot spray that not only brought wet warmth to their naked bodies, but also provided noise to drown out the sound of their lovemaking should the youngster in the next room wake up. The blonde’s eyes screwed shut as she felt the defender’s powerful legs tighten around her waist and short fingernails dig into the flesh covering her shoulder blades...the gorgeous brunette trying to bring their bodies impossibly closer...both feeling the desperate need to be melded together as one. 

 

Their lungs burned from lack of oxygen but neither wanted to relinquish the kiss as their tongues danced inside Ali’s mouth...while Ashlyn’s slow deep strokes pushed the brunette closer to the edge. Finally unable to go any longer, the kiss drunk blonde pulled back. A deep moan escaped Ashlyn’s throat when Ali trapped the keeper’s lower lip between her teeth and gently tugged as they broke their kiss, each panting for much needed air...the action reminding the blonde of the brunette’s pull on her nipples as she had been ravished by her wife only minutes before. Ashlyn leaned her forehead against Ali’s as they panted, water from the shower running through her long blonde locks, forming rivulets down her long angular face, and dripping off her chin onto the brunette’s heaving breasts. Ali slid her hands up into Ashlyn’s thick drenched mane and anchored herself as they gazed into each other’s lust darkened eyes. Words were unnecessary as every touch that drew fire across their flesh...every passionate kiss that left them breathless...every moan that pushed them closer to the edge, tattooed their endless love on each other’s soul. The blonde curled her fingers to hit the perfect spot with each strong thrust, and used her thumb to circle the defender’s crowning jewel. The brunette sank her teeth into her keeper’s muscular neck at the pulse point to keep from screaming out as her strong orgasm ripped through her body. 

 

Ashlyn stilled inside her wife as she allowed the brunette’s body to slowly calm before she gently withdrew her fingers. Tears flooded Ali’s eyes as she clung desperately to her soulmate...she had needed this connection and the defender’s emotions were overflowing.  

 

“I’ve got you, baby, I’ve got you and I’m never letting go. I love you so much, Alex. You are everything to me.” Ashlyn whispered in Ali’s ear as she carefully helped the brunette slide down the shower wall. 

 

Ashlyn cradled Ali in the bottom of the tub as the hot water continued to rain down on them. They couldn’t stay there all night, but they had enough hot water left to snuggle while they recovered from the intense orgasms they had given each other. Ali curled up against her wife, the strong arms around her comforting. The brunette turned her head and leaned up to place a sweet kiss on Ashlyn’s lips once she had regained control of her body from her orgasm and emotional release.   

 

“I love you, Ashlyn...more than I will ever be able to say.” Ali confessed as she nuzzled into the blonde’s neck and lightly stroked soothing circles on the arms that held her close.        

 

***

 

Ali stretched and yawned. The defender’s body felt incredible after a night of sexy dress up dinner theater had led to some very passionate lovemaking and snuggling with her wife, but the weight of the blonde’s arm around her waist was missing now. The sleepy brunette arched her back a little more searching for Ashlyn’s warmth behind her...nothing but cold empty sheets. Ali’s eyes popped open and she glanced across the room to find the roll away bed unoccupied as well. Where the heck was everybody? What if...

 

Panic gripped Ali’s heart and squeezed all the breath from her lungs. She threw the covers off and  jumped up, swiftly making her way to the sliding glass door that led to their balcony...the defender’s heart pounding in her chest. Ali sighed and brought a hand to clutch her t-shirt over her heart as the fear the brunette had felt moments before was alleviated, but her heart continued to pump hard from the adrenaline dump. Well this was definitely not her favorite way to wake up, that was for sure. Ali paused at the door as she caught her breath, and watched as Tallulah dissolved into a fit of giggles from something Ashlyn had said...it melted her heart a bit more. Ali smiled and turned towards the bathroom. She would join her girls after she freshened up. 

 

***

 

Tallulah leaned on the railing next to the tall blonde. The young teen had spotted some early morning surfers and watched as they carved the crystal clear waves beneath them. She noticed that Ashlyn was also watching them, and she looked like she was ready to jump off the balcony to join in the fun. 

 

“Thank you.” the red head quietly stated.

 

“For what?” Ashlyn asked, her brow creasing in confusion.

 

“For last night.” Tallulah replied, not taking her eyes off of the surfers.

 

Crimson invaded Ashlyn’s face and her chest squeezed. What the hell? Did the girl hear them in the bathroom?! Oh god...

 

“Uh…last night?” Ashlyn squeaked out, her voice betraying her embarrassment.                        

 

 “Yeah. You know that is the coolest thing…” Tallulah started.

 

“I’m sorry, we aren’t normally so loud…” Ashlyn started to apologize at the same time. 

 

They stopped and looked at each other. 

 

“Wait. What? What are you talking about?” The red head inquired, tilting her head to the side, her mop of hair flopping over.

 

“What are you talking about?” Ashlyn thought it best if she waited for the girl to clarify.

 

“Last night.” Tallulah stated as though it was quite obvious.

 

Ashlyn paused and racked her brain. She was pretty sure the girl hadn’t woken up, so it had to be about the pirate themed dinner theater cruise.

 

“The big pirate ship?” Ashlyn hoped as she turned towards the girl. 

 

“Duh! Of course the big pirate ship. That was like the coolest thing anyone has ever done for me! I can’t believe we got to sail around eating like pirates, and keep our costumes, too. I know you probably had to pay extra for that...so thank you. Best day of my life.” Tallulah gushed before she wrapped her arms around the blonde and squeezed for all she was worth, her walls crumbling.  

 

Ashlyn stood stunned for a few seconds before she returned the hug in equal measure. The blonde hadn’t expected the show of affection from the girl, she had been so suspicious of the couple. Yet this morning it was almost as if a great shift in Tallulah’s universe had happened. As the girl continued to cling to her, Ashlyn’s eyes misted up a bit, she looked out at the ocean and mouthed ‘thank you, Calico Jack.’  

 

Ashlyn and Tallulah looked up a little startled when the sliding glass door opened and Ali stepped through. The young girl pushed away from the hug, suddenly self conscious. 

 

“Hey, where’s mine?” Ali playfully pouted as she walked over to the pair.

 

Ashlyn’s dimple peeked out as she grinned, and the blonde opened her arms for her wife. The brunette placed a hand against the keeper’s chest.

 

“Slow your roll there, Stud. I was talking about this cutie pie.” Ali clarified as she winked at Tallulah.

 

Crimson invaded the girl’s freckled face, and she looked down at her toes, her lips curling into a shy smile. The young teen allowed herself to be drawn into the beautiful brunette, and she closed her eyes, soaking up the way it made her feel safe and loved to be hugged by these women. Ali held the Tallulah for a few seconds before Ashlyn’s stomach loudly growling broke the moment. The defender giggled and then brushed the red head’s mop of hair away from the teen’s forehead so she could place a tender kiss there.   

 

“Sounds like somebody worked up an appetite with all that hard ‘sleeping’ they did last night.” Ali teased, and raked her eyes over Ashlyn’s body with a smoldering look that hit the blonde right between the legs.

 

“More like all that hard snoring!” Tallulah corrected, oblivious to the eye fucking the couple was currently engaged in. 

 

“What can I say? I was worn out, being a swashbuckling pirate is hard work.” Ashlyn teased back, holding Ali’s gaze with an equally lust filled one of her own. 

 

“But very much appreciated.” Ali purred over Tallulah’s head. 

 

“Very!” The red head added, nodding and smiling innocently at the blonde. 

 

“Well, what do you two say we go find us some grub to stuff our faces with?” Ashlyn suggested, her tongue unconsciously swiping across her bottom lip as her darkened hazel eyes focused on Ali’s mouth.

 

“Yes please!” Ali quickly replied, her right arm draped loosely over Tallulah’s shoulders.

 

“Um...can you guys take me somewhere?” the teenager asked a bit hesitantly.

 

Ali squeezed the girl’s shoulders encouragingly, “What were you thinking?”

 

“I uh...I want to introduce you to someone.” Tallulah stated before her own stomach growled.

 

“How about after breakfast, Squirt, it appears I’m not the only one famished around here.” Ashlyn replied with a wink.

 

“He works at a restaurant, so we could do both at the same time!” Tallulah explained, hoping that they would agree.

 

Ashlyn looked at Ali who nodded. 

 

“Sure. We would love to meet this guy.” Ashlyn responded, smiling as the girl’s face lit up.

 

***

 

Tallulah pulled on Ali and Ashlyn’s hands to get them to hurry up as she led them down the alleyway behind the restaurant at the Eden Roc Resort. Stopping at the slightly ajar screen door, the red head released their hands and ‘meowed’ into the cavernous kitchen. Ashlyn looked at Ali who spared her a nose crinkling smile. They both knew exactly who she sounded like, and Ali mouthed ‘your little mini-me’ at the blonde. It wasn’t too long before a slightly older teen pushed open the screen door and popped out, holding a small bag.

 

“Hey Alley Cat, you must be hung…” Hasiel stopped mid-sentence as he spied the two women standing behind his friend.

 

Tallulah smiled at the boy, “It’s ok. They are going to help me get off the island and back to the States. They won’t get you into trouble, I promise.”

 

“Really? To the States?! Oh mi little Alley Cat. I am so happy for you.” Hasiel exclaimed as he subtly tucked the bag under his shirt. 

 

Tallulah turned to the women who were patiently waiting behind her, “Ali, Ashlyn, this is my friend Hasiel. He fed me when I was really hungry and had nothing to eat, even though he could have been fired for it.”

 

“Oh, so you are responsible for that delicious fish head soup. Thank you for taking such good care of my baby girl.” Ali gushed, causing both teens to blush.

 

Hearing the pet name, Hasiel looked at Tallulah and she shrugged her shoulders. He smiled warmly at the women. By the sounds of it, these two women were going to take the red head in, and he was happy that she had found herself a good place to live, but a little sad that it appeared this was goodbye. 

 

“No. Thank you for rescuing her. T is good. She deserves to get out of this place. She really deserves to be loved.” Hasiel repaid the compliment.  

  

“Hey! Get back to work. We are going inside to eat anyways.” Tallulah quickly tried to redirect the conversation.

 

The red head hoped that Ali and Ashlyn wouldn’t be offended by his words...a part of her secretly wished they were her parents. Ashlyn reached out and scruffed the mop of red hair on Tallulah’s head.

 

“Oh we are definitely going to do all we can to help her.” the keeper reassured the lad. 

 

Hasiel pulled Tallulah into a hug and kissed her cheek before he whispered in her ear, “Take good care of yourself, Alley Cat. Be happy.”

 

***

 

Ashlyn placed a large hand on Ali’s muscular thigh, enjoying the feel of the soft tanned skin that the brunette’s shorts allowed her access to as she drove them back to Punta Cana. Breakfast had been good, and they were all a little stuffed. The girl in the back seat had been quiet once they left, and the blonde was pretty certain she was sad to be leaving her friend. Ali laid her hand over her wife’s entwining their fingers, and the gorgeous pink diamond of her wedding ring caught the sunlight through the windshield, creating a beautiful kaleidoscope of vibrant dancing color inside the car. 

 

“Whoa, it looks like a disco ball barfed Pepto Bismol all up in here.” The keeper teased.

 

“Easy there, King Kong, or no more Animal Planet for you!” Ali sassed back, one perfectly manicured eyebrow arched as she playfully scooped Ashlyn’s hand off her thigh and dropped it back on the blonde’s side of the center arm rest. 

 

“Oh I think we both know your love for all things Animal Planet, Mrs. Krieger-Harris. Pretty sure you wouldn’t want that any more than I would.” Ashlyn smirked at her wife, both of them momentarily forgetting their back seat passenger.

 

“I like Animal Planet too. Mostly stuff about sharks and the New York City animal cops who rescue abused pets, but monkey stuff could be kinda cool I guess. Is that what we are gonna do when we get back to the room? Watch Animal Planet?” Tallulah piped up from behind the couple. 

 

“Yeah, is that what we are gonna do, Alex?” Ashlyn teased, knowing full well she would probably end up paying for making her wife squirm. 

 

“You know, I thought you had something to do today, Ash.” Ali turned it back around, trying to get the conversation onto anything other than their sex life. 

 

“I do, Alex. I thought we could take T surfing.” Ashlyn suggested, watching the teen’s face light up in the rear view mirror. 

 

“Hell yeah! Really?!” Tallulah blurted out in excitement. 

 

“Really. Look at the waves out there, it would be a shame to waste ‘em.” Ashlyn responded, noting for the first time Ali’s scowl as the brunette mouthed ‘what the fuck’ at her.

 

Ashlyn inwardly cursed, she had forgotten that Ali wasn’t aware of her dealings with ‘Calico Jack.’ She was going to be in the doghouse, and what was worse, she had been instructed not to share the plan with anybody...including her beautiful wife who was now fuming in the passenger seat next to her. 

 

“Wow! The waves are huge! This is gonna be so much fun!” Tallulah gushed, and then turned to the brunette, “Are you coming too?”

 

Ali schooled her features and allowed them to soften before she turned to face the girl, “You know, I’m not a very good surfer. I can’t even stand up most times. Those look like waves that you have to know what you are doing to ride. I’m going to sit this one out. Maybe next time.”

 

“That’s ok I understand, you don’t like to do stuff you aren’t good at...but you know that everybody was bad at it when they first start. It takes a lot of practice, and if you want, I could help you.” Tallulah offered, trying to change Ali’s mind.

 

“You are so sweet. No promises, but I’ll think about it, ok?” the defender conceded, angry that her wife put her in this position to begin with. 

 

When the red head turned to watch the ocean passing by as they drove along the road next to it, Ali pinned Ashlyn with an icy glare as she none-too-subtly crossed her arms in front of her chest, waiting for the explanation she knew the blonde couldn’t give her with little ears in the back seat.  

Ashlyn sighed, it was going to be a damned uncomfortable drive back to the resort, but at least there was one happy person in the car. The blonde noticed Ali’s hand reaching over toward her and she turned toward her wife, her lips turning up slightly in a hopeful half smile...until the brunette angrily mashed the power button to the radio before turning in her seat so her back was to Ashlyn as she looked out of her window. The last thing Ali wanted to see right now was her wife who obviously wasn’t interested in getting Tallulah away from Saulo and back to the United States. They only had a couple more days to get the girl’s passport for fuck’s sake. Well, if Ashlyn wasn’t going to do anything, she was damned sure going to give it one last try!

 

***

   

Tallulah happily skipped through the room to the dresser where Ali had helped her fold and put away her new clothes. She looked up at the beautiful brunette and saw the fire in the woman’s stormy eyes.

 

“Ali, would you help me pick out a good surfing outfit please?” the red head asked, hoping that the chore would help put out the flames. 

 

Ali glared once more at Ashlyn before she closed her eyes and willed her features to soften. Once she had banked the fire that was boiling her blood, the defender opened her eyes, turned away from her wife, and smiled warmly at the teen. 

 

“Sure, baby girl. Let’s see what we can put together.” Ali replied, padding over to the dresser.

 

Ashlyn tossed the car keys down on the desk and rubbed her face with one large hand. The blonde was frustrated and stressed out...and the one thing she really needed right now...the keeper knew she couldn’t have. She watched Ali searching through the dresser drawer that held the red head’s clothes, and sighed. What Ashlyn really needed was to wrap her arms around the defender, to feel Ali’s warmth...to smell the faint scent of vanilla, almond, and plumeria of the brunette’s body wash that clung to her wife’s tanned skin...to feel Ali’s petal soft lips pressed against her own. Ashlyn closed her eyes. Fuck, she hated this. 

 

“I’m going to get changed. I’ll be right out. Does anyone need to use the bathroom before first?” Ashlyn asked as she paused at the sliding glass door to the balcony where her board shorts and bikini top had been hung out to dry a few days prior.

 

“No, I’m good.” Tallulah replied, and Ali shook her head, not even turning around.

 

Ashlyn hung her head and slipped out to retrieve her swim wear. The keeper didn’t look at the brunette when she came in, it hurt to see the anger housed in those normally shining topaz jewels. The blonde just made her way into the bathroom, and quietly closed the door. She leaned her forehead against the wood, closing her watery eyes. Ashlyn could take anything the world had to throw her way as long as she had her princess by her side...the defender of her heart. But having Ali angry at her and shutting her out felt like a sea of darkness...washing over her...pulling her down...trying to drown her. Fuck it. She would tell her wife about Calico Jack after she changed. Her mind made up, the blonde pushed herself away from the door. Sure, Ali was gonna be pissed that she hadn’t been let in on the plan from the start, but at least the keeper could be honest with her and once they had Tallulah’s passport in hand, all would be forgiven. 

 

***

 

Ashlyn’s face dropped when she came out of the bathroom and Ali was nowhere in sight. She glanced out on the balcony, but it was empty. Her eyes zeroed in on the desk where she had left the keys to the rental car, but they were gone. 

 

“Ali said to tell you to have fun and not to worry, she will be back in a couple of hours.” Tallulah offered.

 

“Oh, did she say where she was headed?” Ashlyn tried to keep the fear out of her voice.

 

“Nope. Just told me to have fun surfing with you.” the red head shrugged her shoulders, “So are you ready?! Can we go now?!”

 

“Yeah, um, let me just send a quick text and then we will be good to go.” Ashlyn replied as she grabbed her iphone off the desk.

 

Stud: Where are you, Alex? 

Stud: I need to tell you something. 

Stud: To your beautiful face.

 

Ashlyn paused a heart beat before her fingers quickly added one last message.

 

Stud: Because I love you.

 

***

 

Ali rolled her eyes as four quick text message alerts sounded. Ashlyn must be out of the bathroom. The irritated defender grabbed her iphone and pushed her auto-reply. As soon as she heard the text send, the brunette switched her phone off. The last thing she needed right now was a distraction. 

 

***

 

Princess: Sorry, I’m driving right now. I will get back to you as soon as I can.

 

Ashlyn looked at the screen and groaned. Ali was still ignoring her. She sighed as she looked up at the eager teen. At least she could make the kid happy.

 

“Ok, let’s go rent some boards and shred some waves.” the blonde smiled as she tucked her iphone into its water proof bag, and tossed it into her back pack with the towels, sunscreen, and other beach gear. 

 

“Yessss! I can’t believe I actually get to surf today! Thank you so much.” Tallulah offered her gratitude to Ashlyn as they headed out the door.

 

“No worries, T. How long has it been since you got to ride?” Ashlyn asked as she turned the key in the lock.

 

“Hm, like nearly three years now, I think. My daddy was the one who taught me when I was six. He was the only one who took me, but then he got so busy learning how to be a soldier and getting deployed that we just stopped going. Then he died.” Tallulah explained as they walked down the breezeway to the stairs. 

 

Ashlyn wrapped her arm around the girl’s shoulders and looked down at her. God that kid’s life story just kept ripping her heart out. She smiled at the innocent freckled face girl who had experienced more pain than anyone her age should have to. Tallulah deserved a little ocean magic...and Ashlyn was determined to give it to her.

 

***

 

Ali parked the rental car and turned off the ignition. She checked her make-up in the mirror set into the sun visor. After taking a couple of calming breaths, the brunette opened the door and got out. She looked at the building in front of her and felt her stomach clench. Ali had never imagined she would ever be coming back to this god forsaken place, but then again, she was willing to do anything to help that little red headed waif who had stolen a place in her heart so effortlessly...even walk back into Escuela Caribe to commit a crime spree.

 

Ali counted the cracks in the tiled floor. She had to focus on something other than the abused children all around her. By god, she would help them...all of them, but today was about Tallulah. When she got back to the United States and could trust the authorities, she would make sure they found out what happened here. A deep voice brought her out of her thoughts as it turned her stomach. Show time.

 

“Ah, Mrs. Pierce, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company today?” Jay called out, his tone not quite friendly.

 

Ali plastered a fake smile on her face and turned, “Hi, Dr. Valerio. I came to talk with you and straighten out a little mix-up with the payment.”

 

Jay seemed to relax a bit at that and his lips curled up, “Certainly. Shall we go to my office?”

 

“Yes please.” Ali replied, eager to get away from the sight of children on their hands and knees scrubbing the dirty floor and walls with toothbrushes that broke her heart.

 

Poor babies. God I wish I could just put them all in my car and drive off this island. No, Alex. You gotta focus! This is for T.

 

Ali followed Dr. Valerio down the hallway. When they entered the office, the brunette noticed that the secretary wasn’t in the room. That’s odd. Where’s the attack witch? Guess that’s better. Now I only have to do something with him. The principal’s eyebrows knitted in confusion and irritation. He glanced at the clock on the wall. Ali spotted a good sized stone being used as a paperweight and grinned. Perfect. Just as she reached out to take it, Dr. Valerio turned to face her.

 

“What are you doing?” Jay uttered accusingly.

 

“Signing in.” Ali changed course with her hand slightly to the sign in sheet next to the rock.

 

“Nah, don’t worry about that. It’s getting close to lunch so I don’t have much time, unfortunately. C’mon into my office and let’s talk.” Jay dismissed the brunette’s actions.

 

Fuck. Ali smiled even though she felt like throwing up. The defender followed the man into his office. As a muffled sound came from next to them, she looked down and spotted the secretary on the floor, bound and gagged. What the hell

 

“Stop!” Jay screamed, and Ali’s head snapped back up.

 

A man dressed in dirty linen clothes with a scruffy beard tossed a cloth bag through the window and dove out after it. Ali noticed the empty safe with the door ajar and pushed past Jay. No way in hell was she going to allow somebody else to steal the passport she needed! Ali reached the window and climbed out of it, landing a bit awkwardly on the uneven ground outside. She turned and quickly spotted the man running for the tree line. 

 

Ali swore she had never run faster, the thought of Tallulah’s passport disappearing spurring her on to record speed. The defender’s strong legs chewed up the ground between them and she quickly closed the distance. The man looking over his shoulder got a panicked look on his face as he noticed how close the woman was...and how pissed. In desperation, he tossed the bag as far away from him as possible, the contents flying out. Ali changed direction too. She could give a shit less if the thief got away as long as she saved the red head’s passport. A few seconds later, Ali heard a motorcycle start up and peel away deeper into the jungle. 

 

The brunette made it over to the bag and the passports and papers strewn around and sighed. That was close! Ali kneeled down and started quickly picking through the passports. Finally she picked up one and opened it...a very familiar looking red head grinned back at her. Yes! Success. The defender stood up and turned, nearly knocking over Dr. Valerio who looked down at the passport in her hands.

 

“What are you doing?” Jay demanded.

 

Ali saw at least half a dozen men from the school running in their direction. They were all between her and her car. Fuck. No way she was getting around all of them. The brunette smiled and handed Jay the precious passport. 

 

“I was getting everything together for you. That thug tossed the bag and everything spewed out, so I didn’t want you to lose anything important.” Ali lied. 

 

Jay opened the passport and smirked at the woman, distrust burning in his eyes, “Well, it looks like I need to put these somewhere safer, you never know who wants to steal them. Thank you for stopping by, Mrs. Pierce, but I think we both know it’s time for you to leave.”

 

***

 

Ashlyn looked up as the door suddenly swung open. Ali walked in and made a bee line for her. The blonde barely had enough time to stand up before her wife was pressed against her, tears wetting her neck. Ashlyn wrapped her arms around Ali and helped her outside to the balcony so they could talk in private.

 

Ashlyn had only ever seen the brunette this distraught over Ken. She kissed the crown of Ali’s head and allowed her to completely shatter in the safety of her arms. What the hell had happened? Where had the brunette gone? Ali’s whole body shook as she cried, wracked with guilt. Ashlyn sat down on the recliner and pulled Ali with her. She gently rocked the defender in her arms and placed comforting kisses on her temple. 

 

“Shhhh. I’ve got you, baby, I’ve got you. I love you, Alex.” Ashlyn cooed as she held Ali tightly.

 

Finally the tears subsided, and the brunette stilled in Ashlyn’s arms. She breathed in the comforting scent of her wife and closed her eyes, allowing the feel of the blonde wrapped around her to calm her frayed nerves. It had all gone to hell so quickly. 

 

“Where’s T?” Ali asked, finally able to find her voice again.

 

“She’s sleeping. Surfing really wore her out today.” Ashlyn replied, rubbing soothing circles on Ali’s back.

 

Ali sniffled as she nuzzled further into the blonde’s neck, snot running down her face and making it hard to breathe. 

 

“Are you rubbing your snot all over me again, Mrs. Krieger-Harris?” Ashlyn gently teased.

 

Ali smiled sadly, “Yup. It’s in the wife contract. You really should read it sometime, Stud.”

 

Ashlyn chuckled, “There’s my girl. Now what has you so upset, Alex?”

 

Ali closed her eyes. She had to own up to it sometime. The brunette took a deep breath and she paused to find her strength once more.

 

“I really fucked it all up this time, Ash.” Ali started.

 

Ashlyn’s brows creased but she continued to gently caress her wife’s back, “What happened?”

 

“I...I went to Escuela Caribe to get Tallulah’s passport, but some jackass was already stealing them. So I chased him down…” Ali started.

 

Ashlyn’s eyes widened and she sat them up, “What?!”

 

“Somebody had already beat me to it. But I chased him and kept them from getting stolen. The bad thing is the principal caught me with Tallulah’s passport, and now I think he’s on to me. There were all these other men running out to us and I couldn’t risk getting arrested so I gave it back to him. It’s all my fault. I’m so sorry, I failed you...and Tallulah.” Ali admitted unable to meet Ashlyn’s eyes, guilt twisting in her gut.

 

The keeper gently lifted Ali’s chin so the brunette would look at her. When Ali finally opened her eyes, she found no judgement in the kind hazel eyes in front of her, only love...and sadness.

 

“Oh no baby, it’s not your fault...it’s mine. I...I hired those guys. They didn’t want me to tell anyone else and that didn’t feel right to me, but I kept quiet. I was going to tell you today, but you left and didn’t answer my texts. Fuck, this shit is all on me.” Ashlyn absolved her wife as she confessed her part in the failed attempt to steal the passport.

 

Ali leaned in and kissed Ashlyn tenderly. She was angry that her wife had left her in the dark, but then, she hadn’t exactly told the blonde what her plan was either. Besides, being angry with each other wasn’t going to do Tallulah any good. They needed to think of something else, and fast. 

 

“Do you want to come take a shower with me? I need to wash off the stench of that place.” Ali asked as she stood up, Ashlyn following her. 

 

“Yeah, I do. We need to think of something, Alex, some way to get her a passport because, ” Ashlyn paused as she opened the sliding glass door, “How am I supposed to tell Tallulah that we have to leave and she can’t come with us?”

 

“I know babe. We will think of something. We have to, we are out of time.” Ali quietly replied, not wanting to wake the sleeping teen.

 

The couple quietly padded over to the bathroom and closed the door behind them. As the door clicked, Tallulah opened her eyes. How could they?! They were going to leave her here! The betrayal punched her in the gut. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She had finally trusted some adults again, and they were just as bad as her mom. Well, if Ashlyn didn’t want to have to tell her that, then she would just leave and make it easy on everyone.

 

Tallulah got up and put her shoes on. She angrily swiped at the tears that were falling down her face. Fuck them! She didn’t want anything from them! The teen looked down at her t-shirt and wanted to rip it off, but she realized that they had thrown away her old clothes after they bought her new stuff. She was stuck with at least one outfit from them, but she could probably trade for some more appropriate island wear with someone from the ghetto. Her mind made up, Tallulah stalked over to the door and left, not bothering to even close the door behind her. 

 

***

 

Juan looked down at the little red head, surprised at her knocking on the door this time of night. It was the busiest time for Saulo’s crew with all the prostitutes they ran. 

 

“Tell Saulo I’m here, and I’m ready. I need to pay his sea captain friend to get off this island.” Tallulah announced, anger burning in her veins.   

It would be a cold day in hell before she ever trusted anyone again...

Chapter Text

Tallulah laid on the bed deep inside Saulo’s fortress-like house. He had been happy to see her, immediately setting her up in his ‘special guest’ room. She couldn’t seem to stop the tears that flowed down her cheeks and stained her pillow. The teen pulled herself into a tight ball and continued to cry, cursing herself for allowing those fucking women to hurt her like this. She had been so charmed by their pretty faces, and all the time they had spent with her acting as if they cared. They had seemed patient, kind, and loving...and it was all just a bunch of bullshit...some sort of sick tourist game. Well she was done playing house...from now on, nobody got near her heart. She was going to make sure it was protected by a layer of solid ice surrounded by walls upon walls of fuck off and die.

 

***

 

Ashlyn dropped her toothbrush into the sink as Ali’s blood curdling scream tore through the silence of the night. The blonde’s heart raced as she burst through the doorway to their room from the bathroom. Her eyes quickly scanned the room for the cause of her wife’s distress...past the open door and landing on the empty rollaway bed. Fuck! Ashlyn closed the distance to Ali and wrapped her arms around the brunette just as the defender’s strong legs gave out. 

 

Ali’s limp body fell into Ashlyn and her cries of anguish were muffled by the blonde’s chest. Her keeper quickly scooped her up, and carried the distraught brunette to their bed, gently laying her down on the soft surface. It was all her fault! Tallulah was gone and it was all her fault. If only she had told Ashlyn her plan...but if she had, the blonde would have stopped her. Yet if she had been stopped, they would have gotten Tallulah’s passport and been ready to fly out in the morning. Now…now her baby girl was gone and it was all her fault. Ali felt like the world was closing in on her...it was hard to breathe...god if anything happened to that sweet girl…

 

Ashlyn held Ali and brushed her sable silk out of her face with gentle fingers. The blonde placed reassuring kisses on the defender’s temple. She had to find that girl, and quick! God knows what would happen to Tallulah if Saulo got his pervy hands on her...that thought made Ashlyn want to vomit. It was all her fault. If only she had told Ali her plans from the start...but if she had, the brunette would have stopped her...who hires people to commit crimes for them? If something happened to Tallulah, she was going to hunt them all down and end them! Fuck Saulo...fuck Calico Jack...fuck the lot of them! A white hot rage started to build in Ashlyn’s veins. She was going to get her girls off this god forsaken island, and anyone who stood in her way was going to have hell to pay…

 

“Look at me, Alex.” Ashlyn gently commanded, tenderly wiping Ali’s tears with the pads of her thumbs while she held her wife’s face. 

 

Ali’s watery eyes finally focused on the blonde in front of her. The brunette’s shoulders shook as her sobs wracked her body, but she slowly calmed locked in her wife’s loving gaze. Eventually, the defender sniffled loudly as she got her emotions under control. 

 

“That’s better. I think we need to get out there and start looking for Tallulah, babe. I mean, all of those cop shows you watch always say the same thing...the first forty-eight hours are crucial. Think you can help me? I sure could use your eyes out there. Four are definitely better than two.” Ashlyn explained, torn between wanting to comfort her wife, and needing to find the young girl as quickly as possible. 

 

The brunette nodded, she knew Ashlyn was right. They needed to find Tallulah before something awful happened to her. God help that Saulo if he hurt one red hair on the teen’s head, Ali would kick his balls into the next decade!  

 

“Yes, let’s find our baby girl, Ash.” Ali croaked out, her throat raw from crying. 

 

“Alright! That’s my badass defender. Go wash your face real quick while I grab my wallet and keys.” Ashlyn suggested, pressing a tender kiss to Ali’s lips before releasing her and turning towards the desk. 

 

***

 

Ali held her wife’s hand in a death grip. The contact was grounding and reassuring to the brunette as her eyes desperately searched through the darkened streets for the little red head who had quickly managed to work her way into the defender’s heart. With each passing minute that they didn’t locate the girl, Ali’s heart sank further and further towards despair. Why was this hitting her so hard? Guilt sure, but that couldn’t explain all of it. Is this what it felt like to be the parent of a missing child? Ugh, how did anyone survive it?! As if reading her mind, Ali felt Ashlyn’s thumb start rubbing soothing circles on her thigh. It was uncanny how in synch they could be at times. 

 

“We’re going to find her, Alex. I’m not stopping until we get her back, safe and sound.” Ashlyn vowed, and Ali momentarily squeezed the blonde’s hand even harder in acknowledgement, unable to get words past her fear tightened throat. 

 

Tears slipped down the defender’s cheeks as she continued to peer into the darkness, searching for the young teen. They had driven up and down almost all of the streets in town, checked in the girl’s old sleeping place in between the bush and fence where she and Tallulah had hidden from Saulo’s men, and even out along the beaches stretching along the highway outside of town in both directions. There was no sign of the girl. Ali was so glad that Ashlyn was here with her. The keeper was her rock...her source of strength that helped her get through any situation...and she knew deep down that she would get through this with her wife’s help, even if she felt like she were dying inside a bit more with each tick of the clock. 

 

Ashlyn had turned the car around and headed back into town slowly searching street by street, darkened store front by darkened store front. They found nothing but drunks, prostitutes, pimps, and the occasional disinterested cop, who most likely had already been paid to look the other way as the dark underbelly of the island came out to conduct its business. 

 

“Weshouldcheckheroldcampsite, but Idon’tthinkwe’dfinditinthedark.” Ali mumbled, as she was both relieved and concerned that Tallulah was not mixed in the midst of another group of prostitutes on the street while Ashlyn pulled the car into a parking space along the downtown square.

 

Ashlyn left the car running, but slipped the gear into park before the blonde turned towards her distraught wife. The keeper unbuckled their seatbelts, and pulled her wife towards her, wrapping strong arms around the brunette. Ali melted into the embrace, allowing herself to feel the comfort and safety of her wife’s arms. She wasn’t sure about anything at the moment, except deep in her soul Ali knew that Ashlyn would go to the ends of the earth for her, and that she wouldn’t stop until they found Tallulah. At the moment that was all that kept the brunette from falling into the pit of despair. 

 

“It’s a damned good thing I’m fluent in Ali,” Ashlyn gently teased, happy when she heard the defender chuckle softly through her tears, “but I agree with you. I think we do have to check the campsite. What do you think about staying in the car here? We have a pretty good view of the entire square, and it should be daylight in a couple of hours. Maybe you could even shut your eyes for a little bit.”

 

Ali pushed back from Ashlyn so she could look her wife in the eye.

 

“No! I’m not going to go to sleep with T missing! Who do you think I am?!” Ali replied, indignantly.

 

“Oh no, I didn’t mean it like that, baby. I meant we could take turns getting a nap in while the other keeps an eye out. If we don’t find her before daylight, we are going to need the rest to keep searching.” Ashlyn quickly explained herself, knowing the stress and fear was taking a toll on them both.

 

Ali reached out and cupped Ashlyn’s face, the blonde’s words putting out the instantaneous fire that had flared in her. The brunette pressed a tender kiss to her wife’s lips before tucking herself into the keeper’s side, and resting her head on the blonde’s chest. 

 

“I’m sorry. I’m just so…” Ali started.

 

“Shh. No need, Alex. I get it. Really. Just get some rest, ok Beautiful? We have a long day ahead of us.” Ashlyn interjected, knowing Ali was strung as tight as a bow at the moment.

 

Ali reluctantly closed her eyes, breathing in the comforting scent of her wife. She had trouble quieting her mind, but once Ashlyn started gently stroking her arm...sleep finally found the brunette, gifting her with a dreamless slumber.  

 

***

 

Ashlyn pulled back the flap to the makeshift tent and looked inside. Everything was just as Tallulah had left it, only covered by a light coating of dust. The blonde’s shoulders slumped a bit, not wanting to have to tell her wife that the child wasn’t there either. Ali saw the keeper’s shoulders, instantly reading her body language. The brunette’s chest tightened and she felt nauseous. 

 

“Nooo! God damn it all to fucking hell!” Ali wailed as she fell to her knees inside the still abandoned campsite, burying her face in her hands, “Where are you baby girl?”

 

***

 

Tallulah pushed the eggs around on her plate. She wasn’t really hungry, but she knew that Saulo would be angry if she wasted his generous gift of food. Her thoughts turned back to the young couple. They had been so fucking perfect, why did they have to turn out to be frauds?! Why couldn’t something in her fucking life go right for a change?! 

 

The red head furiously wiped away a stray tear that dared to squeeze out from between her lashes, and angrily shoved another bite of the scrambled eggs into her mouth. As the buttery and slightly over salted protein hit her tongue, Tallulah felt nauseous as she swallowed it down. The red head had always known what Saulo wanted of her, but it was suddenly very real...she was going to have to fuck her way off the island...she was going to have to fuck a grown man, possibly old enough to be her grandfather. Tallulah gasped as reality hit her harder than her mom, harder than the men at Escuela Caribe or Saulo ever had...she was now worse than her slut of a mother...she was now a whore. Before Tallulah realized what was happening, the breakfast the young teen had been eating splattered back onto the plate. 

 

Tallulah’s emerald eyes widened and she desperately searched for somewhere to hide the mess before the thug punished her for wasting his food. Her eyes darted back and forth over the mostly barren room and then settled on a small potted palm tree in the corner under a tiny rectangular window. Quickly whisking the plate off her desk, Tallulah padded over to it. The resourceful teen used the fork to dig a hole in the dirt, and she dumped the contents of the plate into it. As she was scraping the dirt back over the eggs, she heard voices filtering in through the cracked window above her head. 

 

“I don’t care who you have to hurt, just get that damned internet working again, Juan! We need to start the auction for Tallulah’s virginity. The sooner it’s up and going, the sooner we all get paid.” Saulo barked, angered by the latest wrinkle in his plans, “And tell her to get out here, I want to talk to her.” 

 

The red head had just finished burying her egg mess and wiped the fork off with the inside hem of her t-shirt when the door burst open. She looked up at Juan and shuddered as he quickly ushered her out of the room and into the courtyard where Saulo waited for her. One look at his cold expression and she knew. Coming here had been a mistake! His smirk told her everything his lying lips would never say...Saulo had no intention of ever letting her leave. 

 

“Did you enjoy your breakfast?” Saulo inquired almost casually.

 

Tallulah nodded, her mouth suddenly dry.

 

“What was that? I can’t hear your empty head rattle, girl, speak up!” Saulo snapped, his eyes narrowing dangerously.

 

“Yes, sir.” The red headed teen managed, her voice surprisingly steady for the amount of fear she felt, “Thank you.”

 

Saulo relaxed at the girl’s respectful words. That kid might be a lot of things...naïve for sure...but she wasn’t stupid, and he appreciated that about her.

 

“Good. You will bathe and then go with Juan, Carlos, and the girls into town. They will buy you appropriate clothes for your upcoming big night. Please don’t do anything stupid. I would hate for Juan and Carlos to be forced to hurt you, or even shoot you...wouldn’t you?” Saulo threatened in a sugary sweet voice.

 

Tallulah nodded. She was trapped for now, but she would be searching for a way to escape this nightmare she had created for herself. She just needed the right opportunity.

 

“I won’t run, Saulo. I have to make the money to get to Florida on your smuggler’s boat.” Tallulah replied, hoping he believed her.

 

***

 

Ashlyn took a deep breath, she could already hear her wife’s protests in her head. Ali wasn’t going to like what she had to say, but damn it, the blonde couldn’t really see any other way at this point. The keeper turned towards her distraught wife and helped her to her feet. Ashlyn gently tipped Ali’s face upwards and wiped away the brunette’s tears with the pads of her thumbs before placing a tender kiss on the defender’s lips, conveying all of her love. The brunette wrapped her arms around Ashlyn and melted into the woman that strengthened her. 

 

“I love you so very much, Ali. You are kind, and fierce, and so strong, baby. I am constantly in awe of you.” Ashlyn started, internally wincing as she knew how well her next thoughts were going to sit with her wife, “It looks like we aren’t going to find Tallulah in time to make our flight back to camp, and one of us…”

 

Ali’s face darkened immediately and she pushed herself away from Ashlyn, “No! Don’t you even think you are sending me back to the states alone, Ashlyn Michelle Harris! That’s not how this works.”

 

Ashlyn closed her eyes momentarily gathering her inner strength, “Alex listen to me. We both know that no matter if I’m number two or number three going to the Olympics, Hope is the one who is going to play every minute of every game. You on the other hand, have a chance to start and play those minutes too...but not if you fuck it up by pissing Jill off coming into camp late. Besides, I’m going to need that fierce Krieger-Harris defender to fight for me...to make sure I don’t lose everything I’ve worked my ass off for since I was five. You need to make her understand why I’m going to be late so she doesn’t kick me off the team. She will listen to you...hell, she likes you, Princess. You are a badass on the backline. Best damned Right Back in the world. So don’t fall on your sword for me, or that little girl. Neither one of us wants that. Give us the absolute gift of watching you tear up the pitch...and win that gold medal for me and T.”

 

Ali shook her head, she couldn’t believe how perfect the blonde’s words were...except for one thing. They still meant she would leave before Tallulah was found. 

 

“Golden tongued devil. Your words are oh so sweet, but you still just want to get rid of me.” Ali replied evenly, cupping Ashlyn’s cheek in her hand and tracing the blonde’s lips with her thumb.


“We just have enough time to get you packed and to the airport to make your flight. Please baby, please don’t give up everything you have worked your whole life for...I swear to you on my life...I will find Tallulah and bring her back.” Ashlyn pleaded, leaning her forehead against Ali’s.

 

Ali shared her keeper’s breath, closing her eyes and picturing it in her head. The Olympics. She had been robbed of her gold medal experience three years prior when she had torn her ACL and MCL during their final friendly send off game. The defender chewed her bottom lip, god she wanted to stay...but she also knew Ashlyn was right. 

 

“Ok, I’ll go...and I’ll talk to Jill for you...but Ash, you have got to keep me in the loop. I mean it. I am going to be a nervous wreck. I can’t help that. Swear to me you will leave me messages throughout the day and we will FaceTime every night...no matter what.” Ali bargained with the keeper.

 

Ashlyn pulled back and looked deeply into Ali’s concerned eyes. She wanted to make sure the brunette knew how seriously she was taking this pledge. 

 

“I swear on Gram’s life I will keep you in the loop and we will FaceTime every night...and I swear I won’t leave here until I find her.” Ashlyn replied whole heartedly before sealing their agreement with a tender kiss.

 

***

 

Ali groaned as she tugged her suitcase off of the conveyer belt. She was beyond exhausted, not having slept at all during her flight from Punta Cana. She had switched planes in Miami where she also had the joy of going through customs, and again in Atlanta. Now all she wanted was a dark quiet room with a bed so she could pass out for the next three days.

 

“Kriegy!” Heather’s excited voice cut through the baggage claim area just before her body was assaulted.

 

Ali had just enough time to tighten her core before her best friend landed on her back, wrapping arms and legs around her. Heather playfully peppered her best friend’s cheek with kisses. Taking pity on the brunette, Heather slid to the ground so the defender didn’t have to support her weight.

 

“It’s so good to see you! How is married life, Princess? Or is it Queen now that you’re like all off the market?” Heather asked as she looked around, “Speaking of...where’s your Stud?” 

 

Heather turned back towards her friend, noticing for the first time how exhausted she looked. Heavy dark circles under puffy flesh that framed big dull orbs of brown...that were glassy with unshed tears. Heather pulled Ali into her chest and held her close.

 

“Oh my god, Al...what’s wrong? Please tell me you and Ash didn’t break up during your honeymoon.” Heather guessed.

 

Ali shook her head against her friend’s chest, not trusting her voice yet. The defender clung to her best friend, soaking up the love and strength offered. Finally, she pushed back and looked at the confused midfielder.

 

“Ash is still in Punta Cana. I only want to tell this story once, so can we please just get my suitcases and get on the team van?” Ali croaked out, her vocal chords tight from pent up emotion. 

 

“Of course, Princess. Here, let me have your bags.” Heather offered as she reached for the handles of Ali’s suitcases.

 

Heather helped Ali into the van, and Abby loaded the suitcases in the back. As soon as everyone saw the defender’s face, a hush fell over the group. Heather shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. Syd slipped her arms around Ali from the seat behind her.

 

“Hey boo boos, it’s so good to see you.” Syd cooed.

 

 Ali looked around at all the concerned faces, “Just stop! Stop staring at me, geez.”

 

“We only stare because your ass is still so damned hawt woman!” Pinoe quipped back, waggling her eyebrows, and patting the empty seat next to her suggestively.

 

Ali closed her eyes and couldn’t help the small giggle that escaped. She shook her head. Leave it to Pinoe.

 

“You only think that because you are still Chester the Molester, Pin Head.” Ali shot back, the corners of her mouth turning up slightly into a sad smile, “Now please everyone. Just stop. I’ll explain everything once the whole team is together. I only want to go through this once...and no, Ash and I didn’t break up.”

 

With that confirmed, the tension in the van eased. Whatever was wrong, at least their friends and teammates were still good with each other, and that was all that mattered. 

 

“Aww, poor Pin Head, you were just told to stay in your lane.” Kelley teased as she patted the diminutive bleach blonde’s head from the seat behind her.

 

Ali turned back towards the window and watched LA pass by in silence. At least the mood and banter in the van was back to normal. She was so bone tired...so very far away from her heart...and it was just the beginning. 

 

***

 

Ashlyn extended her stay in the room, figuring if the teen’s mind changed, the red head would be able to locate her. She began a routine, checking all of the places they knew that the girl had frequented, and then extending her search to outlying areas as well. The blonde asked everyone she thought looked trustworthy, locals and tourists alike, if they had seen Tallulah. The keeper even showed them a picture of their ‘little pirate’ to see if anyone recognized her. Ashlyn was relentless in her search. 

