All I want is to flip a switch
Before something breaks that cannot be fixed.
I know, I know - the sirens sound
Just before the walls come down.
Pain is a well-intentioned weatherman
Predicting God as best he can,
But God I want to feel again.
(Tobin - “Touch” by Sleeping At Last)
If you ever lose your way
And everything is out of place
I'll be there to make to it all okay
I will light the path for you
I'll do all that I can do
To keep you safe
Anywhere the river flows
Anyway the trade winds blow
You don't have to face it on your own
I will right the stars for you
I'll do all that I can do
To keep you safe
(Christen - “Keep You Safe” by Lindsey Ray)
“Dude, you look like shit,” Megan commented, looking up from her oatmeal.
Christen grunted and opened the fridge, knowing what she was looking for definitely wasn’t in there. She needed her head to stop pounding, her throat to stop hurting, and her body to stop aching, but the answer to all of that wasn’t in the fridge.
The thing was, Christen didn’t get sick. It was something she was incredibly proud of, never getting the flu or even the common cold. She ate healthily and made sure to get plenty of rest. The last time she’d been bedridden with anything was when the stomach flu had gone through her entire fifth-grade class and her mom had forced her to stay home.
“Thanks, Pinoe,” Christen grumbled, pulling up the hood of Tobin’s sweatshirt, their sweatshirt, and closing the fridge. She shivered a bit and padded over to the coffee machine. Maybe if she drank something hot, she’d start to feel better.
“No seriously, are you okay?” Crystal asked from where she was standing in front of the sink. “Your cheeks are flushed. Do you have a fever?”
“Stay away!” Megan hissed, scooting her chair away from the table and holding her fingers up in an x.
Christen was about to answer and then a coughing fit overtook her. She coughed for a few moments, her arm covering her mouth, and then it finally subsided.
“I’m fine, guys. I’m not sick,” Christen assured, grabbing a mug and a teabag from the cupboard and setting the Keurig up to dispense hot water into her mug for some tea.
“Like hell you aren’t,” Crystal scoffed. “You’re drinking tea, not coffee.”
“You should stay in your room and not contaminate everything,” Megan groaned.
“I’ll text Tobin and ask her to pick medicine up on the way back from her class,” Crystal offered.
“NO!” Christen whipped around, shaking her head at Crystal. The last thing she needed was for Tobin to know she was maybe, kind of, potentially under the weather.
“What’s wrong? Don’t want your puppy dog-eyed girlfriend to see you sick?” Megan chuckled.
“I have spent a week planning the perfect anniversary date and I’m not letting a stupid cold stop me. None of my plans have ever actually worked out, and I’m not letting this one fail too,” Christen said, her voice a little raspy and weak. She might be a bit more convincing if she weren’t so pale and swaying on her feet, but she did her best.
“I wouldn’t say your plans have failed, sweetie,” Crystal cooed. “You wanted her to be your girlfriend, and she is. You wanted to tell her you love her, and you did. Plans change, but you accomplished everything you wanted.”
“Not this plan. It’s perfect. I don’t want to mess it up,” Christen replied, grabbing her mug and moaning at the feeling of warmth seeping through the ceramic from the hot tea within.
“I feel bad for Tobin. No one would want to kiss that right now,” Megan muttered under her breath.
“Bite me, Pinoe,” Christen growled, her headache starting to come back full force.
“So, that’s a no to texting Tobin to get medicine?” Crystal checked, raising her eyebrows in concern.
“I’ll go out and grab some later. I’m just going to go back to bed for a bit and sleep this off,” Christen replied with a hopefully reassuring smile.
“You can’t just sleep off the flu,” Megan whispered to Crystal.
“Watch me,” Christen threw over her shoulder, moving slowly up the stairs.
“Watch out flu! She’s coming for you! Full force!” Megan laughed, receiving a smack on the arm from Crystal.
“Why are there so many options?” Christen asked into the phone, looking up and down at the literal hundreds of kinds of medicines on the wall in front of her at CVS. She was still bundled up in their shared Nike sweatshirt and some sweats. She’d only managed to throw some slides on and her glasses since her eyes were starting to hurt her too before she’d braved leaving the house.
“Big pharma, sweet girl. Lots of people want to make money by targeting sick and desperate people like yourself,” Stacy sighed into the phone, wishing she could be there in person for her daughter.
“Can you step off the soapbox for a sec? I’m dying. We can take on big pharma tomorrow” Christen replied, coughing a bit into the crook of her elbow. It earned her a disgusted look from the other customer in the aisle with her, but she didn’t care one bit.
“Grab some NyQuil and DayQuil. You’ll probably want Mucinex too since you sound congested. Get the one that helps with a cough as well as congestion. You might want to get Aspirin or Ibuprofen too since you said your head’s hurting and you have a fever,” Stacy said, running through a list of medicine that Christen could take.
“And this will all kick in and make me better by tonight?” Christen asked with hope in her voice. She grabbed everything her mom recommended and shuffled slowly toward the self-checkout.
“I think you need to be a bit more realistic with yourself,” Stacy sighed.
“So it’ll make me better by this afternoon?” Christen jokingly replied, getting in line.
“Just call Tobin and cancel,” Stacy finally said.
“Thanks for the help, Mom, but I’m not gonna cancel. I’m gonna take all the medicine and feel so much better,” Christen assured, getting to the front of the line and heading to a self-checkout register.
“You know that Tobin won’t mind. She’ll just want you to feel better,” Stacy said, trying to help her daughter see logic. “You don’t want to get her sick too, right?”
Christen’s eyes widened as she scanned the DayQuil. “Oh god, I could get her sick. I’ll just- um, I’ll stay away from her. Keep my distance.”
“Wow what a fun date,” Stacy deadpanned. “Cancel and reschedule your plan, my sweet girl.”
“What- what was that, Mom? I think you’re breaking up? I can’t- I love you, bye,” Christen pretended like she was losing the call and quickly hung up. She finished checking out, shuddering slightly at the price of all the medicine, and slowly shuffled out of the store. She was going to be fine, the wonders of modern medicine were going to prove themselves.
The only thing that had gotten Tobin through this day was knowing that she’d get to see Christen after classes. She’d had an early morning Art History class, a meeting with her advisor, a Sociology class, lunch with a couple of other students to talk through a group project, and studio art. She was practically running to her car, so ready to leave campus and get back to the house where she’d left her girlfriend asleep in bed that morning.
She didn’t speed, but some of her stops might have been considered rolling. She knew Christen had a plan for their six-month anniversary tonight. She knew she should probably get dressed for a date, but she was too excited to stop by her own house. Tobin figured she could drop by Christen’s to say hello and get some hints about the date before going home to change. She pulled her car into the driveway, not even bothering to take her backpack into the house with her. Tobin jogged toward the garage and typed in the garage code since she hadn’t received a text back from Christen that afternoon. She saw Christen’s car, but she wasn’t sure what Christen was doing or whether or not she was too busy to run downstairs. Instead, Tobin let herself into the quiet house and climbed the stairs to Christen’s room.
When she opened the bedroom door, she’d never seen Christen’s room so dark. Tobin always found it kind of adorable that Christen liked to sleep with her twinkly lights on, but today, for the first time in Tobin’s memory, Christen had opted to leave them off.
The room was pitch black, and Tobin could only make out the shape of someone in the bed because of the light from the hallway. She tiptoed across the room, worry immediately filling her chest when she heard the ragged breathing coming from Christen’s lips.
“Baby,” Tobin whispered, leaning over and resting her arms on either side of Christen’s body. Tobin leaned down and kissed Christen’s forehead, surprised by how warm she felt. “Chris,” Tobin repeated, reaching out to check Christen’s temperature with the back of her hand.
