Christen just knew that this season was going to be the one.
She could feel it deep within her bones.
All year, holding a confidence in herself and her team that she was sure she’d never had before.
Chicago had gotten a new coach over the off-season who was highly motivated and tactically savvy, and signed a couple of depth players who rounded out their squad perfectly, and everything finally felt like the complete package.
Not that she hadn’t always believed they were good. They’d been formidable for the past few seasons, of course, and were on a four year playoff streak which was the longest active streak in the league.
But this year just felt different.
This year already had been different.
Christen won the World Cup with the National Team over the summer and was a major part of why the team did so well, and she’d had the month of her life in France with her teammates, family, and Tobin.
And by the time she got back to Chicago mid-July, it was like she had never missed a beat with her club team.
That was the difference.
The Red Stars were in playoff position from start to finish of the regular season, never dropping out of the top four, and they won the Supporters Shield on the back of a nine game winning streak that lasted the latter half of summer and into early fall.
The best part was, Christen, for once, didn’t have to do all the work. Her team kept up while she was away and made it a seamless transition for the National Team players to hop right back into the lineup once they were back.
They were clicking as a unit and were running on all cylinders and dominating the league like they always knew they could.
Of course, it didn’t hurt to have someone as talented as Christen leading them the whole way.
She was carrying the best form of her career into the playoffs and she couldn’t help but feel positive about everything.
Things had never aligned this perfectly before.
So she couldn’t help but let the validation of all their hard work and belief finally sink in as she stood by her locker covered in champagne while she scrolled through the congratulatory messages on her phone after the Championship game.
Because Chicago had just won the NWSL Title for the first time ever, at Providence Park in Portland.
Away from all but their most die-hard home fans, due to it being a predetermined location, but in front of a packed stadium nonetheless.
Christen celebrated with her team and helped lift the trophy before her Mom and Dad and sisters made it onto the field to celebrate some more, and here she was finally getting to her phone an hour later, missing just one person in all of her excitement.
She laughed out loud when she found Tobin’s text string and read through it, giving her basically a play by play recap of what Tobin watched on TV while Christen was playing.
Small texts like:
Ohhhh that one was so close! You got this!!
And a couple plays later,
Damn you, crossbar :(
And then several minutes after that,
Hell yeah, that’s my girlfriend!!!!!!
Which Christen assumed came in after she scored the opening goal of the game just before halftime.
And the final one that made her laugh a little harder,
Didn’t think you could get any hotter but seeing you hold that MVP trophy has proved me wrong again :)
They all made Christen smile more than she already was.
Unfortunately, Tobin was stuck at home in Chicago this weekend, because nine months ago she was hired to teach at a weekend-long photography seminar for new professionals that just happened to fall on this weekend, and she couldn’t get out of it.
She had signed on for the gig long before she knew the NWSL playoff schedule, and even though she was more than a little disappointed to miss Christen’s big game, it was also a big opportunity for her own career that she didn’t want to sacrifice.
And that’s just how they were as a couple.
They were fast approaching two years of officially being together and things were more than great in their relationship. They spent a few nights a week together but still kept their own places, for no real reason other than not wanting to fix what wasn’t broken.
They spent time together every chance they could, but didn’t stress about it when it wasn’t going to work out, maintaining that independence they both valued in their lives before they ever even met each other.
They were in love, and they were best friends, all the while still being their own person first.
And the best part about it was that they both knew they were more than lucky to have found someone who fit perfectly into their own crazy lives without having to change a thing.
At the end of the day, all that mattered to them both was that they were supportive of each other in every way, even if it couldn’t be in person.
So Christen was understanding and even more encouraging when Tobin told her she didn’t want to cancel her teaching seminar, the same way that Tobin made sure to watch every last minute of the game before her 4:00 session started and she had to go back to work.
They’d have plenty of time to celebrate together once Christen landed back in Chicago and ushered in the off-season in the most deserving fashion.
But just for a moment, Christen was hoping to hear Tobin’s voice.
She clicked out of her texts and opened her phone app, thinking she’d try to reach Tobin before she got tied up again, and just as quickly noticed a voicemail already waiting from her instead.
Christen figured that meant Tobin was indeed busy again, so instead of ignoring the message in favor of trying to call, she pressed play on the voicemail and held the phone up to her ear.
Of course Tobin knew exactly what Christen would want in this moment, she always did.
“Weeeee are the championssss my frienddddd,” Tobin’s voice sang out first, just like Queen once had - although not quite as well - before she broke into an easy chuckle and continued talking in a normal but overly excited voice.
“Chris!! You guys did it! I knew you would! Congratulations! I can’t wait for you to get home so I can celebrate with you. I’m seriously so proud of you and I just wanted to call and make sure you knew that. You make me proud every day… I gotta start my next session in a few minutes here but I’ll call you as soon as I’m done tonight so we can actually talk. Now go party your ass off, you all deserve it! Alright, I love you...”
Christen pulled the phone away from her ear with another smile and saved the voice message, knowing she’d want to listen to it again in the future so she could laugh at Tobin’s goofiness whenever she wanted.
For now though, she clicked back into her texts and sent an easy reply to Tobin.
She then dropped her phone back into her gym bag, knowing they’d talk when they could, before she was turning around to grab another bottle of champagne to continue the celebration with her teammates.
Tobin and Morena were parked and waiting in the loading zone at O’Hare when the team landed in Chicago the next morning.
They had gotten there ten minutes early and had to circle around a few different times after the airport cop would shoo them away with a stern “keep it moving” warning each time she’d try and wait, but Tobin timed it perfectly on their fourth pass so that she could park and hop out just in time to see Christen coming out of the arrival doors in front of the Delta counter.
Christen was pulling her suitcase behind herself with a giant smile on her face, looking well past tired from the celebrations the night before and the teams unfortunately early flight, but she was glowing all the same.
Tobin pushed herself up from where she was leaning against the passenger side door once Christen got close and met her the rest of the way with a quick jog for a few steps, wrapping her arms low around Christen’s butt and lifting her high into the air, spinning her around quickly as she started to yell out loudly.
“Everyone check it out! It’s the newest NWSL Champion and MVP! This girl right here is the best soccer player in the world!”
“Shhhh!!!” Christen was already giggling with her arms wrapped around Tobin’s shoulders for balance, begging her to stop with the embarrassing shouting that was actually causing people to look over at them.
“Nope! I’m going to keep shouting it from the rooftops because I’m so proud! Look at my Champion girlfriend right here! She’s hot and bad ass and so damn talented!” Tobin continued to yell loudly until Christen freed one arm and reached down to cover Tobin’s mouth with her hand, muffling her voice just enough.
They were both laughing as Tobin slowly set Christen back down and pulled her hand off of her mouth with a “I’ll only stop if you kiss me” before Christen was grabbing Tobin’s cheeks quickly and pressing a long kiss to her lips.
They pulled back from each other and then hugged tightly for a long moment, rocking back and forth with their arms wrapped around each other, just enjoying their closeness for a minute.
Finally Christen dropped her arms from around Tobin’s shoulders and stood back enough that they could actually look at each other.
“Hey, Champ,” Tobin smiled happily. “Welcome home.”
“Thanks,” Christen laughed again and poked at Tobin’s stomach, “Geez, you were loud enough about it… Did you miss me or what?”
“What, that?” Tobin asked teasingly, “That wasn’t even that loud. I’m just getting warmed up, it’s still early.”
Christen rolled her eyes playfully, “Uh oh, how much coffee have you had?”
“Just one cup! I brought you one, too, from our favorite spot.”
“Ahh, yes, my lifesaver.” Christen sighed happily.
“Hop in, I’ll get your bag,” Tobin grinned, “And look who’s with.. She’s been waiting for you…”
“Mo!” Christen gasped as she actually looked into the passenger side window of Tobin’s car and noticed Morena up on her hind legs with her nose pressed to the glass, wagging her tail happily at the sight of Christen.
She wasted no time pulling open the door and hopping in, shutting it again quickly as Morena climbed onto her lap and started to lick all over her face excitedly.
Tobin got Christen’s suitcase loaded into the back end and then came around to the driver’s side door to climb in, too.
“I’m so glad you brought her with,” Christen cooed as she hugged her dog tightly, pressing kisses to the top of her head in between words. “I missed my baby girl.”
Tobin laughed again at Christen’s usual baby voice that was only reserved for Morena and reached out to pat the dogs head along with her. “Of course, I had to bring her.”
“Cause she’s coming with us,” Tobin grinned as she reached for her seat belt and pulled it on.
“Oh, and where is it we’ll be going?”
“Maybe it’s a surprise?”
“Tobs…” Christen groaned. “I’m exhausted and my mind feels like jelly from barely getting an hour of sleep last night, I can’t do goofs right now. I just want my bed.”
“Here,” Tobin reached for the other cup of coffee in her cup holder and handed it over to Christen, trying to quiet her protests.“Have some coffee, don’t you go gettin’ all pouty on me already.”
“You love it when I pout.” Christen quipped back and she took the coffee out of Tobin’s hand and took a drink immediately.
“Your pouty face is cute but it’s the words you say when you pout that I don’t love.” She smiled again teasingly. “They just go on and on and on…”
Christen frowned sarcastically again until Tobin stopped talking and reached out to run her hand through Christen’s hair.
“What are we doing?” Christen wondered a second time. “Let’s drive away from this airport, I don’t want to see another one of these for at least a month. Are you taking me home or to your house? ”
“Neither..?” Tobin admitted although it almost sounded like a question.
“Then where?” Christen asked softly.
“Well… how would you feel about a little road trip? Just a short one.”
“Right now?” Christen asked with tired skepticism. “I literally just landed five minutes ago…”
“I know but I was just thinking--”
“Oh, no, not again...” Christen interrupted her jokingly.
Tobin rolled her eyes and ignored her.
“Remember last year after the championship game you came back all sad and upset and when I picked you up you wanted to be anywhere but here, so we just drove? And then we ended up finding that cool little town in Michigan with that little cottage that we stayed in a for couple days?”
“Of course I remember.” Christen responded softly.
“And the one cottage down the street from that, that was even cuter and closer to the lake, and we said if we ever went back we’d want to rent that one instead? Well, I rented that one for us and thought that it wouldn’t hurt to go back and have a couple days of alone time. I thought maybe we could make some cooler memories there since you were so bummed last year. I think it’d be a great place to see you smile and Morena was just so cute flopping through all those leaves over there and--”
Tobin’s sentence was cut off again, this time from the way Christen leaned in and kissed her quickly, until they were both smiling against each others lips.
They pulled back and looked at each other silently for a second before Tobin could finish, “So, how would you feel about that?”
“Yeah, I’d feel great about that.” Christen hummed quietly as she leaned back in her seat like it was no big deal.
Tobin just started to laugh again, “Okay, good…”
“Alright then,” Christen agreed.
“Then let’s go.” Tobin hummed.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
Tobin reached for the shifter and was about to put her car in drive until she turned to look at Christen again, “Put your seat belt on.”
“Sorry. Got it!” Christen laughed as she reached back and tugged her seat belt across her chest and buckled it in quickly.
“Safety first, precious cargo.” Tobin winked as she put her blinker on and pulled away from the curb.
They had barely made it out of the airport and were merging onto the freeway when Christen reached out and gave Tobin’s thigh a soft squeeze, waiting for her to look over before she smiled lovingly.
It took until the following evening before Christen started to feel like she had fully caught up on her sleep and was a real and complete person again.
They slept late into the morning and were slow about getting ready for the day, taking their time to enjoy some good coffee by the fireplace in their cute little cottage, before they finally decided to grab lunch in town and then take a drive and do some exploring.
They drove down abandoned country roads chasing the bright colors of Autumn, pulling over every now and then so Tobin could take photos of the all-surrounding fall foliage; and later stopped at an apple orchard they came upon, spending the afternoon walking Morena up and down rows of apple trees, and eating caramel apples and drinking hot cider, and making out behind trees whose leaves had yet to fall.
And when they got too chilly from the late afternoon air, they ended up at a brewery in what felt like the middle of nowhere, playing a game of Scrabble as they sipped on craft beers inside of a remodeled old red barn.
After all, it wasn’t a day out for them if they couldn’t compete against each other in some way or another.
