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Afterglow

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The day was going too well.

Christen was hyper aware of this fact.

Something in the air caused the hair on her skin, on the back of her neck, to rise as she drove down the road to her father’s country home. North Georgia was typically smoldering hot this time of year in late June, but today the temperature was rather mild, and cool enough with the wind blowing the leaves around the great Oak trees in town. She’d put the top down on her Mercedes after leaving work, wanting to enjoy the last little inch of Summer before the cold came in so unwelcome. However, after starting up the old vehicle and cruising for a few miles, she recognized quickly and eerily that it was too cold. It was eerie, and off-putting, and it made her quickly frown as she turned down the radio. Something was wrong.

Call it motherly instinct, call it whatever you want.

Something was really, really, wrong.

Chris thought of Donovan immediately, where she left him with her father this morning before heading off to work. She was thirty years old, and made more than enough money to afford a babysitter, but her dad had instantly protested, wanting nothing more than to spend his lonely Summer days with the five-year-old before school started back.

She’d agreed to the arrangement in May, and honestly- it had comforted her to know that her dad was watching him instead of a stranger, or a group of strangers at the town’s daycare center. Though now she wasn’t so sure.

What if something has happened to dad? And no one is there to watch Donovan?

What if something has happened to Donovan?

The alarm sounded heavy in her brain as she sped up, taking a sharp right turn into the driveway where her suspicions were validated. Parked next to her dad’s Ford truck was a black Escalade. A police interceptor, from the looks of it. Christen sped down the driveway and jammed the car in park, tires skidding across the loose gravel leading up to the massive white house. The car door was flown open. The hard top practically forgotten about, as she took the front porch steps two at a time to the open screen door.

Before her fingers could wrap around the metal handle, laughter- her father’s laughter- bellowed out through the house and into her ears, giving instant relief to her racing heart. She could barely make out the sound of another voice, light and airy, feminine and almost familiar, until-

“Kelley?” She choked, pushing her body into the house that smelled like home.

Sergeant Kelley O’Hara was the first person her eyes laid on as she stepped into the living room, dressed in full-service uniform with her upright posture, hands clasped behind her back. They’d not seen each other in years, three years to be exact, not since her mother’s funeral. Christen looked back towards the black Escalade, finally noticing the U.S Government license plate. She felt like she was going to choke, understanding that perhaps her earlier suspicions that something was deeply wrong had been true. There was no reason for the woman to be standing in her house.

No reason but one.

Christens eyes began to water as Kelley took her in, looking peaceful and exhausted. Her father took one look at Christen from where he sat in the recliner and knew immediately what she needed, tilting his head across the living room towards the couch next to her. Her gaze softened at the sight of her son. Donovan was resting quietly on the worn couch, thumb stuck between his lips while his feet were tucked under a throw blanket. She stepped towards him, hearing the way her heels clicked against the hardwood as she bent down to kiss his forehead. Once she sat her purse next to him on the couch and tucked the blanket tighter around his legs, she felt the knot rise high into her throat and the tears begin to accumulate.

“Chris, I-“

Christen stood up, turning to face her old friend with the tears collected around her chin. She sniffed and sent a quiet prayer to ask for her knees not to give out when the news was dropped on her like an atom bomb.

“What happened to her?” She whispered, meeting Kelley’s hazel eyes briefly as she crossed her arms around herself, trying to protect herself from the dread.

Kelley softened at her question, un-clenching her hands behind her back and visibly relaxing. She walked around the glass coffee table, stopping a few feet from Christens trembling form.

“Take a walk with me Chris.”

“Goddammit Kelley,” She bit through the whisper, trying to keep her voice down and not wake her son. “What happened to her- spit it out.”

“It’s not like that, baby girl.” Her dad rose from his seat, bringing his mug with him as he stood and shook his head, nodding towards the front door that he’d just watched her walk through. “Hear her out.”

Christen met Kelley’s eyes again, allowing herself to breathe and wipe her fingers across her cheeks before nodding once and allowing the other woman to lead her outside.

They took the steps gently. Christen allowed her position behind the woman to observe, taking in her shiny black boots, the pale green pants and uniform jacket heavily decorated with pins that she knew nothing about. It was a cold contrast from her own pink Summer dress, decorated with little flowers, glowing with warmth. She’d always felt that about their uniforms, how cold and uncomfortable they seemed, all the negativity she felt when she touched the material or stood close to it.

Kelley walked next to her quietly for a few moments, leading them past the hanging Oak trees and Orchards that covered her father’s yard. They’d grown up in these trees. Swinging from them, falling from them, taking bites out of the fruit from the ones that made fruit. She’d had her first kiss beneath these trees, and it was here that she’d said goodbye to that girl- hiccuping from the sobs that wracked her body as she watched that same damn green uniform get into that old truck and drive away.

“How’ve you been, Chris?” Kelley asked, reaching up to grab a pear and using the fruit to keep her from meeting Christens eyes, now that they were alone.

“Why are you here?” She countered, “What’s happened?”

Their eyes met, Kelley’s gaze flipping back and forth between her left eye and right eye, trying to judge her state of mind, Christen assumed. The woman kneeled on the grass before sitting down, motioning for Christen to do the same, so she did. Kelley’s eyes took in her figure, as if she hadn’t seen her in more years than she had. Christen felt herself getting anxious at the staring, she felt her heart skip inside of her chest as Kelley’s eyes lingered on her hands, on the wedding band she was currently twirling that sat heavy on her left ring finger. She’d not even meant to wear the rings this morning, knowing they no longer held any significance, but she’d placed them on out of habit after waking up and had forgotten to take them off.

Quietly, but not subtly, Christen covered her left hand with her right one, covering all traces of the news that caused Kelley’s head to shake and her jaw to clench. They sat for a few seconds in silence before the woman sighed.

“Nothin’s happened. I mean, I do have news. I just, I uh-“

She paused. Then, “Chris, uh, Tobin came home today.”

The sharp, stinging, inhale of breath that pierced her lungs was enough to get the friend’s attention again. Her mouth was open, eyes low in disbelief, heart racing so hard that she could feel it in her fingertips and temples.

“She’s uh, she’s injured. But, but uh, I think they’ve released her for good. Her unit hit an IED and an enemy sniper hit her from a way’s away.”

Before she could ask the mumbling girl to keep going, she continued, “It killed eight of our squad, only reason I wasn’t with them was because of a really bad kidney infection that hit me a week before, I was ordered to say on base. She’s not too bad off, just a few cuts here and there, a lot of bruising, and… she uh, she took a bullet to the hip but she, she… she hid in the wreckage until we could get another unit sent out to do damage control.”

Kelley wasn’t going to cry, this much Christen knew, but it didn’t stop her lip from trembling and her jaw from clenching with every sentence she finished. Tears had long since been free falling down Christen’s cheeks. In all honestly, she wanted to have a panic attack, she wanted to wrap her old friend in her arms, she wanted to scream and get in her car and go see the wreckage that the war had left of the only other person she’d loved besides her parents and son. She wanted to do a lot of things, a lot of things that she knew wouldn’t end well for her.

Kelley turned her eyes away from the pear that she’d been picking at with her nails, allowing her watery eyes meet Christen’s again.

“I thought I’d lost her, uh… they’d told me about it before the med unit got there and found her… found her beneath some fucking bodies. And the only thing I could fucking think of after thinking that my best friend was dead was thinking that she’d never get to meet-m.. meet her son.”

Christen’s eyes closed at the line, unable to listen to it anymore. She wished the girl would stop talking, wished her good day would have ended the same as it began, wished she wouldn’t have made the choices she’s made. She heard the girl brush her hands on her pants and stand, and looked up as a sticky, pear scented hand was held out for her, so she did the same. The world was spinning as she stood, processing, fighting the ache that Kelley had provoked, fighting the last six years of her life.

Kelley shoved her hands into her pockets and shook her head at the crying girl in front of her.

“I came here because I don’t know what happened. All I know is… we came back six years ago to visit after a deployment, you guys were doing fine. We deployed again and suddenly my best friend wasn’t talking, wasn’t eating, was drinking every chance she got. I know that I returned a few years ago to say goodbye to Mrs. Stacy one last time and you had a two-year-old on your hip that looks just like my best friend, and some man staring at you like a piece of meat. When I asked Ali at Miss Sandra’s Diner who the man was, she shrugged and said your new boyfriend. When I asked Ali who’s kid it was, she said you’d had him two years ago and wouldn’t tell, assuming that you’d cheated on Tobin and that’s what ended the relationship. I told myself that for a while, knowing Tobin’s issues with all of that. But, but…”

The woman shook her head again in laughter, “Chris, he looked just like her.”

Christen bites her lip and looks to the ground, tears still dripping from her cheekbones, unable to form words at the woman’s revelations. A strong hand comes out to hold hers, directing her green eyes up to meet the bright hazel pair across from her.

“He looks just like her. And she’s not stupid, no one is. And it’s going to kill her when she meets that little boy and sees a version of herself, the same kid in the picture on her mama’s mantle. So I need you to tell me truthfully,” The sergeant pleaded, “Please tell me I’m not crazy.”

A silent sob rips its way from her chest as she cries, pushing her head into her hands with each cry that wracks her body as she shakes her head back and forth.

“I’m not crazy?” She shakes her head. Kelley asks again, “It’s hers?” She nods into her hands.

“Okay, okay.” The woman slowly speaks, pulling Christen’s trembling body into her hold with one hand on the back of Christens head to keep it in place at her shoulder. “I know, it’s okay. I just needed to hear it.”

She cries for what feels like hours, standing beneath the pear tree, and it takes her back to all those nights she spent crying at the hands of her mother while pregnant at twenty five, terrified of being a single mother and terrified that she’d found out too late. Her mother had soothed her, and told her that she’d loved her, and that they would raise the baby to be healthy, and happy, and strong. And it had became a source of hope for her, those words that were whispered into her panicked ear as she gave birth, knowing that Tobin was across the world, knowing that Tobin had walked out on her.

Christen regains that strength, feeling the love from her mother in her heart, allowing her to pull her head off of Kelley’s shoulders and wipe the moisture from her eyes in what felt like the hundredth time that evening.

“I need to know what happened so we can figure out what to do about this. Tobin just got here today, we flew in together, I dropped her off at home before I stopped by here… it won’t be long before she knows, Chris. This town has never been big enough for the both of you.”

This causes Christen to smile, despite her not feeling all that happy at the moment.

“And I need to know more about that ring on your finger.”

This causes Christen to frown.

 

They sit on the back porch as the sun sets, swinging back and forth on the old porch swing that’s belonged to the family since before she was born. Kelley’s sipping a beer with her father who sits in a rocking chair, and Christen is feeling anxious as she nurses sweet honey tea and begins the story.

“I found out I was pregnant four weeks after she left. Morning sickness, altered habits, the whole nine. I knew immediately what it was, but I put it off because it didn’t make any sense to me how it could have happened in the first place.”

Kelley shook her head, closely watching Donovan jump on the trampoline. She’d taken off her jacket once they’d gotten back inside, leaving it draped over the couch so she could enjoy the evening heat in her starchy green undershirt. “It don’t make sense to me even now.”

Christen set her glass down, “Dad would you mind getting Don ready for bed, for me?”

Cody knew it was his que to leave the two women alone to talk, giving his daughter a quick kiss to the forehead before wrangling his grandson from the trampoline. It took a village, but the laughing boy finally crawled through the netting and into his arms. Christen watched with a smile on her face, willing the child to always stay so small and charming. The little boy had been fascinated with their guest once he woke up as they stepped back inside, immediately launching himself into Kelley’s arms so that he could be closer to the shiny decorations and medals covering the chest of her jacket. She’d let him run around with her hat on and taught him unsuccessfully how to salute.

Once the duo finally made their way inside, with Christen’s promise to come upstairs and tuck him into bed, she’d folded her legs in the seat and gave the woman next to her attention.

“We’d been having sex for years, Kel. Tobin was supposed to be sterile, so I was never on birth control and we never used a condom. The doctors had told her she was. They’d known that since she was little and was born the way she was.”

“But she wasn’t, I mean…” Kelley nods suggestively towards the house, “Clearly.”

Christen shrugs. “Clearly. I don’t know, but he’s definitely hers. No DNA test needed. He acts just like her, stubborn and quiet, contagious laughter, energy, all of it. Not a lick of me in him apart from his hair and skin.”

“His skin?” Kelley mumbles, suggestively stroking her chin.

Christen’s eyes roll, “Kelley, he’s obviously not white.”

“Tobin’s white?!” She stands, looking wild and laughing, up to her typical antics. Christen hits her arm and pulls her back down onto the porch swing. “Damn, coulda fooled me.”

They grow quiet, watching the lightning bugs and listening to the crickets that surround the house, filling the still air with life and music.

“She left me the day you guys deployed. Told me she was doing it for my benefit, with her job and all, that she didn’t know from one day to the next if she was coming home walking or in a casket. Told me she couldn’t see me suffer like that, not even from heaven, so it was best if I moved on. We’d been together the night before, slept together I mean, she’d cried through the whole thing so I kinda had a feeling that something was wrong, but she wouldn’t speak when I asked her about it. She always cried before she deployed, just… just not like that, you know? Then I find out I’m pregnant, not knowing where she was, how to get in contact with her, if it was even worth it.”

Kelley scoffs, “It would have been worth it. She would have came home as soon as she could have.”

Christen’s eyes lower in frustration as her head shakes, “She would have been reckless out there, knowing that we were all the way back here needing her. I couldn’t risk her getting killed because of her mind not being in the right place. I would have rather died than to know she was in more danger. Burying her…” The words get caught in her throat. “That’s a nightmare. I could have handled a newborn, and I did, but that? No. I could never. And I suppose that’s the reason she left.”

 The conversation grows quiet again, with Christen recognizing the far-away look in her old friend’s eyes, knowing that she understands the feeling of dread that comes with the thought of Tobin’s death.

“So you moved on, though? I mean… with the ring and all. That the man I saw?”

Christen nods, giving Kelley what could be the most lifeless look she’s ever seen. “My husband, yeah. Jermaine.”

“Husband.” Kelley scoffs again, swigging her beer. “Never thought I’d see that with you, Press. Where is he right now?”

The beer bottle is gently taken from Kelley’s grip as Christen turns it up and finishes it off, setting it down on the side table with a thud and a sigh.

“In jail since last weekend. Also, he’s my ex-husband, sorry. Still getting used to saying that.”

“In jail? For what? You’re divorced? Why are you wearing the ring, then?”

Christen sighs again, willing herself to steel, to say the words clearly, like it’s nothing. She’s almost proud of the way her makeup hides the faint bruises to her cheek and forehead, how the lipstick hides the healing cut. What it couldn’t hide, however, is the marks covering her stomach, the deep purple bruise that rests above her hipbone from being thrown against the edge of the kitchen island in their home. It was the worst of it all, what will take longest to heal, the reason for her wearing dresses for the last four days.

“Three counts of domestic battery. I accidentally put the ring on this morning out of habit.”

She stands, now. Looking quickly through the window to make sure her dad was asleep in his chair, before hiking up her dress to reveal the product to her old friend, who’s eyes darken and jaw clenches at the sight of it. Kelley’s nostrils flair as her head dips, fists clenched and knuckles white as they grip the seat below them.

“He started hitting me about a year ago. At first it was nothing big. We were a year into our marriage, we’d have little arguments and he’d shove me off him roughly or grip my wrists too hard. Then he started doing it when he was drinking about four months ago. It kept getting worse and worse, so I served him divorce papers last weekend. My dad was supposed to be there with me, but I’d gone to the house early to start packing my things to make it easier for dad. Jermaine got home an hour earlier than usual, saw the divorce papers, flipped out. We argued for a while before he smacked me, once it finally hit him that I was leaving. My dad got there about five minutes after, right as I was thrown into the counter top. It took about five police officers and Ashlyn to pull my dad off him.”

Kelley shakes her head from where they rest in her hands.

“I’d been saving all of the pictures of the bruises for a while now. My lawyer printed them and piled them on the judge’s desk. We might have been in there for 10 minutes while the judge looked at the photographs and granted me a divorce. And a good chunk of his assets. And the house. So,”

Christen taps her palms to her thighs, running them back and forth along the material of her dress.

“It’s okay though. It could have been a lot worse. I’m just thankful that it’s over, and that he never laid his hands on Don.”

Kelley sits back upright, still shaking her head. Her fingers reach for the unopened beer and twist the cap off.

The third wave of silence washes over the pair as night falls around them. Christen yawns into her palm, deciding that it’s best that she stays here for the night instead of getting Donovan out of bed and driving them home. It’ll be the third night that she’s slept in her childhood bedroom, unable to do anything with the house down the street while she’s putting it up for sale. The settlement had left her with a good chunk of cash, enough to buy another house whenever she was ready. Enough to send Donovan to that private school if he wanted to go. Enough to take them both on an end-of-Summer vacation that she’s been planning since the beginning of Spring, when she first spoke to her lawyer about getting divorced. Though, Tobin’s presence in the town now means that a vacation won’t be happening. Christen knows of the opportunity she’s been given to tell her ex the truth. Christen knows where her heart is, where her heart has been since the girl left her beneath the pear tree six years ago. Just like how she knows that she only married because it was safe, because he flattered her, because he had a good job and could provide them with security that she didn’t have as a young, heartbroken mother. Just like she knows that God always has a plan, and she’s reminded of that plan every day when she twirls that old cross necklace Tobin gave her between her fingers.

She doesn’t know where Tobin’s heart is at. She doesn’t know how she’s going to react to any of this once she tells her. The woman has probably changed. Hell, they both have.

But what she does know. What she really, genuinely, does know, is-

“You can’t tell Tobin what happened with your ex husband.”

“Huh?” She questions, looking at Kelley curiously, who looks at her with dead set eyes and dilated pupils.

“She’ll have him killed, Chris. Or she’d do it herself.”

 

 

 

 

Kelley manages to finish four beers as the conversation carries on. They swing for a little while, catching up on old times and old memories of growing up together, neither one of them mentioning how the conversation always ends up on Tobin. Somehow, it always does. Christen notices and blames it on growing up in a small town. Kelley grew up in a house down the street from the family home, though they eventually moved across town, right around the time they entered seventh grade, right around the time Tobin’s family was moving into town and buying the house that Kelley’s family was selling. The three girls instantly connected, with Kelley introducing Christen to Tobin at school. Tobin was indoctrinated into the middle school friend group, fitting in perfectly at the groups lunch table, alongside Ali, Ashlyn, Ali’s brother Kyle, Megan R and Meghan K, who they called “Kling” to not confuse anyone from Megan R. It was a tight knit group, still is.

Ashlyn works for the police department as a lieutenant, married Ali (who owns and works at Miss Sandra’s diner) straight out of high school.

Kyle runs the only barbershop in town.

Megan R, deemed “Pinoe” by the friend group their freshman year, went off to college in New York before traveling for a while, though she eventually found herself back home and burnt out from the city life. She now works at the high school as Head Athletic Coordinator, with Kling. Kling teaches physical education.

Christen works at the preschool as the Administration Head. It’s monotonous work, but she loves it. Not much of her job involves spending time with the kids, as most of it involves coordinating the day to day activities of the teachers and ensuring they have all they need, but the little time she does get to spend with the little ones- watching them learn and grow and play- it lights up her life.

So the friends were all together, looking out for one another, taking each other for drinks after long days and hosting Super Bowl parties at each other’s houses. All of the original group but two- Tobin and Kelley, and it always felt like some thing was missing. Some of them used to comment on that, mostly Ashlyn, saying how it always felt like the group was incomplete, missing Kelley’s antics and Tobin’s golden aura. It took Christen exploding one afternoon after one of Ashlyn’s comments, as they all sat gathered around Ashlyn’s backyard on Veteran’s Day where they were hosting a bonfire, for the comments to stop. She couldn’t even remember what was said, but she remembers the guilty looks she received as she threw her beer can into the fire and stormed inside, biting out “Well, they aren’t here and they aren’t going to be, and I don’t fucking think I want to be either.”  

Christen doesn’t think she’s heard their names being mentioned ever since, and she was thankful for that. The hardest part had been the updates ceasing. Ali no longer showed her photos of the two girls that were posted on Facebook, all dressed up in their tactical uniforms somewhere in the middle of a desert in God knows where. They always turned off the news, protecting Christen from the latest updates about ISIS bombings in the Middle East. They stopped letting her know that Cindy and Jeff had received a phone call from Tobin. She knew that it was for her own benefit, but that was harder.

So she made a little bargain with herself. Every now and then, probably once every two or three months, she’d call Kelley’s parents and ask how their daughter was doing. They were always nice to her, she always thanked them and ended the conversation before the tears could start up, but it helped.

The situation with Tobin’s parents was different. Cindy and Jeff, much like their daughter, had some time of odd relationship with proximity and distance to Christen. If she was at the grocery store, they were at the grocery store. If she took Donovan to the park, they just so happened to somehow have their other grandchildren that day… at the park, not to mention Tobin’s older sister’s both lives thousands of miles away. They’d watched Donovan grow up, they saw his familiar face, and despite knowing that he was their grandson, they were also hyper aware of the situation between Christen and their daughter. So they showed Christen the same amount of love and sacrifice that they instilled in Tobin, that same love and sacrifice that caused Tobin to break up with her, and they never said a word.

She asked them for updates with her eyes. She’d meet their gaze, they’d nod to let her know that Tobin was okay, and both parties went their separate ways. It wasn’t an ideal situation, none of it was, but it was all that she could handle and all that she could offer them. So it’s the only thing that happened.

Christen sighed, knowing that the situation was about to change, not knowing exactly how that situation was going to change. Tobin was home now, less than a mile down the street asleep in that same house, and Christen knew that she’d be knocking on the front door tomorrow.

“Hey Chris,” Kelley giggled from beside her. It was getting late, they’d both been drinking for a while now, turning them both into a broken record of old memories.

“Do you remember that time in 11th grade, Tobin was throwing rocks at your window upstairs that night she finally got the balls to walk over and ask you out? And she accidently threw one too hard and it busted the windowpane?”

Both girls break out into laughter, Kelley remembering being hidden in a bush below the window after Tobin begged her to come for moral support in case she was turned down. She laughs because of the memory of Tobin’s face, how her eyes went wide and her hand covered her mouth. Christen laughs at the memory of her dad’s booming voice, wondering who the hell was busting out his window at 11pm. Tobin had stuttered her way through the explanation and apologies to Christen’s father, finally getting to the point of the whole debacle of how she’d wanted to ask his daughter on a date. Christen had been listening from the living room, eyes wide at the explanation, and before her father could even say a word in response, she’d pushed her way barefoot through the front door and said yes with a smile so wide it reached her ears.

Their first date had been classic and magical. A nervous ride in Tobin’s truck to the drive-in theater. It was the dead of Fall, so Tobin had let Christen wear her Letterman’s jacket and hold her hand on the way over there. The girls, being best friends for years up until this point, had already spent so much time together that simple things like a Letterman’s jacket and holding hands was the normal. This time though, it was different. It was special. Christen had felt special, and Tobin had played the perfect role in their first date despite the nerves they knew they both had.

Anguish washed over her at the memory, an anguish so familiar because she feels it every day. Every time she’s alone in a bed. Every time she smells something that reminds her of Tobin’s skin. Every time she comes across an old picture. Every time she sleeps with someone else. Every damn time she looks at her son. It’s a hole in her chest and memory that can’t be filled or covered up. Every year the hole gets a little smaller, but it never goes away, and it never heals fully.

Christen’s sobbing before she knows it, the laughter being replaced very quickly by the anguish, coming out of her in gasps for air and quiet cries. It’s so sudden and startling that it shocks Kelley, who quickly stops her giggling and pulls her to her chest.

Christen gasps the words out between the cries, “I don’t know how to do this. She’s going to hate me for this, I-”

“Shh.” Soothing fingers run through her hair. “She ain’t gonna hate you, Chris. Tobin’s not like that.”

The fingers lift up her chin, forcing her eyes to meet those of her friends.

“She’s going to be very confused, and hurt. But Chris, she loves you. She always has loved you. You know it’s always been you.”

Christen stands now, out of the chair and snatching her face from the grasp with a shake of her head in defiance as the thousandth tear of the night runs down her cheek.

“She left me, so don’t start that. I can’t- I can’t hear that right now.”

Kelley reaches for her wrist as she turns to go inside, snatching her back around and away from the back door.

“Why do you think she’s home, Chris? The girl doesn’t have any roots, she coulda went anywhere now that her honorable discharge has been processed. She didn’t even fight them when they told her she was done, she said she was going home.”

The statement pisses her off, boiling her blood to the highest degree at the thought of herself being anywhere on a list of Tobin’s priorities. Christen snatches her hand away in anger, pointing to the woods towards Tobin’s house.

“She wouldn’t have left me if she wanted this! God dammit. I’ve spent years begging God to tell me why she couldn’t have just stayed, why she felt the need to fucking protect me like some fucking hero in some fucked up movie that I didn’t sign up for.”

Kelley steps closer to her, trying to get the woman to calm down, but it’s to no use. Christen swats her hand away and bites through the tears.

“But you know what I did sign up for? You know why I’m so fucking angry? Because I signed up for the military with her, as her partner. I was in that room too when she signed those fucking papers. I knew what I was getting myself in to. I knew the sacrifices I was going to have to make and I didn’t care.”

“WELL SHE DID!” Kelley yells, voice breaking on the last word. Christen watches as the woman clenches and unclenches her fist, bringing her right hand up to rub the tension from her jaw as she shakes with adrenaline. The tension breaks into a silent standoff, with both girls heavily breathing and waiting for the other to speak.

Quietly now, Kelley starts again.

“Tobin did care. She didn’t want you to make those sacrifices. I can’t tell you it was right what she did, she knows it wasn’t. I watched that girl cry herself to sleep for weeks after we got back. Then we deployed… and she’d have to get up and see shit that no one should have to see… do shit that no one should have to do… live in a fucking horror movie all day, and go back to sleep with a picture of you in her hands, not knowing if she’d wake up again. And I know that’s why you didn’t tell her about Donovan. And no one, not even her, is going to blame you for that. But don’t you dare say that she wouldn’t have left, or that she doesn’t love you. Cause that picture’s still in her fucking wallet and she’s home for good, and she’s not going to want to waste a minute of the freedom she’s been given now.”

Kelley steps towards her again, putting her arms around her shoulders in a hug to apologize for yelling. “I didn’t mean to raise my voice like that, and I’m not here to speak on her behalf or anything, but Chris… look how our lives have played out, man. You and Tobin ain’t meant to be apart, and everything that’s happened ‘til now has shown you that, that little boy in there is all the proof you need.”

 

 

 

 

Christen wakes up to the sound of her son’s laughter paired with Kelley’s, putting an instant smile on her face. She smells breakfast cooking, making the smile grow even wider as she leans up and stretches her arms above her head.

Saturday mornings in the Summer have been her favorite time of the week since she was a child. Her mother would raise all the windows in the house before she cooked, a tradition her father has kept alive now that she’s passed, allowing the sounds of the birds and the smell of the grass to mix with the scent of pancakes and bacon, all wrapped up and carried through the house by the natural sunlight streaming in through the windows. It was a perfect way to wake up, and probably one of the reasons the new house hunting will be put off for a few more weeks so that she can enjoy it for longer.

She showers as quick as she can after shaving before pulling her still-wet hair into a tight bun and throwing on a pair of short jean overalls over an old blue t-shirt that she grabbed out of a drawer. It hits her as she makes her way downstairs that the t-shirt is one of Tobin’s from high school that had been stuffed in the dresser of her old bedroom.

Any other day, the shirt would have been ripped from her body and thrown in the garbage, but she doesn’t care to do that this time. Not after the conversation with Kelley last night. They managed to drink about six beers a piece, depleting the last of her father’s supply, and she forced Kelley to stay in the spare bedroom instead of going to a hotel after she’d been drinking. That led to a conversation of Kelley staying the rest of the weekend here until her parents come back from their vacation on Monday. The set up worked in both of their favors. The girls could catch up, Kelley wouldn’t have to get a hotel for two days, and Kelley could be here for when Tobin eventually stopped by in case things went sour.

Christen smiles once she reaches the open-styled kitchen, watching her father cook with his “Big Daddy” apron on as Kelley tickled Donovan at the breakfast table. Kelley had on a new pair of her service pants and a new green shirt while Donovan was still in his favorite dinosaur onesie. Sat atop his head was Kelley’s green service hat. Christen made a mental note to ask Kelley if she needed to borrow some clothes, not knowing if the girl had brought any other clothes with her.

Donovan’s eyes come alive again once he spots his mother leaned up against the kitchen threshold.

“Mommy! Miss Kelley said she would go fishin’ with me!”

Christen laughs, walking towards them to put a kiss on the boy’s head. She eyes her old friend suspiciously. “Did she now? Is papa coming too?”

She slides up next to her dad, pouring a cup of hot coffee to start the day off. Her dad wiggles his eyebrows at her, looking overjoyed to have more company than usual to join him for Saturday breakfast.

“I suppose.”

“Oh hey, CP? Word got out that Big Daddy was cooking breakfast so like… everyone’s on their way.”

Christen whips her head around to her friend, who’s got a shit-eating grin on her face.

“Kel, that’s too many people to feed with no warning!”

Two sets of eyes roll, one set belonging to her son and the other belonging to her friend. It startles Christen for a second, before she remembers that Kelley is practically still a five-year-old.  

“Well then,” Her dad laughs, “I better start cooking more food. And thank the Lord me and Donovan went grocery shopping yesterday.”

Minutes later, the four are joined by the five loud and hungry stragglers that file into the kitchen, all of them squeezing Kelley so tight that her green shirt is wrinkled in the process. Christen leads them all outside to the patio tables so they can catch up and let her dad cook in peace, laughing as her son replaces Kelley’s military hat for Ashlyn’s round police hat. Not much talking is done on her part, it’s too peaceful- watching the gang sit around and make each other laugh again like it used to be. They’re older now, with careers, tattoos, and one five-year-old added to the mix, but it still feels the same as before. Childish jokes are made at everyone’s expense, laughter is loud and frequent, perhaps the only difference is the lack of curse words due to said five-year-old and Christen’s sharp gaze, but it’s familiar.

And it’s home.

And it’s all about to be disrupted.

The laughter and animation are so loud that no one catches the sound of that old familiar truck pulling into the gravel driveway. It used to be one of Christen’s favorite sounds. She’d heard it a million times before. When Tobin picked her up for school in the morning, when they had a date to go on, when she had a bad day and asked Tobin to come and pick her up, every Sunday morning before they went to church, and when Tobin came home from deployment. But the sound was so foreign to her now that even if everyone had been quiet when it happened, she might have not recognized it.

Her father, however, with the back doors closed from all the commotion and the front porch windows open, had recognized it instantly. His hand stopped from where it had been flipping the next pancake, ears tuned in to the outside to make sure he was hearing things correctly, then the sound of that old truck door shutting sounded throughout the house.

Christen angled her head backwards as the back door was opened, watching her father peak his head out quickly and wipe his hands on a hand towel. Every hair on her body stood up, as if lightening was about to strike through the blue sky above her head.

“There’s someone at the door for you, baby.”

Chapter Text

“There’s someone at the door for you, baby.”

You could hear a pin drop at the table. And for a second, no one knew what to do. Christen was motionless, mouth open and eyes unreadable as she stared into her father’s eyes to find strength. He nodded once, countering the anxiety and nausea that was tearing her stomach to pieces, but she still couldn’t move. Donovan was in her lap, trying to make out the words on Kelley’s dog tag, completely oblivious to the frozen adults surrounding him.

It took Ali sliding her seat back and standing before Christen could move.

“Let me take him, Chris.” She spoke quietly, almost as if not to spook her friend, as she lifted Donovan off Christen’s lap and into her own. Christen stood, feeling the heat from every pair of silent eyes burning into her skull as she walked the few steps up to the upper deck to join her dad at the door. He gave her a smile, squeezing her shoulder while they walked, before letting her go so she could step through the living room towards the front door.

With a handle on the knob, Christen paused, head dropping to the ground for a moment to collect herself before she broke this six-year distance. Her mother always told her to never open the door with weak knees, cause you never know what’s on the other side. She’d laughed and responded to her mother, “Well why not? Who could even be there?”

She remembers her mother’s laughter, “You never know, honey. It could be God himself on the other side of that door. And He expects His children to stand tall.”

She wasn’t certain that God was on the other side, but she was certain that she wouldn’t have been this nervous if he was.

So she opened the door, forgetting about the weak knees and her mother’s words, and as she met the woman’s eyes through the screen door, the doorknob truly was the only source of strength at keeping her legs from giving out.

Tobin had turned around at the sound of the door opening, one hand stuck in the pockets of her low-hanging jeans and the other hand wrapped around a casserole dish. Her light brown hair was down and still damp from a shower, falling over her crisp white t-shirt and doing a poor job at hiding the stitches that decorated her eyebrow and cheekbone.

They stood still for a minute, taking each other in through the screen. Christen noticed first that Tobin had gained about 20 pounds of muscle over the years, broadening her shoulders and rippling in the forearm that grasped the glass dish. She’d aged too, losing every bit of baby fat and sharpening her gaunt features. Her eyes looked tired and hopeful, as they both held each other’s gaze and waited for the other to speak.  

Tobin noticed only one thing, really, maybe two. First, that Christen still was the most beautiful woman she’d ever set eyes on. And second, that 6 years really never changed the way she felt about her. Tobin could feel her heart racing, her palms were so clammy that she worried about dropping the stupid casserole, and all she wanted to do was throw herself out of a moving vehicle for ever letting this woman go. You are a moron. She told herself. The biggest moron on the planet, and also one lucky son of a bitch if she's still single after all these years. 

Tobin was the first to speak, eyes dropping to Christen’s bare feet as she swallowed some of her nerves.

At the sound of her voice, Christen took an inaudible breath of air.

“I uh, I heard through the grapevine that uh, Cody was cooking for everyone. I don’t mean to show up so.. so uninvited but, um…” Tobin closed her eyes and shook her head, realizing that she might have made a mistake by coming here since Christen still hadn’t spoken or opened the door. “I got home from deployment yesterday. And well, mom made too much breakfast casserole. Told me to bring some over and see everyone again.”

Christen stared at her, hand still on the doorknob and eyes glued to the wooden floor of the front porch. Tobin scratched the back of her head with her unoccupied hand.

“I uh, I can just leave this with you and go-“

“No,” Christen closed her eyes, swallowing bile that had risen up from her nerves, feeling a drop of sweat run down her lower back. “Don’t- you don’t have to go.”

“Okay.”

Tobin opened the screen door gently, noticing the way Christen immediately took a step back. She stared at the girl for a second before stepping inside, not wanting to startle her, not wanting her to take back her invitation to join them. Christen walked a few steps ahead of her through the living room, towards the empty kitchen, noticing that her dad was already outside feeding the starving adults. She spotted her son, perched now in Ashlyn’s lap as Ali cut his pancakes into smaller bites, suddenly becoming hyper aware of the person behind her and the brewing situation. Bile rose into her throat again as her tear ducts emptied themselves on her cheeks. She didn’t want to do this. Not here. Not in front of everyone. She should have told Tobin that it wasn’t a good time. But it was too late now.

In her head, she had planned on Tobin coming when everyone was gone, maybe when it was just her and Kelley. She'd imagined that Tobin might call someone ahead of time, someone that would have let Christen know she was planning on stopping by, so Christen could have asked her father to take Donovan somewhere. In her dreams, she would tell Tobin before the soldier got the chance to meet him, that way- Tobin would have had the leeway to fully express her feelings. Christen prepared in her mind for Tobin to rage, to hate her, or maybe to just be heartbroken and depressed. Honestly, she had no true way of knowing how she would react. The only thing she did know, is that she didn't want Tobin finding out in front of her kid, and she definitely didn't want Tobin finding out in front of all of their friends. 

Life does not agree to our plans on most days, and this brewing situation was about to not be fair for anyone involved. 

“Let me get you some coffee.” Her voice betrayed her, cracking. Her hands wiped at her cheeks before she gripped the coffee pot and poured a mug of black coffee, offering it to the woman once she turned around. Tobin stood motionless in the middle of the kitchen, watching the other woman visibly suffer because of her. She watched as Christen handed her the mug and wiped the falling moisture from under her eyes. The mug was sat down as soon as she grabbed it, and she placed the damned casserole on the counter next to the mug gently, before reaching her hands out to grab hold of the smaller woman’s wrists to stop them from wiping her eyes again. She didn’t know what she was doing, only that muscle memory reminded her that this was a way to comfort Christen. She couldn’t help but think that she must have lost her mind to hug the girl after being in the house for only two minutes.

Christen’s throat was locked up in a knot as her arms were wrapped around the small waist. Tobin’s body was harder, her grip tighter as long arms wrapped themselves around her shoulders. When their torsos molded together, once Christen was able to breathe and smell that same familiar scent, her brain finally realized who she was hugging, almost as if remembering that the woman was real and alive. The hug was entirely friendly, no pressing hips or noses turned into necks or trailing hands, and it allowed them both to finally breathe for the first time in six years.

It didn’t last long, and no words were spoken, but it was enough to calm Christen’s nerves and remind her of Tobin’s gentle ways. It was enough to make her think that Tobin might could handle the life changing news she was about to receive once they stepped outside.

Though in reality, Tobin handled it badly. Christen assumes that it could have went worse, much worse, and she was thankful that the Marine didn't freak out or throw a fit, she was thankful that the anger was mostly subdued, but it still was not good.  

Christen had picked up the casserole and removed the cellophane wrap that had been covering it, before handing Tobin her mug and opening the back door. She’d assumed that up until this point, Tobin wasn’t able to make out the features of the little boy and was probably assuming that Ashlyn and Ali had adopted a child since she’d been overseas. Everyone had stood up as they walked outside, calling her name loudly and getting excited that she was finally here.

She’d assumed again that Tobin was making assumptions.

That was, until they made it to the bottom porch step. Christen heard her ex gasp before the porcelain mug shattered everywhere at her feet. Tobin had caught one look at Donovan and dropped the coffee mug she was carrying. Kling and Ali had shared a quick but very worried glance and raised in surprise from their seats to come and help her clean the mess up, and Christen had turned in time to watch Tobin try to bend down to pick up the pieces of the shattered porcelain before gasping again in pain and grabbing her left hip, reminding Christen of the bullet wound that was still healing. Christen had instantly grabbed onto Tobin’s bicep, pulling her to her feet in the middle of the commotion, and the two had made eye contact.

A thousand emotions had danced around in Tobin’s eyes. Mostly confusion. Anger. Confusion. More anger. And more confusion. Christen ignored the looks, pretending to be concerned with telling Kling where the broom was and making sure that Tobin didn’t open any stitches, pretending to act unbothered by the situation in hopes that Tobin wouldn’t cause a scene. Everyone knew that Donovan was Tobin’s. Christen knew that Ali had only covered for her with what she told Kelley at the diner. And if Donovan wasn’t here right now, Christen might be handling the situation different… but he was, and while she owed more than an explanation to Tobin, she wouldn’t allow her son’s life to get messy.

She stepped over the shards as Kling swept, leading Tobin to the seat that had been pulled out for her, before setting the casserole down and briefly locking eyes with Kelley and her dad in a quiet panic while sitting down between them. Ashlyn wiped at Donovan’s mouth with a paper towel, removing what she could of syrup residue that stuck to his cheeks, before letting him down to run around. Christen couldn’t help but smile as the little man instantly ran to her, eyes bright and shirt drenched in syrup, arms in the air so that he could be placed in her lap. She picked him up with ease, plopping him down for a brief second until he made the motion that he wanted to sit in Cody’s lap instead. Kelley put a pancake on her plate silently as the rest of the group returned to the table, eager to join back in and catch up with the two veterans. 

“So how have you been, Sergeant Heath? Besides breaking Cody’s dishes. It really has been years since any of us got to see you.” Ashlyn started, setting back in her chair and wrapping her arm around Ali.

Tobin laughed, thanking Kling as she was handed another mug filled with black coffee. “Well I got to retire at thirty-one, so I’d say good. Pretty good now.”

“So you’re home for good, I heard?” Pinoe spoke up with a gentle smile, “No more deployments?”

“Nah,” Tobin smiled, shaking her head, the softest smile pulling upwards on her face, “I’m not active anymore. I'm out. My CO’s offered to help me reenlist for reserves once I heal, said I’m too much of a liability from my injury to stay deployed, but I doubt they'd take me on reserves anyways. He was just being nice.”

It was Cody’s turn now to ask a question as he bounced Donovan up and down on his leg. “If you don’t mind me asking you, Tobin. What happened? How bad are you injured?”

Christen grimaced along with her ex, locking eyes with Kelley next to her for another source of strength as she had to relive the story she’d already heard. She tried to think about how she would have felt if she’d heard the news as Tobin’s girlfriend, or more accurately- as her wife. She tried to gauge how she would have responded to hearing that Tobin was shot. Would she have freaked out? Would she have panicked, or went into a depression thinking that her wife was dead? Would the dangerous reality of her partner’s job have influenced her mental state to the degree that Tobin believed it would?

She sighs as Tobin starts the story, deciding that there’s no way for her to know how it would have affected her, or her relationship. She doesn’t care, though, because none of it would have mattered, and in a silly way- it doesn’t matter now, either. That was just the way life worked sometimes.

“We uh, one of our M11’s was hit about a week and a half ago. My unit was first in line but the second in line took the hit. Most of my guys and I got out to see if we had survivors, but uh… their guys had a sniper about a mile away waiting for us to get out and assess the damages I guess.” Tobin swallows, eyes trained to her hands that are clasped in front of her. Christen wants to crawl in a hole, she wishes her dad wouldn’t have opened his mouth.

“You don’t have to, Tobin.” Ali shakes her head, but Tobin interjects.

“No, it’s okay, I mean… something was wrong with the IED, it reacted a few seconds later than it was supposed to even though it was my vehicle that triggered it. So uh, sure I took a bullet to the hip but uh, I’m alive when I shouldn’t be, so… I should be thankful and able to talk about it.”

Everyone’s silent for a second, plates pushed to the side and unable to eat after hearing the news that Tobin barely escaped death twice. Kelley, out of nowhere, starts laughing.

The laughter barrels out of her so loudly that it startles half of the group, including her son, who looks over at his new friend like she’d grown an extra head, mimicking the looks of those around him.

Kelley rubs at her eyes for a second at the irony of it all, unable to stop the giggles as she finally speaks up. “God, man. Thank God for bacterial kidney infections and tactical vests, man. I was supposed to be on that second M11. Tobin made me stay in the med bay that day ‘cause I was still pissing red.”

Everyone’s laughing now, even Donovan, despite not knowing what the adults were worked up about. His laughter is the loudest, his voice the highest pitch as he gets so tickled from watching everyone else find something amusing. Christen smiles at him, leaning towards her dad to press a kiss to her son’s sweaty temple.

Yeah, she thinks, that’s just the way life worked sometimes.

As she pulls back from kissing her son’s head, she notices Tobin’s eyes locked on them both, watching with deep and emotionless regard in the middle of laughing as her ex-girlfriend kisses the head of this mysterious child. This mysterious child that looks undeniably just like her.

“So what are you gonna do?” Kyle speaks up again, having been unusually quiet since everyone got to talking. “You gonna get bored and go reserves? You could be a recruiter. Terrorize all of the kids at the high school with Megan Squared over here.”

Tobin barely hears him, unable to pay attention to anyone or anything but Christen's eyes that are locked with hers, silently pleading with her for something- anything. She registers what he says after a second, and she smiles in acknowledgement of his question before the smile fades into a straight-lined frown. She keeps her eyes on Donovan and Christen across the table.

“I think I got a few things to work out before I know what I’m doing.”

 

 

 

Christen watched her intently as she answered question after question from the group with grace, but she could tell that the situation at hand was eating the older woman up, little by little. Every time Donovan moved or laughed at his papa, she’d flick her eyes to the boy and study him, eyes rolling over his features and studying his face intently. She never said a word, only clenching her jaw, but Christen could read the confusion and sadness growing on her face. She got quiet, offering small smiles here and there, telling Ashlyn and Ali bye and giving them a hug when Ashlyn got a call from the station, but staying silent and stoic none-the-less.

Eventually, the group was off one by one to start their day as the sun rose higher, placing the five of them quietly sitting around the table. Donovan begged to go on the trampoline again, dragging Cody and Kelley with him to watch him do what he deemed “cool tricks”, and the two women were finally alone to sit beneath the morning sun with their coffee. Tobin couldn’t take her eyes off Christen, studying her anxious motions, staring at her with empty questions conveyed through empty gazes each time their eyes met.

Christen finally got up from the awkward silence, claiming a need to use the restroom, and was startled when Tobin rose from her chair too.

“I have to go too.” She said, folding the paper towel in her hands before quickly grabbing her plate and jogging up the few steps into the house. Christen followed the soldier with her eyes, and then followed her path slowly, taking each step with a breath and finally exhaling once she opened the backdoor to the kitchen. She found Tobin there, leaned over the counter, doing something that she’d only seen Tobin do three whole times in her entire life- crying.

Christen maneuvered to the side of the counter at Tobin’s side, watching her ex drop silent tears onto the light granite, waiting for her to speak.

“Donovan is your son?” She asked, jaw clenching after the question left her mouth. Christen nodded, prompting Tobin to nod once she took in her answer.

“Uh, how old is he?”

“Five.” Christen stated.

“His birthday?”

Christen paused, taking a deep breath before answering.

“May 11th

Tobin closed her eyes at the information, shaking her head back and forth as her brain processed what it already knew. She wiped snot from under her nose, then wiped her hands on the back of her pants leg, before doing the last thing that Christen would have ever expected her to do, something that broke Christen down and washed her clean from the weight of the last six years.

Tobin shook her head again, brought her red-rimmed eyes to meet Christen’s and said, “I’m sorry.”

Christen was struck cold and warm simultaneously, mouth agape at the hardened woman’s confession, but Tobin didn’t let her speak.

“Chris, I..” The older woman whispers, sniffing and shaking her head back and forth. “I don’t- I’m not sure what to feel right now. I just know that I’m sorry.”

“I- Are you not mad?” Christen asks her gently, watching as Tobin softly smirks while concentrating on the young boy through the kitchen windows that give a direct view of the back yard. The smirk isn’t relieving, it frightens Christen, and Tobin probably notices because she quickly drops it before shaking her head gently.

“No. I’m not mad. I mean, I want to be… maybe I am, I guess I kind of have to be… but mostly I’m just confused, sad… I’m um… I’m not really sure what I am feeling honestly. It's too much.” Her right hand covers her face, fingers rubbing the stress from her eyes, but Christen can see her bottom lip trembling wildly as Tobin tries not to weep. She takes a moment to lift her shirt and hide her face in it, sobbing into the white cotton material. Christen feels her heart bust into a thousand pieces at Tobin’s feet against the hard granite.

It takes a few minutes, but when Tobin finally calms down, she heaves a sigh and looks at Christen with deeply bloodshot and deeply sad eyes, “I had a lot of questions. I mean, I do… still. I have a lot of questions.”

“I know.” The smaller woman said, “I know you do.” 

Both took a deep breath, exhaling loudly between each other.

“Do you maybe wanna ride with me somewhere? I just,” Tobin purses her lips together, “I don’t want to do this here with everyone around.” Tobin whispered, gentle eyes swollen and pleading with Christen to say yes, to let her drive them to that old familiar place so she can ask her the million burning questions in her brain.

Christen nodded, knowing immediately where Tobin wanted to take her. “Let me grab some shoes and tell them I’m stepping out, I’ll meet you in the car.”

She changed into a pair of small athletic shorts and shrugged on her Nike’s, grabbing the two of them a water bottle before yelling out the door that she was leaving for a minute. Donovan barely looked up as he ran around the yard being chased by Kelley, as Cody took pictures of them on his phone. She received three uninterested responses, all of them a mix of “Okay!” and “Love you!”.

Tobin’s old white extended cab Ford was waiting on her as she locked the front door and made her way down the steps. She blushed when she realized why Tobin was standing at the passenger door, knowing immediately that the other woman wasn’t going to let old traditions die.

“I’m thirty years old.” Christen mumbled, stepping into the cab and sitting down on the gray cloth seats.

“So? I’m thirty-one, but my mama raised me right.”

Tobin closed the door that she’d opened for her before jogging around to the driver’s seat. The familiarity of being in the truck again made Christen want to close her eyes, to take it all in again and burn it to her memory so the moment never fades. She doesn’t though, she keeps her eyes peeled out of the window instead, coming up with scenarios in her head of how this is going to go. She’s nervous. They’ll have to revisit dark memories and figure out where they’re going from here. She must tell Tobin about the pregnancy, about the marriage, about the divorce, her mother’s death.

She wonders if Tobin will want to be a part of Donovan’s life. She wonders if they’ll co-parent as friends, if they’ll try a relationship again and see if it sticks this time.

Christen’s reminded of a book she read recently that taught her how to put herself first. The woman said in the book that women have to pick up on the moments in their lives that they are saying yes to everything, taking what’s offered to them, being unselfish when they want to be selfish. If Christen had it her way, if she truly listened to the book, she’d demand a home for the three of them that they could build a family in together. She’d remind Tobin that she didn’t belong to anyone else. She’d see to it that they’d spend their mornings waking up beside the other forever, like the daydreams she had when they were kids. They’d tuck Donovan into bed as a team, cheer for him at football practices or art shows or whatever the fuck he chose to do- as a team. They’d communicate as a team. Fight as a team. Live their lives as a team. The same team she’d been used to since seventh grade. If Christen had it her way, she’d heal them both. But things aren’t so easy, and while she’s willing to compromise, willing to forgive the mistakes they’ve made with each other, she knows that it’s not fully up to her.

Tobin sits behind the wheel three feet to Christen’s left, turning down that same road she’d driven down a hundred times, headed for the old abandoned granite quarry- their favorite talking spot. The quarry had seen every milestone in their relationship. Their second kiss, first touches, first fights and I love you’s. They’d made love here for the first time in the bed of the truck. They were seventeen on a Friday night after they’d been together for six-months. Tobin had grabbed pillows and blankets that day and stuffed them in the back seat as she packed for their date, it was cold that evening and she’d have done anything to make Christen comfortable in the case that it led to that. Christen still cried after it was over, shaking so hard in Tobin’s lap that the older girl had feared she’d done something wrong or hurt her. Christen had shook her head as Tobin began to panic, assuring her that everything was fine, that she was just happy.

Tobin had bought a ring when she was twenty-two before her second emergency deployment shipped her to Afghanistan for nearly two years. She was going to propose when she got back, whenever the area was cleared, and their job was done. She had been there for a year before she had to aim a gun and fire at two children that were running towards her partner unit with bombs strapped to their chests. Then her base had been hit and she watched as shrapnel took a leg from a nineteen-year-old boy, some guy she barely knew, some guy that was so young and would need help to move around for the rest of his life. Some other bad shit had happened, and she realized two things as Christen smiled at her in the airport baggage claim once she arrived back home. She realized that she was probably going to die, and she realized that she didn’t want Christen to feel the pain that her death would bring. So, she ended it the day before she deployed again, unable to bring herself to do it any sooner.

Tears stream down her face so quietly now that Christen doesn’t even realize it, the memories having gotten the best of her. It blurs her vision, but she wipes her eyes so quickly so the other woman can’t catch on and see it. She pictures Christen finding out she was pregnant at twenty-four, being all alone with Tobin off in the desert. How scared the girl must have been, how angry. Tobin pictures Christen having to give birth with only her mother in the room, having to watch the little boy take his first steps and say his first words without her there to be excited with. Part of her wants to be angry, but most of her is just disappointed in herself. Realizing that strangers look at her as a hero when she puts on that uniform, someone brave and honorable and full of courage, not knowing how much of a coward she really was.

She pulls the truck through the woods on the backroads, finding the red clay entrance and guiding her wheels to turn into it. The red clay trail goes on for about half of a mile before it opens up to the quarry, which is really just a massive slab of granite rock with a square cut into it that’s filled with rainwater. She parks to the side of it before killing the engine.

They sit for a moment looking at each other. Christen notices that Tobin had been crying, but chooses not to say anything, knowing that she feels like crying too. She wonders when the tears will ever stop or if she’ll run out of them after the last two days.

“Go ahead.” She says quietly, urging Tobin to speak. Tobin nods and wipes her nose again, bringing her thumb and pointer finger up to pinch her septum.

“I uh, I want to ask how he’s here but you probably want to ask me the same thing.”

“I don’t actually,” Christen counters, “I spoke to your doctor after I found out. He said it was almost impossible, but almost being the key word. Like a doubtful chance. No one knows how it happened, but we didn't ever use protection, so...”

Tobin’s brows shoot up on her forehead, trying to resist the urge to be angry that her doctor had given any of her medical information away. Tobin was positive that he’d broken the law. Though, considering the situation- “I had no idea, Chris. He, he always told me that I was sterile. I would have never-” She sighs, "I would have made sure we were careful had I known."

Both of their faces are flushed, likely from the same reason, how it always is so awkward to talk about the previous sex life you shared with your ex.

"Don't ever apologize." Christen is quick to bite out, thinking that Tobin is wishing that they had used protection. "Donovan isn't something to apologize for, I'm grateful we weren't careful. I'm grateful for him."

“I- What? No, that's... I'm not saying that. He's beautiful, that's not- I just couldn't live with myself if you thought that I knowingly made you pregnant, I don't want you to think I'm a monster."

She sighs, then, "I don’t know how to do this,” Tobin confesses, “I don’t know where to start. I’m not used to not being used to you.”

They sigh collectively, feeling the tension break only slightly between them from admitting each other’s nervousness.

“Just say what’s on your mind. I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

“When did you find out?” Tobin forces the next question from her head, wanting to hear the whole story but not knowing how to ask for it. Luckily, Christen is quick to know where her head is at, diving into the entire recount of those entire nine months.

“I’d been getting morning sickness a few weeks after you left.” She starts. “But I knew almost instantly what it was, I felt different. So I took a pregnancy test a week later at it came back positive. I think I sat on the bathroom floor all night.”

“When I told my parents, they couldn’t understand. I mean, of course they knew about you and they understood the situation but, they were under the same impression that I was. Mom cried a lot, scared for me. Dad kind of held us together through it, always telling me that it would be okay, that he’d raised a kid before and that he was a good babysitter. Honestly I think they were eventually just glad to be grandparents.”

They laugh together at Christen’s words, lighting up at Cody’s antics.

“I finished the rest of my Master’s online during my second trimester. Pregnancy was uh, pregnancy was hard. I hated watching my body go through that-“

“You must have been beautiful, Chris.” Tobin slips out, quickly realizing exactly what she said and closing her eyes. “I’m sorry. I uh… I’m sorry. Continue.”

Christen bites her lip, trying not to think too much about Tobin’s comment. “I was swollen all the time. My back hurt. I was sick a lot. Luckily, he was fully healthy. 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 23 inches long. Head full of hair.”

Tobin smiles, closing her eyes, wanting to ask for a picture of him as an infant but not knowing how.

“My body was back to normal pretty quickly, but I stayed in the house with him for a long time. He was… difficult, to say the least. Very fussy and antsy. Mama slipped up one night and jokingly said that you’d know how to get him to stop crying, I think I cried for a week straight, and every time after that when he’d start up again.”

Tobin sucks in a few choppy breaths and looks out the window, feeling the tears start up again. Christen decides, watching her cry, that it was time to lay her cards out on the table. She pulls her knees up to her chin, crying too, ready to lay it all out for the woman.

“I was so mad at you.” She starts. “The postpartum was terrible because of it. I had moments when I couldn’t even look at him. I couldn’t breastfeed. Mama and daddy had to get up all throughout the night, taking turns rocking him because I just couldn’t get out of bed, couldn't eat, would cry myself to sleep every night. I was mad at mama for saying that stupid thing, putting those thoughts in my head, reminding me that I needed you.”

Christen sobs, looking over at Tobin’s frozen form where she was sat like a statue, eyes trained on the trees outside, tears dropping from her chin.

“I’d have nightmares of you getting killed and wake up begging my dad to bring you home. They kept telling me to call someone that could get in contact with you, but I couldn’t, and they knew I wasn’t going to despite the fact that I begged. I knew that if I did, it would have put you in danger because your mind wouldn’t be right and.. and I kept telling myself that you didn't want me, that you had walked away because you wanted something different, a different life. I couldn’t make you think that you were trapped with me because of a child. I would think of you making a mistake out there because you weren’t thinking straight and getting killed. And I was madder than hell at God for doing this to us. I was mad at myself for not being able to take care of my son, and... honestly, and part of me couldn't call you out of spite, because I wanted to do it alone since you left. Then mama got sick, and she left us, left me with a two-year-old and a 50-year-old man who still cries every day because he misses her. So I took a few weeks to grieve, and then I remembered you telling me to do something when life gets you like that,"

"I prayed.”

Tobin tries to smile, finding it damn near impossible. Her body was frozen and wound up, she was grieving so many things, there was some type of hole inside of her chest that was hurting Tobin in a way she wasn't sure she'd ever experienced, maybe only the day she'd broken up with Christen. 

“And then, things started looking up. I woke up one day a month or so after mama passed and Donovan was laying in my arms. I finally felt that love everyone talks about. It hit me like a train, all I could do was cry and kiss his head and hold him tighter.

Christen sighs, knowing that the part she had to tell next was going to hurt Tobin the most. She prepared herself for the tornado that would ultimately rip its way through the older woman.

“But that uh, there was something else that made it easier too.”

Tobin looks at her curiously, tear stains nearly dried up on the gaunt surface of her cheeks.

“I um, I’d met someone a couple of weeks before mama passed. Jermaine. He… he worked as a banker in town, I’d see him every time I had to go there. He mostly just smiled at me and said hello, gave Donovan lollipops sometimes. One day he came out of his office, saw me with Donovan on my hip, and asked me if he could take me and Don to dinner. I don’t even know what made me say yes.”

Christen shook her head, biting her lip, scoffing through her nose.

“I guess it was because my entire fucking life had been turned upside down and was spinning out of my control. He was handsome and seemed nice enough, and he accepted my son, so I said yes.”

Tobin looks over at her now, jaw clenching with her hands, begging her not to go into detail. Christen had to, though, because it was important that Tobin know everything.

“We dated for six months before he asked me to marry him.”

Christen turns her head, unable to watch Tobin’s eyes close as she breaks.

“I said yes to that, too. He was a great husband, a great stepfather, always showing Donovan attention and doing things with him that I didn’t care for, all the rugged stuff. My dad never liked Jermaine though, I just thought it was because he thought we moved too quickly, or because it wasn’t you, uh… but soon… uh, soon he started hitting me when he got drunk. It started ‘bout a year ago, and got really bad about four months ago, so I guess I figured out why dad didn't like him. I stayed in my marriage, waiting for it to change and learning that it never would, so I divorced him. He came home early on the day I was packing my stuff last week, saw the divorce papers and uh, well he put me in the hospital.” She cuts right through the chase, sending red hot vicious anger through Tobin’s fingertips. "He had slapped me, and slammed me into the kitchen counter so hard that my hip had been really bruised. Ashlyn had demanded that dad take me to the hospital before she took Jermaine in." 

“The judge granted me a divorce on an emergency hearing- a few strings Ashlyn had to pull, and he’s now in jail.”

The door slams next to her, she’d not even seen Tobin move to get out. Christen throws open the door in a haste and meets her at the front of the truck, putting a hand on Tobin’s chest. 

“Stop.” She whispers, pushing back against the older girl. Tobin was seething, overwhelmed, breathing fast and choppy, fist clenched at her side and veins popping out at her neck and temples. She knew that she was too angry and too nauseous to be sitting close to the girl, knowing her temper, knowing what happens when her temper gets out of control. She’d never lay a finger on her, the thought never ever crossing her mind, inanimate objects usually being the victim of an episode like this. The Marines had taught her how to calm it by distracting herself through working out, running, shooting guns at targets, scrubbing toilets, anything physical that gave her an out. She didn’t know where she was going when she slammed the truck door, or what she was going to do out in the middle of nowhere, but she had to do something.

“Let me go, Chris.” She pushed back against the palm at her chest, she tried to gently push the girls arm off her, but it was to no avail, as two palms now pushed her back against the front of the truck. It was a cyclical battle the two of them engaged in, having been through this so many times before when Tobin’s temper got the best of her. Tobin would try to run away and Christen would push, so Tobin would push back, causing Christen to push harder until one of them exploded, usually Tobin.

“No. Stop.”

“Let me go.” She said, louder. Looking up at the sky.

“I can’t.”

“Chris, please, I can’t even see straight right now. Please.” She tried to move around her again. 

“Dammit, Tobin. Stop!” She shoved, pushing the woman’s body against the truck so she wouldn’t move.

Tobin ignored the pain in her hip as she hit the front of the truck, reaching out quickly to pull Christen with her and trap her against the vehicle’s grill. The two were chest to chest, nose to nose, with Tobin gazing down into the eyes of her ex angrily. Christen had flinched at being pulled towards the woman despite knowing that she’d never hit her, an action that reminded Tobin ten times more about why she was as livid as she was.

In the middle of the rage, once Tobin realized that she didn’t have much of a plan when she pinned the woman, she dropped her head into the small bit of space between them. She was pissed at herself, mostly, for all of it. She was sick to know that she'd had a son all this time, sick to hear of Christen moving on, pissed to know that someone had laid a finger on the girl to begin with, but especially in violence. It was all very overwhelming, and Tobin was close to a panic attack, but she was bathed in love for the younger woman and she ached, ached for her- ached to reconcile things, ached to fix what had been broken as quick as she could. 

Christen watched her head lower, bringing her hands up to the heaving chest again, rubbing the tension from the base of her neck before threading her fingers through the woman’s hair to press her fingers against her scalp. Their foreheads pressed together.

“It’s okay.” Tobin heard her whisper. “I’m okay. It’s over now. You have to stop walking away from me when things get hard.”

Tobin shut her eyes as they watered, feeling the pads of Christens thumbs wipe the moisture from the swollen bags under her eyes. It was time for Tobin’s cards to be laid down now.

“Chris,” She whimpered, “I’m not walking away anymore.”

“So don’t, then.”

Tobin shook her head, “No, I- I don’t want to be away from you anymore. I don’t know Donovan- I want to. Get to know him, I mean. To love him, and be in his life… in your life.”

Christen stopped wiping once she realized the direction this was going in, pulling Tobin’s chin up so they could look each other in the eye and breathe the same air.

“I don’t, uh, if you don’t want that, if you can’t do that, I’d understand but…” She pauses, thinking of her words. “But if you could be okay with it, I want to stand next to you again, I- I want to be in your life, and- and I don’t care how you’d have me, I’d take whatever you could give.”

Christen realized what Tobin was asking for, and she realized that this was one of those moments that book talked about, where the ball was in her court, giving her control over her own life, allowing her to call the shots and make the decisions.

So she did. She lifted Tobin’s chin again and ran her thumb over the pair of chapped lips that were inches away from her own, showing Tobin where her intentions are and giving her a few seconds to process what was about to happen before covering them with her own. It amazed her how quickly everything happened, and she knew that it would take a few days to process the events of the last 48 hours, but for now- she focused on one thing.

The first kiss was so light that either of them barely felt it. The feeling that shot through Tobin’s chest at the contact was almost painful, the type of cathartic moment that triggered your nervous system and caused your fingers to twitch. Christen was feeling the same way.

They hugged for a moment afterwards, not wanting to take it any further, knowing there was so much left to talk about. After a while, Tobin managed to pull them both on top of the old Ford. She maneuvered herself so that she could lean against the glass with Christen between her legs, leaning her back against the older girl’s chest.

“I need a new car.” Tobin mumbled after a few moments of silence, causing Christen to snicker.

“Yeah you do. I’m shocked this thing is still running.”

Christen played gently with Tobin’s fingers.

“It wasn’t when I got home yesterday. Spent most of last night in dad’s garage getting it to crank and changing the oil. Guess it’s a good thing I’m a decent mechanic.”

Christen hummed, nodding lightly, and she was about to speak before Tobin took the words out of her mouth.

“So how do you want to go about all of this?”

They sat in silence after the question was asked, watching the wind blow the trees around the quarry while Christen contemplated her answer.

“I need us to go slow. I don’t want Donovan having whiplash at someone else being around constantly. He doesn’t know anything that happened, but he’s just now stopped asking when Jermaine was coming home.”

She felt the woman behind her tense up, she could feel it in the way her forearm muscles hardened into rocks, then she felt her relax.

“I mean, I- I know you’re his mother too, and I don’t want you to feel like I’m preventing you from being over all the time, it’s just-“

“You don’t have to explain, Chris. I understand. Can I ask you something though?”

“Go ahead.”

“Did that guy ever adopt him?”

She turned around quickly, gazing back and forth between Tobin’s eyes, trying to gauge why she would ask a question like that. Christen noticed how red and dry the area around Tobin’s stitches had become, likely from the irritation of her crying and wiping them all morning and afternoon.

“No.” She whispered between them. “I wouldn’t have ever let that happen.”

Tobin nodded, visibly deflating, but Christen was still curious.

“Why do you ask that? Is that something you’d want to do eventually?”

Tobin nodded again, lips curling up into a smile. “Down the road, yeah.”

Christen’s eyebrows drew together on her head in confusion. “Why? I mean, he’s biologically yours. We could just take a DNA test and take it to the court house so-“

“And let the old people who work for the county think that I’m a freak?”

Tobin’s jaw clenched, but she was still smiling with closed lips, never one to get too upset over what people thought of her condition. Her gaze dropped down to the space between them, where Christen was still holding her thumb, before looking back up into her ex’s eyes. “I think I’d be okay with just adopting him.”

Christen nodded, not pushing the conversation of the DNA test in fear of making her uncomfortable, but something else had upset her.

“I wish you wouldn’t call yourself a freak.” She whispered, eyes casted towards the quarry, where the wind was creating ripples on top of the water. “You know I hate it when you say things like that.”

“I’m not saying that’s what I am, I know I’m not. But you can’t convince me that those people won’t think so. It’s a small town in the South, Chris. Everyone would know within a week and they’d talk about me and my parents. I don’t want mom and dad to have to go through something like that. It's why we moved down here in the first place.”

Tobin had been dealt a very rare situation when she was born, called Kleinfelter Syndrome. Her parents had seen a boy on the ultrasound, given birth to a boy, and raised a boy until Tobin hit puberty around the age of 12, when Tobin began to develop breasts. Cindy Heath had passed out cold on the floor when Tobin came home from the second quarter of seventh grade, tears streaming down her face, and asked her mom why the boys in school made fun of her for having “boobs”. Cindy had pulled up Tobin’s oversized hoodie, not knowing what the child could possibly be talking about, and upon finding two small breasts that had developed within the span of three months- passed out cold on the floor. The two parents had noticed that something was off about Tobin from the moment she started speaking. She was quiet, gentle, she stuttered sometimes, and she was unusually tall for people in her grade. All of which were symptoms of the condition. They’d gotten her into speech therapy, which had cleared up almost all of the stuttering issue, and they had assumed that Tobin’s growth spurt and gentle mannerisms were just part of who she was. Tobin’s dad was tall, they’d figured she’d be too, even if it meant that she was 5’7’’ in seventh grade. The breasts, however, were not part of their expected plan.

The family had immediately pulled Tobin out of school and took her to a specialist in Jersey. He’d taken tests and spent about a week with the family before they were able to diagnose Tobin’s condition. It was a very scary time for Tobin and her siblings, and the parents had cried upon finding out that Tobin was lucky enough to not possess any of the more difficult side effect issues that came with the extra chromosome, and the doctor told them that Tobin could possibly lean more psychologically towards a female identity- stating her behavior and demeanor to them. They’d gently sat Tobin down in the doctor’s office and asked her who she felt like she was.

Tobin had quietly cried, looked up to the ceiling and exhaled, and said a girl. The doctor smiled, said that it wouldn’t be a problem, and that they could start her on hormone therapy right away with androgen blockers. He’d said it would help her to start it early, that it would prevent most of the normal male hormone changes like facial hair and smelly sweat, but the only thing he wouldn’t be able to remove from her was her penis. If she wanted that, she’d have to pay a few extra thousand dollars and see his friend in New York City.

Oh, and she was sterile.

Supposedly.

Tobin remembers her eyes going wide as they began to discuss what the surgery would involve, and before the doctor had finished going over the details, she’d cupped her hands over her crotch and shook her head wildly, feeling nauseous.

The decision had shocked Cindy and Jeff, who’d assumed that she’d eventually want to go through with it. They decided that she was just scared, that eventually she would probably ask them to do that for her, but if she felt content living as a woman with a penis- they figured they could figure something out.

So the family moved, all the way down the East coast to small town Georgia. They’d given her compression shorts, taught her how to use the bathroom in public without standing up, and gave her pills twice a week that repressed her already lower than normal testosterone.

Tobin, for the entirety of her youth, was glad she kept her parts the way they were. Until she started crushing on the pretty green-eyed girl in 8th grade named Christen, who’d also happened to be her best friend. It was one of the only times in Tobin's life that she'd felt a little dysphoric over her extra parts, worried that possibly Christen would like her as more than a friend if she would have been born as a complete woman with a vagina or as a complete man with a penis, not someone who technically was both. She ultimately worried that Christen would call her a freak and want nothing to do with their friendship anymore. 

The worrying had turned out to be pointless. Christen was the only person in school who knew of her condition, having accidentally walked in on Tobin changing when they’d been swimming at Tobin’s parent’s house. Christen’s eyes had shot up to the sky, face as red as a firetruck, but she’d not judged the panicking girl once. She’d not judged her even once when Tobin, through an anxiety attack, had told her everything and begged the other girl not to tell anyone or hate her. She’d only laughed at the possibility of hating Tobin, hugged her as hard as she could, told her she loved her no-matter what, and kept their secret until Tobin was ready to tell the friend group, which eventually happened when they were 17. The teenagers had the same reaction as Christen, all except for Kelley, who’d held her beer can high into the sky and claimed, “Well, I still have the biggest dick out of all of you.”

So things had went okay for the older girl. Sure she had a little more muscle, larger hands, low body fat, broader shoulders, the tiniest hips you’d ever seen, and a little extra packaging, but her voice wasn’t too low, she never developed facial hair, and overall- she wasn’t a man. It suited her, and it eventually suited Christen, so she never carried weight over it.

Tobin was pulled out of her daydream by Christen, who’d started to giggle about something as she massaged around a bruise on Tobin’s wrist.

“If I come car shopping with you, do you think you can come house shopping with me?”

Tobin laughed at the thought of shopping for a house, as if it was a casual thing, before nodding. “Yeah, I can do that. I was going tomorrow, actually. Saw a four door Jeep wrangler on the way in yesterday. It was black, hard top, lifted, sitting outside of the car lot and calling my name.”

Christen rolls her eyes and shakes her head just enough to make Tobin laugh.

“And you need that?”

“Hell yeah I do.”

“For what?”

Tobin scoffed, acting like she couldn’t believe that Christen didn’t know, smacking her palm down on the hood of the truck under her.

“Cause if I’m gonna take you and Donovan fishing this weekend, I have to make sure we’re going in something that isn’t gonna get stuck.”

Christen laughed, throwing her head back against Tobin’s shoulder and squealing when the older woman started to lightly tickle her. Once Tobin stopped her assault, Christen turned again and pressed her forehead to Tobin's cheek, closing her eyes.

“Maybe it would be fun, though. Getting stuck somewhere with you.”

Chapter Text

The women drove the couple of miles back to Christen’s dads house once they realized that it was getting too hot to stay beneath the sun anymore. Tobin’s bandage needed changing, something Christen demanded to do once they got back, and Christen was starting to get antsy from being away from Donovan on a day that she didn’t have to. The smiles wouldn’t leave, not because everything was okay, but because everything was looking up. They both understood that things would not be okay for a while, but it didn’t stop them from feeling like they weren’t being burned anymore. It was nice to catch a break from their past, even if only for a split second while in each other’s presence.

Christen was running on such a strong high that she doubted anything could bring her down. They had so much to talk through, parenting to discuss, visiting plans to discuss along with Tobin’s future schedule, but for the first time that Christen could remember- they had time. Precious time. And it couldn’t be wasted, but she wasn’t going to rush anything, wanting to enjoy every second that God gave her with the other woman.

There were no deadlines, no graduations, no deployments to fear, so she was going to do the thing she actively hated most in life. She was going to wait.

When they entered the old farmhouse and found everyone still sitting on the back porch, smiles wide and eyes gleaming, Christen could have sworn she saw her father start to get choked up. He excused himself quickly, going to get himself another glass of tea.

Donovan launched himself quietly onto his mother’s lap when she sat down in the old swing, noticing that the boy had completely worn out all of his energy resources very early in the day. He didn’t even attempt to chase his papa inside, nor did he notice the hesitant woman behind Christen. At least, she thought he didn’t, but he’d lifted up his little head and popped his thumb out of his mouth once his eyes opened and caught sight of her.

“Hi.” He said, smiling with his tired little hazel eyes, then added, “Toe-bin.” Having heard the soldier’s name all morning while everyone was eating.

Tobin smiled at the little guy, saying hello back, but the reminder that he didn’t even know her yet was quickly blending the emotions of both women. Tobin looked up at the outside ceiling fan, a coping mechanism to keep her from crying, before looking at Kelley’s sincere face as her eyes began to water.

Christen was thankful that Donovan had his head on her neck, thankful that he couldn’t see or feel the tears drop off her chin and onto his shirt. She swallowed the weight of the moment and turned towards Tobin once she stood up, lightly bouncing Donovan in her arms to get him to sleep faster.

“It’s nap time.” She told her in a whisper, smiling unironically at the fact that they were both teary-eyed. “I usually go lay down with him upstairs until I know he’s out cold. Do you want to come up, too?” She flashed her eyes to Tobin’s hip, telling her that they could also change her dressings while they were upstairs.

Tobin nodded, smiling, nervous at intruding during a routine between the mother and son. Kelley was watching it all happen in front of her like it was the best thing in the world, because it was.

They made their way upstairs quietly, Christen making sure to take off her tennis shoes before the stairs so the noise wouldn’t startle the boy. She turned each corner slowly and gently, feeling Donovan’s breathing level out and the motion of him sucking his thumb repetitively against her collarbone- a habit she has yet to break the child of. She sat him down gently on top of her bed, letting his little head down onto the pillow and wrapping him up in a small plush blanket. Tobin watched from the door frame as the woman kissed his head, feeling awkward with her hands in her pockets because she wanted to kiss his head too, feeling like she had years to make up for, though she didn’t and wouldn’t ask.

Christen stared at the boy for a moment, deciding not to lay down next to him. He seemed to already be sleeping hard enough, but that wasn’t the reason. If she laid down, she’d ask Tobin to lay down with her. And despite how bad she fought herself, like pulling teeth, to just beckon the woman over so she could lay her head on her chest- she knew it couldn’t happen next to Donovan.  

So instead, she kissed him once more on the temple, and reached over to turn the monitor on that rested next to the bed, allowing her to watch him sleep from her cell phone or the other monitors around the house, before rising and shutting the door behind them.

“Come on,” She directed her head to the spare bedroom that Kelley had occupied the night before. “There’s a first aid kit in the spare bathroom, all you need is gauze and medical tape, yeah?”

“And antibacterial ointment, if you got it.”

Christen nodded and led them both to the spare bedroom. She directed for Tobin to take off her shirt and sit down on the edge of the bed while she went to retrieve what they needed, not daring to look behind her as she heard the white shirt being untucked and shrugged off.

Once inside the bathroom she put her hair into a tight bun with the elastic wrapped around her wrist, before opening the cabinet where the little plastic box of quick first-aid sat. She laid it down on the counter, letting her head drop to give her a moment of peace and quiet, before washing her hands and turning to exit the bathroom with the kit and paper towels in hand. Tobin sat on the edge of the bed, shirt crumpled in a strong grip, and she’d tried to meet Christen’s eyes, but the other woman wouldn’t look up from the floor.

“Okay so, gauze, ointment, tape. We had it. There’s also hydrogen peroxide wipes to clean it with in here.”

“Cool, uh. So uh, just a warning- it doesn’t look good, and uh, it doesn’t feel much better. It’s actually excruciating, and I’m a bit of a baby about it, so I don’t want to freak you out. It’s why I usually just do it myself, I-“

Christen shook her head, quickly meeting her eyes in a comforting smile before looking back at her hands before she could catch too much of the woman’s exposed torso. “I’m not going to freak out. Can you lay on your stomach for me?”

Tobin swallowed, nodding, and turned onto her stomach. Christen finally allowed herself to look up at the woman’s back, thinking it was a safe zone, and receiving the opposite. Tobin’s wound was still covered, but the deep black and purple bruise had stretched entirely over the left side of her hip, covering most of her side and lat muscle, even the left dimple at the base of her hip was marred by the settled blood. Around the edges of the bruise, her skin was yellow, showing the healing as it began.

Christen tried not to gasp, picking up on the sweat that had started to blanket Tobin’s back, and the well-defined muscles that rippled as she moved to put the t-shirt in her mouth. With the softest touch that she could manage, after sitting down beside Tobin’s hip on the edge of the bed, she pulled at the tape to remove the gauze.

“Did it hit anything serious?” She asked, pulling the first strip of medical tape off of the large gauze square. Tobin shook her head, pulling the shirt out of her mouth and leaning up on her elbows to brace herself for the pain.

“No, it actually came through the door of the M11 that was blown up. I was bent over to… to” She hissed as Christen pulled the second strip, moving slowly to not hurt her. “He shot through the door, which squished the bullet, and the squished bullet hit my vest, which meant that the bullet was flattened when it hit, and it had slowed down a lot. It would’ve gone straight through me otherwise.”

Tobin groaned when Christen tore the last strip off, biting the shirt again. Christen gasped as she pulled the gauze off, exposing the angry, half moon hole cut into the woman’s skin. They’d stitched it back up as best as they could, but the sight still had Christen slightly dizzy as she threw the old gauze to the side. Tobin jerked as she ran the peroxide pad over the wound, shoulders shaking and teeth biting the shirt so hard that she felt the pain in her jaw immediately.

It wasn’t necessarily the pain that had her eyes wired shut or her body shaking, but the memory of the images in front of her as the bullet ripped through her side. She’d been bent down to rip the dog tag off the neck of one of her men. His stomach and right side blown open, having been lodged beneath the overturned vehicle. When she rounded the corner and saw him, still alive, gasping for air and begging her to do what she needed to do, she’d turned her eyes and aimed her M9 at his head in an instant, doing what she needed to do for him and knowing he would have sat in agonizing pain had she not helped him, before leaning down to snatch his dog tag and the flag on his shoulder.

Reaching for his dog tag had saved her life. The angle that the bullet pierced the door was in the direction of the back of her neck before she’d turned to grasp the metal chain. It had hit her side instead of her neck, dropping her to the sand in front of the man, and she’d listened as the rest of her unit was taken out from above. She’d pulled the man’s body on top of her, lying motionless in case they were about to be overtaken from the ground, and her right hand had held a grenade against her chest just waiting for the moment one of them rounded the corner of the vehicle. Waiting to blow them all to pieces before they could kill her first, or worse- take her with them. She’d quietly radioed back to base for a damage control unit, letting her CO know that they’d been under fire, before turning off the radio and lowering the volume completely. She’d waited there for probably ten minutes as the firing eventually stopped, not knowing what her fate was and feeling the blood from the other man seep over her pants and clothes. As she waited, Tobin prayed, thanking God for the life she had and asking Him to take care of her parents and the olive-toned woman. She prayed that they bring her body and the body of her men back to American soil if things got worse, not wanting to rot in the sand under the sun, not wanting the parents of these boys to have to bury empty caskets. Tobin had been calm, as calm as one could be in her situation, as she kept her eyes to the blue-sky overhead and tried to picture her favorite memory. She pictured Christen at the beach on their senior vacation, a month before she had to report for basic. They’d driven down to the Gulf of Mexico in Cody’s truck, just the two of them, deciding to spend a week with one another now that high school was over. They’d rented a beach house, courtesy of Tobin’s parents, and spent the day and evenings on the sand and in the water. They’d made love at every opportunity, gotten drunk off the gross bottles of wine the homeowners had left for them before they arrived (despite them being underage), and fell asleep in each other’s arms. The memory had calmed her, but something else had happened, too. A voice in her head told her to relax. Told her that it wasn’t her time, that it was time for her to come back home, told her she still had things she had to do. She promised the voice that she’d hang on, and she hadn’t pulled the ring of the grenade as the heard a utility vehicle approach, knowing that it was her men.

They’d swarmed her, eight of them rounding the corner of the truck, M4’s drawn and pointed in every direction to ensure the area had cleared. Someone grabbed the grenade out of her hand carefully, as another man pulled the body off her. Two of them lifted the bloody Sergeant into the air and put her into the back of the vehicle. She’d heard the crackling of the radio on someone’s shoulder, listening as a man’s voice confirm to the ground unit that they’d located and taken out the sniper at long range. Tobin had smiled and passed out.

Sweat rolls off her shoulders and forehead at the memory as Christen cleans, watching the other woman heavily breathing from the side of her. Once the new bandage is on, Christen moves to run her hand over Tobin’s shoulder, noticing the beads of sweat that rolls off her tanned shoulder blades and down her spine. Tobin roughly flinches at the feeling, it shaking her out of her daydream, as she rolls over completely with heaving lungs and blown pupils. Her left hand had caught Christen’s as she turned, grasping it tightly as she realizes who’s touched her.

She exhales deeply, still heaving, but finally able to close her eyes.

Christen lets her take a moment, knowing that the girls head was somewhere else. Her eyes drift down over Tobin’s torso, taking in the sharp v-line leading down into the low resting waistline of her pants, the rippling abdomen muscles and lines between them, trying not to let her face flush at the exposed skin below the tiny white sports bra but failing. Tobin drops their hands, still holding one another, onto the sweaty skin of her abs as she breathes, causing Christen to nearly swallow her tongue. She wants to move her hand, but one look into the girl’s eyes as she opens them and calms her lungs lets her know that the other girl is using her touch as a place of comfort. Christen aches for the look in her eyes, not knowing what kind of images are playing in her brain, not knowing what she’s lost, but knowing that it was significant.

“I uh,” Tobin speaks after a moment, squeezing the younger girls hand a few times to ground herself, “I’m hoping that gets easier with time.”

“It will.” Christen whispers, silently thanking God that it’s not as bad as it could have been, knowing that someone watches over Tobin. “I promise.”

Tobin clears her throat. “It’s actually easier with you, I guess.” She laughs, whispering, sweat running off of her temple and onto the space in front of her ear. “I’m usually like, mid-panic attack at this point. The poor nurse at the med bay, he uh- the day after it happened, when he was trying to change the bandage while I was asleep, I woke up and tried to strangle him. They had to put a needle in my IV to knock me out.”

Christen tries to quietly laugh with her, feeling overwhelmingly sad and exhausted suddenly. She shakes her head, feeling the knot in her throat rise again and letting it come out in a sob when she’s unable to keep it down. She puts both hands on Tobin’s stomach and drops her head, shoulders shaking as she cries, just trying to feel the girls skin to know that she’s real.

“Hey.” Tobin whispers, immediately leaning up and wrapping her arms around the small shaking frame, trying to joke to lighten the heavy air. “This is usually my job. I’m supposed to be crying right now, remember?”

Christen shakes her head again, holding onto the base of Tobin’s neck while featherlike kisses are placed on her forehead.

“They almost took you from me twice.” She cries out. “They almost took you twice.”

She lifts her head up to cry against the other woman’s face, feeling the kisses cover her wet cheeks and temple. Tobin gives a shaky breath, not knowing what to say at the indisputable comment, unable to imagine what the other woman was feeling. Christen grips at the dog tag around her firm neck and tugs on it, thinking of the constant nightmares she has of being given the cold metal by someone and nothing else.

Tobin pulls the girl into her chest and leans back against the pillow, eyes growing heavy at the miles of healing they have left to get through and feeling like they’ve only just started the marathon. She feels guilty for letting Christen see the wound, knowing that it could have probably been avoided for a while- at least until it looked a little better. She tries to remind herself that it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, that if this was going to work then they had to be honest with one another, show and tell each other everything. Her fingers wrap around the hand that’s still clenched around her dog tag, giving it a squeeze as Christen cries into her chest.

“I’m so tired.” The younger woman whimpers after a moment. “Can’t we just lay here for a minute?”

Tobin nods into her head, kissing the skin of her hairline, not really wanting to do anything else. Christen leans up then, eyes bloodshot and lips puffy as she grabs the monitor in the bedside table drawer. She turns it on and props it up on the tabletop, allowing Tobin to see a picture of Donovan’s sleeping form, still tucked into the dinosaur blanket.

Christen turns the volume of the monitor up before laying back down on Tobin’s chest, hand coming to rest beneath her sternum. The tears still leak out of her eyes as they rest, fingers occasionally scratching at the skin beneath the woman’s bra to remind her that it’s all real, that she’s not dreaming her up.

She notices Tobin’s breathing even out beneath her palm, feeling the steady breaths hitting her nose, and finally decides to close her eyes.

 

 

 

She tiptoes down the stairs after waking up thirty minutes ago as Tobin stood up from the bed, pulling the wrinkled white shirt over her torso. The sun was still shining through the house, relieving Christen that it was still daylight and they’d not slept all afternoon. She feels lighter after the nap, and if she had to put her finger on the reason, she’d say it was due to Tobin’s chest being her pillow. Something about not having to miss the vulnerability of sleeping next to someone you’d spent nearly six years missing not sleeping next to.

“Are you going?” Christen had asked, watching Tobin undo her black belt to tuck her shirt in, letting the pants sag a little lower before she gets the shirt situated and buckles the belt again.

Tobin nods, stomach in knots because she doesn’t want to, but she knows that it’s the right thing to do. If she stays for dinner, she’d end up staying the night.

“Why don’t you stay for dinner?” Christen asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, not ready to let the older girl leave yet.

Tobin smiles softly, leaning over to place another kiss to Christens head. “Because then I’d end up staying the night, and I don’t want to rush.”

Christen nods, not disputing the comment, knowing that they both weren’t ready, not that she had even been thinking about that. She honestly just wanted to cuddle, but they weren’t ready for that either.

She watches as Tobin picks up her tennis shoes, shrugging them on and tightening the laces. They hear Kelley laugh from downstairs, causing them both to smile at how contagious the woman’s laughter is.

“We have a couch, you know?” Christen remarked, legs swinging off the side of the bed, causing Tobin to giggle again.

She leans down in front of the girl’s legs, curling her hands around Christens ankle with a half-smile on her face.

“As good as that sounds- I’ve been sleeping on a shitty bunk cot for almost six years, darling.”

Christen blushes at the name, having to bite her lip and look down at Tobin’s hand and the thumb rubbing her ankle bone. She’d missed both of it- the names and the light touches, and the butterflies were swirling loudly in her stomach.

“So I think it’s probably best if I’d get home. Mama would kill me, anyways. She’s been cooking me every meal and crying her eyes out every time we all sit around the table. She won’t even let me wash my own clothes.” Tobin smiles. “She cried doing that, too.”

Christen nods and crosses her arms, “I know the feeling.”

Tobin stands now, pressing a quick kiss to the other girl’s cheek. “I’ll pick you up in the morning after church and we can go check out that Jeep. Dad knows the man who owns the lot, he called him, and the sales guy said he’d have no problem meeting me up there even though they’re supposed to be closed. We can drive around and go see a few houses, too, if you’d want.”

She backs up now, offering Christen’s hand to pull the girl up into the space between them.

“Getting a few strings pulled around here, aren’t you Sergeant Heath?”

“I suppose.” She mumbles, shaking her head in amusement. “Only one set of strings I really care about pulling though, so...”

Christen smiles at the line, not commenting on the way it makes her feel. “Do you… do you think that you might could swing by here and pick us up for church, too? Me and Don, I mean. I’m sure he’d love to go and make some friends.”

Tobin’s eyes light up, lips pulling into a smile so wide that her teeth shine brightly beneath the sunlight. “I’d love to.” She mumbles, feeling bashful at the way her palms sweat and her heart kicks wildly. “They’re doing a little appreciation thing for me that I have to speak at and get all dressed up for, so it’s early service, if that’s okay.”

Christen nods, “We’ll be ready.”

“Okay.”

They stand now, both blushing and looking at the other, feeling younger than thirty years old. Christen coughs, nervously rubbing at her collar bone.

“Would you-“ Tobin starts, jaw clenching as she fights to get the question out. “Would it be okay if I kissed you before I go?”

They meet somewhere in the middle after the younger girl nodded, licking her lips and putting her nervous hands on Tobin’s stomach after stepping into her space. Their lips meet softly, quietly, slowly, with Tobin’s hands taking purchase to her waist and gripping down when Christen barely opens their mouths.

Christen tried to steady her breathing at the taste and proximity, at the feeling of Tobin pulling her bottom lip between her lips as they kiss. It’s as delicate as the situation, and Christen is flooded with memories of moments between them when the kiss wasn’t so gentle and chaste, causing her to pull back before she let Tobin or herself lose control of the situation.

Tobin lifts her palm then, placing a gentle peck to the back of her hand, before quietly saying goodbye and stepping out of the room, reminding the girl that she’ll be there at 8:30 in the morning.

 

So Christen’s stepping down the stairs now after a quick shower, having changed into a pair of cotton pajama shorts, feeling her stomach grumble as she searches for her son and Kelley. Cody had been asleep in the chair, remote still in his hand, watching golf on ESPN.

She finds them in the kitchen, noticing that her son had spread his little plastic green army men all over the dining room table, forcing Kelley to play with him.

“Chris!” She smiles at her friend, watching as the dark headed girl grabs a glass and fills it with tap water. Donovan takes Kelley’s distraction as an opportunity to swipe some of Kelley’s army men off of their little battle zone, laughing loudly when Kelley mocks offense and calls him a butthead.

“How did it all go? You guys were gone for a while. Donovan came down the stairs about thirty minutes ago after his nap, we’ve been playing army men. Oh! Cody made us nuggets; said you didn’t have to cook but there’s more in the oven.”

Christen smiles at Kelley’s incessant rambling, not wanting to draw attention to the situation with her and Tobin, knowing that her son was within ear shot and would be able to pick up on anything she said. “I think I’m going to make a quinoa bowl actually. And It went… better than expected. She’s coming to get us for church in the morning.”

“Church?!” Donovan ears perk up, excited as he always is to get to play with other kids. Christen nods, filling a smaller cup of water for him and setting it down in front of him.

“Yes sir. Does that sound fun? You want to go with Tobin to church tomorrow?”

“Toe-bin.” He mumbles, repeating the strange name as his eyes zone out. His little fingers turn the plastic figurine in his grasp. Christen looks to Kelley, both women wondering what was going through his head.

“Yeah buddy, she wants to go with us.” Christen says again, runs her fingers through his head, untangling a few knots. “Are you okay with that?”

Donovan nods his head aggressively, looking up at his mama with a smile.

They all sit for a few seconds, entertained with the little boy’s imagination as he fake-battles Kelley across the tabletop. His little army men consistently take hers out, causing all of them to fall after she’d set them all upright again with a laugh. He makes animated noises with his mouth as he controls the battle, which Kelley mimics with a gleam in her eyes.

After a minute, he calms down, eyes focusing deeply once more at the toys in his hands. He looks up at Christen, flashing that charming smile that she loves so deeply.

“Mama, I think Toe-bin is pretty.”

Both women burst into loving giggles, Christen running her fingers through his hair once more, feeling the soft curls beneath her fingertips. “Is that so?” She says.

Donovan nods again, “Mhm. But not as pretty as you. Is Toe-bin your friend?”

Christen sighs, still messing with his hair, waiting for the onslaught of questions that the little boy was about to start asking, just like he did with Kelley and everyone else he meets. He was a very curious child, something that Christen admired. She was always honest with him, never lying when he asked invasive questions about things he saw on TV or heard from someone else. She’d had to explain God to him first, and curse words, and negative things on the news.

“She is, buddy.”

“Like Kelley?”

Christen pauses, considering her words. “Kind of like Kelley, yes.”

“What do you mean?”

Christen sighs again, so lightly that he can’t pick up on it. “I mean that, Tobin is my friend, but we have a different friendship than me and Kelley.”

The little boy looks confused, dark eyebrows meeting together on his forehead in a line.

She didn’t want to lie, but she also didn’t want the boy to be confused in the future, when Kelley deployed again, and it became apparent to him that his mother acted different around the two women he was comparing.

Christen removed her hand from his hair and looked across the table at the other woman, who shrugged, eyes wide, not knowing what kind of advice she could possibly offer to help. Christen sat up straighter, making Donovan meet her eyes.

“Tobin and mommy used to love each other. Remember what I told you about love?”

The little boy nods, still confused at what his mother was getting at. “You said it was impohtant.”

Christen nods, encouraging him to continue, not correcting his mispronunciation of the long word.

“And that God loves everyone and everything on Earth, all the people and all the animals and flowers.”

Christen smiles, happy that he remembered the most important love of all.

“And that you love me more than anyone else, but diffewent than how you love papa or Jermaine.”

She pauses, barely flinching at the boy’s words, deciding not to draw attention to it and encourage him instead. “And what else, son?”

He pauses, eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he tries to remember what Christen had told him. After a moment, his eyes widen.

“Oh, you said that people can love each other, but it doesn’t mean that they should be around each other all the time. And sometimes people love each other, and they want to be together all the time.”

Kelley smiles at his slow words, meeting Christen’s eyes across the table. She’s proud of her old friend for the way she’s raised her son, proud of the young kid for remembering a concept that he doesn’t understand, and hopefully won’t understand for a very long time. Christen had no other choice last week but to tell him what he just reiterated to her and Kelley, after he kept asking where Jermaine was.

“That’s right.” Christen says, clasping her hands together in her lap.

“That’s how you loved Toe-bin?”

Christen nods gently to him. “Yeah, buddy. Now I love Tobin like a friend, like Kelley, but I guess I also still love her like I want to be around her all the time.”

He sighs dramatically, lips puffing out as his eyebrows lift on his forehead. “That’s a lot of love.”

The girls laugh, charmed endlessly by his face and gestures.

“Wait mommy, does that mean you don’t want Miss Kelley around all the time?”

 

 

Christen was on the verge of a breakdown.

She leaned against the kitchen sink beneath the early Sunday morning light, dressed to the nine’s in a pretty knee-length flowy yellow dress, heels strapped around her feet, and her fists clenched around the granite countertop so hard that her knuckles were white. It was 7:30 in the morning, the sun having barely made it’s way over the horizon as she was getting up, and she could still hear Donovan screaming from Cody’s room. A headache was making itself known behind her temples.

