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The Trouble with Hello is Goodbye

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If Christen is sure about anything in life at all, it’s that she doesn’t do cold weather.

 

She absolutely hates it.

 

Her thin California blood just wasn’t made for it and it’s like a form of torture for her anytime she has to endure it.

 

Once the air temperatures drop below 70 degrees, she automatically has a jacket on without even caring about how ridiculous it makes her look.

 

So she can’t for the life of her remember why she’s still in Chicago this late in the year. Cursing herself as she and Morena stand on the front steps of Tobin’s Lincoln Park townhome, waiting for the lanky brunette to hurry up and answer the door.

 

They had just walked the almost two-mile distance from her River North condo to Tobin’s place because Christen’s car was currently stuck there; buried into the curb from the snowplows that had passed several times over the last week since she had left the car there on her way to the airport.

 

She was regretting that decision majorly right now.

 

Christen could actually feel herself getting more frustrated by the second. The harsh early-winter breeze blowing too intensely for her to stand, even for a minute longer. It was like the wind was chilling her bones to the core and she was afraid she may never warm up again.

 

The packed down snow she was standing on top of wasn’t help things, either.

 

It was just crunching underneath her feet noisily as she alternated back and forth, doing a funny little dance with the hope that her movements would make any sort of difference in her body temperature.

 

Morena had been looking up at her like she was also unimpressed by the whole situation; the pup shivering lightly as she was standing in her dog booties and fleece lined coat that Christen had gotten for her at the first sign of winter.

 

“Please, please, please hurry.” Christen whined out loud, quickly ringing the doorbell a second time to show her distress.

 

It was another few moments before Tobin was swinging the door open. Standing in front of her now with her hair freshly blow-dried and pushed over her shoulder like she had just finished getting ready no more than thirty seconds ago.

 

Christen wanted to be annoyed but she would have been lying to say the sight of Tobin didn’t instantly warm her up just a little bit.

 

“Remind me again why I’m still here?” She questioned as she and Morena stepped around Tobin into the house without any other sort of greeting, hopping up and down slightly in the entryway to warm herself up as Tobin swung the door shut behind them again.

 

“Because winter is your favorite season and you just can’t get enough of the snow?” Tobin guessed sarcastically, pretending like she was serious.

 

“Nope.” Christen shook her head, pulling off her stocking cap and then rustling her curly hair a little to get rid of the inevitable hat hair it had caused.

 

“Oh, I know.” Tobin tried a second guess, toeing at Christen’s winter boots with a grin. “Because you’ve always wanted an excuse to wear those giant boots and you can’t do that in LA because your feet would get too sweaty.”

 

“Nope.” Christen shrugged again without smiling because she was still chilled enough to be a little bit crabby.

 

“Hmmm.” Tobin grinned a little wider as she stepped closer to Christen. “Because you really like my face and you didn’t want to be without me for five whole months in a row?”

 

“Definitely not.” Christen tried not to smile at that and failed just slightly.

 

“Huh, I don’t know then.” Tobin shrugged playfully.

 

“Oh yeah, it’s because my car is buried under a thousand feet of snow and I don’t own a shovel to dig myself out so that I can escape this frozen hell.”

 

Tobin chuckled as she rolled her eyes, leaning in to kiss the crease between Christen’s eyebrows, trying to get her to relax.

 

“You’re cute when you’re crabby.” She hummed after she placed another kiss to Christen’s lips. “I’ll let you borrow my shovel, don’t worry about it.”

 

“And your arm muscles, and your shoveling skills.” Christen insisted, holding eye contact with Tobin until the brown-eyed woman finally agreed.

 

“Sure. You can stay in here by the fire while I dig your car out. It’ll be okay, I promise.” Tobin calmed her easily as she pulled Christen into a solid embrace.

 

Christen would have protested the hug if it hadn’t made her feel so damn happy and warm in an instant.

 

Instead of fighting it, she wrapped her arms tightly around Tobin’s shoulders in return, getting the best grip she could with her giant winter coat hindering her arm movements. Holding on for a long moment until she was warmer again.

 

“Hi, by the way.” Tobin tried again when Christen eventually let go of their hug.

 

“Hi.” Christen hummed. Her sour mood gone as quickly as it’d come, leaning in for another quick kiss before taking a half step back to untie her boots. “How was work? Sorry I wasn’t awake when you left this morning, you should have woken me up and kicked me out.”

 

“Nah, that’s okay.” Tobin shrugged again. “I wanted to let you sleep, you looked nice and cozy under the covers and I didn’t wanna disturb you.”

 

“I was nice and cozy.” Christen grinned a little easier. “Until I got up. Your house was so cold this morning! I had to steal a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt from you because I couldn’t find my clothes anywhere in your room and I wasn’t about to search for them naked.”

 

“They were right down here in the living room where I took them off of you last night...”

 

“Yeah, I remembered that after I finally came downstairs and saw them.” Christen mused. “I guess you had me a little distracted on the way to bed...”

 

They both stood there silently as they replayed their actions from the night before in their minds until Christen cleared her throat.

 

“Anyway, I wore your sweatpants home and I’m definitely keeping them because they’re really comfortable.”

 

“You think that now.” Tobin smiled. “But next time I’m naked at your place, I’m totally gonna steal them back.”

 

They held eye contact until Tobin winked cockily making Christen finally give up.

 

Tobin then bent down and ruffled Morena’s ears before she gently took her dog booties off, one by one, and then scooped the dog up into her arms like a baby; walking towards the living room with her cradled tightly as they left Christen behind.

 

Christen laughed as she watched them disappear around the corner. Reminded again why she was indeed still willingly in Chicago during the second week of December.

 

Tobin and her ridiculous, charming, irresistible self.

 

The truth is, Christen could have been gone by now. Several times over, if she had wanted to. But they had been doing this for quite a while now - making time for each other around their real lives - so much so that it almost felt like a habit.

 

Between friends, and work, and all the things they didn’t have in common.

 

Sure, they would let their lives mix into each other’s when it was convenient; Tobin joining the team for a night out over the summer, or Christen accompanying Tobin and her friends to a gallery show during the fall, but it was always something casual.

 

Usually though, their time together was still just between them.

 

Their thing, whatever it was, was fun and stress-free and undramatic. With no labels and no expectations and exactly how both of them liked it.

 

Christen’s club season had ended in October, after a heartbreaking loss in the Semifinal playoff game, and she’d been in and out of the city ever since. With the National Team for games in New Orleans and North Carolina, and even to California once for Thanksgiving.

 

But for some reason, she and Morena just hadn’t gotten around to loading the car up with her clothes and essentials and making the drive back home to LA for the winter.

 

The excuse she used every time she was asked was that she was keeping her apartment in Chicago during the offseason this year, and she didn’t want it sitting unoccupied for so long when she could easily come back to check on it.

 

But deep down she knew it wasn’t only that.

 

It just so happened that every time Christen was back in the city and ready to pack her things and head for the west coast, there was always another invitation for an event with Tobin that she didn’t want to say no to, or a coffee date that would spiral into them spending three straight days together.

 

And every time, before Christen even knew it, she was out of time and back to being busy again.

 

This week was the last week she was staying, though. It had to be.

 

Christmas was soon and she needed time with her family, plus she had to start training again before National Team camp in early January; so after Friday night’s Chicago Symphony Christmas Concert that Tobin had gotten them tickets for, she was leaving the cold and snow behind until her club season started again in the Spring.

 

Now all she had to do was use the rest of the week to convince herself that leaving wouldn’t that be hard.  

 

Luckily Morena hadn’t seemed to mind still being here one bit, either.

 

She stayed with Tobin every time Christen traveled and the two had become close. Which was evident again as Christen finally got her winter boots off and rounded the corner towards the living room behind them.

 

Tobin was already on the couch in front of the burning fireplace, holding Morena in her lap closely as they gazed at the illuminated Christmas tree in the corner of the room. The dog was practically already asleep and feeling right at home.

 

“I think my dog loves you more than she loves me now.” Christen commented as she plopped down next to them on the sofa.

 

“Yeah, probably.” Tobin teased as she pulled her arm out from underneath the dog and proceeded to wrap it around Christen’s shoulders to pull her in. “Do you blame her though?”

 

Christen laughed a little as she willingly snuggled in close, listening as the fire cracked from across the room. “Not right now I don’t. Please warm me up.”

 

She laid her head down on Morena’s fur as the dog rested on Tobin’s lap, feeling Tobin’s warm hand sneak under her sweater to rub her back softly.

 

“So guess what?” Tobin questioned after a bit of silence as she let her hand move around to Christen’s sides, up to her ribs and down as far as she could go to her hip. Touching as much of the dark-haired woman’s skin as possible underneath her shirt.

 

“Hmmm?” Christen wondered, letting Tobin’s touch relax her and already feeling like she’d be ready for a nap any moment.

 

“I found my old pair of ice skates this afternoon.” Tobin murmured. “You know how I’ve been looking for them? Well, they were under a bunch of winter stuff in the back of my closet.”

 

“Ohhh.” Christen hummed softly if only to acknowledge Tobin’s comment.

 

“So you know what that means...” Tobin continued with her thought.

 

“I do not. What does it mean?” Christen wondered as her eyes closed easily.

 

“That means I have a pair for both of us now and we can actually go skating at Millenium Park before you leave.”

 

Tobin’s voice was so enthusiastic about the prospect of it that Christen almost felt bad as she started to laugh.

 

“Ah, no.” She shook her head. “Did you forget about all the complaining I just did when I got here? There is no way I’m spending even an hour outside falling on my ass in ice skates.”

 

“Chris, why not?” Tobin pretended to whine. “It’s one of my favorite Holiday traditions and I want us to go.”

 

“Well, you still can...” Christen shrugged as she sat back up from Tobin’s lap. “I’m not stopping you.”

 

Instead of responding Tobin just stuck her bottom lip out and gave Christen her best pleading look. Blinking her long eyelashes slowly like she knew the effect they’d have on the younger woman.

 

“That’s not going to work on me.” Christen insisted as she covered Tobin’s eyes with her hand. “I’m not affected by your stupid pouty face. You have no power over me.”

 

They both knew that was a lie. They’d been here one too many times before for either of them to actually believe that.

 

Tobin’s eyes and lips could get Christen to do just about anything, the same exact way Christen’s teasing fingertips and sultry smile worked on Tobin. They were annoyingly weak for each other and they’d probably never, ever admit it.

