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Game, Set, Match

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“Emma Claire Press, for the hundredth time, let’s go! We’re gonna be late!” Christen yelled for her daughter to come downstairs as she put aside the cauliflower rice and chicken they were going to have for dinner later. It had been a long day at work and she had hoped to leave a little earlier than usual to make sure she had time to get home and make dinner and get them to practice on time, but that didn’t happen. She cursed herself internally for not preparing dinner the night before like she had planned, but she ended up working late into the night and just didn’t have it in her to start cooking at 11pm.

The day had started out the same as it always did. Christen’s alarm went off at 5am after having gotten six hours of sleep and she went about her morning routine. Yoga. Meditation. First cup of coffee. Work emails. Breakfast. More emails. Second cup of coffee. Drop Emma off at summer camp.

“I’m coming!” Emma yelled down from her room.

Emma came bounding down the stairs in a hurry, ignoring the annoyed look her mother was throwing her way. She always knew she was in trouble when her mom called her by her full name.

“I’ve got your water. Grab your racket and get in the car please,” Christen said, rushing to grab her keys.

“Okay,” Emma said, running to the mud room to get her brand new tennis racket and hopping into the car.

Christen opened the garage door and started the car as Emma buckled herself in. She pulled up the address on her phone and entered it into her Waze app and set it down on her dashboard’s magnetic phone holder. Christen put the car in reverse and carefully backed out of their driveway.

“Em, I’m gonna need you to really start listening to me when I say we need to go,” Christen lectured her daughter on the way to the tennis courts. “I’m trying to make us dinner and get you to practice on time. The least you can do is answer me the first time I call you downstairs. How many times have we been over this?”

Christen gave her daughter a frustrated sigh. One of her pet peeves was tardiness, something her dad had instilled in her and her sisters when they were young. He always said that being late means you’re wasting other people’s time, so avoid it at all costs. She used to roll her eyes when he said it, but it made more and more sense to her the older she got. It was something she was currently working on with her own daughter with minimal success thus far.

“I will, I’m sorry mom,” Emma said in a contrite voice.

Christen glanced at the GPS to make sure she was going in the right direction and briefly looked over at her daughter to convey that she was serious. Emma looked back at her with a guilty look on her face, but Christen didn’t let her off the hook that easily.

“And that goes for anything, not just tennis. If you keep ignoring me, I’m going to have to take away your cell phone privileges,” Christen said.

“Noooo!” Emma whined.

“Trust me, I don’t wanna have to do that, but I will. I need to see improvement or I’m taking the phone away, understood?” Christen said sternly.

Christen had first gotten a cell phone for Emma a year ago for safety reasons. She wanted to be able to get in touch with her daughter and vice versa in case of an emergency. She didn’t have access to the internet, but she did have the ability to send text messages. And lately, she was noticing more and more that Emma was spending a lot of time on her phone texting with friends from back home in L.A. She knew she could trust Emma, but it still didn’t make her happy that she was spending so much time on the device and ignoring her. But Christen couldn’t really talk without being a little bit of a hypocrite. She spends even more time on her phone because of work, although she was trying her best to limit checking her emails so much, especially when she was home with Emma. Admittedly, this was taking a bit of work on her part, finding it difficult to lay off her phone outside of work hours.

“Understood,” Emma said, looking at her hands.

“Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. We’ve had this conversation more than once and I’m tired of repeating myself,” Christen said, still frustrated with her daughter.

“I mean it, Mom. I mean it,” Emma said sincerely, hoping to convince her mom that she would start listening.

They drove in silence for a few more minutes until the GPS told them that they were close to their destination, though it didn’t seem like they were anywhere close. The park was big and they had never been to this side of it before and they saw no sign of tennis courts anywhere.

“Alright, I have no idea where court 17 is, so we’ll need to go quickly,” Christen said as she pulled into the parking lot. “Try to keep up,” she winked at her daughter, her annoyance from a few minutes ago already in the rear view mirror.

“Yeah, yeah,” Emma said, knowing that her mom had likely already forgiven her for making them late. “I think I’ll be able to beat you in a foot race soon.”

“Uh huh,” Christen said as she looked for a parking spot, willing the people at the mini crosswalk to go a little faster so she could proceed.

————

After parking the car and running around for what felt like an hour to find court 17, they finally made it and met Emma’s new tennis coach for the first time. Christen isn’t sure how many tennis courts were at this park, but there were a lot and most of them were occupied with kids of all ages. Christen had originally looked into group lessons for Emma so she could have interaction with other kids, but when she found out that her age group normally meets at 4pm, there was just no way she could swing that with her busy schedule. And that’s how they ended up signing up for private lessons so they could set their own time with the coach.

“Hi there! Is this Emma? I’m Coach Diana!” the coach said, introducing herself from the other end of the court.

“Hi! Yes! So sorry we’re a little late,” Christen said sheepishly.

“No worries! Emma, come on over whenever you’re ready,” Diana said as she finished up with her current student.

Christen led Emma to the empty bench on the sideline and put their things down.

“Okay, sweetheart, have a good lesson, okay? The most important thing is to have fun. I’ll just be right here,” Christen said.

“Okay, thanks mom,” Emma replied as she ran over to her new coach.

Christen chuckled lightly to herself as she thought about those words and how her mom used to always say it to her to rein in her competitiveness. It didn’t really work on her, though. Whenever she stepped out on the field, she transformed into a maniac who demanded too much of herself and her teammates. She was finding it funny how much she was turning into her parents.

Christen sat down and let out a deep breath while wiping the light beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead from running around looking for the tennis courts. She chastised herself for being five minutes late to a 30-minute long tennis lesson, especially since the private lesson was not cheap.

“First time here?” a woman holding a couple of ball pickup tubes asked Christen.

Christen jumped slightly and looked up, startled by the voice, and met sympathetic honey brown eyes.

“Oh,” Christen said blushing. “Yeah, how’d you know?”

The woman looked at Christen, seemingly wanting to say something, yet spoke nothing.

Tobin stood there, gobsmacked by the woman’s green eyes that were suddenly staring back at her. She had approached her thinking she would make friendly conversation, but she hadn’t expected the woman to be so devastatingly beautiful that she literally took away her ability to speak.

“I…uh…uh,” Tobin started to say, but unable to come up with anything else.

She could feel the heat that had immediately risen to her face. What had happened to all her words? She needed words and she needed them fast. She had started a conversation with this woman and now she was completely tongue-tied. She could not have imagined a more embarrassing scenario.

“Are you alright?” Christen asked out of concern.

“Uh…yeah…um, sorry,” Tobin said in a bit of a panic, unable to get rid of the blush that was still surely spread all over her face in the last few seconds of this conversation, if you could even call it that.

Tobin took a deep breath and tried again as the woman looked at her now with a combination of mild concern and great amusement. She was almost tempted to just walk away and cut her losses out of sheer embarrassment, but words finally came tumbling out of her mouth.

“Our, uh, first time out here, we were, uh, ten minutes late because we couldn’t find this court, so don’t worry about being late,” she said smiling, proud of herself that she was finally able to form a somewhat coherent sentence.

“Thanks,” Christen said with a smile right back at the woman. “We would have left the house earlier, but my daughter lacks any sense of urgency these days.”

Tobin laughed knowingly, her nerves easing a little bit. It was always easy to talk to another parent about their kids, even one as beautiful as the woman in front of her. “My daughter is the same way,” she said nodding toward the girl who was picking up tennis balls from her session.

Christen laughed. “The selective hearing drives me a little crazy sometimes.”

“I hear ya. I’m Tobin, by the way,” she said more confidently, offering her hand to Christen.

“Hi Tobin, I’m Christen,” she said, shaking her hand and holding on and staring for maybe a few seconds too long.

The first things Christen noticed about Tobin, after finally tearing her gaze away from her beautiful brown eyes and pouty lips, were her incredibly large hands that seemed to swallow her own when they shook hands, and her muscular legs. She tried not to stare, but Tobin’s hands and legs were so nice that her eyes couldn’t help themselves. If she didn’t consider herself a leg woman before, she certainly was now that she’d seen the most perfect pair ever made. She was wearing a plain white t-shirt and neon green shorts along with a pair of flip flops and a burgundy hat that said ‘bodega’ on it. Christen decided right away that she liked everything about Tobin’s casual style.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Christen,” Tobin croaked out, still struck by the woman’s striking, deep green eyes and kind smile.

Tobin had never seen eyes so green or cheekbones that seem to have been chiseled by Michelangelo himself. She was sure that Christen was the most physically beautiful person she had ever seen. Her face was simply perfect and her smile disarmed Tobin immediately, which never happens.

“Nice to meet you, too. That’s my daughter, Emma,” Christen said warmly.

Tobin looked at the girl who was now on the court and smiled at the resemblance between the two.

“Yeah, I’d probably have a hard time telling you two apart,” Tobin joked.

Christen laughed and shyly tucked her hair behind her ear.

“That’s my daughter, Jordan. How old is Emma? They look to be about the same age,” Tobin said, observing them side by side as the coach appeared to be introducing them to each other.

“She turned twelve a couple of weeks ago,” Christen said. “How old is Jordan?” she asked.

“She’ll be turning twelve in a couple of months, actually,” Tobin said.

“Oh, awesome,” Christen said. “What middle school does Jordan go to, if you don’t mind my asking? We just moved here in June, so we don’t really know anyone.”

“She goes to The Parker School,” Tobin said.

“That’s where Emma’s going to go!” Christen said a little too excitedly, her eyes lighting up.

Tobin chuckled. “Awesome, really looking forward to these preteen years,” she said sarcastically.

Tobin could remember being twelve years old and being incredibly awkward, especially around girls. Her behavior over the last couple of minutes certainly had her wondering why she was suddenly acting like she was twelve again as if she’s never been around a pretty girl before. Those preteen years were an important time in her life. It was the time when she started to realize that she really wasn’t like all her other friends who would constantly talk about boys and how cute they were. The only interest she had in boys was playing soccer with them. Unfortunately for her, it still took her a while to really understand why she felt differently about boys than her friends did.

“Tell me about it. I’m dreading it,” Christen said. ”How long has Jordan been taking tennis lessons?”

“About six months now,” Tobin said.

“Nice. Does she like it?” Christen asked.

“Yeah, she does. She’s tried pretty much every sport, but she definitely enjoys tennis more than anything. It’s something to keep her active, so I’m waiting for her to tell me if she wants to start taking more lessons. Right now we’re only doing Fridays,” Tobin said. “I really tried to get her into soccer and she stuck with it for a few years until she finally told me she didn’t wanna play anymore and basically broke my heart,” she said laughing.

Tobin could remember the day last year when Jordan declared that soccer wasn’t the sport for her. Tobin was taken aback by it, but she didn’t show it. She just wanted to know why and Jordan had told her that she just wasn’t into it anymore now that all her other friends had also quit playing. Tobin didn’t want to force Jordan into playing the sport that she herself loved so much, but she did want to keep her daughter active. She suggested maybe taking some tennis lessons to mix it up a little bit and they would only be 30 minutes long, so it wasn’t as big of a commitment. Tobin has been pleasantly surprised that Jordan seems to really like playing now.

“Oh my god, that’s pretty much exactly why we’re here. I was hoping Emma would enjoy soccer, but she didn’t, so now we’re trying tennis. I guess at this point, I don’t really care what sport she plays as long as she keeps her body moving,” Christen said shaking her head.

“Did you play soccer?” Tobin asked, finding it so easy now to keep talking to this gorgeous woman.

“I played in high school, but I blew out my knee my senior year and was never quite the same after that,” Christen said. “How about you?”

“Well, you probably won’t believe me, but same here, except it happened my junior year of high school. Tore my ACL,” Tobin said blushing, unable to control her body’s response to Christen.

Christen laughed. “Wow, ACL here, too.”

They laughed and looked at each other for a moment, having enjoyed the uncanny similarities in their situations. Tobin decided that she really liked Christen’s laugh. It’s a hearty laugh that pulls you in and makes you want to hear it over and over again.

“Mom, I’m ready,” Jordan interrupted.

Truth be told, Tobin had completely forgotten for a moment that they were supposed to be leaving. Part of her just wanted to stay and chat with Christen, who seemed so easy to talk to, despite how intimidatingly pretty she was. Tobin was almost kind of disappointed that they had to leave.

“Oh, yeah, let’s get going, bud,” Tobin said. ”It was nice to meet you, Christen. Will this be your set day and time with Diana?” she asked, hoping to see the green-eyed woman again.

“It was nice to meet you, too, Tobin. And yes, this is our set day and time. How about you?” Christen asked.

“Yep, this is our normal time,” Tobin said, happy that she would be seeing Christen again. “So I guess we’ll see you next week? We can compare ACL scars or something,” she said awkwardly to the beautiful woman, immediately thinking what an idiot she was for saying something so stupid.

Christen chuckled. “That would be fun. Have a good weekend,” she said smiling, thinking this Tobin was pretty damn cute.

“You too!” Tobin said, deciding not to say any more words than necessary so that she wouldn’t embarrass herself further.

————

“So what did you think of your first practice? Did you like Coach Diana?” Christen asked Emma as she took a bite of chicken.

“Yeah, it was fun and I liked coach a lot. She’s funny,” Emma said.

Christen smiled. “Well I’m glad you liked her. Did you get a chance to meet the other girl who was playing before you?” she asked casually, knowing they had already been introduced.

On the drive home from the park, she hadn’t been able to think about much except for one lanky, brown-haired woman who oozed effortless sex appeal.

“Yep. Her name is Jordan. She’s almost twelve, too, and we’re going to the same school,” Emma said.

“Oh, that’s great. Maybe you two can be friends,” Christen said, hoping her daughter could make a friend before school starts so she can ease into the first day knowing she had a friend at the school.

It had been difficult for them to meet new people given that they moved in the middle of summer and there weren’t classmates that Emma could just naturally become friends with. Christen wasn’t complaining, though. She and Emma had been able to spend a lot of quality time together getting to know Portland the last couple of months and all that it had to offer. But she knew Emma needed to be around kids her age, so she was actually happy that summer was coming to a close so they could get into their school and work routine and feel more settled in their new home.

“Yeah, she seems nice,” Emma said.

‘Her mom seems nice, too,’ Christen thought to herself.

Christen looked at Emma eating her food and smiled at her mini me. Her best friend. Her life. Emma could have given her a really hard time about moving to Portland away from everything she knew and all her friends, but she didn’t. She’d always given her so much grace when it came to big family decisions that Christen had to make and she was thankful for that.

From the moment Emma was conceived, it had just been the two of them. Sure, she’d dated a few people over the years since she was born, but nothing serious ever came out of those relationships. Sometimes she got the feeling from Emma that she needed someone more than just Christen in her life. Maybe another sibling or parental figure, especially when she and Christen would have a disagreement and Emma didn’t have anyone else to turn to. But they’ve made it work and at the end of the day, their bond was incredibly strong.

Emma looked up and caught Christen staring at her. “What?” Emma asked.

“Nothing, I was just thinking of how big you’re getting,” Christen said.

Emma was hitting a bit of a growth spurt and was now almost as tall as Christen’s five-foot-seven frame.

“Oh mom, you’re not gonna cry and make me watch old videos of me as a baby again, are you?” Emma whined in a teasing way.

“No,” Christen said, trying to play it off, but she had thought about it. “I just want you to know that you’ll always be the reason I get up in the morning. You’ll always be my number one girl,” she said trying not to get emotional all of a sudden.

“I know, mom. I know,” Emma said. “I love you, too.”

————

“So the new girl’s mom was pretty cute,” Jordan said casually at dinner as she played with her food.

“What new girl?” Tobin asked, knowing full well which cute mom Jordan was talking about.

Truth be told, she hadn’t been able to focus on anything but Christen since she laid eyes on her beautiful face.

“The new girl at tennis. Emma. Her mom. Pretty cute, right?” Jordan said with a hint of hope in her voice.

“I hadn’t noticed,” Tobin lied as she took a bite, hoping she wouldn’t get hit by lightning.

She definitely noticed the cute mom. She noticed a lot of things about her. She noticed her piercing green eyes, she noticed her perfect cheekbones, she noticed how soft her hand was when she shook it, she noticed the mole on her neck, she noticed the crows feet around her eyes when she laughed. And she noticed she didn’t have a wedding ring on. Oh, she noticed alright.

“How could you not notice? She was soooo pretty, mom,” Jordan said, not believing that her mother could be so blind.

“I don’t know. I just didn’t notice, okay? What does it matter if I noticed or not anyway?” Tobin asked.

“I don’t know, I’m just saying she’s really pretty,” Jordan said.

“Okay…?” Tobin said, pretending to be oblivious.

“Never mind,” Jordan said with a frustrated sigh.

Tobin knew exactly what Jordan was trying to do. She always did this when she thought someone might be a good match for Tobin. And she couldn’t really blame her. If you spent your whole life interacting with just one person at home, a part of you wants to have other people around. Unfortunately for Jordan, Tobin was never interested in dating anyone, let alone making someone a permanent fixture in their lives.

But Christen? Christen had her captivated from the start. Tobin reacted differently to her. She was nervous and awkward around her instead of her usual cool self, but she had enjoyed the few minutes they’d spent talking to each other. Tobin stubbornly put the thought out of her head, though. There was no room in their lives for anyone else. It had always been just her and Jordan and it was going to stay that way until Jordan leaves the nest. That’s all there is to it. Right? Right.

————

Chapter Text

The following Friday, Christen and Emma made it to practice with three minutes to spare. Christen had done a lot of her prep work in the morning for the dinner she planned to cook that night, which saved her a bit of time, and Emma was cooperative when Christen called her down to leave for her lessons.

Tobin saw the mother and daughter duo approaching and a smile crept across her face as she continued to pick up the tennis balls from Jordan’s session.

Tobin would never admit it to Jordan, or anyone else for that matter, that she had spent the better part of the past week thinking about Christen, which both surprised and terrified her. She normally didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about women that she might be remotely interested in, but she found herself thinking about cute mom Christen. A lot. She couldn’t get her green eyes and her smile out of her head. And so when she saw her walking on to the court again, she couldn’t stop the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach. It was a feeling she hadn’t had in a long time and it scared her.

Christen and Emma put their things down on the bench and watched the last bit of Jordan’s practice. Christen was impressed right away with Jordan’s footwork and hand-eye coordination. For someone who’s only been playing for six months, she seemed to be very advanced. After the last rally, the coach wrapped up their session and Jordan started picking up balls, while Diana went to grab some water.

Christen was so engrossed in watching Jordan play that she didn’t notice Tobin approach her.

“Hi there,” Tobin said nervously with a smile as she stood next to Christen.

“Oh, hi, sorry I didn’t see you there,” Christen said blushing, caught off guard by Tobin’s bright smile. “Jordan’s really fun to watch.”

Tobin chuckled, once again struck by Christen’s gorgeous face which was framed by wild curls that Tobin found incredibly sexy and it took her a second to recover. “Thanks, um, she’s worked really hard.”

“I can tell,” Christen said, smiling back at Tobin.

‘There’s that smile again,’ Tobin thought to herself. If she hadn’t been holding on to the pair of ball tubes, she might have been literally knocked off her feet.

They held each other’s gaze for a moment. Emma watched the interaction between the two with an amused smirk on her face. She wondered if they were aware that they were just staring at each other and debated whether she should say something to snap them out of it. They stood in silence for another brief moment until Christen finally spoke.

“Oh, Tobin, I don’t think I introduced my daughter to you last week. This is Emma. Emma, this is Ms. Tobin, Jordan’s mom,” Christen said.

“Hi Emma, it’s very nice to meet you,” Tobin said, giving Emma a small wave.

“Hi Ms. Tobin. It’s very nice to meet you, too,” Emma said politely, having managed to hide her smirk.

“Alright, sweetheart. Have a good practice,” Christen said.

“Thanks mom,” Emma said as she ran on to the court to greet her coach.

Christen watched Emma run, trying not to be affected by Tobin’s presence.

“On time today, I see,” Tobin teased, proud of herself for finding her words a little easier today.

Christen laughed and blushed at Tobin’s teasing. She seemed to be doing that a lot around Tobin. She had spent all week looking forward to going to tennis practice just to see her again for the few minutes that they shared the court. There was something about her voice and her lips that made every part of Christen’s body tingle.

“Yeah, I may have threatened her last week with confiscating her phone if she didn’t start acting with a sense of urgency, so here we are,” Christen said dryly.

Tobin laughed knowing how devastating that would be for a preteen to have her phone taken away. “Ouch. Seems to have worked, though.”

“Yep,” Christen said as she and Tobin watched Emma warm up and hit back and forth with Diana.

They stayed there for a few moments without saying a word until Tobin broke the silence.

“You said Emma has never played tennis before?” Tobin asked.

“Never,” Christen confirmed.

“Wow, her groundstrokes are really good. Her swing looks like she’s been playing all her life. She’s a natural. And she’s super fast,” Tobin said, thoroughly impressed.

“Thanks. Not to brag, but she gets her speed from me,” Christen said matter-of-factly, which Tobin thought was very cute.

“Oh?” Tobin asked.

“I also ran track in high school and she and I have a running joke that I’ll be 50 before she manages to beat me in a sprint,” Christen chuckled.

“Ah, that explains it. Remind me never to challenge you to a foot race,” Tobin said laughing. “I might seriously hurt myself.”

‘What a cute laugh she has,’ Christen thought to herself.

“I would go easy on you,” Christen said laughing. “Us old folks have to stick together. Can’t let these kids have the bragging rights,” she said with a hint of playfulness in her eyes.

Tobin laughed. “Well I appreciate that. It might impress my kid if you did that for me,” she said.

“Did what for you?” Jordan asked as she walked up to them, catching the tail end of what Tobin was saying and interrupting them again just as she did last Friday.

“Oh nothing, Ms. Christen offered to help me pick up balls whenever they get here early,” Tobin said winking at Christen to keep the joke between them, to which Christen gave her a slight nod and smile back in understanding.

Christen smiled. “Jordan, I don’t think we officially met last week. I’m Christen,” she said.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize I didn’t introduce the two of you,” Tobin said blushing, having been too busy last week fumbling over her words to even properly introduce her daughter.

“It’s okay, mom. Hi Ms. Christen,” Jordan said with a big smile.

“You’re really great out there. I was just telling your mom that you’re really fun to watch,” Christen said.

Now it was Jordan’s turn to blush. “Thank you,” she said sheepishly.

Tobin watched the exchange between her daughter and Christen and was busy smiling before she realized that Jordan was now talking to her.

“What?” Tobin asked as if she’d just been woken from a trance.

“I asked if you were ready to go,” Jordan repeated with a smirk.

Tobin blushed. She might have been caught staring at Christen. She’s not sure, but she was sure that Jordan would give her shit for it later if that was the case.

“Oh, yeah, I’m ready to go,” Tobin said even though she really wanted to stay and chat with Christen.

Christen tried not to laugh, enjoying the dynamic between Tobin and Jordan.

“I’ll…I mean…we’ll see you next week,” Christen corrected herself. “We’ll try to get here early enough so I can help you with the balls,” she said smiling.

“Oh, you don’t have to do that. That’s really nice of you, but I was just kidding,” Tobin said smiling right back.

They stared at each other smiling again. Jordan wasn’t sure if she should say something again or just wait it out this time. She looked at her mother’s face and saw a look from her that she’d never seen before. She was making googly eyes at Ms. Christen. She was sure of it.

After a few more moments, Jordan cleared her throat and Tobin finally broke the eye contact.

“Anyway, uh, have a good weekend,” Tobin said, hating that they had to go.

“You, too,” Christen said. “Maybe next time on the ACL scars,” she said laughing, referencing their prior conversation.

Tobin laughed. “Next time,” she confirmed. “See you later.”

“Bye,” Christen said to Tobin and Jordan.

Christen watched the pair walk away. Specifically, she watched Tobin and her calves walk away. She was still looking when Tobin glanced back and caught her looking.

‘Shit,’ Christen thought to herself as she quickly looked away and grabbed her water and took a drink to busy herself.

‘Way to go, Christen. Way to go,’ she berated herself.

Even though she was busy chastising herself, Christen did realize one thing. ‘Tobin looked back,’ she thought. ‘Tobin looked back.’

————

“I’m proud of you for being on time and listening this past week,” Christen commended her daughter as they sat down for dinner.

No matter how busy Christen was with work, she always tried to make sure she had dinner with Emma to catch up on each other’s day. There were times, however, when she would have work events that she couldn’t get out of, but she usually did her best to make sure she didn’t miss out on dinners with her daughter.

“Thanks, mom. I’m really trying,” Emma said, desperate to not have her mom take her phone away. The thought of not being able to communicate with her friends back in L.A. wasn’t something she even wanted to entertain.

“I can tell,” Christen said. “Keep it up.”

“I will, mom,” Emma said. “So what were you and Ms. Tobin talking about today?” Emma asked, unexpectedly changing the subject.

Christen’s head whipped up as she stopped chewing her food and looked at Emma.

“Why? What do you mean?” Christen asked defensively.

Emma pretended to furrow her brows in confusion at her mom’s odd response, but it confirmed what she had picked up on earlier. ‘Mom is totally crushing on Ms. Tobin,’ she thought to herself.

“I mean you guys were talking and laughing. I just wanted to know what fun I was missing out on,” Emma said casually, trying to get more information out of her mother.

‘Calm down, Christen. Relax. What the hell are you so on edge about?’ she told herself.

“Nothing, really. We were just joking around about being on time today and we were talking about Jordan’s game,” Christen said casually.

“Uh huh,” Emma said, unable to keep the suspicion out of her voice.

“What’s that ‘uh huh’ for?” Christen asked.

“Nothing. I just…I like Ms. Tobin. She seems really cool,” Emma said.

Christen looked suspiciously at her daughter.

“How could you even make that determination? You barely talked to her,” Christen said.

“She makes you smile and laugh, that’s why,” Emma said with a shrug of her shoulders.

Christen nodded and tried not to smile. She hadn’t realized she was being so obvious around Tobin that even her daughter noticed how smiley she was in the presence of the brown-haired woman. She took a bite of her salad and they ate in comfortable silence as Christen pondered some more about the truth in Emma’s statement.

————

“Tobs, want another one?” Ashlyn asked, holding up a beer bottle.

“Sure, thanks,” Tobin said. “Al, you need any help?” she asked.

“Nope, I’m good. You guys can have a seat. Dinner’s almost ready,” Ali said as she took the lasagna out of the oven.

“That looks so good,” Tobin said, practically drooling at the gooey lasagna goodness that awaited them.

Ali chuckled as she brought it over to the dining table and set it down.

Tobin and Jordan pulled up a seat at the dinner table while Ali and Ashlyn brought the rest of the food and drinks over.

“Thanks,” Tobin said when Ashlyn put her beer down in front of her.

“So how’ve you been?” Ashlyn asked as she also sat down.

Ashlyn and Ali are Tobin’s oldest and closest friends from college. They’ve seen all of Tobin’s highs and lows and have been there for her through all the years since. It’s been their tradition for years to meet up for a meal once every few weeks, taking turns hosting and cooking dinner.

“Good,” Tobin answered as she took a sip of her beer. “How about you guys?”

“We’re good. Busy,” Ashlyn said. “How did your date go with that woman who works in your building? What was her name? Sharon? Shannon?”

Tobin rolled her eyes. Ashlyn was many things, but subtle wasn’t one of them.

“Shannon. And it wasn’t a date,” Tobin corrected her.

Ashlyn chuckled and took a sip of her beer. “I’m pretty sure she thought it was a date, Tobs,” she said, based on the information that Tobin had given her before they had gone out.

Before Tobin could respond, Jordan was speaking. “Yep, she totally thought it was a date, Auntie Ash. You should have seen the outfit she was wearing. I didn’t know heels could go that high.”

Ashlyn laughed at her goddaughter’s assessment. “Oh? Do tell.”

“Yep, she was totally into Mom,” Jordan added.

Tobin sighed. She hated when they ganged up on her like this. “Guys, it wasn’t a date,” she insisted unconvincingly.

Shannon was a woman who worked in the office down the hall from Tobin’s studio and had been occasionally hanging around during her breaks, making conversation with Tobin. It eventually led to Shannon and her coworkers asking Tobin if she wanted to go to happy hour with them every Thursday, to which Tobin agreed a couple of times. A couple of weeks ago, though, Shannon came over by herself after work and asked Tobin if she wanted to get dinner sometime. Tobin, caught completely off guard, agreed to dinner that Saturday, unable to say no to the woman and let her down easily.

“Her Instagram posts would say otherwise, Mom,” Jordan teased.

Tobin rolled her eyes some more and sighed. ‘I should have never shown her those stupid Instagram posts,’ Tobin thought to herself.

“What Instagram posts?” Ali asked as she joined them at the table.

This was not what Tobin wanted to be the topic of discussion at dinner tonight. It made her kick herself for mentioning the dinner to Ashlyn in the first place. When she got home from dinner with Shannon that night, Jordan was still up and Tobin sat down next to her to unwind after the babysitter left. Instead of complaining some more about how she didn’t need to be babysat any more at her age, Jordan asked her a million questions about how the night had gone and begged Tobin to show her a picture of the woman since she didn’t have her own phone yet. Tobin finally relented and reluctantly went to Shannon’s Instagram page since the woman had friended her after the first happy hour a couple of months before. To her surprise, when she pulled up her profile, a picture of her and Shannon was staring back at her.

Tobin was not a big fan of social media, or phones in general, so she was taken aback by her face right there on Shannon’s feed.

“Oh my god, she posted a pic of you guys!” Jordan exclaimed as she tried to grab the phone from Tobin, but her mother was too fast and kept her from taking it.

Tobin groaned and tapped the photo to look at it. She was tagged, of course, and it was a selfie that Shannon had quickly taken while they were waiting for their separate Lyft rides to arrive after dinner. The caption read:

Fun night with @tobinheath!

“Mom, go click on her stories,” Jordan said excitedly.

Tobin hesitated. She wasn’t sure what she was going to see, but she clicked anyway out of curiosity. Thankfully, there weren’t any other pictures of her, but there were plenty of pictures of Shannon documenting getting ready and the last photo was one of her showing her entire outfit on a mirror, stilettos and all. Shannon was pretty. She was blonde, had a nice body, and talked Tobin’s ear off. But there wasn’t any chemistry between them and they hardly had anything in common. There just wasn’t a spark. Plus, Tobin wasn’t looking for anything serious anyway and she wasn’t the type of person to just date casually, so in Tobin’s mind, it was going nowhere.

“She posted a picture of her and Mom on her feed and there were a bunch of her getting ready in her stories,” Jordan eagerly replied.

“Guys, can we seriously not talk about this anymore? It wasn’t a big deal and I’m not interested in her,” Tobin said definitively, though she really did need to make it clear to Shannon that she wasn’t looking for a relationship if that was her expectation from Tobin. She just needed to find the words and the nerve to do it since it was bound to make things awkward given their close proximity to each other at work.

“Aren’t you guys going on your trip soon?” Tobin asked her friends, desperate to change the subject.

Ali and Ashlyn smirked at each other, deciding to let Tobin off the hook and drop the subject. For now. There would be time for more teasing and questions later.

“Counting down the days, so trying to wrap up a bunch of stuff at work,” Ashlyn said.

“Don’t have too much fun,” Tobin winked, relieved that they were now talking about something else.

“We can’t wait. It just looks so pretty out there,” Ali said dreamily of their upcoming vacation to Turks and Caicos.

Before Tobin could respond, Jordan was already talking.

“Speaking of pretty…Mom, did you notice how pretty Ms. Christen looked today?” Jordan interrupted, asking casually about Christen, knowing this would draw the interest of her two aunties.

Tobin sighed. Jordan was seemingly on a mission and she was not going to let the topic of Tobin’s love life go any time soon. Tobin gave her daughter an annoyed look, certainly not wanting to get into a conversation about Christen with Ali and Ash right now either.

“Oooh, who’s this Christen?” Ali asked as she and Ashlyn looked expectantly at Tobin.

“No one. Just one of the tennis moms. They’re new in town,” Tobin said, unable to keep her face from blushing and trying not to sound anxious with three pairs of eyes looking at her.

“Oh?” Ashlyn said, noticing Tobin’s face turning beet red, but withholding teasing her about it. She did, however, want to learn more. “Tell us about her. We wanna know everything.”

It pleasantly surprised Ali and Ash that there seemed to be someone new that could make Tobin blush the way she did at the mere mention of her. They could count on one hand the number of times Tobin might have been remotely interested in someone in the last ten years, but even then, nothing ever came of it. The thing with Shannon seemed dead on arrival, but this…the look in Tobin’s eyes told them that this was somehow different.

Tobin groaned and glared at Jordan.

“What? I was just asking if you noticed how pretty she looked today,” Jordan said innocently, though she was far from innocent.

“So what?” Tobin asked, playing with her food but not really eating, refusing to make eye contact with anyone.

“So you do think she’s pretty?” Jordan asked with a hint of hope in her voice at her mother’s non-denial.

“I didn’t say that,” Tobin said.

“So you don’t think she’s pretty?” Jordan asked again.

“Of course she’s really pretty!” Tobin exasperatedly blurted without thinking as she looked up from her plate. “But what does that have to do with anything?”

Jordan grinned. Hook, line, and sinker. Sometimes it was just too easy to get her mother to say what she wanted to hear.

“Nothing,” Jordan said as she took a bite of her food, satisfied with what she’d been able to coax out of her mom tonight.

“Has anyone ever told you you’re really annoying sometimes?” Tobin said to her as she playfully threw a carrot at her.

Tobin got the feeling that her daughter had somehow ‘won’ that conversation. She felt stupid for letting herself get riled up enough to actually admit out loud that she thought Christen was pretty.

Ali and Ashlyn tried not to laugh at the exchange between the two, deciding not to push Tobin on the subject since Jordan was already doing a great job of it, but they would eventually need to pry more information out of her.

“I try,” Jordan said as she ate the carrot Tobin had thrown at her, satisfied that she at least got her mother to admit that Emma’s mom was pretty. Really pretty.

————

Chapter Text

“Hey Tobin!” Shannon greeted happily when she entered Tobin’s studio whose door was propped open.

Tobin looked over from her large canvas that was hanging on the wall and instinctively backed up, having been slightly startled by her visitor.

“Oh, hey Shannon, how’s it going?” Tobin asked.

“Not much, just wondering if you’ll be joining us later for happy hour. You haven’t joined the last couple of weeks,” Shannon asked hopefully as she approached Tobin.

Tobin set her brush down and pushed her glasses up from her nose.

“Yeah, sorry I’ve been M.I.A. I’ve been really busy finishing up some projects before the school year starts. I won’t be able to make it,” Tobin said uneasily as Shannon closed in on her.

“It’s okay. I had a really great time with you at dinner,” Shannon said as she stopped mere inches from Tobin.

Tobin couldn’t breathe. And not in a good way when someone you like is in your space and you just want to further close the distance between the two of you. No. She couldn’t breathe in a way that she just needed Shannon to back up away from her.

“Oh,” was all Tobin could say, backing up a step.

“I was hoping you’d like to go on another date with me,” Shannon said.

‘Shit,’ Tobin thought to herself. She hated it when Jordan and Ashlyn were right, especially when it came to her love life, or lack thereof. Deep down she knew they were right that their dinner was a date, she had just been in denial. Tobin needed to get herself out of this situation quickly.

“Um, listen, Shannon,” Tobin began. “I think you’re really nice and fun, but I’m not looking for a relationship right now. I’m really sorry if I made you think that,” she said.

Tobin felt a little guilty. She wasn’t looking for a relationship, or at least, she had been adamant about that stance for a long time…until Christen Press walked into her life two weeks ago, that is. She wasn’t really sure what she wanted out of her newfound friendship with Christen, but she couldn’t deny that she was immediately attracted to her and she was intrigued by her. But she wasn’t even sure if Christen was into women, so she was trying not to think that far ahead. She was just enjoying getting to know her.

Shannon nodded and took Tobin’s words in stride.

“Oh, I’m not looking for a relationship either. I’m just looking to have fun and, well, you’re really fun and if you couldn’t tell by now, I think you’re really sexy,” Shannon said, continuing to stand too close to Tobin as she played with the simple cross necklace Tobin had on.

Tobin was growing more anxious by the second, especially at the physical contact from Shannon. She’d had women she barely knew aggressively come on to her like this before and it was never a fun experience.

“I don’t really do casual either,” Tobin said, desperate for Shannon to get the message that she just wanted to be friends.

Shannon looked at Tobin’s lips, wondering what it might be like to kiss her.

“So you just go home alone every night without someone to keep you warm?” Shannon asked seductively, not giving up easily.

Tobin swallowed hard. Shannon was right, though. She did go home every night without someone there waiting for her. When she wasn’t at work, the rest of her time was dedicated to Jordan and she had not been open to dating anyone in a long time.

“Um, yeah,” Tobin replied. “I’m really busy with my daughter and it’s just gonna get crazier as she gets older.”

“I think…you should put yourself out there,” Shannon said. “Even if you aren’t looking for anything serious, you can at least have fun.”

“I, um,” Tobin said, awkwardly scratching the back of her neck. “No, I don’t think so.”

Shannon smiled and took a step back, finally accepting that Tobin couldn’t be convinced to go out…at least not tonight.

“That’s too bad. If you ever change your mind, though, you know where to find me,” Shannon said.

Tobin didn’t really have a response to that. She was still trying to recover from having Shannon all over her personal space.

When she didn’t reply, Shannon turned and started making her way out the door. She looked back one more time at Tobin and gave her a wink before walking out of her studio.

————

As Christen promised, she and Emma arrived 15 minutes early for practice so she could help Tobin pick balls up. She and Emma had gotten into a nice Friday routine that allowed for them to arrive with plenty of time to spare. And it helped that they now knew exactly where the hard-to-find court 17 was. Christen put their things down on the bench and grabbed a tube and walked over to Tobin.

“Hey,” Christen said casually as if she hadn’t just been staring at Tobin’s calves yet again and been thinking about the woman all week.

“Hey, how’s it going?” Tobin asked, her face and her day lighting up in Christen’s presence.

“I’m good, how are you?” Christen asked smiling back.

‘Better now,’ Tobin thought.

“I’m good. Thanks for coming early, you really didn’t have to do that,” Tobin said, noticing that Christen had grabbed a tube and was ready to help her pick up balls.

In truth, though, Tobin was relieved. All week she had been building up Christen arriving early so they would have a chance to talk for more than five minutes. She tried not to get her hopes up too much, but the more she thought about it throughout the week, the more she really hoped Christen and Emma wouldn’t run late.

“I don’t mind,” Christen said smiling.

In fact, if it wasn’t too embarrassing to do so, Christen would have arrived at the same time as Tobin so they could have a full half hour to talk. But she figured that would have been way too obvious and maybe a little desperate. She was definitely interested in Tobin and she got the feeling that it was mutual, but she didn’t want to seem too eager just in case it was all in her imagination.

Tobin couldn’t help but smile. “Has it been as long a week for you as it has been for me?” Tobin asked.

Tobin had spent the week in her studio as usual, but she had a restless energy that was keeping her from focusing on the current piece she was working on that she hoped would have been done by now. No matter what she did, she couldn’t get Christen out of her head. She didn’t know what to do with herself, so she gave in and started another piece that went in a totally different direction from what she was already working on so that she could be somewhat productive.

“Super long,” Christen said. “Work was brutal this week.”

Work was brutal, that was true, but that’s not really the reason why it had been a long week for Christen. It had been a long week because she had been anticipating seeing Tobin all week and Friday couldn’t come fast enough. She was smitten and she was having a difficult time keeping thoughts of Tobin at bay.

“What kind of work do you do, if you don’t mind my asking?” Tobin asked as they walked around the court together, picking up balls while Jordan practiced.

“I’m in marketing,” Christen said.

“Right on,” Tobin said.

“How about you?” Christen asked.

“I’m an artist,” Tobin replied.

“That’s awesome,” Christen replied, her eyes lighting up. “I don’t know much about art, but I love collecting pieces that speak to me. What kind of art do you do?”

“I mostly paint abstract, but there’s not really anything I won’t dabble in,” Tobin said.

This brought an image in Christen’s head of Tobin covered in paint, focused, and sexy. It sent a shiver down her spine and she had to remind herself to calm down.

‘Jesus, get a hold of yourself, Christen,’ she thought to herself.

“What are some of the things you’ve dabbled in?” Christen asked.

“Well, let’s see. I taught myself how to sew, I’ve done some carpentry. Stuff like that. I have a studio space, so there’s plenty of room for all my shenanigans,” Tobin said chuckling.

‘She’s perfect,’ Christen thought to herself, having to physically stop herself from swooning over Tobin.

“Wow, I don’t think I could ever do either of those things,” Christen said laughing. “I applaud you.”

“It’s fun for me, actually. Just to get the creative juices flowing,” Tobin said. ”Especially when I’m not feeling all that inspired to paint, I can jump into something else.”

“That’s great that you have a studio,” Christen said.

“Yeah, I spend most of the weekdays there,” Tobin said.

‘Can I come watch your paint dry?’ Christen continued her inner dialogue.

“Are you by yourself all day?” Christen asked instead.

“Yeah, pretty much. There are other businesses around me, but for the most part, I’m just by myself all day,” Tobin said. ”I like it, actually. It really allows me to be still and create or play music as loud as I need to when the mood strikes.”

Christen could picture it. Tobin in her studio, looking cute while sitting on a stool, painting, blasting music. It made her smile just thinking about it.

“I can see that. I’m kind of a social butterfly, so I like a lot of noise from people,” Christen said.

“I can see that,” Tobin smiled genuinely. “You’re very easy to talk to.”

It was true. Her embarrassing reaction to first meeting Christen aside, Tobin genuinely found it very easy to talk to her. She usually wasn’t all that chatty with people, but talking to Christen was as enjoyable as anything Tobin could imagine.

Christen blushed. “Do you have a website or anything? I’d love to check you out. I mean, uh…to check out your work,” she clumsily corrected herself, blushing even more for fumbling her words.

If Tobin had noticed her embarrassing slip up, she didn’t react to it.

“Nah, but you can Google ‘Tobin Heath’ and you’ll see my stuff. I’m not really good with social media, so I don’t really put my stuff out there often, but other people do. Most of the work I do is through word of mouth,” she said.

“Tobin Heath, cool,” Christen said, repeating her name.

Tobin liked the way Christen said her name. Sure, she probably said it the exact same way every other person ever has, but hearing it with Christen’s voice made it sound better for some reason.

“Now that you know my last name, what’s yours?” Tobin asked.

“Press,” Christen said. “Christen Press.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Christen Press,” Tobin said, giving her a bright smile. ”You must get a lot of press puns thrown your way, especially being in marketing.”

Christen groaned and rolled her eyes. “Don’t get me started on that.”

Tobin pretended to put her arms up in defense. “I wouldn’t dare,” she said chuckling.

“So where does the name Tobin come from? I really like it a lot. I’ve never met a Tobin before,” Christen said.

“It was my great-grandmother’s last name, actually,” Tobin said.

“That’s great. I love it,” Christen said.

“How do you spell Christen?” Tobin asked, knowing the variety of ways in which the name could be spelled.

“With a ch and an e,” Christen said, having been asked the same question so many times in her life. “I was born a few days after Christmas, so that’s what my parents went with. It was a cute thought even though they unwittingly gave me a name that I would have to spell for people for the rest of my life,” she said laughing.

Tobin laughed, too. The sound coming from Christen was so infectious.

“I love that,” Tobin said sincerely. “So…Christen with a ch and an e, where did you go to school?” she asked, switching gears, eager to learn more about the captivating woman, knowing they didn’t have much time to talk.

“I went to Stanford. How about you?” Christen asked.

Tobin whistled and stopped walking for a moment. “So are you, like, a big nerd?” she said jokingly.

Christen laughed out loud and kept walking, only backwards so that she was still facing Tobin. “Yes, I actually am a nerd. A proud nerd,” she answered.

“You’d have to be a nerd to get into a school like Stanford,” Tobin said, thoroughly impressed, as she started walking again to catch up.

Tobin looked at Christen and wondered what other surprises were in store for her as she peeled back more layers of this beautiful woman. Pretty, smart, loves soccer. She’s the full package as far as Tobin was concerned.

“I was very studious. I still am, I guess,” Christen said.

Christen had always prided herself in being a goodie two shoes. She was focused and determined from a young age to be the best she could at all facets of her life.

“Not a bad thing at all,” Tobin said.

“How about you? Where did you go to school?” Christen asked.

“I went to UNC,” Tobin said.

“Ah, that explains Jordan’s name then,” Christen said laughing.

Tobin was floored and she looked at Christen with wonder in her eyes as she stopped walking again. No one had ever put two and two together the way Christen did. Not even Amanda when Tobin had suggested the name.

When Tobin didn’t say anything and she noticed she was walking by herself, Christen felt herself blush. She looked back at Tobin who was just standing there staring at her.

“I’m sorry, I just assumed that…” Christen started to say.

Tobin shook her head and stopped her. She started walking again to catch up.

“No, no, you assumed right. It’s just…you surprise me, Christen Press,” Tobin said, unable to help a soft smile toward her new friend.

“Why? It’s pretty obvious now that you’ve told me where you went to school. Everyone knows Michael Jordan went to UNC, don’t they?” Christen said as if it was the easiest trivia question of all-time.

“You’re the first one to put that together without me having to explain,” Tobin said.

Christen scoffed. “That is ridiculous,” she said.

“You’re telling me,” Tobin said.

When they were done picking up, they sat on the bench and watched the girls play. Emma had joined the last bit of Jordan’s session and was hitting with her.

“I’ll say it again, your kid is a natural at this,” Tobin said.

“Yeah, as much as it pains me that she didn’t like soccer, I’m happy that she seems to really like tennis,” Christen said.

Tobin smiled, thinking she was glad about that, too.

“So which knee did you blow out?” Tobin asked, looking down at Christen’s legs, which were long and smooth, but she tried not to think too much about that.

Christen looked down as well. “The right one,” she said extending her leg out for Tobin to see her scar.

“Nice scar,” Tobin said of the line along Christen’s knee, trying not to let her eyes linger on her unbelievably muscular thigh for too long.

“How about you?” Christen said, glad for the excuse to look at Tobin’s legs and her amazing calves.

“Left one,” Tobin said, extending her leg out next to Christen’s.

“Nice,” Christen said, resisting the urge to run her finger through Tobin’s scar.

They looked at their legs side by side and chuckled.

“Any exciting plans this weekend?” Christen asked to keep her mind from wandering with Tobin’s leg almost touching hers.

“Not really, just hanging out at home with Jordan. She gets bored with me pretty quick these days, though. I’ve found that the older she gets, the less funny she thinks I am,” Tobin said laughing.

Christen laughed. ”I can totally relate. Sometimes I feel like Emma’s drifting further away from me. And I’m sure it’s because she’s twelve and that’s just what happens, but it doesn’t make it easier to accept,” she said.

“Exactly,” Tobin nodded in understanding. “It makes me sad sometimes, but it is what it is.”

Christen looked at Tobin and had the strongest urge to hug her, but she kept her hands to herself. She’s finding it very difficult to control her impulse around the brown-eyed woman with impossibly long lashes and beautiful smile. Without thinking too much about it, she extended her hand to Tobin.

“Can I see your phone?” Christen asked.

Tobin looked at her quizzically.

“Huh?” Tobin asked.

“Can I see your phone, please?” Christen asked again with a smile on her face this time.

