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I had a thought, dear

However scary

About that night

The bugs and the dirt

Why were you digging?

What did you bury

Before those hands pulled me

From the earth?

I will not ask you where you came from

I will not ask you, neither should you

Honey just put your sweet lips on my lips

We should just kiss like real people do

(Tobin - “Like Real People Do” by Hozier)


Baby, I'm yours (baby, I'm yours)

And I'll be yours (yours) until the stars fall from the sky

Yours (yours) until the rivers all run dry

In other words, until I die

Baby, I'm yours (baby, I'm yours)

And I'll be yours (yours) until the sun no longer shines

Yours (yours) until the poets run out of rhyme

In other words, until the end of time

I'm gonna stay right here by your side

And do my best to keep you satisfied

Nothin' in the world could drive me away

Every day, you'll hear me say

(Christen - “Baby I’m Yours” by Arctic Monkeys)



“Scottie, would you like to share now?” Ms. Hubbard asked. 

Scottie nodded and lugged her USA duffel to the front of the class, clad in her PRESS 17 jersey from the Olympics.

“Sup everybody. So for show and tell I brought stuff from my summer vacation. I went to Sydney with the U.S. Women’s National Team and watched them win gold,” Scottie began.

“Yeah right, and my dad owns FedEx,” one of the kids in the back of the room snorted. 

Scottie sighed and pulled out the Gold medal from the duffel and put it around her neck. “This isn’t made of chocolate, Simon. I went with my Mommy and I watched Christen score the game-winning penalty kick against Sweden.”

“Who’s Christen?” a brunette in the front row asked. 

“She’s Christen,” Scottie stuttered. “Christen Press,” she added, pulling out a framed picture of her and Christen at the Medal Ceremonies, the Gold medal around Scottie’s neck and Christen hugging her from behind. She held it up so the whole class could see. “She lets me wear the Gold medal whenever I want.”

“Isn’t it heavy?” another kid asked. 

“Nah,” Scottie scoffed. “But if I wear it for too long, my neck starts to hurt.”

“Why do you call her your Christen? That’s kind of weird,” Naomi said, making a few kids laugh. 

Scottie dimmed just a bit and furrowed her brows at Naomi. “Because that’s who she is to me, Na-o-mi,” Scottie said, sassily sounding out Naomi’s name and earning herself more laughs than Naomi did.

“My mom said your mom-”

“Okay, Naomi,” Ms. Hubbard warned. “Thank you, Scottie. Your show and tell is very cool.”

“But I didn’t even get to show them my signed ball or my pictures with Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka,” Scottie sighed.

“The assignment was to bring one thing in,” Simon laughed from the back of the room. 

“Just because you only brought a rock doesn’t mean you have to pick on what I brought,” Scottie replied, crossing her arms over her chest. “A Gold medal is way cooler than a stupid rock.”

“Everyone, let’s try to be compassionate, okay? Let’s give Scottie a round of applause for her Gold medal,” Ms. Hubbard said, guiding Scottie back to her seat. 

“Ms. Hubbard?” Scottie asked, getting seated.

“Yes, sweetheart?” Ms. Hubbard said, pushing her glasses up on her head. 

“Um-” Scottie paused, the word ‘sweetheart’ sounding weird coming from someone other than Christen. “Was that okay? Did I bring okay things in?”

“You brought awesome things in,” Ms. Hubbard smiled. “Great job, Scottie.”

“Cool beans,” Scottie replied, holding up a shaka sign and readjusting the Gold medal around her neck.

Tobin stuck her tongue out slightly as she stared at the canvas in front of her. 

“Well, that looks like shit,” she mumbled to herself, looking at how the colors hadn’t properly blended. 

It was like no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get the right shade of gray for Scottie’s eyes. It didn’t help matters that she only got to work on the painting when Christen was out or traveling for games, not wanting her to know she was tweaking it, that she was possibly getting closer to finishing it than she’d ever gotten before. 

She’d just picked out a different tube of black paint when her phone started ringing on a table behind her. She ignored the paint on her hands, grabbing her phone without wiping them. She already had paint on her forehead and all over her hands, so a little more wasn’t that big of a deal. 

“Heath,”  she mumbled, staring at the painting still. 

“Hey Heath,” Jerri greeted into the phone, her slight Southern drawl even more prominent after she spent the spring and the summer in Louisiana.

“What’s up, Jerri?” Tobin asked, still absentmindedly staring at the painting. 

“How’s Scottie and Christen? How are you?” Jerri asked, pointedly ignoring Tobin’s question.

“Both of them are great. We’re all doing really really well, and we’re finally all in one place at once,” Tobin added, her smile growing at the idea that the three of them were going to be eating dinner at Gio’s together for the first time since before the Olympics. “Are you back in the city? How’re you?” 

“That’s great, Heath. I am back officially, which makes Gail very happy,” Jerri chuckled.

“I’m glad you two are still making it work,” Tobin laughed, remembering all the arguments they’d had over where they wanted to live. 

“She loves New York, I love NOLA, but we love each other more,” Jerri replied, laughing again, but this time Tobin could hear how it was a little forced.

“Good, dude. That’s really good. offense, but what’s going on?” Tobin asked. 

“ didn’t hear this from me,” Jerri sighed. “But Gail had a visitor the other week at the law office.”

“Oh?” Tobin asked, leaning against the table and trying not to worry despite the tone of Jerri’s voice. 

“It was Roni, Heath.”

Tobin felt her throat start to tense at that name. She hadn’t heard from Roni since she’d told her to back off in Central Park a full year ago. She’d been in a state of bliss, maybe a little naive, a little blinded by the love she was feeling with Christen and Scottie. 

But now, she felt like she’d been knocked down, like the rug was being pulled out from under her or the other shoe was dropping. 

“Oh,” she repeated, her voice hollow. “Do you know why she was looking for a lawyer?” 

“I don’t. Gail didn’t even let her in her office or give her the time of day,” Jerri replied, her tone of voice apologetic.

“But she wanted a lawyer,” Tobin breathed out, images of Scottie being forced to sit in a courtroom flashing through her head all of a sudden. 

“Or she got off on the wrong floor,” Jerri offered. “There could be hundreds of other reasons, Heath. Don’t borrow trouble...but don’t ignore trouble either. Just to be safe.”

“Right,” Tobin nodded, trying to force the lump in her throat down. “So, what are you suggesting?” 

“Be your squeaky clean self and have your Olympian girlfriend be her squeaky clean self too.”

“Yeah, we are that,” Tobin mumbled, dropping her paintbrush and running her hand over her forehead. 

“You are gonna be fine,” Jerri assured. “Call me and we can do dinner. You, me, Gail, Christen, and Scottie.”

Tobin forced a smile onto her face as she agreed. “That sounds great. I’ll look at schedules. Thanks for the warning. I’ll talk to you later.”

She hung up the phone, immediately feeling like she needed to go back to sleep. She climbed up the stairs, needing to get paint off her hands and her face before she did anything else. Christen would kill her if she got paint on their new sheets, and she didn’t want to show up to pick Scottie up from school covered in paint. 

The day started out with a sweet morning with Scottie and Christen, all of them making breakfast together and getting ready for the day. Tobin had brushed Scottie’s hair, and Christen had helped her get her show and tell bag packed. She and Scottie had then kissed Christen goodbye as she’d left to do interviews with Crystal and Becky.

Even the walk to school had felt more calm than normal. She and Scottie had talked about their plans for the rest of the week and what they should get from the grocery store. It had been the perfectly normal, domestic bliss that Tobin had become accustomed to for the past year. 

And now she felt like that bliss was being threatened all over again. 

She weighed her options as she scrubbed her hands under the sink. She thought about possibly calling Roni, about confronting her now and figuring out why she was hiring a lawyer. But Tobin also didn’t want to call and possibly give Roni ammunition for a court case. Not only that, but she didn’t want to hear her voice. She didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of calling her. 

She thought about calling Christen or her parents, but she couldn’t really see the benefit of getting other people involved. It would only stress them out, and there was still a chance that Roni wasn’t lawyering up for a custody case. She didn’t want people to freak out over nothing, especially not the people she loved most. 

So, instead of calling anyone or researching custody cases, she did what she felt like doing. She pulled off the clothes she’d been painting in, changed into a clean t-shirt, and crawled into bed, lying down on the pillow that still smelled like Christen’s shampoo and letting her eyes fall shut. 

The lights of the studio were hot, uncomfortably so. Christen readjusted, finding that the padded armchair she had been directed to was also uncomfortable. Add in the insane amount of make-up and the absurd levels of hairspray in her hair, and she was uncomfortable all around. 

The only good thing was that she’d gotten to pick her own outfit. Which allowed her to get Scottie’s advice, resulting in the green-colored suit she currently wore, the one Scottie deemed ‘ perfect green .’ 

“My hair is flammable,” Becky murmured, pointing at her similarly hair-sprayed hair. 

“Yeah, but at least we look good,” Crystal grinned, standing up to spin around and show off her dress. “Especially you with your Scottie original.”

“What can I say, my girl has taste,” Christen chuckled, fighting against the urge to scratch at the corner of her jaw, opting to roll the sleeves of her blazer up instead.

“All right, ladies. We’re just gonna ask you some questions, and you can answer freely. They’ll be about the games in Australia, nothing you haven’t answered before, I’m sure. We’re gonna save the last ten minutes for some questions from outside journalists, so be prepared for that as well,” a male interviewer with an obviously fake spray tan said, reaching out his hand to shake each of theirs. 

“We’re really excited to have you here. My daughter’s a huge fan,” the female interviewer added, offering her hand to shake as well. 

“Thank you for having us,” Crystal grinned, getting comfortable in her armchair. 

Christen took a deep breath and tried to go to her place of peace. She didn’t love interviews. She also didn’t love the media. But after scoring the winning penalty kick in the Olympic Gold Medal Match, she didn’t have much of a say in the matter. She was expected to do post-Games interviews, alongside her captain and the MVP of the tournament. 

As she heard the production assistant count them down to when they would go live, Christen thought about Tobin and Scottie. She thought about her two girls and how she would get to see them tonight after a day full of interviews and meetings. She tried to think of them and nothing else. 

Which lasted about twenty minutes. 

All three of them answered the soft ball questions from the interviewers, questions about the games and their bracket, the challenging schedule, and their opponents. They got to talk about their fight for equal pay and their advocacy off the field. They got to cover a lot of ground and Christen was extremely happy with how things were going. 

And then they went to the questions from the other journalists. 

“Andrew Shields, City Scoop. My question is for Christen Press.” 

Christen shielded her eyes from the studio lights and found Andrew in the audience. She offered him as genuine of a smile as she could muster and nodded, awaiting his question as her hand fell back to her lap.

“You were pictured celebrating Olympic Gold on the field in Sydney with a-” Andrew paused to check his notes, “-Tobin Heat and her daughter. Would you care to comment on the nature of that relationship?”

Christen went completely still, her hands clenched into fists in her lap. She tried to breathe regularly and evenly.

She knew this was coming. It wasn’t like she was trying to hide anything or be subtle. She’d met Tobin and Scottie on the field after every game. She’d hugged them both and left lingering kisses on Tobin’s cheek. She was the opposite of hiding it. But that didn’t mean she was going to confirm it. The moment she gave it to the journalists, that was the moment this beautiful love ceased to be just theirs.

“It’s Heath. Like the bar,” Crystal corrected, staring into the audience at Andrew. 

“Apologies. Tobin Heath. Care to comment on your relationship with her and her daughter?”

Christen put that fake smile back on her face and schooled her features. “Thank you for that question. It’s always a joy to talk about the people we surround ourselves with, the ones who help us be the best version of ourselves. It truly is a team effort, and I know I’m very lucky to have a lot of supporters in my life. I have nothing but gratitude for those people in my corner who support me every single day, not just at the Olympics. I will not comment any further than that.”

“But what would you say to those who might wonder if this romance you seem to have fostered with a single mother is just a publicity stunt to clean up your party girl image?” Andrew pushed back, a smarmy grin on his face.

Christen swallowed thickly, her eyes narrowing slightly. “I would say, again, that I won’t comment on the nature of that relationship. But I’m sure you know, as well as I do, that I’m not that girl anymore. After this summer, I’m more of a Golden girl now,” Christen said, her joke smoothly finishing out her schooled response, earning her chuckles from around the room and proud looks from her teammates. 

“So your comment is no comment?” Andrew scoffed once the chuckling had died down. 

“Now you’re getting it,” Christen replied with that fake smile again, feeling her stomach roll and anger prickle beneath her skin. 

Yeah, this was going to be a long day.

“It’s so good to see single moms making it work, especially in this city,” Ms. Hubbard said with a smile. 

“Uh...thanks,” Tobin mumbled, scratching the back of her head. 

It had been ten minutes, and Scottie’s teacher was still talking to her as if they knew each other, as if they hadn’t just met this morning when she’d dropped Scottie off for school. 

“Mommy, let’s go,” Scottie sighed, tugging at Tobin’s shirt.

And Tobin couldn’t agree more. She was dying to go home, to take her shoes off and lie down on the couch and cuddle with Scottie until Christen got home. 

“You know, meet the teacher night is next week,” Ms. Hubbard said, smiling down at Scottie, then looking back up at Tobin. “Are you planning on attending?” 

“Yes, Mommy always does. And maybe this year she will bring-” Scottie tried to answer, only to be interrupted by her teacher.

“I’m sure the coffee won’t be good, but maybe you and I could find a moment to talk?” Ms. Hubbard said. 

“Is everything okay?” Tobin asked, looking down at Scottie to see if she was acting sheepish at all. 

“Is this because I called Simon’s rock stupid?” Scottie winced, looking between Ms. Hubbard and Tobin. 

“Oh, no. No, sweetheart. I just was hoping to get to know you a little better,” Ms. Hubbard mumbled. 

“But you’ll see me every day in school,” Scottie said, her brow furrowing as she tried to understand why her teacher wanted to get to know her better.

“Your...uh- your mom,” Ms. Hubbard said, offering Scottie a tight smile. 

“Um...I’ll be at meet the teacher night, Ms. Hubbard,” Tobin said, feeling more uncomfortable the longer this conversation went on. 

“Call me Maddie,” Ms. Hubbard replied.

“Mommy, can we go now ?” Scottie asked again, tugging on Tobin’s hand. 

“Yeah, we should go,” Tobin agreed, taking Scottie’s show and tell bag and sliding it onto her shoulder. She offered a wave to Scottie’s teacher but nothing else. 

The two of them hustled down the sidewalk away from school as quickly as possible. 

“Mommy...that was so weird,” Scottie said, scrunching up her face in disgust.

“Yeah, that was kind of weird, little bit,” Tobin sighed, stopping at the crosswalk. 

“How was your day?” Scottie asked, swinging their clasped hands between them.

“Hey, that’s my line,” Tobin laughed. “It was okay, kinda quiet without you and Christen around. How was school?” 

“Um, fine,” Scottie shrugged.

“Just fine?” Tobin asked, looking down at Scottie. 

“Yup. Walkman,” Scottie said, pointing at the crosswalk and waiting for Tobin to step off the curb to follow.

“Are you excited for Christen to come home and tell us about her interview?” Tobin asked, squeezing Scottie’s hand. 

“Yes, and I am very excited to see her on TV. I hope it recorded and that we can all watch it together tomorrow!”

“Me too. She told me she doesn’t like interviews, though,” Tobin hummed. 

“That’s why I gave her two forehead kisses this morning,” Scottie replied.

“I bet it was a great interview then,” Tobin said, sending Scottie a wink. 

Scottie tried to send a wink back and ended up doing more of a double blink. “I bet she had the best day out of all of us.”

“We can ask her at Gio’s. Do you have homework?” Tobin asked, guiding Scottie to the left and down their street. 

“Nope,” Scottie said, popping the ‘p’ in her response. “I just need to come up with three fun facts about myself and start thinking about my family tree project.”

“Oh, cool,” Tobin said, her smile feeling more genuine than it had all afternoon. “You have tons of fun facts!”

“I have too many. How will I ever pick three?” Scottie lamented, scuffing her feet dramatically.

“What kind of facts are you thinking of?” Tobin asked, pulling the house keys out of her pocket. 

“Every fact I think of has to do with the Olympics,” Scottie sighed.

“Well it was a pretty cool summer,” Tobin grinned, unlocking the door and pushing it open for Scottie. 

“Not to my classmates,” Scottie grumbled, stalking up the steps and hurrying upstairs.

“Excuse me?” Tobin asked, her eyebrows scrunching up at how down Scottie sounded. 

“I’m gonna read in my room!” Scottie called over her shoulder.

“Do you want a snack? We could read on the couch!” Tobin called after her. 

“No thank you!” came Scottie’s voice before the sound of a door slamming shut.

“Great, cool cool cool,” Tobin sighed, tossing her keys and wallet onto the kitchen counter and stalking toward the couch, falling onto it with no plans to get up before they would head to Gio’s. 

“Scottie!” Dominic called as soon as Scottie and Tobin walked into Gio’s. 

“Hey, Dommie,” Scottie greeted with a head nod, her hands stuffed into her pockets.

“Who do I need to beat up?” Dommie asked, putting his hands on his hips. 

“My whole fourth-grade class,” Scottie grumbled, leaning into Tobin’s side.

“How about I let everyone in the kitchen know that tonight’s tiramisu needs to be flawless?” Dominic asked. 

Scottie managed a smile at that and walked over to Dominic, giving him a tight hug.

“Hey, little bit, look who’s already at our table,” Tobin said, hoping that Scottie would get a little excited for Christen, even if nothing else had done the trick. 

That had Scottie brightening. She jumped up, trying to get a good look.

“Oh my gosh,” Scottie gasped, rushing by Dominic and hurrying through the restaurant, headed for their usual table that was currently occupied.

“My Christen!”

“My Scottie,” Christen all but sighed in greeting, the tension leaving her frame as she saw Scottie rushing up to the table.

“You have no idea how lame today was,” Scottie sighed, sinking into Christen’s open arms. 

“Trust me, sweetheart, I have an idea,” Christen replied, pulling Scottie close. 

Her green suit was wrinkled, her hair was falling out of its perfectly styled curls, and her make-up had faded. But she was finally back with her girls and she couldn’t be happier. 

“Hi, Chris,” Tobin sighed, leaning down to press a kiss to Christen’s forehead. 

“Hi, baby,” Christen hummed, offering Tobin a tight smile as she continued to hold Scottie in her arms. “You on team ‘today was lame’ too?”

“The lamest, actually,” Tobin grumbled, dropping into the seat beside Christen. 

“Can we get garlic bread and mozzarella sticks?” Scottie asked, her words muffled by the way she was keeping her face buried in Christen’s chest.

“Sure, dude, and then you can tell me why fourth graders are mean,” Tobin agreed. 

“Was someone mean to you?” Christen asked, her forehead furrowing. She ran her hands up and down Scottie’s back, her eyes locked on Tobin’s. She saw the same concern she felt reflected back at her.

“I mean...they’re not nice, that’s for suresies,” Scottie sighed, finally slipping from Christen’s arms and taking her seat across from Tobin. “Naomi’s in my class, and I think the summer made her worse.”

“Naomi…” Christen trailed off, sharing a questioning look with Tobin.

“Yates and Naomi were friendly last year, and she really doesn’t like me,” Scottie replied with a sigh. 

“He shared his fruit by the foot,” Tobin said, reminding Christen about Scottie’s ‘divorce’ the year prior. 

“Right, right,” Christen nodded, finally remembering. 

“Also, Simon’s kind of a jerk, and he didn’t think your Gold medal was real. How lame is that?” Scottie mumbled, dropping her forehead onto the table. 

Christen reached out and ran her hand up and down Scottie’s back again, her heart hurting for the girl in front of her.

“Super-duper lame,” Christen hummed. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.”

“Why was your day lame?” Scottie asked, turning her head to look at Christen. “Did you get nervous? Mommy said it’s okay to be nervous. We’ll still think it’s cool when we watch your interview.”

“I wasn’t nervous, but I did have to deal with some pretty lame people. Kind of like Naomi and Simon,” Christen replied, hoping Scottie wouldn’t ask too many more questions since the reason her day was lame wasn’t exactly nine-year-old appropriate. 

“Why were they lame?” Scottie asked. “Did they think the medal was fake too?”

Christen kicked Tobin under the table, silently asking for some help out of this line of questioning.  

“Uh...sometimes people just aren’t nice when they ask questions,” Tobin said, not knowing exactly what Christen needed from her. 

“Tell me about it,” Scottie grumbled. 

“I think we should get bruschetta too,” Christen declared, sliding her hand into Tobin’s, immediately twisting the ring around Tobin’s middle finger.

"Yes, I love the 'schetta!" Scottie said, brightening just a bit.

“I’m sorry you two had such lame days,” Tobin sighed, pressing a kiss to the back of Christen’s hand and shooting Scottie a tight smile. 

“I’m sorry you did too, Mommy. We should get calamari too. You like that,” Scottie said, propping her elbows on the table and dropping her chin into her hands.

“We can,” Tobin laughed, loving that her girls were adding more food to the order as their way of coping with a bad day. It was kind of adorable, especially since she knew how many leftovers she’d be carrying home. 

“And guess what I bought yesterday and put in the freezer?” Christen asked, smiling over at Scottie.

“Peanut Butter Marshmallow Crunch?” Scottie asked, a big smile spreading across her face. 

“Only the best for my favorite fourth grader,” Christen replied with a wink.

“Oh my gosh! I almost forgot! I thought I liked Ms. Hubbard, but then she called me sweetheart, and I don’t think I like that at all,” Scottie added, reaching out for Christen’s free hand. 

Christen wrinkled her nose, a seed of distaste for this teacher planted firmly in her heart immediately.

“And then she asked Mommy to drink coffee with her,” Scottie added with an eye roll. “But all I wanted to do was go home and leave school.”

“Excuse me?” Christen clarified, turning to look over at Tobin with her eyebrows raised.

Tobin shook her head softly and kissed the back of Christen’s hand again. 

“She asked Mommy to come to meet the teacher night and drink bad coffee to get to know her,” Scottie continued, sighing at the memory of her teacher acting weird. 

If possible, Christen’s brows climbed higher on her forehead, a small scoff of disbelief leaving her lips.

“Would you like to go to meet the teacher night with me next Thursday?” Tobin asked, running her thumb along the side of Christen’s hand. 

“You bet your ass I would,” Christen huffed, her grip on Tobin’s hand tightening. “Sorry, bad word, I know.”

“It’s okay. I want you both to go. Then she can meet my Christen,” Scottie grinned. 

“My favorite trio!” Gio greeted, coming up to the table with a plate of garlic bread. 

“Sup Gio,” Scottie greeted, hopping from her chair and giving Gio a big hug, careful not to knock over the plate of bread. “We’re gonna need calamari, bruschetta, and mozzarella sticks too, please,” she added, skipping back over to her chair and climbing into it.

“Oh?” Gio asked, raising his eyebrows as he put the garlic bread down. “Are you two gonna need Sangria?” 

Tobin pursed her lips, thinking about what all she had to do, and other than waking up and walking Scottie to school, she couldn’t think of anything. 

“Want to share a glass?” she asked, squeezing Christen’s hand. 

“Speak for yourself, babe. I need one for myself. A big one. The biggest of Sangrias,” Christen sighed, smiling tightly.

Tobin silently held up two fingers, her smile getting bigger as Christen spoke. 

“Can you make me a Shirley Temple please?” Scottie asked, turning and sending Tobin the sweetest smile she could, since she knew Tobin didn’t often let her have sodas, especially not on school nights. 

“A small Shirley Temple,” Tobin nodded, deciding to just take the loss today. 

Once all their drinks came, Scottie’s small Shirley Temple dwarfed by the size of Tobin and Christen’s Sangrias, Christen cleared her throat and held up her glass.

“To tomorrow being far less lame, for all of us,” Christen said, offering her girls looks full of love.

“I hope so,” Scottie said, clinking her glass with Christen’s and Tobin’s. 

“Me too,” Tobin nodded. 

“Do you think you can both walk me to school tomorrow? Or do you have practice?” Scottie asked, pulling her straw up to her lips. 

“Does Ms. Hubbard wait outside for you guys?” Christen replied, taking a large sip of her drink and then setting it down.

“She did today, so probably,” Scottie shrugged. 

“I will definitely be walking you to school tomorrow,” Christen affirmed, her tone leaving no room for argument, her smile taking the bite out of her words.

Tobin couldn’t help the way she rolled her eyes at Christen’s words. She couldn’t wrap her head around Christen ever thinking that anyone else could ever be a threat, but there was something kind of adorable about the protective edge in Christen’s voice. 

“Thanks for making me feel better,” Scottie replied, grinning at Christen and Tobin and grabbing a piece of garlic bread off the plate. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. I’d be a sad fourth-grader, probably.”

“I’d be super sad without you,” Tobin said softly, running her finger along Scottie’s nose and making her wrinkle it. She was suddenly feeling her day start to suck less now that Scottie felt better. 

Still, Scottie’s words only made the phone call that she’d managed to shove to the back of her mind, move toward the forefront again. She didn’t know what she’d do without Scottie, and she had no idea how she’d share her with Roni if that’s what ended up having to happen. 

“We’re all stuck together, though,” Christen hummed, squeezing Tobin’s hand gently. “So no more sad talk. I want to hear about the best part of your day,” Christen added, looking at Scottie.

“I think I maybe have a new friend. She’s the only one who believed it was a real Gold medal, so I let her touch it, and we had lunch together,” Scottie said, double fisting some food and taking bites out of a mozzarella stick and then a piece of garlic bread. 

As Scottie continued to recount the happy parts of her day, Christen held tightly to Tobin’s hand, beyond curious about the apprehension she could see in those usually warm brown eyes.

“You remember how when I had all that worry about Channing coming to the game last November, and you waited a week to call me out on it?” Christen asked, leaning further back into Tobin’s chest, making the warm bath water slosh around in the tub with her movement.

“Mhm,” Tobin hummed, letting out a laugh at the memory. She didn’t even open her eyes, too comfortable and completely calm in the bathtub with Christen. It had become an almost nightly ritual for them to sit and talk, whether in bed, on the roof, or in the bathtub, after Scottie went to bed. 

“You are a very patient woman,” Christen murmured, dragging her fingertips up and down Tobin’s arm beneath the water.

“I really love you, and I didn’t want to scare you away,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s neck. 

“Would it scare you if I was the opposite of patient and asked you why you have worry eyes right now?” Christen asked softly. 

“Am I allowed to watch your interview after we drop Scottie off at school and see why your day was so lame?” Tobin asked, her lips brushing against Christen’s skin. 

Christen nodded and let her eyes flutter shut. “Of course. I doubt you’ll enjoy it, but you can.”

“You’ll still look really sexy on my TV,” Tobin said with a smirk before pressing one last kiss to Christen’s neck and leaning her head back against the tile wall. 

Christen’s lips lifted into an amused smile. “Maybe we can just mute it then, if all you’ll be paying attention to is looks.”

“I’m in love with your voice too, though,” Tobin sighed, “so I’ll have to listen to it.”

“I’m in love with yours too...and you can start using it at any time to talk about your day,” Christen murmured softly, tangling her fingers with Tobin’s and laying their joined hands against her chest, above her heart.

“Jerri’s back in New York,” Tobin said, her voice so quiet that she wondered if Christen could even hear her. 

“Just in time for fall in the city,” Christen replied, the volume of her voice matching Tobin’s.

“She called me today because…” Tobin let out a long sigh, running her free hand over her hair, slicking down the baby hairs that were loose from her bun. “Well, it’s probably nothing. Even she said that it’s probably nothing, and I don’t know why it would be more than nothing,” Tobin blurted out, trying to convince herself more than anything else. 

“Even if it’s nothing, tell me anyway,” Christen breathed out, lifting their clasped hands and pressing a kiss to Tobin’s palm, returning them to her chest right after.

“Roni approached Gail. She’s looking for a lawyer,” Tobin whispered, forcing the words past the lump in her throat that hadn’t fully gone away since the phone call with Jerri. 

Christen sucked in a surprised breath and released it harshly, her hand tightening around Tobin’s.

“She can’t seriously be trying, Tobin. There’s no way,” Christen replied, half-turning in the tub so that she could see Tobin’s face.

“Yeah, I’ve been trying to repeat that enough times today to actually believe it,” Tobin admitted, swallowing the lump in her throat down as much as she could. 

Christen lifted her hands to cradle Tobin’s face, tilting her head down to catch Tobin’s eyes that had fallen away from hers.

“There isn’t a court in the world that would take Scottie from you and put her with Roni. You have given your daughter a home and a life full of love and there is no way the world is cruel enough to overlook that,” Christen said softly but firmly.

“I think you’re right. I don’t think a judge would take her from me,” Tobin nodded. “But I don’t even want to share her.”

Christen briefly wondered if Tobin meant she didn’t want to share Scottie with anyone. But she pushed those thoughts away and ran her thumbs soothingly across Tobin’s cheekbones, focusing on the issue at hand and not the deeper, potential meaning behind Tobin’s words. 

“For all you know, she could be looking for tax help or something. There might be nothing there. You don’t have to share her, Tobin.”

“I know,” Tobin whispered, turning her head to kiss the palm of Christen’s hand. “I’m not sure I’ll stop being worried about that until Scottie’s eighteen, though.”

Christen sighed, understanding the worry and knowing that there was almost nothing she could say to take it away. 

“Just...don’t let her steal every moment until Scottie’s eighteen from you. Don’t let her be here with you two, when she doesn’t deserve to be,” Christen hummed.

Tobin shook her head gently, reaching out to put a hand on the back of Christen’s neck and pull her closer. 

“I won’t,” she whispered, placing a soft kiss on Christen’s lips. “But you’re not one hundred percent right.”

Christen’s brow furrowed, pulling back a bit. “What do you mean?”

“Do you know how many times you just used the word you? It isn’t just me, Chris. You’re here too. You’re filling Scottie’s life with love. You’re making her feel safe and happy and cared for. It isn’t just me,” Tobin breathed out. 

“I...I wasn’t worried about me just now,” Christen replied softly, offering a small shrug. 

“I like it best when it’s us and ours,” Tobin murmured, running her thumb along Christen’s jaw. 

Christen’s heart fluttered in her chest, and she felt her stomach tighten in the best possible way. She leaned forward and kissed Tobin, hard, causing some water to slosh out of the tub with how quickly she moved. 

“I do too,” Christen mumbled softly against Tobin’s lips. “I love us and ours.”

“I almost didn’t tell you,” Tobin admitted shyly. 

Christen stopped mid-kiss and leaned back, her brow arching, her hands falling away from Tobin’s face.

“What- Why not?” she asked with a laugh.

“I didn’t want to make you worry on top of me worrying, especially when there’s probably nothing to worry about,” Tobin said, tangling her fingers with Christen’s. 

Christen shook her head softly, more than a little enamored by the way Tobin cared for her, but also more than a little affectionately irritated that Tobin wasn’t going to say anything.

“So it can be us and ours when it comes to good things, but not sharing worries? Baby, please tell me you hear the slight hypocrisy there,” Christen chuckled.

“Clearly, it’s us and ours all the time because I decided to tell you,” Tobin hummed, pecking Christen’s lips quickly. “I knew you’d want to know, and apparently I have a terrible poker face.”

“The worst,” Christen agreed, chasing Tobin’s lips and moving her free hand up to wrap around the back of Tobin’s neck. “Thank you for telling me,” she added, whispering the words into the space between their lips.

“Thank you for being a part of ‘us,’ even for the not-so-good things,” Tobin replied between kisses. “Can I take you to bed now?” 

“Can I have my way with you in here first?” Christen murmured with a small smile.

“Like I could ever say no to you,” Tobin groaned, pulling Christen even closer. 