It was mornings like this that made Christen stronger, nonetheless, but feel slightly frustrated at being a single mother. She’s not sure what she would do without her father’s help, as he had shuffled into the living room with a tired smile and took the screaming boy from Christen’s hands as she tried to get his church clothes on. She cried for a few seconds after Cody closed the door behind them, upset that she had to lightly spank her son after he wouldn’t stop jerking away from her in the middle of his temper tantrum.

He’d woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning after Christen had already gotten ready. When she carried him to the warm bath she had ran, he fought her the entire way, barely asleep and grumbling at being woken up. She’d managed to get him through the bath, thankful that the hot water had almost put him back to sleep as she washed his hair and rinsed him off. However, as soon as she carried the naked boy downstairs where she had laid out his clothes and tried to get his outfit on before breakfast, he’d started to wake up and pitch a fit, snatching away from her and loudly crying that he didn’t like the suit she had picked out for him.

“What’s going on?” Kelley mumbled, barely awake as she walked up next to Christen to pour a cup of coffee. Donovan squalled from the room down the hall.

Christen looked at her through teary eyes, ashamed that her son’s bad behavior had likely woken the sleeping woman, ashamed that her dad was having to deal with them at such an early hour. Donovan rarely did this, he was such a well-mannered kid, but on the rare occasion that he did throw a fit- it was bad, and it took hours to calm him down. He’d once thrown a tantrum so bad as a three-year-old with Christen in the middle of the grocery store, that she’d had a breakdown in the car, frustrated at having to leave her shopping cart in the middle of the aisle so she could drag her screaming son out of the store before he got worse. He’d cried and screamed the entire way as she took them to her father’s house, begging her dad to do something. Her dad had laughed, pulled her onto the couch next to him, and let her cry as they watched the little boy scream and kick his feet on the floor until he’d cried himself to sleep, knowing that they wouldn’t have been able to fix the situation, that the kid was too worked up to listen to anyone. She found out that day that sometimes, the best way to fix it is to let the child work it all out of his system, and then talk about it once they finally both calmed down. Donovan’s tantrums reminded her so much of Tobin’s explosive anger, the unwillingness to listen and how it always seemed to build up and build up until they erupted. These were some of the moments throughout the past few years that she wished Tobin was here the most, somehow knowing that the strong woman would know what to do in these situations when she didn’t have a clue herself.

Today, she didn’t have time to let the stubborn little man cry for two hours and kick the floor. They had somewhere to be that they had to get ready for, and there were two sleeping adults in the house that he was going to wake up. To say the least, Christen was upset.

“He doesn’t like what I gave him to wear.”

Kelley scoffed, sipping the hot liquid. “So get him something else.”

She deadpanned, amused that her friend has clearly not been around a lot of moody five-year-old’s.

“Kel, I’ve done that.” She shook her head, feeling the tears well. “Three times already. He’s just in a mood, I don’t even think it has anything to do with the fucking clothes.”

Kelley laughed, “Big Daddy will calm him down.”

“I hope so. I can’t do this with him this morning, we don’t have time. He’s going to do this for hours and dad shouldn’t have to deal with it this early.”

She wiped the tears from her eyes, upset but thankful that she’d not yet been able to do her makeup.

“I had to spank him.” She whimpered. “I hate spanking him.”

Kelley’s hands rubbed at her back, trying to work the tension from her shoulders.

“Go do your make-up, Chris. Finish getting ready. If Big Daddy can’t fix it, I’ll straighten him up. Make the kid do drills or something.” They laugh together at the imagery. “In the meantime, though, I’m gonna head back to bed.”

Christen laughed and shook her head, taking her friends advice and carrying her mug with her to the bathroom, following Kelley up the stairs. She’d already done her hair, pulling it up into a classy tight bun before snapping two small hoop earrings in. In the mirror, she did her foundation and contour first, applying a small amount of highlight to her cheekbones and nose before starting on her eyeliner and lashes. Once that was done, she moved onto her eyebrows, and finishing off with a conservative amount of lip gloss.

As she was snapping the cap on the lip gloss, still hearing Donovan crying from Cody’s bedroom and Cody’s gentle voice turning slightly more assertive, she heard a few knocks on the door. Confused, she checked the small watch on her wrist, noting that it was only 7:45 and Tobin wasn’t supposed to be here. She looked up at the ceiling, still overwhelmed with frustration, and now panicking that Tobin was about to witness the child losing his shit.

Putting the lip gloss back into her makeup bag with a huff, she hurried down the stairs as Tobin knocked again, hearing the clicking of her heels across the hardwood floor.

On the other side of the door, Tobin stood under the dewy morning sunlight in her full Marine dress uniform, white gloves and all. Christen’s jaw unhinged itself as soon as she’d caught sight of her after gently pulling the front door open.

Tobin’s left hand carried two brown paper bags from the Biscuit Barn in town, her right hand holding a cardboard container full of small coffees.

“Hi.” She whispered, eyes raking themselves over Christen’s dress, unable to look anywhere else and fully oblivious to the fact that Christen was doing the same to her. Tobin’s blue pants with their red blood stripe and white belt complemented the decorated black coat with the red trim exceptionally, fitting her frame in a way that highlighted her strong shoulders and caused her jaw to look even sharper beneath the lowered hat. She’d forgotten how good the suit looked on the older woman, noticing that it was much more heavily decorated with multi-colored bars and medals than it had been six years ago. Tobin snapped out of it too, as Christen opened the screen door.

“Good morning, uh. I brought biscuits for everyone in case you guys haven’t had the chance to eat, and I’m wearing this because they’re doing that stupid honoring thing, and-“

A child’s scream interrupted her rambling, causing her eyes to go wide and Christen’s eyes to close, mouth pursing at the fact that Donovan had yet to calm down.

“I’m sorry.” She mumbled, taking the coffees and bags from the soldier. “He’s not having a good morning. It’s been about forty-five minutes of this. Come in, though. If you dare. And we actually haven’t had the opportunity to eat yet so… thank you.”

“My word.” Tobin smiled as he screamed again, removing her hat before she stepped inside, not deterred in the slightest at hearing Donovan’s tantrum. She could tell Christen was overwhelmed, watching as the younger woman tensed up with every cry the boy gave. “What’s got the little man so upset?”

Christen shrugs. “He didn’t wake up happy today. He refuses to wear any pants or nice shirt that I give him.”

At that moment, Donovan burst through his papa’s room wearing nothing but a pair of pants, tears streaming down his little cheeks as he fled. He took five steps into the living room before he caught sight of Tobin in all her regalia. His mouth, mimicking his mothers, dropped open in surprise as he stood beneath the soldier, staring up at her for a few seconds.

Tobin smiled at him and put her hat to her stomach, bending down on one knee to get to his level.

“What’s going on little man?” She whispers, watching as he hiccups from crying. He rubs his eyes and guiltily looks at his mother before looking back to Tobin, like he’s ashamed to have been acting that way in front of a real-life soldier like Kelley. Cody comes out of the room with his hands up, looking dejected and frustrated at his grandson.

“He won’t wear any shirt that I give him, baby girl.” He complains to Christen. “I don’t know what he wants.”

Tobin looks back and forth between Christen and Cody, “Can I?” She asks Christen, gently asking permission to try and fix the situation with the unhappy kid. Christen nods, giving the food to her dad and focusing on her son as he stares up at the Marine.

Tobin looks back to the kid, arms crossed over her knee as she bites her lip, trying to think of a way to help him.

“Are you tired?” She finally asks the boy, who’s tears run down his face again as he nods. Tobin nods in response.

“I’m tired too, buddy. It’s okay to be tired, sometimes. You know that?”

He nods again after a second, rubbing his eyes with little fists.

“Your mama told me that you don’t know what you want to wear to church with us. Is that right?”

He nods again, once more looking guiltily at his mother.

“That’s okay, too. Sometimes we don’t know what we want to wear during the day. But hey, what do you think about me helping you pick something out? I’m sure we can find you a shirt that you like. Can I do that for you?”

The little boy stands there for a second, still wiping his eyes as he looks at Tobin, before nodding his head slowly.

“Awesome.” She smiles at him. He watches her for a moment before walking towards her slowly and throwing his tiny arms around her neck. Tobin gasps, nearly knocked off balance, feeling her son’s little body against hers for the first time in her life. Christen’s hand cups her mouth as she lifts her head to keep her cry from sounding out after watching the whole thing go down. She turns to walk into the kitchen quickly, shoulders shaking with her cries as she goes, trying to pull herself together before her son notices. Cody comes back from the kitchen, wondering why his daughter had tears streaming down her face, and walks into the scene Christen had left from.

“Well I’ll be damned.” He mumbles, watching as Tobin rubs her gloved hand over the expanse of the little guys back, holding him to her until he decides to let go. Cody wants to laugh, having spent the better part of six years praying to see the sight in front of him, but he doesn’t. Tobin’s eyes are squeezed shut, refusing to cry and just enjoying the moment.

The little boy pulls back eventually, a shy smile on his face, big hazel eyes gleaming up at her. Tobin looks back at him sweetly, before leaning over and whispering something between them that Cody can’t quite make out. Donovan nods, guiltily smiling up at the soldier, before turning and running to his papa.

Tobin stands up and watches as Cody bends over while Donovan throws his arms around his papa’s leg, noticing that Christen had stepped back into the room, her makeup stained tear tracks all cleaned and dried up. The little boy whispers an apology into Cody’s ear, causing Cody’s thick eyebrows to shoot high up on his head as he stares at Tobin, who stands observing the moment, hands clasped behind her back the way they were supposed to be while wearing the uniform.

When he lets go of his papa and runs to Christen to repeat the same action, Tobin’s eyes are still locked with Cody’s. They’d not seen each other since Tobin broke the news to Cody and Stacy about what she was doing. Tobin had spent years expecting to be visiting them for a different reason that day, expecting to be asking to marry their daughter, but it didn’t work out as such. She had cried her way through the explanation before Christen woke up, mumbling that she didn’t want them to hate her, that they were second parents to her, and she hopes they understood that she was protecting Christen. Stacy had begged her not to do it, not ready to see her daughter in pain like that, but told her none-the-less that it wouldn’t make her love Tobin any less than she had all those years before.

Cody had been more understanding and quiet, knowing that he could help his daughter heal from a broken heart that comes from a break up, but also knowing that Tobin was right- he wouldn’t be able to help her heal from a broken heart that would ultimately come from the death of her spouse. He’d hugged her, told her that he loved her, told her that she always had a home with them and to be careful when she deployed. When his daughter collapsed into his wife’s arms after Tobin had left, he’d still understood, and when he opened the bathroom door that one morning and found Christen on the bathroom floor with a positive pregnancy test laying on the counter- he had been angry. Not really at Tobin, knowing that she couldn’t have known, and definitely not at Christen- but more-so at God.

He wasn’t angry anymore, as of this very moment. In Tobin’s eyes, she told him that she was there now, ready to step in when they needed her to, like this morning, and take care of things. Ready to take some of it off Cody’s hands. He was getting older, and raising a second toddler had given him gray hair.

Cody was thankful, nodding at the woman from where he stood, telling her thank you in his own little way. She nodded back, lightly smiling, before watching as her son whispered into Christen’s ear.

Christen smiled as Donovan apologized, kissing his head, telling him that she was also sorry for spanking him.

“Do you want to go put a shirt on now, kiddo? Tobin brought us all biscuits to eat before we have to go. If you get ready fast, we can eat with papa and Kelley.”

Donovan wildly nodded, getting excited that they got to eat together before they had to leave, before bolting out of Christen’s grasp towards the stairs, slowing down when he heard his mother ask him to not run so fast up the steps. Christen winked at Tobin, then suggestively tilted her head towards the stairs, watching with a gleam in her eyes as the woman jogged after the boy.

Five minutes later, the two of them come bounding down the stairs and into Cody’s kitchen. Tobin had helped him pick out a short sleeve black button up that was now tucked into his khaki pants, secured with a tiny belt around his waist.

“He wanted a belt like me.” Tobin whispers to Christen, watching as she follows Donovan motions with her eyes as the boy slips on his pair of black sandals.

Christen smiles in disbelief, amazed and only slightly irritated because she’d shown Donovan that shirt three times this morning as he was pitching a fit. “I can’t believe you got him to calm down like that.” She whispers back, wanting to wrap her arms around Tobin’s waist and kiss her to thank her properly.

Kelley comes bounding down the stairs a few minutes later, unable to fall back asleep and deciding to join everyone again now that the screaming had stopped. She rounds the corner of the kitchen fully dressed this time and nearly doubles over in laughter at the sight of Tobin in her dress uniform. 

Tobin rolls her eyes at her friend’s childish actions, shoving Kelley lightly with a smirk when the woman tries to salute her fellow Marine while giggling.

Kelley whistles at her and catcalls.

“I’m still your NCO, you know.” Tobin roughly speaks, pretending to be annoyed. “Well, maybe not anymore. But I know who my replacement is, and he can make your life a living H. E. L. L.” She spells out the bad word, smirking in Kelley’s direction after the empty threat.

“As if. I’m the best Force Recon there is.” Kelley pauses, taking a large bite out of a bacon egg and cheese biscuit. “Well, now that you’re gone.”

 

 

The early service and Tobin’s “Welcome Home” celebration went better than Christen expected. Donovan was on his best behavior for them, even choosing to sit in the soldier’s lap while the pastor gave his sermon, and Christen felt her eyes get watery each time she looked over at them.

Tobin kept her left arm draped across the back of the pew around Christen’s shoulders the entire time, gloved thumb lightly tracing small patterns into Christen’s shoulder. Tobin’s right hand stayed wrapped around Donovan’s knee as he turned her white hat around in his hands, inspecting the little Marine logo and rubbing his fingers over the hard-shell exterior. Halfway through the sermon, he tilted his head back onto Tobin’s shoulder and turned in her arm, throwing his little sandaled feet around the woman’s waist. Christen watched his eyes get heavier as he started to lightly pull at the red and yellow Staff Sergeant stripes on Tobin’s jacket shoulder. After a few minutes of tracing the yellow threading, Christen watched his eyes close, looking up at Tobin’s steeled face to see her jaw clenched and her eyes misty, her hand lightly rubbing up and down Donovan’s back.

Christen stared ahead at the flowers lining the pulpit and zoned out from what their pastor was saying. She considered that Donovan knew Tobin was his mother, somehow, somewhere inside of him. Nothing else could explain how comfortable he’d gotten with her. He wouldn’t even fall asleep in Jermaine’s lap until they’d been together for nearly five months. She considers how she’s supposed to tell Donovan the truth, knowing that it will be years before he could understand something like that.

She looks at Tobin again for a second before returning her gaze to the flowers, wondering how the woman feels holding her son for the first time. She wonders if she’s sad about it or happy, or perhaps a little of both. If she were Tobin, in any other circumstance, she’d be sad and very angry. But it wasn’t a normal circumstance, Tobin had escaped death twice in a matter of minutes. So, Christen concluded, in reality she would be happy. She closes her eyes and prays that Tobin’s is happy when they are all asked to bow their heads as the pastor ends his sermon, cutting it short so they can move the church into the communal area to celebrate the member of their church that came home from deployment this week.

Tobin prays to keep them all safe. She realized while sitting down and listening to the pastor talk about her favorite church subject- love, that she never considered really being a parent before she met Donovan. It’s all she can think about now, falling asleep last night on her back while thinking about all the things she could enjoy with the boy. She imagined taking him fishing and hunting, teaching him how to shoot, teaching him how to be gentle and helping him with his homework. She imagined spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with them and going trick-or-treating or Easter egg hunting. She imagined birthday parties and graduations, how he’s going to look when he gets older, how Christen’s going to react when he brings home a partner once he’s old enough.

So Tobin prays to keep them safe, like it’s the only thing that matters in the world, even if her and Christen are still in limbo, not having ironed everything out yet.

“So that’s what love it about.” The pastor starts up again after the prayers are finished, concluding his sermon with words that will resonate throughout the congregation.

“It’s about emulating, trying to emulate that love that God has for you. God doesn’t have to even think about it, y’all.” The pastor laughs lightly, “He just loves you anyways, you know? You make a mistake? He loves you. You do something good? He loves you. It doesn’t matter, like loving a child. It’s unconditional. God doesn’t care what you look like. God doesn’t care who you are. He doesn’t care what type of wrong you’ve done or how much money you have. So we should do the same with each other, love one another the way that God loves us.”

A round of amen’s reverberates through the congregation.

“We have someone here with us today for the first time in a long time, someone that I know God loves very much.”

Tobin smiles with Christen at the pastor’s words.

“Staff Sergeant Tobin Heath is here with us today, coming home from serving our country and protecting our freedom under the United States Marine Corps. She served for twelve years, deployed on six tours. She operated out of the Force Recon Company in the Second Reconnaissance Battalion, ending her last stint as a Staff Sergeant overseeing a unit in Afghanistan. She’s been a member of our church along with her parents Jeff and Cindy Heath since she was 14 and uh, I got the opportunity to watch her grow up. We’ve been praying for her safety for a long time now, which explains the gray hairs on mine and her dad’s head from worrying so much.”

Laughter spreads through everyone like wildfire. Christen giggles at Tobin’s face, blushing hard, knowing that she hates being talked about like this.

“Anyway, God loves her a lot and so do we.” He turns towards them in the front row, smiling at Tobin.

“Would you stand up for us Sergeant Heath and let us give you a proper welcome, and a thank you for your service to this country?”

Tobin nods at the pastor, looking at Christen who’s already got her arms out to relieve her from Donovan. Tobin wraps a strong hand around his legs, lifting him up and into his mother’s arms so she can stand.

Once she stands and lifts her gloved hand to the crowd behind her, they all begin to stand as well, giving her a loud applause and welcoming her home. A few people in the row behind her go to shake her hand. Tobin’s smiling humbly, cheeks red from the embarrassment as she knew they would be while she shakes the few people’s hand, thanking them for thanking her. She wants to say she’s proud of what she’s done, it’s easy to be prideful in moments like this, but it’s not the overwhelming emotion here. She doesn’t think she knows many Marines who survive a war and see the things she’s seen claim to feel much pride. She has pride in her country, in the men and women she served with, mostly. It leaves only a little for herself, despite the Marine enlistment slogan that’s burned into her brain, the same one she saw on a billboard at 15 that made her want to join.

The few. The proud.

“If you’ll come up here Tobin, we’d like to give you a few things and let you say a few words.”

They’d gifted her with a folded American flag, as expected. A customized black granite plaque that had the Marine’s symbol on it with a place to put her K-bar knife, and a $300 gift card to her favorite fishing supply store. She smiled the widest at that one, knowing that she was about to burn all 300 bucks of it on getting her and Donovan some sick fishing gear. Hell, she thought, she might as well buy a boat while she’s at it.

Christen’s eyes narrow after she receives the gift card, shaking her head back and forth with a smile, reading Tobin’s mind about spending it all on Donovan.

She thanks everyone first for the warmth and the gifts when the pastor hands her the microphone.

“Um,” She coughs, still red in the face and trying to come up with the words. She spots her parents sitting in their pew, smiling at her with love in their eyes.

“The Marine’s don’t teach you much in Recon training about how to speak well in public. I probably should have joined the Air Force instead for that.” She starts with a low voice, hearing the laughter and smiling at it. “I’m not really good at this, and I hear there’s food ready in the communal hall, so I’m probably going to keep it short… leave the talking to Pastor Joseph.”

She coughs again, clearing her throat. Her eyes meet Christen’s softly as she starts again.

“War teaches you a lot about love.” She starts, swallowing the knot in her throat at her own words as her eyes begin to water. “I uh, I thought I knew what love meant before my unit deployed for the second time six years ago and uh… well I was wrong.”

She smiles, shaking her head, damning herself for the single tear that hits the wooden podium that she’s got a vice grip on.

“God, uh… God taught me that I didn’t know a thing about love in the middle of war. I’d spent a lot of time thinking that love meant constant sacrifice, something they teach us in basic, and um… well I spent even more time learning that it wasn’t always the case.”

“During my last deployment, God taught me that most of the time love means faith, the willingness to believe that things will be okay, uh… even when you don’t know if it’s true. My- my unit had faced a ground attack during my last deployment. I was hurt pretty severely, and while I laid in the middle of the desert with a bullet in my back, convinced that I was going to die, I asked God what He needed me to do. And He told me to uh..”

Tobin wipes the moisture from under her eyes and takes a deep breath, feeling the cloth around her thumb and forefinger absorb the few droplets of wetness that had leaked out.

“He told me to be still.” She smiles, happy to see so many heads nod in the crowd. Her eyes find Christen again, feeling her lip barely quiver at the sight of the younger woman constantly wiping the wet trails that fall from her eyes.

“And I realized that sometimes that’s what love means… being still, not sacrificing anything or running from anything, letting God take care of it. So uh, my unit eventually found me, laying still-” She laughs as Christen laughs, looking back out into the congregation, “And I decided that maybe it was time I come home and be still some more. So uh, I want to thank you for welcoming me back and being here with me while I learn what that feels like.”

Chapter Text

They all begin to stand up again, giving her a much louder round of applause than they’d given before. She shakes the pastor’s hand again before he directs everyone to where the food is waiting on them. When she returns to the pew, she offers her hand to Christen, helping the woman rise from her seat with her watery eyes and bright smile. Christen grabs her purse from the pew and puts it around her shoulders before bending over to grab Tobin’s hat, waking Donovan up from the movement. He rubs his sleepy eyes and reaches out for Tobin once more that day, asking silently for Tobin to hold him. Tobin grabs the sleepy little guy into her arms, positively beaming once she spots her parents making their way down the aisle to meet them. Cindy is crying relentlessly at the sight of the boy in Tobin’s arms, and Tobin notices her dad’s eyes watery as well.

Christen is smiling when Jeff wraps her in a bear hug, wishing she could have had them around all these years, feeling guilty at not been able to handle it. Cindy hugs her next, making her cry at feeling the woman’s arms wrap around her once more, a woman she considered a second mother to her.

“Oh, honey. I’ve missed you so much.” Cindy whispers into the embrace. “So much. You don’t know how much.”

“I’ve missed you more.” Christen coos, still holding onto the small older woman, recognizing that familiar Chanel number five Cindy’s been wearing forever. “You still smell the same.” She laughs as they pull apart. The parents beam at Donovan, taking turns lifting his little body through the air and holding him, finally able to break that distance they’d been waiting to break since the little boy was born. The five of them eventually sit down at a table, Christen having had to wrangle her son to get him to sit still in her lap amidst all the commotion and energy, so she could cut up his foot and give him the fork. Tobin, ever the joker, cuts up her food and offers it to Christen on a fork, just as she’s doing for Donovan. She takes the piece of grilled chicken into her mouth, rolling her eyes at Tobin in the process. They sit around and talk for as long as the dinner lasts, catching up on old times and times between. Donovan goes outside to play on the church playground with the rest of the kids once he's finished eating, after being invited by a pretty red-headed girl to join them. Christen was hesitant at first, about to say no, until the little girls mother walked up behind them and reassured her that she would be out there to keep an eye on them.

Cindy and Jeff catch up on Christen's life, where she works, where she lives,... things like that. They ask a million questions about Donovan, positively beaming at all they learn. The conversation is strained in a pleasant way, in a way that only happens when people meet again after a long time and, despite their souls and eyes having known each other, they know nothing of each other's day-to-day lives. It's pleasantly awkward but only because they feel like they could sit and catch up forever- yet not being able to. Tobin has an appointment with the car dealership soon, giving them only about 45 minutes to eat and talk. Christen eventually excuses herself to go and wrangle her son off of the playground, and when they leave, they make Christen promise to come have dinner this week and bring Donovan with him so they can spoil him. Tobin is met with an uncomfortable realization as they get up to leave. Finally understanding that her parents had no communication or connection to Donovan for the last five years.

Everything in Tobin’s mind wants to be angry, and the question of why? continues to flood her brain. Why didn’t Christen at least contact them? Call them? Drop by every six months? Trying her hardest to understand, and not wanting to have the conversation until she could help herself understand more of it, she tries to put herself in Christen’s shoes.

Tobin considers how Christen would have felt through all of it, knowing that Tobin abandoned her. In Christen’s mind, no matter the noble reason behind her leaving, she still left her at the end of the day, and that was the simple fact that separated them. She was an adult, she was aware that there was no right or wrong in this situation, and she understood that both of them had made questionable decisions over one another, and it had been her who had pulled the first plug that atom bombed their lives to shambles. Tobin knows that had she been in Christen’s shoes, she still would have allowed Jeff and Cindy to see her son, no matter what. However, she also knows, that had Christen been in her shoes, she would have never broken their promise to get through everything together in the first place, she never would have left, no matter how scared she was of dying.

Forgiveness was never easy, but it was always necessary, she was aware of this. Forgiveness was probably going to take a while, Tobin was likely going to be sad about it for the time being, and they still needed to talk about it for sure, but she had to reel in her anger before it was too late, before it turned into an even larger problem, before she forgot to remember that they were healing and not at war with one another.

Christen notices that Tobin is quiet on the drive home to drop Donovan off before they go pick up Tobin’s jeep, her jaw stays clenched as she stares through the windshield, left elbow resting on the driver’s side door so her face can rest on her hand. She tries to write the silence off, thinking that maybe Tobin is just overwhelmed from this morning or in pain from her hip.

She finally smiles once they drop Donovan off with her dad. She promises the little man that they’ll be back in a few hours, smiling and giving him a high five. However, as soon as she’s back in the truck, she gets quiet again.

She stays quiet for the majority of the drive to the dealership, Christen finally decided to break the silence.

“Are you excited to get the Jeep?” She asks, looking over at Tobin with a smile, trying to put a little life into the woman.

Tobin offers a half smile back to her, “Oh yeah, I can’t wait to get rid of this old thing.” Her fingers tap on the steering wheel.

Christen nods, noticing the dejected answer. She ponders saying something for a little while, worried about asking the older woman outright, but eventually they’re pulling into the lot of the dealership and her opportunity is lost. The jeep had been pulled to the side of the building overnight, Tobin noticed, so she pulled the truck up next to it and put them in park, noticing her dad’s friend standing at the hood of the new car.

Before they get out, Tobin shrugs off her coat, having already pulled off her gloves once they left the church, and puts it into the same bag the gloves went in. It leaves her in a skintight white button up that she rolls at the sleeves, causing Christen’s mouth to go dry as she watches the Marine’s arms flex through the motions. Tobin jogs around to open Christen’s door after telling her to give her a second, and the action makes Christen’s heart warm, thinking hopefully that what was wrong with Tobin before had nothing to do with her. When Christen takes her hand to get out of the truck, she doesn’t remove it, maintaining the contact as they walk up to the man that’s leaned against the hood of the lifted Jeep.

Tobin gleams proudly at the vehicle like a kid getting a new toy while she shakes she man’s hand with a firm grip. Christen moves to shake his hand next, introducing herself. She instantly notices when the man lets his fingers linger a little too long against her palm, getting twice uncomfortable when he runs his eyes down the length of her body. She could practically feel Tobin’s body tense up next to her as she notices it too.

The man smiles at her, showing a straight row of perfect teeth at her, before turning back to his client. And for the first time in Christen’s life- she witnesses Tobin slip out of her typical cool demeanor and turn into what she’s been for the past twelve years. A Marine.

Tobin speaks authoritatively, standing straight as an arrow and asking low-toned quick witted questions to the man about the vehicle and the trade-in process, even coughing roughly when the man lets his eyes linger too long on Christen after telling a joke that neither of them found funny. Christen had to bite the urge to roll her eyes at it, and bite the urge to laugh when Tobin coughed, getting the man’s attention. Tobin’s jaw is wired so tight that Christen can make out every muscle in the side of her face, noticing that the row of stitches below her narrowed eye makes her seem even more threatening. She feels utterly flabbergasted that the man hasn’t picked up on the fact that he’s pissed Tobin off, Tobin- who’s clearly one tired and injured Marine who’s not up for this type of shit, and even more utterly flabbergasted at the fact that he’s unabashedly flirting with her so out in the open. He leads them inside and upstairs to his office to begin the paperwork, proudly boasting his wall of legitimate American football insignia that neither of them care about.

And it’s when he pulls Christen’s chair out for her that things really begin to go downhill, she has to tightly grip onto Tobin’s forearm that had reached for the man’s hand as he pulled back her chair, whispering “Stop.” to the raging soldier as she pushed on her tensed forearm, directing the woman to sit down so they could quickly get this over with.

Tobin sits, rigidly giving the man her necessary information and title for the truck so that they could begin the trade. Once the heavy load of paperwork is finished, Christen almost verbally thanks God that it’s over, thinking that they were about to get out of the uncomfortable situation. The man had let his eyes linger every time he’d looked at her, causing Tobin to get more and more worked up.

As he hands Tobin the keys to the Jeep, not picking up on the glare she’s giving him while they stand and shake hands, he looks at Christen once more and coughs to get her attention, not letting go of her left hand that was mid shake.

“Ma’am, um… I’m sorry for being so forward,” Tobin scoffs quietly beside her, causing Christen to swat the side of her thigh with her free hand, dreading an altercation but feeling Tobin’s patience on thin ice. “But I was hoping that you’d be interested in letting me take you for a drink sometime.”

Tobin smiles through the pain of her anger, shaking her head, clenching and unclenching her fist.

“I’m sorry and,” Christen smiles politely at him, “I don’t mean to be forward either, but I’m not sure that’s exactly professional of you to ask me that, and I’m not available. So, no.”

He smiles even wider at her comment, but the look is off-putting, as Christen has never been impressed by men who smile when she says no, men who think they're too hot to touch. And while she admits just like anyone could that the salesman was commonly attractive, she's over it. His personality might as well have been spoiled milk. 

“Come on. Just a drink? It doesn’t even have to be unprofessional."

Tobin starts laughing now, playing with a pen on his desk, twirling it around and around his Georgia Football mug to keep her hands occupied from doing what they want to do. The man looks at her oddly, confused at why she laughed. Christen notices the veins popping out of Tobin’s forearms, showing that her blood pressure had risen tremendously. She begs and begs for Tobin stay calm. Part of her wonders if this is going to be a normal thing, Tobin getting this heated any time Christen gets hit on, knowing that Tobin was never like this when they dated before. She’d get mad, sure. Christen got hit on often and still does, but she’d never get this angry this quickly, most of the time she’d just laugh it off.

The man shakes off Tobin’s laughter, looking back at Christen with hopeful eyes. She tries to pull her hand back, but the man grips it tighter, an action that ruins Christen’s hope at nothing happening.

“Let her hand go.” Tobin says quietly, barely above a whisper, looking down at the pen that she keeps fumbling with. Christen notices the veins in her neck showing now, wanting to look at the man and seriously warn him that he needs to get his shit together and let her hand go before he asks for something he doesn’t want. After he gripped her hand tighter, Christen almost lost all reserve to care that Tobin was this angry. She herself couldn’t believe a man was acting like this in broad daylight, in public, in a professional setting. She’d dealt with aggressive men before, even some aggressive women, but that was usually in a bar setting when they’d all go out in their early twenties. Never had she ever seen someone behave like this.

The man turns to Tobin quickly after her comment, looking upset that she had twice interrupted his attempt to ask the dark headed woman out. “What’s your issue? Can I not ask your friend for a drink?”

Tobin blows out a puff of air, eyes peeling from the cup and lifting up to the ceiling. Christen was frozen at her side, watching Tobin’s every move as she tried to contain her anger at the man’s audacity. Tobin notices again that he still had yet to let her hand go.

“Nope.” She pops the “p” in the word with her lips with a sarcastic smirk, flicking her finger to their still joined hands, his fingers gripped tightly around Christen’s wrist so much that it was starting to ache a little, as she finally lets her dark eyes meet his. “Let her hand go.” She repeats, smirk dropping and staring at him without any emotion.

Christen turns to the man, recognizing the look on Tobin’s face. “Hey.” She asks him, pleading for him to quit so they could leave. “Seriously.” She grabs the key from Tobin’s hand, hoping that the action would cause him to let go, but he’s too focused on the anger radiating from Tobin’s eyes to pay attention to her.

The salesman stands up straight, too focused on Tobin to realize that he still had Christen’s free hand in a grip that was getting tighter by the second. When he moves to stand up straight to challenge Tobin, it brings Christen’s wrist and arm forward, causing her to hiss at the surprise of being jerked forward unexpectedly.

Tobin has jolted so quickly that Christen barely noticed her hand being dislodged from the man’s grip. Tobin had tried to stay calm, forcing herself to remind herself to not do this here. She’d warned him to stop making the other woman uncomfortable, but she’d snapped at the sound of Christen hissing in shock. She twists the man’s hand and slings it against his chest with as much force as she could give.

“It's not worth it.” Christen pushes back against her, stepping to the side when Tobin tries to get around her, keeping the stronger woman from advancing.

“No, he’s a fucking creep. Move, Chris.”

Christen moves her mouth to Tobin’s ear, still pushing back against the woman. Tobin was twice as strong as Christen and Christen was losing ground fast with Tobin’s hands pushing back against her waist.

“Tobin, baby, stop.” She tries again, using a pet name as leverage to calm her down. Tobin falters, not pressing as hard when she hears the name, and Christen uses it to gain more leverage. “You won’t be able to see Donovan from jail. Stop.”

Tobin snatches away from her, raging, taking the key from Christen’s hand and slamming the glass door so loudly that it shakes the frame of the floor to ceiling office windows, causing a picture on the adjacent wall to break into pieces as it hits the marble floor.

Christen jerks her head up to the man, hearing the door to the building slam next.

“You are actually a fucking idiot.” She scoffs at the frozen man, pulling her purse against her shoulder, “Just a piece of advice,” Her eyes roll as she gets to the door and pulls at the knob, “Being a fucking creep like this at your job isn’t going to get you drinks with anyone.” Her fingers massage the irritation out of the wrist that he had been tugging on. “You should have let go of my wrist and none of this would have happened, you were hurting me.”

The man has a guilty look on his face, his mouth opens and closes like a fish.    

The anger has Christen shaking as she heads down the stairs and leaves the building, finding Tobin in the passenger seat of the Jeep. She gets in the driver’s seat, understanding that Tobin needs her to drive, and when she gets in- Tobin has wet tears streaming down her cheeks and is shaking, breathing heavily, fists clenched at her sides.

Christen makes the executive decision once she’s put the car in reverse to drive them to her house, not wanting her son to see the older woman so unraveled. Tobin remains quiet after her breathing levels out, staring out the window, and only speaks as Christen starts reversing the Jeep.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have acted that way.” She mumbles. “Really, Chris. I’m sorry.”

Christen shakes her head, cruising slowly in the new Jeep out of the rows of other new and pre-owned cars. “Fuck that guy. Don’t apologize. I should have let you fucking get him.”

Tobin looks at her with wide eyes, surprised at the woman’s aggressive words. She smiles then, lips turning up guiltily at the edges, looking so much like her son that Christen has to bite her lip and smile back.

"Who fucking acts like that? That's the strangest thing I've ever had happen to me. In broad fucking daylight, at his job." Christen curses, teeth biting her thumbnail as she pulls them out of the lot. 

Tobin studies her face, confused, also completely shocked and in disbelief that someone would do that. "Did you know him?" 

"What?"

"Nothing, I just..." She trails off. Of course Christen didn't know him, his face had just struck her, almost like he was trying to get a reaction out of Tobin, yet he had called Christen her "friend"?

Puzzled, Christen's eyebrows furrow. "You just what?" 

Tobin shrugs, "I don't know. It just seemed to me like he was trying to get a reaction out of me that whole time. I think I'm just paranoid." 

Christen is silent, having not thought that from his actions, more-so thinking that he was just a regular male asshole who had poor social skills, one's that understood how to treat women by watching their father's mistreat their mothers. It had reminded her of her ex husband. 

“Where are we going?” Tobin finally asked.

“Um, to my house. I usually live here. I’ve only been staying with my dad every now and then since everything happened. I figured we both needed to cool off and, maybe we could also use the time to talk about some more things.”

Tobin smiled at her gently and nodded, thankful that the other woman had practically forgotten about the altercation earlier. Tobin was also thankful that she had paid for the Jeep in full, not wanting to ever step another food inside of that building.

 “But um, to be frank, on a serious note-” Christen says quietly as they pull into the cement driveway, putting the Jeep in park and looking at Tobin hesitantly. “I don’t know what caused that earlier, but you can’t get that angry every time someone looks at me or flirts with me. Especially um, especially if Donovan is with us. He can’t see you act like that just because someone looks at me, it will make him think he can act like that too.”

“It wasn’t the looking and flirting.” Tobin argues, shaking her head and sighing as Christen bring it up again. “He wouldn’t let go of your hand and it was hurting you.”

Christen looks at her in disbelief, “You were flaming from the first time he looked over at me.”

“I didn’t like it.” She states simply, like it was supposed to fix all the issues of the situation. “And I can’t believe you’d think that I’d act like that in front of Donovan.”

“But you know that people look at me like that constantly, especially men. Are you going to fight every man that does it?” Her eyebrows pull together accusingly. “And I didn’t say that you would act like that.”

Tobin feels herself start to get antsy now as the anger starts to rise again, picturing Christen’s ex-husband putting his hands on her sexually, putting himself inside of her, hitting her. She watches, jaw clenching, as Christen gets out of the Jeep, deciding to follow quietly.

Her eyes take in the house as they walk up the grey stone steps to the bungalow-style home. It was secluded, right outside of town, on a plot of land with a small front and back yard, and about quarter mile away from the closest neighbors. Tobin figured it was probably built recently, or at least remodeled, as she stepped inside and noticed the semi-modern furniture. The place was clean and a little disorganized, likely due to the fact that Christen had been staying part time with her father. The only real mess being some of Donovan’s toys that were scattered beside the couch and the disheveled blankets and pillows on top of the couch.

She fumed again at thinking that this had been Christen’s home with that man, where all of the things that had been angering her earlier to think about had happened. She felt the heat flare up in her chest as she followed Christen into the kitchen, watching with a tight jaw as Christen fixed them both a glass of water. Her hands wrapped tightly around the edge of the white granite island countertop, causing her knuckles to turn white.

Tobin shuts her eyes tightly, trying to get the images of his hands gripping Christen’s body out of her head. Against her will she pictures him touching her and harming her, she almost whimpers at the thought that she caused it, caused Christen to find someone else that would do Tobin’s job when she wasn’t there to do it.

Christen studies the tense woman from across the island, hurting for her, knowing that something was in her head and had been eating at her all day.

“I don’t like that he touched you.” Tobin whispers, too angry to speak normally. She hates the feeling of anger, hates how it digs its claws into her sternum and burns everything it touches, hates knowing how quickly she fumes over this one little thing.

“It was just my hand, Tobs.” She whispers back to her, not understanding how the woman was still so torn up over that. 

Tobin shakes her head gently, taking a deep breath, like she’s trying to shake a picture from her brain. She leans up from the counter and stands, unable to shake it, eyes taking Christen in as she steps towards her.

“I’m not talking about him.” She whispers back, watching Christen’s eyes follow her movements as she removes the glass of water from her hands, setting it down onto the counter gently before backing the smaller girl into the other counter, staying steady as two hands move up to rest on her abdomen after Christen’s breath hitches. Tobin drops her head into the space between them, leaving less than an inch between her forehead and Christens.

“It makes me want to kill something to think about him hurting you.” She admits, nostrils flaring, “Touching you. Fucking you,” Christen’s breath catches in her throat again, “because I wasn’t here taking care of what I needed to be taking care of all these years.”

They stay still within the silence of the house, the only noise coming from their breathing, Tobin’s heavy and Christen’s staggered as they take each other in.

“So yeah,” Tobin whispers, “I’m not very happy at the moment with anyone that puts their hands on you. I’m here now. Maybe it’s extreme, but-” She sighs, dipping her head lower, “I have to take care of it.”

Christen opens her mouth to receive Tobin’s kiss, eyelids shutting tightly when Tobin’s tongue slowly dips into the space between her lips, sliding against hers as they meet, feeling the first taste of each other’s mouths. She runs her hands up Tobin’s shoulders to hold onto them for leverage as she pulls the woman against her, opening her mouth wider to take the woman’s tongue further in. They both groan at the contact when they pull back, eyes meeting under heavy lids for a split second before they’re kissing harder. Tobin releases the grip she has onto the counter at Christen’s sides, unable to stay strong enough to not touch her. She grips at Christens hips roughly, pulling their lower halves together as their tongues slide and battle for dominance.

“Fuck.” Tobin groans after Christen’s sucks slowly on her tongue, feeling the pressure heighten between her legs, knowing that if they don’t stop now- they won’t be able to.

Christen drops her head between them onto the strong chest, arms still wrapped around Tobin’s shoulder, weak in the knees from the heat. She makes a quick decision after catching her breath and puts her mouth to Tobin’s neck, kissing the skin there until she reaches Tobin’s ear.

“We can’t...not yet.” Christen whispers, trailing off as she’s roped back in under Tobin’s heavy-lidded stare. “Fuck.” She groans, putting space between them and pressing the thick of her palms to her eye sockets.

Tobin wipes her lips with the base of her thumb, trying to think about anything that could help her rid herself of the tension between her legs before she lost control, making them lose control.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, we just.. I’m not ready yet, and I don’t want to do that here. Not for the first time in this house, I-“ Christen swallows, so turned on that the skin of her chest is on fire. Her eyes meet the burning gaze of the woman across the counter from her. She puts her elbows on the granite, resting her face in her palms with a dreamy smile. “I want you, trust me. You have no idea how badly I want you.”

Tobin glances warmly at her, “I want you just as much, believe me.”

“I do.” Christen glances below her belt and then back to the counter, bottom lip bitten between her teeth. “Believe you, I mean.”

Tobin follows the direction of Christen’s glance with her own eyes, turning furiously red at the imprint of herself beneath the blue fabric to the left of her zipper. “Oh my god.” She whispers in embarrassment.

Christen laughs now, lightheartedly, happy and willing to make Tobin blush at any moment she could get. She was relieved to see that she could still work Tobin up from a little making out.

“Hey, remember that time-“

Chris, no-” Tobin groans, turning impeccably flushed at the mention of the most embarrassing night of her life.

“What? I’m just saying.” The younger girl smirks, throwing her hand out and towards Tobin’s crotch. “It’s nice to see that you haven’t changed.”

They’d been at the lake one Summer night after they first started dating, a few months before they’d slept together for the first time. Tobin decided earlier that day that she was going to teach Christen how to night fish, thinking for some reason that bringing the talkative girl with her would get anything accomplished. Christen hated every second of it and had been able to endure only about 20 minutes of silently staring at the bobbers as they floated across the black water.

Tobin had been behind her, muscular legs stretched out under her shorts at each side of Christen’s folded legs, when Christen had started her onslaught. She’d wrapped her hand around Tobin’s knee at first, rubbing the length of her shin and back up a few times, before turning in the girl’s lap and kissing her sweetly. The sweet kiss had turned into a full on make-out, and before either girl knew what was happening, Tobin had groaned and pulled back, hands immediately flying to the hardness beneath her Nike shorts. She’d tried to stop, but by the time she could even put her hand against herself, she was twitching and doubling over as she released against her thigh. Christen remembers being terrified at how big Tobin was from the imprint against the cotton material, and her eyes grew even wider as she watched a dark wet spot appear and grow at the end of Tobin’s length.

“God that was so embarrassing.” Tobin groans now, laughing as she remembers having to fumble out an explanation to the shocked girl that night. “You were so freaked out.”

Christen shakes her head, correcting her, “I was but not at that.”

“Then what?”

She laughs, shaking her head even more at the memory. “You were fully hard and I kept telling myself there was no way in hell that thing was going to fit in me.”

They bust out into laughter, sharing the same thought of well, it did.

 

 

 

The wind blows around them as they sit on Christen’s back porch in the large quilted hammock, having an evening cup of coffee and enjoying each other’s presence. Tobin had grabbed her bag out of the jeep, changing into an old tan Marine’s t-shirt, a pair of black Nike shorts, and flip flops, exposing her tanned muscular legs to the muggy Summer air.

Tobin’s sitting perpendicular to the hammock’s natural direction, toes hitting the ground at every down swing, allowing Christen to lay in it the correct way and drape her legs across Tobin’s lap. She too had thrown on some shorts and an oversized t-shirt, opting to go barefoot once the uncomfortable heels were tugged off, their straps had rubbed a burning sore into her right heel.

“Will you tell me what Donovan was like when he was born?” Tobin quietly requests, smiling at the thought of the little boy as an infant.

“Would you like to see pictures? You need to get an Instagram, actually. And follow me on it, it’s pretty much a picture collection of Donovan from birth, which is funny because I used to get annoyed and unfollow girls who did that after having kids, before Donovan was born.”

Tobin smirks, “I’d be staring at it all damn day.” She laughs, watching as Christen moves to sit their mugs on the ground before she scoots closer to her. She wraps a protective arm around her shoulders as Christen opens up the app on her phone, scrolling down as far as she can until she reaches the picture of the day he was born.

“Do you have pictures of you before he was born?” She asks, the knot already in her throat. “When you were pregnant, I mean.”

Christen looks at her for a second before nodding, deciding that it was more than okay for Tobin to look at them. She closes the app and opens up her picture library, scrolling until she finds the camera roll containing all of her pictures that had to do with Donovan before she got an Instagram. She clicks on the first picture she ever took, standing in her parent’s home in nice outfit and an open-threaded white shawl that reached the floor. Her hair is down, hand pulling her shirt up to reveal the start of a swollen tummy as her mother stands next to her. Christen smiles at her mother’s smiling face, so youthful and rid of sickness, noticing that her face- despite smiling, looked dejected, her smile not reaching her eyes.

Tobin’s teeth gleam under the sun as she looks at the picture, smiling even wider at the next one, taken at Christen’s family-inclusive gathering when they announced it was a boy. Tobin picks up on the hesitant look in Christen’s eyes in the picture but says nothing about it, understanding what was keeping the woman from being happier than she was.

The pictures keep coming as Christen’s belly grows larger. She notices that most of the pictures contained one or both of her parents, always taken from someone else and never any selfies. Christen finds one of herself a week before she gave birth that her dad had taken.

“I was miserable here.” She smiles at the picture. “Everything hurt and I could barely move around… I couldn’t even see my swollen feet.”

Tobin studies the image of Christen on the couch, eyes heavy and watching the TV in front of her, one hand resting on her tummy and the other gripping the blanket that was wrapped around her waist.

“You were beautiful, Chris.”

Christen smiles with the corner of her mouth at the compliment. “I uh, I have a video of me giving birth. Mom forced Pinoe to take it, they were in the room with me when I had him. I don’t want it to upset you when I show you because um, I’m obviously in the worst pain and I mention you a few times through it. But we can watch it if you’re comfortable.”

Tobin nods, too scared to speak as she watches Christen swipe to the left and tap the screen to make it play.

The video starts at Christen’s bedside. Tobin takes in the image of her laying there with her feet in the stirrups as the doctor messes around with tools on the tray next to him between her legs. Christen’s mom is on the left side of her, pushing the crying twenty-five-year-old girls head back as another contraction hits. Christen screams and throws her head forward, hand squeezing her mother’s hand and the bedsheets so tight as her eyes close in a grimace.

“You didn’t take an epidural?” Tobin asks, eyes wide and wet as she stares at the woman in surprise.

Christen shakes her head no. “I didn’t want one. I wanted to do it naturally.”

Tobin watches as Stacy pushes her hair back, telling the girl to breathe. The doctor reaches to feel something between her legs and talks to her nurses, telling them that it was almost time.

Mama.” Christen sobs in the video to her mother, shaking as she cries to the woman. Stacy shushes her again. “She could make it stop, mama. Please get her. Please.”

I can’t, baby.” Stacy smiles at her, rubbing the sweat off of her forehead. “I wish I could. You can do this, Christen. You know you can, baby. You were made to be able to do this.

Christen shakes her head in the video, sobbing quietly for a moment and hunching up as another contraction hits minutes later. She whimpers when the contraction plateaus, falling back against the bed as her chest heaves. Stacy runs a cloth over her forehead after a nurse hands it to her, her other hand still in a vice grip from her daughter. The doctor checks again.

Okay!” She says loudly, “We’re at 10 centimeters, Christen. It’s time to push, okay?” The doctor lifts the cover off of her knees, exposing to Tobin her tiny trembling legs as they rest in the stirrups. “I want you to push as hard as you can when you’re ready, okay? For as long as you can. The harder you push, the faster it goes.”

Christen nods wildly, sitting up a little when a nurse directs her to. She takes a few deep breaths when the doctor nods at her to begin, gritting her teeth and pushing hard. Christen screams and sits back after a moment.

That’s good, Christen. Perfect. One more push when you’re ready okay? As hard as you can.”

Stacy smiles, tears streaming down her face, as her daughter takes a few more breaths and looks at her for strength. She pushes again, screaming at the ring of fire as Donovan’s head begins to drop.

I see a head!” The doctor says, leaning closer as Christen pushes again with all of her strength. The doctor grabs ahold of the baby and lifts him into the air once he’s out, waiting as a nurse immediately wraps a blue towel-like blanket around his screaming and trembling body. Stacy is handed a pair of scissors to cut the umbilical cord, which she does with shaking hands once the nurse pointed to where she had to cut.

Tobin turns her head at this, taking in a shaky breath as tears pour down her face, having been crying since she heard Christen beg for her to take the pain away. She’s so overwhelmed sadness and happiness, understandably so, but she turns back to watch the rest of the video none-the-less.

The baby is cleaned up and measurements are taken very quickly before he’s returned to his mother. Christen is squalling as she looks at him for the first time, eyelids low in exhaustion as he’s gently placed in her arms. Her hands find his tiny back almost naturally, eyes closing through her tears as she uses her last bit of strength to hold the newborn. The video is turned from her and onto Megan’s face, tears streaming down her cheeks as well with a massive smile on her face.

She did it. Oh my God.” Megan beams at the camera, shaking her head in laughter. “She really just did that.”

Tobin’s smiling as the video ends, tears still running at a million miles an hour.

“I’m so glad I’m alive.” Tobin laughs as she cries, “I’m so glad I got to see that.”

Christen grabs Tobin’s jaw softly and turns the soldier’s face towards her so she could kiss those smiling lips. She turns in the hammock and pulls the woman with her as she does, putting her head onto her chest as they swing from the movement. Tobin silently cries into her hair for a few seconds, feeling her strong body rock with every sob and hiccup. They sit there as she calms, eventually groaning and sniffing to straighten herself out.

“Do you still want to see pictures of Donovan?” Christen whispers to the soldier.

“Yeah, show me all of them.”

So they lay there, Christen balancing her phone on Tobin’s abdomen while they scroll through the pictures. She shows Tobin the pictures of Donovan’s earliest years, when he learned to crawl, multiple outfits that she’d thought were adorable, the video of him saying his first word, which was mama, and learning to walk. They laugh at pictures of him smearing cake all over his face, and an adorable video of Cody tickling the little boy as he giggled and squirmed on a blanket in the floor. Tobin laughs at a picture of him sitting in Cody’s lap as they watched a University of Georgia football game, Donovan’s eyes concentrating hard on the screen just like his papa’s.

“I want him to have a relationship with my parents.” Tobin whispers after a while, feeling down at the fact that a lot of the pictures involved Cody and Stacy, and really a lot of Cody after Stacy had passed.

“Why didn’t you let them see him?” She whispers again. “I mean, I’m not upset- maybe a little sad. I just… I can’t help but feel at fault for them not knowing their grandson. And part of me wishes you wouldn’t have let me get in the way of them being able to be grandparents. When I got back home after seeing you again, mama was crying and asking me if us talking again meant she got to meet him. I didn’t even know what to say, I was shocked that they knew who he was and seriously shocked that they knew who he was and hadn’t met him yet.”

Guilt washes over Christen, causing her to think for a moment and choose her words wisely when she responded.

“They knew who he was. He looks just like you, so they kind of figured it out after seeing us in town a few times. I guess they understood that I was heartbroken.” She sighs. “I think that mama secretly called Cindy before she got sick, explaining everything to them, probably telling them that I was having a hard time with him, still wasn’t over you, and that I didn’t want to tell them in fear of them slipping up and telling you and putting you in danger. I spent a very long time in fear that one of our friends or your parents would tell you, and a part of me was so angry that I convinced myself that if you didn’t want me, that they didn’t either. I don’t know if mama did say anything, or what she would have said, but I noticed that every time I saw them in public after a little while that they’d look at me like they still loved me- like they understood and was waiting. Then, Jermaine came into our lives, knowing nothing about who Donovan came from, and I knew that any chance I’d had of telling them was gone.”

Tobin is silent for a second, considering Christen’s words and knowing that they were genuine. She breathes, feeling the weight of not understanding Christen’s motive in keeping Donovan from her parents disappear, knowing that it would have turned into a nagging thought if she didn’t outright ask the girl.

“I always wanted you.” She whispers. “Always.”

“Even now?” Christen turns beneath her arm, looking up at her. “Do you still want me? Even still?”

Tobin looks at her incredulously, almost offended at the question. “I’m still in love with you Chris.” She whispers the statement, in disbelief that the woman could even ask that.

“Always have been. How can you ask me that?”

Christen looks between the soldier’s eyes back and forth. “Do you think, be honest, that after all of this that we could get it right? That we could love each other like we used to?”

“That’s what you’re afraid of?” Tobin asks again in disbelief, leaning up to hover over the girl, making sure she had her full attention.

Christen’s nods and her bottom lip trembles, which Tobin reaches out to press her thumb against as she catches it. “I’m afraid you’re going to leave me again- leave us.” She looks up at the woman, green eyes shimmering behind full eyelashes. “And I’m- I’m terrified, because I don’t know if I could do it again.”

Tobin holds Christen’s jaw beneath her strong hand as she reveals her fears. “I’m not goin’ anywhere, Chris. I can’t change what I did. I can, and will, feel guilt for that until I die. I feel guilt for that every time I look at you, and I damn sure feel it every time I look at him, but I’ve learned all the lessons I was going to learn after leaving… At your expense I know, which kills me, but it still doesn’t change the fact that I learned from it.”

“I didn’t leave you because I didn’t want you or didn’t love you.” Her lip quivers now, and Christen mimics Tobin’s earlier ministrations, running her thumb across the chapped surface. “I bought a ring before that deployment, I was going to propose to you once I got back,” Christen inhales sharply.

“-and that deployment was the hardest one I’d been on. It made me consider what it would be like for you to be one of the wives of the men I’d zipped up in a black body bag, or one of the wives of the men I found nothing left of. And I knew that I couldn’t ruin your life like that, you know that, but I'll say it until you believe it. It had nothing to do with not wanting you or loving you, that never stopped for me. I left you because I wanted you to have the opportunity to move on and be happy with someone that didn’t have a ticking time bomb hanging over their head nine months out of the year. Loving you or wanting you was never something I had to consider, and it still isn’t, okay?”

“Okay.” Christen nods.

“And when you ask me if I think it can all still be the same? I honestly want it to be better than it was. I want to take you on dates… and take you and Donovan on dates for the three of us.” She laughs. “One day I want to fall asleep next to you and wake up the same way, make a home and a life with you, make love to you… all the things I think about doing and not worry about leaving again and never getting to come home, knowing that you’re not worried about me not getting to come home. Those are my intentions here. I’m still in love with you, more than I was then even if that’s possible.”

“I’m in love with you too.” Christen mumbles, loving the rare moments where Tobin’s not a woman of few words, loving the fact that they get another chance at this.

“Even now?” Tobin copies her earlier words with a smile. “Even still?”

“Don’t be an ass.” She shoves her shoulder playfully, leaning up to wrap her arms around her shoulders and mold their lips together.

Chapter Text

“You might feel a little pressure on your bruise, Tobin. I’ll be as quick as I can.”

The doctor clips the end off of Tobin’s stitches, and quickly slides the tiny black threading through the skin on her hip. The pressure of his fingers on the bruise causes her to hiss and clench her fists. Kelley winces from the chair she’s occupying in the office.

She was here for her Wednesday check-up and to get all her stitches removed, dragging Kelley with her since Christen was at work until five. They hadn’t been able to see one another since Tobin dropped Christen off at her dad’s house Sunday evening, but she’d made a promise to the green-eyed girl to text and call her every day, and they had a date planned for Friday night since Donovan asked to have a sleepover at his papa’s house with his best friend Daniel.

Christen had called the Daniel’s mother, confirming that it was okay if the two boys could stay with Cody for one last sleepover before school started. Once the phone was hung up and the plans were set in stone, she’d immediately called Tobin, bashfully asking the Marine if she could take her out on a date.

Isn’t it my job to ask you?” Tobin had laughed smoothly into the phone.

“No, you got dibs on the last first date. It’s my turn now.”

Tobin had laughed louder at that, before ending Christen’s nerves with, “Of course, Chris. I would love that. Will you text me the details once you plan what we’re doing? And curfew is at 10:30.

Christen had smiled, ignoring Tobin’s corny joke, already knowing where they were going to be going. “I’ll pick you up at 6:30 after I get off work and stop by dads. Wear something casual that you don’t mind walking in.”

“Okay.” Tobin said, and they had listened to each other breathe for a second.

And bring overnight clothes. Can I keep you until Saturday?”  Tobin’s breath had hitched, instantly getting a thousand times more nervous at the sound of Christen being assertive and the thought of spending the night.

Y-yeah, I mean. Of-course you can.”  She took a breath. “You can keep me as long as you want to.”

Good. Okay. I’ll see you then. Sweet dreams, Sergeant.”

And the call had been ended.

Tobin groaned again as the doctor cleaned her wound after the stitches were removed. Once they were finished here, they had plans to meet Ashlyn for lunch over at Miss Sandra’s Diner, the groups hang out spot since they were teenagers, it was just even more cool now that Ali had bought the place after Miss Sandra's death. 

“So,” The doctor removed his gloves after the wound was cleaned and patted the table, allowing Tobin to sit up and put her t-shirt back on. “The incision on your waist is mostly healed, but you still need to be careful. The skin is weak and compromised and can be reopened if you hit it with force or stretch too quickly.”

She nodded at him, still feeling the bruise throb.

“The bruising is still bad, I see. Which is completely expected. I’m glad to see it turning from black to mostly purple in the deepest spots, that means it’s doing its job. Eventually you’ll see it start to turn fully yellow, and the pain will subside around that time as well. Give it another week or so, I’d say.”

“Thanks, doc.”

“Why does it still hurt her so bad?” Kelley was curious, having seen the Marine struggle this morning to put her clothes on and move around. “I mean, I get that she was shot and it’s a gnarly bruise, but she’s like, limping still, sometimes.”

Tobin sighed, ready to leave the tiny room that smelled too sterile. She was freezing and starving, having not had food since she woke up at 5 that morning.

The doctor nodded at her friend, clasping his hands in front of him as he leaned back against the counter.

“Well, she still has a few bullet fragments left behind in her skin. The pain is elevated because of the fragments moving around in the skin that’s bruised and sore. The situation is very common, and I assume they were left there because her surgeon was trying to remove the actual bullet as quickly as possible. Now Tobin, the fragments could move around, but it isn’t life threatening, and I don’t see it affecting your daily life in the future. It might aggravate you here and there, so you do have the option to have another surgery and we could try to remove them all, but if you elect not to- you’ll be fine. Just hafta’ let the bruising heal.”

She nodded again. “I’m fine, really. I’ll manage.” Kelley rolls her eyes.

“But Tobin, now that you’re here. I did have to speak to you about something, but, confidentially if that’s okay.”

Tobin tsked at Kelley, tossing her thumb behind her at the door. “Beat it, Marine. Doc here wants to talk to me, I’ll meet you in the car.”

“Can I have the Jeep keys?”

“No.” Tobin smiled. “Can’t risk you driving it around because you’re bored.”

“Tobin, it’s 100 effing degrees outside. I was going to cut the air conditioner on.”

The doctor smiles at their bantering, watching the two friends stare at each other in a silent standoff.

“Fine.” Tobin concedes, throwing Kelley the keys. “No driving.”

Whatever you say.”

When the door closes, Tobin turns to the man standing in front of her. “Everything okay?” She asks.

“Oh yeah, everything’s fine. I just…” He breathes in deeply. “I got a phone call from a Christen Press about five years ago, asking if she could be pregnant, and I wanted to talk to you to see if she was in-fact pregnant.”

Tobin’s blood runs cold. “Yeah, you told me I was sterile. Now I have a five-year-old that doesn’t know who I am.”

“No, I told you that you were probably sterile, as most people are who have Kleinfelter’s. Since she carried a child, that means you aren’t, at least not entirely, and I wanted to talk to you about that. If you don’t plan to have more children in the future, we could start you on estrogen shots that would entirely block all of your sperm-making hormones, and over time- sterilize you. I know that when your parents brought you here at 12, you didn’t want to take shots, and there were no alternatives that would be as strong of a dose. But you’re older now, so I had to ask.”

Tobin winces at the sperm word, and then considers what he’s asking her, puffing out a long exhale from her lips. Does she want more children in the future, if they’re able to be together like she hopes they would? Does Christen want more children?

“I will have to talk to Christen about that, sir. We're actually trying to work things out.” She looks to the ground, not sure why in the hell she's telling her doctor all of this. “I think I’ll have to get back to you.”

“Of course, of course.” The doctor smiles warmly. “There’s no rush, you can think about it as long as you’d like. In the mean-time, though, or if you decide that you don’t want the shot, remember that the situation can happen again if you have sex unprotected. Congratulations on the child though, I’m glad to hear that you and Christen are working things out. She was very upset when she called me.”

Tobin feels her face burn, “Y-yeah, got it. Thanks, doc. We’re working on it slowly, for sure.”

He pats her shoulder, allowing her to hop down from the table with a wince so they can leave. When she gets to the car after paying her co-pay, she finds Kelley fumbling with the buttons on her radio, having already collapsed the hard top.

“Dude, I thought you said you wanted the keys for the air conditioner.” Tobin grumbles, getting into the driver’s seat and swatting Kelley’s hands away from the radio. She pulls her deployment-issued sunglasses from the glasses compartment above the rear-view mirror, throwing them on her face before backing out of the parking spot.

Kelley deadpans. “Air conditioner? We just spent 11 months in a desert, and the rest of our time in a shitty base in North Carolina. I’m freezing if it’s 80 degrees outside, man. I wanted the keys so I could listen to the radio.”

The two pull up to the diner with the wind blowing their hair in every direction, making perfect time to meet the other adults for lunch. Tobin’s eyes widen when she spots the familiar Mercedes parked next to Ashlyn’s police SUV.

“Damn it Kelley,” She groans, “you didn’t tell me Chris was gonna be here. Now my hair is all fucked up.” She pushes a button beside the steering column, waiting for the hard top to unlatch from its compartment and lift over their heads.

Kelley smirks at her friend, closing the lever that seals the hood to the windshield. “Your hair is fine. Chris loves it when your hair is all windblown. Now come on, mama’s hungry.” She pats her stomach obnoxiously, watching as Tobin runs her fingers through her hair once more, completely ignoring her, before wiping her sweaty palms on her pants.

They exit the car quickly, Kelley jumping down from the lifted Jeep obnoxiously, like a child. Tobin rolls her eyes once more, hitting the lock button on her key fob as they jog up the two wooden steps into the old diner, the country music fading into their ears when they walk in.

“T-Bo! Kel!” She hears Ashlyn call from the side of the restaurant. When she spots them sitting at their booth, she has to take a second to breathe as Christen turns to face her, still the most beautiful woman Tobin’s ever laid eyes on.

Christen stands up immediately when she spots her, discreetly pushing down her black pencil skirt from where it had ridden up as she sat down. She’s wearing a tight but professional white button up shirt tucked beneath the skirt and yellow heels, and her hair falls in waves across her shoulders. She watches Tobin stare at her with a smile, pleased to still be able to get the reaction out of the older girl. When Tobin walks the few steps to stand at her side, she’s surprised at the way the girl wraps a strong arm around her waist and places a light kiss at her temple.

“You’re so beautiful.” Tobin tells her into her ear, “Gotta warn a girl, Chris. I nearly hit my knees.”

“Thank God you didn’t,” Christen laughs. “They didn’t tell me you were coming, sneaky bitches. I would have looked uglier for you.”

Tobin scoffs, arm still wrapped around Christen’s waist as they look at each other, “Not possible, first of all. They didn’t tell me you were coming either, second of all.”

“And third of all?” Christen smiles, leaning up to peck Tobin’s lips, inhaling the smell of her cologne and laundry detergent.

“You’re breathtaking.”

Both women are blushing at one another, pleasantly surprised at the early reunion their friend’s have provided them. Christen shakes her head, shy smile at her lips, as she directs Tobin to sit down first into the booth across from Kelley and Ali. Christen smiles widely as Tobin reaches beneath the table to intertwine their fingers.

“Is that okay?” Tobin leans over and whispers, referring to their connected hands.

“More than okay.” She nods. “Hey, you got your stitches out! Do you feel better?”

Tobin nods, smiling, “Glad I don’t look like Frankenstein’s monster anymore, sure.”

Suddenly, Ali places a chair at the end of the table, sitting down in it with a huff and sliding two mugs across the table to Tobin and Kelley.

“You good babe?” Ashlyn mumbles, concerned look on her face as she sips her coffee. Tobin takes the opportunity to grab the coffee pot with her free hand and pour some of the steaming hot liquid.

Ali nods, tired smile on her face. “Just tired, love. Ready for the day this place closes is all.”

Ashlyn shakes her head, “I still don’t know why you work here, Al. I told you when I got promoted that you didn’t have to work anymore if you didn’t want to, you could hire people.”

“But I do want to, most days. I’d be bored out of my mind sitting at home all day.”

Tobin nods, understanding that completely. She’d been ready to rip out her hair the past few days being at home with her parents with little to do, unable to work out yet or really do anything but scroll through her new Instagram app or watch TV. She’d been told that the adjustment to civilian life was hard enough for a healthy soldier after they leave active service. She’d had no idea how hard the adjustment was going to be for an injured soldier. Her dad wouldn’t even let her help out on the farm.

“I second that.” She huffs from behind her mug. “If I have to watch another cooking show with mama or another episode of Cops, I’m going to jump off a bridge.”

Ashlyn laughs sarcastically, “You should have to live it firsthand. At least those dudes get action. The most entertaining thing to happen to me all week was a drug bust over on Peachtree.”

Everyone chuckles, nodding their head, aware of how slow small-town life can get sometimes.

“Was it at least a lot of drugs?” Kelley asks at the same time Tobin asks, “Where’s Kling and Pinoe?”

Ashlyn deadpans, rolling her eyes unanimated, “It was a 70-year-old man with a meth addiction. Poor dude, I didn’t even want to handcuff him. The state won’t help him. I probably would have just taken him to a rehab facility had he not been dealing it to a 17-year-old kid.”

“Pinoe and Kling take lunch at 11.” Christen whispers in her ear, causing Tobin to nod in realization.

“Chris here has the happiest job out of all of us.” Ali smiles warmly, “Girl gets to sit in an office in a building full of preschoolers all day that adore her.”

Tobin eyes widen, alarmed as she realizes that she had no idea what Christen did for work, “That’s what you do? You’re a preschool teacher?” She can't believe, an genuinely feels horrible, that she had yet to ask the woman what she did for work. They had talked about Christen going to work a few times already, mostly involving Tobin complaining over text at not being able to see the green-eyed woman all day, but she'd never thought to ask where Christen was actually working at. 

Christen shakes her head, glancing down at the table with a shy smile. “I’m the Head Administrator. My Masters is in Education Administration.”

“She spends all day with kids and then goes home to one and still manages to never have bags under her eyes. I don’t get it.” Ali playfully nudges Christen’s shoulder as she stands from the chair, making the woman even more bashful. “Do you guys want any food? My break is almost up, it’s on the house today.”

“Oh man, you’re God’s gift to this Earth, Kriegs.” Kelley clasps her hand over her heart. “I’ll take a BLT if it’s not too much trouble.”

Ali waves her off, looking up at Tobin and Christen expectedly.

“Just some eggs and bacon, Al. Maybe a hash brown, too.” Tobin tells her, turning one of Christen’s rings around between her thumb and forefinger.

“I’ll have the same as Tobin, please. Thank you.”

They all sit around their food once it’s brought out, ganging up on each other over stupid jokes and insinuations. Tobin finds out that Christen graduated Cum Laude of her bachelor’s degree, and that she likely wasn’t going to try for her doctorate until Donovan was in high school. Christen learns that Tobin was thinking about working for her dad at his car shop or on the farm once she heals, having spent her first four years in the Marines as an MBT technician before getting moved to Force Recon with Kelley. Kelley talks about her future, stating that she’s likely not going to reenlist as reserves once her third reenlistment is up in September.

“But I thought you had to go reserves for four years after that?” Ashlyn asks, chewing on a piece of steak.

At the pleasure of the Corps.” Both soldiers mumble.

“Eh, they’re a little less harsh on that rule after you’ve been in for so long. I’m going to petition for retirement, wait for my dd214’s to drop like Tobin is doing. And if they deny it, I guess I’ll suck it up and try to enjoy the four beautiful years with a desk job.” Kelley states, chewing on her food and not looking up.

Christen’s blood runs cold as she takes a second to process the statement. Tobin feels her tense beneath her palm.

“What do you mean, like Tobin is doing?” She asks the girl across from her, face heating up in anger as she processes the words. She snatches her hand out of Tobin’s, looking over at the girl with lowered, angry, eyes.

Tobin’s staring harshly at Kelley, fork still full of eggs and in mid-air as she was about to take a bite, wondering why the girl had to open her mouth to begin with when she knows that Christen doesn’t understand the military jargon or the process all of it takes.

“You’re petitioning for retirement? I thought you were out? Kelley said it was an honorable discharge.”

“Chris,” She reasons with the angry girl. “I am getting discharged, not petitioning. DD214’s are just the release and discharge forms they give you once you’re out.”

Oh.” Christen closes her eyes, feeling insanely upset with herself for getting so worked up over something she could have just asked nicely about.

“Which by the way,” Ashlyn butts in, oblivious to Tobin’s racing heart at how upset Christen was. “How did you get a discharge for getting shot? I thought the Marine’s were like, hellbent on keeping their soldiers until they were crippled.”

Christen’s eyes close again, flushed with the thought of Tobin having to stay until she’s genuinely crippled.

“They uh, the new laws…” Tobin starts, watching Kelley’s eyes lower in anger and her head shake at the thought of the President’s latest hot take on military service. “Well, you know that they aren’t enlisting transgender recruits anymore, right?”

Ashlyn nods, perplexed. “But you aren’t-“

“No, I’m not. It’s a medical condition in my case, but I still have to take hormone balancing pills every two weeks, and they aren’t exactly cheap so… They look at it pretty much like I am transgender, not understanding that it’s an actual syndrome. Which means that to them, I’m too expensive to keep around.”

Kelley scoffs, shaking her head with her arms crossed as she looks out the window, “After 12 years of service.” She mumbles.

“So they slapped me with the honorable as quick as my CO’s boss heard that I was injured, despite me being over an entire unit and more than qualified enough to still do my job once I healed. I think they had a new guy in my office on base in North Carolina before they even fully moved my shit out. Honestly though, I was so thankful for it. I was ready to come home.”

Christen shakes her head at the information, not having been told that part. “That’s such bullshit.” She whispers to the silent table, even more embarrassed than before, knowing that she shouldn’t have assumed the worst out of the soldier. It was hard for her, though. The Marines had taken so much from her already, Christen had never felt anything more than blatant animosity towards them from the jump. She was endlessly, eternally, proud of Tobin and Kelley's service, but nothing would likely be able to change or heal the emotional damage that the military has caused her and Tobin's family, not to mention Tobin herself, and the thought that Tobin would choose the service every time above all else, was a fear and insecurity that keeps her awake even still. 

She knew that the fear was irrational, she knew it, but that did nothing to keep the fear from existing. 

“That is bullshit.” Ashlyn mutters, staring at the nearly empty plate of food in front of her. “You’d think they wouldn’t have even let you join if they knew that it was going to be a problem in the future.”

Kelley shakes her head, “Nah, we were at war back then. They needed the oil, so… they were taking anyone they could get their hands on. They couldn’t have known that this guy would make that law, I mean- hell, it shocked everyone when we heard about it.”

Tobin nods, dejectedly, wanting to move the conversation away from the military, knowing that it was making Christen uncomfortable. “They were definitely taking anyone, Kel.” She laughs, tearing off a piece of bacon and chucking it at the soldier. “I still wonder how the hell you got in, and I’m even more curious at how you ended up with me, I mean… just thought they required more than two brain cells to join Force Recon.”

The whole table bursts out into laughter, happy to have Tobin’s quick-witted personality around again and lightening the mood.

“Tobin,” Kelley gripes, throwing the bacon back, “How many times do I have to say it, I literally scored higher than you.”

 

 

 

“Hey.” Christen answers on the first ring, setting her glass of wine down next to her bed and pulling out her wireless earbuds so that she didn’t have to hold the phone up to her ear. She pops one in, turning up the volume on the phone and switching the connection to Bluetooth, letting the other ear stay tuned to the door and the monitor on her nightstand in case Donovan had a nightmare or needed her. Her room is a decent size, with two large bay windows looking out onto the back yard and the tree line that meets the grass. Her floors are a soft gray carpet, the bedspread is fluffy and white, accenting the dark wooden bed frame that she’d bought from the antique store downtown. She doesn’t have a TV in this room, believing that it wasn’t healthy to watch television before going to bed, but there is a dark wooden dresser and a small bookcase on the wall in front of the bed, and assorted picture frames of her mother, father, and Donovan fill the top, along with a Buddha statue, candles, a salt lamp she got on sale, and the small purse she chooses to carry some times. The wall adjacent to her bed gives access to her large walk in closet and the door that leads to her own small bathroom.

She had been planning to read and get some early rest, knowing that tomorrow was her date with Tobin. However- Tobin had other plans, asking the younger woman to call her before she fell asleep so they could talk for a few minutes. She’d just put Donovan to bed about 20 minutes ago before showering, now she cuddled up in her silk robe, hair still wrapped in a towel as she leaned back against the pillow on her bed. She’d decided to give Cody a break the last two nights, staying at home instead, knowing that he was going to have his hands full with the two boys until Saturday night.

“Hey, pretty girl.” Tobin sighs on the other end. “I hope I’m not keeping you awake.

“You aren’t, I promise. I just got in bed, but I think I would rather talk to you instead of sleep. How has your day been?”

Christen plays with the threading on the belt of her robe, pulling at the strings lightly, listening to Tobin’s raspy voice on the other end of the line.

“It’s been good, I got out on the farm today and swam in the pool for a little while before coming up to bed. Feels’ nice to be active. What about your day? And Donovan’s? Did he have a good day at Cody’s?”

Christen feels her heart kick at hearing Tobin ask about Donovan, at the fact that Tobin can’t possibly start a phone conversation without asking about Donovan before anything else. In all honesty, as odd as it was to her, hearing Tobin so interested in their lives- in his life, especially… Well, it made her warm all over, in places that made her want to ask Tobin to come get in bed with her instead of talking over the phone.

“Our day was good.” She smiles, “Work was typical, kind of dull since my teachers only have to work from 8 to 12 until enrollment begins and I have to be there until 5. Dad said he took Donovan out to the lake for a swim and that Don had a blast.”

Hmm.” Tobin mumbles, and Christen can hear the smile in her voice. “You know, after we have that dinner with my parents, you should tell Cody to come over here to get in the pool whenever they feel like it, let our parents catch up. They used to be real close and all.”

“Are you saying that because you want them to catch up or because you want to hang out with Donovan?”

Tobin chuckles at the assumption, “Hmm… likely because I want to hang out with him. I miss him.

Christen bites her lip, positively melting, fighting every urge she has to just ask Tobin to come over. She won’t do it, though. She knows better, knowing what that would turn in to and unable to have sex while her son was asleep down the hall.

“I miss you, Chris.” Tobin whispers. “I can’t get over how you looked when we were at lunch yesterday.

“Yeah?” Christen asks, a little breathless.

“Yeah.” Tobin sighs again. “Is it wrong to wish I was next to you right now?”

“Maybe a little.” She whispers. “But I guess I’m a little wrong, too. I wish you were next to me.”

The line stays quiet for a moment, both knowing the direction this was going in, neither of them knowing if they should continue heading down this road or put an end to it before it began. Technically, Christen thinks, no harm no foul. They’re miles apart, listening to each other over the phone, not breaking any of their self-imposed rules despite knowing that those rules were likely going to be obsolete tomorrow night.

Tobin must have been considering the same thing, as Christen hears her whisper, “Why is it a little wrong, though?”

“You know why it’s wrong.” Christen says back, feeling her face and chest flush red from the rough sound of Tobin’s voice.

“Because we would make love?”  She asks, voice so quiet and so deep that Christen can barely hear her. “Or because we would fuck?”

Christen’s breath hitches into the phone, chills coating the back of her neck and thighs. She takes a moment to let her brain race at what was happening.

I’m sorry-“  Tobin starts into the phone, but not before Christen can regain her train of thought and interrupt her.

“Because I wouldn’t know which one I want to do first.”

“Fuck, Chris. I take it back,”  Tobin scoffs, “I’m not sorry anymore.”

Christen smiles at nothing, knowing Tobin can’t see her but knowing that Tobin’s doing the same. “Do you know?” She breathes, untying the silk belt and letting the robe fall open, exposing her naked body to the cold air in the room, a sharp contrast from the heat that coats her skin. “Which one you’d want to do first?”

After a second, Tobin speaks into the receiver. “I’d want to make love to you first.”

“Why?” Christen asks, closing her eyes and trailing her hands over the skin beneath her collarbone. She opens her eyes to double check that the door is shut, checking the monitor next to make sure Donovan is still asleep in his bed. “Why make love?”

Because I want it to be slow the first time that I put my hands on you again. Can I do that? Can I be slow with you?”

“You’ll have to,” She whispers, breathless, finally allowing her thumb to trail circles around her right nipple as she starts to get wet. “I’m too tight for you to do anything else.”

Tobin groans, causing Christen to smile, eyelids lowered as she feels the desire wash over her. “Are you hard?” She asks her, picturing Tobin sprawled out on her bed, hand cupping herself over her jeans to relieve some of the pressure.

“Yeah.” Tobin whispers. “I’m getting there.”

Christen’s eyes squeeze shut at the heat of it all, her own form of pressure burning low in her core. “I miss that.” She whispers, fingers still pulling at her nipples. “I miss having you inside of me.”

“God, Chris… Are you touching yourself?”

“Do you want me to be?” She asks, eyes glazing over at their words.

I’d rather be doing it, honestly. Are you wet?”

“What do you think?” Christen asks, teasing the Marine, feeling like they were in high school again.

“I think you’re probably not wet enough to take me, not yet at least. I would have to make sure you were.

“With your tongue?”

Christen trails her fingers down now, skipping over her belly button as she spreads her thighs to make way for her hand. She gathers some of the pool that meets her fingers, spreading it over her clit with a touch so light that she can barely feel it, hearing Tobin say yes through her earbud.

“You were always so good at that.” She circles her clit again, picturing the moments that found them in that exact position they were talking about, trying to remember the way it felt to have Tobin’s tongue slide through everything she had to offer.

So were you.” Tobin breathes, causing Christen to inhale sharply, vivid memories flashing behind her eyelids of the times she allowed Tobin to feel her mouth. It was one of Christen’s favorite things to do, it made her feel empowered to watch the other woman fall apart so quickly. She feels herself get exponentially wetter at the thought. “God I’m so hard that it hurts.”

“I’m aching too. Don’t let it hurt, baby…” She tells the other woman, picking up on the sound of what she thinks is a belt buckle being undone, hearing her assumptions confirmed as Tobin’s breath hitches a moment later. She abandons her clit and moves downwards to circle the source of her aching and heat.  

“I can’t wait to push inside of you, Chris. I can’t wait to feel that again.”

Christen’s back arches as she pushes inside of herself with two fingers, feeling the tightness engulf her quickly. “What does it feel like?” She asks.

“I don’t know if I can describe it. God… You’re so wet, and it’s burning hot, and you- you have these ridges that clench around me so tight when I’m finally inside, I have to breathe for a second and distract myself.”

“Why do you have to distract yourself?” She whispers, curling her fingers, feeling the exact same ridges that Tobin describes.

“To remind myself to take it slow so I don’t hurt you.”

She hears Tobin’s breath hitch, and the image of her touching herself burns a hole in Christen’s brain, as it’s done so many times before when they were doing this. They were much more shy back then, much more quiet until they broke, never being able to mutter such filthy things to one another like they were doing now.

“How would you hurt me?” Christen whimpers, feeling the pressure start burning low in her abdomen.

“Losing control. Making you take me harder before you’re ready to. Being still inside of you is worse, though, cause every time you clench around me it nearly makes me cum.”

Christen moans, silencing it with a sharp bite to her lip as she curls inside of herself faster. Sweat coats her body as the pressure builds even more. “I’m a big girl now,” She whimpers, “I think I could handle whatever you gave.”

“Fuck,” Tobin moans, “Are you doing that now, Chris? Are you going slow, or picturing me fucking you like you could handle it?”

“Like I…” She pulls the pillow from beside her onto her face, biting down on the material to keep her moans quiet as she feels the pressure drop. “Like I could handle it.”

Christen stifles another moan as she feels herself climbing closer to the edge. It’s been so long since she had an orgasm like this, she could feel the explosion building.

“I miss the way you felt when you came around me. I could feel every contraction, every tremble, you’d get so tight so suddenly that it was impossible to pull out.”

Christen arches, feeling her orgasm teeter on the edge, knowing that she wouldn’t be waiting on its arrival if Tobin were doing the job for her.

“Cum for me, Chris. Let me hear you.”

It happens, little explosions leading up to her clenching her eyes shut and throwing her head back into the pillow with a muffled moan as she convulses, fingers clenched inside exactly how Tobin had described it to feel.

When she calms down, she can hear Tobin’s breathing erratic, knowing that she, too, was arriving at the edge of her orgasm. She doesn’t allow herself to rest in her bliss, instead tuning into every hitched breath that was coming out through her earbud and into her ear drum.

I love the sounds you make when you’re about to cum, I miss that so much. I’m so glad I’m getting to hear that again.” She tells her. “And the way your hips get suddenly off rhythm, right before it happens.”

“Fuck, Chris. I’m close. Fuck.”  Tobin lets off a string of sporadic moans.

“Do you know what I miss most though, Tobin?” Christen whispers, eyes half shut as she imagines the abdomen muscles contracting and flexing on the other woman, the way her thighs are probably locked and clenched, the way she gets that crease between her eyebrows as the pressure finally takes over, ready for release.

“I miss you still being inside of me when you cum, the way that felt, feeling that connection with you.” She tells her honestly, listening as Tobin finally begins to break down. “Nothing can compare to that feeling, especially when you’re making love to me.”

“Chris-“  She hears the woman moan out, the audio sounding muffled, likely due to her own head being shoved into a pillow. “Fuck- I’m coming.”

“God.” Christen groans with her eyes shut, listening to the woman fall apart. She lays there in silence as Tobin breathes heavily, trying to calm herself down and likely cleaning herself up. “God..” Christen mumbles again after laying there for a minute listening to the girl get herself together, tears welling in her eyes at how much she misses her, how painful it was to want to lay her head on her chest and get an inch of peaceful sleep.

Christen?”  Tobin panics with a new pair of briefs halfway up her legs, hearing sniffling coming through her own earbuds, terrified at the thought that they just ruined something by doing that. “What’s wrong, baby? I’m sorry if that was too much. Fuck, I-“

“Can you come here?” Christen whimpers weakly, “I wasn’t going to ask, I… I just can’t not fall asleep with you after that.”

Tobin softens, relaxing instantly as the girl expresses her needs. She’s already got a pair of Nike sweats pulled up her legs before she answers her. “Of course, beautiful. I’ll be there as quick as I can, I’m already throwing my slides on.”

“Thank you. I just need you here with me. We really can’t have sex, Donovan’s sleeping, but I just need you, I need to feel you.”

“I need you more, Chris. I’m grabbing my keys now, okay? I’ll be there in five minutes and I promise I’ll be good.”

“Okay.” Christen smiles, a thousand pounds being lifted off her chest knowing that she’d get to feel those arms around her, protecting her, holding her. True to Tobin’s words, five minutes after Christen had slipped on a pair of shorts and an old college hoodie, had removed the towel from her head, she sees the headlights illuminate her dark living room through her now open bedroom door.

She opens the front door a moment later, finding what she knows to be the love of her life leaning against the door frame, hands barely in her sweatpants pockets, hair falling in perfect waves across her shoulders as they smile at each other sleepily across the threshold of the house. Tobin leans over, understanding the weight of the emotion behind Christen’s teary eyes, placing her thumb beneath Christen’s chin and tilting it upwards for the softest kiss they’ve ever shared.

They both sleep better that night than they had in years.

Six years, to be exact.

 

 

Christen wakes up to her alarm going off at 5:30. She blinks her eyes open slowly after reaching over to cut the noise off. There’s a heavy arm draped around her side and a warm body pressed into her back, two legs pushed up against her own. She smiles, feeling Tobin breathing at the top of her head.

She turns beneath the strong arm, causing Tobin’s eyes to flutter open beneath the dark that covers the room and her hand to flex around her waist, pulling the smaller woman closer. They stare at one another, soaking in the moment, not wanting to move or speak or do anything to break the silence.

Christen feels the strong hand rub up and down across her side on top of her shirt. The comforter on top of them having trapped every ounce of warmth radiating from their bodies, making her wish that they never have to leave this bed. She must get ready, though. She has to get Donovan ready to go to his papas for the weekend and she has to go to work, and she doesn’t want their son to wake up and see Tobin in the house. The boy wouldn’t understand what was going on, it could confuse and upset him.

“Hi.” Tobin whispers, a sleepy smile spreading across her face as her eyes close again, hand still rubbing at the fabric below Christen’s ribs.

Christen groans softly, pushing her head into Tobin’s chest. “I have to get up.”

“I know.” She feels fingers leave her side and thread their way through her tangled hair, massaging her scalp as she breathes Tobin in. “I need to get going before you wake him.”

They both sigh at the statement, neither of them having patience at the rate this whole thing was going, but both knowing that it had to be like this for a little while. Christen presses her head against the other woman’s chest again, tightening her arms around her waist as their legs entangle further. “God.” She groans, “You’re so warm. It’s going to kill me to get up.”

Tobin sighs again, pressing a light kiss onto Christen’s hairline. “I know, me too. But hey, I’ll see you again in like… 12 hours.”

Christen chuckles, “Yeah.”

Tobin dips her head, catching Christen’s soft lips into a kiss. She doesn’t deepen it, simply letting their lips connect a few times, not wanting the monster of morning breath to ruin the moment.

After a few minutes of them peacefully laying there, Tobin groans and stretches slowly, removing her arms and legs from Christen’s grasp and pulling the blanket off of her body.

Christen watches through the fading moonlit darkness as the soldier swings her legs over the bed, exposing the tan skin of her legs to the cool air and stretching once more. The soldier stands, allowing Christen a healthy view of her small ass and waist beneath white boxer briefs, causing Christen to groan again, eyes rolling in frustration, and roll over on her stomach, pushing her face into the pillow at the burning desire she carries for the woman and the irritation she had at having to wait to have her. 

Just 12 more hours. Christen reminds herself as Tobin shrugs on her sweatpants and sweatshirt.

“Sneaking back into my parent’s house at 6 in the morning after waking up to you.” Tobin chuckles raspy into the darkness, shaking her head. “Nothin’ has changed, I feel like a teenager.”

Christen smiles wide, eyes still closed, head still buried in the pillow. She hears Tobin sigh, before the blanket that’s covering her is softly lifted off. Tobin wraps one hand across the base of her hip as a kiss is placed between her shoulder blades, then on top of her shoulder blade, before settling with one more at the top of her shoulder. Christen turns over again, pulling Tobin’s broad shoulders down and over her into a hug.

“Have a good day, pretty girl.” She whispers, pecking the soft lips beneath her. “Let me know when you finally get him up and you guys get going, okay? I’ll be ready at 6:30.”

Tobin leaves, and after the front door is shut quietly, she gets up with a sigh and pads through the living room to lock the door, watching Tobin’s jeep slowly pull out of her driveway and onto the pavement road, headlights reflected off of the black pavement.

She showers slowly, making sure that every last inch of her legs, underarms, and lower lips are shaved and lathered up with coconut body wash and lotion. She’d washed her hair the night before, so she foregoes it today, double checking that everything was shaved smooth once more before exiting the water. In her walk-in closet, she chooses a lacy bra and underwear set, stretchy jeans that she knew would accommodate their date activities she had planned, and a plain light pink t-shirt. Once her socks are on, she walks into the bathroom to start Donovan’s bath, sitting at the edge of the tub for a moment as she triple checks the water temperature to make sure it isn’t too hot or cold, before walking down the hall and opening Donovan’s door.

A smile instantly plants itself on her face as she watches him sleep, looking identical Tobin with his strong jaw and wide-open mouth, a little drool collecting on the pillow beneath him. She studies him more, deciding for the millionth time all of the features he had that resembled the two of them. His jaw, mouth, teeth, hair color, hands and feet and stature were Tobin’s. His nose, lips, chin, brows, hair texture and eye shape were hers. His eyes, a sort-of hazel mixture of them both, but more green than brown for sure. He was beautiful, and although she knew acutely who he got his sharp observational skills and intuition from, his emotions and demeanor were definitely Tobin’s. He was relaxed, constantly, until he wasn’t, transforming into a hot head when he wanted to before entirely calming down again. He was witty, charming, contagious. All the things she grew up witnessing and loving in Tobin had replicated in him. Christen felt honored to be able to witness and love that again.

She runs her hands through his hair softly, rubbing her thumb over his eyebrow a few times, the same way she does every morning, as his eyes begin to open.

“Good morning, son.” She whispers, soft smile radiating like the sun.

“Mama.” He whispers back, eyes still adjusting to the morning daylight that was starting to infiltrate the room.

“Yeah buddy?”

“You look pwetty today.”

Christen beams at him, wanting him to stay this young for the rest of her life. “It’s just a t-shirt and jeans, bud.” She jokes, throwing his covers off and bending over to pick the five-year-old up in her arms. “Why don’t you call me pretty with a dress on? Hm?” She kisses his cheek, walking them to the bathroom so he could get his bath, thankful that he woke up in a good mood today. He rubs the sleep from his eyes with little fists after she sets him down next to the tub and unzips that damn dinosaur onesie pajama that he’s growing out of.

“You’re pwetty in dresses too, it’s just…” He starts and stops once he’s in sitting in the bubbles. She looks at her son quizzically, wondering what he sees differently. His eyes concentrate on the toy truck in his hands as he dunks it under the water over and over again, making it drive along the bottom of the tub beside his legs.

“What is it, little man?” She asks him, reaching over to grab his no-tears shampoo and placing a little in her palm. She coats his head in it, going through the motions to get the suds behind his ears and not in his eyes. He throws his head back with a giggle as she tickles the back of his neck, not realizing that his mother was still waiting on him to finish his sentence.

Finally, he looks up at her and shrugs as she pours the warm water over his hair to get the soap out. “You don’t look tiyud.” 

The first thing Christen realizes is that they need to practice on his words that contain ire, remembering that they also need to practice words like world and girl, and pretty, among others.

Then, she realizes what he said. Her hands halting the motion of washing out his hair as she stares at him with a blank expression.

“I don’t look tired?” She asks, watching as he shakes his head, focusing once more on the truck that he’s playing with.

They go silent, Christen having to bite back the knot in her throat from causing her to cry as she helps bathe her son. She watches as he gets himself all soapy with the loofah before he turns and stares at her with wide eyes.

I have to use the potty.” He whispers.

Christen reacts instantly, snatching the loofah out of his hands and lifting his sudsy body out of the tub with her hands under his armpits as fast as she can, setting him down quickly and gently on the toilet.

Chapter Text

She walks up the steps to Tobin’s parent’s house after driving through the open gate and parking her Mercedes beside Tobin’s jeep, ringing the bell.

Well, Tobin’s parent’s mansion, she reminds herself.

The house was stretched behind a four hundred-acre property that her father had transformed into a tree farm while still working at and running his car shop. The farm was massive, filled with so many rows of organized trees that Christen would never be able to name them all. It was beautiful, well maintained, and brought the family into a generous amount of money. Tobin’s mom didn’t have to work outside of helping Jeff run the business, and she was glad to know that Tobin had been occupying herself with the day to day duties of the farm as well.

The house was immaculate and nearly 2 thousand square feet. All pale concrete, two stories, with large windows, and multicolored stones providing accents to the cherry wood three-car garage doors. They had torn down the house they bought from Kelley as soon as the farm started bringing in profits, and the first time she stepped foot into the place after it was built, she’d been too afraid to even touch anything.

Christen’s parents were wealthy, coming from old money, but they weren’t this wealthy.

This was new wealth. Responsible and modest wealth, but new wealth none-the-less, yet you would never know it simply meeting the family on the street. Tobin’s dad was constantly working, something that he had passed down to his daughter, though it had created a rift between their relationship that Christen assumes Tobin will never be over fully, and it definitely had been an argument when Tobin told him that she was joining the Marine Corps. He didn’t want her to enlist, reminding her that she was able to go to any university she wanted to attend, tuition paid. Her mother had told her that she could travel, go anywhere she wanted to if traveling was what she was after. Tobin had rejected it all, feeling the call to do something worth doing, and with Christen reminding her that she would support her no matter what she chose, she had drove them both to the recruiter’s office the week after graduation.

She hears the door unlock before it opens, smile widening on her face as she’s met with the woman she’d woken up to this morning.

“Hi.” Tobin smiles, widening the door for her to walk in, letting Christen place a sweet kiss to her cheek. Tobin’s dressed in Nike training shoes and dark wash skinny jeans resting low on her hips, comfortable enough to hike in (at Christen’s request) and a plain white fitted t-shirt that makes her skin look tanner, as it always does.

The house looks as warm as she remembers it being, despite being so open and big. Dark wooden floors complement the black leather and wooden furniture of the first sitting room they enter after crossing through the foyer. Christen takes in the massive windows that flood natural light in through the room, allowing her a view of the in-ground pool and stone courtyard in the back. Behind the courtyard, once you get past the healthiest yard Christen’s ever seen, you see the start of the tree farm as it expands over rolling hills. Rows upon rows of all sizes of trees are stretched out across the horizon in perfect arrangement as far as the eye can see.

“Mom and dad said to tell you hey, they’re out on a date right now, celebrating America’s birthday without me, their Marine daughter... like animals.” She shakes her head with her hands on her hips, tsking, before noticing Christen’s expectant face. “I know we’re in a rush- sorry. Let me head upstairs to get my bag out of my room and we’ll get going.”