Tobin had just played the word Qi on a triple letter score, for 31 points she might add, when she downed the last sip of her first beer and then stood up from the handcrafted picnic table where they were seated.
“I’ll get us another round while you let that play sink in,” She smiled teasingly at Christen, who was already pulling out her phone to google whether ‘Qi’ was actually a word or not.
“Get me something different, please.” Christen requested without taking her eyes off of her phone.
Tobin gave her shoulder a squeeze as she headed in the direction of the bar, letting her know she’d heard her, and walked off without another word.
Once Christen had upsettingly discovered Tobin’s play was a good one, she dropped her phone back to the table and focused back on her letters, trying to find her next best move.
After a minute, she had come up with Jive on a double word play, for 28 points, when she finally lifted her head again to see where the heck Tobin was.
Because she couldn’t play until Tobin got back, as part of the personal rules they had come up with after one particularly humoring argument about cheating at board games against each other.
She turned around and spotted Tobin with one elbow leaning against the bar top, smiling as a cute young bartender first filled a glass of beer and then a separate beer flight, eyeing Tobin up the whole time as she worked.
The bartender was laying it on thick, Christen could tell, even from the distance she was at, and even though it was obvious to Christen that Tobin was thoroughly uninterested, she was still being nice about it anyway.
That’s just the kind of person Tobin was.
Christen just shook her head with a laugh as she bent down to pet Morena who had been napping at their feet under the table.
The dog had only been popping her head up every so often when Tobin would hand her a few kernels of popcorn from the basket on the table, and was otherwise being the perfect third wheel, just like she always was.
A moment later Tobin was finally back, setting her beer down in front of her and the flight to the side of the Scrabble board for both of them to reach.
Christen just grinned at her amusedly once Tobin was sitting across from her again, “Took ya long enough, I wasn’t sure if you were coming back…”
“I’m back,” Tobin smiled in return, waiting to see what kind of sarcastic comment was surely coming next, knowing how these things usually went between them.
“Did she at least get your number?”
“Nah,” Tobin started to laugh softly, “Don’t worry though, I let her down easy.”
“Poor girl.” Christen hummed back playfully.
“But I did score us this free flight of beer,” Tobin pointed to it as if she were showing it off, and then slid it closer to Christen. “For you, my lady.”
“Nice.” Christen chuckled as she held her hand up for a high-five, waiting as Tobin slapped her hand from across the table.
They both laughed and took a sip of their beers and then Tobin looked down at the Scrabble board again, “Alright, you’re up, you got a play?”
“Yep,” Christen smiled confidently, grabbing her letters as she spelled out J-I-V-E, counting out loud for Tobin to write down her score, “And that’s a triple letter J, which makes it 28 points.”
“28! Damn,” Tobin jotted Christen’s score next to her name on the score sheet, “That puts you back in the lead by six.”
“Thank you very much.” Christen grinned with her tongue between her teeth.
“It’s time for me to get serious.” Tobin hummed before she let out a concentrated breath while she drew her new letters.
She took a minute to rearrange her tiles a few times, trying to figure out the best word to play until she was laying down P-U-M-P-K-I-N across a double letter score for 20 points.
“Pumpkin? No!” Christen grumbled, “I was gonna play off that U on my next turn.”
“Awww, I’m sorry...” Tobin said way too sarcastically as she wrote down her score and then looked back up across the table. “Oh by the way, speaking of pumpkin, what are we doing for Thanksgiving? Are we spending it together?”
Christen was in the middle of taking another sip of beer, answering once she swallowed, “I guess I haven’t thought about it much... But yeah, I’d like to spend it with you... What were you thinking?”
“Well my mom called while you were still sleeping this morning and wanted to know the same thing. She said they’re all doing it at their house, for sure Perry and her family are going and they obviously invited us too. Both of us.”
Christen smiled at the thought of Tobin’s wonderful mother, “In New Jersey? That’d be really fun.”
“Yeah, I mean I was thinking I’d try to go either way, even if you can’t. I just feel like I’ve been missing them a lot lately,” Tobin admitted, “But it’d be nice to get home for a long weekend with you.”
“So let's go to your Mom and Dad’s then.” Christen shrugged like it was an easy decision.
“What about your parents?”
“I guess they should’ve asked us first.” Christen hummed in response. “I don’t even know their plans yet, and plus, I just saw them this past weekend and we’ll see them at Christmas either way.”
“Alright,” Tobin nodded with a big smile, “Sweet, that’ll be fun. I’m excited.”
“Me too, I love your parents house.” Christen agreed as she focused back on her Scrabble pieces, “Now stop distracting me with planning just because you know you’re about to lose this game.”
Tobin laughed and then went quiet so Christen could concentrate, picking her phone up from the table to text her mom what they had just decided, and then turned her focus back to the game to get ready for her next play, too.
By the end of it, Christen did end up winning, and Tobin couldn’t help but know that was coming, given the year that Christen’d had.
She’d been winning everything in sight for a long time now and Tobin was just enjoying being along for the ride.
She was reminded of that again now as she looked up at Christen from across the table and marveled at the way she was getting extra smiley like she always got after two beers, and how her cheeks were slightly rosy, both from the alcohol and warm air of the brewery.
Everything about it just made Tobin happy.
She finished her second beer and then switched to water, and Christen finished the beer flight and then decided to get one more, her favorite one of the group, as they switched from Scrabble to a half-hearted game of Guess Who?.
That game, which Christen claimed to have also won, was over before Tobin even knew that they were finished.
Because suddenly Christen was knocking all of their remaining people over and then reaching across the table to grab Tobin’s hand. “Are you ready to take me home?”
“Sure, I’m ready.” Tobin nodded as she let her eyes go from holding Christen’s gaze, down her body slowly and then back up, just in time to catch that familiar sparkle in Christen’s eye.
“Yeah?” Christen turned around playfully to look at the bartender one more time, "You sure you don’t wanna take her home instead?”
“More than sure.” Tobin grinned softly, “I mean, I think this date is going pretty well between us, don’t you think? Maybe we should see where else the night will lead...”
And like usual, Christen never made it that easy on her.
“Oh, was this a date?” She wondered, trying to sound as serious as she could.
Forcing Tobin to try and keep up with her quick playfulness.
Tobin just busted out laughing instead of saying anything else, shaking her head and pulling her hand away from Christen’s to stand up.
“I guess not.” She hummed as she put her coat on slowly, taking her time to slide both arms in and then zip it up before she was reaching out for Christen’s hand again and pulling her girlfriend up from the table, too.
“But date night or not, that’s never stopped me from charming the pants off of you before…”
Christen laughed easily and stepped into Tobin’s space, angling her head just right until she was close enough to know that Tobin couldn’t resist kissing her.
And once again, she was right.
They let their lips slot together for one long moment before Christen was pulling back just enough with that same sparkle in her eye.
“Yeah, let’s go take our pants off.”
Christen was the first one to open her eyes the next morning, being pulled out of her slumber from the brightness that was surrounding them in their little cottage bedroom, thanks to the way the sun was shining directly into the room through the decorative cream-colored curtains on the windows.
The curtains were practically see-through in a way that made Christen wonder what the point of them at all was, but she also felt so cozy with how warm the sun was making the room that she couldn’t even be upset about being awake already.
She didn’t even bother to glance at the clock on the nightstand and instead rolled over towards the middle of the bed, searching for Tobin after they’d naturally separated in the middle of the night, from where they’d started out cuddling after they had sex when they got home.
She let one eye peek open against the brightness and lifted her head slowly, smiling tiredly as she saw what was in front of her.
Tobin was still sound asleep, passed out on her back with one arm above her head on the pillow, and the covers pulled down low so they were just covering her hips and leaving the rest of her naked body exposed to the open air of the bedroom.
Morena was lying on the opposite side of her, snuggled into Tobin with her head resting on Tobin’s stomach, making Christen realize that Tobin must have gotten out of bed and let the dog into the room after she was already asleep last night.
She melted at the sight of them and instantly wanted to be a part of their cuddle session in the worst way possible, inching her way towards them until she could rest her head on Tobin’s stomach too, before she was pressing a kiss to Morena’s snout right in front of her.
Christen’s extra weight made Tobin stir a little before Christen was looking up at her and then pressing a kiss to her abs as well.
“Mmmm,” Tobin mumbled out without opening her eyes, adjusting herself just slightly underneath them at the feeling of Christen’s kiss.
Once Tobin had moved, Morena woke up too, swiping a lick across Christen’s forehead as soon as she had her eyes open, and then letting out a huff as she readjusted enough that she was laying her head back down on the mattress on the edge of the bed.
Christen petted Morena once more and then sat up enough so she could move on top of Tobin, swinging her leg over Tobin’s hips and straddling her completely before she leaned down and nuzzled into Tobin’s neck with her face.
“Mmmm,” Tobin moaned again as her arms came up to wrap around Christen’s back, pulling her girlfriend even closer as she cleared her throat and rasped out a low, “Hi..”
“Hi,” Christen whispered back before pressing a kiss to Tobin’s jaw.
“Why are we awake?” Tobin wondered with her hands rubbing patterns back and forth across Christen’s bare back.
“Cause I want cuddles,” Christen hummed softly as she lifted her face a little so it was close to Tobin’s ear.
Tobin couldn’t help but smile with her eyes still closed, “You’re so needy in the mornings,” she teased as her hands moved lower to find Christen’s ass.
Christen sat up just slightly as Tobin’s strong hands cupped her ass firmly, “You love me in the mornings.”
Tobin could only breathe a laugh through her nose, “Yeah…” She admitted softly before she finally opened her eyes.
Christen’s gorgeous self struck Tobin again immediately, just like she usually did, with her hair a little messy from sleep and her nakedness on display at Tobin’s mercy, and all Tobin could do was say it again.
“I love you.” She mumbled out quietly, letting her hands run up Christen’s back again.
“I love you too.” Christen returned as she leaned back down and pressed a kiss to Tobin’s lips.
They were really only ever this soft with each other in the mornings, and neither of them would probably ever admit how much they both enjoyed these little moments together, but still, they loved them all the same.
It was just how they were.
Christen snuggled her face back into Tobin’s neck again and they laid there quietly for a moment until Christen mumbled again, “Do we have to drive home today?”
Which made Tobin laugh sleepily, “Yeah, we do. Some of us have to work tomorrow, unfortunately.”
“Not me and Morena…” Christen smiled as she sat up again to look down at Tobin’s face.
“Well aren’t you two lucky…”
Christen reached around and grabbed Tobin’s hands that were on her back and then interlocked their fingers together on both hands before she leaned forward and pinned Tobin’s arms above her head on the mattress.
“The luckiest.” She hummed as she started to grind her hips just slightly down into Tobin’s.
Tobin smiled sensually as she lifted her hips off the bed in return, searching for more friction from her girlfriend’s center at the same time.
They kissed like that for a minute until Tobin got impatient, pushing herself up so she was sitting upright and making Christen lean back with her, before she grabbed Christen by the hips and flipped them over.
She settled herself in between Christen’s legs, suddenly fully awake now, before she was kissing down Christen’s neck with purpose, knowing that even if they did have to leave today, that didn’t mean they couldn’t enjoy each other again first.
It was three weeks later when Christen got a phone call that felt completely out of the blue.
She and Tobin were on their way to dinner in Wicker Park when her phone rang from inside her winter coat pocket, surprising her immensely when she pulled it out and saw who was calling.
Truthfully, she’d been so far into off-season mode that she hadn’t even thought about soccer in any capacity since her season-ending exit interview a week after the Championship game.
She was giving her brain the time it needed to decompress from the exhausting year she’d had and was taking time to reset herself before the upcoming holidays.
And honestly, she was loving it.
She would spend her mornings taking Morena on walks around the city, stopping to try different brunch spots that she’d had on her list for far too long, and then would find errands to run for the rest of the day, or stop by Tobin’s studio with an afternoon cup of coffee for her, or catch up with friends that she’d seen far too little of during her extra busy year.
So when she pulled her phone out of her pocket and saw that it was the new US Team GM, Kate, calling, her eyes went wide.
She was just about the last person Christen would have expected on this mid-November evening.
They were just getting to the restaurant for their 6:00 reservation, but Christen knew she’d be too anxious about it for the rest of the night if she didn’t just find out now why she was calling.