Tobin wasn’t sure why, but she went ahead and took her phone out of her pocket, unlocked it, and handed it to a relative stranger. Albeit a very attractive stranger.

Christen kept smiling and pulled up a new message and typed in her own number. Then she typed ‘Tar heel,’ hit send, and handed it back to Tobin.

“For when Jordan gets bored of you and you want some adult conversation, feel free to text or call me,” Christen said, flashing that knee-buckling smile of hers, which made Tobin thankful she was already sitting down.

Tobin could feel heat rising to her face. Imagining Christen’s soothing voice on the other end of a phone call was enough to send her into a mini internal tailspin. There was such a natural chemistry with Christen and it made her feel things she had not felt in forever.

“Cool,” Tobin said, calmly smiling even though she was freaking out a little bit internally. “Be careful, though. You might be hearing from me sooner rather than later,” she said chuckling.

“Good,” Christen said, keeping eye contact with Tobin for a few moments.

Tobin couldn’t look away. Even though Christen made her nervous, she held her eyes with her own in a strange, comforting way.

“Ahem,” Jordan cleared her throat to get their attention.

“Oh, hey, you ready to go?” Tobin asked nonchalantly, unsure of how long Jordan had been standing there.

“Yep,” Jordan said. “Hi Ms. Christen,” she said with a big smile.

“Hey Jordan! Good practice?” Christen asked.

“Yeah, it’s fun hitting with someone from my age group. Emma’s great!” Jordan said.

“Aww, well I’m glad to hear that,” Christen said. “Are you excited for school to start next week?”

“A little nervous, but more excited than anything,” Jordan said.

“I bet. I used to love going back to school,” Christen said.

“Of course you did,” Tobin teased. ”All Stanford nerds were probably the same.”

Jordan smiled. She had not ever seen her mom joke around with someone, besides Auntie Ash and Auntie Ali the way she did with Ms. Christen.

Christen laughed. “Anyway,” she said, pretending to ignore Tobin and keeping her eyes on Jordan. “You’re going to have so much fun!”

“I hope so!” Jordan said, feeling excited just from the enthusiasm from Ms. Christen.

“So we’ll see you next week?” Tobin asked.

“You will,” Christen said.

“Have a good weekend,” Tobin said.

“You, too. See you next week. And good luck on your first day of school, Jordan!” Christen said.

“Thank you!” Jordan said as they walked away.

Christen‘s eyes involuntarily followed them again, just as she did last week. And just like last week, Tobin also looked back. But this time, Christen didn’t hurriedly and awkwardly turn away. Instead, she maintained eye contact with Tobin and they smiled at each other until Tobin disappeared around the corner.

————

“So you got her phone number?” Jordan asked with a glimmer in her eyes as they sat at the dinner table.

“What?” Tobin asked.

“Ms. Christen. You got her number?” Jordan clarified.

“Is this going to be a weekly inquisition into my conversations with Ms. Christen?” Tobin asked, pretending to be annoyed.

“No, I was just wondering. I saw her with your phone, that’s all,” Jordan said, waggling her eyebrows.

Tobin’s not sure when Jordan became a private investigator, but she was finding it disconcerting all the little things she was noticing and happily pointing out to Tobin.

“Yes, she gave me her phone number. So what?” Tobin asked.

Jordan smiled. “I think you should call her.”

“Why?” Tobin asked.

“I don’t know. Don’t you think you should call her?” Jordan asked.

It was a fair question, but she wasn’t going to admit that to Jordan. It would just give her too much false hope and she didn’t want that for her daughter. She had been grappling with that very same question, though.

“I don’t know. I mean, there’s no reason for me to call her,” Tobin said.

“There doesn’t need to be a reason, mom,” Jordan said, pushing Tobin to put herself out there. “She wouldn’t have given you her number if she didn’t want you to call her.”

Jordan had a point, but Tobin didn’t want to admit that either. And why was she even having this conversation with Jordan anyway? She felt ridiculous taking advice from an almost-12-year-old.

“She was just being nice. I’ve talked to her for a total of like 20 minutes,” Tobin said.

“Exactly, mom. She’s only talked to you for 20 minutes. Why would she give you her number if she really didn’t want you to call? She wants to be friends with you,” Jordan reasoned.

‘Damn it, my kid is too clever for her own good,’ Tobin thought to herself.

“I’ll think about it,” Tobin conceded.

Jordan grinned, happy she’s putting her reasoning skills to good use.

“That’s all I ask, mom,” Jordan said beaming.

————

On Saturday night, after Jordan went to bed, Tobin found herself on the couch, thinking about Christen. She again looked at the text message Christen had sent from her phone the previous day and deliberated whether she should text her. She thought about Jordan’s reasoning that Christen probably did want her to text her, otherwise she wouldn’t have given her her phone number.

‘I mean, she’s probably expecting me to text her. It would be rude not to. Right?’ Tobin continued thinking to herself. ‘Ugh, why is this so hard?’

Two beers and more internal debates later, she finally summoned the courage to reach out.

Hey Cardinal, are you awake? And why is it Cardinal and not Cardinals?

Tobin had typed out a number of texts before settling on this one and hitting send, satisfied with her tone. It was casual, stayed on topic with the original ‘tar heel’ that Christen sent on her behalf, and hopefully funny enough to keep things light.

Christen was sitting up in bed, reading a book, when her phone chimed. She picked it up from her nightstand and her face broke out into a huge smile when she saw the message and who it was from. She laughed and typed back.

Because it refers to the cardinal red color, not the bird.

Tobin smiled, relief washing over her that she didn’t have to wait long for a response.

Okay, so then why is your school mascot a tree?

Christen giggled at Tobin’s response. She had a feeling Tobin knew the answer to both her questions, but was just teasing her over it.

Har dee har har. It’s a long story and there’s this thing called Google that the kids use these days to look stuff up. How are you? :)

Tobin had a goofy smile on her face, the exchange of messages going well so far, in her opinion.

I’m good. Jordan got tired of me and went to bed. How was your day?

Christen laughed again at Tobin’s message and started typing.

Emma also got tired of me. I’m glad you messaged me. :) Today was kind of long, but good.

Tobin could feel her body heating up just from the mere thought of Christen on the other side of the message. Was she on the couch? Was she in bed? Was she naked? Tobin couldn’t seem to help the thoughts swirling around in her mind. ‘Shit. Stop it, Tobin. Don’t think about her naked,’ Tobin thought to herself.

I have a random question for you.

When her phone suddenly rang, she almost dropped it when she saw that Christen was calling her. It rang a couple of times before she even realized she should answer.

“Hey,” Tobin finally answered as casually as she could even though her stomach was suddenly in knots.

Christen was glad Tobin couldn’t see her face. When she heard her voice, her face broke out into such a wide grin, she was sure she looked like a complete idiot.

“Hey,” Christen said. “Sorry to call. Figured it was easier than typing.”

Tobin couldn’t imagine a more soothing voice in that moment. Hearing Christen instantly put her at ease.

“No, you’re fine. I’m happy to hear your voice,” Tobin admitted.

Christen’s heart was racing. She couldn’t tell if Tobin was trying to tell her something or if she was just being nice with that statement. Either way, she liked it.

“Yeah?” Christen said.

“Yeah,” Tobin said, clearing her throat.

“So you had a random question for me?” Christen asked, not dwelling further on Tobin’s comment.

“It was nothing, really,” Tobin said, suddenly embarrassed by the whole thing and how stupid her question was going to sound. “I just wanted to ask you what your favorite color was,” she said.

“Well I don’t think it’s that random. We were just talking about the awesome color that is cardinal red,” Christen said chuckling.

“True, but I was already wondering what your favorite color was since before I sent you a text. I work with colors all day and I always wonder what colors make people happy. I’m kinda random like that sometimes,” Tobin said sheepishly.

“No need to apologize. I like randomness,” Christen said. “Now don’t laugh, but my favorite color is pink. I know it’s not very original for a girl,” she said.

Tobin smiled on the other end.

“Why would I laugh? You can’t help what you like,” Tobin said.

“True,” Christen said. “I like the way your brain works, Tobin Heath.”

Tobin smiled at hearing her name uttered by Christen again.

“Now if you said that there’s another basketball player greater than Michael Jordan, then I would laugh. I’d probably even get mad,” Tobin teased.

Christen laughed. “No, I wouldn’t ever say that. MJ is the greatest there ever was and the greatest there ever will be.”

Tobin shook her head in awe.

“Wow. Will you marry me?” Tobin asked jokingly.

As soon as she said it, Tobin slapped her palm on her forehead and hoped Christen wouldn’t run the other way at how uncool she was being.

Christen laughed, but also felt her whole body tingle at hearing those words from Tobin, even though it was all said in jest.

“I don’t know. I loved MJ as a Chicago Bull, not as a Tar Heel. A Cardinal and a Tar Heel would never work,” Christen said teasingly.

“Hey now. To love MJ is to love all of him, even his Tar Heel years. And his baseball years,” Tobin argued. “And I don’t know. I think a Tar Heel and a Cardinal would work well together,” she teased.

Christen laughed some more, enjoying the banter with Tobin.

“So…Christen Press, you didn’t tell me you’re a big shot marketing Executive Vice President. I was surprised to see so many news articles about you,” Tobin said, changing the subject.

Christen blushed, glad that Tobin couldn’t see her face in that moment.

“Why Tobin Heath, do you actually know what Google is and you used it to look me up?” Christen teased.

“Maybe,” Tobin said, embarrassed at being called out for stalker behavior. “I promise I’m not a stalker, just a curious person,” she said.

Christen laughed. “I’m just giving you shit. I Google people all the time.”

“So how come you didn’t tell me you’re an EVP at one of the biggest companies in the world?” Tobin asked.

“Let me ask you this. Is me being an EVP relevant to any discussion we’ve had at tennis practice so far?” Christen asked.

“No, but…” Tobin started to say.

“But nothing,” Christen interrupted. “I don’t need to shout to the world that I have this big title at a big company. I want the people I meet to treat me just like they would anyone else. I’m just a mom struggling to make dinner on time and schlepping her kid to her various activities,” she said.

Tobin was silent on the other end.

“Does that change your view of me?” Christen asked nervously, really hoping that this wasn’t a big deal to Tobin.

“No, not at all. I’m sorry,” Tobin said. “If anything, I like you even more now just knowing how humble you are.”

Christen smiled. “I try to stay grounded. Don’t get me wrong. Yes, there are times when I’ll splurge on a purse or shoes, but I try to live as normal a life as possible despite how crazy my work life can get. I don’t want it to get to Emma’s head. She has no idea what it is that I do or how high up I am. All she knows is that I’m in marketing. I try to keep my life as balanced as possible,” she said.

“That’s really admirable,” Tobin said. “But I have one last question for you and I’ll drop it.”

“Go for it,” Christen said chuckling.

“Who is the biggest sports star you’ve ever worked with?” Tobin asked.

Christen laughed. “Let’s put it this way. You name the athlete and they likely have my number saved on their phone. I’ll leave it at that.”

“Wow. Got it,” Tobin said.

“Yep,” Christen said.

“So how do you manage your stress?” Tobin asked.

Christen thought of at least one way that Tobin could help manage her stress, but she kept that dirty little thought to herself.

“I meditate every morning and I also do yoga,” Christen said. “I have to absolutely make time for both those things to keep my sanity.”

Tobin swallowed hard. The imagery of Christen doing yoga was enough to get her hot and bothered.

“I’ve never done either of those things,” Tobin admitted.

“It’s good for you. I mean, at least it is for me,” Christen clarified. “Meditation is a chance for me to relax my mind at the beginning of each day and yoga is a chance for me to push my body to its limits.”

“I can definitely see the benefits of that,” Tobin said.

“I’ll have to get you to try one of those with me, if not both. You’re gonna need it as a stress reliever as our girls become teenagers,” Christen said laughing.

Tobin thought just the chance to see Christen do yoga was enough to convince her, but sure, if it’ll help cope with Jordan becoming a teenager as a bonus, she’s willing to try it.

“I might have to try it then,” Tobin said.

Over the next two hours, they continued to discuss a wide range of topics including their families, their childhood playing soccer, current events, and the upcoming school year.

Not realizing how late it was, Tobin heard Christen yawn on the other end of the phone and she could picture her curled up in bed.

“I’ve already talked your ear off. I’m gonna let you get some sleep now,” Tobin said, wishing she had just called her earlier so they could have had more time.

“No, I like talking to you. We can just keep talking,” Christen said stubbornly even though both her eyes were already closed and she was halfway to dreamland.

“No, you need to get some rest. We’ll talk again, don’t worry,” Tobin said, noting that Christen was definitely talking slower now.

“Promise?” Christen asked sleepily, her voice down to a whisper.

Tobin smiled, thinking of how cute a sleepy Christen sounded on the other end.

“I promise,” Tobin said. “Good night, Christen.”

“Good night, Tobin,” she said back.

Tobin didn’t want to hang up, but Christen was asleep instantly and she could hear her light breathing over the phone.

“Sweet dreams,” Tobin finally whispered and hung up the phone.

————

Chapter Text

“Very subtle of you, Heath,” Christen said laughing when she saw the shoes Tobin was wearing to practice.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Press,” Tobin said, unable to stop herself from grinning when Christen walked up to her.

“I see those Carolina Blue J1s,” Christen said shaking her head, referring to Michael Jordan’s first pair of signature shoes.

Tobin could not be more enamored with Christen. The fact that the very first thing she noticed today were Tobin’s shoes was enough to make her swoon. It was, after all, exactly what she had wanted Christen to notice first.

“For your information, the color is actually called Blue Chill,” Tobin said with a smirk.

“Caroline Blue, Chill Blue, whatever,” Christen said dismissively, rolling her eyes.

“Blue Chill, not Chill Blue,” Tobin corrected her again with a grin on her face.

Christen just looked at Tobin and shook her head. “You’re such a Tar Heel.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tobin asked.

“It means you’re incorrigible,” Christen said.

“I’m merely showing school pride,” Tobin said innocently.

“Uh huh,” Christen said as they made eye contact.

Tobin looked in Christen’s eyes and saw a sexy playfulness that made her want to reach out and touch her face to bring her closer, but she stopped herself.

‘That would not be appropriate, Tobin. Jesus, what is going on with you?’ she thought to herself.

“It was nice talking to you on the phone on Saturday,” Tobin said sweetly instead.

It had been an extremely long time since Tobin had a conversation like the one she had with Christen last weekend. It felt strange but good to have those butterflies again. To be in that stage where you’re getting to know someone and constantly wondering what the other is thinking. Christen brought out feelings that were foreign to her now. She had long given up on her heart ever feeling this way again, and now that it was screaming at her to follow it, she didn’t quite know what to do with it.

“I haven’t laughed that hard in a while,” Christen agreed with a smile as they did their usual cleanup of the court.

Christen felt like Tobin was someone she could see herself spending a lot of time with. Her busy schedule aside, Tobin was someone in whom Christen would happily invest her time. They found that they had a lot in common, despite their personality types being the complete opposite, and it had resulted in many belly laughs so far. The possibilities with Tobin, even as just a friend, excited Christen and she wanted to get to know her even more.

“Even though you fell asleep on me,” Tobin said, pretending to be hurt.

“I did not!” Christen said defensively.

“Okay, maybe you managed to say good night and fell asleep right away. Same difference,” Tobin teased.

Christen chuckled. “Uh huh.”

“Did you have a good week?” Tobin asked, switching gears.

“I did. Very busy as usual, but we were on time for this, so I’ll take that as a win,” Christen said.

Tobin smiled. “I figured you’re a very busy woman, knowing what I know now, so I didn’t text you,” she said, feeling like she had to explain the radio silence all week.

Christen furrowed her brows. She’d be lying if she said she hadn’t been waiting around at night hoping Tobin would contact her. “I was wondering why I didn’t hear from you all week. I thought you said that what I do doesn’t change your view of me?” she asked.

“It doesn’t at all. I’m just more mindful of what a day in your life must look like, so I didn’t wanna bother you, that’s all,” Tobin said.

Christen shook her head. “Tobin, you can message or call me any time you feel like it. If I don’t reply back or answer your call, it just means I’m busy or in a meeting, but I would definitely get back to you. It might not be until late at night, but I would definitely get back to you. Though I suppose I could have also just reached out and texted you,” she said smiling.

Tobin blushed. Christen had a way of making her feel like she was someone important. Wanted, even. It had been so long since she had someone she liked treat her this way that she’d forgotten what it felt like. It felt…nice.

“Yes, you could have,” Tobin grinned.

“Well, next time I will. But seriously, sometimes I just need a break, you know? Like a reminder to eat lunch or something,” Christen said chuckling.

“Do you not eat lunch?” Tobin asked with concern in her voice.

“I pack a lunch everyday unless I have a lunch meeting scheduled. But sometimes I just don’t get to it. My assistant does her best to try to get me to eat, but the day just gets away from me sometimes,” Christen shrugged.

Tobin furrowed her brows. She didn’t like hearing that Christen skips meals because she’s too busy at work. She found herself oddly caring about Christen’s well-being, considering she had only known her for a few weeks.

“You’ve gotta eat your lunch,” Tobin said. “I’d be so cranky if I missed a meal.”

“I know, I know. Maybe if you text me to remind me to eat my lunch, I’ll do it,” Christen said smiling.

“You’ll be hearing from me,” Tobin said definitively.

“I’m sure I will,” Christen said laughing. “How was your week?” she asked as they continued around the court.

“It was good. I finished a piece I started last week,” Tobin said.

“Wow, that’s quick. Was it a commissioned piece?” Christen asked.

“Nah, it was just one of those where I had to stop what I was working on because I was more inspired by something else, so it’s just one for my collection,” Tobin said.

“Oh, I see. How often do you have to do that?” Christen asked.

“Every now and then. I just didn’t wanna lose the inspiration for the other thing so I knocked it out really quick,” Tobin said.

“Makes sense,” Christen said. “How many other pieces are you working on?”

“Right now, I’m down to just two,” Tobin said. “Usually when school starts, I try not to work on too many things so I can be there for Jordan if she needs help with school work. So I was really busy finishing up a couple others I was working on these last few weeks and now I have more time for her. I’m lucky I get to pick and choose which projects to work on,” she said.

Christen smiled. There were so many things she liked about Tobin, but none more than the mom in her. When they spoke on the phone last week, most of the stories Tobin told involved Jordan and it was evident to Christen how much she loved her daughter.

“I love that,” Christen said simply.

“How was Emma’s first day of school?” Tobin asked.

“It was good, at least that’s what she told me,” Christen said. “It sounds like she and Jordan are in the same homeroom and have a couple other classes together.”

“I heard. I’m really glad,” Tobin said.

“Me, too. How was Jordan’s first day?” Christen asked.

“I think it met her expectations,” Tobin said chuckling. “She’s happy she’s got Emma in some classes. I think they’ve been having lunch together with a couple other girls.”

Christen nodded. “I was so happy to hear that,” she said.

One of Christen’s major worries moving to Portland was how Emma would cope with her new surroundings and new school without all the friends she had in L.A. Emma wasn’t shy, but she also wasn’t the most outgoing kid either. Certainly not to the extent that Christen was outgoing. But having met Jordan before school even started had been a definite plus and it helped ease her concerns. And from what Emma had shared with her, it seemed like she was already making new friends, thanks in part to Jordan.

“I’m just glad the first week is over,” Tobin said. “Always tough getting back into that routine.”

On Monday, Tobin snoozed her alarm one time too many and Jordan almost ended up being late to school. Tobin’s alarm being set one hour earlier proved to be easy for Tobin to dismiss, her body cursing the change in routine. Jordan barely had time to eat breakfast before Tobin was rushing her out the door so she could drop her off in time. Tobin felt a little guilty for not giving Jordan enough time to get ready and eat, but getting a tardy on the first day of school was not an option.

“Same here,” Christen said. “Do you two have any plans this weekend?”

“Yeah, we’re driving up to Seattle right after this, actually. We go up there once a month to visit my parents and stay until after lunch on Sunday,” Tobin said.

“Oh yeah, you mentioned they’re in Seattle. That’s so nice that they’re relatively close, driving distance, at least,” Christen said, trying not to sound too somber.

Christen missed her family and friends. Ever since they moved to Portland, a big part of her felt like it was missing. Just being able to call someone and ask them to come over and hang out was something she didn’t realize she missed so much until the phone call with Tobin last weekend. Even though Tobin wasn’t physically there, she loved knowing she could have been there. It made her realize just how lonely she’d been since uprooting their lives. But the job opportunity was too great to pass up, so here they were in a completely new city with no family and almost no friends around.

“Yeah, they love seeing their grandkid and she loves being spoiled,” Tobin said, nodding toward Jordan.

“What is it about grandparents and spoiling their grandkids?” Christen said shaking her head.

“I don’t know, it’s like they’re making up for not spoiling us or something,” Tobin said.

Christen smiled. It was something she was getting used to doing a lot around Tobin.

“Will I hear from you this weekend?” Christen asked, getting straight to the point and probably sounding more anxious than she meant to, but she didn’t really care.

Tobin was a little caught off guard by the question, but she didn’t show it. It definitely felt like Christen was interested in her, even though at this point, she knew nothing about her dating history. And more importantly, if she even liked women. She could just be wanting to have a friend since she didn’t know many people in Portland and they had a lot in common.

“I was planning on calling you, yes,” Tobin said. “I, um, I really enjoyed talking to you last weekend.”

Christen felt relieved. Somehow the thought of not talking to Tobin all weekend felt strange. Like it was something she needed as much as she needed air. It was an exciting, but mostly scary thought.

“Me, too. I’ll try not to fall asleep on you,” Christen said blushing.

‘God, she’s cute,’ Tobin thought to herself as her eyes wandered to Christen’s lips. Her perfect, kissable lips. ‘Stop it, Tobin.’

“You’re fine. I was just kidding earlier,” Tobin said, composing herself enough to answer Christen.

“Hi moms!” Coach Diana walked up to them.

“Hey Diana!” Christen greeted back.

“While I have both of you here, I was gonna propose something and you can let me know what you think,” Diana said.

“Okay,” Tobin said, all ears.

“The girls are doing great individually, but it’s been amazing to see them hitting together. I know you were both initially hoping they could do group lessons, but the timing wasn’t feasible. If you’re open to it, assuming it works with your schedules and everything, I’d like to combine each of your 30 minutes and have the girls train for an hour together. Nothing changes with the rate or anything, but they’d get a full hour instead of 30 minutes and they’d get to play with someone in their age group which will really benefit them,” Diana said. “You don’t have to decide right now since I know you have schedules to look at and all that, but we can keep the same time or we can start at Emma’s regular time and go 30 more minutes after that. I just think they would challenge each other really well and they’d have more court time and have fun in the process.”

Tobin could have hugged Diana for the amazing suggestion that would allow her to spend more time with Christen, and for the girls to practice together, of course. Tobin tried not to show how excited she was at the possibility as she nodded and looked at Christen.

“Um, I’ll defer to Christen based on her schedule. Either way works for us,” Tobin said. “Just let me know if you wanna do that or just keep the 30 minutes as they are now. No pressure at all,” she said to Christen, not wanting to pressure her given her busy schedule.

“I think it’s a great idea! Let me just check my calendar next week and I’ll confirm. We may have to start at Emma’s time slot since I’m not sure I’ll be able to consistently get out of work a half hour earlier,” Christen said.

“That’s totally cool with me, no pressure to move things around if it doesn’t work with your schedule,” Tobin said.

“Okay great! Just let me know,” Diana said as she jogged back to the court.

Tobin was giddy. The thought of spending a whole hour with Christen every Friday was music to her ears.

“I guess we’ll be seeing more of each other now,” Tobin said.

“Not a bad thing,” Christen said with her megawatt smile.

“Not a bad thing at all,” Tobin said, matching Christen’s smile.

————

“Hey Mom! Dad! We’re here!” Tobin called out as she unlocked their front door with her spare key.

“In the kitchen!” Cindy called out.

Tobin and Jordan put their backpacks down and joined Cindy and Jeff in the kitchen.

“Hi Nana! Hi Papa!” Jordan called out as she gave them both hugs.

“Hi sweetheart!” Cindy said as she pulled her granddaughter into her arms.

“You’ve grown a foot since I last saw you,” Jeff joked as he gave Jordan a kiss on the forehead.

“I have not,” Jordan giggled and gave her grandfather a hug as well.

“Dinner’s ready, so you’re right on time,” Cindy said.

“Let’s eat, I’m starving,” Jeff said.

“Dad, I told you guys you don’t have to wait for us on days that we’re arriving. It’s already 8:30,” Tobin said as she looked at the clock.

“Nonsense. Of course we want to have dinner with you,” Jeff said as they all gathered in the dining room and sat down.

“Suit yourself,” Tobin said shaking her head.

Just then, her phone chimed in her back pocket. She fished it out and saw a message from Christen, which instantly brought a soft smile to her face as she read it.

I hope you two made it there safely!

Instead of answering, she put the phone back in her pocket, making a mental note to call the green-eyed beauty later. It was funny how just a simple text message from her could make her heart race all of a sudden.

When she looked back at her family, she found three sets of eyes staring at her.

“What?” Tobin asked.

“Was that Ms. Christen?” Jordan teased.

Tobin gave her daughter a look. She should have known Jordan would bring up Christen at dinner tonight.

“Who’s Ms. Christen?” Cindy asked.

“Ms. Christen is my friend’s mom and she is soooo pretty and so nice, Nana!” Jordan gushed.

Tobin rolled her eyes and shook her head, willing her mouth not to curl up into a smile at the mention of Christen. So pretty and so nice Christen.

“Oh? Are you seeing someone, dear?” Cindy asked.

“No, I’m not seeing anyone. Christen’s just a friend,” Tobin said a little too quickly.

“Yeah, ‘friend,’ Jordan said using air quotes. “Mom totally makes googly eyes at all her ‘friends,’” Jordan said sarcastically, using air quotes again and giggling.

“I do not make googly eyes at Christen,” Tobin said defensively.

‘I don’t, do I?’ Tobin questioned herself internally and actually unsure of the answer. If she was making googly eyes at Christen, it was certainly involuntary.

“Sweetheart, I think I saw googly eyes just now when you were reading that message,” Jeff piped in, much to Jordan and Cindy’s amusement and Tobin’s dismay.

Tobin sighed. “She’s just a friend, okay? Can we just have dinner please?”

“Okay dear,” Cindy said patronizingly.

“Okay,” Tobin said, knowing that probably wasn’t the end of it.

They ate the rest of their dinner, catching up on all the events of the last month, except the Christen parts.

————

When Jordan and Jeff called it a night, Tobin and Cindy sat out on the front porch with some wine. Tobin rocked back and forth in her chair, enjoying the cool breeze. Tobin loved coming to visit her parents. It was a chance to recharge after a long week and spend time with them, especially since they weren’t getting any younger. Being here always gave her a sense of calm and peace.

“So…are you going to tell me more about Christen?” Cindy asked, not beating around the bush.

It was also usually a time for questions on if there were any potential girlfriends in Tobin’s life. Tobin shifted in her chair uneasily.

It was late and knowing her daughter, she was never going to bring it up, so Cindy decided to open up the conversation with it. She decided not to push it at dinner in front of Jordan, but now that they were alone, she wanted to know more.

Tobin kept looking straight ahead, but stopped rocking her chair. “There’s nothing to tell,” she said as she took a sip of her wine.

“No? Jordan seems to think there is,” Cindy said.

“Jordan wishes there was something to tell,” Tobin corrected her. “Come on, you know how she gets.”

Cindy nodded. She knew all about Jordan’s mission to find her mother a girlfriend, which had intensified in the last couple of years.

“I know how she gets,” Cindy confirmed. “So you two aren’t dating?” she asked, not giving up yet on getting more information out of her daughter.

Tobin shook her head, maybe a little too vigorously.

“No, we’re definitely not dating,” Tobin said, not wanting to give any more details than she had to.

“Well how did you two meet?” Cindy asked.

“Her daughter has tennis practice in the time slot after Jordan’s. She started a month ago and Christen and I have just been chatting while the girls play,” Tobin said.

“Ah, I see,” Cindy said. “And you’re getting late night texts from Christen because…?”

Good point. Tobin didn’t really have a good explanation for that.

Tobin sighed and finally looked at Cindy. “I don’t know, mom. I mean, I do like her. She’s really great and kind and funny and she’s so beautiful,” she said smiling, thinking of the most amazing green eyes she’s ever seen.

“But…?” Cindy asked.

“But I don’t know that I’m ready for a relationship. I don’t even know if she’s into women, first of all. For all I know, she just sees me as a good friend because she doesn’t know anyone else in Portland. They just moved there from L.A. because of her work,” Tobin said.

“Don’t you think it’s worth finding out? If she’s into women or if she wants more out of this friendship?” Cindy continued.

Normally, if Tobin dismissed the idea of dating someone, Cindy didn’t bother pushing for her daughter to pursue it further. But the look on Tobin’s face describing Christen was different and she knew she would need to give Tobin a gentle nudge.

Tobin shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said, looking away from Cindy again. “I don’t know.”

“Look, honey, I know you’ve gone through a lot. More than most people. But when you read that message at the dinner table, I saw something in your eyes that I haven’t seen in a very long time. That’s all I’ll say and I hope you give yourself a chance to find love again,” Cindy said.

Tobin couldn’t look her mother in the eye. If she did, she was sure the tears that were threatening to fall would all come spilling out. Instead, she nodded, took another sip of her wine, and continued rocking her chair.

————

When Tobin’s head finally hit the pillow at 11pm, she looked at the message from
Christen again and started typing.

Got here a few hours ago, thanks! If you’re awake, hi. If you’re asleep, maybe I’ll talk to you tomorrow?

Tobin sent the message and looked up at the ceiling. Thoughts of Christen and her smile (and her conversation with her mother) occupied her mind.

Christen was reading a book when her phone buzzed on her nightstand. Knowing who the message might be from, a smile immediately formed on her face as she reached for her phone. She read Tobin’s cute message and chuckled.

If you can talk, call me? Not sure if Jordan is asleep in the same room.

Christen hit send and waited. Fifteen seconds later, her phone rang and her heart started beating faster as was customary around Tobin.

“Hey you,” Christen answered.

“Hey,” Tobin said softly.

The sound of Christen’s voice made Tobin feel warm and safe instantly. It caused butterflies to flutter in her stomach and her whole body involuntarily started heating up.

“How was your drive up?” Christen asked.

“Not bad at all,” Tobin said. “Got here just before my dad started getting hangry,” she said laughing.

Christen laughed, too. It had become Tobin’s favorite laugh, other than Jordan’s, in such a short time of knowing her.

“So what do you guys usually do on Saturdays over there?” Christen asked.

“We usually go to the fish market and walk around if it’s not raining. The weather looks good for tomorrow, so it should be fun,” Tobin said.

‘I wish you were here with me,’ Tobin thought to herself.

“That sounds great,” Christen said.

“Have you been to Seattle before?” Tobin asked.

“I have, but it’s always been for work, so I’m usually just in and out. I don’t get to do any fun stuff,” Christen said.

“You’re missing out. I’ll have to show you around sometime,” Tobin said casually.

The suggestion that they would take a road trip together sometime in the future was not lost on either woman. But they didn’t need to go deep in that conversation right now.

“That would be nice,” Christen said softly, trying not to get too excited about the possibility of spending more time with Tobin outside of tennis practice.

There was a comfortable silence between them, just happy to be on the line with each other.

“Hey Christen?” Tobin said.

“Yeah?” Christen replied.

“Can I tell you something?” Tobin asked.

Christen’s heart started beating faster, unsure of what Tobin was about to say.

“You can tell me anything,” Christen croaked out.

“Well, uh, I’ve thought long and hard about it…and…” Tobin said before pausing.

Christen waited in silence, holding her breath without realizing it.

“And…I think I’m going to challenge you to a foot race,” Tobin said seriously.

Christen laughed out loud. So loud that she feared she might have woken Emma up. That certainly wasn’t what she expected to hear, but it was a welcome challenge nonetheless.

“Oh you are, huh?” Christen said, still giggling.

“Oh yeah, I’m ready,” Tobin said confidently.

“I thought you said to remind you not to challenge me to one,” Christen said.

“I’ve changed my position on that. I wanna see how fast you are. Don’t go easy on me,” Tobin said.

“Suit yourself. I’m past my prime, but still pretty fast,” Christen warned.

“Bring it on. Maybe next weekend?” Tobin asked.

“Are you sure you only need one week to get ready to race me?” Christen asked, trying not to laugh.

“Oooh, ouch,” Tobin said, pretending to be hurt. “I think I’ll be okay. If anything, it’ll give the girls something to laugh about when I trip and fall trying to catch up to you,” she said.

“Let’s hope not, I don’t want you to get hurt,” Christen said.

“If I do, you’ll just have to take care of me,” Tobin said, not even thinking of how suggestive that statement was.

“I can definitely do that,” Christen said without hesitation. “I’ll get you a bell,” she quipped.

“You’ll be my nurse?” Tobin said, bordering on flirting with Christen.

Actually, she was one hundred percent flirting with Christen and it surprised her at how easily it came since she was usually really bad at this and avoided such situations.

“I’ll be your nurse,” Christen confirmed. “I’m very attentive.”

Christen felt the conversation steering from a lighthearted one to a flirtatious one. She liked it and was more than ready for it, but she wasn’t sure that Tobin realized she was even flirting in the first place.

“If you were my nurse, I’d be the best patient,” Tobin promised.

Tobin wanted to ask Christen if she would wear a sexy nurse outfit for her, but her better judgment won out and she didn’t say what she was thinking.

“I’ll hold you to that,” Christen said. “Especially after I smoke you on the pitch,” she added.

Tobin laughed. Jesus. Even trash-talking, competitive Christen was hilarious and sexy as hell.

“Wow, you are ruthless,” Tobin said.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet, Heath,” Christen said, her competitive juices flowing.

“I can’t wait,” Tobin said chuckling.

They were both smiling from ear to ear. Their conversations always felt so easy and it seemed like they could talk about anything under the sun and go on for hours. But Christen knew Tobin was tired, having worked all day and then driving up to see her parents. As much as she wanted to continue their conversation, it seemed like a good stopping point for the night.

“Well, I’m gonna let you get some rest. I know you’ve had a long day,” Christen said. “It was nice to hear your voice.”

Tobin wanted to whine and beg for Christen not to hang up, but she didn’t. She was very tired and a little tipsy from the bottle of wine she just drank with her mom.

“Okay,” Tobin said, the long day evident in her speech. “It was good to hear your voice, too.”

“Have a good day tomorrow, okay?” Christen said.

“You too,” Tobin said, her eyes getting heavy by the second.

“I will. Good night, Tobin.”

“Good night, Christen.”

————

Chapter Text

“Just have it at my desk by end of day tomorrow and I’ll look at it,” Christen said on the phone as she walked into her office. “Yeah, just leave it with Meg. Okay, thanks. Bye,” she said, finishing up her call and dropping her work phone on her desk.

Her long-time assistant and friend, Megan, whom she convinced to move to Portland for a very generous compensation package, followed her into her office.

“Leah, Miles, and Krista,” Megan said as she rattled off the calls she’d received in the last hour while Christen was in a meeting and put the detailed messages down on Christen’s desk.

“Thanks, did we hear back from Jason?” Christen asked as she sat down and read the messages.

“Not yet, but you know him,” Megan said rolling her eyes.

“Okay, thanks P,” Christen said, calling her assistant by her nickname.

“No prob. Your next meeting is at 1:30 on 8E, room 5,” Megan said.

“8E5, got it, thanks,” Christen said.

Megan turned and walked out while closing the door behind her.

Christen let out a deep breath as she sat back in her desk chair. It had been a long and hectic Monday already and it was only 1:10pm. She usually went through her emails while drinking her first coffee at home, knowing that meetings would take up most of her day. She’d been in one meeting after another and she hadn’t had a chance to look at her inbox since she arrived at work. She took her personal phone out of her pocket to make sure Emma hadn’t called her and saw that she had a new message from Tobin from an hour ago, which instantly made her feel happy.

Just reminding you to eat your lunch!

Christen chuckled and walked over to her mini fridge and grabbed her salad. She opened the container and took a quick bite, knowing she didn’t have much time until she had to leave her office again.

Thanks for the reminder! I was on my way to not eating today. Devouring my lunch now while I have a small window.

Tobin was busy painting in her studio when a message came through on her phone. With a paintbrush in one hand and another between her teeth, she stopped what she was doing and walked over to her phone which was on the couch. She read the message from Christen and put both her brushes down to respond.

Good. What’s for lunch?

Christen was mid-bite when the message came through from Tobin.

‘I’d love to be having you for lunch, Tobin Heath,’ Christen thought salaciously to herself.

Just a salad.

Tobin made a face when she saw the message from Christen.

Just a salad? Please tell me there’s also something in your lunch bag that’s gonna make you hold your stomach in discomfort after eating?! No human should be subjected to ‘just a salad’ for lunch. Even you don’t sound very excited about it.

Christen was mid-drink and nearly spit everything out when she saw the next message from Tobin. She swallowed her water and started laughing.

You almost made me spit my drink. No, I’m really only having a salad. It’s an enormous salad, though. Big. Huge. And it’s delicious.

Tobin laughed reading Christen’s message.

I don’t care if it’s the size of the Pacific, I stand by my last statement.

Christen giggled.

You’re very passionate about this.

Tobin smirked.

I am. If you tell me now that you’re vegan…I’m not sure we can continue to be friends.

Christen giggled some more.

Not vegan, just mindful of what I put into my body.

Tobin felt her body react to Christen’s last message.

‘I can think of a thing or two that could go into your body,’ Tobin thought. ‘Holy shit, Tobin. Stop thinking about that.’

Tobin had to compose herself from the extremely dirty thoughts she was having. It seemed to be a very common occurrence whenever she was talking to Christen. Or maybe it was because the last time she got laid, Jordan still had training wheels on her bike.

You’re much more disciplined than me.

Christen smiled.

Definitely not. I just can’t walk into a meeting looking like I’m about to puke.

Tobin was smiling like an idiot at her phone.

Can’t have that, but that imagery is gold.

Christen laughed some more and shook her head as she finished inhaling her salad.

Have you had a chance to look at your schedule to see what time you’d want the girls to practice together?

Christen snapped her fingers at the reminder from Tobin.

I knew I was forgetting something. I’ll ask my assistant to have a look. I’ll confirm with you by EOD. Thanks for reminding me…again…

Tobin felt useful and patted herself on the back.

No problem at all.

Christen looked at the clock and saw she had five minutes to get to the other end of the building.

I’ve gotta run to another meeting, but thank you again for all the reminders. I appreciate it. Have a great rest of your day!

Tobin sighed, cursing the fact that Friday was still four days away.

Have a good one!

————

Four days passed, though not quickly enough if you asked Tobin and Christen. They arrived at the same time for the girls’ joint practice and they beamed when they saw each other.

“Hey!” Christen said, almost a little too excitedly.

“Hey!” Tobin said, forgetting everything else as soon as she saw Christen.

Jordan and Emma giggled as they watched their moms get lost in each other. They grabbed their drinks and rackets and left their mothers to catch up.

“We’ll see you in there, baby,” Christen said to Emma.

“Sure mom,” Emma said as she and Jordan went ahead to court 17.

“How are you?” Tobin asked, grinning from ear to ear as she approached Christen.

“I’m good, how are you?” Christen asked as she reached back into her car to grab her drink and keys.

Christen might have been a little too excited to see Tobin and practically jumped out of her car without gathering her things first so she could say hi.

Tobin couldn’t help but glance at Christen’s backside, which was right in front of her. She thought about what it would be like to run her hands over and massage Christen’s ass through her yoga pants and she got distracted on what she was trying to say.

“I’m, uh, um, great,” Tobin said, trying to gather herself. “Excited to see if this hour-long experiment works,” she said, hoping she wasn’t caught looking.

Christen caught Tobin looking at her body, but didn’t say anything, not wanting to embarrass the other woman. It made butterflies flutter in her stomach, though.

“Me too,” Christen said as she shut her car door and locked it.

They walked over to the tennis courts and talked a little bit about their week. When they got to the court, the girls were practicing their serves and Tobin and Christen sat down on the bench to watch a little bit of the action before the balls accumulated.

****————
****————

Emma mostly served faults, still working on her technique, but had been improving with each week that passed. Jordan, on the other hand, served mostly inside the box, but sent a few bad faults.

“Gahhhh!” Jordan screamed out in frustration, angry with herself for missing so badly, even though the majority of her serves looked really good.

“Is Jordan a perfectionist?” Christen whispered with a light chuckle.

“Yeah, she can be,” Tobin said, pausing. “She gets it from her other mother,” she said with a wistful smile, while looking straight ahead at Jordan.

Christen was taken aback by Tobin’s answer and how casually she said it with such a loving look on her face. “Oh,” she said, her happy mood screeching to a halt.

Christen had to admit, she was disappointed to find out that Tobin already seemed to have someone in her life. She must have gotten her signals crossed because for whatever reason, maybe a hopeful one, she assumed Tobin was single since she didn’t have a wedding ring on and had not mentioned Jordan’s other parent over the last five weeks that they’d been talking. And she could have sworn Tobin had been mildly flirting with her the whole time.

“So your…wife…?” Christen started to say as she tried to recover from the information Tobin had just given her. “She’s a perfectionist?”

“Was,” Tobin said. “Was a perfectionist. She died during childbirth,” she said matter-of-factly.

Christen was taken aback once again, gasping as her mouth dropped open and her heart ached immediately for Tobin.

“Oh, Tobin, I’m so sorry,” Christen choked out, giving Tobin’s forearm a sympathetic squeeze, not knowing what else to say.

Tobin looked at Christen and gave her a small smile, the warmth and softness of Christen’s hand comforting her.

“Thanks. I’m okay. She’s been gone almost twelve years now, so I can actually talk about her a little bit now without crying,” Tobin said with a small smile.

Christen felt like a complete asshole. First, for thinking that Tobin had someone and would flirt behind that person’s back, and second, for being disappointed when she thought she had someone in the first place. And now finding out that Tobin was a widow was even more shocking. But how could she have known? She couldn’t have. So she gave herself a pass just this time for her initial reaction.

“What happened? If you don’t mind my asking,” Christen asked gently.

“She had a lot of bleeding internally. She got to hold Jordan for a few minutes, but they just couldn’t get the bleeding under control…” Tobin’s voice trailed off as she continued to watch practice, her jaw clenching.

Christen could see the deep pain in Tobin’s eyes as she spoke and it now made sense why their conversations had never steered in the direction of their past relationships. Christen had been eager to know more about Tobin’s dating history, but Tobin didn’t seem to ever try to bring up the subject, nor did she ever try to ask Christen out on a date, which is where she thought they might have been headed. Now she knew why. Clearly this wasn’t something that would be easy to talk about with anyone, especially someone you’ve just met.

“I’m sorry, you don’t have to continue. Just know that you can talk to me whenever you need someone to just listen,” Christen said sincerely.

Tobin could feel and hear the concern from Christen with the way she was looking at her and the way she was trying to comfort her. They had been casually talking for the last five weeks and she hadn’t known how to bring Amanda into their conversations and figured now was as good a time as any, especially since she could feel their friendship growing stronger with each week that passed. She didn’t know if the topic of Jordan’s other mom had come up in conversation yet between Jordan and Emma at school, but clearly it hadn’t since she could see the shock on Christen’s face at the revelation. She just hoped this new information wouldn’t drive her away.

“Thanks. I used to not be able to talk about it at all, not even with the people closest to me, so I’ve gotten much better over the years,” Tobin said.

Christen’s heart felt like it was breaking into a million pieces seeing and hearing about the tragedy that Tobin has had to endure for so long.

“I can’t imagine, Tobin. I’m really very sorry for your loss and for Jordan’s loss,” Christen said.

“Thanks. I appreciate that,” Tobin said as she gave Christen a small smile.

Christen didn’t realize she was still holding on to Tobin’s arm until there was a break in their conversation.

“Sorry,” Christen said, finally letting go of Tobin’s arm.

“You’re fine,” Tobin said, missing the gentle touch Christen had offered that made her feel not so alone.

“What was her name?” Christen asked.

Tobin smiled. “Amanda,” she said lovingly as she looked at Christen.

Christen smiled back. “How long were you and Amanda together?” she asked.

“Six years, but we weren’t married. Wasn’t legal back then. We considered ourselves married in every way, though. She was so excited for Jordan to arrive…” Tobin said, feeling tears about to fall, so she broke her eye contact with Christen.

Christen swallowed, feeling a lump in her throat herself. Tobin’s story was so tragic, she was having a hard time wrapping her head around it and keeping her composure. She could only imagine how difficult this has been for Tobin.

“You’ve done a really great job with Jordan. I can see how hard you work to be a great mom and I can see what a special relationship you two have. I really admire you,” Christen said, looking right at Tobin.

“Thanks, Chris,” Tobin said, using the short version of Christen’s name for the first time while looking into her kind green eyes.

Christen gave her a small smile. Everything in her was telling her to pull Tobin into a hug, no matter how it might look to their daughters. She thought for a moment about not hugging her, but the need to do so was too great.

“Come here,” Christen said, holding her arms out for Tobin, deciding to listen to her heart.

Tobin leaned closer to Christen and wrapped her arms around her. She could feel Christen holding her tight, as if trying to hug away her sadness. Tobin hugged her back just as tightly and realized in that moment how much she really cared for Christen. And maybe Christen cared for her, too.

After a few moments, they reluctantly pulled away from one another.

“Looks like our help is needed now,” Tobin said, nodding toward the balls that had accumulated on the court.

Sensing Tobin’s need to take her mind off the seriousness of their conversation, Christen didn’t push for any more information. She just nodded as they got up and got to work.

————

“Are you okay, mom?” Jordan asked while eating dinner later that night.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” Tobin asked.

“Because I saw you hugging Ms. Christen at practice and you looked kinda sad,” Jordan said.

Tobin smiled. “I’m fine, kiddo. I was just telling Ms. Christen about your mom.”

“Oh,” Jordan said. “Did she ask about her?”

“No. You were serving and you reminded me of your mom,” Tobin said with a wry smile. “You were getting so frustrated with yourself. Ms. Christen asked if you were a perfectionist and I told her yes and that you got that from your mom.”

Jordan could see the sadness in her mom’s eyes whenever she talked about her birth mom, but she never got the feeling from her mom that she had any resentment toward her since she died giving birth to her. For as long as she could remember, all she knew from her mom was love and affection and seeing her sad made her sad. But seeing her with Ms. Christen in the last five weeks gave her hope that her mom would finally find happiness with someone. There was a lightness that she had never seen in her and it excited her.

“I’m not a perfectionist,” Jordan argued.

“Yes, you are,” Tobin said smiling.

“Am not,” Jordan said.

“Are too,” Tobin argued.

“And stubborn,” Tobin added.

“Am not,” Jordan said.

“Are too,” Tobin said.

They looked at each other and started laughing.

————

Later that night, Tobin was sitting on her bed looking through her photos of Amanda that she’d kept in a box, reliving the moment when each one was taken, when her phone chimed.

Wanted you to know I’m thinking of you. You don’t have to reply. I just wanted it to be said.

Tobin smiled through her tears and started typing. She wanted to hear Christen’s voice. If she had it her way, she’d invite Christen over just to hold her tonight.

Can I call?

Christen didn’t expect a response back, so she was surprised when Tobin sent her a reply. When she saw that Tobin wanted to talk, she dialed her right away.

“Hey,” Tobin answered.