 

After another fruitless inquiry, Ashlyn’s eyes misted up at the image she held reverently in her hand. Looking at the picture of Tallulah’s lopsided grin as the teen ‘pirate’ was tucked into her and Ali’s arms over and over again, one thing became crystal clear to the keeper...without both of her girls, the blonde had a huge hole in her heart. Somewhere along the way, that little red headed thief had stolen her heart.

 

Suddenly Ashlyn remembered someone she hadn’t asked yet...the dishwasher boy at the other resort. The blonde pocketed the picture, and made her way back to her car. Hopefully that friend of Tallulah’s would know where to find her.    

 

***

 

Juan cleared out the tiny store with a dangerous look. The locals were very aware of who he was, and who he worked for. None were in the mood for a beating...or worse. Once the store was empty of everyone but the owner, Juan signaled to the car and the doors opened. Tallulah tried to make eye contact with anybody close enough to her, but no one would look at her. The red head kept trying until she was shoved in the shoulder towards the door to the shop.

 

“Move it. We only have a couple of hours to get all of the ‘essentials’ for your big night.” Mateo none too gently reminded the girl, allowing his eyes to rake over her virginal form appreciatively.

 

Raisa, the older of the two prostitues Saulo had sent to help select Tallulah’s lingerie, noticed the way the young thug was practically salivating over the teen and she placed her arm around the girl, stepping in between them. Tallulah tensed at the contact, but didn’t shrug her off. She didn’t like the way Mateo had shoved her.

 

Tallulah scanned the tiny shop. It didn’t look like there would be any way for her to sneak past all four adults who were with her, unless there was a window in the dressing room or maybe a bathroom. She allowed herself to be hustled to rack after rack in search of the perfect sexy outfit. The two prostitutes, Raisa and Mayelin, holding up different options in front of her, and handing the best ones to Mateo to take back to the dressing room. Once they had a good selection to choose from, the prostitutes led Tallulah back to the dressing room to try them on. 

 

Raisa watched Mateo as the red head emerged from the dressing room in her first outfit. It was a red satin nighty with lace trim, and the teen hated everything about it. They had Tallulah turn around slowly so they could see her from all angles. She felt like a fucking gold fish in a bowl. 

 

By the third outfit, Mateo’s arousal was evident to the eye. The thug’s tongue licked his bottom lip as he watched the virgin modeling yet another sheer nighty. He looked at the prostitutes and knew that he would have to get rid of them to be able to do anything with Tallulah.

 

“You two go pick out some more sexy things. I don’t think these are going to work.” Mateo ordered.  

 

Mayelin turned and wandered out to the racks, but Raisa stepped closer to the gangster. She cupped his hard-on over his pants and leaned up to whisper in his ear.

 

“You know if you touch her, Saulo will kill us all. Her virginity is worth more than all of us put together to him. Let me help you out. Close your eyes and pretend it’s her.” Raisa purred in his ear as she pushed him back into the other dressing room.

 

Raisa sank to her knees as Mateo reached over her and slid the curtain closed, a big smirk on his face.  

 

***

 

“Come in!” Jill’s voice boomed through the closed door. 

 

Ali took a deep breath, closed her eyes and reminded herself this was for Ashlyn before she turned the handle and pushed the door open. Jill sat behind a small desk littered with handwritten notes on each of her players. The wrinkled old coach looked up from her work and her eyebrows knitted together seeing Ali standing uncomfortably in front of her.

 

“Yes, Krieger?” Jill prompted when the defender had stood on the other side of the desk silently long enough for it to become awkward. 

 

“Do you mind if I sit down? This is really important and I can’t rush it.” Ali explained, eyeing the empty chair in the room nervously. 

 

Jill nodded towards the chair and closed her journal, “So what can I do for you?”

 

Ali sank into the chair and looked the old woman in the eye. This woman held her wife’s dreams and future in her hands. Jill Ellis could literally destroy everything the kind blonde had worked for since she was little. For someone who had such little success in her own life, it didn’t seem very fair. 

 

“I need to give this to you, and explain a little bit.” Ali stated, biting her bottom lip nervously before handing over the letter Ashlyn had written to the coach.

 

Jill opened the letter and started reading, her expression growing colder by the sentence.

 

“So you mean to tell me that Ashlyn Harris isn’t here?! She is blowing off camp to look for somebody else’s kid? Just fucking perfect.” Jill muttered angrily.

 

Jill reached for the phone on her desk. The coach quickly dialed a number and waited a second for the call to go through. Ali tilted her head. Maybe the coach was going to send some help for Ashlyn so her wife could get back to camp sooner. 

 

“Yes, how soon can you get Jane Campbell…” Jill angrily spat into the receiver before a shocked Ali could react and press down the buttons on the cradle to disconnect the call. 

 

“Wait! What are you doing?! Ashlyn isn’t quitting! She is looking for a little girl...a little American girl who is in danger of being sold as a sex slave. Ashlyn is coming to camp, she’s just gonna be a few days late.” Ali nearly screamed at the cold hearted woman across from her.

 

Jill’s eyes narrowed as she stared down her starting right back. The old woman’s nostrils flared as her anger flowed through her veins. She set the receiver back onto its cradle and glared at Ali.

 

“You better think long and hard about your next words and actions, Ms. Krieger. Your future with this team depends on it.” Jill growled.

 

Ali took a breath to give herself time to tamp her own rage at the unreasonable woman in front of her. Hell, she had always been hard on Ashlyn, looking for any excuse not to play her. This shouldn’t have been such a shock. The defender ran her hand through her hair, shaking it out as she thought about how she was going to respond. Ali finally blew out her breath. Ashlyn was relying on her. She couldn’t lose her head now.

 

“First, it’s Mrs. Krieger-Harris. Ashlyn and I got married a week ago. We invited you. I mean, Tom and Pia made it...you know what, that...that doesn’t even matter. I’m getting side tracked here.” Ali shook her head before continuing, “Tallulah is thirteen years old. She was abandoned on that island by a mother who deserves to be in prison. She’s a good kid who has suffered enough abuse at that damned christian abuse factory posing as a school, the girl deserves a break, she doesn’t deserve to be raped several times a day until she is used up or commits suicide. Futbol is our life...our passion. Ashlyn and I have worked our asses off since we were in grade school to play for this team...to be professionals. We have sacrificed decades of time with our families, time with our friends, hell, even time with each other in order to play for our country. I don’t think it is asking too much from you to give her a chance to save the life of this wonderful little girl. You want to punish Ash for being a hero...fine, make her the third keeper. Force her to fly with the team to Rio and sit in the stands to watch while we all march in the opening ceremony, and play our hearts out for the red, white, and blue. What does it matter? She only saved your ass and was a beast between the posts during the World Cup when Solo got injured. A win that gave you a multi-million dollar contract extension through the next cycle, and the title of ‘coach of the year.’ What could you possibly owe her for that?!”

 

Jill’s flesh was blood red from her neck to the top of her head by the time Ali finished. She glared hard at the player who dared to insinuate that she couldn’t have won without the absent blonde. Her mind was racing as her internal struggle played out in her head. Oh, she wanted Harris gone, and Ali too as soon as she could get someone to cover the right back position decently. There was one thing to consider however, both Ashlyn and Ali’s popularity had soared after the World Cup, and they were merchandising gold at the moment. USSF definitely needed the money those two trouble makers could bring in. She would have to bide her time before she could make them disappear. What a glorious day that would be. 

 

“She has one week to get her ass here, or I’m calling up Jane Campbell. If Ashlyn gets here after that but before the end of camp she can go head to head with Jane to keep her spot. If Ashlyn isn’t here before the end of camp, she is out, permanently. You better go get cleaned up for team dinner, Mrs. Krieger-Harris.” Jill stated with a calm that made Ali’s blood run cold. 

 

***

 

Ali barely ate at the team dinner, her stomach a little sour from all the emotions swirling inside her. She had been flanked by Heather on one side and Abby on the other with Syd and Pinoe across the table from her. They had provided a buffer for the defender so she didn’t have to engage with teammates excited to see her and catch up. Although by this point, most knew something was wrong when Ashlyn wasn’t in the room. After Jill and the rest of the staff left, Abby and Christie closed the double doors to the hotel conference room that had housed the team dinner buffet. While the two captains took care of the doors, Pinoe and Kelley pulled enough tables together so the entire team could be close enough that Ali wouldn’t have to shout to be heard by everyone. When the player migration to the new table arrangement was finished, Abby turned the floor over to their beloved right back, and a hush fell over the room.

 

Ali cleared her throat, she always found opening up to people and being vulnerable to be one of the hardest things to do. Heather silently laid an encouraging hand on her shoulder, and Ali spared her a small smile of gratitude before she began.

 

“So as you know, Ashlyn didn’t fly in with me. She is still in Punta Cana...but we didn’t break up, I swear!” Ali was quick to reassure her soccer family, “We met this thirteen year old girl...well, she actually stole our wedding rings from our room and sold them to a shop in the square.”

 

Ali paused and chuckled slightly at the memory of how Tallulah had always seemed one step ahead of them.

 

“And?! What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?!” Hope groused, ready for this unexpected ‘team meeting’ to be over with so she could ravish her little squirrel and get to sleep.

 

Ali looked up at the impatient keeper and put her hands up in surrender, “Yeah, sorry. You want the cliff notes version.”

 

Hope leaned back in her chair and smirked, satisfied that Ali had understood her perfectly. Kelley leaned her head against Hope’s shoulder but pinched her thigh under the table, which earned her a raised eyebrow in warning. Kelley quickly kissed Hope’s cheek, she had learned a long time ago not to be intimidated by her girlfriend.

 

“Be nice to Kriegs, or you’re sleeping by yourself tonight.” Kelley whispered in Hope’s ear and then kissed her cheek again.

 

“So anyway, we uh, we kept running into her for several days, and then found her out in the jungle. Tallulah had been living in a camp she had made from stuff she found, kind of like a shipwreck survivor. Come to find out, she is gay, her dad was a soldier who had been killed in combat, and her slutty ass mom sent her to some horrible church school where they abuse the kids until they pretend not to be gay anymore. It was awful. These kids were physically, emotionally, and sexually abused...and not a damned thing was done about it because apparently the Dominican government looks the other way.” Ali started off on a tangent.

 

“What the fuck?! Dude that’s messed up.” Pinoe interrupted, and the break gave the defender a chance to get focused again.

 

“Yeah, like who the fuck do these people think they are?! You have a kid, you love them no matter what.” Syd added.

 

Ali smiled at her friends for understanding the horror she had witnessed without her having to go into detail. The brunette wished she had bleach for her brain at this point, anything to cleanse the disgusting images from her memory. Those poor kids…Ali shuddered and took a deep breath to continue her story. 

 

“Well, the people who ran this school had taken all the kid’s passports so we couldn’t just buy her a plane ticket to fly back to the states with us. We each had a plan to get T’s passport back, but didn’t tell the other, which ended up totally fucking everything up. Needless to say, we were pretty desperate because we only had a couple of days left. This girl is so amazing. Such a fighter, brilliant, witty, and what a little card shark! We really couldn’t stand the thought of just leaving her there, so we were trying to figure out a way to get her back here when she must have heard us and ran away. Oh, and if that weren’t bad enough, she has had run ins with this local gangster who wants to make her a prostitute or sex slave.” Ali paused noticing that her soccer family was silent, and hanging on her every word...even Hope, “So Ashlyn decided that she couldn’t leave without Tallulah. She is back there searching for her. I wanted to stay too, but…”

 

“But Jill would have tossed you guys off the team, boo boos!” Syd finished for her, and Ali nodded in confirmation.

 

“Exactly, and if Ash isn’t here before the end of camp, Jill will replace her with Jane Campbell.” Ali replied before her shoulders slumped and eyes glassed over with unshed tears, adding softly, “And I can’t stand the thought of my baby girl being raped or beaten. It will kill me if something bad happens to her.”

 

Heather and Abby shared a look at Ali’s last admission, Hope’s eyes widened slightly, and Kelley tightened her grip on her girlfriend’s thigh in shock. Pinoe tilted her head to the side in confusion, then she perked up, suddenly standing.

 

“Why don’t you just rent a sailboat and send Chris and Kyle to pick them up? Then they can sneak her through the port inside a big crate full of coffee cans to throw off the dogs. Of course, they will have to figure out where to poke some holes.” Pinoe blurted out, before pausing and tapping her lips with her pointer finger in concentration.

 

“Really, Pin Head?! Sailboats and poking holes in coffee filled crates? That’s your idea?” Abby growled, knowing how bad their right back was hurting from the situation and didn’t need to hear the bleach blonde’s outrageous schemes at the moment.

 

“Yeah. What’s so bad about my idea? Oooh better yet, they can swim out to the boat in scuba gear under the water, and then sail away. And when they get back to Miami, they can get back in the water and swim to shore. Nobody will even know.” Pinoe finished smugly, standing with her fists on her hips in the ‘superman’ pose and grinning, “Tada! Your problem is solved, Princess.”

 

Ali buried her face in her hands. She knew the midfielder meant well, really. Pinoe was one of her best friends on the team. It wasn’t an awful idea, but where would they find a sailboat with a captain willing to smuggle a little girl into the United States? Was it even smuggling if she was a citizen? Or would they even need to explain anything other than they were going to pick up two passengers in Punta Cana? Ugh. The defender closed her eyes, she was starting to get a headache. 

 

Pinoe squeaked as Abby pulled her by the back of her tshirt and pushed the smaller woman back down into her chair, “I told you that nobody wanted to hear your lame brained schemes, Pin Head! Now sit down and zip it.”  

 

“Would that work? I mean, Ash has to be back before the end of camp. How long would it take to sail to the Domican Republic and back?” Christie asked, trying to picture it in her head.

 

“Maybe. We should google it!” Meghan replied, pulling out her iphone and tapping away.

 

“Good idea, babe. You are so smart.” Morgan gushed, always proud of her girlfriend’s intelligence. 

 

Hope watched Ali intently. She rolled her eyes at herself, and shook her head slightly...was she really going to do this? She was just too damned nice.

 

Hope sighed, “You guys can use my yacht.”

 

“It says that in light winds expect less than a hundred miles in a day. That’s kind of depressing. In normal winds the average sailboat goes about one hundred and twenty miles per day. I’m going  to go out on a limb here and say that the sailboat would be too slow.” Meghan reported.

 

Julie stood up and put her fingers in her mouth, whistling loudly until everyone in the room stopped talking. She pointed at Hope.

 

“What did you just say?” Julie asked, sure she had heard the keeper wrong.

 

Hope swallowed and glared. Damn. This was going to seriously fuck up her ‘doesn’t give a shit about anyone but herself badass’ reputation.

 

“I said, Kriegs can use my yacht. It will make the trip under power the whole way, and have Ash back to Miami in plenty of time.” Hope elaborated.

 

Kelley’s freckled face broke out into a wide grin as she watched Ali’s head pop up, “Yay! Now we can rescue little Tallalulu...Talluruh...Toodletoes.”

 

“Tallulah!” Ali supplied and turned to face Hope, “Oh my god, Hope, I can’t thank you enough!”

 

Kelley’s face fell, “Hey wait a minute. We have a yacht? Since when do we have a yacht?”

 

Hope patted Kelley’s thigh, “Not now, honey.”

 

“I have to go call Ash, oh...and Chris and Kyle. I have so much to do!” Ali started to get up, then turned back towards the starting keeper, “Wait, who is going to drive the boat?”

 

Hope chuckled, “I’ll throw in my captain for your use too.”

 

“Oh my god, you are the fucking best, Hope!” Ali hurried over and kissed the keeper on the cheek.

 

“Hey, wrong keeper, Krieger!” Kelley teased as she playfully shooed the beautiful right back away from her girlfriend with fluttering hands, “Get your lips off those gorgeous cheeks, they belong to me!”

 

***

 

Kyle set the carton of milk on the counter next to an empty glass as his cell phone played ‘We are Family.’ His face broke out into a wide toothy grin as he swiped the cell phone off the counter and looked at his caller ID to find out which Krieger or Christopher was calling him. He had missed his sister and couldn’t wait to hear all about her honeymoon adventures...well, maybe not all of her adventures. His face scrunched up as he thought about his sister and Ashlyn doing things...no, not going there! Kyle’s finger slid across the face of his iphone and he put the phone up to his ear. 

 

“How is married life, bb?! Oh my gawd, but don’t like tell me about all the kissy and licky things you two have been doing. Ew.” Kyle teased as he answered.

 

“Married life is fabulous, but that’s not why I called.” Ali replied, getting right to business, “I need your help. Actually, Ash and I both need your help.”

 

“Well hunny if you two don’t know what to do on your honeymoon, I certainly can’t help you. Maybe try that furry Grams gave you.” Kyle sassed as he held his cell phone between his ear and shoulder, pouring himself a glass of milk. 

 

“I love you Kyle, but this is serious. I need you to listen to me.” Ali instructed, her tone making Kyle aware that the situation was anything but frivolous.

 

“You know I’m here for you both, go on. What do you need?” Kyle encouraged, carrying his dinner over to his table.

 

“Alright bb, listen up...” Ali paused to take a deep breath so she could explain the whole sordid tale of how their honeymoon had taken a turn when they had run into Tallulah, “...and now I need you and Chris to take Hope’s yacht to go pick them up, and bring them back to Miami in time for Ashlyn to save her spot on the team.”

 

Kyle used the napkin from his forgotten dinner to dab the tears out of his eyes. His heart was breaking for that teenager, and if he wasn’t already certain that Ashlyn Harris was a goddess sent to reward his sister for all the sacrifices she had made in her life, he was certain now. He swelled with pride as he listened to what Ali and Ashlyn had done for the girl. 

 

Ali nervously chewed her bottom lip as the silence on the line continued. Was Kyle put off by her admitting to having planned to commit a crime? What was going through his head? Did he hang up on her?

 

“Oh my god, Alex. I am so fucking proud of you! You know what they say...if you need help to rescue a young butch, I’m your queen!” Kyle enthusiastically replied once he found his voice again.

 

Ali blew out her breath and twisted a strand of her sable silk around her finger. Of course he would help! Once he had gotten sober, Kyle had been trying to make up for his absence in her life ever since. He was one of the few people Ali could rely on no matter what. 

 

“So who is the they that says that, again?” Ali teased as relief washed over her.

 

“Oh just the important theys, although they may change their mind if a sassy sister doesn’t check herself. Remember, a queen outranks a princess!” Kyle retorted.

 

“Thank you, Kyle. God I love you, you know that, right? I know I get caught up in my own life a lot, especially in World Cup and Olympic years, but I hope you know how proud I am of you, and how much you mean to me. I couldn’t have a better big brother than you.” Ali replied as she got serious again.

 

Kyle dabbed more tears from his eyes, “Of course not, but staaaahp it, Alex. I love you too, bb. Just let me know when I need to catch Solo’s big shiny boat.”

 

“I’ll let you know. I gotta call Chris. I’ll talk to you later. Oh, and please don’t say anything to mom. You know how she will get.” Ali requested.

 

“Puleeze. Do you really think I want mom to show up with the Navy?! Ooooh, on second thought...think of all those hot sailors coming to rescue me.” Kyle stated dramatically.

 

“You do and I’ll tell mom about Cabo.” Ali threatened, her eyes narrowing.

 

“Boy, you sure do know how to ruin a queen’s fantasy! Fine. No mom.” Kyle agreed.

 

***   

 

Hasiel jumped off of his small scooter and took the to-go containers of food out of the blue plastic box he had tied onto the back of his seat. He had recently been given an opportunity to start making deliveries when the old delivery driver had been caught stealing credit card numbers from the orders. He made his way up the stairs of the nice resort to the second floor. The tanned teen paused at the top and looked out at the ocean. It was a perfect sunny day, and the views were stunning. Definitely the best part of the open hallways to the rooms. As Hasiel neared the correct room number, he noticed two large muscular men standing on either side of a door. He swallowed hard as he realized that was his destination. 

 

“Um, I have a delivery for a Mr. Ghim.” Hasiel announced, holding up the containers of food.

 

“Let’s see it.” the closest one ordered, and motioned for the boy to open the lids.

 

Hasiel opened the top of each container so it could be inspected. Satisfied that there wasn’t anything amiss, the taller of the two knocked on the door.

 

“Your food is here, Mr. Ghim.” the bodyguard stated through the closed door.

 

A few moments later, the door opened and Hasiel handed the food to the old north Korean businessman. The man turned towards the other occupant of the room and held out the containers.

 

“Come here girl. Eat this. You will need your strength to please me.” Mr. Ghim demanded.

 

Hasiel’s eyes widened as he saw Tallulah dressed in a black sheer baby doll nighty step up to take the containers of food from the man. Their eyes met for the briefest of seconds, the red head’s eyes pleading for help, before the man pushed her back into the room. He turned back to the boy and pushed several bills into his hands to pay for the food as well as a generous tip before the door was closed Hasiel’s face. 

 

The boy backed away from the door, still in shock. He shook his head slightly to clear his stunned brain, and quickly made his way to the stairs. Hasiel took the stairs two at a time all the way down, and ran over to his motorbike. He looked back up the landing and noticed the bodyguards were watching him, so he started the small engine and drove away. 

 

Hasiel pulled to the curb around the corner from the resort, and switched off the loud motor. He fished the cell phone the chef had given him for delivery emergencies out of his pocket, along with the scrap of paper the tattooed blonde woman had given him. It didn’t take long for the woman to answer.

 

“I found her, but you need to come quick! Tallulah is in great danger!” Hasiel practically screamed into the phone.

 

***

 

The shorter bodyguard noticed a woman with long blonde hair walking down the breezeway towards them, carrying a small backpack. She was looking out at the ocean as she walked, and appeared to be enjoying the view. His shoulders lowered about an inch as he relaxed. Just another pretty tourist. 

 

“Hi! Pretty spectacular view, isn’t it?” Ashlyn stated as she neared the two bodyguards.    

 

“Yes, ma’am.” The taller man stated, sparing a smile for the pretty woman with the perfect cheek bones.

 

Before either of them realized what was happening, the blonde woman swung her backpack full of large rocks, and smashed the bigger man square in the face with it. He went down with a sickening thud. Ashlyn turned towards the smaller guy and tried to hit him with her weapon as well, but he managed to duck to the side just enough for her to miss. The force of her swing combined with the weight of the rocks caused Ashlyn to lose her balance a bit, and the bodyguard used the mistake to punish her with a crushing blow to her exposed ribs. The blonde felt all the air leave her as a sharp pain engulfed her side. 

 

“Bitch, you will die!” the man blurted out as he kneed her in the face, and Ashlyn fought hard not to let the darkness consume her as she felt her bright red blood flow freely from her nose.

 

Ashlyn dropped the backpack and turned towards the man, fending off his blows with her hands while she shook the fog from her brain. Once she had recovered enough, Ashlyn countered his attack with a kick to the side of his knee, and the man went down. The bodyguard reached into his jacket and the keeper’s eyes widened as she saw the gun holster he had hidden there. She dove on top of him and desperately fought for control of the pistol he was pulling out. Ashlyn realized the man was much stronger than she was, and for the first time, she felt fear course through her veins. She saw Ali’s nose crinkling smile, the gorgeous brunette’s smoldering eyes as she said their wedding vows...and Ashlyn snapped.

 

“Fuck you, motherfucker! I’m gonna end you!” Ashlyn growled as she brought her head down onto his nose, satisfied when she felt it shatter beneath her hairline.

 

She repeated the head butting until she felt his strength falter, and the blonde took advantage of the moment to make a play for his gun. Feeling her focus shift, and knowing what was at stake, the thug used the last of his strength to toss his weapon over the railing and down into the parking lot. Ashlyn mounted the man and punched his face over and over. Her fear and rage fueling the blows. It wasn’t until she heard Tallulah’s scared voice drift through the door that the keeper was able to control herself to stop. She had a much more important man to beat.

 

Ashlyn stood and kicked the thug once in the head for good measure, and then took a running start at the door, throwing her shoulder into it. Pain once again engulfed her as her shoulder screamed at her for its abuse...but the door jam split from the force, and the enraged and bloodied blonde shoved the remaining obstacle out of the way. Her eyes narrowed dangerously at the man who was standing in front of Tallulah...her little T...with his pants pushed down around his ankles, his semi hard cock in his hand. 

 

Tallulah’s tear streaked face turned towards the commotion, and her red puffy eyes landed on an enraged keeper. She scooted further up on the bed, away from the man who had paid to take her virginity from her as she watched Ashlyn attack him. It almost seemed like a movie playing in slow motion. The blonde lunged for the man who tried to kick off his pants but only managed to trip himself. The two of them falling together. The sound that came out of Ashlyn’s mouth sounding inhuman as she used her fists and her elbows to beat the man, her blood mixing with his as she struck him over and over again...a couple of teeth flying from his mouth as the man was near unconscious. Tallulah had never been so frightened in all of her life, but when she realized that the blonde had finally stopped beating the man and was holding out her hand, the red head grabbed it, and the two of them fled the room as the sound of sirens in the distance got closer...Tallulah’s jaw dropping at the sight of the two bloody and unconscious men crumpled by the door. She didn’t even notice the time it took them to get from the room to the car, the teen slightly in shock at the violence she had just witnessed. 

 

The two managed to get themselves into the rental car. Ashlyn gunned the engine, and the tires squealed against the pavement as the car shot out of the parking lot. They drove out of town, headed back towards Punta Cana. As her adrenaline was absorbed, Ashlyn could feel the pain of her injuries. She finally pulled into a rest area and put the car into park. Tallulah looked at the woman who had rescued her. She was a bloody mess. Her face was swollen and bruises were starting to form on her jaw. Her nose was definitely broken, and her bottom lip was split...her hands were swollen, and it looked like she was having a hard time breathing. She had to do something for her hero. Tallulah opened the door and jumped out, quickly making her way around the car. She opened the driver’s side door and nervously looked at Ashlyn.

 

“Am I that bad?” Ashlyn joked, her head throbbing and body informing her that she was.

 

Tallulah shook her head in disbelief, tears welling in her eyes, “You came back for me.”

 

Ashlyn shook her head, “Oh honey, I never left.”

 

Chapter Text

Tallulah shook her head in disbelief, tears welling in her eyes, “You came back for me.”

 

Ashlyn shook her head, “Oh honey, I never left.”

 

Tallulah felt frozen, unable to move. She was frightened by what she had witnessed, by what she had almost done, but most of all by how quickly her walls crumbled again. All the little red head wanted to do was hug this strong, kind, fierce tattooed woman who had single handedly beat the shit out of three grown men to save her...yet she couldn’t move. Ashlyn’s right eye was starting to swell shut, and she was unable to stop the groan as she shifted in her seat to reach the seatbelt release. That seemed to snap the teen out of her trance.

  

“What are you doing?” Tallulah asked, moving towards the blonde.

 

“I need to get the ice out of the cooler in the back seat. I figured I might need to stop some swelling once I got you out of there. I kinda knew I was going to have to fight my way in and out.” Ashlyn replied, slowly working her way to the edge of the seat to get out of the car.

 

A pang of guilt hit Tallulah, Ashlyn had come to rescue her knowing that she was going to be in a huge fight...and she came anyway. Once Ashlyn had managed to haul herself out of the car, her legs felt like rubber again, and a sharp pain made breathing a chore. 

 

“Fuck, this might have been a mistake.” Ashlyn mumbled as her legs started to give out.

 

Tallulah’s eyes widened as the blonde nearly crumpled, only managing to stay on her feet through sheer force of will. The red head quickly closed the distance and wrapped an arm around Ashlyn’s waist to support her weight. She helped the woman to the back of the car, and while the keeper leaned against the car for support, the teen opened the door to the back seat. Tallulah gently directed Ashlyn into the back seat, and winced when the woman moaned loudly amid a string of curse words as she fell into the car’s supple leather.

 

Ashlyn closed her eyes. Her brain was getting foggy again. All she could feel was pain...different kinds of pain all over her body...sharp pain when she tried to breath or move...throbbing pain in her shoulder and head...constant ache in her hands...pain. At least it reminded her that she and Tallulah had escaped that room of horrors. Ashlyn shook her head, she had to stay awake for the girl. They weren’t safe yet. 

 

The blonde’s good eye flew open as she felt hands on her. She looked up and saw Tallulah’s concerned face hovering over her. 

 

“What...what are you doing?” Ashlyn mumbled as Tallulah secured her seat belt around her.

 

“You need to go to the hospital.” Tallulah replied evenly despite the fear she felt. 

 

“Nooooo, we need to go back to the room. We can’t trust the people at the hospital.” Ashlyn hissed through the pain.

 

Tallulah swallowed the lump in her throat. Ashlyn needed a doctor. The blonde was hurt bad...and it was all her fault. 

 

“I’m taking you. Don’t worry. I’ll be careful.” Tallulah promised as tears ran down her cheeks.

 

Ashlyn’s eyes widened and she made a grab for the teen, just barely missing the red head as she turned towards the driver’s seat. The action brought another wave of searing pain, and the blonde winced, making her swollen and blackening eye hurt.

 

“Ow! Ow, ow, ow!” the keeper blurted out, covering her injured eye with her hand, “What do you think you are doing?!”

 

“I’m driving.” Tallulah answered and looked back at the injured woman shrugging, “You can’t. Ali isn’t here. Somebody has to, and I’m the only one we can trust according to you.”

 

Ashlyn opened her mouth, paused as she considered what the teen had just said, and snapped her mouth shut. Well fuck. Kid had a point there. The keeper smiled, that girl was so much like her sassy wife. God she missed, Ali. She had to get them back to safety and Ali soon. 

 

While the blonde was contemplating their next move, Tallulah turned around and put the car into reverse. She pressed down on the pedal a little too hard and the car lurched backwards across the drive and into a pole, jarring everyone inside. 

 

“Oops! Sorry. It’s my first time to drive.” Tallulah called out as Ashlyn moaned in agony in the back seat.

 

“Wait, what?!” Ashlyn blurted out as the car lurched forward, pressing her back into the seat. 

 

The car started down the road jerking from side to side as the teenager overcorrected each time, but staying mostly in their lane. Pain engulfed the blonde as the sudden movements of the car jostled her around in the back seat. 

 

“Tallulah…” Ashlyn paused, trying to think of the girl’s last name and coming up blank, “...Krieger-Harris, you pull this car over right this instant, young lady!”

 

The red head’s lips curled into a brilliant smile. Ashlyn had just called her a ‘Krieger-Harris,’ surely that meant the blonde wanted to be her mom. The young teen looked down the road and didn’t see any place to pull off.

 

“Can’t. There isn’t anywhere to pull over. I’ll be more careful.” Tallulah replied, accidentally mashing the gas followed by stomping on the brake to make up for the sudden burst of speed, then pressing the gas pedal again.

 

Ashlyn felt ill being jerked and jostled back and forth. The keeper was pretty sure she was about to puke, and her whole body was one big pain factory, producing all different versions of the word. The blonde looked out the window and grimaced as another sharp pain from her ribs being squeezed by the seatbelt made it difficult to take a breath. At least they were only fifteen minutes from the resort...another sudden jerk of the wheel when the side mirror got taken off from passing a road sign too close caused Ashlyn to drive her injured shoulder into the door, sending a fresh wave of white hot stabbing pain through her body, and the keeper blurted out a string of curses...if she would live that long.

 

***

 

Ali pushed herself to find an impossible burst of speed, cutting off a pass from Carli to Press, and one touch passed it across the field to Meghan who took it up the left sideline before sending a cross into the box from midfield that found the feet of Alex Morgan. A sheen of sweat covered the brunette’s body and stung her eyes, as she tried to concentrate on practice. Normally having sunshine on her face and working up a good sweat was one of the best things in life...today she couldn’t wait to get off the pitch. If Saulo had found her baby girl...if he dared touch her...Ali’s eyes narrowed as Becky stripped the ball from Alex and cleared it out to Carli at mid-field. Carli headed the ball down, and it rolled to a space half way between the midfielder and Ali. The defender’s body reacted on muscle memory as Ali’s mind was preoccupied, and she used every ounce of strength she had to get to the ball. If anyone touched her baby girl...everyone on the pitch and along the sidelines heard the sickening collision...two bodies flying through the air and landing hard in a heap. 

 

“Shit, you trying to kill me?! Fuck!” Carli growled as she got to her feet in a white hot rage. 

 

Pain in her knee brought Ali back to the pitch and she blinked into the sun. What the fuck just happened? As the defender looked up she noticed Abby and Tobin holding a raging Carli back...Carli’s muscles straining to get away from them. She was yelling something...what was she saying? Ali shook her head.

 

“...Do that again and I’m going to fucking end you, Krieger!” Carli shrieked.

 

Syd smacked Carli’s shoulder, “Shut up, you nearly killed the princess, Carlos!”

 

Jill’s whistle put an end to the commotion.

 

“I don’t know what you were thinking, Krieger, but that was a downright stupid display of aggression. Hit the showers. I don’t need you injuring my scorers before the Olympics!” Jill bellowed, and Carli smirked at Syd feeling vindicated.  

 

Syd and Heather helped Ali to her feet. 

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Ali mumbled as she faced Carli. 

 

Heather rubbed Ali’s back while glaring at Carli, “Of course you didn’t mean to. Come on, lets get you off the pitch. How’s your knee, other than bleeding?”

 

Ali looked down and noticed the thin line of blood running down her leg from a small tear in the flesh covering her knee. She shrugged at her best friend.

 

“I’ll live.” Ali replied as she spared a smile for Heather.

 

“Any day now, Krieger! I have a practice to run, but don’t let twenty-one of your teammates needing to hone their skills stop you from dragging your ass. I mean, I wouldn’t want you to have to put some urgency in your step or anything.” Jill mocked the defender as she picked up her pace and ran towards the locker room.

 

***

 

Heather knocked on Ali’s door after practice was over. She was worried about the brunette. Nobody had seen Ali this upset since she had torn her ACL/MCL just prior to the London Olympics. When the door opened, the midfielder could tell Ali had been crying.

 

“Oh Ali, that bitch isn’t worth spilling tears over. I swear that woman has a hard-on for you.” Heather blurted out as she wrapped her arms around the defender, squeezing her in a short comforting hug.

 

“It isn’t Jill, she can bite my ass. Ashlyn still hasn’t found Tallulah, and I’m so fucking worried.” Ali admitted as she stepped aside so Heather could walk into the room. 

 

“Don’t let Stud hear you offering her favorite thing to Jill.” Heather teased as she walked past Ali and just managed to dip her shoulder enough for the brunette’s playful slap to miss.

 

“You suck.” Ali replied as she shut the door behind Heather, “How was the rest of practice?”

 

Heather sat down on Ali’s bed and scooted up to where she could lean against the headboard, patting the spot next to her, “Huhuh. No way, Kriegy. You aren’t changing the subject. I’ve never seen you this upset before, so start spillin’ girl.”   

 

Ali rolled her eyes. Of course Heather would be able to read her like a damned book. The defender sighed and crawled onto the bed next to one of her best friends. Sometimes she just wished her teammates could let stuff go. Heather opened up her arm and Ali curled into her side. It wasn’t as comfortable as Ashlyn, but it wasn’t awful either. 

 

“I told you guys about Tallulah at dinner, remember?” Ali started as Heather rubbed her arm soothingly.

 

“Yeah, she sounds like a pretty special kid...maybe even daughter material?” Heather fished for more information.

 

Ali’s lips curled slightly, “Definitely possible daughter material. I really find myself worrying about her all the time. I mean, that kid deserves someone who supports her and will love all of her, no matter what. I still can’t believe her mom sent her to some twisted Christian ‘corrective school’ to torture the gay out of her.”

 

“Yeah, that is seriously fucked up.” Heather agreed.

 

“Poor kid. She was so confused, and hurt. I mean, she is strong though. I remember what I felt like when I realized my feelings for Ashlyn were definitely more than just ‘friendly.’ I thought I was going crazy. I can’t even imagine having to add being kidnapped and sent to a place that fucked with my mind on top of it all. Tallulah was already so street wise by the time we got there.” Ali shook her head at the memory of the little red head getting her in trouble with that damned whistle while Tallulah escaped with the bag she had stolen.

 

“You sure you want to take that on? Sounds like she could be pretty messed up in the head, and we have the Olympics this year.” Heather gently played devil’s advocate.

 

“I don’t know if we will be allowed to keep her. I mean, her fucking bitch of a mom still has custody, and she does have a few aunts and uncles sooooo...I dunno.” Ali chewed her bottom lip as she thought about all the legal hoops she and Ashlyn would need to jump through to make it work.

 

“It’s ok if you don’t feel like you can do all of that right now.” Heather said and ran her fingers through Ali’s hair.

 

A smile spread over Ali’s face as realization dawned on her, and she looked up at Heather, “But I want to. I really, really want to be that adult that Tallulah knows will never turn their back on her. I want to her to know that she has two people in her life who will always care for her, provide for her, and protect her to the best of our abilities. Oh my god, HAO, I just realized Tallulah stole my heart.”

 

Ali scooped her iphone off the nightstand and swiped through some pictures to the pirate themed dinner, and held it up for Heather to see.

 

“Just look at her. Isn’t she adorable?!” Ali gushed.

 

“Wow. No wonder she stole your heart, kid is a pirate!” Heather winked.

 

“Ugh. Tell me why we hang out again? You are as bad as Ash with all that cheese.” Ali groaned.

 

“We hang out because you’re fabulous and I’m fabulous and together we are all kinds of fabulous.” Heather replied with a twinkle in her eyes.

 

“No, you are down right incorrigible, and because I am so damned fabulous, I took pity on you.” Ali corrected, giggling.

 

“Meh, if you say so. This is your pity party.” Heather replied shrugging.

 

“It can’t be a party, you didn’t bring any wine.” Ali deadpanned as she swiped through her pictures.

 

Ali stopped when she found the pictures that her wife had sent her the day she had gone off half cocked and fully pissed...the day she had fucked up their chance to get T’s passport back. The brunette traced the lines of the red head’s excited face as she rode a wave, and her eyes welled up. What if she had doomed the little girl to a life of prostitution? She wouldn’t be able to handle that.

 

Heather noticed the sudden shift in Ali’s demeanor and squeezed her tighter, “Hey, what has you so quiet all of a sudden?”

 

Ali held the phone up so her friend could see the pictures of Tallulah surfing. 

 

“Uh oh, looks like Ashlyn found a little mini-me.” Heather commented and Ali nodded.

 

“Definitely. God, HAO, I don’t know what I’m going to do if either of them gets hurt.” Ali admitted.

 

“I think you should give Ashlyn a little more credit than that. Who rescued you from the side of a goddamned building in the middle of the night? Who slugged that asshole that grabbed your hand and made you rub his dick? Who got you safely out of the middle of a huge bar fight unscathed? Who protected you from that weirdo who showed up at your door with a box full of your panties? Who…” Heather started listing things off the top of her head.

 

Ali finally put a hand over Heather’s mouth, “Ok, ok, ok! I get it! You’re right. I’m just letting my mind drive me crazy.”

 

Heather smiled into Ali’s palm and then removed the brunette’s hand, “See, I told everyone you weren’t as dumb as you look, Princess Pain-in-the-ass.”

 

The middie groaned as Ali elbowed her in the side, and they both giggled. After a few moments the defender looked down at her phone and sighed. Heather shook her head.

 

“Why don’t you call Ash? It’s not like the phone doesn’t work both ways, you know.” Heather reminded her worried friend.

 

Ali quickly brought up Ashlyn’s FaceTime button, but her hand hovered over it. She took a deep breath and mashed it. The alert rang...and rang...and rang...and showed Ashlyn as unavailable. The brunette’s hopeful smile fell. Fuck. Back to square one. 

 

“Why don’t you take a relaxing bath? They always tend to soothe you. I’ll even go pick up something for us to eat. What do you say?” Heather suggested, hating how tense her friend was. 

 

“Sure. I’ll go take a bath. Thanks, HAO. Seriously, I appreciate the support.” Ali replied.

 

“Anytime. You know I got your back, bestie.” Heather stated as she tucked a strand of her best friend’s hair behind her ear, “Now what do you want to eat? Oh wait…”

 

Ali groaned and playfully smacked Heather’s stomach as she sat up, “Ass.”

 

“Ew. You eat ass?” Heather teased, her face scrunched up in mock disgust.

 

“Princess eats ass? Who knew you were so kinky!” Pinoe chimed in from the doorway as she slipped her card key back into the pocket of her sweat pants, “It’s always the classy ones.”

 

“Ugh, thanks a lot, HAO. Now that’s never gonna die.” Ali grumbled as she got off the bed, “And you owe me.”

 

“Oooh, can I watch?!” Pinoe suggested with lecherous grin. 

 

Pinoe ducked as two pillows came flying across the room at her.

 

“So that’s a maybe?” Pinoe wagged her eyebrows as she went to get a change of clothes from her suitcase.

 

*** 

 

Ali sat on the edge of the bathtub and mixed her ‘secret’ recovery bath salts and flower petals into the steaming water with her foot, creating a swirl of lavender and roses in the water. Something didn’t feel right. The brunette blew out an exasperated breath. Ashlyn wasn’t here, of course things weren’t right. To make matters worse, the keeper was overdue for their nightly facetime session. Heather had brought her dinner. They had eaten it while waiting for Pinoe to get finished with a super loooooooong shower, and not a peep from her wife the whole evening. The blonde had never failed to check in with her before. What if Saulo had captured her? What if he had...no! She couldn’t let her mind go there. Not when she was so far away and unable to actually do anything about it. Ali stood in the tub, reached up and wrapped her hair into a quick and messy bun before sinking into the comforting water.

 

Heather had been right. The steamy water was heaven, and before long, the brunette’s heavy eyes fluttered closed. 

 

Ali’s eyes flew open as she heard the facetime alert. The cool water sloshed out of the tub as the brunette managed to quickly claw her way out of it and onto the bath mat. She had to get to her phone before it showed her unavailable. 

 

“Dude what happened to your face?!” Pinoe blurted out as a naked Ali threw open the door to the bathroom, and came barreling out.

 

“Where’s my wife?” Ashlyn asked, pain evident in her voice.

 

The diminutive midfielder didn’t get a chance to answer before the phone was snatched from her hands. Ali turned the screen to face her.

 

“I’m here, babe! Oh my god, what happened? Are you ok, Ash?!” Ali’s free hand covered her mouth in shock as she saw her wife’s swollen and bruised face for the first time.

 

“I’m fine, baby. I have a surprise for you, look!” Ashlyn turned the phone around to a smiling and waving Tallulah.

 

Tears flowed freely down the brunette’s cheeks as she traced the girl’s face on her screen.

 

“Oh my baby girl, thank god you are safe!” Ali managed to get out before she totally broke down sobbing.

 

“Ali! Don’t cry. Ashlyn saved me. You should have seen her. She was like a superhero! She beat up two guys with guns, and broke down the door! Then she nearly killed the guy who was…” Tallulah started.

 

A loud knock at the door interrupted their facetime reunion.

 

“Room check!” Jill’s voice bellowed.

 

Chapter Text

“Room check!” Jill’s voice bellowed.

 

Ali’s face fell. Pinoe tossed the defender a hotel bathrobe from her closet. Of all the bad timing! Of course Jill would be pounding on her door now. 

 

“I heard, Alex. I love you. Now go answer the door. I’ll call you later.” Ashlyn quickly said before disconnecting their FaceTime.

 

“I love both of you, too.” Ali said to a dark screen as she set her phone down on the nightstand and spared Pinoe a grateful smile.

 

“Ya welcome. Even as hot as you are, I didn’t think you wanted Jill seeing all your goodies, nobody is that kinky!” Pinoe exclaimed as she screwed up her face and shuddered in disgust.

 

Ali giggled remembering the camp when she and Ashlyn had first started dating, and how the blonde had purposefully exposed herself to the old coach to get the woman to leave them alone. Oh how she missed her Stud. Once the defender had slipped into the fluffy white robe, Pinoe opened the door. 

 

“Hey coach. We are both here, and getting ready for bed.” Pinoe reported, keeping her tone neutral even though she was a bit perturbed at the interruption of her friends’ much needed reunion.

 

“Hi, coach. I’m here...” Ali stated as she walked up behind Pinoe, her sentence dying on her tongue as she noticed the tall blonde with a bag slung over her shoulder standing next to Jill.

 

Jill’s lips curled into a satisfied smirk at Ali’s genuine surprise.

 

“This is Jane Campbell. I’m sure you both know why she is here. I’m making some adjustments to the room assignments. Rapinoe, you are moving in with Engen, and Jane is staying with Krieger. I expect you to take her under your wing and show her how camp works, Ali. If she is late or goes to the wrong place, I will know who to blame. Am I clear?” Jill growled.

 

Ali’s eyes narrowed. This was such a blatant ‘fuck you’ to both of the Krieger-Harrises that the defender wasn’t certain she would be able to hold back the anger welling up inside her. She couldn’t believe Jill invited herself into the room and watched as Pinoe packed up her stuff and came over to the pissed off brunette for a quick hug.

 

“Call me if you need Team Sapphic Dream for anything. I will get everyone here pronto.” the midfielder whispered in Ali’s ear as she hugged her.

