One kiss, bad for me
But I give in so easily
And no thank you is how it should've gone
I should stay strong
But I'm weak, and what's wrong with that?
Boy, oh boy I love it when I fall for that
I'm weak, and what's wrong with that?
(Tobin - “Weak” by AJR)
I can feel something here, wondering if you do, too
Just between you and me
Can't help but feeling we're acting like lovers do
Why can't we just address it?
Why don't we start undressin'
'Til there's nothing between
Nothing between, nothing between
Nothing between you and me?
(Christen - “Between You & Me” by Betty Who)
CAMP DAY TWELVE
Christen felt like she blinked and it was already game day. This past week had passed by in a blur of double-day trainings, ice baths, and healthy meals. Each day always started and ended the same though, with Tobin in her arms. But with only two days left of camp, only one final day on the soccer field tomorrow, Christen felt like time was moving too quickly. She was trying to stop it, desperately clinging to the seconds and minutes and hours. But no matter how hard she tried, time moved by and brought her time with Tobin closer to an end.
She knew they’d still see each other the summer, they’d hang out and train and go to the beach together. They'd be going to the Arsenal game soon and then she'd go camping in Tobin's backyard. But they’d never have moments like these. Moments where they brushed their teeth next to each other and tried to make the other person laugh by dancing poorly. Moments where their breathing synced right as they were both falling asleep. Moments with lingering looks, barely hidden desires, and bashful smiles. They’d never have time like this again, at least not for a long while.
Christen sighed, stirring her oatmeal around in her bowl. She knew she shouldn’t be so down about this. But she hadn’t been able to shake this fog that had descended, making every moment with Tobin feel like it was one of the last ones of its kind.
“Chris? Are you okay?” Tobin asked, sliding into the seat next to her, two cups of coffee in hand.
Christen smooshed a blueberry and stirred it into her oatmeal. With a shrug, she barely looked up at Tobin and replied, “Yeah, I’m good.”
“I got you some coffee,” Tobin offered, not sure what she could do to improve Christen’s mood.
“Thanks,” Christen replied, knowing her voice sounded so sad but also knowing there was nothing she could do to stop it.
“I have something really important to ask you,” Tobin said, furrowing her brow seriously, despite having nothing serious to actually report. She was rapidly searching her brain for anything she could say to make Christen smile.
Christen finally looked up at Tobin, an attempt at a smile on her face. “What’s up?”
“Do you like camping?” Tobin asked, a lopsided smile slipping onto her face as an idea formed in her mind.
Christen cocked her head to the side, curiosity shining in her eyes. “Why do you ask?”
“Weeelll…” Tobin started, her smile growing. “Jeff and I usually camp together in June, but he’s got tennis camp. I need a buddy, and you’re a lot better at cuddling than Harry.”
Christen felt her bad mood lifting. There was no way she could be anything but happy sitting next to Tobin, not when Tobin was grinning like a fool and her eyes were shining with excitement.
“I dabble in outdoor activities,” Christen replied, taking a sip of her coffee.
“I mean...it’s outdoors,” Tobin muttered, feeling somewhat embarrassed for what she was about to tell Christen. “It’s in the backyard.”
Christen’s laughter bubbled up inside of her. Of course, Tobin Heath was talking about backyard camping. It was never what she was expecting.
“That sounds fun, Tobs. I’m there,” Christen grinned.
“I mean, don’t get me wrong. I like real camping too. Jeff and I started backyard camping when we were little, and it’s a summer tradition. Plus, then we can use the bathroom indoors…” Tobin shrugged, sipping her coffee.
“You sure know how to treat a girl,” Christen teased. “Bathroom access is key.”
“I’ll even make you some good sandwiches if you want,” Tobin added with a wink, happy that she could make Christen smile again.
“Whoa slow down, that’s starting to sound like too good of a time,” Christen said with a smirk. It was ridiculous how quickly her mood had brightened. Tobin just had this magical quality about her. It was like Christen couldn’t stay sad or upset, Tobin wouldn’t let her. Tobin would tell a joke or say something dorky, and Christen would find herself smiling and feeling a thousand times better.
“I just want to make sure you’ll hang out with me when we aren’t forced to share a hotel room,” Tobin sighed, immediately regretting it when she saw Christen deflate slightly.
Christen dimmed at the reminder that their time was coming to a close, her previous bad mood threatening to return.
“I wouldn’t say forced is the right word. I’m really sad that we won’t be roommates anymore. It’s actually why I was pouting into my oatmeal when you walked up,” Christen admitted bashfully.
“Me too,” Tobin whispered, reaching out to squeeze Christen’s hand. “I’ve never wanted to stay at a camp as much as I do this one.”
Christen smiled at Tobin, running her thumb along Tobin’s fingers, unwilling to let Tobin go just yet.
“I-” Christen started to say, only to be quickly cut off by an unexpected breakfast visitor.
“IT’S GAME DAAAAAAY!” Kristie hollered, dropping down at Christen and Tobin’s table, unaware of the sweet moment they were having.
Morgan followed behind Kristie, rolling her eyes at the energy Kristie always seemed to have. “Morning, guys,” she greeted, eyes dropping to their clasped hands on the table. She smiled at the two of them and then sat down.
“Morning,” Christen replied, eyes moving between Kristie and Morgan, still not letting go of Tobin’s hand. “When’s the pre-game meeting?”
“Sometime before the game,” Kristie shrugged, adding a heaping dribble of syrup to her stacks of pancakes.
“How helpful,” Tobin laughed, intertwining a few of her fingers with Christen’s and absentmindedly spinning one of Christen’s rings. Tobin moved one of her feet under the table, just barely knocking it against Christen’s, another way to make sure that Christen knew she was there. She didn’t want Christen to feel sad, like she’d lose Tobin after camp. If Tobin could, she’d wrap her arms around Christen, she’d pull her against her. All she wanted was multiple points of contact. She wanted to touch Christen as much as she could.
“I think Coach said 10:45 in the conference room,” Morgan replied, sipping her orange juice with a knowing smirk aimed in Tobin’s direction.
Christen looked down at their hands, watching Tobin’s thumb fiddle with the ring around her middle finger. Even that small touch, something so innocent, sent sparks shooting across her hand and up her arm.
“You want to head over early?” Tobin asked, squeezing Christen’s hand softly.
Christen nodded, finally removing her hand from Tobin’s so she could grab her dishes. “See you two in there!”
“Wow, I cleared that table,” Kristie snorted, watching Tobin and Christen leave.
“They’re just totally into each other,” Morgan sighed.
“Wait, what? They are?” Kristie replied, her mouth falling open in surprise as she watched Tobin put her hand on Christen’s lower back to lead them out of the breakfast room.
“Please tell me you’re being sarcastic,” Morgan laughed.
“I...was?” Kristie cringed.
Outside the breakfast room, Tobin and Christen ambled slowly down the hall, their hands grazing against each other with every step.
“Chris?” Tobin asked now that they were alone.
“Yeah?” Christen replied, looking over at Tobin.
“Can we do an ice cream night tonight?” Tobin asked, remembering the first night they’d been trapped with ice cream and forced to talk.
Christen nodded, a smile tugging at her lips. “Of course! Hotel rooms and ice cream, it’s like our thing.”
“I just want to be alone with you,” Tobin hummed, her cheeks flushing at her honesty.
Feeling her stomach flutter at the words, Christen had to look away from Tobin. She couldn’t keep looking into those warm, brown eyes, not when she was feeling these big, messy, complicated feelings inside of her heart.
“Unless you want to invite other people,” Tobin rushed to clarify. “We can totally ask Kristie and Morgan and Syd to join if you want.”
“Nah, I’m good. A 'you and me' night sounds nice,” Christen replied.
“It’s a date,” Tobin nodded, not even daring to look at Christen’s face. “Tonight. I’ll tell her. I’ll tell her I’m falling in love with her.”
Christen was proud of herself for not tripping over her own feet as they continued to walk down the hallway together. She hadn’t expected Tobin to come right out and say it. They’d done so many things together, just the two of them, that could totally be considered dates. But neither one of them ever dared to use the word. Until now. She didn’t know how she felt about the word. Not completely.
On the one hand, Tobin could totally have said the word date innocently. A date didn’t have to mean a night with a significant other or a crush. Lots of people said, “it’s a date” as a phrase with no meaning behind the words. Looking at Tobin’s face, though, Christen knew that there was meaning behind all of her words. Tobin didn’t say things without meaning.
Tobin’s smile was contagious, her cheeks were rosy with a soft blush, and her eyes were soft and gentle, maybe even heart eyes.
“Do I want this to be a date?” Christen thought to herself, hardly taking a moment to definitively answer, “Yes, of course, I do.” She’d been wanting to date Tobin since she first met her. She’d been infatuated with Tobin since August of their freshman year. That didn’t mean that dating was a good idea, though. Tobin expected Christen to be perfect. She’d called her perfect. She’d complimented her so much, and Christen wondered if Tobin really knew her, the real her, not the perfect, Facetime-ready her.
Christen could be grumpy and sad and anxious. She was human. She wasn’t always easy to be with, and Tobin hadn’t seen much of that, much of her human side. “What if I’m not enough?” she thought, her mind spinning with worst-case scenarios. “If I’m not enough and Tobin realizes that I won’t just lose her as a girlfriend. I’ll lose my best friend. I’ll lose a part of my world, and I don’t know if I’d survive that.”