“Hi,” Christen croaked, rolling away from Tobin’s hand so she wouldn’t feel the fever that had yet to break.
“Baby,” Tobin said, her voice much more serious and much more concerned than when she’d first entered the room.
“What time is it?” Christen asked quietly, fighting off a shiver as she forced her eyes open, looking up at Tobin through the darkness.
“It’s 4:17,” Tobin said, her eyes finally adjusting to the dark room and taking in the way Christen’s eyes were blinking slowly, the way she was wrapped in their Nike sweatshirt, the bedsheets, and a blanket.
“Shoot, we gotta get going,” Christen sighed, swallowing the urge to cough.
“I don’t think so,” Tobin hummed, brushing her fingers over Christen’s forehead again.
Christen nodded stubbornly, pushing the blankets off of her. “Yeah, it’s going to be so fun, lemme get dressed really quick.”
“Will you just relax for a second?” Tobin asked, holding Christen down on the bed.
Christen huffed, sinking back into the pillows, doing her best to ignore her pounding head and the pain licking up her throat.
Tobin slipped her sneakers off and crawled across the foot of the bed. She reached for the switch to the twinkly lights, illuminating the room a little bit better. When she turned to look at Christen, her heart ached.
Christen was rosy-cheeked and shivering. Her lips were chapped, and her nose looked red from being rubbed with a tissue. She looked absolutely exhausted and totally weak yet still heart-achingly beautiful.
“When did you start feeling sick?” Tobin asked gently.
“Sick? Who’s sick?” Christen rasped, trying to smile up at Tobin, her eyes squinting a bit at the light now in the room.
Tobin cringed at how fragile Christen’s voice sounded. She could hear the congestion in every word that Christen spoke. She could hear the raspiness that hinted at that fact that Christen had a sore throat.
“Chris,” Tobin said, lifting her eyebrows in disbelief. “You aren’t fooling me.”
“But I gave it a good shot, yeah?” Christen asked.
“You put in a valiant effort,” Tobin nodded with the ghost of a smile. She crawled closer to Christen, placing her hand back on Christen’s forehead.
Christen wiggled away with a pout on her lips. “Don’t baby, I don’t want to get you sick too.”
“I slept in here last night. I’ve probably already been exposed to what you have. Plus, I’m not going to stay away from you, especially when you’re sick and need someone to take care of you,” Tobin mumbled.
Christen was too weak to argue, too tired to fight against Tobin’s sincere words and the care and worry she could see in Tobin’s eyes.
“I don’t want you to get sick, this sucks,” Christen grumbled, scooting back over so she could lay against Tobin.
“Have you eaten today?” Tobin asked, ignoring Christen’s words.
“Um...I had tea this morning and some toast at...2? Maybe 3? I don’t really know.”
“I think getting some food should be the first course of action,” Tobin whispered, brushing hair off of Christen’s forehead.
“It was going to be, I was going to take you to sushi,” Christen sighed, leaning into Tobin’s touch.
“We can do that another day. I think soup sounds good tonight,” Tobin hummed.
Christen let out a wobbly breath, feeling tears of frustration fill her tired eyes. “This always happens. I don’t know how I got sick, but I did and now I ruined our anniversary, I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, baby,” Tobin whispered, leaning down to kiss Christen’s forehead. “This does not always happen, and you have nothing to be sorry for. You didn’t ruin anything. All I’ve wanted all day is to be with you, and now I am. That’s a perfect anniversary. When you feel better, we’ll go out on your date.”
The first few tears slipped from the corners of Christen’s eyes as another long breath left her lips.
“You’re so great and I really missed you today,” Christen whispered, gripping tightly onto Tobin’s t-shirt.
Tobin moved to kiss the few tears away. “I wished you’d texted me. I would’ve left early and brought you some lunch and medicine.”
Christen gave a little shrug. “I didn’t want to bother you, and I thought I could just take some medicine and feel better by tonight.”
“You could never bother me. Ever. Okay?” Tobin whispered.
Christen nodded softly, wishing she felt better, wishing she didn’t feel so weak and exhausted.
“So when did you last take medicine?” Tobin asked, lifting up to look at Christen’s eyes.
“When I had toast. I took some stuff my mom told me to get at CVS and it hasn’t helped yet,” Christen huffed adorably, frustrated with the slow-acting medicine.
“Okay, that’s okay,” Tobin murmured. She didn’t know much about medicine or taking care of someone when they were sick, so she was relying on every single time she’d been sick and her mom had taken care of her as a kid. “Do you think you could eat right now?”
“I don’t think I can get out of this bed right now,” Christen admitted honestly, shivering against Tobin.
“I didn’t ask you that, silly,” Tobin hummed, poking Christen’s cheek softly.
“...I could eat,” Christen mumbled, burying her face in Tobin’s neck.
“Chicken noodle, tomato, cream of mushroom, uhhh split pea?” Tobin ran through the list of soups she could think of off the top of her head.
Christen shook her head slightly. “Fun fact, I don’t like soup.”
“Interesting…” Tobin grinned.
Christen blushed and leaned back to look up at Tobin. She knew it wasn’t exactly normal to not like soup, especially when you’re sick.
“Is there anything you like to eat when you don’t feel good?” Tobin asked.
“Grilled cheese sandwiches,” Christeen replied, yawning a little bit and smiling up at Tobin.
“Ooooh I can do that,” Tobin hummed. “Why don’t you sleep, and I’ll be back before you know it.”
Christen didn’t relinquish her hold on Tobin’s t-shirt just yet. Her smile fell a bit as her eyes danced between Tobin’s. “We were going to go paint tonight. I was going to take you to this couples painting class after we got sushi and I was so excited about it,” Christen murmured, her eyes getting a bit watery again.
“We can still do that another night,” Tobin promised, kissing both of Christen’s cheeks.
“Promise? Because I really wanted to paint with you.”
“I promise,” Tobin nodded, her mind already racing with what she could do to make this night somewhat better for Christen, to keep the tears out of Christen’s eyes. “I’ll be back in a little bit with some food.”
“Hurry back,” Christen replied, repeating the same words she’d said to Tobin before Tobin left to go to Florida before Christmas.
“Of course,” Tobin hummed, placing one last kiss on Christen’s forehead.
Tobin slipped out of Christen’s room and down the stairs, chewing on her bottom lip the entire time. She was trying to figure out how she could help Christen feel better and still make tonight special for Christen. Tobin peeked into Christen’s fridge checking to make sure that there was bread, cheese, and butter there. Then, she hurried out of the house and to her car, driving down the street to her own house.
It only took Tobin about ten minutes of fumbling to gather everything she thought they’d need for the night. It took her another five minutes to wrap everything up in a large tarp and carry it down to her car. She dragged it into Christen’s house, noting that Crystal, Megan, and Kelley were still not home. Based on conversations she’d heard Megan and Kelley have before, Tobin assumed they were staying away from the germs as much as possible.
Tobin set about making a few grilled cheese sandwiches, not exactly sure how hungry Christen was. She let the sandwiches toast on the griddle, filled a large glass of water, and made a big mug of hot tea. Tobin was certain that it would take her at least two trips to carry everything upstairs, so she started with the plate of sandwiches and the mug of tea, walking slowly up the stairs and pushing the door open with her foot.
Christen was asleep again, her eyelids fluttering gently and her chest moving up and down with each breath. Tobin set the food down on Christen’s desk and hurried back downstairs to get the tarp and supplies and the glass of water. She climbed back up the stairs, cringing a little when she sloshed some water out of the glass right outside Christen’s room.
“You want some dinner?” Tobin whispered once she had put the tarp and supplies on the floor near the door and the water on Christen’s desk.