 

The young blonde keeper walked in, and set her bag in the closet space just vacated by Pinoe. She stood facing the other three in the room, but it was evident how awkward she felt by the situation. Ali knew none of this was Jane’s fault, but she was going to have to work extra hard at not taking it out on the young woman, as she felt resentment every time she looked at the keeper who had come to replace her wife.

 

Ali looked over at Jill and closed her eyes. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it.

 

“I thought you were giving Ashlyn a week before you called her up.” Ali couldn’t stop the words from flowing out of her mouth, or the accusatory tone.

 

Jill smirked at the defender, “I changed my mind. You see, I am the coach, Alexandra, and it’s my right to determine who is the best fit for this team. If playing for the National Team was a priority for Harris, that trouble maker would be here right now, not off on some extended holiday. Besides, I have Hope Solo. I don’t need Harris.”

 

“So tell me who was in goal during the finals stopping the shots that won us the World Cup again, because I seem to recall her name wasn’t Solo. I seem to recall a certain Hope Solo being taken off the pitch with a head injury. Seems like you sure needed my wife then!” Ali finished, inwardly grimacing at the words she knew were likely to get herself into hot water with the coach, outwardly not flinching.

 

Ali watched with satisfaction as Jill’s face turned a deep red, “That is strike number two, Krieger. Don’t let there be another one if you still want to play for this team.”  

 

With that, Jill turned on her heel and walked out, slamming the door behind her. Ali shook her head, what the fuck did she just do?! God, she had never been one to lose her cool like that before. She was always the positive one, the one who always bit her tongue...the defender’s lips curled slightly...it had felt good to speak her mind for a change...but Ali knew there would be consequences. The brunette turned and found a slack jawed Jane looking like a deer caught in headlights. 

 

Ali cleared her throat and walked over to the young first time call-up and extended her hand, “Hi, I’m Ali Krieger-Harris. I know you had nothing to do with this situation, and I’m really sorry I said all of that in front of you. I should have held my tongue until I was in coach’s office. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to make this awkward.”

 

Jane reached out and clasped the brunette’s hand, meeting her gaze, “Hi, Jane Campbell. I...uh...I watched you play at Penn State, and in the last couple of World Cups. I really think you are one of the best Right Backs in the world, and Ashlyn’s saves during the finals were absolutely brilliant. Look, I’m sorry if my being here makes you upset, but I intend to fight for a spot on this team.”

 

Ali firmly shook the young keeper’s hand, “As you should. Don’t ever waste an opportunity. You never know when you will get it again. We have team breakfast at 7:30 in the morning. I usually take a shower before bed because I like to sleep in until 6:30 or 7:00, and it takes me a little while to get ready. Just let me know when you like to shower so I can arrange my schedule to not conflict with yours.”

 

Jane thought about it for a second, “I guess I’ll take my showers in the locker room after practice and then in the mornings here. I like to start off feeling fresh.”

 

“Good enough. I will let you have the bathroom first as long as I can get in by 7:00. Now if you will excuse me, I have a call to make.” Ali replied, and grabbed her phone off the nightstand before heading to the bathroom for some privacy.

 

***

Ali sat down on the edge of the bathtub as she pulled the plug and watched the water drain out. She was going to have to watch herself for the rest of camp, lord knows she had pushed it with Jill, and in front of the newbie to boot. The brunette shook her head, what had she been thinking?! 

 

Ali plugged the drain after the last of the cold water was gone, and she started to fill the tub with fresh hot water. Once it was going, she FaceTimed Ashlyn back. It rang only once before it was answered.

 

“Hi Princess. I see Jill’s spectacular timing continues.” Ashlyn mused, and Ali’ s breath caught as she was able to get a good look at her wife’s face.

 

“Babe, look at your beautiful face. What did you do?” Ali protested, tracing her fingertips over the bruises and swelling on her screen.

 

“It’s a long story, baby...but hey, I got T back!” Ashlyn tried to change the subject.

 

Ali smiled adoringly at the blonde, “I know, and I am beyond proud of you for that. I knew you could never let me down, Ash, but this...honey you are some kind of…”

 

“Superhero!” Tallulah interjected from just off screen, causing both women to laugh.

 

“Yeah, superhero!” Ali agreed, “And I can’t wait to get you back here because I have a reward to give you.”

 

Ashlyn’s lips curled into a lecherous grin as crimson invaded her flesh. Despite how bad her body hurt, the thought of her wife’s flesh against her own...of her body trembling beneath Ali’s touch...of the gorgeous brunette filling her senses as Ali’s tongue impaled her...ignited a fire inside the blonde. Ashlyn had to stifle a moan when the memory of her soulmate’s sweet essence flooding over her tongue quickly followed. No two ways about it, Alexandra Blaire Krieger-Harris tasted like an angel dipped in honey.   

 

“God, I can’t wait to taste...” Ashlyn husked out intensely, momentarily forgetting the innocent ears right next to her.

 

“Ashlyn.” Ali stated, her tone warning the blonde.

 

“...my reward.” Ashlyn covered, her voice back to normal.

 

“That’s a desert I look forward to as well.” Ali replied with a wink, “Now let me see my baby girl!”

 

Ashlyn chuckled as she handed the phone over to the young teen, “Here, my Kween would like to talk with you.”

 

Tallulah laughed at the blonde as she took the phone, “You are totally wrapped around her little finger.”

 

“More like her middle fingers.” Ashlyn muttered to herself under her breath, but Ali still caught it.

 

“Ashlyn Michelle Harris! Do you kiss Grams with that mouth?” Ali chided, one perfectly sculpted eyebrow raised.

 

“I don’t get it.” Tallulah piped up, her brows creasing in confusion.

 

“Oh my sweet baby girl, just stay that way until you’re thirty.” Ali commented sweetly as she turned off the water.

 

The brunette carefully shrugged out of her bathrobe and sank back into the welcoming waters of the hot bath. She would have to tell Ashlyn about the incident with Jill and the arrival of Jane Campbell as well as the plan to rescue them before the end of the call, but for now, the defender just wanted to enjoy her two favorite people.  

 

***

 

Kyle ran his hands along the polished cherry wood chair rail that added a touch of elegance along the clean cream colored walls of the cabin. Everywhere he looked was high end material...slate grey and cream colored marble flooring led from the outside deck of the yacht over to a brass and glass wet bar and eating area...cherry wood accented plush slate grey built-in over stuffed couches and recliners that rose from the floor, and made the grey in the marble pop...brass accented glass coffee and end tables that tied into the brass accented portholes and the wet bar...and all polished to a high shine. There was even a marble and brass fireplace crowned with a thick slab of cherry wood creating the perfect mantle. Ali’s brother shook his head at the huge painting of Hope holding Kelley O’Hara as they gaze lovingly at each other that hung over the mantle. Who knew the intimidating keeper had such a soft side?     

 

“A queen could get used to this.” Kyle remarked as he sank onto the sofa.

 

“Yeah well, a queen could bring his own damned bags on board too!” Chris protested as he dropped Kyle’s heavy bag at the dark haired man’s feet, causing him to squeal.

 

“Eek! Careful with Solo’s gorgeous boat! You break it, you bought it.” Kyle sassed.

 

Chris rolled his eyes. If Kyle wasn’t going to help, this was going to be a long rescue mission. 

 

“Can you at least go tell the Captain that we are ready to push off?” Chris asked somewhat annoyed, as he hoisted his sports bag over his shoulder.

 

“Ok, but I call dibs on the bed with the best view!” Kyle replied, sparing the man his dazzling Krieger smile. 

 

“That pretty smile might work on some guys, but not me. First come, first served is the rule I live by.” Chris taunted Ali’s brother as he made his way down the stairs into the lower bunking level.

 

“Can’t win them all.” Kyle sighed as he stood to go find the Captain and get their rescue mission underway.

 

*** 

 

Ashlyn and Tallulah had stayed inside the room for two days ordering room service just in case Saulo had been looking for them, but they were both going a little stir crazy, so when a pitiful little red head had pressed her face to the sliding glass door of the balcony to stare out forlornly...Ashlyn caved and they went into town for lunch. The two stopped at a street vendor’s booth, looking at all the cheap trinkets the old woman was hawking to the tourists. Tallulah laughed at the goofy expression Ashlyn flashed her as the blonde tried on a wide brimmed hat made of black straw weaved to look like it was made of lace. 

 

“What are you trying to say? That it clashes with my eye?” Ashlyn playfully whined.

 

“I can’t be seen with you if you wear that. I do have standards you know.” Tallulah teased back.

 

“Oh you have standards, huh.” Ashlyn replied as she ignored the pain in her shoulder and ribs, reached out and grabbed the kid around the waist, keeping Tallulah from escaping as she tickled the freckled red head mercilessly, both of them laughing.

 

Once Tallulah had managed to squirm her way out of Ashlyn’s grip, the blonde looked over at the old woman. She had scraggly white hair that topped her tanned and weather beaten face that was etched deep with the kind of wrinkles only a lifetime of poverty and pain can cause. The keeper fished ten U.S. dollars out of her wallet and plunked it down on the booth in front of the woman whose eyes widened. 

 

“Just for that…” Ashlyn winked at the old woman as she adjusted the silly hat on her head.

 

“I have no change for something that large, Mrs.” the woman protested.

 

“That’s ok. I think this hat is worth ten dollars. Keep it.” Ashlyn commented gently.

 

“Thank you, Mrs.” the woman gratefully bowed her head with her hands pressed together in front of her chin as the two walked away from her booth.

 

“Oh my god, I wish Ali could see you right now.” Tallulah giggled as the blonde walked next to her down the crowded street.

 

“What? Ali would love my bold fashion choices.” Ashlyn smirked as Tallulah pretended not to know her when a group of local teen boys passed by them headed in the opposite direction.

 

Neither noticed when the group changed direction and started following them. The biggest boy shoved a smaller boy, who split off from the group and went running down an alley. Tallulah reached for Ashlyn’s large hand and pulled her to a stop in front of a sidewalk café.

 

“Can we stop and eat please? I’m real hungry.” Tallulah asked, her mouth watering at the smell of good food that wafted out of the kitchen on the gentle sea breeze.

 

“Of course we can. That is, if you can stand to be seen in public with me long enough.” Ashlyn teased.

 

“Hmm. I don’t know. You look pretty ridiculous in that hat.” Tallulah playfully reconsidered.

 

“That’s because I’m incognito.” Ashlyn smirked as she bumped the red head with her hip as she held up two fingers to the hostess.

 

“Incogwhato?” Tallulah asked as they followed the hostess to their table.

 

“Incognito. It means a person who wants to remain anonymous, or someone who is hiding their true identity...you know, like a spy when they go undercover so they aren’t recognized.” Ashlyn explained while sinking into the chair opposite the small wooden table from Tallulah.

 

“Well nobody is gonna recognize you in that thing. That’s for sure.” Tallulah laughed, “You completely lose all your cool points when you wear it.”

 

“Nah. I get even more. It takes real swag to rock something like this.” Ashlyn winked.

 

Ashlyn looked up when their waitress came by to drop off their glasses of water and menus. She noticed how several tables all around them were filling up with mostly teen boys. 

 

“This place is popular. Looks like we got here just in time to beat the rush.” the blonde noted and Tallulah nodded.

 

It didn’t take long for the pretty young waitress to come back. Tallulah grinned as crimson invaded her face. Ashlyn’s lips curled up into a knowing grin, that fell once she opened her menu. Tucked inside was a flyer that had a picture of Tallulah and Ashlyn. Even though she couldn’t read Spanish, the blonde could tell it was a wanted poster with a rather large reward offered, and a phone number listed. She looked up at the waitress who motioned to the table behind them with a slight nod of her head. Ashlyn mouthed ‘thank you’ to the woman as she closed the menu. 

 

“Do you know how to ask where the bathroom is in Spanish?” Ashlyn asked the red head.

 

“Sure, but she should speak English. Most service people do.” Tallulah replied, not aware of the danger they were in.

 

“Just ask, and kinda loud enough for the tables next to us to hear.” Ashlyn directed, her tone deadly serious.

 

“Okaaaaay.” Tallulah looked up at the pretty woman, “¿Dónde está el baño?” 

 

The woman smiled and replied, “A través de la puerta, gire a la derecha, y está en la esquina trasera.”

 

“Gracias.” Tallulah stated before telling Ashlyn, “She said it’s through the door, to the right and in the back corner.”

 

“Good, show me.” Ashlyn said as she took a sip of water and set her new hat on the table to mark it as ‘taken’ before standing and walking towards the building with Tallulah right in front of her.

 

Ashlyn’s mind raced while they slowly walked to the women’s bathroom. She had parked her car about a block down. If they could get out of the café without those teens noticing, they had a good chance to make it. The blonde pretended to be looking at all the decorations on the walls and noticed that one of the boys was following them. Damn. She would have to see what they were working with once they got inside the bathroom.

 

Tallulah noticed Ashlyn looking around so once they got inside the bathroom and the blonde slid the lock in place she blurted out, “We are in trouble, huh.”

 

“Yes we are. It seems as if someone has put flyers out with our pictures on it, offering a reward. All those teens at the tables are trying to collect, I guess.” Ashlyn explained quickly as she turned on the water to cover their voices and searched the small bathroom. 

 

Thankfully, there was a window large enough for them to both squeeze through. 

 

“Ok, I’m going to hoist you up, and I want you to shimmy through the window. Please be careful and don’t break anything.” Ashlyn said as she started to open the window above them.

 

The large window stopped about a third of the way open and wouldn’t budge. Ashlyn repositioned herself to get better leverage and pushed against it as hard as she could, her face turning red from the effort, but the window didn’t move at all. When the blonde felt like she was about to blow out her back from the strain, she stopped struggling. Well fuck.

 

“Change in plans. I’m going to help you get through, and you are going to go drive the car back here.” Ashlyn started.

 

“You said I was never supposed to drive again.” Tallulah pointed out, “Ever.”

 

Ashlyn blew out an exasperated breath and ran her hand through her long blonde hair, shaking it out, “I know. I lied. This is the only way. Just please don’t run over anybody or hit anything. It’s one block...I have faith in you that you can drive one block without wrecking. I’m not going to be able to fit through the window.”

 

“You said I drive like a menace to society. I don’t want to hurt anybody.” Tallulah pressed, suddenly very unsure of herself.

 

“Do you remember how I got this black eye, T?” Ashlyn inquired, changing tactics.

 

“Yeah, you were saving me.” Tallulah replied.

 

“Well now I need you to save me. Please. I know you can do it. I was overly harsh with you before, and I’m sorry. I say a lot of stupid things I don’t mean when I’m scared or angry.” Ashlyn explained, “Will you please be my hero?”

 

Tallulah smiled and nodded. Ashlyn dug in her shorts pocket and pulled out the keys. 

 

“Ok, I’ll wait until you are out front. Honk the horn when you get there, and I’ll run out.” Ashlyn explained her plan, handing the keys to the little red head.

 

“I won’t let you down.” Tallulah promised, suddenly wrapping her arms around the blonde in a fierce hug which the keeper returned.

 

The little girl put the keys in her mouth and squirmed her way through the window once Ashlyn pushed her up. She dropped to the hard ground with a thud, but didn’t let the pain slow her down. Tallulah popped up and ran for the car. She looked over her shoulder and sighed in relief when she didn’t see anyone from the café chasing her. Thank god for good luck!

 

Ashlyn cracked the door open just enough to see where the boy was standing, waiting on them to come out. She quietly closed the door and slid the lock back into place. Shit. This was going to be tricky, and definitely need a bit of luck to pull off, but at least they had the element of surprise on their side. The blonde closed her eyes as her mind wandered to her wife. God how she missed Ali. What she wouldn’t do just to be able to see her once more...to kiss those petal soft lips...to hear the gorgeous brunette’s laughter...it was music to her soul. Ashlyn rubbed away the tears that wet her cheeks, and sucked in a breath. God help her, she was afraid of never seeing those bright beautiful whiskey colored eyes again. Ashlyn gripped the edge of the sink for support as she looked at her own reflection. Her face hardened as she thought about her wife waiting for her, and she took a deep breath. Fuck those boys. Fuck Saulo. Fuck anyone who would try and stand in her way. Nobody was gonna keep her from getting back to Ali...her angel...the better half of her soul. 

 

Tires squealing against the pavement outside the café brought the blonde back to the present. She quickly slid the bolt back and threw the door open. Ashlyn lowered her shoulder as she barreled out and hit the surprised teen, knocking him to the ground on her way to the front door. The blonde ignored the jolt of pain in her shoulder caused by the collision as she ran through the front door, spotting Tallulah desperately searching for the horn inside her rental car. 

 

The commotion inside alerted the rest of the teens who started towards the waist high fence that separated the café from the sidewalk. Ashlyn didn’t look back, even as she heard feet hitting the pavement, knowing that the boys were jumping over the fence and hot on her heels. 

 

Getting to the car, Ashlyn opened the back door and dove inside. 

 

“Go! Go, go, go, go!” Ashlyn screamed, and Tallulah purposefully mashed the accelerator, throwing the blonde into the back of the seat...the force of the acceleration closing the back door. 

 

Ashlyn pushed herself up and looked out the back windshield. The boys were pouring out into the street, but they were too late. She and Tallulah had made their escape. The blonde smirked while she flipped them off. Fuck the lot of them.    

 

Once they were a safe distance away from the group of teenagers, Ashlyn carefully crawled over the center divide. Expecting Tallulah’s overcorrections made a huge difference, and the blonde was able to use the side to side momentum to slip into the front passenger seat. 

 

“Ok, pull in up there. They can’t catch us now. I’ll take over the driving.” Ashlyn pointed to a parking lot a few streets ahead of them.

 

Tallulah pulled into the parking lot and stepped on the brake. The car stopped short, and the red head put the car into park. She quickly unbuckled her seat belt and stepped out. The red head quickly padded over to the front of the car where Ashlyn met her. Tallulah squeaked in surprise as she was swept off her feet in a huge hug, feeling the blonde leave kisses on the mop of red hair on top of her head.

 

“Thank you for saving me, T. You crushed it, girl!” Ashlyn exclaimed, before setting the teen back on her feet.

 

Crimson invaded Tallulah’s cheeks from the compliment. She tapped her knuckles against the blonde’s before they finished switching seats. As Ashlyn drove them out of Punta Cana, the red head thought about their predicament. Saulo wasn’t going to give up, that much was clear. They needed to do something he wouldn’t expect.

 

When they drove into the next little town over, Tallulah turned towards Ashlyn. She knew somebody who could help them, if the keeper would be willing to go through with her plan.

 

“Can you turn left up there?” Tallulah quietly asked.

 

“Yep. Do you know somewhere we can hide out? I was thinking we maybe ought to go stay in your campsite until my brother and Kyle can get here.” Ashlyn replied.

 

“We could do that, but I think I know somebody who can help us too.” Tallulah commented as Ashlyn made the turn she had requested, “See that empty spot half way up the block? Let’s park there.”

 

Once the car was parked, Tallulah eagerly jumped out of the car, and Ashlyn had to hurry to catch up to the teen who was making a bee line for a nearby shop. 

 

“Whoa, care to let me in on your plan there, kiddo?” Ashlyn asked, reaching out to stop Tallulah.

 

The red head grinned, and pointed to a small store front. It had a large pair of scissors painted on the front window. 

 

“Incognito!” Tallulah blurted out.

 

Ashlyn peered inside and saw the women cutting and styling hair. She turned to Tallulah and spared her a wide dimple bearing smile. 

 

“T, you are a genius! Let’s do this thing!” Ashlyn praised the girl as she reached for the door handle to the shop. 

 

After an hour and a half inside the shop, the newly shorn brunettes stepped out of the shop. Color was extremely expensive and rare on the island, but the stylists had been thrilled to use the last of it on the duo. Ashlyn ran her hand over the short bristly hairs on the back of her head. She looked down at Tallulah who had a short spiked full-on mohawk, and shook her head. Ali was gonna freak. 

 

Chapter Text

“We could hit her over the head, put her into a big box, and mail it to Siberia.” Pinoe stated as she stabbed a piece of egg on her plate, glaring over at the young keeper a few tables away.

 

“Ooooorrr we could just score a bunch of goals against her, and make her look inept.” Christen countered as she popped a grape into her mouth.

 

“Mailing her to Siberia has more panache.” Pinoe argued around the egg in her mouth.

 

“Making her look inept is cheaper and more effective.” Tobin pointed out, quickly supporting Christen’s position and earning a wide smile from the striker.

 

Ali pushed her eggs and avocado around her plate. Her appetite left as soon as Jane Campbell arrived. Fucking Jill Ellis. Knowing the damned coach, she would probably force Ali to be on the woman’s back line as well. Ugh. The defender dropped her fork onto the plate with a loud clatter and pushed the plate away. The chatter in the room came to an abrupt and awkward halt as everyone looked at the saddened defender.

 

“Come on, Kriegs, you gotta eat so you can kick some ass on the pitch, boo boos.” Syd quietly cooed. 

 

Crimson invaded Ali’s cheeks as she realized everyone in the room was staring at her. She felt a tug on the bottom of her tank top and turned her head to find Riley Rampone standing next to her chair. The child climbed onto her lap and wrapped her small arms around the brunette’s neck, squeezing tight. Ali’s arms encircled the toddler, returning the affection before the girl pushed back until they were nose to nose. Riley looked deep into the troubled whiskey colored eyes in front of her.

 

“Are you sad?” Riley asked.

 

“A little bit, but I’ll be ok.” Ali answered the little girl.

 

“You has to eat, Auntie Ali. You gots to be big and strong like mommy so you can steal lotsa balls and get really stinky, ‘cause that makes you happy.” Riley explained as if it were the biggest secret in the world, “Want me to help you?”

 

Ali’s eyes misted over at the precious girl’s empathy. The brunette nodded, and felt her cheeks get wet as a few tears managed to escape the corners of her eyes. God, she wondered what T must have been like before the red head’s dad had died and mother had sent her away to be abused. The defender chewed her bottom lip trying to reign in her emotions as Riley shifted in her lap to reach her abandoned plate. She bet that little Tallulah would have been much the same as Riley Rampone. Ali couldn’t wait to see her girls again, she couldn’t help but worry about them.  

 

“Okay. Here come da choo-choo!” Riley announced as she picked up the discarded fork full of avocado eggs and chugged it towards Ali’s mouth. 

 

When the girl loudly imitated the sound of a train’s horn blaring, Ali dutifully opened her mouth so the “train” could pull into the “station.” After several more rounds of “train” bites where a good portion of the food fell off before getting close to the defender’s mouth, Ali thanked Riley and took over eating on her own while everyone in the room resumed their meal.

 

Jane sat quietly and observed the interaction. Part of her felt guilty for being the cause of the attractive brunette’s pain, but she also had been dreaming of playing for the national team since she was little and had grown up watching players like Solo, Abby, Rampone, and even Ali racking up wins for the United States. The young keeper picked up her dishes and deposited them in the bussing tubs before she made her way out of the room. She needed to get away from the defender and breathe. Jane could ill afford to let her emotions pull her from being singularly focused on the pitch, and the more she watched Ali Krieger, the more she felt conflicted.   

 

***

 

Ashlyn low whistled at Tallulah as the youngster padded out of the dressing room in long legged khaki shorts, and a light blue short sleeve button down shirt with a dark blue bow tie that matched the one the keeper had on. The young teen spared the woman a proud grin.

 

“Ding, ding, ding! Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Wrap it up and let’s get…” Ashlyn paused and she grasped her chin, tapping her forefinger to her lips as she tried to come up with something to rhyme with “dinner.” 

 

Tallulah rolled her eyes and poked the short haired brunette in the stomach as she walked past her, “The only thing that rhymes with ‘winner’ and ‘dinner’ is thinner and sinner, and either one would just be stupid. Come on, let’s go pay so we can call Ali and show her our new look!”

 

“You sure are in a hurry to get me in the dog house.” Ashlyn stated under her breath as the youngster led the way to the register.

 

The young woman at the register smiled at the two as Tallulah and Ashlyn reached her. She started ringing up purchases and noticed the matching outfits.

 

“Oh you look so handsome, just like your papi.” the woman gushed, crimson invading Tallulah’s cheeks.

 

Ashlyn wrapped an inked arm around Tallulah’s shoulders and she patted her shoulder possessively.

 

“That’s my son alright, a chip off the old block.” Ashlyn teased, dropping her voice as low as she could get it so she would sound more like a man as she handed the cashier the tags from the clothes that Tallulah was wearing.

 

Tallulah tried in vain not to giggle. The harder she tried not to laugh, the more the giggles poured out, until she full on snorted as the lady at the cash register looked at them, puzzled. Not wanting to ruin the fun, Ashlyn paid with cash so the woman wouldn’t see her obviously female name on the credit card. Once the girl had managed to stop laughing, Tallulah straightened her little bow tie.

 

“Yep, just like mi papi.” Tallulah replied, looking up at Ashlyn with a proud smile.

 

“Come on, son, let’s go.” Ashlyn remarked, grabbing the bags of clothing off the counter.  

 

When they walked out of the shop, the duo had finished replacing every piece of clothing they had previously worn. Ashlyn had boxed up all of their old clothes, and shipped them to Gram’s house in Satelite Beach that morning. They started back up the street towards the bus stop, each enjoying the sunlight and cool ocean breeze blowing through their newly short hair cuts. As the two neared the corner, the keeper looked down at her gunmetal blue Michael Kors watch Ali had surprised her with on the third game day of their victory tour to see how long they would have to wait to call her beautiful wife. Before Ashlyn looked back up, she felt a man plow into her. Only years of strength training and keeper quick reflexes kept the short haired brunette on her feet.

 

“Watch where you are going, fucking tourist!” Juan barked at the man he had just crashed into. 

 

Ashlyn’s eyes widened for a split second in shock before she was able to school her features. The keeper wrapped an arm around Tallulah and protectively placed herself between the two, quickly glaring the girl into staying silent before returning her attention to the henchman.

 

“You ran into me, asshole.” Ashlyn replied with a deep growl, standing her ground with the thug, inwardly praying the man didn’t recognize them.

 

Juan chuckled and shook his head. He had to give it to the rich bastard, he wasn’t as much of a pussy as his wardrobe suggested. That he could respect. Juan looked past the man to his son. 

 

“Nice mohawk, boy, but don’t let your papi make you wear such sissy things. Clothes make the man.” Juan pointed at the bow tie and winked at Tallulah as he walked past them.

 

As soon as Juan started walking again, Ashlyn pulled Tallulah around the corner and they both fell with their backs against the building. The youngster looked up at Ashlyn and grinned. She held up her fist and Ashlyn bumped it. The keeper felt her legs quiver from the adrenaline dump in her system, and spared the girl a dimpled smile.

 

“You are freaking brilliant, T. I can’t believe he didn’t recognize us!” Ashlyn exclaimed as she leaned against the building, collecting her nerves.

 

“Well duh. Incognito, remember?” Tallulah sassed back, a proud smile on her freckled face.

 

“Clothes may make the ‘man’ but haircuts don’t hurt either!” Ashlyn added as she stood up straight. 

 

Since it appeared they might be able to walk around unnoticed by the people who had a bounty out on them, perhaps she could get a few things to make their wait for the boat ride home more enjoyable. It also meant they could simply move to another resort and not have to hide out in the jungle at T’s old campsite. The keeper sighed, and maybe once they reached the United States, she and Ali could find a lawyer who would be able to help them with T. One thing Ashlyn knew for certain, that little girl had definitely found a way inside her heart, and if the look in Ali’s eyes when she looked at the girl were any indication...they were on the same page. 

 

“Come on, we have about two hours to kill before we can FaceTime Ali. Wanna see if we can catch some dinner?” Ashlyn suggested, knowing how sick the teen had to be of eating fish.

 

“If ‘catch some dinner’ is incognito code for surfing until the sun goes down and ordering a pizza, I’m totally in.” Tallulah remarked, her bright green eyes looking in the direction of the beach. 

 

Ashlyn wrapped her arm around the girl’s shoulders, “So surfing and fish pizza it is. I have to report to National Team camp when we get back, ya know. Can’t blow my diet too bad.”

 

Tallulah pretended to dry heave as she walked with the keeper towards their bus stop. Surely there wasn’t anything grosser than ruining a pizza by putting fish on it. Ew. Almost as bad as vegetables.

 

***

 

Sweat stung Ali’s eyes as she wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. The defender’s legs and lungs burned, and her clothes, wet from sweat, clung to her muscular body. She would have been in heaven if Ashlyn’s sexy ass had been on the pitch with her the Right Back thought while she unconsciously hitched the left leg of her shorts higher. When she reached the sideline, the brunette blatantly ignored the water bottle Jane offered her, and spared Heather a megawatt smile as she accepted the bottle of water her bestie held out for her instead. 

 

Jill cocked her head, watching the exchange, and furiously scribbled in her journal. It was time Krieger learned a lesson about loyalty and power. Specifically, why the defender’s loyalty should be with the coach and not that tattooed trouble maker, and who actually had the power to decide how well Ali’s career would go if she continued to make bad choices. She brought a whistle to her lips and blew. The players all looked up at her and the old coach’s lips curled into a feral smile. Let the lessons begin…

 

“Hope, I want you in the West goal, Jane the East. West side defenders will be Klingenberg...left back, Julie...left center, Becky...right center…” Jill paused, pleased when she noticed Ali already starting to jog towards the West goal with the rest of the starting back line, “...and Kelly O’Hara...right back.”

 

Kelley’s eyes widened in shock. Did Jill just assign her to be a...defender?! The Striker shrugged her shoulders and shook her head in confusion as she looked over at Pinoe and Abby whose faces registered their disbelief as well.  Kelley looked at the old coach for confirmation, and when Jill nodded at her, she started jogging towards the starting back line.  

 

Ali took two more steps before the last name Jill rattled off sank into her brain. Kelley O’Hara. Kelley. Jill was sending a forward to take her spot in her defensive line...in her Department of Defense. Ali’s steps faltered as realization hit her. Everyone on that back line was a starter...except today she wasn’t one of them. 

 

“Where are you going, Krieger?” Jill called her out, “Your back line is on the East side, in front of Jane.”

 

All chatter around the pitch stopped at the coach’s challenge. Ali sucked in a deep breath, and her fingers curled into fists. She had not been this embarrassed during camp in a long time. The defender couldn’t even remember the last time she felt this foolish. Of course Jill was going to make her pay for her outburst in front of the newbie. Well, she would just show the coach who the best Right Back in the world was, and it wasn’t her buddy, Kelley. Poor girl was gonna get her ass handed to her...she was a striker for fuck’s sake! Ali plastered a smile on her face, forced her fingers to relax, and turned to jog back the other direction. She wouldn’t give Jill the satisfaction of knowing how badly this stung.      

 

***

 

It had been a long day under the hot sun working her ass off to defend the woman sent to replace her wife, and Ali was in no mood for Jill Ellis. As practice finally ended, the best Right Back in the sport stalked towards the locker room before she was stopped by the voice that sounded like fingernails screeching across a chalk board to her. 

 

“Krieger, I want you to stay and take PKs against Jane here. Let’s see what she has left in the tank.” Jill called out, pleased when she saw the defender pause a moment longer than was necessary before turning back towards the pitch.

 

“Sure thing, coach! Anything for the team.” Ali called out in a dangerously sweet voice.

 

Jane groaned. A blind person could see how bad the coach was sticking it to the gorgeous defender, and she really hated to be used in that kind of team politics...to be used as punishment. It wasn’t fair to Ali, and it damned sure wasn’t fair to her...but she would keep her mouth shut and stop as many of the world class defender’s PK’s as possible. As much as she hated being used by the coach, the young keeper really did want a fair shot at making the team. The blonde smiled as she stuck her hands back into her sweat soaked gloves...she was going to show Jill Ellis that she belonged on this team. 

 

Ali gathered up about a dozen balls and placed one on the mark. She took a deep breath and remembered the breakfast conversation. Christen was right. She was gonna make the young goal keeper look foolish and out of her league. Then when Ashlyn got back, Jill would have no choice but to concede that the team needed her. Ali’s eyes narrowed at the blonde as she stepped back from the ball, and the whiskey colored orbs drilled holes in the keeper...that woman was the obstacle standing in the way of her wife returning to her rightful place, and Ali was going to show her no mercy.

 

Jane bounced on her feet as she saw Ali’s face harden just before the defender ran up to the ball. Her blue eyes focused hard on the beautiful woman’s lower body. Eyes lied...hips didn’t. As the ball flew off Ali’s foot like a rocket, Jane dove left. The ball easily flew past her, even though she had guessed right, and found its way to the back of the net. Jane was surprised by the ball speed the brunette had generated. As she stood up and dusted the grass off, the keeper vowed not to make that mistake again. Underestimating pretty was lethal. 

 

Ali normally liked to playfully trash talk the keepers during PK practice, but today she was all business as she silently placed the next ball on the mark. This time Jane fell for her feint and the brunette was able to easily put the ball away in the spot vacated by the keeper. The blonde pounded the grass in frustration. It was embarrassing when they scored like that. The young keeper looked up and noticed the way Jill was staring at them, and she hoped that the coach wasn’t regretting her decision. 

 

After several more missed saves, Jane was really sweating Jill’s scrutiny. She bounced up and down and shook out her hands while she waited for Ali to start towards the ball. The blonde’s eyes narrowed and the rest of the world faded away as she focused on the defender. As the ball came flying off Ali’s boot, Jane dove right and managed to get her fingers on the screaming hard shot. Pain exploded in several digits and as she landed, the keeper knew she had most likely broken at least two of them. She sucked in a breath and blew out her frustration...of course she would break her fingers now. At least she had managed to change the trajectory of the ball, and it skipped harmlessly across the end line. Finally. 

 

Jane stood and stoically faced the brunette. She hoped that Jill would call an end to the practice before she did more damage to herself. It wouldn’t be the first time she played with broken fingers. She would simply use more tape to offer a little better protection and drive on...but if she were to re-injure her knee or shoulder...that would be disastrous. After five more misses and two more saves that sent pain shooting down Jane’s right arm, Jill blew her whistle.

 

“Good job today, Jane! Hit the showers. Krieger, pack the balls up before you go.” Jill demanded and turned her back to the two players. 

 

“Want some help?” Jane offered, not feeling right about just leaving the defender to corral the balls by herself.

 

“It’s ok. Go shower. I’m guessing you’re pretty worn out, too. It was really hot out today.” Ali replied, not looking up.

 

“Are you sure? I don’t mind.” the keeper tried one last time.

 

Ali closed her eyes and held her tongue. She wasn’t going to take it out on the woman, well, any more than she already had. If the blonde wanted to help pick up balls, then she could pick up all the damned balls she wanted to. 

 

“Alright. Thanks.” Ali mumbled, opening her eyes.

 

Jane smiled at Ali and ran off to collect the balls furtherest away from the brunette. The defender grinned, at this rate, maybe she would be done in time to answer Ashlyn’s call after all. 

 

***

 

It took three rings for Ali to answer the FaceTime alert. As the faces of her two favorite people filled the screen of her laptop, the defender squealed as Ashlyn and Tallulah yelled “surprise” at the same time. The flabbergasted brunette brought her forefinger up to trace Ashlyn’s short hair on the screen. God, she almost had to do a double-take to recognize her own wife! 

 

Ashlyn’s dimple bearing grin fell as the silence from the defender became almost awkward.

 

“Well say something, Alex.” Ashlyn prompted, a noticeably hurt tone to her voice.

 

“It’s just...wow. You look so…” Ali started, pausing to find the exact right word to describe her wife’s new appearance.

 

“You hate it.” Ashlyn supplied, a bit defeated knowing how long it would take her to grow out her hair again.

 

“Oh no, babe! I didn’t say that. I was just trying to find the right word to express how dapper and sexy you look. It’s like you took the feminine parts of yourself and blended them with this new raw masculinity, and I’m finding it hard not to be able to fuc…” Ali blurted out before Heather covered her mouth and interrupted her, popping up over the brunette’s shoulder and Tallulah felt the strange tingle inside her stomach like when she had first seen the gorgeous defender.

 

“Funny story about the Princess here, she promised to introduce me to Tallulah. Hi Ash! Whoa, she wasn’t kidding, you look absolutely…” Heather commented, her eyes appreciating the keeper’s new cut and color as Ali pulled the midfielder’s hand away from her mouth.

 

“Delicious!” Ali finished, her darkening eyes roguishly raking over her wife’s image on her MacBook screen.    

 

“Sure. We’ll go with that.” Heather chimed in.

 

Crimson invaded Ashlyn’s face as she smirked at the two women on the screen, “Well, I’ll take it! You look damned gorgeous too, baby. God, I miss you!”

 

“What about me?! Do you like my mohawk? Badass, huh.” Tallulah turned her head from side to side so Ali and the new pretty woman could see the whole thing.

 

Ali shook her head and raised a sculpted eyebrow at the keeper. 

 

“What have you done to my baby girl, Ashlyn Michelle Harris?! You’ve totally corrupted her!” Ali joked.

 

“That’s Krieger-Harris baby! I put a ring on it, remember?!” Ashlyn corrected with a wink.

 

Tallulah looked back and forth between the two women that had become so important to her. They seemed to be teasing so she wasn’t sure the beautiful defender had meant the harsh statement, but it still stung. Ali noticed how just a bit of the sparkle had left the teen’s eyes, replaced by a hint of uncertainty, and the brunette internally smacked herself for causing the girl to have any self conscious thoughts. 

 

“Seriously, T, you look so handsome too. Such a little badass. I’m sure when you meet the team, they are all going to fall in love, but you must not wear that abominable North Carolina blue when you do,” Ali commented, rolling her eyes and sticking out her tongue in mock disgust before sparing the girl a brilliant nose crinkling smile and wink. “I will have something in an appropriate shade of blue for you.”

 

Ashlyn wrapped her arm around Tallulah and pulled the teen protectively against her chest, “Nooooo! Don’t fall for it! Princess is trying to make you wear that ugly ass Penn State blue. Ew! Nobody likes that color. You won’t get any girlfriends wearing that.”

 

Tallulah giggled, now she got it. The women were busting on each other about the different colleges they had attended, and Ali’s comment earlier had nothing to do with her mohawk. The teen watched the new woman push her way past Ali until she had completely taken up the screen with her face and she looked deadly serious, reaching out and grasping both sides of the laptop.

 

“I love you, Alibean, but I gotta agree with Ash on this one. Tar Heel blue is soooo much prettier than Penn State blue.” Heather stated as she looked at the pair on the screen.

 

“Heather O’Reilly! Don’t you listen to that biased traitor, T!” Ali warned as she popped her head up from underneath Heather’s right arm. 

 

“Taaaaaaarrrrrrr!” Ashlyn started.

 

“Heeeeeeeeelllllls!” Heather responded, and Tallulah cracked up laughing at the look of utter mock horror on Ali’s face.

 

“So you play on Ali and Ashlyn’s team?” Tallulah asked, the shyness in her voice evident.

 

“I sure do. My name is Heather, and we all play on the national team together. We play for different pro teams though.” Heather replied.

 

“Are all the women on your team as pretty as you?” Tallulah gushed, apparently smitten with the midfielder.

 

Heather looked at Ali, “Oh girl, you are in deep trouble. This one is a charmer, and she has been spending way too much time with your Stud already. You are going to have to lock them both up when they get back here.”

 

“Thanks Captain Obvious, I’ll get right on that.” Ali acknowledged with a lil sass.

 

“Hey now! I heard that.” Ashlyn playfully grumbled. 

 

Tallulah laughed at their banter and reached for the last slice of cheese pizza in the box. Ali’s eyes narrowed as she saw the food the teenager was shoving into her mouth with gusto.

 

“Is that pizza?! Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris, you need to be camp ready when you get back here!” Ali admonished her wife.

 

“No, Awi, piwha is mime.” Tallulah interjected around a huge bite, swallowing before she continued, “Ashlyn had grilled sea bass.”

 

“Yeah, Ashlyn had the grilled sea bass.” the keeper repeated crossing her arms and sticking her tongue out at her wife.

 

“Oh. Sorry, babe. I just...ugh, I wish you were here already. Jane did pretty good today. Not as good as you, but I don’t trust Jill. I think she is looking for an excuse to cut you. Please don’t give her one.” Ali confessed her fear.

 

“Oh Princess, I’m a lean, mean, ball stopping machine! Nobody has the cat-like reflexes I do. Jill would be an idiot to get rid of me.” Ashlyn replied, trying to comfort her wife.

 

“And keepers wonder why we call them ‘cocky’ all the time.” Heather rolled her eyes at her friend.

 

“Seriously, how much longer do you think it’s gonna be before the guys get here with the boat?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“I called Kyle yesterday and he thinks they will get there tomorrow or the day after. I honestly can’t wait to have you both back here. I miss you like crazy!” Ali said as she traced her wife’s face on the screen.

 

“Some parts more than others.” Heather winked and Ali’s face reddened.

 

“HAO!” Ali squeaked out and playfully smacked the middie’s shoulder.

 

“Alright, I’m out. You guys can say all that disgusting lovey-dovey shit I know you are dying to tell each other. Tallulah, I’d plug my ears if I were you, girl. These two can give you diabetes with all the sugary sweet things they say to each other.” Heather offered the teen some parting advice.

 

“Love you too, HAO!” Ashlyn chuckled as the midfielder walked to the door.

 

“Taaaaaaaaaarrrrr!” Heather called out from the doorway.

 

“Heeeeeeeeeeellls, baby!” Ashlyn responded, and Ali threw her pillow at her friend.

 

Ashlyn looked down at her watch. She knew that the defender would need to decompress a while before she would be able to sleep, but by the look of her face, she needed a nap before dinner. 

 

“So how is my gorgeous wife?” Ashlyn asked in earnest.

 

“I really, really miss you and T, Ash. I hate being here without you. Jill is a big fucking pain in my ass, and I may have to hug her until she stops twitching if she doesn’t cut the bullshit.” Ali threatened, a sudden angry expression overtaking her beautiful face.

 

“But babe, you hate hugging.” Ashlyn reminded her wife with a mischievous twinkle in her hazel eyes.

 

Ali paused a moment as her wife’s words washed over her.

 

“So not the point.” Ali shook her head, trying to maintain her scowl.

 

Ashlyn smirked at her gorgeous defender trying to stay mad, but as Ali’s lips twitched and finally curled into a reluctant grin, the keeper knew she had succeeded in improving the other half of her soul’s mood.   

 

“Ugh. You don’t even let me stay angry at the woman.” Ali protested.

 

“Why would you want to be angry? That’s no fun.” Tallulah asked, trying to keep up with the conversation.

 

“Ooh, point goes to the teen with the badass haircut dressed in the beautiful shade of blue.” Ashlyn chuckled as she pointed over to where the teen laid on her bed.

 

“I am so not winning any arguments ever again with you two ganging up on me, am I?” Ali stated the obvious.

 

“I’m sorry Princess, but T and I really just want you to relax, play well, and have fun. You are at camp with all of our friends...our sisters really. I mean, c’mon, you have the entire Team Sapphic Dream watching your back. What more could a girl possibly want?” Ashlyn stated.

 

“You and T here with me.” Ali replied not skipping a beat.

 

“Soon babe, soon.” Ashlyn promised, wishing that she could kiss away the sadness in her wife’s voice, “We miss you too.”

 

“Yes we do! I miss your pretty smile, and the way you rub my back that makes me sleep so good. Plus when you are around, Ashlyn smiles more and goes to the bathroom to fart.” Tallulah called out from the bed across the room.

 

Ali smiled hearing that her little family missed her as much as she was missing them, “Oh she does, does she? Is she the only one?”

 

“Hell no!” Tallulah responded with zest.

 

“Language, baby girl! You better start coming up with some new words for those curse words you are so fond of young lady, because if my mom hears curse words coming out of your mouth...all three of us may end up sucking on bars of soap!”

 

Tallulah’s smile stretched even further. Ali was definitely acting all parental on her now. It felt amazing to have the woman correct her bad language, even if she wouldn’t admit it.

 

“Ew. Geez, it’s not like I’m ten you know.” Tallulah weakly protested, her radiant smile betraying her mood.

 

“Don’t talk back to the Princess, T. Trust me, it never ends well.” Ashlyn piped up, also feeling the change in dynamic that was taking place between Tallulah and Ali. 

 

“Fine. I’m gonna go take a shower anyways. I don’t want to hear all the gross mushy talk you guys are about to start.” Tallulah replied as she pushed herself off the bed and padded over to the bathroom, “So get it all out now.” 

 

“We will certainly do our best.” Ashlyn chuckled as Tallulah made a big show of covering her ears and whistling as she entered the bathroom. 

 

Ashlyn loved the way Ali’s face lit up when she was talking to the teen. Motherhood definitely looked good on the defender, even if they weren’t quite real mothers...yet. The keeper’s heart melted as she watched Ali tuck a long strand of her silky sable hair behind her left ear. God how her arms ached to hold her wife. 

 

“Hi, sexy.” Ali said, looking at her wife coyly.

 

“Hi, gorgeous.” Ashlyn replied.

 

“In case I haven’t said it today, I love you.” Ali started, pausing to choose her words carefully.

 

“I love you more.” Ashlyn fired back challengingly.

 

“I love you the most.” Ali smiled confidently at their competitive love declarations.

 

“Nuh uh. I love you more than Gram’s mac n cheese, baby!” Ashlyn confessed with flair. 

 

“Oooh, well in that case, I’ll just have to eat it all at Thanksgiving then.” Ali clapped and rubbed her hands together excitedly.