“Chris, you okay?”
“Of course,” Christen nodded, her smile slipping back onto her face as she reached out and linked her pinky with Tobin’s. “Ice cream date night sounds good.”
“...and up top, we’ll go with Syd, Heath, and Press,” Coach Foudy announced, reading off the final few names of the starting lineup.
Christen tightened her grip around Tobin’s hand, feeling butterflies swarm around her stomach. They were starting together in their first actual game with the U-23 National Team. Christen couldn’t have asked for anything better.
“Well, the other team’s about to get screwed,” Kristie announced, rubbing Tobin’s head and messing up her already messy bun.
“Don’t underestimate Brazil. They’re crafty and will put up a good fight,” the assistant coach for camp, Carla Overbeck, stated with a disapproving look for Kristie.
“I’m not underestimating them, Coach, but we’ve all seen Tobinho and Pressy play together,” Kristie shrugged, fixing the headband in her hair.
Christen bit back a smile at the compliment, feeling more excited than nervous for tonight’s match. She’d gotten most of her game-day jitters out when they’d scrimmaged against the University of Portland, and after scoring two goals in that game, she was feeling ready for today. The only thing she wasn’t sure she was ready for was slipping on an actual jersey for the first time.
“Hey,” Tobin whispered, knocking her knee into Christen’s.
Christen squeezed Tobin’s hand, letting her know that she was listening, her eyes on the set-piece presentation Coach Foudy was giving.
“I’m gonna give you an assist today,” Tobin hummed.
“Not if I give you one first,” Christen teased quietly.
“Challenge accepted,” Tobin laughed, resisting the urge to kiss the back of Christen’s hand.
The meeting ended quickly after that, allowing the players to head back to their room for some final downtime before the bus ride to Providence Park.
After both showering and getting changed into their pre-game warm-up outfits, Christen had crawled on top of her perfectly made bed. She needed to get some meditation in before they left. She couldn’t give Tobin assists or even score herself if she wasn’t in game mode.
Tobin chose to lay down on her bed, eyes closed, measuring her heart rate. She’d gotten it down to 44 bpm and was aiming for 40 bpm before this game.
“Chris, you aren’t meditating,” Tobin sighed, cracking one eye open to glance at the fidgeting girl.
“I’m trying,” Christen whined, squinting over at Tobin.
“Do you need a meditation buddy?” Tobin asked, lifting herself up on her elbows.
“Yes, please,” Christen replied, fingers running along the wooden beads of the chain in her hand. It was a mala, something she’d gotten for herself pretty recently, and something she’d never used in front of Tobin before. But it seemed like the perfect day to use it.
“As you wish,” Tobin said, drifting over to Christen’s bed and sitting beside her.
Christen and Tobin sat in relative silence, both breathing deeply. Christen kept her eyes shut, her brows drawn together in focus.
“What are you thinking about?” Tobin whispered, still not great about letting Christen meditate in silence.
Christen cracked a smile, her eyes remaining closed. “I’m thinking about everything that I have to be grateful for today. I usually try and center myself with reminders of all the wonderful things in my life before a really big game.”
“Oooh that’s a good idea,” Tobin hummed. “I’m grateful for soccer.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Christen said gently, her tone teasing.
“Sharing is caring, Chris, and I care about you,” Tobin hummed.
Christen sighed and opened her eyes. She held the mala out to Tobin with a smile. “I care about you too. Now here, take this, and every time you grab onto a new bead, put your gratitude into it. Don’t tell me, tell yourself."
“You just want me to be quiet. I see,” Tobin laughed, holding the beads with absolutely no idea how to use them. She closed her eyes though, trying her best to stay quiet and think of all that she was grateful for.
“Put them around your middle finger, with your index finger pointed away from you. Pull the beads toward you, one by one, with your thumb, until you reach the head bead,” Christen instructed, taking a deep breath and feeling on her way to total peace.
“I’m grateful for you,” Tobin whispered after a few minutes of silence. “I didn’t just want to tell the beads that one.”
Christen blushed at the admission, her heart soaring. But she quickly reminded herself to stay focused. “Ditto. Focus, Tobs.”
The peace Christen had been chasing, and then achieved, stayed with her through the end of their meditation session, through the bus ride where she and Tobin shared headphones and jammed to Lizzo, during warm-ups, and all the way back into the locker room. But it now escaped her as she held the U.S. jersey in her hands, her fingers moving over the U.S. Soccer crest on the right side of the jersey.
“Oh, boy,” she whispered to herself, feeling an almost overwhelming sense of pressure and expectation. So many girls wanted to wear this jersey, and so few of them got to. She just wanted to feel worthy of the jersey, worthy of the moment. Did she deserve to be here, to wear this? Could she make her coach, her teammates, her country proud? Could she make Tobin proud? A quiet voice of confidence whispered through her mind, telling her that she could do it, that she deserved this.
Tobin watched Christen, not willing to interrupt her moment. Putting on the jersey was always special. It wasn’t lost on Tobin that every time she put on the U.S. jersey, it was an important moment, a moment she was incredibly grateful for. But putting it on for the first time? That was undeniably the most momentous of all. She watched as Christen had her moment, holding the jersey for the first time.
Christen quickly pulled on the jersey, the familiar number 23 on the back of it. She smoothed out her hair on her head and ran her fingers through her straightened ponytail. She took a big breath in and sat down in her locker.
“Some little kid is going to see you today and tell her club coach that she wants to be number 23,” Tobin whispered once Christen was in her jersey.
Tears sprang to Christen’s eyes at the sweet words, at the adoration in Tobin’s voice. She turned to look at Tobin, a smile on her face.
“You really think so?” she asked, her chest swelling with hope.
“I would, if I weren’t already tied to 17,” Tobin laughed. “Plus, 23 looks much better on you.”
Christen beamed, wiping at the lone tear that escaped her eye. She shook off her emotions, for now, knowing this game would be full of them. Right now, she wanted to sink into this moment of wearing the crest for the first time, sitting next to Tobin, feeling almost overwhelmed by the depth of her feelings for the brunette. She wanted to remember this moment for the rest of her life, how right it all felt.
“I wouldn’t want to be doing this with anyone else,” Christen admitted, feeling her cheeks heat up, but not wanting to look away from Tobin.
“Me either,” Tobin said, looking directly at Christen’s green eyes. “Um, Chris? There’s- there's a lot I want to say…” Tobin started.
“Don’t, not now. We’ve got a game to win,” Christen replied gently, her heart jumping into her throat. She had no idea what Tobin wanted to say to her, but she had a feeling it was something similar to the thoughts swirling around inside of her mind, to the emotions in her heart. If it was, she knew now wasn’t the time for it. They couldn’t run the risk of playing poorly or costing their team the game by getting distracted by the ever-growing, almost-impossible-to-deny feelings between them.
“Right,” Tobin nodded, scratching the back of her neck. She wasn’t embarrassed, not really. Christen was right. They needed to focus on the game, but Tobin did wonder if Christen would have reacted with the same quick deflection if they were in their hotel room, no game in sight. Instead of worrying, Tobin focused on her heart rate again, gulping down her thoughts. “I’m falling in love with you.”
“Later. Tonight, with the ice cream?” Christen asked, using her tongue to wet her lips. She wasn’t sure why she’d said that. But maybe she was ready to surrender after fighting for so long. Maybe she was ready to just give in because it was becoming too hard not to. Or, maybe she was ignoring the small flicker of fear in her stomach like a fool.
“Sure,” Tobin shrugged, trying to act nonchalant, trying to act like she didn’t care, trying to pretend that she didn’t want to kiss the lip that Christen’s tongue had just licked.
“All right, ladies! Time to get on the field!” Coach Foudy announced to the locker room full of excited and nervous players.
Christen looked away from Couch Foudy and met Tobin’s gaze. She reached out and squeezed Tobin’s knee with her hand.
“Let’s go kick some ass,” Christen said with a smile.
“After you,” Tobin grinned, standing up from her spot and pulling Christen up beside her.
“It’s plant time,” Tobin cheered, close to Christen’s ear.
“It’s not called- You know what, I’m too excited to argue with you,” Christen gushed, standing on the sidelines beside Tobin and Sydney.
“I’m literally about to get rooted and shooted!” Tobin cheered, jumping into the air and pumping her fist.
“You’re such a dork,” Christen replied, eyes scanning the stands for her family. She knew they had flown in today for the game, and even if they had to fly back home right after, she was happy they were here to see her play just the same.
“I’m your dork,” Tobin said, stepping back into Christen’s space in preparation for their pregame meditation.
Christen’s heart fluttered in her chest. Tobin Heath always said the sweetest things to her. It didn’t matter where they were or who they were with. Every word, every phrase, was adorable and kind and genuine. Christen simply grinned at Tobin, unable to even formulate a response.
“Hey, look! Your family’s sitting with my dad and brother,” Tobin pointed into the stands. She waved, a huge smile on her face, causing every Press and both Jeffs to wave back and cheer.
Christen turned and waved as well, loving the fact that their families were sitting together, that she and Tobin were on this field together. That maybe, someday soon, she’d work through her fears and she and Tobin could actually be together.
“You think you’ll do a bicycle kick today?” Tobin teased, knocking her hip into Christen’s.
“Depends on what kind of service you give me,” Christen teased back. She noticed their teammates almost ready to do the cheer, so she turned to face Tobin. “So...I guess it’s actually plant time now?”