Christen cracked an eye open and saw her beautiful, thoughtful, amazing girlfriend hovering over her and felt the ghost of a smile tug at her lips. She snaked an arm around Tobin’s back and held onto her tightly. “Will you eat with me?” she mumbled, her voice heavy with sleep.
“Of course,” Tobin nodded. “Why do you think I made four sandwiches?”
Christen actually smiled now, the gesture tinged with drowsiness, and released her hold on Tobin’s back, stretching her arms over her head and yawning slightly. She sat up with a small groan, turning to pile her pillows along her headboard. She scooted back and sat against the pillows, tugging the hood of Tobin’s sweatshirt over her head again.
Tobin grabbed the plate and placed it on Christen's lap, placing a kiss on Christen’s warm forehead before moving back to the desk to get the tea and water and put them both on the bedside table near Christen.
“It’s not burnt,” Christen observed with a small, teasing smile.
“I paid very close attention to them,” Tobin blushed. She was known for burning things, for forgetting that she left things in ovens and on the stovetop.
Christen picked up the grilled cheese and took a small bite, hoping that this would go down better than the toast had earlier in the day.
“If you don’t like it, I can order something,” Tobin said, watching Christen taste the sandwich.
Christen let out a small moan, the grilled cheese completely hitting the spot right now. It was delicious and maybe it was just because she hadn’t eaten anything all day, but this was the best grilled cheese she’d ever had.
“I love you,” Christen hummed, taking a larger bite of the sandwich.
“I love you too,” Tobin laughed, crawling across the foot of the bed to sit next to Christen. She took one of the sandwiches off the plate and took a few bites of her own, all the while watching Christen eat.
“What’s that?” Christen asked, her eyebrows furrowing as she noticed the large blue tarp near her bedroom door that definitely wasn’t there when she’d crawled into bed a few hours ago.
“Something we can do if you aren’t too tired,” Tobin shrugged.
Christen groaned, dropping her unfinished sandwich to the plate and burying her face in Tobin’s shoulder.
“Oh my god, you’re being so sweet and amazing and I’m over here all sick and gross and dropping the ball,” Christen mumbled.
Tobin sighed, understanding what Christen was saying but not sure exactly how to fix it. “You can’t help that you got sick, and you’re definitely not gross or dropping the ball,” Tobin whispered, placing the remaining half of her sandwich down on the plate.
“You brought our date here, didn’t you?” Christen asked, already knowing the answer. Of course, Tobin had done that. She had heard Christen describe what their date would have been tonight and had tried to recreate it as best as she could. That was just who Tobin was. She was sweet and thoughtful and so goddamn good that it made Christen want to cry.
“If you want to do that,” Tobin nodded. “I don’t want to overstep, though, if you want to save it for a day you choose.”
“You’re not, baby,” Christen murmured, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s neck before leaning back to look over at her wonderful girlfriend. “You’re just-” Christen stopped, unable to even find the words right now. The words to describe what this meant to her, what Tobin meant to her.
“I’m just trying to make you feel better,” Tobin finished Christen’s sentence.
“You’re doing an incredible job, Tobs,” Christen replied, sniffling a bit and rubbing at her nose with the sleeve of her sweatshirt.
“And if you’re too sleepy, we can just cuddle, and I’ll wake you up to take more medicine later tonight,” Tobin hummed, pressing her lips against Christen’s cheek.
“I just need some water, then I’d love to paint with you,” Christen smiled at the feeling of Tobin’s lips on her skin. She desperately wanted to kiss Tobin, but she was sick and gross despite what Tobin might have said, so she held off.
“You want to do portraits of each other?” Tobin teased, winking at Christen.
Christen smiled, the gesture tinged with a little sleep. “I think tonight’s theme was landscapes or something, but we can do whatever we want.”
“Hear me out,” Tobin started, her smile growing even more and her eyes crinkling. “We lose the clothes and take turns posing…”
Christen let out a choked laugh, which quickly turned into a series of raspy coughs. She waved off Tobin’s concern. “I’m fine, let’s get naked,” Christen said weakly.
“Gosh, you’re cute,” Tobin smirked, reaching around Christen and handing her the glass of water. “But these clothes are staying on. Why don’t we do landscape paintings that go together?”
Christen nodded, taking a small sip of water, cringing a bit at the pain still in her throat. She gave the water back to Tobin and smiled at her girlfriend, at the love and the worry in her eyes.
“Thank you for taking care of me,” Christen whispered, reaching out to tangle her fingers with Tobin’s. She lifted their clasped hands to her mouth and pressed a quick kiss to the back of Tobin’s hand, before letting their hands drop to her lap.
“I always will,” Tobin mumbled, pressing her lips softly to Christen’s before sliding out of bed and getting the paint supplies set up.
Christen smiled as she watched Tobin work, setting out blank canvases and paints. For the first time all day, she was starting to feel a bit better, and she knew it had everything to do with Tobin Heath.
“You look hot in that clip,” Tobin whispered, her face breaking out into a huge smirk.
Christen felt a blush creep up her neck at the husky timbre in Tobin’s voice. They were sitting in the back of the locker room lounge, watching film from their game against Long Beach State with the whole team. They’d won 7-0, so there wasn’t a ton of film to watch, not that either of them was paying attention. Thanks to the dark room, their semi-private location in the back, and the way Tobin had been denied being able to return the favor since they’d had to race here to make it on time to this film session, Tobin’s attention was on Christen and not on the screen.
“Shhh,” Christen shushed, scooting to her right a bit so that there was some space between them on the couch.
“What do you expect? I was in the middle of-”
Christen’s hand slapped across Tobin’s mouth, silencing the rest of that probably highly inappropriate sentence, thankful everyone else seemed to be engrossed in the film session.
Tobin pressed her lips against Christen’s palm, kissing her gently and ignoring the next clip that Foudy put on the screen.
Christen took her hand back and rolled her eyes affectionately. “We are in a team space, baby. Keep it in your pants,” she whispered.
“Can I finish what I was doing tonight?” Tobin asked.
Christen gulped, shifting around a bit on the couch at the desire that ran through her. She knew the blush had risen to her cheeks now but she couldn’t help it. Her mind was now far, far away from this film session, just like Tobin’s was.
“As long as I get to try that new thing we talked about yesterday,” Christen hummed, taking the control back with a smirk on her lips.
Tobin crossed her legs, trying to act as calm and collected as possible. She rested her arm on the back of the couch, her fingers just barely brushing along Christen’s neck.
“Deal,” Tobin husked.
Christen shivered at Tobin’s words and her touch. She needed to refocus, now . To act like the captain of this team, regardless of how hard to ignore the heat between her legs was.
“Coach, can you go back for a second? I think we should talk more about that high press, especially if we’re going to get our outside backs involved,” Christen spoke up from the back, hating the slight crack in her voice.
Tobin smirked, focusing on the screen again. “Suck up,” Tobin breathed out, watching the players on the screen.
Christen leaned over to Tobin and lowered her voice. “I might really want to go home and fuck you right now, but we’re still the captains of this team,” she whispered, getting to her feet and walking to the front of the lounge. She pointed to the screen, ignoring the slight shake in her hands, and smiled at her teammates. “So here, I feel like Kel and Crys can push up, so can Sammy. We can trap them in their defensive end and force the long ball…”
“Jesus Christ,” Tobin huffed, leaning her head back against the back of the couch. “She’s going to be the death of me.”
Christen ran her hands up and down Tobin’s arms, a sad smile on her face. “Try not to have too much fun without me, okay?” she asked, hating that Tobin was in her practice gear headed to the field and she was still in her street clothes and headed to an evening exam now that film was over.