 

Tobin laughed and pulled Christen’s hand back down from her eyes. “We’re going skating, Christen. Tomorrow night.”

 

“Nope.” Christen responded again, laughing herself this time. “You have fun with that.”

 

“I am going to have fun... with you.” Tobin beamed. “You’re gonna look so cute all bundled up and holding my hand, I can’t wait.”

 

Christen was about to open her mouth to argue again but Tobin just closed the gap between them instead, her hand gently threading through Christen’s hair to the back of her neck to pull her in, kissing her soundly to drown out her protests.

 

She’d work on wearing her down some more later.

 

“You’re so annoying.” Christen mumbled with a smile against Tobin’s lips once they had finally ended their kiss.

 

“You like it.” Tobin grinned right back.

 

“Whatever…” Christen tried not to laugh as she pulled away and slowly stood up from the couch again. “We should probably get going otherwise we’re gonna be out shopping till midnight and you promised me you’d make me Christmas cookies tonight.”

 

Tobin watched as Christen rounded the corner to the entryway again to put her coat and boots back on so they could head down to Michigan Avenue to get some of Tobin’s Christmas present shopping done before they grabbed dinner out downtown.

 

The brunette smiled as she patted Morena’s head and then slid out from underneath the dog, doing as Christen asked without another word.

 

*

 

Tobin actually managed to get all of her Christmas shopping done that evening.

 

It took some convincing but she finally agreed to try Christen’s idea of using a list - which was, at first, a wild concept for the brunette - and it actually worked to her benefit. That, coupled with the firm understanding that Christen wasn’t doing this a second time made Tobin stay on track enough that they had several bags full of goodies and presents by the end of the night.

 

Tobin was hosting her parents, her two sisters and her little brother, plus all of their significant others in Chicago this year for the Holidays and she had a lot of work to do before then. She’d never done something so adult, and it was nice to have Christen there for encouragement while trying to buy extra decorations and holiday party favors that her mother would love, in preparation for their arrival.

 

She took Christen out to dinner as a thank you for your help gesture before they stopped at the small grocery store near Tobin’s place on their way home, to stock up on flour and sugar and all the essentials they would need to do some late night holiday baking.

 

Then the rest of the night turned into a game.

 

Guess a yes or no fact about the other correctly, or lose an article of clothing as punishment.

 

Something to keep them occupied while the cookies were in the oven, of course.

 

Their game had started because Tobin didn’t believe that Christen knew every single word to ‘Hey Ma’ by Cam'Ron or that she could rap it all perfectly.

 

To prove her wrong, Christen put her iPhone music on as loud as it would go and then nailed every single lyric like she wrote the song herself, much to Tobin’s entertainment.

 

“See, told you.” Christen clicked her tongue as the music faded out and she hit pause to quiet her phone again. “Now take off your shirt.”

 

Tobin laughed at her request. “Why? You take your shirt off.”

 

“No...” Christen shook her head as she hopped back down off the countertop where she had positioned herself in order to get in the zone to spit her rap. “I proved you wrong so I get a reward. And for my reward, I choose to look at your abs while we bake.”

 

Tobin stared at her for a moment and then rolled her eyes before peeling her shirt over her head, now standing there in just her black bra and jeans.

 

Christen smiled victoriously and went back to mixing the sugar cookie dough like it was no big deal.

 

“Fine.. we can play this game.” Tobin shrugged like she was being challenged. “Hmmm, what will stump you?”

 

She pondered on it a minute before she phrased her question to Christen.

 

After all, they’d become pretty familiar with each other over the last few months and it was getting harder and harder to think of things that they didn’t know about each other, at least at surface level.

 

“Okay, I’ve got one.” Tobin finally grinned when a good enough question came to her. “True or False… I won the Hamdan International Photography Award my first year out of college.”

 

“What is that?” Christen questioned, needing to know all the facts before she decided what her answer was going to be.

 

“It’s a pretty well-known photography award that people all over the world submit photos for.  A lot of amateurs enter, even. And the grand prize is $400,000 for the winner.”

 

Christen laughed like that seemed ridiculous. “Okay, that’s false.”

 

Tobin’s jaw dropped like she was mock offended that Christen didn’t believe her.

 

“Wait, let me clarify..” Christen put her hand up. “It’s not that I think you’re not talented enough to win an award like that. I’ve seen a lot of your work by now and you’re amazing. But, I feel like I would’ve known about it already had you actually won it. So… I pick false.”

 

“Yes! Shirt off, Press.” Tobin flicked her thumb at Christen without explaining it any further.

 

Christen was just smiling at Tobin like she was kidding. “Yeah, okay, Heath... Prove it.”

 

“You don’t trust me?” Tobin questioned amusedly.

 

Christen shrugged, still holding a big grin on her face. “Maybe I do, maybe I don’t.”

 

“Alright…” Tobin nodded and walked out of the room, leaving Christen alone in the kitchen with Morena who been napping on the floor for the last hour.

 

She ran upstairs to one of the spare bedrooms that she used as her office and then a minute later was back downstairs holding a large silver trophy with ‘Grand Prize Winner (Love of the Earth) 2011’ inscribed into the front of it. With Tobin’s name etched in below the title.

 

“Wow...” Christen mused impressively as she took the award out of Tobin’s hands to inspect it closer. “How’d you win it?”

 

“Ah, well I was in France the summer after college and I was exploring the countryside one day by myself and I ended up taking a bunch of photos of a random stranger who was standing below a giant tree just off the road that I happened to be on. She was a super old lady and she was looking up at the tree like she was praying to it, and I just couldn’t look away. So I snapped a bunch of photos and when I got back from my trip and was editing them, I was so captivated by what I was seeing that I figured I’d try and submit them for some competitions. And I won this one…”

 

“Holy shit.” Christen beamed proudly. “Why have you never told me about this?” She questioned before it dawned on her what Tobin had said about the prize. “Wait.. you won $400,000 from it?”

 

Tobin just grinned as she moved towards Christen and then slowly lifted the dark-haired woman’s shirt over her head for her. “....How do you think I own this Brownstone in the most expensive neighborhood in Chicago, Christen?”

 

Christen just gave Tobin a soft, closed-mouth smile and shrugged as she dropped her sweater to the floor without responding.

 

She would never ask a question like that so she had no idea how Tobin afforded to live in her big house until she told her just now.

 

Neither of them pressed the subject any further.

 

There were some trick questions thrown in there too, which made their game all the more fun as more and more skin made an appearance for both parties.

 

Christen was never actually voted ‘Most Likely to Take Over the World’ in her high school yearbook and Tobin didn’t break her leg when she was four by falling off the top of a playground slide.

 

By the time the second batch of cookies were out of the oven and resting on the cooling rack, Christen was sitting up on the countertop again, this time in her black, lacy underwear only; biting her bottom lip to stifle a moan as Tobin drizzled a line of homemade frosting up the inside of her bare thigh and was getting ready to lick it off.

 

Just as Tobin’s tongue started to run up the inside of her leg, Christen paused her movements. “Wait, Tobs.” She husked out thickly.

 

“Hmm?” Tobin hummed in question without removing her mouth from Christen’s skin.

 

“Morena, go lay down.” Christen pointed, wanting the dog to go into the living room and leave them alone. “Go lay down.” She said again.

 

Tobin lifted her head up enough to look down at the dog who was now wide awake and standing there watching them, before she looked up to Christen again. “Why?” she questioned.

 

“I don’t like it when she watches us do shit, it’s weird.” Christen murmured, taking a deep breath to settle her rapidly beating pulse from how worked up she had just become, thanks to Tobin.

 

Tobin started to laugh. “Chris, it’s not like she knows what we’re doing.”

 

“You don’t know that!” Christen exclaimed seriously. “It’s like my daughter watching me have sex. It’s too weird for me.”

 

“Oh my god, you’re way over thinking that...” Tobin chuckled as she stood up straight again, opening Christen’s legs wide enough to step in between them and lift her up off the countertop. “How about we go upstairs? The cookies can wait awhile and I cannot.”

 

Christen laughed as Tobin spun them around and carried Christen right out of the kitchen, heading for her bedroom. Leaving Morena and the cookies behind to finish what she had started.

 

Tobin didn’t even care that Christen got frosting all over her bed sheets, she just made sure the bedroom door was closed to avoid any further interruptions from their four-legged friend until they were both satisfied again.

 

*

 

Of course, they went skating the following night.

 

Christen tried her best to fend off Tobin’s pleas but she eventually broke down and gave in, just like they both knew she would.

 

She finally figured that if she was willingly still putting up with the snow and cold, the least she could do was try and make the most of it.

 

Tobin was gracious enough to carry both sets of skates in one hand while holding onto Christen's with her other hand on their walk to Millenium Park, already having given Christen the warmest pair of mittens she could find so the green-eyed woman wouldn’t get cold.

 

She really did want Christen to have fun.

 

Once they arrived she made sure Christen had her skates tied up tight and her stocking cap pulled down over her ears to block the wind, holding her close for a moment before they set foot on the big rink.

 

Christen even had a smile on her face as she stepped back from Tobin’s embrace and carefully followed her to the ice, trusting Tobin to keep her safe as she attempted to ice skate for the first time in her life.

 

The city skyscrapers were lit up all around them against the darkness and it was a really peaceful and gorgeous night for it; with the snow falling very lightly at the same time, making the whole world look like a lovely little snowglobe, much to Tobin’s enjoyment.

 

There weren’t too many little kids either since it was midweek and most of them were still in school this time of year, so navigating the hordes of tourists was all they had to worry about, which was something they had gotten good at by now anyway, living in the city.

 

They glided around the oval rink slowly at first, Tobin skating backwards easily as she held both of Christen’s hands and pulled her along, both of them laughing together once they started to pick up a bit of speed.

 

Christen actually got the hang of it okay after a few laps and would alternate between holding Tobin’s hand and trying to skate along by herself, getting a gentle push from Tobin every now and then so she could keep up enough speed to move with the flow of people.

 

Eventually, Christen even started to get a little confidence in her newfound skating skills.  

 

“We should race.” She suggested after they had been skating for a while, her competitive side kicking into high gear way before it was safe to be doing so.  

 

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Tobin shook her head no with a smile. “I’ll beat you too badly and you’ll feel terrible about it for the rest of the night. This is supposed to be fun, Christen.”

 

Everything just had to be a competition between them, though. They actually couldn’t help it.