“PLANT TIME!” Tobin agreed, her happiness contagious and energized.
Christen could only shake her head and smile, stepping back and sticking her arms out. She lifted her head to the sky, ready to get in the zone, when she heard Tobin’s voice.
“Can I ask a favor though?” Tobin asked, feeling nervous immediately.
“Sure?” Christen replied, not looking at Tobin just yet.
“Canthesetwoplantsholdhands?” Tobin rushed out.
Christen’s brow furrowed and she dropped her head. She opened her eyes, hoping her confusion was evident.
“Can these two plants hold-” Tobin started, then quickly stopped. “Nevermind. I’m ready,” Tobin stepped back and closed her eyes, ready to calm her nerves.
Christen stepped forward, bringing them close together again, everything else melting away - the stands, the crowd, their team. It was just Tobin.
“No, Tobs, what?” she asked, her voice low enough for no one else to hear but Tobin.
Tobin kept her eyes closed, not wanting to see Christen’s face when she asked. She couldn’t understand why she was nervous to ask Christen to hold her hand, since they did it all the time without thought. Maybe it was because they weren’t all alone. Maybe it was because meditation was Christen’s thing. Maybe it was because Tobin felt like today was different.
“Can we- can I hold your hand?” Tobin whispered, her voice wavering.
Christen knew she was smiling. She knew she was smiling bigger than she ever had before. This was, without a doubt, the cutest request she’d ever heard from Tobin. Even if holding hands was almost second nature to them now, hearing Tobin ask in that quiet, nervous voice of hers made Christen’s heart skip a beat in her chest.
“Always,” she replied softly, taking Tobin’s hand in her own and pivoting so they were both facing the field. She lifted their joined hands and raised her face to the sky.
Tobin’s stomach flipped. Christen’s words sent warmth all over her body, and all Tobin wanted to do was spill her guts to Christen. “Be patient,” Tobin thought. “You’ve been holding back for so long. You can wait a few more hours.”
“Let’s go weirdos, soccer waits for nobody!” Kristie yelled, interrupting the small moment of serenity the two of them had found themselves in.
Christen dropped Tobin’s hand and shot her one last smile. “You ready?”
“My first goal’s for you,” Tobin said before running ahead onto the field, a huge smirk on her face.
Christen watched Tobin go, suddenly feeling like everything that had been swirling around in her heart, every feeling that had been culminating for two whole years was something so much bigger than she realized. Christen hadn’t just fallen head over heels for Tobin Heath. She might have done something silly and fallen in love with her. But those were thoughts to unpack later, much later. Right now, she had a goal to score for Tobin.
It only took four minutes for Tobin to make good on her promise. They were in Brazil’s half almost the entire start of the game. Christen received a long ball from Morgan, trapping it with her left foot and taking an attacking touch into the eighteen-yard box to defeat her defender. She looked up and saw Tobin streaking into the opposite side of the box.
Christen wound up and curled a cross in, the ball skipping past Sydney’s outstretched foot, headed right for Tobin at the back post. Tobin poked a foot out and redirected the ball into the top of the net. She collapsed onto her knees due to her momentum and slid into the goal.
“YES!” Christen cheered, jumping into the air in celebration.
Tobin stayed on the ground, turning around to look for Christen. When her eyes met Christen’s, Tobin smirked, pointing her finger at Christen, a sign that the goal was dedicated to her, just as promised.
Christen jogged over to Tobin, pulling Tobin to her feet and then tugging her in for a huge hug. Morgan and Sydney quickly enveloped them both in hugs too, the four of them all but standing right in Brazil’s goal as they celebrated. As they dispersed and headed for their half of the field, Tobin sent a wink in Christen’s direction.
“My turn to assist,” Tobin said, jogging away from Brazil’s goal.
“My turn to score,” Christen called out, heading for her side of the field for the kick-off, but not without sending her typical awkward attempt at a wink in Tobin’s direction first. Watching Tobin score that goal, a goal she’d helped assist, had done something to her. It lit a fire inside of her, something she knew wasn’t just about being competitive or happy they scored. It was the same fire that had burned inside of her in the club in L.A. It was a fire that only burned hotter and more intense when she saw Tobin nutmeg a Brazilian midfielder late in the second half.
Unfortunately, or maybe a little fortunately, the fire was quickly doused when that same Brazilian midfielder reached out, grabbed a fistful of Tobin’s hair, and tugged her to the ground.
Christen had never crossed a field so fast. As she passed the ref, she threw her hand up in the air. “That’s a card, ref!”
She didn’t wait and see if the referee pulled the yellow out, she immediately hurried to Tobin’s side, crouching down and placing a hand on Tobin’s stomach.
“Hey. You good?”
“I think I need mouth-to-mouth,” Tobin teased, her eyes light with laughter, even her face was scrunched a bit in pain.
Morgan joined them and caught the tail end of Tobin’s reply. She smirked and patted Christen on the back.
“She’s fine,” Morgan winked. She looked down at Tobin and grinned, “Take your time, Tobs. We’ve only got a few minutes left in the game and we’re already up by three.”
“How’s my hair?” Tobin asked, still on the ground, smoothing down the strands that were now blowing across her forehead.
“It's fine, it's- Are you sure you’re okay?” Christen asked, rubbing her hands across Tobin’s stomach, worry shining in her eyes.
“I’ve gotta give you your assist, so I better be,” Tobin grinned, lifting herself off the ground. As much as she wanted to stay on the ground with Christen’s hands running over her in concern, she wasn’t one to break a promise. She’d promised to assist a goal, and she had four minutes to do just that.
Christen backed away, feeling a bit of relief at the easy smile on Tobin’s face. “You don’t have a lot of time to deliver,” Christen said, jerking her head at the time on the scoreboard.
“Good thing I’m good on my feet,” Tobin smirked, jogging ahead.
Christen laughed and ran back over to the middle of the field. She watched as Morgan set up to take the free-kick, passing it short to Tobin near the sideline.
Tobin trapped the ball outside of the eighteen-yard box, seeing two defenders between her and Christen. Instead of wasting her time with fancy footwork, knowing she could beat both defenders and give Christen a cleaner cross, Tobin decided to just lob the ball and see what Christen could do with it.
She miskicked it slightly, sending the ball behind Christen. Tobin worried for a second she’d messed up, but then Christen proved how world-class of a footballer she truly was. Christen turned her back to the goal, using the outside of her right foot to trap the ball and pass it behind herself. She pivoted back to face the goal, using her left foot to send a shot screaming into the top corner of the net.
“GOOOOAAAALLLL!!!!!” Tobin screamed, just like she had at every single practice and training session she’d had with Christen. This time, she screamed even louder, suddenly hit with the realization that she and Christen had been working toward this moment for weeks. They’d been imagining this moment every time they’d practiced at the soccer field in L.A.
Christen bent at the waist, pumping her arms at her sides in celebration. “HELL YEAH!” she cheered, knowing her teammates were rushing her, but knowing she wanted to celebrate with a certain someone first. She turned quickly to look for Tobin, grinning once she spotted her. She pointed at Tobin as if to say, “That one was for you!”
Tobin jogged over, Christen already completely surrounded by their teammates, and wrapped her arms around the pile of players. She’d have plenty of time later to celebrate with just Christen.
When the referee blew the whistle a couple of minutes later, Christen wasn’t ready for the game to be over. If the game was over, that meant camp was almost over, and her time with Tobin was nearing an end too. “At least you’ll have tonight,” Christen reminded herself. A little thrill ran through her at what Tobin could possibly want to talk about, and she pointedly ignored the small seed of fear, of worry, that planted in her heart.
After shaking hands with the Brazilian players and getting her post-game chocolate milk, Christen looked around for Tobin, eyes searching for number 17 on the field.
Tobin was barefoot, standing in the middle of the field, her eyes closed and her face turned upward. Her hair was even sloppier than usual due to the foul she’d received in the dying minutes of the game, but she didn’t look like she cared at all. Her face was completely blissed out.
Christen hesitantly walked over, not wanting to interrupt, but too curious not to ask.
“Are you planting without me?” Christen asked teasingly.
“Never,” Tobin gasped, her eyes opening immediately. “I’m just telling the beads what I’m grateful for now. Hope they can hear me.”
There it was again, that fluttering in her chest that was starting to feel an awful lot like love. Christen ignored the thought and the fluttering and stepped closer to Tobin, an easy smile on her face despite the scary feelings in her heart.
“You’re pretty incredible, Tobin Heath. Did you know that?”
“No,” Tobin shook her head, a shy smile on her face. “I think I’m lucky that someone like you thinks that, though.”
Christen’s smile deepened. She slipped off her cleats and socks and stepped into the grass, joining Tobin. She knew their families were in the stands and they had things to do, but she didn’t want to leave the field.
“Fun fact, I almost came over to talk to you when we had our preseason game freshman year,” Tobin said.
Christen wiggled her toes in the grass, her smile one of surprise. “Really?”
“Mhm. You’re really pretty, if you haven’t noticed, and I was gonna talk to you. To see if you were cool or whatever,” Tobin shrugged, like it was no big deal.
Maybe it was the fact that they’d both scored and assisted each other’s goals. Maybe it was the fact that this was one of their last nights at camp together. Or maybe it was for another reason entirely. But either way, Christen felt a fundamental shift happen between them in this moment, an even bigger one than ever before. This was brazen, this was bold. This was dirty dancing in the club, only without the tequila or the feigned forgetfulness after. This was different and Christen was hurrying to catch up.