“It’ll be miserable,” Tobin teased, leaning forward to kiss Christen quickly. “Good luck on the exam, not that you need it.”
“I didn’t get as much studying in as I would have liked, I have a very hot girlfriend and she’s very distracting,” Christen replied with a smile.
“Say the word next time, and I’ll let you have some alone time,” Tobin said, raising one of her eyebrows.
“No thanks,” Christen hummed, kissing Tobin quickly before stepping back. “Meet back at my place? I believe we made some plans.”
“I’m counting down the minutes already,” Tobin said, looking down at her watch.
Christen giggled and kissed Tobin one more time, not seeing that Mal, Megan, and Allie walk out of the locker.
“Awwww,” Mal cooed, squeezing Megan’s shoulders.
“Right in front of the kid!” Megan teased, covering Mal’s eyes.
“Harry, have some decorum!” Allie yelled.
Tobin waved Allie away without even turning around to look at her teammates.
“Get outta here, I love you,” Christen winked, backing away from Tobin, her eyes never falling from Tobin’s.
“I love you too,” Tobin sighed, her eyes dopey and wide.
Christen blew Tobin a kiss and then walked to the parking lot, knowing she had to hustle to make it to her exam on time.
“And this is exactly what I meant when I said heart eyes, Mal,” Allie laughed, wrapping her arm around Tobin and pulling Tobin toward the field.
“It’s getting gross,” Megan teased.
“I just want someone to have heart eyes with,” Mal sighed.
“You will someday, bud,” Tobin said, her heart fluttering just like it always did when she thought about Christen.
Mal beamed at Tobin’s response. Allie just rolled her eyes at how soft her best friend was. “What’s on the schedule today, oh captain, my captain?” she asked, ruffling Tobin’s hair and messing up her already messy bun.
“Foudy said something about an intrasquad scrimmage tonight, give us all a chance to score goals without Chris here,” Tobin laughed.
“I miss her,” Mal groaned, shuffling her feet across the grass of the practice field.
“So does Tobin, and it’s literally been forty seconds,” Megan smirked.
Allie chuckled. “Forty seconds for Preath is like a fucking lifetime.”
“Don’t bring back the whole Preath thing,” Tobin groaned.
“It’s so cute though, it’s better than Sue and I’s couple name,” Megan replied.
“What is yours?” Mal wondered.
“RapBird,” Megan grumbled, collapsing down onto the stands dramatically.
Tobin burst into a loud laugh, dropping her backpack on the stands and flopping down next to Megan.
“I don’t know, Pinoe. That’s got a nice ring to it,” Tobin snorted.
“Like the ring Sue’s gonna give you, am I right?” Allie jeered, spraying water onto Megan from her water bottle.
“HEYYYOOOO!” Mal yelled, just happy to be included in their teasing.
Tobin’s day had been perfect. She’d woken up with Christen, sharing sleepy kisses and warm cuddles. They’d slowly gotten ready for their classes, eating breakfast together and driving to campus. Both of them had short days on Thursdays, allowing them to hurry back to the car and drive home. Like many days, they were both eager to get back into bed and spend quality time together before their roommates returned home from their later afternoon classes. It had been a blissful afternoon, sweet and slow and sexy. The only thing that Tobin hadn’t been thrilled about was not getting to return the favor, but since Christen had promised that tonight they could return to their afternoon activities, Tobin wasn’t too grumpy about it.
Watching clips had been tortuous, but Tobin had enjoyed teasing Christen and being teased right back. And, even though Christen wasn’t at practice, Tobin was having a good time. She loved soccer, and she loved scrimmages. Her team was up a goal, not that anyone was supposed to be counting, and Tobin was feeling energized and engaged. Her passes were connecting, she’d scored a couple of goals, she’d megged a few people, and it felt like the smile on her face was glued there.
It had been a quality scrimmage so far, with some good bouts of possession for both sides and quality chances on goal. But what made UCLA the best team in the country is that they took everything seriously, even an intrasquad scrimmage. Nobody was pulling out of tackles, nobody was half-assing anything. It was hard and competitive, just as it should be. But the thing about a hard and competitive scrimmage was that it could get to people. Especially young, inexperienced people. People like freshmen.
With just a few minutes left to play, Crystal sent a long ball up the sideline. Thanks to a lack of outside backs, due to a few injuries and people out at exams, Foudy had to stick Mal in the backline, on Tobin’s side.
Tobin tracked Crystal’s pass and ran after the ball, completely aware that Mal was matching her stride for stride. She pushed her legs faster, wanting to get to the ball first, wanting her team to get one last goal before showering and leaving practice. Clearly, Mal wanted it too. Both of them were panting, pushing each other faster, but Tobin’s legs were a little longer, and she found the ball first. Knowing that Mal was still right beside her, Tobin tapped the ball around Mal toward Megan.
But just as Tobin’s foot met the ball, Mal started to slide, her cleat meeting Tobin’s ankle and taking Tobin down.
There was an odd crunch, then a pop, and then all Tobin could feel was agony. She didn’t usually cry out in pain. She never had as a kid when she fell off her skateboards or got fouled during games. This time, though, she couldn’t keep the scream in. It slipped from her lips briefly before she was able to bite on her bottom lip and roll onto her side.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Are you okay?” Mal rushed out, scrambling to her feet and hurrying to Tobin’s side. Her eyes were wide with alarm as she looked down at Tobin holding her ankle, writhing in pain.
Tobin couldn’t answer, she was pushing breaths of air out between her gritted teeth. Her entire body was clenched and her ankle was throbbing.
“Watch out,” Allie said, moving Mal out of the way. “Dude,” Allie whispered, pushing Tobin’s hair out of her face. “Talk to me, what is it? Your knee?”
“Ankle,” Tobin hissed, closing her eyes and leaning her head back onto the grass.
“Shit,” Allie cursed, turning to look over her shoulder and wave their trainer over. “It’s okay, you’re gonna be okay, Tobin.”
Tobin could feel a tear slip from her eye, hating that she couldn’t keep it in. “Harry,” Tobin grunted.
“What?” Allie asked, refocusing on Tobin, trying to imbue a sense of calm with the touch she had on Tobin’s shoulder.
“This isn’t good,” Tobin puffed out a breath.
“Probably not, dude,” Allie agreed. “You didn’t exactly scream with joy.”
“No,” Tobin groaned. “It’s bad.” Tobin shook her head. She’d sprained her ankle countless times. She’d rolled it. People had cleated her in the ankle. She’d had tendonitis in her ankle before. This was worse. This was worse than all of that.
“Oh,” Allie paled and turned around, looking across the field at Foudy and their trainer hurrying over. “Coach, Alicia!”
“Hey Tobin, can you let me take a look?” Alicia asked gently, bending down next to Tobin, right where Tobin’s hands were wrapped around her ankle.
Tobin let go of her ankle, covering her face with her hands and letting the trainer pull her cleat and sock off.
“You’re gonna be okay, Heath. Just breathe,” Coach Foudy said quietly, patting Tobin on her other shoulder.
Alicia gently poked and prodded, moving the ankle this way and that, doing some quick tests. Her face grew more and more serious with every test she did.
Tobin winced with every touch and movement, biting back the groans and whimpers she felt rising in her throat.
“We should get some pictures taken of this ankle,” Alicia concluded, sharing a look with Coach Foudy.
“I can take her. My car’s right over there,” Allie offered, pointing toward the parking lot.
“I’ll go with you,” Mal whispered, tears falling from her eyes as she stood nearby. She hadn’t been able to walk away, not after what she’d done.