 

“Well I love you more than...huh? Wait… aw fuck.” Ashlyn’s face dropped as Ali’s words finally registered in her brain...she had lost again.

 

Ali dissolved into a fit of giggles at the playfully dejected look on her keeper’s face. Nobody could make her forget her troubles like this woman...this single dimpled goddess. Ashlyn smiled at the radiant woman on the screen in front of her. She sighed, it hadn’t been this hard to be far away from the brunette since Ali had been playing in Germany without her. Well, actually, that had been the last time they had been this far away from each other. The keeper looked at the other half of her soul thousands of miles away, and knew that now was the time to bring it up, before the teen got out of the shower.

 

“Hey Alex, I want to ask you something before we lose the chance to discuss it privately.” Ashlyn paused to allow Ali a couple of seconds to get the last of her giggles out.

 

“What’s wrong? What has you so serious all of a sudden, Ash?” Ali inquired, a little thrown off by the sudden change in her wife’s demeanor. 

 

“Oh nothing’s wrong, baby. I just wanted to talk to you about…” Ashlyn started before they both heard someone pounding on Ali’s hotel room door, “Fuck!”

 

“We can talk about that anytime you want, Stud.” Ashlyn rolled her eyes as Ali teased her. 

 

“Hey Kriegs, Coach wants to see you in her office now. Me and Capt. America are going with you, though. After what we saw her do in practice today, we have some questions for her.” Abby called out through the closed door.

 

Ali paled. What had she done now?! She had been a model team player today...well, except when she nearly took off Jane’s head during pk practice...but she would do that to anyone between the posts. Wouldn’t she? 

 

Ashlyn noticed the defender’s paled face.

 

“Alex, are you ok?” Ashlyn asked, worry evident in her voice even though Ali nodded her head, “Just call me later, any time...day or night. I’m here for you baby. No matter what, I will always love you. I will always be by your side, babe.”                

 

“I know, Ash. I love you too, so, so much.” Ali replied.

 

“Today, Krieger! Today!” Abby’s slightly annoyed voice made the couple jump.

 

Ali blew Ashlyn a kiss, who caught it and pressed it to her heart. 

 

“Coming!” the defender called out as she quickly slammed her laptop shut and made her way to the door.

 

Ashlyn sighed, frustrated. Well, she would just have to wait to see if Ali was thinking the same thing she was about that precocious teenager who was now singing in the shower...badly. The keeper chuckled, well, that was something she had in common with Ali. 

 

***  

 

Saulo rolled the hundred dollar bill from the United States into a tight tube, and snorted the line of cocaine off his table before he looked up at his henchmen. His eyes bore holes into them as he silently weighed his options.

 

“So you mean to tell me nobody has seen them since those boys at the café? They can’t have just vanished, Juan. I want them! When I want something, you bring it to me. That’s how this works. If I don’t get what I want…” Saulo suddenly picked up the glock on the table in front of him and shot the man standing next to Juan.

 

Juan tried not to flinch as Carlos crumpled to the ground, the man's blood and brain matter splattering across his face. 

 

“Next time, it will be you. Do not disappoint me again, Juan. Now, clean that shit up, and then get everyone posted at the airport and the marinas. Up the reward. Tallulah Jameson and that hot shit woman she is with do not get off my island, do you hear me?!” Saulo growled before he got up and kicked over the table in frustration on his way out.

 

Saulo slammed his fist against the door jam, nobody had ever made a fool out of him before, and he would be damned if some little girl from the States was going to be the first…

 

***

Chapter Text

“So you mean to tell me nobody has seen them since those boys at the café? They can’t have just vanished, Juan. I want them! When I want something, you bring it to me. That’s how this works. If I don’t get what I want…” Saulo suddenly picked up the glock on the table in front of him and shot the man standing next to Juan.

 

Juan tried not to flinch as Carlos crumpled to the ground, his blood and brain matter splattering across the man’s face. 

 

“Next time, it will be you. Do not disappoint me again, Juan. Now, clean that up and then get everyone you know posted at the airport, and the marinas. Tallulah Jameson and that hot shit woman she is with do not get off my island, do you hear me?!” Saulo growled before he got up and kicked over the table in frustration on his way out.

 

Saulo slammed his fist against the door jam, nobody had ever made a fool out of him before, and he would be damned if some little girl from the States was going to be the first…

 

***

 

Sunlight shimmered across the crystal turquoise water, and Kyle pulled his ‘blade brothers’ sunglasses down to shield his eyes as Chris finished tying the small dingy to the dock. Once the large man was certain their boat wasn’t going to drift off, he straightened up to his full imposing 6’3 height and looked around. How in the fuck did his sister think they were supposed to find her and that girl in the midst of this tourist hell?! Everywhere he looked, up and down, the beaches were littered with suntan oil drenched tourists glistening in the sunlight. Ugh. This was going to be like trying to find a particular flea off an infested dog’s back. Best start by looking for the long blonde haired ones with tattoos. 

 

“So did your sister happen to mention where they were staying?” Chris asked as he tried to zone in on the blondes that dotted the beaches.  

 

“Oh hunny, you are straining your pretty little blue eyes aren’t you? It’s alright, I’ll just FaceTime Ash and tell them to come to us. Problem solved. You can go back to flexing those big muscles of yours.” Kyle teased as he took out his cell phone and quickly found Ashlyn’s FaceTime info in his contacts.

 

“Keep it up, Kyle. It’s a long swim back to the U.S. I’d hate for you to accidentally fall off ‘Hope’s pretty little boat’ in the middle of the night.” Chris jokingly threatened the man. 

 

“Such a brute.” Kyle replied, sticking out his tongue while he fished Chris’s cell phone out of the large man’s pocket, “Just for that, you can pay for the call.”

 

***

 

Jill’s eyes narrowed as the sound of someone pounding on her door interrupted the old coach while she was writing notes from last practice. Who did Ali think she was, hammering away on her door like that?! That girl needed to be taught some manners, that’s for sure. She had been going down hill ever since she started hanging out with that troublemaker, Ashlyn Harris. Jill blew out an exasperated breath.

 

“Get your ass in here, Krieger, before you break my door!” Jill bellowed, her mood already sour.

 

Jill’s eyes widened as Abby and Christine followed Ali into her office. Ali and Christine sank into the two chairs on the opposite side of Jill’s large oak desk, and Abby stood slightly behind and between them. Jill’s eyes narrowed and she took a sip of her coffee to give her a chance to settle.

 

“So what did you want to see Ali about, Coach?” Abby asked, her tone direct. 

 

Jill’s lips pursed and she clasped her hands together.

 

“I’m sorry, but I can’t discuss that with you. Player confidentiality and all. Now if you will excuse us...” Jill dismissed the two captains curtly, and gestured to the door.

 

“Oh it’s fine. Anything you need to say to me can be said in front of my captains, Coach. ” Ali replied, her voice sugary sweet to avoid giving away the annoyance that she felt at being dragged away from her FaceTime date with her girls.

 

Jill shifted in her chair. Who did these players think they were, dictating the terms of this meeting to her?! Jill’s eyes narrowed to slits, and she cleared her throat.

 

“Fine. They can stay.” Jill replied before turning her attention back to Ali, “I called you in here because I’m concerned about Jane Campbell. I have noticed that she has felt rather uncomfortable lately, and I think that has a lot to do with you. I see how you’ve…”

 

“Now wait just a damned minute, coach. How is Ali responsible for how another player feels?! And if you were so damned concerned with making sure Jane felt comfortable in camp, why would you assign her to room with the wife of the player you brought her here to replace? Seems like you manufactured that discomfort to me.” Abby interrupted, not happy at all with Jill’s attitude towards Ali. 

 

“I’d watch my tone if I were you, Mary Abigail. I am the head coach here.” Jill growled, her irritation palpable.

 

“For now.” Abby threatened, leaning forward and voice dropping, “The Federation doesn’t like coaches that we don’t approve of, remember?” 

 

Jill’s lips twitched and curled into a feral smile as she watched Abby put her hands on the outside shoulders of Ali and Christine, presenting a united front. So that was their game. A power play. Well, they really were stupid jocks.

 

“Do you really think Sunil cares what you think since you hired an attorney to sue the Federation for ‘equal pay’ behind his back?” Jill sneered, enjoying the surprised expressions on the three faces across from her, “Didn’t think we knew about that, did you? Mark my words, I will be here long after you have all been replaced.”

 

Ali opened her mouth but was cut off by Christine, “Just remember, the fans come to watch us, not you. If enough of them stop buying tickets, Sunil would fire his own grandmother to keep the money flowing in. I wouldn’t feel so invincible if I were you, Jill. You wouldn’t have even won the Cup if it weren’t for us. You were overwhelmed and had shut down, remember? We sure as hell do. Come on guys, we’re finished here.”

 

“You sure the hell are.” Jill stated under her breath as the three players left her office.

 

***

 

“Pleeeeeeeeaaaaase.” Tallulah whined as she shot Ashlyn her best puppy eyes. 

 

Ashlyn bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing, “Nope.”

 

Tallulah huffed out an irritated breath and turned back towards the beach, watching the surfers shredding the waves that had blown up in the last hour. It was perfect surfing weather. The red head looked back at the keeper.

 

“But look at those monster waves! Can’t you hear them? They are saying, ‘come ride me, you know you want to’…” Tallulah tried one last time.

 

Ashlyn finished typing her message to Ali and pressed the send button before closing her laptop. She stood and padded over to where the teenager was sitting at the railing of their deck that overlooked the ocean. 

 

“T, I’d love to go surfing, but we have to keep a low profile until the guys get here to rescue us.” Ashlyn explained for like the hundredth time, “But I promise you that I’ll take you surfing on my  days off once we get to camp in California.”

 

“I’ll probably be ninety by then.” Tallulah groused as she rested her chin on her hands along the railing, jealously watching the surfers enjoying the waves. 

 

Ashlyn chuckled and wrapped her inked arm around the sullen teenager, pulling her in for a quick side hug, “If you are then you better be careful you don’t break a hip.”

 

Tallulah groaned at Ashlyn’s joke and rolled her eyes as the keeper’s phone dinged an incoming text alert. It was going be a long day. 

 

***

 

Kyle took a sip of his mamajuana and casually looked around at all the people coming and going along the beach. He noticed Chris staring at him, looking a bit ill. 

 

“What?” Kyle uttered before he took another sip.

 

“Ugh, I can’t believe you are actually drinking something with penis in it. Blech. Can’t you like, down that shit or something? Gross.” Chris muttered, his face scrunching up in disgust and stomach turning at the idea.

 

“First off, penis is delish...don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, and secondly, if it makes you sick, don’t watch. Look at all the pretty boobies around here. I’m sure that will take your mind off of my drink. Besides, you heard the handsome bartender, it has medicinal and magical properties in it.” Kyle flamboyantly emphasized the word ‘magical’ with fast moving ‘spirit’ fingers. 

 

“Yeah well, keep your ‘magic’ to yourself.” Chris grumbled, turning in his seat, wishing his sister would just ‘magically’ appear so they could get going, away from the island that served penis cocktails.

 

Kyle took another long draught off his straw and looked up just in time to see a handsome man with a handlebar mustache walking towards their table. Kyle’s eyes drifted from the man’s chiseled jaw, skipping past the t-shirt down to a generous bulge in his board shorts. Kyle licks his lips as he set down his drink. Chris looked over and chuckled, earning him a quick glare from Kyle. 

 

Kyle stood up and flashed a brilliant smile as the man closed the distance to their table. 

 

“Mmm. I think I’m hungry for some meat.” Kyle suggestively uttered, his eyes still glued to the man’s bulge.

 

“Somehow I don’t think Princess would be very happy if I gave you my ‘meat’ Kyle.” Ashlyn replied, smirking that her disguise had even fooled her brother-in-law.

 

Ashlyn and Chris laughed heartily as Kyle’s face fell. 

 

“How...when...wait a damned minute.” Kyle fumbled over his words.

 

Ashlyn clasped an arm around his shoulders, “Don’t think so hard. We needed a disguise. Also, glad to know you have such an affinity for soccer socks so I can lock mine up.”

 

Tallulah made her way around Ashlyn so she could get a good look at the men she had heard so much about. She looked up at the dark headed man standing next to Ashlyn and instantly knew he must be Ali’s brother. They looked way too much alike not to be related. 

 

“You’re Kyle right?” Tallulah ventured.

 

Kyle looked down at the youngster with the fabulous mohawk and nodded, still not over the shock.

 

“Oh man, sis...Ali’s gonna kill you!” Chris smirked, “She told us what a cute little girl T was.”

 

Tallulah’s cheeks ruddy hearing the compliment the gorgeous brunette had said about her. 

 

“Yeah well, we’ve already shown her and she thought we were damned good looking, right T?” Ashlyn stated, holding up her fist for the teenager to bump.

 

“Yup!” Tallulah replied, bumping Ashlyn’s fist, “And we met one of her pretty teammates too.”

 

Kyle’s eyebrow shot up as he looked from the teen up to Ashlyn who nodded in confirmation to his unspoken question. Kyle wiggled out of Ashlyn’s grasp and padded around Tallulah, looking her up and down.

 

“Wow. What a handsome young thing you are! All the girls are gonna want a piece of you.” Kyle announced.

 

Tallulah ducked her head shyly, but her lips curled into a large grin. 

 

“So, not to seem like I’m not happy to see you guys and all, but do you think we could continue this on the boat? I would love to get T back to the States and my ass to camp before Jill Ellis has a cow and replaces me.” Ashlyn stated, her voice a little weary from the stress catching up with her.

 

“Well come on hunny, let’s get going. Boat is over there.” Kyle sassed, pointing to the yacht. 

 

Tallulah’s eyes widened, “Is that yours?!”

 

“He wishes.” Chris answered as Kyle flipped him off.

 

“It is for the next few days! Come on, let’s get you guys settled in.” Kyle answered as he grabbed Tallulah’s hand and started walking her towards the docks, the two Harris siblings following close behind.

 

***

 

Ali grit her teeth as she exploded towards the ball. She beat Alex to the it, and kicked it harmlessly back to Jane. As the final whistle blew, the defender wiped the sweat off her face then walked over to the center circle, joining her teammates in some cool down stretches. Kelley plopped down next to her and offered her a water bottle. 

 

“I don’t know what the hell coach is thinking, but I’ve never played defense before. I didn’t ask to be put on the backline.” Kelley offered as Ali squirted the cool liquid into her mouth.

 

“I know, Kel. Thanks,” Ali replied as she handed the bottle back.

 

“Yeah, but I’m sure enjoying it, and my girl has some really good focus.” Hope smirked as she took the bottle from Kelley and winked.

 

“Oh god, please stop. I don’t have any bleach for my brain and I won’t ever be able to unsee what I walked in on inside that wrap room.” Ali replied, crimson invading her cheeks as Hope and Kelley laughed. 

 

“What are you complaining about, Kriegs? I had to listen to ‘Ooh Ash, right there. Fuck yeah. Oh...oh...fuck me my wild monkey, make me cum’ all night long through the walls at last camp.” Pinoe chimed in.

 

“I told you to stop being a creeper and take your ear away from the wall.” Tobin deadpanned, and the group dissolved into a fit of laughter with Jane looking down at her boots and the crimson extending all the way to the tips of Ali’s ears.

 

“At least Ash and I were inside a locked hotel room.” Ali fired back, despite her embarrassment.

 

“You should try it in a public space sometime...the thrill of knowing you could be caught at anytime adds a little something extra.” Kelley giggled.

 

“Aaaaand on that note, I’m out.” Ali announced as she stood, memories of Ashlyn making her cum inside a hotel stairwell, a hospital room, on a beach, and inside a church balcony swirling in her head.  

 

Ali sighed as she walked back to the locker room, she really did miss her Stud, and she couldn’t stop worrying about that precocious little T. She wanted to get back to her room so she could do a little research before she talked with them again, and she could present her ideas to her wife. They just needed to be where she could finally touch them again...to feel that they were truly safe. 

 

***

 

Tallulah happily jumped into the dingy, and Kyle grabbed the sides dramatically, “Easy tiger! You don’t want to put the queen into the pond.”

 

“Sorry, I’m just so excited to finally get off this damned island!” Tallulah replied with a huge smile.

 

“I’m sure you can’t wait to get out of here, but all of this gorgeousness wilts in the water.” Kyle stated as he tried to stop the small boat from rocking so badly.

 

Once Ashlyn and Chris got in and untied the boat, they were shoved away from the dock by a young dockworker. Kyle grinned at the teenager who had been through so much. 

 

“So how does it feel to be going home?” Kyle asked.

 

Tallulah stood up and shot her middle finger back at the dock ten feet away, “FUCK THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND FUCK SAULO JIMENEZ!” 

 

Pedro’s head snapped in the direction of the boat he had just shoved off . He couldn’t believe his ears. His eyes narrowed as he concentrated on the young boy shouting his boss’ name. Pulling a picture from his pants, he looked at it and then back at the boy. What the hell?! Pedro’s eyes widened and he broke out into a big smile, today was his lucky day. He looked at the dingy one last time before he ran to find a phone. Saulo would pay him well for finding that girl, but it might take awhile before they were able to sell her with what she had done to herself.

Chapter Text

Tallulah stood up and shot her middle finger back at the dock ten feet away, “FUCK THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND FUCK SAULO JIMENEZ!” 

 

Pedro’s head snapped in the direction of the boat he had just shoved off . He couldn’t believe his ears. His eyes narrowed as he concentrated on the young boy shouting his boss’ name. Pulling a picture from his pants, he looked at it and then back at the boy. What the hell?! Pedro’s eyes widened and he broke out into a big smile, today was his lucky day. He looked at the dingy one last time before he ran to find a phone. Saulo would pay him well for finding that girl, but it might take awhile before they were able to sell her with what she had done to herself. 

 

 

***

Ali’s call went straight to voicemail again, and she threw her phone down on the bed next to her. Tears started to well in her eyes. Five days. Five whole days and Ashlyn hadn’t even so much as sent her a text to say good morning. She couldn’t justify the silence or pretend everything was fine any longer. Something was definitely wrong. 

 

The defender curled up into a ball on the bed as she felt her hot tears spill onto her cheeks. She was too tired to fight them any longer, they streamed over the bridge of her nose and onto her pillow. She wouldn’t be able to live if something bad happened to her girls. Unfortunately, Ali had a very creative mind when it came to imagining what was preventing her girls from contacting her, and right now that mind was spinning with all sorts of gory details.  

 

Jane heard Ali’s quiet sobs, and sighed. She had read the same sentence three times, and still didn’t know what it said. The young keeper put her bookmark neatly inside the novel, and laid it on the nightstand near her head. She looked over at the beautiful brunette and shook her head. Ali had been like that off and on all weekend.  She grabbed her card key and carefully slipped out the door so she wouldn’t disturb the distraught defender. 

 

***

 

“Try it now.” Chris called out from under the console.

 

Ashlyn pressed the button again, and blew out a frustrated breath. Losing her patience, the keeper mashed the button over and over again in rapid succession.

 

“Come on! Work you motherfu…” Ashlyn muttered as she crushed the button repeatedly.

 

“Easy there Stud, it’s not a clit.” Kyle observed as he watched from doorway.

 

Tallulah pulled on Kyle’s arm, and he bent down so she could whisper in his ear. He placed his hands over her ear and whispered back, the young girl’s eyes growing wide. 

 

“Hey! What are you telling her?!” Ashlyn noticed the exchange and the look on the young teen’s face. 

 

“Oh go back to trying to jack off the sat phone, and leave us alone. We are discussing really important things over here.” Kyle sassed as he shoo’d Ashlyn with his hands.

 

“I swear Kyle, if you ruin that kid’s innocence…” Ashlyn started.

 

“Oh paleeeeease, you’re harmless.” Kyle teased.

 

“It’s not me you’ll have to worry about. Ask the guy that got a sex change courtesy of your sister.” Ashlyn replied, noticing with satisfaction Kyle’s hard swallow when she used her hands to illustrate the thug’s testicles exploding.

 

Tallulah laughed at the look of horror on Kyle’s face, “You should have seen it, Uncle Kyle! Ali made him pee and poop his pants with one kick!” 

 

The color drained from Kyle’s face as he watched Tallulah demonstrate his sister’s infamous kick. Ashlyn shook her head and mouthed, ‘Uncle Kyle?’ Kyle shrugged and sent her his dazzling Krieger smile.

 

“So when you guys are done with sex ed up there, can you get serious and help me fix this damned thing?” Chris growled.

 

Kyle grabbed Tallulah’s hand and turned on his heel, “Come on, T. Let’s leave the two Harris brutes to their work. I think it’s high time we enjoyed the swimming pool today.”

 

“Yay! I fucking love your boat, Uncle Kyle!” Tallulah blurted out enthusiastically, as she followed Kyle.

 

“You better work on cleaning up that language before we get back T, or Ali will have us all sucking on bars of soap!” Ashlyn called after them while she tried to activate the dead satellite phone again.   

 

Ashlyn focused on the phone. She desperately needed to get ahold of Ali. It had been nearly a week since they left Punta Cana, and a summer storm had knocked out their power a couple hours into their voyage, leaving them dead in the water. She and Chris had managed to repair part of the electrical system with spare parts they found stowed inside the engine room, but it was easily overwhelmed so they had to back off the speed, and hadn’t been able to restore communications yet. If only Ali had answered their call when they had gotten settled. She must have been at practice. Ashlyn knew her wife was probably worried sick by now, not knowing anything except that she had broken her promise to call every night. 

 

“Fuck.” Ashlyn exclaimed as she ran a hand through her short hair in frustration.

 

***

 

“Fuck!” Ali yelped and nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt a hand on her shoulder. 

 

“Sorry Kriegy. I thought you heard me come in.” Heather apologized as she sat down next to the defender on the edge of her bed. 

 

Ali looked over at Jane’s empty bed in confusion, “How did you even get in here? I didn’t hear you knock.”

 

“Jane came and asked me to check on you.” Heather held up a card key.

 

Ali wiped the tears from her eyes and sent Heather a sad smile, “She’s a good kid, and I’d really like her if she wasn’t here to take Ash’s place.”

 

Heather nodded, “Everyone understands how hard it is for you. Now what’s eating you, and I feel completely safe asking since Ashlyn isn’t here yet.”

 

“Ass.” Ali replied, though her heart wasn’t into bantering with her best friend.

 

Heather tucked Ali’s hair behind her ear, and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze, “Just so you know, I’m not leaving here until I get a real answer.”

 

Ali groaned. She really loved Heather, but she wished the woman would just leave her alone so she could keep thinking of all the horrible situations that had befallen her girls and be miserable. One look at Heather’s raised eyebrows and set jaw told Ali that Heather wasn’t bluffing. Damn.

Ali took a deep breath. Might as well get it over with.

 

“I haven’t heard from Ash in five days. God, what if they were captured by Saulo and he killed them...or worse, made them sex slaves? You know Ash would fight to the death before she would allow them to do that. What if the boat caught on fire in the middle of the night and they were trapped below deck? If they did manage to get out without getting burned up, they would be in shark infested water. What if…” Ali started rattling off what was going through her head, and the more she talked, the deeper into the darkness she fell.

 

Ali gasped and her eyes widened as she not only felt the pain, but heard the pop Heather’s palm made against the side of her face, “What the fuck?!”

 

Heather smiled sweetly as Ali glared at her indignantly rubbing the sting out of her cheek.

 

“There she is! I knew the Princess Warrior was hiding underneath that blubbering mess somewhere.” Heather replied with a shrug.

 

“You are evil Heather O’Reilly and I don’t know why we hang together.” Ali grumbled as she reluctantly sat up, and scooted so her back was against the headboard.

 

“You know you deserved that one. I’m sure they are all fine. Have you tried to call them?” Heather replied unapologetically. 

 

“Yes. It goes to voicemail. I even tried the satellite phone onboard Hope’s boat, but nobody answers.” Ali stated, fear tinging her voice as she drew her knees up to her chest.

 

“So what are we gonna do about it?” Heather asked.

 

“You are going back to your room so I can go back to imagining all the horrible ways Ashlyn and little T have died.” Ali replied.

 

“Yeah, no. See, you already tried that...and I hate to be the one who has to say it...but paranoid worry-wort does not look good on you, Kriegy, so that is off the table.” Heather replied with a bit of sass as she walked to the door, “Besides, you have company.”

 

“What?” Ali blurted as her eyebrows scrunched in confusion.

 

Just as Heather got to the door, a loud knock started from the other side. 

 

“Right on time.” Heather stated as she opened the door, and the entire Team Sapphic Dream filed in, filling the room.

 

Pinoe ran past Heather and launched herself at Ali’s bed. Ali shrieked as the diminutive midfielder landed right next to her. Pinoe grinned and wagged her eyebrows at the defender.

 

“Hi gorge, is this seat taken?” Pinoe asked as she made herself comfortable.

 

“Yes. Very taken.” Ali groused as she pushed Pinoe towards the edge of the bed.

 

“Thanks!” Pinoe replied as she thwarted the grumpy defender’s every attempt to remove her from the bed and nuzzled into Ali’s side once the brunette determined it was futile. 

 

Heather smiled at Ali fighting off Pinoe who seemed more octopus than human at the moment. Her best friend needed this to pull her out of her growing depression. That was the last thing Ali needed to be while fighting for her spot with an unreasonable Jill Ellis. 

 

“Well enjoy your little club meeting, Alibean.” Heather called out as she walked out and pulled the door closed behind her.

 

Heather nearly tripped over Jane who was sitting on the floor in the hallway outside the door. The young blond keeper looked up sheepishly.

 

“Sorry. So is everything alright?” Jane inquired as Heather handed her back the card key to her room.

“It will be. Team Sapphic Dream will take good care of her and brighten her spirits.” Heather replied.

 

Jane crooked an eyebrow, “Team Sapphic Dream?”

 

“Yeah, basically everyone who isn’t 100% straight on the team. Apparently they hang out and their ‘meetings’ usually involve alcohol and debauchery.” Heather giggled.

 

“Seriously?!” Jane blurted out, a little worried.

 

“Nah, they’re fine.” Heather winked.

 

“So should I join them?” Jane mused aloud.

 

“Depends if you qualify and are ready for their ‘secret initiation ritual.’ Knowing Ali I’m sure it will include drinking some sort of wine,  and knowing Pin Head probably professing your love of all things...woman.” Heather chose her last word carefully.

 

Jane’s cheeks burned at the implication, “Ok, thanks.”

 

“Good luck, kid!” Heather replied as she walked to the other end of the hall and the quiet of her room.

 

***

 

“...and so they’re burnt and disfigured corpses are probably floating in the ocean somewhere getting eaten by the fish, or…” Ali continued to voice her fears to her friends.

 

Tobin finally shook her head and interrupted the worked up defender, “It’s Overboard. A cheesy 80’s comedy, it’s not that deep, Ali.” 

 

Pinoe held up her hand to silence the room, “Wait, I got this.”

 

She turned towards Ali and narrowed her eyes.

 

“Not one more negative word during the movie, Princess, or else.” Pinoe threatened as she covered the brunette’s lips with her fingers.

 

“Or what?” Ali fired back, removing Pinoe’s hand and clearly not frightened by the tiny midfielder.

 

“While I prefer to ply you with wine and ice cream, I’m not above tying you to the bed and administering the ‘ball gag of shame.’  Your choice, but you will get into a better mood before practice tomorrow.” Pinoe replied as she dug a mouth sized red ball attached to a black leather harness out of her pocket and dangled it in front of Ali’s face. 

 

“Wait. Why the hell do you have a ball gag in your pocket, Pin Head?!” Ali blurted.

 

“Meh, you don’t have room to judge Mrs. Freaky Pants, lover of all things King Kong. Now be a good girl and don’t make me have to use this thing.” Pinoe challenged as the room erupted into laughter.

 

“I’d like to see you try it.” Ali growled her return challenge.

 

Pinoe suddenly started wrestling Ali, attempting to shove the ball gag into her mouth. Tobin rolled her eyes and jumped into the fray, pulling on Ali’s arms so Pinoe could finally press her advantage. Ali clamped her mouth down tight as the whole room started betting on the action and cheering on their pick. Pinoe slid between Ali’s legs as the defender tried to buck her off, and then started tickling the brunette. As soon as Ali burst into laughter, Pinoe managed to get the ball into her mouth. 

 

Ali’s eyes narrowed dangerously and she snorted out an unamused breath through her nose. Just as Pinoe finished strapping it down on the aggrivated brunette’s head, the door to the room opened. Jane’s jaw dropped as she looked at Tobin holding Ali’s arms behind her back while the defender had a full on ball gag in place with Pinoe between her legs. 

 

“I uh, forgot my book. But...uh...nope.” Jane stuttered out as she quickly stepped out and shut the door. 

 

Ali closed her eyes. Oh great, now Jane probably thinks she is some kind of kinky swinger. Just what she wanted to get back to Jill. Could the day get any worse?! 

 

***

 

Ashlyn wiped the sweat off of her forehead, and left a smudge of grime across it. This damned well better work! She sent up a silent prayer and mashed the button. Before she could realize the light flicker on and off, Tallulah’s scream caused her to turn and run for the deck. The keeper paused at the doorway and gasped. Not thirty feet away, the big beautiful tall ship that they had enjoyed dinner aboard in Punta Cana was cutting through the water along side them, and it was flying the colors of Calico Jack.   

 

Chapter Text

Ali waited up for hours until Jane finally returned to the now quiet room. She heard the young keeper slip into the room and tip toe to her bed. Jane jumped when Ali turned on the lamp next to her bed.

 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Ali started.

 

“It’s ok. Really. You don’t owe me any explanation.” Jane quickly responded as she turned away from the defender’s side of the room.

 

Ali sat up in her bed, pushing her long sable hair out of her face, “No, I really do.”

 

Ali picked up her laptop off the nightstand and opened it. She brought up some pictures from the honeymoon and smiled sadly. God, it twisted her gut seeing her wife’s beautiful smiling face, and that lovable teen with the mop of unruly red hair. Taking a deep breath to steel herself, Ali turned the computer towards Jane who had sat down on the edge of her bed facing the defender.

 

“I’m sure you know who my wife is…” Ali paused as Jane nodded, “Well, you are here because she stayed behind to help this little girl that we met. Her name is Tallulah and she ran into some...trouble. They should have been back by now, and I haven’t heard from them in nearly a week.”

 

“I’m sorry, Ali. That really sucks.” Jane commented sincerely.

 

“It’s driving me nuts, actually. All I can think about are all the horrible ways they could have died and I wouldn’t even know about it. To make matters worse, my brother and brother-in-law are with them soooo…” Ali let the implication hang in the air.

 

“Wow. I can see how that would upset you. I’m really sorry. Is there anything I can do?” Jane asked.

 

“No. That’s sweet of you, and I appreciate you going to get Heather today. I needed a swift kick in the ass to get me out of my pity party. I just want you to know...what you saw earlier…” Ali started to broach the subject of the embarrassing position she was in when the blonde had entered the room.     

 

“Don’t worry. I won’t say anything. It’s your life, and how you choose to have sex is up to you.” Jane shrugged, deep crimson invading her face.

 

“That’s just it. What you saw looked far worse than what was really going on. Those goofballs were trying to make me feel better, and what started out as a joke, ended up with what you saw.” Ali explained, her face matching Jane’s.

 

“Oh thank god!” Jane blurted out as relief washed over her face.

 

“You thought you were rooming with a bondage queen?” Ali supplied and Jane laughed at how absurd it sounded out loud.

 

“Guess I sorta did.” Jane admitted.

 

Ali tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she sadly giggled, “My brother would be so proud.”

 

“No offense, but he sounds like a freak.” Jane replied light heartedly.

 

“You have no idea.” Ali confirmed.

 

*** 

 

 “Shit! Never trust a fucking pirate!” Ashlyn exclaimed, prompting Chris to sit up quickly and bash his head into the underside of the console. 

 

“Fuck! What pirates?” Chris called out as he rubbed his forehead.

 

Ashlyn turned on her heels and ran over to the wall compartment they had searched through earlier for spare parts. She threw the door open and started sifting through it, her mind solely focused.

 

Chris shimmied out from under the console and glared at his sister who was blatantly ignoring him.

 

“What fucking pirates, Ash?!” Chris demanded.

 

Finding what she was looking for, Ashlyn grabbed the handle and pulled it out of the compartment. She smiled as she turned back.

 

“Nobody has time for fucking pirates...let’s just see how you like this Calico Jack.” Ashlyn muttered to herself as she made her way back to the port side door, tossing a box to Chris on her way past him. 

 

Chris carried the box and followed his sister to the port side door. His jaw dropped as he looked at the huge sailing vessel that dwarfed their yacht. 

 

“What the hell did you get us into now, Buttnugget?!” Chris exclaimed under his breath.

 

As Ashlyn made her way out to the deck, a frightened Tallulah ran up and threw her arms around the keeper’s waist, hiding behind the pissed off woman’s back. Ashlyn could feel the girl trembling and it simply fueled her already seething rage. Nobody was going to get in the way of her bringing T home to Ali...not even a ship full of brigands. 

 

“Please don’t let them take me back! I promise I’ll be real good from now on, and I won’t bug you about taking me surfing ever again!” Tallulah begged as big tears started to flow down her cheeks. 

 

“Shhh. Nobody is taking you anywhere, T. They’d have to kill me first, and they aren’t up to that task.” Ashlyn vowed, trying to soothe the girl. 

 

When Ashlyn looked back up at the ship, she easily spotted Calico Jack in his full pirate’s captain regalia. He smirked at her and gave her a quick nod of the head before calling out.

 

“Surrender your vessel and prepare to be boarded. I’d hate for any unnecessary harm to come to any of you.” Calico Jack demanded.

 

“I can’t believe you’re doing this. What happened to loyalty?!” Ashlyn barked back.

 

Calico Jack chuckled loudly, “I told you, I’m a pirate. The only loyalty I have is to the man who pays me the most...and Saulo paid me quite handsomely for the girl. Oh, and that boat will fetch me a right tidy sum as well.” 

 

Kyle and Chris made their way to Ashlyn and Tallulah, standing on either side of the keeper. They stood shoulder to shoulder with Ashlyn, a silent show of unity.

 

“What if I told you to go fuck yourself?” Ashlyn relayed. 

 

Calico Jack’s face reddened, “I’d be careful if I were you. I won’t hesitate to have my cannons scuttle you to the bottom of the ocean. You can play poker with Poseidon for all I care.”

 

“You mean those props you have to impress tourists? Try pulling someone else’s legs, mine are long enough already.” Ashlyn replied, nonplussed.  

 

Calico Jack’s face curled up into a sneer and he called out, “Lift the deadlights and put one over her bow!” 

 

Square pieces of wood that covered the eight cannon ports started being cranked open and locked into place. As soon as they were open, a single cannon was pushed through the port closest to the bow of the yacht and secured. Kyle swallowed hard as he watched the cannon being positioned.

 

“You...uh...do know what you’re doing antagonizing those guys, right? Like those are props like you said...a big bluff...all talk and no cock…” Kyle rambled nervously.

 

Ashlyn grinned as she watched the gunners load the cannon. Kyle and Tallulah screamed and flinched as the cannon was lit and went off with a resounding BOOM! The shot sailed high over the bow of the yacht, and Calico Jack looked pleased with himself.

 

“Checkmate, asshole.” Ashlyn commented under her breath as she watched the overconfident thug puff out his chest.

 

“So, one last time...surrender and prepare to be boarded. I’d hate to have to sink you.” Calico Jack threatened.

 

Ashlyn stared at the man with cold eyes, “I don’t think so. I think in order for you to actually shoot those cannons, you must have a shit ton of black powder down there. Black powder is pretty flammable, so I assume you wouldn’t want me to shoot my flare through one of those large holes you opened up. Pretty sure that might ruin your whole day.”

 

Calico Jack’s face fell momentarily as he watched Ashlyn bring a flare gun from behind her back before he was able to school his features. 

 

“You’re bluffing. That would take quite good aim to get that flare through a port.” Calico Jack dismissed the woman’s skill.

 

“You told me you knew all about me. Well then, you know I grew up dirt poor. You know what you eat when you’re dirt poor?” Ashlyn paused for greater effect, “Whatever you can shoot.”

 

“You’re lying.” Calico Jack responded, but with a little less confidence.

 

“I’m her brother, pirate man, and look at my size. She doesn’t miss.” Chris added. 

 

“Seal the deadlights!” Calico Jack commanded before turning back towards Ashlyn and shrugging, “It’s not personal, you know.”

 

Ashlyn glared at the man, “Oh it’s personal alright. I take threats to my family very personal. Give Poseidon my regards.”

 

Before the man could answer, Ashlyn lowered her flare gun and popped off a shot that bounced off the edge of a cannon port and slipped inside. Screams of panic came from the hold and one man jumped from the ship through an empty cannon port. 

 

“Bitch! We will sink you!” Calico Jack screamed at the keeper who was already aiming her next shot at the main sail.

 

“Give me the box of extra flares and go turn the engines up as fast as you think they’ll go, just don’t overwhelm them. I want to put some distance between us!” Ashlyn quickly prompted Chris into action before turning her attention back to the pirate ship, “You should have paid closer attention in history class Jack, there’s a reason we traded in wood for steel.”

 

Ashlyn continued to rapidly shoot fireballs onto the wooden vessel. By the time she had run out of flares, all of the sails were engulfed in flames, and there were several fires on the deck. Most of Calico Jack’s men were busy trying to form a bucket brigade, and focused on the fire in the hold where the black powder stores were.  

 

Kyle dropped to his knees next to Ashlyn and looked up at the woman in awe. 

 

“You are a fucking badass, Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris, and I am damned proud you are my family.” Kyle stated, tears welling in his eyes as the fear he had been fighting finally sapped him of his strength.

 

Chapter Text

 

Ali had dragged herself through another three days of radio silence. She had barely been able to sleep and hadn’t been able to keep anything down for the last twelve hours. Her body was simply breaking down under the emotional stress. Day seven without a peep from her girls was the day that Jill wanted to have a fitness test. Ali swiped her hand across her warm forehead and felt like she was going to puke for the third time that hour. She gladly accepted the water bottle Heather offered to her and took a tiny sip.

 

“You look like shit, Alibean. Do you have the flu?” Heather asked, concern evident in her voice.

 

“Gee thanks. I always love hearing how awful I look.” Ali responded, handing the bottle back.

 

“Well, considering you didn’t drink enough to keep a bird alive and you still look like you might hurl, I was wavering between flu and hungover.” Heather reasoned out loud.

 

Ali grimaced as another involuntary contraction ripped across her gut. Heather reached out and steadied the defender, before the brunette politely brushed her hand away.

 

“I got this. I can’t look weak in front of coach right now, HAO. Thanks for caring though.” Ali managed as the wave of pain and nausea subsided.

 

“I hate to say it, but Ash is rubbing off on you. That’s totally something I would have expected to come out of her mouth, not yours.” Heather stated as she shook her head, not pleased that her best friend was being too stubborn to seek help from the trainers.

 

Tears welled up in Ali’s eyes at the mention of her wife’s name, and she pushed past Heather to the start line. She didn’t have the luxury to grieve right now, and the best way to stop thinking about Ashlyn and Tallulah was to concentrate on the beeps.  Beep. Run. Beep. Turn around. Beep. Run. Beep. Turn around. Beep. Beep. Beep. Bee. Be. B. Blissful darkness.

 

Ali’s eyes fluttered open and she saw a ring of faces above her. Fuck. She must have passed out. Ali tried to sit up, but Abby and Julie pushed her back down. 

 

“Stay down, Krieger!” Abby growled, her tone brokering no discussion.

 

Dawn beat Jill to the defender still crumpled on the ground, and placed a hand on her forehead. It was suspiciously dry. Jill walked up and glared down at the brunette.

 

“Can’t even make it through eleven rounds on a beep test? Pathetic…” Jill started before an irate Dawn interrupted her.

 

“She’s running a fever, and dehydrated. Most likely flu. I’d step back, Jill. Wouldn’t want you to catch it.” Dawn stated, noting with satisfaction when the old coach took several steps away from the fallen woman.

 

Dawn motioned to the other trainers before turning her attention back to Ali, “How long have you been feeling sick?”

 

“This is the fourth day.” Ali replied weakly, embarrassed that she had passed out.

 

“Ok, you’re done for the day, Krieger. We are going to give you some IV fluids and put you on bed rest. Who’s your roommate?” Dawn asked.

 

“I am.” Jane piped up from where she stood, watching the defender with a worried expression.

 

Dawn turned to the young keeper, “We should probably get you moved into your own room. Let’s try to contain this.”

 

Jane nodded.

 

Dawn and the other trainers helped Ali to her feet. The defender closed her eyes as the dizziness she felt caused another wave of nausea to wash over her. 

 

“If you are gonna toss your cookies Krieger, point it that way.” Dawn nodded towards the newest trainer, Brad.

 

“Noted.” Ali managed in a weak reply.

 

“Hey!” Brad protested.

 

“What’s a little vomit? I thought you were a tough guy, Brad.” Dawn teased. 

 

“Tough guys still don’t like to wear other people’s puke.” Brad retorted as he helped steady Ali. 

 

Ali appreciated their lighthearted banter as the trio slowly made their way to the treatment room. Dawn helped the defender get up on the table as Brad left to grab the supplies they needed. When they were alone, Ali looked Dawn in the eyes.

 

“I don’t have the flu, you know.” Ali confessed.

 

“I know. But Jill doesn’t know that, and right now, you need some fluids and rest. I’ve seen how she has treated you this camp, and I just don’t get it. I can’t keep her from being a complete asshole to you Krieger, but I can keep her from kicking you out of camp with a diagnosis of ‘flu.’ Plus, she will probably keep her distance for a few days at least. That ought to buy you enough time to work out whatever is the problem.” Dawn conspired with a wink.

 

“Who knew you were such a rebel. Thank you.” Ali gratefully teased as Brad returned with the bag of saline and IV kit.

 

“Who are you calling a rebel?” Dawn raised an eyebrow as she tore open an alcohol wipe and cleaned Ali’s skin around the crook of her elbow before grabbing the needle, “Now, just a little prick.”

 

“That’s what they all say.” Ali groused and winced as Dawn pierced her skin and inserted the needle into her vein. 

 

***

 

Ali sighed and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear out of her face. She stared at the screen. There were a few options they could probably pursue, but neither one was optimal. Of course, they could always just approach the woman directly and see where that got them. Ugh. Ali shut her lap top in disgust. There was no way she would be able to be in the same room as that woman and not want to beat the ever living shit out of her for what that bitch had done to her little T. 

 

Ali’s lips turned up into a sad smile, how many times had she gotten onto Ashlyn for fighting with some man in a bar who looked at her the wrong way? How many times had she lectured her wife that violence wasn’t the way to solve disagreements? Good thing her keeper wasn’t here, or she’d have to admit that all bets were off when it came to your family. Hell, she had threatened a woman who had gotten too handsy with Ashlyn after a soccer match once, but it had been in Germany so she didn’t have to worry that her Stud would catch on...besides, she was fully prepared to tell her wife, ‘Do as I say and not as I do.’

 

“Oh my god, I really have turned into my mother.” Ali blurted out the realization to the empty room as she rolled her eyes.

 

A knock on the door brought the defender out of her musing. 

 

“Room service!” a voice on the other side called out.

 

Ali’s brow creased, she hadn’t ordered anything, and certainly wasn’t dressed for company wearing only a t-shirt and shorts with her hair thrown up in a messy bun. The brunette blew out an annoyed breath and reluctantly got out of bed to pad across the room to the door. They probably just knocked on her door by mistake.

 

“You have the wrong room, I didn’t order anythi…” Ali started as she opened the door. 

 

Ali’s eyes grew wide and she brought a hand up to cover her mouth in shock. Her girls stood in the hallway in matching light grey dress shorts with darker grey leather belts, god awful Carolina blue button downs finished with thin striped bow ties in her favorite shade of fuchsia and a light grey that matched their shorts. Each of them held a bouquet of miniature fuchsia colored roses surrounding three huge red rose blooms wrapped in plain brown paper. Tears welled in Ali’s eyes...they had never looked better. 

 

Ali opened her arms wide, “My babies!”

 

As Ali and Ashlyn crushed her inside a group hug, Tallulah’s cheeks scrunched up between the emotional defender and her keeper. Kyle rescued the bouquets from certain destruction, and placed them onto the nearest dresser for his sister. He turned and sighed at the sight that made his heart swell. Who would have ever guessed Alexandra Blair Krieger would be willingly involved in such a long tight hug? 

 

“I’m not a baby.” Tallulah complained.

 

“You’ll get used to it, Squirt.” Ashlyn chuckled as she held her wife in a strong embrace.

 

“Oh my god, Ash...I thought I lost you both.” Ali quietly choked out, tears flowing down the defender’s cheeks as she held onto her wife’s strong back like her very life depended on it, smooshing the teenager between them, “I wouldn’t know how to live without you.”

 

“I’m so sorry, my love.  A huge storm blew up and we got hit by lightening that knocked out our power and communications. The storm blew us off course, so we took a little longer to get here. I couldn’t call to let you know we were ok...but we’re here now, and we aren’t going anywhere.” Ashlyn explained before gently kissing the tears from her wife’s eyes.

 

“Better not.” Ali replied softly as Ashlyn rocked them gently.