Christen laughs at the woman’s rushed speech, reaching out to tug at Tobin’s hand as she hurriedly turns to run up the stone staircase. She snatches the woman back with a smile, pulling her in to let their lips meet properly. Tobin’s hands wrap softly around her jaw with a sigh as she kisses back tenderly, letting their lips slide together and apart and back together again as the innocence fades away, replaced with an eagerness that makes Christen’s knees weak.

Tobin snatches back with her eyes and fists closed after a few more seconds, “You’re killing me, Chris.”

Christen pushes at her hips, tapping her ass lightly as she traps her own bottom lip between her teeth.

“Now you can go.” She tells the girl, smiling as the woman shakes her head with a smirk and jogs up the staircase. She’s happy to see that her hip seems to be getting better, happy to see the scars on her face are turning from angry red to pink.

Tobin pulls her Mercedes into the garage after Christen asks if they can take the jeep, knowing that they were going through the mountains and over terrain that her car wouldn’t agree with. Tobin also insists on driving, knowing that Christen hates having to do it.

They have a thirty-minute drive to their destination and around two hours before it gets dark. She laughs as they stall outside of the property gate, watching as Tobin struggles with the button clasped on her visor, trying to get it to activate so the gate would close and lock behind them. Once they figure it out and make sure the gate closes, they’re holding hands on top of the console and they’re off.

A song comes on Tobin’s playlist when they’re halfway there that makes Christen cry. Tobin looks over at her, eyes wide behind her sunglasses as she notices the silent tears and smile on Christen’s face. It’s a Taylor Swift song, something Christen would have never guessed in a lifetime that Tobin was in to. Tobin was all soft indie alternative or rap, had been into that since they were teenagers.

“It’s the song.” Christen smiles at her, reassuring her, not attempting to dry the moisture until the song ends. She squeezes Tobin’s hand, lifting it so she can place it over her cheek, trying to feel the girl close to her as the lyrics play on.

This love is good, this love is bad, this love is alive, back from the dead,

These hands had to let it go free and, this love came back to me.

“It made me think of you when I heard it on Spotify the other day, I had to add it.” Tobin says quietly, watching behind her shades as the sun gets lower in the sky. She feels the tears continue dropping between her fingers as she rubs her thumb along Christen’s jawline. She feels Christen swallow.

“It’s us.” Christen mumbles, closing her eyes as calloused fingers press into her cheekbone.

This love left a permanent mark. This love is glowing in the dark.

When you’re young, you just run, but you come back to what you need.

“Yeah.” Tobin softly smiles, looking over as Christen presses her lips to the inside of her wrist.

They eventually reach their destination halfway up a mountain after driving through the busy 4th of July traffic. Tobin pulls the Jeep through the winding gravel driveway, coming to a stop in front of a mailbox that sits in front of a stone pathway that disappears behind the trees. Christen’s teeth are gleaming beneath the fading sunlight as she smiles and stares at the mailbox.

“We’re here.” She lets go of Tobin’s hand, reaching into the back to grab her backpack and the bag of groceries she had stuffed into a canvas cooler bag.

“What’s here?  I don’t see anything but a mailbox.” She gets out of the driver side after grabbing her own duffle bag, jogging over to open Christen’s door for her and helping the girl out.

“It’s a cabin!” Christen points up the mountain, watching as Tobin takes off her shades and squints in the direction of Christen’s finger. They can barely make out the small wooden frame of the house above the tree line, “It’s about a thirty minute hike up, the only way to get up there, which is pretty fucking cool, and the sun will start to set in about an hour and a half so-“ She looks at the wide eyed soldier excitedly, “Better start moving.”

“We’re having date night in a cabin!” Tobin gleams, looking at the younger woman with the widest smile. “You remembered how much I loved them?”

Christen nods, “And I’m guessing you haven’t been in one since that last Thanksgiving trip your parents took you on, so I figured this would work. We both love to hike, it’s better than a hotel, and this had the prettiest views from what I could see without being ridiculously huge or expensive for one night.”

“It’s perfect, babe.” Tobin mutters, eyes still transfixed on what she could see of the house.

Plus,” She wiggles her eyebrows at the woman, “Tomorrow morning, if you want, we can hike Amicalola trails before we head home.”

Tobin softens now, looking over at her with loving eyes. She reaches her hand out for Christen’s, bringing it up to her lips to kiss her knuckles before placing a kiss to her lips. “This is perfect, Chris. Thank you.”

They start up the trail, but not before Tobin can scoff from behind her, muttering, “Drive in movie. I should have let you pick the last first date, this is way cooler.”

Christen smirks, “Yeah. You might have gotten laid that time too, if I did.”

Tobin nearly trips over a stump.

 

The stone trail is a moderately easy hike, but Christen still insists they go as slow as possible, looking out for the girl’s wound. The soldier had her stitches out, and the limp had surely gotten better, but Christen was still worried that something could happen and cause the area to become inflamed again- despite Tobin's protest that she was fine. Tobin hikes behind her, taking pictures on her phone and enjoying both of the beautiful views she’s allowed to see from this angle. They’ve managed to work up a good sweat as they reach their destination, watching the house come into view around the corner as the path turns into a tiny grass yard, there’s a large fire pit in the middle with wooden chairs surrounding it.

“Almost Paradise.” Tobin recites the sign they see at the edge of the grass clearing.

“That’s such a beautiful view.” Christen mumbles, feeling Tobin take her hand again as they walk the perimeter along the fence that separates flat ground from the drop off.

Mountains surround them, some so tall that their peaks were barely stretching over the lingering clouds that travelled the sky. For the most part, the view was clear and fading into purple from blue as the sun began to drop lower and lower. There was a small porch leading to the front door. Christen found the lock box and pressed in the code that the owner had texted her after she rented the property. It popped open once the code was entered, letting her grab the key and open the door.

Inside, it was all wood and cozy furniture, much like Tobin’s house- but way smaller. A stone fireplace sat in the middle, complete with a mounted flat-screen that hung above the mantle. Large windows opened up the living room to the side view of the house, and the kitchen was adjacent to it. Light granite counter tops and stainless-steel appliances decorated the kitchen, along with a natural gas stove top that Christen couldn’t wait to cook dinner breakfast on. They read the little welcome pamphlet the owner’s had left for them after putting the complementary bottle of wine and their groceries in the refrigerator for dinner.

“There’s a hot tub and a grill on the porch, overlooking the mountains. There’s one bedroom on this level and a bathroom. Do you want to see the master bedroom? It’s upstairs.” Christen asked from the kitchen, watching as Tobin fumbled with the blinds, trying to see how they were lowered and lifted. “They said it had the best view.”

Tobin turned and nodded with a smile, hands being stuffed in her pockets, and she followed Christen up the stairs with their bags to see the room they would be staying in.

The bedroom was a decent size, and the plush white comforter-covered king bed sitting against the back wall in the middle of the room was impressive. However, it was the wall-sized a-frame window that had both women staring with their mouth open. Christen had completely forgotten how it had looked in the pictures, and she was glad for it, because looking at it in person was heavenly. All they could see were mountains and valleys, rolling hills and the orange sun that illuminated the room from the west.

After staring at it for a moment, it dawned on her that they were alone, in this beautiful cabin, in this beautiful room where they would be sleeping tonight. She walked to Tobin, who was leaned over with her hands still in her pockets and peering through the window, trying to take it all in. She wraps her hands around her small waist, pressing her nose against her cloth-covered shoulder blade, inhaling the scent of Tobin’s cologne. Tobin’s hands went to wrap around hers over her stomach, feeling Christen interlock their fingers gently.

“I wish Donovan was here.” Tobin whispers, feeling Christen smile against her back. “Although I’m glad it’s just us.”

“I’m glad it’s just us, too. But yeah, he would love this. I have yet to take him to the mountains. We’ve been to the beach many times, but never up here.”

Tobin tsks, “Poor guy. Lives like, thirty minutes from the Blue Ridge Mountains and has yet to go.” She chides Christen lightly, playfully. “He’s gonna have so much fun with me.”

She turns in Christen’s arms, right as Christen says, “We both are.” Which makes Tobin grin, leaning down to connect them in a slow kiss that heats up fast.

“Easy, tiger.” Tobin laughs, pulling away after Christen’s tongue comes out to meet hers. “I’m sweaty and gross, and starving.”

Christen kisses her lips, biting teasingly at the woman’s bottom lip that’s fuller than hers before pulling back once more, leaving nothing more than an inch of space between their faces. “Hmm. I guess I’ll have to feed you.”

Tobin trails soft pecks along her jaw before coming to a stop at her ear. Smiling, teasing, whispering, “Something other than food?”

Christen’s lips part, speechless as she blushes.

Checkmate, Tobin thinks.

They head downstairs and get themselves ready for the evening. Christen pours them both a glass of nearly cold wine and kicks Tobin out of the kitchen, telling the soldier to get the hot tub ready so they can relax after they eat.

Tobin grumbles, but does as she’s told. She lifts the heavy cover and gently places it down on the wooden porch, happy to see that the owners must have been by to turn it on at some point today to allow the water to heat up. She double checks the temperature, making sure it’s hot enough, before turning on the lights at the bottom of the tub and starting the jets. Bubbles rise to the surface immediately, causing her to smile and wipe her hands on her pants at a job well done. She sits down on one of the outside table chairs, removing her socks and shoes before her feet are crossed and thrown onto the table. The sun has lowered for the night, fully disappeared behind the horizon and casting one last warm glow over all that she can see.

She sits for a moment, watching the mountains on the horizon as they’re swallowed and make invisible by the darkening sky. Her father had always called Georgia God’s Country, something that used to make her roll her eyes. Now, however, she thinks she understands it. She’s at peace with her home, happy to be here, at peace with her life now despite the small hiccups that she knows she’ll have to overcome. She wonders how many other soldiers have gone through this, the sudden appreciation for literally everything around them that they might have taken advantage of before- or if it’s just been those like her that brushed with death.

Either way, she knows it doesn’t matter. And as Christen opens the sliding glass door, smiling at her bashfully while carrying two plates of pan-seared chicken and sautéed vegetables to the table, she knows the root cause of the calmness in her chest.

They’re silent as they eat and drink their wine, sitting side by side. The sky is dark, their only source of light being that warm-light that’s coming from the inside of the house and the warm string lights that wrap around the porch railing. Christen throws her feet up next to Tobin’s, copying the other girl’s position of balancing her plate on her lap. When they’re finished, Tobin collects their plates and quietly pads through the house, discarding the dishes in the sink to be cleaned later and snatching the rest of their wine out of the refrigerator.

She returns to Christen sitting motionless with her eyes closed, and Tobin assumes she’s trying to absorb the sounds and smells of their mini-vacation. Secretly, Christen is preparing herself for the rest of the evening. She had planned everything today up until this point, knowing that it was something the two of them would have to move together on, something that she shouldn’t plan without the other woman’s consent- if they were to plan anything at all.

“You okay, Chris?” Tobin asks her, sipping from her glass after the green-eyed girl had been still for a while.

Christen opens her eyes with a smile, looking over at Tobin earnestly. It takes her a second, looking back and forth between Tobin’s shadowed eyes, but she answers her. She doesn’t want Tobin to think that she’s getting cold feet. She isn’t, but that still doesn’t help to calm her racing heart.

“I’m nervous.” She whispers, the same words she had whispered to the girl nearly thirteen years ago, as she sat in Tobin’s lap above some blankets in the back of her truck that night at the quarry. The duality and similarities between the two situations were unbelievable, yet distinct. She’d had no idea what to expect then, but she knew what she wanted, and she knew how to get there. Now, she knows what she wants, she has an inkling of what to expect, but she has no idea how to cross that line.

“You know that we don’t have to do anything yet. I wouldn’t be disappointed in the slightest if you weren’t-“

“No,” She shakes her head, looking at Tobin sincerely again. “I want to. I just… it’s been a while. I’m worried that- that I’ve forgotten…”

Christen pauses, questioning herself over what word to say next. Forgotten what? She asks herself, her inner thoughts berating her conscious mind. How Tobin feels? How to have sex? How to have sex when you’re in love?

Tobin grabs her hand and pulls her out of her daydream. “C’mon.” She says, slowly standing from her chair. She slides opens the door, jogging inside to grab two towels from the bathroom before jogging back out and reaching for the switch on the wall that cuts off all of the lights inside.

“What are you doing?” Christen asks her, standing up from her chair. Tobin takes her hand again once she’s back onto the porch, grabbing both of their glasses and leads them over to the bubbling hot tub.

“I want to show you something.” Tobin says loudly over the noise of the jets, throwing the towels over the wooden bannister. She bends her lanky frame across the hot tub, setting their glasses down in the cup holders at the sides, before leaning back up. Their eyes meet as Tobin steps to her, leaving less than a foot of space between them. The changing lights beneath the water allows Christen to see Tobin’s eyes as they shine and glimmer from the reflection. Tobin’s hands find the bottom of her own shirt and she tugs it off slowly, still maintaining eye contact with the smaller girl, until Christen can’t help but to drop her eyes and trail them over her torso.

Her jeans rest an inch below the bottom of her hipbones, exposing the waistline of her briefs. Her bra is white and Calvin Clein, and beneath the cotton material rests that well-defined musculature that has Christen’s chest red in a split second. Tobin’s fingers find the belt of her jeans, which she unclasps with one hand, before the leather is pulled through her beltloops and drops to the floor. As her hands move to the button on her jeans, her eyes finally meet the girl’s face.

Tobin-“ Christen goes to question her, but not before Tobin can cut her off.

“No, wait. I’m not done. I told you I have to show you something.”

Christen reminds herself that they’re in the dark, secluded up a mountain with no one around, as she watches the soldier unzip her jeans and peel them from her long legs before dropping them to the floor beside her belt. Tobin steps closer now, closing down the space between them and maintaining eye contact as she takes Christen’s hand into her own for the third time.

She places the small hand on her face to cupping her cheek so she can kiss at her wrist, before dragging the hand down to her collarbones and sternum. Christen takes in a sharp breath as she feels the soft indentions at the center of Tobin’s chest, where her muscles split and connect to the cartilage in the middle of her sternum, one of Christen's favorite places on her body. She closes her eyes, feeling Tobin rest her forehead against her own and press her hand harder into the center of her chest.

“I’m still me. Just Tobin.” Tobin whispers, standing in the dark in only her bra and briefs. She squeezes her hand before dropping it to her stomach, where she presses it to her abdomen. “I’m still the same person. So if you’re ready, then I’m ready, and if you’re not, you don’t have to be. But I do know that you shouldn’t be nervous. There’s a hot tub that I’m dying to get in with you, we have wine, and it’s not even 9:30 yet. We don’t have to rush.”

Christen nods her head against Tobin’s, thankful that the woman still could read her mind so well and pick up on her anxieties, and find creative ways to work through them with her. They weren’t in any rush. They had nowhere to be, no children to look after, no reason to move things too fast. She sighs with a smile, looking up at Tobin’s smiling face and then at the hot tub beside them.

“You’re going to get in without a swimsuit on?” She asks the woman, who sheepishly smiles and scratches the back of her head.

“I kinda forgot to bring one, but I did bring a change of underwear so… this will have to do.”

Christen laughs now, still refusing to look down at Tobin’s underwear. Not because she was afraid what she would see, but because she was afraid of what she would do, and she wanted to enjoy this physical innocence between them for a little while longer.

“Well, I don’t want you to feel left out, so.” Her fingers slowly pull her own t-shirt over her head, exposing her almost entirely to the cool night air with the sheer bra she had on, before doing the same to her jeans and discarding them beside her feet. Tobin looks over her body, eyes darkening, jaw and fists clenching as she fights herself to not touch the smooth skin that’s been revealed under the dark in front of her. She had been prepared to keep her cool with Christen in a bikini, and her subconscious scolded her for thinking that there was a difference between the two garments, but it wasn’t her subconscious that was at play here. The lace underwear set was sheer, and tiny, and she had been entirely caught off guard.

Christen watches as a deep red blush covers Tobin’s chest. It makes her giggle. They’d seen one another get undressed a million times before; as best friends, as middle school crushes, as girlfriends. She put money on owing Tobin’s fluster to the fact that she was supposed to be wearing the swimsuit that was tucked into her bag. She knew Tobin, though, knew how quick and easy it was to work Tobin up, and she knew that she’d be receiving the same reaction if the swimsuit had been used.

“You’re so fucking gorgeous.” Tobin mumbles, eyes trained to the floor. She was thankful for the darkness, thankful that the only thing illuminating Christen’s skin was the glimmer of multicolored light from beside them.

“Thank you. You’re gorgeous, too. Do you want to get in?” Christen smiles at her, cold hands moving to rub the burning skin of Tobin’s toned back. “I want to sit between your legs.”

Those words were the first time Tobin thought she was going to die that night, the second came when Christen actually sat between her legs. The water was scalding as they lowered themselves in it, causing both of them to hiss and adjust. Tobin double checked the temperature on the side of the hot tub to make sure it wasn’t legitimately dangerous, sighing in relief as she read the moderately safe 101 degrees Fahrenheit on the screen. She scooted back against a jet at the edge and opened her legs, allowing room for Christen to scoot between them. When their bodies meet, the fire is stoked as Tobin’s hands come to rest on the slippery skin at Christen’s hips, wrapping around the outside of both legs.

Both women exhale, relaxing slowly into the other as the hot water works over their bodies.

It coats Christen’s nerves, allowing her eyes to close as she rests her head back against Tobin’s shoulder.

“This is nice.” She mumbles.

Tobin nods, “It is, isn’t it. I haven’t felt this at ease in a while. Well, not since I slept over last night.”

Christen hums, “Do you want to keep doing that?” She asks.

“Doing what? Staying over at your house?”

The younger woman nods.

“Sure, I mean- I’d love to. Are you worried about Donovan waking up and seeing me?” Tobin questions, moving one hand to Christen’s stomach to rub at the skin there.

“Not really. He’s such a heavy sleeper. School starts back in less than a month, and he’ll be going to kindergarten then, so he’ll be getting on the bus around 6:45. You could just pull your Jeep around the back so he doesn’t see it when I walk him to the bus. Then I’ll get back into bed with you.”

“That sounds good. Honestly Chris, last night was the best sleep I’ve had in years.”

Christen scoffs, looking up at Tobin’s face. “Same here. Don said I didn’t look tiyud this morning when I was giving him a bath. I guess it worked for us both.”

Tobin tucks her chin to look at the girl below her. “I guess it did.” She whispers, eyes smiling with her lips. Christen takes the opportunity to lean up after Tobin turns her face away.

She presses a few light kisses to the muscular shoulder beneath her, before trailing them up and along the skin of Tobin’s throat, hearing Tobin take in a sharp breath while her left-hand clenches around Christen’s hip. Christen opens her mouth, allowing the taste of chlorine to mix with the taste of Tobin’s skin along her tongue as more pressure is added to the girl’s neck.

This goes on for a few minutes before she turns in Tobin’s grasp, wrapping her legs on either side of the woman’s hips and nipping her teeth at the skin beneath Tobin’s jaw. When she does this Tobin sighs, and removes her hand quickly from the water to tilt Christen’s face up from her neck. Their eyes connect before their lips do, both eyelids heavy with unabashed lust. Christen opens their mouths, slick tongue drawing Tobin’s tongue on top of hers so they can taste each other, all nerves and hesitancy forgotten about.

Christen is ready, she can feel it in the way her body aches, in the way her core clenches as it presses against the hardness that’s resting beneath Tobin’s briefs. She disconnects her lips and connects their eyes, head slowly nodding and watching as an onslaught of different emotions pass through Tobin’s irises. The girl stares at her for a few seconds longer, ensuring that Christen wasn’t just overwhelmed with lust, ensuring that she understood what she was agreeing to, before Christen leans back into Tobin’s mouth. “Will you take me upstairs?” She asks her, tightening her legs around her waist and her arms around her back. “Please?”

It’s Tobin’s turn to nod. She stands with Christen in her arms, telling the girl to hold on tight to her, and moves them over to the edge of the hot tub, where she sits on the ledge and swings her feet over. Once her feet hit the wooden porch, she sets her down onto the ground and reaches for the towels, drying them both off haphazardly, knowing that the wet clothes probably wouldn't stay on their skin for very long.

Their lips connect again as Tobin moves up the stairs, the fire that was started having been escalated to something raging and consuming. Tobin has to grab on to the railing of the staircase when Christen sucks her tongue into her mouth, feeling the chills coat her thighs as pleasure shoots between her legs. She feels herself get harder, and it’s all she can do to not have Christen up against the wall.

When they get to their room, Tobin fumbles in the moonlight to find their bed. She lets Christen hop down from her grasp, watching through the darkness as the curly-headed woman reaches behind her to unclasp her wet bra, before helping Tobin pull her own over her head.

“Can I take these off of you?” Christen asks for permission, trembling hands curling beneath the waistband of her soaked briefs. Tobin nods, pushing her face into Christen’s hair as she feels the underwear being lifted up and off of her and pushed down her strong thighs. She groans and curses as a pair of warm hands wraps around her, moving lightly over her flesh.

“God.” Christen hisses, realizing that Tobin was bigger than she remembered.  

Tobin guides Christen’s own pair of wet underwear off, having to stifle a moan as the naked girl lets go of her with a squeeze and moves backwards onto the bed, pushing the plush comforter in and taking Tobin with her by her hands. They didn’t worry about the few droplets of water that still covered their bodies, they’re only concerned with each other.

The third time Christen kills her, it causes her to nearly cum. She had been on top of the woman, kissing her slowly and patiently beneath the covers they pulled over themselves. Christen’s legs were around her, but Tobin had yet to drop the weight of her hips down and let them connect in the slightest, wanting to make sure this was progressing slowly, wanting to drown in the beautiful woman, wanting to touch and squeeze every inch of her skin before they got started. Christen trailed a hand down from the breast she was grabbing, scratching her short nails across Tobin’s contracting abdomen muscles, before taking her into her hands once more. Tobin felt her head touch the burning wet flesh between Christen’s legs, and it had nearly caused her to cum. She moved her hand to hold the back of Christen’s neck in a firm grip, lowering her head into the pillow beside Christen’s ear and pushing their chests together as her hips dropped and a hand slid her head through Christen’s heat again.

Chris.” Tobin warns, hips undulating slowly as the hand removes itself from her before latching onto her back. She slides herself through Christen lips, feeling the wetness coat the bottom of her shaft as the girl trailed scratches across her shoulder blades.

“Please.” Christen whimpers, lips and eyes swollen with love, begging the girl to blur this line between them once and for all.

The fourth time Christen kills her, she caused it herself.

She’d heard the girl’s plea, leaned back to look into her eyes once more for a final check in the form of a nod. After the consent was given again, only then did Tobin press a lingering kiss to her lips and grab hold of herself, leaning her head down as she guides herself through Christen’s heat once more, collecting as much wetness as possible to lessen any pain the smaller woman might feel. She takes a deep breath, lining her head to Christen’s entrance, before giving a shallow push that squeezes through burning walls.

Christen’s eyes squeeze shut tightly with a whimper, nails digging into the skin of Tobin’s shoulders. She was tight. Tobin felt her toes curl and her tongue tingle.

“Look at me.” She tells the woman beneath her, needing those eyes to meet hers beneath the moonlight and distract her from what was happening below. She pushes in more once their eyes connect, hand still wrapped around the back of Christen’s neck, and it’s so tight and on fire around her that she worries she won’t last. She knows she’s all the way in as she meets the back of Christen’s walls, having to slowly slide back out to keep the younger girl from squeezing her fully.

The air is so heavy between them, and their emotions are rising the longer they look into one another’s eyes. Tobin drops her head, hugging Christen tighter and closing the distance between their lips while she slowly pushes back in, though the kiss doesn’t last long as Christen throws her head back to moan and curse.

“Is that okay?” Tobin asks, feeling the woman’s legs widen, silently asking her to go deeper. Christen nods, connecting their lips again, feeling Tobin start to roll her hips with more force.

They make love slowly, gently, just as they had wanted to. There would be time for faster and harder later, even tonight maybe, but for now- it must be slow. Hot trails of tears run down Christen’s face as the soldier above her puts in work, making her breath hitch and legs tremble. She moves Tobin’s hair to the side, pressing a soft kiss and her face into the soldier’s neck, trying to hide her tears in the other woman’s skin. She cries out as Tobin hits a spot that makes her core clench, so Tobin angles her hips to hit it again, her breathing getting shallow as Christen whimpers from the feeling. She gathers Christen’s legs at the bend of her knees and slots them over her arms, pulling Christen’s legs to her chest and opening her wider so Tobin can hear that moan again. It’s all she can do to drop her head onto Christen’s chest and will the pressure away, feeling hands claw at her back and tangle tightly in her hair as she carries the woman up the peak with every slow roll of her hips.

Tobin leans up and locks eyes with Christen right as the younger woman mumbles “Faster.” Hearing a moan pierce through the air as her hips speed up, feeling Christen clench down with every quick push and drag that she was given. Tobin was struggling, eyelids lowered as they’re locked on Christen’s face, and bottom lip bitten in a loving concentration as she focuses on holding off. She speeds up even faster, watching pleasure contort the other girls face, and suddenly- things get even more difficult for her.

Christen arches, and Tobin feels the vice-grip contractions start to clench around her, and the woman gets wetter. “Oh god.” She groans, clenching her eyes shut as her hips continue to drive.

Fuck, fuck, fuck-” Christen whimpers, and Tobin watches- no, she feels the girl's orgasm take over. It explodes around her as Christen convulses, throwing her head into Tobin’s neck and holding on for dear life. Tobin is in heaven, miserable heaven, and it’s the most cathartic emotional agony she’s ever experienced in her life. Watching the other woman fall apart triggers her own unravel, except she doesn’t cum, it’s all emotional. She suddenly can’t even think about the pressure between her legs, watching with a motionless body as the younger woman rides the rest of her orgasm out before dropping, face and eyes glowing, into the pillow beneath her.

The weight of Tobin’s luck, privilege, and honor to be in this woman’s presence overcomes her. The weight of how she’d asked God to just bring me home as she laid in the desert, soul ate up with missing that green-eyed girl, praying that she’d one day be able to come back and things not be over for good between them, selfishly praying that Christen had not moved on yet like Tobin had originally wanted her to. She can’t help but fall apart staring at the glowing eyes under her.

There is silence, and then there are sobs that fill the air. Tobin, still hard and inside of the woman, lifts herself up on her elbows with clenched fists and drops her forehead onto the heaving chest below her. She cries into Christen’s chest, who simply threads her fingers through Tobin’s hair and shushes her.

“It’s okay, baby.” Christen whispers. “You can cry. I’m here. It’s okay.”

So, Tobin does, she lets it all out. She leans up to slot their lips together as the cries continue to wrack her body and the tears drop from her chin. She stays there for a minute or so, just letting the weight lift and the built-up emotions empty as they kiss.

I love you.” Tobin whispers as they break for air, leaning back in to softly pull Christen’s bottom lip into her mouth. Christen wipes at the wetness on her cheeks, her legs still spread wide, as she kisses back with equal force.

“I love you too.” She tells her truth, looking up at Tobin with a small smile. “Can we switch positions?” She asks. “I want to make love to you now.”

Tobin nods, her tears drying up, and she pulls out of the girl as softly as she possibly can, hearing the girl hiss as they’re disconnected. Christen then rolls them over, swinging a small but muscular leg over Tobin’s hips as Tobin sits up to guide her movements. She sinks down slowly, biting her lip and closing her eyes as she pushes herself past the burn of taking the woman again. Tobin’s hands squeeze at her hips as she lowers, before moving to grab her ass once she’s fully down, and she feels her toes immediately curl once she bottoms out.

“You’re so deep.” Christen whimpers, nearly crying and weak in the thighs at the change of position. She threads her fingers through Tobin’s long hair, her right arm being moved to hug around her shoulders. She has no choice but to roll her hips on top of the girl, feeling Tobin’s legs widen so she can ride her easier, which causes Christen to curse as she gets into a full motion. Tobin squeezes at the flesh in her hands, controlling the pace of Christen riding her, and once she feels that the girl has adjusted well enough- she begins to rock her hips up.

The action sends her deeper, making them both whine as the pace of Tobin’s hips slamming is sped up. Tobin pushes her tongue into the other woman’s mouth, reaching up to grab Christen’s arms that had wrapped around her shoulders and curl them behind her, effectively restraining her from touching Tobin and allowing Tobin to take control.

Christen feels lightheaded, knowing that her legs are wrapped around Tobin’s driving hips but unable to feel them. She thinks she’s never been fucked so hotly or so thoroughly before. She’s never been restrained like this, never had it so deep, never had it hit that spot over and over and over again like this.

Harder.” She chokes out at the girl, and she feels Tobin move both of her wrists into her right hand as her left hand reaches up to grab a fistful of Christen’s hair at the roots, pulling her head backwards as her own hips start to take off at a breakneck speed. She can’t even feel the pressure build in her stomach, but she can feel when Tobin’s hips start to falter after a minute or two. Her hands are immediately let go as Tobin latches on to her ass, slowing them down to a hard roll as she feels herself start to twitch inside of the girl once the pleasure builds at the base of her cock.

Christen starts to squeeze around her fully as her hips roll into the sweaty body beneath her, signaling the onset of both of their orgasms. She watches as Tobin bites her lip, getting that far off look into her eyes as a crease forms between her eyebrows.

Inside.” She whimpers, and it only takes a few more seconds before Tobin hugs her tightly and jerks her hips a few times, soft groans filling the air as she feels Tobin release inside of her. The feeling causes her to be thrown over that same familiar peak, following right behind the shaking woman that holds her close. Christen explodes, holding on for dear life again, and life as she knows it manages to come to a complete stop around her.

They sit there for a moment in each other’s arms, lungs heaving, sweating, trying to regain their sensations. Tobin rubs her hands up and down Christen’s slick and sweaty back, feeling the muscles around her spine tremble as her nerves are shot, and she places a few breathless kisses to Christen’s neck. For a second, she almost starts to feel embarrassed, holding the limp woman in her arms. They had never had sex like that before. Of course, things had always been passionate, and even a little rough at times, but they were young- and she had never felt like taking the girl in such a way that she did tonight. Tonight, she’d wanted to claim her, wanted to put all her energy behind physically showing the girl how much she desired her, how much she loved her and how much she was hers.

She leans back, feeling herself getting softer, and she lays them both down before bringing the covers over Christen’s still trembling body.

“I love you.” She whispers again into her hairline, kissing Christen’s temple as she rests her head on her chest. The younger woman whispers it back, eyes closed, still trying to return her breathing and heartrate to normal. Her heart is so full, so full of emotion and love for the woman she lays on. It’s a testament to time, how her love could only grow stronger, only to be solidified and exhilarated through their physical connection.

Tobin shuts her eyes after a while, entirely spent, and they’re asleep in each other’s arms within minutes.

 

 

In her dream, she recognizes the terrain outside of Kandahar, but it’s blended with little memories of the perimeter outside of Delaram, she notices the airport buildings immediately, she’s running through the airport as fast as she can, she can feel the straps of the holster attached to her thigh as it chafes her medial hamstring. It is clearly a dream, she knows it is, the airport is empty and Kandahar is never empty, yet she still continues to run.

The air is hazy, reminiscent of the way that the sand would swarm up into the air and take forever to settle after a truck drove past you, how it would cleanse your pores and stick to your face because of the sweat. She smells motor oil and cigarettes and for some reason- lavender. She hears gunshots.

Suddenly, the gunshot is behind her in the small hallway she’s in, it sounds closer, causing her to whip her head around in that direction, where she’s met with the sight of the man she pulled on top of her from behind the M11. He’s positioned just like he was before, except laying against the dirty airport wall instead of a disfigured military vehicle. She feels her eyes begin to sting from the sand as she stares at him. His eyes are empty, focused on her, his mouth barely open and his stomach is still blown open.

“It should have been you.” He whispers, then he smiles, and says it again. “Should have been you.” Tobin’s brows furrow, confused, hurt at what he’s implying. Suddenly, he’s got his pistol in his hand. He cocks it once, turns it towards his opened stomach and fires. The sound of the gun incapacitates her, causing the violent ringing in her ears as she cups the side of her head with both hands and closes her eyes, bent over and dry heaving. She looks up after the ringing is gone to find him smiling at her again, but this time, the gun is pointed to the left of her towards the end of the terminal. She jerks her head to the left, eyes widening to find Christen standing there, causing her to take off running before the man could fire again.

It is Tobin’s worst nightmare, the sand is everywhere, she feels the sun baking the back of her neck and forehead despite being inside, she feels how icky her sweat feels as it sticks to the rough material of her starchy shirt. Her legs could not sprint any faster, she’s probably a hundred feet from Christen now, running as fast as she can despite the fact that dream-like Christen is standing there, emotionless, watching her run towards her.

Tobin hits a glass wall, slamming into it, separating the two of them, and she staggers before pushing herself into the glass with banging fists. Behind her, the man still has his gun pointed, and she knows that the bullet will break the glass before she can. Her fists hit the glass harder, and she’s screaming for the woman to run, but the screaming falls on deaf ears as the second gunshot rings out. It’s so loud that it blinds her, and she slams her eyelids shut with her head between her legs, before realizing that the glass never broke.

Tobin jerks her head up to see that Christen is still safe, the glass is no longer there, yet hot red liquid is rapidly coating her shirt above her hip where a bullet has pierced through her skin. Another shot rings out, hitting her back this time.

“Tobin?” Christen smiles at her in the dream, right before the pain radiates, searing into her spine and blackens her vision.

“Tobin?”

“Tobin! Fuck-”

Christen moves quickly, shaking the naked and gasping solider as another firework sounds through the sky. She was panicking, having not considered that PTSD like this was as severe as they say they are. Tobin hadn’t reacted to the first few 4th of July fireworks, having been dead asleep like Christen, but the last three rounds had caused the unconscious woman to go from jerking slightly to full on heaving for air. Christen was panicking, seriously. She’d been shaking Tobin’s shoulders for nearly 20 seconds, going from slightly whispering for the woman to wake up to full on yelling at her now.

Tobin’s teary eyes open with a strangled heave of wet air, and she rips the covers off of her nearly naked body, wiping furiously at her skin and kicking her legs as if trying to remove something that wasn’t there. Her hands grasp at her wounded hip before pulling back, checking for red colored liquid that didn’t exist. She almost sighs, almost, but another firework sounds off in the vicinity, and the way it lights up the dark cabin room allows Christen to nervously witness Tobin’s head jerk at the sound, like a nervous tick she’s seen people have, though knowing that this was far from a nervous tick.

“It’s okay.” Christen whispers, placing her hand over top of Tobin’s kneecap, “It’s 4th of July fireworks is all.”

Tobin heaves for air through her nose as they lock eyes beneath the darkness, she scans Christen’s face and body, checking all points to ensure that she was safe and not injured.

“I’m sorry.” Tobin shakes her head, disappointed with herself, still trying to remove the images from the dream from her mind. She focuses on her white boxers and the skin of her legs, watching and feeling Christen’s palm and thumb trace along the top of her thigh in a soothing motion. “I didn’t mean to do that, it was a bad dream.”

Christen stops her motions, looking at Tobin curiously, noticing the way her naked chest still heaves with strained lungful’s of air. With one hand, she reaches behind her, flicking on the dim side-table lamp in order to see Tobin clearly. The light illuminates the bedroom in warmth and exposed the wet tear streaks that have tainted the muscled soldier’s face. Christen’s heart breaks, and she moves slowly to close the space between their bodies. Both legs are thrown around the soldier’s hips, and Christen observes the way the girls jaw flexes as her eyes close, in an attempt to even out her breathing.

“Don’t ever apologize to me for something like that, okay?”

She nods, and Christen has to wipe away a bit of sweat that’s gathered between Tobin’s brows and on her upper lip. She realizes that the woman was sweating everywhere.

Another boom sounds out from the sky in a rapid pulse of three’s, prompting Tobin to flinch again as the colors are lighting up the windowpane at the end of the room up with red, white, and blue sparks. The fireworks are coming from the base of the mountain, in the valley below. Christen shakes her head, “It’s two o’clock in the fucking morning.” She bites, “Why the fuck did they wait so long to shoot fireworks?”

Tobin manages a small smile at how aggressive and protective the raven haired girl had become, but there was a bitter type of sadness filling her veins and bones, the type of sadness that came from watching civilians fire off independence day fireworks after watching nearly all of your friends either die or lose loved ones for their country, only to come back home with damaged lives and brains, if they managed to come back on two functioning legs at all.

She knows she has PTSD. She knows she will likely struggle with it for the rest of her life, as most do. What she can’t wrap her head around, however, is the anger.

Christen watches as Tobin’s eyes grow empty, studying the blanket to the side of them. The fireworks have seemed to come to a halt for now, but there’s something else having been replaced within the Marine’s head, something that Christen could tell was eating at her. Her eyes were cloudy and misty, but she wouldn’t let anymore tears fall. Not for the time being, at least.

“Hey,” Christen whispers, trailing her fingers along the soldier’s sternum between the valley of her breasts. “If you want to talk, I will listen, okay? You can tell me about the nightmare, or you can tell me about what’s going through your head now. Either way, I’m here.”

Their eyes connect before Tobin speaks, swallowing audibly while she runs her hands along Christen’s bare sides. She huffs a long exhale.

“I’m angry, I’m angry at a lot of things, and I don’t think I know how to deal with that anger.”

Christen nods, regarding the tanned woman with her full attention. “That’s okay. You have all the right to be angry.”

Tobin sucks at her own teeth, not wanting to unload her emotional baggage on the woman. “I think I want to see a therapist, just to get some shit off my chest so that I can be mentally healthy. I’ve been thinking about getting one. Dad had to wake me out of a nightmare when I was napping on the couch last week, he mentioned therapy as something that I probably needed to look into, I told him I would.”

Christen nods again, ignoring her worry and irritation that Tobin hadn’t told her about the nightmares but appreciating Tobin’s emotional maturity to know that therapy is a healthy and natural thing. Christen even saw a therapist one town over, and her father saw the same one, and she had helped them know how to cope after her mother’s sudden death.

“That would be really good for you, Tobs. Everyone needs a therapist.”

Tobin nods, and then Christen says, “Do you want to tell me about the nightmare?”

She watches as the woman’s brown eyes glimmer beneath the warm light, turning even more watery as Tobin chews on her bottom lip. She drops her chin and looks to the bed, a few tears escaping and trailing down the bridge of her nose as she shakes her head.

Christen bites her own lip, not wanting to push, knowing that it was going to take time, knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy at all.

Tobin smiles then, sighing, as she shrugs the depressing thoughts from her shoulders and wipes her nose. “Do you think that maybe you could just make love to me instead?” She asks the green-eyed girl, who shyly meets her eyes in a smile with the corner of her lip bitten as she nods.

Christen moves off of the woman to reach for the lamp on the side table, clicking the button at the base that shuts the light off, and it’s only a second later that Tobin feels a long and smooth leg move over her hips to straddle her waist beneath the darkness.

Chapter Text

The four-wheeler starts with a roar, and Tobin laughs from her spot atop the vehicle at Kelley, who’s having to angle her entire body around her own massive machine just to reverse out of the garage.

It was Monday morning on the Heath tree farm, still early enough that the sun hadn’t fully warmed up the Earth yet. It was Tobin’s favorite time of the day, that small space of 24 hours where she was allowed to be at a perfect temperature while outside and in the perfect frame of mind as she planned her day out, and give thanks for being able to wake up once again.

She’s wearing the same old Marine’s hoodie and sunglasses as Kelley, both donning a pair of torn up slim-leg jeans and steel toe working boots. They’d been up for the last three hours cutting and planting spruce trees- since 4:30 in the morning after she’d tiptoed out of Christen’s house- because it was easier to do the labor work early in the morning or late at night. Kelley had joined because she was bored.

Now that all the sweaty labor work was complete, they were going mudding.

The girls had walked five acres across the west part of the farm to the oversized industrial garage that housed all the family’s machinery and “toys” as Jeff Heath liked to call them. Golf carts, ATV’s, UTV’s, tractors, the whole nine. It was practically a fucking playground for the two soldiers, and getting the ATV up to speed had reminded Tobin how free she felt on these things.

They tore through the gravel pathways that had been laid through the rows of trees, heading towards the river once they passed into the actual forest between Christen’s dad’s and her parent’s property. It had rained a few days before, giving the river ample time to calm down so that they would not get swept up in the rushing water, yet still allowing the once-flooded waters of the outer banks to mix with the red clay, creating nothing but a red and mucky mess. The two girls switched over to four-wheel drive as their front tires hit the mud, allowing them to cut slow doughnuts as they turned, spewing the mucky red clay all around them as they went.

“Woo!” Kelley yelled, as mud was slung over her from Tobin’s back tire. She spun around quickly, allowing her tires to cut in front of Tobin and drench her back in the mess.

Suddenly, Tobin’s cellphone was ringing in the pocket of her flannel that was tucked beneath the hoodie. It was the ringtone she’d set especially for Christen, “Body like a Backroad” by Sam Hunt, she’d heard it on the radio through her Jeep yesterday and knew immediately that she’d wanted to hear that song when Christen called.

“Kel!” She yelled, pulling out of the mud and cutting the engine switch, motioning for the other soldier to do the same so she wouldn’t have to yell through her phone speaker over the roar of the engine. Tobin yanked her helmet off and pulled her gloves from her hands to toss them on her lap, before she dug the phone out of her pocket beneath the hoodie and swiped to answer the call.

“Sup, beautiful?” Tobin smiled and put Christen on speaker phone, winking at Kelley as the freckled girl rolled her eyes, muddy helmet and glasses sitting in her lap.

Is that you I hear on the ATV’s, in the middle of the woods?”  She heard the girl laugh, knowing that she was at her dad’s house right now to drop Donovan off before she went to work.

“It is, actually. Kel and I are muddin’.”

She could practically see Christen shake her head through the phone. “At 7:30 in the morning? Those things are so loud, we can hear them in dad’s kitchen.”

Tobin laughed, looking up through the trees at the dawn sky. “Perfect time to go muddin’ in July, Chris. It’s still cool outside. Do you and Donovan want to come?”

She knew it was a stretch considering how dedicated Christen was to her job. However, she also knew that if you never ask- the answer would always be no, so she figured she should at least try.

Tobin,” Christen playfully scolded, “You know I have to be at work. Why don’t you guys ride up here for a few minutes before I have to leave, though? Dad said he would make extra eggs and sausage, and Donovan’s begging to look at the ATV’s.”

Kelley was wide awake suddenly, throwing her helmet and shades back on before Tobin could even answer the girl. Christen laughed loudly when she heard the first engine rev, followed by the second engine as Tobin ended the call and chased after Kelley. They crossed the shallow river quickly, laughing as it drenched their boots and the bottoms of their pants, before getting back on the trail and riding the short distance to Cody’s house. As the clearing opened up into Cody’s back yard, they slowed to not tear up the grass, watching through their shades as Christen stepped off of the porch with Donovan on her hip, carrying the boy who was only a year-ish or so away from being too tall to be carried, but she had to make sure he didn't run towards the massive machines after seeing them- given how hyped up he was already.

His little hazel eyes were gleaming at them, causing Tobin to smile from ear to ear beneath her helmet.

Christen took in the appearance of the dirty soldiers as they slowly pulled the vehicles a few feet from her. Once they came to a complete stop and cut the engines off, only then did she allow her son to hop down. She watched as they both simultaneously removed their glasses and helmets and she couldn’t help but laugh at the smeared mud all over their clothes and faces. 

Donovan walked up to Tobin shyly, eyes taking in the massive ATV she had just hopped off from. She placed her helmet on the seat and threw her glasses back on, before bending down to Donovan’s height.

“What’s up, little man?” She spoke softly, “Did you have a good morning?”

He nodded, unable to contain his smile or take his gleaming eyes off of the vehicles. 

Tobin looked up to Christen, seeing that she watching the interaction with happiness in her eyes. Tobin's natural instinct was to lean down slightly and open her hands for Donovan as he opened his own arms in a hugging motion for her, always making sure that the first thing he does when he sees the soldier is give her a hug. He did it when she left, too, and Tobin ate it up- like it was the best thing in the world. 

“Wait!” Christen jumped before her son was able to wrap his arms around the muddy woman’s torso and before Kelley could make it to the porch steps. All three of them turned to her with a questioning glance.  “Hold on a second. Kelley don’t step foot in that house yet. Hold on.” 

She ran to the other side of the house, sun dress blowing in the early morning breeze, to retrieve the water hose that was rolled up on its holster. Christen turned the knob that turned on the water and grabbed the handle of the hose, setting it to the highest “jet” setting, before unrolling it and running back to the filthy girls.

Before Tobin or Kelley could even process what was happening, they were being drenched with freezing cold, high pressure water. The assault began with Kelley, who screamed and stood their motionless as the water rinsed almost all of the mud off her clothing, before it ended with Tobin taking the next hit. Tobin had seen it coming, and had tried to duck out of the way, but she was unable to race against the flying water.

“Chris!” Tobin yelled, mouth dropping open as soon as it hit her. Within a few seconds, everything was soaked, from her hair, her jeans, to the socks beneath her boots.

Christen was laughing so hard as she stopped the onslaught that she had to drop the hose to hold her stomach. Donovan laughed loudly between the two sulking and dripping soldiers, clearly tickled and amused at his mother’s actions. Kelley took one look at Tobin as the water dripped off of them both before they nodded towards each other, confirming that revenge was needed to be sought after.

“Bad idea, Press.” Kelley lowered her eyes, closing in on the woman.

“No!” Christen laughed, eyes wide and serious, as she backed up and watched the soaking girls’ step towards her. “You better not! I was just trying to help! Tobin!”

She screamed when two pairs of drenched arms wrapped around her tightly, hearing Donovan’s contagious laughter grow louder as he watched them get his mother’s dress wet. Tobin bend down to wrap her arm beneath Christens backside, ensuring that she had the dress beneath her grasp so that it not ride up, before she lifted the squealing woman onto her shoulder.

“Kelley would you hand Donovan the water hose?” Tobin winked at the little boy, who giggled and sweetly took the hose from Kelley’s grasp. Kelley had to help him squeeze the handle and aim, but when he did, he knew exactly what he was aiming at.

“Oh, my God.” Christen groaned, feeling her dress get covered by the water and begin to stick to her skin.

Tobin was getting soaked again, given Donovan’s poor aim, but at least the mission had been fulfilled. Christen was effectively just as water-logged as the rest of them, and Tobin couldn’t contain her laughter- not even for a second. She gently placed the wringing wet girl back down on the ground softly.

“Damn you!” Christen huffed and shoved the laughing Marine, her hair already beginning to curl from the water and humidity. "You could- dammit Tobin, you could make a preacher curse, I swear. You two were muddy, not me."

She wrung her hands and arms of the dripping water, and took one look at Donovan, giggling with so much joy that he could barely pay attention to the fact that she was a little upset, and she couldn’t have stopped the small smile from forming on her lips as she looked at Tobin with as much anger as she could muster. “Now how am I going to work like this?” She pouted, shaking her hands free from the water droplets.

“Well,” Tobin smiled her half smile that still made Christen’s heart jump, before resuming, “You can either change and be late, or you can call in sick, eat breakfast, and come riding and swimming with us. Up to you.”

Christen studied Tobin’s eyes for a second, thinking and weighing her options.

“Do I get to drive?” She mumbled, crossing her arms as the early morning chill spread through her wet clothes.

Tobin smiled fully then, a little in shock that the woman had even suggested that she would call in sick to work, before winking at her smoothly. “Of-course you can.”

 

 

So the four of them, after Christen called her teachers to let them know that she wouldn’t be in, shared a happy breakfast and coffee refilling around Cody’s kitchen table, and waited for Christen to change out of her dress before setting out onto the ATV’s again. Tobin had insisted on Christen driving Kelley while she took Donovan, knowing that she had more experience on the ATV’s and didn’t want Donovan riding with anyone but her, but the dark headed woman had protested. She wanted to drive Tobin’s ATV while Donovan sat in front of her and Tobin sat behind her. So that’s how they ended up, and Tobin couldn’t have minded one bit. She placed her helmet on Donovan’s head. It was much too big for him- but it served its purpose and set both parents at ease to know that his head was protected.

The ATV was large and would definitely hold all of them, yet still despite that- she sat as close as possible to the younger woman and enjoyed looking over Christen’s shoulder as they slowly followed Kelley back into the woods. She couldn’t take her eyes off of Donovan’s wonder-struck face.  

The little kid was so happy to be alive and excited in that moment, smile so large beneath Tobin’s helmet that it caused his eyes to squint. It rose the spirits in Christen and Tobin’s chests tenfold.

Christen froze when she noticed that she had to drive them across the river, which made Tobin chuckle and reach around the smaller woman to place her own hands over Christen’s atop of the handlebars. She molded her chest into Christen’s back, right hand barely turning the handlebar to give them some gas, and her mouth places a silent kiss at Christen’s neck.

“Slow and steady.” She whispered into her ear, smiling as Christen’s jaw clenched from the teasing.

Donovan was having the time of his life as they crossed the shallow waters, watching as the wheels were almost halfway submerged once they passed over the deepest part of the river, and the fun really came once they hit the muddy riverbank on the other end.

Tobin took them through the mud slowly, watching as Christen dropped her hands from the handlebars to get a good grip on Donovan’s tummy because she knew what was coming. Tobin took a second to lean over and tell Donovan what they were about to do.

“We’re about to go really fast and get muddy, okay?” She smiled at the boy, who nodded at her with big hazel eyes. “Okay, so I want you to hold on to mommy’s arms and hang on real tight, okay?”

He nodded again, determined gaze set on the forest in front of them as he wrapped his hands around Christen’s wrists that rested on his stomach. Tobin took that as confirmation enough before nodding at Kelley and pulling back on the throttle. They tore through the mud, cutting more doughnuts and screaming with laughter as mud was slung everywhere and over everything.

“You having fun, bud?” Tobin asks him once they take a break, watching as he smiles up at her widely. "Yeah! Can we go again? Pretty please?" 

“Tobes, you should let Don drive.” Kelley offers.

Tobin looks down at the boy in Christen’s lap, resting her head on Christen’s shoulders. “Would you like to drive?”

“Yeah!” Donovan says, already reaching across to put his hands on the handlebars.

“Chris, you wanna get behind me?” She asks the younger girl, who smirks and goes to swing her leg around the seat with her hands holding onto Tobin’s strong shoulders. Tobin guides her down with a pair of steady hands around her hips, letting go as the woman swings her leg behind Tobin and settles into the space behind her. Tobin scoots up carefully, putting her legs on either side of Donovan and lifting him barely into her lap so that Christen can reach around her to hold on tightly to Donovan. When she guides Donovan’s hands to the correct position before wrapping her much larger hands around his, she feels Christen place a kiss to her hooded shoulder, and the action causes her heart to melt.

It was the first time she truly felt like they were a family. And they looked like one too. And Kelley used the helmet and shades to disguise the way she became choked up while watching them get situated, causing her to roughly swallow her bubbling emotions a few times. There had been a time in the two soldiers lives that she had questioned whether or not she would ever see Tobin smile again. She’d watched as the war consumed them both, but there was something specifically numbing about the way it had consumed her best friend. She’d watched Tobin cry herself to sleep from across the bunker, all silent tears and quiet sniffles, never sobs or crying out because she knew the girl wouldn’t show that weakness, then she’d watched the seasons change, and watched as Tobin consumed herself in anything that the military offered to distract herself from home.

It was peaceful, now, almost cathartic, watching her best friend softly teach her son the controls of the ATV, how to adjust the throttle for gas, how to break, her hand lightly pulling back over his on the throttle so they could move forwards, being held onto by the love of her life- Kelley smiles and shakes her head at the picture, watching Christen watch the two of them talk back and forth with a stoned look on her face, arms wrapped around Tobin's waist, knowing that Christen was so damn in love with her best friend that she might as well have been stoned, if Kelley was being honest. 

There had been a time in the two soldier’s life when Kelley wondered if Tobin would ever find peace, and look at her now from behind her dark glasses, she can’t help but feel emotional at being proven wrong. Thankful, so thankful, at being proven wrong. 

They ride until Donovan tires of it, before Christen agrees to follow them back to Tobin’s house when they’re done. Kelley yawns with Donovan as they dismount the vehicles, causing Christen to comment that the kids nap time must be close. Kelley nods, yawning again while she changed out of Tobin’s muddy boots, explaining that she’d been up for too long and she needed to go home and legitimately take a nap. They all slipped off their shoes at the back door and walked into the expansive sitting room, mud caked and dried on their clothes. Donovan’s sleepy eyes have been wide since he took his first glance at the massive tree farm and mansion, and they grew even bigger as he took in the living room. Tobin lead them to her upstairs bathroom, despite Christen remembering where it was, and she retrieved them some fresh clothes while they took off the muddy ones. She grabbed a fresh pair of socks, small shorts, and an old t-shirt for Christen, while grabbing Donovan the smallest t-shirt she could find from her high school days, despite still knowing that it would still likely reach below the boys’ knees.

Christen thought for a second as she pulled Donovan’s dirty shirt over his head and pulled off his elastic shorts, grabbing a rag that she found in the towel closet to wipe the little splotches of mud from his arms and legs- he was by far the least dirty. He was almost falling asleep while standing up as she cleaned him, but she couldn’t help but still notice how his lead looked around every now and then to observe the lavish bathroom. There was a standing shower across from her, huge, fully marble with a glass wall separating them, and a massive skylight over the shower allowing a large amount of natural light into the room. Donovan found that the most interesting, Christen noticed. She wondered in her head for a moment about how her vision for Donovan’s future has changed now that Tobin is in their lives.

Before, she had envisioned them stable, but things like paying for his private school, travel, college tuition at a nice school, seemed not necessarily out of reach- but something that she knew she might have difficulty paying for on her own for an extended amount of time and by herself, even with the money from her divorce. Her family had come from money, but it wasn’t liquid to her. She was aware that they never would have been homeless in any situation, but there were things she might not always be able to give him, opportunities that were out of her reach that could have been in her reach with another person helping to support him. She wanted to give Donovan everything, as most mothers do. She wanted him to see the world, wanted him to get the best education he could. She wanted him to grow up kind, and intelligent, and self-sufficient. All of these things she knew would be possible already, she’d never had a doubt of her parenting abilities beforehand, but these things she knew that were possible with Tobin next to them.

A soft knock sounded at the door behind her. She wiped the last little bit of dirt from Donovan’s eyebrow, before she leaned back to open the door.

“Hey.” Tobin whispered, smiling at Donovan’s sleepy eyes and handing Christen clean clothes. Tobin still had yet to change out of her muddy pants, but she’d removed her shirt and thrown on a wrinkled Nike tank top. Christen bit her bottom lip as she took the clothes, trying not to stare for too long at the muscles that flexed beneath Tobin’s biceps and over her tan shoulders.

Christen leaned down and tugged the shirt over her son’s head, pulling his olive-toned arms through the large arm holes, and Tobin watched with a smile as he continued to struggle to hold his eyes open.

“Are you sleepy, little man?” She whispered to him, chuckling as he nodded and tried to rub the sleep from his eyes. He reached up then for her, asking her to hold him, allowing Tobin to bend down and softly lift him up by her hands under his armpits. His head immediately dropped to her shoulder, arms and legs curling around her stomach, and she had to bite her lip to keep her emotions down as she felt his little hand start to play with the baby hairs at the base of her neck.

“I’m gonna take a shower.” Christen whispered, running her hand softly up and down Donovan’s back. Tobin nodded and lightly swayed the boy in her arms as she turned to leave the bathroom, looking down and finding his eyelids blinking rapidly open every time they staid shut for a long time, noticing that he was fighting his sleep.

Though he was asleep before she made it down the stairs. Tobin assumed Kelley had headed home to take her nap and not waited on the two friends to finish getting ready- noticing that her keys were gone from the living room table.

“Mama?” Tobin called out softly into the living room. She’d heard her parents come in when she was upstairs getting their guests clothing.

Soft heels sounded on the white marble from the kitchen. “Hey, sweetie.” Her mother said before she rounded the corner, when she spotted the boy in Tobin’s arms, tears slowly filled her eyes at the sight.

Oh, Lord.” She whispered with a smile into her hands, noticing that he was asleep, “God, he’s so precious.”

Tobin nodded, smiling down at him and cradling the back of his curly dark hair. “He had a very eventful day today,” She whispered back, “We took the four wheelers out across the river.”

“I noticed.” Her mother nodded to the mud that coated her pants. “Thank you for taking your shoes off at the door, by the way.”

“Yeah, no problem. I was wondering if you could watch him for a minute while Chris and I get cleaned up? I didn’t want to put him down on my bed, in case he rolled off or woke up alone.”

She watched as her mother was overjoyed to agree, before laying Donovan down gently on the soft couch cushion. Cindy draped an open knit blanket across his body and stood back for Tobin to tuck it into his body. She grabbed her book and sat into the recliner, ready to begin the first grandmother duties she’d ever been given, while staring at the little boy affectionately.

“It’s frightening how much he looks like you.” She whispers, wiping a lone tear from under her eyelid. Tobin would normally have freaked out at the sight of her beloved mother crying, but she knew what the tears were for, and she knew them to be happy tears, so she didn’t allow it to panic her.

Yeah. It really is something.” She shakes her head, “I’m gonna go try to get washed up before he wakes up.”

Cindy waves her off, already opening her book with a wide smile, and it takes Tobin another moment of looking at the sleeping boy with adoration before she turns on her heels and jogs up the stairs.

 

In front of the bathroom door, she rests her head against the wood and stands there for at least a full minute, considering her options. She had planned to wait downstairs with Donovan, but her pants were absolutely soaked with water and caked with mud, and it was starting to chafe her uncomfortably. It wasn’t just that, though- she was craving the other woman behind this door. She always craved her. Not necessarily sexually, although that was true too, but intimately, and it happened every waking second that she didn’t get to spend with her when Christen was at work or busy doing something. It felt like a knot in her chest when they were apart, and it’s not that she wanted them to be together constantly- she knew how important it was that they move as slow as they were going to allow themselves to adjust at a pace much slower now since they’ve crashed back to Earth together- she knew it was healthy to be apart. However, during the moments she was next to the girl, she wanted nothing more than to look at her and touch her and simply be in her presence.

Tobin turned the doorknob slowly, swallowing to moisten her dry mouth. Steam rose from the shower and coated the air in the room, and she could barely make out Christen’s naked form from the cloudy glass window that covered the shower.

“Tobin?” Christen questioned, sliding back the shower door just enough for Tobin to see her hair slicked back and half of her face.

Tobin ran her fingers through her hair, suddenly nervous. “Hey, I uh- mom is downstairs with Don, he’s asleep on the couch. She told me to go get cleaned up, so- I uh…”

Christen smiled, shyness appearing in the way she peaked up at Tobin through her lashes as she asked, “Do you want to get in?”

Tobin nodded to her bashfully, lip bitten, and they stood there breathing for a moment before Tobin shrugged her tank top off and dropped it to the floor. She had already taken her bra off and threw it in the pile of clothes in her hamper that would be washed once they were finished showering. Christen watched as she unbuckled her belt and dropped the dirty jeans to the floor, before slipping her socks off behind them. Her cheeks flushed as she slowly pushed her briefs to the floor and stepped out of them, knowing that she was soft and somehow having everything on display in a non-sexual context made her feel more exposed.

She cupped herself and tugged on her length as she stepped out of the briefs, kicking them off to the side with her jeans. When she slid the door backwards, the overwhelming view of Christen’s fully nude body, slick with hot water that poured over her beneath the sunlight, had her clenching her jaw and gripping onto the handle of the glass door.

“Come here.” Christen smiled at her, softly pulling her by the hips under the water. Tobin stepped across the tile, unable to speak as she took in the woman’s sharp green eyes. “You’ve got mud all in your hair, let’s get that out.”

Christen laughed, running her fingers through Tobin’s hair to push the dried mud out as her hair darkened and slicked under the massive rainfall showerhead. Christen reached for Tobin’s shampoo, squeezing a generous amount into her hand before massaging it into Tobin’s scalp. Tobin groaned at the contact, letting Christen turn her around to work the shampoo through her long locks. Christen tilted her head back once she was finished, letting the pouring water rinse the suds clean. She grabbed the loofah next, wetting it under the spray and pouring a little body wash on it, before bringing it to Tobin’s shoulders and scrubbing along the skin. Tobin closed her eyes from the contact, head dropping as Christen scrubbed her back, feeling Christen drag the loofah from her shoulder blades to the base of her hips and back up again.

She turned when her back was clean, watching with lowered eyes as Christen’s eyes followed her own hand, trailing the loofah across her collar bones slowly a few times, then moving to her breast. Christen suddenly drops the loofah to the shower floor, gaze concentrated on Tobin as she picks up the body wash bottle once more, squirting a little into her palm.

Her hands spread the soap over Tobin’s abdomen, feeling each square of muscle ripple with Tobin’s labored breathing as she works to get the girl clean. She runs her hands under her breast, and then over her breasts, feeling the girl hitch her breath.

Tobin feels herself growing, and she notices that Christen notices, too. She watches, frozen solid, as Christen hangs her head and steps towards her, pressing her mouth to the corner of Tobin’s jaw as her hand trails back down her slippery stomach. Christen wraps her hand around Tobin, feeling her half hard, and she works the soap into that part of her, too.

Their lips meet in a clouded daze, tongues instantly darting into the other’s mouths. It’s so dirty and slow, the way they consume one another, and Tobin feels her resolve begin to break as the hand that’s wrapped around her begins to move back and forth.

“Chris.” She warns, feeling herself growing fully, but her warning is swallowed by the older girl who kisses her roughly.

Strong hands wrap around Christen’s hips, pushing them backwards and pressing the smaller girl against the marble tiles of the shower. Christen moans into their kiss, letting go of Tobin and wrapping her arms around the strong neck above her and hoisting her leg around Tobin’s thigh. Before she has time to register what has happened, Tobin has dropped to her knees and slung that thigh around her shoulders.

Fuck-” She hisses, looking down and nearly flooding as she watches Tobin kiss and bite at the inside of her thigh.

Tobin presses her mouth to Christen’s inner lips, allowing her tongue to part the swollen flesh and meet the hot heat that’s waiting for her. At her first taste of the girl, her eyes roll back simultaneously with Christens, and she teases the girl relentlessly by trailing her tongue through her center and not allowing her tongue to touch her clit.

When her lips finally do wrap around the swollen bud, Christen keens, back arching off the cold marble while her hands grip Tobin’s hair so tightly that she’s scared she hurts the girl.

Tobin flicks her tongue against the bud a few times, drawing it into her mouth and sucking lightly, knowing that Christen likes the slightest bit of a sharp pinch. Christen hisses again, bringing Tobin’s head towards her in a jerk. She lets go of it and sets a rhythm with her tongue, loving the way Christen’s eyes lower and focus on her own as she flicks back and forth against her nerves. It takes a few minutes, but eventually she can feel the younger woman begin to unravel.

“Fuck, Tobin- Fuck, right there.” Her hips begin to jerk, face screwing up in acute pleasure, and Tobin’s eyes close as she feels her explode around her mouth, hands firmly gripped around the woman’s hips to keep her upright. Tobin moves away from her clit next, trailing downwards to lap at the onslaught of wetness that she knows has accumulated at the girl’s core.

When she’s finished, she moves her right hand quickly to her cock, thumb sweeping over her head as she stands and lifts Christen’s leg higher. Their eyes meet for Tobin to get consent, which is granted with a nod and a please- so she lines herself up against the scalding hot heat before slowly pushing her head in, watching as Christen throws her head back at the feeling.

She watches as she slides her head back and forth in a shallow motion through Christen’s opening, nearly quivering at the tightness that wraps around the base of her head and fights to pull her in deeper.

“I’m not gonna last long, God-“ Tobin groans and warns the girl, sliding herself all the way in with a few slow thrusts. She moves slowly, glutes contracting and hips rolling as she makes love to the girl, feeling the tension already building in her abdomen. She’d been worked up for too long, but she tries to concentrate on keeping herself in a rhythm, to keep herself from coming immediately.

You’re so tight, fuck.” She whispers into her neck, feeling Christen’s nails dig into her shoulder blades.

Christen tightens around her even more at the statement, turning up the resistance Tobin feels as she thrusts her hips slowly into the girl.

“Kiss me.” Christen orders. “Please kiss me.”

So she does, allowing her tongue to melt into the other girls mouth as she slowly fucks her against the shower wall. She feels herself build, causing her thrusts to hit unevenly, before the contractions start and sends her.

Christen grips onto her tightly as she spills inside of her, hips slamming forward with every contraction that the orgasm brings. Tobin has to push her head into Christens neck to mute her raspy groans from the feeling that overtakes her, feeling like Christen’s core is pulling her in deeper with every thrust and refusing to let her go- refusing to let her pull out even an inch.

Christen can’t help but let out a few glorious moans at the feeling of Tobin releasing inside of her. It warms her everywhere like it does every time, making her feel that sense of connectedness with Tobin that can’t be competed with against anything else in the world. Tobin pulls out of her slowly when she’s finished, heavy smile on both of their faces at what they’ve just done.

I love you,” Tobin whispers, holding Christen’s body tightly against hers as she feels herself get soft, “I love making love to you, I love you so much.”

Christen kisses the crook of her neck, running her hands up and down the muscular expanse of Tobin’s upper back, “I love you so much more, and believe me, I also love it when you make love to me. I’m glad I called in today.”

They finish their shower quickly, wrapping themselves in towels after drying off before tiptoeing across the hall and into Tobin’s room. The room is large, all hard wood and white walls, with a California king bed placed in the middle of the wall adjacent to the door. Her furniture is black, and four massive windows shine natural light into the room, allowing Christen to fully take in all of the decorations she hasn’t seen in years. There’s a picture on her TV stand of them at a baseball game when they were seventeen, and a picture of them on her nightstand- one that Tobin had taken, of them at their graduation dinner. It’s one of Tobin’s favorite pictures, she notices, of the two of them posing in front of the camera. Tobin’s got her arm wrapped around Christen’s waist, her mouth pressed to Christen’s temple with her eyes closed, and Christen looks so young and at peace with a wide smile across her face. She smiles now at the memory of that night as she gets ready.

Christen dresses herself in the clothes that Tobin gave her, watching as Tobin shrugs on a fresh pair of boxers, shorts, and a hoodie, before they make their way down the stairs.

Donovan is still knocked out, his thumb in his mouth as per usual, and Cindy is still sitting there reading her book. She smiles at the girls as they enter, lowering her book and setting it on the glass table to her left. Christen pleads for Cindy not to notice her flushed cheeks, despite knowing that there was no way the older woman heard them. The walls were too thick and Tobin’s bathroom and bedroom setup was at the other end of the large house. Still, they were both red in the face, and Christen couldn’t help but be embarrassed.

“He’s barely moved.” Cindy whispers, watching as the two girls move to sit next to Donovan on the couch.

“He could sleep through the apocalypse.” Christen scoffs, watching as Tobin attempts to quietly pull the lever that releases the leg rest on the couch. The creaking motion makes Donovan stir, contradicting what Christen just thought about Tobin trying to be careful, and causing him to lift his little head to look at the two women beside him. His eyes lock on the Marine, and he slowly lifts his little body to crawl over to where they are, bringing his blanket with him.

“Hey buddy.” Christen whispers, running her hands through his hair as he sleepily smiles and plops himself down in Tobin’s lap, resting his head on Tobin’s chest and leaving his feet on Christen’s thighs. Tobin grits her teeth as she wraps her hand around his back, feeling the tears well again, just like they do any time he allows her to hold him, and she fights like hell to keep the knot in her throat from turning into sobs as he’s asleep again within seconds, choosing instead to let the tears fall silently down her cheeks as she smiles at his other mother.

Cindy isn’t so lucky to keep the knot down, and Tobin watches with a half-worried smile as her mother wipes the falling tears from beneath her eyes.

“Don’t cry, mama.” Tobin whispers, looking over at her mother with blurred vision. Cindy shakes her head, taking a shaky breath as she smiles wide while wiping her nose.

“Happy tears, baby. I’m just happy is all. Thankful.”

Tobin nods, jaw clenching tighter as she sniffs.

“Would you like to stay for lunch, Christen?” Cindy whispers. “Jeff should be coming in from outside in an hour or so, I’d love to make extra, and you’re welcome to stay through dinner as well.”

Christen smiles at Tobin’s mom before looking at Tobin, “Lunch and dinner sounds amazing, actually. We’d love to.”

Cindy nods then, and excuses herself to go start preparing the meal, though both women know that she needs a minute alone to cry. Tobin watches Christen intently as her mother steps out, smiling as Christen reaches down to pull at her own leg rest lever. She curls into Tobin’s side and spreads Donovan’s blanket around the three of them, resting her own teary head against the woman’s strong shoulder as her hand curls itself around her son’s tiny feet.

“Do you think we’re always going to cry?” She kisses Tobin’s shoulder.

Tobin smirks, looking over at the woman and slowly moving to wrap her left arm around Christen, letting her rest her head at the other side of Tobin’s chest across from Donovan. She kisses Christen’s forehead and looks across the living room at the college soccer game that’s playing on ESPN.

“I hope so.”

 

 

They accidentally fall asleep, and Tobin wakes up to find Donovan curled up in Christen’s lap and Christen’s head resting against her own head rest, both having moved at some point from under Tobin’s arm. Her eyes adjust to the sunlight, noticing that the game is still playing on the TV, and the game clock showing that they’d been knocked out for a little over 50 minutes. She hears her dad whispering to her mom in the kitchen as she rubs the sleep from her eyes, which reminds her that she needed to talk to her father about something.

She slowly pulls herself off of the couch, ensuring that they’re still wrapped up and cozy, before she quietly tiptoes across the hardwood floor and takes the few more steps up the two small stairs leading to the kitchen. Her father is sweaty from working and leaned up against the granite countertop, stealing pieces of the vegetables Cindy had cut up as they laugh quietly about something her mother had said.

“Hey, kiddo.” Her dad smiles at her warmly.

“What’s up?” Tobin runs her fingers through her hair. “Dad, could I actually talk to you before Chris and Don wake up? I wanted to ask you about something.”

His eyebrows lift on his forehead. “Sure, we’ll step outside.”

She meets him on the tallest back deck that overlooks the swimming pool. Her dad runs a towel over his head, wiping the sweat off of his forehead and temples. “What’s going on? Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Tobin reassures him, pushing her hair back to get it out of her face. “Everything is good, uh-“ She stalls, trying to get her thoughts together.

Jeff smiles and nods towards the house, at the big bay window that Tobin knows leads into the living room where Christen and Donovan are sleeping. “It seems good,” Jeff smiles at her. “Tobin, I uh- I want you and Christen to know that your mom and I are happy to see that you guys are working things out. It’s always difficult when there’s a child involved, I know it complicates things, but it makes me happy to see that it doesn’t seem that way between the two of you.”

Tobin beams at him, feeling the pride swell in her chest at her father’s words.

“It’s not, working things out, it- it’s actually coming easy to us to do that. I mean, it feels so fast, but everything is seeming to fall into place.”

Jeff nods, leaning against the railing of the deck. “I did notice that it seems to be happening fast. I just want to make sure you both understand that once all the emotions of being together again becomes normal, that you both will have a child to raise. Are you ready for that?”

Tobin doesn’t even flinch, knowing that her dad was simply checking in with her. “One hundred percent. Do you think I’m ready for that?”

Jeff smiles now, big and wide as he looks up to the sky. “You’re never ready for it. Raising you was one of the most challenging things I have ever been through, and it’s challenging in ways you can’t even imagine. Do I think you have the responsibility and maturity to do it, though?” He scoffs lightheartedly, nodding his head. “I know you do.”

Tobin kicks her heel on the wooden beams beneath her softly, trying not to smile at his words. “How do you know?” She asks.

“Because I raised you, kid. Because you’re a Marine, a damn fine one at that. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders. And that’s part of something I also wanted to talk to you about, now that you’ve brought me out here, but go ahead and lets talk about you first.”

She allows herself to smile now, feeling that overwhelming sense of pride that only her father can give her. His compliments were rare, but they mattered twice as much because of it, and she knew them to be genuine because of it too.

“I uh,” Tobin looks back into the house once more, checking to make sure they weren’t going to be interrupted anytime soon. “Christen is selling her house.”

Jeff’s eyebrows lift on his forehead. “Really? How come?”

“She wants something different, I guess. I know we aren’t married or anything, and all of this is so new, there’s a lot we still have to figure out with Donovan, but… I’m hoping that the reason she’s holding off on looking for a new place is because she wants me to live there with them. Eventually, I mean. One day. You know? So I was wondering if maybe you and mom could help to get her in somewhere that will be comfortable for her and Donovan. That house she lives in now, it’s not necessarily tiny- it’s just, I want to give her a dream home, you know? Something all of us can grow in to.”

He raises up and leans his back against the rail, turning to face her so that she could have his full attention. “I don’t see why that would be an issue. We would help you and Christen in any way we could, you know that. Let’s talk first and then we can see where we’re at with all of this, okay?”

“Yeah, of course. Christen uh, you know she was married to a man before I came back home, right?”

She watches her father’s jaw clench as he nods, “I do know that. One of the men I fish with at the lodge was the judge who divorced them.”

“Wait, really?” She questions.

Jeff repeats Tobin’s actions of looking back at the house.

“How long was he sentenced for?” Tobin asks before her father answers her rhetorical question.

“That’s part of what I wanted to talk to you about. I don’t think Christen knows this, I don’t know if her lawyer has told her yet, but Tobin… Her ex-husband’s lawyer was granted an appeal this morning. I came home after I got the call.”

Tobin’s brain turns as her father continues. “They’ve gone to a higher court, claiming that because it was his first ever offense and no major injuries were present, he should have been granted a lesser sentence, they’re hoping for a lesser sentence.”

She feels her blood pressure spike. “Oh what grounds? He put her in the fucking hospital.” She spits between her teeth, clenching her fists and counting to ten to keep herself calm.

“They say that it should have been a lesser violent charge. He’s not trying to appeal the divorce, but his sentence was only for 12 months with six years’ probation. They’re asking for no time served and to keep the six years’ probation.”

“And how likely are they to get that?”

Her father drops his head now. “Well, baby. I can’t really say, but it’s not out of the question. There was no major injuries, no severe lacerations, no weapons used. The judge said that there was some bruising and physical assault, which was enough for him, but it might not be enough for a judge who sees more severe cases. Now I know it’s not fair, and it’s definitely not orthodox, but it’s just the reality of the situation.”

“Now, listen.” Jeff continues. “They go to trial again in six weeks, and this is what I wanted to talk to you about.”

Tobin looks at him, still counting to ten, still trying to contain her temper.

“I’m getting old, Tobin.” He smiles at her beneath the bright sun. “I’m not able to keep up like I used to. Your mother and I had always been hoping to grow the business and still be able to retire before I hit my sixties. Before you came home, we had planned to expand the business out of Georgia. I have two men that work for me who are preparing to manage this location and a new location, so I can retire. I had planned to wait a couple more years, but then I got that call today.”

“So I’m sitting in my truck after hanging up the phone, and God told me that maybe it was time, that this could be an opportunity and an investment in you.”

Tobin’s eyes narrow, “An investment how? You need me to tell you it’s okay to retire? Hell, I’ve wanted you to retire for nearly twenty years.”

Jeff laughs the remark off, “No. I’d like you to take over the company and oversee it from our new location.”

Chapter Text

She’s unable to hold in her shock at his proposal. Tobin’s mouth opens and closes as she processes what he’s asking. “Dad, I know nothing about tree farming.”

He scoffs. “Sure you do. You’ve been watching me since we started this thing. Well, you know the physical side to it. You won’t be doing much of that, the guys will. Overseeing them will consist of mostly paperwork and oversight of the sales, which I can teach you in less than a month. You’d spend about a day on the farm during a regular week throughout the off season, only if they need help. During the planting season and Christmas time, you’d probably spend two or three days outside making sure they get the dimensions right and making sure they have enough hands to plant or cut. I know you haven’t been by the office in a decade, but we’ve expanded a great deal. Things are busier than they’ve ever been, and I need more land if I’m expected to keep up.”

Tobin stares at him with a blank expression, mind running a million miles an hour. “I have a lot of questions.” She mumbles. “You really want me to do this? You want me to run a million-dollar company? I don’t even have a degree in that type of thing.”

“I don’t just want you to do it. You’re the only one I trust to do it. You have leadership skills that college couldn’t teach you, and I trust that you wouldn’t take the company in a direction against the family values it was built on. Now I’m not forcing you to do it, I understand that it’s something that you would have to speak to Christen about.”

“Speak to Christen about what?” Tobin hears the small voice from behind her. She turns quickly to see Christen standing at the back door, looking curiously at the two of them with sleepy eyes.

Her mind and heart races as she stares at the beautiful woman who’s waiting on them to respond. Can she run a business? Can she do the things that her father would expect from her? She has a family now. They’ve only just started. Donovan still doesn’t know that she’s his mother or that she spends every night across the hall from his room. There are parenting methods to work out, schedules to get used to, nothing is set in stone.

But the looming dread of that trial turning sour for them hits her like a ton of bricks, along with the thought of Christen and Donovan having to live anywhere near that piece of shit human. Tobin isn’t anything if she is not protective, and being protective of her son and this green-eyed girl, in her mind, is top priority and an honor.

Tobin clenches her jaw, saying nothing and turning to her father with a stone-like expression, ready to accept his offer if Christen allows it. “Where is the new location?”

Jeff looks at his daughter, letting his eyes get removed from Christen’s worried face as she leans against the doorframe.

“Oregon.”

 

 

Donovan’s eyes are glued to the television in front of him, his hands robotically lifting the gluten-free cheese puffs to his mouth from the plate in his lap. Cindy had turned on cartoons for the little guy after he and his mother woke up from their nap, allowing her husband and the three women to talk as they ate their lunch in the kitchen. She kept a watchful eye on her grandson from her place at the table, tuning out the conversation around her and letting Jeff run over the finer details, making sure her grandson chewed his food while being distracted and smiling as the cheese dust collected around his mouth.

“Six weeks?” Christen asks, eyes darting to Tobin, who was listening intensely as her father spoke.

“Six weeks, as of right now.” Jeff confirms. “They’ll go back to trial with a district judge.”

She exhales, wondering when it ever ends. The news of her ex-husbands appeal had come as a shock, and of course she was bothered by it, but it was Jeff Heath’s other news that had really caused her brain to turn. “That’s… terrifying.”

Tobin’s eyes dart to her, all dark and serious. Christen watches as her jaw clenches wildly, body unmoving and solid from where she’s resting against her chair. “I’ll kill him if he ever puts a finger on you.” She nearly whispers, it’s so quiet and so monotone. Jeff says nothing, knowing better, and Christen knows from the look in her eyes that she was serious.

“So you want us- sorry, you want Tobin to take over the company?”

Jeff smiles and shrugs. “I was going to speak to her about it when the time came, when I finally decided to retire. Then I got the call today about Mr. Montgomery’s appeal, and I knew that it would give the three of you,” He nods to where Donovan is sitting, “an opportunity. Tobin doesn’t have to say yes. Obviously, it’s something the two of you would have to discuss and think about. If she did, however, want to do it, I could have her fully ready in three months. It really is a simple job. I could have the two of you fully moved and the new location up and running within six, say... by the end of January of next year at the earliest?”

Christen looks at Tobin for a moment, eyes darting back and forth between the serious eyes that are already locked on hers. “Can I speak to you for a moment? Upstairs?” She asks the woman, who nods with an emotionless expression and rises from her seat.

They excuse themselves from the large dinner table, moving through the living room to get to the grand staircase. She kisses Donovan’s head and tells him that she would be right back, and to ask Cindy or Jeff if he needed anything, before following Tobin up the stairs and down the hall to her bedroom.

When she gets in, she closes the door behind her. Tobin is leaned up against her dark wooden footboard, arms crossed in front of her as she stares at the floor. Christen steps to her, knowing the tension that has built up in the woman from the bomb that her father has dropped on them both.

“Talk to me. What are you thinking?”

Tobin sighs, shaking her head, arms crossing further into herself beneath her hoodie. “I want to take it. I can’t live in a town with him in it, knowing what he could do now that he’s angry you put him in jail. I won’t let anything happen to the two of you.”

“You don’t know that something would happen though, Tobin.” Christen breathes out with a sigh.

“Exactly.” Tobin snaps, voice raised just enough to make Christen slightly flinch, eyes darting wildly to the woman in front of her. Quieter now, “Exactly. I don’t know that.”

Christen unfolds the Marine’s strong arms and wraps them around her waist, moving her hands to Tobin’s shoulders to massage some of the tension away. They breathe together for a second, both of their minds running like a freight train unable to stop. Christen rests her cheek against the shoulder beneath her, rubbing up and down Tobin’s back softly.

“I’m going to tell you how I feel about all of this, okay? And I need you to listen to me.” She confidently says, feeling the soldier crane her neck to allow their eyes to meet. Tobin nods, prompting her to continue.

“I am not afraid of Jermaine, never was and never will be, not even when he was hitting me.”

Tobin tenses like a bomb about to explode immediately, making Christen wrap tighter around her. “Hold on before you start that. Let me finish.”

“I’m not afraid of him.” She begins again.

“Do I want him around me? No. Do I want him around you? No. Do I want him around my child? Absolutely not. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to jump ship because I’m afraid of him. However,” She pauses, leaning up to kiss the solid structure of Tobin’s face and letting their eyes meet. “I want you to take this opportunity-”

Tobin scoffs, shaking her head and pushing Christen off of her lightly. “I’m not moving to Oregon without you and Donovan, you can forget about it. Fuck that.”

Christen latches on tighter, grabbing Tobin beneath her chin with her thumb and index finger a little roughly and pulling her face towards her. “Stop it. Stop interrupting me and jumping to conclusions, I told you that I need you to listen.”

Tobin stares at her, steeled and emotionless, with her jaw in the other woman’s grasp willing her to continue.

“I want you to take this opportunity because I think it will be good for you, and good for us. I’ve been telling you for two weeks now that I’m in this with you for the long run, if you can be in it with me. I was always in it for the long run and nothing has changed that, nothing can change that.”

Tobin softens, and Christen can finally feel the older woman breathe in her grasp. She loosens her hold slightly. “I know nothing about Oregon apart from the fact that it’s cold and rainy, so we will have to visit before I fully commit to moving. There are a lot of things that have to get worked out. Donovan is already enrolled into kindergarten. The preschool is heavily dependent on me to run it. My father is still grieving my mother and it’s going to kill me to leave him. Our friends are here. But. You are the most important thing to me apart from our son, and I trust that you know what you're doing with us.”

She watches as Tobin’s eyes close, and she continues. “I am ready for us to be a family, and I want us to be a happy one. If you wanted it, I think this job would be good for you and you would be good for it, based off what your dad has described. The hours aren’t long, I'm sure the money is more than stable, and I know that it’s been driving you insane not having a sense of schedule or anyone to lead. It could be a good thing. So, I say we give it a shot.”

Christen continues. “Everything between us is still so early, but it’s important for you to know that if you say yes to this, I will stand by you in that decision. And if you say no, I will stand by you in that decision as well. But Tobin, I do not want you to make this decision because of the trial, because of him, you need to make this decision if you feel like it is the right thing for you and for us.”

Tobin’s eyes open slowly, and she blinks a few times at Christen’s words before leaning down slightly to capture her lips between hers. They kiss for a long minute before Tobin pulls back, resting her forehead against Christen’s softly.

“Okay.” She mutters roughly, feeling thoroughly and happily put in her place. “You’re right.”

Christen kisses her again. “Do you want to plan a trip in a month or so and us visit?”

Tobin nods, eyelids low as she leans in for another peck. “Yeah, we can do that.”

 

 

Tobin walks through the rows of trees with Christen after dinner, watching as the sun sets on the horizon over the rolling hills around them. They’d driven the ATV’s back to the garage about ten acres from the house, declining Jeff’s offer to drive behind them, so they didn’t have to walk back, so they could have a moment alone before Christen had to take Donovan home and put him to bed. His nap today had lasted much too long for Christen’s liking, knowing that the boy would be fussy later and reluctant to sleep, so she figured that he could hang out with Tobin’s parents for a while to kill off some energy so the two women could continue the heavy discussion.

They had changed out of their comfortable clothes and both into a pair of Tobin’s jeans. They’d fit tight around Christen’s hips, given that Tobin had the flattest and smallest waistline she’d ever seen on a woman, but Christen didn’t mind as much, unable to care about much of anything when their hands were clasped and swinging slowly between them.

“Did he tell you more about the job?” She asks the Marine, loving the way the orange and purple sunlight reflects off Tobin’s brown eyes.

Tobin nods, clearing her throat. “Yeah, it’s honestly pretty cool. I’d be overseeing both the Oregon location and this location, basically just closing deals with buyers after the sales team and making sure the planting, growing, and shipping process is running smoothly.”

Christen squeezes her hand affectionately. “Would you have to come back here often?”

“Not really, maybe once every two or three months, just to check in with Scott. That’s the guy who will be managing all of this,” Tobin gestures to the landscape around them, “He’s been working with my dad for nearly seventeen years, so… I think he’s an alright dude.”

“I think I met him, actually. He came with his family to your basic training graduation, right?”

Tobin nods, smiling, shocked that Christen remembered him. “Yep, that’s him. So he’ll be over all of this, and a woman named Adrianna is moving up to the new site. She’s only been with us for about five years, but dad says he’s never seen someone work so hard and meticulously, so she’d be with me and managing the property up there. Dad wants me to meet her soon.”

Christen lets her right hand reach out to touch the leaves and branches of the growing evergreen tree to her right.

“He says he doesn’t know that he’s going to do if they don’t buy more land, they’ve started exporting to Canada and Mexico and they aren’t growing enough to keep up with orders.” Tobin starts, watching Christen’s hand caress the branches in a way that almost makes her think Christen is greeting them. “When he started this business, he knew that the land was profitable, I guess he didn’t really know that it would be like this.”

“What’s his plan with all of it?” Christen asks.

Tobin pauses for a moment, trying to remember what her dad had told her earlier. “Buying about 400 acres of timber about 40 minutes east of Portland, they will start stripping the land and selling the trees at clear cut price from a buyer that wants it, selling it for about $1,000 per acre more than the $1,700 per acre they’re buying it for.”

Christen stops in her tracks, eyes wide and bugging. “He’s going to make nearly 2 million dollars from that alone?”

Tobin nods, laughing. “Yeah, and it’s going to take nearly all of it to get started. He has to get the soil tilled once the trees are cleared and the imports of new trees bought and shipped in to be planted so the business can be up and running within a year. He also has to build the home office, find us a house, and pay for about 30 new employee’s salaries. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say he, I mean-“ She scratches the back of her head. “Dad will be helping me with all of that, but it will ultimately be my responsibility.”

“Tobin, that’s a lot. How long will it take for you guys to see profit?”

She smiles now, shaking her head and scoffing. “About two to five years. The catch though is that land will produce profits of about 10% more than a regular farm per acre, and there are money-making types of trees that can be grown on healthy Oregon soil, so all in all, it’s a yearly income of about 1.5 million. About a million of that is reverted into business expenses and wages.”

“And the rest?” Christen asks, continuing to walk.

“My salary.”

She stops again, eyes even larger than they were before. “You’ll be making half a million dollars a year?”

Tobin smirks, exhaling loudly through her nose before turning to the shocked woman. “We will, yeah, give or take. Roughly that to start out with, once the business is in the black. Though we wouldn’t have to worry about anything financially in the meantime, anyways.”

Christen rolls the ring on Tobin’s index finger around and around, trying to find the words to say back to the woman. “What are you going to do with that much money?” She asks.

The soldier scoffs, jokingly offended that Christen is acting like she hasn’t thought of that yet. “Get Donovan into a nice private school, of course. Save the rest. Maybe let you go shopping.”

The green-eyed woman rolls her eyes now, bringing their clasped hands up to lightly shove Tobin’s arms. She tilts her nose into the air with a huff, acting equally offended and bratty. “I can take myself shopping, thank you.”

“Oh, I know you can.” Tobin chides, “Somethin’ ‘bout an independent woman.” She whistles, chiding the raven-haired girl, “So sexy.”

“Is that so?” Christen pulls her softly by the belt buckles into her as they stand between the rows of trees and fading sunlight, kissing the strong jawline against her mouth. “Well here I am, thinking that you enjoyed being the provider.”

She kisses the jaw once more, lightly nibbling with her teeth as she smiles. “And the protector.”

“Oh, I do.” Tobin challenges, kissing Christen’s cheek in response, teasing the girl. “Doesn’t mean I’m dumb enough to think that I’m the one calling the shots around here.” 

Christen’s eyes darken as Tobin tilts her head back, kissing along her neck before she reaches her ear. It sends chills down Christen’s spine as she whispers, “I’m well aware of who’s in charge.”

Their mouths meet in a passionate kiss that heats up a little too quickly for them being outside. Fuck it, Christen thinks, hands trailing down Tobin’s hard abdomen over her t-shirt until she reaches the belt buckle below. Tobin pulls back, feeling the leather belt being pulled through her metal buckle.

“What are you doing?” She breathes into Christen’s open and smirking mouth, watching as quick fingers work to get the belt unhooked. Christen doesn’t answer and instead looks to their left and right, making sure that they were fully alone among the empty acres of tree rows, before she sinks to her knees in front of the woman.

“Returning the favor from earlier.” Christen tells her. Tobin watches with a choppy breath as her jeans are unbuttoned and unzipped, and her mouth opens as she’s pulled out of the confines of her briefs. Piercing green eyes meet her own heavy gaze and Christen lowers her head, and Tobin has to clench her hands into fist as the younger girl gets to work.

 

They walk back up the steps of Jeff and Cindy’s back porch slowly, both women donning red cheeks and utter bashfulness at what had just happened in the middle of the tree farm. Tobin is still half hard, unable to get rid of it and stop being turned on at the vivid images of watching Christen take her in such a way. She looks down quickly to check and make sure that no one would be able to see her length through her jeans, slightly breathing when she notices that the jeans were baggy enough to not give anything away.

Christen wasn’t embarrassed, but she was shocked. Shocked at how quickly they were able to rile one another up. Again, it’s like they were uncontrollable around one another, dare she say they act worse now than they did when they were literal teenagers. One look at Tobin these days… and it’s something about the way she aged, something about her confidence and strong demeanor, it made Christen weak in her knees every time. So, she is shocked, it’s the only way to put it, and she is curious as to whether or not the raging lust they carry for one another would ever wear off.

Tobin lets go of her hand as they step into the house, hearing their sons laughter before they can see him and not wanting him to see them holding hands. He’d sitting in Jeff’s lap as they round the corner into the open living room, laughing at something on TV and looking back to make sure Jeff is laughing too.

“Mommy!” He says loudly, looking at Christen and smiling wide before turning to Tobin with the same smile. Oh man. Christen picks him up from Jeff’s lap and checks her watch subtly, noticing that it was already nearing 9 o’clock, he is going to fight like hell with me tonight when he has to go to bed.

Her suspicions are confirmed when they get home. Tobin had driven them to her car that was still parked outside at her dad’s place, and she’d taken the long route to her house to see if laying in his car seat would calm him down, but it was no use. He was so hyper from the day, not an inch of him tired, and this had turned into a bit of a tantrum the moment she asked him if he wanted to go brush his teeth with her. Donovan was well aware that teeth brushing with Christen meant that he was about to have to sleep.

Christen rubs her fingers on her temples as he begins to cry. She lets him cry it out for a moment as he stands in front of the couch, knowing that the best thing she can do is let himself get worn out when his temper flared. She quietly curses herself for giving letting him have some of Cindy’s strawberry cake at dinner, knowing that the sugar wasn’t helping their situation. Christen moves to the kitchen and pours herself a glass of water, before crossing her arms and leaning back as she watched him hiccup.

It made Christen’s heart ache and head hurt when he cried over things like this, especially knowing that there was nothing that could be done to fix it because nothing caused it. She hated giving punishment, never being the stern type, and she silently prayed that he would straighten up and not lash out so that she didn’t have to punish him. She knew that it was part of raising a child, probably one of the most difficult parts of raising a child, and she wondered how Tobin was going to respond to situations that involved the soldier having to punish him. Tobin was definitely polar opposites from her in terms of their temper. Christen got frustrated but she hardly ever got mad, and when she did there was hell to pay for everyone involved. She had yet to be genuinely mad at her son, part of her thinks she probably won’t get pushed to that point until he is a teenager. Tobin exploded like a canon and is completely relaxed five minutes later.

After about ten minutes, Donovan is still crying quietly, glued to the floor in that same position. She leans off of the counter and sets her glass down, offering to try this whole thing again will him so they can solve the issue.

“Bud, you don’t have to sleep yet okay?” She whispers softly to him, trying to calm him down as she kneels to be at his eye level. “Why can’t we just brush our teeth?”

“B-b’cause I have t-to go to sleep.” He cries and stutters, rubbing his eyes with fists as he looks up at her angrily.

“You don’t have to go to sleep, sweetie. But we do have to brush our teeth.” She tries to smile at him, running her hands through his hair. He lightly swats her hand away from him and cries harder into his hands.

Hey.” She softly grabs his hips, refusing to let her voice raise as she turns his body to hers. “Let’s not do this tonight, okay? You know that wasn’t very nice.”

He looks at her guiltily, peaking over the tips of his fingers as he continues to hiccup from the sobs. “How about this.” Christen offers, smiling at him with her tired eyes. “How about, if you brush your teeth with me, we can put on your dinosaur suit and snuggle on the couch, and we can watch any movie that you want. We can watch the whole thing.”

He pauses and drops his hands, hazel eyes focused on his mother. She brings the bottom of his shirt up to wipe the running snot from underneath his nose, still smiling at him and trying to show him that she was serious about him not having to go to bed.

“Can Toe-bin come?” He whispers in the tiniest voice, causing Christen’s mouth to slightly part in surprise that he had asked for the Marine.

“Why do you want her to come, bud?” She prods, wondering what made him think about asking for her, making sure that he didn’t see anything that made him think that the woman had been staying over here often. They had been doing a good job of keeping it a secret from the boy.

He shrugs, copying his mother and wiping at his runny nose with his shirt. “Toe-bin maybe wants to watch a movie with us.”

She visibly relaxes, thankful that his words weren’t "well she lives here, doesn’t she?"

“Do you want to call her and ask?” Christen fished her iPhone out of her back pocket, pulling up Tobin’s contact and holding it in front of him. The little boy nods, tears seeming to dry momentarily as he looks over at the phone and presses the call button. She knows that Tobin was likely sitting on her bed, probably playing a video game or watching a sports game, waiting as long as it took for Christen to send her a text that Donovan was asleep so she could drive over.

Christen presses the speaker button right as Tobin picks up.

“Hey, Chris.” The woman says. Christen thanks her silently for not calling her babe or any other pet name.