Alicia carried Tobin to Allie’s car, setting her up in the back seat so that she could stretch her leg out across the seat. Mal jumped into the passenger’s seat, holding back the dozens of apologies that she wanted to blurt out at Tobin.
“Buckle up, Harry. I’m whipping,” Allie said, putting the car into drive and peeling out of the parking lot.
“Buckled,” Tobin hummed, the single word dull and teary.
“Should I call Christen?” Mal asked, her voice choking with the question.
“She’s in an exam,” Tobin mumbled.
“Dude none of us have our phones, so you can’t even text her if you wanted to,” Allie said, hopping onto the freeway and breaking just a few speeding laws.
“I’m sorry,” Mal whispered. She turned and looked over her shoulder, unable to keep her apologies at bay anymore. “Tobin, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to, I-”
“It’s fine,” Tobin said, the blood pounding in her ankle. “It was an accident.”
“I’m still super sorry, and-” Mal tried to continue, only to be interrupted by Tobin.
“Leave me alone, Mal,” Tobin snapped, shutting her eyes and leaning her head against the window.
Allie reached across the car and squeezed Mal’s knee, trying to soften the blow of Tobin’s words. She then turned on the radio and played some music to try and dispel some of the awkward tension in the car.
Christen rolled her shoulders as she stood up from the desk, her eyes heavy and her mind hurting just a little. She knew she’d done well, she’d known almost every answer, but essay questions always took it out of her. She walked to the front of the classroom and handed her professor her Blue Book with a smile.
“Have a good night,” she said quietly, conscious that the room was still half full with other psychology students.
Christen hurried back to her desk and gathered her things. She turned her phone back on as she walked out of the classroom, alarmed at the influx of notifications she got. Calls from Megan and Crystal and Kelley, texts from Sam, Rose, and Alyssa, multiple missed calls from Foudy. She didn’t bother reading the texts before she called Crystal back, putting the phone to her ear and trying to ignore the growing pit in her stomach.
“Christen,” Crystal sighed into the phone after answering on the first ring.
“Hey, what’s up with all the notifications? I had a test-”
“Don’t freak out, but I’m coming to pick you up,” Crystal said.
When people said not to freak out, it never actually kept you from freaking out. Christen stopped with her hand on the door handle, still inside the psychology building.
“What happened?” Christen asked quietly.
“I’m driving over to get you,” Crystal said after a moment of silence, her car audible in the background of the call.
“Tell me, Crys. Right now,” Christen replied sternly, shoving the door open and walking quickly toward the parking lot.
“Mal accidentally slid into Tobin,” Crystal started, cringing at what Christen’s reaction was going to be.
Christen’s steps faltered. She almost dropped her phone, she was so surprised. “Does that mean Tobin got hurt? Is Tobin hurt? Is she okay? Why is Crystal coming to get me?” Christen’s thoughts ran a mile a minute through her mind, her feet frozen to the sidewalk.
“She’s going to be fine, but Allie took Tobin to the hospital to get some x-rays,” Crystal said, turning her car into the campus parking lot.
Christen swallowed her fear, her tears, her worry, and started moving toward the parking lot again.
“I see you,” Christen said, hanging up the phone and running the rest of the way to Crystal’s car. She recklessly threw open the passenger’s side door before Crystal had even stopped the car completely. Christen tossed her backpack on the floor and slid in, slamming the door shut behind her.
“We can go back home if you want to wait there. I’m sure they’ll be finished soon,” Crystal said.
“Take me to the hospital; I’m not waiting at home,” Christen replied, her voice a little thin, her fingers tapping across her thighs.
“That’s what I expected,” Crystal sighed, driving out of the parking lot and toward the hospital.
It was quiet for a few moments as Crystal drove and Christen silently worried. But then Christen looked over at her best friend and tried her best to smile.
“Thanks for coming to get me,” Christen whispered.
“Of course,” Crystal nodded. She glanced toward Christen, seeing the obvious worry on Christen’s face.
“Did you see it?” Christen asked, her hands curling into fists in her lap.
Crystal nodded. “Everyone saw it. It was hard not to see it.”
Christen flinched. “Was she- I mean, how was she- did she walk off on her own?”
“No, Alicia carried her to the car,” Crystal admitted, not wanting to lie to her best friend.
“Shit. Knee?” Christen asked, her blood running cold, knowing that an accidental tackle could blow someone’s knee and fundamentally alter the course of their career. A tackle like that could end their career.
“Ankle,” Crystal whispered. “It was already really swollen before they left.”
Christen sighed in relief a bit, but her worry didn’t subside. Ankles were tricky too, not all that better than knees.
“How was she?” Christen whispered, looking over at Crystal, reading the answer already in her creased forehead.
Crystal didn’t want to answer that question. She didn’t want to tell Christen that Tobin had screamed loud enough to stop everyone on the field in their tracks. She didn’t want Christen to know that Tobin had only managed to grunt out single-word answers. She didn’t want Christen to know that Tobin had held onto her ankle until Alicia had made her let go.
“She screamed,” Crystal said quietly. It wasn’t a scream that she would soon forget.
Christen felt a choked gasp leave her lips. She turned to look out the window as her heart sank in her chest.
“She’ll be fine. It just hurt at the moment,” Crystal said, trying to assure Christen.
“Yeah,” Christen replied distantly, her eyes unfocused. She couldn’t stop her worry from coiling tightly in her chest, from making her stomach roll and tears spring to her eyes.
Crystal turned into the hospital parking lot, putting the car into park in the first free parking spot she could find.
Christen barely had the wherewithal to unbuckle her seatbelt before throwing the door open, before the car had stopped moving.
“Thanks, Crys,” Christen called over her shoulder.
“I’ll be right behind you,” Crystal called.
Christen sprinted up to the hospital, dodging doctors and nurses and patients and families. She hurried into the waiting room, looking around for-
“C.P.!” Allie called out, nodding from her spot in the corner of the waiting room.
Christen saw Mal leaned against Allie’s shoulder, tears tracking down her cheeks. Christen expected anger to burn through her. She expected to feel hate or frustration, but she just felt nothing but sympathy for the clear torture that Mal was putting herself through.
Christen quickly walked over, her brow furrowed. “Where is she?” she asked a little breathlessly.
“They-” Mal started, her voice choked and most of the words indecipherable. “Surgery, and-” Mal sobbed, her tears falling harder and clearly annoying some other people in the waiting room.
Christen’s eyes widened comically and her heart started to race again. “She’s in surgery? How bad was it?”
“No, no, no, Tobin’s not in surgery. They think she might need to get surgery. She’s still back with the doctor,” Allie corrected.
Christen sighed, her arms wrapping around her middle. “How long ago did they take her in?” she asked quietly, eyeing the open seat next to Allie but knowing she couldn’t sit down even if she wanted to. She couldn’t sit still knowing Tobin was back there, was hurting, was in pain.
“Maybe an hour,” Allie said, looking up at the clock in the waiting room.
“I’m so sorry, Christen,” Mal choked out, rubbing the palms of her hands over her cheeks.
Christen softened and kneeled in front of the freshman. She laid a gentle hand on Mal’s knee, noting that the girl was still in her grass-stained practice gear and her cleats.
“It was an accident, Mal. You don’t have to feel bad about it,” Christen hummed.
“Tobin’s mad at me,” Mal whispered.
“She’s probably just in some pain. She’s not mad at you,” Christen replied, knowing that her girlfriend was many things, but she wasn’t mean. She wouldn’t cruelly lash out, especially at Little Mal.
“See, that’s what I said,” Allie sighed. “You want to try and sit?”
Christen shook her head, getting back to her feet. “I don’t think I can right now,” she admitted, turning to look at the wooden, double doors separating the waiting room from the back rooms.