“See, that’s my teacher,” Scottie said, holding both Christen’s and Tobin’s hands as they walked down the sidewalk. 

Christen stifled an eye roll at the overdone make-up and the tight blouse Ms. Hubbard had donned today. 

“I’m walking her to school every day with you,” Christen whispered to Tobin.

“You’re welcome to, but all it takes is one convincing day, baby,” Tobin hummed. 

“Oh, I can be convincing,” Christen replied softly.

“Meet the teacher night,” Tobin sing-songed, sending a wink in Christen’s direction. 

“She’ll be meeting a whole lot more than-” Christen started to grumble under her breath, only to be interrupted by the current bane of her existence.

“Good morning, Scottie,” Ms. Hubbard said, waving as the three of them walked to the front steps of the school. 

“Good morning,” Scottie replied with a big smile. 

Tobin didn’t even glance up at Scottie’s teacher. She was busy unzipping Scottie’s backpack and putting Scottie’s lunch in her bag, along with a note that she and Christen had written that morning, in the hopes of making her second day at school better, even if for just a moment. 

Christen offered Ms. Hubbard a fakely sweet smile and then moved around to face Scottie, effectively cutting Ms. Hubbard off.

“All set, sweetheart?” Christen asked as she bent down to Scottie’s eye level, smoothing out a flyaway and tucking it behind her ear, smiling a bit at the space buns Scottie had asked her to do this morning.

“All set,” Scottie nodded, seeing her maybe new friend walk up with her dad. 

“I hope you have a great day, my Scottie,” Christen murmured, poking her pointer finger against the dimple in Scottie’s cheek.

“I hope you have a wonderful day, my Christen,” Scottie beamed, wrapping her arms around Christen’s shoulders and giving her a big hug. 

Christen lingered in the hug, feeling Ms. Hubbard’s eyes on her. She ignored Tobin’s soft chuckling from nearby, knowing she’d be getting an earful about her protective, jealous behavior on the walk back, but not finding it in her to care.

“I really love you,” Scottie murmured, pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek. 

“I really love you more,” Christen replied softly.

“No way!” Scottie laughed, stepping out of the hug and reaching up for Tobin’s hand. 

“Yes way, and don’t you forget it,” Christen replied with a wink, straightening back up.

“I really love you too, Mommy,” Scottie said, turning into Tobin and wrapping her arms around Tobin’s waist. 

“I really love you, little bit. Have an awesome day,” Tobin said, squeezing Scottie close. 

“You too, Mommy. I love you guys,” Scottie repeated, backing away toward the steps and Ms. Hubbard. 

“We love you. Bye, buddy,” Tobin said, waving until Scottie turned around. 

“Bye, sweetheart!” Christen called out.

As soon as Scottie stepped into the building, Tobin turned around, not wanting to linger any longer than she needed to. 

“That was a long hug goodbye considering you’ll see her at 2:30,” Tobin laughed, taking Christen’s hand in her own and heading back to the house. 

“Maybe I wanted two days to be convincing,” Christen replied with a smirk, leaning into Tobin’s side.

“What if she’s just a really friendly teacher,” Tobin teased. 

“She was undressing you with her eyes,” Christen huffed. “That goes way beyond friendly.”

“Hey, baby,” Tobin hummed, wrapping an arm around Christen’s waist. 

Christen turned to face Tobin once they reached an intersection, winding her arms around Tobin’s shoulders. 


“You’re the only person I want to share myself with,” Tobin whispered, a soft smile spreading across her face. 

That smile cut through the lingering jealous haze that had settled over Christen. She felt a smile, a genuine one, make its way onto her face.

“Feeling’s mutual, baby,” Christen hummed.

“Anything you need to warn me about before we break out the snacks and watch your interview on the couch?” Tobin asked, squeezing Christen’s hips with her hands. 

Christen wrinkled her nose at the reminder. “No, let’s just get this over with.”

Tobin spent the first half of the interview complimenting Christen. She gushed about how great Christen looked in the green suit she’d worn yesterday. And even though she agreed with Christen that they’d put a lot of makeup on her, she insisted that Christen looked absolutely stunning, just like she always did. 

With each compliment, Christen blushed and laughed, burying her face in Tobin’s neck and pressing kisses to Tobin’s skin. They held onto each other on the couch, watching the interview, which had aired yesterday morning and Tobin had recorded. It was soft and domestic and blissful.

Up until the last ten minutes.

“I’m sorry, can I rewind?” Tobin huffed, trying to reach for the remote on the coffee table.  

“Once wasn’t too many times?” Christen grumbled, leaning back into the couch cushions.

“I’m hoping I misheard him,” Tobin grumbled. 

“Nope, he called you Tobin Heat,” Christen grimaced, watching Tobin rewind through the entire question and answer part with Andrew Shields.

“I don’t freaking care about my name. He could have called me Tokin Heat for all I care. Why is he asking about me, and more importantly about Scottie, in the first place?” Tobin scoffed. 

“I’m sorry,” Christen sighed. “It wasn’t like we were hiding during the Olympics, and you know journalists these days-”

“Do not ever apologize for a dumb journalist asking questions like that,” Tobin said, turning away from the TV and focusing on Christen. “Even if I’d made out with you in front of a packed stadium, it still wouldn’t give him the right to ask that. Also, you’re a professional athlete. You’re a soccer player who scored the winning goal at the freaking Olympics! Why ask about who you’re dating? I’m sorry, did he just ask if I’m a publicity stunt?” she asked, whipping her head back to the TV. 

Christen sat forward and put her hands on Tobin’s shoulders, rubbing them gently, recognizing the shock and anger and irritation. She had felt all those things yesterday as well. She was a little envious that Tobin got to actually show them, while she had to keep a lid on her emotions and keep her cool.

“Breathe, Tobin. In and out,” Christen hummed.

“I’m way cooler than a publicity stunt,” Tobin scoffed. 

Christen nodded, weathering this storm of frustration and offense with understanding and shoulder rubs. “You are. You’re the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”

“And who stays with someone and their kid for a year just for publicity?” Tobin added with an eye roll. 

“Someone really dedicated?” Christen wondered.

“Oh, are you really dedicated to your public image?” Tobin teased, turning the TV off and crawling toward Christen on the couch. 

Christen chuckled and moved to lean against the arm of the couch, Tobin settling on top of her. 

“He was just trying to get a rise out of me, hoping I would take the bait. And I didn’t. I wouldn’t,” Christen assured quietly, her arms wrapped loosely around Tobin’s waist.

“My girlfriend is so professional,” Tobin whispered, leaning down and pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. “And so calm,” she added with a kiss to Christen’s cheek. “And cool,” she murmured, kissing Christen’s other cheek. “And collected,” she breathed out, kissing Christen’s lips softly. 

Christen blushed under the attention, kissing Tobin back gently. “I have to be to protect this. To protect us and ours.” 

“What do you mean?” Tobin asked, cocking her head to the side. “Are you wanting to be more private?” 

“No,” Christen replied quickly. “We can keep living the way we are now. But the moment I say anything to journalists or the press or on social media...we lose this a bit. It’s not just ours any longer. And I don’t want to give that up. I already give so much of myself to the public, which I do so happily. But I won’t give them everything. Especially this. What I have with you and Scottie is too important to me.”

And maybe it was the added stress of the day they’d both had yesterday, but that lump rose in Tobin’s throat again as she nodded along to what Christen was saying. 

“I don’t want to lose this at all,” she mumbled, running her nose against Christen’s. 

“And we won’t. Especially to the likes of Andrew Shields or your ex-wife,” Christen promised.

“You’re really sexy protecting us and ours on live TV,” Tobin whispered, trying to lighten the mood a little bit. 

Christen smiled softly, picking up exactly what Tobin was doing and knowing there was no need to joke their way out of this. They could love each other out of this.

“Thank you, baby. I always will. Now, what do you say I give you some head scratches while we watch Married at First Sight?”

“Are you serious?” Tobin asked, her eyes growing wide just like Scottie’s did when she got excited. 

Christen readjusted herself against the arm of the couch, fluffing the pillow behind her shoulders, and then opened her arms, waiting for Tobin to get comfortable too.

“Yesterday sucked for both of us, and now that we’ve processed it all, I’d really love to just hold you,” Christen replied gently.

“How are you real?” Tobin sighed, sinking down on top of Christen, her ear pressing against Christen’s chest and immediately picking up the heartbeat she loved so much. 

Chapter Text

Oh, and to tell you is too scary

So I'll just say something else

And I wish that you could hear me

When I talk to myself

But this plane might not land safely

So, what the hell do I have to lose

If I just tell you?

I wanna eat pancakes for dinner

I wanna get stuck in your head

I wanna watch a T.V. show together

And when we're under the weather we can watch it in bed

I wanna go out on the weekends

I wanna dress up just to get undressed

I think that I should probably tell you this

In case there is an accident

And I never see you again

So please save all your questions for the end

And maybe I'll be brave enough by then

(Tobin - “Pancakes for Dinner” by Lizzy Alpine)


Cradle me, I'll cradle you

I'll win your heart with a woop-a-woo

Pulling shapes just for your eyes

So with toothpaste kisses and lines

I'll be yours and you'll be...

Lay with me, I'll lay with you

We'll do the things that lovers do

Put the stars in our eyes

And with heart-shaped bruises

And late night kisses, divine

So with toothpaste kisses and lines

Stay with me, I'll stay with you

Doin' things that lovers do

What else to do?

(Christen - “Toothpaste Kisses” by The Maccabees)


“Are you wearing lipstick?” Tobin asked, grinning as she watched Christen get ready in front of the bathroom mirror. 

“This is a gloss,”  Christen countered, capping the lip gloss and putting it back on the counter.

“Are you sure you’re not trying to get a date with Ms. Hubbard?” Tobin teased, wrapping an arm around Christen and grabbing her ring from the dish on the counter. 

“She is totally not my type,” Christen scoffed, grabbing her heartstring necklace from the dish as well and holding it up for Tobin to help her put it on.

“ you’re just trying to look flawless and intimidating? It’s working,” Tobin murmured as she swept Christen's hair to the side and clasped the necklace. 

Christen leaned back into Tobin and met her gaze in the bathroom mirror. “I was told I needed to be convincing, so convincing I shall be,” she hummed with a playful smile on her face.

“Baby, you don’t need to be anything. We’re yours, you’re ours, and anyone can see that,” Tobin breathed out, kissing the back of Christen’s neck. 

Christen softened at the sweet reply, reaching back to pull Tobin’s arms around her waist.

“You really are something else,” Christen replied softly, her green eyes holding an almost awestruck look in them.

“I’m just really in love with you. And I’ll let you in on a secret,” Tobin whispered. “These things are really boring, but it’s a good reason to hire a babysitter, so if we’re quick, we can get dinner somewhere after sitting at Scottie’s desk and listening to how great she is.”

“Maybe we can take dinner back to my apartment,” Christen said with a coy smirk. 

“I miss your place,” Tobin mumbled against Christen’s skin. “And Janice.”

“Janice misses you too,” Christen chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve been back there in...a week and a half? Maybe two?”

“You know, if you miss it we could always figure something out and spend some time there,” Tobin offered. 

Christen turned around in Tobin’s embrace, her arms looping around Tobin’s neck as she tilted her head to the side in thought.

“I don’t miss it as much as I expected to,” Christen answered honestly. “I’m really enjoying spending more time here and slowly invading your dresser and closet space,” she added with a laugh.

Tobin smiled at that, opening her mouth to reply, to voice what she’d been thinking about for the past week. 

“Rebecca’s here!” Scottie called from the living room. “Can I let her in?” 

“Yes!” Tobin called back, giving Christen one last squeeze before she let her arms fall to her sides. “Do you need to grab anything before we go? Pictures from our first date? All the artwork Scottie’s made you?” 

Christen’s eyes crinkled as her smile grew. “Cute. I was going to suggest I give you a very visible hickey, but pictures and art work just fine,” she replied with a wink, breezing by Tobin on her way out of the bathroom.

“Maybe a less visible one later tonight?” Tobin called, following after her. 

“If you’re good,” Christen tossed over her shoulder, leading the way down the stairs. 

“The chairs are tiny. That’s what surprised me most when I took Scottie to kindergarten for the first time,” Tobin grinned, glancing around the classroom that was full of other parents, most of whom were already in their later thirties. 

Christen smiled, feeling that familiar warmth in her chest that spoke volumes of the love she had for the woman seated next to her. 

“Yeah, these are pretty small too,” Christen chuckled, crossing her legs and trying to get comfortable in the small, blue plastic chair. 

“And the coffee is really really shitty. Want to taste?” Tobin asked, handing her cup over. 

Christen wrinkled her nose and pushed the cup back in Tobin’s direction. “After that glowing review, I’ll pass.”

“This is the first one of these I haven’t come to alone. I always take the coffee because it gives me something to do,” Tobin shrugged. 

Christen hesitated for just a moment before steeling herself. She took the cup from Tobin’s hand and sipped the disgusting coffee inside of the cup.

“Now you’re not alone. We’ve done it together,” Christen replied, her nose scrunched up in distaste as she passed the cup back to Tobin.

“That was not me suggesting you try it,” Tobin laughed. “I’ll definitely buy you dinner now.”

“Tobin, you made it,” Ms. Hubbard smiled, making her way over to Scottie’s desk where Tobin and Christen were sitting. 

“And I thought the coffee was bad,” Christen grumbled under her breath, catching sight of Scottie’s teacher and purposefully scooting her chair just a bit closer to Tobin.

“Uh...yeah. I don’t make a habit of missing Scottie’s school events,” Tobin said, offering a small smile to Scottie’s teacher. 

“That’s really great! That’s uh- I don’t think we’ve really met,” Ms. Hubbard said, offering Christen a slightly smaller smile. 

“Christen Press,” Christen replied smoothly, laying her arm along the back of Tobin’s chair, her hand rising to the back of Tobin’s head.

“Right, the soccer player,” Ms. Hubbard nodded. “Scottie brought your stuff for show and tell.”

Christen nodded and began to twirl a few strands of Tobin’s hair between her fingers, her focus on Ms. Hubbard.

Tobin had to force the tiny smile from her face. She had to make herself focus on the actual conversation and not Christen’s slightly possessive touch. 

“She’s so sweet and supportive. I don’t think I would have managed to score the penalty at the Sydney Olympics to win Gold without Tobin and Scottie there, cheering me on,” Christen hummed.

“Are you related? Scottie didn’t really tell the class how she knows you,” Ms. Hubbard said, focusing on Tobin despite speaking to Christen. 

“She’s my Scottie, and I’m her Christen,” Christen replied with a smile. She finally tore her gaze away from Ms. Hubbard and looked at Tobin. “We love our girl, don’t we?” she asked, her tone sweet but her green eyes dancing with a dangerously playful glint.

“She’s the best,” Tobin agreed, trying not to laugh at the way Ms. Hubbard’s smile was slowly slipping off her face. 

“Oh, babe, sorry,” Christen said quickly, running her thumb along the corner of Tobin’s mouth and wiping away some non-existent lip gloss. “I didn’t realize I left some behind. This dang lip gloss is so hard to get off.”

“There are a lot of parents that I still have to say hello to,” Ms. Hubbard said, clearing her throat quietly. 

“Really? What a shame. Well, it was so lovely to meet you,” Christen said, an overly friendly smile on her face as she turned back around and looked at Scottie’s teacher.

“It was nice to meet you too. Scottie’s a really sweet kid. I’m sure- uh- I’m sure you’re both really proud. Maybe you’ll both make it to the parent-teacher conference at the end of the year.”

“We wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Christen grinned, her hand falling away from Tobin’s hair and to the back of the chair again.

“It was nice to see you,” Tobin said softly, trying to avoid eye contact with Christen since she knew it would make her completely lose whatever control she had. 

Once Ms. Hubbard walked off, Christen finally let out the delighted huff of victory she’d been keeping in. “Think that was convincing enough?” Christen asked with a smirk.

“You’re evil,” Tobin snorted, already scooting her chair back. 

Christen shrugged innocently. “Maybe just a little. But it was worth it to see her face when she put everything together,” she chuckled.

“I need to get you out of here before you figure out which parents are Naomi’s and Simon’s,” Tobin hummed. 

“Front row, second and third seats from the left. I already glared,” Christen huffed, glaring again at the two sets of parents. 

“Okay, I need to get you out of here and show you just how much protective you turns me on,” Tobin whispered, tangling her fingers with Christen’s. 

Christen arched her brow and felt the corner of her mouth twitch up. She gently squeezed Tobin’s hand and leaned in close so no one else could hear.

“I bet Ms. Hubbard wouldn’t bat an eye if we snuck out of here in five minutes,” Christen murmured.

“I tried the coffee. That’s all I came to do,” Tobin grinned, pressing a kiss to the back of Christen’s hand. 

“And I did all the convincing I needed to,” Christen replied, nodding her head in agreement that they had both done what they’d come here to do.

“You did more than you needed,” Tobin laughed, pulling Christen up to her feet and heading out of the classroom as a new wave of parents entered, not even waiting five minutes to make their escape. 

Scottie paced back and forth staring at each canvas as critically as she could. She tapped her nose with her index finger as she paced, staying quiet the entire time. Suddenly, Tobin wondered if she should have asked Christen for help first, since Scottie was putting her slightly on edge. But Scottie had expressed feeling bored, and Christen was on the way home from practice, so she’d decided to let Scottie give her opinion first. 

There were seven new pieces, two unfinished pieces on easels, and a few older pieces set up around her studio. She’d been painting up a storm, putting off commissioned pieces in favor of making a new collection. And now, she had to narrow the collection down and decide what to send with her application for a juried art exhibition in Pennsylvania later in the year. 

“This one for sure,” Scottie said finally, pointing to a rectangular canvas, the smallest of the seven new pieces. It had every shade of green imaginable and a stenciled silhouette in the middle. “It’s perfect green.”

“Really? It isn’t too simple?” Tobin asked, leaning against the table and tilting her head at the painting. 

“I love it because it’s simple,” Scottie replied thoughtfully. 

“I hope the judges think so,” Tobin hummed, glancing around the room at the other paintings. A couple were more realistic and slightly less abstract. A few had warmer colors. 

“I love it, Mommy, and they will too. It makes me feel warm in here,” Scottie said, tapping her chest. “Like Central Park and the soccer field and my Christen.”

“Yeah, me too,” Tobin said, smiling at Scottie. Most of the paintings that she’d made had to do with Christen or at least stemmed from some emotion she had when she was with Christen. She hadn’t been able to help it. Christen had completely overwhelmed her in the best way possible, and every painting had been inspired by her or by her and Scottie. 

With her job done, Scottie skipped across the room and flung her arms around Tobin’s waist, looking up at her with a smile.

“Can Gemma come over for a sleepover on Saturday? Maybe she can come to the game with us and stay the night after?” Scottie asked in her sweetest voice.

“If Gemma’s dad is okay with that, it’s cool with me,” Tobin said, leaning down and pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead. “You have to ask Christen about seats at the game, though.”

As if on cue, the garage door opened and Christen shuffled in, her purse on her shoulder and a tired half-smile on her face.

“Thank goodness, you’re home!” Scottie grinned, letting go of Tobin and running over to wrap her arms around Christen’s waist. 

“Hey, sweetheart,” Christen greeted, hugging Scottie tightly.

“You look sleepy,” Scottie said, leaning back to get a good look at Christen. “Did Amanda make you run a lot?” 

Christen nodded and brushed some hair away from Scottie’s forehead. “Yeah but I beat Kelley in a sprinting challenge, so I’m feeling pretty good.”

“Of course you did,” Tobin grinned, pushing away from the table and walking over to Christen. 

Christen looked up and met Tobin’s gaze, her expression softening. “Hi, you,” she grinned.

“Hi back,” Tobin hummed, pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek. 

“Mommy already put dinner in the oven, so it’ll be ready soon, and then you can relax,” Scottie grinned, bouncing from foot to foot in excitement. 

“Let me’s Wednesday, so we’re having mac n’ cheese?” Christen guessed, looking back down at Scottie.

“Nope,” Scottie shook her head, a smile playing on her lips. 

“Lasagna?” Christen asked, mirroring Scottie’s smile.

“Guess again,” Scottie giggled. 

“I don’t think I should. I’m always terrible at it,” Christen chuckled.

“Well she made some veggies, and I have to eat those, but she tried a new recipe because Grandma said she was getting predictable,” Scottie grinned. 

“Savage,” Tobin murmured under her breath. 

Christen laughed, squeezing Scottie close and rocking her back and forth. 

Scottie waited until her plate of food was sitting in front of her, the mountain of vegetables daunting and making her feel slightly grossed out, to broach the subject of the game with Christen. 

“The chicken enchiladas are really good, Mommy,” Scottie said, trying to be on her best behavior so that she’d get a yes from Christen, not just Tobin. 

“Thanks, buddy,” Tobin laughed, knowing exactly what Scottie was doing, even though Christen was still unaware. 

“Um...So, Christen, you had a good day?” Scottie asked. 

Christen shared an amused look with Tobin and then met Scottie’s gaze. She was curious about the slight apprehension she could see in Scottie’s gray eyes.

“I did…” Christen replied, setting her fork down and giving Scottie her full attention.

“Cool, cool,” Scottie nodded, taking a sip of water. 

“What is it, sweetheart?” Christen asked, finally reading between the lines and realizing that Scottie wanted to ask her something. And it wasn’t a small thing either, because Scottie’s fingers were tapping along the table.

“Well, you know how Gemma and I are friends, right?” Scottie said. 

Christen nodded and waited for Scottie to continue.

“I think it’s kind of crazy that she and I are really good friends but she’s never seen the house. So, I invited her to sleep over this weekend, and Mommy said that was fine,” Scottie continued. 

“That sounds like it will be super-duper fun,” Christen replied, still waiting for Scottie to land the plane and get to the part that she could help with.

“Yeah, except I might have also said something about her maybe coming to the game on Saturday and sleeping over after the game. And Mommy said that I had to ask you about that because you always get us seats, and it’s kind of last-minute and also our thing,” Scottie rushed out, hardly taking a breath between sentences. 

“Would you be okay with it if she came? Since it is our thing?” Christen wondered, already knowing her answer to Scottie’s question.

“I think so,” Scottie nodded. “She likes the games, and she’s cool. It’s not like she’d come to every game.”

“If you’re okay with it, so am I. Want me to see if she can be a ball girl with you?” Christen asked with a smile.

“Sure, but I still wanna walk you out. She can have Kelley or someone else,” Scottie said, a tiny, lopsided smile slipping onto her face. 

“You’re stuck with me, Scottie Heath,” Christen winked, reaching out to poke her finger in the dimple in Scottie’s cheek. “I think Crystal needs someone to walk her out next game, so maybe Gemma can go with her.”

“Have I told you that I love you?” Scottie grinned, sliding from her seat and racing around the table to hug Christen. 

Christen returned the hug with a small, surprised chuckle. “You have, and I love you too. I’ll even throw in a Gotham scarf for her. How’s that sound?”

“She’ll probably love that. She and her dad are fans,” Scottie murmured. 

“I’ll get one for him too then,” Christen promised, dropping a kiss to the top of Scottie’s head.

“Thank you,” Scottie beamed. “Now, Mommy…”

“What?” Tobin laughed, watching Scottie walk back to her seat and fold her hands in front of her. 

“This is a mountain,” Scottie whined, pointing at the pile of vegetables. “I helped you with your paintings, and you gave me a mountain.”

Christen snorted and looked between Scottie’s adorable pout and Tobin’s faux-stern ‘mom’ look, beyond amused and beyond loving that this was her life.

“Five big bites and maybe we can strike a deal,” Tobin suggested, popping a piece of cauliflower into her mouth. 

“Four big bites and you get to pick the car music to the game on Saturday,” Scottie replied, holding out her fist for a fist bump.

“Five big bites and you and Gemma can pick the movie you watch after the game,” Tobin countered, raising an eyebrow at Scottie. 

Scottie groaned dramatically and then shook her fist. “You got yourself a deal,” Scottie mumbled, waiting for Tobin to fist-bump her.

Tobin bumped her fist with Scottie’s and kept count as Scottie worked on her vegetables, all the while enjoying the way Christen softly ran her thumb along her knee. 

Tobin was continuously surprised by how quickly the three of them had developed a routine. She was overwhelmed by how right it felt to watch Christen help Scottie pick her outfit out for school tomorrow before the two of them tucked Scottie in and said goodnight. 

Sometimes it felt too good to be true, like she was dreaming and would wake up eventually. But seeing Christen press a kiss to Scottie’s forehead and turn on her night light was too real, too perfect to be a dream. 

“You got a funny look in your eyes,” Christen hummed, closing the door to Scottie’s room and then winding her arms around Tobin’s waist. 

“What kind of funny?” Tobin murmured, slowly moving down the hall with Christen in her arms. 

“Like you’re thinking really hard about something that makes you happy,” Christen replied softly. 

“I am,” Tobin grinned, taking Christen’s hand in her own and leading her down the stairs to wash dinner dishes and make sure Scottie had packed a decent lunch for school. 

“Care to share?” Christen teased, moving to the sink after dropping a kiss to Tobin’s temple. 

“I just really love you, and I really love how natural all of this feels. Nothing new,” Tobin shrugged, pulling Scottie’s lunchbox out of the fridge and peeking at the contents with a laugh.  

Christen felt a dreamy smile tug at her lips as she started on the dishes. She felt the exact same way, and even if it was nothing new, it still made her heart race and her stomach flutter.

“I love you too,” Christen whispered, her dreamy smile softening. 

“I might have to keep packing her lunches,” Tobin mumbled, putting the open lunchbox on the counter and revealing the four Oreos and the bag of Goldfish Scottie had packed. 

Christen chuckled and shook her head. “Did she sneak any Snickers in there?”

“Not this time,” Tobin grinned, taking two Oreos out and putting them back in the box. She set about making Scottie a turkey sandwich while Christen loaded dishes into the dishwasher. 

“Our girl,” Christen hummed under her breath, chuckling a bit at Scottie’s lunch choices and the fact that Tobin let Scottie keep two Oreos.

“Can I ask you a favor?” Tobin hummed, zipping up Scottie’s lunchbox now that it had a sandwich and some carrots added to it. 

“Of course,” Christen replied, finishing up the dishes and wiping her hands on a towel. She turned around to face Tobin, leaning against the counter. 

“I need your opinion, actually. I got Scottie’s this afternoon, but it’d be nice to get a second one,” Tobin said, taking Christen’s hand in her own. 

Christen nodded and discarded the towel on the counter, following Tobin downstairs to the studio. 

“I’m trying to get into a juried art exhibit, and they need some pieces to judge, but I never really know what people are looking for or what people will like,” Tobin added as they reached the studio. 

“I don’t know if I can be objective. I love everything you do,” Christen replied. “I sang your praises for an hour about the doodle you left in my purse the other day.”

Tobin let out a soft laugh and wrapped her arms around Christen’s waist, letting her hands settle on Christen’s stomach. She pressed a kiss to the back of Christen’s neck and steered her to the center of the studio, so she could get a look at all the pieces she’d been thinking about. 

“I don’t think submitting the doodle would get me into the exhibit, but I’m glad you liked it,” Tobin hummed. 

“Of course I did. So…this is what you do when I’m out on the field,” Christen teased, her eyes moving across the collection of canvases in front of her. “Tobin, these are incredible.”

“Thank you,” Tobin murmured, keeping her lips pressed against Christen’s shoulder. 

Christen let her eyes track across all of the paintings, across the varied colors and textures. They were all wonderful, each in their own way. They were effortlessly simple and beautifully complex, all at the same time. But there was one, tucked into the corner of the room at the far end of the group of paintings that drew Christen’s attention. 

“What’s that one?” Christen asked softly, nodding at the canvas. “It’s…it’s got something and I can’t put my finger on it.”

“You can look closer,” Tobin chuckled, loosening her arms from around Christen’s waist. 

Christen drifted over, an arm slung around her waist, a hand beneath her chin. It was similar to how she looked in MoMa, eyeing the painting she eventually chose to hang in her apartment. 

“Is that me and Scottie?” Christen asked softly, her eyes following the stenciled pattern hidden inside of the swirls of green.

“Yeah,” Tobin murmured, watching Christen with a tiny amount of nerves. 

Christen half-turned and looked back at Tobin, a soft look in her eyes, one that was a mix between surprise and wonder. 

“You put me in a painting?” Christen whispered. 

“You’re in all my new pieces,” Tobin admitted, looking at the seven canvases. Some had the same kind of stenciled design with just Christen. Others were simply inspired by a moment they’d shared. 

Christen looked back to the canvases, almost seeing them with new eyes. She felt that familiar rush of emotions, that familiar beating of her heart and fluttering in her stomach, as she looked at the paintings. 

But she felt something else as well. Something she had never felt before. It went beyond love and wonder, beyond tenderness and awe.

It was something she didn’t even have a word for. She wasn’t sure a word existed to describe the emotions swirling around within her heart. 

The closest she could think of was home. Standing here, recognizing herself and her love with Tobin in these paintings, felt like coming home. 

“You are extraordinary,” Christen murmured, shaking her head softly as she looked away from the paintings and back to Tobin. She felt tears pool in her eyes and her throat get thick. “The way you love me is so extraordinary and I- I don’t even have the words, Tobin.” 

“I’m just trying to keep up with you,” Tobin said softly, making her way to Christen’s side. 

Christen didn’t paint her feelings for Tobin on a canvas, but she showed Tobin every single day. Her love was in the way she cared for both Scottie and Tobin. It was in the way she made sure that Tobin felt safe and secure, the way that they both listened and looked after one another. 

“How am I supposed to remain objective now ?” Christen asked, a little breathlessly. 

“Yeah, I guess that’s kind of an unfair request,” Tobin chuckled, lacing their fingers together. 

Christen shook her head and chuckled as well. “I love that green one down there. A lot. But I like them all, babe. I just- I can’t believe you included me.” 

“Why wouldn’t I? I don’t just pick colors that I like. Everything I make is based on something or someone, and you’re one of the two biggest parts of my life. You and Scottie are everything,” Tobin whispered. 

Christen pulled their clasped hands to her chest and rested them over her racing heart, her eyes holding Tobin’s. 

“Still not used to it,” Christen hummed, referring to the way Tobin’s words and actions and love made her feel. “I don’t know if I ever will be.”

“Me either,” Tobin agreed, stepping closer and wrapping an arm around Christen’s waist. “Scottie chose the green one too, so that probably settles it.” 

“Perfect green, right?” Christen chuckled, leaning in and nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s. 

“Mhm like your eyes,” Tobin whispered back, running her thumbs over Christen’s hip bones. 

Christen placed a lingering kiss on Tobin’s lips, feeling that sense of home again as she stood in Tobin’s arms. 

“Ready?” Christen asked, almost vibrating with excitement as she held her hands over Tobin’s eyes. 

“I’m not sure what exactly I should be preparing myself for, but yes,” Tobin laughed, loving how excited Christen was about the secret work she’d been doing on the roof, essentially banning Tobin from going up there all summer. 

Christen dropped her hands away from Tobin’s eyes and took a small step back, waiting for Tobin to take in the changes she’d made to the roof space. 

“Holy,” Tobin breathed out, her eyes tracking over the section of the roof that Christen had turned into a garden. 

She took in the new lounge area that Christen had set up with an outdoor rug, the lounge chairs they already had, and a new outdoor couch. There was even a small, purple hammock that Scottie had clearly asked for and a few strings of market lights that illuminated the space and would only get brighter when the sun fully set. 

“Baby, how did you do this?” Tobin asked, her mouth hanging open as she took everything in. 