She told Tobin to head inside and check in with the hostess and then slid her answer button to take the call while standing outside on the sidewalk, trying to hide against the wall of the building just slightly to block out the colder air that was starting to whip around this time of year.
The call only lasted a minute before Christen was joining Tobin inside again and explaining what it was about.
“Kate asked if I could meet with her and my coach tomorrow at the US Soccer office,” Christen answered her before Tobin even had to ask, not bothering to delay it when she knew Tobin would be curious.
“Oh really, what does she want to talk to you about?” Tobin wondered back as she stood with her hands in her pockets as they waited to be seated.
“She didn’t say,” Christen laughed almost nervously, “She said she wanted to explain in person and she’s only in Chicago until the end of the week, so she was hoping I could make it work.”
“Hmm..” Tobin shrugged, “Well, I guess you’ll find out tomorrow…”
“I hope it’s nothing bad…” Christen said again, “...Maybe they’re dropping me from the National Team?”
“Oh, stop.” Tobin rolled her eyes and wrapped her arm around Christen’s waist to pull her in. “You’re the best player on the team, they’re definitely not dropping you.”
She pressed a kiss to Christen’s temple and let the conversation die out as they both turned to see the hostess approaching, ready to lead them to their newly opened table.
If Christen thought she was surprised the night before by the randomness of Kate’s phone call, then she would have to say she was actually gobsmacked by the end of the meeting the following day.
She met with Kate just after lunch, and Christen’s club coach was there as well, and after a few minutes of small talk to catch up, it didn’t take long for them to get to the point of why they were asking Christen to meet with them.
LAFC was joining the league.
With the backing of all of their men’s side owners.
And the one person who they wanted to build the team around first, was Christen.
The hometown girl who had always been vocal about just how much she loved playing in front of her family and friends, any time the National Team was in Los Angeles.
Mia wanted her, specifically, and was willing to offer up plenty to Chicago in order to make it happen.
Because LAFC believed Christen would be the best First Signing they could make, from both a playing and promotional standpoint.
But at the end of the day, all three sides, including US Soccer and Chicago’s front office, wanted to let Christen be the one to say yes or no to the offer.
Kate talked in length about how she knew Christen had been patient and bided her time in the NWSL, even when other big name players in the league had always gotten what they wanted first, and was now giving her the opportunity to get to go play in front of her hometown, like she’s always talked about wanting to.
Her coach talked about how they would love for her to stay in Chicago, and how they would be hard-pressed to replace her both on the field and in the locker room, but would also be willing to allow it if it was something Christen felt passionately about. He wanted to do right by her after all she had done for the team.
There was a first overall pick and a lot of allocation money being offered in exchange and Chicago felt like they could make good use of both, if Christen really wanted to leave.
So it was all a lot to process.
Christen’s eyes just about popped out of her head when Kate said it the first time, because as far as anyone knew, LAFC was still a couple years away from making their women’s team a reality.
But after the way the World Cup went, they were suddenly feeling like now was the time to capitalize, and plans were moving quickly.
The team announcement was going to be made by the league within the first week of December, and LA hoped to unveil their first marquee player signing by the end of January, and now they just needed to know if that player was going to be Christen or not.
Her head was spinning, to say the least.
Of course they told her to take her time making a decision, knowing that this wasn’t something she could or should decide on overnight. All they asked was that she talk with her family and her agent and anyone else important in her life, and make a decision about what would be best for her as a person first.
They gave her until the end of the year, promising to table all discussions until the first week of January, unless Christen had any specific questions she needed answered, or had come to a decision.
They also told her that LAFC would love to have her visit their facilities out in LA, and meet with the front office staff, to let her really get a feel for what it would be like to join their club.
All she had to do was say when.
So when she walked out of US Soccer’s Headquarters an hour and a half later, she felt just about as caught off guard as she ever had in her life, hardly even believing that the whole conversation had just happened.
The only person she wanted to talk to about it first was Tobin.
The problem with that was that it was Wednesday, and they usually didn’t see each other on Wednesday’s.
Tobin, and a few of her old coworkers turned friends, had a standing Happy Hour date on Wednesday afternoons that usually lasted well past dinner time; and Christen had hot yoga on Wednesday nights that usually exhausted her enough that she went right home and passed out afterwards.
So most of the time they just did their own thing on Wednesday’s and that was that.
But Christen just knew this couldn’t wait. She’d never be able to keep it to herself until she saw Tobin tomorrow. She needed Tobin to help her digest it all.
She pulled out her phone as she walked down the block and sent Tobin a text, hoping that she would check her phone as some point during Happy Hour, even if she wasn’t always the best at keeping track of it when she was out doing things.
Hey, I’m skipping yoga tonight. I know you’re at HH but will you please come over after?
It took about fifteen minutes for Tobin to reply, but it settled Christen as soon as her response came through.
Hey, sure. We might be like another hour here. Just ordered food. Everything okay?
Christen responded almost immediately, making sure not to worry her girlfriend.
Yeah, everything is fine. Just have some news I wanna tell you about in person. Have fun with your friends and text me on your way.
Surprisingly enough, Tobin sent another reply within seconds.
Sounds good. I’ve actually got news too. See ya in a bit.
She let out a breath before dropping her phone into her purse and continuing her walk towards home.
Christen huffed as Tobin knocked on her apartment door later that night, pushing herself off the couch to answer it while wondering why Tobin hadn’t just letting herself in like she usually does.
Christen opened the door and was about to ask her if she’d lost her keys when Tobin beat her to speaking.
“One booty call, at your service. Special delivery for Christen Press.” She wiggled her eyebrows as she leaned coolly against the door frame, trying to make Christen laugh.
It worked like a charm as Christen rolled her eyes but couldn’t help the chuckle that bubbled out of her throat at the same time. “Oh my god, you’re such a loser sometimes.”
Christen could tell Tobin’s cheeks were the rosy ones this time, definitely from the drinks she’d had at happy hour, watching as her girlfriend stepped into her apartment and pushed the door shut behind herself.
She was holding a bottle of wine in her left hand, which she set on the dining room table and then unzipped her coat and took it off, hanging it up on Christen’s coat rack in the entryway before she turned to face her again.
“What’d you do, skip hot yoga in favor of Hot Tobin?” She smiled cheekily again.
“Please stop.” Christen requested dryly.
Tobin just ignored her and stepped into her space instead.
“I mean, the only time we see each other on Wednesday’s is when you want sex.” She explained as she ran her hand lovingly through Christen’s hair.
“That was literally one time.” Christen pointed out, while letting her arms wrap around Tobin’s waist all the same.
“Yeah and we got superrr sweaty,” Tobin drawled out slowly, “I’m sure you burned way more calories with me than you woulda at class. Don’t worry, I came ready to sweat tonight, too.”
They just looked at each other for a long moment, holding smiles on their faces as they held each other close.
And then Tobin softened completely and started to laugh quietly. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Christen murmured out in return, finally leaning in to kiss Tobin’s lips once. “Why are you so smiley tonight?”
“Oh!” Tobin eyes lit up a little more, “Because my boss got a letter today from the Museum of Contemporary Photography and they want permission to display one of my images in their new CityScape exhibit that’s coming up. Actually, it’s one of the photos I took in Lyon this summer while we were there. They found it on our company website and loved it.”
“Are you serious?” Christen’s smile went wide at what Tobin had just said.
“Yeah, and they sent a care package to the studio today along with the request, which is where that bottle of wine came from.” She pointed at the table again, “I figured we could share it tonight to celebrate.”
“Aww, that’s awesome, Tob,” Christen gave her hips a squeeze. “Tell me all about it.”
“Yeah it’s pretty cool.” Tobin grinned proudly, “They actually have this annual Gala thing coming up called DarkRoom; it’s an auction benefit to raise money for college arts programs, and then at the end of the night they unveil the new exhibit to the public, and it will be on display for six weeks.”
“Wow, so you’ll get to be a part of the Gala?”
“Yeah,” Tobin nodded, “I’m supposed to go and be there to talk to people about my portfolio and stuff. It’s kind of a networking thing, too. But I get a plus one for dinner so I’d love it if you could make it work and be my hot date. My boss went last year and she said it was fun.”
“Of course I’ll be your date.” Christen smiled happily, “When is it?”
“December 18th. So kinda right before Christmas, but I figured we’d both still be around.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Christen hummed again, “I’m really proud of you.”
“Thanks, Chris.” Tobin grinned as she wrapped her arm around Christen’s shoulders.
“I can’t wait to see your work hanging up in another place. You’re taking over the city.” Christen gushed as she leaned in slowly and pressed her lips to Tobin’s again.
They shared several short kisses in a row before Christen was finally letting her go, slowly walking back towards the couch to sit back down where she’d been half paying attention to the TV before Tobin arrived.
Tobin made sure to greet Morena, too, before she flopped down onto the couch close to Christen and let her arm slink over the back of the couch behind her girlfriend’s shoulders.
“So, what’s up? How’d the meeting go today?”
Christen leaned into Tobin and let her hand rest on her thigh so they were cuddled together before she turned her head and answered her.
“It was surprising…” Christen started with, “And not at all what I was expecting it to be about.”
“So they’re not cutting you from the team?” Tobin asked jokingly, giving Christen a playful look as she said it since that was what Christen had mentioned the night before.
And Christen just wanted to kiss her again.
Because this was just so Tobin.
Not nervous or accusatory in the slightest that Christen all but panic-texted her to come over on a night when they usually wouldn’t have hung out, and being patient enough to make sure the mood between them was light and playful, even though Christen was sure Tobin expected that their conversation was going to be about something important, based on the ask.
She was once again being exactly what Christen needed in the moment, just like she always was.
“No, they’re not cutting me. Not yet, at least..” Christen smiled lightly, “It’s actually crazier than that…”
Tobin tilted her head up in question, “What is it?”
Christen paused for a moment as she felt a rush of butterflies in her stomach, trying to think of the best way to phrase it.
“Well, they told me LA is getting a women’s team.”
“Really..” Tobin raised her eyebrows in surprise. “That’s cool…”
“Yeah…” Christen nodded softly.
She then took a breath and rotated herself so she was sitting completely facing Tobin, crossing her legs underneath herself and grabbing Tobin’s hand with hers again, before she continued.
“Apparently LA is trying to work out a deal with Chicago to acquire my rights. They want me to be their first signing as, like, their marquee player to build the inaugural team around. Kate says that they’re leaving the decision up to me on if I want to go, but it’s something that both teams are willing to work towards, if I want it.”
“Wow.” Tobin’s eyes went wide quickly as she was clearly caught off guard by this new information.
“Yeah..” Christen whispered again.
Tobin looked down at their hands for a moment as Christen watched her face for a reaction, and she could tell instantly that whatever buzz Tobin had left over from happy hour was immediately gone, thanks to what Christen had just said.
Tobin sat silently for a second as she composed herself and then looked up again, giving Christen a soft, loving smile.
And Christen couldn’t help but frown in return, knowing that Tobin had just pushed down her own emotions in order to be the supportive girlfriend that she always was.
Christen had to look away again before she started to feel guilty, even though she knew that’s not what Tobin wanted her to feel.
She let her eyes focus on the living room carpet for a long moment as they sat there quietly like they were reflecting on what Christen had just shared.
“Chris…” Tobin hummed out softly after a beat, finally having to ask for Christen’s attention again.
She waited until Christen met her eyes and then smiled softly once more, “That’s huge, babe… of course they want you. They’d be crazy not to.”
“Tob …” Christen whined as she dropped her forehead to Tobin’s shoulder, unsure of what to say in response to that.
“What?” Tobin asked softly, letting her head lean against Christen’s so their faces were practically touching.
“Stop being so perfect about this already like I knew you would be... “ Christen pretended to grumble, “Why can’t you just say to me ‘hell no, you're not going anywhere ’ so that I don’t even have to think about this…”
Tobin wrapped her arm around Christen’s shoulders and pulled her a little closer, unable to keep herself from laughing just slightly at Christen’s dramatics.
“You know I would never do that.”
They went quiet for a moment again and Christen finally lifted her head to look Tobin in the eyes, offering her a small smile once they made eye contact.
“I think we need some of that wine.” She murmured then as Tobin nodded in agreement.