 

“Sounds like you’re afraid to lose to a beginner.” Christen smiled teasingly in return, knowing how easy it would be to bait Tobin into a race.

 

Tobin just raised her eyebrows and skidded to a stop, waiting in place for Christen to slowly circle back around to her.

 

“Alright.. if you insist.” She shrugged when Christen softly glided into her to stop herself.

 

Oh, I insist.. And just for fun, the loser has to buy dinner.” Christen wagered confidently. “But, you have to give me a push for a head start.”

 

“Why is everything always rigged to your benefit?” Tobin laughed in question.

 

“Because!” Christen chuckled too, hugging Tobin tightly around her shoulders as they talked it over. “You know you’re better than I am so it’s only fair.”

 

“Fine.” Tobin nodded, agreeing to go along with Christen’s stipulations like she had any choice in the matter. “It’s your turn to buy dinner anyway so we might as well make this interesting.”

 

Christen narrowed her eyes and let go of Tobin, turning around to set the rules.

 

“Three laps all the way around.” She hummed, pointing her finger to the first curve in front of them on the big rink. “You can start when I get to the first turn right there.”

 

“Okay.” Tobin agreed again, lining up behind Christen’s invisible starting line.

 

“Ready?” Christen questioned with her tongue between her teeth, looking over at Tobin with an excited smile.

 

“Ready.” Tobin nodded in return.

 

“Three, two, one!” Christen started her countdown loudly after she was set. “Go!”

 

She took off slowly and felt Tobin’s hands on her hips, giving her a good shove to gain some momentum like she promised she would, skating away from the brunette with a determined sense of eagerness.

 

Tobin waited until Christen rounded the first quarter turn as promised, laughing loudly as she watched the raven-haired woman attempt to go fast; all the while looking like she was walking awkwardly on ice skates instead of actually skating along like everyone else.

 

She just didn’t have that gliding motion down yet and it showed, though she still managed to somehow look really cute in her struggle.

 

Once Tobin started to skate, she caught up to Christen easily, flying past her and spinning around to skate backwards as she let Christen try to catch up again, not wanting to get too far ahead of her in case something went wrong.

 

It only took her a minute to complete the three laps and Tobin was a little cocky as she crossed their finish line first, opening her arms out wide and shrugging smoothly. “Maybe next time…” She hummed coolly, slowing down until Christen caught up to her again, and then looking at each other face to face when she did.

 

“You got lucky but I’m getting pretty good.” Christen smiled as she conceded her loss, getting a little bit of confidence again as she tried to show off. “I bet I can skate backwards too.”

 

One brave moment of Christen zooming past Tobin again and attempting to spin around and skate backwards quickly turned into a wobbly crash to the ice; her head smacking the cold, hard surface rather loudly before Tobin could reach out and catch her.

 

It was like the world went silent for a moment as Christen shut her eyes in pain, sprawled out in the middle of the ice while Tobin held her breath above her as she tried to survey the damage.

 

Several annoying teenagers passed by them with loud laughter before Tobin could even bend down to check on her.

 

“How many fingers am I holding up?” She narrowed her eyes down at Christen from where she kneeling next to her, holding a slightly concerned look on her face.

 

“Owww.” Christen whined out instead of answering her question, lifting her head off the ice to grab the back of it, right where it was throbbing.

 

“Are you okay?” Tobin tried again, placing her hand over Christen’s to cushion the already forming bump. “I’m so sorry, Chris. I tried to catch you but it just happened so fast.”

 

Christen slowly sat up as she ignored Tobin’s question a second time in favor of making sure all of her senses were still intact, feeling the slight pounding in her head already as she got her bearings about her again.

 

Tobin brushed the melted ice off of Christen’s stocking cap and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, trying to help steady her until she was ready to speak.

 

“Oh my god!” Christen finally groaned, lifting her eyes to look at Tobin with an unreadable expression on her face. “Were those kids just laughing at me? Did that look really embarrassing?”

 

Tobin tried not to laugh then, knowing it would have been funny to her too, had Christen not hit her head so hard.

 

“No, it wasn’t embarrassing...” Tobin fibbed to make her feel better, grabbing both sides of Christen’s face and trying to make eye contact. Guessing that she probably just gave herself a concussion. “You looked just like a young Nancy Kerrigan on the spin, I promise.”

 

“Yeah, maybe while she was being taken out at the knees…” Christen joked in return, keeping her sense of humor through her self-inflicted pain.

 

Tobin busted out laughing at Christen’s words, getting a hilarious mental picture from that. “Oh my gosh, you totally just Tonya Harding’d yourself, didn’t you? … We’ve gotta work on the landing for next time.”

 

“I promise you there won’t be a next time.” Christen moved her head out of Tobin’s grasp and reached up to grab her hands. “Will you please help me up before those kids come around again?”

 

Tobin stood back up and pulled Christen carefully to her feet, running another hand over the back of her head, really feeling the big bump that was forming now.

 

“Seriously, are you okay?” She tried again, holding eye contact with the younger woman until Christen answered her question truthfully.

 

“Yeah, I’m okay. I already have a headache but I think I’ll live.” She nodded. “I’m still deciding how mad I am at you for this though…”

 

“Me?” Tobin laughed again, this time in disbelief. “You’re the one who just launched yourself into the air and tried to get all fancy for no reason. I didn’t tell you to do that!”

 

“You made me come skating!” Christen argued back playfully as she leaned on Tobin for support. “You know how competitive I get. This is all your fault for forcing me into the situation in the first place.”

 

“I think you’re confused.” Tobin shook her head and kissed Christen’s temple softly. “It’s probably the concussion talking…”

 

“What if I do have a concussion?” Christen murmured seriously. “Now you’re gonna have to keep me awake all night to make sure I don’t pass out and die on you. Concussions can be very dangerous.”

 

“Oh, I’ll keep you up all night…” Tobin husked out, leaning into Christen’s ear in a sexy whisper. “I’ve got plenty of ideas already…”

 

“Why am I not surprised?” Christen shook her head and gave Tobin a playful push backwards.

 

Tobin started to laugh at Christen’s reaction before she reached down and grabbed Christen’s hand again, pulling her towards the exit of the rink without saying anything else. They’d had enough ice skating for one night.

 

“Time to buy me dinner, superstar.”

 

*

 

It took Tobin a half hour to even make a dent on the snow mound that was covering Christen’s car on her street.

 

It was the following morning and Tobin had decided to just get the shoveling over with, bundling up warmly in her big winter coat and hat and telling Christen to watch and learn. She armed herself with her newest, sturdiest shovel that she had just bought at Home Depot the week before and made her way outside to get to work.

 

Ten minutes in and she had her coat and hat thrown wildly onto the sidewalk, quickly working up a sweat under the warm sun that was shining for the first time all week.

 

Christen, for her part, was doing a great job of shouting encouragements out the front door every so often, as she and Morena watched Tobin work from inside the big bay window in Tobin’s living room while she sipped a hot cup of coffee to keep herself warm next to the burning fireplace.

 

“Oh yeah, show me those muscles!” She’d cheer with her head poking out of the cracked open front door before she’d swing the door shut again as soon as she felt the first draft of wind hit her face.

 

Her cheers kept Tobin entertained enough to keep digging, finally making enough progress to get the driver’s side door of Christen’s white Mercedes open, wanting to get the car started and let the heat start to melt the snow off the top of it.

 

Christen noticed her progress again when Tobin had the car door open, yelling once more from the entryway with a big smile on her face.

 

“You’re so strong. That snow is no match for you!” She exclaimed as she stood on the ledge of the door, cupping her second mug of coffee with both hands.

 

“I better get one hell of a reward for this.” Tobin murmured exhaustedly, walking up the cement path towards her house with the shovel in one hand. “Can you grab me your keys, please? I’m gonna start it and let it run while I finish.”

 

Christen ducked back inside and found her car keys on Tobin’s key hook in the entryway as Tobin ascended the steps in her giant winter boots, clomping heavily as she walked.

 

“Great job, hot stuff.” Christen grinned happily as she handed Tobin the keys, pushing a sweaty strand of hair off of her forehead as she did. “You’re almost done.”

 

“I need a kiss before I continue.” Tobin requested instead of moving away, craning her lips up to reach Christen’s as she stood on the cement porch step below her.

 

Christen couldn’t deny her that, loving how worn out yet cute Tobin looked with her cheeks all rosy from the winter air.  She leaned down enough to connect her lips softly with Tobin’s, cupping her jaw with one hand and sending a warm shiver down Tobin’s spine, rejuvenating her just enough to keep going.

 

“I’ll warm you up as soon as you come in.” Christen mumbled against her lips, pulling back too quickly for Tobin’s liking.

 

“The things I do for you, woman…” Tobin rolled her eyes but laughed as she turned around, earning a nice slap on the ass from Christen as she trudged back down the steps to finish her work.

 

*

 

‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ was blaring loudly through the Bluetooth speaker in Christen’s apartment as she walked around from room to room, trying to decide where to hang up the sprig of Mistletoe she had bought earlier in the day at the festive Christkindlmarket near her place, while she was out running errands.

 

She had been in the midst of getting ready for the night ahead, her hair dried but not yet curled, when she felt a wave of Holiday cheer wash over her; deciding to put on some Christmas music and decorate a little before she finished getting ready.

 

She wasn’t in a hurry to get fancied up anyway, killing time as she waited on Tobin to get done with an afternoon photo shoot and come on over, so she decided now would be as good of a time as any to get the Mistletoe hung up.

 

Christen was pretty sure the festive decoration was going to come in handy at some point - knowing them after a night out - so she wanted to put it somewhere that they could use to their benefit later.

 

They had plans for dinner before the Chicago Symphony Christmas Concert, which Christen had taken upon herself to plan, since Tobin had already done enough to get them tickets in the first place. It was important to the younger woman to put some effort into their date night too, so she did enough research until she came up with reservations at one of the most popular rooftops bars in the city, not far from her place. She even had to do a little smooth talking to get them a table on such short notice this time of year.

 

Christen was excited to have one last night of Tobin all to herself before she left for the West Coast on Sunday morning, knowing Saturday would be spent doing laundry and packing and loading up her car.

 

For tonight though, all she was thinking about was the present.

 

She decided it would be fun and a little sexy to hang the Mistletoe halfway up the floor to ceiling glass window in her living room that looked out over the city. It was the first place they’d ever had sex and they’d done it a time or two in that same exact spot since that night, way back at the beginning of summer.