“I had help,” Christen explained, not wanting to take all the credit. “Crystal’s got quite the green thumb, and Becky helped me pick out the furniture.”

“How did you get this upstairs?” Tobin asked, turning around to look at Christen. 

Christen winked and flexed her arms. “These definitely helped…plus the rookies we had come over and do most of the heavy lifting,” Christen chuckled. 

“Where was I?” Tobin asked with awe in her voice and wide eyes. “I knew you were gardening. I didn’t know you were decorating.” 

Christen slung her arms around Tobin’s waist and pressed a kiss to the corner of her mouth. “Remember when I sent you to like three different bodegas in search of a very specific brand of sugar-free chocolate almonds?” 

“You’re very sneaky,” Tobin grinned. “And very sweet. Thank you. Am I allowed to pay for this furniture?” 

Christen shook her head. “Nope. But you are on cooking duty tonight, so chop chop.”

“I need to buy a grill or something,” Tobin grinned, taking one last look around the space. 

“It’s on backorder, baby,” Christen replied with a wink. 

“Can I pay for half?” Tobin asked, sticking out her bottom lip slightly. 

“You got yourself a deal,” Christen hummed, kissing the pout on Tobin’s lips. 

“Thank you,” Tobin repeated. “This is really amazing. You’re really amazing.” 

Christen shrugged and felt her smile grow. “I’m just trying to keep up with you.”

“Do you want to know who I talked to yesterday?” Tobin asked, taking Christen’s hands in her own and stepping back toward the door that led to the stairs. 

“Who?” Christen wondered. 

“Tyler,” Tobin hummed, smirking at Christen’s confusion. 

“Umm, why?” Christen laughed. Ever since last December, they’d all kept in pretty close contact, over the phone and with plenty of visits. It wasn’t unheard of for Tobin to talk to one or both of her sisters on her own, but it definitely wasn’t normal. 

“Well…I couldn’t figure out what to make for dinner with my parents, and I wanted to make sure that you’d really like it,” Tobin said. “Plus I knew you were showing me the roof surprise, so I wanted you to have a great dinner.” 

“But Tyler burns everything in the kitchen,” Christen laughed, still not really understanding why Tobin had called her sister, despite the sweet intention behind it. 

“Maybe…but Tyler knows what your favorite food from home was,” Tobin said quietly. “And she has the cookbooks that have those recipes.” 

Christen’s feet stopped moving, bringing them to a halt halfway down the stairs. 

“Unless that’s overstepping and you want me to make mac and cheese and chicken and veggies or something super normal and Scottie approved,” Tobin said, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. 

“No it’s-“ Christen faltered, huffing out a surprised breath. “Thank you.”

“I mean, I might mess it up, so maybe don’t thank me yet,” Tobin replied, running her hand through her hair. 

“You could undercook it or overcook it, and it wouldn’t matter to me,” Christen hummed softly. “You doing this means a lot to me, Tobin. It feels like…another part of us and ours.”

“I’m now really hoping Tyler actually remembered your favorite food correctly,” Tobin whispered, holding Christen a little closer as they moved down the stairs. 

“It’s unfair that you can cook like this. You’re not allowed to be this talented at so many things,” Christen groaned, setting her fork down next to her very empty plate. 

“It took lots of trial and error,” Tobin said, remembering the first two years she first had Scottie and ended up burning or poorly seasoning most of the food she tried to make. 

“She had very little ability when she was younger,” Cindy teased, refilling everyone’s wine glasses around the table. 

“Tobs took cooking classes because she wanted to be able to cook for Scottie,” Jeff added. 

“I heard my name!” Scottie yelled, jumping off the purple hammock and racing over to the table situated under the market lights on the roof. 

“We’re teasing your mom about how bad at cooking she used to be, peanut,” Jeff clarified, picking up the last bite of salmon with his fork. 

“Oh, yeah. Mommy ordered lots of pizza,” Scottie grinned. 

Christen chuckled and ran her thumb soothingly over the inside of Tobin’s knee under the table. 

“Christen, you did a really amazing job. I feel like I’ve been trying to convince Tobin to do something with this space since she moved here. And you just made it absolutely beautiful,” Cindy gushed, looking around at the potted plants and the lights. 

“Thank you, Cindy,” Christen blushed. “It just needed a little TLC.”

“It’s fantastic,” Jeff agreed. 

Tobin’s arm was resting along the back of Christen’s chair, and as her parents spoke, she ran her hand up and down Christen's arm, unable not to sink into Christen beside her. 

“What’s really fantastic are the paintings Tobin’s sending into a juried art festival,” Christen replied, moving the attention off of herself. “There’s no way she won’t be picked.”

“Oh, can we see them after we finish up here?” Jeff asked, shooting Tobin a smile. 

“Sure,” Tobin nodded, knowing that she’d already gotten all the praise she needed from Christen and Scottie. 

“I do have a question that I’ve been kind of sitting on…” Cindy said softly. 

At the shift in tone and conversation, Christen shared a curious look with Tobin and then turned her attention back to Cindy. 

“For me?” Christen clarified.

“Yes,” Cindy nodded before quickly thinking better of her question. “I was just…well it’s really not my business. Never mind.”  

Christen squeezed Tobin’s knee gently and offered Cindy a reassuring smile.  “That’s okay. Fire away,” Christen replied. 

“I heard that you’re possibly thinking about not signing with Gotham next season,” Cindy murmured. “And I guess I was just wondering where you’re planning on playing.”

Christen went still, completely floored by the information and the question. She was easily in one of the best stretches of her career. Post-Olympics, she had been named Gotham’s captain alongside Becky and had been involved in all of the goals scored so far this season. She was happy at Gotham. She was thriving. So this question came completely out of left field. 

“Wait, what?” Scottie asked, her eyebrows furrowing in thought. 

“Mom, where did you hear that?” Tobin asked, stilling her hand on Christen’s shoulder. 

“Yeah, where?” Christen asked, her voice tight. 

“I think it’s called a disco,” Jeff said. “It’s a disco, right?” 

“It’s a discord,” Cindy corrected. “You two are just so busy, and I don’t want to bother you with too many questions. And I was looking at a Tweet about an interview you did, and there was a link to this discord where people talk about the NWSL pretty much all the time, so it keeps me up to date without bothering you personally,” she rambled, smiling sheepishly as Tobin’s mouth dropped open in slight shock. 

“Are you serious?” Tobin asked, her eyes widening at her mom. 

The slamming of the roof door broke through the confusion and shock between the four adults. 

Realizing it was Scottie, Christen moved the napkin from her lap and put a hand on Tobin’s shoulder. 

“Let me. She needs to hear it from me that I’m not going anywhere,” Christen murmured. 

“Of course,” Tobin nodded, reaching up to squeeze Christen’s hand. 

“I’m not going anywhere,” Christen affirmed, leaning down to kiss Tobin’s forehead gently before moving across the roof to the door. 

“Maybe text me next time and stay off the discord,” Tobin grumbled, taking a sip of her wine as she watched Christen disappear down the stairs. 

“They have an entire channel dedicated to Christen’s biceps,” Cindy hummed. “Discord is a wild ride.”

Christen hesitantly made her way down the hall towards Scottie’s room, cringing at the pile of Gotham jerseys and memorabilia sitting in front of Scottie’s closed bedroom door.  She knocked gently on the door and let out a long breath. 

“Sweetheart?” Christen called out softly. 

“Go away,” Scottie muttered from behind the closed door as she paced across her room. “Play somewhere else.”

“Can I come in so we can talk about this?”

“Mommy won’t let me have a lock on my door yet, so you can do whatever you want,” Scottie sighed, sinking onto the edge of her bed. 

Christen dropped her forehead to the wood of the door. “I’m not coming in unless you say I can. But I’d really like to so I can explain.”

Scottie spun the bracelet around her wrist, the one she hadn’t taken off since getting it on Christmas morning. It had become a habit to touch it or spin it around her wrist when she was nervous or just felt like she needed a little extra luck or love. “Okay,” she mumbled quietly. 

Christen gently pushed open the door and joined Scottie on the bed. “I’m not leaving Gotham,” Christen said softly, putting her hand between them for Scottie to take.

“Why would Grandma say that, then?” Scottie asked, already threading her fingers with Christen’s and holding on tightly. 

“There are always transfer rumors, especially around this time of year. But I’m not going to another team, okay?” Christen replied.

“You’re staying here?” Scottie asked, looking up at Christen with wide, pleading eyes. 

Christen nodded, a reassuring smile making its way onto her face. “I am,” Christen said with gentle conviction.

“That’s good ‘cause I-” Scottie worried her bottom lip between her teeth the same way Tobin did, thinking of the best way to say the things she’d been feeling for a while. “I don’t just want you around for a little bit.”

“What do you mean, sweetheart?” Christen asked, running her thumb along the back of Scottie’s hand.

“I don’t think only a year or two is enough,” Scottie whispered, swallowing the lump that had slowly been rising in her throat since Tobin’s mom had mentioned the rumor about Christen not playing for Gotham. “I don’t want you to only be here for a little bit and then leave.”

Christen hummed in realization. This went further than what team she played for, beyond whatever she did between the lines on the soccer field. This was about them and the family they’d created between them. It was about their little bubble of happiness that they lived in, together.

“And I know you say you won’t leave, but I just thought you should know that. Because I don’t know how long you want to be around, but I’d like it to be a long time,” Scottie added softly, her voice somewhat wobbly. 

Christen took a deep breath, preparing herself to answer. Just like it always was, whatever she chose to say to Scottie would hold an enormous amount of weight. Whatever promises she made, Scottie would remember them and hold them close to her heart. 

“I’ve made you a lot of promises, Scottie Heath,” Christen began, making sure her words stayed soft yet strong. “I promised to always come back. I promised to never leave-”

“You promised to always share the last piece of garlic bread with me,” Scottie reminded her with a tiny smile. 

Christen chuckled and reached up to poke the tip of Scottie’s nose, making her scrunch her face up adorably.

“See? I’ve promised you a lot of very important things. And right now I’m going to promise you one more.”

“What’s that?” Scottie asked, looking up at Christen with the softest expression Christen had ever seen. 

“I promise that I want to stay. That I want to be here longer than a year or two. I want to be here for a really, really long time because I love you and I love your mom and I love the life we have together, the three of us,” Christen replied, her voice growing thick with emotion as a familiar sting started in the corners of her eyes.

“I really love our life too,” Scottie admitted, scooting closer on the bed. “And you’re really important. I’m sorry I got dramatic,” she added sheepishly. 

Christen laughed softly. “It’s okay. Do you feel better? Do you have any more questions?”

“I have other important things to say, but Mommy told me to make sure I was really ready to say them, so I can wait,” Scottie said quietly. 

“Whenever you’re ready, sweetheart, I’ll be here,” Christen hummed, leaning forward to kiss the crown of Scottie’s head.

“Why do people lie on the internet?” Scottie asked, scrunching her eyebrows and wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist. 

Christen laughed again, pulling Scottie in close. “That’s one of the world’s greatest mysteries. I honestly have no idea.”

“You’ll tell us if you ever have to go somewhere else?” Scottie asked. 

Christen tightened her arms around Scottie and put her chin on the top of Scottie’s head. 

“If something like that with my career ever comes up, I won’t just tell you about it. The three of us will talk and decide what’s best for all of us, not just me.”

“Because I can go to school anywhere,” Scottie whispered, leaning her head into Christen’s shoulder.  

Realizing Scottie meant that she and Tobin would move with her if she ever got traded, Christen let out a shaky breath. 

“Let’s not worry about that until we have to, okay? But thank you,” Christen murmured.

“We can go back upstairs. Grandma brought dessert, and maybe we should get the disco off her phone,” Scottie said, pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek. 

“I bet you Tobin already deleted it,” Christen chuckled, getting up from the bed and holding a hand out for Scottie to take. “Dessert sounds like a great idea, though.”

“Oh, let me put my jerseys away before Mommy says it’s messy,” Scottie added, racing to the door and grabbing the Gotham gear to put back into her dresser. 

“Okay, I’m not calling offsides, but I’m offsides,” Christen whispered, tugging Tobin out of the living room and toward the stairs.

“What’s up?” Tobin asked, keeping her voice down so that the two nine-year-old girls, still dressed in their Gotham gear and talking about the game, wouldn’t hear. 

“What am I doing wrong?” Christen wondered, leaning to look around Tobin, her eyes landing on Gemma and Scottie.

“What do you mean? You’re perfect. You’re always great with Scottie. This is no different,” Tobin said, her eyebrows scrunching together. 

“Every time I try to talk to Gemma or ask her a question or come within five feet of her, she clams right up or runs away,” Christen sighed, running her hands over her head in frustration. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”

A huge smile spread across Tobin’s face at Christen’s unnecessary worrying. She reached out and took Christen’s hands in her own, unable to stop the chuckle that slightly slipped from her lips. 

“She’s starstruck,” Tobin said simply. 

“By whom?” Christen asked, her forehead furrowing. “It’s been hours since she’s seen Crystal.”

“By you,” Tobin laughed. 

Christen balked at the suggestion. “Me?”

“Baby, her dad asked for your autograph when he dropped her off this afternoon. You should have seen his face when I told him you were already at the stadium. They’re mega fans, and she’s completely starstruck by you,” Tobin hummed, looking over her shoulder at the couch where Scottie was giving Gemma some movie options. 

“But I’m just- I’m me ,” Christen stuttered, shaking her head slightly. 

“I know that, and Scottie knows that, but she doesn’t live with you and see how sleepy you are in the morning or hear you try to sing,” Tobin smirked. 

Christen rolled her eyes and looked back at Tobin. “Hey, my rendition of Waterfalls by TLC isn’t half bad,” Christen chuckled, feeling a little bit better now. 

“Maybe she’ll be less starstruck if you sing it for her,” Tobin laughed. 

“You think you’re so cute,” Christen said, her eyes narrowing playfully at the teasing tone in Tobin’s voice.

“Baby, she’ll get used to it. She and Scottie seem close already, which means she’ll come over again. The more she sees you, the less weird she’ll be,” Tobin said softly. 

Christen leaned to look around Tobin again and let out a small sigh. “If it doesn’t get better in an hour, we’re doing karaoke.”

“Why don’t we bake cookies? That’s a sure way to make her think of you as a pa- Scottie’s Christen,” Tobin suggested, her heart racing and her eyes widening a little bit when she realized she almost said the word parent on accident. 

Christen’s stomach tightened just a bit as Tobin stumbled over her words. She fixed a smile on her face and pressed a kiss to Tobin’s cheek, hopefully assuaging the slight panic she could see on Tobin’s face. 

“Let’s do it,” Christen replied. “Once she realizes I can’t bake, I’ll fall from grace quickly.”

“You’re good at setting timers,” Tobin offered with a smile. 

“Gemma and I are gonna make a pillow castle,” Scottie said, sneaking a cookie from the plate on the counter. “So, you guys don’t have to watch the movie with us.”

“Okay, I guess we’ll take the cookies upstairs, then,” Tobin teased, picking up the plate. 

“No!” Scottie giggled.

“I guess we can share,” Tobin winked, grabbing a plate and putting a few cookies on it for her and Christen to take upstairs. 

“Thank you for baking us cookies,” Gemma said quietly, offering Tobin a smile.

“I just supervised. Chris baked these cookies,” Tobin said. 

Gemma’s eyes grew wide and she turned to look at Christen, a surprised look on her face. 

“Oh- um- thank you,” Gemma stammered, blushing profusely.

Christen offered Gemma a warm smile. “You’re welcome, Gemma. I hope you like them. I added extra chocolate chips,” she added with a wink.

Scottie tugged at Gemma’s shirt, pulling her toward the couch. 

“Why are you being weird? It’s just Christen,” Scottie murmured, ready to start the movie. 

“She knows my name ,” Gemma whispered back, an awestruck look on her face. “Christen Press knows my name.”

“It’s literally just Christen,” Scottie repeated with an eye roll. 

Christen hid her laugh behind her hand, leaning into Tobin’s side. “Scottie’s good for my ego,” she whispered.

“She’ll always keep you grounded. We’ve been relegated to the third floor too. Sleepovers bruise parent egos,” Tobin mumbled, picking up their plate of cookies and heading to the stairs. 

“Does it always feel a little like a rejection? Like are we not cool enough to watch a movie with?” Christen chuckled, following Tobin to the third floor.

“Every single time,” Tobin nodded. “Just wait until she’s a teenager and it’s daily.”

“How are we ever going to survive?” Christen sighed, a teasing lilt in her voice.

Tobin led them into her bedroom, shutting the door behind Christen and locking it. She then crossed the room and put the plate of cookies on Christen’s bedside table. 

“On the bright side, when she has a friend over, we can watch whatever we want without worrying about giving her nightmares. We can just worry about giving me nightmares,” Tobin grinned. 

“Or...and this is just me spitballing here,” Christen replied, moving to Tobin’s side and looping her arms around Tobin’s neck with a smile. “I get you out of these clothes…”

“ much as I love that idea, there are two children downstairs with little respect for boundaries,” Tobin laughed. 

Christen laughed as well, shaking her head just a bit as her smile grew. “I was going to offer you a massage.”

“I didn’t play ninety minutes today,” Tobin said. 

“Doesn’t mean you don’t deserve one,” Christen hummed, toying with the baby hairs at the base of Tobin’s neck.

“Have I told you that you’re amazing?” Tobin asked, running her hands up and down Christen’s sides. 

Christen nodded and leaned in, capturing Tobin’s lips in a soft kiss, intent on getting this massage started. 

“We need to talk about something really serious first, though,” Tobin said, leaning back to look at Christen. 

Christen felt her brows furrow, all thoughts of the massage and getting Tobin undressed put on hold. 

“That’s gotta go,” Tobin said, pointing at the suitcase that had been sitting in the corner of the room, opened and piled with Christen’s clothes. 

“Oh, sorry. I can shove it in the closet if you don’t want the clutter,” Christen said with a small grimace.

“No,” Tobin said softly. “Clutter isn’t the issue at all.”

“It’s not? Umm, okay I don’t get it,” Christen huffed out a laugh. “What’s the issue then?”

“I like that you use one of my drawers now and that you’ve invaded the closet a little, but I just don’t see how this, living out of a suitcase, is comfortable for you,” Tobin replied, trying not to get antsy or nervous as she spoke. “You’re here more than at your place, and I like it that way, but I don’t want you to have the roof and nothing else as your space.”

“Are you asking me what I think you’re asking me? Or are we just talking about another drawer or two?” Christen clarified, a small, shy smile on her face, her stomach aflutter with nerves and excitement.

“I was thinking a dresser. We can get one that matches or just a bigger one for us, if you want,” Tobin shrugged. “I just don’t want you to come home from trips to a place that doesn’t feel like it’s your space too...if that makes sense. I’m not saying get rid of your place at all. It’s too early for that. I’m-”

Christen interrupted the adorable rambling, pulling Tobin in for a long, slow kiss. She put everything she was feeling, every bit of nervousness and excitement into the kiss.

“Okay,” Christen whispered against Tobin’s lips. “A dresser sounds perfect.”

“Okay,” Tobin mumbled back, letting out the breath that she’d been holding. 

“This always feels like home though, with you and Scottie here,” Christen added softly.

“Good. I want it to because we want you here all the time. I just want you to know that you can bring whatever you want, whatever makes home even homier,” Tobin hummed, running her thumb over Christen’s cheekbone. 

“Well...home is definitely wherever you are,” Christen replied with a smile. “And wherever there are clothes on the floor,” she whispered, her hands falling to the hem of Tobin’s t-shirt and tugging it up and off, throwing it onto the floor behind her.

Chapter Text

I locked myself in a hotel room
Then waited all night for the walls to move
I've loved some girls that I barely knew
I've made some friends, and I've lost some too
Crashed my car, I was seventeen
My mother in the seat riding next to me
The things I've learned from a broken mirror
How a face can change when a heart knows fear
For all the things my eyes have seen, the best by far is you
If I could fly, then I would know
What life looks like from up above and down below
I'd keep you safe, I'd keep you dry
Don't be afraid, Cecilia, I'm the satellite
And you're the sky


For all the things my hands have held, the best by far is you

(Christen - "Cecilia And The Satellite" by Andrew McMahon)

And you held me when I came home crying
'Cause someone said something that just wasn’t true
I always said that Janelle was my best friend
But really it's always been you

I know that I haven't been easy
I hope that I love like you do
'Cause I know that this world would be better
If everyone had a mother like you
Mother like you

(Scottie - "A Mother Like You" by JJ Heller)

It won't be like this for long
One day soon you'll drop her off
And she won't even know you're gone
This phase is gonna fly by
If you can just hold on
It won't be like this for long
Someday soon she'll be a teenager
And at times [she'll] think she hates [her]
Then [she'll] walk her down the aisle
And raise her veil
But right now she's up and crying
And the truth is that [she] don't mind
As [she] kisses her goodnight
And she says her prayers
[She] lays down there beside her
'Til her eyes are finally closed
And just watching her it breaks [her] heart
'Cause [she] already knows
It won't be like this for long
One day soon that little girl is gonna be
All grown up and gone
Yeah this phase is gonna fly by
So [she's] trying to hold on
'Cause it won't be like this for long

(Tobin - "It Won't Be Like This For Long" by Darius Rucker) 


“Pressy, why are you sprinting?” Kelley teased, watching Christen pull her sweatshirt on as quickly as possible. 

“Gotta pick Scottie up from school,” Christen replied, sliding on her sneakers and then pulling her purse from her locker.

“What’s Tobin doing?” Becky asked, only just pulling her cleats and socks off. 

“She’s behind on a commission, so she’s locked herself in the studio today,” Christen said with an affectionate smile.

“And she’s letting you pick up Scottie alone. That’s pretty serious,” Crystal sing-songed, smiling at Christen and the obvious happiness on her. 

“Yeah,” Christen grinned, feeling her heart thrum in her chest. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow, okay?”

“Pressy drove Tar Heel’s car today, so you know it’s serious,” Kelley laughed, pulling a brush through her hair. 

“Have fun with my favorite kid,” Crystal beamed. 

“Tell Coach Scottie we say hi!” Becky added.

Christen offered some waves to her teammates and hustled out of the locker room. She made good time back into the city thanks to it being so early in the afternoon. After parking the car in the garage, she ran inside the house, grabbed three bags of Goldfish from the kitchen cupboard, and put them in her purse.

“Bye, babe. I’ll be back with Scottie!” Christen called out as she walked through the studio toward the door.

“Thank you. I love you!” Tobin called back, glaring at the canvas in front of her that was still just missing something. 

“I love you, too,” Christen replied with a smile. She took in the concentrated look on Tobin’s face and the dashes of paint all over her face and arms and chuckled to herself. “Did you get any of it on the canvas?” she teased.

Tobin looked away from the canvas and at Christen, the first smile all day slipping onto her lips. “Some of it,” she grinned. 

“Looks great. And you look great, too,” Christen hummed, reaching into her purse for one of the Goldfish bags. “Here. Since I know you haven’t had lunch yet,” she added, tossing the Goldfish to Tobin.

Tobin let out a soft groan, tearing the bag open immediately. “Have I told you that you’re amazing yet today?” 

“Three times this morning,”  Christen grinned. “I’ll be back soon.”

Christen waltzed out of the garage and closed it behind her, heading down the familiar streets to get to Scottie’s school.

She hadn’t gotten to see Scottie this morning because of an early training session, so she was excited for some uninterrupted, Scottie and Christen alone time. She was hoping they’d maybe make a snack and take it to the roof to do Scottie’s homework or watch the soccer game they’d recorded last weekend. 

With her grueling road schedule last month, it had taken her away a lot from New York and from her girls. So she was glad October was here, bringing with it a long stretch of home games. She was even more glad that the stretch of home games meant that she got more time with Scottie and Tobin, and that she got to move more of her stuff into the dresser Tobin had put together and set up in the bedroom.

Christen arrived with a few minutes to spare and waited near the steps of the school, leaning back against a lamp post. She couldn’t help but smile when she heard the bell and saw the front doors fly open.

It took a few minutes, but finally, Christen picked Scottie out of the group. She waved enthusiastically, her smile growing.

But her smile dimmed when she got a lackluster reaction from Scottie in return. 

“Hey, sweetheart. Why the long face?” Christen asked, tilting her head to the side, her chest tightening with worry.

“Someone invented homework,” Scottie mumbled, wrapping her arms around Christen and hugging her tightly. 

Christen held Scottie close, feeling her worry seep out of her. “Aww, did you get a lot assigned tonight?”

“Yes, and I really don’t get math,” Scottie mumbled, pulling Christen away from school and toward home. “We had to work on some math problems during class, and then tell everyone what answer we got when Ms. Hubbard called on us. I was very wrong, and Naomi laughed, which made Simon laugh, which made a few other people laugh. But I never laugh at them when they have trouble reading or drawing.” 

Christen’s heart hurt for the dejected tone of Scottie’s voice, for the pain and confusion in her words. She held Scottie just a bit closer as they continued their trek home.

“Math is tough, and I’m really sorry people laughed,” Christen replied gently. “Maybe you and I can work on math together tonight? Would that be okay?”

“Sure,” Scottie sighed, hooking a finger in one of Christen’s belt loops. “Are you good at math?” 

“At fourth-grade math? What is that, fractions?” Christen asked.

“Oh, there are definitely fractions. And I’m pretty good at multiplication, but division is the worst,” Scottie grumbled. 

“I can definitely help with those,” Christen murmured, her heart still aching because of the small cloud hanging over Scottie’s head. “Would you feel better with some Goldfish?”

Scottie smiled for the first time all afternoon, turning up her face to look at Christen. “I would love some Goldfish.” 

Christen pulled the bag from her purse and handed it to Scottie with a smile.

“Thank you, my Christen. I love Goldfish. Did you have a good day?” Scottie said as she opened the bag and pulled out a couple crackers. 

“I did. Becky and Crystal and Kelley say hi,” Christen replied, opening the last bag of Goldfish for herself.

“I wish I didn’t have to go to fourth grade and could play soccer instead,” Scottie hummed. “I’m glad you had a good day, though.” 

“It’s better now that I get to spend time with my favorite person,” Christen grinned, knocking her hip into Scottie.

“I thought Mommy was your favorite,” Scottie said with a grin, feeling lighter than she’d felt all day. 

“I won’t tell her if you won’t,” Christen winked, loving the smile on Scottie’s face and the light back in her gray eyes.

“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Scottie giggled. “Maybe if I finish homework fast enough we can watch the soccer game we recorded?” 

“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Christen hummed, knocking her fist against Scottie’s.

Whatever lightness Christen had managed to bring to Scottie’s day didn’t last very long. 

They’d grabbed a few more snacks and retreated up to the table on the roof to do math homework. 

It took two problems for Scottie to start sighing under her breath. It took a page of problems for Scottie to start to get really frustrated. And then after thirty minutes of getting wrong answer after wrong answer, Scottie was nearing her breaking point.

“Okay, sweetheart. Let’s just try it again,” Christen said, keeping her voice calm. “Long division is really tricky, but we can do it.”

“I don’t want to try it again,” Scottie snapped, shoving her hands over her face.  

Christen tried to do what she’d always seen Tobin do in times like these. She kept her voice gentle and her breathing even, hoping Scottie would match it. She rubbed a hand up and down Scottie’s back soothingly. 

“I know you don’t. But let’s just try it one more time and if we still don’t get it, we can take a break and pass the ball around or something,” Christen replied softly.

“Trying again and taking a break isn’t gonna help,” Scottie muttered, breathing a little more forcefully than she had been at the start of working on homework. Looking at her page of wrong answers only made her think about the kids at school that were good at math, the ones who’d laughed, the ones who’d made her feel dumb. Looking at the daunting number of problems she had left only made her want to quit. 

“Well...we won’t know that for sure unless we try. So why don’t you pick which one you’d rather do?” Christen asked gently, hoping her words and her touch could bring Scottie back from the full-blown meltdown she was headed toward.

“I don’t want to do either,” Scottie whined, tears filling her eyes. “I don’t want to do this anymore. I just want to watch the game. Can we please watch the game?”

Christen hesitated. She was the one who always said yes. She was never the one who told Scottie she couldn’t do something. But now she was faced with a situation in which she’d have to and she felt woefully unprepared. 

“No, I don’t think we can watch the game right now, sweetheart. We can keep trying to get these problems right, or we can talk about them while we pass the ball around or go on a walk or something,” Christen replied, feeling out of her depth now that she’d been forced into a quasi-parent role with far too much responsibility. A role that left her floundering.

Scottie looked up at Christen, her eyes wide, her bottom lip wobbling, and the first tear slipping down her cheek. “I didn’t think you’d say no,” Scottie choked out, another tear slipping down her cheek. 

“We can watch it later,” Christen assured, reaching up to wipe some of Scottie’s tears away. “Just not right now.”

Scottie shied away from Christen’s touch, feeling overwhelmed with the frustration that she felt about the math problems and the slight confusion that she felt with this new dynamic she and Christen had stumbled into. 

“I- I just,” Scottie said, her voice wobbling as she tried to speak. “You don’t get it.” 

“What don’t I get?” Christen asked, the sting of Scottie’s rejection making her chest tighten.

Scottie squeezed her hands into fists and clenched her jaw tightly. “You’re good at everything! You don’t know what it’s like to feel stupid! Nobody laughs at you! So stop pretending!”  Scottie yelled, pushing her chair back and stomping across the roof to the stairs. She slammed the door behind her as hard as she could, leaving Christen in the deafening silence. 

“Oh my Lord,” Christen sighed, dropping her head into her hands.

When Scottie hadn’t come back up after fifteen minutes, Christen packed up Scottie’s homework, gathered their dishes, and headed back downstairs. 

“I ordered takeout,” Tobin said when she saw Christen come down to the kitchen.

She’d finally finished the piece and was letting it dry fully before sending a picture to her client for one final review. And she was dying to just lie down on the couch with her girls. 

When she didn’t get a response, when she saw Christen’s furrowed brow and the aimless way she was drifting around the kitchen, Tobin cocked her head to the side. 

“Everything okay, baby?”

“Scottie- well, we had our first...disagreement. About long division,” Christen sighed, her shoulders sagging as she put the dishes in the sink and Scottie’s school bag on the counter.

“Oooh math is rough,” Tobin cringed, moving into the kitchen. She wrapped her arms around Christen and pulled her in for a hug. 

“I was just trying to help and she was just getting more and more frustrated and I-” Christen rambled, tucking her face into the crook of Tobin’s neck. “I don’t know what happened. She just snapped and left.”

“It isn’t you. It’s the math. Actually, it’s the way not being naturally great at something makes her feel,” Tobin sighed, running her hands up and down Christen’s back. 

Christen let out a long, shaky breath. “She hasn’t said stuff like that to me since Roni,” Christen mumbled, her hands fisted in the back of Tobin’s shirt.

“She gets panicky and anxious, and then she shuts down. It doesn’t happen often, but both Roni and math can do that,” Tobin murmured. 

A small throat clear had them both looking up toward the staircase. 

Seeing Scottie fidgeting on the bottom step, Christen felt her heart soar. Maybe this was over. Maybe Scottie had panicked and been anxious and now she was coming back so Christen could apologize and they could move forward.

“Can I eat dinner in my room?” Scottie asked, her face still withdrawn.

The question had Christen’s heart sinking and her grip on Tobin tightening.

“Why?” Tobin asked, raising an eyebrow at Scottie. 

“Because I want to,” Scottie replied with a shrug.

“I haven’t seen you all day, so I think dinner down here with us is a better idea,” Tobin said, keeping her voice at a normal volume while still being firm. 

“Whatever,” Scottie mumbled, turning around to head back up the stairs.

“Dinner’ll be here in twenty minutes. Maybe you can take some deep breaths and try to come down a little calmer,” Tobin suggested. 