She kissed Tobin’s cheek quickly and then got up from the couch and made her way towards the table to grab the bottle of wine Tobin had brought, disappearing around the corner into the kitchen to grab the wine opener.
She popped the cork and poured two glasses and then rounded the corner back towards the living room, spotting Tobin again just as she was running her hands down her face and letting out a long sigh, as if she were still trying to compose herself in private.
She dropped her hands back to her lap and then looked to her right, noticing that Christen had entered the room again before she was expecting her to.
Tobin tried to smile, hoping Christen hadn’t noticed, but shrugged again silently when Christen’s soft eyes let her know she had.
“You okay?” Christen wondered as she set both glasses of wine on the coffee table in front of them.
“Yeah,” Tobin hummed, “Just surprised. I wasn’t expecting this tonight, I guess.”
“Neither was I.” Christen agreed. “I feel the same way you do.”
She sat down on the couch again, so close to Tobin that her leg was laid over top of her thigh, and rested her hand on Tobin’s lap for comfort.
Tobin laced her fingers with Christen’s and then looked at her again, “Do you want to be traded to LA?” She asked softly, trying to keep her voice level.
“I have no idea,” Christen admitted honestly. “I guess my gut reaction would be to say no, but I mean, at one point in my life, a team in LA was all I wanted. Things have changed so much since then, though. I haven’t even been able to wrap my head around this yet. I was just waiting until you got here to even start thinking about it.”
“So they’re leaving it totally up to you, or are they going to make a decision either way?”
“So far, they said it was 100 percent my choice,” Christen explained. “I mean it is a sports business, so I guess that could always change, but it seemed like they were being genuine about it today.”
“How long do you have to decide?”
“Until the end of the year.”
Tobin nodded and then reached over and pulled Christen fully onto her lap, wrapping her arms around her waist and kissing her cheek softly.
Christen just nuzzled into her again, “No matter what I want soccer-wise, I know I don’t wanna be away from you.”
“I definitely don’t want to be away from you, either.” Tobin responded surely. “But we’d make it work if it’s what you decide.”
Christen just stuck her bottom lip out at her instead of saying anything else, which made Tobin smile.
“You at least have to check it out, Chris. What’s the worst that can happen?”
“Umm, I end up going and we don’t get to see each other for six months straight and then you get bored and break up with me…” Christen responded like she had already thought of it, “Even though you’re annoying, like, sixty percent of the time, that doesn’t mean I want you to break up with me...”
She grinned just a little with her sarcasm as Tobin laughed again.
“Hey, I’m only annoying like ten percent of the time…” She pretended to be offended.
“Even when you are, I still like you.” Christen murmured teasingly once again.
“Yeah I know, you’re obsessed with me.” Tobin poked her sides until Christen squirmed from being tickled. “Seriously though, I’m not gonna break up with you,” Tobin rolled her eyes. “I would never find anyone hotter anyway, so what would be the point...”
Now it was Christen’s turn to laugh. “That’s comforting, thank you.”
They looked at each other again and Christen let out another breath, puffing her cheeks out dramatically until Tobin spoke again.
“Last time I checked my camera and laptop were portable, and I have been saying that I want to start traveling more for work, and this could be a way for me to do that… and you know I love LA, so it could be super fun to be able to be out there more often, too.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Christen nodded, “It’s just a lot to process.”
“Hey, it’s gonna be alright.” Tobin said genuinely. “No matter what, I’m not gonna try to talk you out of it. That’s not who we are as a couple. At the end of the day, I want you to do what will make you the happiest. It’s not like you’re going to be able to play soccer forever, so you should be able to finish your career how you want to. That’s all I want for you.”
“I know,” Christen nodded seriously.
“So, have your agent talk with the team and take your time and think it over, and whatever you need to talk about, I’ll be ready to listen. We’ll figure it out okay?”
“You’re way too great for me.” Christen hummed a little easier, knowing nothing needed to be decided tonight. “I’m sorry to just spring this on you out of nowhere, but I didn’t really have a choice. So, thank you for being understanding.”
“What can I say.. I kinda love you and stuff..” Tobin grinned as she emphasized that word with a silly tone.
“And they say love is overrated...” Christen smiled goofily right back, “I’d say it’s pretty fun with you.”
They held eye contact once more before Christen cupped Tobin’s cheek and then leaned in to kiss her slowly again, ready to forget about everything except them for the rest of the night.
The first sign of snow came two nights before Thanksgiving.
Christen was the first one to notice it while she was standing outside in Tobin’s small fenced-in front yard with Morena before bedtime, watching as the large, fluffy flakes fell from the sky while Morena did her thing.
She really didn’t even give it much thought at the time, since the snow was melting as soon as it hit the ground.
Christen just chalked it up to another small annoyance that she was knowingly putting up with these days, spending her off season in the cold Midwest because that’s where Tobin was.
But being here for the last two winters really should have clued her in as to what was coming.
“It’s starting to snow.” She mentioned casually to Tobin as they were climbing into bed a few minutes later, watching as Tobin reached for her phone on the nightstand quickly, checking to see how much was expected.
The weather wasn’t something she normally paid attention to, but tonight, it felt important.
Because they were flying into Newark tomorrow afternoon, ready to spend the long Thanksgiving weekend with Tobin’s family, and they needed the weather to cooperate in order to make that happen.
Christen didn’t even wait for Tobin to respond to her statement and instead leaned in to kiss her with a quick “night,” before she was rolling over to her side of Tobin’s bed and pulling the covers up over her shoulders, ready to sleep.
By 3 am, Tobin was up and looking out of her bedroom window, noticing how much snow had already stuck, knowing the temperatures outside were continuing to drop.
The night sky outside was illuminated almost brightly from the way the snow clouds were reflecting off of the gathering mounds of flakes on the ground.
That’s what made Tobin get up and look in the first place, having just glanced at the window while she was rolling over in the middle of the night, and getting curious immediately about why the clouds were so visible.
As soon as she saw how much accumulation there had been in the four hours it’d been since they went to bed, and Tobin knew they were in trouble.
She climbed back into bed with a worried crease between her eyebrows, moving across the mattress just hard enough to wake Christen next to her.
“It’s still snowing.” Tobin whispered as Christen lifted her head off the pillow to see what Tobin was doing.
“Mmm.” Christen hummed incoherently, much less concerned about it than Tobin was.
She was already readjusting with her eyes shut, finding sleep again within seconds.
Tobin, though, was awake on and off again for the rest of the night, praying that mother nature wasn’t going to ruin their travel plans.
But of course they couldn’t be that lucky, not with how excited Tobin was to get home and see her family.
By 9 am, all flights in and out of Chicago were cancelled for the foreseeable future, with the snow expected to continue throughout the day and into the following morning.
The automated attendant told them to contact United Customer Service in order to re-book on a future flight when Tobin finally tried calling the airline before lunch, and then was greeted with a busy signal when she tried to speak with a live person.
“Looks like you and I are spending Thanksgiving here.” She hung up with a frustrated sigh, tossing her phone onto the couch from across the room. Knowing that by the time they got anything figured out, it wouldn’t be worth the travel time or money to only spend a day or two in New Jersey.
Christen felt awful, knowing how much Tobin had been looking forward to getting home for a few days as she sat down close to her on the couch, offering her a comforting hand on her knee.
“What can I do to help?”
“Nothing...” Tobin murmured as she gave her a small smile and patted Christen’s knee in return, “I’m gonna go nap for a while. I barely slept last night...”
Christen kissed her cheek once and watched Tobin get up and walk out of the room, knowing her well enough to know that all she wanted right now was some space.
Three hours later Tobin finally made her way back downstairs, yawning to herself as she stepped off the last step and rounded the corner into her living room, finding Christen standing in the middle of the room pulling on a pair of Tobin’s snow pants.
Tobin looked at her quizzically, but before she could even say anything, Christen smiled widely.
“Perfect timing. Can I borrow your muscles?”
“For what?” Tobin wondered softly.
“Well, I just got off the phone with your mom, and I have all of the recipes for what she is making tomorrow for Thanksgiving,” She held up a white piece of paper with writing on it for Tobin to see, “We might be snowed in but that doesn’t mean we can’t walk to the grocery store and get everything we need. It’s only two blocks away, and I have all these reusable bags,” She pointed to the bags lying at her feet.
Tobin looked up at her again as Christen kept talking, “And then we can cook exactly what your parents are having before our Skype date with them tomorrow at three. Perry and her family are also stranded at home so you’re parents are spending it with us.”
Christen smiled a little as she finished, “It may not be in person, but this way, at least we can still have Thanksgiving dinner with them… So if I can borrow your muscles to help me carry stuff, that would be helpful... Otherwise I might have to make two trips to the store.”
Tobin stood there rooted in her spot, looking at her girlfriend so earnestly that Christen wasn’t sure what she was thinking.
“What?” She whispered softly as she held eye contact with Tobin.
“Are you trying to make me cry?”
Christen softened a little more and let out a laugh through her nose. “No, I’m trying to make you smile,” she grinned as she took a step towards Tobin, opening her arms as she reached her and wrapping her up in a tight hug.
Tobin buried her face in Christen’s shoulder and hugged her back, holding on for a long moment before she finally looked up and smiled like Christen hoped she would, saying everything without having to say anything at all.
She just leaned in and kissed Christen’s lips before she finally let her go, and then was heading for the entryway to find her winter boots.
“I don’t think I could eat another bite if I tried.” Tobin sighed dramatically as she pushed her plate away from herself, leaning back a little further in her chair at the kitchen table.
They had just hung up their video chat with Tobin’s mom and dad, who they had Skyped with all throughout dinner, just like Christen had promised the night before.
It was nice and intimate in a way, how Tobin and Christen sat close together in front of the computer, enjoying their food while Jeff and Cindy did the same through the computer from their house. Talking and laughing just like they would have been had they been there in person.
Of course, it wasn’t exactly the same, but it was the thought that counted, and Tobin could feel her heart cheering up just a little as she sat with her hand on Christen’s knee throughout the whole meal.
It was exactly what Tobin needed today.
“Oh gosh, me neither,” Christen agreed as she set her wine glass back down on the table, “That was all so good, though.”
“We totally crushed it.” Tobin grinned as she draped her arm over the back of Christen’s chair and looked over at her. “I was thinking, maybe if the roads are better tomorrow, would you wanna go get a Christmas tree with me?”
“Yeah,” Christen nodded happily, “That sounds like the perfect way to spend the day. Plus, you can do all the heavy lifting and I still get to get into the Holiday spirit, so I’m all about it.”
Tobin laughed a little and pulled Christen into her side, “Thanks again for today, Chris. It really meant a lot to me.”
“Good. That’s all I was hoping for,” Christen smiled as she leaned into Tobin just a little more.
They sat there quietly for a moment before Christen grabbed Tobin’s hand and looked at her again, “Race ya to the couch for a nap?”
“Only if we can go outside and play in the snow afterwards?”
“Haven’t I done enough for you today?” Christen sighed but was smiling.
“But it’s finally winter, Chris!” Tobin chuckled as they pushed their chairs back from the table at the same time, leaving the dishes to deal with later when they weren’t so stuffed or sleepy.
Tobin laid down against the back of the couch and Christen settled in front of her so they were spooning as they turned on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and both of them were asleep within a few minutes with Morena curled up at their feet.
Just as the sun went down, the snowflakes started again outside, but tonight they didn’t mind it so much. They had nowhere to be now but right there with each other.
Tobin was wrapped in a string of colorful Christmas lights two days later, taking her time to put an extra strand on the tree that they had picked out and cut down the day before, which was now on display in front of the bay window in Tobin’s living room.
She was working on untangling the last set of them that were in the Christmas Things box she pulled down from her attic, when Christen came in the front door, talking animatedly with her phone pressed to her ear and her free hand filled with bags of more decorations.
Tobin had sent her to the store an hour ago to get a few new ornaments, and maybe some garland, if Christen felt like it, but she wasn’t surprised in the least to see that she had come back with much more than that now.
That woman could shop like nobody’s business.
Tobin dropped the strand of lights she was holding and took a few steps towards her girlfriend, taking the bags out of her hands so that Christen could finish her phone conversation without accidentally dropping them on the living room floor as she moved through the house.
Christen handed the bags to Tobin with a smile and then made her way towards the kitchen, listening intently to whoever was talking on the other end of the phone until she disappeared out of Tobin’s earshot.