“I- uh- really?” Christen stammered, completely flustered by this completely confident and cool side of Tobin. Never in her wildest dreams had she thought Tobin had noticed her during their first game.
“You were drinking chocolate milk with Kelley for a bit when I was talking to Harry, but when I walked over toward you, you basically ran into the locker room. You’re a speed walking champion,” Tobin laughed.
“I- I didn’t know you came over to talk to me,” Christen replied, her cheeks flaming and her words tight.
“It’s okay. I probably would have embarrassed myself,” Tobin snorted, sending a wink in Christen’s direction.
Christen shook her head, struggling to wrap her head around everything Tobin was saying to her, everything Tobin wasn’t saying but was communicating with her eyes.
“I would have. I’m so awkward,” Christen said self-deprecatingly.
“No you aren’t,” Tobin assured her, reaching out for Christen's hand.
“It’s okay, I know I am. I just surround myself with less awkward, way funnier people so my awkwardness is overshadowed by them.”
“Chris,” Tobin started, making sure that Christen was looking at her. “You are the coolest, kindest, most incredible person I know, awkward dorkiness and all. I wouldn’t change a thing about you.”
If at all possible, Christen’s blush deepened. She was stumbling over her words, her mouth suddenly so dry. “Um- thanks, I uh-”
“You want to go say hi to our families and get some dinner or something?” Tobin asked, saving Christen from whatever feelings she was having trouble processing.
Christen nodded quickly, thankful for the quick change of topic and a return to something safer, something that didn’t have her heart racing in her chest and her mind telling her that they were headed down a path there was no returning from.
“Thanks for dinner, Mr. Press,” Tobin said, standing with Christen outside the team’s hotel.
“You flip burgers with me, you call me Cody, which you already know,” Cody replied, reaching through the driver’s side window and slapping Tobin gruffly on the back.
“Right, Cody,” Tobin nodded. “Next time my family should be able to stay and go out with us,” Tobin continued, wishing that her dad and Jeff had been able to have dinner with the Presses. She wanted her family to be close with Christen’s. It would make everything even easier. They’d been in a rush to leave Portland, having to drive back and get at least some sleep before Jeff’s tennis tournament the next afternoon. Her brother had insisted on watching Tobin play in person despite Tobin’s reassurance that she didn’t need anyone to come watch. She’d told Jeff that he needed to focus on his own match, but her brother had promised that he could do both. He’d sleep in the car. They’d offered to drive Tobin home early, having asked Coach Foudy if Tobin could miss the last practice at camp and travel with them, but Tobin had refused, wanting one last night and another day with Christen. She wanted to sleep in Christen's arms one last time before they went home.
“Fly home safe you guys,” Christen called, waving goodbye to Cody, Stacy, and Channing who sat in the rental car.
“Enjoy the ice cream,” Channing said, a mischievous glint in her eye that Christen hoped Tobin didn’t notice.
“Have fun on your last day, girls. We’ll see you both back in L.A. soon. Tobin, have your mom text me, I found a great recipe for lasagna soup,” Stacy said, leaning next to Cody so she could smile at Tobin.
“Next barbecue’s on Sunday. Bring the whole family,” Cody said, sending a wink Tobin’s way.
“I’ll let them know,” Tobin laughed, loving how overwhelmingly welcoming the Presses were.
“Okay, okay bye! Don’t want to miss your flight!” Christen said, waving once more at her family and backing away toward the hotel, tugging on Tobin’s arm.
“Jeez, Mo! It’s like you want to get rid of us,” Cody laughed.
“We love you girls,” Stacy said.
“Byeeee!” Channing yelled as the car pulled away, her arm waving out the window.
“They’re so cool,” Tobin sighed, gripping the bag holding their ice cream pints.
Christen hummed and snuggled deeper into the sweatshirt she’d won from Tobin, a sweatshirt she now considered theirs. She felt the slight chill in the air and regretted her agreement to the frozen dessert.
“Let’s get you inside,” Tobin laughed, rubbing a hand up and down one of Christen’s arms.
Christen leaned into Tobin’s embrace with a small smile. She’d spent the last hour completely enamored with the way Tobin interacted with her family. It just seemed so easy, the way Tobin fit in with all of them. She was carving a space out not just in Christen’s life, but in her family’s lives as well.
The inevitability of it all was something that Christen thought about a lot at dinner. Every moment that had led to tonight, every text message, every phone call, every crossed line, every flirty comment, had contributed to the gravitational pull that existed between them. They’d been building up to tonight, from the very first moment they met, whether consciously or not. It was all leading to this and Christen had no idea what awaited them once they got back to their room. All she knew was that she was nervous, and even a little scared.
Tobin had called it a date, and despite her nerves, Christen knew tonight was so much more than that. Tobin had said there were things to say, and Christen wondered if tonight they’d lay it all on the line and bare their hearts and souls. Tonight felt like the cliff’s edge, and they were both finally deciding whether to take the plunge or not. She only wished she knew what choice she would make.
Before she knew it, they were upstairs and walking into their room, Tobin holding the door open for her.
Tobin’s heart was hammering in her chest with excitement and anxiety and anticipation. She wanted to be calm, to stay her chill self, and help Christen relax. This could be a normal ice cream night if Tobin would just let it be normal, but Tobin felt like she was about to explode if she didn’t tell Christen how she felt. She’d been patient with herself and with Christen for two years, but their relationship felt so much stronger than it had ever been. She finally felt like they were ready to take another step forward, as long as she didn’t scare Christen away before that.
“Oat milk vanilla ice cream for the lady,” Tobin offered, feeling awkward as soon as she opened her mouth.
Christen rolled her eyes and took the carton of ice cream from Tobin with a small smile.
“You ever get tired of rolling your eyes at me?” Tobin asked, pulling out her own pint of Phish Food.
“I’ll let you know when the day comes,” Christen quipped, taking a small bite of ice cream and shivering as it made her even colder. She kicked off her shoes, scurried across the room, and hopped onto their bed. She quickly got under the covers.
“I hope it doesn’t come,” Tobin sighed, dropping down into one of the chairs across from the bed. She wanted Christen to think she was silly and dorky and entertaining for the rest of her life.
Christen put her ice cream aside, leveling Tobin with a thoughtful look. She opened her mouth, as if to say something, thought better of it, and then closed her mouth again.
“What?” Tobin garbled through a mouthful of ice cream.
“I just- I was thinking about how we know each other so well, but there’s still so much I don’t know about you,” Christen replied.
“What would you like to know?” Tobin asked, cocking her head to the side and putting her ice cream down too.
“Well, you waited an awfully long time to tell me that you’d noticed me at the preseason game. Anything else along those lines?” Christen asked, wanting to see if this would make Tobin step up to the plate, to say the things she wanted to tonight. Her palms were sweating and her heart was racing, but she was too curious for her own good.
Tobin swallowed heavily. She wasn’t expecting to have to spill all her feelings this quickly. “I think since I told you that fun fact it’s actually your turn,” Tobin deflected. She needed more time to gather her courage. She needed more time to get her words in order.
Christen chuckled. “You’re nothing if not fair,” she murmured. Christen sank back against the headboard, her bottom lip pulled between her lower lip as she thought of a response, wondering what she could possibly say.
“I can’t think of anything right now,” Christen admitted. “Is there anything you’d like to know?”
“Were you also gobsmacked when you first saw me?” Tobin winked, letting Christen know that they could play this off as a joke if it was too much.
Tobin had no idea how she was able to tease with such confidence. Her entire body felt electrified, just because she was in the same room as Christen, and she had a sense of dread that she was going to start nervous sweating soon. She’d been building herself up all camp, trying to tell Christen about her feelings. She’d been hyping herself up since the game ended, knowing that tonight was the night, and now she was terrified that she’d put her foot in her own mouth and say the wrong thing. Or worse, she worried that Christen wouldn’t feel the same way, or at least to the same degree that Tobin felt.
Christen grinned, thinking back to the first time she’d laid eyes on Tobin Heath. Even then, a small part of her had known there was something there. Tobin wasn’t just some random player across the field. It was as if a bit of her soul had recognized a bit of Tobin’s. It was something inevitable from the start.
“Something like that,” Christen replied with an attempt at a nonchalant shrug, but she knew her smile and her blush gave her away.
“That’s hardly a fun fact, Chris. We don’t have to play if you don’t want to,” Tobin shrugged.
“Is that just a game to you? This fun fact stuff?” Christen asked curiously, her eyes dancing between Tobin’s. She’d never thought of it like that, and she had a feeling Tobin didn’t either. But she asked anyway.
Tobin put her ice cream down again, standing up from the chair and crossing to sit on the foot of the bed, directly in front of Christen. “Nothing I do with you is a game,” Tobin said honestly, her eyes boring into Christen’s. She didn’t want Christen to think that she was getting to know her for the fun of it, with no serious interest. Everything she felt about Christen was serious.
Christen nodded, her heart believing Tobin’s words. She offered Tobin a small smile before picking up her ice cream once more. “Just checking,” she whispered.
“You’ve got nothing to worry about. You can trust me,” Tobin beamed, sliding off the bed to grab her ice cream. “Want to watch a movie or something? I’ll even watch your favorite since you struggled through the Mighty Ducks marathon for me.”