“Hey,” Christen said.

Christen could hear Tobin sniffling and it broke her heart.

“You okay?” Christen asked softly.

“Yeah, it’s just been one of those days,” Tobin said.

“I can’t say I understand what you’ve been through and are still going through, but I’m here for you. And if I could give you a hug right now, I would,” Christen said sympathetically.

“Thanks, Chris. I’ll be okay. I just have days like this every now and then,” Tobin admitted.

“And that’s okay,” Christen said supportively.

There was a beat of silence between them, but neither really felt the need to say anything. Tobin was overwhelmed by how safe Christen made her feel. Like she could tell her anything and there would never be any judgment from her. In hindsight, she really should have told Christen about Amanda sooner.

“I’m really sorry, Chris,” Tobin said.

“Hey, what are you sorry for?” Christen asked.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about her,” Tobin said.

Christen was flabbergasted that Tobin was apologizing for something that she should never have to apologize for.

“Tobin, you don’t have to apologize at all. I can see why it’s something that would be really difficult to talk about. I’m not sure I could do it if I were in your shoes,” Christen assured her.

“I know, but I feel like I kind of just dropped that on you. You and I have become friends and I feel like it’s something I should have mentioned sooner and not in the manner that I did,” Tobin said.

Christen shook her head even though Tobin couldn’t see her.

“Tobin Heath, you do not have to apologize for this. I’m just sorry for what you’ve had to go through all these years,” Christen said.

Christen’s kindness toward her made Tobin’s heart burst. She could hear the sincerity in her voice and she was blown away by the care and empathy she could feel coming from the other woman.

“Your friendship means a lot to me,” Tobin said.

“I know we haven’t known each other for very long, but your friendship means the world to me. I mean that,” Christen said.

Tobin’s heart continued to pull at her, an intense feeling she hadn’t felt in a long time.

“I wish you were here,” Tobin admitted, barely above a whisper that Christen almost didn’t hear her.

But she did.

“If Emma wasn’t already asleep, she and I would be at your doorstep with some pizza,” Christen said.

Tobin smiled. How she wished that was the case.

“Hey Tobin?” Christen said after a few moments where nothing was said.

“Yeah?” Tobin replied.

“Can you tell me about Amanda?” Christen asked.

Tobin was surprised. That wasn’t at all what she’d expected from Christen, but she could tell from her voice that she genuinely wanted to know.

“You wanna know about Mandy?” Tobin asked, using her nickname for her late partner.

“I do. I’d love to know what she was like, if you feel like sharing,” Christen said. “It sounds like you loved her deeply, so she must have been an amazing person.”

Tobin wiped her tears and took a deep breath, in awe of what Christen was asking her. She didn’t know why, but it didn’t feel strange or uncomfortable talking to Christen about Amanda. Whenever her friends would set her up on dates with women a few years after Amanda died, she would get asked about Jordan’s other mother and Tobin would tell them what happened. One of two things would usually occur once she told them about Amanda. They would either shut down on her, not really wanting to deal with the emotional baggage that came with dating Tobin. Or it would become some sort of challenge for them to see if they could get Tobin to sleep with them after not being intimate with anyone for so long. So now she usually just kept herself guarded when it came to that part of her life and her memories of Amanda. She only talked about her when asked and only offered the bare minimum of details. But with Christen, it felt okay to talk about it.

“Um, where do I start? She was my world, you know? What’s funny is that it wasn’t love at first sight for us. We were officially introduced to each other sophomore year in college at a party, but we had a couple of classes together. She wouldn’t give me the time of day because she thought I was this slacker artist who would always get good grades without studying. I would just doodle the entire time in class and it infuriated her that I took zero notes,” Tobin said chuckling.

Christen laughed. “Somehow I can picture that.”

“It took a lot of effort to get her to see that I was just as hardworking as her, but I just didn’t stress about things the way she did. And even though I would doodle in class, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t listening. That was just how my brain would function,” Tobin said.

Christen continued to listen, letting Tobin share as much as she wanted to. She had really come to enjoy learning as much as she could about Tobin in the last five weeks and she was glad Tobin felt comfortable enough with her to talk about Amanda.

“She finally agreed to go out with me our senior year because we started hanging out with mutual friends and she discovered she actually didn’t hate my guts,” Tobin said laughing. “She was super smart, beautiful, intense, but kind. There were just so many things I loved about her. The way she would cry so bad at sappy movies, the way she would smile at me, the way she would kiss me. She was just so easy to love,” Tobin said as Christen continued to listen.

“We graduated and things got really serious after that. We were madly in love and we eventually bought this house together a few years later and started talking about starting our family,” Tobin said.

Tobin paused, trying to gather herself. She had not talked about Amanda at length like this since she died outside of her therapist. She steeled herself and continued.

“We both knew we wanted to become parents. We wanted two kids, actually. She had always dreamed of becoming a mom and being pregnant and we were so excited when we found out we were expecting. We would talk about how we couldn’t wait to see what the baby’s personality was gonna be like. I joked with her that I was gonna be the ‘fun mom’ and take him or her on all these adventures and soccer practice and let them get away with everything and she was gonna be the bad cop. All our dreams for our future together were coming true. The pregnancy was pretty smooth outside of horrible morning sickness and everything was going really well…until the actual birth,” Tobin said, unable to hold back her tears as she paused.

Christen’s heart was shattered for Tobin all over again.

“I’ll never forget all the words she said after Jordan was born. She said to Jordan, ‘Baby girl, you are so beautiful and I love you more than anything,’ and she kissed our baby,” Tobin said through her tears.

Christen was crying along with Tobin, the anguish so clear in her voice.

“I cut the cord and she said to me, ‘Great choice for a name, babe. She definitely looks like a Jordan. Jordan Saito Heath.’ We just stared at our perfect little baby, counting all her fingers and toes. Then I told her she was a rockstar and that I loved her and I kissed her. She told me she loved me back and that’s when her vitals went haywire. Her blood pressure got really low,” Tobin said.

Christen released a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.

“They took Jordan from her arms to make sure she was fine and they made me go wait outside while they worked on Mandy. I told her I loved her and that I’d be right back. I didn’t even know at the time that they sent me outside that it was life-threatening. If I had, I would have fought to stay in there with her to hold her hand until the end. I watched through the doorway, with people running in and out of the room and all the machines beeping and everybody yelling. I was so scared when I saw how panicked and serious everyone looked. It seemed like all the doctors and nurses on that floor had converged into our room. That’s how it felt to me anyway. It was all a blur. When they started chest compressions, I was screaming for Mandy and tried to go back in, but they held me back. It was and still is the most helpless I’ve ever felt in my whole life. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy. And then maybe thirty minutes later, they pronounced Mandy dead. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. We only have one picture as a family. It was a selfie that I took. But I have a few of just her and Jordan and I have a short video of them. She made such a beautiful mom,” Tobin said with tears streaming down her face.

Christen was silent, stunned at the tragedy that Tobin had been living with for the last twelve years. She felt such despair and agony listening to Tobin recount Amanda’s final moments.

“Over Jordan’s first couple of years, it just didn’t even feel real that I was a mom and that I was doing it by myself. I was so happy to have been blessed with this amazing baby, but at the same time so angry that the love of my life was taken from me. I felt so alone even though I had so many people trying to help me and I was just going through the motions. I went to therapy and everything,” Tobin said.

Christen continued to listen. It seemed like talking about it was helping Tobin so she was more than willing to listen to her talk all night.

“It took me a long time to accept that she was never coming back. But once Jordan started becoming way more active, I didn’t have time to dwell as much or keep wishing that she would walk through the door at the end of a long day. I started spending less hours in the day thinking about Mandy and what could have been. I just focused all my energy on making sure Jordan was developing and hitting all her milestones instead of feeling sorry for myself. And Jordan, man, she’s been amazing. She’s my rock. She lost her mother. She’s never known her, but she’s so strong, you know?” Tobin said.

“I can definitely see how strong she is,” Christen said.

“She’s her own person and she doesn’t take shit from anyone. Very much like Amanda,” Tobin said fondly.

“I love that a piece of Amanda is still alive in Jordan,” Christen said.

“Yeah. There are just days like today where I see Jordan acting like Amanda and it makes me miss her so much,” Tobin said. “It’s been happening less and less and that kind of scares me, too. Like does that mean I’m starting to forget her? So much time has passed and most days, I feel like I’ve left her in the past. I don’t wanna forget her, but sometimes it’s hard for me to even remember her voice unless I watch old videos of her. That’s really scary to me,” Tobin admitted.

Christen felt helpless and wasn’t sure what to say to Tobin that would make things better. She’d never had a conversation like the one she was having with Tobin right now.

“Tobin, I don’t think you’re starting to forget her. I think, maybe, you’re just healing and that’s a good thing,” Christen said. “But you would never forget a person who meant that much to you. Just hearing you talk about her tells me that you’ll never forget her.”

Tobin sniffled. “Maybe you’re right. I hope you’re right,” she said.

Christen hoped so, too.

“Thanks for talking to me,” Tobin said. “I shouldn’t be taking so much of your time.”

“There’s nothing else I would rather be doing right now,” Christen quickly assured her.

“Regardless, I appreciate you listening to me and helping me,” Tobin said, her tears subsiding.

“Hey, if you need me, you call me. Okay?” Christen said sincerely.

Christen was feeling overwhelmed by her feelings for the woman on the other end of the phone. Tobin opening up to her and telling her about the pain of losing her partner made her feel even closer to her and all she wanted to do was be there for her.

“Okay,” Tobin said.

“Don’t even think about whether I might be busy at work. Just call me if you need to talk to me and I’ll do everything I can to answer,” Christen said.

Tobin couldn’t believe how lucky she was to have crossed paths with Christen. The fact that she hasn’t gone screaming goodbye in the other direction, and instead was offering more of her time, meant everything to Tobin.

“Thanks, Chris,” Tobin said. ”I should let you get some sleep now.”

“I’ll stay on until you fall asleep,” Christen said.

“No, it’s okay. I’m okay. Go sleep,” Tobin said, her eyes heavy and the day’s emotions wearing her down.

“Tobin, I’m gonna stay on until you fall asleep,” Christen stubbornly said again. “So you can either keep talking or you can close your eyes, but I’m not hanging up until you go to sleep.”

Tobin wanted to keep talking. There was so much she wanted to say to Christen, but sleep was overtaking her. She wanted to tell Christen what a gift she’s been these past few weeks and how much she wanted to hold her and be held by her at that moment, but she couldn’t will the words to come out. As she drifted off to sleep, her last thoughts were clear images of Amanda, smiling at her.

————

Chapter Text

“Hey boss, do you know a Tobin Heath?” Megan asked Christen who was in her office checking emails.

Christen immediately stopped reading and her head shot up to look at Pinoe, wondering why she would be asking her about Tobin. A number of scenarios floated across Christen’s mind for a few moments until she realized Pinoe was still waiting for a response from her.

“Yes, why? Is something wrong?” Christen asked with a concerned voice.

“No, I just have security on the line and they said there’s a Tobin Heath at the gate with lunch for you,” Pinoe said.

Christen could feel her face heat up immediately and she couldn’t help a shy smile from forming on her face.

“Oh, yeah, um, they can let her in,” Christen said, unconsciously fixing her hair even though it didn’t need fixing.

“Okay. Do you wanna have her come up or do you wanna meet her downstairs?” Megan asked.

Christen thought about it for a moment. On one hand, if she just met Tobin downstairs, she could get away from Pinoe and her prying eyes and ears. But on the other hand, she felt more comfortable in her own office and wanted some privacy, even though she could already picture Pinoe getting all up in her business. In the end, the need to be comfortable won out.

“They can just have her come up,” Christen said.

“You got it,” Pinoe said as she went back to her desk to let the gate security know.

As soon as Pinoe was out of sight, Christen quickly opened her phone’s camera and put it on selfie mode so she could check how she looked. It was only midday, so her makeup still looked good and her hair was cooperating and she was grateful for that.

The morning after their conversation about Amanda, Christen’s first thoughts were of Tobin. She wondered how she was doing. She wondered if she was able to sleep through the night after they hung up. She wondered what this might mean for them moving forward. She was very attracted to Tobin, though she had yet to actually make that known to the other woman.

She was in such shock after Tobin’s revelation at tennis practice that she hardly said anything to Emma on the drive home and over dinner that night. After speaking with Tobin and sleeping on it, she had breakfast with Emma and felt it was okay to tell her about Jordan’s other mom now that Tobin had told her a bit more about what happened. She asked Emma if Jordan had ever mentioned anything, but Emma, also in a bit of shock herself, said it hadn’t come up at school since they were always having lunch with other girls, so the topic never came up.

Christen was in uncharted territory and she hoped to feel Tobin out over the weekend, but urgent work matters blew up those plans and they didn’t really have a chance to talk much since Friday.

“So who’s Tobin?” Pinoe asked as she walked back into Christen’s office a minute later, startling her boss, who briefly fumbled her phone.

Pinoe looked at Christen expectantly. Having been her assistant and friend for over a decade, there wasn’t much about Christen’s life that she didn’t know about. Christen was also as composed as they come and seeing her act like a nervous teenager was a sight she had not seen before which amused her and made her want to know more.

“Oh, uh, no one. Just a friend,” Christen said, putting her phone down as if she hadn’t already been caught checking her face on it.

Pinoe raised an eyebrow at Christen, but didn’t say anything.

“What?” Christen asked. “She’s just a friend.”

Pinoe continued to raise an eyebrow at her. Christen was such a bad liar.

“Is that why you’re checking if your hair and makeup are good? You never do that for me and I’m your friend,” Pinoe said with a smirk.

“Shut up, P,” Christen said, trying to sound annoyed.

“I’m just saying. You don’t just do that for any ‘friend,’” Pinoe said, using air quotes for the friend part and enjoying how frazzled her boss had become.

“It’s not a big deal. She’s another mom I met at Emma’s tennis lessons, okay?” Christen said, hoping that was enough for Pinoe to go back to her desk.

It wasn’t.

“And she’s bringing you a surprise lunch because she’s that good a friend now?” Pinoe asked, pushing her limits with Christen.

“Oh my god, P,” Christen said whispering urgently. “Could you please just go back to your desk before she gets here?”

Pinoe chuckled. “Fine, but you’re giving me more details later,” she said.

“Fine,” Christen said, willing to say anything at that point just to get Pinoe out of her hair.

Pinoe shook her head laughing and started walking back to her desk, excited to meet this Tobin Heath.

“Oh, P?” Christen called out.

Pinoe stopped and turned around.

“When’s my next meeting?” Christen asked.

“Not for another couple of hours so you’re fine,” Pinoe winked.

“Okay, thanks,” Christen said.

Pinoe smirked and closed the door behind her.

————

Tobin isn’t sure what possessed her to do this. Okay, maybe she knows exactly what, or who, it was that possessed her to do this. She had finally come to accept that she had a crush. And it was a big one. After 12 years of being single, she finally had an honest to goodness crush on an amazing woman, who, for whatever reason, seemed to like talking to her, too. Christen was on her mind almost 24/7 and she didn’t know what to do with those thoughts and feelings. Since Amanda passed, she hadn’t felt this way about anyone. Not even close. Until Christen.

She would never live it down if Jordan found out about her going out of her way to bring lunch for Christen. She could already picture her daughter’s smirk and hear the million questions she surely would have had. It was enough to get her to chuckle to herself in the elevator she was riding in alone on the way up to Christen’s 27th floor office.

But more than that, if Jordan knew about this, she would get her hopes up and Tobin didn’t want that to happen. She wasn’t even sure that Christen liked her as more than a friend, though she had a decent feeling that the attraction was mutual. But still, she didn’t want Jordan pining over something that may or may not happen. So she made zero mention of this little excursion to her daughter this morning when she dropped her off at school.

The elevator dinged, pulling Tobin out of her thoughts, signaling that she had arrived at her destination. Her stomach suddenly felt like a ball of nerves as the doors opened and she stepped out. She briefly thought about abandoning her plan, but that wasn’t really an option at this point since the security guard at the gate had already called up to Christen’s office and alerted her that she was here. So she took another deep breath and made her way toward the corner office that the lobby security had told her Christen’s office was located.

————

Pinoe was finishing up an email when she noticed a woman with two bags and a bright pink box approaching her. If this was the Tobin Heath that’s got Christen so frazzled, she certainly oozed confidence and was effortlessly cool, very much the opposite of all the high strung women Christen had dated before.

Tobin was wearing a white t-shirt, jeans ripped at the knees, sneakers, and a snapback. Pinoe could definitely see the appeal from Christen’s point of view.

‘Nice, Pressy!’ Pinoe thought excitedly to herself.

As the woman drew closer, Pinoe gave her a warm smile.

“Hi, uh, I hope I’m in the right place. I’m Tobin Heath and I’m here to see Christen Press?” Tobin said.

“Hi Tobin! You’re definitely in the right place. I’m Megan, Christen’s assistant, but you can call me Pinoe,” she said cheerfully.

“Nice to meet you, Pinoe,” Tobin said with a smile.

“Come on back,” Pinoe said as she stood up from her chair.

Pinoe led Tobin back to Christen’s office and knocked on her door.

“Come in!” Christen could be heard from behind the door.

Tobin smiled at hearing Christen’s voice and followed Pinoe inside.

When Christen saw Tobin, she couldn’t stop her face from breaking out into a big smile and couldn’t stop her face from blushing. She was afraid this would happen right in front of Pinoe.

“Hey,” Christen said shyly, not too overeager, fully aware that Pinoe was watching her reaction.

Christen stood up, but stayed rooted behind her desk as Tobin walked inside.

“Hey,” Tobin said smiling just as wide as she stopped a few feet away from Christen’s desk.

The first thing Tobin noticed upon seeing Christen was that she was wearing glasses with thick black frames. She didn’t think it was possible for Christen to be any sexier than she already was. Then she saw her in glasses and she took her breath away…again.

“Need anything, boss?” Pinoe asked with a wide grin.

“No, thanks P. If you could just shut the door please,” Christen said, ignoring the shit-eating grin on her friend’s face. She was too excited and happy to care about the teasing that was sure to come from Pinoe later.

“You got it,” Pinoe said as she started to walk out.

“Oh, um, Pinoe?” Tobin called out.

Pinoe stopped walking and turned back around. “Yes?”

Tobin extended her left hand out and offered the pink box to Pinoe. “These are for you as sort of a ‘Welcome to Portland’ gift. Christen mentioned that you also recently moved here,” she said. “Not sure if you’ve had a chance to try these, but they’re the best doughnuts in Portland.”

Pinoe smiled widely and stepped toward Tobin, accepting the box that had Voodoo Doughnut printed on it.

“Wow, thanks so much! I’ve heard of this place, but my wife Sue and I haven’t had a chance to get them yet,” Pinoe said excitedly.

“Well you should definitely save her a piece before you put it out on your desk,” Tobin said chuckling, knowing that people walking by Pinoe’s desk wouldn’t be able to resist them.

“Hey, what about me? I want a doughnut,” Christen asked jokingly, but genuinely curious and tempted by the doughnuts.

Tobin looked back at her and smiled. “You? I thought you were allergic to good food and only ate salads,” she teased.

Christen gave Tobin a small pout and Tobin just about dropped everything at how ridiculously cute Christen’s pouty face was. With those glasses on. God, she was sexy.

Pinoe watched their interaction with glee. There was a familiarity between the two women that told her this has been going on for a while. Christen’s been holding out on her and she planned on getting the scoop on this later.

“Maybe Pinoe will be nice enough to save you one, too,” Tobin managed to say, imagining kissing Christen’s bottom lip that was sticking out.

“Nah, I’m not that nice. Sorry Pressy,” Pinoe said laughing.

Tobin laughed, too.

“Whatever,” Christen said, still pouting, but willing her face not to break out into a huge smile.

“Thank you, Tobin, this was really nice of you,” Pinoe said seriously.

Pinoe could one hundred percent see why Christen seemed utterly charmed by the woman standing in her office. She couldn’t wait to grill Christen about this.

“You’re welcome,” Tobin said smiling. “Enjoy.”

“I definitely will,” Pinoe said. “Are you good, boss?” she asked, looking at Christen.

“Yeah, thanks P,” Christen said, her pout now gone and replaced by a smile.

Pinoe nodded and turned around once again and shut the door behind her, but not before giving an enthusiastic thumbs up of approval to Christen behind Tobin’s back that Christen did her best to ignore.

“Well this is a nice surprise,” Christen said as she started walking over to Tobin from behind her desk.

“It’s Tuesday, so I thought you could have a little Tobin Tuesday lunch,” she said grinning as she put the bags down on the coffee table.

“Is Tobin Tuesday a thing?” Christen asked laughing.

“It is now,” Tobin said, still grinning from ear to ear.

As a smiling Christen approached her, Tobin suddenly wasn’t sure what she should do. Should she pull Christen into a full hug? A one-armed hug? A fist bump? No. Definitely not a fist bump. The beautiful woman walking toward her sent her into a full-on spiral.

Luckily, Christen took that decision away from her when she pulled Tobin into a heartfelt hug. Tobin exhaled and closed her eyes, holding on to Christen as tightly as she could. They had only briefly spoken twice on the phone and texted each other sporadically since Friday night when Tobin told Christen about Amanda and it felt so good to hold her. Unlike their hug on Friday where they were both sitting down, this was a full-fledged hug that made Tobin’s whole body warm. She and Christen were about the same height, with Christen having a few inches on her today with her heels on, but their bodies still fit so well against each other. Her arms easily wrapped around Christen’s waist and her hands gently cradled her sides.

Christen called Tobin on Saturday morning to check in on how she was doing which made Tobin feel so cared for. When Tobin woke up that morning, she actually felt good. Really good, which surprised her. She had expected to be confused, but if anything, the conversation had given her more clarity on what she wanted. She decided that she was going to ask Christen if she and Emma wanted to hang out with her and Jordan. Just a casual hang out, hoping the girls would enjoy each other’s company…and she and Christen could have a reason to spend some time together and get to know each other even more. But before Tobin could get up the nerve to ask the green-eyed woman about their plans for the day, Christen received a call from someone at work and she had to tend to whatever fire drill was happening. After that, Tobin decided to give Christen some space and just waited for her to contact her, knowing that whatever was happening must have been a big deal for her to get pulled in on a weekend.

Christen finally called her on Sunday night and apologized for disappearing all weekend, saying they had closed on a major deal, their biggest since she joined the company, and that she was exhausted after she and her team had to deal with lawyers and contracts all weekend. Tobin could hear it in her voice and she told her to get some rest and Christen didn’t argue.

Last night, Tobin sent her a simple text good night, telling Christen to catch up on her sleep and that they’ll talk soon.

Soon as in right now. In Christen’s office. As a surprise on a beautiful Tuesday.

Christen didn’t want to let Tobin go. It felt amazing to have her in her arms. She gently rubbed Tobin’s back and they swayed together in the middle of her office. After their conversation on Friday night, all she wanted to do was take all of Tobin’s pain away and hold her like this.

Eventually, though, they let go and looked at each other with soft smiles on their faces.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” Christen said.

Tobin shrugged. “I just wanted to thank you in person for the other night. For listening to me and making me feel better,” she said.

“Of course. Any time,” Christen said, brushing it off like it was no big deal.

Tobin shook her head.

“No, Chris, really. I don’t think you know how much that meant to me,” Tobin said sincerely. “I appreciate you.”

Christen smiled. Tobin was so vulnerable and yet so strong at the same time. She’d never met anyone like her and it made her like her even more, if that was even possible at this point.

“I was happy to listen and I’m thankful you shared with me,” Christen said.

There was a beat of silence as they stood smiling so close to each other without touching. After a few more moments, Tobin finally spoke.

“Did you catch up on sleep last night?” Tobin asked, pivoting the conversation.

Christen gave her a bright smile. “I did! Good as new,” she said.

“Good, I’m glad,” Tobin said. “You know, I should have figured it would take some kind of CIA clearance to get into this building. Sorry for just dropping by unannounced,” she said sheepishly.

Christen laughed. “Nah, you’re totally fine. This is the best surprise I’ve had in a while.”

They looked each other in the eyes and smiled. No words were needed. It just felt good to be in the same room, especially after such an emotional and revealing conversation last week.

“So…I was promised that there would be lunch involved with this Tobin Tuesday event,” Christen said as she took her suit jacket off to get more comfortable, revealing a sleeveless top that hugged her body in all the right places.

Tobin couldn’t help the heat that covered her skin when Christen took her jacket off and she took it all in. Christen had looked absolutely perfect in her power suit and now she looked downright good enough to…well, she couldn’t go there. Not in Christen’s office. She cleared her throat and busied herself with taking out the meal she had brought to give her face some time to get back to its normal color and to keep from having such dirty thoughts.

“Uh, yes, I’ve come bearing food,” Tobin said as she reached for the bag and pulled out its contents.

“Smells good,” Christen said, trying to get a peek over Tobin’s shoulder.

“That’s because it’s not a salad,” Tobin joked, trying not to react to Christen being so close to her.

Christen laughed out loud. “Yeah, yeah. So what do we have?”

“Okay, so I wasn’t sure what kind of food you like that’s not a salad, so I went to a couple of different places,” Tobin said.

Christen looked at Tobin with wonder, asking herself again where this amazing woman had been all her life.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Christen said.

“Well I couldn’t risk sending you to a meeting having eaten food you didn’t like, so…” Tobin said.

“Well that’s very sweet of you, but I’ll eat anything,” Christen said.

“Okay, so we have burgers and fries and a sub sandwich,” Tobin said. “And a big, huge salad for one just in case neither of those options works for you.”

Christen laughed. Tobin was such a charmer. And a thoughtful one at that.

“This is a really tough decision. Can we split the burger and sandwich so we can have a little bit of both?” Christen asked. “And I’ll take the salad since you sound like you’re allergic to healthy food,” she said with a wink that wasn’t quite a wink since both of her eyes closed, which Tobin thought was adorable anyway. God, she had such a big crush on her.

Tobin laughed out loud, enjoying Christen’s comeback from her teasing about the doughnuts earlier.

“Have I told you I like the way you think?” Tobin asked.

Christen chuckled and they got their plates ready and casually sat on the couch facing each other.

“So what have you been up to besides pleasantly surprising unwitting friends at work?” Christen asked.

“Not much. I finished one of my pieces yesterday, so I’m just taking it easy today,” Tobin said.

“Mmmm, this is so good,” Christen said as she took a big bite of her burger, not realizing how hungry she was.

Christen really did look like she was enjoying the food. She had her eyes closed as she chewed as if relishing how good it tasted and it made Tobin happy, especially for succeeding in getting Christen to eat something more than a salad.

“I’m glad you like it,” Tobin said.

Christen opened her eyes and looked at Tobin. She studied her face and gave her a suspicious look.

“What?” Tobin asked, feeling self-conscious.

“I think I know what’s happening here. You’re trying to get me to eat as little salad as possible so you can beat me in our race,” Christen said.

“Maybe…” Tobin said mischievously, playing along even though that was definitely not her intention.

Christen chuckled and shook her head. “Sneaky,” she said.

Tobin looked around Christen’s massive corner office with floor-to-ceiling views on two sides of downtown Portland and Mount Hood. Her desk was devoid of clutter, save for a couple of picture frames, which she assumed were of Emma. The office was basically the size of her kitchen and family room combined. There was a full size couch and coffee table, a small conference room table and chairs, a bar area, and a flat screen tv. She then looked back at Christen and smiled.

“So this is what big boss Christen Press looks like at work. Power suits and glasses. I like it. Though I feel a bit underdressed,” Tobin said sheepishly, wishing she had dressed up a little more.

Christen blushed. “You’re fine,” she said to put Tobin at ease. “If I could come to work in my yoga pants, I would. I hate having to wear a suit, but it kinda comes with the job.”

Tobin did love Christen in yoga pants.

“Honestly, I’m not sure anyone would be able to focus around here if you did that, so it’s probably a good thing you don’t,” Tobin said mindlessly, not realizing what she just said out loud.

“What did you just say?” Christen asked blushing.

From all their conversations, they had mostly stayed away from blatantly flirting with one another, careful not to say anything obvious about how attracted they were to each other.

Tobin looked up and was a deer in headlights when it finally registered to her what she’d just said, not realizing she hadn’t said those words to herself in her head.

“Shit, I’m so sorry, that was completely inappropriate. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry,” Tobin said.

Christen ignored her apology.

“Are you saying you can’t focus when I’m in yoga pants?” Christen asked smiling, wanting to tease Tobin at least a little bit for her comment.

Tobin blushed. “I think you know very well the answer to that. I think yoga pants were made exactly for, um, your…you know…body,” she said nervously, finally making eye contact with Christen and finishing her thought.

Christen swallowed. “So you’re saying I should wear yoga pants when we race so you can be distracted and I can win?” she asked jokingly, easing the conversation back and letting Tobin somewhat off the hook.

Tobin laughed. “You would definitely smoke me if you did.”

“I think I’d smoke you anyway,” Christen said with a grin.

“Very true,” Tobin chuckled.

They ate in silence for a few moments. Tobin looked at Christen and just watched her eat.

Christen looked up and noticed Tobin just staring at her and she felt her face flush from the attention.

“What are you thinking about?” Christen asked.

“Sorry, I was just thinking that I don’t know anything about your history. I just wanted to know, uh, what the story is with you and Emma’s other parent,” Tobin said. “You don’t have to answer. I was just curious if you wanted to share.”

Christen smiled. “Well, she doesn’t have another parent,” she said casually.

Tobin looked at her curiously.

“I mean, yes, she obviously had a sperm donor, but I didn’t conceive of her with anyone. It’s kind of a long story,” Christen said with a laugh.

“I’ve got time if you’ve got time,” Tobin said. “Sorry, I know you’re really busy but I’d, uh, like to get to know more about you if you’d like to share with me. You don’t have to, though,” she said, wanting Christen to have a choice.

Christen smiled at Tobin. She knew Tobin wanted to return the favor for her staying on the phone and listening to her last week. But she could also see the genuine interest in her eyes.

“No, I have time. It’s actually a good day for you to be here. I don’t have a meeting for another couple hours,” Christen said.

Tobin nodded and looked hopefully at Christen. She really did want to know everything there is to know about her.

“Okay, so like I said, Emma doesn’t have another parent. She could have, but she never did. I was dating a woman, Carrie, who I met at my first job out of college. We were together for a long time. Five years. I was so in love with her,” Christen said with a chuckle. “Like ‘I would have done anything for her’ kind of love. After five years together, I really wanted to move forward, you know? I was going into my late 20s, my career was going well, but there was still something missing. I told her I really wanted children and to start a family with her. We had talked about kids early on in our relationship, and to be fair, Carrie did tell me that she hadn’t ever really thought about them and didn’t see herself having any. But I stayed with her because I was so in love with her. I just figured that maybe over time, she would feel differently about them. Then some of our friends had started having kids and it just made my baby fever rage. Tobin, I’m telling you, I was so ready,” she said with a light laugh.

Tobin listened intently as Christen spoke. One big takeaway so far was that Christen was into women which excited Tobin. Although this story doesn’t sound like it has a happy ending. Tobin took a bite of her sandwich and continued to listen.

“Carrie was hesitant, but she agreed. And I think for a while, she was even a little excited about it, probably because I was so excited about it. But after we had chosen the sperm donor and we were a month out from inseminating, she told me she couldn’t do it and tried to get me to change my mind about the whole thing. She said, ‘Things are so great with us. Why complicate it? We can have sex whenever we want, wherever we want. We can travel, we can do this and we can do that.’ And sure, that sounded great to me too, but deep down I knew there would always be something missing for me if I didn’t try to have a kid,” Christen said, her voice cracking slightly thinking of the choice that she had to make.

Tobin felt terrible for Christen. Just from what she knew about the woman, she was born to be a mom. She was kind, patient, and a natural leader who can take charge of a situation and make good choices. Nothing seems to faze her. And that’s probably how she became one of the most powerful women in corporate America. Tobin nodded and waited for Christen to continue.

“So she basically gave me an ultimatum, but I wasn’t about to give up my dream of becoming a mom. I loved Carrie, but I knew if I stayed with her, we would both end up unhappy anyway. I try not to hold grudges, but I knew I might feel some resentment toward her later on and I just knew what I had to do. So I packed up my stuff and moved out of our place in like two days. It was sad and probably even bruised my ego that she didn’t love me enough to want that with me, but at least she was honest. And I guess I also didn’t love her enough to stay, either. My parents always told me to make the right choice even if it was the hard choice. And that’s what I did. Looking back, I have no regrets,” Christen said, giving Tobin a small smile as she took another bite of her burger.

Tobin looked admirably at Christen. She was such a strong woman, it was almost intimidating.

“Wow, Chris. You’re so brave and so strong. I don’t think I could have ever made that choice for myself,” Tobin said honestly.

Single motherhood had been thrust upon her by Amanda’s death, but Christen went into it with eyes wide open and she still jumped right in, knowing how much work it would be to raise a child on her own. She was in awe hearing her story.

“And it’s truly Carrie’s loss. Emma’s a great kid and, well, uh, you’re you,” Tobin added.

Christen smiled. “Thanks, Tob,” she said, using the nickname for the first time, which made Tobin feel so warm inside.

“Do you know where she is now?” Tobin asked.

“Yeah, we actually still run in the same circles. I mentioned I met her through work all those years ago. She’s also in sports marketing and that network is so vast, but also kind of small for those of us who have been doing this forever, so I’ve run into her a few times since we broke up. A few years later, she actually did go on to have a kid with her now-wife. It hurt a little bit when I found out, but I know everything happens for a reason. It just means she wasn’t ‘the one,’ you know?” Christen said.

“Yeah, I get that,” Tobin said.

Tobin understood all about ‘the one,’ having met hers back in college. But meeting Christen at this point in her life felt like such a happy accident, it made her wonder if it was possible to have more than one person that you could consider ‘the one.’ The thought scared her since she never thought it was possible to feel this way again. But she couldn’t unpack all those feelings right now.

“You said you wanted children. Plural. How come you didn’t have more? I mean, besides the obvious that they’re a lot of work. Just wondering if you ever still considered having a second?” she asked.

“I definitely still wanted another one when Emma was around two, but my career really started taking off at that time and I was just so busy. I worked my ass off to prove to myself that I could handle motherhood and a career at the same time. So the more I got promoted, the timing to have another one worked less and less. There was just never a good time to have another kid, as shitty as that is for me to say now,” Christen said.

“It’s not shitty,” Tobin said. “Everyone’s situation is different.”

“Yeah, but it made me want to make sure that anyone on my team doesn’t ever feel like they have to choose between having a successful career and having children and having a life. I want to develop people professionally and encourage them to think that they can have it all. Because you really can. I didn’t have that mentor or support early on in my career. I didn’t have anyone there to tell me it’s okay to take a pause and that the work and opportunities would still be there when I got back. So I just kept going and haven’t really stopped since,” Christen said.

Tobin just looked at Christen with wonder in her eyes. She had never met anyone like her. She had never met anyone who could make her feel so at ease so quickly. For someone as successful as Christen, she was incredibly down-to-earth and she found it so appealing. And she could see all the leadership qualities that has made Christen the success that she is today.

“What are you thinking now?” Christen asked as Tobin stared at her.

“I was just thinking how lucky I am that I’m in your orbit,” Tobin said honestly.

Christen looked softly at Tobin. “I feel really lucky, too. I don’t know why, but I feel like I’ve known you for longer than a month and a half,” she admitted.

And that was the truth. Christen had spent a better part of the last dozen years keeping people at arm’s length, but Tobin was different. Tobin made her want to open up. Made her want to think about the possibility of a romantic relationship that could last, especially one that’s built on friendship first. The women she usually hooked up with never made her feel a longing just to hear their voice or see their smile. Only Tobin with her bright smile and honey brown eyes could have that effect on her and they hadn’t even moved past the talking and friendship stage.

“I feel the same. I’m a mess, but you see through the mess and give me your friendship anyway,” Tobin said.

“You’re not a mess. You’ve been through a traumatic experience, but I can see you’re a good person. Just a genuinely good person,” Christen said.

“Thank you for sharing your story with me,” Tobin said.

Christen looked at Tobin. She could still see sadness in her eyes, but she could also see hope. She knew Tobin wasn’t quite ready to be in a relationship, but seemed to be working her way toward it, which also gave her hope.

“I’m happy to share it with you,” Christen said. “Plus, you brought me this delicious lunch, how could I not?” she joked.

Tobin laughed. “I’ll be bringing you lunch everyday then,” she quipped.

“Don’t spoil me, Tobin. That would be a big mistake,” Christen warned playfully.

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Tobin said.

They smiled goofily at each other. They’ve talked a lot, but there were still so many things left unsaid.

“How did Jordan like having the full hour to train with Emma?” Christen asked.

“Oh she loved it. She wishes they could play everyday,” Tobin said. “And personally, I’m happy about it because I get to see you and talk to you for a whole hour. Friday has become my favorite day of the week, even more than Saturday,” she added.

“I was going to say the same thing,” Christen said grinning.

Tobin took a bite of her sandwich which left some mayonnaise on the edge of her mouth. Christen smiled and stared at her.

“What?” Tobin asked.

“You’ve got some on your…” Christen said pointing to her own face.

Tobin grabbed a napkin and wiped her face. “Did I get it?” she asked.

“No, there’s still…” Christen said smiling as her instincts took over and she used her thumb and cleaned off the small spot that was left behind, letting her palm linger on Tobin’s cheek for a moment.

As a reflex, Tobin held Christen’s arm, having missed someone touching her in that way. They looked at each other, their hearts beating faster than either could ever remember.

“Sorry,” Christen said, slowly pulling her hand away from Tobin.

“It’s okay,” Tobin said, missing Christen’s soft hand on her face. “Thanks for getting it.”

There was so much Christen wanted to profess to Tobin, but it wasn’t the right time or place. Acknowledging it out loud would be too much and she didn’t want to scare Tobin away.

“So…when are we doing this race?” Christen asked, quickly quelling the tension.

“How about after practice on Friday? We can just go to one of the fields at the park,” Tobin suggested.

“You’re on,” Christen said.

“Do you want more of my burger or sandwich?” Tobin offered mischievously.

Christen laughed. “Not falling for that.

Tobin shrugged. “I had to try.”

“Of course you did,” Christen said. “Just bring your boots on Friday, Heath.”

‘I am in such trouble,’ Tobin thought to herself.

————

“Chocolate or vanilla ice cream?” Tobin asked as they finished eating.

“Oh, that’s really hard. Um, I’m gonna have to go with vanilla,” Christen replied.

“What? You’re crazy. Chocolate all the way!” Tobin said.

“I know. It was a tough decision. If I can make a modification, I would say vanilla with hot fudge all over it,” Christen said.

Tobin nodded. “Okay, I can dig that,” Tobin said.

“Okay, my turn. High school or college?” Christen asked.

“College, without question,” Tobin said.

“High school for me,” Christen said.

“May I ask why?” Tobin asked.

“There was just so much pressure in college, you know? You’re supposed to decide what you wanna do for the rest of your life before you even turn 20. I struggled a lot with that. I think I was always told I should become a doctor or a lawyer, especially because I went to a school like Stanford, but I just didn’t know at the time what I wanted to do. No clue whatsoever. So it was like this thing that was looming over my head that I needed to decide and I wasn’t ready for it. It made those early college years kind of miserable. But everything turned out okay, I guess,” Christen chuckled.

Tobin nodded in understanding. “I felt that, too. But the pressure was offset by all the cute girls, so I still had a lot of fun,” Tobin said laughing.

“Oh, I bet you were very popular with the ladies in college,” Christen said.

“I did alright,” Tobin said modestly even though she did more than alright. ”I bet you were popular in that department, too.”

“Yeah, I did alright, too,” Christen admitted, not elaborating that she was asked out on a date at least once a week during her entire college experience.

“Plus, I met Amanda there, so it became a more meaningful time for me when I look back on it,” Tobin said wistfully.

Christen smiled. She could see that Tobin truly loved Amanda.

“Did you date only girls in college?” Tobin asked.

“I wouldn’t say I dated in college. More like hooked up. I didn’t have time for any real relationships. My freshman year, I hooked up with both guys and girls. But by my sophomore year, I realized that I was just really so damn gay and I never thought about being with a guy ever again,” Christen said.

Tobin chuckled. “So damn gay, huh.”

“Yep, so so gay,” Christen said laughing. “How about you? When did you realize you were gay?”

“Junior year in high school. I’d thought about girls long before that, of course. But I didn’t know what it all meant. Then in my junior year, I lost my virginity to this boy and the sex was so bad. I mean, yeah, he was just a boy and maybe he’s better at it now,” Tobin said laughing. “But that’s when I really put it all together and thought that boys repulsed me and that was that,” Tobin said.

Christen tried not to laugh. “I’m sorry you had a bad experience.”

“Yeah, well, I’m glad I did because then I finally stopped kidding myself,” Tobin said.

“That’s true,” Christen said. “I found that the sex was way more intimate with women. Guys would just, like, only think about getting off as quickly as possible, not caring whether I had an orgasm or not. Whereas most of the girls that I was with took their time. It was…nice.”

Tobin’s mind was reeling from the turn the conversation had taken, happy that she didn’t have food in her mouth or she might have choked to death right then. Hearing Christen talk about having sex and orgasms was…overwhelming.

“Yeah, I, uh, like to take my time, too,” Tobin said, recovering enough to squeak out an answer.

Christen looked at Tobin and swallowed hard. She could just imagine those pouty lips and big, strong hands taking their time to roam all over her body. ‘Shit. Now now, Christen,’ she thought to herself.

“Okay, how about Betty or Veronica?” Christen asked smiling, picking up on Tobin’s uneasiness and attempting to calm her own body down.

“Betty all the way!” Tobin said, grateful for the change in subject. “You?”

“I’m with you on that one. I’m not much into blondes, but Betty all the way,” Christen agreed smiling some more.

“Okay, last one since I’m sure you’re very busy. Picnic on the beach or a hike in the mountains?” Tobin asked.

Christen gave it some thought. “You know, being born and raised in LA, the beach was my backyard. I had always imagined getting married on the beach, but obviously that never happened. But Emma and I went on a hike when we first got here and we actually loved it. So I would say my answer will always be the beach, but a hike would be a great alternative,” Christen said.

“Beach for me, too,” Tobin said.

“Really?” Christen asked in surprise.

“Yeah, definitely. My family and I used to vacation in Rhode Island every summer and I loved it. My grandparents had a place there. I have a lot of great memories there and the water just gives me a feeling of peace,” Tobin said.

“I know what you mean,” Christen said. “I miss my family so much.”

“That’s gotta be hard being so far away from them,” Tobin said.

“Yeah,” Christen said wistfully. “I’m definitely guilty of taking for granted that they’ve always been there, especially when Emma was younger and I needed a lot of help. Moving here just makes me realize that I had so much help.”

Tobin nodded. “Do you think you’d move back someday?” she asked, but perhaps not really wanting to know the answer if Christen were to say yes.

Christen looked at Tobin thoughtfully. “I don’t know. I mean I’ll never close the door on LA or any other place, really. But I really love Portland so far, so we’ll see. My career might dictate my next move, but I’m trying not to constantly uproot Emma, especially heading into her teenage years. I can see that really backfiring if I keep moving her to one new school after another. She supported me on this move, but that might not always be the case if we keep moving just so I can keep climbing up the corporate ladder. It wouldn’t be worth the strain it would put on our relationship.”

Tobin smiled. She really admired the way Christen was able to juggle everything and put her daughter at the forefront of all her decisions.

“Well Portland is happy to have you,” Tobin said. “And so am I,” she added.

Christen blushed. “I’m happy to be here, too.”

Tobin didn’t want the conversation to end. She’d been there for an hour and a half and she would have been perfectly fine just staying there the rest of the afternoon, but she knew she had to go at some point.

“I know I said that was the last one, but do you have a middle name?” Tobin asked.

Christen smiled and nodded. “Annemarie,” she replied.

“Christen Annemarie. That’s really pretty,” Tobin said, leaving out the ‘like you’ that she wanted to say at the end of that statement.

“Thanks,” Christen said blushing. “How about you?”

“I don’t really have a second name. It’s just my mom’s maiden name, Powell,” Tobin said.

“Tobin Powell Heath,” Christen said with a smile. “I like it.”

“At least when you say it I don’t feel like I’m in trouble,” Tobin said laughing.

“Definitely not,” Christen giggled.

Tobin grinned and took a drink of water. “Well I’m really gonna get going. I’ve already taken up too much of your time. I’m sure you’re very busy,” she said.

“No, I really appreciate you stopping by. This was a really nice break and very sweet of you, so thank you,” Christen said sincerely.

“You’re welcome,” Tobin said. “So Tobin Tuesday was good?” she asked as they both stood up.

“Tobin Tuesday was awesome,” Christen confirmed.

“I’m glad,” Tobin said.

“Hey, since you stopped by my work, I’d love to stop by yours sometime, too,” Christen said genuinely.

“Really?” Tobin asked as her eyes lit up.

“Really,” Christen confirmed. “I’d love to see some of your work and your process. I’ve never seen a living, breathing art studio with the artist at work.”

“Really?” Tobin asked again.

Christen chuckled and it took all her self-restraint not to reach out and pull Tobin into her. She was just genuinely so nice to be around and so cute.

“Really,” Christen said.

Tobin couldn’t help the big smile that involuntarily formed on her face. Christen was probably one of the busiest women in corporate America and here she was, wanting to learn about her process of creating. She really was something else.

“Okay, that would be nice,” Tobin said. “I’ll send you the address.”

“Cool,” Christen said smiling.

“Have a good rest of your day,” Tobin said as they both stood up.

“Thanks, you too,” Christen said.

Without hesitating this time, Tobin closed the distance between them and pulled Christen into a warm hug.

“I’ll see ya, boss lady Press,” Tobin teased.

Christen laughed in Tobin’s arms. “I’ll see ya, dork.”

————

“Hey Chris!” Pinoe said cheerfully when Christen opened her front door later that night.

“P? Did we have a date I forgot about?” Christen asked as she looked at her watch and saw that it was just a little after 9pm.

“Nope, I’m just here to get the scoop on this Tobin Heath hottie that stopped by today,” Pinoe grinned.

Christen rolled her eyes. Of course Pinoe would show up unannounced and corner her into talking about Tobin. She should have been annoyed, but she really did need to speak with someone about this. She had planned on calling her sister, Tyler, but had not yet had a chance. She stepped aside and let Pinoe in.

“Have you had dinner? Where’s Sue?” Christen asked.

“Yeah, I already ate. Sue’s at home. She’s got an early day at work tomorrow,” Pinoe replied.

“And I don’t?” Christen asked with a raised eyebrow.

“You do, but the night’s still early,” Pinoe said as she handed Christen the bottle of wine she brought and held up a can of Pringles Original chips, one of Christen’s guilty junk food pleasures that she could never resist.

“We’re drinking?” Christen asked.

“If I’m going to get good information out of you, yes, we’re drinking,” Pinoe said laughing.

Christen rolled her eyes again and sighed.

“Aren’t you afraid of getting fired?” Christen asked as she walked to the bar area to grab a couple of wine glasses.

“Nope, not at all. My boss is pretty cool. And she loves me, so she’d never fire me. She actually can’t live without me,” Pinoe said confidently.

Christen had to laugh and shake her head because it was true. “I hate you,” she said.

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s drink,” Pinoe said as they made their way to the family room.

“One glass,” Christen said as she let Pinoe pour a glass for her. .