“You gonna sneak back there and go all Oceans 8 on the hospital?” Allie teased.
Christen cracked a smile, shaking her head at Allie. “Ask me again in twenty minutes,” she replied.
Allie didn’t need to ask. Within fifteen minutes, a nurse was pushing Tobin through the swinging doors in a wheelchair, and Tobin was clutching a pair of crutches across her lap.
Christen felt her stomach drop at the sight of the dried tears under Tobin’s eyes, at the haggard look on her face. She immediately rushed over.
“Hey, you,” Christen said, trying to smile as she looked down at Tobin.
“Hey, you missed a great practice,” Tobin tried to tease, her voice too exhausted to really sell the joke.
“I can see that,” Christen replied gently. She looked up at the nurse who was standing behind Tobin’s wheelchair. “Can she come home now?”
“Yes, she’s got a fracture to her right ankle. We’ve prescribed some anti-inflammatory medication, which she’s got with her there in that cute white bag, along with some instructions,” he advised with a kind smile.
Christen ignored the way Tobin flinched at the nurse’s words. She reached out and laid a hand on Tobin’s shoulder, her attention still on the nurse. “She takes Lexapro, does that affect this anti-inflammatory at all?” Christen asked, squeezing Tobin’s shoulder gently.
“No, she’ll be fine,” the nurse nodded with a smile. “Let’s get you out to the car.”
“I got her,” Christen replied, moving around the back of the wheelchair. “Our friend’s outside.”
“You can just leave the wheelchair in the front lobby once you’ve gotten her into the car,” the nurse said, stepping to the side.
“Thank you,” Christen said, pushing Tobin out of the hospital. She leaned down and kissed the back of Tobin’s head, trying not to worry at how quiet Tobin was being. “Allie will drive us to your place, okay? Then I’ll go out and get some ice packs and snacks and whatever else you want.”
“You don’t need to do that,” Tobin mumbled, staring down at the one cleat that was on her other foot still.
Christen wished she could see Tobin’s face, wished she wasn’t pushing the wheelchair, unable to look into Tobin’s eyes.
“I know that, but I want to,” Christen said, her tone leaving no room for argument. She wheeled Tobin up to Allie’s car, which was parked on the curb. Christen walked around the front and crouched down to look at Tobin. She pushed some of the wild baby hairs away from Tobin’s forehead, trying to catch Tobin’s eye.
“Baby?” Christen asked quietly.
“Hmm?” Tobin sighed, looking up at Christen with teary eyes.
Christen realized that now wasn’t the moment. It wasn’t the moment for a big speech about how much she loved her and how much this whole thing sucked. It wasn’t the moment to shower Tobin with support and encouragement, to hold her tight and help her piece herself back together. At the sight of the tears in Tobin’s eyes, Christen felt her own eyes start to sting.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there. But let’s get you home so I can be here now, okay? I love you,” Christen whispered, pressing her lips against Tobin’s forehead once, then twice.
“You don’t need to be sorry,” Tobin gulped, shaking her head quickly. “I love you too.”
“I love you three, now can we skedaddle?” Allie asked, leaning out of the driver’s side door.
Tobin tossed the crutches into the floor of the car, pushed herself up from the wheelchair with her hands, and hopped on her left foot until she could grab onto the car door.
Christen reached out to help, but let her hands fall to her sides at the way Tobin’s brow was knit in determination, at the frustration rolling off of her in waves. She instead watched as Tobin got herself into the back seat, her concern growing at the small grunts of pain and discomfort from her girlfriend.
Christen had to force herself to turn around and wheel the wheelchair back inside, to leave Tobin. She had a sinking feeling Tobin was in for a long night. That the pain and the turmoil she could see in those brown eyes was only just the beginning.
Tobin hadn’t thought about the stairs she’d have to climb at her house. She stared up at them, her crutches shoved under her arms. Christen was holding the bag she’d gotten from the hospital and her cleat since it was easier to hobble around with her bare foot.
“Want some help?” Christen wondered, stopping right behind Tobin, resisting the urge to reach out and touch Tobin, not sure if that was something she should do right now.
“Yeah,” Tobin sighed, moving one of the crutches to lean against the wall. It would be easier to crutch up the stairs with one crutch and Christen on her other side.
“Can I- I mean, can I put my arm around you?” Christen asked gently, her hand hovering inches from Tobin’s back, her words full of hesitation.
Tobin turned her head to look at Christen fully, maybe for the first time since she’d left the hospital.
“You don’t need to ask me that. You always can,” Tobin nodded.
Christen felt the ghost of a smile cross her face. She re-adjusted everything she was carrying to make room for Tobin’s other crutch, and then slipped her free hand around Tobin’s waist. She pressed a kiss to Tobin’s temple.
“Ready?” she whispered, squeezing Tobin’s hip.
Tobin nodded, stepping up with her good leg and pushing up the stairs.
It took them a painfully long time to climb the stairs, even with Christen shouldering a lot of Tobin’s weight. They had to take three breaks so Tobin could readjust or huff in frustration. But finally, they made it to the second floor, right as a light sheen of sweat crested Tobin’s brow.
Christen handed Tobin the other crutch, removing her arm from around Tobin’s waist. She walked right behind Tobin the rest of the way to Tobin’s room, her hand hovering on Tobin’s back, ready to help if need be.
Tobin immediately dropped onto the edge of her bed, leaning her crutches against the foot of the bed. She stared down at the boot on her right leg, hating that it was there, hating that her leg hurt, hating that she’d gotten hurt during practice, hating that she’d snapped at Mal, hating that she didn’t know what to say, and hating that Christen had asked to touch her.
“Can I get you anything, baby?” Christen asked softly, hovering near the door. Her backpack was now on the ground near Tobin’s desk, and the bag from the hospital was on Tobin’s desk, but Christen stayed all the way across the room. She was unsure how to proceed, how to be there for Tobin, how to do this.
Tobin shook her head, finally feeling the lump in her throat that she’d been pushing down since getting in Allie’s car rise in her throat. She reached her hand out slowly, letting it hang in the air between the two of them for a second before dropping it beside herself on the bed.
Christen breathed a sigh of relief at the silent invitation. At least Tobin was inviting her to stay, wasn’t pushing her away. At least Tobin was letting her be here for the moment.
Christen dropped onto the bed beside Tobin, making sure to avoid bumping into her boot or her right side entirely, choosing to sit on Tobin’s left.
Tobin pushed herself back on the bed, using her arms to move her body so that she could lean back onto her pillow. She wanted to lay down so that her leg wasn’t dangling off the edge of the bed anymore. She motioned for Christen to move with her.
Christen silently followed suit, scooting back on the bed and stopping when her back hit the pillows when she was sitting a good distance away from Tobin. She let her gaze trail across Tobin’s features, noting the tired glint in her eyes, the deep furrow of her brow, the thin line of her lips.
Tobin tried to rock her hips to the side, to roll over onto her stomach. All she wanted to do was bury her face in Christen’s chest and hold onto her, but each time she tried to move, to roll closer, her ankle ached. The boot was too big and cumbersome to really move easily without something hurting. She let out a frustrated sigh.
“Baby, baby, hey,” Christen whispered, reaching out to stop Tobin. She could see that Tobin was getting increasingly irritated and annoyed that she couldn’t come cuddle, that Tobin couldn’t rest her head on her chest. “Let me try something, you stay still.”
Christen quickly crawled over toward Tobin, scooting Tobin forward a bit so she could slip in behind her. She pulled Tobin against her chest, her arms wrapped tightly around Tobin’s middle.
“It’s not the same, but I can hold you still,” Christen hummed, tightening her arms around Tobin, pressing her face into Tobin’s hair, and ignoring the stale, hospital smell that lingered there.