Tobin didn’t mean to divert them away from the serious conversation, but she was nervous. She wanted more time to sink into their last night at camp. She wanted to say the right thing at the exact right time.
Christen squealed. “Oh my God we can watch The Princess Bride? ” she asked excitedly. She might still be a little flustered from earlier and very curious about the small sparkle of seriousness she could see in her favorite brown eyes, but she was willing to wait. She could try and be patient while they watched the movie. She could try and push aside the anxiety and fear she could feel in her heart.
“Ohhhh nooo,” Tobin groaned. “I forgot that was your favorite,” Tobin sighed. She grabbed her computer anyway and crawled across Christen’s legs to sit down next to her. Christen could ask her to do anything, and Tobin would do it. She’d watch The Princess Bride every day if Christen asked.
“It’s a cinematic masterpiece,” Christen replied. “No, wait, I have a better one! A close second on the favorites list, but one I know you haven’t already suffered through with me,” Christen replied, beaming at Tobin.
“I’m scared,” Tobin groaned, leaning into Christen’s side.
“ABBA doesn’t scare anybody,” Christen quipped, abandoning her ice cream in favor of snuggling closer to Tobin, throwing her arm around Tobin’s shoulders.
“Mamma Mia?” Tobin asked, perking up significantly.
“Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again,” Christen corrected, running her fingers along Tobin’s shoulder.
“Bleh, the original is better,” Tobin sighed, wrapping her arm around Christen’s waist, just like she did every night before falling asleep.
“Take your bad takes somewhere else,” Christen teased, reaching out to pull up the movie on Tobin’s computer.
“You love my bad takes. They make you laugh,” Tobin said, poking Christen in the ribs, right where she knew she was ticklish.
Christen giggled at the sensation, immediately pulling away from Tobin, taking her arm back, and holding out her hands protectively. “No, Tobs, don’t!”
“Okay, okay. Just come back,” Tobin asked.
“Can I- I mean can we-” Christen tried to ask, struggling to find the words. “Can we change places?”
Tobin cocked her head to the side, slightly confused about what Christen was asking.
“Like how we were at Ali and Ashlyn’s,” Christen explained, thinking about how they’d cuddled together to watch The Mighty Ducks the morning after that very intense, very lovely night in the club.
Tobin’s cheeks flushed. She remembered how they’d spent the morning after their drunken night as well. She’d held Christen in her arms, Christen’s head on her chest.
“Of course,” Tobin beamed, opening her arms for Christen to curl up with her.
Christen melted, snuggling in close to Tobin again. This time, she dropped her head onto Tobin’s shoulder and wrapped an arm around Tobin’s waist, her fingers sliding beneath the hem of Tobin’s t-shirt.
Tobin shivered at the contact, sinking into the warmth of Christen’s fingers. She wanted this all the time, the cuddling, the touching, the teasing. She brushed her lips across the top of Christen’s head, loving how soft her hair was and how nice she smelled, pressed up against Tobin.
“I might sing along to every song,” Christen advised as the opening credits began to roll. “And you know I’m basically tone deaf. So, you’ve been warned.”
“I might record you on my phone,” Tobin laughed. “Maybe if you’re really good, I’ll make you my ringtone.”
“You and your bad takes might be sleeping in the other bed tonight if you keep this up,” Christen murmured, her fingertips brushing against the warmth of Tobin’s skin.
“You would never!” Tobin gasped. “You love cuddling with me...right?” Tobin asked, unable to stop her insecurities from rising for a minute.
Christen pinched Tobin’s side, smiling into Tobin’s shoulder. “If I hated it, would I be here? You’re the best cuddle buddy I’ve ever had.”
“How many have you had?!” Tobin asked, her eyes widening at Christen, a small amount of jealousy planting itself in her chest.
Christen pulled her hand away from Tobin’s side, pausing the movie before tapping on her nose as she pretended to count.
“Hmm, you take the four and I think divide by two, then multiply by ten…” Christen mumbled, a smirk tugging at the corner of her lips.
“You know I refuse to do math,” Tobin sighed, closing her eyes to do mental math. “CHRIS! THAT’S TWENTY PEOPLE!” Tobin exhaled, completely caught off guard. “Not that that’s a bad thing. You can have twenty cuddle buddies,” she backtracked. “As long as I’m the best,” she added at a mumble, her cheeks turning red.
Christen snorted, too taken with this adorable rambling to keep quiet and make Tobin worry any longer.
“I got your goat, Tobs. I got it goooood,” Christen chuckled, her arm falling around Tobin’s waist once more. She gave Tobin a small squeeze, her fingers returning beneath Tobin’s shirt. “I’ve never had one before you. I actually didn’t really understand the draw until…”
“Until?” Tobin asked, longing to hear Christen’s words. It would be so easy if Christen told her what she was thinking if Tobin could just read her mind and understand the situation from both of their perspectives.
“Spring Break,” Christen replied, her words soft.
Tobin swallowed, her throat thick at the implication of those words.
“Which part?” Tobin choked out softly.
“If you have to ask, maybe I’m the one who needs to up her cuddle game,” Christen shrugged.
“I mean, we cuddled a lot during that break,” Tobin hummed, running her fingers along Christen’s bicep. “Which part?”
“I’ll tell you after the movie.”
“Oh, am I distracting you?” Tobin whispered, squeezing Christen even closer to her body.
“Always asking me questions you already know the answers to,” Christen mumbled, her fingers tracing up and down Tobin’s side.
“You shouldn’t have let Channing convince you to drink a soda tonight. It makes you sassy,” Tobin scoffed, sliding down into the covers.
“You should see me with tequila- oh wait, you already have,” Christen winked. She reached out to press the spacebar of the computer, the movie playing once more. She needed to focus on something else, anything else before she got too carried away. She’d turned her flustered, confused feelings into flirtations, the pendulum swinging in the total opposite direction, just like it always did whenever she was around Tobin Heath. She might be waiting for Tobin to speak up, to send them careening off the cliff’s edge, but she could have a little fun first. Tobin had made her blush and stumble over her words earlier, this was only fair.
Tobin gulped, remembering Christen’s tongue on her neck. She’d never be able to forget that. She’d never be able to get the images of Christen pressed against her, whispering to her, kissing her, tasting her out of her mind. Tobin felt hot under the covers, her skin itching to touch Christen’s. She needed to tell Christen how she was feeling. She needed to spill it, but she didn’t know where to start.
Instead, she could only whisper, “I really like tequila Christen,” dropping her head and brushing her lips across Christen’s forehead. She couldn’t get enough of Christen against her, wishing more than anything that she could reach out to touch or kiss without hesitation.
Christen stuttered out a breath, trying to focus on the images and people moving across the screen, but Tobin made it difficult to do so.
“And I really like ABBA, so shush,” Christen whispered, pinching Tobin’s side.
“Fine, fine,” Tobin grumbled, leaning back into the pillows. She didn’t care about ABBA. She couldn’t even watch the actors on screen. All she could do was look at Christen’s fluttering eyelids and think about all the points of contact she had with Christen’s body.
“Everybody screamed, when I kissed the teacher,” Christen hummed along with the song, a smile on her face, horribly off pitch but not caring in the slightest. “And they must have thought they dreamed when I kissed the teacher.”
Tobin’s heart nearly melted at Christen’s less than pleasant singing. “I’m falling in love with you,” Tobin thought, snuggling her face into Christen’s hair. There was no way that someone could be that cute and beautiful and dorky and hot all at the same time, but Tobin felt like she was going to combust because Christen was all of those things. She pulled in a shaky breath, piecing together what she wanted to tell Christen after the movie was over. “I’ve been feeling more than just friendship for you for a long time, maybe since I met you...that’s dumb,” Tobin shook her head, trying to breathe and calm herself down. She needed her words to be perfect, with no room for misunderstanding or a different interpretation.
The further along the movie got, the tenser Tobin was beneath her. It had started almost immediately. Tobin had gone from soft and warm, to rigid and far away. And now, with the final scene playing, Christen couldn’t take it anymore. This was one of the funnest, happiest scenes in the entire movie and Tobin was going to enjoy it. Christen tilted her face up, eyes tracking over Tobin’s face and landing on the worry wrinkle between Tobin’s brows.
“You can’t be upset when Cher’s singing her 70-year-old heart out,” Christen mumbled.
“I’m not upset,” Tobin sighed, pulling herself out of her own thoughts. She smiled down at Christen, hoping that Christen wouldn’t see the anxiety and nerves in her eyes.
Christen’s eyes narrowed, knowing she wasn’t getting the whole story. The carefree, happy-go-lucky Tobin that had sat down to watch this movie with her had completely disappeared. She was replaced with an anxious, tense version of Tobin and it had Christen’s stomach clenching with worry.
“The worry wrinkle never lies,” Christen whispered, reaching up to rub at the crinkle between Tobin’s brows, her thumb smoothing the wrinkled skin.
“Stupid worry wrinkle,” Tobin groaned, finally smiling a real smile at Christen. There was something magical about the way Christen could make her smile, even when she was anxious.
Christen sighed and sat up, closing the computer and then pivoting to face Tobin. She tucked her leg beneath her and then reached out, taking one of Tobin’s hands in her own. She began to trace her fingers along Tobin’s palm, just like she had on the plane ride here. It felt poetic in a way. They’d started this camp with their hands joined, embarking on a journey that would change everything between them. Now, Christen held Tobin’s hand once more, a new journey feeling like it was about to begin.