“Toe-bin?” Donovan says into the phone.

Hey, little man! What are you doing?” She hears Tobin’s voice pick up in excitement, hearing Tobin curl her words around the large smile that’s probably stretched across her face.

“Crying.” Donovan answers, causing Christen to drop her head and laugh at his honestly.

“Oh, no.” Tobin dramatically says, putting a smile on Christen’s face. “What made you cry, my dude?”

“Will you come watch a movie with me?” He asks the question so sweetly that Christen melts, wanting to squeeze the little boy against her tightly, unbelievably happy that the movie prompt had worked, and secretly even more happy that Donovan had asked for Tobin to join them.

“Of course I will. Do you want me to come now?” The Marine questions. Donovan looks to his mother for an answer, to which she nods back reassuringly, before he smiles sweetly at the phone.

“Yeah.”

“Okay bud, I’m on my way over alright? Can you hand the phone to your mama?”

He hands the phone to Christen with a guilty look, and she takes it from him with a kiss to his forehead before standing and taking the phone off of speaker. She catches Donovan’s eye and nods towards the bathroom, telling him to go with her to he can brush his teeth before Tobin gets there.

“Hey.” Christen breathes as she steps into the hallway bathroom behind her son, grabbing his toothbrush and putting toothpaste on it before handing it to him. He steps up onto the stool in front of the sink, making himself tall enough to lean over and spit, and puts the toothbrush into his mouth.

Hey, Chris. I’m getting my shoes on now. Everything good?”

“Yeah, we’re good. Little man here just wants to watch a movie before he goes to bed.”

Tobin giggles, and Christen hears her car keys jiggle. “With me, I see.”

Christen scoffs, smiling widely into the phone, making sure that Donovan brushes all of the right spots. “Yeah, I’m not complaining.”

“I bet you’re not.” The soldier picks at her, “I’m pulling out of the garage now, gorgeous. I’ll be there in five.”

Tobin arrives a moment later, still dressed in her jeans and t-shirt and her overnight bag slung around her shoulders, and the three of them settle into the couch after Donovan picked How To Train Your Dragon on Netflix. Christen turns the living room lights off, as he squeezes himself between the two before Christen covers them up with a throw blanket, laying his head on Tobin’s side once she throws her arm over the back of the couch. Her legs are crossed, feet out of her slides and resting on the coffee table, and she looks so damn comfortable that Christen aches to cuddle next to her.

They both grow silent as the movie plays out, aware that they were waiting on him to get tired and go to asleep. After twenty minutes, he readjusts, fully moving into Tobin’s lap and putting his head at the center of her chest, eyes still trained on the movie, and he pulls Tobin’s right hand over his stomach where it had been earlier that day when he napped. Tobin smiles at the contact, eyes flicking over to Christen for a second before she focuses on the movie again.

It takes another twenty-five minutes before he’s out like a light, snoring gently against the soldier’s strong chest. Christen pauses the TV, looking over as Tobin smoothly maneuvers the five-year-old to turn, where she can put her left hand on his neck while her right hand holds him to her torso, his skinny legs dangling at her sides as she slowly stands up. Watching her with him, you would think that she would have been doing this for years, and it never fails to surprise Christen.

She walks with her hand at the center of Tobin’s back through the hall and into Donovan’s room, reaching down to pull his covers back so Tobin can gently place him down onto his pillow. They pause as he’s laid down, making sure he isn’t going to stir and wake up from the movement, but he’s out cold.

For the first time, Tobin leans down before Christen to place a kiss on the little man’s forehead, her eyes closing as she does.

“I love you.” She whispers, and it breaks Christen to see the soldier rise up and put her face into her hands, shoulders shaking beneath Christen’s hand as she silently cries.

Christen tears up as well, rubbing Tobin’s back over her shirt as she leans down to kiss her son goodnight, before she turns on Donovan’s monitor and guides the sniffling soldier through the dark room, closing his door behind her once they’re out.

In the hallway, Tobin’s tears are kissed away. In the bedroom with the door locked, Christen undresses them both and guides them under her comforter. Under the covers, she allows Tobin to make love to her slowly, knowing that words weren’t enough to describe the way they were feeling, that it had to be shown through touch.

All of her rules are broken, but as she falls asleep with her naked body wrapped around the hard frame of the love of her life, knowing that they just made love with so softly and with so much emotion that they both cried, there’s not a single fiber inside of her that cares.

 

The call comes in at 3pm, and Christen, Tobin, and Donovan are currently lounging around outside of Jeff and Cindy’s pool, content with spending their Sunday evening in the water as they faced the humid 100-degree late-July Summer.

“Hang on a sec!” She calls to her son who had been asking for something, drying her hands of the sunscreen she’d just put all over Donovan’s back before swiping her call to answer her lawyer.

“Hey Jonathan.”

Christen, hey. Are you busy now? I apologize for calling on the weekend, but I just got a memo emailed from the district office where the trial is being held. It looks like they’re not budging.”

“Shit.” Christen curses under her breath, her fingers rubbing at her temples. She’d tried to get out of the court case, her lawyer citing the restraining order against Jermaine when asking that Christen’s presence not be necessary at the trial. It didn’t work, though. Truthfully, Christen didn’t care either way. She’d went to the first trial. She would do it again, no matter the outcome. However, she didn’t want Tobin there for one. Two, she didn’t want to ask someone to watch Donovan. And three, hotel and flight prices to Portland were cheapest during that weekend.

I know it’s not ideal, and I apologize. I’ve dealt with this judge before, he’s entirely by the book of law, no shortcuts or bullshit. Which could either be a good or bad thing in our case. But hey, I can assure you that regardless, security will be tight inside the courtroom, we will have you escorted inside and out. I plan for this trial to be over very quickly, so it’s best if we just agree to appease them and try to make the whole process smoother. There is one other thing, though.”

Christen’s eyes meet with Tobin’s, who has a concerned look in her eyes at the worry lines she sees on the other woman’s face.

“What’s that?”

She hears Jonathan sigh, “Well, they’ve pushed back the hearing, it will be right at four weeks after you guys get back from Portland. We’re looking at an early September date.”

Christen sighs and rubs her temple, ready for this thing to be over with, tired of it having to happen in the first place. She hangs up with her lawyer before sauntering over to Tobin, who’s currently busy blowing up one of Donovan’s arm floaties so that he could swim.

“What was that about?”

She sighs, “Um, well, I guess that they’re making me attend the hearing, and they’ve moved it to four weeks after we get back from Portland.”

Tobin’s jaw clenches as she plugs the inflation part of the floatie before wetting Donovan’s little arm with pool water and firmly pulling the floatie up and onto his bicep. She grits her teeth and flexes at him from the water, causing him to grit his teeth right back to her and flex his floatie-covered biceps her way before giggling and lowering himself down onto the latter. Christen’s fingers rub at the space of her collarbone, attempting as best as she can to ignore the way her stomach feels after watching Tobin’s muscles dance beneath her skin as she flexed. Due to her being waist deep in the water in a tiny bikini top and swim trunks, everything is so open and exposed and wet to Christen’ eyes. From the little water droplets that trail down between the tan abs to the v-cut indention that leads beneath her waistline, to the way her broad shoulders and lat muscles flex with every arm motion. Christen could float away by now.

Tobin puts a hand at his back as he lowers, making sure he doesn’t fall, before she speaks up. “I’m coming with you.”

Christen crosses her arms. “Do you promise you will behave?”

She watches as the Marine gets a smirk on her face, thought it looks more like a grimace, and Christen can pick up on the flare of anger and disgust behind Tobin’s irises, “All I can say is that I will try, Chris.”

“Fine.” She retorts, understanding that there was no winning with the soldier when it came to this. Honestly, Christen was thankful, and she knew that she probably will feel more comfortable in the moment knowing that Tobin would be beside her the entire time, even if Tobin would be ready to kill at the drop of a hat.

Tobin really does smirk this time, crossing her own chiseled arms as Christen steps into the water, pretending to be just as childish as Christen is.

“Fine.”

Time passes by slowly that day as they swim, eating watermelon and cantaloupe that Cindy brings home. Cody even stops by, deciding to join in on the fun after Jeff invited him over for the second time since they all had their little family dinner a week or so ago. Tobin has a few beers while she plays with Donovan in the pool, and she even (sort of) teaches him how to swim. Four pairs of kind eyes watch as Tobin gently wiggles Donovan’s floaties back off of his arms at the side of the pool, and the little boy just studies her features as she bites her lip and fights with his left arm, the material of the floatie sticking and suctioning to his wet skin and not wanting to slide off. They’d been practicing arm techniques and kicking motions in the water with his floaties on, and once he got the hang of kicking his legs and paddling, she figured that she could hold him gently and let him try by himself.

Christen floats on a blow up floatie in the deep end of the pool, watching from under her shades as Tobin finally tugs the floatie off of Donovan’s arm with an exasperated “finally” and a tiny fist bump. Cody smile from the chair next to Jeff and Cindy, shaded beneath the massive umbrella of the outside table, and his eyes send a quick wink to his daughter as they smile at Tobin’s struggle. Christen should have just told her that it’s easiest to let the floaties deflate before trying to get them off. It’s a new parent mistake, not knowing that information, but Christen and Cody didn’t want to embarrass the soldier- rather letting her figure it out on her own. Besides, Christen was appreciating the view of Tobin’s muscled back and shoulders as they reached up to tussle with the difficult floatie.

Tobin was in waist deep water, allowing Christen to take full advantage of the woman’s sun tanned figure from where she was floating about ten feet away. It was a large pool, part of an even larger stone deck that looked out over the rolling tree lines, and a stone waterfall at one corner of the pool allowed the filtered water to trickle down and keep the water clean and fresh. Christen was content to spend the whole day here, allowing all of her worries to disappear as the sun replenished her vitamin D supply.

Donovan, excited that Tobin had finally taken off his floaties, laughs and bolts to the left in an attempt to run and jump into the pool. Christen bolts out of her float with a gasp, glasses flying off of her head, as her father leaps from his chair, racing to get to the boy in time. Donovan was quick, but Tobin was quicker. The second he took off, she had reacted, immediately diving through the shallow as fast as she could and tracking him with her eyes opened beneath the water. When he jumps, laughing, she kicks off the bottom and holds her hands up to receive his body, effectively catching him just as his body hit the water.

All three adults want to be mad, and for a split second, they are. Tobin, hair slicked back and water dripping down her nose, holds the laughing boy tightly to her as she kicks her legs to keep them afloat. She doesn’t say anything, not knowing what her role is, and still freaked out that he could have launched himself into the deep end. Cody has his hands on his hips as he shakes his head back and forth, and Christen’s heart is beating out of her chest, so much so that she has to put a hand over her chest to calm the rapid pulses.

Then, a cheeky smile forms on Donovan’s face once his laughter dies down, and he puts his small olive-tones hands on either side of Tobin’s face, giggling at her before whispering, “That was so much fun!”

Every ounce of irritation nearly leaves her body, and although she tries to fight it, she can’t help but crack a smile at him and how happy he is. Collectively, the adults decide not to make a big deal out of it, deciding instead to let it slide for the time being. Christen collects her glasses from the bottom of the pool, and Tobin only looks at Christen once before looking back to the happy kid and saying, “Hey bud, we can do that again in the shallow if you want to, but let’s stay away from the deep end, yeah?”

Donovan smiles and nods, pushing on Tobin’s shoulders so that she could carry him to the shallow.

 

 

Christen walks into work with a smile on her face on Monday, remembering like she did a few times daily that she and Tobin are flying out in two weeks to the Pacific Northwest, knowing that the week after they return is the trial, where they can finish this once and for all. They will stay in Portland for a week at the Hoxton in the downtown area, meet with a realtor to look at different properties, explore the school options for Donovan, and visit the lawyer who would be closing on the land deal for the business. It was going to be very busy for the two of them, but Christen was confident that they would be able to find time to enjoy themselves and explore the city. She wanted to check out a few Portland staples, and truly get a feel of what life could be like on the West Coast.

The only thing she dreaded was not being able to take Donovan with them, and she knew that Tobin wasn’t fond of it either. It would be the first time that he’s ever spent any significant amount of time away from his mother, honestly- it would only be the second time she’s ever slept somewhere that he wasn’t right by her or down the hall. Christen hated the idea, but she knew that bringing him would complicate things for the two of them, when things were already not simple in the slightest. Besides, she didn’t want him to be on a plane yet until he absolutely had to. So, she was going to ask her dad to keep him while they were gone, and she knew that Tobin’s mom had already called Cody and told him to bring Donovan over that week so Donovan could get into the pool. She’s expecting their friends will stop by and check up on the little guy too, knowing that their love for her son ran deep, and knowing that they wouldn’t want him to feel lonely or sad that Christen wasn’t there.

Telling her dad had been terrifying, but surprisingly easy. Cody listened to her nervously go over every detail about Jermaine’s appeal and of what could possibly be her and Tobin’s future plans. He nodded at appropriate times, asked questions when he needed to, but in the end he simply wrapped his hand around Christen’s and gave it a loving squeeze, reminding her that although he would miss them dearly- he would support them in whatever they chose, not expecting Christen to stay in their small town forever. She cried and hugged him, and laughed when he commented that he might just move with them, which was something she immediately began to encourage.

Overall, things were good so far, and that was good enough for her.

“Good morning Christen!” She hears one of her teachers call from the break room as she clicks her heels through the preschool’s hallway.

“Good morning, Broon!” She says back, pushing the break room door open and meeting the woman’s smile. Christen starts her day at the coffee maker at of the counters, thanking the Lord for the wonderful teacher who had already turned it on and got the coffee brewed. She pours some into her travel mug, adding a little bit of cream and two sugar’s.

“Sleep well?” Becky asks her, forking a bit of her breakfast burrito into her mouth and chewing quietly.

“I did actually.” Christen smiles wide, remembering how glorious every morning was now that she gets to wake up with her head on Tobin’s warm chest. Sometimes she would just watch Tobin sleep, sometimes she would let herself cry quietly while doing it, just concentrating on the slow rise and fall of Tobin’s chest or the steady thudding of Tobin’s heart, thanking God over and over again for keeping those pair of lungs steady and that heart continuously beating.

Becky stares at her boss suspiciously, noticing that the woman’s smile has not left her face since she walked in, which wasn’t unusual for Christen- but something was different, the woman was radiant.  

“Spill, Press.” Becky mumbles suggestively over her coffee, giving her boss a soft smile.

“Spill what?” Christen asks over her own mug.

“You just seem, I don’t know.. you’re just glowing this morning. Did you have a good morning with Tobin?”

All of her teacher’s knew about the soldier. Tobin made sure to stop by the school and bring her lunch at least three times a week, and sometimes they would even have lunch together in Christen’s office. Regardless, Becky was one of her closest friends outside of their typical friend group, so she knew of the entire history between the two women, anyways. And despite Becky technically being her subordinate on a job description level, Christen knew that the woman was much wiser than herself, and had spend many mornings and afternoons asking the other woman advice. They loved to talk- about parenting, Donovan, emotions, worries, really anything. Becky was one of the most stable and trustworthy women that Christen had ever met.

“Hmm,” Her eyebrows turn in concentration, “I mean, I do have news for you and Amy whenever she gets in… but it’s not necessarily fully good news. I did have a good morning though. Tobin drove me to work after I got kiddo on the bus, so maybe that’s it. How was your morning, Broon?”

Becky stares at her with concentrating eyes, still thinking that something just looked different about her friend. She goes to answer, but Amy interrupts her by bursting through the door with a loud huff.

“Jesus,” The blonde woman sighs, setting her bag down onto the table at the center of the room across from Becky. “Those boys, let me tell y’all. Between them and my husband, I don’t know who I want to strangle more on some mornings.” 

“Like polar opposites.” Becky looks suggestively between them, wiggling her fingers back and forth at the two girls. “Sit down, Ames.” She pats the chair next to her. “Tell us about your kids in a minute, Press has news for us.”

Christen rolls her eyes wide a beaming smile, walking over to her co-workers and pulling out a chair at the head of the table so she could fill them both in on the massive news she has to share. She feels so energized and happy throughout all of it, reminding them that it wasn’t set in stone yet, but that she felt like it could be something that was good for the three of them. They listen intently, like the devoted friends they are, and despite being sad that Christen might be leaving- offer nothing but encouragement and words of wisdom for her.

By lunch time, however- she’s crying. She doesn’t even know how she started. Well- she knows, a parent called and had been cursing at her over the phone, mad that Becky had recommended his child wait another year before starting kindergarten. He had cursed and yelled and been rude to her, which is normally something that she takes in stride and handles easily, but today it had just set her off. Christen assumes it’s because her hormones were out of wack, as they get sometimes.

It’s a sight to see for Tobin, who happily walks into Christen’s office at 12:30 in the afternoon as she carries their lunch and drinks in her hands, excited to spent more time together. When she spots the girl leaned against her desk with her forehead in her hands, her eyes widen and she quickly sets the stuff down on the desk top. Tobin maneuvers herself around the desk to kneel by Christen’s side, pulling her head out of her hands and turning the girls chin so she could look at her face. Tobin looks over every inch of her, checking for anything that might seem out of the ordinary.

“What’s wrong, Chris?” She asks, eyes doing another five-point check of Christen’s body beneath her grey dress.

Feet are okay. Tobin thinks, looking at Christen’s black heels and the painted toes inside of them. Legs are fine, nothing wrong with her stomach or chest. No visual issues with either of her arms. Face? She asks herself. Beautiful as ever.

“What happened?” She tries again, stroking Christen’s chin, freaking herself out at the possibilities that could have caused the girl to cry. “Are you hurt? Where’s Donovan?”

Christen shakes her head, laughing at how ridiculous she was being. She kisses Tobin’s wrist and opens her eyes, looking at the woman and enjoying the way Tobin looks in tight blue jeans and a simple white t-shirt. Her staple outfit that Christen will never tire of.

“One of my kids parents called about twenty minutes ago and cussed me out for a comment that Becky made to him over email.”

She laughs again, embarrassed at crying. Tobin’s mouth closes, visibly relaxing, before she stands up abruptly.

“Cool!” Tobin claps her hands together loudly before grabbing at the stapler on Christen’s desk and snapping it’s handles together a few times, trying to make the dark headed girl laugh once she realizes that nothing is seriously wrong. “Where’s he work at? Bet he won’t do it again.” She tries her best to look serious and threatening, snapping the stapler again.

Christen laughs so loudly, throwing her head back at Tobin’s childish actions and putting her hand over her chest, and the sight of her smile and the sound of her laughter makes Tobin forget how to breathe. 

Chapter Text

When Christen steps into her father’s house Friday evening, she’s greeted by the smell of burgers and marinated chicken cooking on the grill. Tobin had asked if she could take Donovan to the park and Chuck E Cheeses while Christen was at work, figuring that she could spend some time with the little guy and play some arcade games, letting Cody have an afternoon off until Christen came home. Tobin had bought a brand-new car seat for the Jeep days before, getting tired of switching the lone one Christen had between their two cars, and she was positively itching to let the little guy ride around in the back seat with the hard top down.

Christen tugs her heels off at the door with a pleasant sigh, having had a long day at work. Her bosses were on her ass now that she was taking vacation days off and potentially leaving in three to six months, they already had her training someone new, likely going to replace her regardless out of spite that she might resign, and Christen isn’t upset about it in the slightest. She’d spent many years there cultivating that place, hiring caring teachers, reviewing healthy meal plans, ensuring that her kids had a good balance of outside exercise, field trips, healthy snacks, nap time, and learning activities. She loved watching the children grow, loved seeing them learn and try new things, loved the past few years of her life. However, she was privileged enough to know that she didn’t need to stay there if she was unwelcome. Of course, her teachers have shown her nothing but support and positivity, but she wasn’t going to put up with the disrespect from her superiors for long, not when they had such little contact with the facility itself and worked from an office in Atlanta.

She readjusts the waistband of her flowy blue pants and tugs her thin cardigan closer around her shoulders, noticing how drafty the living room is with the late afternoon breeze coming in from the open windows and back porch door.

“Dad?” She calls out, folding a blanket that was discarded messily over the couch and draping it across the arm.

“Out here, Mo! Almost finished with the grill. Tobin called a few minutes ago, she said they’re leaving and will be here in twenty minutes. They combined their tickets and won a big prize apparently.”

“Jesus. I bet she spent so much money on those games.” Christen huffs with a smile, opening the cabinet in search of a wine glass. She pours herself a glass of white and makes her way out back. When her dad catches sight of her, he smiles.

“What?” She asks, eyes looking at him weirdly for staring at her with that odd look in his eyes.

“Nothing, Mo. You just look happy is all, always smiling now-a-days. I like to see it. I’ve always wanted you happy like this.”

She bites her top lip and smiles in spite of herself, wanting to push away at his prodding. “I have a lot to be happy about. I always have had.”

He looks at her as if calling her bullshit, giving her those knowing fatherly eyes, ones that tell her that he sees past whatever she’s telling him. “Yeah, but it’s better with Tobin around, huh?”

Her cheek muscles shorten, drawing a smile on her face so wide and shy that she has to fight to keep her teeth from showing.

“Mhm.” He playfully mocks her face, then hesitates thoughtfully before speaking again. “I honestly didn’t know what to expect when she pulled into the driveway that day… before you two reconciled. I guess… well, I honestly guess that a part of me was always praying that she’d come home and fix things, make you better, help you with him. Maybe it was selfish, and it’s okay that it was, but Tobin really loves you, you know that?”

“I know she does, dad.” Christen whispers, bringing her wine glass up to take a sip.

“And she loves your son, that’s important.”

“She does.” She agrees, nodding.

“I guess I’m just saying that I’m happy for you, Mo. I’ve never had so many prayers answered at the same time before, not until she came back home at least, and I want you to know that I’m proud of you.”

Christen’s eyebrows lower, “Of me? Why?”

“Well, you raised an infant into a toddler, and a toddler into a child, all by yourself. I couldn’t have imagined raising you at that age without your mama. Or her having to do it without me. Don’t ever forget how strong you are for doing that, but I also don’t want you to think that you’re taking the easy way out by letting Tobin help. Let her help you. It makes her feel useful, she enjoys doing it, and her being a mother doesn’t make you any less of a mother.”

Her jaw had gone slack at her father’s gentle reprimand, it had shocked her how easily he was able to pick up on something like that, something that had been silently bothering her for a few weeks now.

“How did you know?” She asks him, swallowing a big gulp of wine. It’s not that it upset her for Tobin to step in. She loved it when it happened, and Tobin always asked. It was the little things, like getting up to wash a snack dish that Donovan had left on the table after finishing his snack, or carrying him inside when he fell asleep in the car. The other day, they’d met after work at the store to go grocery shopping together, and Tobin had entertained Donovan by walking him through the store on her shoulders for the entire time, she’d even buckled him into his car seat before they left. With Donovan distracted, Christen was able to get everything on her list in a record time, not forgetting a single thing, even remembering to grab some other stuff while she was there that wasn’t on her list.

So it wasn’t that it upset her, like she said- she loved it, but it made her feel maybe the slightest bit inadequate as a mother, a fact that she knew was ridiculous. She had became so used to doing everything herself, it was alarming when suddenly her duties were getting relieved, she couldn’t help but shake the feeling that she should be doing something.

“I just know you. You’re fidgety when she does things for you, I can tell you feel out of place with it, and it will get easier.”

Christen nods, agreeing to herself that yes, she was fidgety and yes, her father was right- it would get easier. That’s mostly the reason why she had refused to mention it to anyone other than Broon and Amy at work. Amy had thrown her head back in laughter and said, “Jesus, Press. You feel like that because she’s doing things for you? Shit, tell Tobin she’s always welcome at my house, you don’t know how good you have it, girl.”

Which wasn’t true, she did know how good she had it. Tobin was a saint, but that did nothing to take away the nagging feeling.

“I’m just not used to it, is all. I still let her do things for me, that won’t change- she’s Donovan’s mother as well. Just hafta’ get adjusted.”

Cody smiles and nods, ears perking up as the front door opens just as he was plating the hamburgers and chicken from the grill. Tobin yells that they’re home, Donovan repeating her greeting moments later in a higher pitched voice, instantly calming Christen’s nerves and putting a smile on the two Press’s face. Cody kisses her head while walking inside, mumbling “Love you, kiddo.” As he passes, and moments later, two large and warm hands are covering her eyes.

Tobin coughs, “I believe we have a present for you, Miss Press.”

She hears the pitter patter of Donovan’s feet against the wooden boards, coupled with his mischievous laughter. She smiles and holds out her palms, ready to grasp whatever Donovan and Tobin managed to win for her.

“Okay, are you ready, bud? Put it in her lap, okay? One, two…”

Tobin pulls her hands away just as Christen feels a massive plush animal being lugged onto her lap. When she opens her eyes, she sees that she’s holding onto a four-foot-tall teddy bear, with the softest light brown fur she’d ever felt.

“Holy…” She mumbles, looking up. The teddy bear had to be at minimum seven inches taller than Donovan, it was genuinely huge, like one of the ones you see on sale at Walmart for nearly $50.

“Do you like it mommy?” Donovan asks her, throwing his arms around the teddy bear and hugging it. She smiles widely at him and runs her fingers through his brown curls.

“Did you win this just for me, son? I love it so much, you must have won every game in that building twice to win something so awesome like this. Thank you so much, handsome.”

Tobin sheepishly scratches the back of her neck and smiles at Christen, content on letting Christen believe that they won the huge bear off of tickets alone, knowing that she had to slip the attendant an extra $40 before they could take the plush toy home. It was what Donovan wanted, though, and he wanted to spend all of their tickets on a prize for his mother, who was she to say no to that?

Christen bends over to hug his little body, kissing his forehead and squeezing him tight. He pretends to be grossed out by the kiss, wiggling out of his mother’s grasp and racing into the house to find his papa, but not before giving Tobin a quick high five as he passes.

She sets the massive stuffed animal down on the ground, patting the seat next to her. Tobin smiles, looking back into the house to double check that the coast is clear before bending over and catching Christen’s lips in a quick kiss. When she tries to pull away, Christen traps her with a hand at the back of her neck, deepening their kiss for a few more seconds until the green-eyed woman is content.

“It’s okay that you kiss me in front of him.”

Tobin’s eyebrows arch as she lowers herself into the seat. “Really?”

Christen nods. “Yeah, I mean, I’m pretty sure he knows that we’re a couple. He’s probably going to have questions when he sees it for the first time, but… I think I’m okay with that.”

They were still hiding from Donovan that Tobin was spending the night most nights, only letting him know that she was staying when he personally asked for her to come over. Otherwise, Tobin still parked in the back and snuck in through the back door, and although they have slipped up a few times, they still try to keep the sex to a minimum. Either way, they’d been increasingly spending more time together, and Donovan wasn’t blind or oblivious to the lighthearted terms of endearment, the hand holding in the car, or the longing looks and shared laughter between the two women. Christen didn’t know if he understood, but she always caught him looking between the two of them, and she figured she wouldn’t make a big deal out of it unless he asked, which she assumed he would sooner or later.

“I just want to make sure you’re comfortable, babe.” Tobin smiles lovingly at her, thumb softly stroking mindless patterns over her knuckles. “I’m cool with whatever you’re cool with.”

Christen nods, leaning over to give Tobin one more light peck in gratitude for being so patient and understanding. She studies the soldier, watching the way Tobin lifts her right leg to set her ankle over her left kneecap, yawning in the process.

“He wore you out today, huh?”

She’s given a look that says duh, then Tobin smiles. “I loved every second of it.”

 

Later that night, after Donovan is snoring loudly in his bed and Tobin’s Jeep is pulled around back, Tobin rests her head on her hands, her arms spread out behind her as she lounges on the bed, watching as Christen runs a makeup remover wipe over her eyes, nose, and forehead before throwing it in the bin.

Tobin smiles, crossing one bare foot over the other. “You looked beautiful today, Chris.” She mumbles, having been unable to breathe for most of the night as they’d ate dinner on the back porch, with the setting sun reflecting in Christen’s green eyes, causing them to burn brightly into Tobin’s soul, making her stutter.

“It was the makeup.” Christen laughs. “I look like this every day.”

“No, today you just… I don’t know, you looked… cool.”

Christen smirks and scoffs, peeling off her flowy blue pants and chucking them into the dirty clothes hamper. “Cool? Did you just say I looked cool?”

She slowly unhooks her bra next, causing Tobin’s eyes to lose focus and her lips to part. Smirking, she climbs into the bed in only her undies, feeling the bed dip with the weight of her knees. Tobin’s eyes flicker down to her breasts, they were heavy and taught, nipples standing to attention. “Um,” Tobin mumbles, “Yeah.”

“Hmm...” Throwing one leg over Tobin’s waist and lowering herself, she’s happy to feel the effect she is causing the soldier, happy to see the flush on Tobin’s cheeks and the way she captures her own bottom lip between her teeth.

“Have I ever told you that you’re such a 15-year-old boy when it comes to boobs?”

Tobin smirks, hands grasping at the skin of Christen’s hips. “Not just any boobs, your boobs.”

They kiss for a while; it’s excruciating for them both. Christen doesn’t ever remember getting so wet so quickly, and Tobin is bursting at the seams.

“Thank you for taking Donovan with you today,” Christen nibbles at Tobin’s lips, kissing down the side of her jaw, “I know it made his whole week to get to do that with you. And thank you for everything you do for me.”

Shh.” Tobin tries to quiet her, hands palming graciously at Christen’s ass.

“No, really. I want to thank you. It’s hard being a parent, but you make it seem so easy and you don’t even know it. You have so much fun with him. You help take some of the stress off of me.”

Tobin shushes her again, and pulls Christen’s curls to the side, kissing her neck, causing the green-eyed woman to hiss and smile as she feels the smallest pinch of a bite.

“And I-“

“Chris, shhh.” Tobin scolds her with cocky smile, grabbing onto the girl’s naked waist and flipping them, “Let me take some more stress off of you.”

Christen giggles into Tobin’s neck, pleased at the strong hand that wraps around her breast and squeezes while Tobin’s tongue trails from her collarbone to her jaw. They kiss and make out for what feels like ever, acquainting one another with their tongues, tasting each other’s mouths, building a slow grind until Tobin’s jeans have ridden down and the back of her pants button is pressing into her most swollen and sensitive areas. She doesn’t complain however, too content with backing off from grinding into the woman, choosing instead to trail her left hand downwards until it was slipping beneath the tiny lace underwear and slipping through Christen’s unbelievable wetness.

Tobin spends the next hour or so as Christen’s favorite method of stress relief, until the olive-toned woman is happily and loudly snoring beside her.

 

Ashlyn flicks her overhead lamp on as the two of them wade through the river mud in the dark with their highwaters on. It was midnight., Ashlyn having gotten off an hour earlier, and Tobin had received a phone call from the crying police officer. She had finally gotten her wish for more action, what ended up being a four-car collision on a road off of the interstate that was caused by a drunk driver. She’d had to visit the family of a seventeen year old athlete, a boy that went to the high school in a neighboring town, to let them know that their son had been hit by the reckless truck, a drunk driver.

Ashlyn sniffles next to the soldier, wiping her nose with the back of her hand and shaking her head, “I don’t know, man. Just the way his mama looked at me after answering the door, like she knew he was dead and I hadn’t said a damn word yet.”

Tobin grimaced, knowing that face all too well, having had to hand deliver the dog tags of a few strong men to their wives and mothers through the years. You never really got over it, the screams, that one peculiar scream she’s only heard from a mother who’d just found out she lost a child. It was horrible.

Tobin wasn’t good in these situations, not with death, at least. She’d not known what to say to those mothers. What can you say, anyways? She usually just stuck with “I’m so sorry, ma’am.” Marines were usually quiet during things like that, and after a while- you get used to it, but she knew that death wasn’t something the police officer had to witness very often, especially the death of a child.

So, she’d offered to take Ashlyn night fishin’ to get her mind off of it. Christen had agreed, only after making her promise that she would come by and sleep at her place once they were done. Tobin thought it might be good to spend time with their friends as much as she can, considering that they might be moving within the next few months. She knew that they would visit, but the weekly lunch dates at Sandra’s Diner would stop, and they wouldn’t be able to just pick up and go night fishing whenever. Part of Tobin was sad about it, but she knew that it was only normal to be, and she allowed herself to not feel guilty over being excited to move.

“I know what it feels like, having to tell people that someone is dead, I mean. It sucks.” Tobin mumbles, watching as the material of her heavy black boots get coated in mud with every step. Soon, they’re to the embankment, where the river lets out into the lake, and that old fishing dock sits right where it always has, just looking a bit more rusty now. The lake had risen from the rain, drowning out the small bottom walkway that let them get onto the dock, so they contrived a plan where they had to traverse across the railing before the wooden dock reappeared and was dry again.

Ashlyn grabs the tackle box from Tobin’s hand, “You go first, then I’ll hand these to you once you’re over so I can get across.”

Tobin nods, letting go of the tackle box, before the thought occurs to her. “Dude...” She mumbles to Ashlyn, “We’re in highwaters, can’t we just walk through the flood?”

Ashlyn looks at their feet and then towards the flooded dock, before looking back at their feet and to Tobin. They stare at one another for a solid ten seconds before both of them crack, bending over and laughing their asses off at themselves.

Tobin wipes at her eyes to get rid of the tears from laughing so hard, “God, we sound like Kelley.”

That causes them to laugh harder, still. Neither of them unable to hold back from making fun of their closest friend, despite her not being here. Tobin’s thoughts suddenly drift to the red-haired soldier, wondering where she currently was at the moment. The last she had heard from her, they’d been considering pulling out of Afghanistan, needing the unit in Gaza instead to help aid the Army in maintaining peace. She knew Kelley was lying when she told her that, she knew that they were going to recover reported intel on either the Palestinians or the Israeli’s, but Kelley already had told her too much info by telling her that they could be headed to Gaza. Tobin wasn’t a Marine anymore, and Kelley just couldn’t spill information like that to a civilian.

She was relieved, though, to hear that they were considering a different deployment, knowing that despite the neighboring conflict in Gaza, it was a whole hell of a lot more peaceful than trailing and sweeping ISIS convoy’s in the desert.

“Hey, hold on before we cross, let me pee.” Tobin mumbles, jogging a few steps up the embankment until she’s in the woods, hearing Ashlyn grumble about being jealous that she didn’t have to squat. When her pants are zipped again, the business is taken care of, and she’s back at Ashlyn’s side, they mosey their way through the water and onto the dock.

The two of them talk while setting their stuff down on the dock, the slow tremors of the water beneath them bringing a flood of memories into Tobin’s brain. Ashlyn pulls out the chairs for them while Tobin baits the mayflies onto their hooks, and once those are casted and the rods are hooked onto the doc, Tobin’s able to sit down next to her friend and pour them coffee from the thermos.

“Thanks for coming out with me, man.” Ashlyn says, “I’ve missed you dude.”

“I’ve missed you too.” Tobin smiles, looking over at the officer. “I’m so hyped that we got to ride in the squad car. I was hoping you were gonna drop by in that.”

“Oh yeah?” Ashlyn’s eyebrows wiggle, “Wanna join the force? You know that’s a common profession for ex-military to go into?”

Tobin scoffs, “Hell no. Are you kidding? I could never be a pig.”

Ashlyn gives her a shove with a smirk, “Watch it, now.”

“I’m just kidding, sort of. But seriously- I’m content not to risk my life anymore than I already have. Christen would never allow it, and I’d never put her through that again.” She shakes her head slowly, sipping on the hot coffee.

“Yeah,” The cop sighs, “I saw how she reacted that day, when Kelley made it seem like you weren’t fully retired yet.”

“It’s a sensitive topic for her, understandably. I left them and nearly got myself killed, so…”

Ashlyn rolls her eyes, “Dude, you have to stop being so hard on yourself about that.” She groans, looking over at Tobin and making direct eye contact with the soldier. “You had no idea that there was even a “them” to begin with, and you were only doing what you had to.”

Tobin’s eyes follow the line as it bounces against the water, reflecting the movements of the bobber against the moonlight. “I know, still though, I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself. She touches me like I’m made out of glass sometimes, like I’m going to disappear. She watches me sleep and cries, I can hear her- she thinks I’m not awake.”

“She just loves you, man. She’s glad that you’re home. I haven’t seen Press like this in years, not even with that dude,” Tobin’s fists clench outside of her control, “but with you, it’s like she’s glowing. Donovan is happy, too. Less quiet, more playful. She’s just happy that you’re home, Tobs. You can’t keep blaming yourself for what’s in the past.”

She smiles now, nodding, “You’re right. Hey, by the way?”

Ashlyn looks at her to continue, to which Tobin coughs and stands up, grabbing the fishing pole and reeling it a few feet so that she could be distracted enough. ”Do you uh, do you think that if this trial goes South and her ex-husband gets out, that he’ll try to start drama?”

They remain silent for a few seconds while Ashlyn thinks about her question, “I honestly don’t know. I want to think no, but then again, he is an entirely different person than what he portrays himself to be. I always thought he was the nicest dude ever until Christen finally told me what he was doing. He’s just some pansy-ass hotshot who thinks he’s cool because he manages a bank and drives a Hemi.”

“God,” Tobin grumbles, reeling in the spool of fishing line a little more, “A Hemi? What a dick. What did she even see in him, anyways?”

Ashlyn finishes off the coffee and sets it down beside her, “I don’t think she saw anything in him. I don’t really think that Press sees anyone but you, the girl never really has been interested in anyone else, not even when we were in school and you guys were friends.”

Tobin smiles, looking back at her friend, “You really think so?” And Ashlyn would have answered duh, but the line of Tobin’s fishing rod was suddenly jerked forward, the end of the rod being pulled nearly to the water, alerting the two women that they’d likely got their first catch of the night.

 

 

Thursday evening hit, and before any of them kept up with the time- they were set to fly out to Portland within a couple of days. Christen had asked off of work beginning on Friday, and she wouldn’t return until the following week after next week. Her bosses were peeved, but she honestly didn’t give a damn, not when she could be relaxing and not caring instead.

“Do you think dad eats bratwurst? Or anyone, for that matter?” Tobin speaks from beside her. They were at the grocery store, grabbing things for this evening’s family and friends dinner to celebrate Tobin and Christen’s vacation to Portland, and everyone was planned to come over tonight in order to celebrate the potential of their new lives, all except for Ashlyn and Kyle because they both had to work. It really was just a bullshit excuse to get everyone together again, but either way- Christen couldn’t care less, she was just happy to have everyone there.

Donovan reached for the packaged sausage from his place sitting in the shopping cart, looking equally as grossed out as Tobin was at the meat.

“Ew, I don’t know. Let’s just get the chicken and not the weird stuff. Sound good?”

Tobin shrugged, setting the sausage back down where it belonged and pushing the cart forward, watching animatedly as Christen studied her list.

They checked out quickly, and Tobin held Donovan on her shoulder’s again while Christen packed up their belongings in their reusable bags, laughing with Donovan as Tobin had to duck down in order to fit them through the door without injuring anyone. She always had to do it, every single time they went grocery shopping, but it never failed to be the funniest thing Donovan had ever seen, every time.

At the Jeep, she pulled Donovan off of her shoulders and gently sat him in the car seat, winking at Christen from where the woman was loading their groceries into the trunk as she clipped Donovan’s seat belt over him. He had outgrown his normal car seat, now using what most would call a “booster” seat, and Tobin wondered to herself at what age he would have to be before he could just ride in the car safely without these types of things.

“Is that too tight?” She asked him, pulling on the seat belt strap as it rested across his small chest.

Donovan shook his head, then- “Are you my mom, Toe-bin?”

Tobin gasped and jerked her head up to his, hearing Christen’s sharp intake of breath too from her place behind the trunk. She met the green-eyed woman’s gaze in a panic, unable to answer him, not knowing how. Christen could only stare at the back of Donovan’s head, mouth slightly ajar, expecting anything but that to have came from the kids mouth.

Tobin’s eyebrows lowered and she bit her bottom lip quickly, breaking a sharp eye contact with Christen, feeling the salty wetness begin to rise behind her eyelids. Christen slowly shut the trunk.

“What did you say, buddy?” She feigned confusion, lowering her head and turning her ear towards him in order to pretend like she was trying to hear him better.

“Are you my mommy?” He asked again, quieter this time, almost like he knew that what he said had thrown off the two women the first time and easily picking up on the energy shift in the environment.

“What makes you say that, son?” Christen asks him, moving to stand next to the soldier in the car door frame, noticing that Tobin’s feet had bolted themselves to the ground as she tried to keep herself blinking so the tears would go away. Christen’s hand found Tobin’s lower back, out of Donovan’s eyesight, and she allowed a strong hand to start massaging the taught skin there.

Almost to say, almost as if she was saying, It’s okay- I’m here next to you, we’re a family and this was bound to happen. It calms Tobin slightly, but not enough to keep her jaw from flexing wildly.

Donovan shrugs, looking guiltily up at the Marine. “I don’t know. She’s always with us. Can I want her to be?”

Both women whip their heads towards the boy, eyes jutting widely as Christen’s mouth opens and closes, though she still can’t think of what to say.

“D-Do you want me to be?” Tobin mumbles, feeling the first tear drop off of her chin.

“Yeah.” He whispers, still looking like maybe the words he’s saying are sounding foreign to the two women in front of her. She’s so shocked that all she can do is nod back to him when he nods at her, and Christen watches the whole thing in pure unprecedented shock. This was not how she wanted this to go. She’d wanted to tell Donovan herself. Though while it was unexpected, she guesses that this was one of those moments where life left her with lemons.

Donovan sends his doe eyes at Christen first before giving them to Tobin, looking up at the woman through his eyelashes. Tobin could see how people recognized the similarities between herself and the boy, but in that moment- she couldn’t help but see some of Christen looking up at her in the boys eyes.

“I love you, Toe-bin.” He quietly says, making Tobin’s cheeks widen from the large smile that takes over her face. They had only said it once before, one night this week after Tobin left their house to go somewhere, Donovan had yelled that he loved her as she shut the door. Tobin’s eyes had widened, mimicking Christen’s from where she had been sitting with Donovan on the couch, and Tobin had cracked the door open with tears in her eyes to tell the little man that she loves him back.

They had not made a big deal out of it then, and would not try to make a big deal out of it now.

“I… I love you too, bud. You have no idea how much I love you.” Tobin swallows, bottom lip trembling, and Christen has to rub her hands up and down her back to keep the soldier from sobbing.

“Let’s talk more about this tonight, okay son? Maybe after dinner?”

The little boy nods at Christen, still watching as Tobin smiles at him through her tears, and when Tobin puts a strong hand around his leg to give it a loving squeeze, he curls his own small hands around hers, smiling at her adorably with as many teeth as he could show.

Tobin spends the whole ride home squeezing Christen’s hand in a death grip over the console, silent tears streaming down her cheeks at such a high rate that Christen’s heart skips a beat every time she looks over at the woman. They were happy tears, she thought, and this was confirmed as she followed Tobin upstairs once they were at Cindy and Jeff’s house, letting Donovan help Cody bring the two bags of groceries in.

Tobin breaks down once they’re inside her bedroom, sobbing loudly and gasping into her hands that she’d moved to cover her face. Christen curls her arms around her from behind, pressing her cheek against the rippling shoulder muscles as Tobin cries, making sure to rub her hands along Tobin’s stomach and chest in an effort to get her to calm down. She shushes her gently and soothingly when the cries die down to hiccups.

“Breathe, Tobs. Just breathe for me, okay?”

Tobin tries to nod, but more gasping sobs hit her chest.

“Shhh…” Christen coos, “You’re alright. Okay? I’m right here, everything’s alright.”

“H-he wants m-me to be his m-m-mom.”

Christen smiles against the t-shirt fabric, her own tears staining the material of Tobin’s shirt, and she has to blink them away like Tobin was doing earlier so that her mascara wouldn’t begin to run.

“I think he’s known for a long time that you were his mom, babe. Since he met you.” Christen whispers, rocking them back and forth, waiting for the soldier to calm down.

Finally, the hiccups die out, and Tobin turns around to meet Christen’s bloodshot eyes, watching Christen take in her own bloodshot eyes, and suddenly they’re laughing like the funniest joke had been told, tears still haywire behind their eyelids, both able to realize what an important and beautiful moment this was.

Christen molds her body to Tobin’s, thumbing away the tear streaks on those high cheekbones she loves so much, and she allows herself to lean in and kiss away the cries. It’s a soft kiss, one that starts out slow and meaningful yet ending with them barely unable to continue due to them smiling so wide. Tobin laughs again, causing Christen to laugh, and Christen can only look at her and whisper, “I love you so much.”

They break apart from their second kiss after hearing the houses front door open, before hearing Pinoe yell out into the foyer that she’d arrived, causing both of them to laugh a third time.

“I guess we should go join the party, huh?” Christen asks against her lips, smiling widely when the soldier moves to steal one last kiss as she nods.

Later that evening, they’re all gathered around the patio table, sipping beers and wines and coffees, when Donovan pipes up from Tobin’s lap. The sun had pretty much almost set for the day, casting a beautiful pink and purple glow through the sky over Jeff and Cindy’s back yard, and Christen was feeling entirely relaxed as she talked with Pinoe and Ali. Her plate was pushed in front of her that once carried the remnants of Cindy’s pie, and she couldn’t take her eyes off of how beautiful Tobin was as she interacted with their son, everyone had commented to her about it tonight, it was like Tobin had a sixth sense to the kids needs and wants, anticipating almost every single one of them.

“What is that?” He asks Tobin, and Christen follows their line of sight as Donovan points out something in the yard beneath the fading sunlight.

She squints, not seeing anything, and then suddenly seeing eight of them as they make themselves known through their unique glow in mid-air.

Fireflies.

Tobin cocks a soft half-smile, looking downwards at her son, “Those are fireflies, dude. They’re like, bugs that fly in the summer and they glow, that’s what makes them light up.”

Donovan looks confused, but nods to her nonetheless, making Pinoe and Ali chuckle from their seats at the table.

“I think I actually have some jars, Tobs.” Jeff rises from his own chair, “Let me go get them. You guys can catch one for him.”

Christen smiles with Tobin, watching as Donovan gets excited. “We’re going to catch one?!”

“Yeah bud.” Christen runs her fingers through his curls. “We can catch a bunch if you want.”

Tobin nods, leaning down to blow raspberries on his cheeks, making him squirm. “And you know what? We can even poke holes in the tops of the jars and keep them in your bedroom tonight, it’ll be like a night light.”

Jeff brings out the small mason jars, giving one to all of the members of the friend group, and they all kick off their shoes to pad through the grass. Cody, Jeff, and Cindy look on as the two parents keep Donovan close to them, showing him how to be super quiet and track the firefly with his eyes. Tobin gently puts his hands into a cupping formation, mimicking hers, and he watches as she brings her hands to cup around one of the lightning bugs they had found flying.

She deposits the bug into the jar that Christen had unscrewed, right as Donovan points out another one that was flying a few feet away.

“Do you want to catch this one?” Christen asks him.

He nods, and it takes them a few seconds of following the firefly quietly with Tobin at his side, but eventually, with careful precision and wide-blown eyes, Donovan brings his hands quickly around the glowing bug.

He squeals at the feeling of the bug crawling around on his fingers, but keeps steady none-the-less.

“Yay!” Ali and Christen praise him, copying the excitement of the rest of the adults as they deposit their own caught firefly’s into Donovan’s jar, choosing to fill his up instead of their own jars. Christen opens the cap quickly for Donovan to put the bug in, before shutting and screwing it tightly so she could give him a big high five. Tobin high fives him next, feeling on cloud nine as the dewy grass cools the bottom of her feet.

Donovan’s laughter rings out across the backyard, getting louder as Pinoe goes to chase him through the grass, and it’s all that Tobin can do to watch them without crying. She looks around the yard from where she’s standing, her arm wrapped around Christen’s shoulder in order to let her kiss the side of Christen’s head, and the stark contrast from where she once thought her life would be at 31 versus where her life is at now it disarming, but cathartic at the same time.

Christen drops her head to Tobin’s shoulder as they stand, letting a sigh of contentment leave her lungs while they watch their son giggle and run.

 

Later that night, he’d asked if Tobin was coming to their house again, and they’d taken the time while settling him into bed to talk to him, wanting to explain more about the events that had happened earlier in the car. The mason jar full of fireflies sat atop his dresser, twinkling, calming Tobin’s nerves. The fireflies lit up intermittently, glowing, and you could hear the bugs against the glass as they flew around to change positions. Tobin had cut a few gaps into the top of the jar with a pocketknife after they’d finished, allowing the bugs to get air, and she would let them out of the jar as soon as he fell asleep.

Christen sat on one side of the bed, with Tobin sitting behind her, resting her hand around Donovan’s blanket-covered ankle.

“What made you say that earlier, son?” Christen asked him. “About Tobin being your mom?”

“Is that something you were thinking about, bud?” Tobin whispers, squeezing his ankle.

Donovan nods bashfully, making both women smile. “Mommy wants to be around you all the time.” He gazes up at her, repeating the words that Christen had said to him nearly a month ago, when explaining how she felt about Tobin to the five-year-old. “I wanna be around you all the time too.”

Christen has to look up at the ceiling to collect her emotions, blinking back the tears as she smiles at Tobin bashfully, resembling her son.

“I told him that when you first came back. I guess it stuck.” She explains.

Tobin smiles, staring into her eyes deeply, before glancing back to her son. “I want to be around you guys all the time too, little man.”

Donovan smiles now, pulling the blankets higher up around his chin and concentrating on the flickering fireflies. “Okay.” He whispers, sleepy eyes opening and closing gently, then, “good.”

Tobin wasn’t sure where that put them, or if that meant he would be calling her mom from now on, or even really what he thought about the whole situation, but she knew that it was progress in the direction that she wanted to be taking.

Christen, on the flip side, was not going to force anyone’s hand. If it was going to happen, she was going to let it happen, but it had to happen organically or not at all. If Donovan, for now, was content knowing that the two of them were okay with him wanting Tobin to be his mom, and content with Tobin being around just as much if not more than she was before, it was okay for her.

She watches as Tobin stands up and leans over him, closing her eyes as she kisses his temple gently, and only pulling back when he tells her that he loves her. Tobin smiles against his forehead, pulling back and kissing him again, whispering that she loves him too as his eyes begin to close.

It feels like family, Christen thinks, the kind of family she used to dream about having, and only with Tobin. She realizes, watching Tobin straighten her spine as she stands from the bed, that Christen was one of the lucky ones, one of the few that actually ended up with the thing they wanted and needed so badly, knowing that it was rare and most didn’t get what they wanted.

Christen got more than what she wanted. She got everything and more, and she didn’t know how many more blessings she could hold before she’d end up spilling over.

Chapter Text

The flight was set for 2pm, and they had to be ready around 8:30am in order to drive the two and a half hours to the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, but Christen was already wide awake before the sun came up. She’d been laying here for around thirty minutes, having rolled off of Tobin’s heater-like body after getting too hot, and now she was fighting an overwhelming feeling of nausea.

She’s pregnant.

Christen knew that she was, she’s had suspicions for a week now and had been utterly fucking ignoring it every time the thought crossed her mind, but this was undeniable morning sickness, and the patterns that her body was experiencing were familiar to her.

Christen is pregnant.

She’d not been afraid of much in her life. Sure, she hated most things that flew and stung. She was not fond of movies that involved children and demons. She had nightmares of car wrecks and she was terrified of something ever happening to her son or to Tobin. She didn’t care much for that look Tobin would get on her face after having one of her notoriously bad nightmares, unable to imagine the kind of terror once must have experienced in order to look so sheepish.

But she was terrified now.

Pregnant.

The word was like a pinball in her head, bouncing around from one corner to the next through every question that she could think of. The how’s and the why’s had already been answered by her subconscious. Because she had and has been having unprotected sex, knowingly having unprotected sex and knowingly fucking knowing that this could and was going to happen. Because she wonders, in her subconscious, if she’d wanted this to happen. Because God made Tobin mostly infertile unless it was with her, and then she was super fertile, a-fucking-pparently. Another wave of nausea hit her, causing her to swallow it down and stop her mouth from watering.

The questions that invaded her brain were more intrusive, more deafening, more adult-like questions. How is Tobin going to react? How do I tell her? How does this affect literally every single plan that we have been making in the past month that revolves around our future? How will I tell Donovan, when he’s too young to understand any of it?

Donovan. Who’s asleep at her dad’s place right now, spending the first significant amount of time away from her since he was born. Christen shut her eyes tightly as the fear of how she will explain any of it to her son fills her head.

The nausea hits again, and this time it’s worse. Christen knows she’s about to throw up, her forehead is sweaty and her mouth has started to water. She slowly removes the covers off of her, praying with all of her might for Tobin to stay asleep, as she carefully slides her legs off of the bed and walks to the bathroom that’s conjoined to her bedroom. She closes her eyes as she shuts the door with slow movements, begging it not to creak. When it’s shut, she flips on the light and pads barefoot over to the toilet, where she gets on her knees and grips the lid with one hand. So unsanitary. She thinks, before the bile finally rises.

Her hand grips her stomach as she vomits. Tears leak out of her eyes because she hates throwing up with a burning passion. Another wave hits, and she throws up again, and it’s about at this time that she hears footsteps approaching the bathroom.

“Fuck.” Christen mutters for multiple reasons, spitting into the toilet and laying her sweaty head onto her arm against the toilet seat as she begins to cry. Tobin is above her and holding back her hair in a matter of seconds, as the sobs wrack her body. Christen isn’t sad, she would never be sad over something like this, but she is utterly fucking terrified.

Christen vomits again, feeling the stinging sensation burn her sinuses as her hand goes to grab her stomach. Tobin shushes her, rubbing a warm hand against her sweaty naked back as the other hand holds her heavy curls.

“It’s okay, baby. I’ve got you.” Tobin coos, voice raspy and deep from sleep, likely barely even awake. She feels terrible for the sick girl, wondering what in the possible hell could have made her sick. Her mind replays over what they had eaten the night before. A salad. Alfredo pasta, no mushrooms because they make Christen sick. Wait, were there mushrooms? No, no mushrooms, I specifically made it with no mushrooms. Her mind is blank, guessing that Christen has caught a bug. She wonders if they’ll have to reschedule their flight. She wonders if she’s going to get sick as well, they’d done a lot of kissing before falling asleep last night.

Christen slumps after the last wave hits her and passes, immediately feeling better now that her stomach was empty. She flushes the toilet so Tobin wouldn’t see the nastiness and grabs the toilet paper, unrolling a bit of it and wiping her mouth.

Tobin moves to the sink in a sleep-induced daze, grabbing Christen’s toothbrush and toothpaste from the glass container on the counter and spreading a little of the paste onto the bristles before grabbing her own toothbrush and doing the same to it. She runs them under cold water and hands one to Christen, placing a comforting kiss to the girl’s sweaty forehead.

“I’m gonna go grab you some Gatorade from the fridge.” She whispers, kissing her hairline again. Christen nods, brushing her teeth and spitting into the toilet, tears still streaming down her face at Tobin’s kindness and ignorance to what’s actually making Christen sick. “Do you want any crackers? Or if you feel like eating something, I can start breakfast. It’s almost seven.” The soldier asks her, already halfway out of the doorway while sticking her toothbrush in her mouth.

“No, thank you.” She mumbles, spitting the last bit of paste into the toilet again. She leans back against the tub and pulls her hand over her forehead once the toothbrush is placed back on the counter, pushing the sweat off and smoothing down her hair. She cries even harder now, which shocks the hell out of Tobin as she comes back in carrying a yellow Gatorade bottle.

Tobin kneels in her boxers next to the crying girl, softly putting the Gatorade bottle in Christen’s hand and running her fingers through the dark hair.

“Are you crying because you feel sick?” Tobin asks her quietly, heart breaking at the sight of the girl in pain.

Christen shakes her head in denial at Tobin’s question, “Just hate throwing up.” She whispers it, halfway lying as she un-screws the bottle cap and takes a small drink. Once she’s taken a few sips, Tobin offers her hand to the girl, helping her to her feet and wrapping a strong arm around her tiny waist as they walk back to the bed. Tobin helps Christen get in, figuring that the other girl would likely want to sleep some more, noticing that the crying has stopped but there’s a far-off look in her eyes. When Tobin gets in next to her, she pulls Christen’s head onto her chest softly, kissing her favorite spot on her forehead.

They lay there for a few minutes in total silence.

“Do you want me to cancel the flight? We can reschedule for any time, I don’t want you to travel when you’re sick.”

“No, no need to cancel it. I’m not sick, honey.”

Tobin is quiet for a moment, concerned and curious and wanting to protest and fight the girl that she was obviously sick, she’d just watched her heave into the toilet four or five times. She sits there for a moment until she’s unable to help herself. Christen is almost asleep when Tobin turns to her and speaks up to make her point, unable to let it die.

“Chris, really. It’s no big deal. I’d rather us not go until you’re feeling better and can actually enjoy-“

“I think I’m pregnant.” Christen whispers into Tobin’s chest, interrupting her, deciding that the best route was abrupt honesty. They stare at one another as Christen’s heart flies, unaware of how Tobin is going to respond once the shock wears off. Tobin’s brain repeats the words over and over and over again until it registers. She sits up immediately and leans over Christen’s side.

“Y-you…” She stares at her, eyes wide and mouth open. “You..” She tries again. Her hand subconsciously quickly finds the base of Christens stomach and presses against it softly. In Christen’s eyes, Tobin finds nothing but warm concern and honesty, perhaps a little bit of fear, and she moves her own gaze back and forth between Christen’s pupils as her brain short-circuits.

“Really?” She finally asks, and Christen’s eyes widen in utter shock as Tobin’s mouth pulls into the largest smile she’d ever before seen on the woman’s face. The weight and the absence of weight brought on by the smile causes Christen’s bottom lip to tremble harder than it ever had before. She begins to cry again and nod, feeling small, not understanding what she’s feeling, but understanding that the reaction was the very last thing she’d expected and something she realized she didn’t get to experience with Donovan, the feeling of anyone being excited about her pregnancy.

Suddenly, Tobin is laughing loudly as she begins to cry too. Pearly white teeth set in a perfect row are gleaming with that wide-open smile as her eyes squint while she cries, shaking her head lightly in disbelief. “Oh my God.” Tobin laughs a bubbly, childlike laughter, causing Christen to nod again and hiccup, bringing her hand up between them to lightly cup Tobin’s face and thumb the tears away. “Oh my God,” She says again, still shaking her head and smiling.

Tobin kisses her immediately, pressing their lips together as they both continue to cry. She has to drop her head onto Christen’s chest, hand still pressed lightly to Christen’s lower abdomen, to let the sobs work their way out of her system, thanking God repeatedly in her head if it’s true.

They kiss again, mouths moving over one another, tasting the saltwater on one another’s lips.

Christen feels the weight move off of her quickly, and she sits up as Tobin springs to life with the largest smile still making her cheeks ache. Christen follows Tobin’s movements around the room as the older woman tugs a pair of grey Nike sweatpants over her legs, followed by a hoodie that Christen is almost positive is hers.

“Where are you going?” She asks the woman, half-sitting up with the blankets now pulled around her chest.

“To the 24 hours store down the road! To get a pregnancy test!” Tobin calls out, already speeding through the dark house with her Nike slides on. Christen laughs for the first time in disbelief at the woman’s excitement as she hears the front door shut and lock.

Twenty minutes later and they’re waiting in the bathroom, pregnancy test resting on the counter as they both stare at it. Tobin is squatted down by the counter, head resting close to the stick with her crossed arms on top of the counter top, and Christen wants to tell her to not stand so close to a stick that has her pee on it- but she figures the point is moot, considering what has gotten them into this position in the first place.

Five minutes spent like this is excruciating. She fidgets with everything she can from her place at the side of the tub, leg bouncing wildly, and lip bitten so hard she’s sure to leave an indention in her flesh. She wants to hold the concentrating woman, wants to be close to her, but everything is too tense for either of them to move. When she sees the timer on Tobin’s phone winding down, she stands and makes her way to Tobin’s side, hand moving to rest at the center of Tobin’s shoulder blades as she grabs the test between her fingers.

Tobin’s eyes go wide as Christen picks up the stick and shows her the results as it is slowly starting to appear on the screen.

Pregnant

Tobin’s knees hit the floor out of her squatting position and her head bows. Emotions overcome the excitement inside of her chest as heavy sobs wrack her frame. Christen takes her head into her hands, pulling the crying woman’s head into her stomach as Tobin’s arms come to hold tightly around her hips. Tobin cries and hiccups and cries some more, she cries so hard that Christen is worried for a second that something is actually wrong, until Tobin lifts her head up to let their eyes meet.

“Oh my God,” Tobin sobs, exposing her bloodshot eyes and bright smile to Christen’s own smiling face. They laugh and cry together, standing alone in each other’s arms beneath the bathroom light on Christen’s cold tile floor. “We’re going to have another baby.”

The statement sends a sense of realization through Christen’s body, a realization that makes her pause as she runs her fingers through Tobin’s long wavy hair and chills coat her arms. She’d had nothing, absolutely nothing to worry about. This woman in front of her was meant for her, built for her, in love with her and committed to her very existence. Tobin practically waited on Christen hand and foot, worshipped the very ground she walked on, worshipped the woman like she was something that should be worshipped by everyone. Thinking that Tobin would be mad over a moment like this, Christen realizes, is her projecting of her own sense of value, a fear instilled deep inside of her still that something could make Tobin walk out. Which was the exact opposite of the deep commitment that was shown to her day in and day out.

She was insane, she realizes, to even think about being afraid, not when Tobin loved her like she did.

Tobin pulls at the bottom of her shirt, lifting it up only slightly so that she could press a few teary-eyed and soft kisses against the base of her stomach. Christen holds her head against her, green eyes glazed over with the utmost adoration and affection at the action.

“I love you so much.” She whispers, untangling the soft brown locks beneath her fingers.

Tobin smiles up at her lovingly, moving to stand. She wraps her strong arms around Christen’s frame in a tight hug, allowing Christen to bring her arms around those broad shoulders and press them together.

“I love you more, Chris.” Tobin says into her neck. She shakes her head, still in disbelief at it all, “I’m so happy. I don’t even know what to do with myself.”

Their lips meet again, with Tobin bringing a hand up to cup Christen’s face, other hand pressed against the back of her hip to hold the smaller framed woman against her, both of them sighing into the other as excitement courses through their veins.

“We’re having a baby.” Tobin states again with pleasant disbelief, removing her mouth from Christen who only nods and leans back in, eyes low and concentrated on continuing the kiss. Tobin wants to giggle at how news like this could turn Christen on, realizing that the girl had been turned on at the slightest thing lately (and considering that it could be because of her new pregnancy hormones), but she doesn’t have much time to think, choosing instead to pull backwards before it could get too heated.

“We have to leave for the airport in like, thirty minutes.”

“Hmm,” Christen groans, “Okay, but you’re in trouble later.”

They both allow themselves a moment of slow kissing beneath the bathroom light, and Tobin makes sure to lift Christen in her arms to spin the younger woman around after they part, wanting to cry all day long at how happy she is for the pregnancy.

“Can we make an appointment with a doctor in Portland, so I can get a check-up while we’re in town? I guess I need to find someone that will take over from my doctor here, in case we really love the area.”

Tobin smiles at Christen’s thoughtfulness and planning ahead. “Of-course you can. Do you want to look up reviews of different offices while we’re on the way to the airport? We can sit in the back seat of dads truck and pick someone.”

“Yeah, for sure.” Christen smiles, kissing Tobin once more, before her eyes grow wide again and cause her to pull back from Tobin’s grasp. “When are we telling our parents?”

They’d decided to wait until their second or third check up with the OB/GYN before telling anyone, deciding also to not investigate Portland doctors until they were actually inside of the airport, to keep Tobin’s dad from investigating them. Christen wanted to make sure that the pregnancy was healthy and safe before letting anyone know, even their parents. This also gave them time to prepare over how they were going to tell their son. Tobin, whilst double checking that all of their bags are packed and under the weight limit, cannot for the life of her keep a smile off her face. Before leaving the bathroom, she’d made sure to kiss every last inch of Christen’s tummy, rubbing light circles over her hips with her thumbs and praying out loud with everything in her that they stay safe, that she have the strength to keep them safe and happy.

So she’s smiling like an idiot now. Actually- both of them are, and Tobin wants to laugh every time she spots Christen walking around the house, thinking of the little human that’s beginning to grow inside of her.

“Tobin!” Christen hollers from the closet, where she’s tugging on one of Tobin’s old sweaters that she’d found in her overnight bag, the one that had that sports team on it. “Did you pack my beanie that I said I was going to wear?” She yells again, rolling her eyes when she gets no response.

Tobin walks through the bedroom and into the closet, fully dressed with her toothbrush that she was about to pack in their toiletry bag dangling out of her mouth, Christen’s beloved beanie loosely strewn over her wet hair.

“Hey, that’s my sweater-“

“My beanie!” Christen reaches for it, almost getting a hand around it, but Tobin snatches back before she can take it. Tobin laughs, grabbing the toothbrush out of her mouth and wiggling it at Christen playfully, causing the raven-haired woman to roll her eyes.

“Back off, lady.” The toothbrush is waved in sword-like motions.

“Tobin, give me my beanie.”

“Nope.”

Christen folds her arms, mildly entertained at this enigma of a human. They lock eyes in a challenge for a second or two, before Tobin bites her lip and takes off running outside of the closet, with Christen trailing hot on her heels, laughing and as happy as can be.

 

 

 

The plane soars through the air, settling in at a comfortable cruising speed once they reach 10,000 feet. Christen tucks into her seat beside Tobin in first class, sleepy from the Dramamine pills she’d had to take to calm her nerves over flying, and Tobin can’t take her head off of how many people regularly fly like this- given how expensive the seats were. She imagines the kids she could feed for the thousands of dollars her father paid to have her and Christen flying comfortably for a little over five hours. She supposes that’s the larger difference between her and her father, and one of the biggest problems she’d had as a teenager.

The money was awesome to have. She was blessed by her parent’s ambition, and she and her sisters were given opportunities that many other kids didn’t have because of her father’s tendency to work 12 to 16 hours a day. She was thankful, she’d always been thankful, but most of the time she had just wanted her father to be around, to kick a ball with her or something. Their house was huge, but it was empty oftentimes, and Tobin never could see much of the point in that.

Tobin knows that she will run this business different than her father. She’d discussed her salary with Christen once before, but she’d not really even planned on keeping that much, just enough to open a savings account for their children’s graduation fund and another account to make sure all of their needs were taken care of plus a little extra. The rest, she wanted to donate, sponsor the communities, help some of the poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the new city and back home. Her father donated, sure, and he was a good man to the core, but she wanted to do more than he did. She wanted to pay the employees more than livable wages, wanted to do it right and unselfishly, and maybe sometimes that would include first class flights- especially if she had to worry for Christen’s comfort, also. She knew that she wouldn’t be in this section, though, if Christen wasn’t with her. She’d be in coach, possibly business, but not here.

She thumbs the material of the blanket settling over her legs, giving a quick peck to the crown of Christen’s head, before turning to look out the window and watch the cotton-like clouds spread out across the space below, day-dreaming of her future.

 

Pleasure shoots through her legs and fingertips, causing Tobin’s eyes to roll back for a split second and her hands to clench before she blinks the sleep from her eyes, fully waking up.

The room is dim, Tobin blinks a few times, disoriented, noticing that someone shut the black-out curtains to the large window in their nice hotel room. The morning light barely reaches from the sides of the curtains, but it’s just enough to let her see the shapes of the furniture and the ceiling above her head, despite not having her contacts in.

The pleasure returns in the form of warm lips wrapped around the head of her- now noticeably- very hard and very swollen cock.

Tobin’s head shoots back against the pillow with a hiss, her left hand flying beneath the covers to wrap over Christen’s untamed curls. She hisses again as the mouth slowly descends, still barely awake, but just enough to know that she should probably stay awake to enjoy this.

She withdraws her hand, fumbling around the glass bedside table for her glasses, before putting them on and running a hand through her hair. She removes the covers off of Christen’s head, exposing the woman to the dimly lit room, and pushing the covers back just in time to see Christen take her in fully. The sight alone makes her eyes roll and her mouth water, but not because of stereotypical reasons- it’s Christen’s eyes. The way they stay trained with laser-sharp focus on her face, watching the pleasure she’s given spread across her features, the way the green seems to look a little more grey- that causes her to nearly cum. Tobin’s boxers are pulled down just below her ass, and she can’t remember being woken up in such a way before.

Christen pulls back, just enough to still have her in her mouth, but she makes no more motions. Tobin’s nostrils flare at the feeling of Christen’s tongue beneath the base of her head, begging the girl to keep going, but Christen only looks at her defiantly, eyeing Tobin’s hands that are gripping the sheets until her knuckles are white.

“Fuck, please. Chris-“ She groans, pleading with the girl to keep going, and it’s so excruciatingly frustrating that she has to lean up to keep her hips from thrusting upwards. Christen’s hand detaches itself from her left thigh, reaching for Tobin’s left hand, and she moves Tobin’s hand until it’s resting back in her hair.

Tobin gets the hint quickly, and the insinuation of what Christen’s asking for makes her drop her head back and shift her weight by balancing on her right arm behind her torso, her left hand tangling itself in Christen’s hair. They’d never done this before. Tobin never, ever, takes control when Christen goes down on her. Ever. It was a hard rule she had, mostly based from the inability to understand how doing this could be enjoyable for anyone. I mean, personally it felt good, but it was oral sex- it was going to feel good for anyone. She just couldn’t imagine it being enjoyable for the person who isn’t on the receiving end.

Tobin was never dysphoric about her dick, and it never made her feel like less of a woman. She naturally had the chromosomes of both a male and female, and in a way, she believed that her two private areas represented that accurately, even if she was mentally a female. She never wished she had a vagina. She never wanted surgery. She never was insecure about it. She had more dysphoria over her tiny hips and muscular structure than she did over what was between her legs, but it didn’t mean that she didn’t think that dicks were nasty. She knew they were, at least she thought so, and it’s why she was a lesbian.

It’s why she flat out had refused Christen when the green-eyed girl had offered to go down on her when they were 17, and it’s precisely why she had never, not once, took control in any way when it did happen, and she definitely never asked for it. There were other ways she could be pleasured, like from going down on Christen, for example. That gave her pleasure.

Still, though, despite all that she thought, despite all that she believed, she was unable to deny that this truly was the second best feeling she was able to experience during sex thus far, second only to actually being inside of Christen, and it was showing.

Tobin’s hips were trembling as she guided Christen’s mouth further down, her hip flexors contracting in acute pleasure when she felt Christen’s throat at the tip of her head, and she instantly pulled the woman’s head back, embarrassed and shy from guiding her down that far.

“Shh, it’s okay.” Christen whispered, rubbing her hand over Tobin’s side and hip, smiling up at her with encouragement. Both of their faces were red, and Tobin’s eyes were blown. “I want to do that for you, is that okay?”

“O- only.. only if you want to.” She mumbles, biting the inside of her cheek when Christen nods with a patient smile, reassuring her, before looking up to Tobin’s hand that was still in her hair.

Tobin swallowed audibly, taking the hint, before lowering Christen’s head again. Christen relaxed her throat, wanting Tobin to fully experience the pleasure that she was dying to give her this morning before their big day in Portland, and she could have almost came from watching Tobin’s abdomen muscles contract along with her face as she lowered herself until her nose was brushing the fully shaven skin of her groin. Tobin was so clean, so well groomed, and she swore she always smelled some kind of nicely-scented body oil when she was anywhere near Tobin’s privates. It was pleasant, ten times more pleasant than her ex-husband, and Christen would almost go as far to say that ever since that day on the tree farm- she’d been wanting to experience it again.

Tobin gripped Christen’s hair tighter, gripping the sheets into her right hand that she was leaning on, and tightening her glutes to keep herself from thrusting her hips as Christen kept up the slow pace. It was torturous, and exquisite, and she couldn’t wait to return the favor as much as Christen would let her before they left the bed this morning.

Christen had to will her gag reflex away, knowing without a doubt that if she gagged, Tobin was likely going to put a full stop to receiving head out of sheer embarrassment. So instead, she focused on paying attention to the cues that Tobin would give her. She noticed that Tobin preferred eye contact, a slower pace, and for the attention to either be focused on fully taking all of her length or solely staying around her head. Christen stuck her tongue out, repeating a trick she had seen (from the years of watching porn on the rare occasion that she couldn’t get release by herself) and lets her tongue slide along the underside while Tobin slowly pushes her head down. The soldier nearly looses it, throwing her head back with a loud hiss and moving her hips backwards, to get Christen’s head moving upwards and downwards at a slightly faster pace.

Fuck. Fuck, Chris. I-” Tobin states, and Christen feels her throb beneath her lips, watches as Tobin’s eyebrows lower and her hips get off pace, pulling her bottom and top lips between her teeth.

Tobin’s hand tries to pull Christen’s head off of her, likely holding off from releasing until she could release on her own stomach instead of in Christen’s mouth, but the younger girl is having none of it. She quickly grabs Tobin’s wrist to move it out of the way before sinking her mouth back down, causing Tobin hips to jerk forwards with a groan once, twice, nearly a third full time before the soldier is exploding. Her head is thrown back, veins and tendons popping out of her neck and forearms, abdomen wildly contracting as her stomach trembles, and Christen thinks it’s one of her favorite things to see- how she can make this woman come so undone.

The taste is not necessarily sugar and honey, but it’s by far not the most unpleasant thing she’s ever tasted, and Tobin is looking at her like she’s grown a third limb by the time she’s pulled back and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

“Good morning,” She quietly says, curling the words around her tongue, smiling softly and shyly after doing such a thing as she crawls up Tobin’s naked body, sealing the boxers back up around Tobin’s hips, but not before noticing that she wasn’t getting soft.

The soldier just stares at her, mouth slightly agape, and Christen almost has half the mind to make sure she was okay, but she doesn’t get much of a chance to.

Tobin has her flipped onto her back within seconds, making Christen squeal in laughter, and she pulls the woman by the ankles to the edge of the bed, where she makes a show of spreading Christen’s legs slowly, exposing her dripping center to the cool air of the hotel room, being barely covered by the white lace of her undies. Tobin moves off of the bed, hands still wrapped around Christen’s spread ankles, and she lifts the olive-toned legs one by one to place an open-mouthed kiss along the expanse of smooth skin.

Tobin’s mouth waters.

She makes a show of dropping to her knees in front of the woman, maintaining eye contact, before she gives a full French kiss over the lace fabric on top of Christen’s center. She can taste and see her wetness, the way it coats her small labia, and all Tobin can do is pull the lace cotton to the side with her left index finger, using her thumbs to spread Christen fully, before dragging her tongue from the base of her to the top of her, completely side-stepping her clit on the way up. Christen curses, throwing her head back, disappointed that she hadn’t gotten the special treatment right off the bat, but Tobin doesn’t let it linger for long.

Her next lick, she solely focuses on the little swollen bud, and it takes less than ten seconds before Christen’s legs are violently trembling and her thoracic spine arches deeply off of the bed.  

“Fuck!” Christen shouts, and Tobin lets her ride it out on her face, but she barely lets her recover. As soon as her body quits jerking, Tobin wipes her mouth and roughly flips her onto her stomach, leaning up to unsnap Christen’s bra with her left hand.

She grabs at Christen’s hips, pulling her ass into the air and standing behind her, but only after a pillow is placed beneath the green-eyed girls stomach. Her hands massage at her ass, trailing up her sides, until Tobin reaches around her with her right hand and grabs a handful of Christen’s breasts, using her strength to tug the girl up until Christen’s back is arched against her chest, and her ass is pressing into Tobin’s still swollen crotch.

Tobin was confident here, not concerned with being embarrassed over taking control, and something tells her that’s what Christen was looking for this morning after waking up. She kisses Christen’s neck, reveling in the way the woman lightly moans and pushed her hips back into her, causing her to grind herself into the firm backside.

“Pull your underwear to your knees,” Tobin whispers into her ear, using her own left hand to tug her boxers down once more, feeling herself spring against her stomach with a smack. She grinds them together for a moment, before a particularly beautiful groan escapes Christen’s mouth, and Tobin decides that she really wants to hear that again but louder.

“May I?” She asks, looking for the verbal consent, and when it’s given, she holds Christen’s to her chest before reaching down, lining up, and sliding into her walls.

Christen hisses, and rocks her hips back and forth, meeting Tobin’s quick thrusts with her own sense of power. Tobin fucks into her, toes curled against the carpet of the hotel floor, and she’s slowing down again to push Christen down stomach-first to the bed, allowing her to wrap her hands around those slim hips and set the pace herself.

Fuck, baby.” She hears from the raven-haired woman, who has her head pressed into the comforter as her hands claw at the white cotton. Thumbs part Christens ass cheeks, allowing Tobin to hiss at the sight of herself as she slips in an out of wet, pink lips. It nearly makes her cum, especially when Christen decides to meet her thrusts halfway by rocking backwards, but she manages to stay put and steady.

Tobin’s thrusts are steady and firm while they work themselves up from this position, until she decides to put Christen on her back, to which she does just that, allowing the new angle to give them the ability to look at each other’s face, knowing that she doesn’t want to cum unless she can kiss the younger woman.

This slows things down, naturally, but neither of them mind. Tobin holds Christen’s hands above her head as her hips roll and press against the back side of Christen’s thighs, and they sweetly share a kiss or two between the motions.

“I love you.” Tobin mumbles into the skin of Christen’s neck, letting go of her wrists and allowing the woman to wrap her arms across her shoulders and neck. She speeds up, now, hearing the sounds of their skin slapping together below. Christen can hardly breathe, let alone speak, and her eyes look up at Tobin as if begging her to go faster. “Please.” She groans, begging.

The soldier obliges, happy to please her girl, and it’s less than two minutes later that Christen’s legs are tightening quickly and she’s crying out into Tobin’s ear, nails pulling at the skin of her shoulders. Tobin’s hips slam down from the feeling of Christen growing so tight and contracting, and it leaves her to simple hip rolls as her own cup of explosive pleasure runs over with a hiss and a moan.

They lay there for a minute or two, sweaty within one another’s arms, and Christen is almost back asleep from being worn out before she feels the smiling kisses being placed along her collar bone and neck. She meets Tobin’s eyes, her mouth parting when she sees how beautiful and transparent the brown inside of them is, how she forgets sometimes how perfect and gaunt the woman is, how white Tobin’s teeth are as she smiles down at her, looking like she’s just been mischievous by fucking her sore and rough before 8 a.m.

“Good morning to you too.”

Tobin holds the smaller woman to her chest, overcome with emotions, kissing her neck and loving the small giggles the kisses produce from those lips. She goes to pull out extremely slowly so not to hurt the girl, wincing from the way Christen hisses slightly as her head is backed out of the warm wetness.

“God,” Christen groans, watching Tobin tuck herself back into her boxers. “So um, pregnancy makes me horny. I don’t think it ever goes away, not even when I’m close to my due date.”

Tobin smirks, nodding, giving the woman a quick peck as she lowers herself over Christen’s body until her head is resting on her flat stomach. “You will never see me complain, my love. It makes you more wet, also, if that’s normal. Definitely noticed that one today.” Tobin remarks, gathering from her earlier observations, and how wet Christen had been for a couple of weeks now.

“Yeah, that will happen too.”

She feels long and nimble fingers thread through her hair, pulling out the tangles and knots of morning sex hair, and Tobin takes the quiet time to press a few kisses to the skin around Christen’s navel, softly rubbing the skin of her cheek against the soft skin of her tummy as she nuzzles the raven-haired woman.

 “Good morning to you as well,” She whispers against Christen’s stomach, “I have no clue who you are yet, you’re probably like- the size of a fucking peanut, but I hope you know that you are loved already.”

Peanut. The word repeats itself in her mind. Tobin smiles, “Yeah, peanut, that’s your nickname.” She whispers to Christen’s flesh.

Christen’s abdomen contracts like she’s laughing, and Tobin goes to look up at her in a fit of her own laughter, but she’s immediately shocked to find the woman crying, eyes locked on Tobin’s face, as she wipes her cheekbones with the pads of her hands. Tobin jolts up, moving to pull Christen’s crying and shaking frame into her chest, and she coos as she shushes her.

“I’m sorry.” She whispers against Tobins naked chest, kissing the skin there, only a few more tears getting the opportunity to fall down her cheeks, quickly swept up by Tobin’s thumb that runs across her skin. Tobin had maneuvered onto her back now, holding Christen tightly to the side of her frame. “That’s going to be sorta difficult.”

Tobin cocks an eyebrow, “What is?”

“You being here for this pregnancy, seeing you be excited about it.”

It registers to Tobin what the younger girl was talking about, and she can see how that would be hard, having one pregnancy that was weighted down with the emotions of fear and anguish, versus this pregnancy that will be full of celebration and happiness- completeness.

“That’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life, I think.” Tobin mutters into Christen’s hair.

“No, I didn’t mean to-“

Tobin shakes her head, “No, I know you didn’t. But still, Chris- I would have loved to have witnessed that, you being pregnant, watching Donovan grow inside of you, all of it. I don’t think I’ll ever fully forgive myself.”

Christen winces, leaning up to lean over Tobin as the sheets rustle beneath them. “You’re already forgiven. There’s nothing to forgive. I don’t want you thinking that you can’t celebrate this baby or do sweet things like that just because you weren’t here for Donovan. It’s probably always going to make me cry, I can’t help but compare the two experiences, but that’s not to say that I am upset in any way over it. And I love the nickname “peanut”.

They stare at one another beneath the morning light, green gray eyes meeting brown, and at first- it’s a hurricane, a raging storm of both questions and emotions that swirl around in the two women’s eyes, but then it calms. It calms into understanding, and patient apprehension.

“Okay.” Tobin whispers, making Christen smile. The raven-haired girl swings her leg over Tobin’s clothed waist, hoisting herself up to straddle the tanned woman. Her hands rub along the muscles of her hard abdomen, trailing up her sides and two her breasts, and they keep the serious eye contact with one another as Christen squeezes lightly, feeling the small weight in her palms, as Tobin’s nipples harden against her skin.

Christen’s entirely naked, and she uses that to her benefit, rolling her hips down onto the soft length beneath Tobin’s boxers.

“Really?” Tobin smirks, resting her hands behind her head, “After all that, you want more?”

The cocky remark causes Christen to pause, eyeing the brunette carefully, with her own smirk plastering itself upon her face. She scoffs, trailing her hand up to Tobin’s mouth, where she traces those full lips with her thumb before pressing them open.

Tobin’s tongue touches the pad of her finger, then she takes it fully into her mouth, sucking hard on the digit, which only makes Christen smirk more. She feels Tobin harden under her, feels her length expanding from between her legs, growing in both length and firmness against the cotton of her boxers.

Christen smiles now, sliding her thumb along Tobin’s slippery tongue, and she takes the opportunity of Tobin’s confident silence to make sure that the woman stays quiet, to make sure that the woman is reminded of who belongs to who. She leans over, grasping Tobin’s wrists in her hands, before pushing them together against the headboard as her mouth reached Tobin’s ear.

“Don’t act like you wouldn’t cancel all of our appointments to stay here and let me drain you all day long, if I told you to.”

Tobin’s eyes close.

“Grip the headboard.” Christen orders. “Keep your hands there. If you move them, I stop.”

She reaches beneath her legs with her left hand to cup Tobin over her boxers, feeling that she was fully ready now and swollen to the touch. Christen feels herself get exponentially slicker, making her own eyes darken.

“I’m so fucking wet for you.” She smiles at the soldier, watching those eyes darken as Tobin bites her lip. “Would you like to feel it?”

The marine nods, and Christen can see the way her chest flushed a deep red along with her cheeks. It takes a little effort, but Christen manages to shrug Tobin’s boxers down her strong thighs, watching animatedly as the soldier kicks them off of her feet, leveling their playing ground. Tobin hissed as her cock was released from the waistline of her boxers, feeling herself slap against her belly button, and now she pleaded with her eyes for Christen to do something- anything at all.

The leg is swung back around, but Christen’s teasing has only just begun. She drags her nails across Tobin’s abs, leaning up just out of Tobin’s reach when she soldier tries to raise her hips and connect them, laughing when Tobin’s forearm muscles flex and tremble from gripping onto the low headboard.

“Shh,” Christen’s eyes gleam down at her, “Be patient, gorgeous. Can you do that? Maybe a taste to hold you over?”

Tobin’s eyes nearly roll back into her head, she feels herself twitch slightly off of her stomach. Suddenly, a finger is raised to her mouth again, and she opens her lips to receive the heavy, mouthwatering taste of Christen’s sex-coated index finger. It’s so dirty, so fucking hot, that she feels herself twitch again, groaning as her tongue swirls and her teeth nip below the knuckle.

Then the warm feeling of Christen’s pussy settles softly over the underside of her cock, and Tobin has to throw her head back with a groan. “Shit, Christen.”

“Is that good?”

“It’s so good.” Tobin moans, pushing her head up to look down at them connected, watching as Christen balances her hands on Tobin’s stomach so she can roll her hips, pressing her own clit against the underside of Tobin’s head. It’s excruciating, and so hot to watch that her breathing is labored.

“I love riding you.” The younger woman whispers, rolling her hips, thighs quivering each time her clit rolls against Tobin’s head. “Do you want me to put you inside?” She asks the solder, watching as nearly every muscle contracts and flexes on Tobin’s upper body, smiling at the harsh way the soldiers bottom lip is bitten between her teeth. Tobin nods furiously, and when Christen reaches down to line the woman up to her center, Tobin’s hands come off of the headboard as she feels Christen’s opening squeeze desperately her head.

Her hands are caught again in the other woman’s grasp, who pushes them back against the headboard, sinking down slowly around the pulsing length.

No no,” She chides, “I told you to keep them there.”

Tobin can only whimper and throw her head back, watching as she disappears inside of those wet and scalding hot walls.

“Fuck, you’re so deep baby. I don’t know if I can take it all.”

Christen knew she could, but damn did she love to tease. Tobin was definitely big, but she wasn’t ridiculously, unrealistically, or freakishly big. It was a stretch, it burned a little bit at first, and it for sure would hurt if Christen wasn’t prepared, but she had always been able to take it.

Tobin was dying inside, and it was from a mix of things. Christen’s fluttering contractions around her being the main reason, but also the dirty talk, the way the olive-toned woman’s lithe and fit little body was sealed on top of her, and the way she couldn’t- not for a second- take her eyes off of Christen’s green irises. It was killing her, and she prayed that she wouldn’t cum for an hour, wanting to stay in this feeling forever, despite knowing that it couldn’t happen. It’s hard to hold off from exploding when the most beautiful girl you’d ever seen was slowly grinding against you, and each motion that pressed Tobin deeper and deeper into Christen was getting her closer and closer to the end.

Upon her back and forth motions, Christen quickly rolls backwards and into a spot that makes her back arch, “Oh,” She whimpers, eyebrows meeting low on her forehead, hips speeding up slightly, Fuck, Tobin.

Tobin knows that Christen has found that spot Tobin always loves to exploit when she was in control, she curses at the feeling of Christen’s innermost rings contracting around her in a vice grip, but she couldn’t help herself- her hips raise up on their own accord to assist the younger girl in feeling that spot again.

“Oh my god.” Christen whimpers softly, rolling back into Tobin’s slamming hips, until the headboard began to creak.

Fearing the state of her fingers getting slammed against the wall, Tobin makes the executive decision to break Christen’s rule, letting go of the headboard so that she may instantly take purchase on beautiful, rocking hips. She holds Christen in a vice grip, bottom lip bitten and eyes drawn in concentration, so that she may begin thrusting upwards at a rough pace into the girl. Christen lets off a round of staggering moans, eyes locked with Tobin’s, and it’s a few more thrusts before Tobin feels Christen begin to squeeze her tighter than before.

Oh, if you keep- Fuck, you’re going to make me-“

Christen slams her hips down, wrapping her arms across Tobin’s shoulders in a death grip to hug the soldier tightly, and when she goes to lift back up to keep the motion going, Tobin feels liquid coat her lower abdomen quickly, coupled with the feeling of Christen exploding around her, pulling her inside, and the quivering, jerking moans being released at her ear.

I’m coming-“ Tobin barely has time to speak, before her own end is met, and it sends her rocking forward, “Fuck-“ She hisses through the explosion, feeling pulse after pulse of her release fill the other woman until they begin to taper off weakly. It’s truly no wonder that Christen was pregnant, Tobin thinks as their lungs gasp for air, holding one another tightly, they’d been fucking like this since the first night. When they weren’t fucking, they were making love, which was just as if not more powerful than this.

“I love you, Chris.” She whispers, holding the girls body to her as they both tremble in the sweaty aftershocks of a mind blowing orgasm. Her hands stroke through the long and wavy hair on Christen’s head, she presses a kiss to Christen’s temple for good measure. “Love you so fucking much.”

They lie there for a moment, breathing one another in, and Christen leans up to place a sweet and soft kiss to Tobin's bottom lip. It last for just a split second before her face jerks back quickly.

"What's wrong?" Tobin asks quizzically, looking over the woman to make sure she was visually fine. Christen leans up, pulling off of Tobin with a hiss as her eyes go wide, and before Tobin knows it- she's pulled herself off and has her hand around her mouth, swinging the bathroom door open to kneel before the toilet, as painful dry heaves leave her body, making Tobin wince in pain for the younger woman's morning sickness.

Tobin sighs, reaching down the bed for her boxers and shimmying them up her long legs, before standing up to stretch and move towards the bathroom after Christen.

"I'm coming, baby. Hold on."

Chapter Text

Christen’s phone vibrates in her pocket as she and Tobin push the door open to a breakfast diner they’d found on Google maps of downtown Portland. It was barely 10am, but the two had decided to get out and about to explore the city before meeting with Adrianna, her father’s employee from the home sight, who has been in Portland for three days now, exploring the city and getting a few locations checked out ahead of Tobin.

“Hey, dad’s facetiming me.” Christen nudges Tobin and pulls out her phone, showing Tobin the screen, “I’m sure it’s actually Donovan though.”

Tobin smiles and quickly scoots into the booth beside Christen, face lighting up with a smile as Christen swipes on the screen to answer the call. The screen is black at first, which causes both women to laugh in confusion.

“Don? Hello?” Christen asks, focusing intently on the black screen.

“Hey pull the camera back some, bud. So they can see you.” They hear Cody’s voice come through the speaker, Tobin checks around them to make sure they aren’t disturbing anyone in the diner, finding everyone around them being loud themselves and not paying attention to what the two girls were doing.

Suddenly, the camera is pulled away and refocuses, showing the two women a feed of Donovan’s smiling face and Cody leaning over his shoulder.

Mommy! I see you! And Tobin!” Donovan smiles, waving at the two girls animatedly. “Where are you guys? Tobin look!” He puts his face to the camera again, opening his mouth to where the women get a nice view of the inside of his mouth. Tobin watches in amusement as Donovan takes his tongue and wiggles his front tooth, and both her and Christen squeal in delight as they watch it move back and forth within his gum loosely.

“Your tooth! Wow, dude! Are you excited to lose it?” Tobin smiles at the camera, looking happily as Donovan’s smiling face nods and looks to his grandpa.

He told me this morning that it was lose. We just finished having lunch.” Cody says, and Christen nods as she watches her son continue to wiggle the lose tooth. “I told him the tooth fairy was going to be happy to see him.” Cody winks at the two girls from behind Donovan’s back.

“You ready for the tooth fairy, little man?” Christen asks her son gently, smiling brighter at the way his eyes get big as he nods.

How does she know where I live?” Donovan asks, and Tobin smiles at his natural curiosity, hoping that it never goes away.

“She just does bud. Just like how Santa Claus knows where you live.” Christen answers, watching as Donovan nods in response to her.

Where are you guys?” He wonders, still fiddling with his loose tooth.

“We’re in Portland, bud. Remember me telling you that we were going to Portland?”

Donovan nods, looking almost sad that they were so far away, so Tobin takes the opportunity to step in. “We’ll be home soon though, hopefully before the tooth fairy gets to visit you. Do you want us to bring you home a souvenir?” She asks him.

He nods his little head wildly, eyes bright, then, “What’s that?”  Which makes the two women bust out in laughter. It was typical Donovan, and typical Tobin, to agree on something without having a clue of what they were agreeing to.

“It’s a present. Like, we’ll bring you back a present from Portland.”

Donovan agrees to this, of course, never one to turn down a present. The three of them continue to talk for the next few minutes, with Tobin breaking from the conversation to order their drinks and food with the nice waitress that’s serving them. They ask about Donovan’s school, and if he’s being good for Cody (which he is), and if he’s excited for them to be home (which he also is). Christen’s near tears by the time they hang up, missing the boy wildly and not used to being so far away from him, and despite Tobin teasing her that it’s only day number two out of six, she knows that Tobin misses him too- she can see it, in the way Tobin gleams at the little boys face through the screen with her bottom lip barely bitten, still looking at him like he’s the center of her universe because he is.

They hang up finally, both parents blowing out a puff of hot air at having to say goodbye, though they’re quickly distracted as their food is placed in front of them. Tobin slides her things over to the other end of the booth, wanting to give Christen her space to eat and not be that couple, which causes Christen to giggle and wink at her.

“So how do you like it so far?” Tobin asks her, mouth closing down around a bite of mixed fruit. The windows to the restaurant were floor to ceiling, allowing Tobin to take in the beautiful view of the downtown harbor and the many bridges crossing it at Portland was almost famous for. The clouds were moving quickly through the overcast sky, though it hadn’t rained once since they arrived. Yesterday had been partly cloudy, and Christen had commented when they took their Lyft to the hotel how beautiful the fall colors looked reflected off of the sunlight. They’d spent the entire afternoon getting their weekly itinerary planned out, ordering room service, and lounging around in the posh hotel room with promises to explore tomorrow. They’d been asleep by 9pm, the jet lag having gotten the best of them.

Christen nods around her breakfast omelet, swallowing the food down with a sip of black decaf coffee. “I don’t mind it, actually. It’s beautiful out here.”

Tobin smiles, nodding wistfully, “It’s chilly.”

Christen agrees, “Again- I don’t mind it though, I’m tired of it being in the 90’s in September. I’m just surprised it hasn’t rained yet.”

“They said on my weather app that it could start this evening, but it’s just scattered showers, I don’t think we’re going to get acquainted with Portland’s torrential downpours on this trip, it seems like the whole week will be overcast.”

Christen nods, sipping more of her coffee. “Are you nervous?” She asks the soldier, knowing that their small talk could only last so long before they get into the bigger questions. “Does it make you nervous that this could be our new home?”

Tobin smiles in the corner of her mouth, unable to get anything past Christen’s watchful intuition. “Does it make you nervous?” She counters, picking up her mug.

“Nope, no deflecting.” Christen smirks, “I asked you first.”