 

“And on that note, I’m out. Take good care of her Buttnugget, or I will.” Chris stated, glad the rescue mission was officially over.

 

Ali reached one hand out and squeezed Chris’ arm as she mouthed ‘thank you’ to him over Ashlyn’s shoulder. The large man nodded before he made his way to the elevator. He had a plane to catch if he was going to be keeping his job.

 

Ali pulled back a tiny bit to gaze deeply into Ashlyn’s green and gold flecked hazel eyes, and saw pure love and adoration reflected back. Unable to wait any longer, the defender pressed up onto her toes and captured her wife’s lips in a needy kiss, both of them moaning and deepening it immediately. She had to feel those soft lips caressing her own...to feel Ashlyn’s strong heart beating out a rhythm of love that her heart would match...Ali had to feel the keeper’s tongue dancing inside her mouth...to be surrounded by the smell of sunshine, ocean water, beach, bergamot and pepper...the smell of home. Ali needed to have that physical connection to know that the other half of her soul was truly safe...a need mirrored by her keeper. Ashlyn poured every ounce of emotion she held for Ali into their breath stealing kiss.  

 

“You were right Uncle Kyle. Soooo much face sucking!” Tallulah called out as Ali’s eyes flew open and she reluctantly pulled away, having gotten lost in Ashlyn and forgetting the teen pressed between them.

 

“I told ya. Major tonsil hockey all the time. It’s pretty gross.” Kyle sassed as he wrinkled up his nose in mock disgust while Tallulah giggled.

 

“What have you been teaching my precious baby girl, Kyle?!” Ali demanded, her eyes narrowing dangerously, hands on hips. 

 

“Just the important stuff. Now go back to your face sucking fest and leave me and T alone. We have sooooo much to do! I have to introduce her to the gals.” Kyle dismissed Ali’s ire with a swish of his hands.

 

Ali wrapped her arms around Tallulah and held the teen firmly against her chest, her hands covering the girl’s ears, “You better watch it, queen! I may revoke your ‘uncle’ status.”

 

“Meh, be careful what you wish for. I’m sure you were looking forward to our pizza night, which by the way, frees you and the Stud up for your night of ultimate sapphic buffet disgustingness.” Kyle fired back while he nonchalantly looked at his fingernails.

 

“Oh I’m sure all of the gals would fight for the chance to host T.” Ali replied before turning her attention to the teen and sliding her hands down from the girl’s ears to cup her face, “Let me look at you.”

 

Ali ran her fingers through the girl’s mohawk, fixing little bits here and there as Tallulah’s cheeks flushed crimson from the attention. The defender adjusted the back of the teen’s collar over the strap of her bow tie, before straightening the tie with a gentle tug back and forth. The brunette lovingly smoothed the tie with her thumbs.

 

“There. Perfect.” Ali commented with a wink and her brilliant smile, “You are so handsome, my baby girl. Oh my god, I was so worried about you.”

 

Tallulah looked down at her shoes as she toed the carpet, the crimson spreading up to the tips of her ears, “Really?”

 

Ali crouched in front of the girl so she could be eye level with the young teen. The brunette gently hooked a finger under Tallulah’s chin and nudged her face up so they were looking deeply into each other’s eyes.

 

“Really. I want you to know that I worried about you every day, that I missed you every minute, and that it would have killed me over and over again every second of my life if anything bad had happened to you, Tallulah. You are my baby girl, and I have never called anyone that...ever.”

 

Tallulah’s eyes watered up and spilled over as she fell into Ali, both of them holding on to the other for dear life. Nobody had ever expressed love for her like that since her daddy had died. How had she been so wrong about them? Tallulah closed her eyes and nuzzled into Ali’s neck a bit more. It didn’t matter now, because it sounded like the women she looked up to most in the world really wanted to keep her. Maybe she was truly home. 

 

“Ok, ok, ok! Enough of the water works. It’s time to meet some badass soccer babes, T!” Kyle enthused.

 

“Yeeees!” Tallulah eagerly responded, stepping back from Ali and triumphantly throwing up both fists into the air. 

 

Ali playfully shot a side ways glance at her wife, “She is so your little mini-me.”

 

Ashlyn wrapped an inked arm around Ali’s waist as she watched Kyle and Tallulah fist bumping, a large dimple bearing grin on her face.

 

“I can live with that.” Ashlyn replied.

 

“Oooh, can I meet Heather first?” Tallulah asked, her voice cracking a bit, betraying her nerves.

 

Ali smacked her forehead as she finally remembered she was supposed to be on bed rest. 

 

“Ugh. Ok, there is one teensy little problem.” Ali started, getting everyone’s attention.

 

“Yeah, what’s that?” Ashlyn asked, her brows furrowing.

 

“I’m technically on ‘bed rest’ so...I can’t be seen taking you guys around to everyone’s room.” Ali admitted.

 

“Wait. What? Why would you be on bed rest, Alex?” Ashlyn asked, very aware of the implications of that restriction.

 

“Well, let’s just say that my last practice wasn’t my best. I was dehydrated. We can talk more about it later, ok?” Ali hoped that answer would placate her wife a bit longer.

 

Tallulah’s face fell, “Does that mean no badass soccer babes?”

 

“No honey. It just means we have to make them come to us.” Ali replied, shooting Ashlyn an apology with her eyes.

 

“Or I could take her around. I just need room numbers. Give you guys a chance to have some privacy before the Stud has to let Jill know she’s here.” Kyle piped up, trying to be helpful.

 

Tallulah’s eyes brightened up and she bounced up and down on her the balls of her feet. She clasped her hands in front of her and shot Ali her big green puppy dog eyes.

 

“Oh paleeeeeeeze?! Can Uncle Kyle take me? Please?!” Tallulah begged.

 

“I don’t know, what do you think, babe?” Ali asked Ashlyn, torn between keeping the teenager in her sight, and being able to have Ashlyn all to herself.

 

“As long as they both agree to behave, I don’t see why not.” Ashlyn responded, wanting some alone time with her wife anyway.

 

“I promise I’ll behave, and Uncle Kyle does too!” Tallulah enthused.

 

“I suppose, if I must.” Kyle agreed, dramatically bringing the back of his right hand to his forehead, making the teen giggle.

 

Ali rattled off a few room numbers to get them started, and then she and Ashlyn watched as the teen and queen skipped off down the hallway together.

 

“Oh my god, we are so in trouble with those two hanging out together.” Ali commented as she melted into Ashlyn’s side.

 

“Don’t I know it.” Ashlyn replied, gently squeezing her wife and enjoying the feel of the defender being back in her arms.

 

Ali turned and gazed up at Ashlyn, her tongue unconsciously swiping her bottom lip as her eyes raked over her wife, darkening with lust. 

 

“Now Ms. Krieger-Harris, I have a little job for you.” Ali purred as she pulled Ashlyn by the belt  into her room.

 

“Really? And what’s that, Mrs. Krieger-Harris?” Ashlyn husked out, more than willing to play along with her wife.

 

“You can start by putting the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.” Ali directed, biting her lip.

 

“Ooh, how official. I was just gonna hang a sock on the handle.” Ashlyn winked as she placed the card into the slot in the card reader doorlock.

 

Ali laughed at the memory of their door that their teammates had covered in soccer socks and sports bras from the camp when she and Ashlyn had started dating. 

 

“Don’t you dare.” Ali jokingly threatened as she playfully smacked Ashlyn’s shoulder.

 

Ali’s playfulness disappeared when Ashlyn involuntarily winced at the contact. 

 

“What’s wrong with your shoulder, Ash?” Ali asked.

 

Ashlyn encircled Ali’s waist and drew the sable haired beauty into her. She bent down and captured her wife’s lips in a tender languid kiss. Ali melted into her keeper as their lips continued to caress each other. God how she had missed this woman! The defender’s hands snaked up Ashlyn’s arms and her hands glided through the soft bristles of hair on the back of the keeper’s neck. Ali smiled into the kiss...the sensation of her wife’s newly buzzed fade against her skin was delicious. Ali raised her hands up to allow Ashlyn to pull off her t-shirt. 

 

“I had to break down the door to get to T.” Ashlyn murmured against Ali’s lips before deepening the kiss, eliciting a needy moan from the shorter woman.

 

It took a few seconds before Ashlyn’s words made sense to Ali’s kiss-drunk brain and she pulled back to really examine her wife as the short haired brunette slid her shorts off her hips and they pooled at her ankles. Both of the keeper’s eyes were still a tiny bit puffy, but the black and blue had faded into more of a sallow yellow with a greenish tinge that blended into a small fresh pink scar that extended over the bridge of her nose that wasn’t quite as straight as it had been before. All along Ashlyn’s exquisite jawline were small fading bruises. Ali reached up and gently explored the healing wounds with her fingertips, her eyes begging the question.

 

“I got kneed in the face by one of the guys guarding the door where T was, and then we fought for his gun.” Ashlyn answered quietly, knowing her wife needed to hear the truth. 

 

Ali pushed up onto her tip toes and placed tender kisses to the healing bruises. She knew that her soul mate had been injured rescuing the teen, and she had seen the damage over facetime...but seeing it firsthand...hearing what her wife had gone through...really drove home the great danger Ashlyn had willingly put herself in to save the girl. It moved Ali beyond her ability to speak...instead crafting her love letter with her eyes...her hands...her lips instead.  

 

Ali stilled Ashlyn’s hands as the keeper reached for her bow tie. She noticed the swelling and old bruises on the keeper’s knuckles. Ali slowly brought those huge powerful hands to her lips, gently kissing each knuckle before placing them over her own bare breasts. Ashlyn moaned at the feeling of Ali’s nipples tightening between her fingers while the defender untied her bow tie and allowed the ends to dangle from her neck. The sable haired brunette maintained eye contact with her wife as she deliberately popped each button out of its buttonhole down the entire length of Ashlyn’s Carolina blue dress shirt. Once the shirt was hanging open, Ali gently pushed it over the keeper’s shoulders, mindful of the sore one, and let the garment fall to the floor, joining her shorts and t-shirt in a growing pile. 

 

Ali sucked in a breath at the sight that greeted her. The keeper’s right shoulder was engulfed by a deep muscle bruise that was an angry reddish purple. She very carefully leaned in and placed tender kisses over every inch of Ashlyn’s abused shoulder. The keeper held her arms above her head, allowing Ali to remove her sports bra. When the defender’s eyes raked over her wife’s naked torso, tears welled in her eyes as she noticed the worst bruise yet...a fist-sized deep purple bruise that discolored the middle of the short haired brunette’s left rib cage. God, how were those ribs not broken?! Ali looked up, questioning.

 

“The guy at the door. I think he had some brass knuckles on or something. Maybe he was just a boxer. I don’t know. Hurt like hell when my adrenaline wore off.” Ashlyn quietly explained, almost feeling the strike in her side again as she recalled it.   

 

Ali’s lips payed homage to the abused flesh in the most tender love-filled way that took Ashlyn’s breath away. Ashlyn watched as the love that crossed her wife’s face manifested in the feel of Ali’s adoration through soft lips against her skin. Ashlyn closed her eyes, as she allowed her soul mate to lead her to the bed and divest her of her remaining clothes. She laid down, pulling the defender with her...needing to maintain physical contact in order to breathe. She had come so close to dying that day. He had a gun. He was so much stronger than she was...Ashlyn felt Ali’s hot mouth on her flesh, working each nipple to hard pebbles. She had felt the gun barrel jammed into her gut for just a split second before she had been able to crash her head into his nose. One second...one heart beat...was all that had separated her from a bullet. Ashlyn heard a moan escape her throat as she felt Ali’s teeth nibbling up her inner thigh. When Ali’s hot tongue slowly entered her, Ashlyn’s dam broke...hot tears fell down her cheeks in a torrent of emotion. She had almost left her soul mate a widow.

 

Ali started to pull back at Ashlyn’s tears, but stopped as the keeper managed a strangled, “Please Alex. I need you.” 

 

Ali poured out her heart...her soul...and she healed Ashlyn bit by bit with each stroke of her tongue. The defender held her wife’s hands as she came completely undone...spilling ambrosia and the last of her tears. 

 

Ali climbed up next to Ashlyn and they held each other close.

 

“God I love you. I was so scared I’d let you down. Scared I’d never see you again, baby.” Ashlyn admitted as they lay with their foreheads pressed against each other, sharing the same air. 

 

Ali gently traced the inked skin of Ashlyn’s left arm soothingly, “Shhh. I’ve got you, and I’m never letting you go. Not ever. I love you more than life itself, Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris.”

 

“You’re my salvation, Alex. The one person in this whole world who believes in me no matter what...the one person who will always put me back together again when I fall apart. I don’t know if you understand how huge that is for me.” Ashlyn confessed, kissing Ali’s forehead as the brunette nuzzled further into her neck.

 

“And you’re mine, Ash. You work harder than anyone I’ve ever known. You risk everything for me. You treat me like I am a gift to be treasured. You are my reward...perfectly imperfect...and I’ll never take that for granted.” Ali replied, noting how hard her soul mate was fighting to stay awake, “Now close your eyes and rest. I promise I’ll be right here when you wake up.”

 

Ali continued to draw lazy patterns as Ashlyn’s body finally gave in to its exhaustion and she drifted off to sleep underneath the comforting weight of her wife’s warm naked body. They had made it back to each other. They were whole once again, and nothing could hurt them as long as they were in each other’s arms...not even a power hungry coach hell bent on their destruction.

Chapter Text

A knock on the door startled Heather and Pinoe. The blonde’s eyes bugged out as she hastily chewed the gummy worms and chocolate she had just stuffed into her mouth moments before. 

 

“I told you Jill would probably smell the sugar from her room.” Heather whisper shouted as she stood up and headed for the door calling out sweetly, “Just a minute!”

 

Pinoe winced as she swallowed her mouthful of half chewed sugar overload, nearly choking in the process. Heather opened the door to her room slowly, giving Pinoe enough time to hide her candy contraband under her pillow and wipe the evidence from her lips just in case Jill was on the other side.   

 

“Kyle?!” Heather blurted out, seeing Ali’s brother standing in front of the door with his Krieger smile on full megawatts before she dropped her gaze to the young teenager with the killer mohawk she recognized from Ali’s facetime chats, “And you must be little T.”    

 

Heather’s heart melted as she watched a deep crimson invade the girl’s flesh from her neck all the way to the tips of her ears, the girl’s head nodding slightly. Heather smiled warmly at Tallulah, and Kyle nudged the teen.

 

“I um...I...uh...I brought you this.” Tallulah stammered out as she produced a bouquet of flowers from behind her back. 

 

“For me?” Heather’s eyes misted a bit and her smile stretched even further as she took the bouquet of bright yellow, white, and pink daisies with red carnations tucked in amongst baby’s breath from the nodding teenager, “Aren’t you just the sweetest?!” 

 

Heather leaned down and kissed Tallulah’s cheek, and the girl felt like she couldn’t breathe. Her cheek felt all tingly and as she stared at the midfielder, she absently rubbed her slacked jaw over the spot the soccer star had kissed. 

 

“Don’t give the poor kid a heart attack, HAO!” Kyle playfully admonished as his voice broke the moment and the teenager regained her composure.

 

“Come in, guys. So where’s the newlyweds?” Heather asked, admiring her flowers as Kyle skipped into the room and pounced on Pinoe’s bed, hand outstretched fingers curling back and forth in a demanding ‘give me’ gesture.

 

“Eating at the all night buffet.” Kyle quipped as he raised an impatient eyebrow at the diminutive blonde.

 

“Oooh! Where’s that, Uncle Kyle? I’m starved!” Tallulah piped up as her stomach growled, and Heather choked as she swallowed.

 

“Is this the rug rat Ali wants to adopt?” Pinoe asked as she ignored Kyle’s demands and Heather’s coughing fit.

 

Tallulah patted Heather on the back, “Are you ok?”

 

Heather nodded as her coughs eased up and finally quit, “Yes sweetie, I’m ok. I’ll be right back. I just have to put these lovely flowers you gave me in some water.”

 

Tallulah’s lips peeled back into a wide toothy grin, “K.”

 

“Hellooooo! Earth to kid barking up the wrong treeeee!!!” Pinoe called out in a sing-song voice and waved her hands around trying to get Tallulah’s attention.

 

Tallulah watched Heather until she disappeared into the bathroom, then she turned towards the beds, noticing Pinoe for the first time.  

 

“I’m T.” Tallulah spoke up as she made her way over to Pinoe’s bed, “I love your spiky hair. How do you get it to do that?”

 

Kyle yelped as Pinoe pushed him off the edge of the bed with her foot and patted the now empty space beside her, “Well T, at least somebody around here knows how difficult it is to look like you just rolled out of bed. It’s called hair product and it’s unicorn magic.”  

 

Tallulah sat down and Pinoe reached under her pillow pulling out a large ziplock baggie full of gummy worms, Dove chocolate squares, sour patch kids, and Reese’s Pieces. She offered the teen some and Tallulah’s face lit up.

 

“I knew you were holding out on me, Pin Head.” Kyle huffed as he picked himself up and sat down on Heather’s bed instead.   

 

“I haven’t had candy in…” Tallulah paused and her head tilted to the side as she tried to think how long it had actually been before giving up and shrugging, “I don’t even remember!”

 

“Well, you better enjoy it now, because if Ali adopts you, you’re gonna be eating rabbit food and fish, and so much healthy shit that sugar will seem but a distant dream.” Pinoe opined as she winked at the teen. 

 

A look of horror crossed Tallulah’s face and she looked up at Kyle for confirmation, “Ashlyn wouldn’t let her do that...right, Uncle Kyle?!”

 

“Oh hell, T, Ashlyn is whipped. But don’t you worry, because Uncle Kyle won’t let her do that to you.” Kyle sassed back. 

 

“That’s why you’re my favorite uncle.” Tallulah replied happily, throwing a couple of chocolates at Kyle. 

 

“Oooh, I’m going to need you to repeat that a little louder for my Insta story. Can’t wait until that big lunkhead Chris hears it.” Kyle smirked, fishing his iPhone out of his pocket and pointing it at T.

 

“Hey! No photographic evidence of my contraband!” Pinoe groused and tossed a pillow at Kyle, Tallulah giggling at the two. 

 

Heather walked out of the bathroom with the bouquet in a glass of water and set the flowers down on her nightstand. She watched the young teen for a few moments. It was clear that she was underweight, and from what Ali had said, she had been pretty abused, both mentally and physically. They only hoped that didn’t include sexually. The kid seemed really enamored with her “Uncle Kyle” and Pinoe. Heather smiled. That kid deserved a proper party to celebrate getting back to the US, and of course, she needed to meet the others as well. 

 

“Who’s up for a dance party?!” Heather called out.

 

Tallulah looked up and blurted, “You mean with all the badass soccer babes?!”

 

The teen looked mortified and her face turned beet red as Heather and Pinoe giggled. She turned to Kyle.


“I said that out loud, huh.” Tallulah asked quietly.

 

“Oh girl, own that shit! Hell yeah you said it out loud...because it’s true.” Kyle replied with sass, flicking his wrist and snapping his fingers. 

 

“Yeah, don’t ever be ashamed of what you think or feel, kiddo.” Pinoe chimed in.

 

“You are perfect just the way you are, and anyone who is worth a damn will accept you for just who you are. The rest can go straight to hell.” Heather added.

 

Tallulah mulled over what all the adults had told her. She hadn’t ever worried before what anyone had thought...well, not until her mom had sent her to that hellhole that is. They were the ones who had made her feel wrong...made her feel like she was broken. But how could that be true when she had two wonderful badass women who wanted to be her moms...at least, she hoped they did...and they had risked their lives to rescue her. Here were three more badass adults telling her the same thing. Slowly a big grin spread across her face and Tallulah looked up. 

 

“So, do you mean with all the badass soccer babes?!” Tallulah repeated her question with gusto.

 

Heather nodded, “Absolutely.”

 

“Yaaaaaaaasssss!” Tallulah exclaimed as she threw up her two fists in victory.

 

“Ok, we have three hours before curfew. Pinoe, you call all the gals on Team Sapphic Dream, and I’ll call the rest…”Heather started before being cut off.

 

“Why do I have to call everyone on TSD?! That’s like nearly everyone.” Pinoe complained.

 

“Because I’m going to call around and get food delivered as well. And stop being dramatic, it’s not nearly everyone.” Heather explained as she grabbed the menus of local places that would deliver.  

 

“Have ya done the math?!” Kyle interjected and Pinoe pointed at Kyle while the expression on her face clearly sent a smartass ‘told ya so’.

 

“Come on, T. Let’s ignore those two fools and pick out some food. I hear somebody is hungry.” Heather grabbed Tallulah’s hand and pulled her off Pinoe’s bed, the giggling girl more than willing to follow. 

 

“We could go to the all night buffet! Ali and Ashlyn might still be there.” Tallulah enthused. 

 

“Oh you don’t want to eat there. They serve nothing but fish.” Kyle quickly responded.

 

“And tacos.” Pinoe added.

 

“Nothing but fish tacos.” Kyle amended, both of them flopping back on the beds in laughter as Heather shot them death glares on Ali’s behalf.

 

“Say goodbye to your Uncle Kyle and Pin Head.” Heather instructed Tallulah.

 

“So we are going?!” Tallulah asked excitedly.

 

“No. Because I’m about to kill them both.” Heather replied sweetly. 

 

 

***

 

Ashlyn slowly opened her eyes and blinked the sleep out of them. She smiled as the most beautiful whiskey orbs in the world came into view. It hadn’t been a dream. Her wife really was in her arms...warm and very naked...in her arms. A contented moan reverberated through the keeper’s vocal chords, and Ali’s resulting smile nearly blinded her.

 

“What time is it?” Ashlyn asked, hoping that she hadn’t slept too long because she definitely had plans that did not include letting her wife out of bed to go to practice any time soon. 

 

“It’s about an hour after you fell asleep.” Ali replied, amazed her keeper hadn’t slept through the night.

 

“Oh goody.” Ashlyn commented, wagging her eyebrows at her wife who giggled at her antics.

 

“I thought that was my line.” Ali teased as she felt Ashlyn’s hands begin to slowly caress the skin of her back down to her ass.

 

Ali sucked in a surprised breath when Ashlyn grasped her muscular ass firmly and pulled her impossibly closer, slipping one of her thighs between the defender’s legs to apply some teasing pressure.

 

“And why would that be your line?” Ashlyn husked as she slowly moved against her wife’s flesh.

 

Ali eagerly captured Ashlyn’s lips in a searing kiss, both of them deepening the kiss immediately...tongues dueling for dominance. After a few delicious minutes of tasting each other’s mouths and allowing hands to wander, Ali slowly worked her way up her wife’s exquisite jawline...nipping...licking...sucking...until she finally reached Ashlyn’s ear.

 

“Because you are going to fuck me all night long until I can’t walk and you can’t talk.” Ali purred directly into Ashlyn’s ear, and then nipped the keeper’s earlobe as a noise that was a mixture of a moan and whimper escaped the younger woman’s throat. 

 

Ashlyn felt her own ambrosia flooding her center, mixing with her wife’s, creating the most intoxicating sweet musk that filled the air...her mouth watering in response. She felt her heart beating hard and fast inside her chest...like a tribal drum summoning Ali to join the dance. Damn that woman would be the death of her. Not a single person in existence compared to the level of sexy Alexandra Blaire Krieger-Harris could effortlessly reach.    

 

Ashlyn’s eyes widened as she attempted to roll them over, only to have Ali shove her down on her back again. Ali wagged her finger at her wife.

 

“Nu uh. I want to ride that hot hard tongue of yours and watch as you fuck me. I want to look down and see your eyes as you impale me.” Ali explained in a voice that brokered no discussion.

 

“Damn, Alex. You are so fucking hot.” Ashlyn uttered as Ali climbed up next to her head.

 

Ali reached between Ashlyn’s legs and gathered some ambrosia on her fingers before dipping her fingers into her own temple and adding her own, her eyes holding Ashlyn’s hostage. As the keeper watched, the sable haired beauty slowly reached out her tongue and licked one of her fingers clean, the younger woman’s moan music to her ears. Ali gently placed her fingers on Ashlyn’s soft lips and moaned when the short haired woman took them into her mouth, sucking and licking them clean. 

 

“God you are so beautiful, Alex. You are a masterpiece...exquisite. I still can’t believe you chose me, but I will be eternally grateful that you did.” Ashlyn breathlessly confessed as they gazed deeply into each other’s eyes.

 

Ali held Ashlyn’s gaze as she swung her leg over...slowly lowering her center onto her keeper’s mouth and impaling herself on the younger woman’s tongue. Ali bit her lip as she watched Ashlyn enjoying every drop of her ambrosia...the defender’s strong thighs powering her up and down as she rode her keeper. Ashlyn struggled to keep her eyes open as the sweet taste of her wife flooded her senses. The universe was shrinking until there was nothing left but the two of them...nothing but the sound of Ali moaning her name...nothing but the taste of Ali’s sweet musky ambrosia on her tongue...nothing but the feel of Ali’s satin temple greedily holding on to her tongue deep inside. Tears welled in Ashlyn’s eyes as the emotion of this perfect moment caught up to her. Nobody else in the world was allowed to know this side of Ali...this gift was reserved for her alone. 

 

Ashlyn reached up for Ali’s hands as her tongue lashing pushed the defender closer and closer to the edge...the friction creating a super nova inside her wife. Ali’s hands met Ashlyn’s halfway between, and their fingers entwined. They held on to each other...a tethered lifeline...as the super nova finally exploded in a fiery burst of energy...Ashlyn’s name tucked amid a string of expletives as Ali’s body quaked and her sweetness flooded the keeper’s mouth. 

 

A moment later, Ashlyn cradled an exhausted Ali as they lay tangled in a sweaty heap trying to catch their breath. The keeper wrapped her arms lovingly around her soulmate, holding her close as their foreheads pressed together, sharing the same breath. Ali cupped Ashlyn’s face and gazed deeply into her eyes.

 

“I love you, Ashlyn. I still can’t believe you chose me.” Ali declared as her eyes welled with emotion.

 

Ali closed her eyes and smiled as Ashlyn reached up and placed a tender kiss to her forehead. She had come so close to losing Ashlyn...to losing Tallulah...to losing her everything. The defender pulled Ashlyn in for a deep...passionate...languid...kiss. They had all night to explore and reconnect with each other, and Ali wasn’t going to waste a single second of it. 

 

Chapter Text

Tallulah felt dizzy...her lungs not able to take in enough breath to clear her head...and she could feel how flushed her skin was as a circle of soccer players closed in on her from all sides...every last one of them complimenting her in some way. It was overwhelming. How could women even be this pretty in real life?! The young teenager looked up as she felt fingers stroking through her mohawk and felt the room spin. 

 

“Alright, alright, back up you cougars! Give Stud Junior here some space to breathe before she ends up passed out on the floor.” Pinoe admonished as she swooped in and put her arm around Tallulah’s shoulders, whisking her away from the group. 

 

A very tall blonde bombshell with thick pouty lips approached them, and Tallulah’s eyes bugged out. She swallowed around a lump in her throat as the woman grasped her cheeks.

 

“Aww, you are so adorable! Want to dance with me, Pookie?” Allie asked.

 

“Uuuh…” Tallulah managed to squeak out as she felt her knees getting weak, until Heather bumped the taller woman aside.

 

“This is my room and I get the first dance.” Heather interrupted with a definite finality in her voice.

 

“Well alrighty then, HAO! Maybe later, cutie patootie.” Allie winked at the stunned teenager before she went back over to talk with Sydney, Becky, Julie and Carly. 

 

Heather turned back towards Tallulah and smiled, “I wasn’t sure if you were up for dancing with all of them, so I thought I’d give you a chance to catch your breath. You ok?”

 

Tallulah smiled and nodded shyly. She hadn’t been prepared for how drop dead gorgeous all these women really were...except a few were more handsome than pretty. Looking at them made her stomach feel weird...but looking at Heather made her heart beat fast and hard.    

 

“Thanks. I think I just want to eat something.” Tallulah replied as her stomach growled again. 

 

Kyle shook his head as he and Pinoe watched the teenager walk with Heather over to the dresser that had a box of pizza, a huge salad, and a large bowl of fresh cut tropical fruits on it. Her crush on the midfielder was clearly growing. 

 

“You know what? I think as favorite uncle, candy pimp, and fellow gays, we need to help T fix her gaydar.” Kyle casually mentioned to Pinoe as he pointed back and forth between the two of them.

 

“Yeah, we can’t let that poor kid go off to public school, develop some mad puppy love and finally get up the nerve to ask the girl on a date, only to be crushed when she finds out they aren’t into the ladies.” Pinoe agreed. 

 

“Let’s go rescue her from a horrible fate then.” Kyle stated dramatically as he moved forward to get Tallulah who had just settled on a bed next to Heather, Hope, and Kelley with a plate full of pizza and fruit. 

 

“So you’re the kid that Ali and Ashlyn got all wrapped up saving.” Hope said and grimaced as Kelley poked her in the ribcage.

 

Tallulah nodded as she chewed a large bite of pepperoni and pineapple pizza. She smiled sadly as the sweet savory flavor danced across her tongue and took her back to the last time she had eaten ‘double p’ pizza as her daddy had called it. It had been the last time she had seen him alive, the night before he shipped out on her tenth birthday. Tallulah’s jaws slowed as the memories flooded back. They had gone out to play miniature golf, and on the way home she had pestered him into stopping at her favorite pizza joint...and he agreed on one condition...they had to add pineapple to her normal pepperoni. A tear threatened to escape the corner of her eye and she wiped it...and the memory...away as she swallowed around the lump that had formed in her throat. The teenager looked up and noticed that the women were looking at her expectantly.  

 

“Um, yeah. I don’t know why, but they both wanted to rescue me. They were total badasses. I still can’t believe Ashlyn blew up that pirate ship that attacked us.” Tallulah casually mentioned before she took her next bite of pizza as Kyle and Pinoe walked up and stood in front of them.

 

Hope’s eyebrows shot up, and Kelley placed a calming hand on her forearm.

 

“What the hell do you mean she blew up a pirate ship?! What pirate ship?! And where exactly did it attack you?” Hope exclaimed, causing everyone in the room to stop what they were doing and focus in on the young teen.

 

Julie turned the music off so everyone could hear Tallulah better. Kelley tried to placate Hope who was already picturing her beautiful yacht in shambles.

 

“So help me Harris, there better not be one fucking scratch on Sapphic Tides, or I will end you.” Hope spat out under her breath.

 

“Oh that was Calico Jack!” Tallulah blurted out simultaneously as the music stopped and Hope grumbled, then she tilted her head to the side as she reasoned out loud, “But I guess he was only there because of Saulo...he’s the thug boss who tried to sell my virginity...but before that I guess maybe you need to hear about that horrible school where they tried to beat and pray and shame me out of liking girls so I had to run away from there...and that’s why I made a deal with Saulo to get me off the island...of course that means you should hear about my slut of a mom who had those evil Escuela Caribe men kidnap me and take me there...which means I should probably let you know about my daddy. He was the best daddy in the world until he died.”

 

“Oh my god T, what have you been through?” Heather’s shocked exclamation broke the stunned silence of the room.

 

Tallulah noticed how all the adults in the room were staring at her, especially her uncle Kyle. It made her nervous. She licked her lips, her mouth suddenly feeling like the Sahara desert. Ali had told her once that sometimes talking about stuff could make her feel better, but that was only if she really wanted to open up. Just as the teen was about to clam up, Heather cupped her face.  Tallulah looked into the midfielder’s eyes and seeing the gentleness...the lack of judgement...the utter concern housed there...made her feel brave enough to speak.

 

“I guess it all started when my daddy lost his job and had to join the Army so we could have a house and food to eat…” Tallulah started as the entire room full of soccer players and Kyle gave her their undivided attention, the dance party long forgotten.

 

***

 

“Noooo! Make it stop.” Ali complained as she nuzzled deeper into Ashlyn’s neck. 

 

Ashlyn groaned as her wife’s well muscled thigh pressed against her full bladder while she reached over and hit the snooze button, “Ok, my queen...but we have to get up in five minutes.”

 

“Ugh, I know, but I don’t want to.” Ali quietly whined, as she enjoyed the warmth of her wife’s naked body underneath her.

 

“I have to go tell coach I’m here, and you have to go get Tallulah from Kyle’s room so he can get to the airport...unless you wanna switch.” Ashlyn reminded her sleepy wife as she ran her fingers soothingly through the defender’s long disheveled hair.

 

“Hell no! But I don’t want you to have to face Jill by yourself either. She has been such a bitch lately.” Ali commented, rubbing her eyes.

 

“I’m a big girl, Alex, but I’m grateful that you love me enough to risk Coach’s wrath for me. You’re so sweet, my love.” Ashlyn replied, kissing Ali’s forehead tenderly.     

 

Ali melted into the soft lips on her forehead. Her body was waking up and starting to respond to the feeling of her wife’s warm naked flesh against her own. The defender marveled how Ashlyn could still make her feel like a horny teenager.   

 

“Mmm. Well, I must confess, I have my selfish reasons for wanting you around. Like how good you felt inside me last night.” Ali stated as she lazily traced the ink of Ashlyn’s Athena tattoo, remembering how deliciously her wife’s muscles rippled the night before as the keeper’s long strong fingers plunged furiously in and out...entwining their souls...deep inside her satin temple, the memory stoking a new fire.

 

“Why Mrs. Krieger-Harris, I do declare that’s positively scandalous!” Ashlyn teased with exaggerated wide doe eyes, her free right hand covering her mouth.

 

Finally wide awake, Ali reached up and captured Ashlyn’s earlobe between her teeth, nipping the soft flesh quickly before she husked a proposition into the keeper’s ear. Ashlyn’s hazel eyes widened even further as she looked down at her lecherously smirking wife. 

 

“Oh my god woman, are you trying to kill me?! We don’t have time for that.” Ashlyn squeaked out, already feeling herself getting wet at the mental picture her wife’s words drew for her. 

 

“We have three minutes and forty eight seconds. So my wild monkey, how quickly can you cum?” Ali challenged, her fingers gliding through the wetness between her wife’s legs.

 

“Oh fuck, Alex.” Ashlyn blurted out as Ali’s fingers found her opening.

 

“That’s the idea, babe.” Ali purred as she slowly sank two fingers knuckle deep into her wife, “Now be a good girl and cum for mamma.” 

 

***

 

Ashlyn paused at the door to Jill’s office and took a deep breath before rapping her knuckles against the wood. When the old coach bellowed “Enter!” the keeper turned the knob and pulled the door open. Ashlyn mustered up a smile, and hoped it didn’t look as fake as she felt. Jill’s eyes narrowed and her lips curled into a contemptuous smirk as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. 

 

“Well, look who finally decided to grace us with her presence. What the hell do you want, Harris?” Jill spat out, her eyes gleaming with joy at the younger woman’s obvious discomfort.

 

“It’s Krieger-Harris. Look, I know you are pissed off coach…” Ashlyn started.

 

“Pissed off? You think I’m merely ‘pissed off’ Harris?! Oh I am well beyond pissed off. Pissed off was zip codes away from here! You were supposed to be at camp ten days ago! Hell, even your...even Krieger managed to make it here on time. But you...” Jill stated, suddenly sitting forward in her chair and slamming her fist against her desk, making the keeper jump.

 

“It’s Krieger-Harris...and I know, I’m sorry. There was this little girl, can’t be older than twelve or thirteen maybe, she needed…” Ashlyn began.

 

“You don’t seem to get it. I don’t really give a good god damned why you are late. I told Krieger if you weren’t here that you were off the team, and you’re late. Guess what that means.” Jill cut her off, the ice in her tone speaking volumes. 

 

“Coach. If you would just…” Ashlyn started to plead her case when the door to the adjoining office opened and Graeme burst in.

 

The grizzled goalkeeper coach opened the door to the hallway and shoved Ashlyn through it as he barked at her to ‘stay’ before slamming the door shut. He turned toward Jill, his face twisted up in disgust.

 

“What the hell is wrong with you, Jill?! Did you sleep through the World Cup?! That woman...that phenomenal athlete out there...saved your ass when Solo couldn’t continue. Is this how you repay her?! Repay the team? By kicking our number two goalkeeper off the team instead of listening to why she’s late? Good god woman, is it any wonder why these women are all walking around on eggshells, dazed and confused?! You need to take a long hard look in the mirror and figure out what the hell is going on in your life that you need to fix and back the hell off these players, or we aren’t gonna stand a chance in the Olympics.” Graeme finished dressing down the coach who sat staring at him in stunned silence.

 

Graeme opened the door and ushered Ashlyn back inside. He put a hand on her shoulder as he looked back at the head coach.

 

“So what room is Ash bunking down in?” Graeme’s question sounded more like a statement as Jill sat there clenching her jaw. 

 

Who the hell did that man think he was anyway?! Well there was always more than one way to skin a cat. Jill’s lips curled as she thought of the perfect way to make certain that pain in the ass was too weak to compete with Jane and Alyssa.

 

“Have you seen your wife since you returned?” Jill asked, her tone almost sickeningly sweet.

 

Ashlyn paused. Jill was up to something, she had never called Ali her wife despite repeated reminders. 

 

“Not really. I stopped by Alex’s room but she insisted she was sick, and she didn’t want me to catch it so she wouldn’t let me in.” Ashlyn replied, remembering what Ali had said about being on bed rest for a few days.

 

Jill’s eyes danced almost gleefully, “Well, who better than you to help her get healthy? You’ll stay with Krieger.”  

 

“But coach, what if she gets me sick? I can’t afford to be breathing in all those germs while I’m fighting for my spot on the team!” Ashlyn convincingly blurted out.

 

“I’ve made up my mind, Harris. You are staying in Krieger’s room, period. Now get out of my sight before I change my mind about you staying at all.” Jill replied and dismissed Ashlyn with a flick of her wrist.

 

Graeme squeezed her shoulder as he opened the door for his favorite goalkeeper, “Go on and get dressed for practice, Ash, and count on staying after. We need to bring you up to speed on the new formation Jill wants to play.” 

 

“Yes, sir.” Ashlyn replied, and spared him a grateful smile, her dimple on full display.

 

Graeme watched the keeper walk out the door and grinned; there was no two ways about it, Ashlyn Harris was his pick to take over between the posts when Solo retired. It was time he and Jill had a realistic conversation about keepers, because come hell or high water, he wasn’t about to just stand around and let their best option for the foreseeable future be railroaded by the train wreck of a coach.

 

 Ashlyn closed the door behind her and then fist pumped the air as she walked down the hallway. Sometimes Jill Ellis could be soooo predicable. 

 

***

 

Chapter Text

Tallulah looked out the window of Ali’s hotel room and a huge sigh escaped her lips. What she wouldn’t give to be able to get out on the waves. Ali looked up from her laptop at the forlorn sound and shook her head at the poor girl whose face was pressed against the glass. The defender didn’t like being locked up inside either, but she had to get through at least one or two more bedrest days before Dawn would sign off on her returning to practice. Ali finished up her email and pressed send before shutting her macbook. Hopefully her attorney would have some ideas on how to proceed. This was very likely going to require them turning Tallulah over to one of the teen’s relatives...at least temporarily...and the thought made Ali’s stomach turn. 

 

The defender stood and padded over to where Tallulah continued to stare out the window. Ali sidled up next to the girl and wrapped an arm around her shoulder, leaning over to place a gentle kiss on the girl’s temple. 

 

“I’m sorry I can’t take you surfing, baby girl. I know it sucks to be cooped up in here all day, but I think Ash should be able to get you a pass to watch practice tomorrow. Would you like that?” Ali inquired as she squeezed the teen in a side hug.

 

“That would be cool. I’d love to watch all the badass soccer babes training.” Tallulah replied, allowing the beautiful brunette to pull her out of her beach thoughts.

 

“Badass soccer babes, huh. Who came up with that, your Uncle Kyle or Pin Head?” Ali teased, loving how quickly the crimson invaded the girl’s cheeks.

 

“No. That was all me.” Tallulah admitted with a slight nervous chuckle.

 

“Well I like it.” Ali winked and headed over to her nightstand. 

 

The sable haired beauty pulled out the nightstand drawer and reached inside. She rummaged around until she felt what she had been searching for and closed her hands around the small bottle. Tallulah watched Ali intrigued until she pulled out a bottle of red nail polish, then the girl’s nose wrinkled.

 

“What? You don’t like nail polish?” Ali commented as she sank onto the edge of the bed. 

 

“Too girly.” Tallulah dismissively blurted out.

 

“I’ll have you know that Ashlyn usually paints my nails because she does a better job at it than I do.” Ali stated as she shook the bottle back and forth.

 

“No way! Ashlyn?!” Tallulah responded skeptically.

 

“Yep.” Ali replied, popping the ‘p’ before continuing, “Why is that so hard to believe?”

 

“Because Ashlyn is so…so…” Tallulah struggled to find the right adjective before throwing her hands up, “Papi.”

 

“Papi, huh.” Ali giggled, “Ash may be a bit ‘papi’ but trust me she has a big soft side as well.”

 

Ali patted the bed next to her and Tallulah sat down, still in awe of having found out that Ashlyn was a party to any such girly ritual. She watched as Ali unscrewed the lid, and pulled the tiny brush from the fluid. The defender wiped the excess off on the top of the bottle. She carefully covered the nail of her left index finger with the deep color under the watchful gaze of the teen. 

 

“See, that’s one way Ashlyn shows me that she loves me. Anyone can say pretty words to you, baby girl, but the people who actually mean those words use their actions to show you as well.” Ali explained, “Do you understand?”

 

Tallulah shrugged.

 

“You mean like how you and Ashlyn gave me a place to stay and food to eat, took me surfing, and fought Saulo and his men to get me back here?” Tallulah replied, thinking back on all the ways the two women who had come to mean so much to her had shown her how they cared. 

 

“Exactly like that.” Ali winked.

 

Tallulah’s face broke out into a wide toothy grin...that was a whole lot of caring! She pointed at the polish brush in Ali’s right hand.

 

“Can I try?” Tallulah asked.

 

“Of course, baby girl. And don’t worry if you aren’t perfect...we have tools for that!” Ali giggled and handed the teen the polish brush, settling her left hand in the girl’s lap.

 

Tallulah’s tongue poked out of her mouth as she concentrated hard on not getting any polish on the sable haired beauty’s finger. The defender sighed contentedly as she watched the young teen at work, reminding Ali of her keeper. She could only hope their lawyer would have a plan that didn’t include turning Tallulah over to anyone else while she and Ashlyn worked on the adoption. No matter what they had to do to make it happen, deep down Ali knew the girl belonged with them. She just hoped the process wouldn’t be too painful. 

 

*** 

 

“Watch Pinoe!” Ashlyn screamed to her backline as she slid across the net to cut down on the angle. 

 

Before anyone could pick her up, the ball landed at Pinoe’s feet and she struck it on the bounce, sending a lazer of a shot towards the upper right corner of the goal. Ashlyn’s thigh muscles rippled underneath her compression leggings as she pushed off from the ground and propelled her body through the air in full extension, her fingers just barely catching enough of the ball to push it around the edge of the goalpost and over the end line for a corner kick. Ashlyn’s eyes screwed shut and her jaw clenched tight in a momentary grimace as her abused ribcage screamed in protest when she landed on the hard ground, the air forced from her lungs and out from between her taut lips in an audible hiss. 

 

Ashlyn rolled over and pushed herself up off the ground. Kelley came by and placed a hand on the keeper’s shoulder. 

 

“Sorry Ash. I was too far forward and got burned. Thanks for cleaning up my mess.” Kelley stated quickly before taking her position to protect the far side of the goal on the corner kick. 

 

“You ok, Grandma? You didn’t break a hip or anything there, did ya?” Pinoe asked as she poked Ashlyn in stomach on her way to the corner.

 

“I got your ‘Grandma’ right here, Pin Head. Still kept your weak ass shot out of my net.” Ashlyn replied with a smirk, “Besides, you’re older than me.” 

 

“I never said you weren’t lucky, G-ma, but luck runs out!” Pinoe teased as she picked up the ball, then jogged to the corner flag to take the kick. 

 

Jill scribbled furiously in her notebook as the corner was taken and Ashlyn punched the ball clear. It sailed out past the box and Whitney was the fastest to it. Once Whitney had possession, Ashlyn sighed and relaxed a bit, noting the still sharp pain in her side when she breathed. This was going to be a distraction she didn’t need while under Jill’s microscope, and the keeper cursed quietly to herself. Ashlyn watched as Jane made a remarkable save in the opposite net and shook her head. That kid wasn’t gonna make this easy...and that’s just the way she liked it! 

“Bring it on, kid!” Ashlyn challenged under her breath.

 

Ashlyn looked up as Jill blew the whistle. She stopped at the side of the net to grab her water bottle and jogged over to the sideline before shooting a stream of water into her mouth. The keeper wiped her face on her sleeve and took another long drink. She had to stay hydrated in this heat.

 

“Overall it was an ok practice, but nothing spectacular. I still can’t believe how you defenders keep getting burned. It’s like you have no hustle! It’s not as bad with Solo between the posts to clean up after you, but you can’t rely on Harris to save your ass, so you need to prove to me you want the starting job. I’m talking to you, O’Hara, Engin, Klingenberg. Stay hydrated because tomorrow we are going to run some new plays, and have another scrimmage.” Jill admonished the players, Ashlyn biting her tongue along with the rest of the team, “Harris you stay after with Graeme, the rest of you get out of here. Get some rest because tomorrow I better not see anything but hustle and clean sheets!”