“Emma in bed?” Pinoe asked.

“Not yet, but soon,” Christen replied.

When both glasses were filled, they sat down on the couch. Christen took a sip of her wine, waiting for Pinoe to start the conversation since she certainly wasn’t about to.

“So, tell me everything,” Pinoe said.

Christen laughed. “There’s not much to tell,” she lied.

“Bullshit. I saw your face when she walked into your office. It lit up like I’ve never seen it before,” Pinoe said.

Christen groaned. “Was I that obvious?” she asked.

“Kinda,” Pinoe said chuckling.

“Ugh. I might need more than one glass,” Christen grumbled.

“That’s the spirit!” Pinoe said enthusiastically.

Christen proceeded to tell Pinoe all about Tobin and the complexity of the situation. It felt good to open up to Pinoe to get her thoughts on it. This was new territory for her, having never dealt with feelings for someone who might still be grieving and not ready to move on from their late partner. It had been so long since she’s felt this way about someone. And if she really thought about it, she’s probably never felt this way about anyone before.

“I just…I just wish I didn’t like her so much. Then maybe this wouldn’t be so hard,” Christen said.

“You don’t mean that. It’s a good thing that you like her. You seem really happy around her. Even if she isn’t ready to be with you, at least she seems to be a really great person,” Pinoe said, trying to find some positives that Christen could hang on to.

Christen sighed. “I know. You’re right. I’m just anxious about it all because I like her so much. You know I like to be in control and I would ask her out right now if it were up to me,” she said, rolling her eyes at herself.

“I know, I know. You’re anxious to get laid,” Pinoe joked.

“It’s not like that,” Christen defended.

“Chris, I’m kidding,” Pinoe said seriously. “I know she’s special to you and it sounds like she’s probably into you. Just give her time. I’m sure she’ll come around.”

“I hope you’re right,” Christen said as she finished off her first glass of wine and sighed.

————

On Friday night, after tennis practice, Christen and Tobin sat on the grass of an empty soccer field and laced up their boots while Jordan and Emma kicked the ball around.

“Do you need a few minutes to stretch?” Christen taunted Tobin.

“No, I do not,” Tobin scoffed, but then gave it some thought. “Actually, yes, I do. I’m almost 40. I should definitely stretch,” she said, quickly changing her tune.

Christen laughed as Tobin stood up and started stretching. She tried not to stare at Tobin’s legs which were right in front of her and she tried not to salivate over her muscular arms. She imagined how incredible the rest of Tobin’s body must be and it made her own body temperature rise.

“You ready?” Tobin asked when Christen got distracted looking at her while tying her shoes.

Christen cleared her throat. “Oh, yeah, give me a few minutes,” she said as she finished tying her shoes.

When she was done, she stood up and also stretched her near-40-year-old body. Tobin took notice and stared at Christen while she was bent over, appreciating just how perfect her backside was and how long her legs were. Christen wasn’t wearing yoga pants, but the shorts that she was wearing left little to Tobin’s imagination. They were very short and hugged Christen’s ass so perfectly. And her tank top wasn’t helping matters either. She came to the conclusion that Christen was irresistible no matter what she was wearing.

“Okay, sorry, I’m ready,” Christen said after a few minutes.

Tobin continued to stare.

“Tob, you okay?” Christen asked, waving a hand in front of her.

“Yeah, sorry,” Tobin said, snapping out of it.

“Okay,” Christen said with a little smirk.

“So just full sprint all the way to the other end?” Tobin asked.

“Yep,” Christen said.

Tobin couldn’t believe she was doing this. She hadn’t sprinted against anyone in over twenty years. She suddenly couldn’t think of what possessed her to challenge Christen to this. This was going to be the most painful eighty yards of her life.

“Go mom!” Emma cheered for Christen.

“You can do it, mom!” Jordan cheered for Tobin.

Too late for Tobin to back out now. Christen and Tobin both waved to their respective daughters and got into their ready position.

“I’m gonna say ‘one, two, three, go,’ and you guys go on ‘go,’ okay?” Jordan called out.

Both moms gave her a thumbs up, focused on the other end of the field where Emma was waiting to judge the winner in case it was a photo finish.

“Okay, one, two, three, go!” Jordan shouted.

Tobin was in trouble from the get-go. Christen was so fast off the starting line that it seemed like she was a blur. By the time Tobin found her speed, Christen was already a few steps ahead of her and more than halfway down the field.

“Go mom!” Christen could hear Emma.

Christen felt good coming out of the block, but as she was halfway through, she could feel herself sucking air like she’d never done before, her body in shock at the sudden burst of speed it was moving with. But she was determined to beat Tobin, her competitiveness rearing its ugly head.

“Keep going, mom!” Jordan encouraged Tobin.

Christen didn’t let up and found another gear in the final twenty yards. Tobin had told her not to go easy on her and her competitive nature got the better of her anyway and she ran as fast as she could. Tobin grimaced as she tried to keep up with Christen, but the other woman was just too fast. Christen smiled and raised her arms as she crossed the finish line ahead of Tobin by a few seconds.

“Yeah, mom!” Emma said as she ran up to Christen and jumped into her arms.

“Whoa!” Christen said, barely able to catch her near-teenage daughter.

“That was awesome!” Emma said excitedly.

Christen tried to catch her breath. “Thanks, baby,” she said as she hunched over and rested her hands on her knees, completely out of breath.

Jordan ran up to Tobin and hugged her mother. “I’ve never seen you run that fast, mom! That was awesome!” she said excitedly.

“Thanks, sweetheart. But Ms. Christen is apparently Flo-Jo,” Tobin said laughing while also hunched over trying to catch her breath.

Christen laughed at Tobin’s exaggeration.

“Who’s Flo-Jo?” Jordan asked.

“The fastest woman ever,” Tobin said.

“Oh,” Jordan said. “That was such a cool race, though!” she said to both of them.

Emma and Jordan let their mothers catch their breaths as they kicked a ball around.

When Christen’s breathing was close to returning to normal, she walked over to Tobin with a satisfied smile on her face. Tobin saw her approaching and stood up straight with her hands on her hips, smiling back at her.

“Good race, Heath,” Christen congratulated her opponent, still breathing heavily.

“I didn’t pull anything and I’m still up on both feet, so I consider that a win,” Tobin joked, barely able to get any words out. “Nice run, Press.”

Tobin held her arms out and Christen closed the gap for a congratulatory hug. Christen’s arms wrapped around Tobin’s neck and Tobin’s arms wrapped around Christen’s waist, with her right hand lightly brushing her ass and coming to rest on the small sliver of skin that was exposed when Christen lifted her arms around Tobin. Tobin’s mouth was resting against the side of Christen’s neck, nuzzled in one of Christen’s most sensitive spots.

There was a hitch in Christen’s breath when she felt where Tobin’s hands and mouth had landed. Her body reacted to the contact and they breathed heavily into each other, neither wanting to let go. Tobin’s hand lightly squeezed Christen’s waist, the feeling of her skin so soft against her hand. If they weren’t in a public place with their daughters looking on, Tobin might have let her hands roam, but she kept them where they were and just enjoyed the stillness of the contact with Christen.

“You called it. You smoked me,” Tobin said into Christen’s neck.

Christen giggled into her and a jolt coursed through Tobin’s body. From the moment she met her, Christen had an effect on her that was unlike anything else she’d ever felt. Holding her in her arms like this felt so good and feeling her body shake from her cute little giggle was enough to send Tobin into a tailspin.

“I still got it, I guess,” Christen said.

They slowly let go of each other, reluctantly, and backed away from each other.

“If you’re this fast now, I can just imagine how fast you were in high school,” Tobin marveled.

“I may have been the state record-holder in the 100 and 200 meters when I graduated,” Christen said coyly.

Tobin furrowed her brows. She definitely hadn’t known what she’d gotten herself into.

“So yoga pants or not, you’re saying I never had a chance,” Tobin concluded.

Christen shook her head and grinned. “No, you never did.”

————

Chapter Text

Christen hit backspace on her keyboard and deleted the entire sentence she had just typed and sighed, taking her glasses off in frustration. She’d been trying to send an email for the past half hour and she just couldn’t type anything out that made any sense. She was having a hard time focusing and it was frustrating her to no end. She usually prided herself in having exceptional focus, but her mind was currently failing her. It was failing her because it currently had one singular focus: Tobin Powell Heath.

Tobin had been on Christen’s mind all week. It was Thursday which meant that she would be seeing her the following day and she was growing very anxious about it. If she was being completely honest with herself, she was anxious because she missed her. She’d been stuck at dinner meetings at the office all week with the rest of the executive team to do a final sign off on the budget for the next fiscal year. That meant that she hadn’t had any time with Emma, who was more than happy to hang out with Pinoe rather than a babysitter, and she hadn’t had much time to spend on the phone with Tobin, which had become a bit of a routine for them. She hadn’t seen Tobin since last Friday and the thought of having to wait another 24 hours to see her felt like torture.

Giving up on getting her email sent before her next meeting, she picked up her phone and went to her favorites on her contacts list. She scrolled and tapped her sister’s name, waiting for her to pick up.

“Hey!” Tyler answered the FaceTime call excitedly.

“Hey Ty,” Christen said in a less-than-excited tone.

“What’s wrong?” Tyler asked, sensing right away that something was off.

“Why would you think something was wrong?” Christen asked.

“Well, first of all, you sound like something’s wrong. And second of all, I know you’re going a mile a minute at your new job, so you don’t just randomly call out of the blue these days,” Tyler said.

Christen felt a sudden wave of guilt. Ever since they moved and she started her new job, she hadn’t been in touch with her family in California as much as she would have liked. With work being so busy and Tobin on her mind all the time, the days and weeks have gone by without her calling her family to check in with them. There were only random group texts with them, but other than that, they hadn’t talked much in the last couple of months. But she had a little more time before her next meeting and she really needed to speak with her big sister.

“I’m sorry I haven’t called much. If you ever wanna talk, just please call me. The days just get away from me,” Christen said. “But I’ll try to do better.”

“You don’t have to apologize. I know how busy you are,” Tyler said. “But are you gonna tell me what’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s great, actually,” Christen said.

“Okay…so why do you sound all doom and gloom?” Tyler asked.

“Because…” Christen hesitated.

If she was going to get any help on the Tobin situation, she was going to have to open up.

“Because what?” Tyler asked patiently.

“Because…I really like someone and I haven’t told her how I feel,” Christen finally said.

“What? Who?” Tyler asked, surprised by the serious look on her sister’s face.

“Her name is Tobin and she’s the mom of the girl who plays tennis with Emma,” Christen said.

“Okay, so I’ll ask the obvious question. Does she not know you like her because she’s not into women?” Tyler asked.

“No, I’ve confirmed she’s into women,” Christen said.

“Okay, is she with someone else?” Tyler asked.

“Nope, she’s as single as can be,” Christen said.

“Okay, help me out here, Chris, what am I missing?” Tyler asked.

Christen sighed, unsure of what Tyler will say once she hears the story. Will she tell her to leave Tobin alone? Or will she tell her to go for it? She was afraid of what the answer might be, but she wasn’t going to get anywhere unless she started talking, so she took a deep breath and spoke.

“It’s kind of complicated. Like I said, she has a daughter, which isn’t the complicated part. The complicated part is that her partner died at childbirth twelve years ago and emotionally, I’m not sure that she’s available. I feel like we have this amazing chemistry and we’ve kind of been flirting a bit lately, but she hasn’t asked me out and I would be mortified if I asked her out and she said no,” Christen said.

“Wow, okay. That’s heavy,” Tyler said. “How long ago did you two meet?” she asked.

“A little less than two months ago,” Christen said. “She’s just so…amazing, Ty.”

“Are you in love with this woman?” Tyler asked.

Christen furrowed her brows. The fact that her answer wasn’t an immediate ‘no’ surprised her. But it wasn’t that crazy of a thought to her when she really thinks about it. She feels like she’s being swept completely off her feet.

“I don’t know. I mean I could be. I don’t know. It’s confusing. I don’t know if I’m in love with her, but my feelings for her are really strong,” Christen admitted.

“Wow, that’s pretty quick, Chris,” Tyler said.

“I know it is and you probably think I’m crazy. And when I say it out loud, it sounds insane for my feelings to be moving this quickly. How could I possibly be falling in love with her? But when I’m around her, it all makes sense. It’s just something I feel inside me,” Christen said, her voice agonizingly desperate.

“So you think she hasn’t asked you out yet because she’s not emotionally ready to go out with you?” Tyler asked.

Christen shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. Maybe? I’m not sure.”

“What are you gonna do about it?” Tyler asked.

“I don’t know,” Christen said. “I was hoping you’d have some sage advice for me,” she said laughing uneasily.

Tyler sighed. She’d never heard Christen talk about anyone this way and she wasn’t sure if it was a good or bad thing given that she’d only known this woman for less than two months.

“Look, Chris, I don’t want you to get hurt. My advice would be to take your cues from Tobin. It might take some time, though, from what it sounds like. Let her take the lead. I know you usually like to be the one driving, but this is different. She’s got to come to you,” Tyler said.

“Yeah,” Christen agreed.

There was a moment of silence between them as Christen pondered her options.

“So…tell me about her,” Tyler said, interrupting Christen’s thoughts.

“She’s incredible, Ty. Her daughter is the same age as Emma. Her name is Jordan and she’s really sweet and funny. Tobin’s an artist, so she has her own work hours and she surprised me with lunch at work last week, which was really sweet. She called it ‘Tobin Tuesday.’ I mean, how much cuter could she get? She’s super funny, great sense of humor, she’s smart, thoughtful, she’s a great mom, she loves sports, and she’s incredibly…painfully sexy. Like I don’t know how I’ve kept my self-control,” Christen said with a chuckle.

“Someone has it bad,” Tyler teased.

“You have no idea,” Christen said. “This has never happened to me and it’s driving me crazy that it feels like she’s so close and yet so far.”

“Do you think she’d ever be able to let her partner go? What vibe are you getting?” Tyler asked.

For Christen, that was really the million dollar question for which she had no answer. Yes, Tobin seemed to be attracted to her, but was she ready for a relationship? Based on her not having asked her out on a date so far, it could be a while before she would get an answer. That’s what was keeping her up at night. For all the ways that she usually had the answers in a business setting and in other aspects of her life, she had no clue on how to deal with her feelings for Tobin or how to read the situation.

“I don’t know. Her partner sounded like an amazing person and I don’t wanna replace her, but I don’t know if Tobin thinks that that’s what would happen if we were to start something,” Christen said sadly. “I just don’t want her to think I’m trying to replace anyone. That’s obviously not what I’m after.”

Tyler nodded. “I’m sure deep down she knows that. It’s probably just a matter of getting over that hurdle. Of accepting her feelings for you and going forward with it. It sounds like she really likes you if she’s surprising you with lunch at work.”

“I’m pretty confident she likes me. But you’re right. There’s a hurdle and she needs to figure out how to get past it,” Christen sighed. “I just…I like her so damn much.”

Tyler gave her a subdued smile. “Sounds like you’re in trouble.”

Christen nodded in agreement. “I’m definitely in trouble.”

————

“Mom, don’t forget, okay?” Jordan asked Tobin for what seemed like the tenth time in the last hour.

“Jordy, for the last time, I promise, I won’t forget,” Tobin said.

“Okay, just want to make sure,” Jordan said.

Tobin chuckled as she pulled into the parking lot and saw Christen and Emma getting out of their car. The sight of Christen again brought a smile to her face, much to Jordan’s delight, who was watching her mother’s reaction from the passenger seat.

“Okay, have a good practice, I’ll see you in there in a little bit,” Tobin said as she put the car in park.

“Okay, see ya,” Jordan said, more than happy to let her mom and Ms. Christen have some time alone.

Tobin turned the car off as Christen leaned against her car, waiting for Tobin to come out of hers. Christen crossed her arms and watched Tobin, a smile creeping across her face at the sight of her. Tobin opened her door and greeted her with a big smile of her own.

“Hey,” Tobin said casually as she approached Christen even though she was a ball of nervous energy just looking at the gorgeous woman in front of her.

“Hey yourself,” Christen said. “Looks like you’re back to walking normally,” she joked.

The morning after their race, Tobin called Christen on FaceTime, a first for them, and groaned into the phone when Christen answered.

“Why didn’t you stop me when I lost my mind and challenged you to a race? Everything hurts,” Tobin whined as she laid on her side and held the phone with her left hand. “Even my hair hurts.”

Christen couldn’t help but laugh at Tobin’s dramatics. She found herself smiling despite the fact that her own legs were a bit sore from running so hard the previous day. It made her thankful it was the weekend and she and Emma didn’t need to be anywhere but home.

“Aww poor baby,” Christen replied softly. “But I did remind you that it probably wasn’t a good idea for you to do that.”

Tobin pouted and Christen melted at the cutest face she’d ever seen on a human that wasn’t her daughter’s.

“I seem to recall you promising that you’d be my nurse if I hurt myself trying to outrun you,” Tobin whined some more.

Christen chuckled. Tobin was so darn cute when she was whiny and she loved seeing this side of her.

“Did you hurt yourself or are you just sore?” Christen asked. “Because if you’re just sore, I think you can manage just fine without me,” she said teasingly.

Tobin pouted some more and it was almost enough to get Christen to get out of bed despite her own struggles that morning.

Tobin looked at Christen who was also laying down on her side, with her wild curls framing her face. She looked radiant, even with her sleep-tousled hair. It made her wonder what it might be like to wake up next to her, wrapped up in Christen’s arms, and kiss her first thing in the morning.

“Fine,” Tobin relented. “I’m just sore, but I still think you should be my nurse,” she said defiantly.

Christen chuckled and shook her head, “I’m sure you do.”

Tobin closed the distance between them and stopped in front of Christen, making sure to leave a safe amount of space between her and the prettiest face she’s ever seen.

“Barely. I just finally stopped limping yesterday,” Tobin said jokingly even though she had been fully recovered by Sunday night.

Christen wanted to reach out and hug Tobin, remembering the feeling of Tobin’s arms around her last week, but she stopped herself, thinking about her conversation with Tyler.

“Uh huh,” Christen said with a smirk.

“I’m much better now that it’s Friday,” Tobin said, having a difficult time not moving any closer into Christen’s space, the implication of her statement not lost on Christen.

“So are you done with all your budget stuff?” Tobin asked, hoping that Christen would be back to working normal hours.

“Yes, thank god. I told them I wasn’t staying past four today,” Christen said chuckling. She definitely wasn’t about to miss out on seeing Tobin today.

“Good, I’m glad,” Tobin said with a smile.

They just looked at each other for a few moments, so many words dying to be said. Christen’s eyes drifted down to Tobin’s lips and she suddenly couldn’t breathe. Tobin’s proximity was suffocating her in the best way, but she had to distract herself to keep from passing out.

“This is cute,” Christen said, reaching out to look at the necklace Tobin was wearing.

When Christen’s fingers brushed Tobin’s skin, a fire was immediately lit inside her which involuntarily made her take a step closer to Christen. Tobin told herself it’s just so Christen could have a better look at her necklace, of course. Nothing else. Christen’s ability to make her weak was unlike anything she’d ever known. Tobin looked down at her necklace in Christen’s delicate hand and then looked into her favorite pair of green eyes.

“Thanks. Jordan made it for me at school when she was five for Mother’s Day,” Tobin said. “I don’t use it a lot because I don’t want it to break, but she used to ask me, with the biggest pout on her face, why I never wore what she made me, so I reinforced it a bit with some crazy glue and started using it every once in a while,” she said chuckling.

Christen could feel herself falling. Falling every day. With every word that Tobin spoke, she could feel herself getting in deep and it was becoming harder and harder not to let it show. But it was too fast. This was too fast and she didn’t want to rush Tobin.

“That’s really sweet,” Christen said as she broke their eye contact, the moment too heavy on her heart. She cleared her throat and let the necklace go.

“Oh, before I forget, do you have any plans next Saturday?” Tobin asked.

“I don’t think so, let me check,” Christen said as she pulled her phone out of her pocket to look at her calendar.

“No, it doesn’t look like we have any plans,” Christen said. “What’s going on Saturday?”

Christen hoped she sounded as casual as she hoped her body language was showing. She couldn’t help but wonder if Tobin was about to ask her out or if she was asking for some other reason.

“It’s Jordan’s birthday,” Tobin said. “She wanted to see if you guys would be able to come have dinner with us and play some mini golf. Nothing big. Just me and Jordan and my friends Ash and Ali. Jordan wanted to hang out with Emma.”

Christen smiled, thinking of how sweet it was of Jordan to want to hang out with Emma on her birthday. And she was, of course, thrilled at the chance to hang out with Tobin outside of tennis practice and work.

“We would love to,” Christen said. “So you won’t be seeing your parents then?” she asked, not that she was keeping track of when Tobin would be in and out of town. Of course not. That would be weird, right?

“No, apparently this is what the birthday girl wants to do. She talked to my parents and everything. We’ll see them the week after her birthday and we’ll see Amanda’s parents tonight,” Tobin said chuckling.

“Are Amanda’s parents nearby?” Christen asked.

“Yep, they’re in Beaverton,” Tobin said.

Christen smiled. “That’s great that you take her to see them,” she said.

“Yeah, they’ve been nothing but good to me,” Tobin said. “And it’s what Amanda would have wanted.”

Christen thought about what trauma that must have been for Amanda’s parents, too. Just thinking about it makes Christen’s heart break for them.

Christen gave Tobin a small smile. “You’re a great mom and must have been a wonderful partner to Amanda.”

“I did my best,” Tobin said.

“I’m sure you did,” Christen said.

“So can I tell the birthday girl that you guys will be there?” Tobin asked again to confirm, trying not to sound too excited at the prospect of spending more time with Christen.

Christen smiled. “Yes, definitely. We’d love to join you. I’m putting it in my calendar right now,” she said, entering the information into her phone.

“Cool. We’re thinking dinner at around 5:30 and mini golf under the lights,” Tobin said.

“Sounds fun!” Christen said.

“We can meet there or we can pick you guys up if you’d like,” Tobin offered.

“We’d love a ride,” Christen said. “Better for the environment.”

‘Smooth, Christen,’ she thought to herself.

“Perfect, we’ll pick you up around 5:15. It’s not too far of a drive,” Tobin said.

“Sounds good. Emma’s going to be so excited when I tell her,” Christen said.

“Um, I think Emma already knows, actually,” Tobin said.

“What do you mean?” Christen asked with furrowed brows.

“I, uh, I think they came up with the plan together at school,” Tobin said chuckling. “Jordan told me about it yesterday and she’s told me a hundred times not to forget to ask you if you can come.”

“Oh, I see,” Christen said laughing. “Well I’m glad I’m the last to know.”

“They seem to be getting along really well,” Tobin said.

“Yeah, I’m so glad,” Christen said. “Though we might want to be careful about how much time they spend together. They may plot against us one day.”

Tobin laughed. “I don’t doubt it. They probably already are.”

“I guess we’d better head over there,” Christen said, not really wanting to, but running out of reasons to stay in the parking lot.

“I guess so,” Tobin said as she backed off a step.

“I’m just gonna get my water,” Christen said as she turned back, opened her car door, and reached in.

Christen was wearing shorts again today. Short shorts that exposed so much smooth skin as she reached inside her car. Tobin ended up staring yet again, positive that Christen was purposely doing it to drive her crazy. If she was, it was absolutely working and she liked it. Her legs were impossibly long and her ass was the very definition of perfection.

Christen turned back around and shut her door as Tobin pretended to look anywhere but in Christen’s direction.

“Ready?” Christen asked with a smile, knowing Tobin had been staring at her backside again.

Tobin was much too cute for her own good. She was the perfect combination of sexy and adorable and Christen knew she wouldn’t stand a chance if Tobin were to ever decide to really turn on the charm.

“Yep,” Tobin said blushing as she cleared her throat.

****————
****————

“Hi!” Barbara, Amanda’s mom, greeted Jordan and Tobin excitedly when she opened the door.

“Grandma!” Jordan squealed as she gave her grandmother a big hug.

“Hi sweetheart,” Barbara said, holding Jordan tightly.

“Hi Barb,” Tobin said smiling.

“Hi Tobs,” Barb said warmly as she gave her a heartfelt hug.

“Where’s Ken?” Tobin asked.

“He’s finishing up in the kitchen. Come, come,” Barb told them as she made her way back to the kitchen.

Tobin and Jordan followed Barb as they walked through the family room on the way to the kitchen. Tobin smiled and reached her hand out toward the mantle on the fireplace and gently ran her fingers through the photo of Amanda on display as if to say hi before continuing on to the kitchen.

“There are my girls!” Ken said cheerfully.

“Sofu!” Jordan said to her grandfather as she ran to him.

“Hi angel,” Ken said lovingly.

“Hey Ken,” Tobin said to him.

“Hi Tob,” Ken said as he pulled her into a warm embrace. “Good to see you.”

“Good to see you, too,” Tobin said with a genuine smile.

The first few years after Amanda’s death, it was always an emotionally draining experience seeing Amanda’s parents. All their emotions were still so raw and none of them had gotten to a place of acceptance that she was gone forever. These days, they were able to laugh and really enjoy each other’s company despite the gaping hole that Amanda’s absence had left in their lives.

“Dinner’s on the table, so go ahead and have a seat. I’m just getting some wine,” Ken said.

“Okay,” Tobin said as they all made their way to the dining room to sit down.

“So how’s school going, Jordy?” Ken asked.

“It’s really good so far. I like my teachers,” Jordan said.

“Well that’s good,” Ken said. “Make sure you get good grades. I’ll take you to the mall or Target if you ace your first test,” he said with a wink.

Tobin chuckled and shook her head. She found it amusing how all of Jordan’s grandparents would find any excuse to buy her something.

“Really?” Jordan’s eyes lit up.

“Really!” Ken said cheerfully.

“Okay, Sofu, I’ll study my butt off to get an A,” Jordan vowed.

“That’s my girl,” Ken said lovingly.

Tobin couldn’t help but smile. Looking at Barb and Ken, she was reminded of how much Amanda had been the perfect combination of her parents. They were much older now, but she could still see Amanda’s features in both of them.

Tobin was brought back to the conversation as Jordan spoke.

“Oh, mom, were you able to ask Ms. Christen if they can make it on Saturday?” Jordan asked while they ate dinner.

Tobin laughed, not at all shocked that Jordan had somehow brought Christen up in conversation once again. She was sure that Barb and Ken would be asking her questions about Christen now. She thought for a moment about playing a joke on her daughter and telling her she forgot to ask Christen, but thought better of it.

“Yes, I asked her,” Tobin said as she took a bite of her food, keeping Jordan in suspense.

“And?” Jordan asked, anxiously wanting confirmation.

“And yes, they will be there,” Tobin said.

“Awesome,” Jordan said, trying to hide her excitement.

“We’ll pick them up and head over together,” Tobin said as she picked up her glass to drink.

“Is this the Ms. Christen that’s really pretty?” Barb asked innocently.

Tobin choked on her water and coughed at Barb’s words.

“Are you okay, dear?” Barb asked, highly amused at Tobin’s reaction at the mere mention of the woman Jordan had mentioned to them several times over FaceTime.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Tobin said coughing as she put her glass back down. “How do you already know about…actually, never mind. I know how you know,” she said, glaring at her daughter.

“What? Grandma asked how you were doing and I told her about Ms. Christen,” Jordan said.

Tobin rolled her eyes. Of course she did.

“Did ya ask her out, Tob?” Ken asked in a hopeful tone.

“No, of course not. I’m not asking Christen out,” Tobin said defensively, unsure of that statement herself.

It was strange enough for Tobin to think about another woman after being alone for so long, but downright painful to talk about her with her late partner’s parents. It was just too awkward and she wanted to crawl under the table and hide. She liked Christen. She liked her a lot. She was comfortable enough inviting her to Jordan’s birthday festivities, knowing there would be a few other people there as a buffer to keep things light, but she wasn’t quite in the right headspace to be asking her out on a date. Just the two of them. With the expectation of something more. That felt like an entirely different scenario that Tobin didn’t feel ready for just yet.

“Oh okay,” Ken nodded, sensing Tobin’s discomfort with everyone looking at her, making a note to ask her about it later and just dropping the subject for now.

————

After dinner, Jordan and Barb decided to make some brownies together while Tobin and Ken sat outside on the patio with their beers in hand.

“Nice night tonight,” Ken said.

It was a cool night, the temperatures starting to dip as the season shifts from summer to fall.

“Mmhmm,” Tobin agreed as she took a drink.

“So how are you doing, Tob?” Ken asked. “And don’t just tell me you’re ‘good.’ I wanna know how you’re really doing.”

Tobin smirked at Ken. He knew her too well to ever let her get away with some generic answer. Even though they never became related through marriage, Tobin considered Ken and Barb her in-laws in all the ways they would have been if she and Amanda had eventually gotten married.

“I’m doing well, actually, and that’s the honest truth,” Tobin said.

Ken nodded and smiled at her, deciding to believe her.

“So you know I have to ask about Christen, right? Jordy can’t stop talking about her,” Ken said chuckling. “She was so excited telling us about her. ‘Sofu, you’ll never believe how pretty my friend’s mom is. Sofu, I think my mom and Ms. Christen would be so cute together. Ms. Christen this, Ms. Christen that.’ She really can’t stop talking about her. I’ve never seen her this excited about anyone before,” he said, highly amused.

Tobin chuckled and sighed. She could just picture Jordan gushing over how sweet Christen was. Not that any of it would have been a lie. Christen truly was remarkable in every way.

“I know. She’s been telling everyone about her and I think if circumstances were different, I probably would have asked her out by now,” Tobin said, looking down at her beer.

“What circumstances would those be?” Ken asked.

“I’m not ready to start dating anyone,” Tobin said.

The truth was that Tobin wasn’t just not ready to start dating anyone. She wasn’t ready to start dating Christen specifically because of what it might mean. She could see herself really getting serious about her…and maybe even falling in love with her. And that was a scary thought. That would mean moving on completely from Amanda and she wasn’t sure she’d arrived at that point in her life. Up until two months ago, she never even thought of it as a possibility.

Ken sighed, but smiled. He knew that’s what Tobin was going to say. He had watched her shut herself off completely from finding love after Amanda. But from what his granddaughter had told him about Christen, he knew there was something worth pursuing there.

“Mandy’s been gone for almost twelve years, Tobin. You’ve gotta allow yourself to move on at some point. She wouldn’t have wanted you to be alone for all these years,” Ken implored.

“I’m not alone,” Tobin said quickly.

“You know what I mean,” Ken replied. “Do you see yourself with Christen? Does she make you laugh? Does she make you happy?” he asked.

“Yeah, but…” Tobin started to argue.

“But what?” Ken cut her off. “But it’s too soon? I can tell you, it’s definitely not too soon. And I’m afraid if you don’t act now, it might be too late. From what Jordan has told us, Christen sounds wonderful. I’d really hate for you to miss out on something that could be good for you.”

Tobin was silent. Deep down, she knew Ken was right, but she hadn’t been ready to hear these words from him.

“Look, I’m sorry. I don’t want to tell you what to do. But speaking as the father of the woman you loved and lost, it’s time. It’s not just time. It’s way past time, Tob. It’s time for you to go find happiness again. You’ve sacrificed so much since Mandy’s been gone. I just wanna see you find someone who brings you as much happiness, if not more happiness than Mandy did. Because you truly deserve it, Tobin,” Ken said.

Tobin could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. She could feel the emotion in his voice and that he really just wants her to be happy.

“I’ve seen you put Jordan’s needs over everything else these last twelve years. Amanda would be so proud of you. Barb and I are proud of you. Your parents are proud of you,” Ken said, his voice cracking.

Ken looked at Tobin, who had been like a second daughter to him. He marveled at her strength for what she’s been through since Amanda died. He spent years mourning his daughter, and truth be told, he would never stop mourning her. But it comforted him to know that Amanda made such a good choice in picking Tobin as her partner. She truly was a wonderful mother to Jordan.

Tobin finally looked over at him and smiled. “I can always count on you to give it to me straight,” she said.

“That’s what I’m here for. My best quality is annoying people with the truth, even if it’s the hard truth,” Ken said with a wink.

Tobin laughed and sighed.

“Do you remember when Mandy first brought you here to meet us?” Ken said as he took a sip of his beer.

“Shit, how could I forget?” Tobin said chuckling. “I was so nervous, I thought I was gonna pass out before I even got to your door.”

Ken laughed. “I wanted to give you a hard time and mess with you. You had trouble forming sentences.”

Tobin laughed. “That’s me,” Tobin said self-deprecatingly.

“Amanda had warned us before you got here that that would probably happen. She said you were nervous about meeting us and she said that’s how you were on your first date even though you were already good friends by that point,” Ken said.

“Oh god, I was so embarrassing. Honestly, I’m surprised she agreed to go on a another date with me. I was a blubbering idiot,” Tobin said laughing at the memory as she took another sip of her beer.

“Answer this for me,” Ken said. “Are you a blubbering idiot around Christen?”

Tobin blushed and thought about it. “Yeah, I kind of am. I literally couldn’t speak the first time I met her. She looked at me and I was speechless,” she admitted. “I’ve been a little better lately, but she still kinda takes my breath away.”

Ken smirked at her and sipped on his beer, having made his point.

Tobin smiled at him. Ken was such a good man. She thought of what he and Barb had been through over the last twelve years. No parent should ever have to bury their child. And they lost the only one they had. They, along with Tobin’s own parents, had been a great support system for her and Jordan, especially in Jordan’s early years. There were days when she would get so overwhelmed that she would call any one of them, crying over the smallest things, unable to even get out of bed. And they would show up for her. Every single time. And here they were, all these years later, encouraging her to move on from their daughter so she could be happy.

There was a silence between them for a few moments. Tobin sighed and spoke.

“Ken, do you think it’s possible to have more than one soulmate?” Tobin asked.

Ken looked at her and took a deep breath to give it some thought.

“That’s a great question. I think about my buddy, Frank. He lost his wife to breast cancer at a young age and she was his soulmate. But then a few years later, he met someone and he fell over the moon in love with her. They’ve been married now for almost 20 years and he tells me that she’s his soulmate and the love of his life,” he said. “So yes, I do think it’s possible to have more than one soulmate if you open your heart to the possibility.”

Tobin nodded, but didn’t say anything. She’d always believed that there was only one person in the world she was meant to love in that way. But Christen waltzed right in and turned her world upside down and she was still trying to figure out how to turn it back around again. Though she was starting to think that maybe she wasn’t meant to flip it back to where it was. That Christen was here to bring something new and special into her life.

“Will you promise me you’ll at least think about it? Like really seriously think about it?” Ken asked.

“Trust me, Ken, thinking about being with Christen is all I seem to be doing these days,” Tobin said laughing.

“There’s hope then,” Ken said with a big smile.

“Yeah, I guess there’s hope,” Tobin said.

————****
————****

You awake?

Christen was in bed trying to read her book, but failing miserably since one brown-eyed cutie kept creeping into her mind. She was thinking about Tobin when a timely text from her came through. She was thinking about what a sweet and thoughtful person she was and how much joy she brings to her day whenever she sees her, which is less than she’d like. She smiled at the message since it sounded like she wanted to talk.

Yep. Wanna talk? You can call if you want.

Tobin might have already been at the ready to tap Christen’s name on her list of FaceTime calls as soon as the reply came through.

“Hey you,” Christen said, smiling so bright it made Tobin’s heart jump.

Christen appeared to be sitting up in bed reading something. She had her glasses on again which made Tobin weak.

“Hey,” Tobin replied softly.

“How was your night with Amanda’s parents?” Christen asked.

“It was really good. They’re fun people,” Tobin said.

“I’m so glad,” Christen said.

“They asked about you,” Tobin informed her.

Christen raised her brows, surprised and wondering why Amanda’s parents would be asking about her.

“Me? Why?” Christen asked.

“Apparently my daughter is smitten with you and has been talking about you with anyone who will listen,” Tobin said laughing nervously.

“Is that so?” Christen said, highly amused.

Christen wondered if Jordan’s super sexy mom felt the same way that Jordan did about her.

“Yep,” Tobin said.

“And what is it that Jordan told them about me?” Christen asked curiously.

“Well she’s told everyone you’re really nice, which is true. And she’s also been telling people you’re really pretty. Also true,” Tobin said as she cleared her throat.

“So…you think I’m pretty?” Christen asked.

Tobin coughed, squirming in bed at the way Christen was looking at her and the way she just asked that question, all shy and hopeful. “Yeah, I mean you have to know that you’re really beautiful, right?”

Christen blushed, not really knowing what to say to that.

“And you walk on water as far as Jordan is concerned,” Tobin added.

“Oh boy,” Christen said. “She’s about to get a heavy dose of reality next weekend when she sees me play mini golf. I’m horrendous at golf and I’m super competitive, so it’s not a good combination,” she said laughing.

“You can’t be that bad,” Tobin said.

“Famous last words. I am that bad. And I can get impatient and frustrated,” Christen said. “Emma already warned me at dinner tonight not to throw a tantrum and embarrass her,” she said laughing.

“That sounds pretty bad,” Tobin said laughing. “Though I would probably pay to see you throw your putter at a mini golf place with kids around.”

“If I get frustrated enough, curse words might come out. Already warning you,” Christen said.

“Noted. I can teach you,” Tobin said. “And I’m very patient.”

“You play golf?” Christen asked.

“Remember when I said I dabble in random things? Golf is one of the things I’ve dabbled in,” Tobin said chuckling.

“Ah, well I’ll take whatever pointers you can give me,” Christen said.

“I’m sure I can help and you won’t end up cursing, I promise,” Tobin said. “And Jordan will still be smitten with you at the end of the night.”

Christen smiled at the woman on her screen.

“And what about you, Tobin?” Christen asked vaguely.

“What about me?” Tobin asked.

Christen pondered for a second if she should ask what she wanted to ask. She thought about chickening out, but she had already opened up the conversation, so she had to go through with it.

“Are you, um, smitten?” Christen asked, looking at Tobin so sweetly.

Tobin felt butterflies in her stomach hearing the question from Christen. She was one hundred percent smitten with one Christen Annemarie Press. There wasn’t a single doubt in her mind.

“Maybe,” Tobin answered coyly, her voice and her eyes betraying her answer. “And what about you, Christen? Are you smitten? she asked back.

“Maybe,” Christen replied in the same tone, letting Tobin know that she was definitely smitten.

————

Chapter Text

“Hi Ms. Tobin! Bye Ms. Tobin!” Emma greeted her as she met up with Jordan and they walked over to court 17 together.

“Hey Emma, bye Emma!” Tobin said laughing as she walked over to Christen’s car.

Christen was still in the car talking on the phone when Tobin got there. Christen held up her index finger asking Tobin to wait just a moment and Tobin nodded and leaned against the back of her car to give her privacy.

“And you have the proposal from Sarah, right? She said she sent it over earlier,” Pinoe asked.

“Yep, I was planning on looking at it after Emma goes to bed tonight,” Christen said.

“Okay, take it easy though. You don’t need to decide on that until Tuesday. I was just making sure you saw it,” Pinoe said.

“Yeah, I know, but Monday’s gonna be crazy, so I don’t wanna put it off,” Christen said.

“Okay boss,” Pinoe said.

“Okay, thanks P. I’ve gotta go, practice is starting,” Christen said.

“You mean flirting time with Tobin is starting?” Pinoe teased.

Ever since Pinoe met Tobin a couple of weeks ago at the office, her teasing had been nonstop, partly because she held out on telling Pinoe about Tobin in the first place. There wasn’t much that Pinoe didn’t know about her life. So now she was making Christen pay for it by bringing her up constantly, even offering to babysit Emma anytime she wanted a ‘booty call with hot mama Tobin,’ to which Christen would roll her eyes. Pinoe knew that Christen was serious about Tobin, but she just hadn’t been able to help herself, having too much fun making Christen squirm and giving her shit for withholding information from her.

“Remind me again why I keep you around?” Christen asked.

“Because you love me and I’m the best,” Pinoe said.

“Yeah, I know. Gotta go, bye P. Have a good weekend,” Christen said.

“Bye Pressy, you too,” Pinoe said.

Christen hit end on the call and quickly opened her car door, anxious to see Tobin.

“Hi, sorry about that. Just last-minute rundown of stuff with Pinoe before the weekend,” Christen said as she stepped out of her car and walked to the back where Tobin was.

“No worries at all,” Tobin said.

Tobin tried not to look Christen up and down when she saw her. She really did. But her eyes wandered anyway and she wished she had glasses on so that she wasn’t so obviously gawking.

Christen had on a pair of shorts and a tight white t-shirt that left almost nothing to the imagination because Christen wasn’t wearing a bra. It was like breaking news flashing across her mind: CHRISTEN IS NOT WEARING A BRA. Tobin’s mind and body reacted at the sight of the woman in front of her and she shifted her feet uncomfortably.

“You okay?” Christen asked as she stood in front of Tobin.

“Uh, yeah, sorry,” Tobin said, trying her best to be respectful and only look Christen in the eyes.

Tobin figured that if Christen decides to wear this kind of outfit at mini golf tomorrow, she’s going to be useless and all her golf pointers would never be shared with the other woman because she would simply be left speechless the way she was now.

“Are you sure? You look kind of pale,” Christen said as she put her palm across Tobin’s forehead to see if she was running a fever.

Tobin finally found her words again and took Christen’s hand off her forehead, but held on to her wrist.

“I’m fine, Chris, really. I just, uh, got a little distracted, that’s all,” Tobin said honestly as she let go of Christen’s wrist and put it down gently.

“Okay,” Christen chuckled knowingly as they walked to court 17 and went about their usual Friday routine.

————

The next morning, Tobin’s eyes fluttered open and something happened that had never happened before. It was Jordan’s birthday and the anniversary of Amanda’s death, but neither was the first thought in her head. Her first thoughts were of a certain green-eyed beauty who had been persistently on her mind over the last few weeks. It was both scary and exciting at the same time that Christen was the first person she thought of on this day.

This day had always been an emotional one for Tobin. Balancing between celebrating her daughter’s birthday and mourning the most profound loss of her life wasn’t easy. The first few years were indescribably hard and she was thankful that Jordan hadn’t been old enough to remember what an emotional wreck she was. For Jordan’s first four birthdays, this day had Tobin in tears all day as she thought about how much she missed Amanda. It was only with her parents and Amanda’s parents’ help that they were even able to have a little party for Jordan in those years.

Now, twelve years later, her first thoughts on this day were of Christen’s smile, her laugh, and her eyes. What did this all mean? It scared her to think about how strong her feelings for Christen were and she shook her head to get her mind back on what this day was really all about.

Tobin smiled as she thought about Jordan turning twelve today. Her baby girl who was no longer a baby. The days have been long, but the years have been short. It made her wonder where all the time had gone. Next year she would officially be a teenager. Tobin shuddered at the thought.

Then she thought about Amanda. She sighed, but smiled. She opened the drawer on her nightstand and reached into the corner without looking and plucked out the piece of metal that was stored there. The promise ring she had given to Amanda after they graduated college. Amanda was still wearing it when she died and Tobin had kept it in the same place ever since.

“We’ll see you in a little bit, angel,” Tobin said as she kissed the ring and put it back in its spot in the drawer.

Tobin stretched and got out of bed. After going to the bathroom and brushing her teeth, she went to her dresser drawer and grabbed her gift for Jordan.

She walked down the hall to Jordan’s room and knocked on the door before opening it.

“Jordy?” Tobin called out as she walked in.

Tobin smiled when she saw Jordan still passed out on the bed. She was impressed with how much her daughter could sleep on the weekends when there weren’t alarms blaring to wake her up for school. It was almost ten and they had a busy day ahead, so she decided to wake her up. Plus, she knew that Jordan would be so excited about her gift.

Tobin sat down next to Jordan and brushed her hair from her face. Jordan was all Amanda. A daily reminder of the beauty and cruelty of life.

“Jordy, sweetheart, time to wake up,” Tobin said, gently nudging Jordan.

Jordan let out a whine and a grunt which made Tobin chuckle. Also very much like Amanda.

“Sweetheart, we’ve got a long day ahead of us. Wake up, baby,” Tobin said, nudging her a little harder this time.

Jordan let out another grunt and covered her head with her pillow.

“I have your birthday gift for you,” Tobin finally said.

Jordan’s eyes shot open at that and she took her pillow and threw it to the side. Tobin laughed and leaned down to kiss her daughter.

“Happy birthday, little one,” Tobin said.

“Thanks mom,” Jordan said with a big smile. “I’m not little anymore though.”

“I know, I know. Just let me have this moment, okay?” Tobin said chuckling.

“So…you said you have my gift?” Jordan asked, trying to contain her excitement.

Jordan was 99.9 percent sure she was finally getting a phone this year. She had worked hard at school and hardly got into any trouble and she had made her mother more than aware of her urgent need to have a phone. All the other kids had had phones for over a year now, so she was pretty sure this was the year. She tried to look behind her mom to see what she had in her hand, but was unsuccessful.

“Okay, before I give this to you, since I’m pretty sure you know what it is, there are going to be a few ground rules,” Tobin said.

This made Jordan perk up even more. She was definitely getting a phone. “Okay,” she replied, trying to stay calm.

“Number one, no phones at the dinner table. If you get a message, you can take a peek just to make sure there’s no emergency. If there’s no emergency, you wait to reply until after eating. Number two, no phones after 10pm. I’m going to put a lock on it after 10pm, unless you’re at a sleepover, in which case I will leave it on so I can get a hold of you. But all other functionality will be turned off. Number three, school comes first. No phones until after all homework and studying is done. Number four, when you do become old enough to start driving, there will be no looking at your phone while driving. All it can be used for is to look at directions. And last but not least, always answer when I call or text. I will never call you during school hours unless I have an urgent reason to do so. But at all other times, I need you to answer when I try to contact you. Understood?” Tobin said sternly, wanting there to be no gray area about her expectations.

Jordan nodded her head vigorously. “Yes, understood,” she said.

Tobin looked in Jordan’s eyes and saw the sincerity in her answer and she was satisfied with that.

“Okay, here you go. Happy birthday, baby. You’ve earned it,” Tobin said, her face softening as she handed the little wrapped box to her daughter.

“Thanks mom!” Jordan said as she gave Tobin a big hug and ripped into the wrapper.

A brand new iPhone 12 was revealed and Jordan let out an excited squeal.

“This is the best gift ever! Thanks mom! You’re the best!” Jordan exclaimed as she jumped on Tobin again to give her another big hug.

That reaction was worth the ridiculous price tag on the phone, but she knew Jordan to be a responsible child who took care of her things, so she felt comfortable getting her the latest phone available since it would last her a few years.

“You’re welcome,” Tobin said, smiling back at her daughter. “I already started setting it up for you. I put a screen protector on and I put my number in there as a favorite,” she said winking.

Jordan laughed. “I can’t think of a more important number,” she said, maybe sucking up a little.

“So you like it?” Tobin asked.

“Mom, are you kidding? I love it. This is so cool. I promise I’ll take care of it,” Jordan said.

“I figured we can go to the store after we visit mom today and you can pick out a case for it,” Tobin said.

“Awesome! I can’t wait to text Emma!” Jordan said excitedly. “Can you please ask Ms. Christen for her number?”

“I will, but get ready first so we can grab breakfast and see mom,” Tobin said as she stood up from the bed and left Jordan to enjoy her phone for a few minutes.

When she was finally out in the hallway, she fished her own phone from her shorts pocket and opened up her message string with Christen.