Tobin looks to Christen’s green eyes, how dark and stormy they appear beneath the grey light from the clouds shining in through the window, before she looks back outside again to the harbor. “No, actually. Yes and no. I mean- I guess it freaks me out a little, the job. I’m mostly worried I won’t know what I’m doing, or that dad will forget to train me in everything. But moving? I’m excited for that. I’m excited to have the four of us together.”

It takes Christen a minute to register who the four of them were, but when she does, green eyes shyly look down at the table as she smiles from Tobin’s sweet words. “I’m excited for that, too.” She whispers, meeting Tobin’s gaze as she feels the Marine taking her hands into her strong grasp.

“I love you, Chris.” Tobin whispers, fully honest, eyes focused on Christen’s own.

It’s so soft the way she says it, so honest, so out in the open, that Christen’s cheeks burn a deep blush, though she has no other choice but to say it back.

The lull in the conversation is natural and not awkward, as they finish up the rest of their food and sit quietly with their coffee, both of their minds running on different narratives of how things have played out, how this week and the rest of their lives are going to play out, how in just a short time- Christen will be going to court again. Christen gets an odd thought in her head, one that she knows she has to get rid of before it eats at her, so she coughs softly to get Tobin’s attention.

“Do you think people are going to tell us that we should have been more careful?” She asks, rubbing at the skin on Tobin’s thumb.

Tobin cocks an eyebrow, “About the pregnancy? Why do you ask that?”

Christen pauses, gathering her thoughts, “I don’t know. I just sometimes think that our friends are going to secretly think that we took this too fast, that we should have been more careful.”

The soldier smirks, “What, like using condoms?”

The word and the smirk causes Christen to blush, which only makes Tobin smirk more.

“Well, yeah. I guess.”

Tobin sighs and smiles as Christen keeps her gaze on their interlocked fingers, endlessly perplexed by Christen’s inquisitive mind and how worried she becomes over the slightest things. It was anxiety, she knew how Christen was and could get, but it was admirable, and something that amused Tobin to no end.

“Do you think we should have been careful?”

Christen’s eyebrows drop in concentration. “I’m happy where we are.” She smiles. “I do plan on starting birth control after this baby, but I can’t say I would change anything.”

“Me either.” Tobin whispers, still smirking. She looks around before leaning over the small table and into Christen’s space, whispering, “Plus, condoms are gross.”

This forces Christen’s head back in laughter, and Tobin can only beam at the younger woman as her shoulders shake up and down with every giggle. She was beautiful. Tobin’s heart catches a beat as she bites her lip harder, eyes nearly wet at the consuming feeling of admiration and love she had inside of her.

When the laughter dies out, and Christen has merely dropped the giggling to a soft smile, she pulls two crisp twenty dollar bills from her wallet and places them beneath the cold coffee mug, reaching for Tobin’s hand.

“Come on,” She winks, watching as Tobin stands and shrugs Christen’s jean jacket on, the one with the Sherpa collar. “I want to take you somewhere.”

 

The two end up at the Ace Hotel, a place that Christen had found while planning their itinerary as she sourced the internet for fun things to do. She leads Tobin through the beautiful hotel doors and into the lobby, quickly finding the old brown and wooden stairs that she’d read about, that leads them to a cut off section that overlooks the hotel lobby. A large wooden table is in the middle of the room, empty squares of scrap paper and complimentary pencils rest on the top of the table, and the table itself is  surrounded by old brown writing cabinets along the walls.

“Look,” Christen nudges Tobin, who’s looking around curiously with one hand around a to-go coffee cup, likely wondering what the hell they were doing in a different hotel.

Christen opens one of the drawers, exposing sheets upon sheets of small and disoriented square scrap papers, each of them decorated in different handwriting. “So people come here throughout the years and write letters on these sheets of paper and then they stick them back in the drawers. They write love letters, confessions, all kinds of things.”

Tobin softly grabs at a small stack from a different drawer in front of her, thumbing through the scrap paper and reading the cursive and print messages on them.

“Holy shit.” She whispers, eyes fixated as she turns from one letter to the next. “This is so neat. You read about this online?”

Christen nods, reading one letter herself, smiling at the confession from the writer to their friend at how the writer had been crushing on him since they were teenagers. Most of the letters are love letters, a few of them more scandalous, a few of them simple happy messages.

“Can we write our own?” Tobin asks, putting her small stack back in the drawer. Christen nods and does the same, leading the soldier over to where the table is.

They each grab a scrap sheet of paper, both sheets inscribed with ornamental “The Ace Hotel”  writing as a letter head, and they begin writing. Tobin studies Christen while they both think about what to write, and she’s fully enthralled with the raven-haired woman’s beauty, watching as Christen’s pencil taps against her lower lip. The idea of what Tobin wants to write comes to her, so she takes the pencil into her left hand before dipping her head and getting to work. Christen writes a short and sweet message, smiling the entire time, and she deposits her letter into a cabinet drawer while Tobin is finishing her own.

“Alright, done.” Tobin smiles.

“Ready to go on our next adventure?” Christen asks her, grabbing her bag and Tobin’s coffee, waiting on the soldier to deposit her own letter into the cabinet so they can return back down the steps to the lobby.

“Yep, ready.” Tobin huffs, closing the drawer to the cabinet, watching to make sure that Christen doesn’t notice the folded piece of paper being slipped into her jean pocket.

 

The week turns out eventful. Somehow, by the grace of God, the rain held off until their trip was almost up, giving them only about a day and a half to experience Portland’s rain. Despite it being overcast for the majority of the week, Christen was still sure that the mountains and views were some of the prettiest things she’d ever seen, from the evergreens that surrounded the city, to the harbor and shipping docks, to the eclectic energy surrounding the residents of Portland. Outer Portland was just as beautiful as well, and it seemed to her that the further away from the city and into the mountains you traveled, the better the views were.

Tuesday evening, after breakfast, their Ace hotel adventures, and a new car rental, they enjoyed a lovely seafood dinner at a port restaurant where they met up with Adrianna, the new site lead for what will become the Portland site, who insisted they call her AD. She was such great company, and had Christen and Tobin laughing together for the entirety of the meal. AD was in a hotel not far from theirs, and she’d been thoroughly enjoying the city so far, which was good news to Tobin- knowing they had to go check out office spaces and the land her father was planning to purchase on Wednesday. If Tobin and AD approved, they would spend all day Thursday in negotiations with her father on video chat. If her father approved, the deal would be signed within two weeks- once their lawyers talked it through.

So, after dinner on Tuesday and a final itinerary plan, the group parted ways en-route to their respective hotels, nervous and excited for the events that planned to unfold for the rest of this week. Tobin was deep in thought, considering how she felt, imagining the future, worried that nothing would work out yet at the same time- feeling like nothing was real. It was hard for her to imagine that things were capable of taking such a turn in the way that they did. Life rarely worked out in such a way for her. It was always deliberate, her decisions and life events, usually things that she had planned, and it was always steady, easy, boring.

She reflects on how different things can become, and how different things have become, deciding that the turbulence was worth it- especially now, as she rides the elevator up to their hotel floor, watching as Christen notably gives her space to think, knowing that Tobin would come to her if she needed anything.

She realizes then, as they step into the hallway, watching Christen’s fingers curl around their key card to open the door to their room, that she did need something. Something that she would always need, most likely.

Tobin was happy, despite the shakiness of their lives and the decisions not yet made, and even still- she knew that the world could come crashing down around them and it would change nothing about what she wanted, who she needed. She knew that regardless of their lives, she would still quietly remove Christen’s purse from her shoulder, still softly press the woman up against the floor to ceiling window that shed such amazing downtown Portland city views into their hotel room. She’d knew that she would still drop to her knees with a mischievous smile, thumbs finding the button on Christen’s jeans and helping her step out of them, prepared to give the raven haired woman a proper thank you for keeping her stable, for being her rock when she needs it most, for knowing how to give her space and time to think.

And as Christen moans and clenches around her fingers, soaking her tongue, head thrown back against the window glass, knees so wobbly that Tobin bears her weight- Tobin knows that the sky could fall at any moment and she would be okay.

 

On Wednesday, the day starts too early. The 5:30 alarm goes off, jerking Christen’s head off of Tobin’s naked shoulder, and both of them groan in complaint at the blaring noise from Tobin’s phone.

“Tobin.” Christen nudges her leg with her toes, getting a meek groan in return. Christen reaches over the dead weight figure, noting that Tobin was sleeping on her stomach again (something Christen had been scolding her over for a few weeks now, not wanting the soldiers back to get sore), and she gives the woman a chance to wake up before nudging her again.

This time, it’s with light kisses to the soldier’s spine. “Tobs, wake up baby. We have to meet AD in two hours and we both have to shower and eat.”

After ten minutes, and an unusually groggy Tobin trying to brush her teeth and keep her eyes open simultaneously, they both stand under the shower head trying to fully wake up. Christen trails her hands up and down Tobin’s flanks, kissing the soft skin beneath the soldier’s jaw, giggling at the rarity of the Marine wanting to stay in bed for longer.

“You know it’s almost 9 am back home? What’s got you sleeping so long?”

Tobin goes to roll her eyes and give the girl a steely glare, but she pauses when she sees the smirk across the olive-toned girls face. Christen, still smirking throws her head back to rinse the soap suds from her neck and chest, toying with Tobin.

“Someone wear you out?” Christen asks, smirk growing wider on her face. Tobin scoffs, intrigued, feeding into the little game. She moves to touch the younger girl, eyes low and focused, but she barely is able to make it halfway before Christen side steps her to open the shower door, face as mischievous as ever. Tobin, wide awake now and fully attentive, drops her jaw at being played.

“I’m still kinda sore from last night, actually.” She bites her bottom lip, leaning in with that same smirk to kiss Tobin’s pouting bottom lip. “And we have to get ready. Glad to see you’re awake now, so maybe later?”

Tobin watches her wrap a towel around her body and step to the sink, her mouth and shower door still ajar.

They eat room service Belgian waffles after getting ready, grabbing coffee from the lobby coffee shop, before the rental is driven to their first place on today’s list. The beginning of the day goes by quickly, with both Tobin and AD approving of the second home office space. Christen takes pictures from every angle in each building, sending them to Tobin’s dad as she goes, allowing Tobin and AD to walk with the realtor and ask as many questions as they want. Lunch is grabbed at a local burger joint, which gives the group time to decompress and discuss the two buildings and which one is preferred.

After lunch, they all pile into the car and drive to the new land, which is about 45 minutes outside of the city. Tobin pays attention to the drive, ensuring it’s comfortable enough for her to not feel bothered having to drive out at least once a week, and AD confirms that it’s not going to bug her having to commute either.

The land here is massive, much larger than Tobin’s home farm, which immediately notifies her as to why her dad was sending two people out to manage it. They meet the landowner at the main gate, who immediately puts them on expensive golf carts for them to tour the grounds with. Christen, as dutifully as ever, still takes pictures for Jeff as Tobin asks questions.

“It’s a lot of land to clear.” AD mumbles from where she stands, soft Oregon ground beneath their shoes. They’re at the top of a hill, looking out across the rest of the land at the tall trees that will need to be cleared for the farm. The owner had pointed out the perimeters to them, and it seemed that the acres just kept going and going, as far as the eye could see.

“Yeah,” Tobin says back, putting her hand over her eyes to shield herself from the rare sunlight that was peaking through. “It’s gonna take a few months to clear, yeah?”

“I’m guessing that if not more. It looks good though, the soil is good.” AD mutters, stuffing her hands into her pockets and turning to talk to the landowner.

Tobin bends down to the soil after locating Christen, who’d smiled at her and winked. Her hands fist around the grass, tearing a tiny bit away to get to the Earth underneath. She grabs a clump of the Cascadia soil in her hands, letting it sift through her fingertips and drop back down to where it came from.

“Ready to go? There’s a few more places to show you before it gets dark.” The landowner asks them from the driver’s seat of the golf cart. Tobin brushes her hands off, wiping them onto her pants, before standing with a sigh.

Thursday, the couple barely saw each other. Tobin spent the majority of the morning on a call with Jeff back home, finalizing her thoughts and plans, before she had to take a drive over to the first home office building to meet with AD and her dad’s lawyers that had flown in. Once those discussions were finished, they would drive out to the new farm, where they would hop on a massive conference call to begin the buying process. It was a ride that Tobin was strapping in for, having never done anything of the sort before, and one that she knew Christen wasn’t interested in.

So, Christen did for herself what Christen had yet to do for a long time. First, Christen drove to look at the outside of the local elementary schools, and then Christen went shopping.

Not just any kind of shopping, no.

Lingerie shopping.

She’d seen the store as they’d walked by on their first day here, what had originally peaked her interest and been ignored, was now a full blown plan to do something for herself and for Tobin. The soldier was working so hard, having been on so many phone calls and having so many plans and numbers running through her head. Christen was good at reading her, picking up on the tension that Tobin would never talk or complain about, and she’d only been thinking of ways to get the woman to relax. It was walking by the store where she’d caught her first little glimpse of the black lace set on a mannequin, complete with a matching lace bralette and underwear, soft stockings that were held up from a lace garter belt, and she’d known then that she’d have a plan.

The dress fit around her exceptionally well. It was black, sleek and fitted perfectly to her figure, hitting an inch above the knees. She’d brought it on the occasion that they might go out for a nice dinner one evening, and they still eventually might- but she figured the occasion tonight was more than enough reason to grab it out of the hotel room closet. Beneath the dress sat the lace set, garter belt connected by the hooks to black stockings with lace trim, a lace matching bra that created a pleasing amount of cleavage, and to finish it off- a pair of sleek black pumps that her ex husband had given her for their 6-month anniversary.

Christen smiled slyly into the mirror as the last shoe went over her heel. They were red bottoms. Expensive. Something she rarely wore so to not mess them up.

She wished the asshole could somehow know the things she was about to do in these heels, the things she was about to get up to. She wanted to let him know how good she was being loved. How perfect she was treated. How Tobin just dotes on her every need and worships the ground she walks on. How Tobin respects her as a person- as a woman. Christen hopes within her heart that wherever he is tonight, while she’s got her legs towards the ceiling- hands gripping onto warm skin and soft satin sheets, she hopes wherever he is- that he feels lonely. That he feels an inch of the mile long pain he’s put her through.

Her hands move to her tummy as she watches herself in the mirror, natural curls tousled and cascading across her shoulder, holding the space beneath her navel, and she smiles a small smile again.

She facetimes her son as he’s being put to bed, wishing him a good night from the West Coast and apologizing that Tobin wasn’t back from her meeting yet. He makes her promise that Tobin will facetime them in the morning, and even though he doesn’t understand time difference yet- she sets an alarm on her phone to make sure that they’ll wake up at 3:30 just to facetime together before Donovan has to get on the school bus.

If  they will even be asleep at that point.

Their food arrives shortly after Christen is finished applying makeup, and she barely has enough time to set the table and turn down the hotel room track lighting before Tobin is walking through the door. The soldier is on the phone as she removes her shoes by the hotel door out of Christen’s viewpoint, but she can tell the conversation is about to finish up from the short and clipped responses the woman is giving.

As Tobin rounds the corner, voice growing louder with every step, Christen makes a show of bending down into the open freezer to grab the bottle of wine she ordered for Tobin, expecting it to be chilled by now. She notices that Tobin’s voice had stopped, which places a light and playful smirk on her lips, and she turns while rising up to find the soldier who stands with her mouth open, hand still holding the receiver to her face.

“Hey dad?” She mumbles, eyes trailing up from Christen’s feet onto her legs. “Gonna call you tomorrow, okay?” But she doesn’t even give the man a chance to respond, looking down momentarily to end the call.

Chris.” She nearly whispers as Christen unscrews the cork in the wine with a smile, pouring just one glass on the hotel counter, “You look… just.. fucking stunning.”

“Thank you. You don’t look too bad yourself, Sergeant.” She smiles warmly, taking in Tobin’s own professional appearance. The marine had dressed for her meetings in black pants that were sitting low on her waistline, black leather Chelsea boots, and a tucked in blue long sleeve button up. A dark gray cardigan was thrown over the dress top. Two of the buttons of the dark blue shirt were undone at her chest, the material of the shirt was tight enough to accentuate her wide shoulders and flat stomach, and she looked.. well, hot. Hot and professional, and fuckable. And Christen was ready for dinner to be over.

“I ordered some wine for you. I figured it would be nice to relax, I know you’ve been up and working since really early this morning.”

One glass was handed to the older woman, and Christen was glowing in the way that Tobin couldn’t stop taking her in and looking her over, bottom lip barely parted from the top one as her eyes glossed over Christen’s olive skin.

“And there’s food as well, from that cute Thai place across the block. We can have a nice dinner in tonight, I wanted to talk about your day and ease some stress off.”

Tobin nods, entranced, biting her lip and taking a sufficient gulp of the alcohol, feeling it sting its way into her tummy as Christen steps towards her.

“And if you’re lucky-“  She leans into the Marine, lips pressing the smallest amount to Tobin’s jaw once, then twice, then a third time near her ear as she whispers, “You can have dessert.”

Another kiss is placed onto the older woman’s lobe, and Tobin takes a minute to feel herself begin to ache from getting turned on before she smirks when the green-eyed girl pulls back. Tobin keeps the smirk on her mouth, eyes darkening exponentially, as she brings her hand around Christen’s waist and keeps her close, the other hand setting the glass of wine back down onto the counter.

“There’s a problem with that, though.” She mumbles back into Christen’s ear, head dipping to nip at the skin below Christen’s jaw, and she trails these sharp kisses with a soothing tongue across a collarbone that smells like heavenly perfume, intoxicating her- making Christen take in sharp breaths. “I’m not really in the mood for dinner first.”

Christen giggles at the sensation of Tobin’s lips along the base of her neck, trying her hardest not to squirm at the nipping teeth. Tobin’s smiling so wide against Christen’s skin that she has to bite down on her own lips enough to say, “What if I only want dessert?”

They don’t even eat.

The food is left cold on the table, ready to be stuffed into the hotel fridge and saved for a tomorrow’s lunch, Christen’s dress- the one she had just zipped up- is pulled down her shoulders and discarded in the kitchen with little care. Tobin carries Christen through the kitchen, through the living room with floor to ceiling windows, and into their temporary bedroom that had also came with floor to ceiling windows. They weren’t in a penthouse by any means- but the suite had been nice, and all inclusive, something to make them both comfortable in an unfamiliar location. And the view of the setting sun coating the bedroom in a soft orange glow is enough to make Christen’s chest swell with warm desire as she’s gently placed on top of the plush white comforter.

Tobin wraps strong hands across Christen’s breasts, tweaking each nipple between her thumbs over the lace, trailing her grasp across lace-covered hips as she hoists strong olive thighs around her waist, while Christen makes work on the buttons of her shirt. She quickly undoes them as they kiss, eyes tightening shut when Tobin bites down on her bottom lip before licking into her mouth. It’s hot, dirty, sloppy. Swelling their lips and turning them red, putting a faint flush along their cheeks, and the feeling of Christen trailing short nails down Tobin’s firm abdomen, along with the blazing look of desire beneath Christen’s deep green eyes, lets the older woman know that she was in for it. She takes a minute to stall after her dress shirt and cardigan end up on the floor, chest heaving at the vision of Christen beneath her, and it’s like she can’t find the words to describe how impossible it is to her that this bombshell of a woman could end up beneath her. Tobin considers that she may never understand.

God,” Christen groans, watching the way Tobin’s abdomen ripples with every breath. Her hands trail up tan arms, making her ache at the vision of the veins that pop out beneath the soldier’s skin above her wrists, making her ache at the grip that Tobin has around her waist. How tight it was, how Tobin didn’t even register the strength that the tips of her fingers carried. Christen laughs airily in disbelief, not realizing that the soldier had been drinking her in as well. “You’re so fucking hot.” She mumbles, wrapping her hands around Tobin’s cut bicep muscles. The Marine shook her head with a smile, leaning down to press an open-mouthed kiss to Christen’s jaw. Christen thought then that maybe things were going to slow down, maybe they were going to make love instead of the attentive roughness she had envisioned while pulling the lace over her skin earlier, but that thought soon vanishes as Tobin kisses her way to Christen’s ear.

Can you tell me something?” Tobin whispers, trailing her hands back up to palm the heavy flesh of Christen’s breast.

Christen nods, eyes closing harshly at the feeling, and she opens them to find Tobin looking at her intensely.

“Tell me its mine.”

Tobin’s jaw clenches as she says it, feeling possessive, fingers halting on Christen’s chest, eating her words at the blazing look that flashes across Christen’s eyes. Two hands wrap around her left wrist, drawing her hand up until Christen kisses the skin at the base of her palm, then the base of her fingers, and their eyes stay locked on one another’s as Christen tongue peaks out to run along her middle finger. She feels herself swell to the point of pain with a hitch in her breath as wet lips engulf her index and middle digits in a quick kiss, before enveloping around her first two fingers entirely. Christen breathes through her nose as her teeth scrape along Tobin’s knuckles, eyes closing once she’s seen the soldier’s head drop from the desire of the feeling. She takes the fingers from her mouth and kisses Tobin’s cheekbone, moving the hand that she’s holding down between the space separating their torsos, until she can press those two fingers up against her own center, cupping Tobin’s hand against the space between her legs. Her legs tremble around Tobin’s waist as her own fingers push Tobin’s longer ones against her clit, but she retains enough strength to bite out-

“Make it yours and I will.”

Tobin’s hips buck, pressing the swollen parts of her that are pressing against her pants against the back of Christen’s hand. Christen abandons the motion of pressing Tobin’s fingers against her, flipping her palm over to cup the swollen length. She might have not ever felt the older woman so hard before, so constricted against the material of her briefs. The corners of her mouth turns up at the feeling, and she tucks her nose against the soft skin beneath Tobin’s ear, squeezing her lightly as Tobin’s hips thrust into her palm.

Tobin moves her left hand off of Christen’s warm center, still held up above the younger woman by her right hand that’s pressed to the mattress above Christen’s shoulder. She undoes her belt quickly, not even pulling it through the belt loops, choosing to unbutton her pants and pull her zipper down instead. The pressure is immediately released, but she feels like she only swells more at not being constrained. She moves Christen’s hand inside of her briefs, eyes rolling at the warmth of Christen’s palm around her, eyes opening and focusing on those heavy green orbs that are watching the motion between their legs.

Christen moves her length outside of her underwear, lowering her waistband as she strokes along the underside of her head with her thumb.

“God, you’re throbbing already. I can feel it.” Christen whispers, eyes trained to the near seven and a half inches that she’s stroking. She turns back to Tobin’s face, inches away from her own, eyes downcast to watch.

“This reminds me of the first hand job I gave you, do you remember that? On the couch at your dads house upstairs, after your soccer game?” She asks the soldier, feeling Tobin’s hips cant upwards, sliding herself through Christen’s hand. Memories flash behind Tobin’s eyelids. It was the first time anyone had touched her apart from her own hand.

She had been on top of the younger girl after a few soft kisses turned hot. Tobin was in a pair of baggy sweatpants and boxers, allowing her enough freedom that the younger girl could feel nearly every inch as Tobin rolled her hips into her. Tobin’s parents had went to bed, allowing the two girls to stay upstairs and finish their movie before Tobin would drive Christen home.

“You were on top of me just like this, and I knew it was hurting you to be that hard.” She whispers into Tobin’s ear, moving her hand downwards to softly roll two soft orbs between her fingers. Tobin jerks at the feeling, getting frustrated at how slow Christen was moving, how terribly she loved to tease.

The soldier sighs into Christen’s neck, feeling butterfly kisses and teeth scrape along her jugular. She’s so close, so fucking frustratingly close, if she’d only move her hand a little bit faster, just a little more pressure, she’d-

“I wanted to get on my knees for you but you wouldn’t let me.”

That’s it. Tobin sighs again, gritting her teeth and tugging Christen’s hand off of her, ignoring the wicked smile that had painted across the young woman’s face.

“What are you trying to do?” Tobin bites out, and she knows it’s all a game, she knows it’s just the way Christen is feeling tonight, wanting to be dominated, and she’s more than willing to play.

Christen just scoffs from beneath her, mouth in a smirk and eyes lit in a playful argumentative way.

“Why are you working me up, hm?” Tobin cocks an eyebrow. “The lingerie, the teasing, what’re you aiming for, babe?”

She wants her to say it. She knows what the girl wants, but she wants her to say it.

Heavy breathing fills the space between them. Tobin rests above her, propped up by a hand with her pants below her ass. Christen thinks for a second, eyes moving from Tobin’s still hard length that’s barely peaking out of her waistband to the small nipples standing at attention on small breasts. Her mouth waters. She’s so unbelievably turned on. She’s so wet, she can feel the slickness uncomfortably sliding against the lace of her thong. In all honesty, she wants Tobin everywhere. Wants to be tossed around. Wants her hair pulled, her ass smacked, wants the soldier to lose control, exactly as she said.

Christen bites her lip, looking up at Tobin from heavy lashes, and whispers-

“What’s the roughest, dirtiest, thing you’ve ever thought about doing with me? Something you touch yourself and imagine doing-“

Tobin open her mouth to argue-

“Shh, don’t say you haven’t thought about it like that, when you have. You’re a human and you have needs, I can feel them.” Christen’s fingertips lightly trace the head of her cock, making it pulse and strain against her skin.

Tobin closes her mouth. Of-course there were things that she’d fantasized about, because Christen was right. She is a human. Warm-blooded. Driven by hormones. Driven by desire. A thousand images flash behind her eyes, lines she’d thought of crossing with the woman but never doing so.

“What ever you’re imagining, you can do to me. I want it. I can’t tell you how badly I want it.”

Tobin feels her control slipping, feels herself on the edge of any restraint she’d ever had.

“Get up.” She orders, tapping Christen’s thigh twice with two fingers. “Off the bed.”

Excitement spreads around in Christen’s tummy, settling low in her core as she moves with Tobin across the sheets and over the mattress, garter belt straps stretching across her thighs as she moves to stand. She’d hit a nerve, exactly as she was planning to, and nothing had ever felt better. Tobin’s chest heaves as she watches the girl, reminding herself that whatever they were about to do- Christen was okay with and was begging for. Tobin would classify herself thus far as the ultimate service top, willing to please and always gentle, always giving. It’s burning her alive to know that Christen was begging for her to take.

She strokes herself once, making sure she was hard enough, “Get on your knees, Christen.” She orders. Her mind blanks, considering that the younger girl might want a pillow for her knees, that the hard floor might be uncomfortable for her, but with Christen’s dark eyes watching her as she lowers herself to the ground beneath her- she can hardly begin to care. Tobin runs her fingers through dark waves at first, stroking Christen’s scalp in a sort of apology for the harsh grip she’s about to have, before gathering Christen’s hair off of her shoulders in a fist.

“Open your mouth.” Tobin orders.

Christen parts her lips slowly, hands resting in her lap, and Tobin watches with lowered eyes as she steps even closer to the girl, left hand wrapped around her length.

“Stick out your tongue.”

She does it, and Tobin brings her head to touch the pink muscle slowly. Christen swears she’s dripping by now as she feels Tobin press the underside of her head to her tongue. She slides further into her mouth, and back out again, hand letting go of herself for a split second before grabbing hold of it again and tapping her head against Christen’s tongue harshly.

Fuck, baby.” Tobin whispers, entranced. She does it again, considering that she could cum from this alone, but she had other plans to fulfill. “Open your mouth more.”

When Christen opens up, Tobin slides in further along her tongue, setting the pace with the hand that’s holding Christen’s hair up. “Can you take it all?” Tobin asks, pulling back to let Christen answer, watching the younger girl wipe her mouth.

“I don’t know,” Christen smiles, “Can I?”

The smirk that plants itself on Tobin’s face mirrors her partners, and she leans over to kiss Christen deeply, swirling her tongue with the younger girls before nipping at her lower lip. “Tap my thigh twice if you need to breathe.”

Christen clenches around nothing, feeling her skin burn wildly as she takes the girl back into her mouth. Tobin’s grip around her hair tightens, and she concentrates on her breathing once Tobin’s head hits the back of her throat. The feeling of Tobin pulling back and pushing in again is sudden, and she feels her throat contract, eyes watering at the feeling.

The soldier’s knees buckle, holding Christen in place and pressing further until Christen’s nose is pressed against the base of her abdomen. Two taps hit her leg and she pulls back immediately, nearly freaking out when Christen opens her eyes and unshed tears have collected along her eyelids. Before she panics, Christen drops her head and sucks hard, making Tobin’s toes curl and a moan force its way from her mouth.

“Fuck, just like that.” She moans, and it’s a few more moments of Christen hollowing out her cheeks before Tobin begins rocking her hips, fucking into the wet heat.

“I’m gonna cum.” She mumbles, pulling Christen’s head back and taking her cock into her hands, squeezing her length to keep it from being wasted. Christen sticks out her tongue and Tobin strokes herself once, feeling her length pulse beneath her hand as it happens. She explodes, light years away from Earth in a different galaxy. Eyes wide as Christen swallows every drop with furrowed brows and a moan of her own.

“Get on the bed.” She whispers, letting go of Christen’s hair, “Ass up.” She orders, loving how thoroughly fucked Christen looks. Eyes low and hair messy. Christen kneels on the mattress, pushing her backside out as her thighs tremble. Tobin’s mouth waters at the state of her, how her wetness has ruined the tiny underwear between her legs, how she can see the slickness along her labia. She unclips the garter belt with fast fingers, pushing Christen’s thong to the side so she can see how swollen she is fully.

“You’re so fucking wet.” Tobin teases, pressing her thumb into her opening, pulling it out to run along the slickness of her lips. “So swollen.”

“Please, Tobin.” Christen begs.

The soldier drops her pants and briefs, kicking them to the side as she grabs hold of her soft length. She lines herself up, running the head along Christen’s opening and down to her clit, where she moves her head side to side across it, feeling herself harden again. Christen moans, and rocking herself back along Tobin’s flesh, so Tobin continues with the motion of moving back and forth. Two fingers slide into Christen’s opening, feeling the muscles contract around her knuckles so tightly that her cock throbs, already back to it’s full girth. She curls her fingers against Christen’s front wall a few times, before pulling out completely and staring at the shaking mess in front of her. She drops Christen’s underwear to her knees.

“Spread yourself.” Tobin orders, so Christen does, reaching back with both hands and opening herself up with a breathy moan.

Tobin slides through her once more, gathering wetness, and it takes a few pushes with her hips before she feels her head begin to slide through the tightness. It happens too fast, too sudden, and she feels her cock pulse prematurely before she can even get halfway in.

Shit, you’re so tight,”  She hisses, barely having the chance to pull out before she starts to cum. She strokes herself through it, barely pressed against Christen’s opening, but she doesn’t allow herself to grow soft. She pushes in sharply, hips rolling to let her thighs meet Christen’s ass with a smack, and Christen has to drop her hands to the bed quickly so she can grasp at the sheets with a yelp. Tobin gives her no room to settle, and the sudden pace of bottoming out makes Christen’s legs quiver harder than before, her core burning in all the right ways. It takes a few thrusts before Christen clenches down on her, rocking herself backwards to meet Tobin’s hips, her moans growing louder before she stops- suspended- cumming with a tremor around the soldier’s length.

“Tell me it’s mine.” Tobin asks the question again.

A strong hand comes down on her ass, sending a shock wave up through her body as the smack sounds through the room. Christen cries out as the feeling is lost, as Tobin pulls out completely, watching the girl’s core clench around nothing. She pushes in again, filling the open space before pulling out entirely once more. She brings her left hand up, eyes ablaze, and watches as the second sharp smack paints a hand print along Christen’s flesh.

“Tell me, Chris.”

Christen lifts her head from the mattress, hands flexing the soreness out at being gripped around the sheets so tightly. She turns her shoulders enough to meet eyes with the soldier, loving the glistening of sweat that has coated Tobin’s abdomen, collected in the space between her collarbones and across her forehead.

“It’s all yours, you know it is.”

Tobin curses, kneading Christen’s cheeks with both hands, soothing the red skin from her smack, before spreading the girl herself. She leans down, biting at Christen’s flesh with her teeth before connecting her mouth to Christen’s opening. Her tongue flexes, pressing into her clit a few times before moving upwards, and she watches Christen jerk upwards and curse when her tongue meets a part she has yet to explore. She pulls back and puts some saliva on her tongue, before pushing her tongue back to where it was. Christen’s eyes are barely open at the feeling, how strange and how good it feels, how she hisses when Tobin presses her tongue inside. It continues for a minute or two before Tobin stands back up again, snatching Christen's underwear fully off of her legs.

“Get further up the bed, lay on your back.” She whispers to her. Tobin was seconds away from her third orgasm, and she wanted Christen to share it with her. Christen spreads her legs to let Tobin settle beneath them, but the Marine lays down next to her instead, pushing Christen onto her right side.

It takes a second to register what Tobin was doing, guessing that she wanted Christen on top, but then Tobin takes her left leg into her grasp and pulls it into the air, grasping the skin beneath Christen’s kneecap, opening her up as Tobin settles in behind her and on her own right side. It was the one position that Tobin has always wanted to take her in, wanting to fuck like two pornstars, and the younger girl nearly cums from the thought of being taken like this alone. She wraps Christen’s leg behind her hip, kissing her shoulder sweetly, as she reaches down to slide herself through the soaked heat before finding her opening and pushing in. It’s an odd angle at first, but Tobin quickly gets the hang of it, bearing her left foot into the mattress as her hips begin to rock so she can hold Christen’s leg up again. Christen reaches back with a jolt to grasp at Tobin’s head, feeling her press wet open-mouthed kisses to the side of her neck. Her orgasm is fast approaching with the amount of pressure hitting her front wall, so she reaches down between her legs with her right hand, fingers rubbing along the wet underside of Tobin’s base at her opening before circling her clit. She’s going to cum hard, she can feel it building low in the pit of her stomach, and Tobin can only grip onto her leg with a tighter grip as she feels the contractions start along her shaft.

“Tobin, fuck-” Christen groans, eyes lidded and chest heaving, and it takes two more thrusts of the older woman’s hips before her orgasm surfaces, dragging the soldier with her into bliss.

 

 

The night bears on with the sunlight finally setting and the city goes to sleep. The roar of honking vehicles and pedestrians moseying about finally comes to a halt beneath the downtown high rise. Soft city lights illuminate their dark hotel room, setting a mood to the space that would relax anyone into a restful sleep. They don’t sleep, however- Not even for a minute. Not even through the hours that tick by on the bedside alarm clock. The night hours are spent in a combination of the roughest sex Christen’s ever had, coupled by the sweetest and slowest love she’s ever made, coupled by naked cuddling and soft laughter. By two thirty, they’re nearly spent, limbs draped over one another’s and trying to catch heaving breaths from the latest round. Tobin’s eyes are closed as she holds Christen’s naked figure tight against her chest, lace lingerie and clothing discarded to the floor without a thought or care in the world. A smile sits on the soldiers face as Christen traces the lines of her torso, telling Christen that the soldier isn’t actually going to sleep, just resting for a second as the sweat dries on their bodies.

She traces from Tobin’s navel to her sternum with a finger, watching as the tickling sensation rises goosebumps on the tan skin, hardening the soldier’s small nipples in a way that makes Christen smile at her own teasing.

“Where did this come from?” Christen whispers into the quiet stillness, thumb tracing a half-inch oddly shaped scar that rests about two inches below Tobin’s lowest rib. Tobin cracks one eye open, glancing down to see what Christen was thumbing at. The scar was fully healed but raised off of the skin, and Christen wonders how she’d just now noticed it.

“That? Oh,” Tobin thinks for a second, brain trying to locate the memory of that particular scar.

“We were in training, doing sleep deprivation drills. Had to stay awake for 72 hours. One of my guys and I were trying to stay awake on the third day, like 8 hours before the drill was over. I told him to put a lit cigarette out on me.” Tobin smiles at the memory, though it hadn’t been funny when it had happened. It was one of the few times Tobin had truly hated that she ever joined.

“We had to do all kinds of stupid shit to not fall asleep.” She adds in a whisper. “Smacking each other wasn’t enough.”

Christen blinks a few times, not knowing whether she wanted to laugh at their idiocy or mad that Tobin had done that, mad to begin with that sleep deprivation was an actual drill. She settles with shaking her head a few times against Tobin’s chest, and running her palm across Tobin’s abdomen.

“I love you.” Christen mumbles, eyes growing heavy. Her legs were weak, and she assumed that Tobin’s whole body was weak. They’d have to be up in a little while to facetime Donovan, something that Tobin agreed to with a wide smile as they’d finally worn themselves out for the night. Her stomach growled too, but she just didn’t have the energy to get up and eat the leftovers. She assumed they would just eat a big breakfast in the morning, once they’d woken up again, at whatever time that would be. The next two days were left for them to explore now that the majority of the trips important business stuff had been taken care of, and they’d filled their itinerary with important things like house hunting, checking out the local schools that Christen had looked at, and sightseeing.

She also had made an appointment with a local OBGYN, wanting to get her initial appointment over with and hopefully find a doctor she was comfortable enough to keep now that they were likely moving. Everything was looking good so far, and the conditions were right, and she couldn’t be happier with the city environment and what she’d seen thus far, despite everything being hundreds upon hundreds of miles away from home. She trusted Tobin first and foremost. Trusted her instincts. Trusted her willingness to make the right decision, no matter the cost. So she figured that if this was the direction their lives were headed, she might as well take it all in stride.

She smiles as Tobin moves to pull the comforter over them after returning Christen’s I love you, curling in on herself so that Christen can spoon her from behind. They’re asleep within minutes.

 

 

Tobin wakes with the light streaming in on her head at the sound of water running and a phone ringing. She recognizes the ringtone as Christen’s phone and leans up to orient herself for a second. The bedside alarm clock reads that it’s 9:07 am, they’d fallen asleep once more after talking on the phone with Donovan for ten minutes. She was exhausted, and ready to fall back asleep, despite knowing that the already-awake girl will be wanting them to get up and get moving to see more of the city. The bathroom door is slightly ajar, steam pouring out of the bathroom at the shower that she assumes Christen is taking, but the dark-headed woman peaks her sleepy head out of the bathroom, toothbrush hanging in her mouth, right as Tobin is rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

“Babe will you get that?” Christen asks her, eyes motioning to the still ringing phone that’s vibrating on their bedside table. “I’m naked and about to get in the shower.”

Tobin nods, grumbling and still half asleep, as she stretches a tanned arm across the bed to grab for the phone. It’s Christen’s lawyer. She blinks a few times before swiping her thumb to answer the call.

“Hey Jonathan, it’s Tobin.”

Hey Tobin, is Christen around?”

Tobin looks back to the bathroom, noticing that the woman was no longer standing there, likely already in the shower. “No, she isn’t able to talk right now, what’s up?”

The voice on the other line stalls for a minute, before she hears the man sigh. “Look, I hate to be the bearer of bad news every time I call. But this is… I mean, it’s not good news and I figured you all needed to hear as soon as possible.

Tobin’s anxiety spikes, thinking of the million possibilities that he could be talking about. She swings her legs over the edge of the bed and speaks quietly. “What? What is it?”

Jonathan sighs again, and Tobin feels her fists clench at irritation of his sighing when he should be talking instead.

Well, Mr. Montgomery posted bail today. The new judge overruled our judge’s conviction without bail or bond after his attorney brought it to him in court. Things aren’t looking too good at the moment. His charges still stand until the hearing, but the new court said that he could at least post bail until then.”

Her chest constricts, jaw contracting in a panic at the thought of the man being out to roam free while they were states away from Donovan. Tobin’s thoughts run wildly, brain concocting different situations as she measures how to handle this best. She realizes after a second that she still hadn’t responded to the lawyer.

“Thanks, Jonathan. I’ll let Christen know.” She mutters out, eyes closed as the red-hot rage fills her system, short circuiting her brain, sending heat through her fingertips. Jonathan sighs again, making Tobin want to throw Christen’s phone through the window, and she barely mumbles bye to him after he says it first.

Tobin sits in her anger for a few minutes, listening to Christen humming from the shower as the sound of body wash lids are opened and closed, letting the sound chip away at the maddening frustration she feels. She knows that Donovan is safe with his grandpa until they get back, knows that Ashlyn has probably already heard and will be on high alert for them. She knows that Christen is safe, because Christen is with her.

For now.

Her mouth twitches at the thought of Christen being alone, at the thought of Christen and Donovan being alone without her there to protect them. When she drives to work. When she goes grocery shopping or into town. When Tobin has to help out on the farm. It’s the thought that they were likely about to lose this hearing that makes her anxious. Jermaine being out on bail means that he’s likely not going to cause trouble between now and the hearing. He would be an idiot to do so. It would completely ruin the thousands of dollars he’s likely spent on getting a lawyer to revisit his case and using his own money to get out of jail. It’s after that worries her.

After he’s set free with a slap on the wrist. What then? What can she do from point A to point B? From the time of the hearing until they move?

She’s not controlling, she would never tell Christen to not leave her house without her, it’s just unreasonable and unfair, and Tobin- for the better part, is a reasonable and fair person. She gives people the benefit of the doubt. She’s patient. She’s kind. She’s loving and gentle.

She’s protective of what’s hers. She’s a Marine.

Tobin lets out a slow breath beneath the morning light. Looking through the window glass at the city that moves around them. She realizes she has a few phone calls to make.

The shower cuts off and she doesn’t even notice, brain turning as her body is stiff like a rock. It’s only when Christen opens the bathroom door even more and peaks her head out again that Tobin snaps out of her quietness.

“Who was that?” Christen asks her, rubbing lotion into her leg that’s propped up against the sink. Tobin takes in her beautiful appearance. Her head wrapped in a fluffy white towel, another one wrapped around her torso, the little beads of water that trickle down her soft skin, the smooth legs that seem to go on for miles.

Tobin’s chest swells. She makes a split-second decision.

“It was Jonathan.”

Christen’s eyebrows shoot up, eyes rolling, she rubs moisturizer into her cheeks and forehead. “Any news?”  

She looks at the woman for a second, watching at Christen double checks her face in the mirror for any signs of left over moisturizer, just like she does every morning. Tobin smiles at her.

“Just wanted to make sure we are all set for the hearing next week.”

Chapter Text

Tobin’s phone rings in her back pocket. The Portland restaurant is crowded. Loud. Conversations flowing between the guests and servers. For a second- she doesn’t feel it, but the vibrations eventually alert her to the incoming call. Christen is absorbed in conversation with Adrianna, she notices, turning her face to smile at the women who is deep in laughter filled conversation. They had just been sat at their table and were waiting on the woman that her father hired to lead the farm’s groundskeepers to arrive, so that they all could get acquainted before the order was given to clear the land. They needed to be comfortable with one another, knowing that the job ahead of them would be long and eventful. She’d scheduled this breakfast for everyone to meet, knowing that it needed to happen before the girls were back in Georgia until they were ready to move.

Tobin was nervous, leg bouncing beneath the white cloth table, but not because of the meeting.

Two hours ago, she had sent out a text to one of her guys, an intel operative still employed by the US Marine Corps.

Tobin knew him as Smitty, they’d been briefly stationed together for a month in the Middle East when her CO redirected him to Eastern Europe. He now operated out of a branch in Texas.

Smitty was a hardened career military man. Never one to break the rules. Never one that would typically step out of his way to get a job done for a civilian, even if that civilian was a veteran. But Tobin wasn’t any typical old veteran to the man.

She had been called in to do damage control on his unit during the month that he was stationed with them. Smitty’s unit had been working out of a hole in the side of a mountain, setting up transmitters that could intercept phone signals that could lead them to a major ISIS convoy they believed to be working from inside. Unknown to them, their set up spot had been a drop off location for ISIS floaters, which was possibly the worst place to be when your unit only carried intel officers and no sharp shooters. Tobin’s unit had been a few hundred feet away, waiting for the clear and ready at any moment’s notice to take over if things went wrong. She’d caught a glimpse of the ISIS men just as they’d appeared out of nowhere, with no vehicles or equipment to give them away, just as secretive as they’d wanted to be.

The men had rushed Smitty’s unit right as Tobin gave the order to move in, and long story short- Tobin had dislodged a three-inch knife out of the man’s collar bone after getting a headshot on the guy that had stabbed him. She’d wrapped his shoulder with the small amount of medical supplies they had and crouched next to him as they maneuvered back to safety with the rest of her unit, her rifle drawn and ready to fire at any moments notice. Once she’d put him in the back of the truck, blood soaking the majority of the left side of his torso, she’d put a Marlboro red between his lips and lit it with a zippo.

“I owe you.”  He’d said to her, eyes closing as he pulled a draw off of the cigarette. Tobin ignored him for the most part, balling up her gloved fist and hitting his as a way to say that it wasn’t a problem.

“No, really. I owe you one. For the cigarette.”  He’d smiled a charming smile, laughing with her at his poor attempt at a lame joke. She didn’t even smoke, and she knew he was referring to her saving his life, but they were in the middle of nowhere and life fucking sucked, so she was thankful for the laughter at any chance she could get.

Tobin was about to cash in on the gesture.

She leans over and taps Christen’s thigh, pulling the woman’s attention towards her as her phone continued vibrating in the pocket of her jeans. Christen turned to smile at her, leaning inwards to hear what Tobin had to say beneath the roar of the restaurant.

“I’m gonna step outside, baby.” Tobin loudly says, squeezing Christen’s knee affectionately. “Got a phone call.”

Christen nods to her, giving her the okay to stand, assuming that it was one of their family lawyers or her father on the opposite line. When Tobin steps out into the cool Portland air, she breathes, fishing her phone out of her pocket and walking the few steps to the left of the entrance, wanting to distance herself from the loudness so that she may speak clearly. She quickly swipes to answer, not wanting to miss the phone call.

Sergeant Heath?”  The mans voice sounds from the other end.

“Lieutenant, how are you?” She answers the formality. He was an O-5, but she was an enlisted instead of an officer, technically making him ahead of her in terms of rank. Still, he regarded Tobin with respect, knowing that she would have been his boss if they were within the same classification, knowing that Tobin had a career full of wartime experience while he sat the majority of his active time within the safety and security of a base in Europe, miles away from any danger.

They make small talk for a minute or two, Tobin posts against the brick wall of the building’s exterior with her arms folded and ankles crossed. After the conversation dulls, and she can tell he’s ready for her to get on with it, she bites the bullet.

“Smitty, look. I need to ask you a favor.”

“Is it classified?”  The man asks, no hesitation in his voice whatsoever.

Tobin looks around her, taking in her environment, how the people talk aimlessly amongst themselves, some of them with headphones in, most of them completely tuned out to the world as they go along to their next destination. There’s a group of young people crowding outside the restaurant, smoking and showing each other things on their phones.

“Yes.” She mumbles.

“Hold on then. Let me call you back.”

She knows he’s grabbing a different phone. The call drops, and before she has time to wait, a restricted number is calling her. She answers it, and cuts right to the chase, turning her head away from the young people and speaking in a hushed voice.

“I need light intel on a man. I don’t have time to tell you the whole story at the moment, but long story short- I need surveillance on him for the time being. He could put my family in danger.”

Location, cell records, net activity? How light are we talking, here?”

“Location and cell records are fine for now, both text and call. Nothing major until it progresses. I don’t need web searches.”

She hears him shuffling around a bit as the wind picks up, moving her hair off of her shoulder.

Okay,”  He moves around some more. “Give me a name.”

Her blood runs cold in her veins. “Jermaine J. Montgomery.”

Typing sounds appear through the line. Then- “He was born in ’86? Loan and Mortgage manager at a credit union? Recently arrested, three counts of domestic battery, posted bail at 1100 hours today?”

Tobin nods her head, “Yeah, that’s him.”

Got him. I’ll need the name of your partner, and any close connections they have. As well as phone numbers. I can get an eye on his cellphone-“

Smitty stalls for a second, “Yeah, he has a smartphone. I can get an eye on his cellphone to ping his location, but I’ll need to know what I’m looking for first.”

It was the part that Tobin had wanted to avoid most, having to put Christen's location under surveillance as well, despite knowing that she had to. It was just the process, how Smitty had to know her location as well in order for him to get a read on if Jermaine was coming anywhere near him, and that extended to her family as well. It extended to anyone who could be keeping Donovan while Christen was at work, even Donovan’s kindergarten.

“Tell me when you’re ready.” She sighs, feeling lower than a dog. They wouldn’t even know, she reminds herself. It was for their own protection. Smitty gives her the go ahead.

“The subsequent connections are as follows- Cody Press. Jeff Heath. Cindy Heath. Northgate Elementary School. Little Horizons Preschool.” She bites her lip and closes her eyes, turning back towards the door to the restaurant momentarily, “My partners name is Christen Press. Her sons name is Donovan Press. Are you ready for phone numbers and addresses?”

Smitty grunts, so she lists those off too.

“If any of those names are mentioned in a text, or picked up in a phone call, I’ll need to know about it. If he gets close to any of those addresses, I’ll need a phone call, or any type of immediate signal. Can you get some people on it for me, Lieutenant?”

Of-course I can. I’ll have to send you an NDA as we progress, if there’s any further correspondence.”

Tobin sighs, visibly relaxing, “Okay. Thank you Smitty. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but I hope I don’t have to hear from you anytime soon.”

He laughs into the receiver. “I hope so, too. I’ve got all lines up and running now, including your own. I’ll let you know if I have something.”

She bids him goodbye, knowing that Jermaine’s phone was now tapped. Every move being tracked through a signal that transmits on a 24 hour feed to some computer that Smitty had being monitored. On the monitor, there was a point A and point B. Point A being Jermaine, point B being the multitude of connections that Tobin had named off. If point A got anywhere close to point B, Smitty or one of his guys were alerted. The military tracked thousands of people this way, especially those connected to suspicions of terrorism or violence, and there were thousands of Point A’s and Point B’s on multiple monitors. The lieutenant himself was likely to be currently tracking at least thirty to forty different leads for the US Government. He could tap Jermaine’s phone line at any moment, read any and all text correspondence. And despite Tobin not giving the authorization to access camera function or internet browser history, she knew that the man could do that too.

Her own job in Force Recon had involved surveillance a lot of the time, and it was terrifying how much access she had to people’s lives at any given moment while she was serving. They were terrorists, of course, in her case. But still. The US government could just about tap into anything if the outgoing signal was strong enough. They had satellites circling the globe that could read the names and numbers on a debit card. They could access public cameras at any time. They could track a vehicle with a license plate number, something that she was sure Smitty was doing, tracking every registered license plate number attached to Christen’s ex-husband, as well as her own family.

As well as herself.

She repeats the mantra in her head that it was for their own protection as she moves back into the restaurant, trying to subdue the guilt she feels from lying, trying to make it all seem not so bad. Tobin watches Christen’s figure as she approaches their table, how lovely she looked beneath warm mood lighting, eyes lit up and smile pulled so wide that her teeth gleam as she laughs amongst the women around her. Tobin thinks of the growing child in Christen’s womb. Their child. Her child with Christen. And she couldn’t for one second imagine the agony of losing her, of losing them.

She thinks of Donovan, his curls, his beautiful eyes, his intellect and laughter. She misses him so much that she aches, ready to get back home and hold his little body to her.

Christen meets Tobin’s eyes across the restaurant as she walks, a shy smile painting itself on her face. She’s so in love that it hurts her, and she wants to scream. Wants to combust. Wants to spend the rest of her life ensuring that she always gets to look at that smile.

The new girl has arrived since Tobin stepped out, seated next to AD with her own smile on her face, a ball cap pulled over her blonde hair. She rises from her seat as Tobin approaches, sticking out her hand and leaning over to receive Tobin’s grasp.

“Hey Tobin! It’s nice to finally meet you, I’m Emily Sonnett.”

 

 

The waiting room is beautifully furnished, causing Christen to slightly relax as she sits next to the Marine on comfortable waiting room chairs. There’s mood lighting, soothing music, the exact opposite of most doctor’s offices back home. They’re always a little too cold, with a little too much fluorescent lighting, and a little too impersonal.

Christen thinks that she likes this place, she definitely liked how kind and talkative the front desk woman was. She could get used to it, especially once she gets over her nerves of having her first pregnancy examination.

She looks to her left, finding the ball of literal anxiety that’s seated next to her.

Tobin was not doing too good. Her leg bounced with vigor, tapping a cadence into the floor that was causing Christen’s eye to twitch in annoyance. Her nerves weren’t entirely misplaced. Christen was nervous too. But Tobin? Tobin was freaked. The younger woman had never seen her so high strung.

“Are they- Are they going to like, examine you?”

Christen quirks an eyebrow, trying her hardest not to smile at the woman. If Tobin was this nervous beforehand, she can’t imagine how freaked out the Marine is going to be during the later visits.

Or the birth. Oh God, the birth. “What do you mean?”

“Like,” Tobin swallows, “Are they going to know if the baby is healthy and stuff? Do I tell them that it’s mine? Like, my condition?”

Christen flinches at the word “condition”; and she reaches over to put a hand on Tobin’s knee before the bouncing drove her mad.  

“I don’t get an ultrasound yet, no. I think I’m only at four or five weeks. The ultrasound happens at 8 weeks, and we can hear a heartbeat then. But they do a pelvic exam and take my bloodwork, and we go over medical history. They’ll also prescribe vitamins.”

She studies Tobin’s face, the faded scar on her cheekbone, how worried and precious she looks. “Would it bother you to go over all that with the doctor, Tobs? I mean, we’ve already had one perfectly healthy kid, but I’m sure they’d want to ask about your medical history and all.”

Tobin shakes her head in denial. “No, it wouldn’t bother me, necessarily.” She sighs. Christen looks at her, perplexed at the bits of disappointment she sees on Tobin’s face.

“Hey.” She soothes, “What’s wrong?”

The Marine shrugs, pulling at the threads on the ripped parts of her jeans, then looking up to meet Christen’s eyes again. “Nothing, I guess I’m just bummed. I wanted to see an ultrasound. Wanted to know if the peanut was healthy.”

Christen laughs then at Tobin’s impatience, girly and lighthearted, pulling a smile on Tobin’s face at the sound of it.

“What?” Tobin playfully shoves, lip jutting out with a smile and a pout at being picked on. Her leg starts bouncing again, much to Christen’s amusement, and she leans over to press a kiss to Tobin’s cheek.

“You’re so cute.” She says then, before reaching over their chairs again to stop Tobin’s knee. “But you really gotta stop fidgeting.”

Suddenly a door opens from the side of the office, a nurse in pastel pink scrubs stepping out with a clipboard.

“Christen?” She calls out to them, using the woman’s first name since they were the only one’s around in the small waiting room. Christen smiles at her kindly, looking to Tobin, who’s eyes are like saucers. She grabs her purse from the chair next to her and hands it to the Marine, tapping her leg to get her to stand.

“Ready?” The younger woman asks her, watching the determined smile and gaze fall upon her face.

“As I’ll ever be.”

 

The nurse takes bloodwork first. Tobin’s first grimace appears when the needle pierces Christen’s skin along the ditch of her forearm. Five vials are filled and marked with a label, before a cotton ball is pressed to the space where the needle comes out of, and a Scooby Doo Band-Aid covers the cotton ball.

The doctor was direct and kind-hearted, once they finally meet her, reassuring the two women that all procedures completed today would be faxed over to Christen’s current OBGYN yet still kept at their office in preparation for the move- considering that Christen could very well be giving birth in a Portland hospital. They speak of Christen’s medical history, her first child and her experience with her first pregnancy, and everything that has to go along with an initial visit. The doctor welcomes them to Portland, and smiles genuinely when asking about their moving process and all of the questions surrounding that aspect of their lives.

When she asks Christen about the father of the child, and if he was present, Tobin slightly grimaces from her nerves and raises her finger. It takes only two seconds of silence, with the doctor’s eyes focused and calculating without judgement, before Tobin speaks up.

“Kleinfelter’s,” Tobin nods to her, looking to Christen for strength.

“XXY or YYX?”

The doctor smiles at Tobin kindly, comforting her yet remaining in tune with the science behind it.

“XXY. I pretend the Y doesn’t exist.” The Marine smiles charmingly at her own joke, leaned up against the counter with her ankles crossed, laughing with the two other women as Christen rolls her eyes through a smile.

“Good choice.” The doctor winks, continuing the joke. “And you’re the mother of Donovan as well, I assume?”

“Correct.”

They sit for a second as more information is typed into the tablet, moving onto the conversation surrounding Tobin’s personal and family medical history. She’s able to breathe once all of it is done, eternally grateful that the woman didn’t even bat an eye at the information she was told. It calms Tobin enough to keep her from fidgeting, something that Christen is grateful for, and they move on to discuss the pelvic examination and if Christen has ever had any complications with those. To which Christen denies.

Her second grimace appears as Christen, changed out of her clothes and into a medical gown, is laid along an examination table with her feet in stirrups. Aside from watching a video of Donovan’s birth, it’s only the second time in her life when Tobin feels actually thankful that she wasn’t born with a vagina. The thought that some women have to go through a pelvic exam like this every other year and during pregnancy astounds her. Sure, her own checkups weren’t exactly pleasant- there’s nothing pleasant about a doctor squeezing your balls. But still, this seemed downright archaic to her.

She winces with Christen as the speculum is used to collect a swab, wincing again when it’s withdrawn and the doctor presses two gloved fingers to Christen’s cervix, other hand pressing down upon Christen’s pubic bone.

“I apologize for the discomfort.” The doctor looks up to the younger woman as she finishes the exam. “You have some slight lacerations and surface bruising along your front wall, not uncommon with sexual activity, which would be causing any pain you might feel. You may be a little sore today and tomorrow as well. Otherwise from what I can see, you are in perfect health. You’re good to sit up now.”

Tobin feels every ounce of blood rush to her face and chest, knowing that the doctor is well aware of what they’ve been up to lately. Christen takes one look at the Marine and laughs lightheartedly, watching the blood surface brightly beneath Tobin’s cheeks and neck.

The doctor disposes of her gloves in the trash can, moving to the sink to wash her hands as she looks back at the couple.

“Any sexual activity for now is perfectly fine. I’m sure you both are aware that it might become slightly uncomfortable or more difficult during the later stages of pregnancy, as you move along. That’s completely normal. I would just suggest that you take it easy during your third trimester.”

Her third wince of the night comes with this statement, watching as Christen nods to the woman with a reserved smile. She knows that the doctor meant nothing by it, knowing absolutely nothing of their history apart from the information they had told her. Still, it’s a sore subject, and it takes a few moments for Tobin to clear her head of the feelings that surface.

After they’re finished up at the office, and Christen’s door to the rental car is opened for her, they take a moment to breathe before pulling out of the parking space. The green-eyed girl looks over to Tobin with a flirtatious smile.

“You know something?” She asks her.

Tobin hums, reaching across the console for her bottle of water after pressing the push to start button.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to survive nearly eight weeks without you fucking me.”

It causes Tobin to choke, having taken a massive gulp of water as Christen finished her sentence. She crouches over in a coughing fit, face as red as the sun, feeling Christen pat her back gently as her beautiful laughter fills the car.

 

 

The flight home feels like the longest Christen’s ever been on. They were delayed two hours due to a snowstorm moving through Denver, their layover destination, waiting on the Denver airport to give their flight the clear to start moving. The first plane ride was bumpy and uncomfortable to the two women, despite being in first class, causing Christen to get so nauseous that she had to puke in the airplane bathroom once they could take off their seatbelts and move around. She’d also had a rough bout of morning sickness when they woke up, causing her to lose all of her breakfast in the hotel bathroom as Tobin kept a soothing hand on her back.

She was irritated, and missing her son, and starving. They both were, feeling the full effects of a complicated travel day bearing down on them as they finally got off the plane in Denver for their plane change.

Tobin stood in line at the airport Panera, ordering food for them both as Christen stood at the guest services counter, trying to workout their next flight home since the layover had caused them to miss their connecting flight to Atlanta. The airline had tried to get them on a different flight, direct to ATL, but all that were available had been overbooked. The best they said they could do would be to keep them overnight in the Denver airport hotel and get them out first thing in the morning.

And Christen was having none of it.

She thanks the Panera employee with a tired smile as she’s handed their to-go bag, picking up the to-go container of their Starbucks cups that she’d bought before walking to get food. When she returns, Christen is mid-argument with the man behind the desk. Tobin sighs in her own irritation, moving to set down their food next to the seats they had claimed, before returning to the frustrated situation in front of her. She slips Christen’s decaf in front of her, taking a drink of her own strong coffee, before leaning against the counter to listen in on what was happening so that she could mediate if need be.

Years spent loving the woman had taught her that in situations like this, it was best to let Christen handle it herself. Tobin got too angry, and she knew that it would cause an argument between them if she jumped in and took over, especially when the woman was already heated.

“-but that’s what I’m trying to tell you. We didn’t intentionally miss our flight. We just spent four hours in the Portland airport because of the delay, we already had tickets through your airline to Atlanta, you’re telling me that you don’t have any connecting flights that would get us home today?”

The man sighs, rubbing his beard and looking at the computer screen. “No ma’am. All flights are full.”

Christen looks around, finding the boarding screen of the connecting flight from Denver to Houston to Atlanta that she was hoping to get them on. Tobin, at this point, would take three flights if it meant they could get home to Donovan earlier. They had promised him on Facetime in Portland that they would be home tonight. All she wanted to do was curl up on the couch with the little guy and fulfill six lost days of time with him. Besides, Christen had work tomorrow. The whole situation was ridiculous.

“There’s ten fucking people waiting for that flight and it boards in fifteen minutes.” She points, jaw clenching. “Ten people.”

“It’s full.” The man says, shrugging and expressionless and staring at her as if he would rather be anywhere in the world. Tobin considers that he probably does want to be someplace else, she couldn’t imagine the job being something that caused a great deal of happiness. There were people on this planet that he probably had to deal with who were much worse than one irritated, hungry, homesick, and pregnant women like Christen.

She pulls up her Expedia app, searching for any flight outside of this airline that could get them where they needed to be. She clicks on the first one, a direct commuter flight through Southwest that was boarding in two hours. Not an ounce of her gave a damn about the waisted first-class tickets or two hour wait. She needed to get home to their son. She books it in the middle of the argument going on in front of her.

“Come on,” She nudges Christen’s shoulder, letting out a slight half-smile at the way the woman whips her head around with sharp and angry green eyes at her, assuming that Tobin was about to jump into the argument that was going no-where. “I booked a direct with Southwest, we’ll just use a different airline. It boards in two hours, so we’ll even have time to eat.”

Tears fill Christen’s eyes as she nods, overwhelmed with exhaustion and rage. Tobin watches the woman retreat from the counter towards their bags after giving the man a sharp glare. She turns back just in time to catch the man barely rolling his eyes. He averts his eyes once he realizes that she saw him, and her jaw contracts wildly.

“I’ll need a refund for the missed flight.” She bites out, barely staying by the counter long enough to catch him mumbling sure thing.

Nearly seven hours later, and Jeff is pulling them all into Christen’s driveway with a slow turn of the wheel. It’s coming up on midnight now, having touched down in Atlanta around ten o’clock and the near two-hour drive home. The women had slept for the majority of the ride home, Tobin giving Christen the entire back seat of her dad’s truck to lay down in, knowing that she was absolutely exhausted and needed space to stretch out. She’d rested her head against the window after softly speaking to her dad, letting the city lights and quiet country music playing on the radio lull her to sleep.

She dreams of Donovan, and a newborn she has yet to meet.

“Hey pretty girl,” Tobin whispers, standing outside of the truck with the back door ajar, head leaning in close to Christen’s sleeping form. Jeff carries their bags up the front steps to Cody, who’d been waiting for the girls to arrive to retire his babysitting duties for the week. “We’re home, do you want to go inside?”

She softly strokes Christen’s cheek, smiling with a full heart as the woman blinks her eyes open slowly and nods. Inside the warmth of the house, they hug their father’s tightly, bidding the two men goodbye and thanking Cody profusely for watching Donovan for the past week. Tobin quietly slips the man a few hundred-dollar bills into his coat pocket without him knowing while Christen hugs him once more.

They tiptoe through the house once the small party has left and the doors are locked, Tobin’s index finger intertwined with Christen’s pinkie, and they push the door open to the master bedroom where Donovan is curled up beneath their covers. Usually, Christen would want him in his own bed, knowing that it was a better habit to develop early on. Tonight, however, she couldn’t care less, wanting nothing more than to snuggle with her two-favorite people in the whole world.

She wasn’t worried about the questions he might have after waking up and finding Tobin in bed with them. He knew by now that Tobin supposedly sometimes stayed the night with them. It had been a long week, and her only medicine was the security of having them all content and asleep within their own small space.

Tobin can’t wipe the smile off her face as they change into pajamas, not even bothering to brush their teeth or unpack, it all could be dealt with in the morning. The little boy is asleep on his stomach in between two pillows that rest at his sides, his dark unruly curls framing his soft face, his thumb being rhythmically pulled into his mouth. He doesn’t even wake up as they slowly pull the covers back and remove the pillows at his sides, nor does he wake up as they get into bed beside him. The only motion he makes is pressing his head into the raven-haired girl’s chest once she settles.

Christen watches as the Marine pulls her hand up and places it along his small back in the dark, above his bedtime shirt. Tobin rubs soothing circles into the fabric. Happy to be in their bed. Happy to be in love, happy to lean up and peck her woman’s lips before pressing her nose into Donovan’s pillow, falling asleep to the smell of children’s shampoo that was mixing with Christen’s usual scent.

Monday, the green-eyed girl wakes up to the feeling of little cold feet pressed into her thighs. The sunlight is streaming in through her white curtains, making her body warm and relaxed as she smiles. It feels nice to be home. She’d almost missed the feeling of waking up in her own bed so badly that she could cry. Opening her eyes with a smile, she’s met with a head full of messy brown hair across the pillow from her. Most of Tobin’s hair is covering her face, blocking Christen from seeing the majority of Tobin’s eyes, but she still is able to get a good view of the Marine’s open mouth- complete with a tiny spot of drool soaking on the pillow at the corner of her parted lips. She has to fight herself not to laugh. Donovan has squeezed himself onto her chest, an arm and leg thrown around her body, and only the top of his head is sticking out of the covers.

Hers. She thinks, rolling onto her back. Donovan suctions himself to his mother, arms and legs tightening around her as she rolls, causing him to end up mostly laying on her once the rest of her back hits the bed. The blanket doesn’t move with them, which causes the rest of his face to come into view once she leans down to look at him. Big and sleepy eyes meet her own equally as sleepy pair, and their smiles are wider than the sun that’s streaming in on them.

“Mommy?” Donovan whispers, careful not to wake Tobin up.

“Hey sunshine. Good morning.” She coos, bringing her hand up to run through his messy curls, the very thing she’d been missing for nearly 6 days now. “Did I wake you up?” She whispers back to him.

“I wasn’t asleep.”

He rests his little head back down onto her chest, allowing the soft stroke of her fingertips along his scalp nearly sooth him back into a slumber.

When he gets older, he’ll come home from college and fall right into her lap, allowing his mother to continue smoothing out the tangles he inevitably will always have in his curls, putting him to a steady sleep. Tobin will look up from her glasses and catch sight of it, his taller and lanky body stretched out over the couch, feet dangling off the edge, beard scratching the skin of Christen’s legs with his mouth open and eyes shut as she mindlessly lets him rest on her in a way that only a mother knows how. She’ll sit still for as long as he naps, fingers switching from twirling the curls around and around to running softly through them altogether. Tobin will smile, knowing all too well how much and how soothing Christen’s love can be. She’ll be happy. She’ll clear the knot in her throat and send a wink across the living room.

“What were you doing then? Were you relaxing?” Christen asks the boy, amused at how he sighs and shakes his head to deny her question.

“No I was hearing your heart make sounds.”

It’s his way of telling her that he missed her. And God, did she miss him too. Everything she had planned for the day could wait. It didn’t matter if she was late for work after a full week of vacation, it only mattered that she got to sit here for as long as possible with him and the woman she loves. She moves her hands from his curls and hugs his little body tightly, feeling him return the hug with as much strength as he has. He lifts his head again, facing her, looking like he was finally starting to wake up.

“Can we make Toe-bin pancakes? And orange juice and fruit?”

Christen quietly giggles. Yeah, she was definitely going to be late.

 

 

Wednesday morning, after the previous two long and grueling days of training with her dad, Tobin decides she’s going to start working out again. The trial was in two days, filling her body with some sort of focused anxiety, and she’d needed to work through it the only best she knew how.

It’s not that she had lost a considerable amount of muscle mass within the last two months, but she could feel the process beginning, the lines of muscle getting softer along her abdomen and her legs. She wasn’t conceited; she could point out her own perceived flaws faster than anyone else could, but still- she enjoyed being fit, and being fit was a no-brainer expectation while she was in uniform.

She enjoyed knowing that she was strong, and capable, and outwardly attractive by societies standards. She could still make check-out girls at the grocery store register blush and fumble over their words (much to Christen’s amusement), she could still throw Donovan high into the air when they were swimming in the pool. She could still turn Christen on with just a look.

All of it wasn’t lost on her, of-course. And she wanted to keep that up. It made her feel good about herself to be healthy. It made her feel attractive to stand in front of a mirror after a gym session and like what she sees.

So, she dusts off her old high school gym equipment in the building on her father’s property that houses all of their farm vehicles, complete with an old weight bench, a pull up bar, a heavy and used tractor tire, and about five sets of dumbbells and barbells. She takes a quick trip to Walmart for a sound system and speakers that she could hook up her cellphone to via Bluetooth. Once that trip is made, she heads back to the building and sets up the surround sound system, before opening up the 15 foot high garage doors to let the natural light inside. She changes out of her pants into some running shorts and removes her shirt to move freely around in a sports bra, plugging her Airpods into her ears and connecting the Bluetooth on her phone.

Then, she gets to work.

First, she starts with a three-mile jog through the endless lines of trees, cutting through the known pathways and creating her own little circuit course. She keeps her breathing steady, head in a neutral position, feeling the sunlight bear into her shoulders and give her body energy as she cruises at a steady pace. She’s used to running three in a little over 22 minutes, but today- she feels like taking it easy and getting back into the swing of things, finishing out in a little over 26 minutes.

Her chest heaves as she jogs up to the garage doors, sweat dripping from her nose and chin under the mid-September heat. It was that wonderful time of year when the days were still hot enough and the nights were perfectly cool, cool enough to build a fire and throw on a light hoodie. It was perfect camping weather, and Tobin considers as she wipes the sweat from her face that she might take Christen and Donovan camping one day soon. Once the bullshit trial was said and done.

She removes her Airpods and hooks up the sound system to her Bluetooth, figuring it out with no issue or hassle, and throws on a workout mix that she’d been using on Spotify while she was still training with the military. It’s the perfect combination of rap, pop, and heavy rock, with a few old classics thrown together that she was raised to listen to.

Before long, she’s lost in the motions, beginning a nice upper body circuit that was sure to wear her out before long. She does push-ups, tire flips, bicep curls (noticing that she needed heavier weights since high school), and shoulder presses. By the end of her final set, she’s panting, the sweat having fully coated her upper body and soaking through the center of her sports bra. It’s her favorite type of feeling, the endorphin release after a long and hard work out, something that she had truly been missing for the last couple of months. She stares at the pull-up bar for a few seconds to catch her breath and take a sip of water, knowing that she wanted to end the workout with it. And she’s so lost in the music and breathing that she barely hears the clicking of heels start up on the cement floor of the building.

“Tired already?” Christen chides playfully behind her, one hand wrapped around a brown paper to-go lunch bag and the other carrying her purse. Tobin doesn’t even spook, turning her body to face the welcomed intruder with a signature wide smile.

“Just catching my breath. You playing hookie after lunch again?” She shoots back, taking in the younger woman’s appearance. A pencil skirt and heels had never looked so good.

Christen shakes her head at Tobin’s quick wit, setting both bags down on one of the tool tables that lined the metal wall. “I’ve got about 45 minutes to be back. Figured I would bring you lunch since I knew you’d be with your dad today, but he told me I would find you down here.”

“Yeah, just getting back into a routine. Am I still good to pick up Don from school today? I’m gonna make him tag along with me to run errands for dad while we wait for you to get off.”

She nods with a smile, eyes glazing over as she runs her gaze the length of Tobin’s body, taking an extra moment or two too take a mental snapshot of the beads of sweat trailing down the tan skin between her breasts and the v-cut line of her hips.

Tobin follows her eyesight, growing confident in the way Christen flushes at the sight of so much exposed skin. She felt like a teenager, yet under a certain type of grown-up scrutiny that neither made her uncomfortable or vulnerable. It made her stronger. It made her smirk, when Christen finally returned her eyes to meet Tobin’s.

“Well, you should finish your workout so we can eat.”

The Marine slowly nods as she swishes a gulp of water around in her mouth, flexing her abdomen to watch Christen’s eyes drop downward. She was showing off, Christen knew she was, but the confidence alone was enough to turn her on. Tobin throws the bottle down, stepping forward and jumping up to hang on to the bar in an underhand grip, crossing her legs in front of her and stabilizing herself. Her abdomen flexes hard, jutting out the square muscles beneath her breastbone and showing off her lats. Beads of sweat run between the ridge that separates her left and right abs, and she can tell that Christen notices it. With a huff, she pulls upwards. Her biceps burn as she hits her fifth rep, but she keeps going, wanting to see how many she could get to now before exhaustion. In training, she could usually get to about 14 before needing a break, but she knows the lack of exercise after her injury has probably caused her muscle endurance to take a hit.

Christen watches the woman complete twelve, nearly getting to thirteen before her arms lock halfway up and start to shake.

“Thirteen.” Tobin drops to the ground with a huff, a huge smile on her face at still being able to pull nearly as many.

The younger woman cocks her head, gazing up and down Tobin’s body, eyebrows drawn together in disapproval. “Hmm, that looked like twelve to me.”

“Nope.” Tobin shakes her head, crossing her arms and challenging Christen. “Thirteen.”

“Twelve.”

“Thirteen.”

“Twelve and a quarter. Would have been twelve and a half but… no 90 degree angle.”

Christen feels herself getting worked up at the way Tobin looks at her, entertained at the challenge of Christen teasingly arguing with her. She steps forwards into Christen’s space, cutting off the next remark out of the younger woman’s mouth with a searing kiss. It takes Christen a minute to steady herself, holding onto Tobin’s hips as she reciprocates the action, and the Marine feels her breath hitch as her own bottom lip is bitten down on. It lasts for a minute or two, enough to maintain Tobin’s panting breaths as they pull away from one another with heavy lidded eyes.

“How much time do we have again?” She asks the green-eyed girl.

“Like thirty minutes.” Christen lets her know, moving in for another kiss and running her hands across the slick expanse of Tobin’s hard stomach. “I missed you so much.” She coos, mouth opening to kiss the Marine again, opening wider to receive Tobin’s tongue, letting it slide against her own in the throes of slick heat.

“That’s more than enough time. Come here.” Hands move around Christen’s waist. She looks backwards to locate the weight bench and sit on it, dragging the dark-haired beauty with her until Christen is seated in her lap, pressing against her growing hardness beneath the running shorts. The skirt had ridden up enough to allow her to wrap her smooth legs around Tobin’s waist.

Tobin,” Christen goes to argue, it finally registering to her what they had enough time to do. “We can’t just- It’s broad daylight outside.”

The Marine presses her fingertips into Christen’s back, above her shirt, feeling the ridges along the taut muscles in her spine as she sucks lightly along the woman’s neck. “Shh, no one’s gonna walk up.” She argues, hands palming at Christen’s ass and rolling the woman into her, hearing her let out a sigh at the way her neck was being kissed.

“You don’t know that. The doors are lifted.”

“I do. No one’s out here. It’s too bright outside anyways, no one can see inside.” She argues again, knowing that the argument was slightly miscalculated yet trying her best anyways. She moves up to Christen’s mouth, nibbling and sucking her way through a kiss that makes Christen rock into her without assistance.

Christen clenches, getting into a slow grind, feeling the woman’s hardness beneath her skirt as she rocks forward. She could see the way Tobin was straining against the fabric of her shorts, length stretched along the inside side of her thigh, and it ruined her own underwear. Fucking hormones. Christen curses herself, knowing that she wasn’t able to stop now that they have started.

“I want you so badly. I’m so hard.” Tobin whispers into her mouth, tightening her grip around her back and pulling their torso’s closer together. “I’ve missed you all day.” She continues, laying it on thick and meaning every word, every syllable.

“I missed you more.” Christen tells her back, smiling at how Tobin could make her feel so wanted, so desired, and so beautiful with her words. She feels the Marine slide her fingers along the inside of her thigh, working her left hand between their bodies.

“Let me touch you. Can I touch you here, Chris?” Fingers press into her inner thigh, and she feels a thumb swipe along her clit beneath her cotton underwear.

Christen moans, holding onto Tobin’s shoulders, and she gives up her fight with a nod into Tobin’s neck, feeling the older woman shift her skirt up to get better access. The hand returns, slipping beneath her underwear and softly stroking along her labia, gathering wetness and circling her clit.

Fuck, baby.” Christen leans her forehead into Tobin’s shoulder, letting out a moan when Tobin’s fingers meet her core and two press gently inside, curling along her front wall with ease.

Tobin’s wrist aches, but she powers through, getting into the motion of stroking along the ridges of her g-spot, hitting it perfectly with every intentional curl of her fingers. Christen loved Tobin’s hands. Loved how capable they were. Loved how intense everything felt when she was fucked like this. She considers that there’s nothing within the realm of sex that the Marine wasn’t good at. She knew just how to fuck her, all the right spots to press against regardless of what she was using, and it made Christen cum hard every time without fail.

After she recovers from her first orgasm, Christen stands off of Tobin in a haste, reaching beneath her skirt and pulling her ruined underwear down her legs, watching as Tobin lifts her hips up to lower the front of her running shorts, eyes fixed upon Christen’s own heavy gaze as the woman swings her leg back over Tobin’s lap, skirt being pushed up and bunching around her ass.

Christen reaches a hand down to wrap around Tobin’s head, watching the woman’s eyes grow heavier as she pulls Tobin through her folds, letting the wetness coat along her tip before lining up and sinking downwards. She’s so tight that she has to adjust for a second once the head is in, and they both hiss sharply when Christen sinks down another two inches. Tobin curses, unable to see the action from Christen’s skirt that’s in the way, but feeling herself get deeper, nonetheless. Sharp green eyes settle on her, painted with desire, and she maintains heavy eye contact as the woman lowers fully- causing her hands to softly press against the small of Christen’s back to hold her in place.

Once she’s settled, their lips meet again, lovingly moving together through the roll of the younger woman’s hips. Tobin is content to sit here all day with Christen riding her gently, feeling the contractions of her core pull her in with every tight roll of her hips.

“Is that good to you?” Christen moans into her ear, left hand gripping Tobin’s jaw and neck in a firm grip. “Is this what you needed?”

Tobin nods, moaning and eating up the filthy talk, holding Christen’s hips to pull her in faster. She realizes that Christen could wreck her if she wanted to, just from her mouth alone. Taking control was nice, and she loved being the one who could wear the woman out, but sometimes- anytime, honestly- it was nice to feel the woman take charge. Christen was good at it, she could bring Tobin to her knees, and she loved to see the dirty side of her come out to play.

The dark-haired woman hits her with the same question that she’d been asked last week, pulling Tobin’s face up to hers until their lips are centimeters apart, dark eyes looking from Tobin’s pupils to Tobin’s mouth. She leans in, kissing her once, brushing their lips together as she rocks onto the hard length, before biting out-

Tell me it’s mine.”

Tobin feels the contractions start, slamming Christen’s hips down onto her and watching the woman’s face contort, getting close to her orgasm just as Tobin was approaching her own as well.

“It’s yours. I’m yours.” Tobin whispers. Love in her eyes as she feels herself contract. Christen’s hips jerk, arms pulling the Marine into her roughly as she convulses around her, tight groans being let off into Tobin’s neck.

“I’m about to cum.” Tobin shudders, trying to keep up with the now-soft rolling of Christen’s hips.

She feels her own orgasm surfacing, holding the woman to her as her hips jerk upwards once it hits her, filling the woman in the way that she intended to, in the way that they both love.

Fuck,” Christen curses and moans, “That feels so good. You feel so good.”

With her body growing limp, Tobin is relieved that she’d worked out before her surprise lunch visit, knowing that she’d have had no energy after this to do much physical work- if any. Their tongues mix in a heated kiss, holding onto one another like they were dreading having to let go as she feels herself start to soften.

Christen feels it too, and she pulls back with a smile on her face, leaning her body up to pull off of the woman with a soft hiss, her core begging to not let go. She knows she’s going to have to stop by Tobin’s parent’s house to get fully cleaned up and grab a change of underwear. They share another sweet kiss as Christen stands and pulls her underwear back on, watching Tobin tuck herself back into her shorts.

“So,” Tobin smiles at her, standing from the bench with a jump, checking her fitness tracker on her wrist. “Since you have ten minutes left. We can either eat really quickly here…”

“Or?” Christen smiles, pulling the Marine into her again by the hand as she gazes at her lovingly.

Or, you can come take a shower with me?”

 

 

The drive to Donovan’s elementary school is cranked with excitement. She’d not been able to spend much time with the little guy since they arrived back from Portland. Sure, they’d had breakfast together on Monday, she and Christen had taken him to school late in Tobin’s jeep before she dropped the dark-haired girl off at work. And sure- she’d stayed the night at Christen’s on Tuesday again, having dinner as a little family, and Pinoe had even stopped by. But Tobin wanted more, she wanted to spend a whole day with him after missing him for over a week.

Her days with her dad were long and exhausting. Training to cut and plant trees was one thing. It made logical sense to her. She’d been watching her father’s employees for the majority of her life that she can remember. There was a mechanism to how they were laid out, and certain kinds couldn’t be planted in soil around other kinds, but it wasn’t hard to catch on to.

Excel spreadsheets, sales pitches, and monetary goals were another. Tobin was the type that never met a stranger, but that didn’t mean she enjoyed running numbers and managing clientele accounts. It was trivial stuff, monotonous and repetitive. That was her father’s thing. Something he was good at. She could multitask like no one’s business, but the thought of multitasking an entire multi-million-dollar business was another. Jeff had assured her that she would have assistants that were there to help her, just like he did. Plus, a whole sales team to do the actual business. Either way- she felt the pressure.

And it was hard to stay focused when the days were 12 hours long, given that all she wanted to do was hang out with her girl and son.

Christen’s earlier visit has satiated more than a few of her desires. Now, it was her and Donovan time.

So- she put the top down and the radio up in the Jeep, enjoying as much warm sunlight as she could before winter hit North Georgia, and she drove to pick up her little man.

Christen had already called ahead to let the school know that Tobin would be picking him up today. Donovan wasn’t aware that she was coming, and that made it all the more special. Cody usually picked him up from school and hung out with him until Christen got off of work, so she was giddy to see the little boys reaction when he saw that it was her instead of his grandpa waiting in the car rider line.

Tobin wasn’t disappointed in the slightest by his reaction. It was exactly as she’d expected and hoped for.

He’d lifted his head up once his teacher had called his name, trying to locate his grandpa’s familiar car in the direction that the teacher was leading him to. He took one look at Tobin’s black jeep and the way she was smiling at him beneath her sunglasses from the driver’s seat, and he had jumped up and down from sheer happiness.

“What’s up, dude?” She said to him after getting out of the driver’s seat and gently shutting the door. He launched himself into her arms, saying hello back and giggling at being lifted into the air and into a big bear hug. “You ready to hang with me today?” Tobin thanked the teacher with a smile and opened the backseat door, laying his bookbag down in the floorboard and setting the bouncing kid into his backless booster seat before buckling him in.

“Mommy didn’t tell me you were picking me up today!” He helped her clip the seatbelt in until she heard it click, allowing her to double check the chest strap to make sure it wasn’t too tight, just like she always did. “I’m happy it’s you instead of grandpa. He- He always wants to go to his house and watch TV. What are we doing today?”

She chuckles at his honesty and never-ending energy, adjusting his little baseball cap and shutting the door. “We’re going to the store first, and then we’re gonna get ice-cream in town and ride over to the park until Mommy gets off. Does that sound good to you?”

“Yes!”

“Sweet.”

She buckles her own seatbelt and starts the car, checking in the rearview mirror to make sure he’s settled before putting the car in drive. Donovan waves animatedly at a friend he knows, watching the other little boy get into his mother’s car.

“Toe-bin?” Donovan asks, watching the woman carefully look to her left before pulling the lifted jeep out of their parallel parking space, falling into line with the rest of the parents in order to exit the school parking lot.

“Yeah bud?” She asks back to him, reaching a tan hand forward to turn up the radio volume just enough so they could hear it.

“Can I get a toy at the store?” He asks her, giving the Marine the biggest puppy dog eyes she’s ever seen through the rearview mirror. She has to bite her lip to keep from smiling at how much he looks like herself.

“Hmm.” She strokes her chin playfully. “Well, maybe. It depends. How much do you want one?” She teases him, watching his eyes grow even larger before he answers her question.

“Really a lot.” His head nods, causing her smile to grow at the phrasing, unable to hold it in any longer. She holds out on him for a few more seconds, loving the anticipation that grows on his face with every fleeting moment.

“Hmm. Okay. I suppose a toy would be good to buy. Do you think so?”

His head nods even more aggressively, causing the brim of his cap to pull downwards over his head. She makes the mental note to tighten it once they park at the store, laughing at how endlessly entertaining and easy to tease he was. She reaches her hand back once they pull out onto the highway, feeling him slap her palm in a high five like she’d taught him to do.

 

Today, Tobin learns that Donovan is just as indecisive as his mother.

She stands next to him in the Walmart toy aisle, casually leaning against the shopping cart that was full of items her father had asked her to buy from the automotive section. They only needed one more thing, Donovan’s promised toy, before they could leave and go to the ice cream shop. Just one more thing- Tobin tells herself. Just a few more minutes and he’ll make his mind up.

They were going on ten minutes of the boy staring, wide-eyed, brain calculating which toy would give him the largest amount of joy back home. Tobin thinks she might have caused his stress by telling him off-handedly while they picked out a shopping cart that he could buy whatever he wanted. His eyes had grown wide, causing Tobin to grimace from her own choice of words, but now that she’d said it- she would have never taken it back. He was doing great at his new school and had been well behaved for Cody over their vacation, so she felt like he truly deserved any toy that he wanted. She figures that this is why Christen makes these types of decisions instead of her.

His choices were flagrant and equally as cool, making it difficult for Tobin to even narrow down which one she could try and persuade him to get. There was the toy mini golf set, a Nerf gun that she was sure Christen would disapprove of, a massive box of Star wars Lego’s (she narrowed her eyes at that one, not even convinced that he knew what Star Wards was, despite admitting that it looked pretty cool to her also), or a motorized and drivable kids-sized car that he could sit in and drive around the yard with.

Donovan was having such a hard time choosing. Each time he got excited about one of them, he’d remember all of the good things about the others.

“Which one do you like most, dude?” Tobin bent down to his height, putting her hand on his back and stomach.

He sighed and threw his head back, ball cap tightened enough that it didn’t fall off. “I don’t knowww.”

“How about the mini golf set?” She tried to nudge him along, amused at how worried he seemed. “You picked that one out first.”

“But I want the gun, and you can by one too and we can pway together.”

She gave a half smile at him, internally grimacing at the vision in her head of Christen narrowing her eyes in disapproval if they brought home two toy guns.

“Yeah,” She sighed lovingly, “That is true. But we could also play any of the other ones together. Like the Lego’s, I’d love to build that spaceship with you. It seems pretty cool.”

Donovan groaned, and she sat with him and watched his internal debate for a little while longer, before an idea popped up in her head.

“Hey bud!” She patted his stomach, getting his attention on her, “I know what you could get. You know how you broke your fishing rod a few weeks ago?”

He nodded his head to answer her question, wondering what she was about to say.

“Well, I’ve always wanted to take you fishing with me. How about we get you a new rod and a tackle box and we can go sometime this week?”

The recommendation was smart and logical. Tobin really had wanted to take him fishing sometime soon, he really had accidentally broken his small rod, and she’d thrown in the extra tackle box just to make him feel like he was getting something extra to go along with it. It was a win-win for both of them, especially considering that it was a present that Christen would agree with.

Donovan agreed to the plan with glee, fully satisfied with Tobin’s recommendation, excitement coursing through his body at the knowledge that he was gonna get to go fishing with Tobin soon.

They left the store with smiles on both of their faces. Tobin got him settled into the backseat and loaded their belongings into the small trunk, letting the fishing rod hang over the backseat in a way that made Donovan laugh. She drove them into town, checking into the rearview mirror every once in a while, to make sure that he was okay. He loved riding with the Jeep’s top down, and he’d taken off his ballcap to enjoy the way the wind pushed his wild curls around, making Tobin laugh every time he’d bring a hand up to swipe his hair out of his face.

Once parked in one of the only open spots she could find, she kept her sunglasses on, knowing that they had two blocks to walk before getting to the ice cream shop. It was nearing 4 o’clock now, the sun still settling over the blue sky, so she didn’t mind one bit at having to hold Donovan’s hand in her much larger grasp as they leisurely took to the sidewalk. She was sure to walk at his side that faced the road, keeping him as safe as can be, and ensuring that he keep a grasp on her hand the entire time they were walking.

At the store, Tobin chose a two-scoop cup of mint chocolate chip, telling Donovan he could get one scoop of whatever he wanted. He pouted a little at her limiting him to only a cup, and not a cone, but seemed to understand when Tobin told him that he didn’t need to ruin his dinner. She was worried for a second that he would be upset, still getting used to telling the boy no when it came to certain things, and definitely being unprepared to handle a tantrum if he threw one.

But thankfully it hadn’t happened. Donovan had already had such a good day- she doubted anything could bring him down at this point, even if he had to settle for a cup over a cone.

She picked him up when it was time for him to order, putting him on her hip to let him see the different buckets of ice cream and make a selection. This time he had less trouble making his decision than she did, and she was grateful for that too.

“That one.” He pointed at the glass, settling on a scoop of the most colorful flavor. Superman.

 

The cup had done nothing to keep Donovan from getting the ice cream everywhere, once they sat down at an outside table and watched the cars go by on the sleepy town road. A fact that had Tobin in disbelief every time she looked at him and noticed a new drop of ice cream on his shirt, adding to the growing collection of stains. He had smeared it all over his mouth, too. She couldn’t blame him though. He was just about as messy of an eater as she was, unable to consume anything without getting it everywhere.

All she could do was laugh and pick up another napkin, wiping and dabbing at his shirt and pants, trying to salvage what she could of the cotton as he told her about his school day.

“-and Lily had to move her name to yellow because she said a bad word.”  Donovan swallowed his next mouth full, wiping his messy lips on his long sleeve before the Marine could keep him from doing so. She simply shook her head and sighed with a smile, truly feeling like a parent, taking a mental picture of this moment so that she could keep it with her memories forever.

She was about to open her mouth to ask him another question but was interrupted from her phone ringing in her pocket. It was probably Christen, likely calling to check in on them during the last hour of work when things began to slow down.

“Hold on a second, little man. Let me answer this. It’s probably your mom.”

Donovan nodded patiently, spooning another small bite of the cold dessert into his mouth. She fished her phone out of her pocket, instantly frowning when she flipped the vibrating phone over and realized that it wasn’t Christen that was calling her. Her thumb hesitantly swiped on the screen.

“It’s Tobin.” She muttered, keeping an eye on her son and their surroundings.

Sergeant.” He cuts right to the chase. “I’ve got movement heading towards you. Coming up at the intersection of your street and West Franklin Street. I’m unsure if he’ll continue down West Franklin or turn onto your street.”

She darts her eyes behind Donovan’s head, down the block about 70 meters where the two streets intersect. She watches for the man, not responding to Smitty, feeling the dread fill her blood at knowing that she was about to see him for the first time, unable to consider how getting her first look at him is going to make her feel, especially considering that her son was going to be in his line of sight if he starts walking down the street they were on.

Tobin is thankful for her glasses. Thankful that Donovan has his back to that general direction. Her eyes harden as she stares at the side of the building on the far corner.

Turning now, Sergeant.”

Her jaw clenches, tightly wound and filled with anxiety, and the man suddenly comes into view as he turns onto her street. He’s nicely dressed and tall, likely a little over 6 foot from what she can estimate, with a white polo shirt tucked into black slacks. Skin tone matching Christen’s, dark hair shaved into a crew cut and faded at the sides at the start of his beard, and Tobin thinks immediately that he looks like a prick- the type of man that Christen wouldn’t seem to be attracted to. It’s astronomically difficult for her to see him and not think-

Not fill her brain with the type of disbelieving thoughts when she thinks-

What could she see in him? How could she marry him?

She pushes those thoughts away as he walks towards them, studying his confident walk and the way his teeth gleam under the sunlight as he laughs. It occurs to her that he isn’t alone, that he’s laughing from something that someone said, and her eyes immediately dart to the man that Jermaine is walking with.

They stop outside of a store a few stores down from the ice cream shop when Tobin gets a good look at his companion.

I know him. Her brain sends warning signals to her, causing her to lean forward slightly over the table with the phone still pressed to her ear, squinting her eyes beneath her shades as it clicks.

“Lieutenant.” She orders in a clipped voice, handing Donovan a napkin to clean himself up with now that he’d demolished all of his ice cream. She still has half a scoop left. It’s fully melted in her cup.

“I need to give you a new name.”

Go ahead.”

Her hands clench, memories swarming through her mind, considering that the new target was equally, if not more, sinister than the first one.

“Mark Hayes.”

The call is quiet for a few seconds, then- “Born in 1990? Caucasian, blue eyes, light hair? Works at a truck dealership on Highway 23?”

She watches them continue laughing. Watches the man in question hold the door open for Jermaine as they talk animatedly about something. The situation has run her cold beneath the 70-degree heat. Tobin wants to cause pain for the first time in her life. Wants to cause them pain. Wants them to regret ever meeting Christen- wants them to regret ever meeting her.

“That’s the one.”

Chapter Text

There’s something they never tell you about life’s important moments, both the good and the bad-

How fast it all happens.

One minute you’re happy, and it can all change within the blink of an eye, and suddenly the days are longer and you’re begging for it to be night time because it means you get to sleep- get to quit being a person for a moment. In reverse, you can be so sad, so lonely. Struggling just to get through the day- then something changes through the course of time and suddenly you’re okay again. You’re breathing. Living instead of existing. Feeling so happy that you could just die.

Christen considers that happiness and sadness are two sides of a double-edged sword. Essentially both the same feeling. And they come upon you so quickly that it’s hard to realize what’s happening within the moments of life that you feel such things. Time moves in such an odd juxtaposition around us. It’s slow. It drags. It’s fast and fleeting.

Yet in the course of major life events, she feels like things change before she can even process what was happening to begin with.