 

Pinoe caught up to Meghan, Kelley, Hope, Carli, and Julie as they walked towards the tunnel. She jumped on Carli’s back and laughed when the midfielder shrugged her off.

 

“Hey guys, I was thinking,” Pinoe started.

 

“Well that’s a first.” Carli quipped as she handed Julie a fresh water bottle, and the others chuckled. 

 

“Yeah. Aaaaanyway...I know you guys like little T too, and I was thinking we should do something for her this evening. You know, to make her feel welcomed by Team Sapphic Dream. Maybe make her our mascot or something.” Pinoe explained.

 

Hope watched Kelley’s eyes light up. The keeper shook her head as she saw her plans to kidnap Kelley for a hot fucking sesh that evening quickly unraveling. It was like the universe was conspiring against her. 

 

“We’re b…” Hope started before Kelley cut her off.


“We’d love to! Why don’t you guys bring her to our room. You don’t mind do you, Julie?” Kelley blurted out excitedly, smiling at the thought of spending time with the little gaybie.

 

Julie smiled at Kelley, “Fine by me.”

 

Hope rolled her eyes...goddamn Harris, why did she always have to run such cliterference...even when she wasn’t aware she was doing it. She just had to bring some cute kid to camp with her. Hope grunted, annoyed, and Kelley ran her hand down the keeper’s back to her ass.

 

“Oh stop it. You know you like her too.” Kelley teased as she patted her girlfriend’s ass and then leaned in to whisper, “Besides, watching you mentor that kid is hot.”

 

“Bet she doesn’t like being called a ‘mascot’ though.” Hope grumbled, her mood definitely soured.

 

“Fair point.” Meghan replied, “Maybe we should just make her an honorary member of Team Sapphic Dream instead.”

 

The women quickly approved as they reached the door to the locker room.

 

“Ok, you guys help spread the word, and me n Klingy will go get the kid when we get back to the hotel.” Pinoe finished up, rubbing her hands together in barely contained glee...she had a duty to teach that poor kid about gaydar afterall!

 

***

 

Tallulah’s lips split into an excited grin as she and Ali heard the card key unlocking the door to their room. A weary Ashlyn came through the door a heartbeat later. A freshly showered Ali walked out of the bathroom in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt with her hair thrown up into a messy bun. The defender felt her heart strings tugging at her as she watched the young teen jump up and run over to enthusiastically greet her wife. The brunette padded over just behind the girl.

 

“Yay!!! You’re home! How was practice?” Tallulah asked as she threw her arms around the keeper and squeezed for dear life.

 

“Well hello to you too! Don’t tell me...you were bored to death being with Ali all day.” Ashlyn teased as she bent down to hug the girl back and winked at the sable haired beauty over the girl’s shoulder.

 

“Hi ass.” Ali greeted with a quick squeeze and a peck on Ashlyn’s lips.

 

“Mmm. Yup, that’s me, Ashhhhh.” Ashlyn replied with a chuckle. 

 

Tallulah pried Ashlyn’s USWNT gym bag from the keeper’s hand and took it over to the closet for her. The girl placed the bag just inside the closet, and then went into the bathroom to draw the keeper a hot bath. Ali leaned into her keeper as they watched the teen dump some epsom salt under the running water.

 

“Ok, who is she and what have you done with T, Princess?” Ashlyn inquired, watching Tallulah’s odd behavior.

 

“I don’t know. I guess she is trying to show you how much she cares about you. We had a little talk earlier about how people can say they love you, but the people who mean it show you with their actions.” Ali explained melting into Ashlyn’s side.

 

Ashlyn pressed a kiss to Ali’s temple, “You are such a good mommy, babe.”

 

“Not yet, and don’t let her hear you. I don’t want to get her hopes up if…” Ali trailed off, unwilling to let herself to go down that dark road.

 

“I know, I know. I’m sorry. Any news on that front?” Ashlyn asked as she stepped on the heel of her left sneaker to pry it off, followed quickly by the right.

 

“No. I haven’t gotten a reply from Jen yet.” Ali all but whined as she sat at the desk and checked her email for the umpteenth time that day.

 

“Well, I’m sure she’s busy working her magic for us and we’ll probably hear something tomorrow.” the keeper stated, trying to soothe her impatient wife.

 

Tallulah walked back into the bedroom, “Your bath is ready.”

 

“Best news I’ve heard all day!” Ashlyn enthused, fist bumping the teen on her way into the bathroom.

 

Ali turned on the tv and Tallulah settled down on the end of her bed to watch. The defender flipped through channels trying to find something she thought wasn’t too bad for the barely teen to watch with her. She decided that Master Chef Junior was perfect and set the remote down.

 

“You would be awesome on that show. I think you’d win.” Ali commented as they watched the kids rushing around to get ingredients out of the pantry.

 

“You really think so?” Tallulah asked, shyly. 

 

“I know so. I’ve eaten your cooking remember?” Ali replied, sparing the girl a dazzling nose crinkling grin and conspiratorial wink.

 

A knock on the door interrupted them, and Ali got up to answer it. She opened the door to find Pinoe and Meghan standing there in the brightly colored matching rainbow unicorn t-shirts that the members of Team Sapphic Dream had all bought last year. 

 

“Can T come out and play, Mrs. Krieger-Harris?!” Pinoe and Meghan sing-songed in unison.

 

Ali bit her bottom lip as she considered it. The poor girl had been cooped up in the room all day. 

 

“Where you going to take her?” Ali asked.

 

“Kelley and Julie’s room.” Pinoe answered.

 

“And when are you bringing her back?” Ali pressed.

 

“Before curfew.” Meghan responded, stifling a snicker at Ali’s motherly transformation.

 

“She will probably need to eat...and not just sugar, Pin Head.” Ali pointed at the diminutive blonde to drive home her point.

 

“We know. Promise you she will be fed a nutritious meal.” Meghan stated and held up her pinkie that Ali grasped with her own, giggling when she suddenly realized just how much she sounded like her own mother.

 

“Ok, as long as we have a pinkie swear in place…” the defender teased and then turned back towards the teen on her bed, “Do you want to go hang out with Pinoe, Meghan, and a couple of the other gals?”

 

“Hell yaaaas!” Tallulah enthused as she jumped up and made her way to the door.

 

“Language! Ok, go have fun. I’ll see you in a few hours.” Ali reminded them all as she lovingly ran her fingers through Tallulah’s mohawk and lightly scratched her scalp.

 

The defender watched the trio make their way down the hallway. They were talking animatedly and Tallulah was giving them both high fives, thick as thieves already. Ali was about to close the door and then changed her mind.

 

“Make good choices!” Ali called out after them.

 

“I will. Duuuuh.” Tallulah sassed back.

 

“I know baby girl, I was talking to Pin Head.” Ali teased and then shut the door, giggling at the bird Pinoe had flipped her.

 

Ali released her bun and shook out her long silky hair before pulling it over to the right side and letting it cascade over her shoulder in sensual sable waves. She smiled as sat down at the desk and opened her laptop. She opened keynote and started typing down her thoughts.   

 

***

 

Tallulah laughed at Kelley and Meghan trying to wrestle Pinoe’s bag of sweets away from her, until the bag suddenly came flying at her. The teen’s eyes widened as the bag landed in her hands and she looked up to see the women coming toward her instead.

 

“Run Forrest, run!” Pinoe shouted.

 

Tallulah turned and ran to the door, pulling it open and bouncing off of one huge, muscular, unamused Abby Wambach as she tried to make her escape. Abby looked down at the girl on the floor and raised an eyebrow.

 

“You ok, kid?” Abby asked as she reached down to help Tallulah up.

 

Tallulah nodded, unable to find her voice as she was hauled to her feet by the power forward. That was one scary woman! Meghan reached down and snatched the bag of goodies from the distracted teen, and Pinoe groaned. 

 

“No fair! T was distracted when she got flattened by Captain Lumberjack!” Pinoe complained as she watched Meghan and Kelley dip into her bag of candy.

 

“I’ve told you a thousand times Pin Head, all is fair in love and candy pilfering.” Kelley replied, popping a Reeces peanut butter cup into her mouth.

 

“What brings you here, Abs?” Julie inquired, a little unsettled by the stern Captain showing up at their door unexpectedly.

 

“I just uh...came to talk, figured Carli would be here. But you guys are busy so I’ll come back later. Sorry.” Abby replied as she backed out of the doorway.

 

Carli sighed, kissed Julie’s temple, and got up from the bed to chase down her friend, “I’ll be back in a bit. Gotta go see what’s wrong.”

 

Tallulah ran and jumped onto the space previously occupied by Carli. She looked up at the blonde and smiled. She had really pretty eyes, but not as pretty as Heather’s the teen decided. 

 

“So T, we actually wanted to hang out with you today for a reason. Has Ali or Ashlyn ever mentioned Team Sapphic Dream to you?” Julie asked as the others gathered around them. 

 

“Nuhuh. I think I’d remember a cool name like that. Is that what your soccer team is called?” Tallulah responded.

 

“Only the cool ones!” Pinoe winked.

 

“Huh?” Tallulah blurted out, confused.

 

“Ok, you know how like we are all wearing the same t-shirt, right?” Meghan started, and pointed at each of them.

 

“Yeah, cool unicorns.” Tallulah nodded.

 

“Cool rainbow unicorns.” Pinoe corrected, snatching her bag of candy back from Kelley while the forward was distracted by the conversation.

 

“Do you know what the rainbow is a symbol for?” Kelley inquired as she flipped off Pinoe.

 

“Um, that God won’t send another flood to wipe us all out?” Tallulah cautiously replied, and crimson invaded her cheeks when Pinoe started laughing.

 

“Oh hunny, you have been soooooo sheltered.” Pinoe teased and ruffled Tallulah’s mohawk.

 

“Come on, Pinoe. Cut her some slack. It’s not like gay history is taught in schools.” Julie interrupted, annoyed with her diminutive teammate, “The rainbow has been adopted by the LGBTQA community as our flag because it represents our inclusion of diversity, peace, and each color represents different aspects of life. It was created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker.”

 

“Yeah, our very own gay Betsy Ross.” Pinoe interrupted and tossed Tallulah a rainbow colored gummy worm.

 

“Yep. Anyway, Gilbert was an Army veteran and friends with this San Francisco politician named Harvey Milk. They decided that since the only symbol we had was the pink triangle that the Nazis made us wear in the death camps, we needed something a bit less tied to murder and tragedy, and more positive and uplifting. That’s how the rainbow became the symbol for our community.” Julie finished explaining to a wide-eyed Tallulah.

 

“Whoa. I didn’t even know all that.” Kelley exclaimed.

 

“That makes two of us.” Meghan added in awe.

 

“How did you not know that, Kel?” Hope asked and Kelley shrugged.

 

“So anyway. All of the ‘not so straight’ women on the team decided we needed to have our own little special sub-group since it isn’t always easy to party with the straight women in clubs where guys want to dance with you and be all handsy and stuff.” Pinoe explained.

 

“Yeah, and we do still party with our straight teammates too. Just, I don’t know, we like to be around each other sometimes.” Kelley stated as she elbowed Hope who rolled her eyes.

 

“So we heard that you find women attractive too, and might want to join our team.” Hope stated.

 

Tallulah’s face lit up and her lips split into a wide toothy grin.

 

“Really?! You guys want me to be part of your team?! But I thought you had to be a soccer player. I’m not really good at sports. The only team I’ve ever been on was the Debate team. I do surf though.” Tallulah babbled nervously.

 

“We want to make you an ‘honorary’ member of Team Sapphic Dream, kiddo.” Pinoe replied.

 

“Are Ali and Ashlyn part of this team?” Tallulah asked.

 

“Duuuuh.” Pinoe sassed and Kelley whacked her upside the back of the head.

 

“Then hell yaaaas!” Tallulah enthused while Pinoe rubbed the sting out her head.

 

“Great. Then you need to come with me to the closet for the ceremony.” Pinoe stopped rubbing her head and reached for Tallulah’s hand, pulling her off the bed.

 

“Oh gawd, seriously?!” Hope rolled her eyes and shook her head at Pinoe’s absurdity.

 

Tallulah followed Pinoe to the closet. When the middie opened the door she saw the closet had been cleaned out except for a single t-shirt hanging inside that matched the ones they were all wearing, except Hope who wore a grouchy faced Charlie the Unicorn t-shirt that Kelley had colored rainbow with clothes markers. 

 

“Go in there and change into that.” Pinoe explained and then closed the closet after the teen entered.

 

“Don’t go into Candy Mountain, kid.” Hope stated, and Kelley scowled at her. 

 

Tallulah couldn’t wipe the silly grin off her face as she changed into the t-shirt. Even being inside the cramped closet space didn’t bother her today. 

 

“Don’t blame me if you wake up without a kidney.” Hope continued.

 

“She’s just kidding.” Julie called out to the teen and mouthed ‘shut the fuck up’ to Hope.

 

“You ready in there?” Kelley called out.

 

“Yep!” Tallulah replied, her heart beating fast.

 

“Ok repeat after me...I, Tallulah Krieger-Harris, do solemnly swear that I am a lady lovin lady, and wish to support and be supported by my sisters-in-queerness.” Pinoe stated in a somber tone.

 

“Oh for the love of…” Hope grumbled before Kelley clasped a hand over her mouth.

 

Tallulah’s smile widened impossibly further as she heard the name Pinoe had called her. It had to be true. They were going to adopt her! They must have told all their friends. She was going to be a Krieger-Harris, and there wasn't anything she wanted more. It made Tallulah feel ten feet tall. 

 

Everyone paused as a clear, strong, confident voice came from the closet, “I, Tallulah Krieger-Harris, do solemnly swear that I am a lady lovin lady, and wish to support and be supported by my sisters-in-queerness. Forever!” 

 

“By the power vested in me by Sappho and Aphrodite, I now pronounce you a member of Team Sapphic Dream. Come out of the closet and join us, sister T.” Pinoe stated in the same somber tone as she opened the closet door.

 

***

 

Ashlyn walked out of the bathroom and smiled at Ali on the computer looking up private adoption laws. Her wife had laser focus, that was for sure. It was one of the things that made her such a good futbol player. 

 

“Where’s T?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“Pinoe and Meghan came and took her to Kelley and Julie’s room. She’ll be back before curfew. Poor kid needed to get out of this room for a bit.” Ali replied, not looking up from the computer screen.

 

“Mrs. Krieger-Harris, will you do me the honor of having this dance?” Ashlyn inquired in a formal voice as she reached out her hand, putting it between Ali’s face and her wife’s laptop. 

 

Ali blinked and looked up. Her lips slowly turned up into a coy smile at Ashlyn. The defender was amazed how her wife always knew when she needed to take a break she wouldn’t take herself if left to her own devices. 

 

“I’d love to dance with you, Stud.” Ali replied as she quickly clicked onto her Spotify playlist. 

 

Ashlyn swept Ali up into her arms as Charlie Purth’s voice filled the room with One Call Away. Ali bit her bottom lip as Ashlyn started swaying her hips to the beat, their bodies melding together. The sable haired beauty snaked her arms around her keeper’s neck as they continued to move against each other...lost in a world where only the two of them existed. Ashlyn dipped Ali as the song finished, and Ali giggled as she was brought back upright. The goalkeeper grasped the defender’s left hand and gently kissed her knuckles one by one, ending with a kiss of her wedding ring.

 

“You painted your fingernails without me.” Ashlyn pouted as she sank onto the edge of the bed.

 

“Well, Tallulah was bored so I figured I’d see if she wanted to paint my nails.” Ali admitted as she moved to stand between her wife’s legs.

 

“I can’t see T wanting to paint nails.” Ashlyn chuckled.

 

“She didn’t at first, and she really couldn’t understand how you would do something so girly.” Ali replied, running her fingers through the soft bristles of Ashlyn’s fade.

 

“I bet.” the goalkeeper winked.

 

“Yeah, I asked her why and she was having a hard time figuring out how to describe you. She ended up saying that you were too ‘papi’ for her to see you painting fingernails.” Ali giggled at the memory.

 

“Mmm. Too papi huh. Well, she really got a kick out of people calling me that when we were hiding.” Ashlyn recalled, her hands sliding down Ali’s back to the curve of her ass.

 

“Oooh papi!” Ali exclaimed as Ashlyn firmly grasped her muscular ass cheeks and pulled her close enough so the goalkeeper could nibble on a t-shirt covered nipple, the bud hardening beneath it’s cotton barrier.

 

Chapter Text

Carli caught up to Abby just as the stoic woman boarded the elevator. The attacking midfielder turned on a burst of speed to slip through the doors before they closed.  

 

“So, you gonna tell me what’s wrong now, or am I gonna have to chase you all the way to your room?” Carli asked.

 

“Sorry Carlos, didn’t see you behind me.” Abby apologized.

 

“No worries. What’s going on? You don’t ever come looking for me.” Carli pondered aloud. 

 

Abby shook her head, “Players are in trouble...the whole fucking team is in trouble. I don’t even know what we can do, or if we will be able to do anything…”

 

“What?! Cut the crap, Abs. You never ramble. What the fuck is going on that has you so rattled?” Carli asked bluntly.

 

“It’s Jill. I went to see her today, but when I got close to her office, I overheard her and Sunil talking...and it’s bad. I’m first, then Solo, HAO, Whit, Meghan, Ali...and it keeps going...god, they are such fucking asswipes!” Abby replied, her voice raising as she slammed her fist into the elevator wall. 

 

“What?! What are you talking about? It sounds like the list of players that…” Carli started.

 

“Signed the lawsuit against the Federation...yeah, and apparently it is now Sunil’s hit list with Jill’s blessing...replace us with babies that should still be playing with the youth national teams. Those players won’t stick up for themselves much less future generations, they are too young. And you know the worst part? Fucking Jill was actually coming up with excuses for him to get rid of us all!”

 

Carli’s eyebrows scrunched together showing her deep concentration as the implications washed over her like a tidal wave. She shook her head.

 

“Then what’s with her hard-on for Ash? She didn’t sign the lawsuit.” Carli asked, still trying to make sense of it all.

 

“That one’s personal. Between you and me, I’ve seen the way she looks at the Princess sometimes, and it is downright creepy. My honest guess is she has a thing for Kriegy, and despises Ash for having what she covets...as gross as that is.” Abby laid out her theory.

 

“Eww! Not that Ali is ew, she’s pretty, but...hell, you know what I mean!” Carli blurted out, her face contorted in disgust. 

 

“I do...trust me...I do.” Abby replied, shuddering at the thought of anyone being intimate with the leather faced old coach.

 

The elevator doors opened and Carli followed Abby out onto her floor.

 

“So what’s the plan?” Carli asked as Abby took out her card key at her door.

 

“I was hoping you’d tell me.” Abby replied as she ushered Carli inside her room, the door closing firmly behind them.

 

***

 

Ali nuzzled deeper into Ashlyn’s neck as she lazily traced the lines of her keeper’s interlocking women symbols tattoo in the small space between her wife’s breasts. She closed her eyes as she felt Ashlyn’s soft lips press against her forehead. Being naked in her wife’s arms was always Ali’s favorite place to be, especially blissed out after they made love.

 

“A quarter for your thoughts.” Ashlyn broke the silence, and Ali’s lips curled up into a smile.

 

“I thought it was a penny.” Ali replied as she rolled over half on top of her wife, placing her chin on top of her folded arms so she could gaze into her favorite hazel eyes that reflected so much love from the keeper’s soul.

 

“Oh no, your thoughts are worth much more than a penny, babe.” Ashlyn explained with a wink.

 

“Well in that case, I think you should be breaking out the Benjamins. I’m insulted.” Ali teased as Ashlyn gently ran strong fingers through her long sable silk and tucked a strand behind her left ear. 

 

“Alright, how about a glass of pinot for your thoughts.” Ashlyn bartered.

 

Ali licked her lips, “Now we’re talking! You know me so well.”

 

“Yep, that’s my lush us wife.” Ashlyn smirked.

 

“Oooh, you are soooo lucky you’re already bruised up, Harris. That was ‘shoulder smack’ worthy.” Ali replied with faux indignation.

 

Ashlyn chuckled and leaned in for a quick peck of Ali’s lips, “Krieger-Harris baby. I put a ring on it, remember?!” 

 

“Mmm. How could I forget?! You totally blew me away with that surprise castle wedding, my love. Now, if you really want to know what I was thinking about…” Ali paused as she pointedly raised one eyebrow.

 

“Yes ma’am, I do.” Ashlyn replied and then brought her fingers to her lips acting like she had locked them shut.

 

“I was thinking about T, actually. You know, like if...when...we get to adopt her, how is she going to fit into our hectic travel schedule? Should we hire a tutor or something to home school her? Or should we send her to public school and hire a nanny to care for her while we are away for camps and tournaments? I mean...we have the Olympics coming up! In freaking Brazil no less. Home of the Zika virus! Good gawd, what if she gets Zika?!” Ali babbled on before Ashlyn captured her lips in a tender kiss, interrupting the defender’s train of thought.

 

“We don’t have to figure it all out tonight, Princess. In fact, we can figure it out as we go. If one thing doesn’t work, we can always try something else. I mean, think of how lucky that kid is to have you for a mommy. You love so hard, baby! No matter what happens or what we decide to do...T will always have you to love and guide her...to support her and always be in her corner cheering her on...and that, Mrs. Alexandra Blaire Krieger-Harris, is the only thing that little girl needs to thrive.” Ashlyn explained, leaning down to kiss away the tears that collected on Ali’s lashes.

 

“You are so amazing and sweet, Ash, but you’re wrong.” Ali replied as she cupped Ashlyn’s face, her voice thick with emotion, “She needs you too.”

 

Ashlyn kissed her wife, allowing her lips to convey all the love she felt until they had to break for air. The keeper rested her forehead against Ali’s...their eyes still closed...breathing the same air. 

 

“We have to get up and take a shower if we don’t want to send that kid into years of therapy before we even get the adoption papers. They should be bringing her back soon.” Ashlyn reminded her wife who groaned in response, snaking her arms around the keeper’s neck and squeezing tight.

 

“I hate adulting some times.” Ali confessed with a slight pout. 

 

***

 

Tallulah sat in the seats just behind the bench with Christie’s nanny, Kim, and Riley. She closed her eyes as she couldn’t hold back a huge yawn. The badass soccer babes of Team Sapphic Dream had kept her out a little later than expected trying to avoid being seen just after curfew by Dawn in the hallway on Ali and Ashlyn’s floor, and then she had stayed up mulling over that whole ‘gaydar’ thingy Pinoe had told her about at the Bistro during dinner. Watching drills all morning had been pretty boring, and now the heat plus the lunch that Kim had fed her was making Tallulah’s eye lids even heavier, despite the ongoing scrimmage. The teen jumped, startled by a ball that ricocheted off the seat next to her a few times and landed at her feet. 

 

“Over here, cutie!” Allie called out as she jogged over to the stands. 

 

Tallulah’s cheeks glowed crimson as she tossed the ball to the tall gorgeous midfielder. Allie blew the teen a kiss before she turned and tossed the ball in to the feet of Heather, who turned and sent a pass over the center of the field that found Kelley racing up the sideline. She dribbled the ball, but had it quickly stolen by Becky. Becky cleared the ball back up the field the other way to Tobin. The lanky midfielder settled the ball with a light touch, and quickly passed it into space in front of a breaking Pinoe. Ashlyn grimaced and sprinted off her line to challenge the diminutive middie charging at her with a breakaway, once again catching Kelley too far forward in the attack to get back on defense. Pinoe shot a rocket off her right foot that hit Ashlyn square in the center of her chest before the keeper’s hands could block the shot. The ball ricocheted off Ashlyn and sailed thirty feet into the air. Ashlyn crumpled backward, the back of her head hitting the hard ground with a sickening thud. 

 

“Damn it Megan, you’re not supposed to kill our keepers!” Dawn yelled angrily as she grabbed her trainer’s response kit and ran over to Ashlyn who was sprawled out on her back not moving.

 

“Fuck dude, I would not want to be you when Ali hears about this.” Tobin confided to Pinoe as they watched Dawn assess Ashlyn. 

 

“Goddamnit Pin Head...what the hell were you thinking?! This is camp, not the Olympics!” Julie admonished Pinoe as she slapped her upside the back of the head. 

 

“Hey!” Pinoe exclaimed as she rubbed the sting out of her scalp, “It’s not like I meant to break her, geez.”

 

Ashlyn opened her eyes to see Dawn leaning over her. Ugh. She turned her head to see Jill writing in her journal...of course. The keeper rubbed a gloved hand over her face in exasperation. 

 

“I’m fine, Dawn.” Ashlyn stated, pain evident in her voice, “Just got the wind knocked out of me.”

 

“You sure? Your head hit the ground pretty hard.” Dawn replied, double checking with the keeper.

 

“Well that’s not a problem, I’ve got a damned hard head...ask my wife.” Ashlyn joked as she sat up, trying to mask her pain.

 

“I believe you, but you know...I still have to take you to the sidelines and run through concussion protocol. Sorry, Champ.” Dawn reminded Ashlyn as she helped the goalkeeper to her feet.

 

“Let’s get it over with so I can get back between the posts.” Ashlyn grumbled, annoyed with the situation.

 

Abby elbowed Carli and motioned towards Jill along the sideline with her head. Jill’s lips curled into a smirk and she called out for Jane to take Ashlyn’s place. Some days it was a whole lot of fun to be the USWNT head coach. Hell, the reckless keeper was making it too damned easy to justify sending her packing. This was going to be like shooting goldfish in a barrel...picking them off one by one...and she was going to savor the hell out of shooting that damned goldfish! Carli’s eyes narrowed at Jill’s expression. Abby was right, she was up to no good. 

 

 

***

 

Ali looked up from her laptop as the door to the room opened, and an exhausted Ashlyn walked in, followed by Tallulah carrying the goalkeeper’s USWNT bag. The defender got up from the bed and padded over to meet the keeper and teen, a huge smile on her face. A second later, the smile vanished.

 

“Ashlyn, what’s wrong?” Ali asked as she reached out for her wife, who looked a little paler than normal.

 

“Don’t touch!” Ashlyn blurted out as she brought both hands up to defend her sore chest.

 

Ali pulled back her hands as if she had been burned and looked at her wife with concern while Tallulah walked past them to put Ashlyn’s bag away for her.

 

“What happened?” Ali inquired as she stood still, afraid to touch the keeper.

 

“Pinoe launched a ball off my chest today from point blank range,” Ashlyn explained, her eyes shifting from Ali to Tallulah and back, “It’s bruised and tender.”

 

“Yeah, you should have seen it. The ball like bounced off Ashlyn a hundred feet in the air and she fell like she had been shot!” Tallulah added as she flopped over backwards on the bed, acting it out for the defender who was on her last day of bedrest, “It was so cool. Ashlyn is like the toughest most badass woman I’ve ever met!”  

 

“It wasn’t quite a hundred feet, T, but it sure felt like it was.” Ashlyn corrected the teen’s exaggeration while the girl looked up at her with adoration in her eyes.

 

“Oh babe, that sucks! I’m gonna go run you a bath and while you soak, I’ll have T run and fill the ice bucket, and get some baggies from Heather. She usually has them with her. How does that sound?” Ali offered and Ashlyn nodded.

 

“Like a slice of heaven.” Ashlyn responded wearily.

 

“K, I’m on it!” Tallulah called out as she grabbed the ice bucket off the dresser and headed out the door for the vending machine area.

 

With the young teen out of the room, Ali searched Ashlyn’s eyes, “Seriously, how bad is it? Is it really just a bruise or is it cracked?”

 

“I didn’t get it x-rayed. I couldn’t. You know Jill is just waiting for any excuse to cut me.” Ashlyn replied, “But I honestly think it’s just a bruise. Hurts like hell though.”

 

“Let me see.” Ali gently insisted.

 

Ali stilled Ashlyn’s hands that had reached for the hem of her t-shirt, and pulled the keeper’s t-shirt and sports bra over her head for her, tossing them towards the closet to pick up later. The defender sucked in a shocked breath, and covered her mouth with her hand. The area over Ashlyn’s sternum where the defender had been tracing the keeper’s tattoo the night before had already darkened to an angry reddish color with the vague outline of a pentagon visible. Ali’s eyes misted up.

 

“Oh Ash, that looks horrible!” Ali commiserated.

 

“Yeah, it feels worse.” Ashlyn replied tightly.

 

Ali gently took her wife by the hand and led her to the bathroom. She put the toilet lid down and guided the keeper to sit while she started to draw a bath. The defender put some of her epsom salts and a bubble bath bomb under the running water, releasing the relaxing scent of lavender throughout the bathroom. Once the tub had been filled, Ali helped Ashlyn stand, noting the wince the keeper tried to hide. 

 

“You don’t have to do that with me, Ash. You don’t have to prove to me what a badass you are, baby. You will always be my hero, no matter what.” Ali declared, her whiskey colored orbs gazing deep into pain riddled hazel eyes that were misting over with emotion. 

 

“God, you never fail to see me, Alex. The way you make me feel...” Ashlyn’s response trailed off, her emotions bubbling over and constricting her throat.

 

The keeper leaned down and claimed the sable haired beauty’s lips in a tender loving kiss that spoke for her. Ali melted into the kiss before pulling away, not wanting to get too lost in it and have the teen come back and find them kissing with Ashlyn half naked. The defender carefully pulled her wife’s shorts down and let them pool around the keeper’s ankles, then helped her step out of them.

 

“Let’s get you into that bath, Ash.” Ali tenderly directed the keeper to the bathtub, and helped the sore woman sit.

 

Ashlyn let out a small moan as the warm water enveloped her tired and sore body. She grunted as a jolt of pain seared through her chest as she leaned back against the tub. Why now? Why did it seem as if she was always getting injured during camp at the worst possible time?! Her body felt like a damned punching bag, and by the number of bruises she was sporting, Ashlyn was fairly certain she looked like one as well. The keeper closed her eyes as Ali knelt down on a folded towel and carefully poured water over her hair to get it wet, then started to massage her scalp. Another moan escaped Ashlyn’s lips as Ali continued to massage down her neck, working out the knots that the defender found there before moving on to her shoulders.

 

“Fuck that feels good, Alex.” Ashlyn mumbled.

 

“I’ll do what I can, Ash. You know I always have your back, babe.” Ali replied as she continued working out the knots that added to Ashlyn’s misery.

 

Tallulah stopped in the doorway and watched as Ali reached for the shampoo and massaged that into Ashlyn’s hair as she massaged the keeper’s scalp. That was what she wanted to find some day...someone to love her like that...someone who would show her not just tell her. Her face broke out into a toothy grin as Ali looked up and motioned for her to come in. 

 

“It’s ok, baby girl, Ashlyn’s body is all covered up by bubbles. You can sit on the edge of the tub if you want.” Ali invited Tallulah in.

 

Tallulah sat down where the defender had suggested, and looked on as Ashlyn covered her small breasts with her large hands and Ali parted the bubbles so the teen could see the bruise too. Her face scrunched up in empathy at the horrible bruise. 

 

“Does it hurt as bad as it looks like it should?” Tallulah asked.

 

“Oh, you have no idea.” Ashlyn replied, all too aware of the sharp pain that felt like a stab in her ribcage with each breath she took. 

 

Ali splashed some water at the teen, “Did you bring the ice and bags?”

 

“Yup! Heather said to tell you that you should encase her in bubble wrap for practice tomorrow.” Tallulah passed on the message with a bit of sass as she got up to retrieve the ice bags she had put on the couple’s nightstand. 

 

Ashlyn groaned. Of course she was not going to live that down for the rest of camp...provided she lived that long. 

 

Chapter Text

Ashlyn closed her email and turned her IPhone off before the light from the screen could wake either of her two sleeping girls. It wasn’t fair. She blew out a disgusted breath and shook her head. Ali was going to fucking flip in the morning. The keeper didn’t even know how she was going to tell her wife. How was she supposed to break the heart of the woman she loved more than life itself? Maybe if she just kept it to herself for a few more days, she would be able to come up with a plan that would work. 

 

Ashlyn tenderly kissed her wife’s forehead, and Ali mumbled a ‘loveyouAsh’ in her sleep as she nuzzled against the keeper’s shoulder. Ashlyn held her wife tighter as she whispered promises against the sable haired beauty’s flesh...the world be damned...Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris was not about to give that kid back to that horrible family without a fight...it would kill all three of them.   

 

***

 

“Well look who’s back from the dead!” Pinoe remarked as Ali followed Ashlyn into the locker room, reluctantly dropping the keeper’s hand as she neared her locker.

 

“Oh thank gawd! I’m soooo happy to see you, Kriegy! Now maybe Jill will move me back up front where I belong.” Kelley blurted out, several players chuckling at the forward turned defender’s honesty. 

 

“I see you didn’t take my advise.” Heather teased as Ali sank into the chair in front of her locker next to her best friend.  

 

“Are you kidding me?! I’d have to take out a second mortgage to pay for enough bubble wrap! Nope, Stud has to learn how to stop balls with her hands and not her chest.” Ali replied.

 

“Savage Krieger! I like it! But when did you guys buy a house?” Sydney added as she hugged the defender.

 

“Oh we haven’t bought a house yet, so you see my problem now.” Ali replied as she quickly squeezed Sydney back. 

 

Sydney giggled and shook her head before kissing Ali’s cheek, “So glad you are back to practice, we missed you around here boo boos.”   

 

Ashlyn watched the team welcome back her wife from across the locker room. She couldn’t believe how much had changed for them in such a short amount of time. Hell, a few weeks ago they had been discussing how the prospect of puppies was out of the question, and now here they were working like hell to adopt a teenager that they had risked their very lives to save. It was comforting to know how much these women supported them. 

 

“Hey Ash, you got a minute?” Abby asked, interrupting the keeper’s thoughts.

 

“Yeah, what’s up, Cap?” Ashlyn replied, sparing her wife one last glance before turning her full attention to the power forward next to her.

 

“Not here. C’mon. Let’s go to the sauna.” Abby stated cryptically. 

 

Ashlyn grabbed her athletic tape and followed Abby out the serpentine hallway in the back of the locker room that led to the treatment room. Abby held the door for Ashlyn and they stepped inside. The dry heat hit them like a furnace blast. Ashlyn sat down on the bench and quickly started wrapping the athletic tape around her wrist and fingers before she got too sweaty for it to stick properly.

 

“So why all the cloak and dagger stuff?” Ashlyn inquired then bit off the edge of the tape and finished sealing it to her right wrist. 

 

“The team is in trouble, Ash, and so are you.” Abby started.

 

“Listen, I know I kinda crossed the line hanging the bucket of water behind your door like that, but who would have thought Jill was gonna open it before you?!” Ashlyn started.

 

“What? Wait...this isn’t about you and Pinoe’s pranks. Although that really didn’t help the situation any.” Abby shook her head as she explained, “Jill is working with Sunil to purge the team of all the players that signed the lawsuit...”

 

“Alex!” Ashlyn exclaimed as her face registered her concern.

 

“Yeah, well, she wants you gone too.” Carli replied.

 

Ashlyn rolled her eyes, “That’s old news. Where the hell have you been for the last couple of years?! Basically she keeps me because besides Hope I’m the best, and Graeme reminds her of that, but I work my ass off to prove it to her every single day.”

 

“Well, I think it’s about to be different around here. I overheard her and Sunil talking. We only have a short window of opportunity to act, and if we don’t, they are gonna get rid of us all.” Abby replied, trying to get Ashlyn to understand the gravity of the situation, “Carlos and I came up with a plan, but we are gonna need you and the Princess to pull it off.”

 

“I’m listening.” Ashlyn prompted.

 

“Good, because here’s what we need…” Abby stated and then opened the door to quickly check that they were still alone in the treatment room before laying out the plan.

 

***

 

Ali’s lips curled up into a smile when she heard the door open behind her as she reached for the pre-wrap in the cabinet.

 

“I was beginning to think you forgot about taping my ankles for me, Stud.” Ali commented as she grabbed a fresh roll of pre-wrap and the athletic tape next to it.

 

“Never been called a ‘stud’ and not what I came in here for, but sure, I can wrap your ankles for you.” Jill replied, Ali cringing before schooling her features to turn and face the old coach.

 

“It’s ok. I thought you were someone else.” Ali replied sweetly, trying not to give Jill any reason to get angry with her in the confined space, “I’ll just get out of your way…”

 

Jill stood stock still, blocking Ali’s route to the room’s only door. She pointed at the counter top behind the defender.

 

“Nonsense, I still remember how to wrap and this way we can kill two birds with one stone so to speak. Hop up and I’ll take good care of you.” Jill replied, her tone brokering no discussion.

 

Ali weighed her options for just a moment before she complied. Jill ran her right hand down the back of the sable haired beauty’s calf muscle until she cupped her player’s heel. Ali felt nauseated by the old woman’s touch...which seemed a bit too familiar to be simply clinical...but not familiar enough to accuse her of being inappropriate. The defender’s knuckles turned white as she grasped the edge of the counter to keep from knocking her coach’s hands away. 

 

“There is something we need to discuss, Ali.” Jill began as she stepped between the defender’s legs and tenderly wrapped Ali’s ankle, “Sunil knows about the lawsuit. To say he is unhappy is an understatement. To put it bluntly, you are going to need a...friend...to keep you on the roster. As someone in a position to help you, I would just need you to be...nice...to me in return.”

 

Ali’s eyes widened and she froze in shock as she felt one of Jill’s hands wandering up the inside of her thigh. Just as the coach reached the bottom of her shorts, the door behind them opened and Jill jumped, pulling her hand away. 

 

“Oh sorry, I didn’t know you were talking to coach in here.” Whitney stated as she entered the wrap room and saw Jill standing close to Ali. 

 

“Oh that’s ok, we’re done now!” Ali blurted out, jumping down and scooting around Jill, trying to avoid touching her. 

 

Jill smiled at the two players, “Yes, all done now. I’ll see you in my office after practice, Krieger.”

 

“Oh I can’t, sorry coach. I have a treatment with Dawn after practice.” Ali quickly lied. 

 

“Pity. Guess we shall just work it in some other time, then.” Jill commented, her eyes boring into Ali’s as Whitney picked up a roll of Cramer athletic tape. 

 

Ali turned and fled from the wrap room with Whitney trying to keep up. Finally the other defender grabbed Ali’s arm and pulled her to a stop.

 

“What the fuck was going on back there?! You looked like...I don’t even know what. Some kind of scared little girl, I guess.” Whitney asked as she searched her friend’s eyes, “Are you in trouble with coach for something?”

 

“I...I don’t know, Whit. I was in there waiting for Ash to wrap my ankles like she usually does and then I turned around and Jill was in there and kind of demanded to do it for me while she talked to me. I don’t...I just...I want to get on the pitch.” Ali stammered and then pushed her way past her friend.

 

“Alex, wait up, babe!” Ashlyn called out and Ali stopped in her tracks at the sound of her wife’s voice behind her, “You weren’t in the wrap room.”

 

Ali turned around and quickly closed the distance between them. Ashlyn barely stayed upright as the defender launched herself into the keeper’s arms and wrapped her legs around Ashlyn’s waist, burying her face in the short haired woman’s neck. 

 

“Whoa, are you ok? What’s going on, Alex?” Ashlyn asked as Ali held onto her for dear life.

 

Ali’s stomach was in knots. She had been blindsided. She thought Jill hated her...maybe she really did, but that seemed...sexual...predatory. What the hell was she going to tell Ashlyn? Ali shook her head against the crook of her keeper’s muscular neck. She couldn’t tell her wife anything because her wonderful, protective, selfless woman would get herself kicked off the team for beating the life out of Jill Ellis with her bare hands, and then spend the rest of her life in prison. Besides, maybe it was just all in her own head. She had been under so much stress lately. Whitney hadn’t seen coach doing anything untoward or she would have lost her shit. Ali took in a deep breath, inhaling the soothing scent of bergamot, pepper, and sunshine that was uniquely Ashlyn...uniquely home. She just needed to calm down and think rationally about this. 

 

“Just hold me.” Ali pleaded, her eyes closed and voice desperate.

 

“Forever.” Ashlyn reassured, her arms tightening around her obviously upset wife whose body was shivering against her. 

 

“Get out on the pitch you two, this isn’t a fucking hotel room!” Jill’s icy voice thundered from behind Ali as her eyes narrowed at the keeper.

 

Ashlyn felt the defender’s whole body stiffen at the sound of Jill’s voice. Something was up between them, and she was going to find out just what the hell Jill was doing that had affected Ali so badly. God help Jill Ellis if she ever hurt her wife...she would end the coach! 

 

Ashlyn reluctantly allowed Ali to slip from her arms and stand in front of her on slightly shaky legs. The keeper hooked her index finger under the sable haired beauty’s chin and she nudged Ali’s face upwards, gazing deeply into her wife’s troubled eyes. Not knowing what the problem was, the only way Ashlyn knew how to help the defender was to lean in and lovingly caress her lips with her own. 

 

As soon as Ali felt Ashlyn’s soft lips conveying the keeper’s love, her emotions spilled over and she deepened the kiss before reluctantly pulling back. She took a deep breath and threw her shoulders back. Her wife’s kiss had fortified her to enough make it through practice. 

 

“Let’s go crush this practice, Ash.” Ali stated as she reached for her wife’s hand. 

 

Ashlyn flashed Ali a dimple bearing grin, “There’s my girl.”

 

Jill fumed as she watched Ali and Ashlyn jog out onto the pitch hand in hand. It was time to put a little heat on that gorgeous defender. She would get what she wanted eventually...she always did. 

 

***

 

Ali sucked in a couple of quick breaths as she used her few seconds of recovery time to take a glance at Jill out of the corner of her eye. The woman was constantly watching her with that...smirk. It was getting downright creepy. At the whistle, Ali pushed off her left foot, her large strong quad muscles powering her forward. She sprinted zig zagging around a section of cones down the length of the pitch to the end of the cones and then made a quick cut around the end cone where the defender received a pass from Kelley. She settled the ball and served a cross over to Heather who was sprinting up the pitch with her and around her own set of cones on the opposite side. Heather received the cross and took a volley shot at the goal currently being occupied by Jane, the ball skittering past the diving keeper into the goal. Jane pounded the ground and got to her feet to reset as the next two were already sprinting up the pitch. Ali ran behind the net and high fived Heather as they made their way down the sideline to the back of the lines opposite the ones they had just been in. As they passed the bench area, Ali looked up to the stands behind the bench and winked at the teen as Tallulah clapped for the duo, her smile stretching even further as they ran past her. Ali looked up at the sky. The hot sun was nearly overhead and she was looking forward to their lunch break so she could spend some quality time with her wife and their hopefully soon to be daughter. 

 

Jill looked at her watch and blew two long whistle blasts.     

 

“Lunch time! We have your buffet set up inside the owner’s party suite. Take the south elevator to the third floor. It’s the last suite on the right. Eat, rest, be back on the pitch in two hours. Dawn will be in the treatment room if anybody needs to see her.” Jill reminded the players.

 

Jill watched as Ali made her way over to Ashlyn. The coach crushed the near empty bottle of water she was holding as she could see the goo-goo eyes they were giving each other, even from across the field. It didn’t matter. Soon she would be able to cut that damned trouble maker, and then the gorgeous defender would submit to her to save her job. 

 

“I need to make a quick call to Kyle. He left me a message last night that it’s ‘urgent and a matter of life or death,’ so why don’t you get T and I’ll meet you guys upstairs.” Ali stated, unconsciously licking her lips at her sweaty wife. 

 

“I see someone is hungry.” Ashlyn teased.

 

“Mmm. Absolutely famished.” Ali replied, her eyes darkening. 

 

“Me too. It’s gonna be a long afternoon.” Ashlyn replied, her own eyes reflecting her hunger for the defender.

 

“Guess you better see if anyone wants to entertain T this evening, then.” Ali reminded her wife as she headed for the tunnel, her hips swaying seductively, “And stop staring at my ass!”

 

Ashlyn’s dimple popped out as she grinned, “I have lifetime ass staring privileges, Princess. It’s part of that whole ‘ring package’ you signed up for, woman!”

 

Across the pitch Tallulah walked down a few rows of seats to where Heather stood waiting for her. Crimson invaded her cheeks as the middie pulled her into a big hug. 

 

“Thanks for all your support there, kiddo.” Heather commented, “I really appreciate it.”

 

Tallulah shrugged her shoulders, “Not like I had anywhere else to be. Well if I’m being real honest, I would have liked to be surfing, but I can’t go unless Ashlyn or Tobin takes me.”

 

“I think that sounds like a lot of fun. I bet Ash takes you this weekend. Would it be alright with you if I tagged along? Maybe I could finally learn how to surf. Ashlyn has been promising to teach me since forever.” Heather confided.

 

“Sure! I’d like that.” Tallulah replied, the crimson creeping all the way to the tips of her ears.

 

Tallulah looked up to see if Ashlyn had made it over yet when she noticed the keeper standing with her back to them talking with Pinoe. 

 

Jill’s jaw clenched as she watched the keeper stop to talk with the diminutive midfielder. They were planning something, it was obvious. 

 

“Harris! Come here!” Jill bellowed.