I’m sorry in advance, but Jordan just got a phone for her birthday and now she and Emma may be texting nonstop. Can you please send me Emma’s number when you get a chance?

Tobin smiled after she sent the message and got ready for the day.

****————
****————

Tobin and Jordan made their way through all the names on the ground until they came upon the one they’d visited so many times before. Jordan squatted down while Tobin stood behind her.

“Hi Mama,” Jordan said as she put a bouquet of flowers down next to her birth mother’s grave.

Ever since she was about five years old and became aware of what else this day signified other than her birthday, she tried to be on her best behavior knowing how hard this day was on her other mother. She looked back at Tobin who was standing stoically behind her, waiting her turn.

“We miss you, Mama, and we love you,” Jordan said.

She had never felt a strong connection with her birth mother, only hearing about her in the countless stories that had been told to her. In some ways, she felt like the stories were enough for her to feel like she knew her, but the emotions for her on days like today weren’t nearly as high as they were for her mom. Jordan kissed her fingers and tapped it on her mother’s name. She then stood up and walked around the cemetery, knowing her mom needed some time alone. This had come to be their routine any time they came to visit.

Tobin moved forward and placed her own bouquet of flowers down before sitting next to her partner’s grave. She brought lilies, Amanda’s favorite.

“Hi angel,” Tobin said. “Jordan’s twelve years old today. Can you believe it? We almost have a teenager and now I’ve armed her with a phone. How scary is that?” she said with a light chuckle.

Tobin paused. She could feel her emotions about to come spilling out. They always did, no matter how much time had passed.

“And I can’t believe it’s been twelve years since I last held you and kissed you,” Tobin said as tears began to fall.

“Jordan looks more and more like you the older she gets. You’ll be happy to know she’s also incredibly stubborn like you,” Tobin said laughing through her tears. “I was thinking about you last night before I fell asleep, hoping you’d come to me in my dreams and we could talk and hold each other for a little while. You didn’t, but that’s okay. You’ve got a lot on your plate watching over us as it is.”

Tobin sat in silence for a few moments, gathering herself before speaking again.

“So, um, I’m not really sure how to tell you this, or why I’m telling you this, but, uh, I’ve met someone,” Tobin said, shifting uncomfortably.

“Her name is Christen and she’s amazing, Mands. We’re not dating or anything, but, uh, I think I’d like to. I’m still trying to figure it out. I just…I just feel like she’s someone I could fall in love with and, um, I wanted you to know, I guess. I don’t know. Jordan loves her already and I know she’s been trying to set us up,” Tobin said, feeling silly for seeking approval from someone who wasn’t there.

“She’s whip smart, funny, kind, down-to-earth, pretty, and get this, she’s a huge MJ fan. In another life, you two might have even been friends,” Tobin said smiling, wiping her nose with a tissue. “Anyway, uh, I really like her and I don’t know what the future holds, but I wanted you to know that you’ll always be in my heart. That will never change.”

Tobin picked at the grass and put her palm over Amanda’s name.

“I miss you so much. I miss your laugh. I miss your smile. I miss your touch. I miss our life. I wish you were here to see Jordan turn into this strong, young woman. You would be so proud,” Tobin said, tears still flowing.

Tobin sat with Amanda for another half hour, reflecting and telling her stories about Jordan since their last visit to the cemetery almost three months ago. When she was done, she also kissed her fingers and let them linger over Amanda’s name.

“I love you, Mands. We’ll see you again soon.”

————****
————****

Later that night, Christen checked the mirror for probably the 20th time to make sure the light makeup she had put on and her outfit were good, careful not to overdress for the occasion. She had spent a ridiculous amount of time figuring out what to wear as evidenced by the clothes that were strewn all over her bed.

‘Jesus Christ, Christen. It’s not like it’s a date. It’s a 12-year-old’s birthday party, for fuck’s sake. Calm down,’ she thought to herself.

In the end, she went with something simple and casual, given where they were going tonight. She took one last look in the mirror, took a deep breath, and headed downstairs.

Emma was sitting on the couch on her phone when Christen came downstairs. She looked up and did a double take when she saw her mother stroll through. She thought about commenting on how hot her own mother looked, but decided against it for fear that she would feel self-conscious and scrap their plans altogether. She was sure, though, that Ms. Tobin would like what she sees and a grin crossed her face as she typed a message to Jordan.

Omgggg, my mom is looking really hot tonight. Your mom won’t know what hit her!

Emma smirked and watched as her mom moved around her and nervously straightened out the pillows on the couch even though they were perfectly fine. She was so happy that Jordan finally got a phone, which made it easier to talk about their moms.

————

Tobin pulled up to Christen and Emma’s home and put the car in park on their driveway. Jordan looked over at her mother who was a ball of nerves and she had to keep herself from laughing about it. When Tobin made no move to get out of the car, Jordan was finally forced to say something.

“Mom, you okay?” Jordan asked.

“Huh?” Tobin said, having barely heard what Jordan had asked.

“Are you okay?” Jordan asked again.

“Uh, yeah, I’m okay. Why wouldn’t I be okay?” Tobin asked, trying to sound as casual as she could, but she wasn’t fooling her daughter.

“Nothing, you just look like you’re about to puke,” Jordan said, pulling her phone out of her pocket.

Jordan saw the message from Emma and she had to keep from laughing. She looked over at her mom and shook her head.

Well my mom is looking really pale right now. I think she’s really nervous. We’re right outside your house and she hasn’t moved. Just hoping she doesn’t embarrass herself in front of your mom.

Jordan wasn’t wrong. Tobin did feel like she was about to puke. It wasn’t a date and yet she had built it up like one in her head. She couldn’t remember ever being this nervous about anything, not even the first time she went on a date with Amanda or meeting Amanda’s parents.

“No, I’m fine. Just making sure we’re at the right house,” Tobin said, thinking on her feet, trying to cover for her odd behavior.

“This is the right house,” Jordan assured. “Can we go now?”

“Uh, yeah, let’s go,” Tobin said as she grabbed the bottle of wine she’d brought and made their way to the front door.

They stood in front of the door and Tobin made no move to ring the doorbell. It was like she was having an out-of-body experience and she felt light-headed and paralyzed.

‘Oh my god, this is as uncool as I’ve ever seen her,’ Jordan thought to herself, worried that maybe Ms. Christen would run the other way when she saw how weird her mother was acting.

Omg, this is going to be a disaster if my mom doesn’t get it together.

Jordan put her phone back in her pocket and gave it two more seconds and decided to ring the doorbell herself. Tobin continued to stand frozen in place when she registered that Jordan was ringing the doorbell.

When the door swung open, Tobin’s jaw almost hit the ground and she barely kept her hand around the bottle of wine she was holding, keeping it from crashing to the ground. Christen appeared before them looking more beautiful than ever. She quite literally, again, took Tobin’s breath away as she smiled to greet them.

“Hi!” Christen said excitedly. “Happy Birthday, Jordan!”

“Hi, Ms. Christen! Thank you!” Jordan said as she walked in first and gave Christen a hug.

Christen gave Jordan a heartfelt squeeze. She had grown so fond of Tobin’s daughter in the two months that they had known each other.

“Have you had a good day?” Christen asked, focusing all her attention on Jordan even though she could feel Tobin staring at her.

“Yeah, it’s been a great day with mom. I’m excited for tonight!” Jordan said.

“Aww, I’m glad to hear that. I’m excited, too. Come on in, Emma’s in the family room,” Christen said.

Jordan nodded and quickly made herself scarce and looked for her partner in crime.

Christen’s wide smile for Jordan slowly faded and it was replaced by what Tobin could only describe as the sexiest look she had ever seen on a human being. Christen’s beautiful green eyes were dark and filled with desire and Tobin could feel her mouth drying up at the sight in front of her. Christen was wearing an incredibly tight-fitting pair of black jeans that showed off her perfect ass and a gray tank top that hugged her body all over. Thankfully, she was wearing a bra tonight so Tobin could have some chance at focusing on anything but that. Her hair was down in its natural curly state and she fought the urge to run her hands through it.

“Hi there,” Christen said as she approached Tobin.

“Uh, hi,” Tobin said nervously, clearing her throat, her feet shifting underneath her, feeling like they were going to give out at any moment.

Surely Christen could see that Tobin was having difficulty breathing.

Christen didn’t notice because she herself was screaming on the inside. When she laid eyes on Tobin as she opened the door, she did the first thing that came to mind. She overcompensated. She practically yelled ‘hi’ and ‘happy birthday’ to Jordan, probably loud enough for the neighbors to hear. She couldn’t help it. Tobin standing at her door made her so nervous. And now that they had a moment alone, her eyes seemed to have a mind of their own, ogling and eye fucking Tobin in all her gorgeous, sexy glory.

“You look nice,” Christen said calmly, trying to regain her composure and not stare for too long, though her eyes couldn’t help but run up and down Tobin’s body.

Tobin was wearing dark blue jeans, a white shirt with cutoff sleeves that showed off her unbelievably muscular arms, and a pair of Jordan sneakers. If Tobin were her girlfriend, she thought, they would never leave the bedroom. She looked absolutely good enough to eat.

“Thanks. You, um, you look really beautiful, Chris,” Tobin said, working hard to get the words out as smoothly as she could.

“Thank you,” Christen said blushing.

“Um, this is for you,” Tobin said, offering the bottle of wine.

“You didn’t have to do that. That’s very sweet of you,” Christen said smiling. “Do you wanna come in for a few minutes while I put this away?”

“Yeah, sure,” Tobin said as she closed the door behind her and followed Christen into the kitchen, looking everywhere but at Christen’s backside so as not to get caught looking.

Christen’s home was beautiful. It was a great size, but not nearly as large or extravagant as one might expect from someone of her stature. It was a high quality, gorgeous craftsman style home and the interior design was minimalist, but warm, with interesting artwork on its walls that she had to keep from checking out for too long.

Christen put the wine down on the counter, while Tobin tried to casually lean back against the opposite counter and rested her hands on it with her feet crossed at her ankles. This was as cool as she could make herself look at the moment given that she was a ball of nerves thinking about how much she wanted the woman standing in front of her.

Ignoring Tyler’s advice for the time being to let Tobin come to her, Christen made her way back over to Tobin and smiled at her. They made eye contact and Christen surprised Tobin when she reached her arms up and wrapped them around Tobin’s neck to pull her in for a heartfelt hug.

Tobin didn’t miss a beat and hugged Christen right back by wrapping her arms around her. Her hands moved slightly lower this time, resting on a little more of Christen’s ass than their previous hug. She let her nose nuzzle into Christen’s neck, smelling her. And she smelled so good.

There was no air between them as the hug lasted several more seconds. Christen finally pulled her arms off Tobin and let her hands rest flat on the counter, but remained standing where she was, with Tobin’s legs between hers. Tobin, for her part, moved her hands between them and wrapped her index fingers around Christen’s belt loops to keep her close, their chemistry and attraction to one another on full display now. It seemed like they’d held off on making any sort of contact for long enough that they couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“What was that for?” Tobin asked, not that she was complaining.

“Nothing. I just know that this day must be very difficult for you. Thinking about the gamut of emotions you must go through gives me whiplash,” Christen said, knowing the story of how Jordan came into this world.

Tobin gave her a small smile, the sweet gesture making her chest tighten. “Thanks, I really appreciate that.”

“Any time. Plus, I feel like we’re on hugging terms in our friendship now. We’ve hugged on the tennis court, in my office, and on the pitch after I smoked you…” Christen teased, making the mood light again.

“Ouch. That’s low, Chris. Really low,” Tobin said with a smile plastered on her face, her body now completely relaxed.

“Sorry, I won’t bring it up again…for the rest of the night…” Christen said mischievously.

Tobin laughed and shook her head, moving a few strands of hair away from Christen’s face and tucking them behind her ear. The action made Christen swoon. It was going to be so hard keeping her hands off Tobin when all she wanted to do was kiss her until the sun comes up. They looked longingly at each other’s lips, but neither made a move.

“Christen?” Tobin said softly.

“Yeah?” Christen replied, their faces mere inches from each other.

“Your friendship hugs are amazing. Can I please have another?” Tobin asked sweetly.

It was a good thing that Christen had her hands on the counter for support because the way Tobin just asked for another hug made her knees go weak. She had never met anyone who could make her so hot and bothered one second and then turn her to a puddle of mush the next. But Tobin Heath did it. She was a certifiable hottie and sweetheart.

“Of course,” Christen said, her voice practically melting as she let her hands travel up the length of Tobin’s arms, deliberately feeling her biceps for the first time before wrapping her arms around her neck again.

Tobin sighed contentedly. Christen made her feel safe. She made her feel many things. Aroused. Nervous. Wanted. Happy. And that was just in the last five minutes. But the thing that Christen made her feel the most was safe. She could feel how much Christen truly cared for her in every hug she had received from her.

Tobin held on, her nose and mouth going to what was becoming her favorite spot on Christen’s neck so far, her pulse point. She inhaled again, willing herself not to place soft kisses all over and on the sexy mole on her neck.

“You smell really good,” Tobin whispered, sending a shiver down Christen’s spine. “You always smell so good, even after you kick my ass on the pitch.”

Christen giggled as Tobin’s breath tickled her neck. She could feel Tobin’s hands gently rubbing her back and lightly squeezing her waist. Their bodies fit together so well.

Christen could go for it. Right now. She could easily pull back from Tobin and just kiss her. God knows her body was ready for it. But Tyler’s advice to let Tobin take the lead kept playing in her head, so she decided not to go with her primal instinct. She had to let Tobin make her way to her, no matter how long it took.

“Thank you,” Christen said. “You smell good, too. Even after I kick your ass on the pitch.”

Tobin chuckled into her neck and it made Christen’s body tingle and she had to stop herself from grinding her hips into Tobin.

Tobin closed her eyes and enjoyed the contact. She knew she was inviting trouble by asking for another hug and telling Christen she smelled good, but she couldn’t help herself. She wanted Christen to know she was definitely interested in her.

“What are they doing?” Jordan whispered to Emma as they sat low and hidden on the couch.

They could hear low laughing sounds coming from the kitchen but couldn’t see.

Emma quietly pulled herself over to the arm of the couch and carefully took a peek into the kitchen where she saw their moms hugging each other with Ms. Tobin appearing to whisper something in her mom’s ear. Emma reached her hand back and urgently signaled for Jordan to come have a look for herself.

Jordan quickly but also quietly leaned over and took a look. Her face broke out into a big smile when she saw what Emma was seeing. The plan was working! Sure, she had wanted to hang out with Emma today, but that wasn’t the main reason she wanted to invite them to her birthday party. After so many weeks of seeing her mom smile goofily at Ms. Christen but never asking her out despite her obvious crush on her, she decided to take matters into her own hands and begged her mom to invite them to their plans tonight.

Both girls moved back to where they were sitting and silently high fived.

“Oh my god, they are so cute!” Jordan gushed quietly.

“I know! I’ve never seen my mom that happy before!” Emma whispered excitedly.

“I guess we’ll just wait here,” Jordan grinned, holding her phone up to indicate to Emma that they should go back to talking to each other over text so they wouldn’t make any noise.

Tobin let her nose run along Christen’s neck as she pulled back away from her, but kept her arms wrapped around her, not willing to break contact just yet, while Christen let her hands rest on Tobin’s shoulders. She looked into Christen’s eyes and sighed.

“Chris,” Tobin whispered. “I really like you. I like you so much,” she finally admitted out loud to the woman she had been pining over for the past two months. “But…”

Christen smiled and moved her hands down to Tobin’s biceps once again, wanting to feel her skin under her fingertips.

“But we need to take it slow,” Christen finished for her, her heart beating seemingly twice as fast at hearing Tobin finally say what she’d been hoping to hear.

Tobin nodded, loving the feeling of Christen’s hands on her.

“I’m just…I’m just working through my feelings for you. For what it all means and where it might go,” Tobin said, her voice thick with emotion.

“Tobin, I get it. I do. We’ll go at your speed, alright?” Christen assured. “I just want you to know that I’m not trying to replace Amanda in your life. No one could.”

Tobin shook her head. “Chris, you can’t replace Amanda because you can never be just a replacement for someone. That’s not how I see you in my life. You’re such a special person. If I’m going to be with you, I’m going to be with you with everything I have, not just to be a replacement for someone I loved before or to make comparisons with what I had. That wouldn’t be fair. If I’m going to be with you, it would be because you’re the person I wholeheartedly want to be with,” Tobin said sincerely. “I just need a little time to sort through where my head and my heart are and get to know you more before anything gets, um, physical. But know that I want you. God, I’ve wanted you since the very first moment I met you.”

Christen felt like she was up in the clouds. Tobin’s words were so genuine and so sweet, she could feel herself melting in her arms.

“I really like you, too. I think about you all the time. Yesterday it took me an hour to compose a one paragraph email,” Christen admitted with a laugh.

“Wow, you must be really smitten with this Tobin chick,” Tobin said playfully.

“Oh yes, I mean, she’s pretty special,” Christen replied.

“You know, a pretty smart person once said to me that a Tar Heel and a Cardinal would never work,” Tobin teased.

“They must not be very smart if they said that,” Christen joked, even though she does recall those exact words coming out of her own mouth.

“Oh no, she’s extremely smart. And pretty. Not that that’s relevant,” Tobin grinned.

Christen just looked at Tobin and shook her head in amusement.

Without saying a word, Tobin pulled Christen into her one more time to hold her before they had to leave. They stayed that way for another minute, but they couldn’t very well spend all night in the kitchen hugging, so Christen was the first to pull away for their own good. And she backed away completely.

“Um, should we get going now?” Christen asked.

Tobin missed Christen’s body already, but she knew they had to get going.

“Yep,” Tobin said casually. “You hungry?”

“Starving,” Christen said as she walked out of the kitchen.

Tobin let out a breath to try to compose herself, her body temperature having shot up from the contact with Christen.

“Hey girls! Let’s get going,” Christen called out.

“Okay!” Jordan and Emma said simultaneously, quickly getting up from the couch as if they hadn’t just been spying on their mothers.

“Thank you so much for the gift, Ms. Christen! I love it!” Jordan said, holding up the colorful crossbody purse Emma had picked out for her friend.

“You’re so welcome. I can’t take any credit, Emma picked it out,” Christen said smiling.

“That was really nice and thoughtful of you guys,” Tobin said to Christen and Emma who smiled at her.

They all walked out the door and Christen locked it behind her with Tobin waiting for her. Christen turned around and smiled at Tobin, who instinctively put her hand on the small of Christen’s back as they walked to the car. Tobin walked Christen over to the passenger side and opened the door for her.

“Thank you,” Christen said smiling as she made eye contact with Tobin.

Butterflies were fluttering in Christen’s stomach from the gesture. Tobin was so charming, she almost couldn’t stand it.

“You’re welcome,” Tobin replied with a lovesick look on her face.

Christen got in the car and Tobin closed the door for her.

The interaction between their mothers was not lost on Emma and Jordan. They smiled at one another and gave each other another small high five in the back seat.

————

Jordan spotted Ash and Ali sitting in the middle of a u-shaped booth and she and Emma quickly sat next to each other on one side so that their moms would be forced to sit next to each other on the other side.

“Hi Auntie Ash and Auntie Ali!” Jordan said as she sat down next to them. “This is my friend Emma,” she said.

“Hey Emma!” Ash and Ali said at the same time.

“It’s so nice to meet you,” Ali said.

“It’s nice to meet you, too!” Emma said cheerfully.

Jordan and Emma giggled and whispered as their mothers gave them knowing looks and rolled their eyes.

“After you,” Tobin said to Christen, extending her hand to make way for her.

“Thanks,” Christen said as she started to take her jacket off.

Tobin watched as Christen shed her jacket and was afraid that some drool might fall from her mouth. It was with this action that Tobin noticed a mole on the side of Christen’s chest, close to her arm that made her mouth water. It was covered earlier by the strap of her tank top and she wondered what else she might find under Christen’s clothes. She blushed at the thought as Ash and Ali tried not to laugh at Tobin staring open-mouthed at Christen taking her jacket off.

Christen sat down and scooted down to sit next to Ali and Ash and smiled at them.

“You must be Christen,” Ali said with a big smile as she extended her hand. “I’m Ali.”

“Yes, hi Ali! I’m Christen. So nice to meet you,” Christen said nervously, shaking Ali’s hand.

“This is my wife, Ashlyn,” Ali said.

“Hey Christen, pleasure to meet you. Tobs has told us so much about you,” Ashlyn said.

“Hey Ashlyn! So nice to meet you as well. And I hope she’s only told you the good parts,” Christen said jokingly.

“Oh, only the best. It’s actually embarrassing how much Tobin talks about you,” Ashlyn said.

“This was such a bad idea,” Tobin muttered to herself as she sat down, making everyone in the booth laugh. She was sure that her face was absolutely beet red. She should have known this would happen. Her friends would never pass up an opportunity to embarrass her like this.

Tobin had called Ashlyn last Friday freaking out about the plans for Jordan’s birthday.

“Ash, I’m in so much trouble,” Tobin had said in a panic. “So much trouble.”

“Tobs, calm down. What’s going on? Why are you in trouble?“ Ashlyn asked calmly.

Tobin dropped her head in her hand and rubbed her temples.

“Because…I invited Christen and her daughter to Jordy’s birthday thing and she just told me she’s smitten with me,” Tobin said, almost hyperventilating.

“Okay, back up a second. So she said she’s smitten with you. Why is that a bad thing? I thought that would be a great thing?” Ashlyn asked, genuinely confused.

“Because she’s so out of my league and incredible and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now. Like do I need to bring her flowers? Do I need to dress up? I don’t know what she’s expecting. I’m so out of practice I don’t know what to do!” Tobin said urgently.

“Tobin, babe. Breathe for me. Just take a deep breath for me,” Ashlyn said as she took a couple of deep breaths with her friend.

“Okay, let me ask you something. Did you ask her out on a date or did you ask her to attend Jordan’s birthday party?” Ashlyn asked. “Because there’s a big difference,” she said, stating the obvious, though she wasn’t sure Tobin realized that given the state that she was in.

Tobin thought for a moment. “Um, I invited her to Jordan’s party.”

“Okay, so it’s not a date then. Tobs, you gotta relax,” Ashlyn said. “You just gotta be yourself.”

“It’s not a date,” Tobin repeated, assuring herself.

“Nope, definitely not a date honey. You’ll be fine. Just be your charming self and we’ll all have a great time,” Ashlyn said.

“Not a date, okay,” Tobin said again as she nodded her head and took another deep breath to get her heart rate back down.

“Should we order?” Tobin asked the group, trying to change the subject.

“Yeah, let’s order, I’m starving,” Ali said as everyone looked at their options.

Tobin held the menu open and shared it with Christen, who leaned over to have a look at their choices. Tobin felt like she couldn’t breathe. Christen’s body and face were so close to her, she could have moved a couple of inches and she would have been kissing her. But really, in that moment, she just wanted another hug, knowing how much teasing she was in for.

“What looks good to you?” Christen asked.

Tobin could have answered this in any number of ways. She could have told Christen her lips looked really good. Or her hands, her chin, her nose, her ear, or her eyes. Anything, really. But she didn’t. She wanted to keep it PG, though that was a more difficult task than she realized with Christen looking so good.

“Not sure. What do you feel like?” Tobin asked instead as she looked at Christen.

Christen looked at Tobin and her eyes wandered down and looked longingly at Tobin’s full lips. The tension between them was almost too much to bear, but Christen managed to keep her hands and her lips to herself.

“Um, I don’t really know. I can’t think straight at the moment,” Christen admitted shyly so only Tobin could hear.

Tobin chuckled, knowing exactly how Christen was feeling. “How about we order something simple. Like a sausage pizza with a house salad since I know you’re gonna want that, and whatever everyone else wants,” she said.

“Sounds good to me,” Christen said appreciatively as she leaned back, away from Tobin since she didn’t need to look at the menu anymore and she momentarily needed some air.

Tobin put the menu down and leaned back, too. She was acutely aware that their shoulders and thighs were touching and it took so much willpower not to reach out and caress Christen’s leg.

“Do you have enough room?” Tobin asked, wanting to make sure Christen was comfortable. Though she was hoping not to have to scoot away from her.

“Plenty,” Christen said as she looked into Tobin’s eyes and smiled.

Tobin was again struck by Christen’s eyes, which were a bit darker under the restaurant’s dim lighting. She opened her mouth to say something, but words failed her. Again. The woman was simply stunning.

Christen gave her an amused look and searched Tobin’s eyes.

Tobin could feel herself wilting under Christen’s gaze, but she kept eye contact, knowing she was going to have to get used to this if their relationship was going to progress beyond friendship. Without overthinking it, she leaned into Christen, her mouth stopping right by Christen’s ear, grazing it with her lips as she spoke.

“Have I told you yet that you look beautiful tonight?” Tobin whispered with as much confidence as she could muster given what a wreck she was.

Christen felt Tobin’s words flow throughout her entire body. Her ear, in particular, was on fire from the featherlight contact with Tobin’s lips.

“Yes, you did earlier, but a girl would never tire of hearing that,” Christen whispered back in such a painfully sultry way.

Tobin swallowed hard. Christen was going to be the death of her.

Ashlyn clearing her throat brought Tobin and Christen out of their own little world, much to the quiet amusement of everyone at the table.

“So Christen, Tobito said you guys moved to Portland at the beginning of summer. How do you like it so far?” Ashlyn asked, wanting to get to know Christen and Emma a little more.

“It’s been amazing so far. The city is great. It’s beautiful and there are so many things to do. And the people, in particular, have been pretty wonderful so far,” Christen said happily, lightly nudging Tobin’s shoulder.

The rest of dinner consisted of Ashlyn and Ali peppering them with questions and telling embarrassing stories about Tobin. Tobin didn’t care, though. If it meant hearing Christen’s laugh all night, then she was happy to relive all her life’s most embarrassing moments.

————

“Ugh, I am so bad at this!” Christen said in frustration. “I told you I’m really bad at this.”

Tobin chuckled and walked back over to Christen who was running behind everyone, thankful there weren’t any people behind them on the course. Emma, Jordan, Ash, and Ali were already playing the hole in front of them while Tobin stayed back with Christen.

“Need some help?” Tobin asked.

Christen sighed. “Yes please,” she said in a defeated tone.

Instead of walking over to where Christen’s ball had ended up, Tobin put her putter down and dropped her ball in front of her frustrated friend. Christen looked at Tobin and waited for instructions. But instead of instructing Christen on what to do, Tobin walked behind her and spoke.

“I’m gonna show you, is that okay?” Tobin asked for permission.

Christen looked behind her and swallowed. As if she had the strength to say no to Tobin.

“Okay,” Christen barely managed to say.

Tobin took a steadying breath and wrapped her arms around Christen from behind, her front pressing against Christen’s back. She adjusted Christen’s hips and then put her hands over Christen’s to show her the proper stance to hit the ball.

“Okay, so just stand like this,” Tobin started to say.

Christen was a goner as soon as Tobin’s body made contact with hers and she started talking in her ear. She knew Tobin was speaking since she could feel the vibration from her voice, but nothing was registering in her brain. All she could feel were Tobin’s strong hands touching her hips and then moving to cover her hands. She was grateful she was wearing her jacket so that Tobin wouldn’t be able to see the goosebumps all over her skin from having her pressed against her. The only thing that snapped her out of her daze was Tobin stepping back so she could swing.

Christen remained in the stance that Tobin had put her in, took the club back, and took a firm, but controlled swing. The ball rolled smoothly through the bump, under the windmill, around the corner, and into the cup.

“Whoa!” Tobin said excitedly. “A hole in one!”

“What?” Christen asked.

“Did you not see that?!” Tobin asked incredulously.

Truthfully, Christen had not followed the ball with her eyes. She was so turned on by Tobin’s body against her that as soon as she hit the ball, she found herself staring at Tobin and didn’t bother following the ball.

“No,” Christen said. “It went in?”

“Yes!” Tobin said as she walked toward Christen, put her arms around her waist, and lifted her in the air.

Christen giggled and wrapped her arms around Tobin’s neck as Tobin spun them around before finally putting her back down.

“That was amazing, Chris,” Tobin said with the biggest smile as her arms remained wrapped around Christen’s waist.

Christen smiled back, not ready to break the contact.

“It’s because I had a great teacher,” Christen said as she tried to get her breathing under control.

Tobin blushed and felt the strongest urge to lean in and kiss Christen, but she stopped herself and cleared her throat. They slowly let go and Tobin shyly rubbed the back of her neck.

“That was all you, Chris,” Tobin said.

“It’s never gonna happen again, so at least you got to witness it,” Christen said.

Tobin laughed and picked up her club. “Come on, we gotta catch up to the everyone.”

Christen shook her head, trying to shake off the tension and followed Tobin to the next hole.

————

“She’s really great, Tobs. I’m so fucking happy for you,” Ashlyn said sincerely as they watched their group play their second to last hole.

“Yeah, she is, isn’t she,” Tobin replied.

They watched as Christen and Ali engaged in an animated conversation, with Christen’s arms flailing wildly as if they’d known each other for years. It made Tobin’s chest feel warm inside watching her smile and laugh with one of her best friends.

Ashlyn smiled at the way Tobin was looking at Christen. She had not seen her this happy since Amanda and it solidified what she’d known since Jordan had first brought up the subject of Christen. That she was someone Tobin could see herself with. She was probably already more than halfway in love with the woman and just hadn’t realized it.

“Don’t let this one go, Tobs,” Ashlyn warned.

Tobin shook her head. “I’m trying not to. I, um, I actually told her before we came here that I liked her,” she said in somewhat disbelief, surprising herself that she even had the courage to say the words earlier.

“That’s great, Tobs! What did she say?” Ashlyn asked maybe a little too excitedly, trying to keep her voice down.

“Well, I also told her we needed to take it slow,” Tobin said.

“Uh huh and what did she say?” Ashlyn prodded.

“She gets it,” Tobin said. “Like we’re not just gonna jump into bed just because we’re attracted to each other. We know this is more than that.”

“Okay, so are you going to ask her out on a proper date without all of us here to embarrass you?” Ashlyn asked laughing.

Tobin could only laugh with her because if it weren’t so true, it would be funny. There really wasn’t anything stopping her from asking Christen out on a date. She just needed to get up the nerve to do it. Even knowing that Christen liked her as much as Tobin liked her, she was still very nervous given that she hadn’t asked any woman out on a date since college. The few women she’d been out with since Amanda were all set up by her well-meaning friends.

“Yeah, I think I am,” Tobin said resolutely.

“Atta girl,” Ashlyn said proudly. “Let me know how it goes.”

“I will,” Tobin said as Christen finally got her ball into the cup and they moved on to the last hole.

————

Tobin pulled the car up to Christen’s driveway and put it in park. She turned to Christen who was already smiling at her.

“I’ll walk you guys up,” Tobin said, smiling right back.

“Okay,” Christen said.

“Fun party, Jordy! Thanks for inviting us!” Emma said. “I’ll text you,” she mouthed to her friend who nodded in understanding about everything they needed to catch up on tonight.

“Yeah, happy birthday, Jordan! We had so much fun!” Christen said enthusiastically.

“Thanks for coming guys! Best birthday ever! And thanks again for the gift!” Jordan beamed.

“You’re welcome,” Christen said.

Tobin, Christen, and Emma got out of the car and made their way up the porch. Christen unlocked the door and Emma turned toward Tobin.

“Thanks for inviting us, Ms. Tobin!” Emma said.

“Of course! Thanks for coming out with us. You made it a really special day for Jordan,” Tobin said sincerely.

Emma had a big smile on her face. “Well I’m gonna go inside now. Good night!” she said, quickly making herself scarce.

“Good night,” Tobin said as Emma left them alone.

Christen put her keys in her purse and left it just inside the house on the floor before shutting the door and staying outside with Tobin. She looked up at the woman who had captivated her all night and smiled.

“I had a really fun night tonight. Thanks again for having us. We haven’t had that much fun since we moved here,” Christen admitted.

“I’m happy to hear that,” Tobin said. “My face hurts from smiling and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s because I was around you all night,” she said sweetly.

Christen can barely contain herself. Can barely stop herself from reaching out and dragging Tobin inside and up the stairs to her bedroom.

“You sure are charming, Tobin Heath,” Christen said as she drew closer to Tobin who took her hands out of her pockets and pulled Christen in the last few inches to let their bodies touch, without a care in the world that Jordan was probably watching them like a hawk from the car.

“Me? Charming?” Tobin asked innocently.

“Mmhmm,” Christen said as she linked her fingers around Tobin’s neck and let the pads of her thumbs gently rub behind Tobin’s ears.

They looked in each other’s eyes for a few moments without saying a word. Tobin’s world stopped and ceased to exist anywhere but in the warmth of Christen’s touch. It was now or never.

“Could I maybe charm you some more over dinner sometime?” Tobin asked, hoping her nervousness didn’t show and that her words came out as good as they sounded in her head.

Christen was screaming on the inside. ‘Finally!’ she thought to herself, trying to keep her body and facial expression calm despite the excitement she was feeling over hearing Tobin ask her out on a date.

“I’d love that,” Christen said with a smile bigger than Tobin had ever seen on her before.

This woman. This woman who was slowly changing her life in the best ways possible. Tobin had been living life in a fog for the past twelve years, as if it were someone else’s. She had become someone she hardly even recognized. Until this woman. This woman who made her feel alive again. Who has helped her think clearly about what she wanted and dare to think love was possible all these years later. This woman.

“Awesome,” Tobin said casually even though the magnitude of the moment had her heart thumping out of her chest.

“Awesome,” Christen said back.

“I should let you go, even though it’s the last thing I want to do. I’m sure Jordan is giving Emma the play-by-play of this in the car right now,” Tobin said chuckling.

Christen laughed, knowing Tobin was right. “I suppose I could let you go. For now.”

Tobin sighed as her arms instinctively wrapped themselves tighter around Christen’s waist at the thought of having to let her go.

“Thanks for the ride,” Christen said, also holding on tighter.

“Sweet dreams, Chris,” Tobin replied.

Christen gave Tobin a small pout. “Why are you telling me that now? Aren’t you going to call me when you get home to say good night to me?”

Tobin laughed at Christen’s irresistibly cute face, whose pout grew even bigger at Tobin’s laughter. “Oh I am. I’m definitely calling you. I’ve just been wanting to say those words to you in person.”

The furrow on Christen’s brows disappeared and so did the pout. It was replaced by a dark look that had Tobin shifting her feet.

“You’d better go before I do something we’ll both regret,” Christen husked.

Tobin’s breath was caught in her throat just imagining the things Christen could do to her. “I wouldn’t regret it, but you’re right. I should go.”

“Okay,” Christen said, not moving an inch.

“Okay,” Tobin said, not budging either.

Finally, Tobin slowly leaned in and pressed her lips against Christen’s cheek. “Talk to you soon, beautiful,” she whispered softly against Christen’s ear.

Christen audibly sighed and her entire body tingled. “Okay,” she breathed out.

Tobin finally let Christen go as she took a step back. She missed Christen’s body instantly, but she knew they had to draw the line here.

“Drive safely,” Christen said.

“I will,” Tobin said as she reluctantly made her way back to her car where she could see through the windshield that Jordan had the biggest grin on her face.

Tobin looked back before opening the door and found Christen with her arms crossed, smiling at her. She waved at the woman on the porch who waved back. Tobin nodded and turned to open the door. She climbed in and looked straight ahead, afraid of what her face might do if she looked over.

“Best birthday ever,” Jordan said again, her grin still plastered on her face.

Tobin smiled without looking at her daughter, knowing Jordan wasn’t referring to the new phone she’d received that morning or the dinner they’d just had or the mini golf they’d just played. She knew and she agreed. Best birthday ever.

————

Chapter Text

Christen floated through her office building on Monday morning with the biggest smile on her face. It had been an amazing weekend spent with Tobin on Saturday and one-on-one time with Emma on Sunday since she had been so busy with work the previous week. It was bound to be a crazy Monday, as they always were, but nothing was going to get her down on this day. Not after Tobin finally asked her out on a date. A real date with no friends to act as a buffer between them and no children plotting their next move. Just her and Tobin. The thought alone made her giddy with excitement.

Pinoe was in the middle of typing when she saw Christen approaching. Pinoe tilted her head to the side with a curious look on her face while Christen’s smile was still plastered on hers.

“Good morning, P!” Christen said cheerfully.

“Morning, boss!” Pinoe responded as she handed Christen her messages that came in over the weekend.

“Thanks,” Christen said, still beaming as she walked past Pinoe’s desk and toward her office.

Pinoe quickly got up and trailed Christen into her office, dying to know why she was in such a good mood. It wasn’t that Christen was never in a good mood. It was that Christen was never in this good a mood on a Monday morning.

Christen set her laptop bag and purse down on her desk and looked up to see Pinoe with an expectant look on her face. “Can I help you?” she asked.

“You think you can just waltz in here practically singing and not get questions from me?” Pinoe asked. “What’s got you so happy this morning? Did you and Tobin, you know…” she said suggestively, waggling her eyebrows.

“No!” Christen yelped. “I mean, no, we didn’t,” she said in a calmer tone.

Pinoe crossed her arms and waited for an explanation.

“We didn’t do anything, but she did ask me out on a date! We’re going out tomorrow night,” Christen said excitedly.

“That’s great!” Pinoe said enthusiastically. “But why tomorrow? Kinda weird to go out in the middle of the week?” she questioned.

If this had been anyone else, Christen would have said she was much too busy to go out on a date on a weekday. But this was Tobin and she wanted to see the woman as soon as possible and Tuesday was going to be the day come hell or high water.

“So…when I asked you out on a date last night, I completely forgot that Jordan had switched our week to go to Seattle so we could do her birthday here, so I’m not gonna be able to take you out this weekend,” Tobin said sadly with her brows deeply furrowed.

Christen wanted to pout and whine, but she didn’t. She could tell Tobin wasn’t happy about it either, so she took it in stride.

“Oh,” Christen said, trying to hide her disappointment. “That’s okay, we can wait until the next weekend.”

Christen wasn’t expecting what came next. She’d already gotten a dose of a Tobin Heath pout a couple of weeks ago when she was sore from running. That was apparently just a warmup act for the pout she was now faced with and Christen almost dropped everything and drove to Tobin’s house just to make it go away. If this was the face she was going to get any time Tobin was upset about something, she was in serious trouble.

“Chriiiis,” Tobin whined. “I don’t wanna wait two weeks to take you out on a date.”

Christen smiled at how cute Tobin was and the fact that she was just as excited for their date as she was. “No? Well what are you gonna do about it?” she challenged.

Tobin took a few seconds to think about it, then her face lit up with an idea.

“What would you say if I asked you if you wanted to have a Tobin Tuesday part deux?” Tobin asked in a hopeful tone.

“I would say what time are you picking me up?” Christen said flirtatiously without even looking at her calendar to make sure she didn’t have any late meetings or dinner plans for work…nor did she check if Pinoe was available to stay with Emma even though her daughter insists she can now be left home alone at her age. Christen just wasn’t a very good thinker around Tobin, it seemed.

Tobin grinned. “How does 7pm sound?”

“Sounds perfect,” Christen replied as she made a mental note to ask Pinoe in the morning if she would be available to babysit.

“Yeah Tuesday isn’t the most convenient. But she and her daughter are going to see her parents up in Seattle this weekend and, well, we didn’t really wanna wait until the following weekend to see each other, so tomorrow it is,” Christen explained. “And speaking of which, I need a huge favor…”

“Let me guess, you said yes to this date without making arrangements on who’s going to watch Emma,” Pinoe concluded.

“Um, yes? Sorry, P. I was just too excited…and maybe a little desperate to see her,” Christen winced. “Are you available to stay with Emma tomorrow? Please tell me you are?” she begged.

Pinoe wanted to tease her friend, but she stopped herself. She had never seen Christen act like this, ever. It wasn’t like her to do something without thinking first. It surprised her, but it also made her happy that she seemed to be following her heart when it came to Tobin Heath and she was more than happy to help her friend.

Pinoe rolled her eyes, pretending to be annoyed. “I’m available and yes, I’ll stay with Em,” she said.

Christen visibly relaxed. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, P!”

“Of course, anything to help you get laid,” Pinoe teased.

“It’s not like that,” they both said in unison, with Pinoe anticipating what Christen was going to say.

“Okay, well, you may not get laid tomorrow, but that’s where you ultimately want this thing to go, right?” Pinoe said.

“No,” Christen said immediately. “I mean, yeah, that’s part of it. But this thing with Tobin is…it’s different. She’s different. I can’t explain it,” she said.

Pinoe’s face softened. “I know, Chris. I won’t tease you anymore. For now. I know she means a lot to you.”

“She does,” Christen said in a daze, thinking about honey brown eyes…soft, pouty lips…and strong, muscular arms.

Pinoe waved her hand in front of Christen after a few moments of watching her drift off into space.

“Huh?” Christen asked.

“You have a meeting in ten minutes. Better get going soon,” Pinoe said again with a knowing smirk.

Christen blushed at being caught daydreaming. “Oh, uh, yeah. Thanks, P.”

“No problem. We’ll talk more about this date later,” Pinoe said, leaving Christen in her office.

————

“Ash, I need a big big big favor,” Tobin said as soon as Ashlyn picked up the phone.

Tobin had just finished dropping Jordan off at school and was back home to have her second cup of coffee and eat breakfast.

“What’s up, bud?” Ashlyn greeted sleepily as she looked at the clock and saw that it was 7:45am. “Why are you calling so early?”

“Sorry, I have sort of an emergency,” Tobin said.

Ashlyn sat up in bed at the urgency of Tobin’s voice. “What kind of an emergency?” she asked.

Tobin explained to her friend the pickle she was in and asked if she and/or Ali could come hang out with Jordan tomorrow night so she could take Christen out on a date.

Ashlyn grinned and nodded her head enthusiastically. “Of course! Just tell me what time you need us and we’ll be there.”

Tobin breathed a sigh of relief. In her excitement to see Christen, she hadn’t thought of what to do with Jordan and was grateful her friends were free to help her out.

“You’re the best, dude. I owe you big time,” Tobin said.

Ashlyn shook her head and raised her hand to stop Tobin from talking. “You owe us nothing. Don’t you see that this is all we’ve wanted for you all these years? Go do your thing and sweep Christen off her feet…although from the way she was looking at you the other night, I have a feeling you’ve already done that,” she teased.

Tobin’s heart was full. She loved her family. Her family to whom she was connected by blood. But this family, her chosen family, was pretty wonderful, too. She didn’t know how she got so lucky to have all of their support in all her toughest moments, but she was happy to lean on them now. Now that she had a chance at something that looked a lot like love.

“Thanks Ash,” Tobin said blushing.

“No problem. But Tobs?” Ashlyn said.

“Yeah?” Tobin asked.

“Next time, call me at a decent hour. You know I need my beauty sleep,” Ashlyn teased.

“Oh sorry, Ash. Go back to sleep, I’ll text you the details,” Tobin said, trying to quickly end the conversation so her friend could go back to sleep.

Ashlyn chuckled. “No worries, talk to you later, Tobs.”

“Later,” Tobin replied and hung up the phone.

————

Christen was sitting at the head of a conference table in between meetings, waiting for everyone to arrive, when she decided to send Tobin a text while she had a free moment.

So…is there a particular dress code for tomorrow?

Tobin was just about to start eating her lunch when a text from Christen came through. She smiled reading it and had many ideas on what Christen could wear…or not wear…for tomorrow. But she resisted the urge to send all those thoughts in an actual text.

You can wear anything you’d like. The place I’m taking you to is casual, but you can dress up if you feel like getting fancy. You won’t hear any complaints from me if you decide to go that route…

Christen furrowed her brows, shaking her head at how unhelpful the reply was from Tobin.

So helpful.

Tobin laughed at the sarcasm dripping from Christen’s text.

I aim to be helpful at all times.

Christen smiled and shook her head. Communicating with Tobin, in any form, never failed to bring a smile to her face. Even sitting in a conference room full of colleagues, she couldn’t help the grin she was sporting as they texted back and forth.

Uh huh. Gotta go. Another meeting about to start. Call me tonight?

Tobin read the last text and smirked, as if she could go a night without calling Christen.

Can’t wait.

Tobin tossed her phone aside, knowing Christen was done replying. She quickly finished her lunch, wanting to get as much done today so she could give herself the day off tomorrow to get ready for their date.

————

“Mom, how come Auntie Ash said she and Auntie Ali are excited to come over tomorrow?” Jordan asked as she climbed into the car.

Tobin chuckled. Ashlyn had sent her a text a half hour ago apologizing for telling Jordan she was excited to come over. When Jordan had replied to Ashlyn asking why they were coming over, Ashlyn ignored the message, realizing that Tobin hadn’t had a chance to tell Jordan about her date with Christen tomorrow.

“I have a date with Ms. Christen tomorrow night,” Tobin said easily, trying not to make it sound like a big deal even though she knew Jordan would freak out over it because it really was a big deal.

“Oh my god!” Jordan screamed. “For real, Mom? Like an actual date? You’re not messing with me, are you?” she asked, not quite believing her ears.

Tobin looked over at Jordan and smiled. She knew this is what Jordan has been waiting for since the moment she saw the way she interacted with Christen all those weeks ago on court 17. And it’s been what she’s probably been waiting for her whole life. Most of her school friends and neighbors had two parents, and when she turned five, she had asked Tobin why she didn’t also have two. And Tobin had to explain to her why that was. If there was anything Tobin didn’t take lightly, it was Jordan’s heart and her feelings.

“I wouldn’t mess with you. Not about something like this,” Tobin said honestly.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” Jordan said in a whisper, in utter disbelief. “This is amazing, Mom. I love Ms. Christen. She’s so sweet and she makes you laugh and smile so much. I hope you guys have a good date.”

Tobin kept her eyes on Jordan. Her daughter didn’t realize how heavy the impact of her words were. Tobin didn’t throw the word ‘love’ around loosely and she could tell that Jordan was getting attached to Christen. Who wouldn’t? Especially not after knowing her for a couple of months. Tobin just hoped she was making the right decision by putting her heart, and Jordan’s heart, out there for Christen.

“I hope so, too, kiddo,” Tobin said as she started the car to leave the school parking lot. “But please hold off on talking to Emma about this. Ms. Christen might not have told her about it yet,” she chuckled, knowing that texting Emma was probably the first thing Jordan was going to do.

————

“So…” Christen began as she and Emma sat down for dinner. “Auntie Pinoe will be coming over tomorrow to hang out with you,” she said nonchalantly, trying to contain her excitement at the news she was about to give her daughter.

“Really? Awesome!” Emma exclaimed. “How come?” she asked, wondering why Auntie Pinoe was coming to hang out on a Tuesday night.

“Well…Ms. Tobin and I will be going out to dinner tomorrow and so…” Christen started to say, but was cut off.

“What! Oh my god, Mom!” Emma yelled, slamming her hands down on the table in her excitement. “This is so exciting!”

Christen was taken aback by the strong response from Emma. She knew her daughter would be happy, but she didn’t realize she would be this happy.

“When did she ask you out? Where are you guys going? What are you gonna wear?” Emma asked in rapid succession.

Christen laughed and held up her hands. “Whoa, whoa, one at a time, kiddo,” she said.

Emma was excitedly leaning so far into the table, her attention fully on Christen that it looked like she was ready to climb across the table to get answers to her questions. She stared at her expectantly as Christen addressed all her questions.

“She asked me out on Saturday night after Jordan’s party, I have no idea where we’re going, and I don’t know what I’m going to wear,” Christen answered.