 

She was pretty positive that Tobin just had a thing for fucking her where other people had a chance of seeing them since they’d end up in steamy makeout sessions against the window more often than not, but she certainly wasn’t complaining.

 

Christen grabbed a chair from her dining room table and drug it over to the window, standing up on it and taping the green stem over her head so it would hang upside down above her. She then hopped back down and put the chair back, changing the song on her iPhone a couple times before she headed back towards her bathroom to finish getting ready.

 

Tobin knocked on her apartment door forty-five minutes later, dressed up nicely in a warm sweater and skin-tight black pants with a light amount of makeup on, pulling off her stocking cap as she stepped into Christen and kissed her lips quickly.

 

“You look great.” Christen smiled as she welcomed Tobin’s embrace, wrapping her arms around Tobin’s waist before they separated again.

 

“Thanks, I like your hair.” Tobin grinned back at the younger woman, looking down at Christen’s Grinch t-shirt that she was still wearing from when she had gotten out of the shower earlier. “And your t-shirt. It’s very fitting...”

 

“Yeah, yeah...” Christen laughed at Tobin’s teasing. “I’m going to put my dress on now, I just didn’t want to do it before we left in case I spilled on it.”

 

She turned around to head towards her bedroom to put the finishing touches on her appearance as Tobin flopped down on the couch next to Morena.

 

When Christen had her black dress on and her earrings in, she retouched up her hair and then made her way back out to the living room, clasping a bracelet around her wrist as Tobin stood up from the couch again.

 

“Damn.” Tobin hummed, looking her over in appreciation. “You look amazing.”

 

“Thank you.” Christen smiled happily before she bent down and slid her feet into her open toe heels. “Did you see my Christmas decoration yet?” She questioned with a wicked grin on her face.

 

Christen hadn’t done much else to her apartment in the way of actual Christmas decorating since she was going to be gone well before the holiday, so Tobin was confused as she looked around the living room, trying to figure out what Christen meant.

 

Christen stood back up and walked towards the windows, backing up as she wagged a finger at Tobin, asking her to join her. Tobin smiled as she tried to figure it out, letting her eyes roam up Christen’s body again before she finally realized the surprise.

 

One leafy green sprig of Mistletoe, hanging up above Christen’s head along the window.

 

Tobin’s feet were moving unhurriedly as soon as she processed what it was, laughing as Christen leaned back into the window softly and then looked up too.

 

As soon as she reached the dark-haired woman, Tobin’s hands were threading through Christen’s beautifully curled hair, tilting her head just enough before kissing her lips slowly and expertly.

 

Tobin’s reaction was more than Christen was even hoping for as she grabbed the brunette’s hips firmly, holding them in place at Tobin’s eagerness.

 

“You are so fucking sexy.” Tobin husked out, getting way too worked up in an instant at the scene in front of her.

 

She dropped her left hand from Christen’s hair and ran it down her body teasingly before letting it sneak under the bottom hem of Christen’s almost knee-length dress. Her fingertips trailing up the soft skin of Christen’s inner thigh as their lips moved together.

 

Christen considered letting Tobin continue for a moment before she had enough sense to pull back.

 

“Fuck.” She breathed heavily, dropping her head against the window again and forcing herself to call a timeout on this before they went too far. “We can’t do this right now, Tobs. We’re gonna be late for dinner.”

 

“Who cares.” Tobin hummed, moving her lips to Christen’s neck instead. “Let’s skip it.” She mumbled as she kissed her skin.

 

“No way.” Christen shook her head, pushing Tobin hips back just a little with her hands to keep their bodies separated and the temptation at bay. “I want one last date night with you. The mistletoe will still be here when we get back. Why do you think I hung it there in the first place?”

 

Tobin smiled into Christen’s neck and took a deep breath, knowing Christen was right. “You’re such a tease, you know that? You totally did this on purpose.”

 

That made Christen laugh. “Of course I did.” she winked as Tobin looked up at her. “It’s more fun this way.”

 

She placed one last kiss on Tobin’s lips and then stepped out of her hold, heading towards the hallway closet to grab her coat so they could get going.

 

*

 

It was only three blocks from Christen’s apartment to the restaurant, which Christen was thankful for as she walked in her dress and heels, keeping her arm looped through Tobin’s while using their closeness for warmth. When they got there, they rode the elevator up to the rooftop and were promptly escorted through the dimly lit restaurant to a table for two along the glass-lined wall; giving them amazing, unobstructed views of Lake Michigan and the downtown skyscrapers that were lit up just to the south.

 

They both took a minute to survey the room as soon as they sat down.

 

“Wow, this place seems very romantic.” Tobin commented as she looked around, eyeing the white tablecloth and lit candle centerpiece in between them. “What, do you have a crush on me or something…?”

 

She looked up from the table at Christen again and they both laughed.

 

“In your dreams.” Christen shot back, narrowing her eyes at Tobin jokingly.

 

The waitress approached their table and broke up their banter as she relayed their drink specials to them before waiting to take their order.

 

“Would you wanna share a bottle of champagne?” Christen wondered in front of the waitress, looking over at Tobin for an answer.

 

“Yeah, that sounds really good.” Tobin nodded and flipped to the wine and champagne page on the drink menu before she looked up at the waitress again. “We’ll take a bottle of the Moet Imperial, please.”

 

“Great choice.” The waitress complimented before she walked off, returning with their bottle a minute later and popping it in front of them.

 

“Cheers.” Christen grinned as soon as they both had a glass full of the bubbly, holding up her flute towards Tobin. Tobin lifted hers as well before Christen made a toast.

 

“I feel really lucky that I met you this year and that I get to have you in my life because you make everything so much more enjoyable. I’ve had more fun getting to know you than I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t trade the past few months for anything.” Christen smiled. “So here’s to you, Tobin Heath.”

 

Tobin awww’d almost bashfully at her words, clinking her glass lightly with Christen’s. “Cheers, Chris.” She hummed as they both took a small sip and then set their glasses back down.

 

Tobin then reached across the table and grabbed Christen’s hand, curling their fingers together as they both grinned happily at each other, feeling like they were in their own little world.

 

*

 

“I don’t want to get up and pack.” Christen mumbled through a yawn, turning her head and burying her face in Tobin’s neck underneath herself, almost as if she was pouting.

 

They were both lying naked under the covers in Christen’s bed, awake for the day but still snuggled in close as Tobin ran her fingers across Christen’s back softly.

 

“Then don’t.” Tobin croaked out through her sleep-filled voice, clearing her throat a little as she did. “Let’s just stay right here all morning.”

 

Christen laid there quietly for a moment as she concentrated on Tobin’s fingertips and the way they were igniting sparks on her bare skin before she replied.

 

“I wish I could but I have a lot to do before I’m ready to go.” She mumbled. “It’s going to be an all-day job, unfortunately.”

 

Of course, she had put off packing until the very last minute. It was her least favorite thing about traveling all the time.

 

“You know, I think it’s really rude that you’re leaving me here when it has been as cold as it’s been lately.” It was Tobin’s turn to whine as she pulled Christen all the way on top of herself. “How am I supposed to keep myself warm without you in my bed for the rest of the winter?”

 

Christen laughed softly when Tobin had her situated and then placed a kiss on the underside of Tobin’s jaw. “Come see me in LA.” She suggested like it was obvious. “Then I can show you how to really have fun.”

 

“Not all of us can have a job that gives us six months a year off, Chris.” Tobin responded with a slightly sarcastic tone.

 

“I get, like, two months a year off...” Christen rolled her eyes playfully. “And most of that time I’ve been here with you.”

 

Tobin smiled a little and turned her head to drop a gentle kiss to Christen’s forehead, knowing she had a good point. She was certainly in no position to complain about the time Christen had given her this fall.  

 

“Yeah, LA would be fun…” She finally answered. “I’ll try and make it work sometime after the New Year.”

 

Christen let out another yawn and sat up, placing one more kiss to Tobin’s cheek before she scooted out of bed and padded towards the door.

 

Tobin watched her disappear into the bathroom and then sighed as she sat up too, knowing the sooner they got Christen’s packing done, the sooner they could focus on each other again.

 

*

 

“Be good, okay. Call if you need anything.”

 

Tobin had just loaded Morena into the passenger seat of Christen’s car and was now squatting down next to the open door, speaking to the dog in a soft and loving tone.

 

“I’ll miss you so much, buddy.” She murmured again, leaning in to kiss the fur right between the dog’s eyes.

 

Christen had gotten her last suitcase loaded into the trunk before slamming it shut and was now just standing there watching them from behind, grinning to herself at how hard it was for Tobin to part with her canine best friend.

 

Morena licked a sloppy kiss on Tobin’s face, seemingly hating to say goodbye too, before Christen cleared her throat.

 

“I hate to break up this love fest and I’m very sorry to have to separate you two, but we do kind of need to get going.”

 

She had wanted to be on the road by 8, having two full days of driving ahead of her, and it was already 8:49.

 

Tobin smiled a little at Christen’s words and ruffled the dog’s head again before she stood up and shut the passenger door, turning around to face the dark-haired woman.

 

They just looked at each other for a long moment as neither of them made a move towards the other, knowing it would mean starting their goodbye once they did.

 

“You got everything?” Tobin questioned as she finally took a step towards the younger woman, sliding her arms around Christen’s waist as soon as she reached her.

 

“Yeah, I think so.” Christen nodded as she wrapped her arms around Tobin’s shoulders in return. “If not, I’ll just have to have you come over here and get it for me.”

 

She had given Tobin a set of keys to her apartment over the summer to make it easier to come and go with Morena, and it was comforting now for Christen to know she’d have Tobin here to check in on her place from time to time until she got back.

 

They stood there and hugged each other tightly in silence for a long moment before Tobin spoke again.

 

“This kinda sucks.” She pouted, sticking her bottom lip out for effect, looking at Christen right in the eyes.

 

“I know.” Christen agreed truthfully because it did suck right now. California was basically the last place she wished she was heading in this moment. She’d rather just trudge back upstairs and climb back into bed with her favorite brown-eyed girl, knowing all too well that it wasn’t an option.

 

Instead, she leaned in and pressed her lips to Tobin’s then, sharing several short kisses with the brunette as they held each other.

 

“I’m gonna be so bored without you here.” Tobin thought out loud when they pulled back again.