 

Ashlyn rolled her eyes to Pinoe and held up one finger to her coach, “Ok, so we will have her ready for the movies by 6:00, and will be ready for her by curfew. Just promise me you won’t take her to something scary or inappropriate, or my wife will end us both.”

 

Pinoe stuck out her fist and Ashlyn bumped it.

 

Jill’s face turned crimson. How dare that damned trouble maker ignore her orders! Jill looked down and noticed a ball not far from her feet. She smirked, as she stepped over to it.

 

“Let’s see you ignore this, Harris!” Jill muttered as she launched a rocket shot towards the unaware woman.

 

Ashlyn never saw it coming as she turned to walk over to Jill...the ball hitting her lower rib cage in the same spot that she had been hit with brass knuckles when she had fought her way into the hotel room to save Tallulah. The keeper crumpled to the ground, pain exploding in her ribcage.  

 

The teen’s eyes widened in shock at the attack, and then she ran down the stairs and launched herself off the top of the cement barrier onto Jill’s back, not hearing Heather’s screams for her to stop. The old coach shrieked in pain as Tallulah bit into the top of her ear, drawing blood. The young teenager growled as she clawed at the woman’s eyes before Jill was able to get ahold of Tallulah’s arm and pull the girl over her shoulder. As soon as the teen hit the ground she stood up and turned on the coach, grabbing both nipples and twisting as hard as she could. Jill howled in pain. What the actual fuck was going on?!! 

 

“Why you little bitch!” Jill cried as she doubled up her fist and struck the teen’s jaw. 

 

Tallulah felt woozy, but there was no way she was going to let anyone hurt Ashlyn or Ali...they were her family now! Before the teen could shake the cob webs out of her head, Jill grabbed both of her arms and started violently shaking her.

 

“Just who do you think you are?! I make the rules here!” Jill sneered.

 

Only one thought came to Tallulah’s mind...a memory of Ali saving her while being held by Saulo’s thug, and the teen brought her leg as far back as it would go. 

 

“Let me go!” Tallulah screamed as she launched her leg forward.

 

Nobody within earshot of the field that day would ever forget the sound that came from Jill Ellis in that instant when Tallulah’s tennis shoe covered foot connected with the coach's clitoris, sending lightening bolts of pain throughout her body, and dropping the old woman like a head shot. As Jill lay there sucking in gulps of air like a guppy out of water trying not to suffocate, she blinked the tears out of her eyes long enough to watch her assailant help Ashlyn to her feet. She hadn’t seen it coming. The kid had totally blindsided her, and in doing so given her the perfect excuse. Oh...they were gonna pay for this alright...they were all gonna pay for this! 

 

Chapter Text

 

Nobody within earshot of the field that day would ever forget the sound that came from Jill Ellis in that instant when Tallulah’s tennis shoe covered foot connected with the coach's clitoris, sending lightening bolts of pain throughout her body, and dropping the old woman like a head shot. As Jill lay there sucking in gulps of air like a guppy out of water trying not to suffocate, she blinked the tears out of her eyes long enough to watch her assailant help Ashlyn to her feet. She hadn’t seen it coming. The kid had totally blindsided her, and in doing so given her the perfect excuse. Oh...they were gonna pay for this alright...they were all gonna pay for this! 

***

Heather jumped over the barrier and marched over to where Jill was slowly catching her breath. She looked down at the old coach in disgust.

 

“How could you do that to T?! My god coach, that little girl has been through enough abuse.” Heather admonished the older woman with her signature ‘game face’ glare.

 

“Is that girl the reason Ashlyn was late getting to camp?” Jill asked, the innocent tone in her voice masking the old coach’s true intentions.

 

“Yes, and if it weren’t for Ashlyn and Ali, Tallulah would have already been raped and forced into prostitution at what, twelve...thirteen? I can’t believe you hit her. You owe them all an apology, coach.” Heather reasoned, shaking her head as she walked off to find her friends, leaving Jill to digest the information.

 

***   

 

Tallulah helped Ashlyn into the equipment room that the keeper had pointed out to her, and over to a massage table covered with Normatec compression pants. The teen pushed the pile of compression pants off the table with one large swipe.

 

“In case you have to lay down somewhere.” Tallulah nervously explained.

 

“Thanks. I need Ali.” Ashlyn managed as she took shallow breaths to avoid the horrible stabbing pain in her side.

 

“K. I’m on it!” Tallulah exclaimed, fear evident in her eyes.

 

Ashlyn looked down at Tallulah and cupped her face affectionately, hoping her touch would reassure the girl. The keeper was so proud of this kid who didn’t seem to panic no matter how bad the situation got, or how scared the girl truly was. Hell, she could even be keeper material herself if she just had a bit more confidence. 

 

“Don’t tell anyone else. Our secret place.” the keeper added, holding up her pinkie that the young teen grabbed with her own in a silent oath. 

 

Once Ashlyn dropped her finger, the girl raced to the door but turned back momentarily, “I love you.”

 

“Love you too.” Ashlyn replied, trying to keep her voice steady to mask her awful pain from the young girl. 

 

Ashlyn hissed in pain as soon as the door closed behind Tallulah. She leaned over the table and groaned from the stabbing pain that stole her breath away. Her ribs had to be at least cracked. Fuck. Ali was gonna go ballistic. 

 

***

 

Tallulah raced down the hallway, stopping in front of the locker room door. She reached her hand out for the door, then froze. What was she supposed to do?! She couldn’t just barge in there...the badass soccer babes might be naked! Some of them took showers and changed into different clothes before they ate and had their afternoon training session. The teen took a deep breath. Ashlyn needed her to find Ali. Nodding to herself, Tallulah covered her eyes with her hands and shoved the door open with her shoulder, cautiously walking forward so she didn’t fall on her face. 

 

“Ali?! You in here? Ali?!” Tallulah called out.

 

“I’m right here, Pookie. What do you need? Aren’t you just the cutest?!” Allie Long commented as she turned and saw Tallulah trying to navigate the locker room with her eyes covered. 

 

“Oh! Um...wrong Ali.” Tallulah squeaked as she recognized the blonde bombshell’s voice. 

 

“Oh honey, you don’t have to cover your eyes. We are all women here.” Christie commented as she reached out for Tallulah to keep the young teen from running into the row of lockers the girl was about to hit. 

 

Tallulah’s mouth went dry as her hands were pulled away from her eyes and she was standing just a few inches from the lockers in front of her, and in between a half naked Christie Rampone, and a fully naked Julie Johnston. A deep crimson invaded her flesh from her neck all the way up to the tips of her ears as she quickly focused on the linoleum floor. 

 

Pinoe closed her locker and quickly navigated across the room, placing an arm around the poor embarrassed girl.  

 

“Are you trying to kill Stud Jr?! Geez, it’s like you have all forgotten what it was like to be thirteen!” Pinoe admonished her teammates as she turned the girl and directed her to the door, helping the youngster escape with some dignity.         

 

As the locker room door shut behind them, Pinoe patted Tallulah’s shoulder a couple of times before letting her arm fall away from the teen. 

 

“So you are trying to find the Princess?” Pinoe asked, attempting to get the girl back on track.

 

“Oh, uh, if you mean Ali...then yeah.” Tallulah replied, trying to banish the vision of a naked Julie Johnston smiling down at her from her head. 

 

“I saw her on her phone heading towards the front lobby area of the stadium about ten minutes ago. You know where that is?” Pinoe asked. 

 

“Where the vans drop us off and pick us up?” Tallulah inquired, seeking confirmation as she turned toward the midfielder.

 

Pinoe’s eyes widened at the bruise welling up on the girl’s cheek. The diminutive blonde reached out and gently touched the darkening flesh, prompting Tallulah to flinch away.

 

“See, this is why you should always watch where you’re going. Otherwise, those lockers jump out and get ya. Now you’re gonna have a shiner. But hey the good news is, the ladies loooove war wounds.” Pinoe winked, unaware of the true cause of the teen’s injury.

 

***

 

The phone rang several times. Ali chuffed as she flopped down on the couch in the large lobby and shook her head, her lips stretched flat in annoyance. This was the fourth time she had tried Kyle’s cell phone, but he still hadn’t answered. The defender rolled her eyes...some ‘life or death’ situation. The sable haired beauty’s leg bounced up and down as the phone continued to ring and ring. 

 

“What the fuck, Kyle!” Ali angrily muttered as she heard the call connect. 

 

“Language, baby girl!” Deb admonished and Ali cringed, “I need you to tell me why Kyle and I just got a visit from the FBI asking about my kids traveling to Punta Cana, and who is Tallulah Jameson?!” 

 

Ali felt like she had been punched in the gut. They knew! They had to...or they were very close to figuring it out. Oh god, she had gotten Chris and Kyle involved in this...what had she done?! Ali’s mind whirled at the implications. Now her brother had been questioned by agents when their mom was visiting him, and she was demanding answers too. Geez, could this day get any worse?! 

 

“Mom, you have to trust me when I tell you...it’s better if you don’t know.” Ali replied, feeling her heart rate spiking and her flesh getting sticky with a cold sweat, “And why do you have Kyle’s cell phone anyway?”

 

“Because he left it on his couch when he had to leave with the FBI agent to go answer some questions about that Tallulah person, and I called with it because I know you two always answer each other’s calls when you won’t always pick up mine.” Deb responded curtly.

 

Ali felt dizzy. What if they arrested her brother?! Oh fuck, she had really done it now. 

 

“Please tell me Tallulah isn’t his drug dealer and he isn’t involved in drugs again. I don’t think I could take it.” Deb softly pleaded, her voice cracking with emotion.

 

“He’s not! Look, I can’t explain anything to you right now Mom. I gotta call my lawyer. I’ll tell you everything as soon as I can, but I promise Kyle has not lost his sobriety.” Ali blurted out before mashing the red disconnect button and hanging up on her mother. 

 

“Ali!” Tallulah called out as she finally found the woman sitting on the couch.

 

Tallulah’s head tilted to the side, Ali was visibly upset over something. The defender looked up at the young teen, and she tried to rein in her emotions. The last thing that sweet kid needed now was to feel guilty for getting ‘uncle’ Kyle into trouble...that was all on her, not Tallulah. 

 

“What happened to your eye?” Ali’s eyes widened in shock just before they narrowed as she honed in on the darkening flesh, her brain finally processing the injury.

 

The defender leaned to the side to look at the door behind Tallulah, expecting the keeper to be with the young teen, “And where is Ash?” 

 

“I’m ok, but Ashlyn’s hurt real bad, Ali. She needs you.” Tallulah reported, her eyes welling with the tears she finally couldn’t hold back any longer.

 

Ali felt her heart squeeze inside her chest as she pushed herself up off the couch, the call she needed to make to her lawyer suddenly forgotten, “Show me, baby girl.”

 

***

 

Tallulah stopped and watched as Ali made her way across the equipment room to a pale and sweaty Ashlyn who was leaning over the table she had cleared earlier. The defender tenderly reached out and placed a concerned hand on the keeper’s left shoulder. 

 

“Oh my god, Ash! We have to get Dawn and call Dr. B…” Ali started.

 

“No! No medical staff. You know that’s as good as me quitting the team. Jill will use it as an excuse to cut me...and then what will all of my sacrifices over the last twenty five years have been for, huh?!” Ashlyn cut her off, forcing herself to take deep breaths in order to argue her case while tears of frustration and pain leaked from the corners of her eyes...it just wasn’t fair!

 

“Babe…” Ali began as she paused to brush a stray wisp of hair away from her wife’s face and then cupped the keeper’s jaw, “I will always be by your side, no matter what. You are so much more than my wife...you are my entire universe. You can be stubborn as hell, and you frustrate me to no end sometimes…” 

 

“Alex. I’m not ready to…” Ashlyn started, her irritation quite evident in her voice.

 

Ali put a finger against the keeper’s full lips to silence her, “But let me finish. I love you with every fiber of my being. I just want you to do what is best for you. You know your body better than anyone, even me...as much as that pains me to admit…”

 

Ashlyn leaned into Ali’s hand as they both chuckled at the truth of the defender’s statement, nothing the fierce defender hated worse than being wrong, except maybe losing.

 

“So I trust you to know when you need to see the doctor. Just remember though, I’m counting on spending the rest of my todays and tomorrows with you...and so is T...so you better not do anything to cheat us out of those.”

 

Ashlyn closed her eyes and focused on the warmth radiating from Ali’s palm against her face. This incredible woman counted on her, and she knew she had to be honest with not only her wife...but herself as well. Alexandra Blaire Krieger-Harris deserved nothing less. The keeper took in a painful breath and she took stock of the way her body felt. Ashlyn opened her eyes to find loving and concerned whiskey colored orbs awaiting her.        

 

“My ribs are cracked. I don’t think they are broken, but they are definitely cracked. We only have  two more days to get through after today. I think if you help me tape them up really good, I can make it to the end of camp.” Ashlyn honestly assessed her condition aloud. 

 

“Then that’s what we’ll do, but you swear to me that if anything changes...anything at all...you will stop and get evaluated. I mean it, Ash. I love you, and I don’t want to do life without you.” Ali replied, her somber tone nearly causing Ashlyn to change her mind.

 

“I swear, my queen.” Ashlyn responded and tenderly kissed her wife.

 

Ali’s eyes closed as Ashlyn’s soft lips caressed her own, silently singing her a love song. The beautiful defender sighed as the languid kiss came to an end and she gazed lovingly at her wife for a few heartbeats before she noticed Tallulah just inside the doorway watching them intently, the teen’s big green eyes full of unshed tears. The girl was scared, no doubt about it. 

 

“Come here, baby girl. Everything is going to be alright.” Ali reached toward the young teen inviting her into a warm comforting embrace. 

 

Tallulah quickly complied, closing the distance and melting into Ali’s arms. She didn’t want to be a big scaredy cat and cry, but the tears found their way down her cheeks anyway, so the teen nuzzled deeper against the defender’s chest hoping the women she looked up to most in the world wouldn’t see them.

 

Ali ran her fingers through the youngster’s mohawk and lovingly scratched her scalp before she leaned down and placed a tender kiss on the girl’s head. Tallulah’s eyes widened as her stomach suddenly growled loudly, breaking the silence that had fallen over the room. The girl’s cheeks glowed crimson with embarrassment as Ali and Ashlyn chuckled. 

 

“We best get your ribs wrapped Ash, so we can get baby girl here some food before her stomach goes on strike.” Ali commented, winking at the teen. 

 

Ali pulled the back of Ashlyn’s shirt up and over her head before sliding the shirt off her arms in front of her so the keeper wouldn’t have to raise her arms above her head. She handed the shirt to Tallulah who folded it up and put it next to Ashlyn on the massage table. The defender covered Ashlyn’s torso with Mueller Tuffner Pre-Tape spray as the younger woman tried not to squirm from the cold spay hitting her sensitive flesh. 

 

“Can you hand me that roll of pre-wrap, please?” Ali asked Tallulah as she pointed to the roll of spongy tape on the counter behind Tallulah. 

 

The teen retrieved the tape and handed it over to Ali.

 

“Thanks baby girl, now hold this end here for me, but be gentle so you don’t hurt Ash.” Ali continued, and the teen followed her instructions, watching intently as Ali wound the pre-tape around the keeper’s torso several times until the entire area was covered. 

 

Ashlyn winced as her wife taped her ribs with three inch wide Cramer athletic tape. The sable haired beauty covered the keeper’s entire ribcage around her torso with the tape. At least the support would help her in the long run, even if it was painful. Once Ali was finished, she helped Ashlyn back into her t-shirt and looked deeply into the injured keeper’s pain filled eyes.

 

“Better?” Ali asked as she cupped Ashlyn’s face.

 

“Yeah. I think I’ll live.” Ashlyn deadpanned as she leaned into her wife’s touch.

 

“If anything changes, remember you promised to seek treatment.” Ali solemnly reminded her wife.

 

“I will. Now let’s go get T something to eat before she starts rounding up roadkill for stew or something.” Ashlyn replied, changing the subject by teasing the teen.

 

“Hey, you’d like it. You said you liked my fish head soup...unless you lied.” Tallulah sassed back.

 

Ali raised her eyebrow at Ashlyn and wrapped her arm around the teen’s shoulders, “We didn’t like your fish head soup, T. We loved it.” 

 

Ashlyn tried not to turn green at the thought of the soup she and Ali had eaten with the teenager in the wilderness outside Punta Cana what seemed like a lifetime ago. She chuckled...her wife had loved that soup. Ew. The keeper’s face scrunched up and she shuddered as she walked behind the two. God, she hoped she never had to resort to something like that. Ashlyn’s lips curled into a proud smile, that kid was such a survivor. One thing was for certain...she would die to protect both of her girls...her family. Ashlyn’s smile faded. Their lawyer simply had to find a way for the adoption to go through without them having to surrender T. That wonderful little spitfire had been through enough!

 

***

 

Just as the trio reached the doors to the party suite where the lunch buffet was set up, Heather spotted them and rushed over. 

 

“Ali! Wait up!” Heather yelled.

 

Ali turned and noticed Heather quickly closing the distance between them and patted her wife’s shoulder.

 

“Go ahead and take T through the line. Grab me something and I’ll be in as soon as I find out what’s going on.” the defender commented to Ashlyn.

 

“Ok, but if there’s only one piece of chicken left…” Ashlyn started.

 

“I call dibs!” Tallulah enthusiastically interrupted, causing Ali to smirk at her wife.

 

“Behave. Both of you!” Ali teased as she ushered them through the doorway, and turned back towards Heather, the middie arriving just as the other two entered the party suite, “What’s up, HAO?”

 

“Ali, did you talk to T about the bruises on her face? I know Ashlyn was down writhing in pain so she didn’t see it.” Heather inquired, knowing that neither of them could know and be that calm about it.

 

“Didn’t see what?” Ali asked, her eyes narrowing.

 

***

 

Ali was a woman on a mission, and by the look on her face, everyone was giving her a wide berth on the concourse. She fumed as she entered the stairwell and took the stairs two at a time, reaching the hallway she needed in seconds. When Ali stopped in front of Jill’s office door, the sable haired beauty could barely contain the rage she felt inside. How dare that sorry excuse of a human strike her little T?! Fuck Jill Ellis. She was gonna get a piece of the fiery defender’s mind, and that was all there was to it. Ali repeatedly smashed her fist against the old coach’s door with gusto, and the sound reverberated through the small office on the other side.

 

“Who the hell is pounding on my door?! Just get in here already!” Jill bellowed, not appreciating the attitude of the person on the other side.

 

Ali threw the door open, and it loudly ricocheted off the wall, startling Jill. The coach’s eyes narrowed at the audacity of the player barging in on her like she owned the world. 

 

“Just what the fuck do you think you are doing, Krieger?!” Jill roared.

 

Ali leaned across the desk coming face to face with Jill, “It’s Krieger-Harris, and I’m here to tell you that if you ever lay a finger on my little girl again, it will be the last thing you ever do.”

 

Jill smirked, “Your little girl? I didn’t know you adopted so quickly. You need to turn in the adoption paperwork to USSF before she is allowed at camps and practices, otherwise, that little menace needs to stay home!”

 

“You think you are tough, Jill, hitting a kid? Try me. Hurt my family and I will end you.” Ali spat back, consequences be damned. 

 

“It doesn’t have to be like this, Ali.” Jill’s softened voice reminded the gorgeous defender as she leaned forward to close the distance between them, “Just be nice...I could be quite a good friend to have.”

 

“I have all the friends I need, Jill. What I need is a real coach.” Ali blurted out as she stepped away from the desk, the hair on the back of her neck standing on end. 

 

“Get back to practice, Krieger, before my patience runs out.” Jill dismissed the defender, her voice suddenly frigid.

 

Ali shot the coach one last fiery-eyed glare before she ducked out the doorway, leaving it wide open. She needed to check on T and try to eat something before practice started again. 

 

“Oh, and if you ever decide to go off on me again, you will find yourself with a one-way bus ticket back to D.C.” Jill called after her.

 

The ratty coach slammed the door to her office shut, and stalked back over to her desk. Her mind made up, Jill picked up the receiver of her phone and dialed the number she had looked up earlier. If the brunette had ignored her wake up call and wasn’t going to play nice, neither was she. 

 

***

 

Jill placed the receiver back on it’s cradle and rubbed her hands together in glee. This afternoon was going to be amazing, and the old coach’s lips curled and parted in a huge smile. Check mate. 

 

“Hey Graeme, I need to discuss something with you.” Jill called out as she shuffled through the files on her desk, looking for a particular one. 

 

The keeper coach poked his head in from the next office over, “What’s up, Jill?”

 

“Come in and have a seat. This is important.” Jill replied, finally finding the file she had been searching for. 

 

Graeme walked in and sat down opposite Jill. He didn’t like the gleam in her eyes one bit. He knew it only spelled trouble for his favorite keeper.   

 

***

 

“Alright baby girl, you stay up here with Lisa. I don’t want you coming onto the field for any reason, is that understood? You wait for me or Ash to come get you after practice.” Ali stated as she walked the young teen to the seats occupied by one of Christie’s nannies and her kids.

 

“Yes ma’am.” Tallulah replied dutifully as she sank down next to Lisa.

 

“Good girl.” Ali winked at her and then turned to make her way down the steps to the concrete barrier.

 

Tallulah watched the defender side hop the barrier and make her way over to Heather. She sighed. It wasn’t her fault that big old bitch had made her attack her. At least they had both told her that they understood the urge to pummel the woman, but that wasn’t really something that should be done. The teen crossed her arms and she clenched her jaw as she pouted. It wasn’t fair that she got a lecture when it was all that stupid coaches fault she had gone crazy! 

 

***

 

 

Abby gazed over at Heather and Ali standing along the sideline, both of them glaring at the coach like they wanted to rip her apart limb by limb. The power forward swung her head to face the opposite side of the field. Ashlyn was standing to the side of the net waiting her turn in goal, but it was obvious that her attention was on Jill, and she also had murder in her eyes. What the hell had happened at lunch, and why hadn’t anyone come to her about it?! One thing was certain, now was not the time for them to draw attention to themselves...they were already in the federation’s crosshairs. 

 

Jill blew her whistle and the players on the sidelines rotated into the scrimmage. Abby jogged towards the sideline as Carli ran onto the pitch to replace her. The heat of the day in California was always brutal and usually made more than one player cranky...but there was something besides the temperature behind the murderous glares, and the power forward needed to find out exactly what it was before those two boneheads messed up their plan entirely. They had to fly underneath Jill’s radar for it to work. 

 

Julie passed the ball over to Kling who raced up the sideline before directing a pass to Heather. The middie barely got a cross off to Carli before the defense collapsed in on her. Carli sent a rocket of a shot toward goal, but Ashlyn laid out and the ball ricocheted off her hands and bounced harmlessly over the touch line for a corner kick. Ali’s eyes housed concern as she silently watched her keeper slowly push herself off the ground. The sable haired beauty let out the breath she didn’t realize she had been holding when the younger woman flashed her a small thumbs up. The defender shook her head slightly as she lined up for the corner kick...that woman was gonna be the death of her! 

 

Pinoe sent in a cross from the corner to the far side of the goal and Alex worked to get her head on it. She mistimed her leap and the cross fell behind her before skittering out of bounds. Ashlyn grabbed one of the balls behind her net, and the keeper’s face scrunched slightly in pain as she bounced it with both hands while waiting for her team to run down the pitch to get ready for her booming goal kick. Ali glanced at her keeper one last time to reassure herself that Ashlyn was still able to work through the god awful pain her wife must be feeling in her abused rib cage before the right back turned and sprinted back on defense. This camp could not end soon enough as far as she was concerned.

 

Christen passed the ball to an attacking Tobin along the left wing and a desperate Klingenberg fought for possession ending in a ball over the touch line off the diminutive left back. Ali lined up next to Sydney and placed a hand on her hip to mark her. Just before the ball was served, several quick flashes of bright light hit the starting right back’s whiskey orbs, blinding her. She heard her wife’s voice from the other side of the pitch and the unmistakable sound of Tallulah screaming. Before she could process what was happening, Ali felt strong arms wrapping around her, holding her in place.

 

“Nooooo! Run T! Get out of here!” Ashlyn yelled as she sprinted towards the stands, her cracked ribs forgotten as her system was flooded with adrenaline.

 

Ali squirmed trying to free herself from Carli and Hope’s arms as her brain finally recognized the dozens of police officers storming the field and stands...the sunlight glinting off their badges as they ran around trying to corner Tallulah. She watched in horror as her wife blocked the path of several officers who had chased the teen onto the pitch, and four of them were now manhandling Ashlyn. Using all her strength, the defender started dragging the two other women towards the scuffle.

 

“Let go of me!” Ali screamed out in frustration as she continued to fight the grasp of her teammates who had now been joined by Sydney and Heather, finally overpowering the scrappy defender. 

 

Ali felt helpless as Ashlyn pulled one arm free causing the officers to start pummeling her in response to the perceived threat and yelling at her to stop resisting. All at once, the fight left the keeper and she crumpled to the ground...but the beating didn’t stop. Ali screamed as one of the cops kicked her wife’s already cracked ribcage. 

 

“Ok, I’m done. I’m done. Please...stop! I...I...can’t...breathe.” Ashlyn pleaded as it got harder and harder to get air into her lungs. 

 

“Stop Ali! You can’t help them if you are locked up in a cell with Ash. It’s gonna be ok, boo boos.” Sydney tried to reason with the distraught defender.

 

“They’re killing her and you guys aren’t doing a goddamned thing!” Ali cried out, tears streaming down her face.

 

“We are saving you from yourself, Kriegs. Syd’s right. You gotta let them do what they came here to do. Being arrested with your wife isn’t gonna help anyone. Once they book her, you can go bail her out.” Hope replied, confused as to why Ali thought the cops were killing Ashlyn.

 

Tallulah continued to run around the pitch avoiding the police. She finally made a mad dash for the tunnel. If she could make it there, she had a shot at getting out of the stadium. As the teen reached the midway point of tunnel she heard Ali's screams and looked over her shoulder to make sure her family was alright. Not seeing the hulk of an officer round the bend in front of her, Tallulah ran right into him, bouncing off the man’s torso and landing hard on her ass. The policeman’s reactions were quicker than her’s and he scooped her up. 

 

Tallulah fought against the muscle bound cop carrying her back onto the field underneath one arm like a football, but it was no use. He was too strong. It only took seconds for some others to join him once they were back on the pitch, and they quickly placed her in handcuffs.  

 

“Ali!” Tallulah cried out as the officers tugged on her arms, forcing her back to the tunnel.

 

The sable haired defender felt her legs getting weak as she saw Tallulah being taken away, and Ashlyn laying motionless on the pitch.

 

“Baby girl! I’m coming for you!” Ali screamed out her promise as the teen disappeared from sight inside the tunnel.

 

Once the teen was taken care of, the police officers handcuffed Ashlyn and they gruffly pulled her to her feet, the keeper trying desperately to get enough air into her lungs. She was beginning to get dizzy but the cops ignored her pleas. Ashlyn felt a little nauseated and it tasted like she had a mouth full of copper as the policemen practically dragged her towards the exit. She forcefully spit the foul tasting liquid from her mouth, and the bright red tinged saliva splattered against the concrete tunnel flooring. 

 

Ali’s legs finally gave out and she fell to her knees as her body was wracked with sobs. It didn’t take long for her teammates to surround her, trying to comfort her while still processing what had happened with each other. 

 

Suddenly a whistle blast cut through the chaos. Everyone’s head snapped in the direction of the shrill sound to a smug looking Jill Ellis. She held her hands up.

 

“Now that I have your attention, let me assure you that those police officers showed me an arrest warrant for Ashlyn and took that child into protective custody. Under the circumstances, I think it best if we cancel the rest of camp. I need to call Sunil, but it’s a safe bet that this was Ashlyn’s last camp with the National Team. We simply can’t have felons on our roster. Pack up, and pick up your airline tickets at the front desk of the hotel when you check out. I’ll call everyone with an update as soon as I know anything further. You are dismissed.” Jill explained, a hint of glee in her voice.

 

Ali angrily swiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand as she glared at Jill. 

 

“Fuck you, Jill. I don’t know when or how, but I will get you for this!” an enraged Ali vowed under her breath before she allowed Heather and Sydney to help her to her feet.

 

The defender turned towards the tunnel. Her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared. The sable haired beauty didn’t hear what her teammates were telling her as her muscular legs started moving...slowly at first and then faster...faster...propelling her towards the tunnel. Nothing else registered in her brain except that she had to rescue her wife and get her daughter back for good. Ali was coming for both of them...and nothing was going to stop her!

 

Chapter Text

Ali burst out of the stadium just in time to see a large policeman stuffing Ashlyn into the back seat of his patrol car. The pissed off defender frantically looked around for Tallulah, but her heart painfully squeezed in her chest as apparently the young teen had already been whisked away in another car. Ali returned her attention to her wife. Fuck, Ashlyn didn’t look good. Her color was all wrong...she was too pale. 

 

“Hey! Where are you taking my wife?! She needs a doctor!” Ali screamed in desperation as she ran towards the car frantically waving her arms, watching in horror as the car pulled away from the curb.

 

Ali continued to chase after the patrol car, running as fast as her legs would take her while trying to get their attention. Suddenly, a slick black challenger pulled up in front of her and the passenger side window rolled down. The shocked defender peered inside and her lips curled into a small smile.

 

“Get in! We can follow them to the station.” Graeme stated, his eyes full of fire. 

 

Ali yanked the door open and quickly sank into the passenger seat, locking the seat belt in place as the tires squealed against the pavement...the forward momentum of the sports car shutting Ali’s door. Graeme quickly shifted through the gears, pushing the car’s powerful V-8 engine to propel them faster. It wasn’t long before the back of the police car carrying Ashlyn was in sight. 

 

“It’s her ribs again, huh.” Graeme questioned the player as his eyes never left the road. 

 

“Yes. She was afraid that Jill would cut her if she got treated for it...and now...god, they just kept kicking her...hitting her with their batons…” Ali relived the horror in her mind.

 

Graeme understood all too well how injured his favorite keeper must be. He shook his head a bit at the stubborn woman in the back seat of the patrol car ahead of them. Ashlyn Michelle Harris was nothing if not stubborn to a fault. She always pushed her body beyond it’s limits. The keeper coach clenched his jaw muscles...no matter what, he was still going to do everything he could to protect his favorite keeper. He had heard Ashlyn begging them to take her to the doctor as they dragged her through the tunnel...that’s what scared him the most. 

 

***

 

Ashlyn’s chest hurt so bad it was hard to wrap her head around the pain. She felt dizzy...disconnected...and it was nearly impossible to take a breath now. The keeper leaned forward in her seat as a wave of nausea washed over her and she vomited against the plexiglass barrier that separated the back seat from the front. The police officer groaned, knowing he was going to have to clean up that foul smelling shit once he had dropped that kidnapper off at the jail intake downtown. He glanced in his rear view mirror and his eyes widened. Shit! The plexiglass was covered in vomit mixed with blood, and the perpetrator was slouched over, being held upright only by the seatbelt across her chest. Fuck! She better not die or his ass would be in a sling. She was a popular athlete, and there would be questions. 

 

The cop grabbed the handset of his radio and called dispatch as he flipped on his lights and siren. He was going to have to detour to Cedar Sinai Hospital. This was gonna be a mountain of paperwork he wasn’t looking forward to scratching. 

 

***

 

Tallulah sniffled, willing the tears not to fall. She wasn’t gonna be a big cry baby. Ashlyn would be alright, and Ali would come for her. They were still going to be her family. They had to be. She looked over at the female detective sitting next to her who was flashing her that fake ass smile. The one they think is comforting. Tallulah wanted to smash her in her fake ass face. 

 

“Don’t worry, you’ll be home with your mommy soon, and this will all seem like it was a bad dream. You’re safe now, honey.” the detective cooed.

 

No! I’m not going back and you can’t make me!” Tallulah yelled, pulling against her restraints, fighting to get free, “I want Ali and Ashlyn! Take me back!”

 

“Oh man, poor kid.” the detective blurted out under her breath.

 

The woman tried to still Tallulah as she shook her head...that was one bad case of Stockholm syndrome. The detective sighed, she had seen some pretty bad cases get healed with intensive therapy, maybe this one would too. 

 

***

 

Graeme had barely come to a stop before Ali jumped out of the passenger side of his car. 

 

“I’ll park and come find you! Go!” Graeme called after the defender.

 

Ali barely heard the keeper coach as she sprinted for the sliding glass doors to the Emergency Room at Cedar Sinai hospital that the cop had just carried Ashlyn through. As the defender rushed inside, she noticed her wife laying motionless on a gurney that was being pushed to the double doors that led to the exam rooms of the ER. The brunette felt her legs go weak as she noticed that Ashlyn’s tshirt was dripping blood from her left rib cage, and she was unnaturally pale...her lips blue tinged. 

 

“Oh god, please...no.” Ali blurted out as she focused in on her wife’s chest, not seeing it rise. 

 

Suddenly a large police officer was standing in her field of vision, and she snapped. 

 

“Just where do you think you are going?” the cop asked.

 

“That’s my wife laying on that gurney. Either arrest me, or get the fuck out of my way because I’m going to go see her...even if I have to go through you to do it!” Ali growled, her voice low and dangerous. 

 

“Come on, Collins. Let her through, she should see her wife...just in case.” a female police officer stated as she touched the other officer’s shoulder. 

 

Ali didn’t wait for Collins to make up his mind. She pushed past the large man and ran over to the gurney, catching up to it just as they made it to the double doors. Ali’s heart clenched in her chest, as she heard the triage nurse call an ‘all hands on deck’ alert. 

 

Ali grabbed her wife’s hand and squeezed it, then leaned down and placed a quick kiss on Ashlyn’s temple and pleaded in her ear, “You fucking promised me so you better damned well fight to stay with me, Ash. I love you so fucking much, baby! Please! I can’t do this without you...”

 

All too soon, Ali was pushed away by an orderly as her wife was whisked through the doors and disappeared from view. The distraught defender looked down at her hands stained red with her wife’s blood. Tears fell unchecked down Ali’s cheeks. She stood rooted to the spot, not really knowing what to do next. Her rock...her best friend...her soulmate and the love of her life...was gone and maybe not ever coming back. How could that be? You fucking promised.

Chapter Text

Tallulah pulled with all her might against the detective as she was being tugged towards the police station. There was no way in hell she wanted to go in there. Fuck the police, fuck her mom, fuck that stupid coach, fuck them all! As they came to the door, the teen tried her last trick...the detective didn’t see the youngster’s leg swing towards her shin. As a sharp pain engulfed the detectives lower leg, the surprised woman momentarily released the girl. That was all Tallulah needed to make a break for it and she started sprinting away from the station, her hands cuffed behind her. 

 

The young teen turned the corner and ducked into an immediate alleyway behind the police station. Tallulah squeezed herself behind a large trash bin. She closed her eyes and slowed her breathing the way Ashlyn had taught her the night on Hope’s boat when she had woken the keeper with her screams...the nightmare of waking up to Saulo on top of her still fresh in her mind. The teenager shook away the memory, she didn’t need to add any other stress as she still felt her heart thumping wildly in her chest. If she could slow her breathing, her heart rate would follow, and she wouldn’t be in a state of panic. Like the keeper had told her, panic was the enemy. That was what made it nearly impossible to think through a situation. ‘Stop the panic, start the brain’ Tallulah mouthed over and over again. 

 

The girl’s breathing and pulse started slowing, and she smiled. It still worked! She rolled her eyes at herself...of course it still worked...Ashlyn had said it would work every time she did it, duh. Not hearing any footsteps in the alley, Tallulah took the opportunity to bend over and slide her cuffed wrists down by her ankles, then she stepped through, bringing her hands up in front of her. Now it would be easier to run...to fight...to get back to her family. The girl’s jaw clenched...nothing was going to stop her from finding Ali and Ashlyn. 

 

***

 

Graeme gently reached out and placed his arm around Ali, directing her away from the double doors to the ER treatment rooms, “Come on, let’s go sit. It’s gonna take awhile before we know anything.”

 

Ali looked up at Graeme with tears in her eyes. The keeper coach noticed how the normally fierce defender looked small and diminished in that moment...like a lost little girl...and it broke his heart. Graeme ushered Ali over to a small alcove away from the large waiting area and the shocked sable haired woman slowly sank into one of chairs. The keeper coach sighed as he pulled out his phone. He didn’t have the number he needed, but perhaps Hope or Alyssa would. 

 

***

 

“Come on out, kid. I promise you everything is going to be alright. You don’t have to run anymore.” the female detective’s voice called out. 

 

Tallulah’s breath caught in her throat. Damn, how did that bitch find her?! 

 

“Look, we just got off on the wrong foot here. I’m Detective Masterson, but you can call me Brooke. Would you like that?” Brooke tried again...it was going to be a crappy day if that kid didn’t come out from behind the dumpster on her own...nothing worse than a victim fighting their own rescue.

 

Tallulah sat on the ground with a thud. She had to think. She knew adults couldn’t fit back where she was, because she barely fit, but how could she get away from that stupid detective? 

 

Brooke sighed. How could she get that kid out of there? The detective’s lips curled into a smile as an idea came to her. She dialed the number to dispatch on her cell phone and waited for them to answer. 

 

“This is Detective Brooke Masterson, shield number 0755. I need you to send officer Smith and Sergeant Balko to my location immediately...alleyway between station 566 and storefronts of the 500 block of Division Avenue.” Brooke stated confidently into the phone...this would be perfect. 

 

***

 

Ashlyn tried to focus, tried to wrap her mind around the sensory overload she was experiencing. Wasn’t Ali just talking to her...kissing her? Ali. She had to get back to Ali. God her chest hurt. Why was it cold all of a sudden? The keeper groaned as her skin erupted in goosebumps from the cold air inside the ER hitting her exposed chest, her blood stained USWNT practice shirt and sports bra cut away and reduced to discarded rags on the gurney. 

 

The keeper’s eyebrows knitted. Why was her chest suddenly all wet? Wet and cold...and ticklish. Was Ali tickling her again? Ashlyn tried to catch Ali’s hands, but she came up empty.    

 

Ashlyn grimaced as pain engulfed her body. It felt like someone was trying to rip out her lung...or were they shoving shit into it? She tried to push whatever was causing the pain away, but someone held the keeper’s hands down. Her eyes fluttered as she drifted in and out of consciousness. She would scream but it was hard too hard to breathe. Where was Ali? Pain. Ali? Voices. Ali? Chaos. Ali? Darkness. Ali! Silence…

 

“Shit! She’s coding! Charge paddles to 200…” the lead physician barked out his orders, “And get the OR and blood bank on the line, she has to have some bleeders somewhere that I can’t find.” 

 

***

 

“Hey Tallulah, come on out of there ok? Nobody is going to hurt you.” Brooke tried one last time before they sent Sgt. Balko in after the girl. 

 

“Only if you take me back to my parents.” Tallulah responded.

 

“That’s what we’ve been trying to do!” Brooke replied, a bite of exasperation to her tone.

 

“No! You have been trying to send me back to that cunt that sent me to that horrible place where they tried to take the gay out of me.” the teen lashed out, “I want my real parents. I want Ali and Ashlyn!”

 

Brooke rolled her eyes. Kids came up with the wildest stories...even worse than some crack whore stories, and those brain damaged women came up with some whoppers! She sighed. Well, she wasn’t going to stand around all day, she had real cases to get back to. The detective turned towards the other officer.

 

“Send him in.” Brooke stated.

 

The officer leaned down and unclipped the dog’s lead, “Find.”

 

The large german shepherd sniffed the ground, then raised his face to smell the air before he moved towards the dumpster. He was around to the back side in a few seconds. 

 

Tallulah’s green eyes widened as she was suddenly face to snout with the large dog. She noted the vest the dog was wearing that had a large badge embroidered on it. The dog sniffed her and barked, signaling to its handler that the victim had been found.          

 

“Bring, Balko!” officer Smith ordered.

 

Tallulah yelped in surprise as the dog bit down on the collar of her shirt and started tugging her towards the side of the dumpster. 

 

“Get away from me!” Tallulah screamed, and pushed at the dog. 

 

No matter what the girl tried, the dog would simply reposition and continue tugging and dragging her towards the side of the dumpster. It was no use. Tears welled in the teen’s eyes. They were going to send her back to that evil woman...only Ali could save her now. Ali! She had promised she was coming for her! Tallulah wiped her eyes with the back of her cuffed hands. Ali would save her...she had promised, and Ali never broke her promises! 

 

***

 

Ali looked up as doctor came out of the ER and approached officer Collins. The defender sprang to her feet and quickly closed the distance.

 

“...so it’s out of our hands now. Probably won’t know anything for at least several hours, that surgery isn’t an easy one.” the doctor stated, side-eyeing the brunette as she rushed up.

 

“What do you mean that surgery isn’t an easy one? What surgery?!” Ali blurted out, desperate for information on Ashlyn.

 

The doctor’s lips flattened in annoyance, “I’m sorry, but I’m talking to this police officer about the person he has in custody. Now if you will excuse me…”

 

“That woman he brought in earlier is my wife, Ashlyn! Now what surgery?! Please don’t make me get my lawyer involved...” Ali snapped before her shoulders slumped and her voice softened, “Look I just want to know...I need to know...how is she? Do you think she’s going to...to make it?”

 

The doctor looked up at the police officer who rolled his eyes but the female officer next to him nodded, affirming the brunette’s identity. Hell, she had been following their careers for years. This whole kidnapping thing made no kind of sense to her...but she still had a job to do. The courts would decide the keeper’s innocence...or guilt. 

 

The doctor turned to face the brunette, “Your wife was brought in with what is called a hemopneumothorax. She had both blood and air in her chest cavity which caused her left lung to collapse…”

 

Ali’s hand shot up to cover her mouth, and tears welled in her eyes.

 

“We had to insert a tube to drain the blood and air so we could re-inflate the lung. However, once we opened the chest wall, we discovered she had a ribcage fracture with displacement. I’m fairly certain that one or more pieces of her broken ribs have cut into nearby structures, I simply couldn’t find all the bleeders in the ER. That’s why she was sent up for immediate surgery.”

 

“But she’s going to make it, right?” Ali pressed the man for the only answer that mattered.

 

The doctor sighed, he really hated when family wanted him to say everything was going to be alright. Hell, he didn’t have a magic ball, and he damned sure didn’t want to give her any false hope. 

 

“Your wife’s heart stopped beating twice on my table...” the doctor started.

 

“What?! You mean she...she died?!” Ali blurted out cutting him off, her tears falling unchecked onto her cheeks

 

“Well, yes and no. Both times we were able to restart it. Look, I can’t tell you what you want to hear, ma’am, because the plain truth of the matter is...it’s touch and go right now. If they can find all the bleeders in time...and if they can re-inflate her lung...if her heart didn’t suffer too much damage...if she doesn’t end up with an infection...too many variables, you see. I can say that what she has going for her is that she is young, has a physically strong body, and was mumbling the name ‘Ali’ so she has something to fight for. Now if you will excuse me.” The doctor quickly turned and fled back to the safety of the ER, away from emotional family members that made him uncomfortable. 

Ali sniffled, and tried to reign in her emotions. Ashlyn was alive. She was keeping her promise. She was fighting. The defender closed her eyes as she tried to shake off the fear that was squeezing her chest...but it was still touch and go. 

Chapter Text

Brooke held the teen by the back of her arm as she opened the door to the room where the girl’s mother was waiting for them. She nudged the girl forward as the woman smiled and swiftly made her way to them.

 

“Oh my god, Tallulah. I was so worried!” the woman exclaimed as she threw her arms around the young teen. 

 

Tallulah wanted to scream...she wanted to be anywhere but here...she wanted to punch that fucking woman right in her lying ass mouth!

    

“Let me look at you.” the woman stated as she turned Tallulah around in a circle, “Dear Lord in heaven, what did that dyke do to your beautiful hair?!”

 

Tears flooded Tallulah’s eyes and she tried to wrench herself away from her mother’s arms, but the woman held on firmly. 

 

“Well, I’m sure you both have a lot to catch up on, so I’m going to release her to your custody, Mrs. Jameson. I’ll be right back with the paperwork.” Brooke declared, eager to get on with her day, and some real detective work.  

 

As soon as the door shut behind the detective, Amber Jameson shoved Tallulah into one of the folding chairs next to the table that occupied the center of the interview room. The teen tried to stand up again, but the woman pulled her back down by the scruff of her ear, causing Tallulah to gasp in pain. The auburn haired woman bent down so she was only a few inches from her daughter’s face.

 

“I don’t know what has gotten into you, but you are not going to act like some wild assed heathen!” Amber stated, her tone icy.

 

“Leave me alone! You aren’t my mother any more! I found better ones!” Tallulah fired back, hotly.

 

Amber chuckled humorlessly, “Yeah, well where are they, Tallulah? I don’t see them breaking down the door to come get you.”

 

“They will. You watch and see! Ali promised she was coming for me, and she will. Ali and Ashlyn never break their promises. Then we are going to be a real family and you can rot in hell!” Tallulah sassed. 

 

“Fine. What’s this woman’s phone number. I’ll call her and have her come pick you up...if she really wants you, she can have you. But you and I both know that nobody will do as much for you as I do!” Amber stated, her eyes pinning the teen to her chair.

 

Tallulah reached into the pocket of her shorts and pulled out a small well worn scrap of paper. She unfolded it and handed it to her mother.