Tobin couldn’t swallow the lump in her throat any longer. The burning in her eyes was overwhelming, and Christen’s arms were so soft and safe. She let the first few tears slide down her cheeks. She let the frustration she’d been feeling since practice slip from her lips and her eyes. Her fingers tangled with Christen’s fingers, and she pressed back against Christen’s chest.
Christen felt the stuttering breaths leave Tobin’s lips, felt the slight tremble in Tobin’s chest. “Let it out baby, I got you. I’m here,” Christen whispered, pressing kisses to Tobin’s temple and her cheek and her neck and anywhere else she could reach.
The first sob left Tobin’s body without permission. It ripped out of her chest, surprising Tobin when it reached her ears, when she could hear the agonizing cry. She hadn’t expected to cry like this. She typically shoved feelings like this down until she got over them, until she had swallowed them enough to make them disappear. Now, though, comfortable in Christen’s arms, her ankle swollen and fractured, and a surgery looming ahead, Tobin couldn’t stop the noises that escaped from her throat. She gripped tighter to Christen, grounding herself in the girl behind her, grounding herself in the one person she wanted to be there with her.
Christen felt tears spring to her eyes at the sobs leaving Tobin’s lips, at the tortured, anguished cries. Her own tears fell down her cheeks as she tried her best to comfort Tobin, as she said the only thing she could think of.
“I’ve told you this before, but let me help you, baby. Give me this pain, this hurt, this frustration that you’re feeling. Give it all to me. Let me hold it for you until you feel up to it. Let me carry it for you until you’re ready,” Christen whispered into Tobin’s ear, holding Tobin impossibly tighter, hoping that with her touch, she was taking all of Tobin’s pain away. “Let me replace it with love, with patience. Let me.”
After sitting in Christen’s arms and letting her sobs rock her body softly, Tobin regained some control of her body. She swallowed thickly and blinked away the remaining tears in her eyes.
“I love you. You’re going to get through this. I’m here for you, always,” Christen murmured, imbuing every word with all the love in her heart.
“I love you too,” Tobin whispered. “It really hurts.”
“I know, baby. I wish I could take it all away, I wish I could take that pain too,” Christen replied, pressing her face into the side of Tobin’s neck, pressing a kiss to the warm skin she found there.
“I was mean to Mal,” Tobin choked out.
“She knows you didn’t mean it, baby,” Christen replied, rocking Tobin gently back and forth.
“She cried,” Tobin huffed, hating that she’d let the pain get the best of her in the moment.
“She’s okay, Crystal took her back to the dorms and made sure she was fine,” Christen hummed, keeping her voice soft, her words gentle.
“I have a growth or something,” Tobin mumbled.
“A what?” Christen asked, confused as to the drastic shift in conversation.
“On my ankle. Apparently, Mal did me a favor because I have to get it removed, the sooner the better, if I want to play for a long time,” Tobin whispered.
“Huh,” Christen said. “Well, then we should buy our kid a fruit basket or something, thank her for helping you out in the long run.”
“Yeah,” Tobin nodded.
“A growth means surgery, right?” Christen asked, craning her neck to look at Tobin’s face, using a hand to brush away Tobin’s tears.
“Mhm,” Tobin sighed.
Christen nodded, absorbing the new information. “Well that’s okay, there are some perks to surgery,” she said, a small smile on her face as she looked at Tobin.
“Oh? Care to share?” Tobin asked, leaning her head back onto Christen’s shoulder.
“I have a great bedside manner,” Christen teased, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s cheek. “I’ll get you whatever you want, no questions asked.”
Tobin smiled softly, trying to let Christen’s words make her feel better. “You do have a great bedside manner.”
Christen grinned into Tobin’s skin, her face pressed into the crook of Tobin’s neck.
“Today was a really good day before this,” Tobin admitted. “Like a perfect day.”
“Yeah, it was,” Christen agreed, dropping a kiss to Tobin’s neck before leaning back. “I’m really sorry I wasn’t there at practice. Maybe if I had been, this wouldn’t have happened,” she admitted quietly.
“I don’t think so, Chris,” Tobin mumbled. “We didn’t have enough defenders, so having you there wouldn’t have changed that.”
“I am so great at defense, I would have played in the back,” Christen said with a small smile.
“You’re our best scorer. No way Foudy would have played you back there,” Tobin hummed.
Christen sighed and brushed the hair off of Tobin’s forehead, not really knowing how to answer that, not with the guilt clawing up her throat and the worry clouding her mind.
“I’m glad you weren’t there,” Tobin murmured.
Christen leaned back a bit, somewhat surprised. “Why?” she wondered, her eyes narrowed a bit in confusion.
“Because I screamed, and if the roles were reversed and you’d done that, I would have been scared shitless,” Tobin whispered.
“I’m still scared shitless,” Christen confessed quietly. “I’d still feel like this, even if I had been there.”
“Why? It’s just a fracture, a minor one at that,” Tobin said, opening her eyes a little bit more to look at Christen more clearly.
“Doesn’t matter. You got hurt and I wasn’t there for you. I’ve never been that scared in my entire life, hearing Crys say that you were at the hospital,” Christen whispered, her voice a little thin.
“I’m sorry,” Tobin mumbled. “I would have called if I’d had time to get my stuff.”
Christen arched a brow, feeling a smile of disbelief tug at her lips. “You’re apologizing to me? Really?”
“I’m reverting to the original, over-apologizing Tobin that you know and love,” Tobin teased.
“Right now I’m more worried about the Tobin sitting in this bed with me,” Christen replied gently.
“She’ll be okay,” Tobin whispered, pulling Christen’s hand up and kissing the back of her hand.
“I know she will, she’s the strongest person I know,” Christen said, dropping a kiss to Tobin’s forehead.
“I really wanted to return the favor tonight,” Tobin pouted, sinking even further into Christen’s arms.
Christen let out a choked laugh, nuzzling her nose along the side of Tobin’s head. “We’ll adapt.”
“So basically, I’ll be a bottom for over six weeks?” Tobin whined, her smile growing at the new topic of conversation.
“Baby, you’re always the bottom,” Christen quipped, a small smile on her lips and a light back in her eyes.
“Maybe figuratively, but not physically,” Tobin grumbled.
“Whatever you have to tell yourself, my love,” Christen teased, thankful that Tobin seemed to be feeling better, that Tobin was joking and laughing, even if it was a bit weak at times.
“Thanks for coming to get me,” Tobin said, turning her head to look at Christen a little better.
“Fun fact, forever includes stuff like this,” Christen grinned.
Tobin mirrored Christen’s smile and then blinked, as if remembering something. “Oh, how was your exam?” Tobin asked, remembering what Christen had been doing while Tobin was at practice.
Christen had honestly completely forgotten about what she’d been doing before all of this happened.
“I think I did fine, but that’s really not important right now. What’s important is that I make sure you eat so you can take your medication and that Allie is able to get your favorite sneakers out of your locker,” Christen replied.
“Can we get burgers and fries?” Tobin asked, pressing her lips to Christen’s neck gently.
“We can get whatever you want,” Christen hummed, her eyes fluttering shut at the familiar feeling of Tobin’s lips on her skin.
“You didn’t call my parents, did you?” Tobin asked, cringing at the idea of her parents getting all worried, especially since her phone was in the locker room still.
“I did when I was waiting for you to come out, then I texted them on the drive home. They’re coming by tomorrow morning and your mom insisted on bringing bagels,” Christen replied with a smile.
“Thank god for that,” Tobin sighed. “She’s gonna turn into a hover mom and want to do my laundry and organize my closet.”