“You realize we’re going to have to watch this again sometime? You missed Lily James in all her glory because you were in your head the whole time,” Christen said with a small smile, hopefully conveying the fact that she was just teasing Tobin a little to see if that was the way to break through Tobin’s tension.
“I’m sure you won’t mind watching her again,” Tobin teased, knowing very well that Christen had a crush on Lily James, something that had bothered Tobin when she’d first heard it since Tobin couldn’t be more different than her.
“Not the takeaway, Tobs,” Christen replied. “Talk to me, what’s got you so far away right now?”
“I’m just a little stuck in my own thoughts, that’s all,” Tobin whispered, wishing that she could just be brave enough to spill everything.
Christen nodded, dropping her eyes to where her fingers danced across Tobin’s open palm. She had a feeling those thoughts had something to do with whatever Tobin had wanted to say to her earlier. It was the whole reason for the night, the ice cream, the movie, the cuddles. It was all a prelude to whatever Tobin was wanting to talk about, and despite the constant flutter of nerves in her chest, Christen’s curiosity was almost getting the better of her.
“I know. Do you want to watch something else? Give your thoughts time to settle?” Christen offered.
“No,” Tobin husked, closing her eyes for a second and taking a deep breath to steady herself. If there was ever a time that she needed to do the plant meditation thing with Christen it was now. But with no sun and no soccer field, Tobin settled for a couple of steadying breaths and moments.
“No?” Christen parroted, feeling her stomach drop. The moment was approaching, and she wasn’t sure she was ready. Part of her wanted to run, to back away, but another part of her desperately wanted to hold on.
“Unless you really want to,” Tobin said, her eyes opening to look at Christen, trying to gauge what she was thinking. She didn’t want to start this conversation if Christen wasn’t comfortable.
“I…” Christen started to say, wondering what it was she did want. She knew without a shadow of a doubt that she wanted Tobin. She wanted Tobin more than anything, she needed her more than she needed to breathe. But was she ready? What happened to her fears about distance? Was she finally prepared to take the risk? Or had things between them felt so natural and easy and perfect this week that she was deluded into thinking this would work once camp was done?
“We can just watch something. I won’t be tense,” Tobin said, acutely aware that Christen was dealing with whatever thoughts were warring with one another in her mind. She let out a ragged breath and wiped her free hand on the knee of her sweatpants, hating that Christen was holding her other hand and definitely feeling how clammy it was.
“Tob?” Christen whispered, her fingers tightening around Tobin’s hand.
“Chris?” Tobin hummed, trying to keep her voice steady.
Christen took in deep lungfuls of air, trying to keep the thundering of her heartbeat out of her ears. Her only comfort was the feeling of Tobin’s hand in hers as she threaded their fingers together. She knew what she wanted, she just wasn’t sure if she was ready to ask for it. She wasn’t sure if now was the moment, when her brain felt foggy and her eyes were locked with Tobin’s. She wasn’t sure if she could even get the words off of her tongue.
“I didn’t get it until now. Until you,” Christen whispered, finally answering the question from earlier. She didn’t just mean cuddling, either. Christen hadn’t understood a lot of things until Tobin Heath walked into her life. She wasn't exactly sure what compelled her to say that now, but she was slowly realizing that she was no longer completely in control of her words. Not when Tobin was looking at her like that.
“Didn’t get what?” Tobin asked, playing dumb. She knew Christen was responding to her question from the beginning of the movie, the question she’d told Tobin they could talk about after the movie ended. But Tobin was too nervous to assume. She didn’t want to get anything wrong. She wanted to hear this directly from Christen, no misunderstandings, no mistakes.
Christen playfully narrowed her eyes. “You know what. The cuddling and stuff,” she admitted softly, her blush heating her cheeks.
“Because I’m a good cuddler...or?” Tobin whispered, hoping for more, something solid that she could reach out and grab ahold of.
“I seem to recall you being the one with things to say,” Christen teased. “And yet I’m the one doing all the talking.”
Tobin nodded, worrying her lip between her teeth. Christen was right. She was stalling. She was afraid. Tobin softly ran her fingers along Christen’s hand, not fully sure whether she was trying to comfort Christen or herself.
Christen sensed it right away, the change in Tobin. She grew tense again, a slight apprehension in her brown eyes, her fingers tightening around Christen’s hand. Christen immediately regretted being so cavalier with her words, so teasing. She hoped her smile was enough to soothe Tobin’s worry, enough to make Tobin feel comfortable to finally talk about the elephant in the room, the thing she’d wanted to all night.
Tobin took a deep breath. She needed to put them both out of their misery, to take away the tense silence. She needed to tell Christen just how special and important she was. Christen deserved to know just how wanted and cared for she was. Suddenly, the fear that she’d been feeling, fear that she’d be rejected, was nothing compared to the need to tell Christen that she mattered.
“In Orlando…” Tobin started, clearing her throat and waiting to see if Christen would stop her.
Christen felt her heart stop in her chest. She didn’t want to deter Tobin though, so she merely nodded and kept her smile on her face, desperate to know which direction Tobin would be taking them in.
“When I was a jerk on the field,” Tobin continued, her heart rapidly thrumming in her chest. She knew Christen could hear it from where she was sitting, the hotel room uncomfortably quiet apart from their breathing. “You once asked me why I acted like that,” Tobin continued, her throat dry. She suddenly wished she hadn’t eaten ice cream, needing a glass of water desperately.
“Holy shit, we’re going here,” Christen realized with a start. There were so many things like that between them, things that happened that they’d tried to talk about before thinking better of it. They’d pushed all of those things away, trying to forget they existed. Until now.
“I did,” Christen whispered, her stomach swirling with anticipation.
“I was a dick in Orlando because...I’d been thinking about you every waking second and dreaming about you every unconscious moment since our preseason game. I was nervous to meet you, and I just wanted to know you. I didn’t want to be nobody to you,” Tobin blurted out, immediately feeling sick when she was met with silence. “Why did you start with that?” Tobin thought, wishing she could facepalm without Christen seeing her.
Christen felt her brows lift on her forehead. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected from Tobin, from this admission, but it wasn’t that. She’d known for two years there was more to the story Tobin had fed her in Orlando. Had she anticipated anything like this? Not exactly. Had she yearned for it at night, in the darkness of her room, when the moon was high and Tobin was on her mind? Most definitely.
“You dreamed about me?” Christen whispered, slight awe in her voice.
“All the time,” Tobin admitted, knowing she couldn’t backtrack anymore. “I had a dream right before the semis of the Final Four. It was nearly impossible to look at you and not think about it.” Tobin kept her eyes on their linked hands, unable to look at Christen’s face. She didn’t want to see the reaction to her words. She didn’t want to see regret or repulsion in Christen’s eyes, not that she could even really imagine Christen ever looking at her like that.
A small voice inside of Christen screamed at her to find a way out of this, to joke or tease or pull her hand away. This was the cliff’s edge and Tobin was inviting her over, with sweet words and quiet admissions, with a pretty blush in her cheeks and a light in her eyes that looked a lot like hope. But that small voice was drowned out by something stronger. She’d waited so long to hear something like this from Tobin, so long to know that this thing between them was real, not just all in her head. Her want, her desire, her feelings for Tobin were drowning out the small voice of fear and Christen had never been so happy for that voice to be silenced.
Christen looked at Tobin’s vulnerable expression and felt herself approach that cliff’s edge as well. Only she wasn’t approaching softly or sweetly like Tobin had, she was approaching with fire in her steps and desire in her lungs, and a haze settling in her brain. She felt like she couldn’t even think straight anymore.
“What did you dream about?” Christen asked, her voice a little wobbly but still strong and sure.
“You. You visited my hotel room,” Tobin whispered, her breath shuddering. “You-” Tobin faltered, remembering how she’d felt when Christen had pulled her shirt off and pushed her onto the bed in her dream. As soon as she said that to Christen, there’d be no returning to their soft flirting, their gray area, their ‘friendship.’
“You kissed me,” Tobin husked. “You wanted me.”
“Jesus,” Christen hissed, shaking her head as her hand tightened in Tobin’s. There was something brewing within her, drowning out the nerves and the anticipation. It had been building, every night she’d slept with Tobin in her arms, every time she’d caught Tobin sneaking out of the shower in just her towel. It had been building ever since that night in the club. Her desire, her want, her lust had created the perfect storm, a storm that seemed ready to challenge Tobin in every way tonight, ready to follow Tobin over the cliff’s edge. Everything else was secondary right now. She was suddenly so overcome with her want, she was almost choking on it.
“What- what else?” Christen found herself asking, not knowing where these words were coming from.
“You looked so good in my bed,” Tobin sighed, closing her eyes at the memory of her dream, of the countless dreams she’d had since seeing Christen for the first time. “And I was addicted to how you sounded,” Tobin choked out, letting her eyelids flutter open and looking at Christen again. She couldn’t help the honesty that was spilling out of her now, encouraged by Christen’s obvious want, by the way Christen asked her to tell her more, by the way Christen’s eyes darkened.
The deep, raspy timbre of Tobin’s voice was making it hard for Christen to think, to breathe. Every word that left Tobin’s mouth hit her right in the chest, sending heat traveling down and pooling low in her stomach. Christen could feel Tobin everywhere and it was all too much.
“Why haven’t you told me this before? I asked you so many times,” Christen questioned, scooting a bit closer to Tobin. Her free hand twitched, wanting to reach out and touch, but she held off. Once that dam was broken, there was no going back.