 

The woman pushed buttons on her cell phone and then pretended to press the call button, quickly holding it up to her ear so the teen wouldn’t see that the call hadn’t been made. She waited a few seconds before speaking.

 

“Hello is this Ali?” Amber paused for effect, “This is Amber Jameson, Tallulah’s mother. I’m sitting in the police station on the 500 block of Division street. I have been told you want to adopt Tallulah. Well, if that’s true, then we will be here for about another thirty minutes while the police finish up their paperwork. Come pick up Tallulah and I’ll sign her over to you. See you soon.” Amber talked into the dead air before she acted like she disconnected the call and then crumpled the scrap of paper and tossed it into the trash can by the door. 

 

Tallulah smiled, now Ali knew where she was...the defender would be here to collect her in no time...she was certain of it! Then they could be a happy family again...only for real this time. 

 

***

 

Tick...Tick...Tick...Tick...Tick…

 

Ali closed her eyes tightly. The loud ticking of the wall clock’s second hand bouncing off each number in rapid succession was driving the defender crazy. It was as if the very hospital itself was mocking her pain...her terror...her helplessness. Each tick seemed like an eternity in the defender’s uncertain soul, and with her eyes shut, her other senses heightened. The distraught brunette could smell the coppery odor of blood and the harsh scent of bleach that permeated the hospital. She could even smell her own fear...the musky cold sweat that gathered in the pores of her skin. Tap...tap...tap...tap...tap... Some bored kid who didn’t understand what was going on was bouncing their feet against the floor nearby. Clickity...clickity...clickity...clickity...click… The women at the intake desk were busy typing the next unfortunate soul’s info into their computers. Bzzzzzt…bzzzzzt…bzzzzzt...bzzzzzt...bzzzzzt… The printer behind the intake desk came to life and spit out pages of information for the lucky soul being discharged. 

 

Ali’s nostrils flared...was that coffee? 

 

“Oh my poor baby girl.” a familiar voice registered in Ali’s brain as her eyes popped open.

 

“Mommy!” Ali blurted out as her mom stood in front of her with a cup of steaming coffee in each hand.

 

Ali launched herself out of her chair and wrapped her arms around her mom, burying her face in the older woman’s neck. Graeme took the cups of coffee from Deb, and she held her daughter tightly to her chest as she kissed the crown of the younger woman’s head. 

 

“Oh I am so very sorry, baby girl, but I left as soon as I got the call from HAO. Do you know anything, yet?” Deb gently inquired.

 

“Ash’s ribs were broken and she had internal bleeding. The doctor couldn’t stop all the bleeding and sent her to surgery. Her left lung was also collapsed. She...mom, she died...twice...before they could get her up to surgery. They took her up hours ago, and I haven’t heard anything since.” Ali replied, breaking down into sobs.

 

“Oh god.” Deb blurted out, momentarily closing her eyes before she pulled her daughter impossibly closer, “Well you listen to me, Alex...that woman loves you with every fiber of her being, and she is going to fight like hell to stay here with you, and I’m going to be here right by your side through it all, baby girl. We will get through this, you’ll see.”

 

Deb held her daughter and let the distraught woman cry herself out, gently running her fingers through Ali’s long sable locks. The defender finally pulled back from her mother’s comforting embrace, and Deb used the bottom of her floral printed blouse to mop up Ali’s tears and snot from her face. The older woman then led her daughter back to her seat and they sank down in chairs side by side, Ali holding onto her mom’s hand as a life line...the ticking of the clock not nearly as loud anymore as she laid her head on her mom’s shoulder.

 

 

***

 

Tick...Tick...Tick...Tick...Tick…

 

Tallulah closed her eyes. According to the time on the wall clock, it had already been forty-five minutes and Ali hadn’t showed up yet. Could the women she loved more than anyone else on the planet have changed their minds? It didn’t make any sense why Ali wasn’t already there to pick her up. She had heard her mom tell Ali the address and everything. Had watching Ashlyn get arrested on account of her make the defender despise her? The teen’s shoulders drooped a bit lower as she wrestled with her thoughts. Tallulah finally looked up at her mom who shrugged her shoulders at the girl, her smile mocking the teen’s vanishing hope.

 

Tallulah’s face broke out in a wide smile as the door suddenly opened...but her face fell an instant later when the detective came in alone, carrying the paperwork she had for her mother. 

 

Brooke handed Amber some papers to sign, “Please read through your statement again and make sure everything is correct before you sign and date it. The next papers are the ones I need you to sign stating that we found your daughter and have released her to you.”

 

Tallulah watched the door behind the adults, willing it to open and reveal the defender. Come on, Ali. Come on! Please...don’t leave me with her... Brooke took the signed paperwork back with a plastic smile after the woman had affixed her signature in all the correct places. 

 

“And that’s it, she’s all yours. The DA and the court will notify you of all court dates and when you will need to testify.” Brooke commented as she unlocked and removed the handcuffs from Tallulah’s wrists. 

 

“What will happen to that horrible carpet muncher that took my precious little girl?” the woman inquired, hatred burning in her eyes like the fires of hell. 

 

“If she is convicted of international kidnapping...life in prison without parole.” Brooke replied almost casually. 

 

Tallulah suddenly felt hot, and it was hard to breathe. She wanted to scream out...to let everyone know that they weren’t kidnappers, they were heroes...but the teen couldn’t seem to get enough air past her vocal cords for them to work. Her eyes flooded with tears of frustration and guilt making everything in the room blurry. Ashlyn and Ali might spend the rest of their lives in prison because they had chosen to help her...chosen to love, accept, and protect her like her own flesh and blood was supposed to?! No! That couldn’t happen...it wasn’t fair!

 

Tallulah blinked the tears from her eyes. She looked up at the doorway as it opened, and for a split second she thought she saw Ali standing there, but it was just the detective leaving her alone with her mother. As soon as the door closed behind Brooke, Tallulah’s mother turned on her...her face displaying the rage and disgust she felt for the teen. 

 

“What did I tell you? Nobody wants you. You are too much trouble, but you will behave from now on, Tallulah. Do you hear me?! You will dress, and act, and conform to the roles of your gender if I have to beat them into you day and night! Spare the rod and spoil the child...just remember, I don’t spare any rods. I’d rather have a dead daughter than an alive abomination!” the auburn haired woman growled out as she grabbed the teen’s arm, “No funny business or you will wish you had never been born young lady!” 

 

Tears ran down the girl’s cheeks as she shuffled her feet towards the doorway...Ali hadn’t come for her after all.  

 

“I already do.” Tallulah stated under her breath as her shoulders completely slumped. 

 

***

 

Ali’s breath caught in her throat as she looked up and saw Ashlyn standing in front of her. The keeper’s head tilted to the side and she reached out, wiping away the tears from the defender’s cheeks with the pads of her thumbs. Ashlyn leaned down and tenderly kissed her wife, her lips moving over Ali’s like a whisper.  

 

Ashlyn ran her fingers lovingly through Ali’s long sable hair, and tucked a strand behind her ear. She looked deeply into the defender’s whiskey colored eyes and the keeper’s lips curled into a small smile. 

 

“I love you, my queen, bigger than the universe and longer than eternity.” Ashlyn stated, her voice soft and nearly drowned out by the ticking of the wall clock behind them.

 

“God, I love you too, babe. More than you know.” Ali confessed. 

 

Ali smiled at her until the keeper stood and turned away. The defender’s smile vanished, and her brows creased in confusion.

 

“Don’t leave, Ash!” Ali blurted out.

 

Ashlyn stopped and looked over her shoulder, “I have to go, Alex. I can’t stay. I just wanted you to know how very much I love you. How very much I will always love you. You’re my everything.”

 

***

 

The weary surgeon disposed of his mask and bloody gloves in the biohazard bin before adding his blood soaked smock. He trudged over to the sink and pressed on the pedal, watching a stream of water flow from the spigot. The balding man squirted a quarter sized dollop of antiseptic soap into the palm of his right hand and picked up the nail brush. His thoughts began to wander as he methodically started scrubbing under his fingernails. Had he done everything he could have? What could he have done differently for a better outcome? He looked back into the surgical theater and watched as the custodian’s mop moved through the puddle of blood left by his patient, soaking it into the fibers and transferring the life giving liquid to a bucket full of disinfectant. The surgeon sighed as the tepid water washed away the remnants of powder from the insides of his latex gloves. He hated having to bring news like this to a family. 

 

*** 

 

“Ali, the surgeon is here.” Deb roused her daughter who had finally cried herself to sleep an hour earlier.

 

Ali’s eyes fluttered open and she looked up in confusion at the man for a moment while her brain caught up. As realization hit, the defender pushed herself up to stand in front of the man who had worked on her wife. The man’s facial expression was flat and unreadable which made the brunette nervous and she unconsciously chewed on her lower lip as the surgeon extended his right hand towards her.

 

“Hi, I’m Dr. Tougard and I was the surgeon who worked on your wife today. When she was brought up she was unstable. We proceeded with surgery to repair damage that she sustained from a rib fracture with displacement. Basically, the lower ten to fifteen percent of her left lung lobe was shredded by bone fragments and had to be removed. The bone fragments also pierced her spleen, but we were able to save that organ once we got in there as the bone didn’t dig in too deeply…” the doctor started.

 

“Please just tell me, is she alive?!” Ali blurted out, not able to take anymore uncertainty.

 

The doctor took in a deep breath, “Despite our best efforts…”

 

Ali’s face drained of all color and her world went black. Graeme caught the defender as she fainted, Deb helping him ease her daughter to the floor.

 

“Damn it, lay her on her back and hold her legs up about twelve inches or so. If you will excuse me, ma’am.” Dr. Tougard crouched down and listened to Ali’s heart and breathing sounds with his stethoscope, “Just a simple fainting spell. She will be fine.”

 

A few seconds later the defender’s eyes fluttered open again and she groaned seeing the ring of faces above her...the damned ticking of the clock behind her drowning out everything. Her eyes flooded with tears as she remembered the words the surgeon had been saying...she had heard those words a thousand times on the medical shows she watched, and they were always said during a death notification. Ashlyn...          

 

“How are you feeling? Think you can sit up for a minute?” the doctor inquired.

 

Ali nodded, unable to meet his eyes. The broken hearted brunette allowed Graeme to pull her into a seated position on the cold hospital floor. She felt nauseated...lost...numb...dead. 

 

“Like I was saying, despite our best efforts…” Dr. Tougard tried again.

 

“Don’t say it. I can’t hear it right now. Just let me see her body.” Ali mumbled, interrupting the man. 

 

“I didn’t say she died.” Dr. Tougard responded, confused.

 

Ali’s head jerked up and she looked at him wide-eyed, “What are you saying then?!”

 

“If you would allow me to finish...I was going to say that despite our best efforts, she hasn’t woken up from surgery yet. We have her on a ventilator to help her breathe and give her injured lung some rest. We put her on IV antibiotics, and she has been moved to the ICU.” Dr. Tougard explained, wishing he could have told the woman that her wife was awake and doing well...it still felt like a failure to him. 

 

The doctor’s eyes widened and his body froze in shock as the young woman suddenly enveloped him in a tight hug.

 

“Oh my god, thank you! Thank you for keeping her alive and giving her a chance!” Ali exclaimed, holding on to the man for a few heartbeats until the doctor cleared his throat.

 

Ali released the man and grinned at him sheepishly. 

 

“Yes well, she didn’t make it easy on us, but like I said, your wife has been moved to the ICU unit. I normally hate to weigh in on outcomes that are still too early to determine, but I am cautiously optimistic for her recovery. I don’t know if the police will allow you to see her or not since she is under arrest.” the doctor concluded with a shoulder shrug and then quickly stood, "Try to have a good day, ma'am."

 

Ali smiled as she watched the surgeon stride out of the waiting room. 

 

“Just let them try to stop me!” Ali remarked under her breath as she stood up to go find the other half of her soul.   

 

Chapter Text

Bzzzzz...Bzzzzz...Bzzzzz. The buzzing of her cell phone took Deb’s attention just as Ali bolted for the stairwell. Her brows creased and she hit the accept button as she tried to catch up to her daughter, but the determined defender disappeared into the stairwell before the older woman had a chance to close the distance. She paused and looked around for the elevator.

 

“Hello?” Deb said into the cell phone as she changed course and headed for the row of elevators in the middle of the hallway to her left.

 

“Hi Deb Deb. It’s Pinoe...er...Megan Rapinoe.” Pinoe explained as the older woman shook her head on the other side of the call. 

 

“Yes, honey. I recognized the voice. Listen, Ashlyn’s out of surgery and I’m trying to catch up to Alex before she does something stupid since the police are likely not going to allow her into the room. Can I call you back with an update later?” Deb tried to politely excuse herself from the call. 

 

“I get it, and sure. Last thing we need is the Princess getting arrested...but can you tell her that Jill has kept the team on lock down so we don’t know when we will be getting free to come up there...oh and also that I called her lawyer for her, and Jenn had some not so good news about little T. She really needs to get going on that or they may lose that kid forever. K. Thanks. Byeee!” Pinoe relayed her message before hanging up.

 

“Wait...what?!” Deb tried in vain to get clarification from her daughter’s teammate, but the call had already disconnected. 

 

Deb was more confused than ever as she pressed the call button on the nearest set of elevators. The older woman shook her head. When this mess was all over with, she was going to have a sit down with her children...all her children…and have a serious conversation about keeping secrets from her. Who the hell was ‘little T’?!  

 

***

 

Ali slowed once she arrived at the ICU ward. It was nerve wrecking to hear so many mechanical sounds in one concentrated place. Beeps...whooshes of forced air...high pitched alarms alerting the staff that IV bags needed changing. Machines...cold...unfeeling...machines. Machines everywhere keeping people alive. The defender closed her eyes and took a deep breath, the strong stench of antiseptic invading her senses...Ashlyn would most likely be hooked up to them as well, and she needed to prepare herself for what that would look like...what it would sound like reverberating off the walls of her tiny room. Ali blew out her breath in a sudden burst and her eyes popped open. She gazed down the ICU ward to the guarded doorway with laser focus until everything in her periphery faded away and there was just that one door with that one cop left. Now she was ready to engage, and there would be no stopping her. 

 

Ali’s strong leg muscles rippled as she pushed off one leg to the other, propelling her down the hallway with purpose, her eyes burning a hole into the cop guarding the door to her wife’s room. When she was a few steps away, the policeman turned his head, noticing her for the first time. The cop’s hand automatically went to rest on the hilt of his weapon as he bladed his stance in reaction to the look on the woman’s face. He held the other one up to signal for her to stop.

 

“Whoa, nobody but medical personnel is allowed in here, ma’am.” the officer stated firmly, blocking the door.

 

Ali’s eyes darted to the man’s name tag and back to boring holes in his eyes, “I’m going in to see my wife, officer Wilson.”

 

“I can’t let you do that. She is under arrest.” Officer Wilson replied, not budging.

 

Ali’s eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared, “Has she been convicted of a crime?”

 

The police officer opened his mouth to threaten the woman with arrest, but when her question hit him, he snapped it shut again and paused, eyeing her suspiciously. He had expected her to threaten him and try to go in. This threw him off balance. 

 

“Well no, but…” the man started.

 

“But nothing. Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris is my wife, and she nearly died today from a beating she took at the hands of you and your fellow officers. She hasn’t been convicted of anything. In fact, the doctor told me she is still in a coma. So what is it you think I’m going to do if I get in there...sneak her out the window over my shoulder? We are on the sixth floor, officer, and you are guarding the only way in or out.” Ali angrily interrupted the man standing between her and the other half of her soul. 

 

“Look...my orders...but when when you put it that way…” the young officer stammered, searching for a way to justify his orders...mostly to himself. 

 

Ali cocked her head to the side with her hands on her hips as she watched the officer’s internal struggle. She didn’t recognize him from the stadium earlier...but then there had been so many and she hadn’t exactly been studying them. He had such a baby face it was hard to imagine he was one of the cops who had beaten Ashlyn, but her blood was still boiling at the mere sight of the uniform. He was still one of them. 

 

“Well? Are you going to let me go tend to my wife, or are you going to arrest me too, because I’m going in right now.” Ali all but growled and took a step forward, her eyes blazing with challenge. 

 

Officer Wilson sighed and took a step to the side to make room for Ali to pass. What could it hurt to let the gorgeous woman see her wife, anyway? Like she had pointed out...there was no way she could sneak the unconscious perp past him. He just hoped his sergeant didn’t find out, or he would be on traffic duty for the next month! 

 

Ali gasped, her right hand unconsciously covering her mouth as she entered the darkened room and her eyes took in her wife lying on the bed. Tears flooded her whiskey orbs making the sight before her blurry. She thought she had prepared herself for what she would see...but there was no way to prepare herself for this. This was going to fuel her nightmares for years to come. 

 

“Oh Ash.” Ali blurted out.

 

A very pale Ashlyn lay on the bed with a tube sticking out of her mouth, taped in place, that connected to a ventilator. It forced air into her lungs with a ‘whoosh’  timed to provide twenty breaths per minute. Her lips were swollen and her bottom lip was split with bruising that extended to her right cheek. The thin blanket covering her wife was held up by a small tube that protruded from Ashlyn’s chest wall and ran down to a series of three bottles on the floor next to her bed, and finally connecting to the wall. The first bottle had a fair amount of bloody fluid in the bottom. Ali closed her eyes tightly...that must be draining from Ashlyn’s surgically repaired lung. She willed herself to open her eyes and keep looking. The visible skin around Ashlyn’s side was a deep angry purple and red bruise that ran the entire length of her side from hip to arm pit. 

 

Ali slowly approached the bed and tenderly kissed Ashlyn’s forehead. Her skin was warm. She was alive, and right now that was all that mattered. The defender carefully searched for her wife’s hand under the blankets when she felt something cold and metallic. Ali pulled the covers back and her eyes narrowed. What the actual fuck?! She shook her head angrily at the handcuffs  that secured Ashlyn’s bruised wrist to the bedrail. 

 

“I don’t care what we have to do, babe, but you are not going to prison for this! We saved T and…” Ali paused in her promise as realization hit her, “Oh my god, T! Fuck!”

 

Ali frantically scanned the room. She had run out of the stadium with nothing but the clothes on her back. Was it even the same day?! Everything seemed like a blur. Where the hell was her mom? She needed a phone...and she needed it now! Ali stared at the door and willed her mom to come through it. The defender had fought to get in, there was no way she could leave now...not with the other half of her soul still in a coma.

 

Ali tore her eyes away from the door to gaze down at her wife in the bed. She lovingly ran her fingers through Ashlyn’s sweat matted hair.

 

“Please wake up, Ash. I need you so badly babe. I’ve made such a mess of things...I...I don’t know if I can do this on my own. Please baby! Please open up those gorgeous eyes for me. I need you...T needs you...we need you!” Ali pleaded, her voice desperate.

 

***

 

Deb looked at the wall clock and sighed. It had been hours since she had come up to the ICU unit and made her way to the waiting room...but no sign of her daughter. She looked at her cell phone, but was it even worth trying again? She had already tried to call Ali at least twenty times without an answer, and her daughter hadn’t replied to any of her dozens of messages...neither text nor voicemail. Deb blew out a frustrated breath and shoved her cell phone back into her purse. 

 

“Oh Deb, am I glad to see you! I can’t seem to find Peanut and those damned nurses won’t tell me anything about Tumble except she is up here. Like an old lady doesn’t have anything better to do than to get into a tin can and fly clear across the country to make up a story and get information on a total stranger.” Grandma Harris huffed out a greeting, Deb jerking her head up towards the sound of the elder woman’s voice and her lips curling slightly into a small smile. 

 

“Grams! It’s so good to see you. Ashlyn is out of surgery, but she is in a coma. I haven’t been able to get ahold of Alex for several hours, but if I had to place bets, I’d say she managed to get herself into Ash’s room somehow, unless she got herself arrested trying. The police aren’t letting anyone in.” Deb replied, relieved to see the Harris matriarch. 

 

Grandma Harris settled into the seat next to Deb and they shared a brief but emotion filled hug. As they pulled away, Deb noticed the fatigue and worry etched across the old woman’s face, and it tore at her heart. She had been through so much with Ashlyn and Chris through their youth, and now...it just didn’t seem fair for such a decent loving woman to be dragged through...whatever...had caused the police to beat her daughter-in-law within an inch of her life. Grams patted the back of Deb’s hand knowingly.

 

“Don’t you worry about me. I’m a tough old bird...where do you think Tumble got it from?” Grandma Harris asked rhetorically.

 

“Oh I have no doubt.” Deb replied, placing her free hand over the top of Grandma Harris’ and squeezing the older woman’s hand as they slipped into a companionable silence. 

 

***

 

Ali looked up a little startled as the door to the room suddenly opened and a beautiful middle aged hispanic woman in bright fuchsia colored scrubs walked in. 

 

“Oh! Excuse me, I didn’t mean to make you jump. I didn’t know they were letting anyone in here.” the woman apologized as she strode across the room.

 

“Oh no, it’s fine. I’m Ali, Ashlyn’s wife.” Ali introduced herself, and the woman smiled warmly at her. 

 

“I’m Carmen, and I’m your wife’s nurse until eleven. If you need anything, just let me know.” the nurse introduced herself as she checked the drainage level from Ashlyn’s chest, her vitals, and the output of the keeper’s catheter, marking the numbers down on her chart. 

 

Ali nibbled on her lip nervously as she weighed her options before speaking again, “Well, there is one thing I really need.”

 

Carmen stopped her assessment of Ashlyn and gave the defender her undivided attention, “What would that be?”

 

“A phone. I ran out of the stadium and have nothing but the clothes on my back.” Ali explained, tossing her hands up and shrugging her shoulders.

 

Carmen nodded, “Most people aren’t prepared when trauma happens. I’ll go try to find a land line we can plug in the room. Here. You can use mine in the meantime.”

 

Ali smiled appreciatively as the nurse reached into the pocket of her scrubs and pulled out an iphone, extending it towards the brunette. 

 

“Thank you so much, you’re a lifesaver!” Ali remarked as she took the cell phone from the nurse.

 

“So I’ve been told a time or two.” Carmen chuckled and winked at Ali before walking out.

 

Ali closed her eyes and tried to remember her lawyer’s number.

 

***

 

“Wait, so you’re saying this Salto guy was trying to force a little lesbian girl into being a ho for him, and my Tumble risked her life to save this girl...then the Fuzz beat her into a coma because she helped the kid?!” Grandma Harris blurted out her version of the story Pinoe had just told them.  

 

Megan smiled at the elderly woman, then turned and stuck her tongue out at the rest of the players who were packed into the small waiting room with Deb and Grandma Harris. They had arrived as soon as Jill had released them and invaded the small alcove, sitting in each other’s laps, on the floor, and standing in any available space that was left until the room was virtually wall to wall soccer players surrounding the two older women.  

 

“Finally! See, somebody gets me!” Pinoe exclaimed to the group.

 

Deb shook her head as she tried to wrap her mind around the story she had just heard. How could this possibly be real? Gangsters, prostitutes, a school where rich Americans sent their little gay children to get the gay abused out of them...this was insane! Deb looked at each of her daughter’s teammates...her children by extension...but they each looked sincere. This was so confusing.

 

“Sooo...I don’t get it. What did they intend to do with this Tallulah girl…” Deb started.

 

“Little T” a chorus of voices corrected.

 

“Ok, this ‘little T.’ I mean what was the plan once they rescued her?” Deb inquired, her mind spinning, fearing that her children might be going to prison for life.

 

“Well, Ali told me they wanted to adopt her...you know...love her the way she deserves and give her a good home.” Heather answered.

 

“Yep, and I will be the godmother.” Pinoe crowed proudly.

 

“Oh lordy, that child is doomed.” Grandma Harris blurted out, causing even Deb to laugh. 

 

Deb looked around the small room as the laughter slowly died down. She appreciated how these women all banded together and used humor to keep the stress level manageable no matter what the circumstances were. They would always be a part of her children’s lives...and her grandchildren. Deb smiled, the thought gave her goosebumps...grandchildren. Her smile faded...unless they spent their lives in prison for that ridiculous kidnapping charge. How the hell could anybody with half a brain cell and a functioning heart convict her girls after hearing what that little T had gone through?! Deb looked up as a voice broke the silence and startled her out of her thoughts.

 

“I need some coffee. Anyone want to go with me?” Syd announced as she stood up from Abby’s lap. 

 

“Yeah, I need to stretch my legs. Can we take the stairs down?” Heather replied, also standing from the arm of the small love seat in the corner of the room. 

 

“Sounds like a plan to me. But we are taking the elevator on the way back up. I’m not spilling hot coffee on me because you want an excuse to meet a hot ER doctor.” Syd teased as the duo made their way out of the alcove towards the end of the hallway where the stairwell was. 

 

“What? You can’t deny that guy was Dr. Hunky McSteamypants.” Heather replied, wagging her eyebrows, needing to focus on something other than their friend who was fighting for her life.

 

“Well with your luck, he will turn out to be an orderly.” Syd pressed, enjoying the small respite from the emotional turmoil of sitting around waiting to hear if their teammate...their sister...would ever wake up.

 

As they rounded the corner, the two nearly fell over a supply cart sitting outside of an open supply closet that a man was restocking. Heather’s eyes fell on to the stack of clean scrubs. She looked up at Syd.

 

“Speaking of my luck…” Heather stated as she nodded towards the scrubs, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

 

A mischievous grin spread across the forward’s face, “Hell yeah, let’s do it!”

 

The two quickly grabbed a set of scrubs each and shoved them under their shirts before hurrying down the hallway to the bathroom. 

 

***

 

Brooke sighed as she poured a cup of tepid coffee into the small paper cup she placed on the counter next to the coffee maker. She brought the cup to her mouth and took a large swig, allowing the bitter black sludge to linger on her tongue a second before she swallowed. If she could get an IV directly to her veins the detective would have gladly had a permanent port installed in her arm. She might not get a whole lot of sleep, but at least she was back on a drug case instead of babysitting some lost kid. 

 

“Hey detective, where’s that little girl you found? Chief wants us to ask her some questions. Apparently the famous soccer chick has lawyered up, and he wants to make sure we have all our bases covered since it’s likely gonna be a media feeding frenzy soon.” an old grizzled officer asked as he walked up behind her.

 

Brooke tipped the cup further and drained the contents into her mouth. It would give her a few precious seconds to think. What the hell did the Chief want with that kid? Hell, she knew she had cut her loose a little too quickly, but fuck, she just gave her back to her own mother. How was she supposed to know that case would blow up into something high profile enough to worry the Chief?! Shit…

 

Brooke crushed the cup and threw it into the trash before turning to face the officer.

 

“Yeah, um...look, the kid’s mom came and I didn’t see any reason to keep her here. We got a statement from the mother. Amber...uh…” Brooke closed her eyes as she strained to recall the last name.

 

“Jameson.” a deep voice supplied, and Brooke’s eyes popped open, “In my office Detective, now!”

 

Brooke blanched, “Yes, Chief!”

 

***

 

Ali leaned over and placed another kiss on Ashlyn’s temple. If she didn’t have the tube sticking out of her mouth she would almost look like she was taking a regular nap. The defender got up and padded across the room to the sink. She grabbed a paper towel and wet it in the sink before returning to Ashlyn’s bed. The sable haired beauty used the wet paper towel to clean the crusted saliva off the corner of her wife’s mouth. 

 

“Wouldn’t want you to be a mess when they let everyone in here. Gotta keep your reputation in tact, don’t we?” Ali stated as she finished up.

 

The brunette tossed the wad of used paper towel into the trash can before she returned her attention to her keeper. Ashlyn looked so broken...so vulnerable it made Ali’s soul hurt. She gently cupped her wife’s face, careful not to disturb the breathing tube coming out of her mouth.

 

“I love you with everything I am, Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris. God, how I love you. Please baby...please open your eyes for me. I...all I want is you.” Ali quietly confessed.

 

“Well, isn’t this touching.” Jill’s voice behind her caused Ali to jump, startled. 

 

Ali spun around and faced the old coach, her eyes narrowing. 

 

“How the fuck did you get in here?!” Ali seethed, unconsciously placing herself between Jill and her wife,  protectively. 

  

Jill’s lips curled into a sneer, “The nice officer let me in. I am the one who broke their case wide open after all. They owed me.”

 

Ali’s muscles twitched as she had to use all of her inner strength not to lunge at the woman. It would do Ashlyn no good to allow that bitch to goad her into getting arrested for battery. 

 

“Don’t blame me! All you had to do was be nice to me and all of this would have been avoided.” Jill taunted the defender.

 

“You wanted me to be nice?! I’m nice to my friends...I’m nice to my family...I’m nice to my fans...my opponents...the press...I’m nice to everyone! No Jill, you didn’t want me to be nice...you wanted me to fuck you, and I wouldn’t do that if you were the last person on this planet!” Ali angrily retorted.

 

Ali and Jill both turned as loud gasps came from behind the old coach. Heather and Syd stood rooted to the floor in shock. 

 

Chapter Text

Sydney Leroux was many things. She was intelligent, witty, caring, badass, loud and loyal...loud to a fault...loyal beyond reasoning, which is why Heather grabbed Sydney around the waist as the forward lunged at Jill. Ali smirked with satisfaction as Jill jumped back, intimidated by the sudden movement. 

 

“You fucking v.d. infested cum cavity! I’m gonna…” Sydney managed to yell before Heather could clamp a hand over her mouth, effectively muffling her voice as Jill’s eyes narrowed.

 

It had taken a moment for the shock of Sydney’s rant to wear off, but Jill recovered her senses and pointed back and forth between the pair of players that stood between her and the door.

 

“If either of you breathes one word of this to anyone, you will be off the team so fast it will make your heads spin!” Jill growled and then spun on her heels to face Ali, “And as for you...you just earned yourself a permanent vacation from the National Team with those lies!”

 

The enraged forward was finally able to wrench Heather’s hand off her mouth and “...you don’t want Foudy’s solution…” rang through the room before the middie could clamp down on Sydney’s mouth again. Heather involuntarily shivered at the memory of Julie Foudy explaining how to get away with murdering Daniella Hearst in great gory detail at Abby’s back yard team meeting so long ago. 

 

“I suggest you leave before I turn her loose, Jill. We fully expect both Ali and Ash at next camp if you don’t want us to go to the media.” Heather pressed back, her tone even and calm. 

 

“You do and it will be the last thing you ever do!” Jill spat out as she gave the players disguised as nurses a wide birth heading to the door. 

 

Once the door had shut, Heather held onto Sydney a little while longer so Jill would be out of reach before she released her grip on the enraged forward. Sydney spun around and glared at Heather.

 

“Why the hell did you do that?!” Sydney turned her ire onto Heather, “You let her get away before I could beat her ass!”

 

“I was keeping you from getting arrested, Syd.” Heather replied as she shook her head and made her way over to Ali.

 

Heather felt nauseated as she looked past Ali to Ashlyn laying in the bed with tubes sticking out of her. 

 

“God Ali, I am so sorry. What do you need right now? Name it and it’s yours.” Heather gently inquired as Ali’s eyes filled with unshed tears once more.

 

“A hug.” the defender’s broken voice replied.

 

Heather and Sydney shared a look of concern as the sable haired beauty shattered in the Heather’s arms, Sydney quickly joining them, her anger tamped down by the sight. 

 

***

 

Brooke scooped her backpack off the conveyer belt and slung it over her shoulder as she angrily made her way from the security check point to her gate. She had never...never...been suspended in all her decades on the force. It was beyond humiliating! And all because of that little kidnapped brat. 

 

The pissed off detective slid her airline ticket back into her passport and shoved both into the inside breast pocket of her jacket. She had a month before she could go back to work. Brooke was going to bring back all the evidence the prosecutor would need to toss that soccer playing kidnapper in prison for life. Then she would get hired by the FBI, and Chief Gundersen could go fuck himself repeatedly. Brooke looked up at the gate numbers and sighed, of course the plane to Punta Cana was parked at the furthest gate of the concourse!  

 

***

 

Deb watched as her daughter took a pre-moistened disposable bathing cloth out of the package that the nurse had left on the bedside table for her, and started carefully wiping the cleansing solution over Ashlyn’s face. Once Ali and Ashlyn’s lawyer had gotten involved, the police had backed down and allowed the keeper to have visitors. It had taken the other players a week before they had agreed to go back to their NWSL teams. Grams was at the hotel nearby trying to get some sleep, but how long could she afford to keep the room? The older woman sighed, she had tried to get the Harris matriarch to stay in her hotel room with her, but the old woman had simply brushed her off. 

 

Deb smiled sadly at the loving care and devotion her daughter showed for her keeper. It had been almost three weeks and Ashlyn had shown little improvement. The longer it went on...Deb closed her eyes tight. No. She couldn’t think like that...and Ali would be furious if she ever found out that her mother had doubts that Ashlyn would pull through...still. It tore at her soul to think that her daughter might have to bury her wife...her soulmate...at such a young age. 

 

“You really should come back to the hotel with me, baby girl. You know...take a hot shower…get into some of your own clothes...” Deb started.

 

“No. You know I can’t leave. What if she wakes up and I’m not here?!” Ali replied tersely without turning around as she ran the cleansing cloth over Ashlyn’s neck.

 

“Alex, you stink. You need to take a shower, get out of those scrubs the nurses keep giving you. Eat something that isn’t hospital food...sleep in a real bed. If you don’t take care of yourself, what do you suppose Ash is going to think when she wakes up and sees you...or worse yet smells you?!” Deb tried to reason with her daughter for like the hundredth time.

 

Ali blew out an exasperated breath, “She is going to know that her wife never left her side because she is so very loved. Look, if you don’t want to be here you are free to leave anytime you want, mom.”

 

Deb stood and padded over to her daughter. She reached out and stilled the younger woman’s hands. Guilt twisted in the older woman’s gut as she saw her daughter’s eyes filled with unshed tears as Ali pulled her hands free.

 

“I’m not going to leave her...ever! So just go. Go rest or whatever. We’re fine.” Ali lashed out.

 

“I’m so sorry, baby girl. I know you don’t want to leave for even a second.” Deb wrapped her arms around a protesting Ali who tried to shove her away, but finally gave in to the warmth of her mother’s embrace, “This is hard on all of us. We all love Ashlyn, honey, but we all love you too.” 

 

Deb kissed the crown of her daughter’s head as the tears finally streamed down Ali’s cheeks and off her chin, creating wet spots on the fuchsia colored scrubs she was wearing. Deb gently rocked the defender as she held her tightly to her chest. Tears welled in the older woman’s eyes as she felt helpless to ease her daughter’s suffering. If only she could wave her magic wand and make Ashlyn wake up...make everything right in her two daughters’ lives again. 

 

Ali cried for what seemed like hours before her tears ran dry. She sniffled and wiped her nose on the back of her hand. Deb let her arms fall away as Ali stepped back and held her head high as she walked over to the sink then washed the snot off the back of her hand. She used a paper towel to dry her hands and another one to blow her nose. Both women’s heads turned towards the door as it opened and Grandma Harris walked in carrying several plastic bags. 

 

The smell of citrus grilled chicken filled the room, and Ali’s stomach growled loudly in response.  The old lady chuckled as she made her way over to the brunette and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. 

 

“Well I was gonna ask you how Tumble was today, but I think you might be in dire need of this chicken dinner I picked up for you, Peanut. Land sakes, I haven’t heard a stomach make that much noise since Rough and Tumble were teenagers!” Grandma Harris teased Ali as she set the bags down on the table and started rummaging through them, taking to go containers full of food from Fresh Kitchen out, “I hope this is ok with your special rooty-tootie-snooty pro athlete diet.” 

 

“Oh my god, Grams, I think you are my favorite human right now!” Ali replied as she gratefully accepted the container of food, her mouth watering...it had been way too long since she ate anything but hospital food...but she wasn’t going to admit that to her mom. 

 

As Ali dug into her meal with gusto, the old lady went over and placed a gentle kiss on Ashlyn’s forehead. It hurt her heart to see her granddaughter lying so still with tubes sticking out all over the place. At least most of the bruises on her face had finally faded. 

 

She leaned over and whispered into Ashlyn’s ear, “You need to wake up now Tumble. Peanut needs you real bad, and so does that little girl, Tallulie. I hate to say it, but the docs are getting pretty antsy to kick your carcass out of here, so open up your eyes now, sweetheart. Your time’s running out.”

 

***

 

Jenn sighed as she hung up the phone. It was another dead end. Nobody seemed to know where Tallulah’s mother had taken her. Their old house had been sold, and she wasn’t enrolled in the same school. Nothing turned up on a public records search for a newly purchased home in her name either. They just seemed to have vanished into thin air. It was beyond frustrating. 

 

The young lawyer looked at her watch. She had time to make a few more calls before she had to  leave for the hospital to visit Ali and be there for her favorite clients as Ashlyn had her breathing tube removed. She had hoped to have some good news for Ali by now. Some days seemed darker than others, and today was one of them. Perhaps it was time to reach out to her favorite private investigator and see what she could dig up. Jenn’s lips curled into a smile...the attractive female investigator was always nice to work with...and she always produced results. Jenn subconsciously licked her lips before she cradled the phone to her ear and dialed the number. Jamie was the perfect woman for the job...or perhaps she was just perfect.

 

***

 

Ali twined her fingers with Ashlyn’s as she carefully laid her head down next to her wife’s on the pillow. The doctors had been after her to take her keeper off the ventilator for several days. They said the longer she remained on it, the worse her prognosis so she had reluctantly signed the consent form...but it still scared her. What if they removed the breathing tube and she didn’t breathe on her own? The sable haired beauty shuddered at the thought.  

 

“Babe, you have to wake up now. I’m serious. Your doctors are going to be coming in to remove your breathing tube today, and I need you to fight to stay with me, ok? You promised, and I know you never break your promises, Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris, so you better not start now! Open your beautiful eyes for me, Ash.” Ali pleaded, her voice breaking the silence in the room. 

 

Looking up at the clock, Ali sighed. No matter how hard she tried, time wouldn’t stop...the doctors would be coming in about three hours to remove Ashlyn from the ventilator, and their family would be coming even sooner. She knew her wife would be embarrassed if all her family came and she was completely disheveled, so Ali gently uncovered Ashlyn, moving the covers to one side where she could bring them over her wife’s body quickly if someone entered the room, then took out a bathing cloth from the package. She started with the keeper’s face, gently washing away the oils that had built up on Ashlyn’s skin. 

 

“You know Ash, I remember the first time I saw you like it was ten minutes ago. I had just put my hand on the door to the locker room to push it open and it moved before I was ready for it to...and I fell forward...until I was suddenly stopped by your body. I remember looking up at you in shock, and your face...your beautiful face was framed by that long, wavy, beachy-blonde hair. God, you were so fucking good looking you took my breath away. I think I actually gasped out loud, ” Ali giggled, “Oh god, and then I realized my face was pressed into your breasts. They were so soft against my cheek.”

 

Ali closed her eyes as the details of the encounter flooded her senses.

 

“You smelled so good too, baby. Like a sunny day at the beach combined with mossy trees in a forest. I don’t know how to describe it,” Ali leaned down and whispered into Ashlyn’s ear, “ but wow, it made me wet. I don’t think I ever told you that part before.”

 

Ali paused, letting herself relive the memory. Her lips curled into a sad smile, and she straightened up, dragging the bathing cloth over her wife’s left shoulder. 

 

“Needless to say, that scared the shit out of me and I wanted nothing more than to get as far away from you as quickly as I could. But then, I noticed I had spilled my shit all over the floor. I could feel your gorgeous eyes raking over me...judging me...as I shoved it all back into the bag in an all out panic.” Ali recalled as she ran the cloth down her wife’s inked arm, “And I thought I had made my get away when I noticed I only had one fucking shin guard. Ugh. Oh, but then you had to go and flash me that damned smirk with that damned dimple! I didn’t stand a chance, babe. I was feeling things I had never felt before...and then you went and ruined it all when you opened up that big, fat, cocky-keeper mouth of yours!” 

 

Ali took her time and rubbed all the dirt from underneath each of Ashlyn’s fingernails with the corner of the bathing cloth as she continued, “It’s a damned good thing you are hot, or I would never have overlooked that swollen head of yours. I still don’t know how you manage to get it through doorways, babe.”

 

The sable haired beauty ran the cloth back up the underside of her wife’s inked arm, taking time to work it around the keeper’s left armpit really well followed by the right one, “Can’t forget to clean your smelly pits...maybe I should shave them before everyone gets here.”

 

Ali threw away the used cloth and got out a fresh one to finish cleaning the keeper’s body. Once that was done, she dug through the personal hygiene kit the nurses had left on the bedside table, producing a single-bladed disposable razor and travel sized can of shave gel. The defender padded over to the sink and wet the razor before returning to her wife’s bedside. The sable haired beauty squirted the gel into her palm and rubbed them together before spreading the gel all over Ashlyn’s armpits. Ali carefully shaved them clean. She tossed the razor in the trashcan next to the sink and washed her hands. 

 

Returning to Ashlyn’s bedside, the defender took out the small can of dry shampoo and sprayed it all over her keeper’s hair. Ali paused just before she set it down, shrugged and then sprayed it into her own sable locks as well. Now maybe her mom wouldn’t give her a lecture about neglecting herself. Ali took out the comb and styled Ashlyn’s hair as best she could. 

 

“There. All done. You are ready for your adoring public, Stud.” Ali commented as she set the comb aside. 

 

Tears welled up in Ali’s eyes as she looked at her wife lying there. Why wouldn’t she just wake the fuck up?! This couldn’t really be the way their story ended. Ali swiped at her eyes. 

 

“Please Ash...baby...please open your eyes for me.” Ali nearly choked on the words she had said at least a thousand times in the past few weeks. 

 

*** 

 

Ali spent the rest of the morning alternating between pleading for her wife to wake up, and telling her how much she loved her. As the hours turned into minutes before the doctors arrived to take Ashlyn off the ventilator, the room filled with relatives. Everyone whispering things that they wished they had told the keeper before, and had to say now...just in case. Grandma Harris was the last one to lean over and whisper into her granddaughter’s ear.

 

“Now you listen up, Tumble, and you listen good. Peanut is beside herself with worry for you. I’ve never seen that woman look so...well...downright fucked up...as she is now. You best find your way back now because you are out of time. These doctors are here to shut off the machines, and I don’t know how Peanut will manage to live without you. So whatever you have to do...whoever’s ass you have to beat with a damned dead fish to get back here...you best get to doin it! And remember, this here old lady loves you. I’ll be seeing you soon...on this side or the other.” Grandma Harris whispered before she kissed Ashlyn’s cheek. 

 

Tick...tick...tick. The clock once again mocked Ali’s fear and pain. The defender gently climbed into bed next to her wife as the time slipped away. She melded her body against her wife’s and breathed in her scent. She didn’t care that Ashlyn’s body was slightly sweaty even after she had bathed her...it reminded her of better times...days under the hot sun out on a futbol pitch...nights filled with passion that left them both sweaty and spent. Before she was ready, the team of doctors and nurses filed in.

 

Grandma Harris stood next to the bed and put one hand on Ali’s arm and the other she gripped Ashlyn’s limp hand. Deb stepped up next to her, behind Ali and put a hand on Ali’s back and Grandma Harris’s shoulder. Ali took a deep breath and clenched her eyes shut...the fear she felt over losing Ashlyn squeezing her heart like a vise and stealing her breath away. The defender laid her head on her wife’s chest and listened to the beating of Ashlyn’s strong heart...thump thump...thump thump...thump thump. 

 

It was as if time slowed to a crawl. Thump thump...Ali could hear the doctors talking to each other. Thump thump...she heard the ventilator make it’s last gasp as the power was shut off. Thump thump...she heard the skin tape being pulled off from around Ashlyn’s mouth. Thump thump...she felt Ashlyn’s head shake slightly as the tube was removed. Thump...thump...Ali prayed for her wife’s chest to rise. Thump...thump...Tears welled in her eyes as she noticed Ashlyn’s heartbeat slowing. Thump...thump...Ali’s grip tightened around her wife. Thump...Ali’s eyes flew open.

 

“Goddamnit breathe Ashlyn Michelle Krieger-Harris!” Ali screamed, her voice full of pain and rage. 

 

Thump…

 

“I fucking mean it woman! You are not going to leave me here alone!” Ali seethed.

 

Thump…

 

The silence in the room was deafening. 

 

Tears streamed down Ali’s face and she let out a strangled cry as Ashlyn suddenly took in a breath...then another. Thump...Ali collapsed in the bed next to Ashlyn and her body shook with the force of her relieved sobs. Thump...thump...thump. 

 

Deb wiped the tears from Grandma Harris’s eyes before swiping away her own. The room buzzed with relieved chatter. 

 

“I wasn’t judging you.” the horse voice cracked through the din.

 

Ali gasped and sat up, her eyes wide with surprise. She looked down and tears streamed from her eyes as she gazed into concerned hazel orbs. 

 

“Oh my god, Ash! What did you say?!” Ali blurted out as she cupped her wife’s face.

 

“I wasn’t judging you...that day you ran into me. I’d never judge you, my queen. I lov...” Ashlyn replied, her mind fuzzy about a lot of things except that she needed to reassure Ali of that fact before she was cut off by Ali’s lips covering hers in a desperate soul connecting kiss.

 

Ali's kisses always made sense of everything...