“Considering it’s our laundry now, I think we should make sure your mom doesn’t do it,” Christen grinned, her eyes crinkling.
“Mhm,” Tobin mumbled, a smile sliding across her face.
Christen tucked a few strands of Tobin’s hair behind her ear, her face getting serious again. “This is just a bump in the road, baby. You’re going to come back better than ever, I know it.”
“We’ll see,” Tobin said, closing her eyes. She knew Christen was right. She knew that at some point in her career she’d get an injury. But tonight wasn’t the night that she’d develop optimism. Tonight, she just wanted to eat a bit of junk food and go to sleep with Christen holding her.
“I have confidence enough for the both of us right now, don’t worry if you don’t feel it yet. I’ll hold onto this too until you’re ready,” Christen hummed.
“You’re pretty perfect,” Tobin sighed. She opened her eyes slightly, remembering that Christen didn’t love the word perfect. “And by that, I mean that you’re perfect for me.”
“I knew what you meant, baby,” Christen replied, pressing a kiss to the tip of Tobin’s nose. “And you’re pretty perfect too, boot and all.”
“I need to get Mal a milkshake or something,” Tobin said.
“We can stop by her dorm tomorrow if you’re feeling up to it,” Christen nodded, feeling her heart swell at the fact that Tobin was more concerned about Mal and her feelings than she was about her own. “Now, are you ready for that burger?”
“And fries,” Tobin yawned.
“And fries,” Christen nodded, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s temple, knowing she’d get Tobin whatever she wanted if it kept a smile on her face.
Christen had read through the same paragraph six times, and she still didn’t fully understand it. It was hard to focus on rumination and OCD and whatever else this dumb psychology article was trying to get her to understand when Tobin was lying a few feet away from her, breathing deeply but still not awake yet.
It had been an entire family affair, taking Tobin to the hospital for her surgery this morning. Cindy had insisted on driving, Jeff had insisted on bringing bagels for everyone even if Tobin couldn’t eat them, and Stacy had insisted on coming along.
Spirits had remained relatively high all morning, even after they’d wheeled Tobin back for surgery. But then they’d had to wait, and wait, and wait.
Tobin had been brought back to the private room thirty minutes ago. The doctor had explained to Cindy and Jeff that everything went well and that Tobin would be waking up soon. She’d be a bit groggy and out of it for a few hours, but she was going to be just fine.
They had waited a bit longer, but when Tobin remained asleep, Cindy, Jeff, and her mom had run down to the cafeteria for coffee. All Christen could do was pretend to do work while she was anxiously watching Tobin’s face for any change, any indication that the anesthesia was wearing off.
Tobin’s mouth felt dry, drier than it had ever felt before. She wanted water, ice-cold water, and she wanted tons of it. Despite the obnoxious beeping in her room and the entire surgery center, her dehydration was all she could focus on. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut, feeling just how heavy her eyelids felt. It was like she had to actively push them open, and Tobin wondered if it was really worth it, since a nap would actually be nice. If she could just get the beeping sounds to stop, if she could just resituate herself in the bed, Tobin was sure that she could nap for a long time.
She let out a quiet sigh, frustrated that she couldn’t do either of those things since she felt pretty numb from the waist down.
Christen shot to her feet at the sigh, her textbook and her folder and that dumb article hitting the floor.
“Tobs?” she asked with a relieved smile, trying not to trip on the stuff she spilled as she hurried over to Tobin’s bedside.
“Helloooo,” Tobin croaked, her voice coming out higher-pitched than usual.
Christen sat on the edge of the bed, reaching out to brush some hair from Tobin’s forehead, her smile growing at the way Tobin’s eyes were still shut.
“How are you feeling?” Christen asked gently, running her thumb down Tobin’s cheek.
“Deeeehydrated,” Tobin mumbled, her eyelids fluttering open and then closed quickly, just allowing her a glimpse at her beautiful girlfriend. Her voice sounded far away, so far away that it sounded kind of funny, and made Tobin’s mouth quirk into a lopsided smile.
“What’s that smile for?” Christen hummed, pushing some of Tobin’s hair behind her ear softly, scooting just a bit closer on the bed.
“I dunno,” Tobin chirped, finally opening her eyes enough to keep them open and look at Christen. “You look pretty today,” Tobin hummed, her eyelids drooping a little before she opened her eyes wide.
Christen shook her head, knowing for a fact that she didn’t, but she wasn’t going to argue with a drugged-up Tobin Heath. Especially not when she looked so dang adorable in that hospital gown with a goofy grin on her face.
“Can I have water?” Tobin whispered, pouting a little.
Christen grabbed the cup from the table and held it out for Tobin, positioning the straw so Tobin could drink it easily.
“This is the best water I’ve ever tasted,” Tobin slurred, taking another sip and closing her eyes with how good it tasted.
Christen held in a laugh. “I’ll make sure the hospital knows how good their water is,” she assured, feigning seriousness.
“I can’t move my toes,” Tobin whispered like it was a huge secret.
“They’re still there, I promise. You’re just working through the last bit of anesthesia in your system,” Christen replied, setting aside the now-empty water cup. “You’ll feel them soon.”
“Would you love me if I didn’t have toes?” Tobin asked, laying her head back against her pillow and looking up at Christen.
Christen did laugh then. She reached out to grab ahold of one of Tobin’s hands and lifted it to her lips. She grazed her lips across Tobin’s knuckles, smiling a bit.
“Of course, baby,” Christen hummed.
“What if I didn’t have fingers? That could be an issue,” Tobin yawned.
“You losing the tongue too?” Christen wondered, hiding her smirk in Tobin’s knuckles.
Tobin’s sleepy smile grew mischievous and she was about to answer-
“She’s up!” Cindy called, leading the way for the three adults to enter the room.
Christen blushed deeply, praying that their parents hadn’t caught their last interaction. She turned to look over her shoulder and smiled at Cindy, Jeff, and Stacy.
“That would be unfortunate, Chris,” Tobin said, not even caring that her parents and Christen’s mom had just walked in.
“We can talk about that later, not in front of our parents okay?” Christen said quietly, kissing Tobin’s knuckles once more before dropping her hand back on the bed.
“Shhhh,” Tobin mumbled. “I’ll be so quiet. Secret’s safe with me.”
Christen chuckled and got up from the bed, making sure she wasn’t monopolizing Tobin’s time.
“You just woke up, and you’re already sharing secrets?” Jeff teased, leaning over Tobin’s other side to kiss Tobin’s forehead.
Christen hurried to go pick up her dropped textbook and papers, hoping Tobin was lucid enough to not say anything.
“The drugs are really opening my mind to the secrets of the universe,” Tobin murmured, blinking slowly at the three other faces in the room.
Christen sighed in relief and put her stuff into her bag that was slung over the back of one of the chairs.
“Was one of those secrets that you’re going to come back better than ever and score way more goals?” Stacy grinned.
“Once I can wiggle my toesies, I’ll be racing around that field,” Tobin nodded.
Christen made her way back over to the bed and wrapped an arm around her mom’s shoulders. She looked down at Tobin, feeling her heart flutter in her chest at the doe-eyed look Tobin was giving her. It was like Tobin couldn’t look anywhere else, at anyone else, except her.
“I have a secret,” Tobin whispered loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.
Christen’s eyes widened in panic. “Tobs is now really-” she tried to say, only to have Tobin interrupt heer.
“I love this game,” she slurred. “And I love you,” Tobin finished with a small gesture of her pointer finger at Christen.
Christen laughed, partly in amusement and partly in relief. “I love you too, you dork,” Christen replied, a slight blush in her cheeks.
“I’m so glad I got that on video,” Cindy cooed, putting her phone in her pocket.