Confused at the start
But it's all making sense
You're not yet a lover
But you're more than a friend
There are some things you know
But things you can't understand
Oh, babe won't you kiss me all night
While the storm is raging outside
“ I said I don’t want to talk about it.”
“There’s nothing to talk about Linds, I got a red. I got a red and my team lost, okay? I just want to get in my bed.” Kelley hated snapping at Lindsey, she didn’t really mean for it to come out the way it did. But Kelley was angry. She had basically the Triple Crown of bad games. Having her goal called back for some stupid reason, the yellow, and then finally the red. She didn’t know how to not be competitive, how not to give 300% all the time. The first challenge she knew she went in hard, maybe a little too hard, but she’d gotten the ball. Alex had laughed off the second challenge and told Kelley she owed her a drink for it, but there was nothing malicious about any of it. Kelley had gotten plenty of yellows before, maybe not as many Lindsey, but getting a red? She hadn’t done that in a long time. So, yeah, she was angry, but she wasn’t angry at Lindsey. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap.”
“S’okay.” Lindsey replied softly, almost inaudible over the phone.
“No, it’s not. I’ve lost games before; I should be able to handle myself better.”
“You wouldn’t be you if that was true.” Lindsey giggled.
“You can talk to me about it, Kel. It’s kind of what I'm here for.”
This thing between them was still very new. Whatever it was, Kelley couldn’t quite come up with a name for it. Friends that kiss sometimes? Okay, a lot of times. Lovers? God no, what an awful term. But certainly not girlfriends. Not yet anyways. Besides, they hadn’t really done much to earn any kind of label, not that Kelley believed in labels. All that mattered was that Lindsey brought her comfort in a way she’d never felt before. She’d never been in a relationship where someone wanted to take care of her. Kelley had always been the caretaker, even among her friends, always the one who made sure everyone around her was happy and the one who tended to everyone else’s needs before her own.
But she didn’t have to do that so much with Lindsey. Lindsey, who was strong, secure in herself, and unwilling to let anyone shoulder her burdens. Lindsey who sent a beautiful bouquet of all Kelley’s favorite flowers last Tuesday, just because. Lindsey who was just as fiery and competitive on the field as Kelley, but much more willing to back down off it to let Kelley get her way (sometimes).
So, there might not be a word for what they were, for what they had, but that seemed to make it all the more special.
“You have your own game, why are you on the phone with me right now?” The Thorns should have taken the field by now for their game against the Reign and Kelley wasn’t about to be the reason Lindsey’s head wasn’t in the game.
“I’m going, told Mark I needed to use the restroom. Had to check in on you because otherwise you’d be stewing about this all night.”
“I do not stew. And you don’t have to check up on me.” Kelley countered and Lindsey barked out a laugh.
“Okay, sure. Are you going to watch?”
“As long as Sonny doesn’t start snoring and the rookies next door don’t get another noise complaint.”
To Lindsey, who was learning how to read Kelley better and better each day, that was an "of course I’ll be watching” wrapped in so many more words. She knew that Kelley would be glued to the TV, only looking down at her phone to send a string of texts for Lindsey to see after the game. She also knew that sometimes words were hard for Kelley, who so often showed her love with actions, sometimes grand gestures like surprise birthday parties for teammates and staff or flying out to see her family unannounced. But other times, she showed it with small things that not everyone noticed. Like when she offered to massage Lindsey’s foot after their last national team game, where she got stepped on so many times that some blood seeped into her sock. Kelley was always more invested in Lindsey’s recovery than Lindsey was. It must have been because of her own injury concerns mixed with her worries about how often Lindsey threw her body around in games. Or like the last time Lindsey came to Washington, under the guise of helping Sonny move and not long after Kelley had moved in herself, she found a basket on the bathroom counter filled with all the products she used at home. Kelley snuck up behind her that night, wrapping her small arms around Lindsey's waist. “In case you ever forget something.” She’d whispered into the taller woman’s shoulder, unable to reach her neck. So, really, Lindsey never needed to ask the question, the answer was always the same.
“Alright, well I’ve got to go, okay?”
“M’kay.” Kelley sighed. “But babe?” Lindsey didn’t think she’d ever get tired of hearing that word fall off Kelley’s lips. She remembered the first time it happened, well the first time there wasn’t a joke behind it. Kelley had changed her flight from the Netherlands after camp to come to Denver, before making her Washington debut, to be with Lindsey while she was still sick. At first, Lindsey had been pissed that she had broken quarantine, but she would never have the willpower to actually make her leave. Kelley cleaned her apartment from top to bottom, going through multiple bottles of bleach while Lindsey watched her from the couch. The last night she was there, Lindsey wanted to kiss her so bad and told the brunette as much. Kelley pressed her lips to the blonde’s hairline before softly saying, “next time, okay babe?” And the next time they saw each other, just before January camp and in the airport bathroom of all places, they shared their first kiss.
“Score me a golazo.”
Lindsey could hear Kelley’s smile through the phone. “You got it.”