 

She wasn’t intentionally trying to make Christen feel bad, but she couldn’t help but let her thoughts escape.

 

“Your family will be here in two weeks.” Christen responded, hoping it was some sort of consolation. “And you’re also super busy with work until then. It’ll fly by and Christmas will be here before you know it.”

 

“I know…” Tobin relented as she kissed Christen again. “It still sucks though.”

 

“LA in January…” Christen raised her eyebrows, suggesting the idea again just for good measure.

 

“I’ll try my hardest.” Tobin assured her seriously, already planning to look at flights tonight when she was home alone and surely bored.

 

“K..” Christen agreed and kissed her one more time.

 

They finally let go of each other as Christen stepped back, unable to delay her departure any longer. Tobin followed her to the driver’s side door and opened it for her, leaning down to be eye level once Christen sat down in the seat.

 

“Call me?” Tobin hummed as Christen put her seatbelt on.

 

“I will.” Christen nodded. “Don’t have too much fun without me. And don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. I know how you like to get into mischief sometimes when you’re left unsupervised...” She winked after she said it, purposely giving Tobin a hard time to keep the mood light.

 

That made Tobin finally smile a little. “Be safe, Chris.”

 

Christen reached up and cupped Tobin’s chin with her hand and kissed her slowly for the last time before Tobin stood back up and slammed the door shut.

 

They were both freezing from the cold winter air but neither of them even noticed, only feeling bummed about their goodbye in the moment. Hating the fact that they didn’t know exactly when they’d get to see each other again.

 

It could be three weeks or it could be three months, depending on how things went.

 

Christen rolled down her window and gave Tobin a small wave, flashing her one last signature grin. “See you.”

 

Tobin gave her a side smile, contemplating whether she wanted to try and delay Christen just a little longer before she finally gave in and returned the wave. “See ya.” She murmured, stepping up onto the curb as Christen put her car into drive.

 

The younger woman blew Tobin a kiss and then turned around to look forward as she slowly pulled out of her parking spot, driving away from her high rise without looking back again.

 

Tobin stood there and watched until Christen’s white Mercedes was out of sight before zipping her winter coat up a little higher and turning around to slowly head for home. Feeling a little less complete than she’d felt this morning.

 

Christen only made it ten minutes down Interstate 290 before she was calling Tobin, smiling as soon as she heard her voice.

 

“Wanna play the alphabet game?”

 

*

 

Send me a picture of my girl. I miss her and I need to know what she’s up to

 

Tobin’s text came through just as Christen was finishing the dishes with her dad, cleaning up the mess her mom made while cooking them an early dinner.

 

Christen dropped the drying towel on the countertop and smiled when she read the message before she held the camera out in front of herself and took a picture, puckering her lips teasingly as the camera shuttered to capture the moment.

 

She hit send on the photo and laughed to herself as she made her way into the living room to find her dog.

 

You’re so hilarious…

 

Was all Tobin’s reply said.

 

They both knew she meant Morena the first time, which made Christen laugh even harder when she read the response. God, she was funny sometimes.

 

She found the dog lounging in front of their big Christmas tree in the living room, staring over at all the red and green wrapped gifts in front of it like she was trying to hold back from tearing into them.

 

“Mo!” Christen cooed lightly, trying to get the dog’s attention from behind her. “Look here, girl.” She patted her leg softly.

 

Morena’s tail started to wag a little as she turned her head to look back at Christen, giving her an opened mouthed pose like she was smiling for the camera.

 

Christen took a few pictures in a row and then picked out her favorite of the bunch and sent it to Tobin again. Giving her what she wanted the second time.

 

Wow, she’s adorable. Give her a kiss for me.

 

Christen chuckled again and leaned down to kiss Morena’s head before she exited out of her messages and bounded up the stairs to her bedroom, needing to get ready for her night out with friends.

 

*

 

“You know, I really miss having sex with you.”

 

Christen’s words drawled out slowly as she balanced the phone on top of her ear, lying on her side with her head pressed against her pillow.

 

She had just climbed into bed a few minutes ago, getting home late from the night out with her high school best friends after having an ugly sweater party at one of their houses nearby and then getting a sober ride home to her mom and dad’s house.

 

Sneaking in like she was still in high school, even though she didn’t need to.

 

She was more than a little drunk from all the cider and champagne and brandy-spiked eggnog she’d consumed throughout the night, but none of that made her buzz the way Tobin’s sleepy laughter did on the other end of the line.

 

“I bet you do.” Tobin mused in return, stifling a yawn as she responded to Christen’s admission.

 

She had been woken up just after 3:30 am from her phone ringing loudly on her nightstand, with Christen’s picture lighting up her home screen as the call came in.

 

Tobin answered it without a second thought.

 

Christen had been thinking about and missing Tobin all night long. The way she usually did when she was away from her and had a little too much to drink; and she just couldn’t wait until the morning to call her, even though she knew how late it was in Chicago.

 

She laughed at Tobin’s teasing response, already having forgotten what she’d said while trying to remember the reason why she was calling in the first place.

 

“Tobs…” She hummed out sweetly once her thoughts came to her again.

 

“Yeah, Chris?” Tobin answered her softly, waiting patiently to hear what Christen was going to say.

 

Their conversation had already been very choppy and mostly filled with long bouts of silence as drunk Christen kept having to pause and collect her thoughts.

 

“Guess what?” Christen whispered into the phone a second time.

 

“What?” Tobin whispered right back, an entertained smirk plastered on her face from where she was lying in her dark bedroom.

 

“I’m naked right now.” The younger woman murmured before she let out a cute laugh.

 

Tobin chuckled lightly too. “You are, huh?” She wondered as she smiled to herself again.

 

“Yeah.” Christen admitted easily a second time. “You should come see me.”

 

She suggested it like Tobin could climb right out of bed and come on over - knowing she probably would have, had they not been two thousand miles apart.

 

“You’re naked and you want me to come see you..” Tobin repeated Christen’s words as she rolled over onto her back and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “...And what would we do if I came over?”

 

She already knew the answer but she wanted to hear Christen say it anyway.

 

“We would have super amazing sex.” Christen hummed in a sultry tone, running her hand down her lower stomach at the thought of it. Wishing it was Tobin’s hand instead. “I would really like to get laid tonight.”

 

“Yeah, me too...” Tobin sighed, trying not to get herself too worked up. “... I guess we could have phone sex... if you want...” She suggested then, mostly as a joke.

 

They’d only gone so far as to Facetime naked once before, when Christen was traveling and bored after a shower, but they had never attempted to actually get each other off over the phone; and Tobin had enough sense to know that now wouldn’t be the best time to start either, since Christen was surely going to pass out at any moment.

 

“That’s so much less fun.” Christen whined. “I want you to do things to me, not make me do them to myself. I do that all the time, it gets boring.”

 

Tobin let out a soft groan now, thinking about Christen touching herself. “Christen.. stop teasing me… It’s not fair when I can’t do anything about it.”

 

“Finneeee.” Christen relented before she giggled, letting out a sigh of her own as she accepted the fact that she was just going to have to suffer tonight, before changing the subject. “Did you go out tonight?”

 

Tobin yawned on her end of the line again. “Yeah for a little while but I came home pretty early.”

 

“How come? Chicago isn’t as fun when I’m not there?” Christen questioned drunkenly, hoping Tobin was going to tell her what she wanted to hear.

 

“You already know it’s not...” Tobin reassured her as she rolled back over onto her side. “And I just wasn’t feeling it tonight, I guess.”

 

“Bummer.” Christen frowned into the phone, genuinely disliking that Tobin hadn’t had fun this evening.

 

“How about you?” Tobin questioned in return. “Was your party fun?”

 

“Yeah, it was alright...”

 

Christen thought about it before she answered a little further. “...But there was this girl there that I hooked up with in college once, and she would not stop trying to get me to go home with her.. and I was just like ‘no way, you are not Tobin’…” She was waving her hand out in front of herself with a little bit of attitude as she recalled her night.

 

Tobin smiled at Christen’s simple, intoxicated statement.

 

They hadn’t really talked about their status at all and they certainly hadn’t set any rules with each other about not hooking up with other people, so the fact that Christen hadn’t wanted anyone else tonight meant a lot to the brunette. Even if Christen wasn’t going to remember admitting that or even having this conversation in the morning.

 

Tobin stayed quiet on the line for a moment before she let out a slow breath.

 

“I miss you, pretty girl.”

 

And that was the truth. The whole reason Tobin had left the bar early in the first place tonight was because she was tired of getting hit on by people who weren’t Christen. None of those other girls did much for her anymore. Not when she’d gotten used to what it was like to be with Christen.

 

Tobin’s husky, sleep-filled voice sent a wave of butterflies through Christen’s stomach.

 

“I miss you too, hot stuff.” She sighed in return. “Come fuck me in LA.”

 

“I will…” Tobin let out a laugh at Christen’s straightforward request. “Soon. I promise.”

 

They went quiet again as Christen flipped over in bed, letting the phone slip out of her hand and accidentally dropping it to the mattress for a moment before she recovered.

 

“What time does your family come tomorrow?” She wondered when she had the phone pressed to her ear again, knowing Tobin’s company was arriving sometime during the day.

 

“Ah, kinda early.” Tobin murmured. “I think my mom said they land at like 9.”

 

“Well, … had better let you get to sleep then.” Christen slurred a little, barely even keeping her eyes open anymore while she was on the verge of passing out. “I don’t want Mrs. Heath mad at me for keeping you up too late.”

 

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell her..” Tobin chuckled easily. “..But yeah, I should probably try to sleep.”

 

There was another long pause between them where Tobin was pretty sure Christen had drifted off before the younger woman spoke again.

 

“Sweet dreams, Tobin Heath.” She finally hummed. “I hope you think of me when you wake up.”

 

“Of course I will.” Tobin grinned into the phone one more time, waiting another moment before hearing Christen’s soft snores. “Night, Chris.”

 

*

 

“Christen, are you up there?”

 

Christen lifted her head from where it was buried in the copy of ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ that she was holding in her hands; pausing her reading as she registered her mother’s voice from where it was coming from downstairs.

 

“Yeah…” She hollered back, looking towards the crack in her bedroom door and waiting for a response.

 

It was a few seconds before her mom shouted again.

 

“I just got the mail and there’s a package down here for you.”

 

Christen’s eyebrows scrunched together as she tried to remember everything she had ordered recently. Both of her sister’s presents that she bought online had already been delivered and it was the night before Christmas Eve, so she was pretty sure she wasn’t expecting anything else.