“I’ll be down in twenty minutes,” Scottie tossed over her shoulder, stomping up the stairs and then slamming the door to her bedroom.

“Oh, God,” Christen groaned, dropping her head onto Tobin’s shoulder. “This is bad.”

If she were honest with herself, she should have seen a moment like this coming. Up until now, she had been running on fumes, flying by the seat of her pants. 

It was easy to be good at this when she and Scottie acted like friends. When she got to be the fun one and take Scottie out for secret ice cream trips and be her favorite soccer player who let her wear the Gold medal from the Olympics.

But today she’d been...well, she’d been kind of like a parent helping their kid with homework. She’d been patient and she’d tried, but it had all been in vain. Scottie had gotten upset with her and Christen had no idea where she’d gone wrong or how to fix this. 

“Remember when I wouldn’t let her play with the iPad Roni got her?” Tobin sighed, focusing on Christen. 

“Mhm,” Christen hummed, trying to breathe through the guilt and the frustration. 

“She didn’t talk to me for hours, and then she came down crying and ready to apologize,” Tobin murmured, tucking a curl behind Christen’s ear. “It hurts, but it won’t last forever. She loves you, even when homework gets frustrating, even when she takes her frustration out on you.” 

Christen blew out a shaky breath and lifted her forehead from Tobin’s shoulder. She tried her best to offer Tobin a smile, but it came off more like a tense grimace.

“Baby, this is just part of life with a nine-year-old,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. “I know it sucks.” 

“I just wish it didn’t feel like I’m failing a test I didn’t even know I was taking,” Christen sighed, stepping out of Tobin’s arms. “I’m going to go shower. I’ll be down in time to eat,” she added softly, offering Tobin a small smile before turning and heading for the stairs.

Tobin waited for Christen to shut her bedroom door before she grabbed Scottie’s homework, climbed the stairs, and went in the opposite direction of her own bedroom. She knocked softly on Scottie’s door, trying to take a few breaths and keep calm and patient to help Scottie with whatever frustration she was feeling. 

“That wasn’t twenty minutes,” Scottie called through the door.

“I need to talk to you,” Tobin said gently, pushing the door open a few inches. 

“Whatever,” Scottie mumbled, flipping through her Batman comic book.

“Okay, dude, the ‘whatevers’ need to stop. Now, we can either talk about what happened with you and Christen and figure out how to make you both feel better, or we can work on your homework so that you don’t get in trouble at school tomorrow. Which one do you want to do first?” Tobin asked, leaning against the doorframe. 

“If I say neither will I get grounded?” Scottie asked, shooting Tobin a quick look.

“I’ve never grounded you. Where did you learn about that?” Tobin asked, furrowing her eyebrows. 

“TV,” Scottie shrugged. 

“Okay, be honest. Are you really mad at Christen?” Tobin asked, slipping into the room and shutting the door. 

Scottie grumbled and tossed her comic book down on her bed. “No,” she replied.

“Are you mad at yourself because you yelled at Christen?” Tobin pressed, sitting down next to Scottie. 

“A little,” Scottie sighed. “And I’m mad because I feel like I suck at everything and you and Christen are good at everything.”

“Buddy, you are so talented. You blow me away every single day,” Tobin sighed, wrapping an arm around Scottie. 

“You have to say that, you’re my Mommy,” Scottie huffed, her lower lip jutting out and her eyes filling with tears. 

“I don’t have to say that. I believe it. You’re an amazing soccer player, a fantastic reader, a beautiful artist, an excellent science nerd,” Tobin added, poking Scottie in the nose and making her smile. “Most importantly, you are fiercely kind. That’s all I’ve ever wanted you to be. I couldn’t care less about math. It’s important, but being kind and happy and well-rounded is most important.” 

“I wasn’t very kind tonight,” Scottie mumbled, her face falling. “I told Christen that she needs to stop pretending to know what it feels like to be stupid and not be good at things. I wasn’t thinking when I said it,” she admitted quietly, her eyes on her hands in her lap.

“It sounds like you need to be your sweet, kind self and apologize to her, right? Because I bet that there are things Christen wasn’t good at when she was your age too. Did you know that I was really bad at spelling when I was in fourth grade?” Tobin hummed, keeping her voice low and soft. 

Scottie shook her head and sniffled. “No, I didn’t know that,” she murmured.

“It made me feel really dumb, but now that I’m grown up, I know that one thing doesn’t make you stupid or smart. One thing doesn’t define you. I wasn’t great at spelling, but I was really good at science. My brain just had special, natural skills and needed to work on others. Yours is like that too. Everyone’s brain is like that,” Tobin promised. 

Scottie nodded again and leaned into Tobin’s chest. “Is Christen mad at me?” Scottie asked in a soft voice.

“I think her feelings are a little hurt, but she isn’t mad at you,” Tobin sighed, running her hand over Scottie’s hair. 

“I didn’t mean to,” Scottie mumbled.

“I know you didn’t. So, I have an idea,” Tobin said, lightly kissing Scottie’s head. 

Scottie sniffled and looked up at Tobin with watery gray eyes. “What’s your idea?”

“Why don’t we have dinner, and then you can ask Christen to help you with homework. I can help too. You can find a time to apologize either before or after dinner, and once we’re all done, we can cuddle on the couch,” Tobin suggested. 

Scottie sighed and blew out a wobbly breath. “That seems fair,” she agreed.

“And if you get frustrated and feel like you’re gonna explode, why don’t you say offsides?” Tobin hummed. “We can dance it out or hug you or sing a song or make your super secret drink.” 

Scottie offered Tobin a smile and nodded again. “Okay, Mommy. Let’s do that.”

“All right, buddy. ‘Cause, it’s okay to get frustrated. I do it a lot when I’m doing commissions, but it isn’t cool to take it out on someone,” Tobin added, standing up from the bed and holding out her hand for Scottie. 

“I’ll make sure to say a good sorry because I didn’t mean to make her upset,” Scottie said, hopping off the bed with Tobin’s help.

“Okay, let’s go say a good sorry and eat a yummy dinner and kick some math butt,” Tobin said, holding open the door for Scottie. 

Christen pushed her last few pieces of pasta around with her fork, her eyes stuck on her plate.

Even the hot shower and Tobin’s comfy UNC sweatshirt couldn’t take away the weird feeling she had inside, the one put there by Scottie’s words and the worry that she truly had no idea what she was doing. 

Who was she to try and parent? To try and be a parent? She might not be cut out for this. She had gone so far past her comfort zone and she hadn’t realized it until tonight. She was struggling to stay afloat in the deep end, completely unsure of her footing, and the longer they all sat in tense silence, the more clear that became.

“Um…I can clear the table,” Scottie offered, feeling guilty for what she’d said, especially when she’d spent dinner watching Christen look sad. 

“That’s okay, buddy. I’ve got it,” Tobin said, taking their plates and walking around the counter to give Scottie a moment to apologize. 

“I- umm, Christen?” Scottie mumbled, scratching at the back of her neck. 

“Yeah?” Christen replied, fixing a small, tight smile on her face.

“Sometimes when I’m doing something I’m not really good at, like math, I get really frustrated with myself,” Scottie sighed. 

“I get that,” Christen hummed, fiddling with the sleeves of the sweatshirt. 

“And getting frustrated is okay, but taking it out on you isn’t. I didn’t mean to get mad, and I know you aren’t good at everything. I just lost control. I should’ve said offsides. I promise to do that next time,” Scottie said, looking across the table at Christen. 

“Okay,” Christen replied quietly, that small, tight smile still on her face. “Maybe next time your mom will help you, not me, and it’ll go better.”

“But- Umm…okay,” Scottie sighed, her shoulders drooping at Christen’s words. 

A tense silence descended upon the table once again. A silence that was so out of place between Scottie and Christen, Tobin was almost stunned when she returned to the table to find Scottie sulking and Christen looking moments from tears.

“Why don’t we all try to work on division?” Tobin suggested, placing Scottie’s homework on the table. 

“I’ve got an early training tomorrow, so I’m going to call it a night. You’ll probably be more help than I ever could be anyways,” Christen said, getting up from the table. She dropped two fleeting kisses to Tobin’s and Scottie’s foreheads and then headed up the stairs.

“Mommy, I really messed up,” Scottie mumbled, dropping her head onto the table. 

“Well, we’re gonna have to make sure Christen feels better the next time she helps, right?” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s temple. 

“Yeah,” Scottie sighed, lifting her head and dropping her chin onto her crossed arms. “Okay, let’s divide.”

“Let’s divide and show fourth grade what’s up,” Tobin agreed, handing Scottie a pencil. 

Scottie took the pencil and threw up a shaka sign, dropping her attention to her homework and trying to focus on math and not on how sad Christen still looked.

“Do you guys have like, a parenting section?” Christen asked in a rush, offering the bookstore employee a tight smile. After going to bed early and leaving early for training this morning, Christen hadn’t really seen Tobin and Scottie since last night. 

She’d gone through the motions at practice and in the lifting session, but her mind was elsewhere. She kept replaying the math fiasco, the things Scottie had said. She kept wondering what she could have done differently, if there was anything to do differently. 

But mostly, she just worried that the shine was starting to wear off. That sooner or later, the rug would be completely pulled out from underneath her. That at some point in the near future, Scottie and Tobin would realize she had no clue what she was doing and had no business pretending like she did.

Scottie told her to stop pretending and Christen wondered if she really meant it.

“It should be in the childcare section,” the employee replied, leading Christen around the store to a long bookshelf. 

“Are there books here for people who aren’t really parents or moms but are...somethings?” Christen rambled, running a hand through her curls.

“I’m not sure what you mean…” 

“Never mind,” Christen replied with a self-deprecating chuckle. “I’ll figure it out.”

“Is there a specific age you’re looking for?” The employee asked, not giving up when Christen waved her away. 

“Nine,” Christen said. 

“Well, we have a good book on kids ages 8-12 and child development. We have this one for new parents, and I know there’s a section for adoptive parents of older kids. Oh, and there’s this one for stepparents…if that’s closer to what you are?” the employee hummed, running her finger along book spines. 

Christen nodded along with every suggestion. “Yeah, I’ll take all of the ones you just listed, I think. I need all the help I can get.”

“I grew up with a stepdad,” the employee grinned, handing the books off to Christen. “He was super out of his element when my mom first started letting him stay over and spend time with us.” 

“It’ adjustment, and I have no idea what I’m doing,” Christen admitted with a weak chuckle. “Especially when I go from friend to kind of parent and shit hits the fan.”

“You know what I always noticed about my stepdad?” the employee murmured, leading Christen to the front desk to check out. 

“What’s that?” Christen asked, pulling out her wallet.

“He always felt like he had no idea what he was doing, but he always did one thing right. He always made me feel seen and loved. Even when I got upset or when we had a rough day, I always knew he loved me, and you clearly love this nine-year-old. So, I’d say you’re doing a much better job than you think,” the employee said, scanning the books as she talked. 

Christen felt a genuine smile make its way onto her face. “Thank you,” Christen murmured. “I think I needed to hear that.”

“No problem,” the employee said with a smile. 

“Yo, Pressy, you ready?” Kelley called out, leading Becky and Crystal into the bookstore. “Did you buy the place?” she laughed, nodding at the bag the employee was filling with books.

“Christen, is everything okay?” Crystal asked, reading the titles of the books that Christen was currently paying for. 

“It’s...fine,” Christen sighed, taking her credit card back from the employee. “I just should have started reading these months ago.”

“Did something happen with Scottie?” Becky asked softly. 

“She snapped at me over long division, and we haven’t really gotten back on good terms yet,” Christen replied with a dejected sigh. 

“Math is the worst,” Crystal sighed. 

“Want to get drinks and forget about it?” Kelley asked, squeezing Christen’s shoulder. 

“If you’d asked me a year and a half ago I would have said yes,” Christen said, taking the bag of books from the employee with a smile and a nod of thanks. “But now, I think I should go home and not run away from the problem.”

“Brunch on Saturday?” Crystal offered as they walked out of the store. 

“Bottomless mimosas or bust,” Christen agreed, falling into step with Crystal, Becky and Kelley following behind them.

“Scottie loves you,” Crystal murmured, squeezing Christen’s hand with her own. 

“I know,” Christen replied, letting out a long sigh. “I just-” she faltered, trying to find the way to articulate her worries, worries she hadn’t even realized were there. She’d been so set on forever, she never stopped to think if she’d be any good at it.

“When the time comes, she’s gonna love you as a mom too, even when you have to be a parent and work through the hard stuff,” Crystal whispered, reading Christen’s hesitation. 

Christen didn’t share in Crystal’s convictions, so she just offered her a tight nod and an attempt at a smile.

“Tobin wouldn’t have let you get this close to Scottie if she didn’t think you could be a good parent someday,” Crystal said, stopping Christen so that she’d look at her. 

“I second that,” Becky offered, coming to a stop next to Crystal with Kelley.

“Thirded!” Kelley added.

“Thanks, guys,” Christen replied, worrying the handles of the bag full of the books that served as a reminder that she wasn’t a good parent now and she might not ever be.

“Tobin probably sucked when she first got Scottie. Let’s be real. Think about her with a toddler and no parenting skills,” Kelley said, trying to get Christen out of this funk. 

“Yeah,” Christen said, forcing a weak chuckle. “I think I’m going to catch a cab downtown. I’ll see you guys tomorrow?”

“Don’t let this one moment mess things up,” Becky hummed as she hugged Christen. “You three belong together.” 

“I know we do,” Christen murmured, hugging Becky tightly. 

“We’ll see you tomorrow,” Crystal said, squeezing Christen’s shoulder. 

“I’ll pick you up for practice,” Kelley added. 

Christen offered her friends and teammates a small wave and then headed down the block, swinging the bag of books at her side and stuffing her free hand deep into her coat pocket.

She meant to hail a cab, but once she started walking and thinking and worrying and then trying not to worry, she sort of blacked out and ended up back down in SoHo at Tobin’s door. 

She grabbed the spare key from its hiding spot and let herself in, knowing that both Tobin and Scottie were home since it was after three in the afternoon. 

“Hey guys, I’m home,” she called out, the familiar greeting leaving her lips without permission. 

“Christen!” Scottie called from upstairs, her footsteps thudding above the studio. 

“Hey!” Tobin called over the sound of a few dishes clinking in the kitchen. 

Christen swallowed the lump in her throat and climbed the stairs, clinging to the bag of books like a lifeline. She made her way into the kitchen and found Tobin standing at the sink, elbows deep in sudsy water. 

“Hi,”  Christen murmured with a small smile.

“Hi works,” Tobin said, smiling at Christen. 

“Hey, Christen,” Scottie said from her spot at the kitchen table. 

“Hey, Scottie,” Christen replied, scratching at the corner of her jaw.

Scottie’s face fell slightly when Christen didn’t greet her by calling her sweetheart or Scottie Heath. 

“I’m going to run these upstairs,” Christen mumbled, offering Tobin and Scottie tight smiles before heading to the stairs.

Tobin dried her hands off on a dishtowel and left Scottie to her homework, racing up the stairs after Christen. 

“Ooookay, what’s going on?” Tobin asked, slipping into her bedroom and shutting the door behind her, a lot like how she’d gone to Scottie’s room the other night. 

“Nothing,” Christen replied, dropping the bag by her bedside table and then shedding her jacket. She avoided looking at Tobin and walked into the closet to hang it up. 

“Are you mad at Scottie? I thought the apology last night was pretty good,” Tobin sighed. 

“No, of course not,” Christen assured quickly, stepping out of the closet and fixing Tobin with a look.

“So you’re just avoiding her and holding her at a distance because…?” Tobin pressed. 

Christen sighed and collapsed onto the edge of the bed, dropping her face into her hands.

“I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. I can’t even help her with long division,” Christen mumbled, her throat getting a little thick, her face still hidden behind her hands.

“I have trouble helping her with long division. We took twelve breaks last night. She didn’t get to bed until 11:45, and she called offsides five times. I called offsides twice,” Tobin sighed, sinking down onto the floor and putting her hands on Christen’s hips. 

“She said I’m good at all of these things but I can’t- I don’t know what I’m doing, Tobin. And I know you said it was like this for you too, but...what if I never get good at it? What if you’re the only one who can help her and all I’m good for is secret ice cream trips and soccer games?” Christen asked in a quiet voice, almost so quiet that Tobin had to strain to hear her.

Tobin nodded softly, finally understanding the insecurity that Christen was dealing with. Finally getting why Christen was hesitating and seemed to be taking some space. 

“We say forever, and I promised Scottie that I’d stay for a long time, but what if I’m not cut out for it?”  Christen added at an almost broken whisper.

“I really think you are. Because at the very core of being a parent, you just have to be there, and you have to care. That’s the job. Being perfect isn’t possible. Being there and loving her is all you can do, and you already do that. But… it’s still early, and I know we’re all in this, deep in this, but if you don’t want to do…the parent thing. If it’s too much, I get it,” Tobin murmured. “I know it’s a lot. I know last night was a lot, and if it’s too much, even if it’s just too much right now, I get it.”

Christen let out a long breath and lifted her head from her hands, fixing her watery gaze on Tobin. 

“You really think I- that I- I’ll be a good one?” Christen asked quietly, tucking her hands beneath her thighs and worrying her bottom lip between her teeth.

“I don’t think it,” Tobin breathed out. “I know you will because you’re already doing it.” 

Christen nodded, the motion a little jerky as her eyes continued to water. “It’s not too much, just a lot. A solid six.”

“Okay,” Tobin nodded. “Well, if it’s too much, just say the word, and I can take over. You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to do anything,” she promised. “You can just be the secret ice cream person right now if that feels best. If that’s what you want.” 

“I...I know what I want. But I’m just scared to epically fail and disappoint the two people I love the most,”  Christen admitted.

“You won’t disappoint us. You trying, even if it’s not immediately natural, will never disappoint us.” 

Christen leaned her forehead against Tobin’s and let her eyes fall shut. She took a few deep breaths, letting Tobin’s words calm her, and center her, and reassure her. 

“What’s in the bag?” Tobin whispered, squeezing Christen’s hips. 

Christen blushed and leaned back. “Oh, um, nothing,” Christen replied evasively. “Just...stuff.”

“Okay,” Tobin hummed, tilting her head up and pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. 

After a moment's deliberation, where she briefly considered not telling Tobin and going back to return all of those books tonight, Christen gave in.

“Stuff like parenting books,” Christen whispered, scratching at the corner of her jaw as her blush deepened.

“Really?” Tobin asked, her voice softer than it had ever been. 

“Yeah, I didn’t really know what to get, but the lady working there helped me out. So I have like seven books to read that will probably all tell me I’m doing everything wrong,” Christen mumbled.

“You’re not. See,” Tobin murmured, “You’re already doing it, being a good parent. Actually, you’re doing more than most people ever even think of doing. I’m not worried at all. I mean, I’ve never really worried about you being good at this, but now I’m even more certain. Every day I’m more sure of this and us and ours.” 

Christen softened and felt a smile tug at her lips. She lifted a hand and pushed a few strands of hair behind Tobin’s ear, trailing her fingertips down Tobin’s cheek once she’d done so.

“ Scottie mad at me?” she asked, softly voicing the same question to Tobin that Scottie had last night. 

“No, she’s not mad. She’s worried that she messed up with you,” Tobin replied, pressing a kiss to Christen’s wrist. “This is new for you, but it’s new for her too. She’s never done this before. None of us have.” 

Christen nodded softly, finally starting to feel a bit better. “We’re all learning and growing through it together,” she hummed.

“Mhm, and Scottie’s never had anyone but me try to take care of her like a parent, and she doesn’t want to lose you because she got frustrated,” Tobin said gently. 

“I think it’s time for secret ice cream and some sorrys,” Christen sighed.

“It’s a good thing she’s done with homework,” Tobin said with a lopsided smile. “Do you want to take her on your own?” 

Christen swallowed her nerves and nodded. “I think I need to, yeah,” Christen replied softly. “It’s my mess, I should clean it up.”

“It isn’t your mess. It’s just our growing pains,” Tobin hummed. “I’ll work on dinner, and you can get secret ice cream and enjoy Scottie time.” 

Christen moved her hand to the back of Tobin’s neck and gently pulled her in for a soft kiss. 

“I love you,” Christen whispered.

“I love you too,” Tobin murmured, pressing another kiss to Christen’s lips. 

“Hey, sweetheart,” Christen greeted softly, holding two pints of ice cream and two spoons in her hands.

Scottie looked up from where she was sitting on her bedroom floor with wide eyes and a slightly open mouth. 

“Can I come in? I brought secret ice cream,” Christen added, holding up the pints and shaking them around a little bit.

“Yeah, you can come in,” Scottie said, cleaning up the markers that were lying all over the floor. 

Christen joined Scottie on the floor, sitting cross-legged and offering Scottie her Peanut Butter Marshmallow Crunch and a spoon.

“I really am sorry about last night,” Scottie said, her eyes getting a tiny bit watery. 

“I am too,” Christen replied softly. “You gave me a really good apology, and I shouldn’t have let my...worries get in the way of accepting it.”

“You’re worried? About math or me getting upset? Because I didn’t mean what I said to you. I don’t think you pretend to know how I feel. I think you know, and I think you care,” Scottie said, ignoring her ice cream in favor of looking at Christen. 

“I do care. A lot,” Christen nodded, setting her ice cream aside as well. “I guess I was just worried that me not being able to help you with your homework meant I wasn’t going to be...good or helpful to you in the long run.”

“What do you mean?” Scottie asked, her eyebrows scrunching together. 

“Well, umm,”  Christen faltered, wondering the right way to phrase this. “It’s easy for me to help you on the soccer field because I know how to play soccer. I’m good at playing it, so I can help you with it. But when we’re not doing soccer things, when we’re doing things just you and me and you need me to more than a friend and more than a soccer coach to you-”

“More like Mommy,” Scottie said softly, nodding her head. 

Christen swallowed thickly and felt the corner of her mouth lift up into a surprised half-smile. 

“Yeah, like that. When I have to be like Tobin to you, I don’t always know how to help you because I don’t know if I’m good at it. Does that make sense?” Christen asked, hoping she’d done a decent job of explaining things without making it worse or more complicated.

“You’re good at it,” Scottie said without hesitation, a big smile sliding onto her face. “You were patient like Mommy, and you rubbed my back. Next time, I’ll tell you when I’m too frustrated. I still have to work on that.” 

“We’re both growing and figuring it out together,” Christen replied, her smile mirroring Scottie’s.

“Yeah,” Scottie nodded. “I don’t want you to stop…being like- like Mommy is.” 

Christen’s heart leapt into her throat at Scottie’s words. “You don’t?” she asked softly.

“I really want you to keep being like Mommy and doing stuff like helping me with homework…if that’s okay,” Scottie whispered. 

Blinking a few tears from her eyes, Christen nodded with a relieved, beaming smile.

“Very okay. I want that too,” Christen murmured, reaching out to take ahold of Scottie’s hand and give it a gentle squeeze.

“I love you,” Scottie said, scooting closer to Christen. 

“I love you more, Scottie Heath. And don’t you forget it,” Christen hummed.

“No way! I love you more,” Scottie grinned. 

“Nuh-uh, I love you more!” Christen argued with a laugh.

“Do you think maybe we could watch the soccer game we recorded, since we didn’t yesterday?” Scottie asked. 

Christen grabbed the ice cream and the spoons and shot Scottie a smile.

“Race you to the couch?” Christen asked.

Scottie was up on her feet in an instant, racing out of her room and down the hall with a trail of laughter in her wake. 

“No fair! You have the speedy shoes on!” Christen called out, running down the hall and chasing after Scottie.

“You’re a professional athlete!” Scottie called over her shoulder. 

“You’re a professional speed demon,” Christen laughed, catching up to Scottie and trying to jump around her down the stairs, knowing she was going to lose and feeling very much okay with that.

Tobin was having trouble keeping her eyes on the cutting board in front of her. She was too distracted by Christen and Scottie sitting at the table on the other side of the kitchen island. 

They’d spent yesterday evening eating ice cream and watching the game, making up for a day of awkward silence and distance. And now, Christen was pushing Scottie’s hair back and pointing at something in her math workbook. The whole situation was so incredibly domestic that Tobin had to lean against the counter to keep from sinking down to her knees, too overwhelmed to watch with dry eyes. 

Scottie leaned against Christen’s shoulder every few problems when she got frustrated or annoyed, whispering softly that she needed a minute or a hug or a glass of water. And Christen patiently whispered back, running a hand up and down her back and trying to point out tricks that might help Scottie figure out the problems. 

It took all of Tobin’s strength not to say ‘I told you so,’ not to point out to Christen that she was doing an incredible job, not to say that she was a natural. Because even if she and everyone else could see that Christen had natural instincts about Scottie, there were always going to be growing pains, and Christen wanted to handle those with Scottie and Tobin, as they came.  

“Well, Scottie Heath…” Christen trailed off, tapping her fingers across the table as she graded Scottie’s practice test. “I have good news and I have bad news.”

“Start with the bad news, I guess,” Scottie sighed. “How many did I miss?”

Christen tried not to smile as she nodded. “The bad news is that you have to think of some other things we can do tonight.”

“Why?” Scottie asked, scrunching her eyebrows at Christen. 

“Because the good news is that you got all of them right,” Christen replied with a beaming grin.

“No way! Are you sure you know how to divide?” Scottie asked, craning her neck to look at the workbook. 

Christen laughed and showed Scottie the workbook. “I’m positive. You got all of them right.”

Scottie slumped over, letting her forehead land on Christen’s shoulder. “I just want to lie down,” Scottie sighed. 

Christen ran a hand up and down Scottie's back and shared a small smile with Tobin.

“Thank you,” Scottie whispered, wrapping her arms around Christen’s shoulders. 

“You’re welcome. I think those breathing techniques we tried helped a little, yeah?” Christen hummed.

“Mommy said they keep my frontal cortex from shutting down, whatever that means,” Scottie mumbled. 

Christen laughed again, continually delighted at the adult things that came out of Scottie’s mouth sometimes. 

“How about you go get some comfy sweats on and we can draw before dinner?” Christen asked.

“You’re the best, and I love you,” Scottie grinned, slipping from her chair and racing to the stairs to go change into her pajamas. 

“She’s not wrong,” Tobin hummed from her spot behind the kitchen island. 

Christen got up from the table and rolled her shoulders, heading over to Tobin with a tired smile.

“Have I mentioned that I loathe long division?” Christen mumbled, gently prying the knife from Tobin’s hand and setting it down before slipping between Tobin and the counter. She wound her arms around Tobin’s waist and tucked her face into the crook of Tobin’s neck.

“You’re very good at hiding it. But you can be on dinner duty tomorrow, and I’ll take on math,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s temple. 

“When she starts hitting subjects like Biochemistry and Macroeconomics, I’m on forever dinner duty,” Christen chuckled.

“That’s when we hire a tutor,” Tobin smirked, holding Christen as close as she could. 

“Tonight was better, right? It was touch and go at times, but it felt better,” Christen murmured softly into the warm skin of Tobin’s neck. 

“No contest, tonight was better,” Tobin nodded. “You both were listening and talking through things and being adorably sweet with one another and making it very hard to stand here and cook.”

Christen chuckled again and leaned back. She lifted her hands to frame Tobin’s face, her thumbs smoothing the soft skin beneath Tobin’s eyes.

“I noticed you watching a few times. You had that funny look in your eyes again,” Christen hummed, her eyes dancing between Tobin’s.

“Yeah, I’ve been getting that a lot,” Tobin mumbled. 

“I’ve noticed,” Christen replied with a soft smile.

“I’m just really really in this, and I’m glad you bought all those books and want to do more than just secret ice cream and soccer and the fun stuff with Scottie,” Tobin admitted. 

Christen leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on Tobin’s lips. “Us and ours means everything, even if I need a second to catch up and believe you when you put your faith in me,” she whispered with one final lingering kiss.

“Who knew the soccer coach who cursed at me for spilling coffee on her would buy parenting books,” Tobin teased softly, peppering a few kisses along Christen’s face.

“Parenting books I need to find a home for,” Christen chuckled with a slight blush.

“You can put yours with mine,” Tobin grinned. 

Christen’s eyes widened in surprise. “You have parenting books too?” she asked with another chuckle.

“Baby, I have a library in the office upstairs. I have a book solely on different swaddling techniques, and Scottie was too old to need a swaddle when I adopted her,” Tobin laughed. 

Christen’s eyes crinkled as her smile grew. “You’re truly something else,” Christen murmured, leaning in for another quick kiss.

“I have a book about dating with a kid,” Tobin whispered. 

“Which chapter told you to spill coffee and get spicy? Because it worked out quite well for you,” Christen teased.

“It was in the foreword. First page,” Tobin smirked, pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips again. 

Chapter Text

You're beautiful
More than I deserve
So listen close
To these one, two, three, four words

So please keep loving me
Because our hearts speak fluently
Wherever I go, whatever I do
The map on my heart leads to you
So baby, please keep loving me
Loving me, loving me, yeah

Your lips on my smile
Are like bees 'round a honeycomb
You see through my heart's misty window
And out of all the fingerprints, only yours will show

(Tobin - "Please Keep Loving Me" by James TW)


But when I'm cold, cold
In water rolled, salt
I know that you're always with me
And the way you will show
And you're with me wherever I go
And you give me this feeling
This everglow

Oh, what I would give for just a moment to hold
Yeah, I live for this feeling, it's everglow

So if you love someone
You should let them know
Oh, the light that you left me will everglow

(Christen - "Everglow" by Coldplay)


“To actually getting these uncool parents out for drinks on a Friday night,” Kelley cheered, holding up her margarita.

“You ever think that maybe we go get drinks and just don’t invite you?” Tobin teased.

Christen snorted and clinked her glass against Kelley’s, then Tobin’s, Crystal’s, and Becky’s.

“Tobin off duty is savage,” Crystal laughed, knocking her shoulder into Christen’s. 

Christen laughed right alongside Crystal, taking a sip of her margarita and leaning into Tobin’s side. 

“Yeah, she’s pretty great,” Christen hummed.

“Okay, I got shots because they go great with everything,” Emily sighed, slipping into the u-shaped booth next to Kelley. 

“Way to do a toast without your girlfriend present,” Becky chuckled.

“Excuse me?” Emily asked, raising an eyebrow at Kelley. 

“You love me,” Kelley grinned, taking two of the shots and holding one out for Emily.

“Kelley O’Hara, are you offering me a shot that I just paid for?” Emily asked, crossing her arms over her chest. 

“You love me even though it’s challenging?” Kelley cringed, offering Emily her best pout.

“Unfortunately,” Emily grumbled, but the smile on her face gave her away. She took the shot from Kelley’s hand and stuck out her tongue in Kelley’s direction.

“You’re her Tar Heel,” Tobin added, pressing a kiss to Christen’s shoulder. 

“Cavalier,” Christen corrected quietly.

“I think it’s a metaphor,” Tobin whispered. 

“Doesn’t mean it can’t be factually accurate,” Christen teased, leaning forward to grab two of the shots.

“Thank you, Stanford,” Tobin mumbled, rolling her eyes at Christen. 

“Drink up, Tar Heel,” Christen chuckled, sliding a shot to Tobin.  

The first round of shots went down with light protest and lots of grimaces. The second round went down easier, with a few laughs and encouraging cheers. 

“How long are you here, Sonny?” Crystal asked, setting her empty shot glass down in the middle of the table.

“Just for the weekend,” Emily answered, making Kelley pout beside her. 

“She could have been here until Tuesday but someone said no,” Kelley groused, grabbing her margarita and taking a big sip of it.

“I have optional team bonding, and I don’t want to miss it,” Emily defended. “They wouldn’t survive without me.”