When Lindsey did score off that free kick, Kelley nearly screamed. She stopped herself, looking over at Sonnett who was curled up under the blankets and breathing deeply. She could tell that the smaller blonde had been conflicted about watching her old team, still hurt by the way she was pushed aside for a new, shinier toy even though she wanted to support her best friend. That night, she took her melatonin and passed out. She would blame it on not playing a full 90 since She Believes, and Kelley would let her. She grabbed her phone off the nightstand and began typing away.
In the 17th minute?? You’re crazy
Crazy good, obviously
At least one of us gets to keep our free kick goal
Man, we could’ve been matching
Speaking of matching
Kelley sent a photo of herself in the bed, showing off the Thorns hoodie she’d successfully snuck out of Lindsey’s suitcase at camp. It dwarfed her, but it still smelled like Lindsey, like the coconut soap she loved so much.
You had such a great game babe
Proud of you
I miss you so much
Lindsey read through the messages as she changed. Each one brought a smile to her face for a different reason. She dialed Kelley’s number as she walked to her car in the stadium parking lot.
“Hi.” Kelley answered, her voice thick with sleep.
“Shit! I keep forgetting you’re on the east coast now. I’m sorry Kel, go back to bed. I’ll call you in the morning.”
“No, Linds, stay. Talk to me.” The brunette’s tired, whiny voice struck Lindsey right in the heart. As if she could ever deny Kelley anything, even when they were 3000 miles apart.
“The goal was pretty nice, huh?”
“Someone’s a little cocky.” Kelley chuckled.
“I miss you, Kel.” Lindsey blurted out, veering off the light subject matter. “So much.”
“I miss you too, baby. More than you know.”
Because she honestly wasn’t sure it was possible to miss someone as much as Kelley missed Lindsey. For so long, Kelley had wondered if her choices had resigned her to a life of loneliness. Every relationship ended the same way. “You never make time for me” or “The distance is too much” or “If you really loved me, you’d get yourself traded here”. All the awards, all the accolades felt hollow without someone to share them with. Of course, she had her family, and she had friends like Alex and Sonnett, but it wasn’t the same.
And if she was being honest with herself, which she wasn’t always, missing someone that much scared the hell out of Kelley. She had never been someone who relied on other people. Sure, she liked attention, but she didn’t need it.
Enter Lindsey Horan. Lindsey Horan who showed up to national team camp at 18 years old and already a more balanced professional than Kelley would ever be. She preened under Lindsey’s attention, finding herself looking for reasons to hang out with the younger girls. It took them a long time, much too long now that Kelley looked back at it, but that time only made their bond stronger. Not that she should really complain, because while unconsciously seeking out Lindsey’s attention, her relationship with Sonnett grew stronger every day and that was something Kelley was so grateful for.
And Lindsey didn’t have any expectations of Kelley, never demanded anything of her. They both led incredibly busy lives but always found a way to make time for one another. Sometimes they were together, but other times it was over the phone, miles apart.
“Come to Portland. There’s a week before we go to Houston, and you can’t play in the next game.” Kelley’s nostrils flared a little at the reminder of her suspension.
“Linds, I can’t...”
“Why not?” Now Lindsey was being the whiny one.
“Can we FaceTime?” Kelley slid out from under her covers and closed herself in the hotel bathroom without waiting for Lindsey's response. When the blonde’s face appeared on the screen, wet hair slung over one shoulder and tired, green eyes staring back, Kelley couldn’t help but smile, sitting on the tile and resting against the lip of the bathtub. “Hi.”
“Please come?” Lindsey responded before Kelley’s sleepy charm deterred the conversation.
“Linds... I need to be there with my team. Everyone already thinks I don’t give a shit about club play, and I need to prove to them that’s not true.” There was another reason for Kelley to stick around too but she was sure Lindsey wouldn’t want to hear it. “And... Sonnett needs me here. Or there, I guess, you know what I mean. She thinks that goal was her fault, and you know how she gets. I need to keep her spirits up or she’ll crumble against Midge next week.”
Lindsey blinked her eyes slowly, processing the words so she wouldn’t snap. She and Sonnett had their own relationship, one which had been strained for a while as Emily dealt with her trade, but they were finally back to the way they were before, now that she was out of Orlando and finally seemed happy.
Kelley’s relationship with Sonnett was different though. They were so alike it was frightening sometimes. Over the years they’d developed into each other’s support system. Kelley when she got injured, Sonnett when she got traded. They both swore up and down that they’d never hooked up before, that they loved each other like sisters, but Lindsey was still hesitant to believe them. She hated feeling jealous of her best friend, but Sonnett had chosen Washington to be closer to her own girlfriend, so why couldn’t she help keep Sonny's spirits up? Lindsey hated herself sometimes for wondering if the two Georgians had conspired on these trades to be closer to each other. Because now, the two most important people in Lindsey’s life were on the other side of the country, seemingly having the time of their lives without her.