Emma squealed. Loudly. Jordan’s weird text from earlier telling her to call as soon as she found out, whatever that was, now made sense. “Oh my god! This is the best thing I’ve ever heard! I’m so excited!”

Christen wanted to temper Emma’s joy, but she couldn’t find it in herself to do so. She, too, was just as excited and happy about the latest developments between her and Tobin. She looked at her daughter and saw her own joy reflected in her 12-year-old’s beaming face. Emma’s green eyes sparkled brightly and she believed her when she said this was the best thing she had ever heard. Because the more Christen thought about it, the more she realized that, outside of finding out she was pregnant with Emma, this probably was the best thing either one of them had ever heard.

Christen matched Emma’s smile. “Me, too, baby. Me, too.”

————

Tobin was nervous. More nervous than she had ever been in her entire life, without question. Even more nervous than last weekend before Jordan’s party when she had been rendered unable to function like a proper human being to even ring Christen’s doorbell. But Jordan wasn’t with her tonight to help with that. She was standing at Christen’s door, with flowers in one hand, taking deep breaths to calm her racing heart. She closed her eyes for a moment and took one more breath before finally ringing the doorbell.

The door flung open immediately and Tobin was greeted by none other than Pinoe.

“Tobin! So good to see you!” Pinoe said excitedly.

“Hey Pinoe, good to see you, too,” Tobin said, her nerves easing a little since it wasn’t Christen who answered the door, for which she was thankful in that moment.

“Come in, come in. Pressy’s just finishing up getting ready. She should be down in a couple minutes,” Pinoe said with a hint of mischief in her eyes.

“Thanks,” Tobin said. “Sorry, no treats for you tonight. I didn’t realize you’d be here,” she joked.

“It’s all good. This is treat enough for me,” Pinoe said excitedly. “I was wondering if you were changing your mind out there. Took you long enough to ring the doorbell,” she teased.

The blush was immediate on Tobin’s face. She didn’t know how long she was standing out on Christen’s porch, but it must have been an embarrassing amount of time.

“Oh, uh, no. Definitely wasn’t changing my mind. Just a little nervous. Haven’t done this in a while,” Tobin said honestly.

Pinoe’s face softened. She knew why Tobin was out there for five whole minutes giving herself a pep talk before finally ringing the doorbell. She couldn’t imagine ever being in Tobin’s shoes and what she’s been through in her life.

“I’m just messing with you. Pressy makes everyone nervous, don’t worry. She just has that effect on people,” Pinoe said.

Tobin let out a chuckle. “Tell me about it.”

Just then, Emma quickly came bounding down the stairs. So quickly that Tobin was afraid she might come tumbling down halfway through.

“Hi Ms. Tobin! Mom’s almost ready. She’ll be down in a minute!” Emma said excitedly.

“Hey Emma!” Tobin greeted, her nerves back in full force knowing that she would see Christen any second now.

————

Christen had been feeling anxious all day. Pinoe did her best to keep her on track, making sure she showed up for all her meetings, though she wasn’t sure she got anything out of them given that the only thing on her mind was Tobin and their date tonight. But as she finished getting ready, she felt a calm wash over her, knowing she would be spending her evening with someone she truly cared about and made her feel special.

She wasn’t sure what to expect. She didn’t know where they were going or what Tobin had planned, but she didn’t care. She just wanted to be in Tobin’s company already. It was a little scary how much she missed her. She wanted to see her in person, in the most urgent of ways. Like everyday. Her feelings for the other woman were so strong, she felt lightheaded just thinking about what it would be like to have Tobin’s arms wrapped around her again.

Looking in the full-length mirror in her closet, she was happy with the outfit she chose. She hoped Tobin would be, too. Though she was pretty sure she would. With one last fluff of her hair, she made her way out of her bedroom.

————

“Sounds like it was a blast,” Pinoe said.

“Yeah, it was a lot fu…” Tobin was mid-sentence when she first caught sight of Christen at the top of the stairs.

“Holy shit,” Tobin said, not meaning to curse in front of Emma, wholly unprepared to see Christen looking the way she did, even after Christen had teased her last night about what she might be wearing tonight.

“So…given tomorrow’s dress code guidance, what will you be wearing, Ms. Press?” Tobin asked, unable to think of anything else the rest of the day after her conversation with Christen earlier about what she should wear.

“I would hardly call ‘you can wear anything’ guidance, but I have something in mind…” Christen said coyly.

Tobin swallowed. “Oh?” she croaked out. “Care to describe?”

Christen tapped her nose with her finger and pretended to think on it. “Mm, nah. I might still change my mind, so I think I’ll keep it to myself,” she said with a grin.

“You’re cruel,” Tobin whined.

“And you’re impatient,” Christen said smiling.

“I’m not…I’m just…I’m looking forward to seeing you,” Tobin sighed.

“You’re cute when you’re impatient,” Christen teased. “But I’m looking forward to seeing you, too.”

“Language, Tobs,” Christen said laughing at the top of the stairs even though her nerves were back now that she’s gotten a glimpse of the beautiful woman whose company she was keeping tonight.

“Oh, sorry. I’m, uh, wow. Um, you look…wow,” Tobin said, unable to come up with a more sophisticated answer.

Pinoe and Emma tried not to laugh. It was exactly the reaction they hoped to get out of Tobin when they helped Christen get ready.

Christen kept her eyes solely on Tobin as she walked down the stairs, not caring about Pinoe and Emma’s presence and their silent giggles. All she could see was Tobin with her hair down in all its gorgeous glory, wearing an off white long sleeve henley, black skinny jeans, and dark brown chelsea boots. She looked perfect.

Tobin stood there, mouth hanging open as Christen descended the stairs. She couldn’t tell if her mouth was dry or if she was literally drooling. Either way, she was floored by how beautiful Christen looked. Her eyes had never seen anything more perfect. She was wearing a little forest green dress with quarter sleeves and a hint of cleavage and she couldn’t wait for her to stand in front of her so she could see how much it brought out her eyes. Her hair was down in their natural curls again and she didn’t think she would ever get tired of seeing Christen like this. Her legs were impossibly long, with the dress coming down a few inches above her knees and she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to come out of this night alive.

“Wow,” Tobin said as Christen stopped a foot away from her.

“You said that already,” Christen teased.

Sometimes words just fail. And this was one such moment in Tobin’s life. Christen just had a way of bringing out the nervous and awkward teenager in her.

“Sorry, I um…I’m not sure what else to say. So…wow,” Tobin said.

Christen threw her head back in laughter, which made Tobin’s eyes wander down her neck. If there wasn’t an audience right now, she would have let her nose nuzzle her pulse point, which had become her favorite thing to do with Christen, besides wrapping her arms around her waist.

“Oh, um, these are for you,” Tobin said, extending her hand to give Christen the bouquet of flowers she picked up with Jordan after school.

“They’re beautiful. I love the color and tulips are my favorite, thank you,” Christen said as she admired them.

“I might have had help in finding out what your favorite flower was,” Tobin admitted, with Jordan having asked Emma what Christen liked.

Christen smiled. “And I told you my favorite color was pink,” she pointed out.

Tobin smiled and shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal, but it was. To Christen, it was a very big deal. It would have been easy for Tobin to go to the store and buy any bouquet of flowers in any color and Christen would have been perfectly happy with that. She would have been perfectly happy with nothing at all, but Tobin wanted to make her feel special, so she had brought her her favorite flower in her favorite color. Christen felt very special indeed.

“I love them, thank you,” Christen said again. “Let me go put these in water really quick.”

“Okay,” Tobin said, wanting to follow Christen into the kitchen, but stayed put since she needed a minute to calm herself down from seeing Christen in her dress.

Tobin, Pinoe, and Emma all watched Christen walk away and Tobin’s eyes couldn’t help but take a peek at Christen’s ass. Her incredibly perfect ass swaying in the most perfect dress.

“Okay, you can unmute yourselves now,” Emma whispered into her phone.

Tobin furrowed her brows, confused as to what was going on and who was on the phone.

“Hi Mom!” Jordan whispered cheerfully.

“What? Why are you guys on the phone?” Tobin asked, even though she wasn’t entirely surprised when she saw a three-headed monster on FaceTime.

“We wanted to see your reaction to seeing Christen,” Ashlyn piped in. “We had insider info that it would be priceless and they were right.”

Tobin rolled her eyes. This was definitely something they would do. They were all so excited for her that they practically shoved her out the door earlier. She should have expected it, honestly. She looked past all of them, anxious to get another glimpse of Christen.

“You alright there, Tobin?” Pinoe asked, patting her on the shoulder. “You looked like you were gonna pass out.”

“Ye…yeah, I’m okay,” Tobin said, averting her eyes and looking back at the group. “She just…she just knocked the wind out of me, that’s all,” she said honestly.

“If it makes you feel any better, she was a nervous wreck, too. She’s just a little better at hiding it,” Pinoe winked.

That made Tobin smile. Thinking about Christen being nervous about going out on a date with her did make her feel a little bit better.

“Thanks, Pinoe,” Tobin said.

Tobin got distracted again by Christen walking across the kitchen to wash her hands and she felt her own hands getting clammy. Teenager Tobin. Again.

“Have fun tonight, Mom,” Jordan said, forcing her to turn her head away from Christen.

“Yeah, have fun, Tobs,” Ali said.

“Thanks guys,” Tobin said, unable to help the chuckle from escaping her mouth. “Now can you please hang up.”

“We’ll stay on mute,” Jordan said, immediately silencing themselves before Tobin could argue that they should hang up altogether.

“Ready?” Christen asked, making them all whip their heads around.

“Yep,” Tobin said quickly, wanting to escape from everyone as she walked over to Christen.

Christen smiled at her and it took all the confidence Tobin had not to be disarmed by it and trip over her own feet as she approached her.

“Em, don’t stay up too late. You have school tomorrow,” Christen warned as she grabbed her small purse, knowing Emma always stayed up late whenever Pinoe was around.

“I won’t, Mom,” Emma promised.

Christen nodded and looked at Pinoe, silently asking her to make sure Emma got into bed at a decent hour.

Pinoe nodded back at her. “I’ll make sure she’s in bed by 10.”

“Thanks, P. For everything,” Christen said sincerely.

“Happy to be here. Now get out of here, you crazy kids,” Pinoe said, motioning with her hand to shoo them away.

“Okay, see ya later,” Christen said as she walked toward the front door with Tobin trailing behind her.

“See you guys,” Tobin called back and waved as Pinoe and Emma waved back.

Christen held on to the door frame as she slipped her heels on while keeping eye contact with Tobin. When she was done, she stood up straight and took a deep breath, nodding at Tobin to tell her she was ready to go.

Tobin opened the door for Christen and waited for her to walk past her and she followed her outside. She held out her arm to help Christen down the porch steps and Christen slipped her arm around Tobin’s bicep and they walked down together. When they reached the car, Tobin stopped, but didn’t open the car door. Instead, she gently lowered Christen’s hand that had a grip on her and they turned to face each other. Tobin didn’t hesitate this time, her confidence growing now that they were alone. She slowly closed the gap between them and Christen instinctively raised her arms to hug Tobin as Tobin’s arms wrapped themselves tightly around Christen’s waist.

They had been waiting to do this since Saturday night and they stood there holding each other as if they were content to just do that all night. Tobin was the first to pull back, wanting to look at Christen’s face up close, but keeping her hand securely on Christen’s hips while Christen’s hands were still loosely hanging on to her shoulders.

“Wow, Chris,” Tobin said again, much to Christen’s amusement. “Your eyes. I don’t think I’ve ever actually told you how much I love your eyes. I’ve never seen green like them before. When I first met you, your eyes pretty much shut my brain down and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. That’s why I was such an idiot then and it’s pretty much why I’m still an idiot around you now,” she said.

Christen giggled and blushed. She’d received compliments on her eyes before, but never in the way Tobin just did.

“You’re not an idiot. You’re cute when you’re flustered,” Christen said.

“Only when I’m flustered?” Tobin asked with playful eyes.

“Okay, you’re cute when you’re impatient and flustered and basically all the time,” Christen said.

Tobin grinned as she backed away slightly to get a full look at Christen’s dress. She shook her head in awe.

“Clearly, I don’t even know what to say about how you look in this dress,” Tobin said as she moved back in and tightened her grip on Christen again. “You are stunning,” she said as she leaned in and whispered against her ear and let her mouth linger around Christen’s neck without touching it.

“God, Tobin,” Christen shivered as she felt Tobin’s breath on her. “If you want to go slow, you’re gonna have to stop whispering in my ear like that,” she said jokingly as she ran her fingers through Tobin’s hair.

Tobin quickly stepped back and let go of Christen. “Shit, I’m sorry, Chris. I didn’t even realize…I didn’t…I didn’t mean to frustrate you,” she said remorsefully, her eyes cast downward.

Christen’s face softened as she reached out for Tobin to bring her body flush against her once more. “Hey,” she said, lifting Tobin’s chin. “You don’t have to be sorry. I’m just letting you know that I’m, uh…that, uh, my body’s really responsive to you right now. But it doesn’t mean I don’t like it, okay? It just means I’m having a hard time controlling myself around you and ultimately, that’s a good thing,” she said with a smile as she wrapped her arms around Tobin’s waist and Tobin instinctively rubbed her arms.

Tobin sighed, the guilt eating at her. “Yeah, but I’m the one who said we need to take it slow and here I am instigating.”

“Tobs, it’s okay, honestly. I’m having a hard time controlling myself, but I can control myself,” Christen assured the distraught-looking woman.

Christen had exercised more self-control in the last two months than she ever had in her entire life. Her immediate attraction to Tobin had taken all her willpower, especially since finding out about Tobin’s situation, not to act on her desires. She had exercised even more restraint in her own bedroom late at night when she could easily satisfy the need to release some tension in her body on her own. She wanted Tobin to be the one to release her from it and she knew it would be worth the wait.

“Besides, you’re not that hot. I can totally control myself around you,” Christen said jokingly and unconvincingly to try to ease Tobin’s worries.

That earned a chuckle from Tobin and Christen could see her shoulders visibly relax.

“So…where are you taking me tonight?” Christen asked to try to get them back on track.

“It’s a surprise,” Tobin said.

“Can I get a hint?” Christen asked seductively as she brought a hand up to cup Tobin’s cheek.

Tobin resisted the urge to put her hand over Christen’s and tell her exactly where they were going.

“Nice try, but nope,” Tobin said quickly.

Christen clicked her tongue. “It was worth a shot,” she said laughing as she let go of Tobin’s cheek.

“I suppose we should go or else this is going to feel like a double date with Pinoe and Emma watching from the window,” Christen said.

Tobin looked past Christen and sure enough, Pinoe and Emma’s faces were glued to the window. Tobin gave them a quick wave which made them scamper away. Tobin chuckled and finally opened the car door for Christen to get them on their way.

————

“Where are we?” Christen asked when Tobin parked the car twenty minutes later.

“You’ll see,” Tobin said as she unfastened her seat belt. “Stay right there.”

Tobin got out of the car and jogged to the other side and opened Christen’s door for her. She extended her hand out to Christen and helped her up. Christen’s body tingled at how chivalrous Tobin was, but she wasn’t the least bit surprised based on everything she knew about Tobin so far. This was just Tobin being Tobin.

Christen took in her surroundings, never having been to this side of town even though it was relatively close to her home. It was busy despite it being a Tuesday night. There were people milling about and restaurants that had outdoor seating, with mostly hipster 20-somethings and music being played. Christen decided right away that she liked this place, though she felt a little overdressed.

“The dress was too much,” Christen commented, feeling a little self-conscious.

Tobin shook her head vigorously. “Not at all. You look perfect,” she said. “Ready?”

Christen nodded and smiled when Tobin linked their hands and started leading her down the sidewalk. Tobin’s hand felt so right in hers, as if they’d been holding hands for years. Everything about being with Tobin felt right and she was buzzing with excitement, anxious to see where Tobin was taking her.

“Why do I feel like everyone is staring at me?” Christen whispered as she noticed a few people looking at her curiously. “I should have worn something else.”

Tobin squeezed her hand tighter and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. There were indeed a few people staring at Christen, but not for the reason Christen thinks. “Hey, don’t worry. It’s not the dress. I mean, it is the dress, but it’s because they’ve never seen anyone as beautiful as you around here. They’re just having the same reaction that I did when I first saw you,” Tobin said chuckling as she let her hands rest on Christen’s hips. “But if you’re not comfortable, we can definitely go somewhere else. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable tonight…or any night,” she said sincerely.

Christen blushed. She discreetly looked around and the stares did appear to be appreciative ones, which made her blush even more. She took a deep breath and shook her head. “No, I’m sorry, it just caught me off guard. Let’s keep going,” she said.

“Are you sure?” Tobin asked. “Because I have some other ideas that I’d be happy to…”

“No, Tobs, really it’s okay. I’m good now,” Christen said, getting her confidence back. “Thank you though.”

“Okay,” Tobin said as she took Christen’s hand again and started walking.

They came to a stop two blocks later in front of a couple of small two-story buildings with a walkway between them. They took the elevator upstairs and stopped at the third door that didn’t have a sign on it, just the suite number 2300, deepening the mystery that Christen was trying to solve. Tobin unlocked the door and opened it for Christen to see. Christen walked into a large dimly lit space that had a small table and two chairs in the middle of it and a couch by the large window as soft music played. She continued to look around and saw some paintings hanging on the walls, rows of paintings leaning against a wall, a couple of covered up easels, and paint supplies put away in one of the corners of the space. She then saw a sewing machine on the floor next to the paint supplies that confirmed her suspicions as soon as she walked in.

“We’re in your studio,” Christen concluded as she turned to smile at Tobin.

Tobin was a little nervous. She didn’t usually invite people into her workspace, preferring to keep to herself, though that didn’t stop people like Shannon from inviting themselves over. But she wanted Christen here. To share a little bit of herself.

“Welcome to Tobin Tuesday, date night edition,” Tobin said nervously. “I’m sorry, I know it’s stupid. I just kind of thought it would be nice to have a quiet dinner in a comfortable place where we wouldn’t be rushed for time.”

Christen kept smiling as she walked back over to Tobin and ran her hands up and down Tobin’s arms. “It’s not stupid. It’s perfect. Thank you for bringing me here. I really do love Tobin Tuesdays,” she grinned.

“You do?” Tobin asked as her hands found their way to Christen’s hips once again.

“Mmhmm. Any time I can get you alone to get to know you better is always a very good thing,” Christen said. “And food always helps,” she chuckled.

“I have food. I mean, I don’t have it here, but it’s a few doors down. I cooked earlier this afternoon and the owner of the restaurant is a friend of mine and they’ve been keeping it warm for me,” Tobin said.

Christen could only shake her head. When Tobin had asked her if there was anything she didn’t like to eat, she thought Tobin was just figuring out what restaurants would be off limits. She didn’t realize it was because Tobin was planning on cooking. “Is there anything you can’t do?”

“Mm,” Tobin thought. “I can’t stop thinking about you,” she said with a big grin.

Christen rolled her eyes. “Even when you’re corny you’re cute,” she said laughing.

“Can I get you some wine?” Tobin asked.

“Sure,” Christen said easily.

“We’re having spaghetti and meatballs tonight, so I have a couple of reds for you to choose from. I’ve got Sangiovese and Chianti. Do either of those sound good to you?”

“I’ll have a Sangiovese, please. And I’m sure I’ll try the Chianti later,” Christen said, her mouth already watering at the sound of dinner since she usually ate relatively early with Emma on most nights and this was late for her.

Tobin walked over to the counter that had the wine and glasses and poured one for each of them. She offered one to Christen and raised her glass.

“To our daughters, without whom we wouldn’t be here today,” Tobin said.

“To our daughters,” Christen echoed. “And to Tobin Tuesday.”

Tobin smiled widely and clinked her glass with Christen’s. They both took a sip and let the wine settle on their tongues.

“Mm, that is really good,” Christen complimented.

“It is,” Tobin agreed. “I’m glad the guy at Total Wine knew what he was talking about.”

Christen laughed and shook her head.

“Are you hungry? I can go grab our food downstairs,” Tobin said.

“Starving,” Christen said.

“Okay, I’ll be right back. You can look around or have a seat anywhere,” Tobin said.

“Okay,” Christen said, opting to look around the studio at some of Tobin’s work on the walls.

————

“Thanks so much, Lys. I owe you,” Tobin said as Alyssa took Tobin’s dish out of the oven and the salad out of the fridge.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m happy to help. Besides, your date is ridiculously pretty. You could have warned us. I’m pretty sure she caught us all staring at her earlier,” Alyssa said laughing, mildly embarrassed.

“Completely out of my league, right? She’s so fucking beautiful, inside and out,” Tobin said.

Alyssa smiled at her friend. In all the years that they had been work neighbors, she had never seen Tobin bring anyone on a date to her studio and she was more than willing to help her pull it off.

“She’s more in your league than you give yourself credit for. You two look really happy. I’m happy for you,” Alyssa said sincerely.

“Thanks, Lys. She’s really great. Like I can’t believe she just walked into my life the way she did, completely by chance,” Tobin said.

“Well I’m glad to see you smiling. Now go. Don’t keep her waiting,” Alyssa said, nodding her head toward the door.

“Thanks Lys, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Tobin said.

“Later Tobs.”

————

“Tobin, this was amazing,” Christen said as she took her last bite and leaned back in her chair. “I still can’t believe you made spaghetti noodles from scratch!”

When Tobin told Christen that she made everything from scratch, her jaw just about hit the floor. Apparently, making pasta from scratch was also one of the random things she’s dabbled in. Tobin explained that she was in love with the creative process of things and was always willing to try new things, even if they were time-consuming things.

Tobin grinned and shrugged her shoulders. “I’m glad you liked it.”

“I didn’t like it. I loved it. Really, thank you for that meal,” Christen said appreciatively.

“You’re very welcome,” Tobin said. “Do you think you’ll have room to get ice cream later? There’s a place that’s really good a couple blocks down the street.”

“I would never turn down ice cream,” Christen said smiling.

“Awesome,” Tobin said.

They looked at each other for a few moments, neither saying a word. It had been a lovely dinner with conversation flowing easily, neither of them ever running out of things to say. But now that there was no food to distract them, the energy in the room shifted.

“What are you thinking about?” Tobin finally asked.

Christen smiled and leaned forward. “Will you dance with me? I need to work out all the food I just ate,” she said.

Tobin leaned forward, too.

“Christen Press, do you think there’s any scenario in which I would refuse to dance with you?” Tobin asked with a smirk.

Christen gave her a small smile and looked up as Tobin stood and placed her napkin on the table. She walked up to Christen and held out her hand. Christen took her hand and stood up to meet Tobin face to face. Tobin led her a few feet away from the table and they began to dance to the music that was softly playing in the background. Tobin securely wrapped both arms around Christen’s waist as Christen wrapped her arms around Tobin’s neck, their bodies warm against each other. Each time they held each other like this felt like the first time.

“So…you can paint things, you can build things, you can sew things, you can cook things, you can teach me how to play golf. What else can you do that I don’t know about, Tobin Heath?” Christen asked in Tobin’s ear with a light giggle.

Christen’s voice made Tobin shiver, but she kept her composure as she pulled back to look at Christen. “You’ll just have to find out as we go,” she teased.

Christen would be lying if she said she wasn’t thinking about what else Tobin’s hands could do. What they could do to her.

“Fine,” Christen said, feigning annoyance.

Tobin let her hands run up and down Christen’s back, slipping through the small opening in the middle, feeling Christen’s soft skin. In her wildest dreams, Tobin couldn’t have imagined she’d be dancing with the woman that was in her arms right now.

“Tobin?” Christen said.

“Yeah?” Tobin replied.

“Will you show me something you’re working on? I wanna see where and how the magic happens,” Christen said.

Tobin blinked a couple of times. She hadn’t expected Christen to ask her this tonight.

“You wanna see my work?” Tobin asked.

“Yes, of course I wanna see your work. You never did send me the address to this place after you brought me lunch at work three weeks ago. You said you were going to,” Christen teased as she brushed some of Tobin’s hair off her face.

Tobin blushed, still in awe that Christen wanted to see her process.

“Sorry,” Tobin said contritely. “I just…I don’t usually have people over and I guess you intimidate me a little. You’re such a busy and important woman, I just couldn’t believe this would be something you’d really be interested in,” she said.

Christen gave her a disappointed look and stopped dancing. “Tobin, I always mean what I say. And when I said I wanted to see your studio and your work in person, I absolutely meant it. What’s important to you is important to me,” she said firmly, wanting Tobin to understand how serious she was about this…and how serious she was about her.

Tobin had forgotten this feeling. The feeling of having someone wanting to know everything there is to know about you and the feeling of you wanting the same. She’d felt it once in her life and looking back in Christen’s eyes, she could recognize that this was exactly that same feeling and she opened her heart to it.

“Sorry, I know that now,” Tobin said. “Um, what do you wanna see?”

“Anything you wanna show me. Either something that’s already finished or something that’s a work in progress. I just wanna get into that brain of yours. That beautiful brain on this beautiful head that thinks sewing and cooking are fun,” she teased.

Tobin laughed. She gave it some thought, trying to think of what to show Christen first.

“Okay, um, we can start here. You can look at some of my finished stuff first,” Tobin said as she let go of Christen and walked toward rows upon rows of paintings leaning against one another. “Start from the back of each row if you want to see them in chronological order.”

Christen hunched over and started perusing through the collection. Christen’s first thought was that Tobin was an amazing artist. Not only were her paintings aesthetically beautiful, but she could feel the power and emotion in them.

“How old is the first one?” Christen asked without looking back, fascinated by Tobin’s work.

“I’ve had this studio for 14 years, so I guess that old,” Tobin said.

“Mm,” Christen hummed as she continued to flip through each one.

Tobin looked on anxiously. She was so nervous about Christen looking at her stuff that she couldn’t even appreciate the smoke show in front of her that was Christen’s backside and legs. She hadn’t ever felt this vulnerable about her work and this was certainly going differently than any first date she’d ever had.

Christen patiently went through every single one of the paintings, of which there were over a hundred, and briefly studied each of them. Tobin quietly stood behind her, letting her take her time. When Christen was done, she turned around and purposefully walked toward Tobin and pulled her into a big hug. Tobin hugged her back and buried her face in Christen’s neck as they gripped each other tightly.

After a few moments, Christen pulled back and smiled at Tobin, though she could see the emotion in Christen’s eyes.

Christen had felt a surge of feelings run through her as she looked at Tobin’s paintings. She could see the progression from before Tobin’s world was turned upside down to after. Tobin had gone from paintings that were vibrant and free, to paintings that conveyed heartbreak and despair. And now her paintings conveyed hope, as if flickers of her old self had come back, the most recent one being bright pink and orange that made Christen beam.

“Tobin, you are so incredibly talented,” Christen said in awe. “At first, I wanted you to talk to me about your paintings, but as I was looking through them, I realized that I didn’t need you to. I could see your feelings clearly on each canvas. Thank you for trusting me and for letting me in.”

Tobin didn’t know whether to smile or cry. She’d never let anyone look at this work before. Work that got her through the hardest times of her life. This was her sacred space, the place where she would go to get away. But getting away from Christen was the last thing on her mind now.

“Chris,” Tobin whispered, barely able to breathe as she leaned her forehead against Christen’s and cupped her face in her hands. “I don’t wanna wonder anymore.”

Christen’s heart was beating so fast, she felt like she might die in the best way she could imagine. Resolving to let Tobin come to her once again, to go at her pace as she promised, she didn’t say a word and let Tobin finish her thought.

“I don’t wanna wonder anymore what it might be like to kiss you,” Tobin continued, her voice soft and sincere. “Chris…can I…can I kiss you?” she finally asked as she pulled back to watch and listen for Christen’s answer.

Christen had never wanted a kiss so badly in her life. And the fact that Tobin even asked for permission sent her into a tailspin. She’d dreamt of this, day and night for the past two months, and she couldn’t think of a more perfect moment.

“Yes, Tobs,” Christen said breathlessly as her hands clung to the sides of Tobin’s shirt, her entire body feeling like it was hanging on by a thread at how desperately she wanted to kiss Tobin. “Kiss me.”

Tobin smiled as her eyes darkened. Slowly, she leaned in, closed her eyes, and let her lips brush softly against Christen’s. As soon as their lips touched, Tobin felt her entire world shift. Years of keeping her guard up faded away as she put her heart in Christen’s careful hands. Their lips slotted perfectly against each other and the little sounds coming from Christen ignited something inside of Tobin that she thought would never come alive again. Her hands traveled down toward Christen’s back and she pulled her in some more, wanting there to be no air between their bodies. She then let her tongue play against Christen’s lips and waited for an invitation in.

Christen was in heaven. She was sure of it with the way she was moaning like it was the first time she’d ever been kissed. There was no other way to describe what it felt like to have Tobin’s soft, perfect lips brushing against hers. And when she felt Tobin’s tongue ask for permission into her mouth, she eagerly welcomed it inside by flicking her own tongue against Tobin’s, tasting all of her. It made her moan even louder and it made her body feel more alive than it’s ever been. This wasn’t just any kiss. This was Tobin trusting her enough to give her a piece of her heart. She could feel Tobin’s hands gripping her tightly and she pulled Tobin’s mouth painfully closer to hers like she couldn’t get enough. Could never get enough.

They continued breathing hard through their noses, not wanting to break their passionate embrace. They continued exploring until it became necessary to pull apart so they wouldn’t both fall down from their legs threatening to give out at the intensity of the moment.

“Tobin,” Christen said, completely out of breath against Tobin’s lips as her hands found their way down to Tobin’s abs and feeling how muscular they were.

“Christen,” Tobin responded, her mouth still chasing Christen’s.

“Fuck,” Christen breathed out. “Tobin, I want you so bad and this feels so good, but we should stop before this gets out of hand,” she said, trying to do the right thing as she continued to kiss the other woman, unable to help herself.

“You taste so good, Chris,” Tobin said, her lips still unwilling to detach themselves from Christen’s.

“God, Tobin. You’re driving me crazy,” Christen said, barely able to get the words out, her body completely aroused.

“You’re so sexy,” Tobin husked against Christen’s ear as she nibbled on her ear lobe.

Tobin couldn’t get enough of Christen’s voice and the sounds she was making. It made her want to do things to hear them over and over again. But she knew they couldn’t go further than what they’ve already done no matter how turned on they both were. She had hoped to maybe get up the nerve to kiss Christen at the end of the night and this was already more than she could have imagined. But she wasn’t ready for more and they both knew it.

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Tobin said, finally somewhat coming to her senses as she pulled back, but kept her hold on Christen’s hips.

They both wiped their mouths and tried to get their breathing under control, but their eyes were still dark as if they wanted to dive right back in.

“You don’t have to apologize. I just…I just didn’t want to get carried away,” Christen said as she ran her hands through Tobin’s hair.

Tobin thanked her lucky stars that Christen was being so patient and understanding. She was also thankful that Christen was able to recognize when something was getting a bit too heavy and had the strength to stop. Part of Tobin didn’t want to stop and lay Christen down on the couch, but a bigger part of her needed to stop.

“Do you, uh…is there, uh, anything that you’re working on that you want to show me?” Christen asked, trying to get back to what they were doing before their mind-blowing first kiss.

“Um, yeah…sure,” Tobin said, slightly hesitating, which Christen could hear in her voice and see in her eyes.

“You don’t have to. We don’t have to look at anything. I was just curious,” Christen said, not wanting Tobin to feel pressure about showing something she was still working on.

“No, it’s okay. Um, I only have a couple. One of them is a commission I just started a couple days ago so there’s not much to see at this point,” Tobin said as she let go of Christen and walked over to one of the two easels covered by a tarp.

Christen trailed behind her and watched as Tobin pulled the cover off and revealed a canvas full of different shades of green. It was a painting that looked as if it were a wall and you were trying to pick out which shade of green to paint the entire room. Christen looked at it a little longer, looking for some other meaning to it other than Tobin showing different shades of green.

“Is this a commission, too? Is it almost done?” Christen asked as she looked over at Tobin.

“No, um, no it’s not,” Tobin said. “It’s not a commission and I’m starting to think it’ll never be done,” she said chuckling, a deep blush covering her face.

Christen scrunched up her eyebrows. “What do you mean?” she asked.

Tobin cleared her throat, unsure of whether to explain it to Christen or just shrug her shoulders and not answer her at all. In the end, of course, she chose the truth.

“It’s, uh, your eyes,” Tobin said, which appeared to further confuse Christen. “I mean, it’s the color of your eyes. Or at least, that’s what I was going for. I haven’t been able to find the color combination to match them. That’s why I said it might never be done. I’ve never seen eyes like yours before and I think they’re the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen and I didn’t mean to seem creepy because I just kind of couldn’t stop thinking about them since the first time I saw you and so I was trying to replicate it,” she embarrassingly rambled, her blush even deeper now.

Christen smiled at the fidgety woman who was trying to explain her art. She moved to stand in front of her and cupped her red hot cheeks with her hands as Tobin held on to Christen’s sides.

“You’re adorable, you know that?” Christen said. “That’s really sweet, Tobs, and it just makes me want to kiss you again,” she said, looking hungrily at Tobin’s lips.

“I would kiss you all night if I could. I’m dying just a little bit to kiss you again,” Tobin said, her pulse racing again and moving closer to Christen.

“You could,” Christen said, feeling like they were magnets you couldn’t keep away from each other. “A little,” she teased.

“Chris…” Tobin said, unable to help herself as she crashed her lips against Christen’s once more.

They wrapped their arms tightly around each other as their tongues explored and tasted each other’s mouths. Their hands were everywhere, with Tobin hiking up Christen’s dress slightly and kneading her perfect ass and Christen feeling Tobin’s muscular back against her fingertips. It was another few intense moments before it was Tobin who stopped them this time.

“Shit,” Tobin said. “Chris, I’m sorry, we should stop,” she said with a pained look on her face, wanting so badly to keep contact with Christen.

Christen sighed and buried her face in Tobin’s chest. “I know,” she said, muffled by Tobin’s shirt.

“Do you wanna get ice cream now? Help cool us down?” Tobin said chuckling.

“Yes, please,” Christen said, her body on fire and in desperate need of something to extinguish it.

“Vanilla with hot fudge, right?” Tobin asked, remembering what Christen had previously told her.

“You got it,” Christen said, her breathing still erratic, wondering how she would survive the wait until Tobin was ready for more.

————

Tobin shut Christen’s car door for her and followed her up the steps to her front porch with her hand on the small of Christen’s back.

Christen stopped at the door and looked at Tobin who was smiling at her. That smile. That megawatt smile that never failed to draw a smile right back from Christen.

“I had an amazing time tonight,” Christen said, certain that this was the best first date she’d ever had.

“Me too, Chris,” Tobin said. “I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you these last couple of months and to be able to officially take you out on a date tonight was an honor,” she said.

Christen wasn’t really sure what she was supposed to say to that. There didn’t seem to be any words adequate enough to tell Tobin how much she treasured the time they’ve spent together, especially tonight.

“Tobin,” Christen said as she drew closer to her. “Thank you for everything tonight. For the flowers, for cooking an amazing meal, for dancing with me, for sharing your work with me. I know that wasn’t easy and I’m the one who’s honored that you’ve chosen me to share those things with.”

Tobin exuded calm on the outside, but she was excited and terrified on the inside. Everything in her was telling her that this wasn’t possible. That there was another person in this world who could make her feel this way. But then she remembered Ken’s story about his friend who lost his wife and found love again. It grounded her and she accepted it.

“I can’t imagine sharing it with anyone else,” Tobin said sincerely. “But you forgot about the kisses. I gave you lots of kisses tonight,” she joked.

Christen laughed heartily as she pulled Tobin in toward her. “Come here, you. Thank you for the kisses, too. That was obviously my favorite part.”

“Obviously,” Tobin said as she cupped Christen’s cheeks once again and brushed her lower lip with her thumb.

“And I can’t let you go home without one more,” Christen whispered.

Tobin swallowed and clenched her jaw, knowing it would take everything in her not to take Christen inside once their lips touch again, but she risked it anyway. She leaned in and kissed Christen, a happy feeling washing over her.

Tobin pulled away moments later and ran a hand through Christen’s curls.

“I’ll call you when I get home, beautiful,” Tobin promised.

“Okay,” Christen said, already missing Tobin.

Christen watched Tobin make her way down the porch, almost falling over when she looked back, which made Christen’s heart jump and a giggle escape her lips when Tobin regained her balance. Yeah, she was in trouble. She was head over heels in love with Tobin Heath.

————

Chapter Text

“Hey Pinoe!” Tobin greeted Christen’s pink-haired friend and assistant as she approached her desk.

“Hey Tobin! I’m shocked to see you here,” Pinoe said sarcastically.

Tobin blushed as Pinoe gave her a knowing look. Since their first date on Tuesday night, Tobin and Christen had seen each other every single day for the simple fact that they couldn’t go a day without seeing each other, especially given that Tobin and Jordan were heading out of town tonight for the weekend. They made time for each other during the day, unable to see each other at night because of their daughters and they didn’t want the girls to see them going at it the way they had been. They had already spent two months talking and getting to know each other and now it was time to play catch up with the physical aspect of their relationship.

At lunchtime on Wednesday, Tobin brought food for Christen and that led to an hour-long make out session on Christen’s office couch, the actual lunch all but forgotten. Then at lunchtime yesterday, it was Christen’s turn to show up at Tobin’s studio which led to another hour-long make out session, the lunch also all but forgotten. So naturally, Tobin was at Christen’s office today with lunch, in hopes of getting to know Christen’s lips some more and maybe actually get to the food, though that was doubtful.

“You can go on in. I’ll hold all her calls. You’ve got an hour-ish,” Pinoe said chuckling, knowing exactly what they would be up to.

“Thanks, Pinoe,” Tobin said gratefully as she made her way to Christen’s office.

Tobin stood at Christen’s door and knocked her usual signature knock.

“Come in!” Christen said from behind the door, which made Tobin grin.

Tobin opened the door and closed it behind her. And within three seconds flat, she was pushed back against it as Christen kissed her deeply.

“Mmmm,” Christen moaned. “I missed you,” she whispered breathlessly against Tobin’s lips.

It had only been twenty four hours since they last saw each other, but it felt like forever to Christen. She supposed that’s what happens when you’re madly in love with someone, but this feeling was stronger than anything she’d ever felt before. She thought about Tobin constantly and wished she could always be in her arms.

Tobin pushed off the door and walked them back while keeping their lips firmly attached so she could put the food down. Once it was out of her hands, she let her free hands wander down, having gotten very familiar with Christen’s ass the last few days as she gave it a hearty squeeze.

“God, Chris, I missed you so much,” Tobin breathed out. “You feel so good.”

It was Christen’s turn to walk them back and she led them to the couch. She pushed Tobin down to sit and Christen quickly straddled her lap and their lips met once again as she took her suit jacket off and tossed it aside. This had been their routine the last three days and they were becoming more and more adventurous and bold with their mouths since Tuesday. A little lick here, a little nibble there, a little bite here, a little sucking there. Nothing was off limits from the neck up and Christen was showing up to meetings with heavy makeup on her neck to conceal Tobin’s work on her skin.

As for their hands, Tobin had found a home for them on Christen’s ass. Few things in life were as perfect as Christen Press’ ass. And she hadn’t even seen it in the flesh. She’d just felt the muscles there and loved the feel of her backside on her hands. Christen found her own piece of heaven on earth on Tobin’s abs. She had gone as far as slip her hands underneath Tobin’s shirt so she could feel the hard expanse against her fingertips, but that’s as far as it went.

It was becoming more and more difficult to control their urges, though. Hips were thrusting harder and moans were getting louder and their ‘lunch’ dates would leave them both wanting so much more when their time was over.

Christen was ready. More than ready. She’d been ready to have sex with Tobin for a few weeks now, even before their date, but she was still patiently waiting the other woman out, never pressuring her to do anything she didn’t want to do. But that didn’t mean she didn’t do her best to drive Tobin crazy right back and give her a preview of what it would be like once they got to that point.

But for now, they stuck to the relative safety of kissing with clothes on at work. Until Christen wore a spaghetti strap top to work, that is, which is where they found themselves today.

Tobin finally opened her eyes and saw that Christen had shed her suit jacket and was wearing a top that left a lot of the green-eyed woman’s skin exposed.

“Fuck, Chris,” Tobin said appreciatively, seeing the outline of Christen’s hardened nipples through the thin fabric. “You can’t just wear stuff like this and expect me to behave,” she said, only half joking.

“Who says I want you to behave?” Christen asked seductively.

Tobin groaned. “This right here,” she said as she pulled the strap down from Christen’s shoulder and kissed the mole on the right side of Christen’s chest close to her arm. “I saw this the night of Jordan’s birthday and I almost fell over. You’re so fucking sexy.”

“God,” Christen moaned at the contact from Tobin’s lips.

It was the first time Tobin had ventured that low and it stirred something deep inside of Christen that almost made her rip all of Tobin’s clothes off right then and there. She needed to cool things down quick.

“I have a question for you,” Christen said while Tobin was now busy devouring her collarbone, inching lower and lower down her chest.

“What’s that?” Tobin asked, breathless and aroused underneath Christen.

“There’s a big gala fundraiser next Wednesday and I…” Christen started to say as another moan escaped her lips. “I, uh, get to bring a plus one. I was wondering if you’d be interested in coming with me,” she managed to ask as she threw her head back while Tobin kissed her just above her breasts.

Tobin stopped what she was doing and looked up at Christen and waited for her to make eye contact.

Christen looked down when Tobin stopped kissing her, missing her soft lips against her skin.

“Are you asking me out on a date?” Tobin smirked.

Christen looked at Tobin, eyes dark and full of desire.

“Yes, I guess I am,” Christen said as she cupped Tobin’s face in her hands. “Tobin Heath, will you be my hot date to a fundraising event next Wednesday night?”

“Hmm, let me think about it,” Tobin said, pretending to think long and hard about it. “What do I get out of it?” she asked jokingly.

“You get to see me…and I think you’ll be dying to see me especially after being away this whole weekend,” Christen said.

As soon as Christen said it, she regretted it when Tobin’s pout quickly formed on her face.

“I think I’m gonna call my mom and say we can’t make it this weekend,” Tobin said, her brows furrowed and her lower lip sticking out as she put the strap of Christen’s top back up where it belonged.

Christen shook her head. The last thing she wanted was for Tobin to start messing with her routine and trading in time with her aging parents for time with Christen. She wanted to slot into Tobin’s life without changing the dynamic with her parents and certainly Amanda’s parents as well.

“Tobin, you are not canceling on your parents. I’m sure they’ve been looking forward to seeing you two and I’m not going to be the reason that that doesn’t happen, do you understand?” Christen said sternly.

Tobin kept her pout but nodded her head in understanding. “But I’m gonna miss you,” she said pitifully.

Christen melted at Tobin’s distraught facial expression, but held firm. “I’m really gonna miss you, Tobs, but I would give anything to see my parents right now. To be able to drive just three hours and hug them and lay my head on my mom’s lap. Go spend quality time with your parents. I’ll still be here when you get back. I promise.”

Christen’s words made Tobin’s heart ache. Not only for Christen and the distance between her and all her family, but her words of ‘I promise’ triggered something in her. If there was one thing Tobin knew all too well, it’s that nothing in life was guaranteed. Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Twelve years ago, she brought her partner to the hospital to give birth and went home with a baby to raise on her own and a shattered dream. The feeling caught Tobin off guard and she tried to pull herself out of it, not wanting to go down the path of doubt when everything had been going so well with Christen.

“Hey, you okay?” Christen asked with concern as she looked at Tobin who suddenly seemed to be far away, deep in thought.

Tobin nodded her head and took a deep breath. “I’m okay,” she said, though not convincingly.

Christen studied Tobin’s face.

“You looked like you were somewhere else just now,” Christen said as she caressed Tobin’s cheek. “Talk to me.”

Tobin smiled at Christen, thanking her lucky stars for bringing this remarkable woman into her life.

“Chris, I’m okay. I’m just gonna miss you, that’s all,” Tobin said, not wanting to kill the mood. “So what is the dress code for official date number two?” she asked, trying to change the subject.

Christen gave her a suspicious look, knowing something was on Tobin’s mind, but decided to let it go for now since Tobin clearly didn’t want to talk about it. “Dress to impress,” she finally said. “Do you have something to wear that fits the bill?” she asked teasingly.

“I might,” Tobin said coyly.

“I can’t wait to see it,” Christen said as she leaned in and kissed Tobin.

They spent the rest of their lunch hour in each other’s arms, trading soft kisses and ‘I’m-gonna-miss-yous,’ forgetting their food once again.

————

Jordan and Emma were on their way to their respective cars after practice later that afternoon to look for their mothers when they were stopped in their tracks.

“Holy shit,” Jordan said when she saw her mom and Ms. Christen about fifty yards away in the middle of a heated embrace.

Ms. Christen was leaning against her car with her mom pressed against her, their hands clasped and their lips attached to each other.

“Oh my god,” Emma said. “Do you think they’re doing it? No wonder we had to pick up our own balls today.”

Jordan giggled and shrugged her shoulders as they both turned away.

“I have no idea. But this is a good thing, right? This is what we wanted,” Jordan reasoned, even though she hoped none of their friends were at the park to see their moms making out like a couple of teenagers.

“Definitely a good thing,” Emma agreed. “What do we do? Should we interrupt them? They might just be saying goodbye.”

“We can give them a couple of minutes, I guess,” Jordan said as they both decided to busy themselves with their phones.

Five minutes passed and they turned around to find their moms still lost in each other.

“Alright, we gotta break this up now,” Emma said impatiently. “I’m getting hungry.”

“Okay, pretend like I said something funny and laugh really loudly to get their attention,” Jordan said as they started walking.

Emma nodded and did as Jordan said and belted out a laugh that she was sure their moms could hear. They kept walking and pretending to talk to each other in hopes that the volume of her laugh was enough to separate them. When they finally looked over, their moms were thankfully separated, but were wiping their mouths from sucking face and standing a couple of feet away from each other.

“Hey!” Tobin said a little too loudly and cheerfully, painfully obvious that she and Christen were just all over each other. “How was practice?”

“Good, except we had to pick up our own balls…” Jordan said teasingly.

“Oh, sorry about that. I was just, uh, talking to Ms. Christen about a fundraising event next week,” Tobin said.

It wasn’t a lie. She was definitely talking to Christen about the gala/second date next week, but she was also trying to kiss Christen into telling her what she was planning on wearing.

“Were you guys talking about the Grassroot Soccer gala?” Emma asked her mom.

“Yep,” Christen confirmed.

“Are you going with mom, Ms. Tobin?” Emma asked.

Tobin blushed at the question and Christen had to stifle a smile.

“Oh, um, yeah. I’m going with your mom,” Tobin confirmed, her blush deepening, knowing they couldn’t hide their second date from their daughters now.

“You mean like a date?” Jordan concluded with a sparkle in her eye as she looked back and forth between Tobin and Christen.

“Uh, yeah, it’s a date,” Tobin finally said.

Jordan and Emma tried not to jump up and down, but the knowing looks they shot each other gave their feelings away.

“You guys should get on the road so you don’t get there too late,” Christen said, trying to change the subject to spare Tobin from having to answer any more questions.

“Yeah, we should,” Tobin said sadly. “Jordy, get in the car, please. I’m just gonna, uh…uh, say goodbye to Ms. Christen,” Tobin said awkwardly.