“I didn’t want to scare you away,” Tobin sighed, staring into Christen’s eyes, wishing that she’d said things sooner, wishing that she’d seen the hunger in Christen’s eyes months ago.
Christen wet her lips. “Do I look scared to you now?” she asked softly, a hint of challenge in her words.
Tobin stared at Christen’s face, longing to reach out and touch. She wanted to run her fingers along her cheekbones and push stray strands of hair behind Christen’s ear. She was right. She didn’t look scared. Christen’s bottom lip was between her teeth, her face was flushed, her eyes were darker and wilder than Tobin had ever seen before. Tobin couldn’t find the words for a response. She opened her mouth but nothing came out.
Not waiting for Tobin to reply, Christen finally found her voice. If Tobin could say these things, could make her skin burn and her hands itch with her words heavy with desire, so could she.
“Every time she kissed me, I pictured you,” Christen said, her chest heaving as she took deep, stuttering breaths in. “I know I shouldn’t have, but I did. Every time.”
“Kate?” Tobin spat, still hating the name of Christen’s non-girlfriend. They hadn’t spoken about her since their apologies at Christen’s birthday party, but knowing she’d had Christen, even if for just a few weeks, made Tobin’s skin burn. Tobin wanted to lean forward and take Christen’s bottom lip between her own. She wanted to kiss her, to lay her down on the bed and erase any memories of Kate or any other person Christen had kissed. She wanted to be better than Christen had imagined.
“I told you your voice gets deeper when you’re jealous,” Christen laughed, breathy and light. Her cheeks were aflame as she gently ran the fingers of her free hand along the inside of Tobin’s arm, from wrist to elbow. She couldn’t stop touching Tobin, she never wanted to stop.
“I’ve never been that jealous in my entire life,” Tobin admitted, swallowing the thickness in her throat. “Seeing you with her-” Tobin released a long breath, shaking her head.
“I thought being with her would make this stop, but it didn’t. It hasn’t stopped, no matter what I do,” Christen admitted, her eyes locked on Tobin’s, her tongue wetting her lips again. She cherished the jealousy she could see burning in Tobin’s eyes, the fire in her gaze.
“Fun fact, I listened to that song for weeks after we danced in L.A.,” Tobin whispered, returning to their typical game, only this time, a much different context. Her legs were numb and tingling, her hand felt shaky in Christen’s. She’d never expected to have this conversation with Christen, at least not before actually sharing her feelings with her, not before telling her that she was falling in love and wanted to be more than friends. “That song from when we danced...and the song Kelley played.”
Christen nodded, not needing the clarification. As if she could forget that night. She felt herself lean forward a bit, her shoulder dropping so she could be just a little closer to Tobin.
“Fun fact, I haven’t been able to get what we did in the club out of my head. I think about it all the time,” Christen said, her eyes darting between Tobin’s, knowing their faces were getting closer.
“Fun fact, I was dying to kiss you that night,” Tobin husked, leaning into Christen, the two of them a breath apart.
Christen was transfixed with the way the light was playing off the honeyed tints in Tobin’s soft waves, in the gentle curve of her smile, in the sharp line of her jaw. Her mounting desire was intent on issuing a dare to Tobin, a dare to finally do something, and Christen was helpless to fight it.
“Fun fact, I’m dying to kiss you now,” Christen blurted, her cheeks heating at the admission, but not finding it anywhere within her to care. She was too far gone, too caught up in her want to care any longer. The inevitability had caught up to her and she was embracing it.
Tobin couldn’t take it anymore. She reached out with both hands, pulling Christen’s hips toward her body, removing any space that had been between them on the bed. Tobin moved forward with no warning, catching Christen’s bottom lip between her own and kissing Christen like she’d always wanted to.
t was better than she’d ever imagined. Fantasies and dreams hadn’t done it justice. Tobin sighed against Christen’s lips, relishing in the way Christen’s mouth moved against hers.
Christen moaned into the kiss, her eyes fluttering closed. She buried one hand into Tobin’s hair, tugging gently on it, just like she had at the club.
Tobin’s hands gripped tightly against Christen’s hips, pulling her even closer, as if even a centimeter was too much space between them. She pulled until Christen finally got the message to swing a leg over her hips.
Without disconnecting their lips, Christen sank down into Tobin’s lap, both of her knees bracketing Tobin’s hips. One hand was still buried in Tobin’s hair, getting caught in her messy bun. Christen grunted and used her free hand to undo Tobin’s bun, freeing Tobin from it so her hands could finally grip and tug the way they wanted to.
Tobin’s hands traveled too, moving along Christen’s ribs and waist, grazing against her back and traveling down to her butt. She hadn’t meant to move that quickly. She hadn’t meant to touch Christen without warning. She’d planned on asking for her permission to kiss her, but all of Tobin’s preparation had disappeared when Christen had told her about her own fantasies, about her own longing. Suddenly, she felt like she didn’t have enough time to touch and taste and love every part of Christen.
Any and all self-control flew out the window for Christen when she felt Tobin touch her with such unrepressed desire. Christen gently bit Tobin’s lower lip, soothing the bite with her tongue moments later. She kissed Tobin like she’d always wanted to. She kissed her long and slow, then quick and impassioned. But she still didn’t feel close enough to Tobin. She wanted more, even if more wasn’t what she should want. They were moving fast, so fast, too fast, and the small logical part of her brain begged her to slow down. But Christen wasn’t listening. She was too far gone. Christen rocked into Tobin, just wanting more. More friction, more pressure, just more.
Tobin couldn’t stop her hips from rocking up into Christen’s. She’d wanted this for so long. She’d imagined this nightly. She’d pushed her desires down for nearly two years, and she felt like she was exploding. She moaned into Christen’s mouth, swiping her tongue against Christen’s lips and into her open mouth, just wanting to taste her.
Christen pulled back for a moment to catch her breath. She opened her eyes and looked into Tobin’s, which were already open and staring up at her. She saw the same want, the same desire she felt swimming in those cloudy brown eyes.
“You’re so beautiful,” Tobin nearly groaned, leaning in to place soft kisses against Christen’s neck. Images of their night taking tequila shots flashed through Tobin’s mind, and she couldn’t help herself. She licked Christen’s neck the same way Christen had, sucking against her skin and scraping her teeth against her neck.
A filthy moan left Christen’s lips when Tobin did that thing with her tongue. “Good thing I didn’t do that at Ali and Ashlyn’s,” Tobin whispered between kisses. “But God did I want to. You were so hot.”
“Wha- what are you doing to me?” Christen asked, her fingers tightening in Tobin’s hair. She never wanted this delightful torture to end.
“Do you want me to stop?” Tobin asked, pulling her head back to look at Christen, heat pooling between her legs. Christen’s lips were swollen and her pupils blown wide, and Tobin had to squeeze her legs together at the sight of the green-eyed girl above her. Tobin was far gone, completely off the deep end, but she wasn’t too lost to hear Christen’s words and stop if she asked her to.
Christen’s eyes fluttered open and she fixed Tobin with a look. “Don’t you dare.”
Christen leaned forward and recaptured Tobin’s lips with her own, kissing her hard, showing her just how bad she’d wanted this. Her head was foggy from kissing Tobin, from the feeling left in the wake of Tobin’s lips and teeth and tongue on her neck.
Tobin moved one of her legs, getting enough leverage to roll Christen over and hover above her. She stared down at her, every single one of her dreams including the image of Christen beneath her. They hadn’t done it justice. Tobin had to hold back a groan at the sight of her, flushed and breathless and looking up at her with unfiltered desire. Tobin lowered herself onto Christen, one of her legs slotted between Christen’s. Her lips found the spot on Christen’s neck that seemed to make her extra loud and set to work, sucking and kissing, just wanting to hear her again.
“Fuck,” Christen rasped, her eyes slamming shut as one of her hands found purchase in Tobin’s hair, the other slipping beneath Tobin’s shirt to rake her nails down Tobin’s back. She felt ready to combust, and Tobin had only kissed her, had barely touched her.
Tobin let out a soft whine, burying her face in Christen’s neck and running her fingers along Christen’s ribcage, wishing there was less clothing between them.
As if Christen read her mind, Christen pushed against Tobin’s shoulder, causing the brunette to lift up and look at her. With a smile, Christen pushed Tobin again, only this time, it was so Tobin would sit up. Christen followed, her hands falling to the hem of Tobin’s- their sweatshirt that she still wore, and to the hem of the tank top underneath the sweatshirt. She pulled them both over her head quickly, tossing them onto the ground, leaving her just a plain, Nike sports bra. She momentarily wished she’d had the forethought to wear something nicer, to have packed something nicer. But she hadn’t thought they’d get this far, not now.
Tobin’s eyes raked across Christen’s chest, taking in her flat stomach, her abdominal muscles, and smooth skin, parts of her she’d seen before but never in this context. A family barbecue was hardly the place to be ogling your crush. Tobin surged forward, taking Christen’s lips in her own again, biting her lower lip before soothing it with her tongue.
Christen tugged at Tobin’s t-shirt, silently asking for it to come off too. She needed it off, she needed to feel Tobin’s skin against hers. She kissed with reckless abandon, any thoughts she could have had were gone, replaced only with the growing desire within her.