“More like they barely survive with you,” Christen teased, offering Emily a wink. 

“They’re lucky to have me,” Emily scoffed. “Who else would pull Pressy down in the middle of a game?” 

“Fair point,” Becky grinned, knocking her glass against Emily’s.

Tobin winced and scooted closer to Christen. “Yeah...I’m not a fan,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Aww Toby, I’m sorry,” Emily chuckled. “It wasn’t even that bad, though. We do worse in U.S. camps to each other.”

“I didn’t need to know that,” Tobin said, lifting her drink to her mouth and taking a sip. 

Christen draped her arm along the back of the booth and leaned closer to Tobin. “It’s okay, baby. We’ve only drawn blood...what, once? Maybe twice?” she asked Emily with a grin.

“All right, next round’s on me,” Tobin sighed, trying to ignore the visuals that were flashing through her head. 

“No, I got it,” Christen murmured, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s temple. “Play nice,” Christen warned, looking around at the rest of the group as she motioned for Tobin to let her out of the booth and slid past her, purse in hand. 

“So, Pressy’s pretty much living with you now, right? Because she never invites us over to her apartment anymore,” Kelley said, leaning forward on her elbows. 

“I miss Janice,” Becky sighed.

“Who the heck is Janice?” Crystal asked, having not had the pleasure of meeting Christen’s coffee maker. 

Christen caught the tail end of Crystal’s comment and laughed to herself as she wound her way through the semi-crowded bar in Midtown. She headed up to the bar and signaled the bartender, trying to get his attention. Seeing that he was preoccupied, she leaned against the wooden bartop and waited her turn.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” a blonde in an extremely short, tight blue dress said as she slid down the bar closer to Christen. 

Christen narrowed her eyes at the woman, completely drawing a blank as to who this person was or how they knew each other.

“I used to see you at the club a few blocks over on 54th almost weekly,” the blonde continued. 

The alcohol-infused poor decisions came back almost instantly, even if Christen wished they hadn’t. She did know this woman. In fact, she knew her quite well, even if she didn’t recall her name. 

“Right...I haven’t been there in a long time,” Christen replied, looking back to the bartender to see if he was free.

He wasn’t.

“I know. You have some fans there who’ve been biding their time, thinking the worst happened. You look good,” the blonde smirked, eyeing Christen just like she had when she’d first seen her, unashamedly and hungrily. 

“Thanks,” Christen said with a tight smile. “I found a reason to stay home so...I don’t really do that anymore.”

“And here I was thinking it was my lucky night,” the blonde sighed, reaching out a hand to brush her fingers along the side of Christen’s arm. 

Christen shook her head with a polite smile. “Sorry, I’m with someone. But it was good to see you,” Christen replied.

“She must be quite the someone,” the blonde hummed, not stopping her eyes from traveling up and down Christen’s body, despite having taken a step back. 

“She is,” Christen confirmed with a soft smile. She finally caught the bartender’s attention and flagged him over to her side of the bar.

“Well, I’ll be around tonight if she starts feeling like less of a someone,” the blonde shrugged, wetting her bottom lip with her tongue as she watched Christen lean more heavily against the bar. 

Christen just laughed softly to herself, wondering what sort of luck she had if this woman happened to be in this bar, out of all of the bars in New York City. 

Turning back to face the bartender, she offered him a smile and slid him a handful of bills. “Six shots of tequila please,” Christen ordered.

“You got it,” the bartender said, hardly looking up as he worked on making drinks and clearing the bar. 

Christen took the tray of shots and headed back over to the booth, setting it down in the middle of the circle of empty glasses and sliding back in beside Tobin.

“Tequila time,” Christen grinned, her hand falling to Tobin’s thigh beneath the table, not noticing how tense Tobin was beneath her touch.

Tobin trusted Christen. She trusted her to pick up Scottie from school on her own. She trusted her with Scottie’s feelings and with her own heart. She trusted her to be honest and faithful, to communicate when things got hard. There was no one she trusted more than Christen. 

So, when she saw the blonde practically eye-fucking Christen across the bar, she hadn’t worried. She hadn’t worried even when she could see the familiarity in the way they talked, the recognition in both of their eyes. She’d watched, mainly to make sure that Christen wasn’t in an uncomfortable situation, but she hadn’t watched due to lack of trust. 

Christen had smiled like she did during uncomfortable interviews, nicely but not necessarily genuinely. She’d stepped away from the blonde when she’d reached out to touch her arm, and she’d spoken words that made the blonde look somewhat disappointed. 

Even though she trusted Christen fully and knew there was nothing to worry about, Tobin was human. She was human and flawed and capable of feeling jealous. And she spent the rest of their night out trying to get images of Christen and the blonde out of her head and longing to take Christen home. 

“You got quiet tonight. Everything okay?” Christen asked, tossing the keys to her apartment onto the counter.

“Mhm,” Tobin hummed, slipping off her coat and hanging it on the coat rack near Christen’s front door. 

Christen leaned back against her kitchen counter and fixed Tobin with a look, her eyes slightly narrowed.


“Yes?” Tobin murmured, toeing off her sneakers and leaving them near the front closet. 

“I’ve gotten one-word answers from you for the last hour. What’s going on?” Christen wondered, tilting her head to the side.

“Would you like more than one? Oh, that was six,” Tobin smirked. 

Christen rolled her eyes affectionately. “Those six words didn’t give me an answer to my question.”

“Do you want to know something interesting?” Tobin asked, making her way into the living room area of Christen’s apartment. 

Christen followed Tobin and dropped onto the couch right next to Tobin. “Seven words, you're on a roll,” Christen hummed with a half-smile.

“I have a hidden talent,” Tobin said softly, leaning back into the couch cushions and looking over at Christen. 

“You have many,” Christen countered, her smile growing.

“Sure, but would you like to know about this one?” 

“Is it counting above seven?” Christen teased. “Because that was ten words.”

“Nope,” Tobin shook her head, watching Christen get settled more comfortably on the couch. 

“Don’t make me guess. I’m a bad guesser,” Christen grinned.

“I have this hidden talent,” Tobin hummed, “where I can see two people and pretty reliably tell if they’ve slept together. I’m right maybe 96 percent of the time.”

Christen was about to laugh, to continue down this seemingly playful path they’d gone down. But then she noticed the hard edge to some of Tobin’s words, the envious glint in those brown eyes, and she realized this wasn’t some fun fact. This was definitely about the blonde at the bar and Tobin had definitely seen them together.

“Oh,” Christen sighed, swallowing thickly and pushing her hair away from her face. 

“Am I still at 96 percent?” Tobin wondered, looking at the way Christen was physically reacting and knowing she was right. 

“I’m sorry,” Christen grimaced. “It was before I met you, Tobin. It was a long time ago.”

“You don’t need to say sorry,” Tobin said softly, reaching out for Christen’s hand. 

“I don’t even remember her name if that helps?” Christen asked, tangling her fingers with Tobin’s.

“Not sure it takes the jealousy away, but it certainly inflates my ego,” Tobin teased. 

“You have nothing to be jealous about,” Christen replied softly.

“Watching any woman look at you the way she did will probably always make me a little jealous,” Tobin shrugged. 

“I didn’t even notice. The only person I notice noticing me is you,” Christen murmured, bringing their clasped hand to her lips and brushing a kiss across Tobin’s knuckles.

Tobin silently pulled her hand away from Christen’s and placed both of her hands on Christen’s hips, tugging her slightly closer on the couch. Once Christen was close enough, Tobin wrapped a hand around the back of Christen’s thigh and pulled it across her lap so that Christen was straddling her hips. 

“We both have pasts before one another, but I think I’ll always be jealous of people who’ve had you,” Tobin mumbled, running her hands up Christen’s thighs and pushing the skirt she was wearing up her legs. 

“You’re the only one who has me now,” Christen whispered, leaning her forearms against Tobin’s shoulders. She dipped her head down and left a lingering kiss on Tobin’s lips. 

Tobin chased her lips, putting every ounce of desire and passion and love into kissing Christen. She ran her tongue along Christen’s bottom lip, tasting the salt that was still lingering from Christen’s margarita. 

“I couldn’t even tell you were jealous,” Christen murmured, ghosting her lips across Tobin’s cheek and down the hard line of her jaw. She reached up with her hands and undid Tobin’s bun, letting her loose waves fall. “I didn’t know.”

“I just wanted to take you home,” Tobin husked, pushing her hands even further up Christen’s legs. 

“And do what?” Christen asked, nipping at the corner of Tobin’s jaw, rolling her hips down into Tobin’s. 

“Hear you scream my name. Just mine. No one else’s,” Tobin whispered, feeling a slight blush heat her cheeks at the honest words that left her lips. 

Christen let out a sharp breath, her lips stilling against the side of Tobin’s throat. 

“I’d like that,” Christen whispered, starting up again, her mouth moving down Tobin’s neck, sucking and teasing none too gently. 

Tobin didn’t hesitate. She’d been waiting all night to come back to Christen’s apartment and worship Christen.  So, just like she’d made a habit of doing, Tobin stood up with Christen’s legs hooked around her hips and carried her to the bed. 

She made quick work of the skirt’s zipper before even laying Christen down on the soft sheets. And she stood at the foot of the bed, simply admiring the woman in front of her, the woman whose chest was heaving and bottom lip was being tortured between her teeth. 

“May I?” Tobin asked quietly, tugging slightly at the bottom of the skirt. 

“Yes, Tobin,” Christen replied, lifting her hips up off the bed to make things easier. “Only you can. Only you.”

Heat pooled low in Tobin’s stomach, causing pressure to build between her legs, a pressure that had been present nearly all night but was now becoming unbearable. 

She pulled the skirt off, tossing it behind her as she crawled up the bed and hovered over Christen in her silky, green top and a pair of the thinnest black underwear Tobin had ever seen. 

“Same goes,” Tobin whispered, pulling Christen up and taking her shirt off once Christen had lifted her arms above her head. “Only you.” 

Christen answered the invitation, unbuttoning Tobin’s shirt quickly and pushing it from her shoulders. She then undid Tobin’s belt and pulled it out from the loops, tossing it onto the ground. 

“You know what’s funny?” Christen asked, her fingers popping open the button of Tobin’s jeans. 

“What?” Tobin murmured, helping Christen push her jeans down her thighs. 

“My jealousy’s loud. In your face. It’s obvious,” Christen hummed, trailing her hands up Tobin’s sides. “And even if yours is quiet out there in the world, you still want me to be loud.”

“I love hearing you,” Tobin shrugged, sliding off the bed and pulling her jeans the rest of the way off. “Would you rather me be louder about it out in the world? Because I almost joined you at the bar, but you seemed to be handling yourself just fine,” she added, crawling back up between Christen’s legs. 

Christen shook her head, reaching behind herself to unclasp her bra and pull it down her arms. She then tugged on Tobin’s hips to bring their bodies flush together. 

“You don’t need to be. Just show me now,” Christen replied softly, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s. “Be loud with me now when it’s only us.”

Tobin was already moving, her lips leaving a trail of kisses across Christen’s collarbones and along the base of her throat. She licked and sucked and pressed barely-there kisses to Christen’s skin, taking her time and savoring each and every sensory detail. 

Just like always, she could smell the honeysuckle and jasmine scents that followed Christen everywhere, embedded in her hair products and her body wash and lotion. She could taste how Christen’s skin was slightly salty now, not yet sweaty but on the cusp. She could hear the soft sighs that slipped from Christen’s lips and the raspy breaths that filled her chest. And she could feel Christen’s heart beating against her lips as she pressed kiss after kiss above it. 

She lavished Christen’s chest with even more kisses, leaving light marks along the swell of Christen’s breasts where she knew they would be hidden. Tobin took a nipple between her lips, flicking it softly with her tongue and sucking gently before letting her teeth scrape over the peak. And when she’d finished, she switched to the other side, making sure to give each side an equal amount of attention. 

Christen threaded her fingers in the soft waves at the back of Tobin’s head, pushing her chest up into Tobin’s mouth. 

She loved the way Tobin loved her. She loved the soft touches and the adoration and tenderness they usually relied on to caress each other over the precipice of pleasure. 

But she loved the way Tobin loved her like this. 

Desperate and strong, like Tobin couldn’t have enough, couldn’t get enough. It hovered in the gray area of ecstasy between too much and too little, keeping her wanting more and never getting it. When Tobin’s touches had more simmering power beneath them, when her teeth had more bite, when her kisses were just a bit more bruising, it did something to Christen. It made her feel more than loved and cherished and adored. It made her feel desired .

“So good, Tobin,” Christen husked, making sure to use her name just like Tobin had asked. “Feels so good.”

Tobin kissed down Christen’s body, pausing at her hip bones to lavish them with her tongue. She let her index fingers slip into the side of Christen’s underwear, feeling just how incredibly delicate and thin the fabric was. 

And then she couldn’t help but think about how she’d never seen this underwear before. Christen basically lived at the house now, her clothes in a matching dresser beside Tobin’s, and Tobin had the distinct pleasure of taking her clothes off on a regular basis, so she knew Christen’s underwear. She knew her clothes. She knew which ones Christen liked best and which ones Christen kept but hardly wore. 

So, she knew that these were new, and that only made heat build between her legs. Knowing that Christen had bought a pair of extremely thin, extremely sexy underwear and she got to take them off, no one else, almost made Tobin groan. 

She moved her hands away from the waistband of the underwear, deciding to take her time here too. Instead of taking the thin piece of fabric off, she pushed Christen’s legs further apart and ran her nose along the sheer fabric, pressing a few kisses as she went. 

“I know they say slow and steady wins the race,” Christen huffed out a little breathlessly, writhing on the bed, her hands fisting in the sheets. “But, baby, this is slow .”

“I can stop,” Tobin smirked, pressing her lips against Christen’s inner thigh. 

“Don’t you-” Christen gasped, her hips jolting at the feeling of Tobin’s tongue moving down her thigh. “Don’t you dare stop.”

“I love these,” Tobin hummed, pressing her tongue on the wettest part of Christen’s underwear. 

Christen grinned at the tail end of her next gasp. “It was hard to keep them hidden now that my stuff’s at home.”

Tobin simply hummed, slowly licking up the sheer fabric, pressing her tongue more firmly when she found a spot that made Christen’s hips jerk. 

“Jesus, Tobin. I bought them so they’d come off ,” Christen whined.

“But they look really good on,” Tobin husked, using a finger to push the underwear aside and slipping her tongue into the wet heat between Christen’s legs. 

“I- Fuck,” Christen rasped, already feeling dangerously close to the edge and Tobin had barely even touched her. “Tobin- baby, I-” she panted, her grip on the bedsheets and on the back of Tobin’s head tightening almost painfully.

Tobin moved her finger away and let the underwear cover Christen again, returning to what she’d been doing earlier and licking Christen over the fabric barrier. 

Christen’s eyes flew open and she looked down. “Why’d you stop?” she choked out.

“May I take these off?” Tobin smirked, pressing a few kisses to Christen’s inner thighs. 

Christen narrowed her eyes at the teasing smirk on Tobin’s face. “You know you can,” Christen all but huffed.

“It’s always good to ask,” Tobin hummed, reaching up and hooking her fingers in the waistband of the underwear again. She tugged slowly, letting her fingers brush against every bit of Christen’s legs as she pulled the fabric down to her ankles. 

And then she looked. 

She tossed the underwear off the bed and sat back on her knees, looking at the woman she loved most, completely bare on the bed in front of her. 

“Stunning,” she mumbled, more to herself than for Christen, as her fingers brushed over Christen’s ankles. 

Christen felt a light blush color her cheeks at the softly-spoken compliment. It felt almost out of place, in a moment that had previously been hot and steamy and wanting. But it felt right. It always did with Tobin.

Christen sat up and cradled Tobin’s face between her hands, kissing the wonderstruck look off Tobin’s face.

“I love you,” Christen whispered, leaving one final kiss on Tobin’s lips before laying back down. She let her legs fall open as she smiled at Tobin, the invitation clear.

“I love you,” Tobin repeated, finally sinking into Christen and hooking Christen’s legs over her shoulders. 

Tobin buried her face between Christen’s legs, running her tongue through the heat she’d been building up with each touch and kiss and taste. She moaned into Christen, the taste covering her tongue and overwhelming her senses. And with each brush of her tongue, Christen’s hips bucked up off the bed. Tobin knew it wouldn’t be long. She knew Christen didn’t really need to be worked up. 

So, when Christen’s back started arching off the mattress and her heels started digging into Tobin’s back, she stopped. She turned her head and kissed Christen’s thigh again, brushing her tongue along the sensitive skin there, Christen’s fingers pulling on her hair. 

“You- you suck,” Christen groaned, pushing her head back into the mattress and squeezing her eyes tightly shut, feeling the looming orgasm recede once more.

“I can suck,” Tobin mumbled, sucking gently on Christen’s inner thigh. “Better?” 

“Tobin,” Christen all but whined, tugging on the back of Tobin’s head and trying to pull her back to where she wanted her. “Come on.”

“What?” Tobin husked, enjoying the way Christen was responding to her every touch. “Here?” she asked, slipping her tongue higher up Christen’s thigh but definitely not where Christen wanted her. 

“Not if you- Jesus,” Christen rasped, a broken moan tumbling past her lips when Tobin sucked a bruise into her skin. “Not if you want me to scream your name,” Christen added, more than a little breathless, her attempt at pulling Tobin higher more than a little firm.

Tobin let her tongue slip between Christen’s legs again, just where she wanted her. She tasted and teased and worked Christen up again, taking her to the edge with just a few swipes of her tongue before she pulled back again, this time just staring up at the wrecked look on Christen’s face. 

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Christen husked, lifting her hand from the bedsheets and running it over her face.

“They say that the more you build yourself up, the better the orgasm,” Tobin hummed, slowly running two fingers between Christen’s legs where her tongue had just been. 

“I thought they said that it’s better to have an orgasm than not to have one,” Christed gritted out, forcing her eyes to open and look down at the cocky smirk on Tobin’s face.

“Oh, baby,” Tobin whispered, sinking her two fingers inside, making Christen’s eye flutter shut and a choked gasp leave her lips. “You’ll have more than one.” 

Without further hesitation, Tobin curled her fingers and buried her face back between Christen’s legs, licking and sucking as her fingers worked Christen up again, taking her to the edge that she’d already visited twice. 

Tobin wasn’t planning on pulling back again, but even if she had been planning to, Christen’s grip on the back of her neck wouldn’t have allowed her to. Not only that, but there was no way Tobin would deny Christen again when loud moans were ripping themselves from her chest, sending even more heat between Tobin’s legs. 

She made sure to push Christen over the edge, not once but three times in a row, to make up for the teasing she’d put Christen through. 

And each time Christen toppled over the edge, she screamed Tobin’s name.

“Do you need water?” Tobin asked quietly, running a hand up and down Christen’s side. 

Christen let out a breathy chuckle as she came down from her high, her eyes fluttering open to meet Tobin’s, finding the woman she was hopelessly in love with hovering over her. 

“I need a recovery shake after that,” Christen replied with a sated smile.

“I can make those,” Tobin grinned, pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek. 

Christen shook her head and used her hand on the back of Tobin’s neck to redirect the kiss, bringing their lips together. Christen licked into Tobin’s mouth, letting out a moan at the taste of herself on Tobin’s tongue. 

She reached down and pulled Tobin more firmly on top of her, slotting her thigh between Tobin’s.

“I have a better idea,” Christen whispered against Tobin’s lips.

“I’m about to be teased relentlessly, aren’t I?” Tobin murmured, rubbing circles into the skin over Christen’s hips with her thumbs. 

Christen simply smirked and pushed at the waistband of Tobin’s boxers, helping Tobin get them off and settle back on top of her, her leg pushing up against the apex of Tobin’s thighs.

Tobin whimpered when she realized just how wet she was, easily moving against Christen’s thigh and longing for more friction. 

“Go slower,” Christen said softly, her tone holding a slight command to it. 

Tobin pressed her hands into the mattress on either side of Christen’s head. She had to force her hips to slow down, stuttering to a stop before starting over at a slower speed, her hips bucking and twitching, longing for more. 

Christen propped her heel up on the bed, changing the angle and adding a bit more friction. She let her fingertips ghost across Tobin’s stomach and chest, her green eyes drinking in the sight above her. 

“Slow. Just like that, baby,” Christen hummed, the corner of her mouth twitching up into a smile. “Not enough to get yourself off. Not yet.”

“Fuck,” Tobin whimpered, her hips mindlessly jerking forward a little quicker. 

Christen’s hand moved to Tobin’s hip, stilling her movements, earning herself a frustrated whine. “Not yet means not yet, Tobin. You had your way with me, now it’s my turn to set the pace.”

Tobin slowed down again, rolling her hips at a tragically slow pace and feeling herself just get wetter and wetter, dripping against Christen’s muscular thigh. 

Christen let out a low hum of approval and moved her hand away from Tobin’s hip, tracing her fingertips up the twitching muscles in Tobin’s stomach, between her breasts, and up to cradle her cheek. 

She simply watched as pleasure rippled across Tobin’s features, as her brow furrowed in concentration, and vague frustration, at the slow pace. She watched and she witnessed and she loved. Always loved.  

“Is this enough for you? Can you come like this?” Christen husked, running her thumb along Tobin’s bottom lip.

“I can get close,” Tobin moaned, sinking further against Christen’s thigh to get more pressure. “Fuck, baby it’s so slow.”

“I know. I think you can, Tobin,” Christen challenged softly. “I think you can come without me even touching you.”

A keening whine slipped from Tobin’s lips, and if this were their first time, if they hadn’t been loving one another for over a year, she might have flushed with embarrassment. Because Christen was right. She was nearing the edge, her legs were twitching, and she was soon to be falling apart simply from grinding against Christen and listening to her voice. 

“I think you like this. The control. The slow speed. I think you like it, baby,” Christen continued, keeping her voice low and sweet like honey, knowing that with each word, she was helping Tobin toward the edge, all without even touching her. 

“Chris,” Tobin moaned, jerking her hips forward and rolling into Christen’s leg. 

“I think once you make yourself come, once you do it without me...I’ll touch you with just my fingers. And then just my tongue. And if you’re lucky, I’ll use both,” Christen whispered with a smirk playing at her lips. 

Tobin could feel herself toppling. She could feel herself falling apart. Her legs were tense and twitching, her hips had completely lost the steady rhythm Christen had insisted on, her toes were curling, and Christen’s name was slipping off of her tongue like a mantra or a prayer. She was wrecked and falling apart against Christen’s body, completely overwhelmed by the woman beneath her and the hold she had on her. 

“I love you,” Tobin breathed out, as soon as she’d collapsed, her muscles twitching as she pulled in breath after breath. 

Christen smiled and ran her fingers up and down Tobin’s spine, cradling Tobin to her chest.

“I love you too,” Christen hummed in reply.

“I don’t- I can’t believe-” Tobin mumbled, her eyes still fluttering open and closed in her blissed-out state. 

“What, baby?” Christen asked softly.

“I can’t believe I get to love you,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to the hollow at the base of Christen’s throat. 

Christen hummed in agreement, still not believing that she got to love Tobin.

“Feeling’s mutual,” Christen replied, gently rolling them over so she was hovering above Tobin, looking down at her with the softest green eyes. “But I’m going to keep doing it even if you can’t believe it,” she added, placing her lips on Tobin’s and sliding her hand between Tobin’s legs. 

“Me too,” Tobin husked, already lifting her hips off the bed to meet Christen’s hand.

Tobin still didn’t fully understand Janice. She’d seen Christen make them coffee before, but Christen pressed the buttons with practiced ease and speed, and Tobin had trouble following along. The one time Christen had tried to walk her through making a cup of coffee, they’d both been completely naked, and Tobin hadn’t been focused on the coffee at all. 

But she’d kept Christen up late. They’d taken a break from making love to watch the sunrise together, and only once sunlight was streaming into the apartment did they fall asleep, wrapped in one another’s arms and tangled in Christen’s bedsheets. 

Now, it was noon, and Tobin didn’t want to wake Christen up without a warm cup of coffee and the promise of more cuddles. She pushed her glasses up her nose and stared at the buttons on the machine, trying to figure out if one of the buttons was for frothed milk or for actual coffee. 

In the end, she went with her gut, messing up the first cup and getting it perfect on her second. She doctored Christen’s coffee, mixing in Christen’s preferred amount of milk, before carrying both mugs over to her bed. 

Christen was lying flat on her stomach, her bare back not covered by the sheet. Small puffs of air left her lips, and a few soft mumbles were said against the fabric of the pillowcase. She had an arm over Tobin’s half of the bed, unconsciously searching for Tobin and the body heat she brought with her. And if at all possible, Tobin fell even more in love. 

She sank into bed, tracing her fingers over Christen’s back as the woman slept. And when Christen squirmed closer and burrowed into her body, Tobin fell even more, sinking deeper and deeper into this life with Christen with each second that passed. 

“I feel like I just played 90 minutes against the Dash,” Christen mumbled, pressing her face against Tobin’s chest and tightening her arm around Tobin’s waist. 

“In a good way?” Tobin chuckled, pressing her lips to the top of Christen’s head. 

“Thoroughly fucked and thriving,” Christen replied, her voice still hoarse from sleep, the words mumbled into the Stanford t-shirt Tobin had donned. 

“I can make you a recovery shake if you want. The offer still stands,” Tobin teased, holding Christen a little closer. 

“I smell coffee,” Christen hummed, popping her head up and offering Tobin a sleepy smile. 

Tobin reached over to the bedside table and grabbed the cup of coffee for Christen, pressing it into Christen’s hands. 

Christen sat up, the sheets pooling around her waist as she took a sip of coffee, humming in satisfaction as the first bit of caffeine hit her system.

“Guess you finally got Janice to cooperate,” Christen observed, smiling at Tobin over the rim of her mug.

“She could tell I was desperate this morning,” Tobin hummed, taking a sip of her own coffee, the steam completely fogging up her glasses and making Christen chuckle. 

It was quiet for a few moments as they sipped their coffees, both of them becoming a little bit more awake with every sip.

“Is it bad if I liked this?” Christen asked quietly, her brow furrowing a bit.

“What do you mean? The sex should be good,” Tobin grinned, knocking her knee into Christen’s softly. 

Christen rolled her eyes affectionately. “I meant like...alone time. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with you and Scottie. I love Pancake Sundays and helping her with homework and getting woken up at the crack of dawn because she wants to tell me a funny dream she had. But I like...this. Time with just you,” Christen admitted, her face twisting a bit, almost like it was a bad thing to think that.

“That’s not bad at all,” Tobin said softly, reaching out a hand and taking one of Christen’s in her own. “When I first moved to the city and was a single parent, my mom would take Scottie a couple of times a month, sometimes for the entire weekend, just to let me sleep and work ahead on projects. And I used to feel really guilty about loving the alone time,” Tobin sighed. 

“But I kind of figured out that I didn’t love the alone time more than time with Scottie; I just loved it for a different reason. The alone time made me better for the Scottie time. I love this alone time a lot more than the alone time I used to have on my own, but I don’t love it more than time with you and Scottie. I love them both differently, and time alone with you makes me feel even more secure and confident for time with you and Scottie,” Tobin murmured, pressing a kiss to the back of Christen’s hand. 

“Just because I have Scottie and we have our life at the house doesn’t mean we don’t also get to be a normal couple that’s completely in love with one another and needs alone time,” Tobin added. 

Christen let out a small sigh of relief and squeezed Tobin’s hand. “How long have you been awake? That was a lot of words this close to caffeine,” she teased softly, gratitude for what Tobin said and the assurances she offered shining in her eyes.

“I was making up for the very few words last night,” Tobin smirked, remembering how Christen had playfully counted her words. 

Christen chuckled and drained the last of her coffee, handing Tobin her empty mug. 

“I’m feeling like taking a shower,” Christen hummed with a slow smile. 

“Oh, really?” Tobin replied, a sleepy smile on her face. “Is this a singular activity?”

“I don’t think so. I’m all about that normal couple time, and showering together definitely fits in with that,” Christen teased, raising her arms above her head and stretching.

“It’ll be a lot better than the last time we tried it and Scottie knocked on the door asking for help picking out her outfit,” Tobin murmured, watching Christen stretch, her eyes trailing over what the sheet wasn’t covering. 

“Nobody here to interrupt us,” Christen replied, moving the sheets from her lap and getting up from the bed. She walked toward the bathroom, throwing a smile over her shoulder. “You coming, Tobin?”

Tobin almost tripped as she tried to detangle herself from the sheets, hurrying to follow after Christen and join her for a warm, uninterrupted shower. 

If Christen’s fridge wasn’t desolate, and if they hadn't already gotten takeout for lunch, they might have stayed in for the night. But Christen wanted to get out of the apartment, even if just for a little bit, and enjoy their last night before picking up Scottie from Tobin’s parents the next day.

They walked hand in hand down the block after a lovely dinner, the moon already in the sky and the sounds of the city at night coming to life around them.

They passed lines to get into comedy clubs and small parks emptying out for the night. They stopped by some basketball courts and watched a pick-up game. They walked and walked, every corner revealing another hidden secret about nights in New York City. 

Tobin was telling Christen a story about dropping Jeffrey off at college for the first time, relishing in the way she could make Christen throw her head back in laughter. They had been laughing for most of the night, telling dorky stories and teasing one another. They’d shared their food with one another, wanting to try more than one thing, and sipped on their glasses of wine. 

And Tobin loved it. 

As much as Tobin absolutely adored being a mom, she loved that Christen could also make her feel like a teenager on a first date with no responsibility and nothing to worry about. She loved that Christen could make her feel light and uncomplicated. 

“Those look incredible,” Christen murmured, pulling Tobin to a stop outside of a pastry shop, gesturing at the rows of colorful macaroons in the display window.  

“Why don’t we get some?” Tobin whispered, grinning at the awestruck expression on Christen’s face. 

“Because they’re sugary and it’s been a lazy bye-weekend so far,” Christen replied, almost with a sigh.

“We can do sprints in the park tomorrow. Scottie can time us,” Tobin offered, wiggling her eyebrows. 

Christen arched a brow in Tobin’s direction, a smile playing at her lips.

“And we can split an order of four, so really, you’re only eating two,” Tobin added. 

Christen pressed a kiss to Tobin’s cheek and pulled her toward the door of the shop.

“Also, I wouldn’t call it a lazy weekend,” Tobin added softly, brushing her lips along the shell of Christen’s ear.

The delighted laugh died on Christen’s lips when she saw who was standing at the counter of the pastry shop, proving just how small this concrete jungle truly was.

“Oh fuck me,” Christen grumbled under her breath, her hand tightening in Tobin’s.

“I did,” Tobin tried to tease, unaware of what Christen had already seen. 

Christen shook her head and leaned into Tobin’s space. “Andrew Shields is at the counter.”

“What a dick,” Tobin sighed, loosening her grasp on Christen’s hand so that she could pull her hand away. 

Christen tightened her hold on Tobin’s hand and stepped up to the counter, part of her wanting this stupid reporter to notice her, and another part of her hoping he didn’t.

“What can I help you with?” an employee asked. 

Christen smiled at the employee, painfully aware that Andrew Shields was less than two feet away. “We’ll take a box of four macaroons. One vanilla, one raspberry, a lemon, and a…” 

“Coffee,” Tobin suggested, rubbing Christen’s hand with her thumb. 

“And a coffee, please,” Christen added. 

“Coming right up,” the employee replied, grabbing a box from the counter and starting their order.

“There’s the happy couple,” Andrew smirked, looking over at Christen and Tobin. 

Christen plastered a fake smile on her face and turned to face Andrew. “Good to see you again, Austin,” Christen replied, purposefully getting the name wrong.