 

She laid a bookmark into the open page to hold her spot - even though she’d read that same book for the last ten Christmases and could continue it from any page at this point - and dropped it onto the mattress next to her.

 

She then scooted off her bed, past where Morena was sleeping on the end and opened her bedroom door wider to sneak into the hallway as she looked down over the banister to her mom.

 

“Where is it from?” She questioned as she skipped down the steps towards the entryway.

 

“I’m not sure.” Her mom shrugged as she looked down at the brown box in her hands. “There’s no return address on it. Just your name and our address.”

 

“Weird.” Christen murmured as she reached her mom and was handed the package.

 

As soon as she had the box in her hands she broke into a big grin, recognizing the all-caps handwriting easily. There was only one person who could have sent it.

 

Tobin.

 

“Thanks.” Christen gave her mom a smile and then set right back up the stairs towards her childhood bedroom again before the older woman could ask any questions.

 

Once she had the door closed she lept back onto her bed, sitting cross-legged in the center of the mattress as she stared at the box, pondering what Tobin could possibly have sent her so unexpectedly.

 

She thought about waiting to open it for a moment before her curiosity got the best of her.

 

Christen used her nail to pierce the tape that was holding the box closed and slowly peeled it open, flap by flap, once the seal was broken. Feeling a bit of nerves in her stomach all of the sudden, though she had no idea why.

 

There were a few sheets of red and green tissue paper on top to conceal what was inside, which she pulled out quickly and tossed to the ground next to her bed. The absence of them revealing a ton of white snowflakes, cut from construction paper in random sizes and patterns.

 

She plucked a few of the handmade snowflakes out and held them up, laughing out loud as she let them flutter down onto the bed in front of her.

 

It was like Tobin was teasing her, even from two thousand miles away. Sending snow to California, fake or not, just for her own entertainment.

 

It made Christen’s heart pang a little at how much she missed their daily banter. She missed the way Tobin would tease her and then place a soft kiss to her nose when she was done, so Christen knew it was all in good fun. Only getting it over the phone every day since she’d left Chicago just hadn’t been the same.

 

Once the snowflakes were out of the box and spread out across her bed, Morena got up and readjusted her position, flopping back down on the white decorations as Christen dug back in.

 

This time she found a white envelope, a couple of small dog bones and something else that was wrapped in more holiday colored tissue paper in the bottom of the box.

 

She reached for white envelope first, sliding the card out of the unsealed paper so she could read what it said and hopefully find out what this was all about.

 

She laughed again as soon as she saw the front of the card.

 

There were two penguins on ice skates pictured and one of them had fallen over and was lying flat on the ice, with a caption bubble above the penguin that read‘Fallin’ for you this Christmas.’

 

Tobin had drawn two arrows and labeled each of the penguins with both of their names, and of course, Christen was the penguin flat on her back.

 

“Smart ass.” Christen whispered to herself with a smile before opening the card to read the inside of it.

 

Her heart softening as she processed the words.

 

Christen,

 

I figured I’d send a little snow your way since I know how much you’ve been missing the cold weather.

Don’t worry, I’ll make sure it’s all gone before you get back.

 

Here are a few moments that have made me smile over the past few months.

I hope they make you smile too.

 

Merry Christmas.

 

All my love,

Tobin

 

She read it again just to let the words sink in before she reached for the rest of the present, unwrapping the tissue paper to reveal a black leather bound photo album.

 

Christen slowly cracked the cover of the album and started laughing out loud again, clapping her hand over her mouth in pure joy.

 

The first picture in the album, well, Christen would remember that night forever.

 

It was a black and white photograph that Tobin had taken of both of them on their first date. The night they went sailing on Lake Michigan with Captain Rick.

 

They were both lying back against the front of the sailboat, huddled close together and laughing wildly in the candid shot.

 

Right before Tobin had taken the picture, she had been holding her phone up above them to get a good angle, and just as she pressed the button, she accidentally dropped her phone out of her hand and successfully hit herself in the face with it.

 

Tobin had been embarrassed at the time but she had also enjoyed how much it made Christen laugh, so she really hadn’t minded the slight sting in her nose for the few minutes it lasted while she captured a few pictures of them in quick succession.

 

It made Christen laugh just as hard again right now thinking back on it. She had no idea that Tobin had even saved any of those pictures from that night, she hadn’t seen any of them since.

 

She then flipped to the next page in the album, finding a photo of herself holding Morena; both she and the dog totally unaware that Tobin was even taking a picture of them. They were standing at the edge of Lake Michigan as Christen was letting the waves wash over her feet and looking out towards the water as the sun went down over the city behind them.

 

Christen wouldn’t even be able to pick out what night that was from. They had enjoyed a lot of random evenings together at the beach by the end of the summer.

 

She kept flipping, smiling wider with each page.

 

Each photo was black and white and perfectly touched up like Tobin had spent a great deal of time putting the whole album together.

 

Of course she had, pictures were her life.

 

There was a photo of Tobin and Morena that Tobin had taken while Christen was gone for an away game, both of them cuddled on her couch together as the dog licked a sloppy kiss across Tobin’s forehead.

 

The brunette had been testing a new lens that she had just gotten that day, with the camera sitting on a small tripod across the room, set on a timer so she could make it into the shot in time.

 

And another, of Tobin and Christen eating popsicles on the Fourth of July, with sticky and melted popsicle juice running down both of their forearms because of how hot it was that day.

 

There was one of Christen on the pitch at Toyota Park, her arms outstretched in her classic airplane celebration after having just scored a goal, with her smile lighting up the whole shot.

 

And one of her focusing hard on a chess board across the table from Tobin, taken at some point this fall when they were in a very competitive phase with each other. Christen remembered trying to win the game in that moment as she blocked out Tobin’s cocky teasing to make her next move.

 

And on the very last page of the album was their most recent picture together.

 

Both of them had their arms around each other, standing in front of the big Christmas tree outside of the theatre where they saw the Chicago Symphony performance right before Christen left a couple weeks ago.

 

They had asked an elderly woman to take it for them, and it was a little off center and so full of character; both of them with huge smiles on their faces, dressed up in their fancy clothes and holding each other close.

 

Tobin had documented it all.

 

There had to have been twenty-five photos by the time Christen flipped through the whole thing, feeling a few happy tears forming in her eyes that were threatening to spill over. Blinking them back again before they did.

 

Nobody had ever given her anything like this before.

 

It was personal and intimate and just so Tobin.

 

Christen missed her even more all of a sudden, reaching for her phone on the edge of her bed and calling the brunette’s number quickly. Dying a little to hear her voice in this moment.

 

Tobin picked up after the third ring.

 

“You’re really something, you know that?” Christen hummed sweetly before she could even say hello.

 

Tobin laughed gently on her end of the line, holding the phone to her ear as she moved up the steps in her house, trying to escape all of her family members for a few minutes to talk to Christen in peace.

 

Tobin.” Christen murmured softly, wishing more than anything she could hug her right now.

 

“Hey, Chris.” Tobin returned just as softly as she ducked into her bedroom and shut the door quietly behind her.

 

They were both silent for a second like they were just enjoying having each other on the line. The last few days had been crazy busy for both of them and they hadn’t talked outside of texting, so hearing each other breathe for a moment just felt nice.

 

“Morena is lying in a pile of snow on my bed right now, thanks to you.” Christen finally started, humming into the phone with a happy smile on her face. “And funnily enough, she doesn’t seem to mind it one bit.”

 

Tobin sat down on the edge of her bed and leaned over to rest her forearms on her thighs as she grinned too.

 

“Is the snow warmer in California?” She laughed in question.

 

“It seems to be…” Christen nodded in response before she paused again.

 

“Thank you so much, Tobin.” She finally murmured, unsure of how to properly convey how much this surprise gift mean to her. “I love it... You’re amazing.”

 

“You’re welcome.” Tobin smiled genuinely. “I’m glad you got it okay. I had to trust Google that there was only one Press family in Palos Verdes to find your address…”

 

“Wow, you got lucky.” Christen laughed lightly. “I could have just given you my address, you dork.”

 

“I know, but I wanted it to be a surprise.” Tobin shrugged a little, thankful that it worked out.

 

“Well then, mission accomplished.” Christen responded as she started to flip through the album a second time. “There are so many pictures in here, it’s awesome… I’m not gonna lie, I’d already kinda forgotten how much fun we had this summer.”

 

“I sorta did too.” Tobin nodded in agreement. “Putting it together was a good reminder of everything we’ve done so far. I laughed a lot editing all those pictures.”

 

“I bet!” Christen nodded with a beaming smile. “I’m not even kidding, I laughed out loud at the picture of your watery eyes from when you hit yourself in the face with the phone when we went sailing. I forgot how hilarious and adorable that was.”

 

“Oh my gosh.” Tobin shook her head in reflection and she fell back flat against her mattress. “That whole photoset was super embarrassing. I had to delete all the other pictures from my camera roll to make sure you never get to see them.”

 

“Oh stop, it wasn’t even embarrassing.” Christen murmured, quieting Tobin’s words. “I loved how cute you looked when that happened. I was super nervous that night because you were a really hot date and then you went and did that and made me feel so much better about my chances with you...”

 

They both laughed again at Christen’s teasing before she got a little more serious.

 

“Seriously though, you sure know how to make a girl smile, Tobin. I really wish I could kiss you right now...”

 

“I know, I wish I could kiss you too.” Tobin hummed in return. “But I’m glad you liked it… I have loved getting to learn everything about you and I just wanted to have a way for you to remember all the good times we’ve had, and I guess that’s what I came up with.”

 

“Well it’s perfect and I’m gonna save it forever.” Christen mused. “And the snow was a nice touch too... Very creative.”

 

“Did you give Morena her gift yet?” Tobin wondered then, thinking of the other part of the package.

 

“Not yet. She’s asleep at the moment.” Christen answered her. “But I’ll be sure to tell her they’re from you and I’m sure she’ll love them even more than regular bones because of it.”

 

“I hope so.” Tobin grinned. “I couldn’t forget my best pal, ya know. I miss having her around.”

 

“She secretly misses you too.” Christen smiled. “She told me not to tell you that, but I guess you deserve to know after sending these gifts...”

 

Tobin started to laugh before her attention was pulled away from their conversation, hearing her brother yell her name from downstairs.