A couple minutes later, once Christen had ended her call, she was walking back towards the living room holding a spoon and a cup of yogurt, scooping a bite into her mouth.
“How’s it going in here?” She hummed to Tobin as she sat down on the couch with her snack, surveying the scene in front of her.
“Good.” Tobin responded without looking at Christen, focused hard on the lights in her hands that just wouldn’t work. “I’m just… a little stuck…”
She was going light by light on the strand of lights as they were plugged into the outlet, tightening each bulb to see if that’s what was causing her issue.
“Do you need my help?” Christen wondered after she swallowed another bite of yogurt.
“Nope,” Tobin said confidently as she kept working, “Who were you on the phone with just now?”
“Oh, Mia, actually,” Christen said as she twirled the spoon around once. “She called to go over a few things since she was on her way to the stadium in LA. She just wanted to let me know that they had a couple interviews for coaching candidates lined up and all that stuff.”
That got Tobin’s attention quickly, “Mia?” She asked with her eyes a little wider, “Like, Mia Hamm, Mia?”
Christen started grinning softly, “Yes, as in Mia Hamm...”
“Really?” Tobin nodded as she tried to keep her cool, “Sweet… That’s cool.., so coaches, huh?”
Christen looked up at her quietly for a moment and then laughed excitedly, “Are you blushing?”
“What?” Tobin laughed out loud as she looked at Christen again, “No, I’m not blushing, why would I be blushing?”
“Yes, you are.” Christen grinned as she stood up off the couch and walked towards Tobin to get a better look, “Look at me.”
“I’m fixing these lights.” Tobin grinned as she bent down to pick them up off the floor, trying to hide her face from Christen without being obvious about it.
“Oh my god, do you have a crush on Mia Hamm?” Christen laughed again as she stopped in front of Tobin, just as she stood up again.
“No…” Tobin blurted out much too quickly, looking at Christen as she bit her bottom lip. “Don’t make this weird…”
They held eye contact as Christen smiled gleefully until Tobin finally broke. “Okay, maybe I had, like, a tiny crush on her when I was young. Maybe she and Michael Jordan are the reason I wanted to go to North Carolina… She’s a legend! But I don't still have a crush on her...”
“This is amazing.” Christen chuckled again, slapping her knee softly for added effect, “You know I talk to her, like, pretty often right? How are you ever gonna keep your cool around her if she becomes my boss? You’ll see her around in LA, she’s super involved with the team already.”
“Alright, alright...” Tobin chuckled too, all but begging Christen to drop it, “Please, let’s not make this a thing. I can keep my cool around her. I am an adult, you know...”
Christen was still laughing at Tobin’s expense, but didn’t comment further as she tried to let it go.
She busied herself with unboxing a few of the ornaments she bought earlier when she looked up at Tobin again.
“So you’ve always had a thing for soccer players, I guess?” She grinned cheekily again.
Tobin rolled her eyes but couldn’t help but laugh along, “Only the hottest ones…”
They made eye contact and Christen winked at her cutely, finally, actually letting it go.
“Alright, let’s get this tree finished,” She hummed as she stood up off the floor, walking towards the tree with the ornaments she was ready to hang up. “The lights look really nice, good job, you.”
“Thanks,” Tobin hummed as she got to the end of the strand she was still trying to fix, tightening the last bulb and suddenly they all lit up, “Yes!” She exclaimed, smiling at Christen again.
She took a minute to finish rapping the last strand on the bottom of the tree and then stepped back to let Christen get to work with decorating.
“We picked a good one,” Tobin hummed as she grabbed some older ornaments out of the box as well, “She fits in this spot nicely.”
“I’d say she’s our best one yet,” Christen agreed with a nod, “Christmas Year Three is gonna be perfection.”
They made eye contact and Tobin grinned again, “Might be our last one here, gotta do it up big, just in case.”
“Why would it be our last one?”
Tobin looked at her a little cautiously and then shrugged, “I mean… who knows, maybe we’ll be in LA next year?”
“Oh…” Christen murmured as if she were a little caught off guard by Tobin’s comment.
They both went quiet for a moment and then Christen looked up at Tobin again, “Do you mean you would think about moving to LA if I go there?”
“Yeah,” Tobin commented softly, “I mean, I haven’t, like, thought about it that hard, but I don’t know…” She shrugged her shoulders again, “It wouldn’t be that crazy of an idea...”
Christen couldn’t help but smile as they looked at each other again. “Good to know.”
Tobin held eye contact with her easily, wondering if Christen had doubted that before, wanting to make sure Christen knew where she stood on all of this. “I’m serious about you, Chris.”
“I know,” Christen hummed as she took a step towards Tobin and leaned in to kiss her quickly, “I’m serious about you, too.”
Tobin kissed her back for a moment and then they were both back to focusing on the tree, letting their conversation go for another time when they weren’t trying to be so festive.
“So I have an idea for what I want to get you for an anniversary gift.”
Christen was sitting up on a high top table at Tobin’s studio, swinging her legs back and forth with a cup of coffee in her hands, while Tobin was working on edits from her most recent photo shoot.
She was keeping Tobin company at work for the afternoon because she had a call with her agent earlier with some information from LA’s front office, and Christen wanted Tobin to be able to listen as well, so they could ask questions together.
Nothing new was really discussed; LA was still asking Christen to come take a tour of their stadium and practice facility before the end of the month, and they were trying to work out a time to make that happen.
Christen was noncommittal about it through the first few minutes of the phone call, until Tobin finally pulled up Christen’s calendar herself and pointed out three days in a row that she was completely free, and gave Christen a look that said you said you wanted to explore all of your options.
Christen asked her agent to hold on and then put her phone on mute, ready to argue with Tobin about it.
Because the week that Tobin was pointing to was when Tobin’s upcoming Gala was, and Christen already promised she’d be there.
She wanted to be there.
Tobin, on the other hand, was shaking her head, “Chris, you need to do this. I will live without you there for the night. It makes sense for you to just go to LA a few days early before Christmas and we can celebrate the exhibit when we get back. You can’t make a decision about your future if you don’t have all the information.”
They went back and forth for a minute before Tobin won out on their argument, and when they took Christen’s agent off hold again, Christen gave in and scheduled a meeting with the team’s front office for the week before Christmas.
She knew Tobin was right, she did need to make time to meet with LAFC and hear what they had to say, but still, she didn’t want to do it at the expense of Tobin’s big night.
But that’s just how they were as a couple.
Now that they had it sorted and were off the phone again, Tobin was back to working, asking Christen to stay and keep her company for a little while until her boss got back from a shoot for the afternoon.
She looked up from her laptop with a smile at Christen words, “What do you want to get me?”
“Well, it’s really an idea I had for something we could do together, and make it each other’s anniversary gift, if you’d be interested…”
Truthfully, Tobin was willing to take all the combined gift ideas she could get, being that Christmas, their anniversary, and Christen’s birthday all fell within four days of each other.
Last year was a gift-buying nightmare for Tobin.
“Okay, so I really want to do a boudoir shoot for you. I want you to have some sexy pictures of me because I know how much you appreciate photography, and, well, me...” She laughed honestly, “But the more I have thought about it, the more fun I think it would be for us to just have that experience together. Like, I model and you take the photos.”
“Really…” Tobin was smiling at the thought of it already.
“Yeah, I thought maybe I could wear some cute lingerie and you could take a bunch of shots that you like the concept of, whatever tickles your fancy, and then you could edit them, and then I could pick a few I like the best and have them framed for you or something.”
“And what is your part of the gift in this?” Tobin wondered with intrigue, “It sounds like more of something just for me...”
“Well, for one, I wouldn’t have to pay anyone else to take the photos.” Christen pointed out.
“Yeah, nobody else will be taking those,” Tobin agreed with her quickly, “As the resident photographer around here, if anyone is taking pictures of my girlfriend naked or in lingerie, it’s gonna be me.”
“I had a feeling you’d say that,” Christen smiled again lightly, “So, let’s just make it something we do together, if you want? It would be kinda sexy and a fun way for us to celebrate two years together without having to spend money on a gift we don’t really want. My gift will be the experience.”
“The experience of what, me trying to keep it together long enough to actually get this done? I mean, I don’t know if you’ve seen you naked, but that’s not gonna be easy.”
Christen started to laugh, “Exactly. I like it when you get a little flustered…”
“Alright.” Tobin nodded with a smile, “And when were you thinking of doing this.. photo shoot?”
“Whenever my photographer is free…”
“I mean, literally name the time and place.” Tobin chuckled again. “I will definitely be there.”
“How about tomorrow?” Christen questioned, “You have the day off since you’re working Saturday, right? I could get all pretty and we could do it at my place, so it’s sort of comfortable and homey feeling?”
“That works for me,” Tobin nodded, “And I mean, not that you need to do this, but… you mentioned lingerie.. are you gonna wear something you already have? Because you do have a few great pieces, if I do say so myself... ”
“Maybe I already have something new for it?”
Tobin’s eyes went wide as her jaw dropped slightly, and Christen started to laugh, before Tobin composed herself and let her eyes go a little dark.
“Nope, you’ll have to find out tomorrow.”
Before they could banter any further the door to the studio was opening as a customer stepped inside and suddenly Christen was hopping off the table and picking up her phone, “Well would ya look at the time, I’m about to be late to meet Julie for a workout.”
“Chris…” Tobin whined, knowing there was nothing she could do in the moment about any of this.
“What?” Christen grinned mischievously again, “I did tell you I had a workout this afternoon...”
“I know, but now I’m flustered.” Tobin admitted through gritted teeth, begging her girlfriend to stay until they were alone again.
Christen was laughing again as she patted Tobin on the back, “Call me after work?”
“Fine,” Tobin sighed as she watched Christen walk away before she was standing up from her computer, heading up front to greet her customer.
“It’s funny that you see me naked almost every day, yet somehow I feel like I’m nervous for this…”
Christen was sitting on her bed the following afternoon, wearing her white bathrobe as Tobin was loading a roll of film into her nicest camera.
She wanted to use an actual film camera so that the suspense of developing the negatives would be that much more rewarding, plus, she usually liked the way the photos turned out better with film than they did on anything digital.
And this was a special occasion.
“You have absolutely nothing to be nervous about,” Tobin said with a smile as she looked up at her girlfriend, “I just want you to be comfortable. I can’t wait to see you out of that robe.”
Christen’s hair was gorgeously done, straightened first and then curled loosely in the way she knew Tobin loved it the most, and she had a light amount of makeup on that perfectly accentuated her piercing green eyes, and Tobin was having a hard time keeping her hands to herself already.
“I know, I just want this to be really good,” Christen admitted, “Maybe nervous was the wrong word, but I just want to look good for you. I want you to love these photos.”
“Are you kidding? You’re sexy as hell.” Tobin said again, “I’m seriously just thankful that you’re my girlfriend and I get to touch you after this. Anything beyond that is just a bonus. You’re a total babe.”
Christen grinned with more confidence at the way Tobin was looking at her, giving her a wink as Tobin clicked the film door shut and then removed the lens cover from her camera.
“You ready to do this?”
“Yeah,” Christen nodded easily. “Tell me where to start.”
Tobin took a deep breath as she looked around momentarily, getting into work mode, and then turned back to Christen. “Let’s start in the living room, the lighting with the open windows should be perfect right now.”
Christen stood up from her bed and followed Tobin out to the living room, watching as Tobin moved Morena’s bed from where it was lying against the couch, to make sure it was out of the shot, and then told Christen she wanted her to start by sitting on the armrest of the couch.
“You can take your robe off whenever you’re ready.”
Christen smirked at the excited look on Tobin's face, “Okay, turn around.”
“Why?” Tobin asked softly.
“Because I want this to be a reveal,” Christen grinned, “Please?”
Tobin laughed to herself and turned around to face the door, giving Christen the time she wanted in order to be ready for Tobin to see her.
Christen undid her robe as soon as Tobin’s back was to her and then took it off and tossed it to the other end of the couch before she looked down at herself to make sure everything was perfect.
She had on a black lace matching bra and panty set and both were unlined, outside of the criss-crossed lace patterns, showing tons of skin and leaving little to the imagination.