Tobin had to bite on the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling at Christen’s words and the fake smile she’d put on for this guy. 

“Andrew,” he corrected, narrowing his eyes slightly at Christen. 

“Apologies. I’m terrible with names,” Christen replied with an airy, forced chuckle.

“You must be Tobin. It’s nice to meet you personally,” Andrew said, reaching out his hand for a handshake. 

Christen stepped slightly in front of Tobin, blocking the handshake. “Best of luck with your next article. I hope this one manages to make it on the front page.”

“Tobin, you’re welcome to give me a call once Christen’s charade is over and she’s set you aside. I’d be happy to sit down for an interview,” Andrew added, shoving his card in Tobin’s coat pocket when she wouldn’t take it from his hand. 

It took every ounce of self-restraint inside of Christen not to deck this guy and knock that smarmy grin off his face. Instead, she offered Andrew one final, fakely sweet smile. 

“Good night, Austin.”


“Whatever you say,” Christen replied, turning back around and stepping up to the register.

Tobin handed her credit card to the employee before Christen could start digging through her purse. She took the box and the card and let Christen lead the way out of the bakery as quickly as possible. 

“You okay?” Tobin asked gently once they’d walked a couple blocks. 

“I hate that guy,” Christen growled.

“Understandably,” Tobin nodded, pulling Andrew’s business card out of her coat pocket and tossing it into the nearest trash can. 

“And to think he- he had the balls to offer you an exclusive interview? Like I’m some homewrecking trainwreck who’s going to leave you heartbroken and you’ll need someone to spill it all to,” Christen ranted, her steps getting faster and her hand gestures getting wilder as she spoke.

“You are the opposite of a homewrecking trainwreck,” Tobin said, taking Christen’s hand in her free one and tugging softly to get Christen to slow down. “And even if you did leave me heartbroken, I wouldn’t be spilling anything.”

Christen took a deep breath and turned into Tobin, letting the fight drain out of her. 

“Sorry about that,” Christen sighed.

“Why are you sorry?” Tobin murmured, tucking a strand of hair behind Christen’s ear. “I’m glad you hurried out of there because I really don’t want an assault charge, and he’d be the guy to do it.”

Christen choked out a laugh, leaning into Tobin’s touch. “I’m just sorry the world is always going to want something from us. A picture, an exclusive, a confirmation. It won’t ever go away,” she admitted softly.

“You don’t need to apologize for things you have no control over,” Tobin whispered. “I’m pretty sure that’s what you told me when Roni made her surprise appearance. I just want you. I don’t care about people like Andrew or Roni or really anyone else, other than Scottie and you.”

“Kelley will be very disappointed she didn’t make the list,” Christen joked, reaching out to grab onto the front of Tobin’s coat, pulling her just a bit closer.

Tobin rolled her eyes but couldn’t stop the smile that spread across her face. 

“I love you,” Tobin promised.

“I love you too,” Christen replied, putting the full force of her love behind her words. “And no matter how many pictures they get of me with heart eyes, this love is always going to be just ours.”

“You do have pretty serious heart eyes,” Tobin hummed, knowing she wore a matching pair of heart eyes for Christen. 

Chapter Text

I've been high, I've been low

I've been everywhere a soul can go

I've seen the Northern Lights and heaven too

But I ain't ever seen anything like you

If you ever need somebody down the road

You should know

I'd stand in any ticket line

Any mountain I would climb

Just to find my way to where you are

I would swim across the sea

I would cut down any tree

Leave a trail through a forest in the dark

Pave a path to get back to where you are

And if you need a light to shine

I'll buy you any star hanging in the sky

Oh and if this world, it breaks your heart

Break mine in two and take the other part

Well, you know it already belongs to you

And it's true

(Christen - “Where You Are” by Tenille Townes)


She'll take you in, feed your friends

Her open arms are welcoming

She'll rub your back all night when you're crying

She'll listen to you tell your story

Hold your fear and all your worries

Help you find the truth when they're all lying

Even when it's hopeless, she keeps trying

She's your mother, you love her

There won't be another place like her again that you call home

She stands here to help you, there's nothing she won't do

As long as she's alive, you're not alone, you've got each other

That's your mother

(Scottie - "Mother" by Sugarland)


Come sing me a slow

Keep me un alone

Until I go to sleep

Until I go to sleep

The faint smell of your clothes

Reminds me that I'm home

Sink me into sleep

Sink me into sleep

Lately I've been laying lonely


Longing to be dreaming of

Only you who can calm the thunders

Only you who can steal the colors oh

It’s only you my love

Only you my love

Its only you

Come ease my slumber

(Tobin - "slumber" by Lewis Watson, Lucy Rose)  

“Do you need anything, girls?” Christen asked, poking her head into Scottie’s room and offering Scottie and Gemma a smile.

“Nope, thank you,” Scottie grinned, looking up from the bracelet she was making. Christen had already helped them pick out snacks in the kitchen, so they were set for the next couple of hours. 

“, thank you,” Gemma added, waving at Christen with the same awestruck look on her face that she always had when Christen was around. 

“You’re welcome. I’ll be heading out for a bit, but I’ll see you guys for dinner,” Christen replied, sending the girls one last smile before shutting the door. 

“I’m still not over it,” Gemma said from behind the door. “You get to see Christen Press every single day !”

“She’s pretty cool,” Scottie hummed, more focused on the bracelet she was making than on the Olympian who’d just offered her more snacks. 

Christen chuckled softly to herself and stepped away from the closed door, heading back downstairs.

She went down the extra flight and stepped into the studio. “Do you need anything, babe?” Christen asked, a smile gracing her lips when she took in the sight of Tobin, in that ridiculously lovely cut-off shirt, flinging paint onto a blank canvas.

“You,” Tobin hummed, reaching out a slightly messy hand for Christen. 

“You’ve got paint everywhere,” Christen chuckled, staying on the stairs.

“ don’t want to kiss me?” Tobin asked with a smirk, pausing her movements and looking over at Christen. 

Christen hopped down the last few steps and made her way across the studio. She stepped right into Tobin’s space, pressing her shirt against Tobin’s and getting it covered in paint. She cupped Tobin’s cheeks, getting paint on her hands too, as she pulled Tobin in for a kiss, one that was definitely a little hotter since the kids were two floors up and not close by. 

“Screw the painting,” Tobin mumbled, dropping her brush and wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist. 

Christen chuckled against Tobin’s lips, indulging her for a few moments before she pulled away. 

“Finish the painting, and we can continue this tonight,” Christen grinned, stepping back and looking down at the paint now covering her arms and her shirt.

“Enjoy your team bonding,” Tobin smirked. 

“I think I’ll enjoy a quick shower first. Life with you is messy,” Christen winked.

“I’m pretty sure I warned you about that,” Tobin laughed, feeling her body warm up like it always did when she was with Christen. 

After leaning in to give Tobin a lingering kiss, Christen backed up toward the stairs with a smile on her face.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Christen grinned, offering Tobin a final smile before high-tailing up the stairs, definitely in need of a shower.

“Is that paint?” Crystal whispered.

Christen blanched and wiped at her face and neck. “Shit, I thought I got it all,” she whispered back, looking down at her arms and hands.

“Elbow,” Crystal laughed, pointing at the green paint Christen had missed. 

Christen wet her thumb and scrubbed at the small fleck of paint on her arm. “Thanks,” Christen replied softly.

“Do you guys- nope never mind, I don’t want to know,” Crystal grinned. 

“You really don’t,” Christen said with a laugh, her cheeks heating up slightly.

“You’re lucky Kel didn’t see it first,” Crystal hummed, smirking at her best friend. 

“See what?” Kelley called out, having heard her name and not much else.

“Nothing!” Christen and Crystal said at the same time.

Christen shook her head at the pout Kelley shot in her direction and then looked around the room. 

Crystal had offered to host a game night for the team, something to bring them all together as the season wrapped up. Some of the rookies were playing Twister in one room, and a few veteran players were engaged in a very intense game of Monopoly. But Christen, Crystal, Kelley, Becky, and Morgan had decided to just sit in the living room and enjoy the evening off. 

“Amanda is really excited about the trick or treating thing we’re doing after the game tomorrow,” Becky said, hoarding a bowl of popcorn to herself, as Kelley repeatedly tried to steal handfuls from it.

“It’ll be adorable. All those little kids running around on the field, getting candy from us,” Morgan grinned.

“What’s Scottie dressing up as?” Crystal asked, taking a sip of her sparkling water. 

“It’s a surprise,” Christen chuckled. “But the three of us definitely took inspiration from...nearby.”

“Statues of Liberty,” Kelley guessed, finally managing to grab a handful of popcorn from Becky with a triumphant grin. 

“Is it a group costume again this year?” Becky asked, ignoring Kelley and focusing on Christen. 

“Insofar as we’re all dressing as the same person,” Christen nodded.

“Elvises!” Crystal guessed. “How cute would that be!” 

Christen had to give Crystal that. Seeing Scottie Heath in a little mullet wig and blue suede shoes would be adorable. 

“Maybe next year,” Christen laughed, accepting the bowl of pretzels from Morgan and taking a handful.

“Amanda?” Morgan guessed. 

“You’ll see it tomorrow!” Christen replied with a smile. “What we really should be talking about is the fact that Sonny is coming out again in three weeks,” she added, wiggling her brows in Kelley’s direction. 

“It’s like she likes me or something,” Kelley said through a mouthful of popcorn. 

“I wonder why,” Crystal jokingly said under her breath, only loud enough for Christen to hear.

“Do you think she’s going to say yes?” Becky asked, causing Crystal, Christen, and Morgan to look over at Kelley in shock.

“Yes? To what?” Christen asked, leaning forward excitedly.

“There's a chance of her possibly being traded, and it would be great if she asked for Gotham,” Kelley said softly, a blush heating her cheeks. “But that won’t happen until January-ish. I’m just going to put some feelers out, see if she wants to move here. With me.”

Christen, Crystal, and Morgan all shared looks of delighted surprise.

“Kel, that’s amazing,” Morgan gushed, reaching out to clap Kelley on the shoulder.

Christen caught Kelley’s eye and shot her a smile. Her life wasn’t the only one that had changed last year. Kelley’s life had as well, and she was overjoyed at how happy her friend seemed. 

“I’m so happy for you,” Christen murmured, getting a little choked up.

“If you cry, I’ll cry, so lock it up,” Kelley huffed, blowing out a breath and pointing a finger in Christen’s direction.

Christen laughed and kept it together, feeling nothing but gratitude for the way all of their lives had progressed and changed and grown. 

Feeling her phone vibrate in her pocket, Christen quickly pulled it out. Seeing that it was Tobin, a small smile made its way onto her face.

“I’ll be right back, guys,” Christen hummed, getting up from the couch. She walked down the hall, smiling at her teammates that she passed and then stepping into Crystal’s bedroom.

“Hi,” Christen greeted, holding the phone to her ear. “Miss me so much you had to call and hear my voice?”

“Basically,” Tobin laughed, trying to keep the tightness in her voice from being noticeable. 

“That doesn’t sound like my favorite laugh,” Christen said, dropping onto the corner of Crystal’s bed and feeling a small seed of worry plant itself in her chest. “What’s going on?”

“Do you think you could stay at Crystal’s or your place tonight? I can drop whatever you need off or maybe get Abby to bring it to you,” Tobin sighed. “Hey, it’s okay,” she said, pulling the phone away from her face to talk to Scottie. 

“Why? What happened? Is Scottie okay?” Christen rushed out.

“There’s a stomach bug going around her school, and she and Gemma definitely got it,” Tobin mumbled. 

“But, I just saw them. They were fine. They were making bracelets and eating Cheetos,” Christen replied, rubbing at the knotted worry in her chest that continued to grow.

“Chris, it’s okay. Kids get sick. Gemma’s dad picked her up, and Scottie’s drinking a Ginger Ale on the couch. I just don’t want you to get sick before your game, and hopefully, you didn’t get any germs from them already today,” Tobin sighed. 

“I can bring more Ginger Ale over? And maybe some saltines and chicken noodle soup,” Christen offered, pointedly ignoring Tobin’s worries about her getting sick.

“We’ll be okay. She’s not really hungry. I think she’ll fall asleep soon, and maybe she’ll feel better by game time tomorrow,” Tobin said softly. 

Christen ran a hand over her face. “I didn’t notice. She seemed fine, Tobin. I swear,” Christen sighed.

“Baby, I thought she looked fine too. She’ll be okay. Stomach bugs are sucky but quick. She wouldn’t want to get you sick,” Tobin assured, glancing at the little girl who was wrapped in a blanket, bundled up in a UNC sweatshirt, on the couch. 

Christen let out another sigh and nodded. “Okay...but you’ll text me if you need anything? Anything at all? And you’ll give her a hug for me?”

“I will call you if we need anything, and I’ll give her a huge hug,” Tobin promised. “I love you. Enjoy bonding.” 

“I love you,” Christen murmured. “Both of you. So much.”

“We know,” Tobin hummed. “We’ll see you tomorrow hopefully.” 

“See you tomorrow,” Christen replied softly.

“What’s worse than bad?” Scottie mumbled, holding her stomach and wrinkling her nose.

“Umm…terrible?” Tobin offered, holding Scottie’s hair back and rubbing her back as she sat next to the toilet. 

“I feel terrible, Mommy,” Scottie sighed, swaying into Tobin’s side. “I might feel worse than terrible. What would that be?”

“Horribly awful?” Tobin murmured, kissing the top of Scottie’s head. 

“I feel bad terrible horribly awful,” Scottie whispered, using the towel Tobin handed her to wipe her mouth.

“I think you and I are gonna have to have a feel better couch day,” Tobin said, peppering a few more kisses onto Scottie’s head. 

“But it’s Christen’s game against Racing, and it’s Halloween,” Scottie said with a furrowed brow. “I can rally. I already feel better. See?” she asked, smiling at Tobin weakly. And then her smile fell and she turned back to the toilet. “Okay, maybe not better better.”

“Buddy, you and I can watch the game from the couch, and once your stomach feels better, I’ll let you search the house for the secret Snickers stash I bought you,” Tobin promised, rubbing her hand up and down Scottie’s back as she threw up for the third time that morning. 

“No deal,” Scottie whimpered. “I can’t miss Christen’s game. I have to give her good luck forehead kisses and write on my wrist and walk her out.”

“Why don’t we call her and see what she says?” Tobin suggested, knowing that one look at Scottie would make Christen say no as well. Scottie was pale and clammy, she had dark circles under her eyes, and her cheeks already looked thin, although that was likely just Tobin worrying. 

It took exactly one look over FaceTime for Christen to say exactly what Tobin thought she’d say.

“Oh, sweetheart, you’re definitely not coming to the game today,” Christen said, her forehead creased in concern.

“But it’s Halloween,” Scottie sighed, knowing that her mom and Christen were right. 

“How about when you’re feeling better, the three of us dress up and celebrate it ourselves?” Christen replied softly, dropping down onto the carpeted floor of the hallway outside of the locker room.

“Yeah,” Scottie mumbled. “I wish I could give you a good luck forehead kiss. Oh! And who’s gonna walk you out?” 

“I told them I was going to walk out alone tonight. I wouldn’t do it without you, Scottie Heath,” Christen hummed with a small, half-smile.

“Well, this is my good luck forehead kiss, then,” Scottie said, blowing a kiss to the phone camera. 

Christen caught the kiss and tapped her forehead, making Scottie smile. “Thank you, sweetheart. I love you, and I hope you feel better soon,” Christen said softly.

“Have a great game,” Scottie murmured, looking at Christen on the screen with wide, sleepy eyes. 

Tobin carried the phone into the kitchen area, leaving Scottie in her blanket burrito on the couch. 

“Thanks,” Tobin hummed, taking a few deep breaths to settle her slightly churning stomach. 

“Of course. She definitely shouldn’t be at the game today. Take good care of her. I’ll stop by after the game to check in on her,” Christen replied.

“Always,” Tobin nodded, trying to ignore the pounding in her head. “You’re welcome to stop by. Maybe don’t hug her if you value your health.” 

“I’ll keep my distance. And I think you should take a nap. You look a little tired, babe,” Christen observed, her eyes narrowing in concern as she saw dark circles under Tobin’s eyes that matched Scottie’s. “Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m feeling good. She just woke me up a few times last night,” Tobin lied. 

Christen wasn’t sure if she fully believed Tobin, not with the tightness in her voice and the shiftiness in her eyes. But there wouldn’t be any way to know for sure until she was able to see her girls after the game tonight.

“Take care of you too, okay?” Christen asked, offering Tobin a smile. “I love you.”

“We’re both gonna take a nap. Just focus on the game,” Tobin said softly, noticing that Scottie was already dozing. “I love you too.” 

“I’ll be home soon,” Christen promised, blowing a kiss to Tobin on her phone screen.

“We’ll be watching you kick ass,” Tobin murmured, trying to keep her breakfast down when every part of her wanted to run to the bathroom. 

“Bye, babe,” Christen replied, offering a small wave and hanging up when she got a smile and wave from Tobin.

Tobin promptly hurried to the bathroom where she got sick just like Scottie had, just like she always did when Scottie got sick. She then took an Ibuprofen and continued to fix the soup she’d promised Scottie while listening to the game on TV. 

Christen opened the garage door and ran inside, hardly pausing to click the button to close it before running to the stairs. 

She’d barely managed to stay focused on the game tonight, too preoccupied with her worries about Scottie.

Scottie wasn’t even hers. Not really. Scottie was...kind of hers in a small way. But no matter how small, the fact that the best kid in the whole world got a stomach bug and she couldn’t be there to help made Christen want to skip the game and race home. 

She wanted to be there. Not just for the good or the funny or the fun parts. She wanted these parts too. She wanted every part of us and ours.

“Tobin?” Christen called out, hurrying up the stairs. 

Not getting a response, Christen got up the last step and moved toward the living room, stopping when she caught sight of Tobin and Scottie on the couch. 

Scottie was drowning in a large UNC sweatshirt, bundled up beneath at least four blankets. She was curled up against Tobin’s side, her gray eyes open but tired. Next to her, Tobin was fast asleep, one of Christen’s Stanford sweatshirts on her with the hood pulled up.

“Mommy’s hot,” Scottie whispered. 

Christen felt her heart tighten in her chest. She dropped her stuff on the counter and quickly moved into the living room.

“She is?” Christen asked quietly.

“Mhm. I had a fever all last night, but I think Mommy has it now,” Scottie sighed, dropping her head back onto a pillow. 

Christen gently placed her palm against Tobin’s forehead, feeling how hot and clammy it was. She sighed and pulled her hand away. 

“I think so too, sweetheart. How are you feeling?” Christen asked, moving to sit next to Scottie, putting her palm against Scottie’s forehead too and feeling a bit better when it wasn’t as hot as Tobin’s.

“I’m hungry,” Scottie murmured. “Mommy made me soup this morning, but I got sick and didn’t eat it.”

“How about I make you some more soup?” Christen offered, holding out her arms for Scottie. “We can eat it together.”

“Okay,” Scottie nodded, tugging blankets off of her body and piling them onto Tobin. 

Christen carried Scottie into the kitchen, setting her down on the counter. She pressed a quick kiss to Scottie’s forehead and then moved to the fridge. She found the soup and set out to heat it up, making sure to pause and get Scottie a glass of water to keep her hydrated. 

“Want anything else? Crackers maybe?” Christen wondered, scooping the newly hot soup into two bowls.

“Sure,” Scottie nodded, rubbing her eyes sleepily. 

Christen grabbed a box of Ritz Crackers from the cupboard and put it on the table, moving the bowls of soup and two spoons over there as well, before returning to where Scottie was still sitting on the counter.

“What about some tea or juice?” Christen asked, brushing some flyaways from Scottie’s forehead.

“Do you know how to make my secret drink?” Scottie asked quietly, looking at Christen with slightly pleading eyes. 

Christen hesitated, remembering that Tobin had explained what went into the drink, but not exactly how to make it. 

“I- I don’t,” Christen admitted with a grimace. “But I’ll ask Tobin when I take her upstairs while you eat, okay?” Christen added, carrying Scottie over to the table and getting her situated in her spot. “Don’t forget to drink your water, sweetheart,” Christen hummed, pressing a kiss to the top of Scottie’s head.

Christen moved back into the living room, her heart hurting at the sight of Tobin looking so pale and sick. She dropped down onto the cushion beside Tobin, gently extricating her from the many layers of blankets she had on.

“Babe,” Christen whispered, trying to wake Tobin up as nicely as possible. She smoothed the pad of her thumb across Tobin’s furrowed brow, cringing at how hot Tobin still felt. “Baby.”

Tobin’s eyebrows scrunched together slightly, and she turned her head, trying to slip back into sleep. Her throat was dry, her headache was overwhelming, and her stomach still felt off. 

“Tobin,” Christen murmured softly, continuing to run her fingertips over Tobin’s forehead, pushing the sweaty, baby hairs back.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Tobin rasped, squeezing her eyes more tightly shut. 

“Amanda gave me some sick days to use. I wouldn’t be anywhere else but here,” Christen replied, making sure her tone matched the gentleness of her touch.

“It’s the end of the season,” Tobin tried to argue, finally opening her eyes and pushing herself upright. 

“There will be more seasons,” Christen murmured, her hands falling to Tobin’s shoulders, holding her tightly so she didn’t sway or fall back into the couch. 

“Scottie,” Tobin mumbled, looking to where Scottie had just been on the couch. 

“I set her up with soup and fluids at the table,” Christen assured. “But let’s get you upstairs to bed. And on the way, you can tell me how to make her super secret drink.”

“I don’t need to sleep,” Tobin mumbled. “I took a nap, and you played 90 minutes. Great game by the way, good team win.” 

Christen chuckled at Tobin’s grumpy arguing. “Let me take care of you, my love. Come on, I’ll help you up the stairs.”

Tobin relented, standing up on shaky legs and making her way to where Scottie was sitting. She pressed a kiss to Scottie’s forehead before making her way toward the stairs. 

Christen’s arm was secure around Tobin’s waist as they climbed the stairs together, taking them slow and steady. They kept that pace down the hallway and into the bedroom. Christen led Tobin to the bed and got her settled down on the edge of it.

“Want to change clothes?” Christen offered, crouching down in front of Tobin, her hands on Tobin’s knees.

“That’s okay,” Tobin whispered, feeling even more heavy and exhausted than she had when she’d gotten off the couch. 

She didn’t want Christen to worry. She didn’t want Christen to be surrounded by two people with a stomach bug and the mess that that would cause around the house. 

“Well, the Stanford hoodie is pretty damp, so why don’t you take that off? I’ll grab you a more suitable option. Like UNC,” Christen said with a small smile.  

“Okay,” Tobin mumbled, pushing herself up in bed and tugging her arms out of the sweatshirt. 

Christen returned with a UNC sweatshirt, as promised, and exchanged it for the Stanford one, tossing that one into their shared laundry hamper. Once Tobin had put it on, she helped Tobin get settled beneath the covers, pressing a lingering kiss to Tobin’s head. 

“I’ll come back to check on you soon, babe,” Christen murmured softly. 

“You really don’t need to. I’m okay,” Tobin said quietly. 

Christen gave Tobin a small smile, reading the unspoken worry in Tobin’s eyes. “Taking care of you isn’t a burden to me. I love you, and I want to take care of you. Both of you,” Christen replied.

Tobin swallowed the lump in her throat, only able to nod back at Christen to let her know that she understood.

“Good talk,” Christen grinned. “Now how much honey should I put in this super secret drink? I want to get it right.”

Tobin couldn’t stop the lopsided smile that slipped onto her face or the adoration that filled her eyes as she looked at Christen. 

“Tablespoon should be good, and she likes her red mug for secret drinks,” Tobin replied. 

“Got it,” Christen hummed, pressing one final kiss to Tobin’s forehead and getting up from the edge of the bed. “Get some rest, Tobin.”

Tobin was rolling over in bed before Christen even left the room, sinking into sleep. 

Christen looked between the mug Scottie had set down on the table in front of her and Scottie’s face, trying to gauge her reaction. 

“Is it okay?” Christen asked, her brow furrowed slightly.

“It’s perfect,” Scottie said with a tiny smile, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. 

Christen let out a sigh of relief and smiled back at Scottie. “You feeling better?” she wondered, taking in the empty soup bowl, the half-finished roll of Ritz crackers, and the empty water cup in front of Scottie.

“Yeah, I’m just really tired and hoping I don’t see this later,” Scottie said honestly, pointing at the crackers and empty soup bowl. 

Christen nodded in agreement. “You and me both. Want to head upstairs and get in bed?”

“I want to finish this fi-” Scottie said, reaching for the mug and accidentally sloshing milk over the side and onto the table. “Oopsies.” 

Christen chuckled and got up to get a few towels, returning to clean up the spilled milk.

“I’m sorry,” Scottie sighed. “I can get it.” 

“I got it, sweetheart,” Christen replied. “No need to be sorry. I can make you more later,” she added, cleaning up the last of the milk and dropping the paper towels into her empty soup bowl.

Scottie sipped the last bit from the mug and carried it over to the sink, finally looking a little better with some color back in her cheeks. 

“Thanks for coming home,” Scottie said softly, almost to herself. 

Christen put the rest of their dishes in the sink as well, pausing when she heard Scottie’s mumbled words. 

“Of course. You know I’ll always come home, right?” Christen asked, reaching down to take Scottie’s offered hand and walk toward the stairs.

“Yeah, but we’re sick, and that’s no fun to be around,” Scottie said with a wrinkled nose. 

“Can I tell you a secret?” Christen replied softly.

“Sure,” Scottie nodded, walking a little slower than usual. 

“I love you and I love being around you, even when you’re sick,” Christen hummed, her words mirroring the same kind of thing Scottie told her when she had her bad days. “I always want to be here.”

Scottie nodded softly, a yawn ripping itself from her chest. “We love you too, even when we’re sick,” she sighed, pausing halfway up the stairs and leaning against the banister. “I have sleepy legs,” Scottie mumbled. 

“Here,” Christen said, pulling Scottie into her arms. “I’ll go the rest of the way for the both of us.”

Christen walked them toward Scottie’s bedroom, rubbing soothing circles across her back as Scottie tucked her face into Christen’s neck.

“How are your legs not tired?” Scottie murmured, her eyes already drooping closed. 

“I’m a professional athlete,” Christen replied with a teasing lilt in her voice.

Scottie only hummed into Christen’s skin, her arms sliding down Christen’s shoulders as she dozed. 

Christen used her hip to push open Scottie’s bedroom door, readjusting Scottie in her arms as she walked into the room. She dodged some piles of clothes and toys and set Scottie down gently, pulling the covers up to tuck her in.

“You’re going to feel so much better after you get some more sleep, sweetheart,” Christen whispered, pulling the sheets up to Scottie’s chin and then brushing some of Scottie’s hair away from her forehead. “I love you, and don’t you ever forget it.”

Scottie could hardly hear Christen’s words clearly, too relaxed and exhausted to fully hear her. But she knew they were words of love. They always were. They were words that she’d never expected to hear from anyone but her mom, and that made a slight prickle form behind her eyes. 

Because Christen loved her and wanted her and came home to her, even when she was sick. Christen was hers, and she was Christen’s, and that thought alone made a lump form in Scottie’s throat. 

Christen got up from the bed after leaving a gentle kiss on the crown of Scottie’s head, shuffling back toward the bedroom door.

“Momma,” Scottie rasped, reaching out a hand and opening her eyes to stare at Christen in her doorway.

Christen’s feet faltered and she caught herself with a hand braced on Scottie’s wall.

That singular word made her stomach drop and her heart clench. It made her feet stop moving and her breath catch in her throat. It made the world tilt on its axis, simultaneously spinning out of control and coming to a full stop.

There was no way Scottie had said that to her. At least, not in reference to her. It wasn’t possible. Not her . Not yet. 

Christen swallowed thickly and turned back to Scottie, feeling her eyes grow suspiciously wet.

“You mean- do you mean Mommy? Tobin’s asleep, sweetheart. But I can wake her up if you want her?” Christen asked, offering Scottie a way out, offering the girl a chance to correct her slip-up.

“I don’t- I mean,” Scottie faltered, feeling embarrassment course through her body at the surprised look on Christen’s face. “Can you stay?” 

“Umm, of course,” Christen replied quickly, reaching out to turn the lights off. She moved back to Scottie’s bed and sank down, lying next to Scottie, her shoulders and head propped up against the headboard. “Try to get some sleep, sweetheart.”

“Mhm,” Scottie hummed, wrapping her arm over Christen’s waist and lowering her head onto Christen’s stomach. 

It didn’t take long for Scottie’s breathing to even out, signaling that she’d fallen asleep. Christen ran her fingers through Scottie’s hair soothingly, her unseeing eyes fixed on a spot on the far wall.

She kept hearing it. 

That singular word, spoken with so much love and hope. She didn’t know a single word had the power to bring her to her knees, simultaneously shattering her heart and stitching it back together again all in the same breath.

The tears were silent as they gathered in her eyes and fell down her cheeks. Christen tugged her bottom lip between her teeth, keeping her stuttering breathing quiet so as to not wake the girl asleep on her stomach.

There was no mistaking it. Even if Scottie had backtracked a little, it was still spoken. It was out in the world. It was hanging between them. Scottie had called her Momma, and Christen had never felt more scared and more at peace in her entire life.

Tobin peeled her eyes open and rolled over in bed, a sense of worry building in her chest when she saw that Christen’s side was empty and untouched. 

She stood up on slightly stronger legs, only noticing the headache and some extreme hunger. So, despite her clock saying it was only 5:26AM, she decided to get up. 

Tobin tiptoed down the hall to peek into Scottie’s room, wanting to make sure that Scottie was okay and feeling better. She felt kind of guilty that she’d fallen asleep yesterday while Scottie hadn’t been feeling well. 

When she pushed open the door, her heart swelled in her chest. Christen and Scottie were cuddled together on Scottie’s tiny bottom bunk. Scottie was lying on top of Christen, her arms wrapped tightly around her, and Christen’s hands were settled on Scottie’s back. 

Tobin was human. She was only human, and she couldn’t always ignore impulses, so instead of closing the door and going downstairs, she retrieved her camera from her bedroom, made sure the flash was off, and took a few pictures of her girls, curled up together. 

Only after she got a few pictures did she listen to her stomach and head downstairs to make some very early breakfast. She fixed some hot tea, and warmed up some soup, taking another Ibuprofen as she waited for the soup to get warm. 

It took an hour, but finally Christen surfaced, sleepily climbing down the steps.

“Are you feeling better?” Christen called out softly, pulling her messy curls into a loose bun as she walked into the kitchen. Her voice was hoarse from sleep, and a little bit from crying too, not that anyone would be able to tell the difference. 

“Yes, thank you for making me sleep,” Tobin replied from her spot on the couch. 

“Sure thing. I’m glad it helped,” Christen said, moving to the coffee machine on the counter and grabbing her mug from the cupboard.

“How’d you get untangled?” Tobin asked with a dopey smile. 

“She’s an even heavier sleeper when she’s sick, I think,” Christen replied, pressing a few buttons on the machine to get her coffee started.

“That tracks,” Tobin agreed, pulling the blanket tighter around her shoulders. 

“Want some tea or something?” Christen wondered, shooting Tobin a look over her shoulder.

“I’m okay, baby,” Tobin murmured, watching Christen move around the kitchen. 

Christen finished fixing her coffee and then grabbed a glass of water, heading over to the couch. She handed the water to Tobin with a small smile.

“Hydrate,” Christen hummed, dropping onto the couch by Tobin’s side.

“So responsible,” Tobin sighed, sending Christen a lazy wink before she took a sip of water. 

Christen just hummed, getting a faraway look in her eyes as she cradled the mug of coffee to her chest.