 

The Heath family had just been getting ready to head out to the bar when Christen called and Tobin figured they were finally ready to go.

 

“Hey, I hate to cut this short but I’m being summoned...” Tobin sighed, feeling bad about having to go while they were still in the middle of their conversation. “We’re heading to the bar down the street for some drinks and my brother just yelled my name to get going…”

 

“Of course, no problem…” Christen shrugged off her apology, happy that Tobin was enjoying her family time.

 

“Can I call you tonight when I get home?” Tobin questioned, wanting to continue this conversation when they weren't going to be interrupted.

 

“Yeah.” Christen smiled again. “I would like that.”

 

“Me too.” Tobin nodded.

 

They both went quiet for a brief moment, grinning into their phones stupidly and how happy they made each other before Tobin spoke up again.

 

“Hey, Chris?” She wondered.

 

“Yeah?” Christen whispered, letting Tobin know she was still listening intently.

 

I miss you.”

 

“I miss you too.” Christen murmured honestly. “Thank you again for the awesome surprise. It made me feel really special.”

 

“Good.” Tobin smiled, achieving what she had hoped for with the gifts.

 

“Have fun tonight.” Christen finally hummed softly. “I’ll talk to you in a while.”

 

“K. Talk to you in a while.” Tobin repeated as they let each other go.

 

They both pulled the phone away from their ears at the same time as Tobin let out a long breath, loving how warm Christen made her feel, even from all the way in California. Hearing her voice, even for a couple minutes had made her whole night.

 

She ran a hand through her hair and stood up from her bed, finally ready to head to the bar with her family.

 

*

 

Christmas Eve was kind of a blur for Christen.

 

She had been super busy all day - entertaining family, cooking and eating way too much food, and playing games and opening gifts - so much so that she felt like she was only able to take a breath once she collapsed into bed for the night.

 

Both of her sisters and their significant others had left a little earlier in the evening, and both couples were planning on spending Christmas Day with their boys’ families, so Christen was abandoned with her parents for the rest of the night and the following day.

 

Normally she wouldn’t have minded that. She had been single last year on Christmas too, and she had really enjoyed getting that little bit of extra attention from her Mom and Dad once her sisters were gone.

 

This year though, she kind of hated it.

 

She had spent the whole day watching all of these different couples be lovey and affectionate with each other and it made her realize that a big part of herself was ready for that again.

 

She found herself wanting to have someone there to hold hands with under the dinner table, or to cuddle up with on the couch for an afternoon nap, or to laugh and make inside jokes with about all of her grandmother’s extravagant Christmas gifts.

 

Really, she’d spent all day wanting to be with one person in particular.

 

Tobin and her ridiculous, charming, irresistible self.

 

Christen just flat out missed her and it was like she could feel her absence growing inside of her chest.

 

They had talked on the phone for a few minutes this afternoon, only long enough for them to fill each other in on what they had planned for the night, before Christen was pulled away to help serve dessert while Tobin and her family had to leave for their Christmas Eve church service.

 

And now that everyone had left for the night and it was quiet in the house, and Christen finally had a moment to think, it felt like all she could think about was Tobin.

 

She spent another few minutes thumbing through the photo album that the brunette had sent her again, having already looked at it way too many times, before she dropped it onto her bedside table and then grabbed her laptop from the floor next to her bed, searching for a way to distract herself and her feelings until she fell asleep.

 

It wasn’t even really late enough to be going to bed and her parents were still awake downstairs but for some reason, she just felt like sulking a little at her loneliness, so she pulled up Netflix and clicked through a bunch of movies before she settled on one of her old Holiday favorites; pushing play on ‘Love, Actually’ as she settled under her covers.

 

She had seen the movie probably twenty times by now and knew it scene for scene, singing along to each of the Christmas songs as the movie went.

 

And being that she knew what was coming, she was more than a little surprised when she found herself almost tearing up as that stupid cue card scene played halfway through the movie.

 

The one where the guy shows up and professes his love for the girl he can’t have…. Yeah, Christen had always hated that scene.

 

It was cliche and annoying and so unrealistic; and yet here she was, hanging on every word and reading right along as the cue cards flipped, like she just couldn’t get enough.

 

And the only person she could think about as she watched it was Tobin.

 

How fun and meaningful and cute it would be for her to do something similar for Tobin. A grand gesture like that, but for someone who she actually had a shot at making it work with. Unlike the dumb movie.

 

If only they weren’t so far apart.

 

Christen could just see it now. She’d freeze her ass off waiting for Tobin to answer the door, all slow and mellow like she usually was, but it’d be so worth it once she actually got around to it.

 

Tobin’s smile and laugh would warm her right up, just like they always did. And Christen knew she’d feel so much more complete and happy in an instant, if only it were possible.

 

God, how badly she wished she could be there with her now.

 

In reality, there was no reason she couldn’t be.

 

Right?

 

Before Christen even really knew what she was doing, she was hopping out of bed and bounding to her door, stepping out into the hallway and taking the stairs quickly down to the living room where her parents were lounging in front of the fireplace, getting their attention like it was the most important thing in the world.

 

“Dad?” She shouted as she landed on the bottom step in the entryway. “How early are you getting up in the morning?”

 

She didn’t even let him answer as she rounded the corner into the living room.

 

“I’m gonna need a ride to the airport.”

 

*

 

Christen took a deep breath as she slammed the back door of the cab closed, watching as the air from her slow exhale billowed out in front of her, visible against the light of the street lamp she was standing under in the dark.  

 

She threw her purse over her shoulder and ran a hand through her hair to calm her nerves as the taxi drove off, watching until it disappeared down the street before she started for the sidewalk.

 

There was probably a foot of fresh snow already covering the streets and sidewalks, with it still coming down in giant, fluffy heaps, and it didn’t look to be stopping anytime soon.

 

Even the shoe prints that Christen’s Nike’s had made on the street when she stepped out of the cab had already started to disappear and she was more than a little worried about trying to navigate the deep snow all the way up to the front porch in just her tennis shoes and yoga pants.

 

She probably should have stopped at her apartment to get her boots first but she didn’t want to risk chickening out on this. She’d already come this far.

 

“Okay, here goes nothing.” Christen whispered out as she basically crouched down and started up the snow mound that was pushed up to the curb again, exactly where her car had been stuck two weeks ago. She’d have to navigate over it now in order to even get off the road.

 

She did her best to move over it quickly, staying low and using her hands for balance, and once she was down the other side of it and standing on flat, albeit still very deep snow, she was already feeling much more optimistic.

 

That feeling only lasted another thirty seconds or so.

 

A third of the way up the cement pathway to Tobin’s front porch, Christen stepped down into a particularly deep snow drift, and when she lifted her leg up step out of it again, her shoe remained stuck while her foot didn’t, making her walk right out of her loosely tied shoe.

 

“Shit.” She whispered as she tried to balance on one foot so her sock wouldn’t get wet.

 

This was not going well.

 

She tried to step backwards down into her shoe again but she knew it would never go as smoothly as she hoped and before she knew it her arms were flailing in a circle and she was losing her balance altogether, her body weight tumbling backwards towards the ground.

 

“Woah, woah, woah.” she croaked out as she started to fall, deciding about halfway down to just accept her fate and see what happened.

 

She landed flat on her back in the middle of the pathway with a soft thud. The pillowy snow catching her easily and burying her in a few inches from the momentum of the fall as her purse landed nicely right next to her head.

 

It would have actually been pretty fun, if that’s what she was trying to do. She’d enjoyed making snow angels before when she’d been bundled up in a large coat and a hat and mittens and boots.

 

Too bad that wasn’t at all what she was wearing now, though.

 

Right now she had one tennis shoe, one socked foot, a pair of yoga pants and a less than ideal “winter” jacket on. Her hair spread out over the snow behind her head with no hat covering her ears, just like the rookie LA native she was.

 

She momentarily wondered whether this was how she was meant to die.

 

God, she hated the cold.

 

Instead of just accepting that fate though, she lifted her head up enough so she could look into the front bay window of the brownstone in front of her, spotting several people moving inside the house right away.

 

Most of them gathered in the living room, probably enjoying the nice warm fire that was surely lit.

 

At least that’s what she assumed they were doing, if she had to guess.

 

“Why is this happening to me?” Christen whispered out as she reached for her purse next to her, finding the opening after a moment and digging her hand around blindly until she found her phone.

 

If she was forced into this position, she surely wasn’t going to suffer alone.

 

“Please pick up.” She hummed as she pressed dial on her iPhone, using her wet fingers to tap the speakerphone button since she couldn’t hold it to her ear as far buried as she was in the snow.

 

Luckily, Tobin answered after only a moment.

 

“Hello..?” She mumbled out on the other end of the line, her voice sounding slightly giddy like she’d probably had a glass or two of wine already.

 

Christen could hear quite a bit of commotion from all the people Tobin was surrounded by in the background.

 

“Would it have killed you to shovel your sidewalk tonight?” She murmured teasingly in response to Tobin’s greeting.

 

For as much as this currently sucked, she still found it funny.

 

“Well, there isn’t any point in shoveling until it’s done snowing, Chris. That’s winter 101.” Tobin answered her easily, laughing a little as she did.

 

“That doesn’t make any sense.” Christen laughed right back. “Seems like it’s extra hard that way.”

 

“Yeah, probably. But you know how strong I am.” Tobin returned confidently. “It won’t be a problem in the morning.”

 

Christen just rolled her eyes to herself, not responding for a moment until Tobin caught up.

 

“Wait, how do you even know I haven’t shoveled my sidewalks yet?”

 

Christen let out a soft sigh before she answered.

 

“Open your front door and I’ll show ya.”

 

“My front door?” Tobin hummed, clearly a little confused.

 

Christen could hear some rustling on the line, like Tobin was walking through the house now. She could make out a slight silhouette moving in the window, heading in the direction of the door, from where her head was resting in the snow still.

 

“What’s out my front door?” She questioned again as Christen heard the front door unlock through the phone.

 

“You’ll see…”

 

Tobin pulled the door open and peered out of it as Christen held her phone up in her hands, waving the lit up screen towards the door like some sort of S.O.S call.

 

Tobin really had to peer out of the entryway hard for a moment before she could make out the figure.

 

“Help me, please!” Christen shouted patiently after Tobin hadn’t moved quickly enough for her liking.

 

“Chris?” Tobin shouted again, both into the phone and out loud.

 

“Yes!” She waved her hand once more. “I can’t get up!”