The set was practically see-through, and the black bottoms cupped her ass perfectly, riding up just a little so the bottom of her ass was thoroughly on display, and the cups of her bra did just enough to push her breasts up the slightest bit, giving her just a touch of cleavage to complete the look.
She adjusted the bottoms once and then cleared her throat, “Okay, I’m ready.”
Tobin took another deep breath and turned around slowly, letting her eyes totally drink Christen in before she sighed out a, “Holy shit.”
Christen smiled a sexy smile at her before Tobin spoke again.
“My god, you look incredible.”
Tobin’s eyes finally traveled far enough up Christen’s body to meet her eyes and they were both smiling at each other again.
“Is this okay?” Christen wondered playfully, wanting to hear more of Tobin’s thoughts on how she looked.
“It’s… yeah, it’s more than okay,” Tobin laughed, “Fuck, you look so sexy, and gorgeous, and hot, and pretty.”
Suddenly Tobin was walking towards Christen before her mind even realized what she was doing, pulling her girlfriend in for a slow kiss because she just couldn’t not kiss her right now.
Christen let Tobin’s lips move against hers for only a moment and then was pulling back, pressing on Tobin’s hips softly with a warning, “No touching yet.”
“Shit…” Tobin’s eyes went dark at the way Christen said it, “Fuck, this is gonna be so fun.”
“Tell me what you want.” Christen asked then, ready to get started, “Where should I sit and how should I pose?”
“Alright,” Tobin shook her head a little, trying to keep herself in check, “Sit on the armrest of the couch, sort of at an angle so your feet are pointed towards the kitchen, and then turn your head to the left to look at the camera.”
Christen did as Tobin asked, sitting up straight in perfect posture, and angling her head down just so, so her eyes were boring into the camera, just like she had learned to do on many other less-risque photo shoots she’d done throughout her career.
Tobin put the camera to her eye easily and took two photos without having to adjust Christen at all.
“Okay, awesome,” Tobin smiled when she brought the camera back down, “Think that covers it, can we fuck now?”
Christen started to laugh lightly at the unexpectedness of Tobin’s words, making Tobin laugh too.
That’s what she was going for, after all.
Christen just rolled her eyes and shook her head, “Not yet.”
“Alright…” Tobin hummed as she took another breath, “Okay, go stand by the window for me, please. We’ll get a bunch of shots of you at different angles here, since this is my favorite spot.”
Christen grinned at Tobin and held eye contact as she backed up against the floor-to-ceiling windows in her living room, knowing they were both thinking of all the times they had fucked each other in this exact spot.
She did a few poses facing Tobin, and a few facing out the windows while looking back at her with a sultry smile, working the camera perfectly just like she always did, as Tobin moved from spot to spot, capturing Christen from every angle.
And when they were done there, they moved back to Christen’s bedroom, feeling like it was time to get a little more adventurous.
The first thing Christen did when she got to her room was unhook the clasp on her bra and slide it off, letting it drop to the floor sensually as Tobin followed her eagerly, taking a shot of Christen’s body with the bra dangling off her fingertips, with her ass in full view.
Tobin couldn’t get over how sexy Christen was being with every little move she was making.
Christen then kneeled onto her bed, on top of her perfectly made white down comforter, and looked back at Tobin again, just in time for Tobin to snap another picture.
She pulled her hair off of her shoulders and held it up behind herself for one photo and then ran her hand through her curls on the next shot, playing along exactly like Tobin wanted her to.
“Turn around and face me,” Tobin rasped out a little more firmly as she started to take more control of things.
So Christen did as she asked, turning around on her knees to face the camera with her top off, first sitting up straight on her knees with her arm positioned just enough to block her breasts from the cameras view, before dropping a little lower so her behind was resting against her feet and both arms were laid out in front of her, and then finally, laying across her bed on her stomach, and looking up at the camera playfully.
After a few more shots, Tobin pulled the camera back down from her eye and set it on Christen’s dresser for a moment, before they both held eye contact through the rapidly increasing sexual tension.
Christen sat back up on her knees a little more and turned around to face her headboard again, before wagging her finger at Tobin, asking her to come closer.
Tobin took a few steps towards Christen and wrapped her arms around Christen’s waist from behind as soon as she reached her, kissing her shoulder and neck as soon as she was holding her.
“I can’t keep my hands to myself any longer,” Tobin breathed out unsteadily, “I want you so fucking bad right now.”
Christen grabbed onto Tobin’s hands and ran them down her stomach slowly before she hooked Tobin’s fingers into the lace edges of her bottoms, and then pulled them down with her hands still clasped in Tobin’s.
Tobin watched as Christen’s lacy bottoms dropped down to her knees and then groaned again, “Fuck…”
“I want these off now,” Christen whispered, trying to keep her voice level, even though she was getting just as turned on as Tobin was.
She sat down on her butt and let Tobin pull her underwear all the way off of her legs and then looked up at Tobin again, “What else do you want?”
Tobin felt like her mind was blank now, but she took a moment to steady herself, trying to get back into work mode enough to make this photo shoot worth it.
She knew Christen wanted enough photos taken to be able to display a few that were sexy enough for Tobin’s private bedroom, but appropriate enough that they didn’t have to hide them whenever company came over.
“Why don’t you slide up to the headboard and use the bedding to cover yourself just enough.” Tobin instructed, “Keep your legs spread a little and pull the sheets up just enough to cover your chest, and then look at me.”
Christen did as Tobin asked, being slow about it as Tobin watched her intently, and then when she was settled, she gave Tobin her best look as the camera shuttered a couple more times.
“God, you’re so beautiful,” Tobin smiled as she dropped the camera again, “These are all so perfect, I can tell already.”
She was walking towards the bed as she said it, kneeling up on it as she reached for Christen’s legs, and was suddenly pulling her down the mattress quickly, making Christen laugh as Tobin climbed on top of her.
They held eye contact for just a moment as Tobin straddled her, neither of them wanting to break first, but Tobin could feel her last bit of willpower fading fast.
“Can I take a dirty one, just for me to have?” Tobin husked out from above her.
All Christen could do was nod her head yes before Tobin was grabbing both of Christen’s hands with her free hand and pinning Christen’s arms above herself on the mattress, leaving her bare chest exposed for Tobin to see.
Tobin lifted her camera once more and snapped a close up picture of her girlfriend, laid out underneath her with the sexiest look on her face, her lips parted just slightly and her breasts in perfect view of the camera.
And when Tobin had the shot she wanted most, she sat up again just long enough to set the camera on the floor gently before she was pulling her shirt over her head and tossing it across the room.
Done being patient any longer and more than ready to get to work.
“Do you know where that gray sweater is that you wore last week to the Christmas concert?”
Tobin was pulling open the drawers of her dresser one after another while mumbling through a mouthful of toothpaste, trying to multitask getting dressed and brushing her teeth at the same time because she was about to be late for work.
They had been out to dinner the night before and decided to have a few drinks afterwards, which turned into a few more, and they hadn’t gotten to bed until well after 1 am.
Tobin slept in as late as she could, and was now scrambling to get ready, knowing she needed to open the studio by 9 because her boss wasn’t going to be in this morning.
Christen lifted her eyes from her phone and thought about it for a moment, still lying under the covers in Tobin’s bed since she was in no rush to be anywhere until later this morning, “It might still be at my place. I know I washed it and then hung it up to dry, so I bet it’s still in my closet.”
“Damn,” Tobin mumbled as she stood up again and walked back towards the bathroom. She spit her toothpaste into the sink and then looked at Christen through the mirror. “I was hoping to wear that tonight.”
Tonight - at the DarkRoom Exhibit where her work was being unveiled.
It wasn’t a black-tie affair by any means, so Tobin thought the sweater would be perfect.
“I’m sorry…” Christen apologized as she sat up more, “I can run home and get it for you and drop it off here after my meeting, if you want?”
Tobin wiped her mouth and then walked back into the room while shaking her head, “Isn’t your flight at 4? You’ll never make it all the way back up here in time. It’s cool, don’t worry about it. I’ll find something else to wear.”
“Sorry,” Christen hummed again, “You do look really good in that sweater…”
“So did you. That’s why I let you borrow it,” Tobin smiled a little mischievously, “Maybe I’ll wear that other black sweater you got me last winter? That one is nice too.”
“I know that one I know is in your dresser, I just saw it when I put your laundry away yesterday,”
Tobin walked back to her dresser and pulled the bottom drawer open again and dug around until she found the sweater Christen was talking about before she tossed it over her shoulder and then made her way towards the bed.
She sat down on the edge of the mattress where Christen was now leaning against her headboard and reached out to grab her hand.
“I gotta get going,” She sighed then as she tangled their fingers together loosely.
“What time is your shoot this afternoon?” Christen wondered as she reached up with her free hand and pushed Tobin’s wet hair behind her shoulder.
“2:00,” Tobin responded as she mentally went through her schedule for the day, “And then by the time I’m done I’ll probably have to go right downtown since dinner for the Gala starts at 5.”
“Gosh, busy day for you,” Christen frowned a little. “Sorry that you’re slightly hungover.”
“Last night was fun, so I’ll live.” Tobin smiled lightly, “What about you, are you heading to the airport right after you meet with your coach?”
“I think I’ll have to,” Christen thought about it, “I guess it depends on how long we talk for, but it makes sense to just head there from the stadium.”
“Yeah, I guess it does.” Tobin leaned in and kissed Christen lips softly, “So I’ll see you in four days then?”
“Four days,” Christen smiled against Tobin’s lips, “You better be in the holiday spirit by the time you land in LA…”
“I will be,” Tobin nodded, “Just two more days of work to get through and then I’m free for 10 days.”
“You got this.” Christen held up her hand for Tobin to high-five.
Tobin chuckled as she slapped Christen’s hand and then leaned in and kissed her once more before she stood up.
“K, text me later if you’re bored at the airport... and oh yeah, I brushed your car off and let it run for a bit when I went outside to start mine earlier, so you should be good to go when you leave.”
“You did?” Christen grinned like she has just been told the best news ever. “Gosh, you’re nice to have around. I think I’ll keep you.”
“Lucky me...” Tobin smiled at her brightly as she was backing up towards the door and giving Christen a wave as she went.
“Love you,” Christen waved back, giving Tobin one more smile.
“Love you too,” Tobin winked before she disappeared into the hallway and headed for the stairs.
Fifteen minutes later, just as Christen was about to get in the shower and get ready to start her day, her phone vibrated from where it was still lying on the nightstand next to Tobin’s bed.
She made her way towards it and picked it up to see a text from Tobin waiting, opening it quickly to read what it said.
It was a picture of a little girl walking on the sidewalk with someone who appeared to be her mom next to her, a few feet in front of where Tobin was walking when she took the picture.
The little girl couldn’t have been older than nine or ten years old, and she had a blue Chicago Red Stars jersey on over top of a puffy winter jacket, as if she just couldn’t not display the jersey for everyone to see, even in the dead of winter.
The name and number on the back of it was what caught her attention the quickest.
The picture was accompanied by one small sentence from Tobin.
Whole city loves you :)
Christen couldn’t get it out of her head for the rest of the day.
“Tobin, are you here?”
Tobin heard her boss’s voice down the hall from where she was tucked away in the darkroom at their studio later that morning, killing time while the gallery up front had no customers.
She was spending a little time developing the photos that Christen selected from her boudoir shoot and wasn’t even aware that her boss had come in, until now.
“Yo..” Tobin shouted in response as she stepped to the door, looking around the doorframe towards the main part of the studio as her boss came into view.
“Nope just messing around,” Tobin shook her head. “How’d your shoot go this morning?”
“Really good,” Her boss nodded, “Five kids in that family, though. I think I need a drink after that one...”
They both started to laugh, knowing how hectic it could be trying to rangle bigger families together so that the end product of the photos came out professionally.
“Yeah, I’ve got a shoot at 2:00 with a baby and two toddlers, so I’m guessing I’ll be feeling the same way tonight.”
“I’m sure you’ll handle it just fine, babies love you.” Her boss complimented kindly. “Anyway, I just wanted to touch base with you about the event tonight. Are we meeting there or do you want to ride together?”
“I was thinking I’d meet you there.” Tobin hummed, “That way I won’t make us late coming all the way back here, since I’ll be down in the Loop this afternoon anyway.”
“Well, you are one of the featured artists, so if anyone can make us late, it’s you.”