“Okay, bye Ms. Christen!” Jordan said, more than happy to give their parents a little more alone time. “Em…” she said, waving her phone in the air at her friend to indicate she would text her.

Emma nodded and hopped into her own car, not needing anyone to tell her to scram.

“Bye Jordan! Have fun!” Christen said as she and Tobin made their way behind Christen’s SUV.

“Bye Ms. Christen!” Jordan said, quickly making herself scarce.

“Fuck, I’m gonna miss you so much,” Tobin said again as Christen let her fingers brush against Tobin’s lips.

“I’m gonna miss you more,” Christen countered. “You drive safely, alright?”

Tobin nodded. “I really wanna kiss you, but I don’t wanna do it in front of the girls,” she said.

Christen chuckled. “Tobs, I’m pretty sure they saw us making out just now. So come here and just kiss me already,” she said, tugging on Tobin’s shirt to bring her closer.

Tobin looked toward her car and inside Christen’s car to make sure the girls weren’t watching, which made Christen laugh some more. Tobin then leaned in and softly kissed Christen. They melted into each other again, forgetting the world around them as their daughters giddily looked on.

“Alright, Tobs, you should definitely go now. Call me before bed,” Christen said, forcing herself to pull back so that they could get on the road.

Tobin sighed and leaned her forehead against Christen’s. “I’ll see you Monday maybe?” she asked.

“I’ll have a look at my calendar and let you know. Pinoe reminded me that I’ve got a few things going on next week, so I might not see you until the day of the gala,” Christen said sadly, earning herself another pout.

“You know…we need to talk about this pout of yours,” Christen said as she gave Tobin’s lower lip a kiss. “But not right now. Right now, you need to get on the road. I’ll talk to you tonight.”

“Fine,” Tobin said, a small pout still on her lips. “Bye Chris.”

“Bye Tobs.”

Tobin finally tore herself away from Christen as Jordan hurriedly turned back around to face the front of the car. Tobin got in and shook her head, knowing Jordan had just been snooping on them.

————

Tobin was stuffed. Her parents had prepared a huge meal to belatedly celebrate Jordan’s birthday and she might have overindulged a little bit. She blamed it on the salad she found herself voluntarily eating before the main course, something she was blaming on Christen, though her mom was quick to point out that the salad isn’t what made her full. It was the rib eye steak, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, creamed corn, and creamed spinach that she had scarfed down.

As usual, she and her mom sat on the porch to enjoy the cool evening breeze while Jordan and Jeff played cards. She had been itching to call Christen after dinner, but she decided against it, knowing that the other woman wouldn’t be happy with her spending her time at her parents’ house on the phone with her rather than spending quality time with them. She isn’t really sure when she started to imagine what Christen would say in such situations. She isn’t sure when the decisions she made started involving what Christen would think. She isn’t sure when she started scarfing down salads. She isn’t sure what it all meant, but she just went with the flow, forcing herself not to allow it to consume her or scare her.

Tobin was rocking back and forth in her chair when she felt her mother’s eyes on her. She looked over and Cindy had an expectant and maybe even excited look on her face.

“Mom, why are you staring at me?” Tobin finally asked, though she had a pretty good idea why.

Cindy smiled and shook her head. “Nothing. Is there anything you want to talk about?” she asked.

Tobin had to chuckle, appreciative of the fact that her mom wasn’t trying to be so in-her-face about it. “Subtle, mom. What do you wanna know? What has Jordan told you?”

Cindy let out a nervous breath. Jordan had been giving her pieces of information about Tobin and Christen and she was dying to ask her daughter about their status.

“Not much,” Cindy lied a little bit. Jordan had told her everything she knew, but it wasn’t much, so it wasn’t a complete lie.

“What has she told you?” Tobin asked, wanting to know what sort of information Jordan had been feeding her grandmother.

“Well…she said you and Christen went on a date!” Cindy said excitedly, hardly able to contain herself. “But she didn’t really tell me much more about that. She said your eyes bugged out and your jaw dropped when you saw Christen that night. And she said she thought it went well.”

Tobin nodded and tried to stop a smile from forming on her face at the mere mention of her first date with Christen and the moment she laid eyes on her.

“Aaaand she might have texted me on your drive over here that she saw you two making out at her tennis practice today,” Cindy quickly confessed.

Tobin choked on air, momentarily feeling regret for buying Jordan a phone for her birthday. She couldn’t help the blush that surely blanketed her face.

“So it’s true!” Cindy squealed.

“Mom, calm down,” Tobin said.

“Sorry,” Cindy said, gathering herself.

It had been over a month since Cindy had last spoken with her daughter about Christen, not wanting to bring her up in their conversations over the phone. She wanted to make sure Tobin couldn’t make up some excuse to hang up and not tell her about the woman that she so obviously liked. So Jordan had been keeping her posted and they seemed to take a big step in their relationship this week by going on an official date.

Tobin sighed. She was going to have to talk to her family about Christen eventually, especially if this thing between them was serious, which it was. She hadn’t wanted to get too far down the road talking to her family about it since it was all so new…and also because it felt special to her, so she didn’t want to get too far ahead of herself either.

“Christen and I went on a date and it went really well,” Tobin said, deciding to let her mom in. “It went more than well. She’s amazing, mom. I…I don’t know how it happened, but she just…she just makes me feel so alive. I’m different around her. I’m…I'm happy,” she said, finally admitting out loud to her mother how she felt about Christen.

Cindy tried not to overreact and be dramatic, but her heart was exploding with joy for her daughter. From the moment she walked into their home before dinner tonight, she could tell something had changed. There was an energy and a lightness to Tobin that she hadn’t seen in twelve years. She looked, as Tobin just admitted, happy. Like she was her old self again.

“Sweetheart, that’s wonderful,” Cindy said. “I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see you this way. Your eyes tell me you’re happy.”

There was a beat of silence between them before Cindy finally spoke again.

“Are you…are you in love with her?” Cindy asked hesitantly.

Tobin blew out a deep breath. Was she in love with Christen? It seemed like such a simple question, yet Tobin felt the weight of the words her mother just spoke. She knew her feelings for Christen were real, but she wasn’t ready to admit ‘love’ out loud. Not to her mother. Not before she could admit it to Christen first.

“I…I care deeply for Christen,” Tobin said with an air of finality so that her mom wouldn’t push the topic any further.

Cindy nodded. “I’m happy to hear that. Just so you know, we’re all pulling for you.”

Tobin chuckled. If there was anything her family and friends hadn’t been subtle about, it was the fact that they all wanted her to be in a relationship with Christen right from the start.

“Oh I know, mom. I know.”

————

It was an eternity. More than an eternity before Tobin saw Christen again. Or at least, it felt like it. Between being in Seattle all weekend and Christen having work commitments for lunch and dinner on Monday and Tuesday, Tobin was absolutely dying to see Christen by Wednesday. She couldn’t focus on her own work and she counted down the hours until she could see her again.

As soon as Christen opened her front door, Tobin felt like she had come home. Like she could breathe again. The feeling was strange, but it also felt right. She knew as soon as she looked in Christen’s eyes what all her feelings meant. Her feelings ran so deep, they threatened to submerge her if she didn’t let them out soon.

“Chris,” Tobin said breathlessly after taking Christen’s porch steps two at a time.

“Tobs,” Christen said, giving Tobin the softest look she’s ever seen.

Tobin took two determined steps forward and held Christen tightly in her arms, burying her face in the green-eyed woman’s neck and gently rubbed her back. They stayed that way, content to just hold one another after being apart for longer than they wanted.

After a couple of minutes, Christen could feel Tobin’s lips on her, setting her whole body on fire. Every part of her tingled as Tobin’s mouth worked its way from behind her ear, down to her shoulder, and under her chin, causing her to throw her head back to give Tobin all the access she needed.

“Oh god, Tobin,” Christen panted as Tobin’s hand snaked up the high slit of her evening gown and rubbed her thigh.

“I missed you so much, Chris,” Tobin whispered softly against her skin. “I couldn’t stand being away from you.”

“To…Tobs,” Christen said, unable to speak coherently with Tobin driving her crazy.

“Did you miss me?” Tobin asked as she lightly sucked on Christen’s neck, knowing exactly what Christen’s answer would be. “Did you miss me kissing you?”

“Yes,” Christen replied, her breathing erratic because she was so turned on. “I missed you so much, baby.”

Tobin was almost stopped in her tracks by Christen calling her ‘baby,’ but she pressed on, her heart so full from the affection she could feel from Christen and hear in her voice.

Christen’s brain barely registered what she had just called Tobin. She’d fought so hard to keep from saying something that would give away exactly how she felt about Tobin and she wasn’t sure if Tobin even heard her. She was trying her best to give Tobin the time she needs to figure things out, but after not having seen her for the past five days and with Tobin doing things to her with her mouth, she couldn’t stop the term of endearment from escaping her lips. She had no regrets, though. Saying it felt so easy and natural.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I think about you day and night,” Tobin said right before finally brushing her lips softly against Christen’s.

Christen moaned into Tobin’s mouth. It felt so good, but it was too much. She was feeling too much and too out of control. She kissed her for a few more moments before pulling back.

“Tobs,” Christen said, trying to gather herself. “As much as I want to kiss you all night, we should stop. We’re gonna be late and I don’t wanna have to redo my makeup,” she said, even though that wasn’t the main reason why she needed to put a stop to it.

Tobin pouted and Christen couldn’t help but smile at one of her favorite Tobin faces.

“This pouty face of yours is very cute,” Christen said as she gave Tobin’s lips a quick peck.

“So we can keep kissing?” Tobin asked hopefully.

Christen shook her head. “No,” she deadpanned, earning her an even more pouty face.

Christen chuckled as she finally took in what Tobin was wearing. She had been so caught up in holding and kissing the other woman that she’d completely missed just how dashing she looked tonight. Tobin had her hair pulled back in a tight bun and was wearing a classic, black tailored suit and it made Christen swoon.

Tobin let Christen’s eyes rake over her, happy that she seemed to like what she was seeing. Her own pout disappeared as she, too, looked Christen up and down, stopping at her thigh that was peeking out from the slit on her dress.

“You…look…amazing,” Christen said appreciatively. “You clean up very nicely,” she said as she let her fingers trail down Tobin’s tie before coming to rest on her stomach.

“Thanks,” Tobin said blushing, her body reacting to Christen’s touch. “You look…incredible. You’re the sexiest woman I’ve ever seen. Am I really supposed to keep my mouth and hands off you right now?” she asked as she ran her hand slowly up Christen’s exposed thigh once again.

Christen shuddered as she tried to keep her footing with Tobin’s hand going further and further up her leg. “Yes, but you can kiss me and touch me all you want later tonight,” she said, her breath hot against Tobin’s mouth.

Tobin groaned at the thought. Jordan was spending the night with Ash and Ali and Emma was spending the night with Pinoe and Sue. Their friends had given them the option for some privacy tonight if they needed it and Tobin couldn’t have been more thankful than she was in this moment.

“Yeah?” Tobin whispered softly in her ear as her hand made its way to the back of Christen’s thigh to pull her in closer. “Can I kiss and touch you anywhere I want to later tonight?”

Christen wasn’t sure what Tobin meant by that. Most of her brain was no longer functioning with the way Tobin was whispering in her ear. Did she mean she wanted to take the next step in their relationship? Or did she mean she just wanted to continue what they’d been doing, except maybe more kissing in places they hadn’t kissed before like they did in her office last week? Either way, Tobin had permission to touch her anywhere at this point. Tobin could take her upstairs right now and she wouldn’t stop her from doing anything she wanted, gala be damned.

“God yes,” Christen moaned. “Anywhere you want.”

Tobin’s heart rate was going a mile a minute. The thought of kissing and touching Christen in places previously unexplored had her mind and body spiraling out of control.

“Fuck,” Tobin said, wishing they didn’t have to be somewhere as she leaned her forehead against Christen’s.

“When we get back,” Christen promised.

Tobin nodded and sighed. “When we get back,” she repeated.

————

As soon as they walked into the ballroom, Tobin felt completely out of place. Christen must have felt the immediate shift in Tobin’s body language, so she held her hand tighter, which put Tobin at ease, knowing that Christen knew her cues so well and would guide her through this experience. She immediately recognized several sports superstars who stopped Christen to say hi as they tried to make their way to their table. Tobin would have been perfectly happy to just quietly stand there until they were done talking, but Christen introduced her to Mia Hamm, Lebron James, and David Beckham, which made Tobin almost lose her shit, unable to believe that this was all happening. Now she knew Christen really wasn’t exaggerating when she had told Tobin a couple of months ago that these people had her number saved on their phones.

Christen had everyone’s attention at the gala. Not because she was loud or anything, but because she simply had a commanding presence about her that you couldn’t help but admire. It was a quiet confidence that Tobin found so sexy. Tobin supposed this was par for the course for someone as powerful and beautiful as Christen, but it still felt surreal to Tobin that this was the woman she was actually dating. She had been struck by her from the moment they first met and she could see now that Christen just had that effect on most people, as Pinoe had previously told her and as evidenced by all the people staring at her on the street on their first date. This gala was Christen totally in her element, perfectly confident among the world’s best athletes.

“Sorry about that,” Christen leaned in and whispered as they finally sat down at their table and had a moment to themselves. “It’s probably going to be like that all night. I know several more people here who are going to want to catch up tonight.”

Tobin smiled and shook her head. “It’s okay. I just hope I didn’t embarrass you when my mouth was hanging open when you were talking to all those people, especially Mia Hamm,” she said self-deprecatingly.

Christen laughed and rested her hand on Tobin’s thigh. She was so in love with Tobin and she was dying to tell her just that, but she stopped herself seeing as how they weren’t even officially girlfriends. She was just so adorably genuine.

“You were really cute. And you could never embarrass me. I’m really proud to be here with you,” Christen said instead with the utmost sincerity in her eyes as she looked into Tobin’s.

Tobin’s heart was soaring. She believed Christen’s words because she showed her with her actions. Each time she introduced her tonight, she could truly see and feel how proud Christen was when she would say her name and made sure she was part of each conversation. Looking into Christen’s eyes now, in a roomful of strangers and superstars, everything suddenly clicked into place and became crystal clear to Tobin. She loved Christen. She was deeply in love with Christen. She loved her like she’d never loved anyone else in her entire life. It wasn’t the same love that she had for Amanda. That was special in and of itself and this was special in and of itself. There was no comparing the two and Ken’s story about his friend Frank all made sense to her now. The feeling she had when Christen opened her front door tonight, she recognized it now and was ready to embrace it and shout it from the rooftops.

“I’m really proud to be here with you, too, Chris,” Tobin said, holding back on saying what was in her heart along with those three little words so she could say it to her later tonight when it’s just the two of them. “And I can’t wait to take you home and show you how much you mean to me.”

Christen was floored. She swallowed hard as Tobin looked at her so intensely, it was almost too much given that they were in a crowded ballroom and she still had an opening speech to make. She wanted nothing more than to leave immediately and experience with Tobin what she’d been dreaming about for weeks. But she would have to wait. She’d been patient for a long time and Tobin was worth being patient for a few hours more.

“Tobin…” Christen said softly, breathlessly. “You mean so much to me and I can’t wait for you to take me home,” she said as she leaned in and gave her a long kiss, not caring who was watching.

Tobin gave everything into the kiss, wanting Christen to understand the depth of her feelings for her. When they pulled away after a few moments, they smiled at each other for a long moment, hearts beating out of their chests.

“I still can’t believe Mia Hamm has you on speed dial,” Tobin joked, breaking the tension as Christen threw her head back in laughter, making Tobin fall in love with her even more. “Does she know you hate our alma mater?”

“No, because I don’t hate your alma mater,” Christen scoffed and rolled her eyes.

“That’s not the impression I got, Ms. Stanford-it’s-Cardinal-the-color-not-Cardinals-the-bird,” Tobin teased, just the way she had when they first started texting each other.

Christen laughed out loud remembering the conversation. “I never said I hated UNC,” she insisted through her laughter.

“Uh huh,” Tobin said, giving Christen a wink. “In all seriousness, though. Thank you, Chris. I can’t believe I just randomly got to meet one of my heroes growing up,” she said sincerely.

Christen couldn’t help herself as she leaned in again, capturing Tobin’s soft lips. She really could do this all night if no one stopped her. Tobin’s kissing ability was second to none and she could only imagine how amazing she would be in bed.

“If you’re nice to me, maybe you’ll get to meet MJ one of these days,” Christen teased.

Tobin pulled back in shock, unable to tell if Christen was joking. “You don’t know MJ,” she said doubtfully, but not really sure.

Christen smiled coyly at her, neither confirming nor denying Tobin’s statement.

“Wait, you know Michael Jordan?! Don’t joke about this, Chris. This is no laughing matter,” Tobin said incredulously.

Christen chuckled. “I guess that’s for me to know and for you to maybe find out someday,” she teased some more.

Tobin shook her head in disbelief. “You’re bad.”

————

After Christen inspired the room with her speech, imploring guests to donate as much as they could and bid for auction items, and overseeing a successful event, she was stopped by yet another round of athletes wanting to catch up with her to discuss upcoming marketing campaigns.

When they were finally alone, Tobin pulled Christen to a quiet corner of the room and gave her a long hug.

“What was that for?” Christen asked when they pulled apart, but still kept her arms around Tobin’s waist.

“Nothing. You’re just…amazing. Like I know we’ve talked about some of the things you’re involved in, but I just didn’t know the scale of any of it. You’re doing so much good here, bringing all these athletes from different sports and different brands for one common goal,” Tobin said in awe.

Christen blushed. Only Tobin could make her feel warm all over like this. “Well, I’m passionate about soccer and I have connections, so might as well put it to good use, right?”

“You’re being too modest. This is unreal, Chris,” Tobin said as she leaned in for a soft kiss, her hands firmly on Christen’s hips. “You’re incredible.”

“I…I like you so much, Tobs,” Christen said softly, wishing she could say what she really wanted to say in that moment, her hands resting on Tobin’s chest.

“Chris, I…” Tobin started to say, but stopped when she heard a woman’s voice.

“As I live and breathe, if it isn’t Christen Press,” the woman said with a familiar teasing toward Christen that made Tobin immediately uneasy.

Tobin and Christen both turned toward the voice, their intimate moment interrupted and Christen couldn’t help but sigh.

“Carrie,” Christen said unemotionally.

Tobin looked back and forth between the two women, trying to think of who this Carrie person was and why Christen seemed indifferent to her. The name sounded familiar, but she was wracking her brain trying to figure out where she’d heard that name before.

“Hey Chrissy,” Carrie said casually, with a hint of possessiveness that Tobin swore she could hear in her tone. “It’s good to see you.”

It took Tobin another moment before it registered. Carrie. Carrie. The Carrie. The one who didn’t want to have a baby with Christen all those years ago. That Carrie. It finally dawned on her when she had called Christen Chrissy. That type of nickname and the way she said it could only come from someone who had been intimate with someone. Or a family member, which this woman clearly wasn’t.

Tobin’s first impression was that she was a confident woman. She had blonde hair and blue eyes and stood about an inch taller than Christen. She then remembered Christen saying they still run in the same work circles and that she’s run into her a few times since they broke up. She wondered what company Carrie worked for that brought her here tonight. Not that it mattered. What mattered was how Christen felt about this situation. Tobin looked over at her and waited for her to speak.

“How are you?” Christen asked politely.

“I’m doing well, how are you?” Carrie asked in return.

“I’m great,” Christen said without missing a beat, with one arm wrapped securely around Tobin’s back and her left hand resting on Tobin’s stomach. “Carrie, I want you to meet Tobin Heath. Tobin, this is Carrie Brooks,” she said proudly as she had done all night, which made Tobin smile.

“Hi Tobin, very nice to meet you,” Carrie said as she extended her hand.

“Hey Carrie, nice to meet you, too,” Tobin said as she took the offered hand and shook it firmly.

“Great party as usual, Chrissy. Seems like it just gets bigger and bigger every year,” Carrie said as she looked around the grand ballroom, trying not to show how anxious she was about seeing Christen again and seeing her with a date, no less.

Christen smiled and looked around as well, but all she cared about was Tobin. She could tell that Tobin had figured out who Carrie was, with the way she held Christen just a little bit tighter, just a little bit closer. But Tobin showed no emotion, so Christen couldn’t get a read on how she was feeling about unexpectedly meeting her ex-girlfriend. Christen hadn’t seen Carrie in over two years and it never crossed her mind to give Tobin a heads up that it might happen tonight if Carrie’s company sent her and she felt a little guilty about it.

“Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. I’m happy so many people have taken an interest and have committed their time and money,” Christen said.

“You look happy,” Carrie noted.

Christen glanced back at Tobin. “I am,” she said, unable to stop the ear to ear smile that formed on her face.

“How’s your daughter?” Carrie asked, trying not to dwell on the fact that Christen looked so happy and very much in love with Tobin.

“She’s doing well, thanks. How’s your son?” Christen asked, noting that Carrie was no longer wearing her wedding ring and didn’t want to presume anything about her relationship status.

“He’s good. Third grade now. Elise and I have joint custody,” Carrie said, giving the news to Christen of her failed marriage.

“I’m sorry to hear things didn’t work out with you and Elise,” Christen said.

“Yeah, well, I haven’t been the greatest partner, so you really dodged a bullet there,” Carrie tried to joke.

Christen was about to reply when she heard her name being called.

Christen, Tobin, and Carrie all turned to see who it was. Tobin’s eyes bugged out when she saw Serena Williams quickly approaching them.

“Christen! Hi!” Serena said excitedly when she reached them.

“Hey Serena!” Christen said enthusiastically as she pulled the tennis player in for a hug. “How are you?” she asked.

“I’m great!” Serena said cheerfully. “How are you?”

“I’m doing great, thanks! Serena, this is Tobin Heath,” Christen said as she gently put her hand back on Tobin’s stomach, making it clear that they were together. “And this is Carrie Brooks,” she said, not wanting to exclude anyone.

“Nice to meet you both!” Serena said as she shook both their hands.

“Nice to meet you,” both Tobin and Carrie said as they shook Serena’s hand.

“I’m so sorry to interrupt, ladies, but I need you for a few minutes if you have some time,” Serena said, looking at Christen.

“Yes, absolutely,” Christen said without hesitating.

“Awesome, thanks so much,” Serena said.

“Of course,” Christen said as she turned back toward Tobin. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. You okay here?” she asked.

Tobin smiled and nodded. “Yep,” she said confidently, now that she was getting used to Christen getting pulled into multiple conversations. “I’m good.”

Christen gave Tobin a big smile and leaned in and kissed her on the cheek which made Tobin feel special once again just as she had all night. “I’ll be back,” she said as she turned back toward Carrie. “It was good to see you.”

“You too, Chrissy,” Carrie said as she gave her a small wave.

With that, Christen was off with Serena and Tobin was left alone with Carrie. There was a moment of awkward silence despite a roomful of people buzzing, neither woman knowing what to say.

“So…Tobin, how long have you and Christen been together?” Carrie asked casually, finally breaking the silence.

Tobin cursed internally, wishing that she had just said her goodbyes instead of standing there admiring Christen as she walked away.

“Um, not too long, it’s still pretty new,” Tobin said, not wanting to get into any specifics.

Carrie nodded. “I’m not sure if she told you about our history…” she started to say.

“She did,” Tobin said quickly, thankful that Christen had opened up to her about her past and she wasn’t caught off guard in this moment. “Chris has been nothing but honest with me about her past relationships.”

“Good, I’m glad. I wasn’t insinuating that she had anything to hide or that she would purposely keep stuff from you. I just…I fucked up big time and it’s hard seeing her sometimes,” Carrie said sadly and honestly.

Tobin looked at the woman with whom Christen had shared five years of her life. The confident woman that initially approached them was gone. Instead, she could see that she was still carrying a lot of pain from the breakup with Christen, but she wasn’t sure why Carrie was telling her these things. Why this conversation didn’t end once Christen had left them.

“We all make mistakes,” Tobin said, not wanting to say she was sorry that Carrie had messed up because then Christen might not have walked into her life.

Carrie smiled sadly. If she could turn back time, she would happily have a baby with Christen, knowing what she knew now about the joys of parenthood. Knowing that she could have had that life with Christen ate away at her and eventually caused her marriage to collapse.

“Biggest mistake of my life, though. I haven’t been the same person since I lost her,” Carrie said, almost with tears in her eyes. “But I can see that she’s very happy with you, so I’m really happy for her. Genuinely happy because she deserved so much better. I was selfish. Before tonight, I thought there might still be a chance she’d take me back someday, but I see now that that ship has sailed,” she said, remembering how Christen had looked at Tobin before she approached them.

Tobin could see and hear the pain in Carrie’s voice and she was struck by the words she had spoken. That she hadn’t been the same since she’d lost Christen. She knew all about that feeling of loss and how it changes you. It wasn’t lost on Tobin that this woman had loved Christen deeply. She could definitely see that and could empathize with the feeling of emptiness that came with losing someone that meant so much to you.

Twelve years ago, she had lost the love of her life and she hadn’t been the same since. Then she met Christen. And with the way she felt about Christen now, finally admitting to herself tonight how much she loved her, Tobin was sure she would never survive it if she were to lose her, too. Her mind reeled from the thought as the trauma from losing Amanda reared its ugly head. Tobin suddenly felt the room closing in on her and she loosened her tie just a little to give her better breathing room. And she must have shown a bit of distress on her face because it prompted Carrie to speak.

“Are you alright?” Carrie asked in concern.

Tobin looked at her, her brain not registering that she was being spoken to.

“Tobin, are you alright?” Carrie asked again when she didn’t answer.

This time, Tobin managed to hear her, but just barely.

“Uh yeah, sorry, I got distracted,” Tobin said. “Would you excuse me for a minute? I just need to…” she said without finishing her thought.

“Oh, yeah, sure. It was nice to meet you,” Carrie said.

“You too,” Tobin said quickly as she made a beeline for the nearest balcony door.

Tobin pushed the door open and was relieved to find the space empty. The fresh air was a welcome reprieve as she took deep breaths to try to calm herself while gripping the rail so hard, it turned her knuckles white. She’d never felt such an anxious feeling before, like she was facing impeding doom, the thought of losing Christen too much to bear.

‘Calm down,’ Tobin told herself as she looked out at the city lights. ‘This isn’t Amanda all over again,’ she thought.

“Fuck,” Tobin said out loud, frustrated with herself that she was letting the fear of losing Christen get the best of her.

Tobin took a few more breaths to try to get her heart rate down when she heard the door open behind her. She turned around and saw Christen standing there with a look of concern on her face. Her heart ached even more just looking at the kind and beautiful woman who had begun to feel like home to her.

“Tobs? Are you alright?” Christen asked as she stepped closer to Tobin to get a better look at her. “I saw you practically sprint out of there and I was worried. Did Carrie say something to you?”

Tobin instinctively backed up a step when Christen approached her, which made the green-eyed woman look at her with such hurt that she stopped walking toward her.

They only stood a few feet apart, but there may as well have been an entire ocean between them as neither woman spoke.

Tobin couldn’t find the words to explain what she was feeling. After years of seeing her therapist after Amanda’s death, she had gotten pretty good at talking about her anger and grief over losing her partner. But this…this was different. The woman she loved was still here standing in front of her and she couldn’t explain what was going through her head and why she was pulling away. It was completely irrational and she was paralyzed.

“Tobin?” Christen asked again once it became clear that Tobin wasn’t going to speak, but she didn’t dare step any closer.

Christen’s heart pounded as she watched Tobin’s facial expression. She hadn’t seen her look like this before. As if she was looking through her and past her. She cursed herself for leaving Tobin alone with Carrie, convinced that something was said that didn’t sit well with Tobin, though she didn’t have a clue on what it could have been. She’d been completely honest with Tobin when she talked to her about Carrie and she desperately wanted to clear up any misunderstanding that might have occurred.

“Chris, I…I’m sorry,” Tobin said, her voice cracking.

“Why?” Christen asked, even more confused than before.

“I don’t know, I…” Tobin said, unable to put words to her feelings.

Christen looked expectantly at her, not wanting to interrupt. She could tell that Tobin was trying to open up to her, but nothing was coming out. After a few more moments, Christen decided to throw her a life jacket.

“Tobs, you don’t have to explain right now. Do you want to just go? We can leave,” Christen said.

“No, Chris, I…I can’t let you do that,” Tobin said shaking her head.

“No, I’m serious. We can go. All of my official duties are done and I can go,” Christen said earnestly.

“If you’re sure…” Tobin started to say. “I don’t want to leave you here without a ride.”

“I’m more than sure,” Christen said right away. “Let me just get my purse and we can go.”

Without another word, Christen held out her hand for Tobin to take, waiting for the distressed woman to come to her. She had no idea what was happening, but she hoped Tobin could explain once they were out of the gala. And she hoped that Tobin still wanted to be with her.

————

The drive back to Christen’s house was silent apart for some soft music playing in the background. Christen wanted Tobin to focus on driving, so she didn’t say anything so as not to make Tobin uncomfortable or distracted. When Tobin put the car in park, Christen unbuckled her seat belt and started to open her door.

“No, please let me get it,” Tobin said, still chivalrous as ever.

Christen let go of the door handle and waited for Tobin as she quickly stepped out of the car and walked over to Christen’s side. She held out her hand and helped Christen up.

“Thanks,” Christen said, the tension in the air thick.

Tobin nodded and intertwined their fingers, which gave Christen a little sense of relief that at least Tobin was still being affectionate, even if she was being quiet. Tobin walked her to her front door and continued to hold her hand. Christen wanted to desperately pull her into her arms, but she didn’t. She had promised herself from the very beginning that she would see this through on Tobin’s terms and that’s exactly what she intended on doing. It did concern her, however, that Tobin was internalizing her feelings right now just as she had last Friday in Christen’s office.

“Do you want to come in and talk about it?” Christen offered, wanting to at least let Tobin know that she would be there for her no matter what.

Tobin shifted her feet, wanting to look down to break eye contact with Christen, but she didn’t.

“Um, I think I’m going to just head home for now. I’m sorry, Chris. I’m really sorry for cutting the night short,” Tobin said honestly. “I just..I just need a little time to get my head right.”

“Tobin, you don’t have to apologize. It’s fine,” Christen said, hiding her disappointment. “I’ll be here if you need to talk things through. I don’t care what time of day it is, just pick up the phone and call me if you feel up to it, okay?”

Tobin nodded. She wanted to cry, but didn’t want to break down in front of Christen. She continued to be so patient and understanding of her struggles and she knew this all wasn’t fair to Christen. She was trying her best to get in the right frame of mind to be able to fully give herself to Christen, but she obviously still had lingering trauma that she had to work through. She hoped some time to herself could help get her there and she could be present in their relationship in the way that Christen deserved.

“Will you text me to let me know you got home safely?” Christen asked, not expecting Tobin to want to talk on FaceTime before bed tonight.

Tobin nodded again. “I will,” she confirmed.

“Okay, good night Tobs,” Christen said, trying to sound as positive as she could.

Tobin stepped closer to Christen and leaned in to give her a soft kiss on her cheek.

“Good night, Chris,” Tobin said as she gently let go of Christen’s hand and walked back to her car.

————

Chapter Text

“Hey Tobs! We weren’t expecting to hear from you tonight,” Ashlyn said when she picked up the phone.

“Hey Ash. Yeah, I wasn’t either, but I’m coming to get Jordy if that’s cool,” Tobin said.

“Yeah, that’s fine, but are you okay? What happened?” Ashlyn asked in concern.

Tobin wanted to lie, but there was no way she could talk her way out of this. No way to mask the sadness in her voice.

“No, not really. I don’t really wanna talk about it, Ash,” Tobin said. “I’ll see you in fifteen minutes.”

Ashlyn’s heart was breaking for Tobin, hearing her voice and the pain and sadness in it. It was all too familiar and she felt as helpless as she did twelve years ago, especially not knowing what happened between Tobin and Christen tonight.

“Okay, Tobs. See you soon,” Ashlyn said.

“K, bye,” Tobin said.

“Bye.”

————

“Hey,” Tobin said when Ashlyn opened the front door.

Tobin could see it in her friend’s eyes. The pity, the confusion, the worry. But she was in no mood to talk about what happened tonight. She just wanted to take Jordan home.

“Hey Tobs,” Ashlyn said with Ali right behind her.

“She awake?” Tobin asked.

“Sort of. We woke her up when you called and she moved to the couch,” Ali said.

Tobin stepped further inside and saw Jordan curled up on the couch with her eyes closed. She looked peaceful and small at that moment and she almost decided to just leave her here for the night, not wanting to wake her up and lose sleep.

“Sorry to come over so late,” Tobin said guiltily.

“Don’t worry about it,” Ashlyn said.

Tobin was about to walk past Ashlyn to get Jordan when Ashlyn stopped her by gently holding Tobin by the wrist.

“Hey,” Ashlyn said. “You wanna talk about it?”

Tobin shook her head, not wanting to look Ashlyn in the eyes.

Ashlyn sighed and reassuringly squeezed Tobin’s arm, resigned to the fact that Tobin wouldn’t be opening up to them tonight. “We’ll be here if you change your mind.”

Tobin nodded and finally looked her friend in the eyes, trying not to let her tears fall. “I know. Thanks Ash.”

“Okay,” Ashlyn said as she let go of Tobin.

Tobin walked over to Jordan and tried to nudge her awake. “Jordy. Jordy, time to go home.”

Jordan made a whining sound as she stirred and curled up the other way, her back facing Tobin.

“Baby, let’s go home,” Tobin said again as she rolled Jordan back over and pulled her up.

“Mom?” Jordan said, half asleep. “Where’s Ms. Christen?” she asked.

“I dropped her off at her house,” Tobin said plainly.

“Oh,” Jordan said as she woke up a little more when she saw how sad her mom looked.

Jordan could tell that something bad must have happened tonight. It wasn’t that her mom was the most talkative person she knew. Far from it. But she hadn’t looked this down in a while. Normally she would pester her or try to find some way to get her to talk to her, but she could tell that her mom wasn’t in the mood for any of her antics right now. And she was too sleepy to find the energy to have a serious talk with her mom anyway. She would have to try to find out what happened before school tomorrow and maybe find out from Emma if she knew anything.

“Let’s get going,” Tobin said as she ushered Jordan out of the house. “Thanks guys, I owe you.”

“Don’t worry about it, Tobs. Just call us tomorrow, alright?” Ashlyn said.

“I will, thanks Ash. Thanks Al.”

————

After Jordan went to her room, Tobin walked over to the couch mindlessly, like she was having and out-of-body experience. She couldn’t get the look of hurt on Christen’s face out of her mind when she told her she didn’t want to come inside and talk about what happened. She could tell that Christen was trying to put on a brave and positive front, but Tobin could tell it hurt her. And she hated that she was the one who caused her pain.

She plopped down on the couch and let out a deep breath out of frustration. She unlocked her phone and opened her text message thread with Christen.

Home safe. Sorry it took so long. I went to get Jordy. Thanks again for everything tonight. I’m really sorry, Chris. I’ll talk to you soon.

Tobin hit send before she could question the contents of the text. She immediately saw bubbles on Christen’s end indicating that she was typing, as if she’d been waiting around for Tobin’s text and it made her feel even more guilty for taking so long to message her.

Christen was on the couch replaying the events of the night, sad that Tobin was struggling and even more upset that Tobin couldn’t open up to her. She wasn’t upset at Tobin. She was upset at her inability to get Tobin to talk to her when she clearly needed someone to talk to. She could tell that Tobin was trying. She really was. Watching her on that balcony tonight, she could see that Tobin was trying to share her feelings, but just couldn’t articulate what she wanted to say. She sighed and waited for Tobin’s text to come through.

Thirty minutes later, her phone chimed and she quickly picked it up and read the message, breathing a sigh of relief. She was starting to get worried that Tobin hadn’t made it home yet since she didn’t live very far. Her heart clenched reading Tobin’s message. She wished that she had some magical power to make all of Tobin’s pain go away, but she knew life simply didn’t work that way. It was killing her not knowing what caused the complete one eighty in Tobin’s demeanor tonight. She thought for a brief moment about texting Carrie to find out what happened, but then thought better of it. She wanted to hear it from Tobin herself. After reading the message quickly, she started typing.

Glad you’re home safe. Please don’t apologize. I understand, Tobs. And I’m not giving up on you. I’ll talk to you soon.

There was so much more that Christen wanted to say, but decided to keep it brief.

Tears started falling down Tobin’s face as she read Christen’s text back to her. ‘She’s not giving up on you,’ Tobin thought to herself.

She didn’t deserve Christen. Just like Carrie didn’t deserve her, Tobin didn’t feel like she deserved her. Christen was such a good person, caught in the crossfire between the Tobin who wants to move on and the Tobin who so easily starts to doubt everything the minute something gets in her head.

But Tobin loves her. God does she love her. So why was it so hard to let herself move forward? She had been so close. So close to letting Christen all the way in and sharing the most special and intimate night with her. Knowing she wouldn’t have any answers tonight, she headed to her bedroom to get ready for a sleepless night.

————

Christen opened her eyes the following morning and her first thoughts were of Tobin. This had become a daily thing for her. She would wake up and Tobin’s beautiful smiling face would pop into her head and start her day off right. This morning, though, all she could picture was the conflicted look on Tobin’s face as she tried to explain to Christen why she got upset last night.

With a heavy sigh, Christen picked up her phone from her nightstand and saw that she had a few messages. One from Emma this morning that she read first and a few from Pinoe, some of which she had received last night, but didn’t have the energy to read and respond to.

Emma 6:43am
Are you ok, mom? I love you.

Pinoe 10:03pm
Emma’s in bed!

Pinoe 10:04pm
I hope you and Tobin are having a great night. Go get you some, Pressy!

Pinoe 10:49pm
The fact that I haven’t heard a peep out of you must mean it’s going well. I need to hear all about it tomorrow! Ok, I’ll leave you alone now.

Pinoe 6:48am
You ok? Em says something happened with you and Tobin?

Pinoe 7:32am
Dropped Em off at school. See you at work?

Christen groaned just thinking about going in to work and having Pinoe harass her for details about last night. Not really wanting to talk about it before she could talk to Tobin, she decided right then to work from home for the day.

Thanks, P. Not gonna make it in, so working from home today. I’ll be reachable on work cell if anyone needs to urgently talk to me.

Christen then replied to Emma’s text.

I’m ok, love you too. I’ll see you this afternoon. Have a good day at school, baby.

Christen dropped her phone next to her on the bed. A few seconds later, there was a new message from Pinoe.

Ok boss. I’m here if you need to talk.

Christen rubbed her temples and closed her eyes again, not ready to face the day.

————

“Morning, Mom,” Jordan said as she walked into the kitchen while Tobin made breakfast.

Tobin turned around, surprised that Jordan had gotten up without her having to remind her three times to get up.

“Wow, you’re up,” Tobin said, unable to hide her shock. “Why are you up so early?”

“I’m not up early,” Jordan said.

“Yeah, you kind of are. You’re up like twenty minutes early,” Tobin said, turning back to flip the pancake she was making.

Jordan just shrugged and grabbed herself some orange juice and a banana and sat down. She watched as her mom cooked and wondered how she could bring up the topic of her date with Ms. Christen last night. She had texted Emma as soon as she woke up, hoping she knew what was going on, but Emma replied that she was still with her Aunt Pinoe and they had no idea what happened either. She was staring so intensely that when her mom turned around, she furrowed her brows at her daughter.

“What?” Tobin asked as she pulled a couple of plates from the cupboard.

Jordan blinked, not having realized that her mom had noticed her staring. “Nothing,” she said.

“It’s not nothing. I can see the wheels turning in your head,” Tobin said without looking at her daughter.

Jordan cleared her throat, thinking she might as well just come out and ask her.

“Um, well,” Jordan started. “I was wondering how your date went with Ms. Christen,” she said wincing a little bit as she finished her question.

She noticed her mom’s shoulders tense as soon as she said those words.

Tobin sighed and turned around, placing one of the plates in front of Jordan.

“It’s nothing…it’s just…my stuff,” Tobin said vaguely as she sat down with her own plate and picked up her cup of coffee.

Jordan knew it was more serious than her mom was letting on. Last Friday she and Ms. Christen were all over each other and now…now she looked miserable.

“Mom,” Jordan said, her voice surprisingly strong. “Can you please talk to me? I know how much you like Ms. Christen and if something happened, I want to know the truth because…because I really like her, too. And Emma’s one of my best friends,” she pleaded.

Tobin put her coffee back down on the table. This was exactly what Tobin didn’t want to have happen. For Jordan to get attached to someone when she herself still had issues to work through. But Christen had unexpectedly made her way into her heart and Tobin needed to look deep inside herself to figure out how to get past her fears.

“Jordy, I…I really like Ms. Christen, too,” Tobin began to say.

The words didn’t ring true as she said them and she shook her head as if to start over. She had to start letting Jordan in and she deserved to know the truth.

“No, actually, that’s…that’s not true. I don’t like Ms. Christen,” Tobin said, looking Jordan straight in the eyes. “I love her. I’m so in love with her,” she said with conviction.

Tobin felt a weight come off her shoulders as soon as she said the words out loud. And it felt incredibly right. She let out a deep breath and gave Jordan a small smile.

Jordan wanted to scream and jump up and down, but she kept her composure. In her entire life, she had never ever heard her mom say those words about another person. She had started to think it would never happen. And then Ms. Christen came along and changed everything.

“Wow, Mom, that’s awesome. I’m super happy to hear you say that,” Jordan said, unable to keep the smile from her face. “But if you love her, why did you look so sad last night? I thought things were going really well? I’m pretty sure Ms. Christen loves you, too.”

Tobin took a deep breath.

“That’s a great question, kiddo. I, uh, I kinda freaked out last night just thinking about how much I love Ms. Christen and how I wouldn’t survive it if I lost her, too,” Tobin said truthfully as tears filled her eyes, feeling so vulnerable in front of her daughter. Vulnerable, but necessary. “It took me so long to accept that your Mama was gone, I just couldn’t handle that again. I’m not strong enough.”

Jordan felt tears well up in her eyes as she listened to her mom explain what happened. She shook her head and stood up to make the short walk around the breakfast table and pulled a chair along with her. She sat down and gave her mom a big hug. She felt her mom wrap her arms around her and they both let the tears fall freely.

When they pulled apart, they held hands and looked at each other.

“Mom, you’re the strongest person I know. There’s no one I admire more in this whole world. You’ve raised me on your own and you’ve done a great job. I don’t need anyone to tell me what a great mom you are because I know. I know you’ve made the most out of the shitty cards we were given when Mama died. You don’t give yourself enough credit for not only surviving, but for kicking butt at life in general,” Jordan said sincerely. “You’re stronger than you know, Mom.”

Tobin was ugly-crying and she knew it. Aside from hearing her daughter curse for the first time, which she would need to address later, her words touched something in Tobin that made her heart burst with pride.

“You’re the best kid I could have ever asked for,” Tobin said sniffling.

“Mom, can I ask you something?” Jordan said, finding her voice again to ask her mom an important question.

“Anything,” Tobin said without hesitating.

“If you knew you were going to lose Mama, would you not have wanted to be with her? Would you have traded all the time you had with her for something else? Would you not have wanted any of it?” Jordan asked poignantly.

Tobin was blown away and despite the tears that were making her vision blurry, her eyes felt like they were finally opened for the first time. Like Jordan had cracked a code she’d been trying to figure out for so long. These were the questions she should have asked herself all along when it came to Christen. Would she rather have Christen’s love in her life or not know that love at all? The answer was so clear, it brought a smile to Tobin’s face.

“I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world,” Tobin answered definitively.

Jordan beamed at her mother’s answer. She knew right then that everything would be okay.

“You’re pretty smart for a 12-year-old, you know that?” Tobin said through her tears. “But we do need to talk for a minute about when exactly you started cursing.”

————

After getting a tip from Jordan that Christen had called in sick, okay maybe it was a tip from Emma which was a tip from Pinoe, Tobin decided to drive over to Christen’s house after dropping Jordan off at school to tell her what happened the night before and finally tell her how she feels about her. She drove confidently and was determined to say everything that was in her heart. But as she neared her home, her nerves began to bubble up again. But she took deep breaths and resolved that she wasn’t going to let the fear get to her this time. Not when the woman of her dreams was within her grasp. So she pressed on, not wanting to chicken out and leave Christen wondering any longer.

When she reached Christen’s house, she purposefully got out of the car and ran up her porch steps, unable to wait another second to see the woman she loved. Tobin rang the doorbell and waited for Christen to answer. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, excited and nervous all at the same time.

When the door swung open, Tobin had to keep from staggering back at the sight of Christen. And she had to stifle a laugh at what they were both wearing. Because of course. Christen was in an old Stanford t-shirt and sleep shorts that showed off her long legs. She looked so effortlessly beautiful so early in the morning with her curls down, framing her perfect face, her eyes so light she was in danger of getting lost in them before she even had a chance to say what she came to say.

“Tobin,” Christen said breathlessly at the vision standing in front of her.

Christen was taken aback by Tobin standing on her porch. She hadn’t expected to see her so soon and so early in the morning after the way things ended last night. She looked as beautiful as ever with her wavy brown hair blowing with the light breeze and she even looked good wearing a faded UNC shirt and shorts as if she had just rolled out of bed. If this is what Tobin looked like in the mornings, this is what she wanted to wake up to every single day for the rest of her life. But they were nowhere near those dreams given that Tobin had left last night looking more conflicted than ever about their relationship.

“Chris,” Tobin began softly. “Could I please come in?” she asked in a hopeful tone.

Christen nodded and opened the door some more so that Tobin could come in. Christen closed her eyes as she inhaled Tobin’s scent, willing herself to focus since it sounded like they were about to have an important talk. She was sure she looked like shit given how little sleep she got last night, but was thankful she had at least already brushed her teeth so as not to distract Tobin with her morning breath while they talked.

Tobin walked in and stood just inside her home, waiting for Christen to lead her where they could talk.

“Do you want some coffee or breakfast? I can make something for you really quick,” Christen offered nervously.

“No, Chris, I’m okay thanks,” Tobin said with a small smile.

“Okay, do you want to sit?” Christen asked even though all she wanted to do was pull Tobin into her arms and never let go.

“Um, yeah, that would be great,” Tobin said, thankful that she would be sitting since she wasn’t sure she could handle this conversation upright.

Christen led them back toward the family room and Tobin followed, hardly able to keep her hands to herself.

They both sat down with Tobin sitting a good three feet away from Christen so as not to get tempted with touching the other woman.

“Why are you sitting way over there? I won’t bite,” Christen teased.

Tobin looked nervously at her, which Christen found so adorable that she almost leaned over to kiss her. Maybe the distance was a good idea if this was going to be a productive conversation. After another moment of hesitation, Tobin finally moved close enough that their knees were almost touching as they sat facing each other.

Christen reached out and held Tobin’s hands. They were a little shaky, not surprising given how nervous Tobin looked, so she rubbed her thumbs against the backs of Tobin’s hands to try to soothe her. It felt good to have some form of contact with her, having missed her all night.

“Chris, I…” Tobin began to speak. “I want to start by saying I’m really sorry. I’m sorry for just leaving the way I did last night. You didn’t deserve to be treated that way.”

“Tobs, it’s okay,” Christen assured.

Tobin shook her head. “No, it’s not okay, Chris. I need to be held accountable for my behavior, especially when I didn’t even give you so much as an explanation of why I was freaking out. I shouldn’t have done that and I hope you can forgive me.”