When Tobin left, it seemed to simultaneously happen in the span of a few minutes while also never seeming to end. Five minutes felt like weeks. She remembers the screams that left her body as she collapsed into her mother’s arms after walking back inside through the screen door, hyperventilating through a panic attack after watching Tobin’s truck take a left out of her parent’s driveway. She remembers not being able to eat. She remembers the numbness of finding out she was pregnant, how cold the bathroom floor felt beneath her feet, how she sat there all night with her head on the side of the tub until her father opened the door and found her.

It’s like- she knows she was in labor for a long time. Yet she barely remembers giving birth. Everything blurred and warped and the things people were saying sounded so utterly convoluted to her in retrospect. One second, she was in the car with her mother and father, trying to breathe through the contractions and telling her father to stop driving so fast. The next minute, she was pushing, and the pain had seared through her spine so viciously for so long that she wanted to just die, despite it now being something that she barely remembers. She blinked and there he was. They had wiped the blood and fluid off of him before wrapping him in a blanket and placing him on her chest. Christen remembers crying with him, arms so weak that she could barely hold him to her chest. She remembers the way his newborn hair was matted and the tears that coated her mother’s cheeks from her bedside.

Her mother dying was another one of those moments. One day they were sitting in the hospital parking lot after her mother was diagnosed. She remembers her father attempting to console them, reassuring Stacy that they would fight it, that they could fight it. She remembers her mother nodding, refusing to cry despite it being all that Christen could do. Donovan was screaming from the backseat next to Christen, still a newborn, restless from being in his car seat. She couldn’t even hear his screams, looking out the car window and wondering how they got here- wondering when all of it would end.

What felt like days passed by although it was weeks, and suddenly her mother was in a coma, and suddenly her mother wasn’t coming home with them and suddenly she was staring at the wall in her bedroom, numb, listening to her father yell through his sobs. She blinked again and it was Donovan’s second birthday, and she saw her father smile for the first time in a long time as Donovan smeared cake all over his mouth.

If her life was a book, meeting Jermaine feels like a paragraph to her, laid out in the span of a few short sentences despite knowing that it was more like a chapter. Instead, she felt like it was a series of suddenly’s.

Suddenly she was on a date with a man she barely knew, laughing at his jokes, trying to be happy despite the hole in her heart. She laughed as much as she could and thought he was handsome enough, and she smiled when he held the door open for her and thanked him when he paid for their bill.

Suddenly he was kissing her on their third date after dropping her off at her fathers. She remembers thinking that his lips were too small and almost a little rough, but forcing herself to try hard to be into it anyways. She liked that his beard was something different from Tobin, knowing that it helped for her to separate them if she was ever going to get over it.

Suddenly he was staying for dinner, and her son was opening up to him.

Suddenly he was fucking her with a condom on and she liked the roughness, liked that it made her forget that making love was ever an option, liked that he never once worried about her getting off before himself. All he did was take, take, take, and so much had been taken from her at that point that it almost felt customary by then.

Suddenly her mother was gone. Suddenly she was at a funeral. Suddenly she was buying a house and Jermaine was moving in and she was showing her son where his room was.

Suddenly she was being proposed to.

Suddenly she was in a courthouse and sirens were going off as she said I do.

Suddenly she was being promoted at work, and her arguments with Jermaine were becoming worse, and her son was noticing that something was off.

Suddenly bruises were showing up on her wrist and there was always a stench of liquor on her husband’s breath and she hated the smell of bourbon so bad that she wanted to fucking scream.

Suddenly she was in another courthouse, thanking the judge for divorcing her, holding her son tightly against her body as she laid down to sleep in her childhood bedroom.

She blinked and Tobin was on her doorstep, and time came to a standstill, and suddenly-

Suddenly-

Things were normal again. The pace was alright. She was counting the days of the month again and smiling when she woke up, dreading the arrival of night time because she sunlight allowed her another day to live, to breathe, to see the smile lines on Tobin’s face and illuminate the many shades of brown that brown eyes can have.

It wasn’t just one singular color brown that an iris could hold. There were many shades, crystalized, both light and dark, no longer a memory but a real, tangible, visible thing that she could see.

But even in the haze of normal, happy life- things can become fast again. Moments are drawn into memories. The suddenly’s happen again.

Suddenly it’s the morning of the trial and she’s slipping on a grey dress and heels, and Tobin’s kissing the skin of her shoulder in comfort as her fingers secure a necklace around her neck. Tobin’s face is emotionless as she gets ready, and Christen watches her slip on a pair of straight leg black trousers, tucking an expensive Henley dress shirt beneath them and pulling a black leather belt through the loops.

Suddenly they’re dropping Donovan off at school, kissing the boy’s cheek and promising that they’ll be picking him up from school today. Together.

Suddenly Tobin’s behind the wheel of her Mercedes, driving them into a different city and parking in the courthouse parking lot. And they’re shaking hands with her lawyer Jonathan and following him up the steps of the massive brick courthouse, falling behind in line as they sign in at a desk, and she registers the tension splayed out across the Marine’s face as she engages in some sort of clipped conversation with Jonathan off to the side. She thinks nothing of it, too absorbed in wondering how they ended up here and how she was going to contain Tobin if things go wrong. How she was going to feel once her ex husband looks at her. How she was going to feel once her ex husband looks at Tobin.

They enter from the left-hand side of the courtroom and time slows down again. Tobin stands to her right and Jonathan to her left. Her right hand remains clasped in Tobin’s strong left-hand grip, the Marine’s jaw is clenched so tight that she can make out each line of the muscles as they flex and contract, and she’s thankful for Tobin’s towering and commanding figure for blocking her face from the man she knows is seated somewhere in the room.

They take a seat in the front row. She is calm. Tobin is not, but Christen is out of ways and ideas on how to calm the racing anxiety from Tobin’s body. She knows that once it’s all said and done, she’s going to take Tobin back to her house since they both have the day off. She’s going to spend all day loving on her, making love to her, letting the woman lay claim to her body until they both remember how to be comfortable again.

Christen wants it all to be over, for the most part, she doesn’t care what the results are. She wants to move on from this already, wants to spend her days never thinking about him again. Wants his memory to slip back into the void like it was before she woke up this morning.

Suddenly the judge is calling their case to come forward, and the feeling of having to let go of Tobin’s hand makes her frown, fearing that the Marine feels helpless and out of control now, unable to protect Christen. She gives her a comforting wink before following Jonathan to the stand, showing the woman that everything was okay- just like she had told her it would be weeks ago when they found out that the trial was going up again.

Christen wasn’t going to look at him if she could help it, despite seeing movement in her peripheral vision as he took the stand across the courtroom from her, his own lawyer at his side.

 

 

In the front row, Tobin stares at him, finally getting a good look at his figure now that he was closer. Oddly, despite what Christen may think, Tobin feels angry yet numb to it all. She feels secured knowing that the man was being monitored, knowing that his every move was being watched, knowing that her family was safe. Knowing that he wouldn’t dare try anything in a courthouse full of police officers, as he fights to lower his charges.

Her anger only truly surfaces when he looks over to Christen, and she watches his eyes move over her body, from her heels to her dress to her hair, lingering just long enough that she has to close her eyes to keep herself controlled. It wasn’t even from a place of possession. Not this time. Though she did feel possessive over the woman. It was from a place of insecurity, from a place of anger at what he had done, at how he could have something so genuinely perfect and harm it, at how the laws could possibly not protect to the highest extent each and every woman who had ever faced trauma at the hands of a man.

Tobin lets out a sharp sigh, feet glued to the brown carpet of the courthouse floor, fingers twirling the gold ring on her left middle finger over and over and over again as she sits and seethes.

He finally turns his head, but not to the judge.

He looks to the side. Looking at her.

Every cell in her body freezes, blood no longer rushing through her veins, fingers no longer turning her ring.

The asshole smirks at her, cold dark eyes running down her body. Tobin thinks he’s sizing her up, and the longer she sits beneath his gaze, the more uncomfortable she grows. Thought Tobin doesn’t falter-

She keeps their eyes in contact, stone cold, daring him to break it first. And he does, attention turning back to the judge, back to his lawyer as they begin the hearing.

What feels like seconds are minutes, passing around and between them, and Christen tries her hardest to keep up with the legal jargon that’s being exchanged between the lawyers and judge, and the case takes precedence before her. Suddenly Jonathan is asking questions to the judge, after Jermaine's lawyer finished what he was going on about, and there’s a woman typing everything that transpires from a few rows over, and she can hear the typing of the keyboard as the woman’s nails hit every key to keep up with how fast he is talking.

The judge is a smartass. He looks bored, and old, and over it all ready, and he’s giving motions to disallow Jonathan from asking certain questions. Christen thinks she can sympathize with the judge, not wanting to be here either, wishing they could come to a decision already. Or better- could have come to a decision without her having to be here. Jonathan is providing high definition pictures of the bruise on her hip and the cut along her mouth that was taken from the police department while she was at the hospital. The judge reviews the pictures without saying anything, without his face changing in the slightest of ways. It’s a contrast from how the case had gone before, how the judge in their county had shaken his head and looked at Jermaine with anger.

Christen wonders if this judge has daughters. If he has a wife. Or sisters. Or the slightest bit of concern that the man ten feet from her could put his hands on what was his wife, violently.

“Mr. Montgomery,” The old judge croaks, and from the corner of her eye she can see Jermaine lean forward towards the microphone, “Your divorce was final, yes?”

At hearing his voice, Tobin’s fists clench.

“Miss Press, how much in assets were you given from the settlement?”

Christen crosses her hands in front of her, leaning forward towards her own small microphone, making strong eye contact with the judge. “One hundred and seventeen thousand, your honor. Including the house.”

The old man sighs, leaning back into his chair and looking between them. His eyes settle on Christen again.

“And I see here that the medical records dated from the altercation in question state that you had superficial bruising along your right hip, along with a laceration on your bottom lip. The other pictures I have here indicate other superficial bruising. Were these taken yourself?”

Christen swallows her nerves. “Yes, your honor.”

“Were there ever any previous altercations that you sought medical treatment for?”

Her head shakes. “No, your honor.”

“Any altercations that involved the use of a weapon? Did Mr. Montgomery ever threaten to harm or harm your son?”

Jonathan’s head shakes slightly from beside her in disappointment, clarifying that the judge, as Christen had suspected, had already made his mind up.

No, your honor.” Christen’s voice shakes.

She had expected this to happen. She had known that this would happen upon stepping foot into the building. Jonathan had been warning her for weeks. Despite already knowing, there was a certain type of sadness that came from watching it all unfold, watching it take place in front of her and without her control. She had no way of altering the way that it seems to the old judge, no way of describing how it felt to fear a man coming home from the bar, fear getting him angry, fear his voice rising and his hands on her.

She was done fearing, had decided against it months ago. Christen was stronger now. She had healed. It was over, regardless of what the judge ruled in terms of the appeal. She will heal in the future, would heal with Tobin, would heal because of Tobin. And life would go on, she knew it to be so.

“Mr. Montgomery, what caused these actions to take place?”

Jermaine coughed and answered, voice smoother than ice. “Heavy alcohol use, your honor. And anger.”

The judge nodded, reading over file documents before him. “And I was told that you have been attending alcoholics anonymous classes? Do you have documents to give me about that?”

“Yes, your honor.” His lawyer took the papers from him, Christen could see, and walked the files to the bailiff, who then placed them into the judges outstretched hand.

After a quick glance, the judge sighed a long and dreary sigh, eyes locked on Jermaine’s solid figure. He stared at him for a good moment, a long moment, though no emotion passed over his eyes. Then he ended it.

Tobin’s head dropped, eyes blinking rapidly to process what she already knew to be happening, counting the breaths of air that filled her lungs to control her deafening anger. Her ears rang. Her teeth were wired so tight that they could have broken. Christen could only stare ahead at the wall behind the judge’s head, emotionless, stoic, and drained.

“Your appeal is approved, Mr. Montgomery.” His grave voice spoke, “The court will reduce your sentence to the sought-after amount. In place of a jail sentence, I’m requiring sixteen months of probation. Twelve months of anger management classes and graduation of a state referred AA program. I’ll need the papers delivered to my office monthly, showing that you are following this.”

She couldn’t look up. She wouldn’t. But she could feel Jermaine’s smile.

“As well, Miss Press has requested an eighteen-month family violence protective order in the event that your appeal is approved.”

Christen’s eyes broke from the back wall and quirked to her right side towards Jonathan, unaware of this, assuming that it had been added last minute without her knowledge. She was thankful for the sad wink he gave her, thankful that he’d prepared for the worst like she was paying him to do.

“To which I will allow.” The judge continued. “You are to stay outside of and no closer than 100 yards or 300 feet from Miss Press, as well as her son Donovan. Your probation officer will explain the full extent of the order and this is non-negotiable. Is that clear?”

Christen looked at him for the first time over her lawyers shoulder, taking in the way his face had changed since being in jail, unable to keep from seething at the thin smile that crossed his mouth as he nodded to the judge.

“This is nothing to smile about, Mr. Montgomery.” He barked, and she felt a small victory as his face was wiped of its mirth. “I am approving your appeal on the assumption that rehabilitation would be best for you instead of jail. If I see you before me again, you will not be granted the mercy of the law. Am I understood?”

The gavel sounded out.

 

Silence fills the car at first, once Tobin had shut Christen’s door behind her before getting in herself. She doesn’t move from the parking space, doesn’t turn on the radio, doesn’t even start the car. Both women are in a state of imbalance, hung up on what they’d been expecting and the tiny sliver of hope that it wouldn’t have come true.

Though it did.

The Marine looks over, across the console, hesitantly watching the woman for any signs to how she felt. Tobin had already made up her mind that she wasn’t going to react in anger, choosing instead to be whatever Christen needed her to be in that moment. If Christen wanted to cry, they would cry. If she wanted to talk, they would talk. If she wanted to do nothing, then dammit- they would do nothing.

It’s easy for Tobin to remember that she isn’t the victim here, and never was. If anything, part of her has to swallow a certain amount of guilt and remorse for the woman she loves, knowing what she’s been through- knowing that had she never left in the first place none of this would have happened. Tobin drowns out the visions of the man smiling at her. She drowns out the sirens in her head, saving them for a better time.

It would be easy for her to be selfish, but it’s easier to not. Her only motive was to hold Christen down until it all blew over, to be her rock if she needed one, in whatever way she could be. And though her hands itched from wanting to reach over, she wouldn’t move a muscle until Christen told her to.

Green eyes focused on their outside surroundings. Christen was putting her feelings into boxes, categorizing them and weighing them, codifying her inner emotions so that she could understand the way she felt.

What terrified her wasn’t the self-pity, she barely had any. She felt a slight bit of anger, a slight bit of numbness, a slight bit of expectancy- but none of it scared her and none of it was misplaced. What terrified her was the happiness.

She laughed and shook her head, startling Tobin and causing the Marine to look at her curiously.

“Chris?” Tobin lightly called out. Worried and alarmed. Wondering if Christen was about to start sobbing and preparing herself to pull the woman from the fire.

Christen’s beautiful laughter rang out inside the Mercedes, and Tobin couldn’t help but giggle worriedly as well, unable to stop from copying what she knew to be one of the best sounds in the universe even though she couldn’t find what was funny.

“Am I crazy to be happy that all of this is over?”

Tobin’s throat constricted, mind blown at how a human could have such an abnormal reaction, such a humbling reaction. It was canonically Christen, she thought. To try and find the bright in everything, even when nothing at all seemed bright about a situation.

Suddenly she wanted to forget about Smitty, forget about the tracking, wanting to feel the same weight lifting off of her shoulders about the situation that Christen was feeling. She had given Smitty a break from the surveillance for half of the day today, explaining to him over the phone that they would be in the same courthouse, that he didn’t have to keep tracking until they made it back home.

Just a little while longer. She argued with herself. You have to be sure.

“I don’t think you’re crazy.” Tobin shrugged thoughtfully. “But are you sure you’re okay?”

The Marine was searching Christen’s face for any sign of discomfort. Part of her was curious about whether this calm and collected reaction was just an in-the-moment thing, if Christen would really start to feel what just happened once the dust settled, once the adrenaline wore off.

Honestly,” The woman sighed, reaching down to unclasp her heels, “I’m okay. I’m happy. There’s no more lawyers, no more drama, no more bullshit. He got what he wanted and it’s over with.”

She sighed, looking over, smile widening at how handsome and perfect Tobin looked. Brown eyes shining in the sun. Face flawless, rid of imperfection. As if she had not been able to see it yet with all of the chaos that had surrounded them this morning.

“Now it feels like we can finally breathe, you know?”

Tobin didn’t. Not at all. But she nodded, nonetheless. Once their eyes locked again, once Christen had shrugged her shoes off to the side and threw her feet up on the dashboard, they both took a deep breath. One exhaling the past, the other exhaling from whiplash. The sun was weighing down into the car, casting a peaceful glow into the air, and it was warm enough outside that Tobin cranked the ignition and pressed the button to release the hardtop. She wanted to continue Christen’s high, wanted to keep her in that safe space of mind where no negativity could reach her, ready to do whatever it took to maintain the sense of peace and order that Christen seemed to have.

The dark-haired woman reached for her sunglasses compartment the moment the sunlight spilled over the tops of their heads, watching Tobin clasp her seatbelt with a small smile on her lips before doing the same. Light guitar music played through the vehicle’s Bluetooth.

“So what do you wanna do now? We have a few hours to kill before Donovan’s out of school.” Tobin asked her with smile.

Christen leaned over into Tobin’s space, tugging at the bottom of her shirt and using the cotton fabric to wipe the dust and smudges from her sunglasses, knowing the fabric of her dress would do nothing but smear the lens. She wiped the first lens, and moved to the next, leaning in to steal a peck from Tobin’s lips. Their mouths met in a quick kiss and Christen stopped cleaning the shades in order to press her right hand down onto the Marine’s firm abdomen beneath her shirt, just above the waistband of her briefs.

It was teasing and firm. They kissed again, pulling back before allowing themselves to have a full-on make-out session in the courthouse parking lot. Christen’s eyes stayed locked on Tobin’s plump lips, across her nose, before landing on animated brown eyes.

“Let's just go home.”

 

 

Christen rocks into Tobin’s hips.

Tobin isn’t quite sure how they ended up here after only being inside the house for barely five minutes, but she has one hand wrapped snug around a heavy breast while the other squeezes and kneads a firm ass-cheek, so needless to say-

She isn’t complaining.

Her shirt is off, bra discarded along with Christen’s somewhere beneath the bed, and she groans when Christen’s hand slides between her legs and squeezes her over her pants.

“Can we try something?” Christen tugs at her hair, separating their mouths to speak.

Yeah. Tobin thinks. Definitely not complaining.

Trying something with Christen meant that uncharted territory was going to be explored, meant that the woman had been thinking about doing this for a while now. They had hours to kill, and a laundry list of fantasies that either of them could play-out whilst killing time. Tobin was content to sit here and ‘try anything’ for the whole damn day. The morning had been worse than horrible, she’d been expecting the rest of the day to be nothing else, but this was far from it.

Be it Christen’s pregnancy hormones, be it Christen’s newfound personal freedom from the weight and shackles of her past, whatever it was that had given the green-eyed girl the idea to spend their afternoon having sex, Tobin was on board. As she’d established in her own mind before, whatever Christen needed from her, now that all was said and done- she was prepared to give.

It was a blessing that Christen asked for her body, because that was one thing she was skilled at giving the woman without a second thought.

Tobin hummed, distracted by what was in front of her, craning her neck to wrap her mouth around a hardened nipple. She bit lightly with her teeth, pulling back, feeling Christen push her chest out further with a hiss as she pushed herself further into Tobin’s lap. Her tongue toothed any trace of pain before flicking and sucking, and she wondered playfully if she could make the woman cum from this alone.

“Tobin, did you hear me?” Christen quirked an eyebrow, chest heaving, pulling the Marine’s mouth off of her breast and trying not to moan at the way her teeth scraped as she was pulled back.

“Hm?” Tobin looked up at her, eyes dazed and far off, barely holding eye contact before looking back down at her breasts. Christen watched her carefully, feeling the way Tobin wrapped strong hands around her breasts, thumbs pressing harshly into the side of her nipples. She watched Tobin’s throat bob and jaw clench as she swallowed, off in her own little turned-on world as she felt Christen up.

“God, you’re oblivious sometimes.” She playfully scolded, right hand smoothing back Tobin’s unruly hair. “And so fucking hot.”

Her left hand wrapped around Tobin’s jaw harshly, redirecting her gaze back to her own flaming eyes.

“You’re so beautiful.” The Marine was a goner, filling her stomach with butterfly’s, the same one she’s always filled with while being looked at like a national treasure. “Tell me what you want, baby.” She mumbled, kissing Christen’s parted lips, biting them, hands pulling her closer by her ass.

Christen groans into their kiss, eyes squeezing shut, pressing her center into Tobin’s belt and rocking her clit into the hard material. Tobin was buzzing with adrenaline, bursting at the seams, and the muscles of her abdomen contract and flex as Christen’s fingers reach to unbuckle her.

“I want to go down on you.” She guides the edge of the belt through the first few loops before pulling it through the rest of the way, hearing Tobin moan at the prospect of her words. “While you go down on me.”

The visuals hit Tobin’s brain, swelling her to the point of pain as fingers work to undo her pants button. They had never tried anything like that before, but it was high up on her own list of things she wanted to do with the woman, especially now that they were becoming more and more open with one another sexually. She would please Christen a thousand different ways with anything imaginable, and it swelled her chest to know that the younger woman wanted to do the same in return.

Christen pulls back, breathing- “Then I want you to fuck me.”

Clothes are tugged off in a hurry, heated and beautiful laughter filling the air between them. Christen takes a moment to kiss her sweetly and run her hands up and down the length of Tobin’s strong thighs. Pressing against the muscles, thumbs dipping into her v-line above her hipbones before rubbing the jagged length of her flexed abdomen. She subtly noticed that the workouts Tobin had been doing were paying off in a wondrous way, her muscles were harder, more defined, making her stronger while making Christen sweat.

After a quick feel up, she disconnects their mouths to throw her leg back from her straddled position and turn, fighting through nervousness at a new position as she sets her left knee beside Tobin’s shoulder and pulls the other one over her head.

Her hands balance on Tobin’s abdomen at first, which she’s eternally grateful for when a wet tongue darts out to slide through her center. Tobin dives in without warning, needing no instructions on how to make the woman’s thighs tremble, and her hands cover the flat planes of Christen’s taught back as she feels a hand wrap around the base of her length.

When Christen leans forward slowly, tongue darting out to run along her length before she takes her into her mouth, Tobin nearly cums. She has to press her head back into the pillow with her eyes shut, letting go of the woman’s clit so she can curse and stay strong.

Fuck, Chris.”  She hisses, feeling Christen drop her head lower to take a few more inches. Her toes curl and her knees lock.

She looks up at the swollen flesh in front of her, mouth watering, and focuses on getting Christen wetter to keep herself from falling over the edge too soon. Her lips wrap around Christen’s small vulva, teasing and pulling the flesh into her mouth before parting them to slide her tongue inside. The woman’s core is burning, clenching, and she tastes good enough to cause Tobin’s eyes to roll.

She moves to her clit as she hits the back of Christen’s throat, causing two pairs of thighs to tremble, and Christen has to pull back and use her hand as Tobin flicks her tongue across her bundle of nerves, moaning out. It takes all her might to not rock back and forth, not wanting to keep Tobin’s tongue from focusing on the place she needs her most. Everything in her is throbbing, slowly building up the side of the mountain peak, and it’s so hot and so good that Christen nearly loses focus on getting the other woman off.

Tobin juts her hips into the hand that’s working her, feeling the mouth return soon after- warm and wet, causing her hips to keep rocking. She circles Christen’s clit, French kissing it, flicking up and down, maintaining enough of a steady pace that prevents Christen from holding still. Her own hips move up and down, fucking herself onto Tobin’s mouth until it hits her, the product of raw pleasure-seeking sex making itself known with a jolt through her legs.

Tobin feels the woman tense- Leaning up with her hands in a vice grip around Tobin’s thighs.

Suspended in time-

Wetness floods Tobin’s taste buds as jagged moans are fired off, and she drinks in as much as she can, sliding her tongue through until Christen is overly sensitive and pulling off of her mouth with trembling legs. 

The Marine has her flipped in a matter of seconds, crushing their mouths together, splitting Christen’s legs and wrapping them around her waist. She’s panting, eager, needing to hear the woman consent before she pushes into her as their tongues battle for dominance.

Once Christen nods, Tobin reaches between them to line herself up, hips pressing down and sliding her head into Christen’s core, and taking her stomach as she slides in until their hips meet.

As Tobin sets a harsh pace, Christen’s eyes darken, hands holding onto her biceps and ribs. She fucks the girl harder still, hips colliding into the back of Christen’s thighs, holding herself up with her right hand in a fist balled into the mattress next to Christen’s head. The headboard creaks against its frame from the force of driving hips, and every time she bottoms out, the green-eyed girl’s face contorts at the feeling of being taken. 

Tobin was tearing through her maddeningly, slamming into the base of her core, giving her no space or time to breathe or recover, fucking her just like she’d asked her to.

She increases her demands-

Baby,” She pleads, gripping onto Tobin’s ribcage and holding on for dear life. “Smack me.”

Tobin’s hips falter slightly, head shooting up from where it had been looking down, trying to see if she had heard her right.

“Please.” Christen confirms what she had heard, looking at her with pleading eyes.

She doesn’t think about it at first- Doesn’t consider the implications or reasoning. Thinking that she was being asked to deliver a bite of pain in the middle of rough sex, something that they had discussed before and had both been on board with, yet hadn’t gotten around to doing. Tobin didn’t think-

She didn’t think-

Her left hand raises and grips the woman’s jaw tightly, hips speeding up until the headboard hits the wall. Christen was letting out staggered moans, eyes locked with hers, when she inexperienced and lightly smacks against the flesh of Christen’s cheek.

Harder.” She hears.

She didn’t think-

Her left hand strikes down, sharp and stinging, feeling Christen tighten around her. She wasn’t thinking-

Wasn’t thinking that it-

A sob rips its way through Christen’s chest, stunning the older woman, tears instantly collecting in her eyes as her mouth parts and her hips stall to a complete stop. Christen’s hands are over her face to catch the second sob.

Anger washes over the Marine at first, realizing why Christen had asked her to do that and in mortified disbelief that Christen would make Tobin into a weapon. Angry because she listened to her. Because she didn’t think about it. Because she didn’t take a step back and believe herself when she’d thought that the woman was acting strange after they left the courthouse.

Next, watching Christen’s body shake and tremble through her cries, Tobin feels remorse and a deep sadness- unable to imagine the way Christen must be feeling, unable to imagine how badly the woman must have wanted to see just a sliver of the positive instead of breaking down like everyone had expected her to, like even Tobin had expected her to. She softly wraps her torso over the shaking body after slowly pulling out, hardness long since gone away after almost immediately losing the urge to cum. Christen weeps against her chest, one hand wrapped around Tobin’s neck, holding her close, needing to feel safe.

Tobin coos and shushes her gently, eyes sullen, left hand holding Christen’s head into her neck as she swallows down the anger and morphs into Christen’s rock, her roof and four walls, keeping her safe and warm and protected from what she could.

If only she could crawl inside Christen’s head and do the same.

“I’ve got you, Chris.” Tobin whispers once the woman’s sobs turn into soft cries. She feels Christen’s head shake, so she regulates her breathing to get the woman to follow her, in hopes that it could offer some relief. “I’m so sorry.”

I’m sorry that you are unprotected by the state. I’m sorry that he touched you with hands that weren’t loving. I’m sorry that I left, that I left you to find someone else. I’m sorry that they couldn’t consider the scars inside of you that weren’t visible, that couldn’t be captured in a photograph, that are much worse than the physical damage.

Christen’s eyes find her own once she starts to calm down after a few minutes, eyes bloodshot, mascara slightly running. Tobin doesn’t speak, managing to muster up the strongest, softest look she can, kissing the woman’s forehead lightly.

“I didn’t mean to ruin-“

Tobin leans down to kiss her, cutting her off, willing her own tears away as their lips stick together when they separate. “You didn’t ruin anything.”

Christen sighs into her space, feeling Tobin wipe fresh tears that spring up, though she isn’t actively crying anymore. “Still, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was going to make me feel like that.” She whispers.

“There’s nothing to apologize for.” Tobin’s head shakes, looking deeply into her eyes, thumb rubbing along the woman’s bottom lip. She realizes that she had jumped to conclusions- that Christen hadn’t used her as a weapon, that she had only been in the moment, not expecting the feeling of Tobin's hand meeting her cheek to send her back to a darker place. Tobin is instantly grateful that she didn’t react poorly and let her anger get the best of her, that she didn’t assume the worst and was patient instead.

“I’m not upset. It’s understandable after a day like today how that could be hard for you to feel. I’m sorry that I didn’t even stop to think about what that could do.”

The situation was similar, in a way, to her own struggles. How certain things, out of the blue, could send her back to moments in time that she wished she could remove from her memory. She figured they weren’t so different, after all. That there was no scale to weigh emotional pain, no measuring stick for people to compare notes of what hurt them.

If it hurt- it hurt.

“Do you think we might be able to do it again?” Christen asks her, looking small and hopeful beneath her. Tobin sighs and rolls to the side, propping her head up onto her palm, left hand moving to trace along Christen’s tummy, wondering subconsciously how big the peanut was now while simultaneously considering Christen’s question. Her stomach was still flat, for the most part, just perhaps a little more firm to the touch. They were both naked, and goosebumps covered their flesh from the cool air and drying sweat.

“Maybe one day? When all of this isn’t so fresh?”

Tobin bites her lip and nods. “Maybe one day.” She confirms.

 

They decide to go sit beneath the sun on Christen’s porch in the hammock, hoping to maybe do a little talking or napping for the next hour or so they have left in the day. Christen takes her makeup off, giving them both clothes that they can lounge and spend the rest of the day in. She feels a little sore already, and her wince as she settles in behind Tobin makes the Marine wince too. Tobin rests her head back onto Christen’s chest, feeling her hair being played with softly, nearly lulling her to sleep though she fights it.

After a moment, Tobin speaks up, eyes focused on Christen’s bent knees on either side of her as her hands trace along the sides of her legs.

“Do you want to talk about how you feel?”

Christen knows what she’s talking about. The fact that they have yet to discuss the trial, the fact that she tried to push it past her and not allow herself to feel anything but artificial happiness. She gathers her thoughts before speaking.

“I am happy.” She starts. “Truly, I’m glad that it’s over. And I really do feel like we can begin our life now. I just-“

Tobin waits patiently for the woman to gather her thoughts, so she could say how she was feeling authentically, knowing that Tobin would be all ears once she connects her dots. “Guess I just had hope, you know?”

The Marine nods quietly against her chest. She did know. She’d had hope, too.

“Guess I just thought naively that he wouldn’t get his way. And part of me is just- just so fucking pissed off that the judge made it seem like he was helping him by sending him to rehab.”

“It’s not like he’s a drug addict. It’s a slap on the wrist.” Tobin mumbles, agreeing with a clenched jaw. “I didn't know there was a rehab for moral-less abusive men.”

Christen shrugs then, feeling the same, feeling the disappointment course through her stomach, what she was sure Tobin was feeling too. She presses her nose into Tobin’s hairline, breathing in her scent, the subtle florals of her shampoo and the notes of her cologne. They sit in their silence for a moment, wrapped in one another, knowing that the only thing that could be said was disappointed complaining at this point. There were benefits to looking ahead, Tobin thought. Maybe Christen had it right by trying. Considering that going over and over it would do nothing to help.

 

“I think I want to tell our friends about the baby pretty soon after our next OBGYN appointment.” Christen whispers, changing the subject, watching Tobin’s eyes flutter open beneath the sunlight.

“Yeah?” Tobin asks her. Then, “Want to do it at my parent’s or your parent’s? We can just tell everyone it’s a barbecue and not tell them what its about. Figured it would be some sort of a surprise.”

Christen thinks about it for a second, nodding. “At your parent’s house.”

Tobin laughs and shakes her head, remembering that it wasn’t just their friends they had to tell. “God, my parents. And your dad. I can only imagine how they’re going to react.” She daydreams, “I’ll have to call Kelley afterwards. She’s a shitty secret keeper.”

Light giggles ring out from behind her. “She is, isn’t she?”

The Marine nods once more, feeling Christen’s short nails scratch along her scalp. It’s silent for a moment, allowing them both to close their eyes and relax, until another thought springs in Tobin’s mind.

“I’ve been thinking,” She starts, sighing into the September air, fingers coasting along Christen’s smooth and soft leg. “I um.. I want Donovan to have my last name.”

Christen barely thinks about it before Tobin begins again. “I thought that.. Well, maybe you and I could talk to him. About the adoption thing? I know he’s so little and he probably won’t understand a lot. I know he doesn’t understand a lot already. But maybe it would be something he wanted? If it’s something you wanted?”

The younger woman’s heart melts at Tobin’s nerves, at her consideration for her and their son’s feelings above her own. The need to know that they, too, would want Donovan to share Tobin’s last name, to be fully hers in the eyes of the state. It was such a trivial process, something that Tobin was surprised upon realizing that it’s something she wanted so soon. But she couldn’t fight the desire to start pushing for them to be more of a family on paper.

She wanted to know that she could pick him up from school without Christen having to call first and authorize it. She wanted to know that she could make medical decisions if Christen couldn’t. There were multiple reasons of why it mattered to her, and the more night’s she spends tucking him into bed, the more she wishes that she could actually call herself his mother instead of acting like one.

“Of-course I would want that. And he would too, T. You are already a mother to him. He considers you no different and you know that.”

Tobin smiles so wide her teeth gleam, loving nothing more than to hear that, hoping Donovan always knows that she loves him, that she would do anything for him, that she would give her life for him and his unborn sibling.

She cocks her head to the side. “What are we planning to tell Donovan when he asks where the baby in your tummy came from?”

Christen’s eyes widen like saucers, and she humorlessly laughs at the atom bomb of a question, not even attempting to concoct an idea because she knew she had no clue. That was an answer that would take a few days of mental checklists until she had any possible idea. It’s not that she hadn’t considered the prospect of her son wanting to know deeper details of how Tobin was also his mother, or the mother of the child growing inside of her.

She was expecting him to ask, only perhaps a few more years from now as he starts to learn and become aware of more and not so soon. Christen figured it would be at least until he was eight or ten before the questions began.

“Let’s just get there when we get there.” She sighs with a head shake, fingers working through a tangle in the Marine’s hair and pulling it out.

Better question.” She pokes Tobin’s rib with a soft smirk, allowing the Marine to turn her head slightly and peak up at her. “When am I gonna get to have your last name, too?”

 

 

Three o’clock comes quickly, and the two find themselves parked in the car-rider line of Donovan’s school in Tobin’s jeep, waiting for the teacher to bring him out of the cafeteria and walk him to the car. In the Jeep’s trunk sits a blanket, three camping chairs, a cooler packed with sandwiches and drinks. And something else, too.

Fishing rods.

Christen didn’t have to return to work. Tobin wasn’t due to report back to her father until tomorrow. They both needed a good family day to distract them from the morning’s events. So why not?

Plus, Tobin had been promising the little man that they would break his new fishing rod and tackle box in soon. She couldn’t have picked a better day. The sun was high in the sky, not a cloud in sight. Christen had taken it upon herself to make sure Tobin was repaid for the earlier lost orgasm before they left the house, and there was nothing more that she wanted to do apart from sit on a dock and do nothing with her little guy and her beautiful girl.

They had taken the quick drive over to Jeff and Cindy’s house once Tobin pulled her borrowed shorts back up from her place laid back on the couch. All of their fishing rods were secured in the garage, ready to be loaded into the car once Tobin threw some jeans on and dropped her dress clothes off in the laundry room. Christen had changed into the tightest skinny jeans the Marine had ever seen her in, Nike’s on her feet, and had asked for Tobin to bring her one of her old sweaters- knowing that the temperature around the dock cooled off at night due to the water. Then, they stopped at a local store to get a small bucket of minnows for bait.

The Marine smiled brightly from the driver’s seat as Christen got out to pick the happy little boy up into her arms and set him into his seat. The top was down, allowing Tobin to light up at Donovan’s big eyes as soon as he took note of the fishing poles that stuck out above the seat next to him.

“We’re going fishing?!” He spoke loudly, and both women watched the happiness take over him like a horrible sugar high as Christen tried to get him buckled.

“We sure are, bud. Is that cool with you?” Tobin couldn’t help but laugh, reaching back with one hand to try and help Christen with the aggravating seat belt buckle. The younger woman huffed when it finally clasped, giving her the chance to slap a loud kiss right on Donovan’s cheek, smiling as he giggled. The Marine almost hopped out so she could kiss him too, but settled for squeezing his knee instead, planning to attack him with kisses and hugs once they got to the lake.

A car honked behind them, an impatient mother, heightening Tobin’s laughter at the sharp glare and eye roll that the green-eyed woman gave the minivan behind them before getting into the passenger seat.

Once they were a few turns away from the dock entrance, Tobin took it upon herself to tease the poor boy relentlessly, eyes glancing up with a smile through the rearview mirror to watch his facial expression change. “Hmm,” She teased. “Maybe we should go to the dentist office first. Didn’t you say you wanted to go there first?”

Donovan giggled, shaking his head, excitement pouring out of him with every second. “No!”

Christen playfully smacked Tobin’s bicep, shooting her an amused glare for interrogating their son. She linked her arm back through the Marine’s, feeling the muscles flex as she changed the gearshift with her right hand.

“What about the post office?” Tobin asked him next. “Didn’t you need to mail something?”

No, Toe-bin!”

The adults laughed with their chests at his insistence that they could go nowhere else apart from where they were headed.

 

The chairs are set up along the blanket that’s laid out along the wooden beams of the dock. Tobin had swung the laughing kid off of her shoulders once they walked down through those same familiar woods from their parked vehicles, and she had nearly given Christen a heart attack by swinging him far enough to tread his little shoes above the water. She wasn’t going to drop him, her grip tight beneath his armpits, just doing anything to keep his laughter loud and his smile wide.

Christen unpacks their food and drinks while Tobin handles the fishing rods, securing them inside their holsters on the edge of the dock. She lets the spool unreel with one hand around the hook, Donovan standing between her legs, and she leans over just enough to let him see her hands work as she baits it. It was a pride thing- wanting to show him how after Christen had offhandedly mentioned while she was buying minnows that Jermaine would never let them bait the hooks or cast their own lines.

With her left hand grasping a slippery minnow and her right hand holding the hook of her own fishing rod, she teaches him.

“Since we’re using a sinker,” She starts, reaching for the iron ball that she had tied to their line to show him, “we want the little guy to be secure on the hook and not able to get off of it, but we still want him to be able to swim.” She speaks gently, unaware that Christen hadn’t taken her eyes or her ears off of them since she started. “That is called float and sinker fishing.”

She bends down, arms loosely wrapped around Donovan’s body, and her head rests over his little shoulder to carefully watch what she was doing as she taught. “We want him to be secure, so we’re going to put the hook right here.” The end of the hook pierces through, and both adults watch his face for any signs of discomfort.

“We want to hook him lower than his spine.” Tobin quietly points to the puncture sight, showing the boy that she had aimed lower that the edge of the minnow. “Because if we hit his spine, he won’t be able to move. And we need him to move and swim around in order to catch the big fish. Okay, bud?”

Donovan nods his head, concentrating on every word that left Tobin’s mouth. She figured that he might have to be shown a few more times before getting the hang of it, but she kissed his cheek regardless.

“Does that hurt him?” He asks, pointing at the minnow and looking back at her curiously.

Tobin shrugs. Softly. Sensitive. “I don’t know. He probably just wants to be in the water right now, more than anything. Do you know what we do next?”

Christen’s eyes fill, watching them, heart and soul saturated in love.

“Put him in the water!” Donovan guesses loudly, and Tobin thinks that he might have scared the nearby fish away, that she might have to cast this one a few more yards further than she originally planned, but she laughs and nods to him anyways.

She wraps her hands around Donovan’s over top of her adult-sized rod handle, reeling the minnow in until it’s hanging by about half of a foot from the rod tip. She pulls their arms back slowly, tracking the hook with her eyes to make sure that it didn’t accidentally snag something.

“So you pull it back slowly, making sure nothing is behind you.” She mutters, “And put your thumb over this button.” Her thumb covers his over the release and drag button. “Now when you press it, you snatch the rod end of the rod forward, okay?”

Her thumb presses the button as she simultaneously throws the line, sending the weight and hook forward by about thirty yards. It was a perfect cast, making all three of them smile, and Tobin looks over to find Christen wiping at the skin beneath her wet eyes. For a second she’s worried, but then Christen winks at her, and silently mouths-

I love you.

And all is okay. Tobin kisses Donovan’s head, bending up and leaning over him to set the rod back into its holster, snatching his kid-sized fishing rod up from beside her with another minnow, ready to begin the process all over again.

It takes about twelve solid minutes of waiting before one of the bobber's dunk beneath the water. Christen is so relieved for some action that she nearly jumps when she notices it, having already grown bored out of her mind at having to sit still. She’d tried to get Donovan to tell them about his day, asking him questions to keep herself occupied, but he was hardly paying attention. Too content to copy Tobin, who was seated next to him, by staring out over the murky lake water and wait patiently in silence.

“It’s your line, bud!” Tobin hops to her feet, resuming her position behind Donovan as she waits for the bobber to dunk again.

Got it. She thinks once it dunks, hands already reaching for the tiny reel handle and reeling it in just enough to test the weight of the fish.

“Chris,” She mumbles, proud and distracted. “It’s huge!”

She expected at least a five-pound bass, snatching the rod back to hopefully hook the fish secure so they wouldn’t lose it. She would explain the reeling process to Donovan if they caught another one, but for now she wanted to make sure this one didn’t get loose, not wanting Donovan to be disappointed that they had nearly caught it but couldn’t in the case that she didn’t act fast enough. It was already difficult having to do everything on a rod that was about three sizes too small.

She reeled a few yards and then pulled back, repeating the process as Donovan excitedly tracked the motion in the water with his eyes. Once she reeled it in close enough, the Smallmouth Bass appeared beneath the water, causing Donovan to bounce up and down and point while he yelled, “You got it, Tobin! I see it!”

“Dude!” Tobin laughed as she pulled the flailing fish out of water. “I didn’t even catch one that big at your age.”  

It was only about five-pounds as she had estimated, and she had definitely been catching sixty-pound adult Striper Bass since she was fifteen, but none of it mattered- she would inflate the happy boys ego all night if she could.

“That is huge, son.” Christen leans in with a smile, hand against the dip of Tobin’s lower back, watching Tobin grab the fish bare-handed by the mouth and reach for the hook. It made her queasy to see, just like it always did, so she squeezed Donovan’s shoulder as he continued to happily bounce up and down before taking her seat back on the dock and reaching for the book she had secretly packed in their bag- happy to let them stay at it all night.

Three fish were caught and returned back to the water, and they stayed out on the dock until the sun was barely hanging onto the horizon and the night was getting colder. The sandwiches were demolished, along with the apples and water bottles, and Donovan was looking more content than Christen had ever seen him as they loaded up the Jeep and got him into his seat.

On the drive home, with their hands intertwined gently as Tobin cruised along the highway, Christen looked back to make sure the boy was still awake before beginning to speak.

“Don?” Christen called to him, looking back as he said “Yeah?”

She went for it. “How would you feel about Tobin adopting you?”

Donovan didn’t even waver. “What does that mean?”

The younger woman’s brain turned, she had rehearsed the answer to this question a hundred times tonight as she watched them, yet finding herself unsure now of the right way to explain it.

“It means that, basically, I would become your parent legally, bud.” Tobin’s soft voice spoke up, squeezing down on Christen’s hand as she became nervous after speaking. “Like- like I would be your mama, just in a legal way. We would fill out paperwork and it would be official.” She looked at him in the rear-view mirror quickly, watching his eyebrows furrow. “Would you want that?” Her voice barely broke.

Confused, he craned his curly head to look at Tobin, “I thought you did that yesterday?”

Both adults gently smiled at his nonchalant response, at how he still had a hard time understanding that yesterday didn’t just mean any old day in the past, as he was referring to the conversation they had weeks ago as they had tucked him into bed together. Tobin laughed, shaking her head, exhaling a breath she wasn’t aware she’d been holding in.

“I thought you were already my mama.” Donovan shrugged, looking unbothered at the moon-covered farmland they drove past.

I am, bud.” The devil himself couldn’t have rid Tobin of her smile- of her happiness inside, looking over at Christen with wet eyes as they both remembered that nothing seemed as serious to a five-year-old as it would always seem to them.

“I am.” She repeated.

 

The weeks pass on as September fades into October. Their days are spent with Tobin training beside her father, Christen working, and spending as much family time together as possible.

Tobin has pretty much moved into Christen’s house at this point, spending her nights with the Jeep parked in the front yard and being there to tuck Donovan in. Her clothes take up a portion of Christen’s closet, her Nike slides are always somewhere haphazardly discarded inside the house when she’s home, and a routine is starting to develop. The time spent between eating dinner, going to sleep, and then eating breakfast, is the time for Christen’s pregnancy hormones to hit.

She’s starting to cry more often and sleep for longer, her uterus feels tight and heavier along with her breasts, bringing on the general uncomfortable pregnancy sensations that she hadn’t missed for a single solitary second. At night, she gets ridiculously turned on at the smallest things. Tobin feels like she could barely kiss or touch on the woman and Christen is suddenly ready to go. Part of the Marine wonders sometimes if it’s possible for her to just stop getting hard one day with how often Christen needs her, though not that an ounce of her is complaining about it. In the mornings, if Christen isn’t spending her time riding Tobin into oblivion and draining her before 8 a.m., she’s tearing up at having to put Donovan on the bus, or tearing up at the cute animal videos on her Instagram feed, or she’s spending her early time with her head bent over the toilet at simple things like the smell of cooking food.

Tobin takes it all in stride. Waking up with little warning to split Christen apart. Bringing her food to work when she gets a craving. Holding her hair and rubbing her back as she vomits. Kissing her cheek and calling her beautiful as she gets ready for work.

Oh, and the other thing-

The most important thing-

Christen has started to show.

The bump is so small, just barely noticeable to anyone else, but both of them feel like she grows more overnight. Christen is internally thankful that they planned to tell their friends soon after the next doctor’s appointment, knowing that the cardigans won’t cover the stretch of her work clothes before long if they continue to wait.

Tobin kisses the firm skin every night. Christen cries as she does it.

Every night.

She whispers her excitement at both watching the child grow and how ready she is to meet him or her, how beautiful Christen is, how loved the little person will be once they are born. How loved they are already.

Everything is peaceful. She’s finally starting to get comfortable with the company and training with her dad, to the point where she’s taking over conference calls and doing the majority of the decision making when it comes to the new facilities and land. The trees are being cleared quicker than they had originally planned. Their home office was recently finished being furnished. Christen had even started searching online for properties within the communities she liked when she had explored while they were up there.

Tobin gives her steady input, a list of things she would like to see in their house, and Christen dutifully searches when she has free-time, piling up a list that she can review with Tobin after dinner and narrowing it down. They made the plan with her father to send Tobin back up to Portland once they had a few properties to look at, so she could check in with A.D on the farm land, make changes to the home office if needed, and hopefully tour a few homes with Christen on video chat.

Christen didn't want to fly back and forth, and she trusted that they would make the decision together, trusted Tobin’s instinct and opinion when it comes to the house that would work best for them and their family. Tobin knew the must-have’s that she needed, she knew the style Christen was aiming for, knew how to ensure that they would be happy. She would fly up once they had a house picked out to tour it and sign off on the closing.

They were hoping to time this adequately enough before Christen’s due date. She had decided to give birth in Portland, unwilling to be in the middle of a moving process or managing a newborn while they were in the process of making any adjustments or remodeling in the house. They decided that whatever house they found, they wanted it to be bought and fully ready for their arrival when they made their final trip around the end of Christen’s pregnancy.

It was a long road ahead of them, but it didn’t have to seem so grueling if they took it step by step, moment by moment, day by day as they were currently doing.

On the day of their eight-week checkup, Christen hisses as a cold jelly-like lubricant is smeared across her tummy. It’s 12 p.m., on her lunch hour as they had scheduled it, and she’d spent all day in nervous excitement for this exact moment. Tobin’s palm is sweaty as she holds her hand, eyes trained onto the monitor even thought the doctor hasn’t even put the probe against her yet. She rolls her eyes without Tobin noticing, already imagining the state that the Marine is going to be in when they go in to find out the baby’s sex.

“So,” The sweet ultrasound technician says quietly, locking eyes with Christen and sharing an amused look with her at Tobin’s restlessness. It was the same woman who gave Christen her ultrasounds before, and she knew that Christen was aware of the process already, yet she still explained it none-the-less for Tobin’s benefit.

The Marine’s face lights up as the probe rolls across her skin, watching the unfamiliar grey matter pop up on the monitor.

Of-course Tobin knew what an ultrasound looked like, but it’s different when it’s yours.

“Your baby is currently the size of a grape.” She looks at the monitor, probe sliding at the base of Christen’s exposed abdomen. “So we’ll have to search around a bit for- Oh, there it is.”

The monitor stops, illuminating what looks like a little bundle in black and grey colors. She presses it a little firmer into Christen’s tummy, smiling as her right hand reaches out to hit a button on the keypad.

Tobin could only hear Christen’s muted heartbeat before, but as the woman clicks the volume louder-

A second, more rapid sound appears.

Tobin’s hands grip onto the side of the exam bed when she registers what the sound is, steadying herself as her legs become weak. Christen watches the realization hit the Marine at what she was hearing, tears falling down her cheeks at the vision of Tobin’s earth-shattering smile as she also begins to cry.

The technician takes a few pictures of the monitor for the couple as their eyes lock.

Tobin doesn’t know whether she wants to do most, whether that be weep, or laugh, or smile. She thinks she’s doing all of it. She doesn’t care. All she can hear is two heartbeats. All she can see is the love of her life also crying and smiling and laughing and looking up at her. Her eyes flick back and forth between Christen’s own green pair and the monitor, heart swelling so quickly inside of her that she feels like she could burst.

Her hands clasp the younger woman’s tightly, in bewilderment. “Do you hear it?” Tobin whispers, dumbfounded and wiping her face.

“I hear it.” Christen nods, thumb stroking the back of Tobin’s strong hand lovingly. “I love you,” She whispers, meeting Tobin’s gaze again as the Marine can’t help but to shake her head in amazement.

“I love you so much, Chris. I love you so much.”

The technician smiles at their interaction, seeing it a million times a day and feeling excited for the couple. “Everything is normal and where it should be. All appears to be happy and healthy at this stage.” She reassures them, looking up at the screen one more time. Her hand reaches out to explain to the women what they were looking at.

“Here is the head, and the little body right below it. The limbs are a little too small to see any detail quite yet, but the baby's fingers and toes are developed, and the heartbeat it strong. Would you two like a print-out before the doctor comes in?”

“Please.” Christen smiles at her, the streaks on her cheeks drying, feeling like she was drowning in Tobin’s love as they shared the same happiness. Two sets of pictures are printed out and handed to them after the technician removes the probe from Christen’s stomach and hands her a package of towelettes to wipe off with. Tobin stares at the image, unable to really see much other than the same cone shaped negative space and grey blob that she was looking at before, but feeling overjoyed at it either way. Like it was the best photograph she’d been given because it was, sharing the same place in her heart that Donovan’s own ultrasound picture takes up after being given that one from Christen a couple of weeks ago.

And everything is peaceful. Christen thinks, absorbed in soft honey eyes that stare at her from the side of the exam bed.

So peaceful.

Chapter Text

Two pairs of feet rest gently on the coffee table.

Two separate laptops rest against two separate pairs of thighs.

“Oh, babe. What about this one?”

Christen peels off the back of the couch in order to get a better look at the screen, leaning over the near foot of space that’s separating her from Tobin. Her eyes squint at the image, viewing the pictures that Tobin’s right index finger clicks through. She momentarily wonders how aggravating it is for Tobin to have to use her right hand on things like computer mousepads. And the stick shift of her car. And other stuff that right-handed people take for granted. Then, she sighs from disappointment.

“No, I don’t like that.”

She doesn’t mean to be snippy. She really doesn’t. But it’s the eightieth house they’ve looked at through the online real estate listings in Portland and she’s honestly coming up empty. Every time she finds one that she thinks Tobin will love, something ends up being wrong with it. Every time Tobin finds one that she thinks Christen will love, the younger woman can almost always pick out a flaw within seconds.

Tobin had known that the house hunt would be daunting. Tobin had known how picky and meticulous Christen was. But she was honestly ready to pull her own hair out at this point. She sighs in response and rubs frustration from her jawline.

“Why are you sighing? I can do this alone if you’ve had enough, Tobin.” Christen mutters, causing Tobin to look at her with shock at the woman’s attitude. Christen winces internally, not even understanding why she was so irritated with the Marine, yet she stubbornly keeps her face void of apology. All they were doing was what they had to do, and Tobin had been patient up until this point.

“You just sighed at me.” Tobin argues, growing further irritated herself. “Like, twenty seconds ago.”

“Because I can’t do anything with the houses you’re showing me!” Christen’s hands argue her point, voice rising slightly out of it’s normal calm octave.

Tobin rolls her eyes. “If you would have listened to me a week ago that we should have gotten a-“

Green eyes snap sharply her way. It was the argument to end all arguments. Tobin’s incessant push for them to find a real-estate agent that could do all of the hard work for them, since they couldn’t seem to narrow down what they wanted.

Christen interrupts her. First with a harsh gaze, then- “I told you that I don’t want to deal with an agent. They’re annoying and overpriced.”

Tobin leans up then, trying to get Christen to see her point of view. She feels the weight of the laptop shift on top of her thighs. “So you don’t want an agent, yet you don’t have the patience to sit here with me until we find what we want. I don’t even know what you want anymore. Do you even know what you want?”

The younger woman twitches in irritation. “I’ve told you. What, twenty times now?” She bites. “Four bedrooms. Two to three bathrooms. A garage. A backyard. A lot of window space. Anything but vinyl siding.”

The Marine’s eyes roll again, further irritating the pregnant woman. “Yeah, I got that. I’ve been showing you that literally all morning.”

Christen snaps. “The last house you showed me literally had vinyl siding.”

Tobin snaps back. “I don’t even know what the fuck that is!”

The younger woman watches as Tobin gently sets her computer down and stands, though she can practically see the anger rushing through the muscled body next to her. It’s painted in a pout on her face. In the way her forearms tense and the vein in the side of her neck is showing beneath her tan skin. “Where are you going?” She demands.

“I need to cool off.” She sighs. Then- “Oh. Sorry. Didn’t mean to sigh around you.”

Christen watches the Marine, pouting, as she navigates her way barefoot around the coffee table and out of the living room. She follows the white shirt and black jeans as they disappear into the bedroom, before the door shuts behind her. It wasn’t slammed, though it wasn’t gentle, bringing Christen back down to Earth as her eyes fill with tears at the frustration of it all.

She was now ten weeks pregnant, and the first trimester was really starting to get the best of her. They never argued or bickered. Hardly ever. Both knew how the other worked and what motivated them. What drove them. What caused them to tick and what caused them to get upset. They were usually so good at bringing out only the best in one another, so the tears in Christen’s eyes weren’t entirely displaced at the shock and disappointment that they had let such a little thing blow up.

She’s angry at herself for being so hard to please. Angry at Tobin for being so… so obtuse sometimes. Angry that they couldn’t just stumble upon the most perfect house that either of them had ever seen.

And what was really pissing her off? What was really driving her to the point of mind-numbing irritation?

She could feel her own wetness through her cotton underwear. However it came about, whether through her own frustration, the argument, the pregnancy, watching Tobin’s body harden into iron with every harsh word they shared between them-

Whatever it was- Christen was restless, and all of her was feeling it. All of her.

The shattering guilt from arguing pointlessly coupled with her vibrating need and longing for the older woman drove her to stand, denying Tobin’s request for space. She softly padded through the small hallway until she reached their bedroom door, stopping outside it momentarily to see if she could hear any sounds coming from behind the wood. When she heard nothing, she turned the doorknob slowly and pushed it open.

Tobin was sat on the foot of the bed, bare feet resting on the floor, and her elbows resting on her knees. Her fingers were loosely clasped, and she gently lifted her head when Christen softly shut the door behind her. She wasn’t crying, but she looked about as guilty as Christen felt.

The younger woman lowered herself to kneel in front of the marine, wrapping her cold hands around Tobin’s warm ankles, locking eyes with her once her legging-clad knees hit the floor and she settled back on her haunches.

I’m sorry.” They said in unison, making both of them softly smile at finally being on the same page with one another about something. Their eyes mimicked apologies with their words, both equally ashamed to have let themselves get to such a point of disagreement; and Christen ran her hands beneath Tobin’s jeans over the soft skin she found there. They studied one another for a moment.

“I didn’t mean to get so upset with you.” She tried again, softly taking in Tobin’s face, reminding herself that they were both frustrated together and not with each other. “It wasn’t your fault, and I’m not going to blame the way I acted on my hormones when I was just being difficult.”

“Apology accepted.” The Marine lifted her hand to cup Christen’s cheek, letting the pad of her thumb trace over smooth honey skin. “I’m sorry for getting frustrated and pushing the agent idea.”

Christen shook her head. “Maybe it’s not a bad idea.” She whispered, leaning into Tobin’s touch. “Can I think about it?”

Tobin nodded, before scooting herself back onto the bed and patting the tops of her thighs, beckoning Christen off of the floor where she could properly sit in her lap and be held. The younger woman smiled, rising onto her feet, before leaning over into Tobin’s space to crawl into her lap.

The pained groan came before she realized what she had done. Before she realized that her leg had not in fact wrapped around the outside of Tobin’s thigh, but instead had aimed for the inside, knocking her full weight behind her knee into Tobin’s crotch.

Tobin groaned again once the younger girl snatched back in a panic, hands flying to the searing burning pain between her legs over her jeans, as if grabbing onto herself would make anything feel better. It was worse than when she’d been shot, worse than any migraine she’d ever felt, worse than the times she could remember being hit in the same area before as a child. The Marine was instantly nauseated, hyperventilating, as she doubled over onto the mattress and squeezed her legs together as tight as they would go in order to bite through the pain. Her eyes opened and closed in an unfocused daze, hearing Christen’s panicked voice from above as she worried over her.

Christen didn’t know where to touch, what to say, or what to do. She put her hands on different areas of the Marine’s body, noticing that she looked close to fainting, and kept apologizing in a flustered and hurried voice over and over. She felt more guilty for this than she had over the argument, just knowing without having to understand first-hand what Tobin was going through.

The Marine rolled again, legs still crushed together with her hands cupping herself, until she was on her knees on the bed, pressing her sweaty forehead into the mattress with her eyes closed. She regulated her breathing, feeling hands press against her lower back, focusing in on what Christen was saying as the nausea dissipated.

Oh my God. Baby-” Christen rushed out, rubbing Tobin’s back hurriedly. Up and down and back again from her shoulders to her lower spine. “I’m so fucking sorry. I’m so, so, so fucking sorry. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.” She repeated.

“Are you okay?” It was rhetorical. She knew Tobin wasn’t okay, but she needed to hear that the woman wasn’t in the process of passing out.

Tobin rolled back over with a groan and a wince, straightening her legs, feeling the blood rush back to her balls in a way that made them throb instead of burn. The nausea and wooziness returned so she closed her eyes, heavily breathing through her nose. “Dying." Tobin groaned. And when she found the strength to open her eyes, Christen was standing there with her hand over her mouth, eyes wide and worried and wet.

She craned her neck and slipped her hand beneath her waistband, hissing as her fingers came in contact with her balls, feeling around to make sure nothing had been seriously damaged. Once it was clear, once the feeling was back into her toes and she could touch herself without it throbbing, she looked up to find the tears having fallen from the younger woman’s eyelids.

“’M okay.” She told her, pulling her hand out. “It’s okay.” She reassured.

Christen shook her head slowly, looking like a child who was about to get in trouble, looking like Donovan when he knew he did something naughty.

“Hey, it happens, it’s happened before and will happen again,” She cooed, reaching out for the other woman. “Come here. I’m okay.”

“I should be soothing you, not the other way around.” Christen pouted, but carefully maneuvered herself onto the bed, climbing into Tobin’s lap but far enough away from the center of her pants to be safe. Her belly had grown within the last two weeks, jutting out in a way that couldn’t be mistaken for bloating if you looked hard enough, especially when she wore leggings. It made Tobin smile, and momentarily forget about the dull throb that had interrupted their sweet moment.

“I’m soothed.” Tobin argued playfully. Quietly. Making sure that Christen wouldn’t break down with guilt. She leaned up with a wince, wrapping her arms around a small waist as her face came within inches of her worried lovers’. Her thumbs cleared the wetness from the woman’s cheeks.

“What can I do to make it better?” Christen mumbled, guilty eyes looking up at Tobin through wet eyelashes.

The Marine hummed with her head cocked in thought, trying to get a smile to replace the worried frown on Christen’s face. She tapped her left cheek twice. “A kiss here?”

Christen wanted to argue with Tobin that now wasn’t the time for play, that she had injured her, that she was genuinely upset about it and guilty about it and that the moment was serious. But nevertheless, she did what Tobin asked her to, leaning forward with a pout to press a light kiss on the woman’s gaunt cheek.

“Here?” Tobin tapped her forehead, so Christen craned her neck to kiss that spot between her eyebrows, too.

“What about here?” Two taps to the right cheek. Christen rolled her eyes, fighting her smile, and pecked the space above her jawline.

“And here?” The Marine was vying for affection, but Christen leaned in regardless to place the softest of kisses to Tobin’s parted lips.

Tobin held her there tightly, making up for lost time that had passed since the last time they kissed, chasing after Christen’s lips when the other girl pulled back, wanting to keep the moment going.

She could taste Tobin’s breath when they pulled back again, leaning forward without a chase to feed into her addiction, wrapping her mouth around the Marine’s full bottom lip with a whispering whimper. So much had happened in the last thirty minutes, from the bickering to the injury, and the lip lock was slowing down their racing hearts, setting their blood back into a speed they could control.

Tobin giggled into Christen’s space once they parted, watching the woman’s hooded gaze look up from her mouth and into her eyes.

It was meant to be taken as a joke- A soft shrug of Tobin’s shoulder and wiggling, mischievous eyebrows.

“I mean,” She mumbled with a soft smile. Jokingly, “You could always kiss it better.”

If Christen wasn’t wet before, she had to close her eyes at how wet she was now. Just the thought of touching her alone, in any capacity, caused the throbbing between her own legs to start up again. They had already made love once this morning, after she got Donovan safely on the bus and returned sleepily to their bed to find Tobin still asleep and hard beneath her briefs. Christen didn’t understand what was causing all of this unceasing need to have Tobin constantly. She had been through pregnancy once already, and sure- perhaps she was nesting. But this was incurable and insatiable.

Tobin registered, quickly registered, the desire paint across her face. She has seen this look a thousand times, though never growing accustomed to it, and never growing tired. So while it had meant to be a joke, a poor one, just something to get the woman to smile and maybe not be so worried and serious- she was more than content with the way her joke seemed to have been taken.

“Would that make you feel good?” Christen mumbled between the space separating their mouths, asking in so many words to make sure that it wouldn’t hurt Tobin if she dropped to her knees and took her. And Tobin wasn’t really sure. She was pretty sure that she was still sore, and likely would be for a while, with or without an orgasm to top it off, but damn if she wasn’t willing to try. So she nods.

Christen leans in closer, brushing their parted lips together. “How do you want me to kiss it better?”

A thousand different responses crossed the Marine’s mind, feeding into Christen’s game. “With that pretty mouth.” She settled on one.

“You want me to do what with my pretty mouth?” It escalates the tension, and the younger woman is only trying to guide her into being a little more vocal with her desires during the daylight. A little less shy. A little dirty. Less timid in asking for what she wants.

Tobin leans in, kissing her quickly, tightening her grip around the younger woman’s waist as she tried to push away her reservations and shyness. “I want your mouth around my dick, like a good girl, to make up for what you’ve done.” She whispers and watches Christen’s eyes lower, leading into their occasional dynamic where Christen craves losing her power, where she craves dirty talk and being told what to do.

The younger woman sinks to her knees again, fingers pulling at the elastic on her wrist to put her hair up into a quick ponytail, before reaching for the buttons on Tobin’s pants as she scoots closer to the edge of the bed.

“Slowly.” Tobin orders, not wanting to feel any pain from any pressure that could come with her pants being undone too quickly. Christen undoes the button first with careful fingers, reaching for the zipper to slowly pull it down. She shrugs her pants beneath her knees and over her ankles, reaching forward to palm over Tobin’s length carefully beneath her briefs. The woman is still soft, but that doesn’t deter her, so she slides the briefs down to follow.

The Marine hisses as soft lips kiss along her head, feeling a tongue peak out to trace along its edge, meeting no pain as she feels herself begin to harden, only intense pressure. “Is this where it hurt?” The green-eyed woman asks, looking up beneath a sultry gaze as she teases.

Lower.” She tells her, watching Christen’s eyes grow darker as she leaves her semi-hard length to run a tongue along her base, from one to the other, pressing a soft kiss to the sore flesh to make Tobin throw her head back before drawing her tongue around again. She peels off, tonguing back up to her head, causing Tobin to grip a hand around her ponytail as she takes her back into her mouth, feeling her harden and pulse against her tongue as she descends.

Fuck, baby. Just like that.” Christen watches her eyebrows tighten, and she can’t keep her hands to herself, apologizing for their argument through taste and touch as her hands scratch and trail up smooth thighs and around toned hips. She holds onto Tobin here, closing her eyes to push past her gag reflex as she forces herself to take the last inch, until her nose is pressing against shaved skin and her eyes water and a groan is being fired off from above her. She pulls back before her throat contracts and catches her breath.

Tobin doesn’t want to cum yet. And perhaps she is nesting too- but it’s felt best to her lately while being seated deep inside of the other woman, knowing that all she has to give is right where it belongs.

“Come here.” Tobin whimpers, leaning forwards once the woman stands to tug the woman’s shirt up and over her head. Christen hadn’t put a bra on this morning, and her breasts were getting fuller with every passing week. She leans forward to tongue at a nipple once Christen’s shirt meets the floor, feeling the woman shrug out of her leggings and underwear so she can pull her into her lap.

I need you.” The younger woman whispers, kissing soft and swollen lips that were made just for her. The insides of her thighs are wet enough to drown in, having soaked through her underwear before they even got started, and she parts her legs to run her swollen core over Tobin’s length slowly. How sudden it is that things can slow down.

The Marine kissed against her neck, tonguing at the flesh, nipping and sucking gently, feeling soft hands run along her shoulders and down across her chest. “Let me show you how I apologize.” She whispers into Christen’s ear, nipping at the lobe, securing her arms around the smaller body and bringing them down onto the mattress where she can settle on top. “I don’t want to cum unless I’m inside you.”

Where it’s safe. Where I can feel you. Where I know that you are home.

Christen takes her slowly, adjusting to the pressure and moaning into Tobin’s shoulder as Tobin pushes her head in, mouth falling open in a broken cry as they connect. She’s so wet, so slick, it’s astounding that it’s still nearly painful for her to take it. But it is. Every time. And so Tobin is patient and worshipping, slipping her arms beneath the woman’s shoulders to press their chests closer, slowly sliding their hips together until they meet.

She presses her heels into Tobin’s ass, feeling the woman stroke her hips down in a roll, sliding through her until Christen has adjusted and isn’t digging nails into the Marine’s flanks. Their mouths meet in a wet kiss with Tobin’s hips speeding up only slightly. She tugs at Christen’s hair, pulling back to let their eyes meet, willing her hips to keep thrusting until the woman is coming undone around her in a mess of wetness and shaking thighs.

The world falls away around them, drowned out in a heap of bodies making love and sliding against one another. Tobin doesn’t speed up much, and it’s enough for Christen, just enough to feel it in her lower abdomen as the burning feelings of an approaching orgasm start.

Cum with me.” Tobin begs through gritted teeth, speeding up as she’s being sucked in and fought to let go. It doesn’t happen often that they meet their demise together, usually leaving one of them chasing the other and not too far behind, but if she times it just right-

If she tugs at Christen’s hair- If she drops her head to lick and bite against her cheek and jaw- If she rolls her hips in a slow and hard way that opens Christen’s legs up- If she feels the short nails grip into her sides and latch onto her back-

“I’m gonna cum-“  Christen hisses, tears leaking out from the corners of her eyes.

Tobin lets off a guttural moan from her chest as she’s gripped down upon, watching the broken cries fall out of the beautiful woman’s mouth as the contractions start up. Christen presses her head into the Marine’s sweaty neck, holding on with all her strength, and she feels Tobin cumming inside of her with every choppy groan and slam of her hips. Their eyes lock through the shared orgasm, mouths opening and closing together to breathe one another in, guiding the other through it until the feeling stabilizes.

She feels Tobin pull out slowly, missing the woman desperately with a muffled cry as soon as she’s empty, though the emptiness doesn’t last for long.

Fists ball into sheets as three fingers enter her roughly, slamming against her front wall at a bruising pace. Christen jerks forward in a cry, putting her opened mouth against Tobin’s panting one, watching Tobin watch her like a hawk as she fucks her. Hard.

Cum on me, my good girl.”

She can’t even cry out- can’t even move, all muscles atrophied and on lockdown as the fingers curl and slam in and out of her core. Pressure builds behind Tobin’s fingers and she can’t even feel it, face screwing up as the pressure releases and she’s coming again with a moan, throwing her head back until her forehead meets the cool wood of the headboard. Tobin moans as her hand and the sheets are drenched with Christen’s cum.

The woman is quivering all over, beckoning Tobin to softly retract her soaked hand and wrap herself protectively around her, coaxing her down through the aftershocks that riddle her body. When her length touches back against the swollen lips of Christen’s labia, she jerks back with a hiss, having not realized how hard and hypersensitive she was, and how close she had been to cumming again as she fucked the green-eyed woman into a second orgasm.

“Shit.” Tobin hisses again as her left hand wraps around herself. And Christen looks down with hooded eyes, watching Tobin slide through her wetness twice before groaning and grabbing hold of herself tighter. She strokes her hand over her sensitive head before pumping her whole length, unable to stop herself from spilling out with a shaky hushed groan onto Christen’s stomach and breasts, and over her own fingers.

Christen moans from the visual, from the feeling of Tobin’s release covering her torso. Having never before watched as Tobin touched herself, never watched as her hand pump over her hardness. It was ten times as good as what she had imagined it would look like, how her abdomen contracts in a heap of chiseled muscles as her chest heaved and her jaw dropped.

The Marine collapses panting onto Christen’s left side, her head in Christen’s neck, nearly embarrassed at herself for being unable to control what just happened, until she remembers the look in Christen’s eyes as she watched her. She feels her jaw being kissed, feels their breathing even out, feels gravity slowly return against their bodies.

Christen reaches to her bedside table, snatching a few tissues from her tissue box, and guides them to her swollen belly to clean up their mess. Tobin lifts her head after taking a moment to get the feelings back into her limbs, watching Christen wipe up the last bit of stickiness from the space above her navel. Her left hand is wiped off poorly as well, but good enough for the time being, as the tissue is thrown back onto the side table.

Their eyes meet in a playful glint, sweaty hairs stuck to the sides of their faces. Christen opens her smirking mouth, “Maybe we should argue some more?” Which causes the Marine’s eyes to roll above her own sleepy smirk, hand tickling into Christen’s side until she’s squirming.

“We have four hours before we have to meet dad and Don at your parents house.”

Oh yeah. Tobin thinks. The barbecue. She had been in such a sex coated haze that she had nearly forgotten about their evening plans, about Cody being the one to pick Donovan up from school today so they could get ready for tonight. They hadn’t told either three of the parents the occasion, just as they hadn’t told their friends much either, only asking each of them to not eat dinner and to show up at Jeff and Cindy’s house around five o’clock for a “Thursday night kick-back”.

They still had to go to the grocery store to pick up food. Still had to grab a few cases of beer. Still had to get logs for the fire pit. Still had time to prepare themselves and daydream about how everyone would react.

Christen had a beautiful forest green floral-patterned Summer dress hanging in her closet, an open-kit white sweater draped over the hanger in-case it got too cold. Tobin was excited to see her in the garment, excited to see the woman glow and radiate warmth as they shared their news. She looks at the woman beneath her, leaning over to softly kiss at her lips. “Want to nap for a bit and then start getting everything ready?” She asks her, watching Christen smile, watching Christen’s eyes close as she throws a naked leg around her waist.

“Nothing else I’d rather do.”

 

 

Pinoe. Kling. Ashlyn. Ali. Kyle. Cody. Jeff. Cindy. Christen and Tobin and Donovan. All congregated around the space of the Heath family back yard. The only one missing was Kelley.

Christen’s sweater had shielded her growing baby bump from eyes that took her in as she received hugs from their friends. Kyle had latched onto her arm immediately, pearly white teeth gleaming as he smiled and hugged her tightly from the side. Jeff and Cody wrangled in boisterous laughter-filled conversation around the grill as they cooked for the kids. Ali and Kling had already seated themselves at the table next to Cindy, talking animatedly amongst themselves as they watched Donovan being chased around the yard in a fit of laughter by Ashlyn and Tobin, all three bodies wielding hard-foam swords that Pinoe had brought in a fantasy game of knights and dragons.

“It’s been too long since we’ve done all this.” Kyle shook his head next to Christen with a smile, taking in the loud and comfortable environment as he sipped on his beer. Jeff had strung lights above their heads to illuminate the yard before the sun dropped lower in the sky. Classic rock and country music played around them, filling the air with white noise that made Christen nostalgic for their youth.

She was going to miss these people when they moved. They were her family. Her loved ones. Closer than kin.

Christen took a sip of her sweet tea, nodding at his words and leaning her head against his shoulder. Megan walked up to her side as they stood there, having returned from the kitchen to get another beer, watching the commotion go on around them. Ashlyn lightly struck her foam sword down against Donovan’s lanky legs, hearing him laugh as Tobin struck him too against his shorts. They were all barefoot, soaking in the last bit of mild heat from the day as it melted into the Earth. It was too cool to swim, so the pool was covered up about fifty yards away, but a Georgia October allowed for nice mild days and cool nights that prepared the Georgia residents for a winter to come.

Over the rolling hills of trees sat the lowering sun, casting a warm orange glow through the branches and over the adults smiling faces before reflecting off of the mansion’s bay windows.

“We’ve definitely got to do this more often.” Megan returned Kyle’s earlier sentiment.

They watched as the Marine took off with a laugh, running barefoot through the grass at the end of the gated property, dodging Ashlyn and their sons attempts at striking her with the swords. Christen laughed and shook her head. Glowing.

“Megan-“ She chided. “Where did you even get those things?”

The athletic coordinator laughed, shrugging her shoulders. “At the grocery store earlier when I was picking up a pie to bring over. Saw them in the toy aisle and figured Donovan would be pleased with my impulse decision.”

Christen could only shake her head some more, loving the knowledge that her friends enjoyed doing things for her son and thought of him. Plus, the playing allowed for the adults to talk and was sure to wear him out, meaning that she and Tobin wouldn’t have to fight with him tonight and try coming up with ways to make the little guy brush his teeth and go to sleep. Christen bet her own mind that he would be asleep before they even got him into his car seat.

Tobin turned on a dime, holding her sword out to block both parties from hitting her, figuring she might as well start blocking if she didn’t want to be chased all evening. The bottoms of her jeans were damp from the dew of the grass, but not an ounce of her cared, she was just happy to be burning off steam with one of her best friends and her little man.

She reached the hard-foam sword out to block Ashlyn’s advances, not realizing that her son had swung down across her lap with all his little might.

Christen gasped with Cindy, and eight faces winced, the worst of the winces coming from the three men as they took in what happened. Tobin hit her knees on the grass at Ashlyn’s feet, clenching her jaw and trying not to cup herself while her son and parents were watching.

Oh my God.” Christen mumbled to no one in particular, handing Megan her drink so that she could walk over to check on the Marine. “That’s literally the second time that’s happened to her today. I accidentally kneed her earlier before lunch.”

Kyle let out a sympathetic sound, and Megan had covered her mouth to keep from laughing at a bad time.

Donovan had launched himself across Tobin’s back in a hug as soon as she went down, apologizing through teary eyes in a similar fashion to his mother earlier. He didn’t know what happened, not even noticing exactly where he hit her, but he knew that he had hurt her somehow- and all he could do was say sorry and that he didn’t mean to do it. Ashlyn was staring with wide eyes at the crumpled marine, turning back with a hand on Tobin’s shoulder to watch Christen walk over and pull her sweater closer to her body.

“It’s okay, bud.” Tobin forced out, pressing her forehead into her knees and reassuring her son that he hadn’t killed her. It hadn’t been anywhere near as terrible as Christen’s mishap earlier. The sword was hard but foam, so it hadn’t been as bad as she had expected. The left over soreness was the root of the majority of her current pain.

Christen bent down and put her hand on Tobin’s head, smoothing her hair back and reassuring her son with a smile. “Tobin’s okay, sunshine.” She told him. “She’s just hurting and will be fine in a minute. Okay?”

Donovan pressed his head into Tobin’s back with a teary nod, wrapping his little arms around her waist as close as he could get. “I’m sorry Toe-bin.” He said into her shirt. Ashlyn winked at the younger woman, both of their hearts swelling at Donovan’s tenderness.

“Are you alright, honey?” The soft voice filled Tobin’s ears. She leaned up at Christen’s words, nodding with a grimace, feeling Donovan hold on tighter and adjust his grip to press his head into her shoulder. Tobin turning around with a puff of air from her lips as she wrapped Donovan up into a hug, careful to not bring the boy down onto her jeans. Christen sent a thumbs up to the worried eyes that were watching them.

Tobin stood with Donovan’s legs wrapped around her upper waist, his arms wrapped around her shoulders and his head pressed into her neck. She could tell his mood had shifted from the guilt, and she wanted to reassure him as best as she could that the pain had passed, and she was okay. She was still throbbing and trying her best to ignore it.

She leaned him backwards in order to get a good look at his face. His eyes were still teary but not the first drop had fallen. “You know what this means, don’t you?” She asked him.

Donovan shook his head, hiccuped, and wiped the unfallen wetness from his eyelids, as Christen looked on lovingly with a hand at Tobin’s lower back.

“This means that you brought down the dragon. You know what the dragon does when it’s taken out?”

The five-year-old took in the playfulness of the Marine’s eyes and he smiled, shaking his head again at their game, preparing himself for whatever Tobin was going to say next.

“It turns into…” She whispered, feeling the boy squirm in her arms. “The tickle monster!”

Donovan squealed and laughed as Tobin dropped him to the grass on his back, quickly but softly, bending to press her fingers into his sides, under his armpits, up to his neck as he jolted and laughed to get out of the way. He had lost his second front tooth at school today, and it had been handed to them in a little baggy once he was in the car, safe and prepared for the tooth fairy to arrive in exchange for a crisp five dollar bill.

Cindy and Christen sighed simultaneously in relief. Cody and Jeff locked smiling eyes and shook their heads, returning their attention back to the food that was just finishing up.

“Mommy!” Donovan squealed, “Help! Get the tickle monster!”

Christen smiled at her son, concocting a plan inside of her head as she walked around Tobin’s bent figure. “I can’t get the tickle monster if I'm also tickle monster!” She laughed, listening to her son laugh and squeal louder as her own tickling assault began, tag-teaming with Tobin to make the boys laughter roar across the farmland.

 

Megan slid up next to her as Christen placed a piece of chicken onto a plate for Donovan. They had served everything buffet style, the sun was beginning to fully disappear across the hills, meaning that the fire pit had started up and the adults were feeling their alcohol.

“If Tobin keeps getting nailed in the nuts, how are you guys going to have a third?” She heard the blonde quietly say, reaching over to fork a piece of corn onto her own plate. It was almost a whisper, low enough to keep the comment only between them.

It took a moment for the question to register with Christen, and when she did, her head shot to the side at Megan’s smirking and expectant face. How did she?

“You’re glowing, Chris.” The woman said kindly, Christen’s shock and wide eyes confirming her observational suspicion. “You haven’t had any alcohol. Your hand keeps moving to your stomach. I haven’t received a phone call in a while asking for me to bring you extra tampons to lunch while you groan about cramps. And Romeo over here-” Her head tilts in Tobin’s direction, where the Marine is laughing at something Kling said from her spot at the table, turning her head to look at Christen lovingly once she feels two pairs of eyes on her. “-can’t seem to keep her eyes off of you for more than five seconds.”

Christen’s eyes squint, “Tobin has always done that.” She deflected.

Megan laughs at her flushed face, at the small and telling smile on her lips. “That may be true, but something has changed.”

The green-eyed woman kept quiet.

“How far along are you?” Megan asked quietly and continued her prodding, figuring it all out, feeling the excitement course through her.

“A little over two months.” Christen mumbles, forking out a few potatoes and asparagus, trying to remember if Donovan even likes asparagus.

Megan quietly squealed in excitement from beside her, which caused Christen to smile, unable to contain her own excitement after seeing the blonde’s smile go wide. “Shh.” Christen lovingly scolds into Megan’s ear as they hug one another tightly, one arm wrapped around Megan’s small torso. “We’re telling everyone after dinner so don’t start getting hyper, okay?”

Megan could only squeeze her tighter, pressing her cheek into Christen’s cheek before leaning back and cupping her hands around the green-eyed woman’s face. Christen notices that her eyes are misty. “Okay, but Chris- Seriously. I’m so happy for you guys.” She says softly, beaming, trying not to cry. “You both are such wonderful parents and wonderful people already, I love you so so much.”

Christen had to blink rapidly to pull the salty moisture back into her tear ducts, leaning over again to hug the blonde’s waist as tight as she could. “Your father is going to cry.” Megan whispers, laughing heartily.

“Which means I’m going to cry.” She groans, pulling away from the woman again, watching as she looks at her own plate as if her mind was too clouded with happiness to remember what she was even doing in the first place.

Megan shakes her head, teeth gleaming beneath the lights above their heads. “Worth it.”

 

 

Cody’s initial reaction was just as they expected. In reality, everyone’s reaction went just as expected.

Tobin had stood up once the dinner was winding down. Once plates were being cleared and the talking started up again. She waited for everyone to settle and look at her, taking in the many curious glances being thrown her way. Her left hand held Christen’s in a strong grip, looking at one another just to check-in before it happened.

“Chris and I wanted all of you guys here with us tonight,” She started, “Because we have something important to share.”

She watched as everyone’s eyes widened, likely wondering what else in the possible hell the couple could be announcing after the chaos of the last few months. Cindy seemed to calculate the possibilities before her eyes widened further, so Tobin nodded for Christen to finish, knowing that it would be any second before someone blurted out possibilities.

Christen was taking in the sight before her as slowly as she could. All she could think about was the retrospection of her position, how this announcement had once been made with a heavy heart and guarded anxiety, in complete opposition to how she felt right now.

She looked at their son, watching him chew the bites of chicken that she had cut up for him as he kindly waited for them to speak, not really following how important the moment seemed to the adults around him.

She couldn’t help but to think of the responses she was given before. How everyone had looked at her empathetically, had cried with her, had told her that they would be there for her no-matter what happened. She was sure that the sentiment would be the same tonight. They would look at her with kind eyes. Some of them crying. And they would tell her that they would be there no-matter what. It was different now, though. Because tonight it would not be just her that they would be there for.

Now, it was them. They would be there for them. For her. For Tobin. For Donovan. For her and Tobin and Donovan.

After being given the nod from Tobin- she smiled at her father, her source of strength in this world, watching his face morph into concerned shock as she smiled at him with teary eyes, feeling the tears run off of her cheeks and pool around her chin.

They were happy tears. She was happy.

I’m pregnant.”  She quietly mouthed through her smile, to the instant cheers and loud celebrations of eight adults seated around the table. Cody had put his head to the sky with closed eyes, thanking God for new life and his daughter’s happiness as he began to cry through joyous laughter. He leaned over to kiss his grandson’s head twice as he stood, moving around the table to wrap his daughter in the tightest hug he could give.

Tobin picked Donovan up from his chair when he reached for her. He was confused at why they were cheering and congratulating his parents, so he expected Tobin to explain.

“You’re going to be a big brother!” Tobin told him, feeling those lanky legs squeeze at her sides. Donovan registered what the Marine said to him before his bright eyes grew in surprise and his mouth flew open.

“I am?!” He pressed his little hands into her chest, excitement coursing through his body so fast that he couldn’t even handle it. She and Christen had been worried at his reaction, at how he would take knowing that mommy was going to be having another baby, whether there would be jealousy or sadness or happiness. Yet all they could do now was laugh at his happy child-like excitement and see the joy on his face. “Yeah, dude!” Tobin squeezed him and laughed. “You’re gonna have a little brother or sister! What do you think about that? Gonna protect them from the tickle monster too?”

Donovan laughed and agreed through a nod, almost as if in disbelief that Tobin could ask him such a thing, smile wide as he stuck his finger onto the space of his missing front teeth and wiped his saliva on his shirt while turning in Tobin’s arms to see the joy around him. Cindy and Jeff left Christen’s side to wrap their daughter and grandson into a hug. Jeff could only shake his head and laugh as they pulled back. Cindy had been crying since the news dropped.

One by one, the couple received hugs, teases, and teary congratulations. It was one of the happiest moments the Marine had thus far recorded about her life. She pulled Christen into her side and pressed a kiss to the pregnant woman’s forehead as the group lifted their teas and beers high into the sky in a toast.

“To one hell of a journey.” Ali nodded her drink towards the couple with a wink, finding the perfect words to say in the perfect moment, and the couple could only smile at one another as they toasted. A smile that said-

Okay. This is it.

That said- This is us and we’re here and I love you.

 

Tobin’s phone buzzed from inside her pocket. The gathering had kicked off once the toast has been made and the group had settled in comfortable chairs around the fire pit. She was a few beers in, and their friends could not stop the high they were all rolling on after finding out about the news. Cindy and Jeff had called it a night once Donovan had fallen asleep in Christen’s lap, bending down to give them one last hug and congratulations before heading inside to wind down. Cody had left a moment later, content on letting the younger adults keep at it once he started to get sleepy. He had kissed Christen’s forehead and hugged the Marine tightly, telling her that he loved her, that he was proud of her, that he thanked God for how it worked out, thanking her for taking care of and loving his daughter like she did.

She was on cloud nine when she felt the phone buzz, looking to her left at the way Christen glowed and told stories to their friends with passionate eyes and a smile that never faltered as she talked. She looked at her son, his thumb stuck between his lips as his head rested on his mother’s chest, wondering how the boy slept like the dead amongst all these loud voices, heart melting at the mere sight of him.

The Marine was warm all over as she fished her phone out of her pocket.

Then suddenly, she was frozen.

Her smile dropped as her eyes read over the iPhone screen, over and over and over again. She read the words until she processed them, clicking the home button again when her screen timer went off. It was a text message. Five words and an unknown number.

You can’t make her happy. It read.

She read it until her phone was vibrating again. An incoming call from a restricted number.

Her eyes scanned over the faces of her friends, taking in their distracted eyes, before scanning the property around them. She sat her beer down in the chair next to her, rising from her seat with iron bones, before walking off the back patio and onto the wet grass. She walked until she met the gate at the edge of her parent’s property, turning back around to find Christen’s eyes on her curiously before one of their friends took her attention again.

“Hello?” She answered the call. Her voice shook.

Sergeant.” It was Smitty’s gruff voice. She had nearly forgotten the entirety of her needing him, having not heard from the man since she paused the surveillance for Christen’s trial, though knowing that he had been still keeping an eye out through the following weeks.

The text you just received was sent from a phone linked to Mr. Montgomery’s account, though the ping on the phone’s location points to an address nearby a property owned by Mr. Hayes. About ten miles south of your current location.”

Tobin’s eyes scanned through the tree line, trying to make sense of it all.

It appears those two have had near constant communication with one another.” She heard the man say.

“That would make sense.” Tobin’s voice was low. Calculating. “He would have gotten my number from Mark’s dealership. I bought a vehicle from Mark a few months ago. My number was in the paperwork.”

Smitty is silent for a moment, so Tobin speaks again. “He wouldn’t text Christen, the judge ordered a family violence protection order against him on her behalf at the appeal trial, but my name wasn’t included.” She put the pieces together. “It would violate the order and his probation.”

She sighs, giving time for the Lieutenant to speak.

Look, Tobin.” He starts, cutting right to the chase, in the manner that Tobin respected most out of him. “I did a bit of background a couple weeks ago on Mr. Hayes, just out of personal curiosity one night when I was at the office late. There was no point in mentioning it then, but the man spent time in prison back in ’09.”

“For what?” Tobin asks.

Well, two counts of battery. Public drunkenness. Disorderly conduct. Possession of Schedule 2 narcotics. Cocaine, specifically.” He pauses. “There’s a grocery list here on him, is what I’m saying. He assaulted a female, early 20’s, while partying at a bar in downtown Athens. That’s what he served time for.

She grips the phone so hard that her knuckles are white and her fingers go numb. There are feelings swirling in her gut, a combination of irritation and anger, anxiety and dread.

“Just keep an eye on it for me.” She asks of him. Something doesn’t feel right inside of her. It’s probably just a harmless text, from a miserable asshole who realizes what a piece of shit he is. Who realizes what he missed out on.

She looks back at her partner, skin reflecting off of the amber glow of the roaring fire, smiling at something Kling appears to have said. Donovan rests on her chest, and she watches as Christen looks down at him, smile softening as she runs her fingers through the boy’s hair, drawing her index out to trace along his eyebrow as he snoozes. She looked just about as happy as Tobin could ever remember her being, and she knew Jermaine’s words to be untrue. The Marine would do just about anything to ensure that the smile stayed put and maintained across the goddess’s face.

She turns her cheek into the phone then. “I just have to be sure.”

 

It takes two weeks for her to get in touch with Kelley. She’s sat sweaty against her weight bench when the Marine calls her phone, having just finished a workout before she’ll start training more with her dad for the day. The sun is bright outside, but the air is colder, yet it warms her to no end when she hears her best friends voice on the other line of the receiver.

Tobin had dealt with a hot and cold week, mentally speaking. There were things she had to fix with the farm in Portland, problems that her team were running into that she had to resolve late at night over the phone. Christen had finally caved and they had hired a realtor, but nothing was coming to fruition from it yet. Nightmares plagued her sleep, attributing to the fact that she laid awake at night stressed and worried about the possibility of another text to her phone, spiking her PTSD and fear that something could happen to Christen or Donovan.

On the other hand, life was great. She got to experience the joy of celebrating Halloween with Donovan, leading him hand-in-hand with Christen at his other side through the town square and neighborhood streets, collecting candy from door to door as adults pretended to be enthralled by his costume. He had unironically dressed up as a soldier and had begged Tobin with large puppy dog eyes to wear her own dress uniform that he had seen her in the second day they met. Agreeing without a second thought to the boys wishes, it earned her his happiness. It also earned her an orgasm from a very attractive green-eyed woman in a vampire costume, who had a particular thirst for Tobin all dressed up.

She came home to Christen cooking dinner every night. Woke up to soft kisses running down her spine.

Life was good, and she was thankful, but she was also stressed.

She had left Kelley a voicemail two weeks ago, asking for the woman to call her when she had the chance so that they could catch up, telling her over voicemail that she had news she wanted to share with her fellow Marine, though she was sure that one of their friends had already texted the woman about it. Tobin just missed her, really. She knew that Kelley had petitioned for retirement in September since her service had been up, but the Marine’s seemed to be taking their sweet time in processing the petition through. Tobin was ready for the woman to come home.

“Kel-“ She starts, not being given the chance to speak before she’s interrupted.

Tobin Heath, what am I going to do with you?” Tobin laughs at Kelley’s chaos, not even a minute into the conversation. “Why am I finding out through Ashlyn that Christen is PREGNANT? Is this true? You dog!”

She throws her head back in laughter, louder even. “Yes, Kel. It’s true. I was going to tell you when we had the chance to talk. Didn’t wanna tell you over text.”

Kelley tsks, and Tobin can picture the Marine shaking her head from somewhere on base. “Well I’m happy for you, man. That’s the best news. I can’t wait to meet the little dude or dudette.”

“Thanks, buddy.” Tobin smiles, staring down at her feet. “I can’t wait to meet them either. We find out the sex in four weeks.”

How did Donovan take it?”  Kelley asks. “And everyone else?”

“Donovan was great. Happy to be a big brother soon. He keeps asking when it’s gonna be here and wondering if it’s a boy or girl. Everyone else was stoked. Mom cries a lot and tells me every time she sees me to let her know if Chris needs anything.”

Did he ask about… you know- the logistics of it?”

Tobin’s eyes roll playfully. “He’s five, Kelley. He doesn’t even know how babies are made. He only just lost his first teeth and started tying his own shoes a couple weeks ago.”

Oh yeah, that’s true.”  The Marine laughs through the phone.

She picks at a thread of loose stitching on the weight bench, biting her lip over whether or not she wanted to get things off of her chest with Kelley. She didn’t even know if the woman had time to sit here and talk for a while, but things were bearing down on her shoulders, making it difficult for her, making her want to tell someone about it.

“Kel,” Tobin said quietly, “I need to tell you something.”

Kelley was quiet for a moment, listening to the change in Tobin’s voice, the same tone that Tobin took when something was on her mind, when Tobin needed her and didn’t know how to say it. “What’s wrong, Tobin?”  She softly responds. “Is everything alright?”

Tobin closes her eyes, squinting out of the open garage doors and into the sunlight. She stands with a sigh, running her hand over her head to smooth out her ponytail.

“I lied… to Chris.” She winces. “Well, I didn’t lie… exactly. But, I… Something has happened, and I don’t know what to do.”

Silence comes through the receiver. Then- “What happened?”

Her feet kick at a rock, leaned up against open garage entrance. “You know how the last time we talked, I told you about Chris’s trial, and how Jermaine was out on bail?” She waits for Kelley’s confirmation. “Kel, I- I hired a guy that was stationed with me overseas to track Jermaine. It was only supposed to be for a little while. I was so angry that he was out, and I was worried that something could happen to Christen or Don.”

“What do you mean track? And has anything happened?”  Kelley’s voice was lower now, raspy, though not angry or accusing.

“Just general stuff. Location and phone records. Just to make sure I could see if he got close to Christen. And yeah- I mean, nothing terrible has happened. But-“ She exhales, going into the story about how Mark had acted when they purchased the Jeep, how she felt like something was off that day, how she’d seen him and Jermaine walking together on the street. She tells Kelley about the man’s history of violence and explains the text message she received a couple weeks ago that she still had on her phone.