It was extra hard because people didn’t know. Well, Lindsey was pretty positive Sonny knew by now, they weren’t exactly great at hiding it sometimes, but she didn’t say anything if she did. Either that or she wasn’t as observant as Lindsey gave her credit for. Like last month at camp when she walked into the bathroom at dinner and found Lindsey’s hands in Kelley’s back pockets and Kelley’s face craning up and into Lindsey’s neck. Sonny didn’t say anything, just kind of rolled her eyes as she walked into a stall.
Rose, on the other hand, definitely knew something. It was obvious by the way she refused to leave the room unless one of them left as well. She made sure to comment on Lindsey’s plate at dinner, which nearly mirrored Kelley’s, piled high with greens and just a few shreds of chicken because the nutrition staff said they had to have a protein.
“Since when did you start eating like a rabbit too?” She quirked one eye at Lindsey before turning her head to see Kelley, who was walking to her table, with the exact same meal on her plate.
“I’ve always liked salad.” Lindsey replied defensively as Rose walked away.
Then there was the time Rose insisted on switching rooms with Lindsey for the evening, leaving her alone with Kelley, and decided to pop in every half hour claiming she forgot something. It was like she was standing outside the door all night, just waiting to catch them. As soon as Kelley cuddled up to Lindsey on the bed, the sound of the key card in the door would cause them to spring apart, landing Kelley on the floor one time. The second Lindsey’s lips ghosted over the back of Kelley's neck while she brushed her teeth, that same sound would cause Kelley to choke on her toothpaste.
A lot of the time, sneaking around was hot, but sometimes Lindsey thought about how nice it would be to hold Kelley’s hand on the sidewalk or gush and show off the Valentine’s Day gift Kelley had given her (a gold bracelet with diamonds to match Kelley's own). One day they would be there, one day they would make that decision together and hold on to each other no matter what happened next.
“She’s a big girl, Kel. What if we’d lost and I needed my spirits lifted?”
It was another question Lindsey didn’t actually need the answer to, but she wanted to make Kelley feel a little guilty for a moment. If she really needed her, Kelley would be at Lindsey's side in minutes without question.
“Linds… don’t be like that.”
“Meet me in Houston then, after your game.”
“What about the championship? Then I can stay at your place for a couple days and we can celebrate.” Kelley countered and Lindsey’s eyes lit up just a bit.
“Like celebrate... or celebrate?” The blonde waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
The hadn’t had sex yet. This thing between them, whatever you want to call it, had resulted in quite a few heavy make-out sessions, but at night, Lindsey would pull Kelley in until her front met Kelley’s back, sliding one hand under the tee shirt Kelley borrowed and rested it against her abs, and that was it. That was all they needed. The closeness helped settle Kelley’s mind, quelling her fears, and it gave Lindsey an opportunity to be the protector, the one that could shield them from the bad stuff.
Kelley had had a lot of sex in her life, in high school, in college and after, not really thinking much of it, but Lindsey had only been with one person her whole adult life. So, as much as Kelley hated him and wanted Lindsey to be able to experience the things that he never gave her, she also wanted to respect her boundaries while she worked through the (multiple) break ups and again when Lindsey began to come to terms with having feelings for a woman. So, like the true southern gentleman she was, Kelley tried her best to woo Lindsey without falling into bed together. Lindsey would have to be the one to initiate that, and Kelley had made it clear that she was more than willing to wait, something she had never done in a relationship before this one. It seemed like that day might be on the horizon for them, and Kelley couldn’t wait to give Lindsey everything she’d missed out on in all those years with him.
“Worry about winning the game first, doofus! Besides, you still have Houston.”
“Yeah, but we’re already through.” Kelley quirked an eyebrow at Lindsey’s flippancy. As much as Lindsey would play it off like their game against Houston wasn’t important, Kelley knew that she wouldn’t give anything less than 100% for 90+ minutes. They were cut from the same cloth in that way. Lindsey’s giddiness at the potential of seeing Kelley so soon had overtaken her uber competitive mindset for a moment.
“I doubt Kristie or Rachel will care about that.”
“What do I get if I score?”
Kelley exaggerated a yawn before answering. “You’ll just have to wait to find out.”
“Boo... you’re no fun.” Lindsey pouted.
“How dare you lie like that; I am the most fun! Sounds like grumpypants needs to get herself to bed.”
Kelley was still resting against the lip of the bathtub in the hotel room while Lindsey climbed in her bed, the FaceTime screen jostling for a moment, only for Lindsey’s dimples to appear again, tucked into her navy-blue bedding.
“Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?” Kelley asked, in awe of this woman looking back through the screen. Her Lindsey.
“Not today.” Lindsey giggled softly.
“Well, you should hear it every day. The most beautiful woman in the whole, wide world.”
Lindsey’s cheeks were tinged with pink as she sunk lower into her blankets. “’Night, Keppy.”
“’Night, Lindy. Sweet dreams.” Kelley said, ending the call before the words she wanted to say spilled out. I love you.
She quietly snuck back into her hotel bed, making sure not to wake Sonnett. But suddenly, her raspy voice was coming from under the covers. “You guys are gross, be quieter next time.”