Christen nodded in understanding. “Apology accepted,” she said this time.

Tobin took a deep, grateful breath, letting Christen’s hands calm her.

“If you remember last Friday, in your office…” Tobin began to say.

Christen couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped her and Tobin looked at her quizzically.

“Sorry, it’s just…I remember every single moment I’ve shared with you. So yes, I remember last Friday in vivid detail,” Christen said with a smile.

Tobin gave her a small smile back, feeling so fortunate to be sitting in front of the most remarkable woman in the world.

“Me, too, Chris,” Tobin said.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. Go ahead,” Christen said.

Tobin took a deep breath and started over. “Last Friday in your office, you asked me if I was okay when it seemed like I was far away. You didn’t want me to cancel on my parents and you promised you’d still be here when I got back. That just…that made me think of when I brought Mandy to the hospital to give birth and she never got to go home. I learned a long time ago that time isn’t guaranteed to any of us and it just really messed with my head,” Tobin said, her voice thick with emotion.

“Oh Tobin,” Christen said, her voice soft and heartbroken. “I’m so sorry.”

“No, Chris, no. I’m the one who should be sorry. I should have just told you what was bothering me instead of keeping it to myself. I’m…I’m working on it. On sharing my feelings with you and everyone else in my life. Starting now.”

“Thank you, Tobs. For trusting me and for letting me be a part of your life,” Christen said, her heart feeling like it was going to explode any moment now.

There were so many things Christen wanted to speak into the world and finally declare her love for Tobin out loud, but she waited her turn.

“And then last night…” Tobin continued.

Christen looked on intently, having run so many different scenarios in her head last night and this morning on what could have caused Tobin to react the way she did.

“Last night, after you left with Serena, Carrie and I were talking and she said something that just hit me really hard. She said she fucked up when she was with you and she hadn’t been the same since she lost you. She said she was really happy for you that you were with me, but I could see the pain in her eyes,” Tobin said, trying to keep her composure. “Chris, I don’t know what I would do if I were to lose someone I love again…if I were to lose you…and that’s why I freaked out and started doubting whether I was ready for any of this,” she said.

Christen’s heart was working double time. The implication of what Tobin was saying…that she…loved her?

“But Jordan…she…she helped me realize this morning that I can’t run away from something great just because I’m afraid of the unknown. Because even if I knew I was going to lose Mandy, I still wouldn’t trade that time that I had with her. I would do it all again in a heartbeat,” Tobin said through tears that started falling down her cheeks. “I want that time with you. I want it all with you.”

“Tobin,” Christen couldn’t help the way her name fell from her lips listening to Tobin as she held her hands a little tighter.

“A few weeks ago, I told you that if I’m going to be with you, I’m going to be with you with everything I have,” Tobin said as Christen nodded in acknowledgment of the conversation they had. “After I dropped Jordan off at school, I came right over because I couldn’t wait another second longer to tell you that I love you, Chris. I love you with everything I have and I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life than I am right now. Thank you for waiting for me, even though it took me a while,” she finally said, her lips curling into a shy smile.

Christen’s breath was taken away. Tobin telling her she loved her was everything she had dreamed of these last few weeks and more. The feeling was indescribable. She had been alone for so long that she had accepted she’d be single for the rest of her life and just wanted to be the best mom to Emma and focused on advancing her career. She was a single mom nearing 40 and had exactly zero prospects of any meaningful romantic relationships in the last decade. And then Tobin and her sweet, charming self changed everything that she thought she knew about love and how it should make her feel and gave her hope that love might be in the cards for her after all these years.

“Tobs,” Christen whispered as she briefly leaned in and pressed her forehead against Tobin’s before pulling back to look in her favorite pair of honey brown eyes. “I would have waited forever for you. I love you, Tobin Heath. I love you so damn much. I’ve been dying to tell you that,” she said, her voice giving away her emotions.

Tobin brought her hands up to cup Christen’s cheeks. “Chris, I’m so in love with you,” she said again, feeling like she just wanted to keep saying it all day now that she’d said it out loud. “I can’t promise you that I’m never going to have flashbacks or that things are going to be perfect because they won’t be, but I can promise you that I will talk to you and not keep things to myself if there’s ever anything I’m working through.”

Christen nodded her understanding and let the tears fall. The sincerity with which Tobin was speaking to her meant the world to her and she trusted Tobin to take care of her heart.

Tobin intertwined her fingers with Christen, holding on tight. “Chris, can I kiss you?” she asked softly.

Christen smiled at her and wiped her tears. “I’ve been wanting you to kiss me since you walked through my door,” Christen said breathlessly.

That was all Tobin needed to hear as she closed what little space was left between them and pressed her lips against Christen’s. It was soft at first as they tenderly moved their lips against one another. Christen moaned into Tobin’s mouth which made Tobin pull Christen closer, tangling her fingers in Christen’s hair to kiss her harder, but it still wasn’t enough. She brought her hands to Christen’s hips, giving them a slight tug, telling her she wanted more.

Christen wasn’t thinking. There was no need to. She was taking Tobin’s cues and just feeling everything in the moment. A moment she’d waited so long for. When she felt Tobin’s hands on her hips, urging her to come closer, she lifted her left leg and climbed on top of Tobin to straddle her lap. She felt Tobin’s familiar hands on her ass which made her hips rock toward the woman who was driving her completely out of her mind as she felt her lips on her neck.

“Oh god, baby,” Christen moaned.

Tobin sucked on her neck, a bruise sure to form later.

“I love it when you call me that,” Tobin said when she came up for air. “Can I take you to bed, baby?” she asked, using the term of endearment right back.

“Fuck. Yes, please. Upstairs,” Christen said, her body feeling like it was being set on fire by the woman beneath her.

“I want you so bad,” Tobin said as she wrapped an arm securely around Christen and used her other hand to help her up off the couch to carry Christen up the stairs.

They continued kissing, tongues playing, as Tobin walked upstairs with Christen’s legs wrapped securely around her waist, not wanting to separate their mouths for even a second.

“Down the hall, last door on the right,” Christen said quickly when she was forced to come up for air to tell Tobin where her bedroom was.

Their lips were back on each other as soon as she stopped talking and they entered Christen’s bedroom. Tobin walked toward the bed and gently laid Christen down. She settled between Christen’s legs and hovered over her, stopping to look at the woman she loved and her captivating green eyes.

“You are so beautiful. The most beautiful person I’ve ever met, inside and out. I can’t believe I’m the lucky one who gets to be with you,” Tobin said sweetly.

Christen smiled back at her as she cupped her cheek, falling even more in love with Tobin and her words.

“I’m the lucky one,” Christen countered, her other hand slipping inside Tobin’s shirt, clawing at her muscular back to pull her down against her.

“We’ll agree to disagree,” Tobin said with a smile as their bodies touched.

Christen lifted her head and kissed Tobin passionately, her tongue seeking Tobin’s, loving the way their mouths fit and moved perfectly together. After a minute of devouring each other, Christen managed to pull herself away from Tobin so she could look her in the eyes and ask the question she needed an answer to before they went further.

“Are you…are you sure you’re ready? Because we can wait if you want to just…” Christen started to say, but stopped speaking when Tobin pressed her lips against her.

“I’m ready, Chris. With everything I have,” Tobin said when she pulled back, repeating her sentiment from earlier.

Christen smiled and tucked Tobin’s hair behind her ears.

“I haven’t done this in a really long time, but I’m here,” Tobin said as she dipped her head and nibbled on Christen’s ear. “And I’m not going anywhere,” she said as she whispered and slid lower down Christen’s body and kissed her collarbone.

Christen couldn’t stop the moan that fell from her lips, her head dipping further back into the bed and her hips lifting up off it, searching for some friction. If this was a ‘rusty’ Tobin, she could only imagine what it would be like if they had sex on a regular basis, which is precisely what Christen hoped this was all leading to, along with holding hands and going on romantic walks and being in a relationship with an incredible woman whom she loved deeply.

Christen could feel Tobin’s tongue on her pulse point and her hands slipping under her shirt. She had wondered on so many nights what Tobin’s hands and mouth might feel like on her skin, how skilled her tongue must be given the way she kisses. Nothing could have prepared her for how she was making her feel in this moment.

Tobin took her time working her way down, just as she had told Christen she liked to do the first time Tobin brought lunch to her office. Christen was barely keeping herself together as Tobin’s hands massaged her stomach, teasingly close to her breasts, but never touching them, making Christen whine. Tobin then tugged on Christen’s shirt, silently asking for permission to take it off.

“Take it off please,” Christen begged.

Tobin smiled and pulled back, helping Christen to get up slightly so she could pull the shirt off her. When Christen’s bare chest was revealed to her, Tobin’s breath got caught in her throat and she stopped breathing altogether for a few seconds. The sight of Christen half-naked in bed in front of her was almost too much. She had never had sex with someone for the first time during the day. And she was thankful for that because she could clearly see just how incredible Christen’s body was. The way her nipples were perked up and how her stomach was the perfect combination of strength and softness. Christen was absolutely perfect.

“Wo…wow, Chris,” Tobin stuttered, barely able to get the words out.

Christen smiled, knowing the effect she was having on Tobin. No one had ever looked at her the way Tobin did. Like she was the only woman in the world who mattered. It made her heart scream and made her want Tobin even more.

“Take this off,” Christen husked as she lifted Tobin’s shirt and let her fingers play against her hard abs.

Tobin did as she was told and lifted her shirt over her head, leaving her in just her sports bra.

“That, too,” Christen demanded as she let her hands freely touch any bare skin she could find on Tobin.

Tobin took her bra off and smirked as she watched Christen’s eyes rake over her body.

“Fuck, you are so sexy,” Christen said, not mincing words.

Tobin chuckled, causing her stomach muscles to flex, making Christen even more desperate to get her hands on Tobin’s body. The unbelievably hard body of the sexy and sensitive artist who was currently on top of her. She reached out to pull on the waistband of Tobin’s shorts, wanting her to just take everything off.

“You want this off, too?” Tobin asked playfully, knowing full well what Christen wanted, but happy to take her time teasing the other woman.

“You know I do. I want you so bad,” Christen moaned, bringing her hand up to pinch her own nipple to show Tobin just how much.

Tobin’s mouth went dry at the sight of Christen playing with her nipple and she suddenly couldn’t think of a reason why she was taking her sweet time.

“Fuck…,” Tobin’s voice trailed off as she watched Christen continue to touch herself.

“Come here, you,” Christen said sultrily, the ache at the pit of her stomach growing with every second that passed.

Tobin didn’t need to be told again as she quickly discarded her shorts and boxers and climbed back on top of Christen, their breasts touching, making them both moan.

“Fuck, Chris. You’re the sexiest woman in the world,” Tobin declared as she crashed her lips against Christen, her hunger becoming more and more urgent.

Tobin let go of Christen’s lips and let her mouth lick down Christen’s body. She stopped at her left nipple, the one Christen had just been pinching, taking it into her mouth and sucking on it and teasing it with her tongue.

“Oh my god, baby,” Christen moaned out loud as she tangled her fingers in Tobin’s hair, loving the feel of Tobin’s warm mouth on her.

Christen was so turned on, she was afraid she might come just from Tobin sucking on her nipple. Between Tobin’s tongue and her hands that were now rubbing her thighs, Christen wasn’t sure she could take much more. Tobin moved her mouth over to her other nipple and showed it the same love as she did the other, making Christen squirm underneath her.

When she was done teasing her breasts with her mouth, Tobin moved back up and kissed Christen on the lips while her left hand stopped just above the waistband of Christen’s sleep shorts.

“Chris, can I take these off?” Tobin asked for permission against Christen’s lips. “I wanna feel you.”

“Fuck, I want you to rip them off,” Christen said, totally out of breath from kissing Tobin.

Tobin lightly chuckled and started kissing down Christen’s body. When she reached the place she’d only dreamt about, she gently tugged on the soft material of Christen’s shorts and pulled it down along with her underwear. Christen lifted her hips to help her and Tobin had to stop herself from immediately diving in. She let herself enjoy the view for a few moments, taking in the beauty of Christen.

Tobin then moved back on top of Christen and let her lips brush her ear as she whispered. “Are you wet for me?” she asked, knowing that Christen was dripping from what she could see when she pulled her underwear down.

“You know I am. Just for you,” Christen whispered back. “Tobin, I want you inside me,” she moaned, seeking her long-awaited release that she hadn’t wanted to take care of herself since she met Tobin. She wanted Tobin, and only Tobin, to bring her to climax.

Tobin slid her fingers down to Christen’s center, feeling just how wet she was and it made her moan just thinking about how this was all for her.

“Fuck, you feel so good,” Tobin said, her fingers coated in Christen’s arousal as she let them run through her folds.

Tobin then let two fingers slowly slip inside Christen’s warmth, but not all the way in.

“Oh my god,” they both said together.

“Fuck, Tobin,” Christen moaned as she felt Tobin’s fingers moving against her walls.

“Can you take me in deeper?” Tobin asked, not wanting to hold anything back.

Christen thought about Tobin’s hands, how big and strong they were and how long her fingers were. She’d imagined them on her so many times, she couldn’t believe she was now living the moment.

“Fuck, yes. As deep as you can go. Fuck me, Tobin. Fuck me hard,” Christen managed to say as she pulled Tobin down for a heated kiss.

Tobin did as Christen asked and plunged her fingers in as deep as she could go. She let her fingers slip in and out of Christen, the slick sounds were making her just as wet as the woman she was making love to.

Christen lifted her hips in rhythm with Tobin’s fingers and she could feel herself being pushed closer and closer to the edge.

“Oh god, Tobin. You feel so good,” Christen cried out as the pressure kept building inside of her.

“I wanna taste you, Chris. I’ve been thinking about tasting you for so long,” Tobin said, continuing to drive Christen crazy by whispering in her ear.

Christen was sure Tobin was trying to both give her an orgasm and kill her at the same time with the sexy way she was talking and the things she was saying. She’d never had anyone affect her this way with just the sound of their voice.

“Fuck. Yes,” Christen moaned some more, her body beginning to tremble with anticipation.

Tobin shifted further down, but kept her fingers inside Christen, curling them and making Christen moan louder and spread her legs wider. She then leaned in and slowly let her tongue run along Christen’s folds, tasting her for the first time.

Christen tasted sweeter than Tobin could have ever imagined. Her warmth against her tongue and her mouth was intoxicating and she couldn’t get enough. She continued pumping her fingers in and out while her tongue slowly teased Christen’s clit, circling around it and sucking on it, making the other woman push herself into Tobin.

Christen was close. It wasn’t going to take much more from Tobin to bring her over the edge. It felt like Tobin was hitting every single one of her nerve endings with her tongue and she was reaching a point of no return. She ran her hands through Tobin’s hair, gathering it so she could see Tobin’s mouth moving against her.

“God, baby, yes,” Christen said as she looked down. “I’m gonna come. Fuck, you’re…gonna…make me come so hard,” she said between ragged breaths.

Tobin let her tongue put more pressure on Christen’s clit, feeling how hard it was against her. She could make Christen wait a little longer, but her own desire to feel Christen come beneath her was becoming too great. She expertly curled her fingers inside Christen and flicked her tongue persistently on her clit until Christen held her face against her to stop her movements and she climaxed into Tobin’s mouth.

“Ohhh fuck, Tobin. Oh my goddd,” Christen cried out as her hips rose and stiffened against Tobin and she came harder than she had ever come in her life.

Tobin stilled her mouth and fingers, feeling Christen throbbing against her. When Christen’s hips came back down to the bed, she let her tongue start moving again to lap up and swallow Christen’s juices.

“Oh my god. Oh my god,” Christen moaned out of breath, not believing the mind-blowing, toe-curling, blackout-inducing orgasm she’d just had.

“Mmmm,” Tobin hummed in satisfaction as she gave Christen one more lick before taking her fingers out of her and making her way back up the bed.

“Jesus,” Christen said, trying to get her breathing under control.

Tobin very slowly crawled up, laying soft kisses all over Christen’s warm, sweaty body. She placed a kiss over Christen’s heart, feeling it pound against her lips. She smiled and looked at Christen with so much desire.

“You’re amazing, Chris. I love you so much. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of you,” Tobin said as she kissed Christen, knowing she could taste herself on her lips.

“Mmmm. I love you, Tobs,” Christen moaned into Tobin’s lips as she wrapped her arms around her back, bringing Tobin’s body down against hers. “That was…incredible,” she said.

“You’re just so fucking sexy. You turn me on so much,” Tobin said, grinding her center into Christen.

“Good, because it’s my turn. I want you right now,” Christen smiled, biting Tobin’s lower lip.

When her body had sufficiently calmed down, Christen used all the strength she could muster from her legs and flipped Tobin on her back, pinning Tobin’s arms above her head. She straddled Tobin’s stomach, letting her wetness rub on the woman below her.

“Fuck,” Tobin said with her mouth hanging open watching Christen’s movements above her.

Christen leaned down and bit lightly on Tobin’s ear. “You’re mine,” she whispered.

“Always,” Tobin replied with certainty as Christen proceeded to kiss her down her body.

————

Two hours and multiple orgasms for both of them later, Christen snuggled up against Tobin’s chest and rested her palm against her heart.

“I was thinking…” Christen started to say.

“Yes, I’ll be happy to give you another orgasm. I just need a minute to catch my breath,” Tobin said right away without letting Christen finish, her eyes still closed as she tried to get her breathing back to normal to go another round.

Christen laughed and let her right leg tangle between Tobin’s.

“Not that, but we are definitely coming back to that later,” Christen said chuckling, impressed with Tobin’s stamina and wondering how she got so lucky to be with an apparent goddess in the sheets who was easily the best sex she’d ever had.

Tobin smiled and opened her eyes to look at Christen. “Okay, what were you thinking about?” she asked.

Christen smiled back, but turned serious as she looked in Tobin’s eyes.

Christen was looking at her so intensely with those sparkling green eyes that it took her breath away once again. She maintained eye contact and rubbed her back and waited for Christen to speak.

“I was thinking of how happy you make me. Just spending this unexpected morning with you, being able to tell you I love you any time I want now, being here in your arms. It’s the best feeling in the world,” Christen said sweetly.

Tobin took a deep breath, unprepared for what Christen just told her. It felt like a moment to be treasured and remembered forever. She lifted Christen’s chin with her finger and placed the softest kiss on her lips.

“Chris, this is the happiest I’ve ever been. I don’t think you understand how much you’ve changed the course of my life. I was lost, but you found me and helped make me whole again. I love you more than those words could ever really say,” Tobin said from her heart. “I haven’t been anyone’s girlfriend since Jordy was born and I’m going to make mistakes and annoy you sometimes, but know that I’ll always do everything I can to be worthy and deserving of your love.”

Christen closed her eyes and let Tobin’s words sink in. When she opened them again a few moments later, Tobin was still looking at her with all the adoration in the world.

“I love you, Tobin Heath,” Christen said simply.

“I love you, Christen Press,” Tobin replied as she pulled Christen on top of her and kissed her. “This is turning out to be quite the Tobin Thursday,” she said with a wide grin.

“Is Tobin Thursday a thing?” Christen asked playfully.

“It is now,” Tobin replied.

“Well then, I believe I was promised another orgasm,” Christen teased.

“Yes,” Tobin said as she flipped Christen on to her side, facing away from her and slipped her fingers between her legs. “Yes, you were.”

————

Tobin and Christen leaned back against the front of Tobin’s car and waited for their daughters to come out to the parking lot at school. They barely made it in time before the bell rang since they couldn’t keep their hands off each other, their lips attached until the moment they finally stepped out of Christen’s house.

Christen texted Emma and told her she called the school and that she’d be picking her up today and to skip her after school chess club. A couple of minutes later, they saw Jordan and Emma walking out together. When they looked up and saw their mothers, they checked for cars passing by and speed walked to their respective mothers for a hug.

“Mom!” Jordan said happily when she saw Ms. Christen and her mom’s wide smiles while waiting for them.

“Hi baby,” Tobin said as she gave Jordan a tight squeeze.

“Hi mom!” Emma said as she practically leapt into her mother’s arms.

“Hi sweetheart,” Christen said, brushing Emma’s curly hair from her face.

“Is this what we think it is?!” Jordan asked incredulously.

Tobin and Christen looked at each other and smiled.

“Yeah, it is,” Tobin confirmed as she walked toward Christen and wrapped an arm around her waist and Christen did the same.

Both girls jumped up and down like they’d just won the lottery and squealed in excitement. It didn’t last long, however, because Jordan noticed something on Tobin and approached her with her brows furrowed and her eyes focused.

“Oh my god, mom, is that a hickey?!” Jordan asked, trying to keep her voice down.

Aside from being shocked that Jordan apparently knew about hickeys and was now cursing when she wasn’t around, Tobin immediately covered the spot with her hand, kicking herself for not even bothering to look in the mirror before they left the house.

“Uh…” Tobin said, not knowing how to answer.

“Oh my god, mom! You have one, too!” Emma said, trying not to shout as she inspected her own mother’s neck.

Christen also covered hers with her hand, knowing that a blush was surely covering her face just like Tobin.

“Oh my god, you guys are so embarrassing. I can’t believe you guys showed up at our school with matching hickeys,” Jordan said shaking her head, wanting to just get in the car before any of their friends could see.

“And spent all of last tennis practice making out,” Emma reminded them. “Could we just go please?” she asked, hoping none of the other parents noticed it on their moms.

Tobin and Christen were properly reprimanded by their preteens and looked at each other and tried not to laugh. They followed their daughters and climbed back in the car.

“We’re gonna be hearing and seeing things from here on out, aren’t we,” Jordan said more as a statement and not a question, resigned to the fact that their mothers were now going to be all over each other.

“Nah,” Tobin said. “Just maybe lots more sleepovers with aunties Ash, Ali, Pinoe, and Sue,” she joked.

Christen laughed and leaned over to give Tobin a quick kiss.

“Gross,” Jordan and Emma both said playfully, not really mad about the whole thing…because they knew all along that this is exactly where they wanted to be.

The End

————

Chapter Text

“It’s a good thing the girls are such heavy sleepers,” Tobin said chuckling as she peppered Christen’s glistening chest with kisses. “And on the other side of the house.”

Christen’s chest heaved as she fought to catch her breath after Tobin made her come for the third time that night.

“Fuck,” Christen breathed out as she lay limply underneath Tobin with the dildo still inside her, her muscles completely spent. “It’s…your…fault,” she said between shallow breaths.

“How…” Tobin said as she kissed Christen’s collarbone. “Is…” she said as she kissed her right nipple. “It…” she said as she kissed her left nipple. “My…” she said as she kissed her pulse point. “Fault,” she said as she kissed Christen’s lips.

Christen moaned into the kiss. “It’s your fault…for being so…fucking good in bed,” she defended herself.

Tobin laughed as she stayed on top of Christen, still lightly thrusting inside her, brushing some stray hairs that had gotten stuck to Christen’s forehead from all the sweat covering her face.

“There are worse things. I don’t hear any complaints,” Tobin said cockily.

“No, but I can’t be expected to be quiet when your tongue and that strap are doing the things they’re doing. I can’t be held responsible for my volume in the middle of an orgasm,” Christen said, finally able to speak clearly as she let her hands wander to Tobin’s ass to push her deeper into her.

“Fair enough,” Tobin said laughing some more as she buried her face in Christen’s neck, sucking it lightly.

“God, baby, the things you do to me,” Christen moaned as Tobin’s mouth continued its assault on her neck.

Tobin and Christen had a very healthy sex life. In Pinoe’s opinion, maybe a little too healthy. Even after three years together, they still couldn’t keep their hands off each other and frequently had to be reminded that there were other people in the room with them whenever they would get mushy or handsy with each other. They had sex…a lot, usually later at night when the girls were in bed or whenever their friends offered to take the girls for sleepovers or during lunch dates at Tobin’s studio.

They officially moved in together one year after the day they first made love. Christen enlisted the help of Emma to ask Tobin and Jordan to move in with them and they enthusiastically said yes. Tobin sold her home and moved into Christen’s and they split all the bills, and cooking duties, down the middle. Emma and Jordan were now in the thick of their teenage years as newly minted sophomores in high school, with boys frequently being the topic of discussion between them. Oh, and they were each in the process of getting their driver’s permits, a scary thought to their mothers.

Christen was thriving at work and has been talked about as being on the short list to be successor to the CEO in a few years, something she was definitely aspiring to become. In her three years on the job, the company had gained almost double-digit market shares in successive years thanks in large part to her team’s efforts.

Tobin, for her part, continued to be in very high demand, but still chose to limit her projects to a manageable level, not wanting to sacrifice precious time with her new blended family. It took a bit of convincing by Christen, but she finally agreed to put her work on display for a 3-month exhibition that was opening tomorrow at the Portland Art Museum featuring local artists and Tobin was the first being featured in the year-long series.

“You like it when I do this, hmm?” Tobin whispered in Christen’s ear as she let her middle finger tease Christen’s sensitive clit while thrusting into her.

“Fuck, yes. You know I do,” Christen said, her mouth hanging open, not breathing, as she felt Tobin fill her up. At this point, Tobin knew Christen’s body better than Christen knew her own body. “We need to seriously get some sleep, though. It’s a big day tomorrow,” she said, trying to be the voice of reason.

“Fuck sleep. I’d rather fuck you,” Tobin said.

Christen moaned. Tobin always had a way of making her want her even more and her stamina was unmatched. Christen had never been with anyone who could make love for hours upon hours the way Tobin could. Not that she was complaining. Tobin always left her more than satisfied, but she sometimes had to remind her girlfriend that she had a day job that required her to be at work absolutely no later than 8am, unlike her flexible artist hours.

“Baby, it’s almost 2am. I wanted to get to work earlier than normal so I could leave early and get ready for your opening,” Christen said.

“Baby, the only opening I care about right now is the one I’m in,” Tobin said dirtily, waggling her eyebrows.

“You are so bad,” Christen chuckled and playfully smacked Tobin knowing she walked right into that one.

“You love me,” Tobin said, laughing along with her.

“I really do. So much,” Christen said as she pulled Tobin down for a long kiss. “But we need to call it a night or we’ll both be good for nothing tomorrow,” she said as she kissed her again.

When they pulled apart, Tobin sighed. “Fine, but can I finish this tomorrow?” she asked, thrusting a few more times for good measure.

“You’d better finish this tomorrow,” Christen said, fighting everything in her that wanted to let Tobin have her again. “And you’d better let me have a turn.”

“Always,” Tobin whispered.

Satisfied with their compromise, Tobin pulled herself out of Christen and collapsed next to her. To say that she always wanted Christen was an understatement. She wasn’t sure if it was because she had a non-existent sex life in the previous dozen years before she met Christen and was trying to make up for lost time or if it was just that Christen was stunning and desirable in every way, but she constantly wanted to be touching her in some way. Preferably naked and in bed. But tonight, there was probably another reason why she wanted to keep going. She pulled the harness off her and turned back toward Christen so that they were facing each other.

Christen reached out and traced Tobin’s jawline before leaning in for a soft kiss. Tobin closed her eyes and let herself feel the love coming from her partner. And when Christen pulled back, Tobin opened her eyes and took a deep breath.

“I’m nervous about tomorrow. With everyone planning to be there, your family flying in, I’m just feeling nervous,” Tobin quietly admitted. “I think I might have been subconsciously trying to get all that nervous energy out so I can relax and not be wound so tight. I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to keep you up so late.”

Three years ago, Tobin had promised Christen that she would communicate if there was ever anything that was bothering her. She had kept that promise and kept the lines of communication open to avoid any misunderstandings and Christen did the same.

“Hey, don’t ever apologize for wanting to express your love in that way. If I didn’t want you to keep me up so late, you wouldn’t have been able to keep me up so late,” Christen said. “I know you’re nervous. I can’t say there’s nothing to be nervous about because this is a big deal, but I can say that we’ll all be there to support you and my hand will be there for you to hold whenever you need it.”

Tobin let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding while listening to Christen, always in awe of how she could calm her with her words. “Fuck, I love you so much, Chris,” she said. “You just…god…everything in my life is better because of you.”

Christen gave Tobin a beaming smile. “I am so in love with you, Tobin Heath. All my days are brighter because of you and your beautiful smile. And I’m so fucking proud of you,” she said.

“Come here,” Tobin said as Christen took that as her cue to turn around and let her back rest against Tobin’s front, their favorite cuddling position.

Tobin wrapped an arm around Christen and held her close. She kissed her shoulder and whispered in her sleepy girlfriend’s ear. “Sweet dreams, beautiful.”

————

Tobin woke up the next morning alone in bed, her 7am alarm blaring. A pout quickly formed on her face, having gotten used to waking up with Christen next to her almost every day since they moved in together. The only time they didn’t wake up together was when Christen would be on business trips and she looked forward to their morning cuddles. She rolled over to snuggle Christen’s pillow when she noticed a note sitting on it. She picked it up and read.

Hi baby,

Happy Friday/Opening Day! I didn’t have the heart to wake you at 6. You were too cute snoring away. I should be home by the time you and the girls get home from school. I can’t wait to kiss you. I love you.

-C

Tobin felt tingles throughout her body just reading Christen’s note. She could feel the love all over the simple piece of paper and it made her smile. She let it rest on her chest as she picked up her phone and started typing.

Don’t know what you’re talking about…I don’t snore. I miss you. Can’t wait to hold you. Have a great day. I love you baby.

After brushing her teeth and washing her face, she walked down the hall to wake the girls up, knocking on each of their doors and waiting for a response to confirm they were up.

Tobin turned on the coffeemaker before anything else, needing a jolt to her morning given that she’d spent all night rolling around in bed with Christen. She smirked thinking of the warm body attached to hers last night, not caring one bit that she was paying for it right now. Totally worth it, if you asked her.

She proceeded to make breakfast as the girls started rolling into the kitchen.

“Morning,” Emma said, already dressed for school.

“Morning, kiddo,” Tobin said, setting the scrambled eggs and bacon down in front of Emma.

“Thanks Mama T,” Emma said.

After they moved in together, Emma had continued calling Tobin ‘Ms. Tobin’ and Jordan continued calling Christen ‘Ms. Christen.’ But after about six months of living together and truly becoming like a family, Emma and Jordan called a meeting and said that they wanted to make some changes. Tobin and Christen nervously sat down, holding hands, wondering what changes the girls were wanting to make. They had nothing to worry about, however, since the girls proposed that Emma start calling Tobin ‘Mama T’ and Jordan start calling Christen ‘Mama C.’ Tobin and Christen beamed at their daughters, more than happy with the change and it had been that way since. Tobin had grown to love Emma as if she were her own and Christen had done the same with Jordan.

“You’re welcome,” Tobin said. “Is Jordy almost ready?”

“I think so,” Emma said as she scarfed down her food, which made Tobin chuckle. “Are you ready for tonight?”

Tobin took a deep breath. She had largely kept her mind off tonight by showering Christen with all her attention last night and preparing breakfast, but she couldn’t avoid it for too long.

“Yeah, I think so,” Tobin said as she plated Jordan’s food.

“I’m excited to see everything put together,” Emma said excitedly. “Mom told us it’s gonna look amazing. She wouldn’t stop talking about it. We finally had to tell her to stop spoiling it for us,” she said, rolling her eyes.

Tobin chuckled as she put Jordan’s plate down. That sounded exactly like Christen. She had been so supportive of the project, silently there for Tobin every step of the way, giving her feedback only when asked. But she wasn’t silent around their daughters, apparently, and it made her warm inside just thinking about Christen proudly talking about her art with anyone who would listen. But that’s what made Christen Christen. So passionate with a big heart and so proud of other people’s accomplishments. It’s what made her such a great and much-admired leader. And it made Tobin thankful that this was the woman she got to kiss and come home to every single night.

Just then, Jordan strolled in and heard the last bit of their conversation.

“Oh my god, I swear if Mama C tells us one more thing about tonight, we are going to lose it,” Jordan said, also rolling her eyes.

Tobin laughed out loud. This was exactly what she had been needing in order to relax this morning. A good laugh for her soul, courtesy of her girls.

“Take it easy,” Tobin said. “She’s just excited.”

Tobin took her phone out and decided to leave Christen another message.

You’re cute and I love you.

Tobin smiled and sat down to have breakfast. It was going to be a good day.

————

“Tobin! This is amazing!” Cody said enthusiastically of the installation with his booming voice as he pulled her in for a hug.

“Thanks BD!” Tobin replied back, trying to match his enthusiasm, though she was hard-pressed to find anyone who could. “Thanks for flying up and everything. It really means a lot to me that you guys are here.”

“Are you kidding? We wouldn’t miss your big show for the world!” Cody said with a grin.

“This is incredible, Tobin, really. I’m glad Momo was able to convince you to share this with all of us,” Stacy said as she, too, gave Tobin a big hug.

“Yeah, well, she’s hard to say no to,” Tobin said as she put her arm around Christen’s waist and winked at her.

Christen shook her head and chuckled, making eye contact with Tobin and blushing hard, knowing that Tobin was thinking the exact same thing that she was. The method with which Christen had convinced her remained between them, but it didn’t stop Tobin from giving her looks each time the topic came up.

“It won’t get any easier. She got her powers of persuasion from me, so she’ll probably always get her way,” Cody said, unwittingly making the exchange even more funny and awkward.

Christen choked on her own saliva and started coughing. Tobin rubbed her back, trying not to laugh at the double conversation that was going on.

“Babe, you okay? Let’s go get you some water,” Tobin said.

“Yeah, get some water, Mo,” Stacy said.

“Yeah, I will,” Christen said.

“We’ll catch up with you guys later, okay?” Tobin said.

“See you later!” Cody said.

Tobin led Christen down a private hallway as they both erupted in laughter.

“Oh my god, baby, you should have seen your face,” Tobin said, trying to catch her breath while doubled over in laughter.

“You’re so mean to me,” Christen said, pretending to be hurt.

“I’m sorry,” Tobin said, her shoulders still shaking from laughing. “I didn’t know he was gonna say that. You have to admit that was pretty fucking funny,” she said as she pulled Christen in closer.

Christen shook her head, but couldn’t keep a straight face either, laughing along with Tobin. “I’ll get you back for that.”

“I hope you do,” Tobin challenged as she gently pushed Christen back against the wall and pressed her body against hers.

Their laughter faded and their eyes turned dark as they took advantage of the momentary privacy they were afforded. Tobin gripped Christen’s hips while Christen wrapped her arms around Tobin’s shoulder. Tobin then moved in and let her lips brush against Christen’s. Within seconds, their hands were everywhere as if there was no tomorrow.

Christen moved her hands down Tobin’s back and Tobin grabbed her wrists and pinned them against the wall.

“God,” Christen moaned, so turned on by Tobin taking charge.

“Fuck, I wish I could take you home right now,” Tobin said as her lips attached themselves to Christen’s neck.

“Me too,” Christen said breathlessly. “You do need to get back out there and mingle, though.”

Tobin groaned. She knew Christen was right, but it didn’t make letting her go any easier.

“We’ll have all night,” Christen promised as she reached up to fix Tobin’s hair and cleaned off some of her lipstick that had smudged on the side of Tobin’s mouth.

“All night,” Tobin repeated like a mantra, using that as motivation to finish the night strong and take Christen home.

————

Christen was so proud. The show was sold out for the entire 3-month run that Tobin’s work would be on display. She found out early on in their relationship that Tobin was a bit of a mystery in the art community. Always in demand, but rarely ever available. Not for commissions, interviews, or exhibits. Your project really had to excite her for her to take it on. Tobin had her reasons, of course. Jordan was her main focus and she simply didn’t want to take any time away from that. And she didn’t like the attention. Which was ironic given that Christen’s entire career was built on bringing attention to whatever brand she was working for.

“Baby, the world really needs to see your art,” Christen said while straddling Tobin’s lap a year ago during one of their lunch dates at Tobin’s studio.

Tobin had finally finished her piece called ‘Soul,’ the one that she showed Christen on their first date that she didn’t think she’d ever finish. She’d been trying to capture Christen’s eye color for two years and she thought she had finally done it. She put a blindfold over Christen as soon as she walked in the studio and eventually revealed it to her.

“No, it doesn’t,” Tobin argued as she trailed kisses all along Christen’s neck and started unbuttoning Christen’s blouse.

“Why not? I think…a…a retrospective of yo…your work would b…be amazing,” Christen trembled, quickly losing control as Tobin took one of her nipples into her mouth. “You’re depriving the world of th..that.”

“Chris, you don’t have a lot of time until you need to get back to the office. The last thing I wanna talk about right now is my art. You’re the one who’s depriving me right now,” Tobin said as she moved to the other nipple and devoured it.

Christen moaned and sighed. “Oh god, baby. Fine, but w…we’ll talk about this at home la…later,” she said.

“Fine,” Tobin said, punting the conversation for later, hoping Christen would just forget about it.

Christen tangled her fingers in Tobin’s soft hair and lightly pulled her mouth toward her, wanting more of what Tobin was doing.

Christen didn’t forget, of course. With a brain like hers, there were few things she ever forgot. It only took making love several times that night to convince Tobin to share her work, with Christen wearing a proud smirk when Tobin finally said yes in the middle of an orgasm. What can she say? She was good at her job and she was really good at getting Tobin to say yes to pretty much anything.

“You don’t play fair,” Tobin said, pretending to pout. “You know I’m weak for you.”

“Exactly,” Christen said as she kissed Tobin.

When it was announced that Tobin’s work would be on display, but not for sale since Tobin was adamant about that, all the tickets sold out in a day. She also insisted that every penny she earned from ticket sales go to maternal health advocacy groups that tackle the barriers to equitable maternity care for women and families of color. Tobin wanted no family to ever have to experience what she did even though Amanda had been under the best care possible.

Christen watched on as Tobin had a casual conversation with the museum’s curator during the artist Q&A portion of the evening and she had everyone’s attention. Christen was especially proud because she knew this wasn’t easy for Tobin. It wasn’t easy for her to have all the attention focused on her and have to speak candidly about her work with a roomful of people, mostly strangers.

Tobin was so introspective as she spoke and Christen thinks she’s never been more in love with her. On their first date, Christen had first gotten a glimpse of Tobin the artist when Tobin brought her to her studio for the first time. She remembers it like it was yesterday. Every moment of that night and it’s still one of her favorite memories. She looked through every single painting Tobin had lined up on the floor, her feelings projected on each canvas. She never got Tobin’s perspective on all those paintings that night…until tonight. Hearing Tobin talk openly and honestly about her heartache to the life she now lives with Christen and the girls, she was bursting with love for her.

Christen wants to marry Tobin. She’s wanted to marry Tobin for a long time, but something had been stopping her from asking. Maybe because it never really came up in conversation naturally. In her heart, she knew Tobin would say yes in a heartbeat, yet she hesitated to ask. She didn’t want to ‘fix’ what wasn’t broken, as they say. And they’d both been broken before. But they had been together for almost three years now, the best three years of Christen’s life, and she wanted to be able to call Tobin her wife. She had even accidentally almost said it a couple of times when introducing Tobin to other people in the last few months…because in every sense of the word, Tobin was her wife, just not officially on paper. Standing there tonight in the back of the room, watching Tobin, she decided on the spot that she was going to get plans in motion to ask Tobin to marry her.

“What are you smiling so big about?” Tyler whispered, nudging her sister’s shoulder.

Christen was brought out of her thoughts and she felt her face flush as if Tyler could see into what she had just been thinking. She hadn’t realized she’d been smiling so wide and her face did feel a little sore when she dialed it back down to normal.

“Huh? Nothing, I’m just really proud of Tobin,” Christen whispered back, not totally a lie, but not exactly what she had just been thinking.

“You got yourself a good egg. She’s pretty damn cool,” Tyler said.

“Yeah, she is. I could listen to her talk all day,” Christen said, her eyes not once leaving Tobin as she spoke.

“I’m sure you could,” Tyler said with a light chuckle. “Among other things…”

Christen blushed, regretting sharing with Tyler one time how amazing Tobin was in bed and she never missed an opportunity to tease her about it since then.

“I hate you,” Christen muttered under her breath as she focused her attention back to Tobin.

————

When the Q&A was over and the applause subsided, Tobin slowly made her way over to Christen, her eyes fixed on her beautiful girlfriend, the only one who could ever make her heart beat as fast as it was beating now.

“Baby, you’re amazing,” Christen gushed. “I am so so proud of you. In case I haven’t said that.”

Tobin just had to laugh because Christen had told her just about a million times how proud she was of her.

“You’ve said it a couple of times,” Tobin teased as she stood in front of Christen.

“I was telling Tyler that I could listen to you talk all day,” Christen said as she leaned in for a kiss.

Tobin smiled into the kiss and rested her forehead against Christen’s when they pulled apart. “I could listen to you talk forever,” she said.

Christen chuckled and tried to one-up her. “Well I could listen to you talk forever and a day,” she joked.

Tobin gave Christen a serious look and shook her head, which confused Christen. Tobin shifted her feet and looked down, taking a deep breath, before looking back into Christen’s deep green eyes.

“No, Chris, I mean I could listen to you talk forever,” Tobin said, enunciating the last word as if it would make things clear for Christen.

“What? I don’t underst…” Christen started to say when she saw Tobin reach into her back pocket.

Tobin took the little black velvet box she’d been hiding in the far reaches of their closet for the past three months out of her pocket and opened it for Christen to see. Christen audibly gasped and covered her mouth with her hand when she saw the most beautiful ring she’d ever laid eyes on, which caught the attention of the gallery. Their daughters, family, and friends were also nearby and they all stood in shock at what they were witnessing before taking their phones out to record the scene.

Christen was shaking. This night had taken a turn. Her legs felt like Jell-O and her heart was damn near about ready to give out. Her eyes were filling with tears and she was ready to say ‘yes’ before Tobin even had a chance to ask her question.

Tobin didn’t know what she was doing. She’d never done this before. She’d never bought an engagement ring or got down on one knee to ask the woman she loves to marry her. To say she was nervous was an understatement. She normally wouldn’t want any attention on her, but she knew she wanted to do this tonight in front of all the most important people in their lives, Amanda’s parents included, who just last month had quietly asked her when she and Christen were going to get married. She shrugged their question off at the time, not wanting anyone to know what she was up to. She also didn’t know when exactly she was going to propose tonight, but when Christen said she could listen to her talk all day, she saw her opportunity to play off of that and took it.

Tobin took Christen’s hands in hers and got down on one knee, the crowd around them gasping again at the motion. She didn’t have a speech planned, so Tobin kept her eyes up, locked with Christen’s, and began to speak from her heart.

“Baby, I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a chance to do this. I was forty years old when you walked into my life and the most unexpected and beautiful thing happened. I fell in love with you instantly and I haven’t stopped falling for you in the three years since,” Tobin said, willing her voice to stay steady so she could get through this and tell Christen exactly how she felt.

Christen couldn’t remain standing as she listened to Tobin. Passing out seemed like a very real possibility with the way Tobin was looking at her with so much love, that she had to get down to eye level with Tobin on the floor. She caressed Tobin’s cheek with one hand and waited for her to continue.

“Chris, I’m at my happiest when I’m with you. You make me feel so safe and loved and cherished and I can only hope that I do the same for you,” Tobin said as Christen nodded, both of them with tears running freely down their cheeks.

“The feeling I get just from holding your hand when we’re out for a walk is something I can’t even describe, but I know I want that feeling for the rest of my life. So when I say that I could listen to you talk forever, this is what I mean. I’m so lucky to be your partner and I hope you’ll do me the honor of becoming my wife,” Tobin said, her voice full of emotion as she took a deep breath in and out. “Christen Annemarie Press, the most beautiful soul I’ve ever met, will you marry me?”

Christen let out a breath that she’d been holding for way too long. “Yes!” she exclaimed loud and clear. “Yes, yes, yes! A million times over, yes!”

Christen hurled herself at Tobin who caught her and kept them upright as they wrapped their arms tightly around one another. Tobin buried her face in Christen’s neck and curls, the world around them fading as she held the love of her life in her arms.

The crowd that had gathered around them applauded and hollered and whistled, but they didn’t hear any of it.

“I love you, baby,” Christen said into Tobin’s ear, kissing it affectionately as she did so.

“I love you, too,” Tobin said as they let go just enough to look at each other.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Christen said, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Can I put the ring on you?” Tobin asked.

“Yes,” Christen said again as she held her still-shaking left hand out.

Tobin took Christen’s hand and gently slipped the ring on her finger. It fit perfectly.

“Tobs, it’s so beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Christen gushed.

Tobin smiled at Christen’s face which was lit up more than she’d ever seen it. Christen had never seen anything like it because Tobin had painstakingly custom-designed the ring with a local jeweler. Every single detail of the ring had some meaning to it, but Tobin would have to save that story for Christen later.

“I’m glad you like it,” Tobin said simply.

“I love it. And I love you,” Christen said as she took Tobin’s face in her hands and leaned in to give her a kiss.

Tobin wrapped her arms around Christen and kissed her hard, getting lost in the woman who meant everything to her.

“Oh my god, you guys, please get a room,” Jordan whined jokingly, having seen this same scene play out many times in the last three years.

The crowd laughed as Tobin and Christen continued kissing, ignoring Jordan just this once.

————

“You want to know something funny?” Christen asked as she slid down Tobin’s body and collapsed on top of her in bed later that night, their daughters having been banished to their aunties’ house for the evening and Christen taking full advantage of not having to keep her voice down.

“Chris, you were just sitting on my face. I’m not sure I want to hear what’s funny about that,” Tobin teased as she rubbed circles on Christen’s back while her sweaty fiancée was sprawled on top of her, breathing heavily.

Christen laughed and kissed Tobin’s neck. “Not that,” she said.

“Okay, what’s funny?” Tobin asked, her hands moving to Christen’s ass to squeeze them, ready to go another round.

“Right before you came over to ask me to marry you, I had literally decided while I was watching you speak tonight that I was going to come up with a plan to propose to you,” Christen admitted.

“Oh?” Tobin said smiling.

“Yeah,” Christen said. “I was thinking about how much I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you and be able to call you my wife any time I wanted.”

Tobin smiled and kissed Christen. “You’ve almost said it a couple of times lately,” she chuckled.

“You caught that?” Christen asked, slightly blushing.

“Yes. If it makes you feel better, it made me feel really good about my chances that you would say yes,” Tobin teased.

“So when we were kissing in the hallway at the gallery tonight and you pinned my arms against the wall…” Christen said, a thought dawning on her.

“Yeah, you were about to feel the box in my back pocket. Couldn’t let that happen,” Tobin chuckled.

“And last night when you said you were nervous…” Christen said, connecting all the pieces.

“Yeahhhh…I was a little nervous about the show, but I was about to have a nervous breakdown about the proposal. No one knew what I was planning, so I couldn’t get advice or help from anyone,” Tobin said laughing.

“My poor baby. You did a great job, though. That was the best surprise ever,” Christen said.

Tobin shook her head in disagreement.

“Nope. I’d argue that Michael Jordan showing up to my birthday party two years ago is still the best surprise ever, but this was pretty good,” Tobin said, still in disbelief to this day that Christen got Michael freaking Jordan to come to her birthday party so she could meet one of her idols and the reason why she had a shoe problem.

Christen chuckled and kissed her softly. “Ask me again,” she whispered against Tobin’s mouth.

Tobin looked Christen in her eyes, her soul, full of gratitude that this woman was going to be her wife. “Will you marry me, baby?” she asked.

“That’s the hottest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Christen said, her eyes dark with desire. “Hell yes, Tobin Powell Heath. I’ll marry you.”

————