She waits for Kelley’s response, “I just don’t know what to do. This wasn’t supposed to go on for this long. But now I’m not sure if I should call it off, part of me wants to wait until we move, just so I know that everything is okay and that this bad feeling I have can go away.”

Kelley sighs at her best friends explanation, understanding Tobin’s warranted frustration, trying to put herself in Tobin’s shoes to understand how the woman feels before she offered heavy advice. If there was anything that the Marine’s had taught them, it was how to listen to your intuition first, because your intuition could save your life when your brain has other ideas.

Kelley reasons with her. “I don’t think that it’s necessarily unwise of you to be safe. It’s not a good situation, you’re right. And you’re right for wanting to protect them. If I were you... I can’t say that I wouldn’t have done the same, so I don’t think that it would be a bad idea to keep up with it until you guys move.”

Tobin nods, feeling the same way, relieved to hear that the Marine could understand her perspective in all of this.

But Tobin-“  Kelley warns. “You know that this is going to upset Christen if she finds out, right?”

 

Thanksgiving comes, bringing Tobin’s sisters and their family’s home with their children for the holiday’s to officially meet Donovan and an increasingly pregnant Christen. They fight and argue at the dinner table over whether or not the baby is a boy or a girl, with Donovan even pitching in at his parent’s expense that he hopes to have a baby brother.

Perry and her husband pull for a boy, earning playful high fives from Donovan and agreement from Jeff.

Katie and her husband pull for a girl, agreeing with Cody and Cindy that they felt a girl was due.

The family ends up calling all of their friends in the heat of the argument. Kling and Ali settle on a girl. Kelley, Ashlyn, and Kyle think it’s a boy. The tally’s are settled nearly down the middle, and Christen has no idea what the baby will be, just as she’d had no inclination either to her first born being a boy. Tobin shrugs when she’s asked, a smile on her face at having them fuss over it, reminding her of the loudness that came with her sisters, something she’d always miss now that they were both up North. Truthfully, she doesn’t know what she thinks, and she genuinely wouldn’t care either way, thinking that she’s ready for whatever it will be once the time arrives and they finally find out.

It’s a girl. I’m telling you guys.” Megan’s voice comes through the speaker phone, being their last phone-a-friend. “I was right the first time about Donovan being a boy.”

“That’s impossible for you to know, Meg!” Perry laughs, one hand clasped around her stemless wine glass. “Even if you guessed it right the first time. You could be wrong.”

They hear Megan snicker through the speaker. “I mean, I could be. But I’m not.”

 

At sixteen weeks pregnant, the month of December has hit with along with Christen’s second trimester.

Tobin watches the changes take place inside of her partner. The woman’s glow is comparable to seeing sunlight for the first time in months. If a room is grey and dull before Christen enters it, colors are suddenly so vivid and bright from the moment she walks in, swarming around the room in hues that can lift a mood and end a war. Her morning sickness has decreased. She’d had to move up in bra size. Her tummy has grown to the point that it stretches the waistband of her tiny cotton sleep shorts, despite Christen arguing that she’s not going to go up a size or pull out the maternity clothes until she absolutely has to.

She falls asleep on the couch easily, and her cravings are starting to make themselves known, in the form of pickles, packs of tropical skittles, and strawberry milk.

In the evenings, Tobin rubs down her feet with scented lotion. Whispering sweet nothings into her ear and telling her how beautiful she is, pressing languid kisses to her cheeks.

They make love. Often.

Christen can’t seem to get enough of the Marine’s body. Always craving. Always wanting and asking and begging. Tobin gives herself to her every time without hesitance. Also craving. Also wanting and taking and delivering.

The baby is now the size of a fist, and has developed to the point where it’s supposed to be able to hear, which means that suddenly there’s a phone speaker or ear buds pressed into her swollen abdomen as they lay in bed at night, where Tobin plays things like classical Beethoven and Debussy, and Janis Joplin and Fleetwood Mac and Taylor Swift. Even once she played Migos, jokingly. 

On the day that they were set to discover the sex of the baby, Tobin lays awake in bed for hours long before the sun rises. She’s on her back, eyes trained against the dark ceiling, as she thinks of what to expect from raising one compared to the other, body flowing with adrenaline. She knows she will raise them the same either way, regardless of the sex, with the same patient kindness and warmth that she gives Donovan.

Christen rolls over when the alarm goes off with a groan, yet Tobin kisses her forehead and hushes her back to sleep, letting the woman know that she will get Donovan dressed and ready for the bus so Christen can stay in bed. It’s the last day of school before Christmas break, and Donovan has been nonstop with excitement over the past week because of their Christmas pajama day that the kindergarten was putting on. They would lounge in their classrooms, eat smores and drink hot chocolate while they colored and watched the Polar Express, before the children were sent home on a sugar high like no other. Tobin supposes that it was an exciting day for everyone.

Once she is showered and dressed and the coffee pot is whirring, she pads through the hallway and into the little guys bedroom, turning his lamp on as she rubs his back. In his excitement, he had already placed his folded Christmas pajama’s and shoes in the bathroom the night before, wanting to be super ready when he woke up the next morning.

She bathes him while sat against the edge of the tub, mouth parted in concentration as she spikes his soapy hair into a wet and curly mohawk, lifting him beneath his armpits and holding him up so that he could catch sight of himself in the bathroom mirror, where his head throws back in laughter over the hairstyle. She gives him horns, next. Then a pompadour. Though they both laugh the loudest at the middle part.

Once his eggs and fruit are eaten and he’s settled on the big yellow bus with the lingering of Tobin’s kiss upon his forehead, she feels the nerves return at what the rest of the day holds. In the OBGYN’s office, they sit in the same spot they usually do, until Tobin has to get up and pace while waiting for the nurse to call them back. Tobin’s so excited that Christen feels her own foot start to tap, getting on her own nerves, reminding herself to calm down because both of them couldn’t be anxious.

It’s a sharp intake of breath when it happens.

When the technician squints her eyes to the monitor and slides the probe back and forth over the same spot. “Are you ready to know the baby’s sex?” She asks them, receiving two excited Yes’s in response before she turns to look at them happily.

Christen can feel her heartrate increase, mimicking the blood that’s rushing behind Tobin’s eardrums.

“You are having a baby girl.”

The Marine bends her knees to the floor at the side of the exam table once it hits them, both hands holding onto Christen’s, and she cries above the kisses that she places into the palm before leaning up to press a salt-water stained kiss to Christen’s forehead.

“A girl, Tobin. We’re having a daughter.”  Christen coos into Tobin’s chest through her own tears, wriggling her hands free to wrap around the Marine’s torso, hearing Tobin sniff and feeling her nod against her head.

A daughter. Tobin thinks.

A girl. Donovan’s sister.

A daughter.

Then Tobin is laughing hotly into Christen’s hair, pulling back with a billion-dollar smile between the tear stains on her cheeks. She says, “Megan’s gonna be so happy that she was right.”

 

The news rocks the world of both women, as daydreams turn into visions of the future and what the girl is going to look like, how their family is going to grow and change around them, if she’s going to have Christen’s eyes or Tobin’s athleticism. They cry through conversations of happiness, and security, and how they couldn’t even begin to explain such readiness and the certain type of fear that comes from the knowledge that a newborn was on the way.

They tell their family and friends on Christmas Eve, as both families congregated in Cody’s living room to open presents, jokingly gifting everyone a baby blue envelope with copies of the last ultrasound picture taped to a baby blue card, with an arrow pointing to the card. Above the arrow read, “I’m a girl!”

It a celebration almost as good as the announcement that Christen was pregnant in the first place. Even those who had voted for a second boy had thrown their arms up in cheer and had laughed at being fooled by the color of the card. Megan fist bumps and jumps up and down at her suspicions being confirmed twice, forcing Tobin to call Perry and Katie and tell them that Megan was right since both sisters chose to spend the holidays with their husband’s families.

Donovan seems sad for a moment, telling Christen with a pout that he wanted a brother instead of a sister so he could do boy things. Both women had shared a sympathetic half-smile with the rest of the entourage before asking him what type of ‘boy things’ he thought he wouldn’t be able to do with a sister. At five and a half years old, Christen notices that the world was beginning to teach him all of the stipulations that were associated with gender, all of the roles that are forced on every growing child the moment they step out of the door, and she puts herself on the floor to meet her son at his level before breaking down those boxes.

Her hand gently lifts his chin, making him look into his mother’s eyes, his own eyes reflecting the lights of the Christmas tree. “You know you can do all of those things with a sister, right?” She tells him softly and slowly. “Just because she’ll be your sister, doesn’t mean you can’t teach her how to fish and find arrow-heads with papa. You’ll have to teach her how. Do you think you’d be up for it?”

Tobin watches as the realization grows upon his sweet face, lifting a pout into a look of determination, and childlike excitement as he learns. “I can teach her to catch big fish like the one I caught.” His eyes grow wide.

“Once she gets big like you? Of-course you can.” Christen smiles at him, straightening out his little striped sweater until the wrinkles were gone. Ten minutes later and he’s already forgotten the news, eyebrows creased in concentration as Tobin and Jeff sit in the floor with him while trying to build his new Lego set.

Christen settles on the couch curled up against her father, resting her head on his sturdy shoulder as she watches Tobin concentrate. These have been the best weeks of her life with Tobin, knowing and hoping that it would only get better and more stressful from here. There were feelings she was experiencing- Levels of deep seated happiness flooding endorphins through her brain in a way that she didn’t know could happen. She had never felt so settled, while simultaneously knowing that they weren’t quite settled at all.

Christen feels ready in a way that she isn’t sure could be related to her first pregnancy. Where before, she had gathered expectations, and hadn’t known what problems could lie ahead through and after birth. She would never make the statement or hold the opinion that things would be easier this time around. Having Tobin at her side had noticeably changed things for her on an emotional spectrum, but she knew that within her own self regarding the raising of their second child- the difference in the situation was what made them fully and truly incomparable, yet not tarnishing one with being overall more difficult.

Like, when you go for a run along a new trail in the woods.

The trail is unfamiliar along with the scenery. You aren’t aware of the challenges that could possibly lie ahead. What roots you could trip over. If there’s steep hills or fallen branches. If there’s puddles you’ll have to jump over. Yet the unknowing- It’s exciting within it’s own right. Not knowing what to expect is part of the fun. The environment is new and the scenery gifts you with views that makes you want to stop to take pictures.

The second time you run it, time has passed. And while you are more comfortable this time, having memorized parts that were challenging before, able to dodge the familiar roots and get prepared for steep inclines, time has only granted you new challenges. Suddenly there are new puddles to jump over. New paths have been added. 

Maybe the season has changed, and the scenery is different, yet still just as beautiful and still just as taxing as the first time.

So maybe she’s happier. Maybe motherhood and age and Tobin have grown her confidence. But all of this exists along a trail that has aged with her, placing her in a space where she can know that challenges lie ahead. Only this time, she feels more ready to take them on.

Not because it’s easier, but because it will never be easy, so if she’s done it once. Who’s to say she can’t do it again?

There is all the more preciousness in knowing that trails are more fun when you have a running partner.

So she stares at Tobin. Drags her eyes from her socked feet to her dress pants, to the long sleeve sweater that covers her torso, all the way up to that diamond-cutting jawline and those honey-colored eyes that crinkle in laughter over something their son said. And she’s thankful that it was her, all along.

The doorbell rings moments later, lifting Christen’s head off of her dad’s shoulder.

Ah, yes. Christen thinks. Tobin’s first Christmas present.

Usually Christen is the type to gift the best for last, but it was their groups tradition to get everyone together on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. So she had to change her tune a little bit, to ensure that all would be capable of enjoying Tobin's Christmas present with her. She smiles in the Marine's direction when she hears the screen door creak open, watching Tobin look over in confusion before her face is lighting up with the bright blaze of ten thousand fireworks in excitement, as Sergeant Kelley O’Hara peeks her head through the screen-door.

“Is it cool if I join you guys?”

Finally home for good.

Chapter Text

The second text arrives.

Tobin had been bent over the desk at her father’s main office, siphoning her energy into the issues with their work. They’d sat at his desk for a couple of hours by now as the morning carried on, as they agonized over spreadsheets of trees they needed to order while on a conference call that bounced between AD, Sonnett, and their finance manager. Heavy snow in Portland had put a halt on the working men over the last few days, ceasing the last bit of operations that they needed to complete the final clearing of the land until the snow stopped falling upon the higher altitude areas. Jeff had wanted the men to keep working, much to Tobin’s disapproval, and it had been a bit of an argument at first until she won. Despite how close they were to having the entirety of the acres cleared, she wasn’t going to put her men’s safety in jeopardy as they operated massive machinery on the sides of snowy mountains and valleys. It wasn’t worth it to her. And after a bit of back-and-forth, it wasn’t worth it to her father either.

It’s the same phone number, the same text tone coming through Tobin’s jacket pocket, the same ominous feeling that floods through the Marine when she pulls the phone out and turns it to face her, ignoring the question that her dad had asked her from his place in front of his own computer.

Why didn’t you text back?  It reads.

Then, another message. You know that you aren’t good enough for her.

Tobin actually has it within her to scoff at that, her ego hardly wounded, though she’s momentarily back in that headspace of being eighteen again and wondering how someone like Christen could possibly love her. She shakes the feeling away and stares at the little grey text bubbles.

“Hey pops, I’m gonna step outside for a bit to take a phone call.”

Jeff nods and squints his eyes through his reading glasses, distracted with a document in front of him.

She walks the long space between their desks and the side door. The office was on their property, tucked back into the edge of the rows of barren trees and part of a few other massive buildings that housed most of the landscaping machinery and forklifts. She pushes open the heavy metal door before shutting it behind her, stepping out into the harsh early January wind. Her tummy feels nauseous as she answers Smitty’s call.

“It’s pinging from the car dealership, Sergeant. He’s been there all morning.”

“He’s fucking with me.” Tobin hisses, pacing the side of the building, shoving her hands into her Carhartt jacket.

Smitty grunts in approval. “It appears so. I just don’t know the motive.”

“The coward won’t even say a word to me in person.” The Marine’s brain turns. “What does he get out of texting me?”

She sighs and shakes her head, fingers pinching the bridge of her nose. None of it made sense to her. The first text made it seem excusable, capable of being blamed on his misery, likely coupled with the sinister immaturity that he shared with Mark. She had imagined that he was likely drunk when the first text was sent, upset that he’d lost Christen from his own damn problems.

The second text made him seem deliberate. Toying with her. Not something one can blame on childishness or misery. It felt like was instigating something.

“Do you think he’s still trying to get a rise out of you, Tobin?”  Smitty asks her, to which she can only look out over the cold farmland, at the grey stratus clouds over her head, at the shivering trees, and sigh.

“I guess. But I’m never going to respond. So, I guess the joke is on him.” Tobin paces the side of the building, running answerless questions through her mind. “Has he been in any proximity to our contacts?” She asks him through the receiver.

Not a one.”  The man says. “He has a fairly routine daily schedule. Sleeps at the house listed to his mother. Sometimes visits Mark at different locations. Sometimes makes an odd trip downtown. The usual anger management meetings. It’s nothing out of the ordinary aside from the texts.”

Her boots kick at a rock. It was one of the coldest winters she had seen since growing up in Georgia. Chilly during the day and sometimes nearly frozen during the night. Raising the heating bills in the resident’s houses. Selling out their supply of split firewood so fast that she’d had to call Kelley over to help her chop more. Christen seemed to be loving it, however. She’d made a few similar statements about being unable to imagine how she would feel if she were pregnant during the harsh summer humidity. And she had definitely taken advantage of Tobin’s natural heater-like state every night since the temperature dropped, curling herself around the Marine’s warm body until the shivering ceased and she was satisfied.

Tobin wanted that now. Wanted to be curled up to the green-eyed woman on one side, with her son on the other, watching some cartoon on the television as they shared a bowl of popcorn over the blanket.

She and Christen were hard at work, though. Donovan was in school until she had to pick him up at three. And Christen had made plans to have dinner with Megan for a girl’s night tonight, something that they were trying to start occasionally before the Portland move.

So Tobin sighs with the assumption that her plans for cuddling would have to come later rather than sooner. 

“I don’t know, Smitty. Maybe he’ll lay off after he realizes that I’m not going to respond.” She tells him. “Thank you for keeping up with it.”

Not a problem, Heath. I’ll call you if anything changes.”

She hangs up and everything is silent, just the sound of her own breathing and the birds flying over her head. She reminds herself that come sometime tonight, she’ll be tucked away into the couch with her loved ones, far away from any stress of ridiculous text messages, and the silence will be filled with laughter and the lovely sleepy voice of her son.

 

 

Christen slides herself into the diner booth with a thump and a huff across from the blonde. It was a little after five o’clock. Her feet hurt, her hunger was ravenous, and she missed her Marine desperately despite promising Megan that she would come out for dinner. She reminded herself in the back of her mind to order something to-go for the two waiting on her back at home, knowing that they were probably going to end up eating something like nuggets or pizza in her absence. At the least, she could get them something for breakfast in the morning.

“Rough day?” Megan smirks, sliding a cup of decaf in front of the green-eyed beauty.

Christen smiles up at her. “Not rough. Just twenty weeks pregnant over here.” She taps at her swollen belly beneath her dress. She was filling out beautifully, Tobin told her so every night, but the sweet words did nothing to take the exhaustion and back cramps from happening.

Her face screws up at the sip of her coffee, “God I hate decaf.” She groans towards her friend. “It’s the worst part of being pregnant.”

Megan laughs at her transparency. “And that is precisely why I’m not doing it. You can have all the shitty coffee, my dear. Your children are all I need.”

Ali drops herself into the seat next to Megan, placing both of the girl’s requested orders in front of them on the table. “I am officially off work. How was everyone’s day?” She asks.

They talk for a while. About their work day, about Ashlyn’s latest calls at the police department, how Megan was currently talking up the high school’s new girls basketball coach. They laugh at memories from high school and college years while comparing them to the things Megan sees the younger kids do while at work. Christen’s pregnancy is brought up, and they ask her for updates on the house-hunting.

“We might have actually found one that we like, the realtor sent it to us a few days ago.” Christen tells them, just as she downs her last bite of strawberry pancake. The damn strawberry craving was endless these days. “It’s right outside of Portland, in a really nice community, close to that private school I've been checking out. Donovan loves the pictures of the back yard, and Tobin seems to like all of it. I’m honestly smitten with the whole thing.”

Ali studies her curiously, “Why don’t you sound super excited about it, though?” She quietly asks, picking up on the overcast skies dancing around in Christen’s irises. “You shouldn’t take it if you aren’t completely sold.”

Megan nods at the same time Christen shakes her head gently, “I am sold. I mean, I can’t know for sure until Tobin gets up there to check it out. But so far it feels perfect. I just-“

Two pairs of eyes regard her gently, patiently, watching as Christen waits for the right words to say.

“Tobin has just been… off, lately. I don’t know.” She bites at her bottom lip, shrugging.

“Off how?” Ali wonders.

“Do you think she doesn’t want to move?” Megan asks.

“No-“ Christen interrupts them, “I don’t think it’s that. She’s fully involved with the move. Honestly, I think she gets more excited every day for us to finally be up there. I don’t… I don’t really know what it is. Like, sometimes I just think that something is bothering her.”

The three women sit in silence, waiting for Christen to continue. “It’s just an energy I’m getting from her, is all. Nothing has changed aside from the energy. It’s like, she watches me and Donovan silently a lot, her head seems somewhere else, and she’s been having nightmares about once or twice a week where I have to wake her up and calm her down.”

Megan tilts her head to the side, wiping her hands across a crumpled white napkin. “Do you think the trial freaked her out?”

Christen runs the option through her head, thinking back to the period right after the trial. They had been so absorbed with the first two ultrasounds, and then Christmas, and then Kelley coming home. It had seemed like nothing but the two of them running on high for the entire two months. It doesn’t seem right to her that such a thing could worry the Marine into something else entirely. She hadn't noticed, if it had. And besides, Tobin would have talked to her if there was anything significant she was going through emotionally.

“I don’t think it’s that. I think she’s just stressed out, guys.” She shakes the thoughts from her head, bringing the stale coffee up to her lips.

Ali shrugs at her, “She probably is stressed. Kel’ stopped by there a few days ago to help Tobin cut some firewood and she told Ashlyn that both Tobs and her dad seemed stressed out."

Christen’s frown deepens at that, not knowing that it had gotten to the point where even their friends were picking up on it. Tobin didn't give her the most thorough updates about all that she and her dad were doing and going through with the farm. Christen heard about the big news, about their head office being furnished and the land almost being fully cleared until the snow halted their progress. Tobin didn't bore Christen with the trivial, mundane office tasks and conversations, always claiming that she'd rather talk about something other than the monotony of work. 

“She’s probably just got a lot on her plate, Chris. With the job and the move and all.” Megan agrees. “And she probably doesn’t want you to worry, with you being pregnant.”

“Why don’t you just ask her about it?” Ali wonders, leaning back into her seat a bit. “Maybe you and her could just take an evening to yourselves so that you can check in.”

She ponders it for a second, remembering that the simple option to all of her worrying over the Marine could be taken care of with a little communication. It hits her that she and Tobin hadn’t been on a date in a while, either. Just the two of them with little distraction and all the time in the world to talk openly and love on one another. A smile crosses her face at the thought of it, already planning her next move. She'd gotten the idea for a specific date she'd wanted to go on a couple months ago, while looking through a few photographs of her high-school years that had been stored away at her dad's house. And if it was possible, she thinks that the idea is something she'd like to pursue now. 

“You know that, I think I’ll do that. Thanks guys.” She winks at them from across the booth.

 

With her hands wrapped around her purse and a big bag full of to-go boxes, Christen shuts the door to her Mercedes and climbs up the steps of her house. Tobin had picked up Donovan from school at three and hung out with her at the house, allowing Christen a little slice of free time to grab dinner before heading home to meet them.

Her heart melts when she opens the front door slowly, eyes adjusting to the warm light that’s pouring in through the living room lamps as her ears absorb the low sound of cartoons.

Tobin is laid back on the couch, one boot still on her foot and her heavy-duty jacket still on, with Donovan sprawled out across her torso in his dinosaur onesie and his head on her sternum. A little puddle of drool had collected on Tobin’s shirt under the boy’s mouth. The Marine is knocked out herself, full lips parted and eyes closed, as her hand rests across the little boys back. On the coffee table a few feet from them, rests some of Donovan’s bring home assignments from school. It’s the same little booklet they’ve been working on with him since he started kindergarten, teaching him how to write wobbly upper and lowercase letters. Tobin loved teaching him. Christen loved watching it happen. On the days he had to finish a page of the booklet, the Marine would sit with him at the table, her hand around his smaller one as they both grasped a pencil. They would go through the motions of writing the letters out on a blank sheet of paper first, her gently correcting his mistakes by showing him the correct way first, before he would make the finished product along the serrated line within the booklet.

She takes a moment to just stare at them from her spot in the door, hands being weighed down by her bags. There is a love that people can hold for others, Christen assumes, and then there is the love she currently feels as she stands and looks on at them, like nothing else in the world could compare. The long day drains out of her feet, sending the warmth and ease of being home into her body, and she knows that it’s all due to the two resting souls along that couch. She sits the bags down onto the counter after depositing her purse onto the island, before unclasping her shoes and leaving them gently behind on the cool kitchen floor.

Christen bends over the couch to press a kiss to Donovan’s head, gently scooping her hands beneath his torso and legs before lifting him off of the Marine as softly as she could manage. Tobin barely stirred. He was getting heavier by the day, but she wouldn’t adjust her grip and potentially wake the slumbering boy up, carrying his slumbering body through the living room and down the hall into his bedroom. It was a little after 8pm, given that she had stayed talking and laughing with the two women for a little longer than expected, so she assumed that she could just let Donovan stay resting in bed until the morning. She knew that Tobin had probably worn him out with enough backyard play time to knock any five-year-old out a little early.

With his door quietly shut behind her, and his bedroom monitor on, she tiptoes back through the hallway and into the living room.

“Honey?” Her hands rub at Tobin’s sternum, feeling the Marine begin to stir as she blinks her eyes open and adjust to her environment after the nap. The first thing she sees is Christen’s beautiful smile, and it makes her own smile grow wide until she’s yawning.

“Did we pass out?” The Marine asks, eyes sleepy and stroking Christen’s arm. “Where’s Donovan?”

“I put him to bed.” Christen whispers, giggling softly at Tobin’s half-assed attempt at pulling her onto the couch, her honey eyes dazed and in love. “You fell asleep with all your work clothes on, baby. Why don’t we get comfy and then we can come out here and cuddle? Did you eat?”

Tobin nods to both the statement and the question, stretching her lanky arms above her as Christen continues rubbing her ribs. “We ate some dinosaur nuggets and then finished his homework. I guess we passed out afterwards.”

They pad to their bedroom hand in hand. Tobin changes into a pair of loose-fitting boxers and sweatpants, throwing a hoodie over her bra, before helping Christen step out of her dress. Her warm hands cover the baby bump almost immediately.

“And good evening to you.” Tobin whispers, bending down to press the softest of kisses to the swollen tummy in-front of her. Christen was undeniably pregnant at this point, her navel just barely beginning to stretch. “My sweetest girl.” She winks up at the green-eyed woman, who lowers her eyelids in a challenge.

Oh,” Christen teases, “So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh?”

“Don’t you know it.” Tobin smiles wide, capturing Christen’s lips that had leaned down to meet hers in a kiss. She stands and tightly holds the woman there, feeling clingy after the day she’s had, sighing into their languid lip lock before whispering into Christen’s mouth.

“I missed you more.” Christen answers the whisper, wrapping her arms around Tobin’s shoulders. The baby bump was keeping their torsos from fully meeting, but Tobin didn’t seem to mind, as if she could ever. 

She pulls back to look into the Marine’s eyes, running her hand along the strong jawline and gaunt cheekbones. “I want to take you on a date.”

Tobin’s eyebrows shoot up at that. “I would love that, Chris.” She says honestly, wanting nothing more, genuinely nothing more than more time with the beautiful woman, as if any time at all was ever enough.

Christen pecks her lips twice, lingering, thumb pressed into the side of Tobin’s cheek.

“Good. Pick me up in your dad’s truck tomorrow and I’ll drive.”

They settle into the couch together and put on a movie, blanket thrown across their legs, Christen tucked into the crook of Tobin’s arm as their head rested on the cushions behind them. She traces her finger across Tobin’s clothed stomach, feeling the woman leave light kisses into the curls of her hairline, just smelling Tobin’s cologne and breathing the woman in. Her hands splay out across the strong abdomen then, flatly pressing into the rigid planes of her stomach and ribs, before trailing up to slide beneath Tobin’s breast above her hoodie. She watches her own hand as she leads a finger over the fabric line of Tobin’s sports bra, and that same finger finds the dip along her sternum before heading south along the dip between her abdomen muscles. Looking up, she finds the Marine’s eyes concentrating on the movie, despite the clench in her jaw telling Christen that at least some of her was attentive to the soft touches.

Her hand travels beneath the hoodie, pressing cold fingertips into the burning hot skin she finds there. Tobin barely jumps at the contact, leaning down to press another kiss to Christen’s forehead. The moment that her cold hand touches Tobin’s breast above her sports bra, she feels the woman’s nipples harden, so her fingers trace along those too. Circling them, flicking across them, feeling them harden even further beneath the fabric.

Are you trying to get me hard?”  The Marine whispers into her hair, so she presses a kiss to the chest beneath her lips and shrugs her shoulders.

“Is it working?” Christen asks, pulling herself up against the Marine’s body to trace light kisses into her neck. She feels Tobin nod above her lips, so she nips at the hardened skin beneath her jaw. Her hands trace back down across Tobin’s stomach, running up and over her waistband, until she wraps around Tobin’s length that’s pressed to the side along her hip line. Tobin sighs at being touched beneath the blanket, and her hands find Christen’s chin, pulling the woman’s face up to where their lips could meet in a kiss, tongues roaming and seeking until both women are panting into one another’s mouth.

“Come on,” The Marine whispers, “Let’s go to bed.”

They make love slowly. Tenderly. Until both women have outgrown their insecurities and found solace within each other, as it has always been and will always be. Until their worries have been erased at the hands and mouths of the other. Until they’re left sated and peaceful and at ease. Until Tobin has all but forgotten about the inconvenient foreign number in her phone and Christen’s worries have nearly dissipated. Nearly.

Tobin sleeps soundly through the night, comforted by the weight of Christen’s back pressed into her chest and their hands interlocked at all points.

 

 

Tobin’s eyes quirk up as she looks out of the passenger window, face screwing up in a confused smile as her neck cranes to take in the surrounding environment. She had asked for the keys to one of her dad’s trucks before picking the woman up right on time, knowing that Donovan was safe at Cody’s for the evening until they were finished with their date.

She doesn’t recognize the road they’re on at first, having been gone from this small town for far too long, but suddenly it hits her. The houses were becoming sparser and the woods were clearing out into farmland, somewhere along the edge of the county. She had been down this road many years ago, in a different time, much younger then than now. She was also in the driver’s seat back then, nerves coursing through her body until she was sweating, wondering how in the hell she managed to get her best friend in the whole world to go on a date with her.

“I remember this road!” Tobin looks over at Christen’s mischievous smile, keeping her green eyes on the rolling pavement in front of them. She was thankful that the weather was mild today, sunny in the mid-fifties and hardly windy, though she had brought blankets in the beach bag that sat at Tobin’s feet. Blankets and a large bag of popcorn, that they definitely weren't going to finish.

“Wait-“ Tobin’s smile and eyes grow larger. “Are we going to the drive-in theatre? Chris!”

Christen laughs at Tobin’s excitement, filling her heart swell, just like she was seventeen again.

“I thought this placed would have closed by now!” The Marine shakes her head in disbelief, having flashbacks of the scenery around them from the past as the truck takes a left into the drive-in entrance.

Not much has changed, really. The road had been paved again, a few more traffic signs thrown up, and the drive-in sign renovated. But other than that, it was the same old long and gravel driveway leading up to the building, breaking off into different pathways that would direct you to the different movie screens and the fields in front of them where people could park their cars. The drive-in theatre had been running since the 70’s. Since her father had been in high school. It was family owned and operated, and likely not to close so long as the family owned it.

“It’s usually closed in the winter,”  Christen explains, “I called the owner and talked him into showing a movie for us, he and dad apparently go way back.”

Tobin watches her as she explains the situation, a glint growing in her eye. “Getting a few strings pulled around here,” She teases, taking them back to last year when she had heard those same words come out of the green-eyed girl’s mouth. “Aren’t you Miss Press?”

Christen parks the car in front of the ticket booth with a smirk and a shrug, seeing the owner step out of the building with a smile on his face upon seeing them pull up, dusting his hands off on his jeans.

“It appears so.” She winks at Tobin from across the console, watching the Marine shake her head in disbelief before opening the driver’s side door. Tobin can only laugh and step out of the truck herself.

“Are you Mr. Jimmy?” Christen shakes the man’s wrinkled hand, watching him take in her pregnant tummy as his face explodes in happiness.

“Yes ma’am, that’s the name they gave me.” He jokes, laughing and gesturing to her stomach. “And good Lord at how much you’ve grown up, I’d not seen you since you were about yay-high.” His hand gestures. “When are you due?” He asks her kindly.

“May 15th!” She smiles back at him, looking over at Tobin as she steps up to join them.

“I went to school with your father and mother, you know? Me and her and your daddy used to run all over creation back in the day.” There’s a wistful look in his eyes, swirling with memories and moments from his childhood, as if he hadn’t thought about it in years.

Christen tries not to flinch at the mention of her mother, keeping the smile on her face, feeling Tobin’s fingers rub gently at her lower back.

“Yes sir, mama always spoke highly of you. She’d actually been the one to suggest this place to Tobin for our first date.” She nods her head in the Marine's direction, remembering how her mother had been so excited about helping them figure out what they were going to do all those years ago. She remembers how her mother had lowered her black-rimmed reading glasses as she scoured through Google for local places for them to go. At seventeen, Christen had found it overbearing and almost embarrassing, but she’d texted the final recommendation to Tobin regardless, thinking herself that it could be fun. Her heart aches with longing, though it doesn’t show on her face.

“Tobin Heath.” The Marine shakes his hand next, “It’s nice to meet you, and thank you for letting us out here tonight, sir.”

He waves her off with a kind smile, laughing and pocketing his hands. “My daddy was the ‘sir’. I’m just Mr. Jimmy. Now I’ve got y’all set up on screen five, just drive down the pathway through the field and you’ll see it, it’s the only screen that’s on at the moment, we'll start rolling once it gets dark enough out here. And Christen you tell that old man of yours to give me a call sometime, alright?”

“I sure will.” She nods, backing up to get back into the car. “And thank you again Mr. Jimmy!”

He waves and leaves them, walking back up the path towards the building. The women get themselves settled in the truck cab, and Tobin turns her before she can throw the gear in drive.

“So what are we watching?” She asks, not even bothering to buckle back into her seatbelt.

Well…” Christen starts, “I figured since we were basically recreating our first date, why don’t we just recreate the whole damn thing?”

 

Underworld plays out on the big screen in front of them, just as it had done nearly 14 years ago. Christen parked the truck facing the gigantic movie screen when they’d pulled up, in the middle of the massive field as the sun fully went down. It was too cold outside to sit in the truck bed, even with their blankets, so they’d thrown the console up and cuddled on top of the truck’s front bench seat. The bench seat served as the primary reason Christen had wanted Tobin to get the truck in the first place, knowing that they could still cuddle up and stay warm in a way that wasn’t possible with Tobin’s Jeep or her Mercedes. The big windshield allowed them full view of the screen that was about fifty yards in front of them.

She’d scooted her body over and thrown her legs up on the dashboard, leaning into Tobin’s side as the Marine wrapped her arm around her shoulder. The blanket splayed out across their laps.

“This is nice.” Tobin mumbled, watching Kate Beckinsale start to kick ass on the big screen. “I’d forgotten how good this movie is. It's a classic.”

Christen smiles and grabs for the Marine’s hand, twirling her fingers around Tobin’s thumb and index, satisfied at knowing the date idea was a success.

“Thank you for doing this, Chris.” Tobin whispers, eyes pausing from the movie to look over at Christen’s own pair, her neck cranes as she presses a kiss to the woman’s bottom lip, feeling Christen’s swollen tummy at her side. “I needed this, some alone time with you before we’re never alone again.”

They laugh at the joke, knowing all too well how true it was, how sleep and alone time was about to become something they could only dream and wish for. Kissing again, they turn back to watch the movie after Christen says, “I needed this too.”

 

Christen sits without a word through the majority of the action in the film, just quietly feeling her hand being held and softly rubbed as they relax. It feels nice to just sit in the quiet with one another. So much had been going on, she often felt like every day she was doing a thousand things more than the day before. Raising Donovan, going to work, running errands, loving on Tobin, planning out the finer details and adjusting those plans as things change. She was starting to get tired easier, and her back and feet were constantly sore, her hair had even grown thicker. It’s like she was blinking, and this pregnancy was passing her by, wondering if all mother’s go through something similar when pregnant with their second.

She thinks about Donovan, how he’s started to grow more and more interested of the baby in her tummy with every passing day. He puts his little hands on her constantly, pressing his ear to the side of her navel and looking up at her with a new question every time. He’d asked what it felt like, something that she had to think about before figuring out how to describe it. He’d asked if he could talk to the baby, and if the baby could hear him or not, which led to him describing his entire day to her stomach as soon as she walked through her front door.  

During a really sweet moment that plays out across the screen between the protagonist Selene and her forbidden love Michael- Christen feels the baby move.

“Tobin!” She lifts up, hand flying to her tummy before taking Tobin’s larger hand in hers and pressing it to her skin. The Marine’s face is panicked, eyes darting from Christen’s face to her stomach as she worries that something is going wrong. “She moved. I felt her move!”

Laughter fills the truck Cabin, Tobin pressing both of her hands more firmly over her skin beneath her sweater, trying to feel the movement that Christen had spoke of. After a few moments of suspenseful silence and wide eyes, Tobin feels the little motions beneath the pads of her left fingers. It’s so small and barely-there, but she’s certain that she’d felt it.

“Did she just move? Did I feel it?” She whispers, looking up at Christen with the most hopeful eyes the woman thinks she’s ever seen, smiling and swallowing back tears as her question is confirmed with a nod. She bends over awkwardly in the truck Cabin, placing a kiss to the swollen tummy her hands had exposed to the cool air, before leaning up and capturing Christen’s mouth in an earnest, direct way. They exhale through their noses simultaneously, before laughing together as they detach. Christen wraps her arms around Tobin’s broad shoulders in a hug, then. Holding the Marine into her, reminding herself to hold onto this moment and lock it away so that she may never forget it, so that she may appreciate it for what it is worth right here in the moment.

Tobin’s eyes communicate the love she feels without her words having to state it, as she leans back and pulls Christen’s sweater back down. There’s so much happiness inside of her pupils, so much life that Christen can see, that she decides to let go of her plan to asking the Marine if anything was wrong. She talks herself into having been worried over nothing, excusing that Tobin was just stressed in the same ways that she was and simply needed to be grounded again. Simply needed a moment to breathe.

Christen didn’t want to take the high from her.

Didn’t want to ruin a perfect night with conversations about things that would only bring reality back to them. Didn’t want to make Tobin have to think about the things that were or could have been stressing her out in the moment. They were here together, on a date and at peace, so peaceful it would stay.

“I love you.” She tells her, settling back into Tobin’s side, watching the Marine throw her feet back up on the dashboard and get back to watching the drama that’s unfolding on the screen.

Tobin smiles, craning her neck to peck Christen’s forehead. “I love you more.”

“Kate Beckinsale looks so fine in that black latex suit.”

“Doesn’t she though?”

 

 

On the third week of January, the plans are set for Tobin to fly back to Portland, heading there for two days on January 30th. The stress of finding a house is finally over, as they had finally confirmed to the realtor that the one she’d sent them was perfect. It truly was a beautiful home, set deep into a cul-de-sac alcove in North Portland. It was a four bedroom, two and a half bath house, with a full basement and two-door car garage. The rooms were insanely spacious from the pictures, and large windows allowed for a lot of natural sunlight, especially in the large kitchen and living room. There was a stone fireplace, a tree-lined back yard, modern stainless-steel appliances, and dark hardwood floors. Though in Tobin’s mind, the coolest part was the massive skylights in the bathrooms, something that she’d hoped their future house would have since it made her feel at home.

The realtor said that the owners were in the property of switching to new granite counter tops in the kitchens and bathrooms, which meant that Tobin would at least need to wait until the last week of January to fly out, and every day she seemed to grow more and more excited until they were only one week away. While she was there on the two day trip, after checking out the property and Face-timing Christen so that she could see it, she would head over to the business in order to check out their new office and finalize a few drafting plans for them to start planting new trees on the farm. She’d also made plans to meet as many of her new employees as she could, maybe throwing a grand-opening gathering that they could have catered. She wanted to do this right. Wanted her employees to have faith in their new boss, knowing that she would have their backs and would look out for them like family.

The newest update, however, came in the form of the adoption paperwork sitting on Christen’s desk at work. It had been picked up from the courthouse on the 20th, after Donovan had asked one morning if Tobin had “adoptdid”  him yet, causing both adults to look at one another over the breakfast table and share a look of realization. A reminder of- “Oh, we need to get on that soon, don’t we?”  

Christen had forced the Marine to let her fill it out for her, knowing that Tobin was far from the level of meticulous that she was and likely to speed through it in her excitement, instead of reading the fine print and filling it out slowly. Tobin had relented, but agreed with her, simply making her promise to let her and Donovan know as soon as Christen filled it out. Jonathan had reassured them that the adoption process shouldn’t be difficult at all, that the state should have no problem moving it right through, seeing how secure both parents were in their own right.

“What about Emilia?” Christen asks her dad, who’s amusedly watching Tobin teach Donovan how to play Fifa on their Playstation. The boy was sat between Tobin’s long legs on the floor, looking down at the controller as Tobin told him which buttons were which, before looking back at the flatscreen and trying to keep up. He was far too young to understand what exactly he was doing, but he had asked to learn how after watching the Marine play a game. It was a lazy and rainy Saturday they were spending with their dad, four days before Tobin’s flight.

“I don’t know babe.” Tobin looked back, after sneakily auto playing a game and turning Donovan’s controller off, making Cody have to swallow his laughter at his grandson’s concentrated face and rapid button pressing.

Christen sighed, turning back to the crossword, knowing those words meant that Tobin didn’t like it.

“What about Christen Jr.?” Cody chided from his spot in the recliner, winking at his daughter as he tapped her outstretched foot with his slipper.

The younger woman rolled her eyes at him, fighting the smile on her face at Tobin’s giggling from the floor.

“Tobin? Any options from you?” Christen lifted her eyebrows, expecting the Marine to offer a decent opinion if she was going to hop in on the playful jokes at Christen’s expense.

Tobin swallowed and looked back. It was the thing, though. The reason why she didn’t want to speak up and give an opinion. There was a name that she really liked. One that she felt would fit. One that she could envision herself saying out loud for the rest of her little girl’s life. There was a fear though, that Christen would shrug it off, that she wouldn’t like it, and Tobin didn’t want to be disappointed from that. She sighed and smiled, watching those sharp and striking green eyes as they beckoned her to speak up-

Or forever hold her peace.

Amaya.”  Tobin said it confidently, carefully studying Christen’s face as she took in the name. The Marine then swallowed, taking a deep breath through her chest, staring deeply into those eyes as she grounded herself enough to finish it. “Amaya Stacy Heath.”

Christen’s eyes hit the ceiling as her nostrils flared, tears immediately collecting beneath her grey-green irises, making Tobin’s eyes tear up as well. Stacy’s spirit was strong in the household today, and her birthday was coming up soon, which Tobin had suspected was the cause of the woman wanting to be close to her father today. Though the Marine had never once doubted her own need to give their daughter her mother-in-law’s name. She figured Christen wanted the same, but thinking for oneself and hearing from another evoked two different emotions in a person.

“That’s beautiful, Tobin.” Cody softly nodded to her worried face, and Tobin noticed that his eyes were misty as well. She smiles at Christen gently, searching for her approval, worried that she’d overstepped a line and hit Christen with a curveball during a moment the woman didn’t want to bat.

I love that.”  Christen smiled, tear streaks lining the center of her high cheekbones, reassuring the Marine immediately. Her face only warps to heavier tears, which she fights by swallowing and standing, reaching out at she passes Tobin’s seated body and squeezing her shoulder in affection and double reassurance. Donovan was so absorbed in fake playing his game that he barely looks up with his mother passes by and walks towards their bedroom. Part of Tobin wanted to chase after her, to ask her again if she really liked it, if she was happy with the name and could see herself calling their daughter by it. Though part of her knew that Christen needed a moment alone. Just a few moments to sit with the name and let herself cry if she needed to cry. They all would mourn her mother forever, that much was for certain, so Tobin hoped that the middle name could provide a little abundant life to their infinite grief.

She cranes her neck back to look to Cody again, as her son jumps and cheers despite his “team” not being the one to score.

Cody nods at the woman he considers to be his daughter-in-law with watery eyes, lips in a soft smile until he speaks again.

“I think that name is perfect, Tobin. And she’ll be back in a minute,” He winks. “Just gotta let it settle.”

 

They lay in bed later that night as Christen cries, tucked into Tobin’s chest as her tears pool on Tobin’s t-shirt. Her body rocks with every sob, muffles cries being pressed into the Marine’s skin and she holds Christen tightly and coos. She worries that the name had set Christen off, causing her pain and bringing up memories of her mother that she could only mourn.

Christen’s deep in her own thoughts as she weeps, missing her mother desperately, hating with every fiber inside of her that the woman wouldn’t be able to be there for this birth, as if the thought had just occurred to her now that her mother had been brought up and Tobin had spoken her name. It wasn’t that she never thought or reminisced anymore. She missed her mother daily, and a million things reminded her of the woman. Certain dresses she’d find in her closet, certain hats. The smell of fresh-cut grass, freshly laundered linens, and her father. Today was particularly difficult, though not because of the name. Because it had hit her like a truck that her father would be alone once they move.

Cody had been adamant thus far that he was going to be fine, that he would constantly visit now that he was retired, and he didn’t dream for a second that they would stop their life plans due to him. But that didn’t stop her from picturing him alone in that house, without the laughter of his grandchildren around him, without being able to take a short drive over to his house and kiss his head as he made coffee for them both. It hurt her to think of him lonely. It hurt her to know that her mother wouldn’t be holding her hand as she gave birth to their precious daughter.

It’s okay,”  Tobin whispered, knowing that Christen was muffling her cries to keep Donovan from waking up. “I’m here, darling. I’m right here.”

She shook her head and tried to cry the rest of the pain out, “I just miss her so much.” She squalled. “I don’t want dad to be alone.”

Tobin leaned to put herself above the woman, fingers tucking Christen’s curls beneath her ear as she shushed her, looking up at the Marine through her tears. “Hey-“ Tobin soothed her, “He won’t be alone, I promise you that. He’s gonna come visit, we’re gonna visit him, there’s Facetime and phone calls. I promise you, Chris.”

Christen nodded, sniffling from her runny nose. “I wish he would just move with us, but I know that he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t leave that house.” Her voice was rough and heavy from the crying, from the wetness in her throat.

“We’ll still see him as much as possible. You know he’s gonna be there for the birth and stay a while afterwards to get us settled in. You’re gonna get so sick of his bad jokes you’re practically gonna shove him through the airport to go back home.”

She tried to lighten the mood, and it seemed to work, though she couldn’t really tell if Christen was crying or laughing. It seemed like a mixture of both.

“I miss my mama.” Her wet eyelashes blinked, forcing out more silent tears from the sides of her eyes. “I miss her so much, Tobs. She would be so happy you’re back. She loved you so much.”

Tobin feels her own throat constrict, and she has to start blinking and focusing her breathing to keep herself from crying. “I miss her too.” She tried to smile, tried to get her feelings out. “I loved her and thought of her every day. I can’t tell you how hard I cried when Kelley told me.”

 Christen was silent for a second, just relaxing into the Marine’s soothing touch and processing her words. Tobin cleared her throat. “But I promise she’s here with us. With you. She’s watching from heaven and lookin’ after you, and she’s so proud of you. I just know it.”

She could only nod, pulling herself deeper into Tobin’s strong and protective grasp, wanting to curl up and feel small, and feel held, just as she knew Tobin could make her feel. She felt soft kisses pressing into her wet cheeks, and onto her forehead. “I love the name Amaya.” Christen whispered, finally wrangling in her emotions.

“You do? Really?” Tobin pulled back, a hopeful and joyous look on her gaunt face.

“It’s perfect, Tobin. And beautiful. Amaya Stacy Heath. How did you come up with that?”

“Chopping wood at work and thinking.” Tobin whispered back, bashful and soft. “None of them sounded right after I thought of that one.”

Christen cupped Tobin’s cheeks with her hands, rubbing the pads of her fingertips over her cheekbones.

“I was worried that you wouldn’t like it.” The Marine whispers, to which the teary younger woman immediately shook her head, making Tobin’s bashful smile only grow larger.

“I love it.” Christen assured her in her own whisper. “It’s perfect.”

 

 

Kelley is with her when all hell breaks loose.

It’s two days before her flight, on a Tuesday afternoon, right as they’d finished chopping the last batch of wood they had left to do. She had offered to help break up some of the leftover trees once her father’s men had finished clearing them to prepare for the Georgia spring planting season. They’d had to remove all sick or dying trees from a few sections of the farm and get the leftover soil ready to start planting in a couple months. Instead of wasting what they dug up, they’d just chop it and sell it as firewood, as they’d been doing for weeks now and would do yearly. The firewood was packed up and sold to local gas stations and convenient stores to be resold to customers, and many people in the town would buy directly from their farm, using the wood to power furnaces, fireplaces, and bonfires. Since the orders were coming in quickly, and the men were already busy tilling the land, Tobin and Kelley had offered to do the work again. She didn’t want her dad swinging an axe anymore. He was getting older and had thrown out his back more than once, so she took it upon herself to make sure he wouldn’t be tempted or have a reason to do any physical labor while she was in Portland for the two days.

Dirty work was always fun when one had Kelley O’Hara as a boon companion.

The freckled Marine shakes the spray paint can before tagging a red phallic symbol on the top of the large wood log that Tobin had to chop, laughing her ass of as Tobin deadpans to her.

“Really, Kel?” Tobin rolls her eyes, panting and sweating from the exertion. They had been at this for an hour or so, and had gotten the majority of the wooden logs split into thirds. The sun was beating down on her neck, yet it was still chilly outside, making her sweat cold.

Kelley had thrown the red spray paint can into their shopping cart earlier, shrugging when Tobin asked her what it was for, and she’d immediately pulled it out and started tagging the wood before Tobin split it. Painting red X’s, bullseye’s, random symbols, poorly drawn boobs, and now she was onto penises. Apparently.

“I can’t sell wood that has balls painted on it, dude.” The taller Marine argues, trying not to laugh as it only makes Kelley laugh harder.

Chop it-“ Kelley wheezes, “Just chop it down the-“ She wheezes again, “Down the middle! It’ll look like two circles!” She clutches her abdomen as she laughs so hard that she’s silent, croaking out- “They won’t even know-”

Tobin’s laughing so hard by the end of Kelley’s sentence that they’re both doubled over, shoving the other to try and make them fall over. The taller Marine gets herself together long enough to lift the heavy axe over her shoulder, aiming right where Kelley had directed her to. It’s a clean split, separating the lewd artwork, making them both wheeze out again like teenagers.

After the subsequent laughter and jokes die out, Kelley takes the axe and tosses the bottle of spray paint into Tobin’s gloved hand, after the next piece of wood is placed on the platform. Tobin spray paints their initials, making Kelley jokingly awe, and she watches with a smile as Kelley brings the axe down with a huff and start to split it.

Her phone rings from her back pocket.

“Kel, hold on.“ Tobin stops the Marine from swinging again, watching as she’s looked at curiously. The incoming call keeps her from seeing if there’s a new text message, so she looks around the perimeter of where they were chopping wood to make sure that no one was around them, finding nothing but rows of empty brown trees.

“It’s Smitty. That guy I told you about.”

“The one that’s tracking Jermaine? What does he want?” Kelley asks, and Tobin shrugs hesitantly as she answers the call.

“Lieutenant?” Tobin puts the phone to her ear.

Heath.”  His voice is low. Grave. As if he didn’t want to speak. “The picture was sent from his mother’s house.”

“What picture?” Tobin asks, pulling the phone from her ear. She presses the speaker phone symbol before clicking on the home button, then opening her messages thread where his text thread is still there, showing a notification that she had received an image. Kelley drops the axe to the ground and walks over.

“What’s the picture of, Smitty?” She doesn’t want to open it until she knows what it is, not knowing what she could possibly see once she opens the messages.

The man doesn’t speak at first. Doesn’t sigh. “It’s a picture of Christen.”

Her fingers tap on the thread before he fully gets the woman’s name out, watching as their text thread is opened and a picture waits below his unanswered texts. The picture shows a younger Christen, dark curls pulled back from her face and clipped behind her head. She’s wearing makeup, and they seem to be outside at an event somewhere. Her left hand is clasped around Jermaine’s dark beard, as if she had turned his head, and they’re smiling with closed eyes as she kisses him. Donovan is smaller, possibly three-years-old, seated in Jermaine’s lap and laughing at the camera as the photo was taken. Jermaine’s hand holds him around his tummy, keeping him seated on top of his knees.

She bends down and over quickly, away from Kelley’s feet, feeling the heat rush her face as the bile rises in her throat. Her right hand holds herself above the dirt as she vomits, sinuses burning from the pressure of throwing up as her chest heaves.

 

Shit.” Kelley bends forward over her, pulling back her hair. She had seen the picture on the phone, looking over Tobin’s shoulder to see what they were talking about. It had shocked her to look at it, too, but not in a way that she knew Tobin was feeling as she stared at it. Kelley was instantly angry, and confused at why the he would have sent that to her best friend, not understanding the point of it all and why he couldn’t just let go and walk away with his fucking tail between his legs.

Kelley watches her friend black out with rage. She had witnessed it a few times through their life, the look in Tobin’s eyes as anger replaces anything else the woman was capable of feeling, as Tobin spits onto the dirt. She watches as the Marine stands and wipes her mouth with the back of her sleeve, thanking the man on the phone for the information, before hanging up the call.

Tobin’s chest heaves with angry breaths as she looks at Kelley before dropping her eyes to the ground in front of them. Her fists are clenched at her side. Jaw muscles contracting as her brain gets turned on a loop of heavy thoughts. Kelley is silent, just watching her, waiting for the woman to react. She didn’t know what Tobin was capable of, but she knew that her thoughts weren’t good, watching as her brown eyes dart from left to right as if reading something inside of her memory.

She moves her hand to Tobin’s shoulder, trying not to feel upset at the way the Marine backs away from being touched as she looks up at Kelley in a warning.

She’s pissed, Kelley thinks. Taking in those dark and sharp features. She’s really pissed.

“He’s not interested in going after Christen.” Tobin’s jaw remains hardened, nostrils flaring.

“He’s targeting me.”

 

It’s nearly five when the Marine makes it to her destination, having finished the rest of the wood cutting in near silence with Kelley, only answering her questions with short words. She knew that Kelley didn’t take it to heart, knowing that Tobin wasn’t much of a talker when she was angry or upset. The freckled Marine had asked her the necessary questions, helping Tobin digest her own realizations, simply curious at what Tobin thought the man was after and what she planned to do about it.

In truth, Tobin wasn’t going to do anything unless she had to.

She wouldn’t block his number, knowing that the might need more evidence of harassment if he became more vicious than simple text messages. As of now, there were no grounds for her to file any protection order. He wasn’t stalking her, or threatening her, or doing much of anything that would prove a need to have her name added. And she knows that this was his game, knows that he was trying to break her down and get into her head in ways that she couldn’t do much about unless she was to text him back and tell him to fuck off.

She wasn’t going to do that either. It was beneath her. She had a family to worry about. A business to tend to. Her time wasn’t going to be spend entertaining his bullshit.

Telling Christen was a bad move, as messed up and as noble as it seemed. It would make her worry, cause unnecessary stress and strain on the woman when she was already having to handle so much at the moment. It was Tobin’s duty to keep Christen safe, and stress free, and as comfortable as possible during this pregnancy and afterwards, for the rest of their lives. She didn’t want Christen to be angry and consumed in anxiety anymore, especially after fighting so hard to move on after what he did to her and the court case. If Tobin could, just for a second, keep that carefree smile on her face and the bright light behind her eyes, she was doing a good job.

All she could do was what she was doing. Ensuring that in all counts, if it got to that point, she and her family were protected.

She pushes open the barred front door and the little bell jingles above her head, alerting to whoever works behind the counter that a customer had entered. The air smells stale, like metal and a heating system that was working overtime after not being used for a while. She has to adjust her eyes under the fluorescence, having been beneath the bright sun for so long.

“What can we do for ya?” A man speaks up from a back room, throwing open the wooden swinging door and looking at her with a tired face. He’s tall and heavy set, with a red beard that nearly touches his sternum and a trucker hat resting high on his bald head. On the walls around him, set upon prongs poking out of pegboard type walls, are tons of different types of guns. Pistols. Shotguns. Rifles, both hunting and assault. Machines she hasn’t touched in months, though none of them exactly like the things she had carried while on duty.

“I need to buy a pistol.” She cuts to the chase, looking around at all the different types the store had to offer.

He looks at her curiously, “Okay. Do you know what kind? We have a lot of different types that are catered to females. I can show you a few-“

She nearly rolls her eyes. Nearly. Interrupting him from turning to go through the back doors again. “A Heckler and Koch VP9 if you have it. Preferably one with a night sight.”

His eyebrows raise in surprise. “We should have something like that. Let me go check on it for you.”

Tobin whistles as he leaves, looking through the different stacks of colorful boxes of ammunition. She was uncomfortable here. Her family owned hunting rifles, but they were the type to use them conservatively, only hunting for things that they would actually process and eat instead of doing it for enjoyment. Her father carried a gun, but it was concealed, and mostly for protection incase he stumbled upon a rabid animal or a coyote while walking the farm at night.

Her eyes linger over a white box of ammunition, bullets similar to the one they had pulled out of her side.

“Okay,” The man carries a few compact boxes to the glass case, setting them down and beginning to open them up for her. “So we had the HK, it’s a 9 millimeter luger. Grey and black finish. 3.39 inch barrel with 11 round capacity. And it has the night sight you were looking for.” He juts a finger to the night sight as Tobin looks over the pistol. There’s a sour feeling in the pit of her stomach, left over nausea from the picture she can’t seem to get rid of, but it only fuels her anger further.

“We have ammunition and a few different holsters that will fit it, depending on what you wanted.”

She looks over at the other boxes he had opened, pulling out the box of ammunition she wanted and an IWB holster before setting those next to the register silently. She fishes her wallet out of her pocket and thumbs through the pouches, finding the three cards she was looking for. One, her concealed carry permit. Two, her debit card. And three, her U.S military identification and privileges card. The one that brandished her veteran status as an E6 Staff Sergeant out of the United States Marine Corps.

That one would give her a discount.

A tight smile is given to the man along with her cards, amusedly watching as his cheeks tint red from assuming earlier that she needed a female designed weapon, as if her M16 had options for females. It’s why she didn’t actually roll her eyes at him, or get upset that he had offered it. She knew that he didn’t know about her service, but it sure was sort of funny watching him find out.

“Thank you for your service.” He says softly to her with a small nod as he scans the boxes and processes her carry license through the computer, lowering his eyes as if apologizing.

It’s the same reaction she has every time someone says this to her.

There’s the acknowledgment that he cares enough to thank her. The gratefulness that he cares. Then the half-smile type of static that comes with all the  heavy weighted  baggage of that sentence.

“It’ll be $913 and nine cents.”

She nods at him to go ahead and run the debit card, just as gratefully as he’d nodded to her before, and thanks him kindly once the bags are handed over along with her cards and receipt. She puts the bags into the trunk of her Jeep, locking the trunk cover with her key, before driving home with a hungry stomach and a relaxed mind.

 

At home, Christen is swaying her hips to the sound of Gerry Rafferty coming through a Bluetooth speaker, turning towards the door with a warm gaze and knowing smile as her hand continues stirring a wooden spoon into a pan. Her hair is pulled up into a bun, having gotten off of work early to pick Donovan up before she changed into some comfortable clothes and started dinner. She’s got one of Tobin’s hoodie’s pulled over her pregnant belly, and a pair of Tobin’s comfiest sweatpants resting low on her hips. The Marine had sat in the driver's seat out in the driveway for a few minutes before coming in, just staring off above her steering wheel and pushing the visions of that picture so far down until she could ignore it. She didn't want that getting in the way of her time at home with her family. She wanted to be present, in the moment and happy. Jermaine wasn't going to bother Christen or Donovan, he would have tried something by now, and she knew that the protection order solidified that unless he felt like spending the next few years in prison.

If he wanted to toy with her, that was fine. Tobin could hold her own, and not an inch of her was afraid of anything he could do. Not the pictures. Not the text. Not even if he were to try something in person. Jermaine wasn't picking on someone his size in this. He was picking on a lethal, pissed off and combat trained military veteran. Whether he knew that or not was none of her business. 

Tobin falls in love all over again the moment she steps inside- just as she does each time she sets eyes on Christen, able to sigh with a soft smile and bend down as her son comes barreling into her arms, scooping his body up and shoving her head into his neck just to be close to his skin and smell his child-like scent. He cranes his neck to fight it tickling him, laughter bubbling out through his mouth as he tries to escape the ticklish feeling. She kisses him loudly, swaying him around and tickling him more as her kisses are placed all over the side of his neck and his cheek.

“Toe-bin,” He hugs her tightly, throwing his legs around her torso. “I missed you.”

She holds him tightly and slips her tennis shoes off, walking further into the house as the smell of cooking food wafts through her nose and makes her taste buds tingle.

“I missed you more, my little man.” She leans into Christen’s space, puckering her lips for the kiss that she’s been waiting for all day. “And your pretty mama.”

Christen laughs at Tobin’s nonsense and kisses her quickly, giggling at Donovan’s grossed out “Ewww” as he scrambles to hop down from Tobin’s arms. Once he’s down, Tobin put her hand to Christen’s hips, leaning in for a more permanent kiss as she feels Christen’s hand cup her neck.

“I miss you more, Tobs. How was your day?” The younger woman pulls back, moving her hand back to the pot where she stirs the vegetable soup.

Tobin shrugs off her coat, throwing it over the kitchen chair. “It was alright, just the same old same old. Dad and I finalized some more plans now that the snow has stopped and then Kelley and I chopped some more wood for dad.”

Christen laughs at that, “I know, she sent me a video of the process.” She looks back to where Donovan has pulled himself back up on the kitchen table chair as he works on his reading booklet. “It was a video of her painting the B-o-o-b-s’s on the wood and you cutting it.” She spells out the word with a wink in the Marine’s direction.

Tobin rolls her eyes with a smile, shaking her head at Kelley’s childishness.

“What does that spell?” Donovan looks up at them from beneath the bill of his hat, eyebrows drawn together in young confusion and curiosity.

The Marine turns with hurried laughter, distracting Donovan from asking more questions by walking towards him lovingly, leaning over his chair to peek at his homework after Christen gives her a knowing look. “How’s your homework going, bud?” Tobin asks him, removing his ball cap and running her fingers through his curls. It had become her habit too, after watching Christen do it every day for so long.

“We’re reading stories at school.” He points to the colorful pages, at the little illustrations that rest beneath the large print simple sentences. Tobin softly smiles and watches him as he looks over the pages before looking up to her.

“Will you read to me?” She taps the sentence, encouraging him gently to study with her. She pulls out the chair next to him and sits.

Donovan looks up at the two adults bashfully, just as he does every time he’s asked to read out loud. The Marine nods for him to continue, so he pulls the booklet towards him and begins with perseverance, making Tobin’s eyes close and grin widen as she hears him start to read.

“Too bad for you, said the frog…” Donovan continued reading as the two women stared at one another, content smiles on their faces in appreciation for what they had and the life that surrounded them.

 

On the day before Tobin flies out, she wakes up to Christen shuffling through her closet in a pair of skimpy underwear and a sheer white t-shirt. The sun was already up in the sky, telling the Marine that she’d been able to sleep in late, which is confirmed by the bedside clock telling her that it was 9 o’clock on the dot. Christen had used a day of paid vacation to stay home with Tobin to do any last minute packing and planning, though the Marine was well-aware that the majority of the reason was because the green-eyed beauty was going to miss her and wanted to be close to her. She assumed that Christen had not been back to sleep after putting Donovan on the bus, realizing that the other side of the bedsheets was cooler than usual.

She blinks the sleep from her eyes and watches Christen shuffle through hangers, Tobin’s suitcase at her feet, as she silently picks out clothes to pack for the Marine. The fact that Christen was packing for her made Tobin’s heart swell, and all she can do is stare at the woman and think about how lucky she was for a few minutes, stomach pressed into the mattress below with her face turned into her pillow.

“Nice butt.” Tobin smirks, voice raspy from sleep, making Christen jump with her hand over her chest at Tobin’s sudden words into the silent bedroom.

Tobin laughs at having spooked the girl, stretching her arms above her head with a groan as the sheets slip off of her shoulders.

“Yeah?” Christen recovers from being scared by throwing a tease at the woman, standing up to pull a t-shirt from it’s hanger. “I figured I would pack for you so you wouldn’t have so much to do. You wear the same things anyways.”

True. Tobin thinks, leaning up to watch Christen study the plain white t-shirt, as if inspecting it for a possible stain.

“You’re so beautiful.” The Marine mumbles, rolling over onto her back while keeping her eyes on the woman. Christen’s hair is pulled over to one shoulder, exposing her sharp collarbone and jawline as her skin glows beneath the morning sunlight that’s streaming in through the blinds. She notices that Christen was braless beneath the transparent white cotton.

“Someone woke up with all the compliments, didn’t she? I should stay home from work more often.”

The sultry wink that’s thrown in Tobin’s direction makes the heat start up in her lower abdomen. She was sure that she’d had morning wood, feeling the pressure beneath her boxers, and their quick witted teasing was starting to make it worse.

“I wish you would.”  Tobin tells her, pushing her hands beneath her briefs to confirm the obvious. Christen’s eyes flutter across her bare chest, feeling thankful that Tobin seems to have gotten overheated and thrown off her shirt at some point in the night. She finds Tobin’s hand having slipped beneath the covers as her other hand rests beneath her head. Her hands fold the t-shirt and drop it into her suitcase, eyes darkening as she walks towards the bed in an attractive manner. She lifts up the sheets from Tobin’s hip, finding the woman stroking herself, already at full length and peaking out from under her waistband. She feels her core contract immediately, leaning down to press a kiss to the corner of Tobin’s mouth.

“That’s really hot.” Christen says confidently, kissing the same spot on her mouth before climbing over Tobin’s body and settling into her other side, watching as the marine continues to stroke herself. Tobin would have been embarrassed to do something like this in the past, but she has no problem with it now, especially hearing that Christen seems to enjoy seeing it.

“What feels the best, when you do that?” The younger woman whispers, kissing Tobin’s bare shoulder and trailing her fingers up and down her arm softly, feeling the muscles of her forearm barely contract as she lifts her hand to wrap around her swollen head.

“Usually this,” Tobin wets her lips, entertaining Christen’s curiosity. “But my hand is dry, so it can kind of hurt if I get too hard.”

She watches as the woman maneuvers herself over to her side table, pulling the top drawer out and grabbing a little bottle of lubricant. Christen presses the top open and pours a little on the Marine’s hand, watching as her fingers coat around her length to spread the slickness. She feels herself grow even wetter at the sight of Tobin’s mouth parting as the sensitivity is heightened. She squeezes around her head a few times, moving her index and middle fingers over the underside, before dropping her hands to stroke her full length slowly.

She hisses as she moves back up to her head.

Soon, Christen’s tongue is dipping into her mouth, not a care in the world about mild morning breath, feeling her palm pressing down onto her chest. Tobin let’s go of herself to slide her hand along the younger woman’s thigh, pressing into her hip before trailing back down to smooth along the inside. She slides her fingers beneath Christen’s waistband, waiting for the nod of approval before moving her hand downwards as Christen spreads her thighs. When the Marine’s fingers meet slick wetness, Christen inhales, feeling Tobin’s strong fingers slide through her lips and slightly over her clit.

She was so swollen already, Tobin switched back and forth from massaging her labia to dipping back through to collect more wetness, feeling the heat of Christen’s core nip at her fingertips as she drew closer. Feeling her tongue being sucked into Christen’s mouth slowly as they kissed.

“I want your mouth.” Christen whispers, and it takes all of ten seconds for Tobin to find herself getting situated between the woman’s legs. Her hands press Christen’s thighs open, until her knees are almost touching the mattress, fully opening her up to receiving Tobin’s tongue.

The younger woman head is thrown back when Tobin takes her first lick, flattening her tongue and running all the way through the tangy slickness. She pulls back to blow on Christen’s clit, watching the swollen nerves pulse, before wrapping her tongue around it slowly. She presses wet open mouthed kisses to her clit, barely suckling, get Christen just sensitive enough to make her hands grasp at the sheets. She legs go of Christen’s thigh with her left hand, spitting on her fingers just enough to get them wet before reaching beneath her stomach to keep stroking herself.

“Fuck, baby.” Christen moans lightly, feeling Tobin slide through her once more before repeating her actions on her clit.

The Marine flicks her tongue back and forth over her nerves, circling lightly, repeating the motions at a steady pace until she’s watching the woman’s body contract and pulse through an harsh orgasm, strained moans filling the air as Christen cums. The sight and pressure from Tobin’s hand has nearly brought her to the edge as well, so she sits up quickly and puts her hips between Christen’s thighs, stroking her head and letting it run through the copious wetness that has gathered at her core. She looks on as she pressed her head into Christen’s clit, moving her hips to let her length stroke through the woman’s wetness as Christen’s thighs start to shake.

After a few thrusts, Tobin begins to cum, groaning out into the air as Christen’s hands slide along her abdomen. She presses her head to Christen’s opening, letting a little of her release mix their wetness together before pulling up to push her cum onto Christen’s clit. It’s filthy, and has her chest heaving and flushed, and Christen moans as she feels the warmth against her core.

Tobin pushes herself inside, watching with her lips parted as her toes curl when she slides her heat out, seeing the product of their release covering her cock. Christen relaxes to take all of her, feeling Tobin slide in only a couple of inches before she slowly pushes in all the way, not allowing herself to get fully soft as she begins to harden again.

The Marine has to make sure to arch her torso over Christen’s growing tummy as she softly fucks into her, holding herself up at Christen’s hips as she begins a slow thrust. She pauses to lean over, careful to not press herself onto Christen’s stomach, in order to press their lips together in a wet and heated manner.

When she leans back, her hips push in sharply, bottoming out in a way that has the younger woman moaning and throwing her head back.

“Can you ride me?” Tobin pants, wanting to feel the woman on top, wanting to watch her fall apart all over her.

“Won’t I be too heavy?” Green eyes look up at her curiously.

Tobin gives her an incredulous look, before shaking her head with a confident smile. “Not even for a second.”

She pulls out slowly and curls herself onto her back at Christen’s side, putting her hands around Christen’s thighs and waist as she lifts herself up and throws a leg over. When she takes her inch by inch, she whines and drops her head, digging her nails into Tobin’s abdomen and sinking down slowly. Tobin has to focus on something else to keep from cumming at the tightness.

Oh God,”  Christen whines, “You’re so deep.”

The sight of her body nearly makes Tobin explode, using her hands to rip Christen’s white shirt over her head to see her fully, mouth parting at the sight of Christen’s swollen tummy and swollen breasts, the way her head is permanently lowered and her eyes are closed in a tender yet concentrated expression as she begins to roll her hips. Wetness coats Tobin’s length, feeling those slick and swollen lips wrapping around her in a death grip every time Christen peels off to take her back in.

Take it.” Tobin encourages, hands holding onto Christen’s hips as she rocks.

“You fill me so good, you’re so perfect-” The younger woman praises her, opening her eyes half way to watch the Marine as she rides her, as if giving her something to remember for her trip. Christen chases down her orgasm as she speeds up her hips, balancing herself with steady hands on Tobin’s torso as she begins slamming herself down harder, filling the air with the sounds of their skin meeting.

Tobin begins to cum first, feeling the pulses start, and she pulls at Christen’s hips with focused and unfocused eyes to bring the woman forward with her, creating a cacophony of moans between them. Christen throws her head back as her orgasm follows, her body jolting with the force of the orgasm and covering in a light sheen of sweat, feeling Tobin pulse and jerk as she cums inside of her. When their panting levels out, both women are regaining their feeling and falling back to Earth with nothing but loving looks and admiration in their eyes.

Christen rubs along the Marine’s abdomen and sternum, a glimmer of cherished and irrevocable admiration on her face. She smiles back at the Marine, her beautiful bed and sex hair, her high cheekbones and worshipful honey eyes.

“I’m really going to miss you.”

Chapter Text

The Marine collapses into the hotel mattress as soon as she rolls her luggage through the room’s entrance, not even bothering to turn on any of the major overhead lights in the room, just allowing the bedside lamp and glowing city lights to guide her body to the bed as she drops the suitcase to the side with a deep breath. It was the same hotel room they’d rented on their last trip, Tobin having requested and booked the room again since she was acquainted with the check-in and booking routine, wanting to make sure her two days in Portland were spent with ease and no complications.

She’s buzzing from the travel, feeling the energetic anxiety of being in a new yet familiar place course through her body as it always does when she flies out of state. Her mind is tired despite the way her body tingles, knowing that it was already nearly 9:30 at night in Georgia.

Christen gently rocks back and forth on the hammock, Donovan in his pajamas and fighting his sleep as he rests on her side, his head pressed against her chest. She watches his eyelids begin to get heavy, and right as they’re about to close, he suddenly fights to stay awake as hard as he can, and Christen tries not to laugh every time she watches him repeat the process. It had been a tough evening for the little guy, knowing that Tobin wasn’t staying with them for the next three nights. They had told him that the Marine would be flying back to Portland to look at the new house. They’d even shown him the pictures again, asking him for the possible fifth time in a row how he felt about the space, just to make sure that he really did love it.

However, knowing that Tobin was going to leave and actually having it happen were different. And now that she wasn’t here for dinner, Donovan had started to get sad and antsy. Christen thinks that it has somehow made Amaya antsy as well, feeling her move and kick inside of her womb for what feels like the hundredth time tonight.

“Did she call us?” Donovan looks up at her expectantly, little eyes raised in hope that he was going to get to hear his favorite person’s voice soon before he fell asleep.

Christen halfway smiled down at him, kicking her foot off of the wooden beams of the deck floor to keep them rocking in suspension. “Not yet, sunshine. But I’m sure she will soon okay? Remember she has to get checked into the hotel first and get settled, then she’ll call. And I promise you will hear it.”

She already had her phone in her right hand, resting at the base of her tummy, as her left-hand traced patterns along her sons’ hip. She feels Donovan sigh, just as the phone starts to vibrate and ring beneath her fingers. Donovan shoots up before she has a chance to register what’s happening, snatching his little hands around the iPhone before swiping his thumb over the answer button. Christen lifts an eyebrow at how precise he was able to use the technology, knowing that she wouldn’t have known what to do as a five-year-old with a cellphone in her hands. Another year and Tobin wouldn't even have to turn of his PlayStation controller, she guesses. 

“Toe-bin?” Donovan quietly says, as if almost making sure that it was really her on the other end.

Hey, sweet boy. Here- hold on, we can FaceTime okay?”  Christen hears Tobin’s voice come in through the speaker, causing her heart to flutter, easing her restlessness. She knew that Tobin had landed safe at PDX, having been tracking the flight on an app and also receiving an update from the Marine herself once she had ordered a Lyft to take her to the hotel. It was the in-between that always worried Christen, waiting on the confirmation that she arrived at the hotel. She worried over everything when Tobin wasn’t next to her.

The FaceTime call rings next, a different alert tone than the call itself, and Donovan answers that one too. Christen sits up on the hammock and looks over her sons shoulder as soon as Tobin’s face comes into view. The Marine looked exhausted, but content, dressed casually in a hoodie and snap back, long hair falling in waves down her chest. She looked to be resting in bed, Christen able to make out the low headboard from the white wall paint above Tobin’s head.

“I see you!” Donovan smiles, waving to the camera when Tobin waves at him first.

“Hi honey,” Christen relaxes at her own voice, looking at Tobin through the screen, wishing she was home already. “Did you make it in okay?”

Hey buddy,” Tobin smiles at Donovan before looking upwards on the screen at her. “And hi, gorgeous. Yeah I just got checked into the room.” She says it in her typical Tobin way, words drawn out and lazy.

“Was the Lyft okay?” Christen asks next.

Tobin gets a knowing look on her face as she smiles, as if able to read Christen’s anxiety about her travelling alone, calming her down with a subtly loving gaze and a cool nod of her head.

It was alright. I just sat in the back seat, had general conversation. What are you guys up to?"

Donovan leans his face closer to the phone, as if finding a way to get closer to Tobin herself. “Waiting on you to call. Mommy said you would call before it was time to go to bed. Where are you?”

Tobin smiles as his matter-of-factness, connecting pleasant eyes with Christen through the screen. “I’m at my hotel, bud. Do you want to see it?”

Donovan nods his head, holding the iPhone close to his face with both hands, watching intently as the Marine flips the camera around.

“Alright, so here are my feet.” The camera flips to show her jean clad, lanky legs, and sockless feet resting over the plush white comforter. Donovan giggles, watching as she wiggles her toes and pans the camera to the left, showing them the view that Christen had seen once before, looking out across the lit-up magic of Portland’s city skyline. She stands, then. Putting the phone against the massive glass window to give Donovan a better view. “We’re gonna live here soon, bud. Are you excited to move?

His curls bounce as he nods, sticking a finger in his mouth to touch along his nearly grown-in front teeth. “When are we going?” He asks her, watching as she flips the camera back onto herself. Christen was glad to have the camera flipped back around, coating some of the longing she felt.

Pretty soon.” Tobin smiles. “Hopefully within the next two months, at least. Did you want to see the rest of the room?”

“Yeah,” He tells her, so the Marine flips the camera back around and starts giving him a tour. Making up light jokes along the way as she goes. Christen isn’t sure if Tobin notices it, not able to see the Marine’s face to see if she was paying attention to the screen, but the sound of her voice was slowly starting to lull the little man to sleep. She watches as his eyes close and open a few times, listening in on the mock tour and added commentary, until Tobin gets to the en-suite bathroom and Donovan has fully conked out on Christen’s chest.

Is he out? He isn’t talking anymore.”  She sees the screen flip back over, illuminating Tobin’s gaunt face and torso beneath the bathroom light as she starts to brush her teeth in the mirror.

“Oh yeah,” Christen smiles, feeling Donovan’s breath even out on her side. “It’s way past his bedtime, but I told him that I would let him stay up until you called.”

“I’m glad you did. How is my little peanut?

The younger woman smiles, looking down at her belly, chest growing warm at the nickname. “She’s been moving around a lot today but seems to have calmed down now that you’re on the phone. Seems like both kids needed to hear your voice.”

She hears Tobin’s muffled laugh, watching as she spits the toothpaste foam into the sink before rinsing her mouth out with water. “That’s funny, I was also anxious all evening until I got to hear you guys. Sorry I was so late calling, by the way. It took a while for my bags to go up on the carousel and for the Lyft to get there.”

Christen shakes her head, reassuring Tobin that all was well and fine. “It’s alright. I think he just needed to feel close to you, he’s been fighting his sleep for about half an hour anyways. He was a little sad when he got home and remembered that you were on a plane.”

Tobin grimaces. Then, “I miss you guys so much.”

“We miss you more, baby.” Christen whispers. “Are you excited to tour the house tomorrow?”

She watches as the grin takes over on Tobin’s sleepy face, watches as she flips on a light into the hotel kitchen to fix herself a glass of water. “I’m so excited. You want me to FaceTime you through the whole tour, right?”

Christen nods, seeing that Tobin was walking back into the hotel room and likely about to start getting undressed for bed. She knows the Marine is exhausted, having been in the air for a good while today coupled with the strain of two time-zone changes.

“Can I put him to bed really quick and then call you back?” She asks her, the camera panning up to Tobin’s face quickly as she nods.

A moment later, Christen’s calls her back on FaceTime, having gotten ready and dressed for bed herself after putting Donovan down on his bed with a kiss to his head and shutting his lights off. The call is answered with a view of Tobin relaxing on her side beneath the covers, almost in the same position that Christen is in, despite Tobin’s room being lit by a lamp while Christen’s is dark. She’s no longer in her hoodie, having changed into a white tank top without a sports bra underneath.

She aches to run her hands along those taut arms, breathing Tobin in, tucking her face into her neck and pressing her mouth against her skin.

“Hey,”  The Marine pouts, “I can’t see you.

Christen giggles, “Maybe I wanted to talk to you in the dark?”

“Oh yeah? Got big plans?”  Tobin quips.

“Maybe.”

She looks on as the Marine smirks. “Want to fill me in on these big plans?”

Christen bites her lip beneath the darkness, feeling suddenly shy and red in the face about what she was too afraid to ask. Tobin calls her name out in a question after a moment of silence, wondering why the younger woman hadn’t responded and if she was okay. It astounds Christen that she was able to go any length of time before without hearing this woman’s voice, without seeing her face and having her near. Five years seems insurmountable and impossible considering that one day was already causing her to ache inside. It was pure longing.

What is it, Chris? Talk to me.”  Tobin whispers into the darkness of her own phone screen, unable to see much of Christen’s face, what isn’t lit up by her normal screen light. “Is everything okay?”

“I need you.” Christen goes for it while also managing to beat around the bush.

It takes a moment for what Christen was asking for to register across Tobin’s face, but when it does, she can visually see the Marine settle into the bed, brown eyes flirtatiously dropping to the mattress in front of her as she wets her lips.

“I wish you were here. I miss your hands.”

Tobin smiles then, looking up to the screen and waiting for the younger woman to continue.

“I miss your hands on me.”

The Marine closes her eyes at Christen’s lowered voice, feeling her cheeks tint red. They had shared many moments of phone sex throughout their relationship, especially back when they were beginning to date in the early 2000’s, but they had never touched themselves on camera before. It’s not that Tobin had any issues with doing that, but it was unexplored, which caused her tummy to swell with nerves at the thought that Christen could be leading them in that direction.

“I miss having my hands on you, pretty girl.”  Tobin smiled at her now, eyes back open and trying to read the expression on Christen’s face through the darkness. She wouldn’t ask her to turn on the light, despite how badly she wished to see her face and take in the likely blush that had covered the woman’s cheeks. She knew that Christen would turn on the light if she wanted to, so Tobin didn’t push, nor did she let out the first joke at her girl’s unsated needs.

Truth be told, Tobin was feeling it too. It didn’t really surprise her, how much she already started missing her family, how much she was already wanting to be back home with her arms around Christen. Holding her close. Kissing every inch of her skin. Worshipping her and being worshipped in return.

Christen sighs, turning onto her back, keeping her head tilted towards her phone, not wanting to miss a minute of that magnificent face. It was like they were back again, two separate rooms of two separate houses, needing the other to understand the objects of their desires.

Are you touching yourself, Chris?"  Tobin asks her, face tilted, noticing that Christen had sighed and moved onto her back.

“I would be,” Christen softly mumbles, “I just know it isn’t going to feel as good as when you do it.”

Tobin closes her eyes again, feeling the familiar pressure beneath her loose boxer shorts. “Maybe I can guide you through it?"  It’s posed as a question, enough to ignite the flame, enough to push them into the space where they both wanted to end up.

“Tell me how you do it so well.”

“When I use my fingers?”

“When you fuck me.” Christen whispers, watching as Tobin’s eyes drop in desire, wondering if the woman was hard yet. “When you do anything.” She adds. Then- “But I want to watch you touch yourself too, while you talk to me.”

“Do you like that? Watching that?”  The Marine asks her, two rows of teeth bearing down against her bottom lip.

The younger woman nods, affirming her answer, feeling herself grow impossibly wet, knowing the pool she would sink into when her hands traveled lower than where they were currently resting on her hip.

“Can you take your underwear off for me, pretty girl?”  Tobin asks of her, feeling her dick twitch as Christen says-

“I’m not wearing any.”

Understanding that it was time to equalize, Tobin reaches beneath the hotel comforter to shrug her boxers off, feeling the warm fabric press against her ass as she settles against the soft sheets. Christen watches on the screen as Tobin’s hand travels beneath the comforter, feeling herself beneath the plush linen before kicking them down to reveal her length, swollen and ready, being stroked slowly beneath Tobin’s palm. She feels herself clench and contract around nothing, pressing her head into the pillow at how badly she was aching to feel the woman inside, knowing that nothing could get rid of the burning deep inside of her quite as good as that. Tobin pulls her tank top off with one hand reached around her shoulders, yanking it off of her overheating body and exposing the deep v-cut of her hips and abdomen to Christen’s watchful gaze.

“You’re so fucking beautiful.” Christen whispers, eyes drinking in the tanned swell and contour of Tobin’s breasts, her small nipples that have hardened under the hotel room air, the way her chest has already flushed from Christen’s words.

“I want you to start with your first three fingers,” Tobin guides her, “Get them wet. Tease yourself slowly without touching your clit.”

She truly was talking through her own actions, loving to tease, loving to play until things became serious.

Christen guides her hand down slowly, running over her shaved skin until she met the soaking wet warmth that was waiting for her, letting a soft moan fill the air at the cool touch of her fingers. It was different than Tobin’s, her hands were always warm, her grip- even while teasing, was always stronger than Christen’s own.

Tobin reaches to the edge of her bed, where her bag lays, unzipping a compartment and feeling around until she locates the small bottle of unscented lotion that she carries with her to use after shaving, squeezing it onto her fingers before resuming what she was doing before, slowly working herself up to where it would feel the best. Christen watches her jaw clench and her eyebrows lower as she smears the lotion over her head and the underside of her cock, watching her abs contract as it begins to feel good. Tobin looks up at the camera towards her, lips parted and swollen from being bitten.

“It doesn’t feel as good as when you do it either,” She says softly, resting her right hand on the base of her flat abdomen. “Circle your clit, Christen. Do it slowly, just enough pressure to make it feel good.”

So she does it, inhaling sharply through her mouth as her wet middle finger begins the motions, feeling the little sparks beginning. She was so close, just from the touch alone, that she had to touch herself even lighter to keep from letting go too soon.

“Inside-“ Christen begs, having to bite her own lips to keep from moaning, watching Tobin’s heavy gaze alternate between her own ministrations and the dark screen in front of her.

“Go inside then, baby. Just two at first.”  She hears the whisper, closing her eyes briefly to drop her fingers to her center. It was awkward at first, maneuvering her arm around her swollen belly, but she managed to make it work, clenching down around her fingers as soon as they enter her tightness.

Now curl your fingers, keep them curled as you move in and out.”  She could never reach as far as Tobin, never find that spot that the loved so much, but she would try her hardest to please them both, curling her fingers once she reached as far as she could go, keeping them hinged as she started to move.

“That feels so good.” Christen whispers, seeing Tobin’s mouth part further as she tightened her grip around her head, stroking herself downwards and upwards, feeling her toes curl beneath the comforter. She can hear the slickness of her hand against her length every time she stroked over her head, speeding up the slow strokes to chase after the feeling it gives her. She breaks her gaze to look back at the screen, feeling her body coat in a light sheen of sweat. Christen was throbbing at the visual of Tobin’s forearm muscles rippling with every slight movement.

“Go back to your clit, baby. A little more pressure.”

“I’ll cum, Tobin. I’m so close.”

Tobin hisses, speeding up and alternating her grip as the burning starts low in her tummy.

Let go then, Chris. Cum for me.”

Christen does as requested, pulling her fingers back up towards her clit and applying just enough pressure to make her own legs shake.

“Fuck.”  Tobin bites out in a hiss, eyebrows drawing together on her forehead, grasping the sheets beside her as the pressure starts to build at the base of her length. “Fuck- Chris, I’m close.”

Christen turns her head to watch with lowered eyes as the muscles of the Marine’s stomach begin to contract, drawing up tightly over and over until she could see the outline of each muscle. She rolls her fingers faster as she watches Tobin pulse, as she watches the Marine begin to convulse and jerk upwards as her hand begins to stroke slowly. Seconds later, Tobin is hissing clipped moans into the air as Christen begins to explode, atrophied in space and time as she cums onto her stomach, eyelids barely open as she watches herself unravel with the younger woman, wishing she could be there to witness Christen’s thighs shaking and the face she makes as she is thrown into bliss. It was a strong orgasm from them both, though nowhere near as strong as what could have been dealt by the other. It was enough, however. Enough to satiate them both. Enough to allow themselves a shared moment of closeness and togetherness, and that would do for what they had to work with.

As both bodies settle down, Christen reaches over to flip the switch on her bedside lamp, illuminating her blissed-out face and heavy eyes to the Marine, who had slipped back into the hotel bed after quickly cleaning herself up with tissues in the bathroom and throwing her boxers back on.

“Hey, you’re here!”  Tobin gleams at her, resting on her side, eyes trained to the phone screen propped up against one of her extra pillows. “God I’ll never get over how fucking unbelievably gorgeous you are.”

Christen grins wide, blushing like a schoolgirl, both from Tobin’s sweet words and what they had just done. “I’ll be sure to turn a light on, next time.” She tells her, smiling softly at her Marine, “I just needed to get over my shyness.”

Tobin nods understandingly, finding it amusingly cute that Christen was shy, how it reminded her of the start of their relationship, back when Christen used euphemisms and blushed cherry-red at the word pussy. “Whatever you’re comfortable with, my love.” She tells her, pulling the covers back over her body and adjusting her pillow.

“Can we fall asleep on FaceTime?” The younger woman asks, feeling overwhelming clinginess now that reality had set in and Tobin truly was thousands of miles away.

She watches Tobin nod, understanding where she was at because their feelings were mutual.

“I packed one of my hoodies in your suitcase by the way, with my perfume on it. Figured you might need a little reminder of home.”

And she can only laugh as the Marine’s lanky body springs up and out of bed.

 

The thing about finding the house that fits-

It’s the feelings you are given when you walk into it. Tobin recalls hearing her dad say the same exact thing when showing her the inside of their newly built house for the first time. She remembers walking in through the front door, seeing her sisters run quickly ahead of her to start exploring, her mother and father at her side. She remembers the smell of caulk and freshly painted walls, clean and fresh and so new.

Does it feel like home? Does it feel like it suits you, Tobs?

“It’s perfect,” She remembers saying, stepping in through their large foyer into the even larger family room, looking out through the massive bay windows at their back yard and in-ground swimming pool, being directed by her mother to run upstairs and go pick out her room.

Tobin stands in the entrance of this house today. She stands and she recalls, and she looks around before inhaling deeply. It’s the feeling she was given when she walked into it, a thousand images of her future here playing out across her mind, moments that haven’t been made into memories quite yet. She innocently ignores the real estate agent because of her own bewilderment. Eyes wide open as she walks into the expansive living room, filling the unfurnished corners with furniture, side tables next to couches that hold picture frames of her family, a Christmas tree placed in front of the massive window for all of her neighbors to see, the wonderful solitude of a thousand books that Christen will read as she sits in this room and sips on coffee.

Tobin can picture it all, endlessly repeating it’s the way it makes you feel, it’s the way it makes you feel, over and over and over in her head, already knowing inside of her chest that it feels like a place that makes her comfortable. The same feeling that washed over her as she set eyes on Christen for the first time, the same feeling that washed over her when she heard her sons laughter, when she heard her daughters heartbeat.

It feels like home.

In the expansive and modernized kitchen, the agent explains all of the specs. The brand-new granite countertops. The stainless-steel renovations. The beautiful and sleek Miele brand appliances that are almost so clean that you don’t even want to touch them. Here, she envisions homework done on tabletops, the smell of new recipes carried out of the oven, family breakfast in the morning and laughter.

So much laughter.

She has to smile and shake her head, not even needing to see the rest of the house before she dials Christen’s cell for a video chat, seeing the realtor take a look at her smile and her phone like she understands how Tobin is impressed. Christen introduces herself to the realtor, finally having a chance to see one another face to face despite being through a video call, taking Tobin’s wide grin as a good sign.

Christen follows them through the house, listening intently as the woman speaks to them both about everything the house has to offer. She notices that Tobin pauses once they step out into the back porch, like she was envisioning something, like a tire swing hooked to one of the juniper trees that line the back fence, or a dog chasing a ball around, a patio table and a fire pit and summer nights filled with laughter and children. Christen wishes she was there, wishes she could feel whatever Tobin was feeling, as she turns the camera back onto herself when they walk back inside and witnessing the knowing contentment that covers Tobin’s face.

They move through the hallways next, the smaller bedrooms and bathroom, taking in the dark hardwood floors and natural light let in through the bedroom windows, the walk in closets and track lighting that’s attached to the ceilings. The family bathroom is large, double vanity and granite counter tops, linen closet attached near the walk in shower.

In the master bedroom, Tobin pauses again, letting Christen take over where she wants the camera because she knew that this was one of Christen’s favorite parts from the pictures. Large French doors open up to a small balcony that overlooks the back yard, complementing even larger windows that open up towards the East end of the house.

Silk curtains would look really nice along those windows and the French doors, babe.” Christen mumbles, imagining in her head all of the ways she could decorate. Tobin nods because she agrees. And in the connected master bathroom- both of their mouths drop.

“I’ve shown this house three times already,” The realtor grins, taking in her surroundings, “And I still can’t get over how cool this bathroom is.”

It wasn’t even a sales pitch. The bathroom was utterly extraordinary due to the two massive skylights opening up along the ceiling. A marble tile walk-in shower put in along the back of the space, large enough to fit at least 8 people, complete with two Fontana shower heads and their gold knobs spaced out evenly along the tiled shower walls. LED can lights illuminated the shower after the realtor pressed a button.

“You’d have to drag me out of there.”  Christen shakes her head, causing all of the adults to laugh, agreeing with her.

After the garage and finished basement are shown, Tobin asks the realtor if she could step outside into the back yard to have a moment alone to talk to Christen, to which the realtor agrees without any issue, telling her that she could take as long as she’d like.

“What do you think?” The Marine asks, scratching her jaw and squinting her eyes to fully get a read on Christen’s face inside of the screen.

Well,” Christen sighs, soft smile on her lips. “It’s a pretty penny.”

Tobin sighs with her, nodding. Listed at 1.3 million, the mortgage would take about 15 years to pay off. She’d already planned to negotiate the price down, at least by the thousands, just to see if they would budge on it at all. The couple could afford it, could even afford something nicer, if they wanted to, but the decision was a large one to make.

The biggest decision they’ve ever made as a couple, monetary-wise. Apart from having children, of course.

“But I think it’s worth every pretty penny, actually.”

Tobin snaps her head up, “Really?” Christen nods. “Okay good, because I’m not gonna lie- I love it here, Chris.”

“I can see so on your face. You seem overjoyed.” The younger woman laughs, looking at Tobin with deep loving eyes, “Even if I’m just now noticing that little square of vinyl siding at the front. I honestly love it too.”

The Marine giggles lowly, having noticed that too as she stepped out of her cab and took the first few steps up towards the house. “So you want to come look at it?”

Christen shakes her head no, “I’d like for us to put a deposit down, and then I’ll come look at it. If this is our soon-to-be home, I don’t want anyone to take it out from under us in the mean-time. The realtor said that she’s already showed it to three different people.”

Vibrating with excitement, her eyebrows lift high up on her forehead. She had expected Christen to want to come see it, noticing the happy commentary and pleasant glances the green-eyed girl was giving as she was toured, and noticing the way she focused and nodded her head intently as they’d travelled between the kitchen and living room. But she could not expect that Christen would already want to put a deposit down.

Tobin moves in an expectant, but pleasantly shocked nod, breathing in the scent of a breezy Portland winter day as she shrugs her coat closer and looks to Christen.

“Alright.” Then, softly- “Let’s do this.”

She gives the younger woman a soft goodbye, letting her know that she would call her as soon as she made it back to the hotel, wanting to FaceTime again with Donovan as soon as Christen picked him up from school. Tobin takes one last look of the picture-perfect yard, nodding to herself and snapping a few more pictures for them to look at back home, before jogging up the steps to meet with the realtor again. They agree on a deposit under the condition that the house gets shown to no one else, much to the realtor’s agreement and elation, and she tells the older woman that she will make an offer to the owners on the house after speaking with her lawyers, needing to make sure that she was altogether in the clear before purchasing. A sense of pride floods through her body at the thought of purchasing her first official home, no longer bound to the dingy houses and apartments that she was put in by the military, no longer bound to her parent’s home either. It puts her mood on cloud nine for the rest of the day, getting her simply more and more excited to come home and share her happiness with the two people waiting for her.