“What’s wrong? You won the game, unless that was a fever dream…” Tobin said, trying to think about what might be bothering Christen. 

“I…” Christen trailed off. She pursed her lips together, almost unsure what to say or even how to say it. 

“You’re really turned off by the clammy skin I had last night,” Tobin supplied, trying to make Christen laugh and lose the worry. 

Christen huffed out a short breath, the ghost of a smile tugging at her lips. She grew quiet for a few moments tracing her thumb along the rim of the mug, lost in thought.

“You hated the soup?” Tobin offered. 

“Scottie called me Momma,” Christen whispered, almost having to force the words past the thickness in her throat.

It was Tobin’s turn to be speechless. She stared back at Christen, trying to find something to say but coming up empty. The word Momma ran through her head on a loop, making it impossible to focus long enough to figure out if Christen was freaking out or not. 

She’d never done this before. This was new territory for her and for Scottie and for Christen, and the parenting books and blogs she’d read hadn’t prepared her for this. She was floundering, but she wanted to be slightly steady for the woman in front of her who looked close to crying. 

So, she went with the first thing she thought of. 

“Scale from one to ten, ten being really freaked out, where are you?” she whispered, watching Christen’s face intently. 

“I don’t know,” Christen whispered, taking a long sip of coffee.

“Okay, that’s okay. I can tell her not to,” Tobin offered, scrambling for something she could do to slow down the situation and make it comfortable for everyone involved. 

Christen felt a stubborn tear slip from the corner of her eye. She reached out and stilled Tobin’s jerky hand movements, finally looking over at Tobin. 

“She...she called me Momma,” Christen repeated, this time with a little more wonder and a little less fear in her voice. Another tear slipped down her cheek and she didn’t have it within her to stop it. 

“Hey,” Tobin cooed, taking Christen’s coffee mug and putting it on the coffee table. She pulled Christen practically into her lap and wrapped her arms around her, already running her hands up and down Christen’s back. 

“She called me Momma, and all I wanted to do was call my Mom and tell her,” Christen whispered, holding onto Tobin and burying her face in the crook of Tobin’s neck.

All Tobin could do was hold Christen and rub her back and rock her back and forth. No words would be enough because they wouldn’t change the fact that Christen couldn’t call and tell her mom. So, she held Christen fiercely and let her cry into her sweatshirt, whispering ‘I love yous’ into Christen’s hair. 

Christen clung to Tobin, seeking solace from her tight embrace. “I just- I wasn’t expecting Momma,” Christen said, her words mumbled by Tobin’s sweatshirt. “How does she keep doing that? Knocking me completely off balance?”

“She’s just trying to figure this out too,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss against Christen’s temple. “And I’m afraid she’s gonna knock you off balance forever. That’s what kids do.” 

Christen let out a choked laugh. “None of the books I bought warned me about that,” she murmured, leaning away from Tobin’s neck and wiping away the tracks of her tears. She offered Tobin a watery smile. “I think I should go try and get my money back.”

“None of those books specialize in Scottie Heath,” Tobin said softly, pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. 

Christen let out a shaky breath, feeling her eyes start to prickle with tears again. She reached out and grabbed ahold of Tobin’s hand, gripping tightly onto it.

“Was...was Roni Momma to her?” Christen asked in a quiet, almost hesitant voice.

“No,” Tobin said, shaking her head slowly. “She was Mom, but now she’s just Roni. Scottie’s never had a Momma.” 

Christen let out another shaky breath, her lower lip trembling. 

“So it’s just-” Christen faltered, the rest of her question dying on her lips as she ran her thumb across the back of Tobin’s hand in short, jerky movements.

“It’s just you,” Tobin whispered, finishing Christen’s sentence for her. 

Christen let her eyes fall shut, tilting forward and leaning her forehead against Tobin’s. 

Over the past two years, Christen had felt impossibly far from her parents. They were gone and she was still here and it felt like there were a million miles between them, a space Christen would never be able to cross.

Even on the anniversary last year, even on Christmas, even on birthdays, and during big events, Christen felt far from them, wishing they were there and finding herself feeling a little hollow with the knowledge that they weren’t.

But as she sat here, in the early hours of the morning, the words ‘ Momma ’ and ‘ It’s just you ’ hanging in the air around her, she had never felt closer to her parents, especially her mom.

She didn’t feel hollow or far away anymore. It felt like her mom was here , like her mom knew exactly what was going on and was supporting her the whole way. 

“I never thought I’d be one,” Christen admitted softly.  

“You know, we talk about forever a lot, but I’m not sure we’ve really told each other what that looks like,” Tobin said quietly, running her free hand along Christen’s back and legs and arms, anywhere she could reach. 

“I guess we haven’t,” Christen agreed quietly.

“When I say forever, I don’t just mean you and me forever. It includes the parent role. Being Momma or whatever you and Scottie decide. And that’s a lot, especially since it hasn’t even been two years. It’s a lot, and it doesn’t have to happen any time soon. But I need you to know that that’s part of forever to me, as long as you’re okay with that,” Tobin murmured gently. 

Christen took her time answering, wanting to pick the right words. 

“I think...I think my someday sticker is on that Momma stuff for right now. But the forever we talk about includes it,” Christen replied, pulling their clasped hands to her chest and grounding herself with the steady, albeit quickened, beating of her heart.

“I agree,” Tobin said, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own. “Scottie might not say it again. It might have been exhaustion last night. But if she does, I’ll tell her to wait,” she added. 

“Not forever though,” Christen murmured. “Just for now. Just until...well maybe until I don’t break down crying every time I hear it.”

“I can tell her that,” Tobin hummed. 

Christen nuzzled her nose along Tobin’s, the corner of her mouth lifting into a small, half-smile.

“It was...scary and emotional and it brought up a lot for me, but...she called me Momma, Tobin,” Christen whispered, an almost surprised, breathless hiccuped laugh escaping her.

“And that makes you happy, even though it’s scary and emotional?” Tobin breathed out, trying to see if it was okay, even though it was too soon. 

“It does,” Christen murmured softly, her smile growing, her heart rate beneath their clasped hands picking up with the admission.

“Mommy!” Scottie called from upstairs, her voice hoarse and worried. 

“Little bit?” Tobin called back. 

“Can you come up?” Scottie yelled.

“I’ll be back in a minute, okay?” Tobin asked, pressing another kiss to Christen’s forehead and moving to get up. 

Christen nodded but tugged Tobin back, pulling her in for a quick kiss. “Go check on our girl,” Christen hummed, giving Tobin another quick kiss and then gently pushing her toward the stairs.

“Hey, buddy,” Tobin said, pushing Scottie’s door open and stepping inside her room. 

Scottie pulled the covers over her head, hiding beneath them. She let out a long sigh, audible even from beneath the comforter.

“Woah, dude. That’s a big sigh from a little person,” Tobin hummed, dropping down onto Scottie’s bed. 

“I’m taller than you were at nine,” Scottie mumbled, keeping the covers over her head.

“I know you’re tall, but your sigh was so humongous that it makes you seem small in comparison,” Tobin teased, poking the Scottie-shaped lump in the covers. 

Scottie pushed the comforter away and fixed Tobin with a look. “Humongous sounds like a made-up word and I think I messed up again,” Scottie admitted, her eyes getting a little watery.

“How so?” Tobin asked softly, cupping Scottie’s face with one hand. 

“I accidentally called- well, last night when I wasn’t feeling good and Christen made me feel better I-” Scottie stammered, her cheeks flushing. “I called her something that wasn’t Christen or my Christen or even Christen Annemarie Press.”

“What was that, little bit?” Tobin asked, focusing all her attention on Scottie and the worry in her eyes. 

Scottie’s cheeks flushed an even darker red, and she pulled the comforter back over her head.

“You never have to be embarrassed, buddy,” Tobin whispered, wrapping an arm around Scottie and the comforter. 

“I called her Momma,” Scottie mumbled from beneath the comforter. “And I know I shouldn’t have. It was an accident.”

“Scottie,” Tobin murmured, trying to pull at the comforter. Scottie fought her for a second and then released, letting Tobin pull the comforter down and away from Scottie’s face.  “My amazing, sweet, smart, beautiful little bit,” Tobin hummed. “You don’t have to be embarrassed about calling her that. And maybe you didn’t mean to. It probably feels a little too early to use that, right?” 

Scottie lifted her serious, thoughtful gray eyes to meet Tobin’s.

“No, Mommy. It doesn’t. That’s why I’m embarrassed,” Scottie whispered.

“It doesn’t feel too early?” Tobin asked gently. 

Scottie shook her head, her bottom lip starting to tremble again.

“Because you love her, and she cares for you,” Tobin said, keeping her voice slow and steady. 

Scottie nodded, reaching out and putting a hand on Tobin’s cheek. “And because she makes me feel safe like you do, Mommy. She's the same as you, but different. She’s...Momma but I don’t think I should say that yet. Because I don’t know if she’s ready, even if I am.”

“Can I tell you a secret?” Tobin asked, pressing a kiss to each of Scottie’s cheeks. 

“I don’t know why we always ask that, when we know we can say anything to each other,” Scottie replied with a small smile.

Tobin laughed at Scottie’s response, loving that it made Scottie smile a tiny bit. 

“Okay, but you have to keep this secret.” 

“I Press and Heath Promise,” Scottie said, throwing up a shaka sign.

“Good. Well…I was just downstairs with Christen, and she told me about last night a little bit,” Tobin murmured. 

Scottie’s eyes widened marginally, her mouth forming a little ‘o’ in surprise.

“And she told me that hearing you say that made her really happy, but it also made her emotional. She’s happy because she loves you so much, and someday I think she’ll want you to call her that all the time,” Tobin said carefully. 

“I can wait for someday,” Scottie whispered.

“Do you want to know why it made her emotional? Can you think of why it might?” Tobin asked, running her hand over Scottie’s forehead. 

Scottie tapped the tip of her nose, just like Christen did, her brow furrowing in thought. “Umm...because...oh,” Scottie gasped, her eyes getting a little sad. “Her Mommy isn’t here to see her be Momma.”

“That’s right,” Tobin nodded. “It’s hard to be a mom when you can’t talk to your mom about it, when you can’t tell her how happy being a mom makes you. So, just because she might not be ready for Momma right now, doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel the same way you do. Because, little bit, Christen loves you so so so much.” 

Scottie nodded, wrapping her arms around Tobin’s neck and pulling her in for a tight hug. 

“I know, Mommy. And I love her so so so much. I think we should give her extra cuddles since I made her sad,” Scottie replied.

“You didn’t make her sad, little bit,” Tobin said. “You need to understand that. You calling her that and loving her like that didn’t make her sad.” 

Scottie nodded against the side of Tobin’s head. “I’m still gonna give her extra cuddles.”

“Me too. Do you think you can go downstairs now?” Tobin asked, leaning back and feeling Scottie’s forehead, her fever long gone. 

“My legs are sleepy. Can you carry me please?” Scottie asked with a lopsided grin.

“Hmm…I suppose,” Tobin hummed, scooping Scottie off of the bed and into her arms. She couldn’t say no to this, not when she knew that someday when Scottie was bigger and older she wouldn’t be able to. 

“Can we make pancakes with extra chocolate chips?” Scottie asked, trying to see what else Tobin would say yes to.

“How about pancakes with the normal amount of chocolate chips,” Tobin laughed, carrying Scottie down the stairs. 

“Hmm...I suppose,” Scottie parroted with a giggle. When she looked over into the living room and saw Christen curled up on the couch, her eyes closed, Scottie’s eyes widened just a bit and she slapped a hand over Tobin’s mouth. “Mommy, shhh. Christen’s asleep. Walk quieter.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Tobin whispered, smiling at Scottie and the clear improvement in how she was feeling from yesterday. She knew from the school’s email that it was a 24-hour bug that was going around, but she’d still been worried about Scottie. 

Scottie wiggled out of Tobin’s arms. “I’m going to give her an ‘I love you’ forehead kiss. I’ll meet you in the kitchen,” Scottie whispered back. “Don’t forget the extra chocolate chips,” Scottie added with a goofy grin, tiptoeing into the living room and over to the couch. 

Scottie grabbed the blanket that had fallen onto the floor and pulled it over Christen gently, trying to keep it even and smooth. She then bent down and kissed Christen’s forehead, her brow furrowing when she felt how hot Christen’s forehead was.

“Uh oh,” Scottie whispered, racing into the kitchen and skidding to a halt in front of Tobin. “We have a 9-1-1 emergency.”

“What do you mean?” Tobin asked, immediately looking over at Christen. 

“Christen’s forehead is hot,” Scottie grimaced.

“Why don’t you get Christen’s mug from the dishwasher, and I’ll help get her into bed,” Tobin suggested, already making her way around the kitchen island and toward the living room. 

Tobin sat down on the couch and ran her knuckle along Christen’s nose. 

“Baby,” Tobin murmured. 

Christen’s nose wrinkled at the touch that pulled her out of a restless slumber. “Eight more seconds,” Christen grumbled sleepily, swatting Tobin’s hand away.

“If your legs are sleepy, I can carry you up to bed,” Tobin whispered. 

“I’m comfy here,” Christen huffed, pulling the blanket closer. If this was how Tobin and Scottie were feeling these past two days, she had even more empathy for them. This was horrible .

“Baby, you have a fever, and if memory serves me well, you will probably be sick in a few hours,” Tobin said softly. 

“Gross,” Christen sighed, keeping her eyes closed.

“Want me to carry you to bed and set you up with some tea and blankets?” Tobin asked, pressing a kiss to the back of Christen’s hand. 

“Will you stay?” Christen asked, cracking an eye open.

“I can stay. Extra sleep would be good. Plus someone needs to hold your hair back,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Gross times two,” Christen groaned. “That’s part of your forever?”

“Yes, it is,” Tobin nodded with a dopey smile. 

Christen reached out and grabbed ahold of Tobin’s hand, bringing it to her cheek. “You’re something else, Tobin Heath,” she whispered.

“Can I come upstairs too?” Scottie asked softly from the opposite end of the couch. 

Christen forced herself to sit up a bit so she could meet Scottie’s shy gaze, biting back a pained groan as her stomach rolled. “Of course, sweetheart. Cuddle puddles don’t work without you there too.”

“Okay, good,” Scottie replied, smiling softly at Christen. 

It was a smile Christen tried to return, but then she blanched and squeezed her eyes tightly shut. 

“If, uh, you two would excuse me a moment,” Christen mumbled, rising from the couch, the blanket pulled around her shoulders.

“I’ll get a teabag. Mommy’s on hair holding duty,” Scottie called. 

“She is not. Forever can start after I do this first one solo,” Christen replied with a shake of her head, offering Tobin a tight grimace before shuffling off.

“Let’s make some tea, little bit,” Tobin said, herding Scottie into the kitchen. 

“So, Momma and sick days come someday but not now?” Scottie murmured, looking up at Tobin. 

“Yep, someday, but not today,” Tobin nodded, scooping Scottie up onto the counter. 

“I can’t wait for someday,” Scottie whispered with a smile, kicking her legs out in front of her.

“You still want pancakes or do you want French toast sticks?” Tobin asked, filling a mug with hot water and adding a peppermint tea bag to it. 

“Sticks because they’re faster to cook and easier to eat in a cuddle puddle,” Scottie replied.

“That’s true, buddy,” Tobin nodded, pulling the sticks out of the freezer and popping a few into the toaster. 

“Someday, someday, someday,” Scottie hummed under her breath, tapping a random beat on the countertop.

“Patience,” Tobin whispered, sticking her tongue out at Scottie to make her laugh. 

Scottie stuck her tongue out back at Tobin. “I can be patient. You’ll see,” Scottie said, wiggling her finger in Tobin’s direction.

Tobin pulled down the bottle of Ibuprofen and stuck it into the pocket of her joggers to take upstairs. She plated the french toast sticks when the toaster dinged and handed them to Scottie. 

“Do you want to eat upstairs?” Tobin asked. 

Scottie bobbed her head, putting the plate down and jumping down from the counter.

“Why don’t you carry the sticks and the tea up to my bedside table for me so I can help Christen upstairs, okay?” Tobin asked. 

Scottie grabbed the plate and the mug, carrying them carefully up the stairs, trying not to spill. She had her tongue poked out of the corner of her mouth as she slowly climbed upstairs. 

“Last one there’s a rotten egg!” Scottie called over her shoulder.

Tobin chuckled and made her way to the closed bathroom door, knocking softly when she got there. 

“Baby, can I come in?” Tobin asked, leaning against the doorframe. 

“If you ever want to find me sexy again, I wouldn’t suggest it,” Christen called out, her voice hoarse.

“I’ve seen it like six times already in the past two days between Scottie and myself,” Tobin murmured. 

“This is a line you can’t uncross,” Christen protested weakly, already flicking the lock so Tobin could come in before curling back up on the floor in the fetal position.

“Okay,” Tobin sighed, leaning her forehead against the doorframe. “But all I’d do is rub your back and make sure you’re not alone before carrying you up to bed.” 

“If you don’t find me sexy tomorrow, we can tie it back to this moment right here,” Christen grumbled. “It’s open.”

“You are and will always be the sexiest woman I know,” Tobin promised, pushing the door open and stepping inside. She slid down onto the floor and immediately started running a hand up and down Christen’s back. 

“I bet you Naomi gave it to Scottie. Little jerk,” Christen mumbled.

“I’m sorry you got it,” Tobin whispered, brushing hair away from Christen’s now clammy forehead. 

Christen shrugged and leaned into Tobin’s touch. “It’s okay. First time you feel cold,” Christen replied softly.

“We need to get you wrapped up in blankets and in bed,” Tobin said softly, her heart aching at how vulnerable Christen looked. “Scottie already took some hot tea upstairs.” 

“Did you tell her about someday?” Christen asked, blinking her eyes open, the ghost of a smile making its way onto her face.

“I did. She was just embarrassed this morning. She said someday is good,” Tobin murmured. 

“Good,” Christen sighed, letting out a small groan as she pushed herself up into a seated position. “Help me up, please?”

Tobin wrapped an arm around Christen’s waist and helped her stand up, making sure that Christen could lean into her fully. 

“Will this happen every time she brings home something from school?” Christen asked in a quiet voice, letting Tobin lead her to the stairs.

“Will my answer sway your opinion of someday?” Tobin hummed, scooping Christen’s legs up off the ground and holding her in her arms. 

“No, but it will impact my vitamin intake,” Christen joked, a weak smile on her face as she leaned into Tobin’s chest.

Tobin couldn’t help the small laugh that left her lips at Christen’s joke. “Yeah, kids are like Petri dishes for germs. I hear it gets better though,” Tobin sighed, making her way down the hallway to her bedroom. 

“The books definitely mentioned that,” Christen mumbled.

“Baby,” Tobin hummed, pausing right outside of the bedroom door. 

“Mhm,” Christen replied, her eyes already getting heavy, her grip on Tobin tightening.

“I just really love you,” Tobin whispered. 

Christen pressed her smile into Tobin’s neck. “I really love you too,” Christen murmured softly.

“And I really love you both, but I can't cuddle puddle by myself!” Scottie called from inside the bedroom. 

Tobin carried Christen into the bedroom and the two of them joined the cuddle puddle, with Tobin on one of Christen’s sides and Scottie on the other.

Chapter Text

Heaven's gates, are behind your eyes

And I see your face

Every time there's orange skies

It's a miracle, that you even found me

And there's a miracle in about everything


Did you know that

It's your love, it's your love it's your love

That keeps me walking on

It's your love, it's your love, it's your love

It's your love, it's your love, it's your love

That keeps me moving on

It's your love, it's your love

Your sweet, sweet love

Your sweet, sweet love

With just a glimpse, you taught me how to see

With just a touch, you brought me to my knees

I surrender, I surrender, I surrender

Oh yeah

I was just a heart looking for a fault line

I wanted to fall, I wanted to fall

(Tobin - "Sweet Love" by Phillip Larue)

I have troubles sleeping when you're sleeping next to me
Keep myself awake because you're better than my dreams
And as much as I'd like to get some sleep,
I'd rather whisper in your ear, the truth I want you so to hear

You are, you are
Wonderfully made, wonderfully made
You are, you are
Wonderfully made, wonderfully made

When the day is breaking and the beauty worry starts
The devils on your shoulder make you question who you are
We will sing this melody and watch the demons flee
And I pray the way I treat you always helps you to believe

You are, You are
Wonderfully made

(Christen - "Wonderfully Made" by Joel Ansett)

Tobin wiped her hands on a rag, staring at the Scottie painting that was still missing something.

The eyes were brighter now, wider and more realistic, and she’d added a few freckles that she’d missed the first few attempts and made Scottie’s face slightly thinner, making her look more similar to her nine-year-old self and less like her chubby-cheeked four-year-old self. Perhaps most importantly, she’d added a small gold bracelet to Scottie’s wrist. It was more realistic, more identifiable, but it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t good enough yet, but it was all Tobin had the heart and time for today. 

She carried the painting to the supply closet, careful not to smear any paint or mess anything up. Christen would be home that evening, and she didn’t want her seeing it. She didn’t want Christen to know that she was actively working on it, not when it was supposed to be a gift at some point...if she ever got it right. 

She grabbed the mail from the floor by the front door, where it had dropped through the mail slot, and flipped through the envelopes. Most were just junk mail, but a large envelope caught her eye, and the return address made her stomach tighten a little in anticipation. 

She couldn’t open it now, not when Scottie was about to get out of school. So, Tobin raced up the stairs, dropped the mail on the counter, and changed into a clean shirt, trying to shove the envelope out of her mind and focus on Scottie. 

Tobin hurried to the school, weaving around other parents and pulling her coat tighter around her body. It was already February, and Tobin was hating New York City and the freezing temperatures that came with this time of year. She was ready for spring and trips to the park with Christen and Scottie. Imagining those trips made the biting wind and the walk to Scottie’s school slightly less horrible, and knowing that the three of them would curl up on the couch after dinner made the cold almost disappear. 

“Ms. Heath?” Ms. Hubbard called out, offering Tobin a small smile. She’d retreated to formalities ever since Christen had shown up at meet the teacher night in the fall.

“Ms. Hubbard,” Tobin replied, making her way over to the teacher, having not seen Scottie come outside yet. 

“Could I borrow you for a moment? It’s about Scottie.”

“Sure, is everything okay?” Tobin asked, already slipping into concerned parent mode. 

Ms. Hubbard nodded and stepped away from the front steps of the school, giving them some semblance of privacy.

“I just wanted you to know that I had to give her a warning today. She told two other students to shut up,” Ms. Hubbard said quietly. 

“Do you know why she told them that?” Tobin asked, deciding not to ask Ms. Hubbard if the other kids had deserved it. 

“Unfortunately, I don’t. Scottie wouldn’t tell me and I was helping other students with their Social Studies. But…” Ms. Hubbard trailed off.

“I can talk to her about it,” Tobin said, wanting to solve the issue with Scottie. Her mind regularly went to her biggest anxiety, her largest worry, the darkest thought possible. Her mind often thought of Roni and a possible plan of fighting for custody. 

It had been months, almost half a year since Jerri had called her about Roni looking for a lawyer, but those months didn’t take the tiny seed of worry from her mind, those months didn’t stop that seed from blooming when something happened with Scottie. And Scottie having trouble in school could very well be used in a custody case. She’d heard about people digging for anything and everything they possibly could to win a custody case. 

“Good. Because I’ve tried talking to her, and Simon and Naomi as well. But whatever is going on between those three, I can’t seem to do more than keep the peace,” Ms. Hubbard admitted. “All three of them are on a warning after today, and I really don’t want to see it get any worse. I’ve spoken to the other parents as well.”

“I’ll talk to her,” Tobin repeated. “I do know about those two kids, and I know they give her a hard time. They regularly give her a hard time.” 

“Mommy!” Scottie greeted, the puffball on top of her purple beanie bouncing as she ran down the front steps.

“Hey, little bit!” Tobin called, opening her arms for a hug. 

“I’m a popsicle!” Scottie shivered.

“It’s pretty cold,” Tobin hummed, rubbing her hands up and down Scottie’s arms. 

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Scottie,” Ms. Hubbard said, offering Tobin a nod before moving off to some other parents. 

Scottie propped her chin on Tobin’s stomach and looked up, wrinkling her nose. “I wish I could be at the beach in Palos Verdes,” Scottie said. “I’m frozen, and not the good kind.”

“Me too, buddy. Palos Verdes would be awesome,” Tobin sighed, taking Scottie’s hand in her own and leading her down the sidewalk. 

“I miss Channy and Tyler,” Scottie mumbled, kicking at some dirty snow on the curb. “And Mikel and Lindsey and Morena and Khaleesi.”

“I think they’re gonna visit this summer. Well, maybe not the dogs,” Tobin grinned. 

“Summer’s so far . There’s still snow on the ground,” Scottie lamented.

“You want to know what the one good thing about cold weather is though?” Tobin asked with a goofy smile. 

Scottie blew out a long breath, watching it cloud in front of her face because of how frigid the air was. 

“Umm...well there are lots of good things. Snowball fights in the park,÷ and building snowmen on the roof with Christen, and making snow angels.”

“I was thinking, you and me and hot chocolate on the couch with fuzzy blankets,” Tobin suggested, turning onto their street. 

“Ooooh with whipped cream and marshmallows?” Scottie asked, looking up at Tobin with a smile.

“Sure,” Tobin nodded. “And then we can talk about how your day was.”

Scottie’s face fell and she looked back down at the ground, continuing to kick at the snow gathered on the curb.

“We don’t have to.”

“That bad?” Tobin asked softly. 

“Bad terrible horribly awful,” Scottie sighed, clinging tightly onto Tobin’s hand.

“What made it so bad and terrible and horribly awful?” Tobin asked, readjusting the hat on Scottie’s head as they stood at the crosswalk. 

Scottie huffed and sniffled a bit. “I got in trouble, and I hate getting in trouble. ‘Specially when it wasn’t even my fault.”

Tobin hummed quietly, leading Scottie across the street and to their front stoop. She pulled the keys out of her pocket and pushed the door open for Scottie to run inside. 

“I’m gonna guess that Naomi and Simon were involved,” Tobin sighed. 

“Yeah, they’re jerk faces,” Scottie grumbled, pulling off her hat and her coat and handing them to Tobin to hang up.

“What did they do this time?” Tobin asked, hanging up Scottie’s coat and hat beside her own. 

“We were drawing pictures on Valentine’s Day cards for our parents, and I was drawing one for you and Christen and-” Scottie paused, letting out a long breath and running her hands over her face in frustration.

“That’s very sweet,” Tobin murmured, taking Scottie’s hand again as they walked up the stairs. 

Scottie dragged her feet over to the couch and collapsed onto it, crossing her arms over her face.

“I drew us. You, me, and Christen. And Naomi told me that I didn’t do it right because I didn’t draw a dad. Then Simon said the same thing and told me I was weird because I didn’t have one,” Scottie mumbled.

Tobin clenched her jaw when the words left Scottie’s lips. She hadn’t really expected that, not in fourth grade in New York City in the twenty-first century. But kids learned from their parents, and she had no idea what kind of parents Naomi and Simon had. All she knew was that their kids were major jerks and needed to lay off. 

She dropped down onto the couch next to Scottie, her heart cracking at Scottie’s teary eyes and wobbly voice. All Tobin wanted to do was take the hurt away and make sure that Scottie never felt pain again. But she couldn’t. It was the curse of being a parent, the worst part in her opinion. She couldn’t smack the bullies down or wrap Scottie in bubble wrap forever. All she could do was be there. 

“But then I tried to tell them about my Tummy Dad and they thought that was even weirder. So...I called them stupid and told them to shut up. Then Gemma gave me a hug and I did breathing like you and Christen taught me, and I felt a little calmer,” Scottie said in a quiet voice, her words a little wobbly. “I hate fourth grade, Mommy. The only good part is Gemma.”

“I’m sorry,” Tobin whispered, running her hand over the baby hairs sticking to Scottie’s forehead because of her beanie. 

“Yeah,” Scottie sighed.

“Did you know that there are some people in the world who don’t think that two women or two men should love one another?” Tobin said quietly. 

Scottie dropped her arms away from her face, fixing Tobin with an almost scandalized look. 

“What the popsicles? Really?” Scottie gasped, her eyes wide.

“Crazy, right?” Tobin hummed. 

“That’s so silly. People should just love people. It shouldn’t matter who the people are, Mommy,” Scottie said, her forehead furrowed as she tried to wrap her mind around this.

“I agree, and Christen agrees. So do Grandma and Grandpa, all your aunts and uncles and cousins, and Christen’s family and teammates. But it’s possible that Naomi’s parents and Simon’s parents don’t, and they’ve taught those two kids that,” Tobin said softly. 

Scottie sat up, her brows still scrunched together in thought. “That’s so sad that they don’t know that. I feel sorry for them, I think.”

“It is pretty sad. You get to see so much more love in the world, and they don’t get to see that,” Tobin murmured. “So, what they say hurts, right? And they shouldn’t say it. But at the end of the day, I think you’re the real winner, because no matter how much they try to tease, you get a universe of love. I think they’re missing out on a bigger picture of love and on a universe of love.”

“Thanks for being my universe of love, Mommy,” Scottie whispered, her gray eyes filling with tears.

“Thank you for being my universe of love, little bit,” Tobin whispered back, pressing kisses to Scottie’s cheeks and forehead. “And, between you and me, I’d much rather have this beautiful family than any other, cookie-cutter family that looks the same as everyone else’s.”

Scottie smiled even as she had tears caught in her lashes. “This is the only family I want. You, me, and Mo- and my Christen.”

“You two are all I want,” Tobin agreed. 

Scottie threw her arms around Tobin’s shoulders and hugged her tightly. “I know I shouldn’t tell people to shut up, and I don’t like getting in trouble...but today felt like good trouble. I didn’t like them talking about us like that.”

“Here’s another secret,” Tobin whispered. “I don’t think saying stupid or shut up are good, but I’m proud of you for standing up for yourself. Next time, maybe say the words in your head while you do your deep breathing.”

“That’s what Gemma told me, too,” Scottie grinned, wiping at her nose with the sleeve of her sweater.

“Plus, you can always tell me if it happens again, and I can talk to the school,” Tobin murmured. 

Scottie made a face at that suggestion and pulled out of Tobin’s arms so Tobin could see how not enthusiastic Scottie was about that.

“I know. That sounds lame, but it’s my job as your mom to stand up for you, even if it makes me a little lame,” Tobin chuckled. 

“Mommy?” Scottie asked quietly, her face getting a little shy and serious.

“Yes?” Tobin replied, keeping her arms loosely around Scottie’s back. 

“How will I know when Christen’s ready?” Scottie wondered, tilting her head to the side a little.

“I think Christen will let you know when she’s ready for someday to start,” Tobin said, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead. “And if you get really really antsy and need to know, you can ask me, and I’ll do some super secret detective work.”

“Okay,” Scottie giggled. “I just have this feeling in here that she’s almost ready,” Scottie added at a whisper, tapping her hand over her heart. 

“If you’re right, then you only have to be patient a little longer. She’ll definitely tell you, though. You’ll probably be the first person she tells,” Tobin murmured. 

Scottie grinned at that. “Ooooh, I get to know before you!” Scottie teased, sticking her tongue out at Tobin.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Tobin grinned, poking Scottie’s sides as she squirmed. 

“I get to know first!” Scottie sing-songed, jumping up from the couch and twirling around the living room. “Me first!”

Tobin couldn’t help but laugh at the joy now present on Scottie’s face. And she decided right then and there that if Christen did tell her before Scottie, she would never let anyone know. 

“How does hot chocolate sound while we wait for Christen to get home?” Tobin asked, pushing up from the couch. 