Tobin laughed and shook her head, “That didn’t go over so well last time, remember how mad that lady was when we tried to sneak in after the speeches started? She literally cleared her throat at us.”
Tobin’s boss started to chuckle along with her, “At least they know how we are now, for all the future awards, galas and exhibits that you will surely be selected for… I’m just along for the ride.”
Tobin smiled lightly and looked down at her feet for a moment, “Hey, I actually wanted to talk to you about that, if you have a second?”
“What, being along for the ride? I thought Christen couldn’t make it tonight so you needed me to be your plus one? Did her plans change?”
“No, it’s not that,” Tobin shook her head, “Christen is still heading to LA today...” She looked up again, “.. the LA part is actually what I wanna talk to you about.”
Her boss softened completely then and smiled at her encouragingly.
She was maybe only ten years older than Tobin, but had always seemed like such a motherly figure in Tobin’s life, ever since giving her a new start in a city she was completely unfamiliar with, and being someone Tobin could count on every step of the way through it.
“I had a sneaking feeling that this was coming.”
“What do you mean this?” Tobin smiled at her curiously, “You don’t even know what I’m about to say…”
“No,” Her boss conceded with a nod, “But I do know that you’re in love, and most of the time, that says enough.”
Tobin laughed gently, a little caught off guard.
“And I know that the woman you’re in love with is about to get on a plane to LA, to decide on a future of moving there,” She continued, “So if I was a betting woman, I’d bet you’re about to tell me that if she goes, you’re going to go with her...”
Tobin was quiet for a moment with her eyes wide in surprise, “You got all of that, from that?”
“I’m not wrong, am I..?”
“No, I guess not.” Tobin admitted softly, she was quiet for a moment, unsure of how to proceed so she just shrugged and looked at her boss again.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I know I owe it to Christen to give us my all. I know we don’t always act like the mushiest couple around, or whatever, but I really love her. So if that means moving to LA, then I wanna do it, if that’s what she chooses.”
“I’d scold you if you didn’t.” Her boss said seriously, “You two are quite the pair.”
“Thank you..?” Tobin questioned hesitantly.
Her boss just started to laugh.
“We’ll make something work, okay?” She said as she reached out and patted Tobin’s shoulder comfortingly, “If we can’t keep you on here, I’ll help you find something out there. You’re a rare talent, Tobin. Anyone would be lucky to have an artist like you on their staff. Why do you think I stole you from New York in the first place?”
“That’s true, I do make this place way cooler…”
Her boss was about to make a sarcastic remark of her own when the bell above the studio door chimed as a customer walked in, so she knocked Tobin’s shoulder softly instead, “We’ll talk later alright? Now go greet that customer like the star employee you are.”
Tobin just started to laugh again, nodding to herself as she headed towards the front of the gallery to see who she could help.
When it came down to it, Christen never even made it to the airport for her flight to Los Angeles.
Which, maybe deep down, she already knew was going to happen.
Not that she hadn’t intended to, of course she had. She packed her suitcase and checked in ahead of time, and even downloaded her boarding pass to her phone, to make sure that when she got to the airport it was as painless as possible, just like she always did.
But then she found herself smiling with happiness as she walked out of the employee entrance at Toyota Park after having had a great conversation with her coach, and she was once again reminded of how good their relationship was, and how much she truly enjoyed playing for him, and the mutual respect and love they shared for the game.
Plus, being back at the stadium for the first time in over a month kinda felt like coming home. She hadn’t realized she was going to miss it so much until she was away from it, even if only for a short while.
As she got to her car in the parking lot, she thought about how Tobin took the time to brush the snow off of it this morning, and start it to let it warm up, just so Christen wouldn’t have to, and she found herself smiling a little more.
Because of how great she was.
Tobin, and her ridiculous, charming, irresistible self.
Christen got into her car and picked up her phone to text her then, just because, and before she could even think of what she wanted to say, she saw the picture Tobin sent her this morning sitting right there in their text thread.
The picture of that little girl wearing Christen’s jersey for seemingly no reason at all, out and about on a random Wednesday morning in the middle of winter.
And suddenly, it was like Christen had her mind made up the whole time.
Maybe she had. Maybe somewhere deep in her subconscious, Christen knew what she was going to do from day one.
But it hadn’t fully clicked until right now.
Right in this very moment, when everything seemed to come together at once. Like her eyes had been opened for her, about every great thing she already had, right here at her fingertips.
She didn’t need to go to LA to play for her hometown team because Chicago was already her city.
She played for fans here that adored her, and a coach that respected and trusted her, and a team that fought with her every step of the way.
And she had someone here that mattered to her more than everyone else did. Someone whose love and support she came to count on even when things weren’t as perfect as they were now.
Her happiness was here in this city, with Tobin, and her job, and her life; and all she wanted to do was stay.
Before Christen even really knew what she was doing, she was taking a left out of the player parking lot at the stadium, heading back towards the city, instead of to the airport like she had planned to this morning.
With only one destination on her mind.
The bell above the door of the Tobin’s studio chimed as Christen pulled it open with purpose, walking in past a few customers who were browsing at the front of the store.
She spotted Tobin’s boss first, who was standing behind the computer along the back wall, giving her a wave as she approached.
Tobin’s boss smirked before Christen could even say hello, giving Christen a peculiar look, almost as if she were expecting this.
She definitely was.
“She’s in the back,” Was all she said, pointing to the darkroom that was down the hall at the back of the studio, not even bothering to make Christen stop and chat.
She could tell Christen was on a mission.
“Thank you,” Christen grinned as she continued to move through the store, giving Tobin’s boss a smile as she passed, “Hi, by the way.”
“Hi,” Tobin’s boss laughed in return and then mumbled under her breath a little. “I really should go buy a lottery ticket...”
Christen looked at her quizzically like she was wondering what she meant by that but kept her stride until she was disappearing out of sight, down the hallway in search of Tobin.
The door to the darkroom was open and Tobin was standing inside of it with the lights on and her back to the door, looking over some negatives. Trying to decide which ones she wanted to make into photographs, based on the conversation she’d had with her boss earlier.
Christen smiled at the way Tobin was concentrating hard with her shoulders slumped over her work, using a small magnifier to look at the images she had just developed so she could see them clearly.
Christen knocked on the door frame softly to announce her presence, trying not to startle Tobin as she seemed to be deep in thought.
“I’m thinking the two shots of the kids in the foreground would be best, they seem like they’ve turned out the cleanest, at least from what I can tell without blowing them up…” Tobin mumbled as she lifted her head, explaining the dilemma she was currently trying to solve.
“Whatever you think is best, probably is.” Christen hummed with a smile, watching as Tobin froze as she clearly recognized Christen's voice, but was confused about how she was hearing it right now.
Tobin turned around slowly until they made eye contact and then she smiled lightly to match the grin Christen was holding, “You’re not my boss…” She hummed as she set the negatives in her hand down on the counter.
“That’s debatable…” Christen’s quipped as she leaned against the door frame, making Tobin laugh out loud.
“True.” Tobin nodded in agreement after a moment and then finally shook her head like she was snapping out of a trance, “Chris.. What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see you,” Christen said as she pushed herself off the door frame again and took a step into the room, moving towards her girlfriend slowly.
“What, did you miss me that much already?” Tobin teased as she set the photo magnifier she was still holding on the counter and stepped towards Christen too.
Christen was smiling back at her amusingly, “Maybe a little,” She admitted. “But more importantly, I have news.”
“What news?” Tobin’s eyebrows scrunched together worriedly, “Are you okay?”
“I’m great,” Christen murmured as she reached out and grabbed Tobin’s hand, “There’s just something I have to tell you.”
“What’s up?” Tobin asked as she linked a couple fingers with Christen’s and then looked at the clock on the wall, getting distracted when she realized it was already past lunch time.
“I’m not going to LA.” Christen said eagerly, letting Tobin know what she had decided.
But Tobin noticing what time it was distracted her slightly, making her miss what Christen said the first time.
She was more concerned that it was almost 1:00 and Christen was not already on her way to the airport, knowing traffic heading to Midway would be awful at this time of the day.
Tobin looked back at her with a questioning look on her face, “Sorry, what?”
“I’m not going to LA.” Christen smiled a little more, “That’s what I wanted to tell you.”
“Yeah you are,” Tobin nodded, “You have a flight in three hours.”
“I know, but I’m not getting on it,” Christen explained, “I mean, I will be going with you there for Christmas in four days, obviously, but I’m not going today to visit with the team. I don’t wanna play there.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I don’t need to fly to LA to see their stadium. I’ve played there before and I know what it’s like… I already know it’s a little bit nicer and newer than the one I play in now. I don’t need to fly to LA to meet with their front office staff and hear about how optimistic they are for the future of their team. Of course they are, they’re building a new franchise… and I don’t need to go see that the weather is sunny every single day and it doesn’t snow in October or rain thunderstorms in July… I already know all of that. And it still won’t change my mind. I already know what I want, and that’s to be here with you.”
“No, you don’t have to do this...” Tobin breathed out softly as she reached her other hand out for Christen’s too, “I had a chance to talk to my boss this morning, and I told her that I’m gonna move to LA too, when you choose that. You don’t have to make a decision around me, because I’m gonna do what you do.”
“Tobin, no…” Christen shook her head, but Tobin interrupted her again.
“Yeah, Chris, I’m serious…” She smiled at her, “My boss said she’d try and keep me on the staff here and let me freelance for them or something, but if it doesn’t end up working out, she’ll help me find a studio out there. She knows tons of people in the business and it would be easy to find something there and…”
“Tob-” Christen started to interrupt her but Tobin shook her head.
“Hold on..” She smiled a little more, “I’m almost done, I just wanted to say that.. driving to work this morning, I was just feeling really happy. We had a good morning, you know? Even though it was just me getting ready and you looking cute in my bed. It was good, like it always is with us. So I was thinking about that while I was driving, and I kind of just made up my mind. I love how easy everything is with you. And I don’t wanna give up our everyday routine if you move. So I just decided… if you move to LA, I want to move there, too. Like for real. I know we kinda talked about it being a possibility but I’m sure of it now. You should know that I’m sure of it.”
“Tobin-” Christen finally reached up and grabbed Tobin’s cheeks and pulled her in for a searing kiss, “Please. Shut. Up.” She enunciated each word with another peck.
Tobin smiled against Christen’s lips until she finally pulled back, with her eyes a little wide as she swallowed and gave in, nodding like she was agreeing to let Christen have a turn to speak.
“I’m not going.” Christen repeated. She was shaking her head but smiling at the same time, “I have made up my mind, and what I want is to stay right here. This city is my home now. You’re here, and some of my best friends are here, and I really love my team, and my coach, and everything is finally, really clicking. I don’t want to give that up. Everything you realized this morning, I realized it too. I think I knew it all along, but now I’m sure.”
“But what about playing for your hometown team?” Tobin pointed out. “What about being able to see your family and all of your old friends all the time and finish your career where you started playing soccer?”
“Sure, that would be special, but for what?” Christen shrugged, “I’d always be chasing exactly what I have now. I’d always be trying to find the perfect new routine with you, or a perfect team who knows how to win, or a coach that I click with. When I already have exactly that right here.”
And Tobin couldn’t argue with that, all she could do was smile.
“Are you sure?”
“One thousand percent.” Christen nodded firmly.
Tobin just laughed and shook her head. “So you’re staying?”
“I’m staying.” Christen chuckled too, “This was always where I was meant to be. It isn’t even a choice. I’m really happy here.”
Tobin bit her bottom lip and took a step towards Christen then, wrapping her up into a huge hug as Christen wrapped her arms around Tobin’s shoulders in return.
And then they both just started laughing again with pure happiness.
They embraced for a moment until their laughter drew the attention of Tobin’s boss who was finally walking down the hallway to see what Christen had stopped by for, and she poked her head around the door just in time to see Tobin lean in and kiss Christen’s lips once.
She smiled at them kindly and waited until they separated again before she cleared her throat to make her presence known.
“Alright, I see more googly eyes than normal between you two. What’s going on here?”
She was joking and they both knew that, but Christen couldn’t help but blush just a little anyway.
“Sorry,” Christen waved at her, “We’ll keep it professional, I know she’s at work.”
Tobin just rolled her eyes and ignored Christen’s apology.