There were moments as she signed over her bank information for the deposit, moments of inebriated thoughts. Like- “Is this really happening? We are really doing this?

She thinks the wave of paid-off progress is a wave she’d like to keep riding.

 

On Saturday, Tobin is so busy that she can barely get a moment to breathe. First, after a good morning call to Christen, there was breakfast with AD and Emily. They sat along the table at a brunch joint and spoke about business, going over the progress as the men began to break ground and start the process of tilling, having cleared all the pre-existing trees by now. She’d been receiving calls for a few days now from the business’s financial advisor, updating her on the increasing cash influx as the old trees are sold off to logging companies and textile manufacturers for wood.

They’d been able to sell it all at an even higher price per acre than expected, keeping up with the increase in demand flooding into the city now that Portland had become a hot spot for the younger generations to travel and move to. The city was exponentially increasing in population every year, bringing in new companies and increasing the cost of living and wages, increasing the reach of sustainable and renewable companies like the Heath Tree Farm.

After breakfast, the trio grab coffee at a local spot before heading over to the newly renovated headquarter office. The building was two stories high, complete with large windows scaling the sides of the walls and showing off the city that was growing around them. She had watched the building start from the ground up, had approved all of the modern furniture and supplies that they needed, had waited patiently for months until the space was completed and could be filled with people. Parking in front of the building after all of this time was like unwrapping a present on Christmas Day.

“Alright, close your eyes.” AD tells her as they walk to the side door of the building, pausing with her hand over the doorknob as Emily tries to fight a smile from beside her.

“What?” Tobin quirks her eyebrows, looking up from her phone in question to her co-workers, “Why?”

“Just do it,” Sonnet pleads, “We have a surprise for you.”

Tobin looks at them curiously, pocketing her phone into her coat pocket. “A surprise, for what?”

Both women groan at her inability to comply, making Tobin giggle with nervousness at what could be waiting for her on the other end of the door. She shrugs, not understanding what they could have up their sleeves, before crossing her arms and closing her eyes like an impatient and nervous toddler.

The two employees share a smirk, before opening the door and leading the Marine inside. They lead her past the modern receptionist desk and out onto the main floor of the office and show room, where she’s suddenly met with the loud cheers and hollers from the company’s staff. Her eyes open suddenly, stunned at the people filling the office building, all dressed in their normal Saturday attire and some even having brought their families along. All employees that Tobin had yet to meet, all of them hired on by AD and Emily, some of them sales staff, some of them accountants, some of them grounds keepers and receptionists.

“I told everyone the big boss was coming in for the first time, and they wanted to welcome you officially to the headquarters.” Emily claps with the group, taking in Tobin’s wide and amazed expression as she stands before everyone. “So,” Sonnet turns to the groups, speaking loudly and making Tobin’s face flush, “Everyone, meet our boss, so essentially your boss- Tobin Heath.”

After nearly two hours of mingling and conversation, the Marine has yet to rid herself of the blush along her cheeks. There were only about 35 people in total, but all of them were welcoming, and all of them had honestly seemed like perfect fits for the company. It was a diverse group, a mix of ethnicities, backgrounds, experiences and ages. She shook hands with each and every one of them, welcoming them to the team as they did the same for her, expressing excitement over getting the business up and running. AD explains that they were expected to start the onboarding process fairly soon now they had nearly filled all of the roles, getting everyone up to speed at how quickly things were going to be moving once the company started processing orders, the same thing Tobin herself had been getting trained to handle for months now.

She and her father had yet to set a date for the actual opening, knowing that the employees would need another month or so of paid training before they transferred half of the duties over onto the Portland crew, but she knew that it was coming up soon. Soon she would be genuinely running the company. Soon she would be moving. Soon the size of her family would be growing by one.

It was all a bit overwhelming for her introverted nature, but it was worth it to watch the smiles on every individual’s faces as they laughed and grew closer as a team- Tobin just knew that it was.

It’s why Jermaine’s next text message barely bothered her, forcing nothing more out of her than an eye roll as she heard her phone ding while checking out her new office.

I’m going to write my wrongs. It read.

“Sure you are.” Tobin mutters, staring at the screen as she waits for Smitty to call, though part of her was relieved to see the restricted phone number pop-up, just needing to hear that he was far away from her family since she wasn’t within reach of them either. She still tasted iron in her mouth at any slip up of thoughts of the picture that was sent to her, reminding herself constantly not to remember it, not to picture it in her brain in order to remain at peace. The texts, she could handle easily. The pictures- not so much. 

At his mother’s house again. Mark is with him. Christen has been at her father’s house all morning. They’re safe.”  Smitty sounds tired, just as tired as she was from having to deal with Jermaine’s incessant bullshit. Tobin laughs, pinching the bridge of her nose as she steps around her dark glass desk, sitting into her new office chair, happy that she’d decided to order this one.

“Do you think he’s gonna give up or get tired?”

Smitty laughs with her, probably shaking his own head too, probably pinching the bridge of his own nose. “I hope so. Glad to see it isn’t bothering you though, Sergeant. He’ll probably give it up eventually.”

Tobin rolls her chair around, turning to face the window and look out upon the city street, hearing another round of loud laughter fleeting in through her opened office door. 

“I can only hope you’re right, Smitty.”

“Hey, by the way-“  She hears the man cough a few times, “I’ve got that non-disclosure agreement en-route to you today, one of our Georgia guys is going to drop it off. You said to deliver it at your parents address, right?

Tobin sits up a little straighter in her chair, “Yeah that should work. Just tell him to put it in the mailbox and one of them should pick it up and leave it for me.”

Sounds good, Heath. Just sign it when you get the chance, the return address will be on the last form.

 

 

Christen pulls up to the gated entrance of Tobin’s family’s house, pressing the little black button on her visor that Cindy had given her a couple months back, that would let her inside in-case she ever needed something while not in Tobin’s jeep. She watches as the gate opens, slowly pulling her Mercedes through the long and paved driveway until she gets to the massive garage that connects to the main house, throwing her car in park with a smile as Cindy opens the front door and waves her inside. The woman had texted her a few hours ago while she was at work, making up for a few office hours that she’d lost from taking a vacation day on eve of Tobin’s flight.

She was salaried, so the hours didn’t necessarily matter, but she didn’t want to be swarmed with work come Monday, and Donovan had seemed content to hang out with papa for a little while in order for her to go play catch-up.

“Hey!” The green-eyed woman grins, shutting the car door to meet Cindy at the top of the concrete steps.

“Goodness you get more and more pregnant every time we see you.” Cindy smiles and wraps her up in a warm hug from the side, not wanting to push her tummy. Christen holds on tight, wrapping both arms around Cindy’s small frame, having missed the motherly figure after not seeing her for a week or so. It was nice to be around Tobin’s parents, especially when she was day two into missing her Marine’s sleeping body next to her as she laid down at night.

She was ready- beyond ready for Tobin to come home tomorrow.

“I know,” Christen puts her hands over Cindy’s as they wrap around her belly, laughing as the woman has to shake her head to keep the tears at bay. “Growing bigger every day.”

“Well how are you feeling, honey?” The woman asks her, always checking in to make sure Christen was happy and healthy. They walk in through the large front door and into the kitchen, letting the aroma of Cindy’s recent baking waft in through the air and cause Christen’s mouth to water.

Christen sighs, gently plopping down onto a bar stool at the breakfast bar that connects off of the countertops. “My feet hurt. My back aches. I feel like I’m carrying two.” Cindy gives her a knowing smile. “And is that strawberry I smell? I swear I can’t stop eating, especially if it involves strawberries.”

She laughs as the older woman wiggles her eyebrows mischievously, knowing all too well how Christen was feeling after having three children herself, finding ways to solve Christen’s problems in a way that only a mother would know how.

Cindy opens the fridge and pulls out a massive china cake holder, containing such a beautifully decorated strawberry cake that Christen could almost taste how good it would be without having a single bite. It was Cindy’s staple, the thing she brought to all church and family gatherings and Christen could eat it for three meals a day.

“Do you want a plate or a bowl?” She asks the pregnant girl, setting the china dish down on the counter before removing the top. “This just came out of the oven, so it’ll still be perfectly warm.”

“Cindy.” Christen shakes her head, attempting to wave her offer off, “You know I can’t eat your cake. You just made that!”

“Oh hush,” Cindy waves her back, pulling out two plates regardless, “I always bake on Saturday’s, you know this. Want a big piece?”

Bashfully, Christen nods, before her thin-lipped smile is turned into full blown laughter that she shares with Tobin’s mother. Two rather large pieces of cake are set on two plates, before the women dig in with their forks and give simultaneous groans of approval upon their first bites, laughing even more at their shared nonsense.

Once the cake is demolished and they’ve caught up with one another’s eventful weeks, Cindy snaps her fingers as if remembering why Christen was there, jetting off into the living room before returning with a couple of gift bags. “So Jeff and I put this together for you guys, since you aren’t planning on doing a baby shower-“

Christen grimaces at the thought, finding nothing worse or more embarrassing than a room full of people touching her stomach and gushing over the fact that she was pregnant.

So,”  Cindy wiggles her eyebrows again, “It’s not much, and of course we will come with more gifts once we fly up before the baby is born. But I thought it could at least be something for right now.”

Inside the bags are gifts for both children. Amaya’s bag comes full of World’s Best Grandma and World’s best Grandpa bibs, a couple bottles and pacifiers, and girl’s newborn-sized onesie that reads “Grandma was here!” with little red kisses printed all over the white fabric. Donovan’s bag comes with shiny-looking Hot Wheelz, a Paw Patrol action figure, and a pair of clean looking Converse that Tobin had heard Christen offhandedly mention that she thought Donovan would look nice in a few weeks ago.

Christen’s eyes fill with tears as she smiles at Cindy, emotional from the hormones and so thoroughly appreciative of Tobin’s parents that she just needed to cry. Cindy hugs her tightly again, laughter sounding out through the massive house like Jane Fonda, as she kisses Christen’s head over and over again.

“Tobin told me what size shoe Donovan was in now. I’ll get him another pair as soon as he outgrows these.”

Christen nods and hugs her one last time before letting go, “You really are the best grandmother.” She mumbles, wiping her face from the wetness. “Thank you, Cindy. Really. And tell Jeff thank you as well, okay?”

“Tell Jeff thank you for what?” Jeff Heath comes barreling into the kitchen in all his glory, boots muddy from working outside as he leans over the cake with a curious gaze, swiping his index finger through the icing in a haste.

“Dammit Jeffrey, I swear-“ Cindy smacks his hand away from the cake, scouring at his smiling face as he sticks the icing into his mouth and winks at Christen from across the counter. “Take your boots off!” She yells after him as he ducks away from her reach, receiving a pat to the butt instead.

“Oh! Here Christen. I almost forgot.” Jeff turns on a dime, reaching his left hand under his right armpit to remove a stack of mail, throwing the stack of envelopes onto the counter before sorting through them, finding a few white envelopes and a larger manilla envelope before holding them up and double checking that they were the correct ones.

“I have Tobin’s mail here, usually she gets it from the office but I figured I would give it to you since I knew that you were coming. Also this,” His eyebrows lower as he scrutinizes the manilla envelope carefully, “I actually met a government vehicle by the mailbox while pulling into the driveway just then. Some guy in uniform driving an interceptor. He was going to stick this in our mailbox but I told him I would take it instead.”

Christen’s heart drops at the mention of the military. At the mention of fucking uniforms and government vehicles.

Jeff shrugs, “I don’t know what it is, but it’s stamped with a federal seal and everything. Probably just some discharge papers for her.”

She takes the mail from his hands, turning the yellow envelope over until she finds the stamped gold seal in the middle. The spread eagle holding the olive branch and arrows. She feels sour at the pit of her stomach, despite sending Tobin’s dad a small but thankful smile. He looks at her sympathetically, understanding the weight that came with the folder.

“Hey,” He reassures her, patting her shoulder kindly. “We’re all glad she’s home, too. Maybe this is just the end of it, you know?” He smiles with his wife and then back to Christen, changing the subject before it got too dark for his typical chipper mood. “And how’s my grandbaby’s? Tobin's been waiting on you hand-and-foot, right?”

Christen laughs and pats her swollen stomach, “You know she is. This one just had the best strawberry cake known to man. The other one is probably tearing up his papa’s house trying to find something fun to get into. And the thank you was for the gifts, by the way. You guys didn’t have to go through that trouble.”

Both parents laugh at that. Then Jeff winks at her again, backing out of the women’s space to mosey on about his day. “It was no trouble at all, honey. We’re happy to make sure you guys are taken care of.”

He sticks his head through the backdoor moments later, “And hey Christen?”

She turns from her conversation with Cindy to look over at him.

“Just wanted you to know that we love you both. And bring that baby boy over here sometime to tear through our house for something fun to do, alright?”

“You got it.” Christen tells him, grinning as he nods with a smile on his bearded face to disappear out into the sun once more.

 

The lights are low in the kitchen. She’d just hung up with Tobin for the night, telling the Marine that she would see her tomorrow when she got home from her flight in the afternoon, knowing that Tobin still had a few hours left to her day and would be sitting through a few more meetings before going to her hotel to crash.

Excitement coursed through their voices as they spoke about the house. How beautiful it was, how happy they were to have found the place they were looking for and put a down payment on it, knowing that they would probably soon be flying up together in order to finally close on the house. It all seemed to be coming together. The business was great, from what Tobin had said earlier, and their plans were coming into fruition, setting them up for Christen’s third trimester and making every bit of the stress worth it.

Yet she couldn’t seem to shake this apprehension from her gut, looking down at the granite counter, eyes fluttering back and forth across the texture of the manilla envelope. She knows she shouldn’t open it, knowing that it was a breach of Tobin’s privacy, knowing that Tobin could be irritated when she gets home and discovers that Christen had sliced through the top of the seal.

She knows this-

She does.

But she also knows that those aren’t discharge papers.

Tobin opened her discharge papers in-front of her back in September, sitting right there on that couch.

These weren’t discharge papers. These were something else entirely. And Christen’s curiosity was about to kill the cat.

She sighs and places her water cup down, craning her head to make sure Donovan was still fast asleep in his bedroom, before reaching into the utensil drawer for an envelope opener.

 

 

Tobin steps through the front door of Christen’s house, expecting to see Donovan, expecting to hug the little man as soon as she possibly could. The air is cold inside, coupled by the dead silence between the walls. She assumes that they were just taking a nap, possibly in Christen’s room, on the bed instead of the couch where they usually laid. She sat her bags down on the carpeted floor next to the couch with a sigh and a stretch. It had been a long flight into Atlanta, but she had never been more excited to be home, hoping that it was the last time she’d have to fly to Oregon without bringing her two-favorite people with her.

The weekend had been long. Chocked full of conversations with the real-estate personnel and lawyers for the farm had worn her down. There was only so much small talk that Tobin could take before she felt like she was going to explode. She was overjoyed that they had found the house that they wanted to live in, but the dread that soured her gut from being away from her family was driving her slowly insane.

She shrugs off her coat, leaving her in a plain gray crewneck sweater and her dark wash jeans, as she moves to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of tap water. She relaxes for a second, ignoring the off-putting feeling inside of her chest, choosing instead to grip onto the counter and stare out into the back yard. It was cloudy outside, ironically a full 180 from the sunshine she’d been met with in Portland while viewing the house. It might have even been colder here than it was there too, she was starting to suspect that people gave Portland a worse rep than it deserved, noting that it had barely rained during the times that she’d been up there.

Heels click into the kitchen, startling her yet putting a smile on her face at the knowledge of who it was. She expected to feel warm hands wrap around her torso, a face tucked into her neck, the overwhelming warmth and smell of her life partner reminding her that home could only fit into the space where Christen occupied.

None of it came, though. Tobin turned from the counter with a smile on her face, letting it immediately drop when she took in the sight before her.

Christen was dressed up, in a full face of makeup and cute black and white outfit, growing baby bump peeking out under her shirt, something that would have dropped Tobin to her knees on any other day- had it not been for Christen’s face.

Darkness clouded her stone-like expression, eyebrows furrowed in a way that told Tobin she was being studied, making the Marine feel exposed and uneasy. Christen watched her like a hawk, grey eyes mimicking the overcast sky that she had been staring at a few seconds ago. She watches as the younger woman pulls her purse up onto the counter, letting it drop with a thud, before reaching in for something as her jaw clenches wildly beneath the skin of her cheek.

“Your mail arrived.” Christen nearly whispered, voice void of emotion, tossing an opened manilla envelope into the air and not taking her eyes off of Tobin as the folder slid across the granite counter-top and dropped at Tobin’s feet.

“The mailman drove something different yesterday. An interceptor. Government tags. Wasn’t the usual mail vehicle, was it Tobin?” She spoke again, eyes studying Tobin in a challenge, daring her to speak up.

There weren’t many moments in Tobin’s life that she felt small, or trapped, or suffocated. At least, not in this way. She’d never seen Christen this angry.

Frustrated, slightly irritated, and pissed off- sure. But never angry. Never quite like this. Her eyes alone were enough to bring Tobin down, the way they regarded her in a focused hold, taunting, daring her to move an inch or speak up. She couldn’t even swallow, couldn’t move her eyes from the woman’s, couldn’t move her body an inch or even begin to explain the papers at her feet. They were stamped with a Government seal, inside the papers read that they were classified. Investigative papers. Non-disclosure papers. Detailing weeks upon weeks of investigation and surveillance of Jermaine Montgomery. All things that Tobin had already known, all things that the man who worked for her had called to tell her as soon as he discovered it. The papers were for her to sign off on, stating that she would be held in a federal court of law if they were opened and released to the public.

The envelope had been opened, telling Tobin that Christen had read every single paper.

How Christen had gotten ahold of them, Tobin had no idea. They were supposed to be dropped off at her parent’s house, purposefully, to avoid this exact type of scenario. Their house was about to be bought. They were so close to moving, so close to her being able to sign the goddamn papers and be done with the surveillance, so she could forget that any of this ever happened. So she could move on with their life together and prepare for Amaya’s arrival with a clear conscience, mind removed from stress and worry.

The woman steps around the kitchen island, eyes still trained on Tobin’s face as she walks to her, stopping about a foot away. They stare at one another for a few more moments, Christen’s gaze moving back and forth between Tobin’s brown eyes, studying her deeply.

“You lied to me.” She whispers with a straight face. “Yes or no?”

Tobin crumples, jaw flexing as tears spring behind her eyelids, dropping quickly onto her chin, feeling her whole world collapse at the hurt and betrayal passing over Christen’s face.

“You knew about this, and you lied to me.”

She watches Christen studying her, pupils small and continuously moving back and forth between Tobin’s gaze as she puts all the pieces together.

“You didn’t just know about it. You sent the order for it and then you lied to me, didn’t you?” She quietly asks, watching Tobin crumble even more, head moving downwards to track Tobin’s gaze as the Marine looks to the floor for answers. “Yes or no?”

Tobin reaches for her, hand moving out to try and touch the seething woman. “Chris, I-“

“Answer me!” She yells, snatching her hand up and away from the older woman’s grasp. “Did you lie!”

Tobin silently nods, tears dripping off of her chin as her bottom lip trembles. She lowers her head to the floor, crying as her hands wipe at her cheeks and wipe the stress from her mouth.

Chris, please- Baby, let me-“

Christen scoffs and shakes her head as she turns, her own tears spilling over on her cheeks, running away from Tobin’s pleading.

“You need to leave. I have to go.” She mumbles, backing away from the soldiers reach and shaking her head, pain ripping its way into her heart. Tobin reaches for her once more, panicking, freaking out at how bad it had gotten all of the sudden. She knew, always, in the back of her mind, that it would be bad if Christen was to find out. She had miscalculated just how bad it could be, however.

“No. Please, please hear me out. Please don’t leave me-”

Christen snatches from her again, turning and squaring up to the soldier. “I’m not fucking leaving you.” She spits. “I’m angry with you. I’m so fucking angry with you that I can’t even look at you.”

She pushes against the soldier’s chest, clinging onto the fabric of Tobin’s sweater with her fingers and pushing down with her palm to get her point across. Body filled to the brim with pain and anger. “And I’m so goddamn hurt by you. How could you lie? To me, Tobin?”

“If you would just talk to me and let me explain, I-“

Christen scoffs at her again, face flushed in disbelief. “What’s the point of you explaining anything to me at this point? I obviously can’t trust you-“

“I was doing it to protect you!” Tobin snaps, fists clenching and voice raising. “I needed to know where he was at! Physically- Mentally! If he was planning to get near you or fucking hurt anyone!”

“You didn’t have to keep it from me!” Christen brings the back of her hand down into her palm, enunciating her frustration and pain.

“You would have been worried sick until the hearing, knowing that he was out, especially knowing that we were across the fucking country when Donovan was here. And then I needed reassurance that you both were okay once the trial ended. At least until we move. You wouldn’t have agreed with it to begin with!”

Christen scoffs, shaking her head, “You can’t possibly know that.”

“I’m not losing you again, Goddammit- Or Donovan!” Tobin’s voice rises so much that Christen flinches. Tobin takes a step back, face pushed into her hands to sob.

Christen watches the woman’s shoulder’s shake as she cries, finding it hard not to soften however slightly at the situation in front of her. She knows Tobin’s intentions, spending all day going over in her head why Tobin would have lied to her. She knows that it stems from a place of Tobin’s insecurity, a place that’s so admirably human within someone that seems so perfect, so fixed. She understands the method behind Tobin’s reasoning, but it does nothing to sooth the fact that Tobin lied at the end of the day. It does nothing to keep Christen from hurting so deeply like she does.

“Tell me everything that you know. All of it. Don’t leave anything out. The parts that aren’t in those papers, also.”

The Marine looks up at her, tear streaks staining her face, and quickly gets out as much information as she can, hoping that this was an inch of understanding that the younger woman was giving her. She sighs, swallows her tears, looking Christen dead in the eyes, and tells the entire truth.

“I hired a man that used to work with me to track him. It was nothing serious at first, just his location and call records. It was only supposed to last until things from the trial calmed down and I knew that he wasn’t going to do anything. But then,” She breathes. “One day before the trial, I was downtown running an errand for dad with Donovan, and I got a call saying that he was close by.”

Christen’s eyes furrow, arms crossed in front of her. “How did they know he was close to you?”

She sees the Marine swallow. “I was being tracked too. They had to use me as a point of reference...”

Christen closes her eyes slowly, trying not to get too angry over the question she was about to ask despite already knowing the answer. “And me? I’m assuming they were using me as a point of reference, too?”

Tobin can only nod, eyes downcasted, waiting for the woman to be set off like a bomb. Silence ticks around them, speeding up her heart to the point where she can feel it in her fingertips. She waits for a reaction from the younger woman, but it never comes. Christen is quiet when she says-

“While I understand why you did it, and trust me- I do understand.”

Tobin looks up at her, lip trembling, eyes swelling rapidly.

“While I understand why you did it, you still lied to me.” She whispers now. “I’m an adult. I don’t need a fucking protection agency tracking mine or my ex-husbands every move. This isn’t some military case that you can oversee. I’m capable of taking care of myself and my son.”

Tobin flinches at that, feeling Christen’s words cut into the deepest and most wounded parts of her, the parts of her that fears Christen and Donovan not needing her.

“I didn’t mean it like that, but that’s another thing that we need to talk about.”

Christen sighs, feeling the knot in her throat appear again at the hurt she feels, the pain of being in this predicament. She knows that they can move past it. Tobin was already forgiven. It just stings her to think about Tobin lying straight to her face, keeping something behind her back for weeks on end.

“I saw him. Jermaine, I mean. He was walking down the street with some dude. And I-“ Tobin’s hands come up, trying to demonstrate visually how she felt while telling Christen the details.

“I knew I’d recognized the guy somewhere. Like, he just looked so familiar to me, and I couldn’t figure it out at first until they got closer. And it was that fucking car salesman. That fucking asshole we met that day buying my Jeep. I was going to tell you- I was. But, I just-“

She bites her lip, mind spinning at how best to explain. “I had a bad feeling, okay? I had a really bad feeling. The same feeling that I got when I met him, how it was so weird the way he was acting around me towards you that day. Like, almost like they were going to do something to hurt you even more. The car salesman had a really bad history of violence and drug use. Then, I got some vague text message one night saying that I couldn’t make you happy. Then, a couple of more messages, even one in Portland about how he was going to “right his wrongs”. And I knew it was bullshit, but-“

Christen shakes her head. The message was suddenly clear. Her ex-husband was a threat. That much was obvious. Though the threat had been misplaced. It was clear to Christen, like it had been clear to Tobin, that she wasn’t the one being threatened.

She wasn’t the one with a target on her back.

Tobin was.

And that thought alone made the entirety of the situation so much worse to Christen.

“So that makes you the target, huh? You went behind my back and kept something from me for weeks. You kept the text messages he sent you from me. Don’t you think that’s something I would have liked to know about?”

“You would have worried.” Tobin mutters, like it’s a simple fact.

Christen throws her hands up in exasperation, finally feeling herself explode like a pressure cooker having been left on for too long. “Of course I would have worried! I still should have been told! The thought of something happening to you or my son kills me inside, just like it does to you with me and him. Did you think for a second that if something happens to you, and I find out after the fact that he had been sending you those messages, how I would have felt? Do you realize the pain that could have put me in? I’m your partner. We are supposed to be equal in this.”

She motions back and forth between them, tears at a steady stream along her high cheekbones. Tobin finally understands Christen’s viewpoint, and guilt washes over her like a heavy wave. “I’m so sorry, Chris. I can’t- I can’t tell you how sorry I am.” She shakes her head, eyes closed at the shame she feels.

Christen shakes her head again, frustrated. “I need some time to myself for a few hours, okay?” She whispers. Watching as Tobin grips the counter and clenches her jaw. She steps to the turbulent Marine, closing her palm around the inside of her flexed and hardened bicep. “I’m going to go meet with Megan at Sandra’s, I’ve already told her that I would come and I’m late. You’re welcome to stay here or go home, just let me know what you’re doing so I know you’re safe. I just need a bit of space for a few hours, okay?”

Tobin aches for the girl not to leave, knowing that the last thing she could do right now is ask her to stay. Tobin had spent the last three days wanting to hold the younger girl, and the events of today were seeming to be kicking her when she is already down. It would only cause another argument, so she gives in with herself despite everything in her body screaming at her not to. She nods as silent tears run down her face, hand angrily moving to wipe them off.

“I’m not punishing you, Tobs. I just think it’s something we both need to talk about after we’ve had time to think and we aren’t so worked up. Okay? Donovan is staying at dad’s tonight, I’ll come meet you once I’m done so we can work through this.”

Tobin sniffs and nods again, looking up at Christen with a remorseful damaged look. Unshed tears collect beneath her eyelids, her nose red and running. She closes her eyes as Christen steps into her, stepping over the opened envelope, crying herself, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s steeled jaw.

“I love you.” Tobin whispers, watching as Christen nods with pain in her eyes, watching as she bites her lip to keep from crying. The woman grabs her purse and heads for the door, and Tobin assumes that she deserves that, knowing how much pain she’d caused.

When the front door shuts behind her, the Marine angrily cries, picking the yellow envelope up from the floor and pulling out the crisp white papers. She stares at the small font, flipping through the stack and finding the lines where she was supposed to sign, finding the return address that Smitty had mentioned to her over the phone. She drops the papers back onto the counter, turning the opened envelope over and over in her hands as angry tears stream down her face, before throwing the envelope as hard as she can at the wall when the anger boils. Her chest was tight and heaving, disappointed with herself, filled to the brim with regret that she had ever called the man in the first place. 

She needed to leave. Needed to get fresh air in order to calm herself down before she had a panic attack, still smelling Christen's perfume that had permeated through the kitchen air before she walked out of the door. It was like a tornado had torn its way through the house, through her heart, leaving nothing but pain and an ache in its path, and it was entirely her own fault. 

Tobin closes her eyes and wipes her face with her shirt, retrieving the folder off the ground and haphazardly shoving the papers back into it, locating her Jeep keys and phone beside her unpacked luggage before heading out towards her gym on the farm. 

Until Christen was finished.

Until Christen was ready to talk.  

Chapter Text

Night falls across the small southern town.

Christen tries to keep herself from crying as she walks up the steps to Sandra’s, clutching her purse closely to her body along with her jacket, shieling the cold away as she opens the diner’s door. It’s nearly empty inside, not many townspeople coming out into the cold to eat at the restaurant, something that Christen is thankful for as she lets the door close behind her. She spots Megan at the same booth they always sit in, and the look of worry and resignation as she takes in the younger woman’s expression makes Christen have to bite back her tears even harder. Forcing herself not to cry in a place that she isn’t comfortable crying inside of.

Megan guides her to sit down, worrying over her immediately, keeping Christen’s cold hand in her warm grasp as the pregnant woman slides into the booth across her.

“What happened, Chris?” Megan follows her eyes, seeing the tears collect along the bottoms of her eyelids.

“Tobin and I had a fight.” Christen shrugs, trying to smile and she sniffled to clear her sinuses.

 

Miles away, Tobin pulls her jeep up to the garage, slamming the door shut behind her with frustration and a sense of dejection. They had never argued so badly. At the least, not badly enough to cause Christen to need space from her, and the thought of their shared words was running through her head like a train that couldn’t be stopped. She yanks the right-hand garage door open with a huff, lifting it into the air until the suspension system takes over and carries the door the rest of the way open. Her hands find the light switch inside of the dark building, flicking it on and illuminating the inside, allowing the lights to reflect off of the neatly spaced rows of golf carts and ATV’s.

She’s so angry. She has to do something soon, needs to get it out of her like a virus. Despite the fact that the drive had calmed her out of a near panic attack, she was still buzzing, still lit up like a rocket, like she could just hit something.

She wishes she’d have purchased that punching back and gloves a few months ago at Walmart, knowing that it would be a whole hell of a lot more effective at bringing her down instead of lifting weights. Part of her wishes that she’d have stopped by the house first before coming here, not wanting to work out in jeans and a thin sweater yet having no clothes with her to change into. It was a drive back to her parent’s house, one that she didn’t feel like making out of fear that they could see through her and tell that something was going on.

Tobin didn’t feel like talking right now. She definitely didn’t feel like getting sweaty in jeans, but talking seemed ten times worse, especially given that her mother would stress and worry over her. The thought only fuels her frustration more, as she throws her keys down on one of the back-end wooden tables with a sigh. Her fingers tap her Bluetooth settings after she clicks the radio on, pressing shuffle on one of her workout playlists as she stares blankly at her equipment.

Halfway through her third set of push-ups, the music cuts off. Tobin hits her knees out of push-up formation with a sigh, feeling Murphy’s Law really start to show its true colors and rear it’s ugly head through the rest of her day. She nearly throws her phone against the concrete wall upon discovering that it was dead, knowing that she didn’t have the energy nor the patience to walk back out to her Jeep and get her phone charger. She angrily pushes the radio button, tuning it to a local rock station since it’s the first one that sounds clear, figuring that she would finish the rest of her workout before she worried about her charger. Christen was bound to be a couple hours, anyways. And she was sure there’d be little communication from the younger woman until she was finished and ready to speak.

With the muscles of her jaw hardened into solid marble, she gets back onto the ground, resuming her push-ups with practiced precision.

 

Megan listens to Christen intently, ordering for both of them when the young waitress steps to their table and thanking her as their food is brought out, knowing that Christen probably didn’t feel like talking to anyone but her at the moment. She was far too curled into herself.

“But why wouldn’t she tell you?” The blonde asks, cutting into her omelet with a frustrated expression.

She was trying her hardest not to get upset with Tobin, knowing that her friend would have had her reasons and felt strong enough to stand by them at all costs. That was just how Tobin was. Strong-minded and strong-willed, even hard-headed at times when it came to her family and values. It was something that everyone had always admired about the Marine, a type of severe loyalty to herself and those she loved that was unfounded in most.

“I don’t know, P. That’s what I’m so fucking mad about.” Christen sighs, pushing her food around her plate. “Like, I get that she felt it was necessary. I understand that. But I don’t understand the point of lying. You know? Why couldn’t she just have mentioned it, and told me that nothing I could say was going to change her mind?”

Megan chews her food and digests Christen’s thought process, trying to understand all perspectives she could before offering her own opinion, trying to stay as diplomatic as possible since it wasn’t her own relationship that directly involved her.

“Tobin wouldn’t have done that, Chris.” Megan is honest with her, knowing that it’s what the woman needs right now. “You know that. She thought she was doing the right thing, and it would have been another argument had she brought it up to you. That woman spends every second of the day trying to make sure that you’re happy. It was easier for her to just do it without you knowing, because you would have been unhappy had you known from the start.”

Christen is silent because Megan was right, and she knew it.

“But was it worth it to have it blow up in her face like this?” The younger woman asks, studying Pinoe’s expression with genuine wonder.

The blonde smiles gently at her best friend. “It might not have been worth it to you,” She speaks softly, “But it was worth it to her.” Their eyes hold each other’s gaze across the table, one set deep in frustration and the other in gentle understanding.

“Because you’re safe.” Megan whispers.

Christen shakes her head in denial, getting frustrated. This was the same argument she had been having with herself since she opened the God forsaken envelope. The same argument she’d try to get across to Tobin herself, as they stood in the kitchen and threw venom at one another. “But she isn’t safe, so neither am I. That’s the same damn thing I tried to tell her earlier.”

Tears coat Christen’s eyes as she says it, her bottom lip trembling in a way that breaks Megan’s heart in two, “She’s the heart of this family.” The younger woman watches as her tears hit the surface of the table. “And I can’t have that taken away from me again.”

Megan nods her head, reaching across the table to stroke her thumb across Christen’s knuckles.

“Haven’t you considered that’s maybe why she did it to begin with?”

 

In the heart of Corpus Christi, Texas- Smitty jerks his head off of the back of his office chair at the feeling of a hand hitting his chest. He’d just nodded off for a nap, nearing the end of his shift and feeling his three cups of post-lunch coffee wear off about an hour ago. He coughs and orients himself, sitting upright and looking around to find the perpetrator that hit him staring intently at one of the monitors that covered the wall in front of their desks.

“Look at this.” The man says.

“What?” He grumbles to his co-worker, a clean-shaven E-4 that played the deepest strings of Smitty’s nerves on a good day. The young Marine squints, pressing a few buttons on the computer and reverting the screen to satellite, zooming in on whatever he was looking at.

Smitty sighs and grabs his glasses off of his shirt collar.

“That job we’ve been following, the one in Georgia,” The young Marine says softly, still squinting at the screen in confusion. He points, then. Directing Smitty’s attention to the what he was looking at. “There’s movement happening.”

On the screen, Smitty watches as two little dots blink as it moves across the satellite image, alerting to the men watching that they needed to pay attention, that their targets were approaching another one of their targets. The dots stop along a road, blinking rapidly as they get closer. He asks the Marine to zoom in further, until the focus is stopped outside of a fence on Tobin’s parent’s property.

“Shit, that’s one of our reference locations.” Smitty takes over, leaning over the other Marine’s keyboard to zoom out, scrolling over to Tobin’s parent’s property and clicking on those dots.

Jeff Heath. The first dot reads out of a text box as he clicks on it. He clicks on the next box. Cindy Heath.

“Where’s Heath?” He mutters under his breath, not finding her location in a fifty-mile radius after searching for her on the computer. He types a few more commands into the keyboard, pulling up her last location ping, eyes stalling on the screen upon discovering that she wasn’t even fifty yards from the two blinking lights near the side of her parent’s property, before her location cut off.

“Shit.” He mutters, springing into action, pulling his work phone off of his desk and dialing Tobin’s number, moving the satellite back to watch the two blinking lights as they’re paused outside of the gate.

What are they doing? He asks himself, cursing more when Tobin’s phone goes straight to voicemail. He dials the number again, zooming in to see the that the car is still stopped and idling outside of the gate without movement. Suddenly, one of the blinking dots begins to move, stepping out of the vehicle as the voicemail picks up again.

“Who’s moving?” He asks the quiet Marine, springing him into action as he pulls up their other contact list, finding Christen’s number as the man tells him it’s Jermaine. He waits before calling, trying to see what the man is going to do, and both pairs of the men’s eyes are trained to the large satellite image as they watch Jermaine walk up to the gate. The vehicle pulls up to the gate next to Jermaine, and they hold their breaths as they watch the little dot maneuver onto the vehicle before beginning to climb, hopping over the large gate without a problem.

“God dammit.” Smitty curses, watching as Jermaine begins walking through the darkness along the path, towards the building where Tobin’s phone had last pinged.

He sighs, trying Tobin’s phone again with no success, before scratching his beard and typing Christen’s number into the keypad, eyes following Mark’s car on the satellite as he drives away from the property.

A sinking pit at the base of his chest.

 

It appears in her peripheral. The hairs on Tobin’s neck stand up as the motion-detected flood light turns on outside of the building. The left garage door is open, allowing her to see past the farm vehicles and outside, into the lit-up pathway, rows of black trees fading into the background. She sits for a second, leaning up on her weight bench as she tries to steady her breath from doing bench presses.

Before her gut tells her that something isn’t right.

She stands, silently stepping out from the weight bench and over to the radio, turning it off until tense silence fills the garage, her eyes never leaving the opened garage door. Her equipment is at the back of the building, a good distance from the door, but she knows that the light would have turned off by now if nothing was truly out there. Goosebumps coat along her skin, brain wondering if it were an animal, or possibly her dad and she’d not heard him walk up.

Out of instinct, she grabs her keys and finds the one she’s looking for on her keyrings, slowly picking the little gold key up as it softly jingles and silently stepping over to a locked toolbox. She’d stored the pistol here, loaded with the safety on and tucked away inside of its holster until she needed it. Sweat runs down her spine as she hears the lock click open, fingers dislodging the long and small drawer until the holster is revealed.

Quietly, she unclips the holster, left hand wrapping around the handle of the pistol and pulling it out, slowly moving it behind her to slip under the waistband of her pants as her breathing slows. She pulls the tail of her shirt over it, knowing that she might need it and an animal could be rabid, and it would have no issue walking up to her or attacking if it were large like a coyote or bobcat.

The second motion light cuts on, the one near the opened side of the garage, and the Marine holds her breath and stands perfectly still as she waits for her eyes to catch movement under the bright light.

She sees movement out of the right-hand garage window, before a tall figure steps in front of her car.

It’s a human, taller than her father, dressed in a dark coat and dark jeans. Her blood pressure spikes tremendously, watching as Jermaine runs his hand over the hood of her Jeep.

She hears him scoff and watches him turn, her body like a statue, as he slowly steps into the garage.

“Nice jeep.” He smirks at her, though not an ounce of her reacts, her brain turning with questions like how he was here, how he knew that she was here, how he managed to get past the near ten-foot iron gate.

And what in the possible fuck he wanted from her.

His eyes take in their surroundings, nodding his head in mocking appreciation at the expensive vehicles between them. “Damn.” He mumbles, “I guess I get it now.”

He shrugs his coat closer to him, smirk still wide on his face as his boot presses against the tire of one of her ATV’s, rocking it back and forth against its springs, his head shaking as he stops and walks closer.

“Had a friend tell me that they were behind you when you pulled in here, and you can see the garage from the street, incase you were wondering.” He shrugs and points nonchalantly towards the road, nearly halfway to her frozen body.

“Figured we should finally meet.” Sarcastic laughter pours out of him. “Since you’re screwing my ex-wife.”

Anger courses through her body with his words, though she contains it, eyes locked on his approaching figure, choosing to stay quiet so she can gauge his behavior. He seems drunk, his eyes a little red and his face flushed, though she’s not at all surprised at this discovery. His clothes are rugged and wrinkled, as if they would smell like sweat and mildew. It’s clear that he had further declined since the day she’d seen him in court.

He stops about ten feet from her, finally meeting her eyes, and she can see his mocking sarcasm become replaced with anger behind his pupils, his body straightening and his chest pushing out as if trying to prove that he is somehow stronger and in control of the situation. Ten thousand different methods of putting him on his ass floods the back of her mind, combat training being refreshed inside of her memory incase he steps closer or tries to fight her.

“You know something?” He pulls his hand up to his face, rubbing his beard with disbelief before returning to his pocket. “I never once pegged Christen as the type to go for chicks. Yet her son looks just like you. I guess you used some of that fucked up science or something? I always thought that must have been expensive, but…” He looks around again and laughs, “I guess you’ve got it covered.”

He has no idea. She thinks, though she doesn’t give him answer.

“What’s the back story, here? I mean really,” Jermaine scoffs, gazing at her angrily. “I thought maybe if you ever texted me back, I could eventually find out. But since you didn’t… I had to ask you in person. It was killing me to not know, Tobin.

Her jaw clenches. Unsettled at the way he says her name. “Christen and I were together for years before you met her.” Tobin tells him, feeling sorry for how pathetic he appeared and at the way he seems so dismantled, so angry within his self-afflicted misery. “We split up before a deployment. I came back. Now we’re here.”

Jermaine’s eyebrows lift upon his forehead at her short revelation, laughing from shock. “Wow, shit. Didn’t peg you as the military type, she never told me that… she never told me any of it, really.”

“I’m sorry?” Tobin says, wondering what he was getting at, how that had anything to do with why he was here. She supposes that he was only looking for answers, the alcohol running him crazy and unhinged.

He tsks, shaking his head back and forth. “I mean, I get why she left me.” He laughs again, searing Tobin’s blood further. “It’s just shocking that she’d go back to some bitch who abandoned her and her son.”

Tobin’s breath catches in her lungs, feeling his words cut through her soul, like pouring salt on a freshly opened wound, and he notices it. He smiles at her expression, watching as her jaw clenches and her face hardens. “Oh, did I hit a soft spot?”

“What do you want, Jermaine?” She sighs.

Her eyes catch the movement quickly, how his hand seems to tug against something as it pulls out of his jacket pocket.

She reacts in the blink of an eye when she notices the edge of a handle being pulled out beneath his hand, instinct powering her own hands to reach around her own torso and snatch the gun from her waistband- drawing it up, turning off the safety, and pulling back on the barrel simultaneously, her body vibrating as adrenaline kicks in. She looks through the rear sight with her eyes focused, gaze locked on his index finger that shakes against the trigger of his Glock.

“You took everything from me!” He yells, though Tobin doesn’t falter, feeling her heart skip a beat with fear and concentration as his hand trembles in his own fear and anger.

“She divorced you before I was back in the picture.” She calmly tells him, forcing her voice to sound steady and not falter. She tries to remember the feeling of being shot, preparing herself to go through it again. It wasn’t the impact that hurt, the bullet had stunned her after impacting her hip. It had only felt warm against her skin, her adrenaline having been like morphine and protecting her brain from feeling the initial pain. “You did that to yourself. Please put down the gun.”

“Jermaine,” She tries again, “I don’t want to shoot you. Put the gun down.”

He’s pointing it at her with one hand raised in the air, contrasted to her own double-handed grip. If he shot, the aim wouldn’t be exact. The gun would recoil. It could easily miss her. Tobin was holding her own hand steadily, her right fist secure around her left hand, her left hand secure around the grip. Her aim lethal.

It would have been lethal from a half mile away.

Please.” Tobin whispers.

 

Christen’s phone rings as she closes the door to her car, preparing herself to go meet Tobin so they can further discuss the trying events of the day, going to call the Marine as soon as she gets on the highway to figure out where she was. She feels calmer after speaking to Megan. Their talk had eased her down enough to get herself into a place that she knows she can reason with the Marine, where she knows that her words will not cut and she can allow them both to speak their minds openly without fear of the other reacting harshly. She missed her. She misses her son. And she aches for it all to go back to normal again.

Though nothing is about to be normal.

When she sees that the number calling her is restricted, she ignores it, never being one to answer phone calls from a number she can’t recognize. As soon as the call comes in again, she sighs, swiping her thumb over the screen and putting the phone to her ear hesitantly.

“Hello?” Christen asks softly, expecting a spam call or some telemarketer.

“Christen Press? This is Lieutenant Gordon Smith, it’s important that you listen and not hang up. Okay?”

Her heart drops, she sits upright in a jolt, feeling the seatbelt stretch across her tummy. “Okay. What’s going on?”

I’ve been tracking your ex-husband at the request of Sergeant Heath. I can’t go into detail with you, but I am unable to reach Tobin by phone. Mr. Montgomery’s cell is pinging from a location near to where her location was last active. I’ve been trying to reach her for nearly ten minutes, since he was dropped off near the property.”

Her blood-pressure spikes, immediately pressing the start button and throwing the vehicle in reverse out of the restaurant parking space, her hands shaking as she turns the wheel. “Where was he dropped off?” Her voice shakes, “The property is massive, she could be anywhere.”

“Near the east end, visible from the road. Satellite is showing me a gate that you can enter from, take a straight shot path and the building comes up on your left. There are multiple paths leading out of it towards other end of the properties. And Christen?”  The man authoritatively says her name. “His location is still there. You need to call the police.”

The Mercedes roars as she gets out onto the highway towards Jeff and Cindy’s house, and she ends the call immediately, fingers shaking as she presses Ashlyn’s contact, hearing her friend answer the call cheerfully though Christen gives no time for introductions.

“Ashlyn, Tobin is in trouble.” Tears spring to her tearducts, “She- She’s at the garage at the East end of the property, the first building you come up to once you get through the side gate. Her gym. I need officers there immediately.”

The police officer is calm, already starting her car and radioing in for more backup as she lists off the address and details, telling her available units to abandon their stations and make it fast.

Where are you?” Ashlyn asks her. “Are you safe?”

“I’m on the way now. Please hurry.” She pleads, blowing through a stop sign since no cars were around and she didn’t have time to obey traffic laws.

“I’m about 6 miles away but I’m coming, alright? You’ll get there first. Is her life in danger?”

Christen’s foot presses the gas pedal down even harder at the thought of it, “I don’t know. It’s Jermaine, he’s been sending her all these fucking messages and he’s snuck onto the property where she’s at.”

“Shit.” The woman curses, “Don’t go into the garage, Christen. Wait for us to get there, okay?”

The request floors her, as if she could even think about lingering and not knowing that Tobin was safe. She knows that her friend was only trying to protect her, giving her advice as an officer and wanting her to be as safe as possible from what was unknown, but she couldn’t do that. Not even for a second. And Ashlyn wouldn’t be able to either if the roles were reversed and Ali was inside of that building.

“I can’t do that.” Christen refuses, whispering it into the receiver before ending the call.

Her hands shake as she speeds through the dark road, her Mercedes hitting 70 miles per hour on a 55 limit highway.

Visions of Tobin in the worst-case scenario drives her insane. Bile rises in her throat, thinking of the man hitting her, harming her, causing Tobin pain in any capacity. All she can think about is how she left the house, how she’d argued and cursed at Tobin, how she’d blamed her for a situation when Tobin was only trying to protect them. When Tobin was only trying to protect herself. She aches at the thought that Tobin had been right all along, that she had reason to feel like something wasn’t right, like Jermaine was someone worthy of being tracked. In her head she takes it all back, turning onto the Heath family road as she pulls up to the East gate, fingers fumbling around for the button on her visor as she skids to a stop in front of it, pushing the little button incessantly and cursing as the gate crawls to open.

“C’mon- Goddammit, fucking open!” She yells, shakily wiping her mouth before speeding through once enough space has opened up.

She can see the garage from here, the lights on inside, and it’s less than a quarter-mile stretch on a narrow gravel path before the gravel open’s up into the small lot where Tobin’s jeep sits.

 

Tobin had heard the vehicle speeding through the gravel as she traded words with Jermaine, had heard it park outside as she softly breathed and kept her body focused and calm, her hands extended in a perfect grip around the cold handle of her pistol as she asked him repeatedly to put down his own weapon.

Please don’t be Christen. Please don’t be Christen. Please please please.

She begged God in her subconscious mind, begged the universe and all of its creatures, pleaded to anyone listening not to let it be the love of her life walking into this dire situation. Christen’s presence would amplify everything, would make her lose her mind, would put the younger woman in so much danger that even the simple thought of it made sweat drip down her back as the adrenaline overloaded her system.

The Marine takes a deep breath through her lungs, eyes locked on Jermaine’s figure, at how his finger shakes around the trigger furiously.

I don’t want to do this.” Tobin shakes her head and begs him again. Begs him to put his gun down. Begs him to think of his own life. “Please don’t make me do this.”

Jermaine’s eyes cloud over with more anger at every word she says, his eyes growing darker as he refuses to lower the weapon. She nearly closes her eyes when the car door shuts, feeling all life drain out of her body through her feet and into the floor as her mind registers the sound of Christen’s vehicle. Please please please, she tries to force the words into Christen’s brain, as if some kind of telepathy existed to make the younger woman not step foot inside of this building.

Christen’s voice is shaky and nervous as she steps around the side of the garage door.

Tobin?”

The Marine doesn’t blink. Doesn’t breathe. Doesn’t move an inch aside from a pulse of her index finger on the trigger when Jermaine looks to the side and locates the pregnant woman, frightened by the sound of another person’s voice fading in through the tumultuous silence in the air.

She’d only seen him nervously turn his torso in a jerking motion. Only seen his gun move from being pointed at her own body to being suspended in the air as he moved to point it at Christen.

Three shots ring out before his gun could even land on the woman. Blinding her and ringing her ears with the ricocheting sound of the fire, her face not even flinching as her finger pulled the trigger repeatedly.

Christen screams and turns around with her hands over her mouth, already hyperventilating from witnessing the scene that she’d walked into, seeing Jermaine’s eyes full of rage as he turned his gun onto her. She thought she’d been shot, but feels nothing, jerking back around as she sobs to see the man hit his knees over the concrete, trails of red blood beginning a path down his face and neck. Christen feels terrified and unnerved, remembering the lifelessness of his angry eyes as he’d swung his gun around at her, remembering the panic that had set in as she thought that she’d been the one shot after the loudness of the gunfire rang out.

Tobin heaves heavy breaths once it’s done, bending over and nearly vomiting before pure scalding rage fills her system. She lunges at the man before Christen can even blink, sending her fists into his face after he falls onto the cold floor, lifeless body receiving every blow as Tobin blacks out and rages over him.

He’d received all three of the rounds, one in the temple and two in the side of his skull, but Tobin wasn’t finished. She couldn’t see anything but red as her knees lock around his abdomen and her fists stain with blood.

All she sees is how close he had come to hurting Christen, hurting Amaya, hurting herself. All she sees is life being taken from the green-eyed girl or her daughter. Unable to picture anything else. And the images were worse than anything she’d ever imagined, making her sick, making her lose complete and total control over her body.

She heaves air into her lungs as she punches him, hitting over and over before wrapping her bloodied hands around his neck and gritting her teeth as she squeezes as tight as she can, listening to Christen beg her to stop in loud wails, until two pairs of strong arms are lifting her into the air and pulling her off of his lifeless body.

Ashlyn begs Tobin to stop fighting her, tightening her arms around Tobin’s midsection as the Marine struggles to get free, still mentally incapacitated and eyes ablaze with pure rage as she turns in Ashlyn’s arms and tries to break free, fighting the other officers that are trying to grab hold of her.

“Calm down, Tobin. Calm down. You’re safe.” Ashlyn speaks authoritatively. “Christen’s safe.”

Like the last two words were the key to bringing her back down to Earth, Tobin blinks, no longer fighting, body deadweight and condensed as she looks around her in a daze. As if remembering where she was and coming out of a coma. Christen is in front of her in an instant, sobbing into her face with gasps of air as she wraps her hands around the Marine’s hardened, sweaty face.

The bodies back away from them now that all has seemed to calm, and there is a covering already placed over the body when Ashlyn turns around.

I’m so sorry.” Tobin begins to cry, her body trembling uncontrollably as she realizes what she had done. Thoughts of what she was apologizing for sends her into a panic attack, her chest heaving as she sees the commotion around her, the policemen and the lights and Christen’s distressing face. She cries out her apology for having no other choice but to keep him from harming anyone, for having caused the younger woman so much pain, for the lying and the hiding and the things she could both control and not control. For not being able to keep them at peace when it was all that she had wanted.

Christen pushes back her hair as Tobin beings to hyperventilate, telling the Marine over and over that she was not mad, that she was just scared and that all would be okay. Tobin sinks to the floor as she struggles to breathe, wrapping her stained hands around her pants legs as Christen bends down and wraps her up into her arms, rubbing up and down her shaking spine as she tries to talk the Marine through her panic attack, though she too felt like collapsing.

She can’t look behind her, can’t see the body laying ten feet from them under the black cover, can’t bring herself to picture the man she once was married to dead, can’t bring herself to picture Tobin being the one lying lifeless on the concrete instead of him, knowing house close she had come to that very scenario being true.

 

Tires skid on the gravel pathway leading up to the building, the blinding red and blue lights of the police cars reflecting on Jeff Heath’s truck. He kills the ignition and is out of the truck in the blink of an eye, having heard the loud echo of the gunshots from inside of the main house, causing both his and Cindy’s heads to snap up in a panic. It took five minutes of an argument to make Cindy stay inside of the house, not knowing where it came from but knowing that it sounded close and needing her to stay inside because of that fact. He’d jumped in his truck immediately, driving out through the farm with the truck’s spotter light on, searching for any signs of where the sounds had come from through the darkness of the trees.

He didn’t panic until he heard the police sirens get closer, almost ten minutes into his search on the west wing of the farm. When the blue lights appeared near the East of the property, he’d immediately whipped the truck around, speeding through the gravel trails and rubbing the stress from his beard, eyes wide and alert as he followed the blue lights and sirens towards his garage. Dread filled his body so hotly that it nearly made him sick.

It could only increase as he pulled up to the building, taking in the four interceptor SUV’s that were parked and still running, shining their headlights into the opened garage door, his stomach immediately dropping at what he sees inside the building.

When he gets to his daughter’s body, he immediately pulls her up and into his arms, tightly closing his hold around her midsection to keep her close to him, and looking panicked over Tobin’s shoulder at Christen’s shaking figure and heavy tears.

Are you okay?” He stutters out, looking around him at the commotion after Christen nods beneath heavy tears. Ashlyn stands off to the side, talking quietly with another officer, her hand tightly clasped around the corded radio at her shoulder, concisely giving off information to the person listening on the other end. “What happened?”

He notices the black tarp over a body on the floor, growing more and more anxious and angry, not understanding even a single ounce of anything that was going on.

“Who is that? What the hell happened?”

Ashlyn hears Jeff’s voice raising, watching as the Marine begins to cry harder and harder, and decides it’s probably best to de-escalate the situation before Tobin has another panic attack from her father’s own anxiety. She leaves her conversation and gently steps over to them, pushing back all of the police work for now, as she wraps a hand around Jeff’s bicep and grabs his attention.

“Hey,” She quietly says, “Can we step outside and talk for a second? I know you want to know what’s going on and I’ll explain it all. Okay?”

Jeff looks down at his daughter, where her head is pressed into his chest, slowly blinking with distant eyes as she cries without making a sound. He checks her face for wounds, not finding any, before lifting her beneath her legs and carrying her with Christen at his side until he’s sat Tobin down on the bench of a golf cart, his hands shaking from adrenaline as Tobin curls up into herself and latches onto the pregnant raven-haired woman. Christen bends down to eye level in front of his daughter, her own shaking hands wiping the tears from Tobin’s face, softly soothing her and trying to get Tobin to relax.

His whole body shakes as he follows Ashlyn outside.

Paramedics and technicians arrive within moments, pronouncing him dead and collecting photographs of the scene. They drape a blanket around Tobin’s shoulders and check her vitals once she’s steadily breathing again. Christen is checked too, and offered a blanket, and she watches from Tobin’s side as a light is shown directly into the Marine’s eyes, taking in the desolate and bleak expression behind her pupils. Utterly lifeless. Far away from reality as she answers the paramedics questions with muted nods and slow shakes of her head, two gloved fingers checking her rapid pulse at the inside of her wrist.

“She’s in shock.” The paramedics tell the younger woman, placing a cool gloved hand on her shoulder. “But she’ll be okay.”

Jeff walks back in with Ashlyn, tears in both of their eyes, and he wraps Christen up into his arms upon seeing her face, knowing that they were both in a state of disbelief at the chaos surrounding them. He reaches for his daughter, hardened like a statue as she sits upright against the cushion of the farm vehicle, letting her know that he was there in a firm grasp. They clean Tobin’s hands after she starts scratching at them furiously, lightyears away from her body as she begins to panic again to get the blood off, breaking Christen’s heart even further in the process. Jeff’s phone rings from his back pocket, the sound startling the Marine and causing her eyes to flutter.

“It’s Cindy, I’m gonna step outside and…” His head shakes, “I probably need to go get her.” He tells Christen, who nods morosely, understanding the state that Tobin’s mother is going to be in, that Jeff needs to be with her when he breaks the news.

“Miss Press, are you able to give a statement?” A taller, older cop walks up to her, a gentle look in his eyes at how shook up she appears.

It’s the process. The exhaustion of it all. The fact that she doesn’t want to leave Tobin’s side- not even for a minute despite knowing that all of it was necessary, given that the Marine was only defending herself and the police needed an account of that. She takes a long look at Tobin, how the ringing of her father’s phone seemed to have broken her out of her trance, how she’s no longer crying but looking at Christen with shame, like she may never get over this night.

Yet Christen knows better, somewhere deep within her heart of hearts.

Because there’s something they never tell you about life’s important moments- both the good and the bad.

How fast it all happens.

Though these moments may not move within a space that can be measured yet, no telling of the frame that they will sit inside this pain, as far as she knows from the thirty years that she has experienced- the sun will still inevitably rise again. One day, maybe far away or maybe not so far away, they will heal. It might be excruciating now. It might be incomprehensible. It might sting. But it will happen for them as it always has.

She looks through Tobin now. She sees the shock. The dismay. The shame and the internal hulling out of a cave that she can run to and put herself in, and Christen knows that she will follow her, she will clean out the darkness and stitch up the wounds. She will remind her over and over and over again of the love that she feels, the forgiveness, the gratitude that the Marine had protected her so valiantly, even if jeopardizing herself in the process. The wind picks up through the garage doors, as if God was affirming her thoughts, allowing her to give a gentle smile. One that says-

I’m going to step away for a moment, but I am not leaving. We’re going to get through this. And then I’m going to lay you down and hold you so tightly, and not say a word as you let out all of your fears, as you sink into me and I remind you that we were made to look after one another.

As is it, and so it shall be.

She nods to the cop and bends over, touching the skin of Tobin’s face so lightly that it makes the Marine close her eyes, tears leaking at the corner of her eyelids. She stains her lips with the salty sweat on Tobin’s forehead, kissing her gently, feeling the hand that covers the swell of her belly like Tobin was seeking it out to feel comforted.

She lets her lips linger before pulling back.

Once outside of the building and into the cold, the cop stands close and takes down her information, asking her questions about the mere seconds she spent inside the garage as it all happened in front of her. A chill runs down Christen’s spine as a body retrieval vehicle pulls up, unmarked, though Christen immediately knows who they are from the suits that they wear and the equipment they have with them. They walk Tobin out before the men go inside, needing to clean up the area and get her away from it all in order to begin working.

“Are we going to have to go to the station?” Christen asks the cop once her statement is written, once she’s explained to him the text messages Tobin has been receiving and the military involvement. He grimaces, giving Christen her answer before even opening his mouth.

“It’s been ruled in self-defense, so she won’t get in any trouble. Her weapon was registered and his was not, and he was on her private property so…” He trails off, the heat from his breath blowing steam into the cold night air. “Since it’s federally involved, from what you’ve told me, they’ll want to keep this hushed. She’ll have to come in and likely speak to someone far above my pay grade. I’m sure they’re already arranging it.”

Christen nods, understanding, watching as Ashlyn keeps Tobin’s body turned as the men carry the black bag out of the garage on a stretcher, loading it up into the back of the vehicle as if it were just another day for them.

 

Midnight hits and they’re waiting at the station.

Christen called her dad to fill him in on what happened on the drive over, her hand secure around Tobin’s thigh as the Marine stares out of the window without word or motion, eyes lost into the void of the darkness that passes them by. She had to talk Cody out of coming up there over the phone, hearing his panicked voice on the other line as he questioned over and over if she was okay, if Tobin was okay, if there was anything he could immediately do for either of them or if he could get them anything. He reassures the couple that Donovan is perfectly fine, having been put to bed hours ago after a night full of trampoline jumping and cartoons, reassuring them that he would get Donovan on the school bus tomorrow and even pick him up if they needed him to- whatever would make the two vulnerable women feel comfortable.

There was no comfort in this, unfortunately. They wouldn’t be comfortable for a while, and Cody could hear that in his daughter’s voice as she softly declined, knowing without needing her to say it outright that they both were in a weird place of morbid shock and discomfort.

Jeff and Cindy meet them at the station, having to be there since it happened on their property, having to sign of on papers since Ashlyn had blown through the gate and the grille guard on her SUV had broken its locking system. The county was paying them for the repairs, though it was of little concern to the parents in the midst of all this.

Cindy is in tears as Tobin steps out of Ashlyn’s vehicle, wrapping the Marine up so tightly until Jeff pries her off, knowing that Tobin needed space, needed Christen, needed to get inside the building and out of the cold so all of this could be over with. She hugs the younger woman next, squeezing her tightly and kissing her forehead, before leading the two women into the building with her hand securely on Christen’s shoulder.

Ashlyn opens the door for them, pulling her hat off as she steps inside and guiding them to an isolated room where they would wait until Tobin could give her statement. She gives them warmer blankets and cups of steaming station coffee after they’re all seated around a table, knowing that they all could use something to warm them up after being out into the cold for so long.

The Marine rests her head on Christen’s shoulder as they wait, eyes going heavy and her body nearly drained of all it’s energy. She has a migraine, and the blood that stains the space beneath her nails keeps her from holding Christen’s hand, as if doing so could taint what was not meant to be tainted.

Still, she remains close, and the contact is enough to reassure Christen that the Marine was still with her, that there was a shred of normalcy left between them and the love has not yet left.

As if it ever could-

“Tobin?” Ashlyn bends down next to her long-term friend, eyes tracing back and forth across the gaunt woman’s exhausted features, noticing how drained and how small she looks beneath the thick blanket. A uniformed man enters the room and sets a wireless office phone down on the desk, a green light blinking on one of the buttons across the landline’s main control box. “A CID agent is on the phone to speak with you, do you know what agency that is and do you consent to give a statement?”

Tobin nods, speaking some of her first words since she’d begged Jermaine to lower his weapon. Her voice is weak and lowered, as expected. “It’s the Investigations Division of the Marine Corps. And yeah, I can talk.”

Okay, buddy.” Ashlyn whispers, before directing Tobin’s parents to step outside. They do the questioning simultaneously both on the county and federal level, as the same officer that brought them the phone sits down to take Tobin’s responses, once Ashlyn presses the blinking button and the speaker button before telling the person waiting through the line that the Marine was listening.

It’s a woman that speaks, her voice soft and reassuring. “Hi Sergeant Heath. I’m Special Agent Thomas with the United States Naval CID, I have Lieutenant Smith on the call as well. Are you okay to answer some questions for me?”

“Yeah,” She responds, clearing her throat and pulling her head off of the younger woman’s shoulder to lean in closer to the phone box. “Am I in trouble?” She asks hesitantly, fearing the worst for herself and for Smitty.

“No one is in trouble, Tobin. I’m just going to ask you what happened and about the correspondence between you and Lieutenant Smith. We just need a record of it, okay?”

Tobin sighs, closing her eyes slowly, and begins.

It lasts for nearly thirty excruciating minutes, as the woman on the phone asks them questions about the surveillance Smitty provided, about the investigation and the things that Smitty uncovered. Christen finds out that not only herself was used as reference, but both her father, Tobin’s family, the schools, and all of their friends. Though she had assumed from the moment she found out about the whole thing that this was the case, so it doesn’t bother her. Ashlyn’s eyebrows raise on her head, but she too understands Tobin’s reasoning, knowing that she probably would have done the same if having been in the Marine’s shoes. Tobin’s voice wavers as she recounts Jermaine’s aggression, reliving the words he had told her and how he had pulled his gun out before she did, how she had begged him not to make her shoot. This makes Christen start to cry, shaking her head, looking up at the Marine with so much revelation and understanding because she can feel the pain inside of her as she speaks, because she can’t imagine how Tobin didn’t shoot him sooner, as soon as he stepped foot into the building and started threatening her.

Tobin tells them that she has signed the non-disclosure papers and they were safe in her vehicle, asking the agent again to make sure that Smitty wasn’t going to get in trouble, which the agent denies again with a reassuring voice that nothing was going to happen to either of them over it. It would be recorded and put away, protected by the military as most things were, and closed as a self-defense case so that Tobin could begin to move past it without fear of further investigation. Ashlyn sends a unit out for the retrieval and arrest of Mark Hayes, once Smitty tells the listening group that he would send over evidence of Mark’s involvement, how he’d dropped Jermaine off at the side of the property.

Ashlyn tells them that he will be tried on solicitation and accessory to attempted manslaughter, something that neither Christen nor Tobin even consider trying to negate.

When the conversation finishes, Tobin is nearly asleep in her chair, and they’re led out of the room to meet with Jeff and Cindy in a waiting area as the night comes to an end. Ashlyn walks them to the parking lot, where she hugs each of their bodies tightly and receives thanks for her fast-acting protection. The tattooed officer lingers when she hugs Tobin, pulling the Marine against her muscular frame and kissing her temple, though no words are left to be said. The truck is filled with more silence as the parents drive them home, with Tobin asleep and Christen looking out of the window, her brain cooked from the overstimulation of the last six hours.

In truth, she wants their son with them, wants to hold him and Tobin both tightly against her, wants to push her face into his hair and let his innocence make her feel clean again, as if nothing is serious and everyone is fine. This energy is no place for Donovan to be around, though. She knows that they need a moment to digest and decompress, and she doesn’t want to complicate Donovan’s life even by a little bit through adding him into the mix.

Possibly one day, far off in the future, they will tell him about all of this. Christen wonders if he’s going to remember Jermaine when he’s older, or if the time spent with the man is going to fade from his memory like a passing moment in time. Unimportant. Irrelevant. Not worth the storage space.

Jeff carries his daughter into Christen’s house as Christen holds open the front door, not even attempting to wake her up and make her walk inside herself. He carries her into their bedroom, gently depositing her onto the right side of the bed, noticing a few of Tobin’s belongings on the bedside table and assuming it was the usual side she sleeps on. They watch as the Marine turns onto her side, barely moving when Cindy unties and pulls her tennis shoes off, trying to make sure that her daughter was more comfortable.

It was a nuclear family.

Strong. Solidified. Held together by the love and devotion that binds them, protective of one another like the stone walls that guard a castle. Unmoved and unshaken by outside forces. They watch over Tobin for a long moment, seeing the woman who emboldened the definition of strength seem so small, so fragile and delicate. For all that Tobin did to watch over them, to protect them, the people most dear to her- it was time for them to do the same for her.

It’s these thoughts that break Christen down for the final time as she stands beneath the streaming shower, having walked Jeff and Cindy to the door with a heavy heart and heavy goodbye, before stripping off her clothes to try and wash the hours off of her. As if soap could replace the smell of a thousand emotions. She only cries for a moment, holding her swollen tummy, wanting to crawl inside of Tobin’s chest and carry the sun inside with her. 

She feels better when she’s finished, though it had only exhausted her more, and her fingers shake as she unbuttons Tobin’s pants and slides them off of her. Pulling the plush comforter from under her with a few gentle tugs before draping it across her lanky body, leaving the Marine in her dark sweater and briefs. When she slides herself under the covers, Tobin’s eyes are barely open, watching the pregnant woman with a reserved and dark expression as she scoots herself close to Tobin’s warmth.

I’m sorry.” She whispers into the air, wanting to reach out and touch Christen’s body without knowing how, without knowing if she even wants her to.

Christen senses the unnecessary space between them, moving closer, tangling her naked leg around Tobin’s strong calves.

“Please don’t say you’re sorry,” Christen urges, whispering and strained. “You should never apologize for protecting us,” She grabs Tobin’s wrist, pushing her hand onto the firmness of her tummy, her breath tickling Tobin’s lips as she speaks, “-and I can’t tell you how much I regret making you feel like you have to.”

Tears trickle out of the corners of Tobin’s eyes, letting the younger woman’s words coat her nerve-endings and cells.

“Let’s just sleep, baby.” She coos, whispering. “Don’t talk about it yet. Just sleep.”

Like Christen’s words activated an off button, their eyes close simultaneously, forcing out the last of Tobin’s tears and rushing the feeling of peace into her blood vessels as her body succumbs to restless sleep.

 

When the sun rises, as Christen had expected it would, she opens her eyes to find Tobin staring at her.

The Marine’s eyes are bloodshot and swollen, and the tear stains on her pillow alert Christen to the fact that the woman had been awake for some time, replaying the previous day along with nightmarish thoughts over in her mind like a horror film that never ends. No words are spoken at first, just their breathing as they stare at one another. It’s long moment of nothing, Tobin tracing back and forth over Christen’s eyes, her breath labored and her nose running from having been crying for a while.

Tobin swallows her saliva and wets her lips, wiping her nose with her fingers, inches from Christen’s face as they rest on their own pillows. “I killed two children,” She whispers. “Three months before I left you.”

The younger woman takes a sharp breath of air inside of her lungs, though she tries not to react to what she’d just been told, giving the Marine ample space to share her mind. “The militia had strapped an explosive vest onto their chests and sent them running towards us. They would have died anyways, but I shot them to keep the vest from going off near us. The- the boy,” Tobin swallows, tears leaking from the corner of her eyes at the memory, “He was holding a yellow apple. He was smiling. He had no idea what was happening.”

Christen’s face screws up as she cries with Tobin, sharing in her grief, though Tobin continues with her story, “He couldn’t have been older than Donovan. It’s easy for me to not think about it usually, I guess my brain has blocked the memory. But now all I can picture is you getting shot last night, how it could have killed our daughter, how easy it was for me to kill Jermaine before he could get to you.”

Tobin begins to sob, “I.. I c-couldn’t protect those kids that day. But I had to p-protect our children.”

The younger woman wraps Tobin up without a second thought, pressing her wet nose to Tobin’s hair as the Marine sobs loudly into her chest, strong arms wrapping around Christen’s tummy tightly as she continues to mutter- I had to protect our children.

They weep beneath the covers, wrapped up in one another, as Christen tells the Marine relentlessly and quietly how much she loved her, how good Tobin was, how she did what she could in the situations she was given. She knows that Tobin listens, she can feel her hiccup against her with every word out of her mouth, and it eventually calms the turbulent Marine down enough to quiet weeps and smaller tears.

Christen’s mind clears with understanding at the annotated story from Tobin’s past, realizing in full capacity why the marine left her, how truly nightmarish their reality was overseas and how Kelley wasn’t exaggerating, why Tobin felt the need to keep her family safe. It’s as if a thick fog has lifted from her conscience, removing all traces of blame she subconsciously still deals the Marine over their past, and she can only cry harder from ever blaming Tobin for any of the actions she took, when it all turned out to be true.

Not military instinct, Christen knows.

But motherly instinct.

“You did nothing wrong.” The younger woman whispers, gripping onto Tobin’s thin cotton sweater so tightly that she can feel her heartbeat in her fingertips. “I’m so sorry for not understanding. I love you so much, Tobin. I’m so sorry for all of this, that you had to be put in this spot, that I didn’t listen to you and trust you.”

She spreads kisses over Tobin’s head, pulling back to kiss her temple, her cheekbone, the side of her mouth and her lips. Tobin kisses back gently, assuredly, squeezing her eyelids together tightly as she whimpers from Christen’s love being draped upon her like a second skin.

They stand beneath the stream of the shower together, their skin reddening from the heat of the water as the steam pours out around them, their foreheads pressed against one another as they breathe. Christen runs the loofah around Tobin’s chest and shoulders, pressing kisses to the tanned skin and solid muscles after the water washes the suds off. She scrubs Tobin’s hands and nails, cleaning off what’s left of the dried blood, kissing the inside of her wrist as the Marine watches with reverence. They wash one another’s hair, and Tobin gets on her knees on the shower floor to press her cheek to Christen’s tummy, softly pressing her swollen lips to the skin there as the water pours over her head and drops off her nose and chin, running her strong hands from the base of Christen’s abdomen to her ribs with her eyes closed.

They dress within feet from one another, as if any distance at all was a sin. And Christen leads Tobin into the kitchen hand-in-hand, seating her at the island countertop with a kiss along her hairline as she begins to make breakfast for them both. She feels Tobin’s eyes on her as she makes them both eggs and bacon, slicing fresh bananas and strawberry’s and throwing them on a plate to share.

She sets their plates and forks in front of their seats with reserved silence, moving her hand to thread through the side of the Marine’s soft brown hair, feeling her lean into her touch as her chest takes a deep breath. They eat in silence, too. And clean their plates in silence afterwards.

It wasn’t necessarily due to not having much to say, though that was part of it. Mostly, they feared that words were not enough to explain the way they felt in the moment, because words can only record, they are sometimes simply not enough to fully allow the understanding of human emotions. What was expressed between them was too large for a mere combination of letters. Too involved, and far too convoluted for explanation.

These were not surface emotions, no.

Because love is not something one can feel on the surface, so it cannot be explained as such. Love is settled between your ribs and into your bone marrow. Love is like roots driving deep into the Earth.

Love is like air. If one tried to explain air, they would likely explain an action- You breathe it. Or one would describe the object of which they feel love for- I love this thing. This thing keeps me alive. Or a combination of different gasses- Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon. It’s impossible to grasp the feeling itself and break it down with twenty-six letters, despite it being a feeling strong enough to wage and end wars.

What they are feeling is communicated through energy, the only true and concise way to explain it, it’s in the gaze of their eyes as they look across the island counter at one another, as Tobin runs the pads of her fingertips gently across the skin of Christen’s hand, pulling her knuckles up and kissing them separately.

It was a difficult journey ahead for them to handle the trauma, that fact was not lost on anyone involved.

Yet it was simple to regard this day as the equivalent of a beginning. The moment that they can finally breathe. The moment where all that’s left is the quiet and personal yet fully immersive journey of healing. Where all threats are dismantled, and the smoke is finally clear.

It feels like safety. Like smooth legs on soft sheets, and the vision of a perfectly imperfect future.

Like the smell of Georgia pines, and open windows on a Saturday morning.

Like a child’s laughter.

Like watercolor hues in the Afterglow of a sunset.

Chapter Text

“Let’s start with how you’re feeling today, Tobin. How’s life been since we last spoke?”

The sun is shining brightly inside of the small office. She notices something different this time, a tiny new succulent added to the collection of plants sat atop the therapist’s desk. The space is nice, and well-decorated, with two plush grey couches for both individuals to sit and face one another while the session takes place.

She looks back towards the therapist, he’s a slim older man with a white beard and a kind smile. The type to iron his nice clothes, the type to wear bright and colorful ties. Tobin had been skeptical at first, but Christen’s family therapist wasn’t accepting new clients at the moment, and she had to find someone else available that was also covered under her insurance, so she ended up here.

His professional website had good reviews, he had thirty years of experience in psychiatry, but what had really drawn her to choosing him instead of her other available options was his specialty in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. She knew that it was necessary, and Christen seemed content with the choice, so she’d given him a call and attended her first appointment last week. It was new to the Marine, the whole experience was, really-

“Nothing much.” Tobin starts off this appointment like the last, closed off and hesitant, until she remembers that she’s paying nearly $150 per hour to sit here.

Until she remembers the purpose of why she was sitting here.

She smiles from the corner of her mouth, shyly playing with the suede material of her favorite Chelsea boots. “Well, actually- Christen’s in her third trimester officially, now. And we’ve booked our trip to Portland to close on the house that I told you about last time.”

The middle of February had brought sunshine over Georgia, and it was the most welcome contrast from the cold and dreary ides and ends of the early year. They’d spent the last couple of weeks in a type of suspension with one another, in a place where it was getting easier to talk about early February’s hardships with every new day that had passed.

The Marine had spent a week in near silence when she was alone, when Donovan wasn’t making her stomach cramp from laughter and when Christen wasn’t checking over her like she was emotionally checking for ticks. There were no more sudden calls from Smitty. No more bottomless feelings of anxiety over anyone's safety. No more hiding her feelings or fearing that Christen was upset with her. 

It was a weird dynamic between them, the whole situation, really. How she acted like nothing was wrong when the little boy was around to how she processed her emotions as soon as he wasn’t. Both parents had fought hard to keep the situation as normal as possible around him, sharing the unspoken rule that no conversation would be held about what had taken place, and they would both pretend that things were perfectly fine when his sensitive mind and curious eyes were upon them. It wasn’t easy at first, but neither was anything else that they were going through, so they could only do the best they could.

When they were alone, it allowed them to quietly talk, to quietly heal. The tears at times seemed never ending- but neither was the relief. The morbid peace that came with the feeling of safety, of security and being low guarded. It was almost like a bomb had been dropped over the fortifications of their previous relationship, and built in its place was an impenetrable wall. One that wouldn’t falter regardless of the wind speed.

It was a feeling of hope. A feeling of peace. A feeling of the disbelieving knowledge that Tobin had shot a man dead on her family’s property in order to achieve said hope and peace. Like pulling a piece of glass from your flesh after stepping on a broken bottle- the wound was still present once the glass was removed. It needed attention, sterilization, likely gauze and ointment and care. But at least the broken shard was out- at least the cut could heal, cells multiplying to create new cells, until the pain was only a dull throb and walking no longer hurt.

Some days were easier than others.

Some days, it was like nothing had even occurred. They woke up with smiles and continued planning out their future, getting ready for the closing of the house and having conversations tinted with excitement over Amaya’s nearing arrival. Tobin would go to work with Christen’s kiss still on her lips, she’d come home to Donovan shooting nerf gun bullets at her legs as he tried not to laugh or peak his head around the corner of the hall. She’d chase him through the house with Christen laughing from the couch, warning the little boy of sharp table corners and stubbed little toes.

Some days- it felt like a raincloud found permanent purchase over the tops of one of their heads. Tobin hated these days the most, and she actively tried to keep it from happening as much as she could. These days that tarnished her memory with images of herself as a monster, as someone who’s capable of taking life from another human being at any cost to her. She spent a lot of time in quiet contemplation, something that Christen never intruded upon or asked her about. She spent a lot of time verbally getting it out as well, asking the younger woman over and over if it made her wrong to not regret what she had done that night. This was usually followed by frustration and anger over the situation, how she’d not wanted to do it, how he’d threatened her own livelihood and that of her family’s. How he’d put himself, as well as her, in that position to begin with.

Christen had her bad days, too. Though these were mostly just attributed to the pregnancy, the dull headaches and the pressure on her back from carrying a baby. The fact that she couldn’t really see her feet anymore.

She’d been a hurricane tearing through her father’s upstairs closet on the day she had to retrieve her maternity clothes. Angry that Tobin found it funny, angry that she didn’t like any of the shirts and pants she pulled out of the boxes. She’d pouted the whole drive to the mall after the Marine had attempted to resolve the situation. And the green-eyed girl had only centered herself after seeing that it wasn’t the end of the world- after finding some “really cute stuff, actually”  in the Anthropologie store.

Christen felt the weight of Jermaine’s death in her own way, though not an ounce of her grieved. She allowed space for Tobin to feel and to speak when she wanted to feel or speak about it, remembering to ask her if she was okay when she grew quiet, if she wanted to talk or if she simply wanted to lay on their bed in silence as they cuddled. There were a few mornings that Christen stumbled into Donovan’s bedroom, leaning her shoulder against his door frame as she watched Tobin kneel beside his bed, heart simultaneously breaking and swelling at the tears that leaked from the Marine’s eyes as she kept them shut and prayed over his sleeping body.

It was an odd time for them all.

The therapist nods and smiles at her, jotting a few notes down in a journal. That was the thing Tobin hated most about talking to therapists, how they had to keep everything on record. She would have felt easier if he’d just kept eye contact with her the whole time that they spoke, not once breaking the conversation to record the things she said.

“That’s really exciting, when are you guys leaving?” He looks up at her smiling, clicking the pen closed before crossing his legs.

“Next week. Then we start the moving process.”

“And are you looking forward to that?”

She tilts her head to the side, considering her words and true feelings before giving him an answer.

“Yes and no. I mean, no because we can’t just immediately move in. You know? I wish it wasn’t going to take a couple weeks to get our stuff shipped up there. I think I’m just ready for it all to be done with.” She shrugs. “We’ve already started packing up the little things, now we’re waiting on the shipping Pod to get here so we can start to pack that up. I’m grateful that dad hired professionals to unload all the boxes into the new house before we get there, I know that Christen was really worried about that. So..” She trails off, tapping her finger softly along her kneecap.

“You seem anxious about it though. Is it the moving process that’s making you nervous?”

Tobin knows why she’s nervous, but it wasn’t about the moving process, it was the question that had been hovering in the back of her mind for months now. In reality, since she was eighteen years old.

She shakes her head in refusal to his gentle assumption, “Guess I’m just nervous in general. Ready to wake up and be done with everything, you know? It feels like we’re so close to the finish line but there’s miles and miles ahead of us.”

“I understand that.” Her reassuring smile is enough for the man, who writes her response with lightning speed onto the paper before asking, his head cocked lightly to the side as he gathers his thoughts, “And so in terms of your feelings around what happened that day at the first of the month, the last time we talked you said that things were almost… cathartic, emotionally in a way… for the entire family. Are you still thinking that, or has anything changed for either you or for Christen?”

Tobin contemplates her words, gathering all of her thoughts that she wanted to share with the man, having known that they would quickly get into it since that was the majority of the reason she was here today. The clock above the office door tells her there’s 48 minutes left of their session. She scoots to the edge of the couch, uncrossing her legs in order to sit up, and begins to speak as her eyes connect to the tan carpet.

 

A little past noon, Tobin steps into the house after her appointment is finished, expecting to fix herself a sandwich to cure her grumbling stomach. Her chest feels lighter after the therapy session, which she supposes is a good sign, and she’d made an appointment for the Friday after they return from Portland. He’d asked questions that allowed her to breathe, that allowed her to consider the situation from the perspective of someone uninvolved, which reassured her that her emotions and thoughts were normal for someone who was healing such psychological wounds in the way that she was. They’d talked about her subconscious guilt she felt for the things she’d seen in the military, and how she compares those situations to the most recent one. They talked about her family, and the healthy ways that she could go about protecting them, the healthy ways that she and Christen could look past this and move forward. His advice was simple and constructive, as it should have been, and caused her to have a bounce in her legs as she took the front steps of Christen’s house.

She’d expected no one to be there, thinking that Christen was spending her usual Wednesday at work, and was happily surprised to see the woman’s car parked along the driveway when she pulled her Jeep in, figuring that the younger woman had decided to join her for lunch.

She shuts the door behind her and locks it, looking around the living room at Donovan’s various toys scattered across the couch and floor, the lone coffee mug Christen had left on the counter before leaving for work earlier that morning. Her small purse is left discarded on the counter as well, with her coat having been thrown across the back of the island table. The green-eyed girl is nowhere to be found upon first inspection, however, something that sends Tobin curiously searching the house.

“Chris?” The Marine peaks her head into their bedroom, finding the younger woman buried under the covers, Tobin’s pillow pulled tightly against her body. She notices that Christen is crying, which drives her to make a few hurried steps until she’s kneeled in front of the girl, right hand soothing along the blanket that covers Christen’s hip and thigh. “What’s wrong, pretty girl?”

Christen shakes her head, sniffling, and Tobin notices that she’d changed out of her work clothes she'd been wearing this morning and into something comfortable.

“Why are you crying?” Tobin softly tries again, looking worriedly up into Christen’s grey-green irises.

The younger woman sniffles again, wiping her nose and looking so small, before she shrugs her shoulders beneath the heavy quilt. Her lips frown as she tries not to cry again.

“I put in my two-week notice, but my boss refused it.” The woman whispers. “And I can’t fucking shave my legs.”

It takes an act of God to keep the Marine from smiling at the last part, causing her to pull both of her lips between her teeth as she fights like hell to keep the moment serious. Christen huffs and draws her eyebrows inwards, able to catch the Marine’s attempt to not laugh from a mile away due to growing up together, and she roughly turns her body away from Tobin, bringing the pillow with her as she turns.

“Go away.”

Baby,”  Tobin is unable to help the smile from pulling up on her face, rolling herself over the younger woman’s body onto the mattress. Christen is looking at her angrily. Pouting. And it’s so cute that Tobin feels her body contract in love. “I’m so sorry.” She tells her, pulling her face close to Christen’s and nuzzling their noses together, smelling Christen’s lip gloss as she does it.

“I didn’t mean to laugh.” The Marine whispers, “So did you resign then?”

Christen nods, to which Tobin shrugs her shoulders in response. “Fuck him then, honestly. He’s always been an asshole to you anyways.”

The younger woman sniffles again, “I knew it was coming.” She shrugs. “I guess I’m actually surprised that it took them this long to get to a breaking point. I doubt he’d even have given me any severance had he been the one to let me go.”

Tobin listens intently, watching Christen’s eyes move back and forth across her own as she thinks.

“I’m just sad because I’m gonna miss the kids… plus I really didn’t want to leave my teachers.” She whispers, pouting, “And my stupid legs are hairy.”

Tobin keeps her smile subdued as much as she can, craning her neck to press a light kiss to the woman’s lips, letting the lip gloss stick their lips together as she pulls back. Her hands soothe over Christen’s hips and swollen tummy softly as she kisses her again. She leans up then, pulling the covers back, exposing the younger woman’s tummy and tiny cotton shorts to the cool air of the room, watching the goosebumps cover her glowing olive skin in the process. Her hand moves to slide from Christen’s ankle and up around the back of her thigh, feeling the start of prickly hairs as they slide along her palm, though it only makes her grin grow wider. An idea floats in the back of her mind, something she always told herself she would do once they reached this moment in Christen's pregnancy.

“Tobin.” Christen glares at her. “It’s not funny.”

The Marine shakes her head, putting her hands on either side of the woman’s body to lean over her, giving Christen as serious of a look as she could muster. “I’m not laughing, darling. Hell, I’m glad you quit. It was getting close to that time, anyways.” Her look is reassuring, trying to pull the pout off her lover’s face. “Come on, come with me.”

She hops off of the side of the bed, removing the covers fully off Christen’s body as she motions for the woman to get up.

“What are you doing?” Christen grumbles, still pouting as she stands with a huff. Tobin guides her by the hand into their bathroom without answering her question, flicking on the light and shutting the door gently behind the woman’s body, noticing the curious gaze she’s being given by the green-eyed girl. She lowers the light switch from full brightness down until it’s only a dim glow.

“You’ve had a rough day.” Tobin coos, stepping into Christen’s space. She breathes from deep within her chest, pressing her torso softly into Christen’s back while placing feather light kisses to the younger woman’s shoulder. Her eyes close at the smell of Christen’s perfume mixed with the natural scent of her skin, and it only drives her smile wider. “Let me help you, okay?”

In truth, what she had in mind could help them both. The reality of the last two weeks was that they hadn’t found much energy to be physically loving, at least not in the way that passed the point of a few light kisses before sleep or gentle cuddling on the couch. Everything was just too heavy, too focused, too much stuff to do and too many things they had to talk about while they found a moment alone. Christen, despite her obvious pregnancy hormones, had not once tried to tempt Tobin into touching her, nor had she even once brought up the possibility of it. If she had felt the urge, she kept it subdued and let it pass. It was fair to say that neither of them had been left with any mental space to think about bringing their bodies together as of late.

“Do you trust me?” Christen hears the Marine at her ear, feeling Tobin’s left hand move her hair off of one shoulder and sweep it over to the next. Her grip tightens around the Marine’s solid forearm that holds her securely beneath her breasts, feeling lips trail from her shoulder to her neck as she nods.

She’d missed Tobin’s body so much lately that Christen felt like screaming, missed the otherworldly connection they shared as they shared their bodies, but she had diligently given her space- knowing that then wasn’t the time for her to reach out and touch.

Now, though- now could be different. Tobin seemed happier today. And if now was enough for her, then it was surely enough for Christen.

The kisses turn wet at the base of her ear, and her earlobe is gently taken into the warmth of Tobin’s mouth, making her hiss when it’s bitten down on. The Marine breaks from the motion with her lips parted, eyes alight with desire as she pulls Christen’s arms up into the air, beginning to tug her shirt up and over her head as slowly as she can. Her honey eyes lock on their standing figures in the reflection of the bathroom mirror, how much Amaya has grown lately, the beautiful start of tiny little stretch marks at the base of Christen’s abdomen. There’s something about it that dissipates any and all of Tobin’s thoughts, replacing any of her life’s distractions with how thankful she is to have her girls before her, how grateful she is that they’re healthy, how blessed she feels to love them.

She unclips Christen’s bra with her left hand, discarding the fabric into the laundry basket behind her before trailing her hands to cup the heavy skin, kneading her praise as she returns her soft kissing. Once the bath water is warm, and Christen’s shorts have joined her bra and underwear in the laundry pile, Tobin holds the younger woman’s hand to help her step into the tub, letting the sound of the running water drown out the sound of their breathing and the silence.

It’s a heavy, bashful, intimate moment. When Tobin shrugs off her jeans and sits along the edge of the tub in her briefs, pulling Christen’s foot to rest on her thigh. Christen watches with her lip bitten as the Marine reaches for the shaving cream, pouring a little into her left hand before lathering the foam onto the skin of Christen’s leg. It’s a bit of hesitation at first, when Tobin flips the razor around and takes her first gentle swipe through the foam, their eyes locking as Tobin silently asks for reassurance to continue.

Their cheeks tint red with a flush as she shaves, both parties watching as the foam collects onto the razor before it’s dunked beneath the water and washed off. Tobin’s arm flexes with every upward motion, and Christen watches the muscles ripple along with the Marine’s concentrated faces. The translucent rectangular window above the tub casts a glow, almost ethereal, onto the gaunt skin of the Marine’s face, making Christen catch her breath a few times as she studies her, as she sits under the warmth of the water inside of this moment.

The razor moves above her left knee gently, and Tobin studies her face as she shaves the skin of her thigh, and it’s so intimate and so tense that the corner of her mouth lifts up in bashful assurance, reminding her of the nerves that coated their bodies the first time they ever touched one another. Christen moves to the other side of the tub when Tobin finishes her left leg, feeling a strong hand wrap around her ankle to lift her right leg into the air and back down onto Tobin’s thigh, where the sudsy clear bath water has coated her skin in droplets. The Marine scoops some water into her hands to wet Christen’s leg first, pouring some more shaving cream into her palm before smearing it along her calf, resuming the sweet action with gentleness and concentration.

The younger woman sees something so pure inside of the Marine’s heart as she watches her, bottom lip bitten at the corner as she pulls the razor around her kneecap, right hand trailing behind the sharp blades to rub along the skin it makes smooth, dipping momentarily into the water with a shake to get the foam off. She watches, as Tobin begins to shave her right thigh, as tears well up outside of her tear ducts.

When the first tear drops, Christen’s thumb is there to catch it, pressing gently against the Marine’s cheekbones as it soothes. She ignores the searing heat of the moment, ignores the inevitable hardness beneath Tobin’s briefs, ignores it all to keep something gentle and pure, knowing that the action- though insanely intensified with desire, was something that Christen didn’t want to push away. She wanted whatever Tobin was feeling right now to be at the forefront.

The silent tears drop off of her chin as she shaves the inside of Christen’s thigh, overwhelmed and in love. She sniffs and clenches her jaw, clearing the knot in her throat as she listens to the younger woman’s breath hitch when the razor meets and slides along the apex of her thigh. She rinses the razor and sets it back down onto the side of the tub, scooping more water to wash away the foamy residue from the smooth olive skin that rests in her lap, feeling Christen’s thumb continue down her cheek until its smearing saltwater against her bottom lip. She kisses the pad of her thumb once, blinking more tears from her eyes as she takes her thumb between her teeth, biting gently against her knuckle as she sucks, begging Christen to act on the tension between them.

Which she does, almost immediately, hooking her thumb around the bottom row of Tobin’s teeth and dragging the Marine’s mouth, open and forward, until their lips are meeting- wet and roughly. Christen groans into the kiss, eyelids tightly shut, hands instantly latching around Tobin’s neck before threading tightly through her hair, moving her mouth to nibble and suck until the Marine’s bottom lip is swollen and red, and her tears are no longer.

Like a flame re-lit from the heat of a thousand matches, their chests heave as they part. Christen leans up fully from the tub, her fingers moving to the hem of Tobin’s grey shirt and she pulls up on it slowly, tearing it up and off the Marine’s arms and exposing her rippling torso to her eyes. They make slow work of her bra, tossing the fabric behind them as their mouths reconnect.

“You’re so beautiful.” Christen whispers into her mouth as they part from another heated kiss, letting Tobin guide her by the hand onto the bathmat with slow and careful steps.

They could have made it to the bed. They could have. But Tobin’s about to explode, straining from two weeks of not having her mouth or hands around the woman in such a way, in the ways that she needs her, and Christen couldn’t imagine protesting the intense gaze in the Marine’s eyes as she’s backed up against the counter. She gives her tongue to Tobin’s mouth, exhaling through her nose as she feels the Marine grind into her roughly, pressing her hardness into her thigh with a hitch of her breath. Christen turns against the counter and pushes her ass into Tobin’s hips, leaning onto her elbows as the heat of her skin is cooled against the granite.

In the mirror’s reflection, Tobin seems to be in agony, eyes drinking Christen’s body in like it’s water as her short nails scratch along the younger woman’s spine, her hips rolling and pressing against her ass as if she was chasing a feeling. Her briefs are shrugged down her legs, pupils dilated as she meets Christen’s own gaze in the mirror for permission, sliding the head of her cock through burning heat that feels like it’s melting her. As she pushes her head through, she grits her teeth tightly, has to fold her torso over Christen’s back with a jerk because she’s suddenly so close to the edge against her own will. The younger woman reaches for something to hold onto through the feeling of being split open, eyebrows wincing in pleasure as her hand wraps around the edge of the countertop. She feels teeth against her shoulder blade, feels Tobin press her hips down until she’s fully inside, before the woman is lifting up off of her back as she slowly slides out.

With one hand wrapped around Christen’s shoulder and the other around her hip, she pulls a groan from the younger woman’s throat at the pressure of her sliding back inside.

They set a slow pace at first, enough to let their eyes connect through their own reflections as Tobin begins to roll her hips into her. Christen feels pressure like never before, like it’s enough to keep her staggered moans at a constant from her mouth, and the ability to watch as Tobin’s lips part and her abdom