 

Tobin let out a loud laugh as the front door swung halfway closed for a few moments and then quickly opened again. This time Tobin moved down off the front porch steps, stomping loudly in a pair of giant boots, throwing her arms through her jacket as she clomped down the pathway.

 

“What are you doing, Chris?” Tobin questioned as she approached, coming to a standstill in front of where Christen was lying in the snow-covered yard. “You’re supposed to be in California?”

 

“Merry Christmas...” Christen opened her arms like she was presenting herself as a surprise.  

 

Instead of helping the younger woman up, Tobin turned around right next to her and then flopped backwards herself, landing in the snow next to her with a soft thud of her own.

 

Christen could tell Tobin’s cheeks were slightly rosy, probably also from the wine.

 

“Are you drunk right now?” She asked with a laugh. “Your cheeks are red and you’re giggly.”

 

“Am I drunk?” Tobin giggled again and shook her head. “No?…  Are you? You’re the one buried in the snow right now.”

 

“Good point.” Christen laughed too. “No, I’m not drunk.

 

Tobin didn’t seem too concerned with the situation, talking casually as she started to move her arms and legs to make the outline of a snow angel underneath herself. “I still don’t understand what’s happening…”

 

Ahhhhh. Christen let out a sigh. “Well, my shoe is buried somewhere in this snow drift... I lost it trying to navigate this ridiculously challenging, unshoveled walkway, and when I tried to find the lost shoe with said empty foot, I fell over. Then I called you.”

 

Tobin laughed some more as she shook her head, her happiness warming Christen’s insides a little, just like she knew it would.

 

“Damn, wish I would have seen that.” Tobin winked. “Okay, I get why you’re lying in the snow now, but what the heck are you doing here? You were in LA when I talked to you last night, right?”

 

“Yeah, I was.” Christen nodded as she reached her hand out for Tobin, asking for some help to at least move a little bit.

 

Tobin stopped her snow angel movements and grabbed Christen’s hand, helping the dark-haired woman roll over onto her side so they were facing each other; both propped up on their elbows now only a few inches apart.

 

“But then I didn’t get you a Christmas present...” Christen started to explain. “And I loved what you sent me so much. Like, I couldn’t stop thinking about how happy it made me. It was so perfect and I’ve looked at it so many times already.”

 

Tobin was smiling at her so widely as she listened.

 

“And then after all my family left last night, I was lying in bed watching Love, Actually on my laptop because I couldn’t fall asleep and I was just really wishing I was with you.”

 

“Seriously?” Tobin questioned almost shyly.  

 

“Yeah. And you know that part in the movie where the guy shows up at Keira Knightley's house and he does that whole sign thing about how you’re supposed to tell the truth on Christmas and be with the people you care about, and it’s all lovely and perfect and annoying?”

 

“...Yeah.” Tobin nodded, knowing that scene well.

 

“Well, I don’t know but I guess it kinda made me wanna do something cute for you, and I had no plans today - I was just gonna hang out with my parents - but all of the sudden last night, that just didn’t seem good enough. So I bought a plane ticket and made my dad drive me to the airport this morning…”

 

“And now you’re here..” Tobin nodded like she kinda understood now, but not really.

 

“Yeah, and I was gonna knock on your door and be all cute and stuff, but then your damn sidewalk wasn’t shoveled and so here we are, in the middle of the yard…”

 

Tobin looked at her for a long moment before she busted out laughing again, covering her eyes with her hand at how hard the laughter was coming.

 

“Oh my god, Chris.” She shook her head. “You’re the most adorable person alive, I swear.”

 

Christen smiled and rolled her eyes as she flopped back down flat onto her back, assuming her first position in the snow as she looked up at the flakes coming down on them.

 

Tobin did the same, moving over a little so their shoulders were touching and then looking up at the sky too.

 

What felt cold before just felt peaceful and perfect now. It was the most at home Christen had felt since she drove away from Tobin’s front door two weeks ago.

 

They were silent as they just enjoyed their closeness for a minute until Christen finally let out a long sigh.

 

“Tobs?” She murmured quietly when she was done.

 

“Yeah?” Tobin asked almost hopefully in return.

 

There was another long pause before Christen finally got around to saying what she came here to say. The only thing she’d been thinking about since yesterday.

 

 

“I’m in love with you...”

 

 

Tobin grinned to herself, pausing for just a moment to make sure she heard her right, before she responded easily.

 

 

“I’m in love with you too, Chris.”

 

 

They both laughed softly then like it was a hilarious joke as they turned their heads towards each other again and locked eyes to really convey their feelings. Both of them practically shrugging like they knew they’d fallen into some sort of trap even though they’d tried to avoid it.

 

“Merry Christmas.” Christen whispered as she reached her now frozen hand out for Tobin’s.

 

“Merry Christmas, beautiful.” Tobin hummed.

 

She sat up and pulled Christen up into a sitting position too, and then reached up and wiped the snow off the top of Christen’s head before she leaned in slowly, kissing Christen’s lips softly for a long moment until they were both breaking into another smile against each other’s lips.

 

“I’m so happy you’re here.” Tobin mumbled as she pulled back just enough to speak, before she went in for another kiss.

 

“You better be.” Christen grinned happily. “Cause I’m freezing.”

 

“Yeah, we better get you inside.” Tobin finally suggested. “I don’t even want to know how long you’re gonna complain about this round of coldness.” she winked as Christen swatted her arm.

 

Tobin finally stood back up and the stretched both arms out for Christen to grab onto, pulling the green-eyed woman to her feet. They both shook themselves off a little as they laughed before Tobin was pulling Christen in for a big hug.

 

“I hope you’re ready to meet my family.” Tobin hummed as she turned towards the door, grabbing Christen’s hand to lead her up the steps. “Cause they’re all right inside.” She giggled again.

 

“Oh boy, sorry if I’m overstepping. I don’t have to come in if you don’t want me to.”

 

Christen realized now that she was barging in on their Christmas night celebration.

 

She hadn’t really thought much about her plan past telling Tobin what she needed to say.

 

“Of course I want you to. We’re about to play games and there is a ton of food and wine for you, too.” Tobin hummed as she tugged Christen up the porch steps. “Careful, the top step is a little slippery.”

 

Tobin pushed her front door open and moved in far enough for Christen to step inside too so that she could close the door again.

 

Christen instantly let a shiver run through her body from the warmth of the house. The heat from inside, coupled with the comforting smell of Tobin’s things made her feel right at home in an instant.  She’d really missed being here.

 

Tobin bent down to pull her big winter boots off and then hung her coat up on the coat rack before she turned to Christen again. Finally getting to really look at her now that they were standing in the well-lit entryway instead outside in the dark and snowy night.

 

She grinned as she stepped closer, reaching up to brush the rest of the snow out of Christen's hair and then she kissed her again, slower this time.

 

“I can’t believe you’re here.” Tobin murmured once more when they pulled back, holding Christen’s hips close with her hands. “I’m so happy.”

 

“Me too.” Christen nodded and leaned in again. “I missed you so much.”

 

They kissed a few more times before Christen took a deep breath, not letting herself get carried away when Tobin’s family was right in the other room.

 

“Ready?” Tobin murmured in question when they were both seemingly satisfied.

 

“As I’ll ever be.” Christen nodded surely, taking Tobin’s hand and following her towards the living room with a tiny bit of nerves.

 

Tobin’s whole family was sitting in the living room on the couch and loveseat, with a few of them on the floor near the fireplace.

 

Her mom and dad, her two sisters and their husbands and her little brother and his girlfriend, all turning to look at Tobin as she entered the room with Christen just behind her.  

 

There was a game of Charades sitting in the middle of the coffee table, the box open like they were about to start playing.

 

Tobin cleared her throat just a little and then smiled as she pulled Christen a little farther into the room, so they were standing shoulder to shoulder in front of them.

 

“Guys... This is Christen.” Tobin announced with a smile “My…”

 

She paused before she lowered her voice and turned her body to Christen’s like she needed them to confer on a title before she could finish her introduction.

 

“Girlfriend?” she whispered as she held eye contact with Christen.

 

How them it was to be deciding this on the fly.

 

Christen just shrugged her shoulders.

 

“Yeah, sure, I guess so...” Christen whispered back and nodded like she didn’t really know what else they’d call themselves after their little declaration to each other outside a few minutes ago.

 

They both just smiled and went with it.

 

“Right.” Tobin hummed and then turned back to her family. “My girlfriend.” she finally finished the introduction with another smile.

 

“Hi..” Christen waved to them all with a big smile as Tobin’s mom stood up from the couch.

 

“Oh, Christen, what a nice surprise!” Her mom beamed as she approached the two. “It’s so nice to meet you. We’ve heard so many good things about you from Tobin. Merry Christmas!”

 

“Merry Christmas!” Christen laughed as Tobin’s mom pulled her into a tight hug like they’d know each other for years.

 

Tobin blushed slightly when they let go of each other, receiving a curious but happy look from Christen at her mother’s reveal. She had never mentioned that she talked to her family about Christen all the time. Not that the younger woman minded.

 

Tobin took a few minutes to introduce everyone by name and then Christen was laughing again at the way they teased Tobin one by one.

 

“It’s great to meet you all. Thanks for letting me crash your Christmas celebration.” Christen beamed as she felt Tobin give her hand a gentle squeeze.

 

Tobin’s sister smiled at that from where she was sitting on the floor. “No, you’re actually just in time. We’re about to play Charades and our team needs one more person so we can destroy Tobin’s team fair and square.”

 

“Awesome.” Christen grinned happily. “Destroying Tobin at board games is one of my favorite activities.”

 

“Oh, please.” Tobin rolled her eyes as she moved around Christen, slapping her ass softly and heading towards where she had clearly been sitting before Christen showed up. Back towards her team’s side of the room. “Let’s go, Press. I’m not taking it easy on you now just because you know that I love you.”

 

“Bring it on, I can’t wait for us beat you.” Christen shrugged as she moved to the other side of the room, sitting down next to Tobin’s sister on the floor.

 

It was like they’d already had a ton of family Christmases together with how easy it all felt.

 

Tobin flopped down next to her mom in the open spot on the couch and looked up to meet Christen’s eyes.

 

They both grinned at each other and then Tobin winked happily as they held eye contact for a long moment. And then just like that, Tobin’s sister stood up and the game began.

 

Yeah, this was easily going to be their favorite Christmas ever.