“Christen is staying here,” She informed her boss excitedly instead, “So everything I said earlier about moving to LA, you can just erase that memory from your mind. I don’t need a new job.”
“Consider it done,” Her boss grinned again, “I’m happy for you guys, and luckily for you, you continue to be a couple I will willingly put up with.”
“Same old us.” Tobin chuckled and pulled Christen in a little closer again.
“So I’m guessing this means I’m back out on being your plus one tonight?” She asked teasingly.
“No, no..” Christen shook her head, “I don’t want to ruin your plans. I can buy a ticket or go after dinner for the exhibit or something.”
“Oh, that’s very sweet of you, Christen,” Tobin’s boss laughed, “But nothing would make me happier than for you to let me get out of this so I can enjoy a night on my couch with takeout and a bottle of wine. I was only going so that Tobin didn’t have to go alone.”
“It’s true, she hates this stuff.” Tobin nodded along in agreement.
“Wait, takeout and wine actually sounds really nice,” Christen grinned then too, “Maybe I’ll just join you instead?”
“Hey..” Tobin narrowed her eyes, “One of you has to come with me.”
“Then I’m playing the ‘I’m-not-your-girlfriend' card,” Her boss said again, “It’s only fair that Christen has to suffer with you since you’re all in love and adorable while I'm single.”
They all laughed as Christen shrugged and reached out for Tobin’s hand again, giving in easily because she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, anyway.
“So I guess we’ve got a date night tonight…”
Christen climbed up onto her bed and reached for her phone charger so she could plug her iPhone in, before she was setting it on the nightstand and rolling over with a sigh.
It was late now, and she was exhausted from their slightly chaotic Christmas Day celebration with her family and Tobin, and after a while, a few of her old high school friends that had stopped by her parents house as well.
They had a mid-morning flight to New York City booked for tomorrow, to spend New Years Eve with Tobin's family, so when Tobin asked her if she wanted to head to bed, she was more than willing to agree.
She was happy, and full of good food and strong drinks, and all she wanted to do now was cuddle up with Tobin and Morena in her childhood bedroom and sleep until morning.
She was just waiting on them to come upstairs too, after they finished with Morena’s bedtime bathroom break that Tobin so kindly volunteered to supervise.
After a minute she could finally hear them bounding up the stairs, listening to Tobin’s soft laughter that was matching the jingles of Morena’s collar, almost like they were racing each other up the steps, until Tobin finally popped around the door frame with a goofy grin on her face.
Christen looked up at her amusedly as soon as she saw Tobin's expression, “What’s so funny?”
“Nothin’,” Tobin shrugged as she waited on Morena to enter the room behind her and then was closing the door quietly, since Christen's parents were already in bed down the hall.
Tobin bent down to stop Morena’s movements then and turned to look up at Christen from where she and the dog were both crouched on the floor.
“Christmas celebrating is over okay? We’re back to anniversary time.” She hummed to Christen like she was asking permission for what she was about to do.
“You already had your anniversary time.” Christen grinned back at her girlfriend, thinking of the shower they took together this morning in Christen’s attached bathroom, doing a little two-year-anniversary celebrating before Christen’s extended family arrived to start the holiday celebrations.
This same day stuff was really hard to keep track of.
“I know,” Tobin smiled back at her, “Morena just has one more anniversary surprise for you. It’s almost midnight, though, so we have to hurry.”
Christen started to laugh as she nodded easily, “Okay, what?”
“Okay,” Tobin whispered to the dog as she leaned in and kissed her head once and then let her go, “Go show your mom.”
As soon as Tobin let her go, Morena was trotting towards the bed before she bounded up onto it, moving towards where Christen was lying on the far side of the mattress.
The dog had a white piece of paper clipped to her collar that was rolled up neatly and tied with a red bow, like a note that Christen was meant to see.
She noticed it as soon as Morena flopped down next to her.
“Hi baby girl,” She cooed as she ran her fingers over the dogs fur and then the note before she looked up at Tobin again, “What’s this?”
“It’s a note from Morena,” Tobin grinned knowingly, “She asked me to help her write it because she has a question for you.”
“Ohhh..” Christen smiled a little more, playing along for Tobin's sake, “Should I read it now?”
“Yeah,” Tobin nodded as she finally climbed onto the edge of the bed too. “I think she wants you to.”
Christen took her time to untie the note from Morena’s collar and then slowly unrolled the small piece of paper to see what it said.
It was in Tobin’s handwriting, as expected.
Christen read it once to herself, and then looked up at Tobin, and then down to Morena, and read it out loud a second time.
“Mom: can we move in with Tobin?”
Tobin sat there smiling at them both, and then raised her eyebrows in anticipation as she waited on Christen to look up from the piece of paper again.
Morena’s tail started to wag excitedly as Christen looked at her, making Christen chuckle again.
She reached out and patted the dogs head and finally spoke like she was answering her question, “Well, I guess we’d have to check and see how Tobin feels about that...”
Tobin crawled a little closer to them on the bed and then reached out to pet Morena’s fur softly too, finally making eye contact with Christen again.
“I mean, I could work with that…” She murmured playfully. “Mo has been telling me a lot lately that she really wishes she had one permanent spot to live, instead of going back and forth between our places all the time, so I guess if you’re cool with it, I would be too.”
Christen held Tobin’s gaze as they both smirked stupidly at each other, and then Tobin shrugged again, “I think it’d be really nice to have you guys around all the time.”
“What do you think, little baby?” Christen cooed softly as she bent down and grabbed Morena’s face with both of her hands, talking in her usual Morena voice, “You love your Tobin, don’t you?” She leaned down and kissed her head a couple times, “Should we move in with her? Would that be fun?”
The dog started to wag her tail a little faster and then wiggled out of Christen’s hold just enough so she could swipe a couple of kisses across her cheek instead, like she was answering Christen’s question with a solid yes.
Christen laughed as she looked up at Tobin again and then sighed, “Well, she seems to think it’s a good idea…”
“Might as well just go with it then, huh?” Tobin agreed with her palms turned up in a shrug.
They smiled again momentarily before Christen settled herself a little more.
“Tob…” She said pointedly, trying to be more serious about such a big decision.
“Do you want me to move in with you?”
Tobin grinned softly, “Is Morena gonna come?”
“Oh my god,” Christen huffed as she lunged herself forward at Tobin, grabbing onto her shoulders and pushing her back against the mattress with purpose, “Be serious for one minute!”
Which made Tobin chuckle even harder. They both were, but Christen really did want a serious answer.
“Okay, okay…” Tobin took a breath through her laughter, “Yes, of course I want you to move in with me. I love you. We might as well just see how far this thing can go between us, right?”
Christen was laughing softly on top of Tobin as she paused and pretended to think about it, taking long enough to make Tobin squirm just a little from her delayed response.
Tobin gave Christen’s hips a squeeze after a moment of being patient, asking for an answer.
“Move in with me…” She whispered again as they held eye contact.
Christen was leaning down towards Tobin’s lips when she paused and smiled just a touch, “Alright, geez, you don’t have to beg.”
She didn’t even have time to see Tobin roll her eyes before she was pressing a solid, affirming kiss to her lips, saying everything else she needed to right along with it.
“Christen...” Tobin sighed, trying to keep her voice level as she pulled her girlfriend out of her daydream. “Take a step when I take a step, it’s not that hard. I’m the one walking backwards here.”
They had just lifted Christen’s flat screen TV off of its wall mount and were heading for the hallway with it, trying to get all the way to the elevator without setting it down, since Tobin was sure that they could make it without taking a break.
Christen wasn’t as sure about it now, though, as her arms were already starting to tremble.
“Okay… I’m trying.” She shot back, gritting her teeth together for some extra strength and then lifting her end of the TV a little more so Tobin wasn’t bearing most of the weight of it any longer.
Of course, all of this could have been avoided if Tobin had just agreed with her in the first place.
They had already hired a moving company to move the big things, but Tobin insisted that it wasn’t worth paying them for two days when they could move the smaller stuff themselves beforehand, and leave the big stuff to the professionals.
So here they were, freezing their butts off in the late-January cold every time they made the walk from the lobby of Christen's River North condo, to the pickup truck Tobin had borrowed from a friend, as they moved Christen’s things out of her apartment.
Taking advantage of a few midweek days that Tobin had off due to working the previous weekend, while knowing they would both be busy again in no time.
They barely made it into the elevator before setting the large TV down as they both took a deep breath and let the door close behind them.
“My arms are going to fall off…” Christen whined as she reached them over her head while Tobin pressed the button for the ground floor.
“Yeah, you’ve really overexerted yourself today.” Tobin commented as she stretched her arms a little as well, trying to get her muscles to relax before leaning against the wall of the elevator next to Christen.
Tobin had been constantly working throughout the morning, when Christen went to get them coffee, and then all through the noon hour, even while Christen insisted on leaving to grab them lunch, so she was much more worn out than Christen should be and just couldn’t help but let her know about it now.
Christen narrowed her eyes at Tobin at she crossed her arms over her chest then, choosing not to respond.
“I’m kidding…” Tobin mumbled after a few seconds of silence, reaching her arm around Christen’s shoulders and pulling her into herself.
“Stop being crabby with me,” Christen hummed into Tobin’s neck while she leaned her weight on her as the elevator descended from the 14th floor. “Moving all of this ourselves was your idea.”
“I know.” Tobin conceded.
Christen pulled back after a moment to look into Tobin’s eyes and Tobin just offered her an apologetic smirk, leaning in to kiss Christen’s lips quickly before the both leaned back into their own space again.
Not needing to say anything else to each other to clear the air, while the door to the elevator opened as they reached the ground floor, ready to continue their work.
There had been a couple hiccups throughout the day; Christen pinched her finger in one of her dresser drawers hard enough to make herself bleed, and Tobin accidentally dropped a box of plates and bowls in the middle of the snowy sidewalk and shattered them all, ignoring the daggers Christen was shooting at her with her eyes as she picked the box up and walked it right to the dumpster next to the building, tossing it in without another word.
But for the most part, they got out unscathed.
It was just past dinner time when they had the last of Christen’s clothes unloaded from her car and had them now hanging in Tobin’s walk-in closet, barely making it to the living room before they both collapsed on the couch in exhaustion.
“I don’t ever want to do that again.” Tobin murmured as she shut her eyes, feeling Morena jump up on the couch next to her and snuggle into her side.
“Yeah, let’s hope this doesn’t totally backfire on us and that we won’t have to any time soon.” Christen agreed.
“When people ask us why we made it fifty years from now, we’ll tell them it’s because we were too lazy to break up cause we would’ve had to move your stuff again.” Tobin hummed out sarcastically.
“A true love story for the ages...” Christen nodded right along with her.
She looked over at Tobin and they both laughed a little once they made eye contact, falling silent again after a moment.
They laid there peacefully for a few minutes until Christen sat up again. “So, what now, roomie?” She teased as she reached out and gave Tobin’s knee a squeeze.
“I think we should go out and celebrate.” Tobin said as she grabbed Christen’s hand on her leg. “Let’s find a happy hour and have some drinks and dinner since I’m way too tired to cook for you tonight.”
“That sounds perfect,” Christen nodded as she scooted to the edge of the couch and stood up. “I’m gonna go shower and then we should go because I’m starving.”
“Yeah, me too.” Tobin watched Christen walk towards the stairs as she patted Morena’s head a few times.
She then looked back up at Christen again and cleared her throat.
“Oh I forgot, there are a few rules for the new tenants that I’d like you to know about…” Tobin tried not to smile as she sat up.
“Like what?” Christen asked without turning around.
“Rent is due the first of every month, no exceptions, also, quiet hours start at 10 PM every evening, and… I’d prefer no shoes on the carpet, please...”
Christen was already halfway out of the room before she turned to look back at Tobin with an amused look on her face.
She waited a moment before she gave Tobin a deadpan look, “...Are you done?”
Tobin couldn’t help but laugh at how funny she thought she was being. “Nope, one more thing...“
She stood up from the couch, too, and made her way towards where Christen was standing at the bottom of the stairs now, wrapping an arm around her waist as soon as she reached her and threading her other hand through Christen’s hair, angling her face until their lips were practically touching.
They held eye contact for a moment until Tobin finally started to lean in as she whispered softly,