Tobin’s mind was completely numb, blissed out, and electrified. She lifted her arms, not even thinking about the implications, not thinking about how she’d planned on the night going, not thinking about how this was going too quickly. She wasn’t thinking about how this was the first person to pull off her shirt and run her hands along her body. Instead, she let Christen take it off, moaning as soon as their skin touched.
Christen threw Tobin’s shirt on the floor with her clothes, her eyes taking in the newly-exposed skin. The first time she’d seen Tobin shirtless, it had been after their preseason game when Tobin was walking back from an ice bath. She’d been instantly transfixed by the hard lines of her abs, by the dips near her hip bones. She’d never have expected that, two years later, she would be moments from touching every inch of skin she’d been so mesmerized by.
With a hesitance in her movements, Christen reached out, brushing her hands along Tobin’s stomach, feeling the muscles clench beneath her touch.
“Jeez, Chris,” Tobin husked, her face close enough to Christen’s ear to send shivers down Christen’s spine with each exhale of breath.
Christen bit back a groan at the want in Tobin’s voice. She moved her hands up to cup Tobin’s face, bringing their lips back together hungrily, impatiently. She pulled Tobin back down on top of her, landing roughly against the pillows but not caring in the slightest.
Tobin moved closer to Christen, her arms holding up some of her weight but the rest of her body completely pressed against the green-eyed girl. She couldn’t get enough of Christen's body, enough of the way it felt to touch her skin and feel her breath against her lips.
Christen freed one of her hands to snake down and grip onto Tobin’s hip. She tugged down, hard, wanting all of Tobin’s weight on her. “Please,” she whispered, pulling out of the kiss.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Tobin mumbled, kissing along Christen’s jaw.
“You won’t, please, Tobs,” Christen whined, fingers curling into the waistband of Tobin’s sweats and tugging down again.
Tobin relented, kissing Christen’s lips again, letting Christen lead the kiss. There was no way she could ever say no to Christen, especially not when Christen’s voice sounded like that, nearly begging Tobin to touch her. Tobin’s entire body rested flat against Christen’s, heat radiating from between her legs. For a second she was worried that Christen would notice, but then Tobin’s leg slipped high enough between Christen’s to feel her. She groaned into Christen’s mouth, completely caught off guard. There was no way that she was the one turning Christen on. This had to be a dream, and Tobin was going to wake up soon. But she didn’t.
Christen’s hips involuntarily rolled, bringing her further into contact with Tobin’s leg. She moaned, grip tightening on Tobin’s hip. She slid her fingers under the waistband again, teasing at the seam of Tobin’s boyshorts. She hadn’t meant to move so quickly, but she was so intoxicated with the feelings of Tobin’s lips on her own, with the taste of someday and forever on Tobin’s tongue.
Tobin suddenly pulled away from Christen, her breath coming out rapidly. She knew she looked like Christen did, with her eyes hungry and wide, her face rosy, her lips swollen.
“I haven’t-” Tobin began, not liking the way Christen suddenly looked worried and bashful. She didn’t want Christen to think she didn’t want this. All she wanted was Christen. So, she reached out and grabbed onto Christen’s hips, rubbing her thumbs along her exposed hip bones.
Christen forced herself to breathe, sitting up to join Tobin. She leaned back against the headboard, her chest rising and falling as she tried to calm her racing heart. She let her eyes track across Tobin’s face, noticing the deep flush in her cheeks, the swollen lips, the blown pupils. Her hands fell to Tobin’s wrists, thumbs running along the warm skin she found there.
“I’m sorry. I just- I haven’t- This means something to me,” Tobin stuttered, all the words she’d practiced lost in the haze of kissing Christen.
Christen was rushing to catch up, her brain foggy and having trouble processing the words coming out of Tobin’s mouth. Moments ago, they’d been careening toward something, something Christen felt comfortable with. Kissing and touching Tobin was more than she ever could have hoped for. But it was also easy, it didn’t require her to understand the messy, scary feelings swirling around in her heart. It didn’t require her to unpack the thoughts she’d had about love, about their future, about her fears. It didn’t require her to do anything but ride the current downstream and enjoy the heat that was building between them.
But now Tobin had stopped that. She’d pulled away and was looking at Christen with sweetness in her gaze and was talking to her with seriousness in her words. It was too much. Christen slowly pulled her hands away from Tobin’s, letting them fall to the bed.
“This means something to me,” Tobin repeated, fully aware that Christen had let go of her wrists, her mind still spinning with all the thoughts and words she needed to speak.
This meant something to Christen too, of course, it did. But that small voice she’d heard inside of her earlier? The one that had been drowned out? It was back with a vengeance, gripping her heart with its icy fist, keeping any response she could have frozen within her.
Tobin swallowed down her worries. She needed to get this out. She couldn’t just kiss Christen and not tell her the magnitude of feelings she was putting behind each kiss. She didn’t just want to make out and never tell Christen. She didn’t want to have meaningless sex. She wanted to love her and hold onto her. She wanted to keep her safe and make love to her.
“I hesitated for so long because I thought you would be too scared,” Tobin whispered, her voice breaking. She looked at Christen’s eyes, her stomach dropping at the worry in Christen’s eyes. “I thought you might only want to be friends…”
“Judging by the fear in your eyes, maybe you do,” Tobin thought, trying and failing to swallow down the fear she was now feeling. She was feeling a lot less confident now that the kissing had stopped, but she couldn’t stop.
“But I don’t want to be. I want more. I can’t do this kind of stuff with you, without telling you that I’ve had feelings for you since I met you, Chris. And it isn’t fair to either of us if I don’t-” Tobin’s throat felt like it was closing, like any second she’d stop breathing or sob or choke, and she didn’t want to do that in front of Christen. “If I don’t tell you that I’m falling in love with you,” Tobin whispered, her voice ragged and broken.
Christen couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t think. She pulled her knees to her chest, completely removing any sort of contract between them. “I’m falling in love with you,” ran through her mind like a taunting whisper, over and over again. She tore her gaze away from Tobin, trying to figure out why she wanted to scream and cry and run all at the same time. But she couldn’t figure it out, she couldn’t wade through the all-consuming feelings of fear inside of her, the ones sparked by that four-letter word Tobin had said with such adoration. Things had turned on her so quickly, from something tangible and easy to complicated and intangible, to matters of the heart. She wasn’t ready, she wasn’t prepared.
“I think I read this wrong…” Tobin trailed off, scooting down to the foot of the bed, finally taking her eyes off of Christen. She could feel the stinging start behind her eyes. Tobin leaned down, pulling her shirt off the floor, suddenly feeling way less clothed than she was. She pulled her shirt on, prepared to slip out of her hotel room, and beg Moe or Kristie if she could sleep in their room.
“You didn’t read this wrong! I feel the same way!” a small part of Christen screamed, banging on the walls, desperate to be heard. But Christen’s fear was keeping those thoughts, those words, prisoners in her own mind.
Christen wiped at the tears she could already feel burning her eyes and looked back at Tobin, knowing Tobin was pulling away, knowing that her reaction was creating the chasm between them.
“I-” Christen gasped, willing herself to say something, anything. She was filled to the brim with fear, but she couldn’t take the dejection in Tobin’s voice. “I wasn’t expecting love,” Christen finally whispered.
“I’m sorry,” Tobin choked out, finally looking at Christen’s face, a rush of guilt taking over her body when she saw Christen’s tears. She wanted to wipe them off her face, but she was too afraid to touch her. She’d pushed Christen, even though she knew she shouldn’t have. She’d asked for more, and she’d hurt her. It was her fault for thinking Christen was ready. She’d made a promise to herself to wait for Christen to be ready, and she hadn’t fulfilled it. She stepped away from the bed, turning away from Christen.
“No, don’t say sorry. I-” Christen tried to say, but an unmistakable knock came at the door.
Tobin walked to the door, thankful for the interruption so she wouldn’t have to hear Christen further reject her, waiting for Christen to nod before she opened it.
Christen rushed to pull her tank top on, accidentally kicking Tobin’s sweatshirt under her bed a bit in her rush. She wiped at her cheeks and her eyes, hoping the smile on her face was big enough to be convincing.
“Everything okay, girls?” Coach Foudy asked, her eyes moving between Tobin’s and Christen’s red faces and wet eyes.
“Sad movie,” Tobin whispered, not wanting anyone to know what happened in the hotel room.
“Christen, would you mind stepping out for a little bit? I have some things to talk to Tobin about,” Coach Foudy asked, her voice eerily soft.
Tobin bristled at the strange tone of voice from their coach. Her stomach dropped, but she couldn’t focus enough on Coach Foudy’s face to understand what was going on.
Christen’s face fell a bit, getting over her surprise at Coach Foudy’s appearance at their room so late at night, the feeling replaced with worry. She looked over Coach Foudy’s shoulder, her eyes meeting Tobin’s and holding her gaze for the first time since the fallout of their kiss. There was so much left to say still. If she had the chance, Christen could explain her fear, she could make Tobin understand that she wasn’t rejecting her, not completely. She just wasn’t ready for love yet. She wasn't ready but she could be someday. But she wasn’t going to get the chance right now.
Christen nodded at Coach Foudy and grabbed her slides from the ground. She edged past her coach, passing by Tobin, yearning to reach out and hold onto her. She swallowed the desire, grabbed a room key, then left, the door shutting behind her echoing with a sense of finality.
“Why don’t we sit down,” Coach Foudy suggested, and Tobin had the urge to race out of the room after Christen.