Scottie was about to answer and then she heard the garage door. She raced over to the clock in the kitchen and narrowed her eyes at it.

“It’s 3:45! She’s home early!” Scottie cheered, pumping her fists at her sides.

Christen set her wine glass down with a snap, feeling herself tense up on the tall bar stool she sat in at the counter. “Those little shits said what?” she seethed.

“Yeah,” Tobin sighed, closing the dishwasher and starting it. “So, she got in trouble for telling them to shut up.”

“I admire her self-restraint,” Christen huffed, her face clouding with anger. 

“So, she got to learn about homophobia today,” Tobin grumbled, wiping off her hands and making her way around the counter to Christen’s side. 

Christen pushed a hand through her hair and shook her head, her chest feeling heavy.

“She shouldn’t have to,” Christen sighed.

“I agree, but do you want to know what our girl told me?” Tobin grinned. 

Christen felt the corner of her mouth twitch up into a smile at the sound of ‘ our girl ’ leaving Tobin’s lips. It was the first time she’d said it back. Christen had been waiting so long to hear it, and even if she thought she knew how she’d feel when it did happen, nothing prepared her for how her heart thundered and her stomach tightened. For the way this felt like home too. 

“Probably something profound that’ll knock my Crocs off,” Christen replied, wrapping an arm around Tobin’s waist and bringing her in close.

“You’re who she learned that phrase from?” Tobin laughed, pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek. 

Christen shook her head. “Channing taught her. I learned it from Scottie,” Christen chuckled.

“She said she feels sorry for them because they don’t know love like this,” Tobin murmured, trailing the tip of her nose against Christen’s jaw. 

Christen softened at Tobin’s words, feeling her heart swell in her chest. “She did?” Christen asked, matching Tobin’s quiet voice.

“She did,” Tobin hummed. “She said this is all she wants.”

“This, as in…” Christen trailed off, slipping her thumb beneath the hem of Tobin’s sweater and running it across her lower back.

“You and me and her,” Tobin answered softly, her voice hardly even a whisper. 

Christen felt a beaming smile break out across her face and tears prick at the corners of her eyes. 

“I think you taught her your extraordinary ways, my love,” Christen murmured softly.

“I don’t think it’s all me...She said the breathing techniques we both helped her with for frustrating math homework helped her not say something worse,” Tobin chuckled, wrapping her arms more securely around Christen. 

Christen ducked her head slightly, feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of her having as much of an influence on Scottie as Tobin did. 

But with every day and week and month that passed, she was starting to feel a little more secure in that knowledge. She was starting to feel a little more confident in the almost-parent role. 

With every day and week and month that passed, the someday sticker was becoming more and more irrelevant. Someday felt soon. Sooner than it ever had before.

“Can we wake her up so I can give her another hug?” Christen whispered.

Tobin let out a loud laugh as she squeezed Christen even closer. 

“You can even wake her up and invite her to cuddle with us tonight if you want,” Tobin murmured, smiling against the side of Christen’s head. 

Christen was up and off of the bar stool in a flash, pulling Tobin along with her.

Christen shared a look with Scottie over the rim of her coffee mug, giving her a small nod and then gesturing her head at Tobin.

Scottie nodded back and hopped up from the table. She ran over to the counter, grabbed the large envelope, and hurried back to the table. She cleared her throat, making Tobin look up from the newspaper.

“Are you gonna give a speech?” Tobin teased, an amused smile spreading across her face. 

Scottie rolled her eyes and Christen let out a soft snort. 

“No more beating around the tree,” Scottie declared, sliding the envelope to Tobin.

“Bush,” Christen corrected softly.

“Right. No more bush around the tree,” Scottie giggled, jokingly mixing up the words. 

“You have to open it, babe,” Christen added, reaching out her hand and running her thumb along the inside of Tobin’s knee.

“Open what?” Tobin hummed, feigning ignorance. 

Scottie picked up the envelope and got up from her chair. She moved around the table so she was standing next to Tobin and held the envelope in front of Tobin’s face.

“We know it’s from the art people,” Scottie said.

“And we know you’ve been avoiding opening it for two weeks,” Christen murmured with a soft smile.

“I wouldn’t say avoiding,” Tobin scoffed. “We’ve been busy. We spent a couple days in New Jersey and celebrated Valentine’s Day and had a winter storm. I haven’t really had time to open mail.”

Christen and Scottie gave her matching looks of disbelief.

“Christen, what’s that thing that Amanda says about excuses?” Scottie asked, keeping her eyes on Tobin.

“Make an effort not an excuse,” Christen supplied, chuckling a bit at the way Scottie was going about this.

“You two are trouble,” Tobin huffed, closing the newspaper and staring at Christen and Scottie. 

“Cute trouble,” Scottie countered, waving the envelope in front of Tobin’s face.

“I just don’t really want to read it,” Tobin mumbled, fiddling with her coffee mug on the table. 

“Why? It’s a big envelope, and good news comes in big envelopes,” Scottie argued.

“That’s not always true,” Tobin said, thinking about all the big envelopes that she’d received over the years that were full of terrible news or just pieces of difficult paperwork. 

Scottie sighed dramatically and clambered up into Tobin’s lap. She left the envelope in between them, her palms pressed to Tobin’s cheeks.

“Mommy,” Scottie said seriously, her gray eyes locked on Tobin’s.

“Scottie,” Tobin replied, unable not to smile at the adorable look on Scottie’s face. 

“You’re the bestest painter in the world. No matter what that letter says. Right, Christen?” Scottie said with a smile.

“Right,” Christen agreed, squeezing Tobin’s knee. “Their decision doesn’t define you or how good you are. We love you, no matter what.”

With a resigned sigh, Tobin took the envelope and ripped open the seal. She reached in and pulled out the top piece of paper, scanning the letter quickly. She slid it back into the envelope slowly, a solemn look on her face. 

“There, happy?” Tobin murmured, tossing the envelope onto the table. 

Scottie’s shoulders slumped at Tobin’s reaction, wrapping her arms around Tobin’s neck. Christen squeezed Tobin’s knee and offered her an apologetic half-smile, reading Tobin’s response to the letter as a rejection. 

“So, are you gonna come to Pennsylvania with me or do you want to stay here with Christen or go to Grandma’s house?” Tobin whispered, loud enough for Scottie and Christen to both hear. 

“What?!” Scottie gasped, pulling away from Tobin. 

“Tobin! You suck!” Christen laughed, lightly smacking Tobin’s shoulder.

“Apparently, I don’t actually,” Tobin grinned. “A panel of judges agreed that I opposite of suck.”

“I KNEW IT!” Scottie cheered, hopping out of Tobin’s lap and starting to jump around. “Happy dance time!” she giggled, grabbing Tobin’s and Christen’s hands and pulling them to their feet. 

“Mommy did it! Mommy’s the best! Mommy diiiiiid it!” Scottie sang, pulling Tobin and Christen with her as she danced, making them dance too.

“You’re biased, little bit,” Tobin laughed, running a hand over Scottie’s hair. “But thank you.”

Scottie pulled the three of them close together, her arms wrapped around Tobin’s and Christen’s waists, swaying them back and forth.

“We’re proud of you,” Christen hummed, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s cheek, her arms around Scottie and Tobin, keeping them together as they swayed around.

“Thank you,” Tobin murmured, squeezing both of her girls close. “I’m not gonna want to leave home, even for just a weekend. Is this what it feels like for every away game?”

Christen nodded with a sad smile on her face. “Yeah...but you know the best part about leaving?”

“Coming home!” Scottie supplied, pressing her head against Christen’s side and turning her face to look up at Tobin. 

“Exactly,” Christen murmured, leaning forward and nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s.

“Can I stay?” Scottie asked softly. “Your art is awesome, but art exhibits are sometimes boring.”

Tobin laughed and buried her face in Christen’s shoulder. 

“You don’t have to go to Pennsylvania,” Tobin answered. 

“Can I stay with Christen?” Scottie wondered, looking between the adults.

Christen sucked in a surprised breath, her eyes immediately meeting Tobin’s. But just like always, she shouldn’t have been surprised. Scottie Heath always said things like this and always rendered her speechless.

“You’d have to ask her that and make sure she doesn’t have any plans,” Tobin murmured, watching Christen’s face carefully. She was trying to silently communicate to Christen that she didn’t have to watch Scottie, that she could come up with a conflict if she needed one. 

“Are you sure?” Christen whispered for only Tobin to hear.

“I trust you with her,” Tobin hummed, running a hand softly along Christen’s lower back. 

Christen felt her heart flutter in her chest and after offering Tobin a shy, slightly nervous smile, she looked down at Scottie.

“You want a me and you weekend?” Christen clarified softly, brushing some hair away from Scottie’s face.

“Yes, please,” Scottie said, holding her hands together and looking at Christen with hopeful eyes. 

“You got yourself a deal,” Christen replied with a smile.

Christen traced her fingertips up and down Tobin’s bare side, a smile tugging at her lips. “So on a scale of one to ten…” she whispered, careful not to break the bubble they had created for themselves in the early hours of the morning.

Tobin hummed quietly, her eyes fluttering open to look at Christen. 

“How big of a UNC fan are you?” Christen wondered, her eyes still on the ceiling.

“Is that a question?” Tobin smirked, rolling onto her side to face Christen. “I’d say I’m a really big fan, and if my daughter doesn’t go there, I might cry a little. Not that I’d ever tell her that.”

Christen chuckled and finally looked over at Tobin. “In that case, can I celebrate you and this amazing thing you did a little bit?”

“If you’re about to put my old UNC jersey on, I need to hydrate,” Tobin mumbled, wetting her bottom lip. 

Christen laughed and lifted up, moving to hover over Tobin with a smile playing at her lips. 

“I wasn’t, but that can be arranged,” Christen grinned. “I was thinking…box seats at the UNC-Duke basketball game at Madison Square Garden next week?”

Tobin’s mouth flopped open and her eyes went wide. “How are you real?” she whispered, reaching up to tangle her hand in the hair at the base of Christen’s head. 

“Some hydration drink company wants to sponsor me, so they got me tickets to the game,” Christen hummed, her cheeks holding a pretty blush in response to Tobin’s words.

“Are you gonna wear Carolina blue?” Tobin asked, rubbing her thumb against the side of Christen's neck. 

“For you?” Christen asked, narrowing her eyes playfully in thought. “I think I can suffer through that.”

“I’ll give you my warmest, most comfortable sweatshirt,” Tobin offered. 

“I was thinking the jersey,” Christen winked, her green eyes darkening just a bit.

Tobin let out a soft moan before pulling Christen down so that their bodies were flush against each other and Tobin could press a needy kiss to Christen’s lips. A kiss Christen returned with rivaling need.

“Goooooooooo Tar Heels,” Scottie cheered, zooming around the apartment, decked out in Carolina blue. The basketball jersey she wore hung down to her knees and the UNC snapback was a little big on her, but she looked adorable.

Christen cringed at all the UNC floating around the apartment and tugged at the hem of Tobin’s old UNC soccer jersey.

“Tobin, come on! We’re going to be late!” Christen called out, walking over to the coat hooks and grabbing Scottie’s winter coat. “Let’s get bundled up, sweetheart,” Christen hummed, holding out the jacket for Scottie.

“I’m having a crisis!” Tobin called back from upstairs. 

“Shoes aren’t a crisis!” Christen replied, helping Scottie zip up her jacket and then grabbing hers from the hook. “Just pick one from your twenty pairs of Nikes and let’s go!”

“Baby, if I pick the wrong pair, they could lose,” Tobin said, coming to the top of the stairs with two different pairs of Nikes in her hands. 

Scottie rolled her eyes. “That’s silly, Mommy. UNC doesn’t lose.”

“Little bit, you are so smart, but seriously, which pair you guys?” Tobin grinned. 

Christen narrowed her eyes at the shoes, having trouble noticing a difference between them. She crouched down next to Scottie and whispered, “What’s the difference?”

“The ones on the left are OG ‘UNC’ Jordans, and the ones on the right are OG 'University Blue’ Jordans,” Scottie whispered back. 

None of that information cleared things up for Christen. She looked between the shoes and then shrugged. 

“Go with the UNCs, Mommy,” Scottie said, pointing at the Jordans on the left.  

“That’s what I was going to say too,” Christen mumbled, offering Tobin an amused smile. “Now put those UNC’s on and let’s go !”

“Yeah let’s gooooo ,” Scottie said, mimicking Christen and beaming up at Tobin.

Tobin put down the other Jordans, slipped the UNCs on, and raced down the stairs, pulling on her coat as soon as she reached the door. 

“Let’s go,” Tobin grinned, pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek and squeezing Scottie’s shoulders. 

“I like this better than watching guys,” Scottie hummed, munching on a soft pretzel as she watched the UNC women’s basketball team run circles around the Duke team. 

“Couldn’t agree with you more,” Tobin nodded, moving her arm over the back of Scottie’s seat and running her fingers along Christen’s arm. 

Christen chuckled and stole a bite from Scottie’s soft pretzel when she wasn’t looking. 

“I concur,” Christen hummed.

“Thank you,” Tobin said, looking at Christen over Scottie’s head, something that was getting harder and harder to do as Scottie grew taller. 

“For what?” Christen replied, her focus completely off the game now.

“For this,” Tobin shrugged. “For everything.”

“Yeah, thank you for everything,” Scottie nodded, ripping off a piece of pretzel and giving it to Christen, not wanting Christen to feel like she had to keep stealing bites. 

“You’re welcome,” Christen murmured, moving her hand to push a few strands of hair behind Tobin’s ear, readjusting the UNC beanie as she did.

“DEFENSE!” Scottie yelled, nearly standing up from her seat in their private box as a player from Duke dribbled across the court. 

“What would you do if she quit soccer to play basketball?” Tobin teased, looking at Christen instead of the court. 

“I’d have to learn the rules,” Christen chuckled, cradling the corner of Tobin’s jaw and running her thumb along Tobin’s cheek.

“Basketball isn’t as cool as soccer,” Scottie mumbled, squeezing Christen’s knee. 

“We’d watch you in whatever sport you wanted to play,” Christen replied, her hand falling away from Tobin’s face, dropping her arm along the back of Scottie’s chair.

“What about figure skating,” Scottie asked, turning away from the court to give Christen a huge smile. 

“That seems fun to watch,” Christen grinned.

“I can’t do the skirts,” Scottie said, making a face. 

“I bet you could wear whatever you wanted to if you skated,” Christen assured, poking the crinkle between Scottie’s brows.

“I prefer making people look silly when I meg them,” Scottie shrugged. 

“Like someone else I know,” Christen chuckled, looking up at Tobin with a smile.

“Like Mommy, like Scottie,” Scottie sing-songed, facing the court again and cheering for the UNC player with the ball. “Hey look, we’re on the jumbotron!” Scottie said, jumping up from her chair and waving for the camera.

“Scottie, come here,” Tobin murmured, tugging on Scottie’s basketball jersey.

“But look, Mommy,” Scottie pointed up at the live feed on the jumbotron of the three of them sitting together.

“That’s pretty cool, but I want to ask you about ice cream,” Tobin said gently, finally getting Scottie to turn toward her, the back of her head the only thing on camera. But she hadn’t been quick enough. 

So far, she and Christen had miraculously been able to keep Scottie’s face somewhat hidden. They’d respectfully asked the USWNT photographer not to take pictures of them and requested that if they did take pictures to keep pictures private. They’d made sure to keep Scottie close when they were around fans. And while a few fans had gotten pictures of the three of them, they were mostly blurry or far away. This was crystal clear though and on tons of people’s TVs. 

And that same unnecessary seed of worry and anxiety was starting to bloom. Because this game likely wasn’t on Roni’s TV, but it could be, and Tobin had heard enough stories about people blaming celebrity and fame for a kid’s poor well-being. And Tobin knew Roni wasn’t above that if she was gathering ammunition for a court case. 

“We’ve got lots of stars here tonight, including one of your Gotham FC captains Christen Press!” the announcer's booming voice sounded, making the crowd cheer even louder. 

Christen offered a wave, seeing that she was still on camera, which earned some cheers around the stadium. Christen moved forward just a bit and angled her body, blocking Scottie from the camera’s view and partially blocking Tobin as well. She continued to smile and then tugged at the TAR HEELS logo written across the front of her jersey, making the UNC fans go wild.

“You want chocolate or vanilla ice cream or a popsicle?” Tobin asked, holding onto Scottie’s hands. 

“A popsicle,” Scottie grinned. “But can we wait until halftime?” 

“Of course,” Tobin nodded. 

“It’s gone,” Christen tossed out quietly, keeping herself still leaning forward to block Scottie and Tobin from the closest cameraman.

Tobin let go of Scottie’s hands and let her sit back down between her and Christen. She ran her hand over Scottie’s head, trying to shove that worry back into the recesses of her brain, trying to shut off the paranoid switch that had been flipped on, trying to be in the moment with Christen and Scottie and not worried about something that probably wouldn’t happen. 

When halftime hit, Scottie was up and out of her chair, running over to the freezer and digging around for her popsicle.

Christen quickly moved into Scottie’s seat and put a hand on Tobin’s knee. “I’m so sorry. I thought we’d be fine up here. I had no idea they’d even know I was here, let alone put me on the big screen,” Christen rushed out, making sure to keep her voice quiet.

“Why are you apologizing for a camera angle?” Tobin hummed, lacing her fingers with Christen’s. 

“Because I can see the slight panic in your beautiful brown eyes and it’s making me panic a little.”

“I’m not panicking,” Tobin said softly, rubbing her thumb against Christen’s hand. “I did for a second when Scottie’s face was blown up to like eight feet on four different screens and broadcasted on television, but we knew this would happen. We knew it would happen eventually, and she isn’t fazed.”

Christen could still see the flicker of worry in Tobin’s eyes and it did little to quell her racing heart or the knots twisting in her stomach. “I know but- Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked softly.

Tobin nodded, keeping her eyes on their hands and taking a few settling breaths. “I’m okay. Just shoving overprotective urges away,” Tobin tried to tease, finally looking up at Christen. 

“We can leave. We can leave right now, and I can have my agent draft a statement-” Christen tried to reply.

“Chris,” Tobin interrupted quietly. “Scottie’s loving this game. And if I weren’t distracted by how good you look in my jersey, I’d probably be as enthralled as she is. We don’t need to leave, and you don’t need to complain to anyone.”

Christen resigned herself to still speak to her agent to get an idea of what kind of plans or protections she should have in place moving forward. She respected the fact that Tobin wanted to keep Scottie out of the public’s eye as much as possible, and she felt the same way. 

With a small, forced half-smile, Christen nodded, accepting some of Tobin’s words and throwing others to the wind.

“You say offsides and we’re gone, okay?” Christen whispered, still feeling worry make her chest tight.

“Always,” Tobin agreed, tightening her grip on Christen’s hand. 

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen again. At least, as much as I can,” Christen promised.

“Baby, this isn’t your fault, and that isn’t your job. We had this conversation early on in our relationship, and I told you that I wanted you and that we’d figure this kind of stuff out. That hasn’t changed,” Tobin promised. 

“I know, I know,” Christen sighed, pushing a hand over her face. “I just want to protect her. And you. That feels like my job, even if you say it isn’t.”

“Loving her is your job, and I guess protecting her goes hand in hand with that. But you don’t need to stress over this. Other people are out of our control,” Tobin said, wishing they were alone and she could wrap Christen up in her arms without feeling like it might be caught on video. 

Christen sighed again, letting her chin drop to her chest. She knew Tobin was right, but she still felt a tiny flicker of guilt licking up her throat.  Setting her jaw and deciding not to let her feelings on the matter ruin the evening, Christen looked back up and let out a long breath.

“You’re right. I’ll stop,” Christen replied.

“I love you,” Tobin hummed, snaking her arm around Christen’s lower back as best as she could in their stadium seats. 

Christen softened and leaned into Tobin’s side. “I love you too, baby,” she murmured, offering Tobin a quick smile.

“Christen, do you want an ice cream?” Scottie asked. 

“I’m okay, sweetheart. Thank you!” Christen tossed over her shoulder, keeping her eyes on Tobin.

“You’re gonna be just like Mommy and eat a bite of mine, aren’t you?” Scottie sighed, walking down the steps with her popsicle. 

“You know me so well, Scottie Heath,” Christen chuckled.

“Can I sit in your seat?” Scottie asked with a grin. 

“I’m sorry I stole yours. Do you want it back?” Christen asked, making a move to get up.

“Nope, you and Mommy can sit together,” Scottie said with a smile. 

“Okay...well how about you go sit on Tobin’s other side?” Christen offered, knowing that Scottie would be shielded from the camera if she sat over there.

“Whatever,” Scottie shrugged, waiting for Tobin and Christen to move down a seat before she took Tobin’s.

“Thank you,” Tobin whispered quietly, just for Christen to hear. 

“I want to keep her safe, too. It isn’t just on you now,” Christen replied softly, squeezing Tobin’s hand in her own.

“I know,” Tobin breathed out, her heart fluttering at the love that Christen constantly showed. 

Tobin poured the water from the kettle into their mugs, watching as the water changed color slightly when it met the tea bags. She knew Christen was stressing, so she’d picked chamomile tea, knowing that it often made her sleepy and calm. 

She didn’t want Christen to stress, even if her stress was about protecting Scottie. It almost seemed like both of them were trying to protect one another from their own stress. Tobin didn’t want Christen to worry about the anxiety she’d had for months, and Christen wanted to carry this evening’s events on her shoulders only. 

It was typical them, keeping things to themselves in order to protect one another. But Tobin didn’t want Christen to blame herself. She and Scottie had chosen her, not for her fame or for her talent. They’d chosen her for her heart, her love, her character, her compassion, for a countless number of things. They’d chosen her, and celebrity or public attention didn’t change that. 

So, Tobin swallowed down the worry she’d felt after the jumbotron moment. She pushed her anxieties about Roni and custody away, in order to focus on the woman upstairs and the guilt she unnecessarily felt. 

Tobin carefully carried the mugs of tea upstairs, glancing down the hall to Scottie’s slightly open bedroom door, the bedroom dark and Scottie asleep inside, before making her way to her bedroom. 

Christen was in the same frenzied state she had been all night, seated on the bed, her computer in her lap and her eyes scanning the screen. Tobin quietly put Christen’s tea on Christen’s bedside table before walking back to her side of the bed and settling under the covers, her own mug held tightly between her two hands. 

“Are you looking at pictures of Michael Jackson’s kids with bags over their heads?” Tobin sighed, putting her tea down as soon as she realized how far Christen was spiraling. 

“That was an hour ago,” Christen mumbled, running her fingers through the curls at her temples, her eyes moving between her phone and her computer screen. 

“Baby, put down your devices,” Tobin whispered, gently reaching for Christen’s phone. 

“But-” Christen tried to protest, barely even fighting Tobin when she took the phone and then her computer and put them on the bedside table.

“This is not solely on you. It’s almost midnight, it’s been a long day, and these are decisions we’re gonna make together. So, before you pick out and order a mask for Scottie to wear when we go out, maybe we can get some sleep and talk about all of this in the morning.”

Christen sighed and sank back into the pillows, fixing Tobin with a sleepy half-smile. “I wasn’t looking at masks. I was doing legal research, thank you very much.”

“What kind of legal research?” Tobin murmured, rolling onto her stomach and putting her arm over Christen’s waist. 

Christen scratched at the corner of her jaw and averted her eyes. “Just know, someone could use the proximity of a child to the limelight as grounds for custody or something.”

“That’s where your mind went too,” Tobin sighed, letting her eyes flutter closed. 

Christen nodded, mindlessly running her fingers through Tobin’s hair, dropping her head against the headboard. 

“I haven’t stopped worrying about that since August,” Christen whispered. “Since Jerri called.”

“And here I was thinking it was just me being a worrywart,” Tobin mumbled, pressing a kiss to Christen’s shoulder. “I’m sorry you’ve been worrying. I should’ve talked to you about it, and then we could have been worried together.”

“We were worried beside one another. Which isn’t exactly together, but it’s better than apart,” Christen hummed, scratching gently at Tobin’s scalp as she continued to run her fingers through Tobin’s soft waves.

“I’ve thought about just calling,” Tobin admitted softly. 

“Why haven’t you?” Christen asked gently.

“Do you know how much I absolutely hate the idea of calling Roni?” Tobin sighed. 

Christen cracked a smile. “I think I’ve got a clear picture on that, yeah,” she chuckled. “I get why you don’t call her. I do, babe. But...maybe it would give you peace of mind?”

“I’m not really sure any conversation with her will give me peace of mind,” Tobin grumbled. “But if it gave us peace of mind, then maybe it would be worth it.”

Christen leaned down to press a kiss to the top of Tobin’s head. “Whatever you think is best. You have my full support and my three hours of legal research to back you up if you need.”

“I just want you to be there when and if I call,” Tobin said quietly. “If that’s okay.”

Christen wiggled down on the bed, gently pulling Tobin onto her chest, her fingers continuing to move through Tobin’s hair soothingly. 

“I’ll always be there. Whenever you need me,” Christen murmured.

“I always need you,” Tobin whispered, moving her thumb under the hem of Christen’s t-shirt, just to touch even a tiny bit of her skin, just to feel a little more connected to her. 

“I bet that tea’s cold,” Christen whispered with a slight laugh in her voice.

“No way,” Tobin teased. “I used the extra hot water.”

“If I’m right, you lose your shirt,” Christen replied, trying to infuse some light back into the evening.

“If I’m right, you lose yours,” Tobin countered, squeezing Christen’s hip softly. 

Christen chuckled and reached over to feel the mug on her bedside table. When it was still too hot to touch for very long, Christen retracted her hand. 

“Damn,” Christen grumbled. 

“Start stripping,” Tobin grinned, pressing her smile to Christen’s neck and keeping her arm around her, taking her time to move away from Christen’s body and help her out of her shirt. 

Chapter Text

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I'll make you so sure about it
God only knows what I'd be without you

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would livin' do me?
God only knows what I'd be without you

(Christen - "God Only Knows" cover by Kina Grannis and Imaginary Future)


There's not enough chocolate, there's too many chores
There are so many mountains that I haven't explored
This is why I need you

Cause you make the darkness less dark
You make the edges less sharp
You make the winter feel warmer
You make my weakness less weak
You make the bottom less deep
You make the waiting feel shorter
You make my crazy feel normal, every time
You are the who, love is the what and this is the why
You keep the ship moving forward
You make it easy to try
You make my crazy feel normal, every time
You are the who, love is the what and this is the why

(Scottie - "This Is Why I Need You" by Jesse Ruben)


What can I give that is all for you?
My heart’s not good cause it’s split in two
What can I give that is all for you?
These arms are all I have
But I'll hold you like I do love you

(Tobin - "Arms" by The Paper Kites)



“Christen,” Scottie whispered, shaking Christen’s shoulder softly. 

“Too early,” Christen mumbled, pressing her face into her pillow.

“But Mommy’s doing stress laundry,” Scottie murmured. 

Christen blinked her eyes open, lifting off the pillow and fixing Scottie with a confused look. “She’s what?”

“She’s washing everything, and she’s pacing like when she paints,” Scottie repeated. 

Christen narrowed her eyes at the clock. Seeing that it was just shy of six in the morning, it was not only too early for Scottie to be up but also way too early for stress laundry. 

“I’ll get her. You climb into bed and wait for the cuddle puddle,”  Christen yawned, sitting up and running a hand over her face, trying to wake herself up.

“Okay,” Scottie yawned, crawling into bed and sinking into the warmth that Christen’s body was radiating. 

“I’ll be back,” Christen hummed, leaving a kiss on Scottie’s head. She grabbed Tobin’s robe from the hook in the closet and pulled it on, shuffling down the stairs as another yawn took over her. 

Tobin was leaving today for a three-day trip to Pennsylvania. She had been acting like it was no big deal up until last night, when the stress started to kick in. Christen had tried to help, giving her a nice, long massage before bed and holding her while they slept.

But apparently, her powers were no match for stress or the subsequent stress laundry. 

“Baby?” Christen called out when she got to the living room, her voice hoarse from sleep.

“Sorry, was I too loud?” Tobin murmured sheepishly, tossing a fleece blanket that typically sat on the couch into the dryer. 

“Come back to bed,” Christen hummed, pulling the sides of the robe tightly around her body.

“I just don’t want you to have to do laundry while I’m gone,” Tobin said, reaching back into the washer. 

Christen moved closer, removing the smaller blanket that usually sat on the other end of the couch from Tobin’s hands. 

“Leave it,” Christen said softly, taking Tobin’s hands in her own.


“I only get to hold you for four more hours. Don’t spend them down here with wet blankets,” Christen replied, tugging on Tobin’s hands and moving back a step toward the stairs.

Tobin couldn’t argue with that, not when she also wanted those four hours to be in Christen’s arms. 

“How lame is it if I tell you that this will be my longest time away from Scottie since...I think you call it my ‘big breather,’” Tobin sighed, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist as they walked away from the washer and dryer. 

Christen led Tobin upstairs, accepting the challenge of climbing up them with Tobin’s arms wrapped around her waist.

“Not lame at all. You’re going to miss her and this is a big deal,” Christen murmured.

“I’m going to miss both of you,” Tobin corrected softly. “And people might hate the paintings, so that compounds the slight anxiety.”

Christen scoffed at the ridiculousness of the idea that anyone could hate Tobin’s art. 

“No way would anyone dare to hate what you create. I would have some words with them if they did,” Christen hummed, shuffling them down the hallway.

“I can’t take the green one,” Tobin admitted, pressing a kiss to the back of Christen’s neck. 

“Why not?” Christen asked softly.

“Because I can’t sell it,” Tobin murmured. 

Christen felt the ghost of a smile tug at her lips, causing her to turn in Tobin’s arms. 

“You’re going to keep it?” Christen asked, a little more awake and a little more in love than she had been a moment ago.

“If this wasn’t my job, I wouldn’t sell any of them, to be honest. But I think I’d run out of wall space. The green one is you and Scottie, though. It means too much to me for some stranger to have it,” Tobin hummed. 

Christen felt hot tears pool in her eyes as a shaky breath left her lips. “I’m really going to miss you,” she whispered, grabbing ahold of Tobin’s hand and bringing it up to her chest, right over her racing heart. “I’m going to miss this.”

“Me too,” Tobin breathed out, grabbing Christen’s free hand and putting it over her heart. “You and Scottie are going to have a great weekend. You told me that you love alone time with her. And I’m pretty sure she offered to help you train.”

“I know, I know, but still,” Christen sighed. “I wish you didn’t have to go. I know that’s selfish and unsupportive, but I wish you could stay.”

“It isn’t selfish or unsupportive. I never want you to go,” Tobin replied, running her thumb along Christen’s jaw.  

“Is it selfish if I want you to spend every minute until you have to go in bed with me?” Christen asked softly.

“Nope. I think it’s a very good idea,” Tobin said with a smile. 

“Good...because we have a cuddle puddle waiting for us,” Christen grinned, kissing Tobin quickly and pulling her the last little bit down the hallway and into the bedroom. “Scottie, guess who I found?” Christen called out.

“Mommy,” Scottie rasped, her voice clearly not fully awake. 

Tobin crawled into bed, holding onto Christen so that she’d stay on her side, so that they could hold one another. She kissed Scottie’s forehead and opened up her arms for both of her girls to squirm closer. 

“Mommy and Mo- my Christen,” Scottie yawned, reaching over Tobin to hold Christen’s hand. 

Christen tangled her fingers with Scottie’s and dropped her head onto Tobin’s chest. 

“Hey, Scottie?” Christen asked softly.

“Mhm,” Scottie hummed. 

“Do heartstrings stretch all the way to Pennsylvania?”

“There’s nowhere Mommy could go where heartstrings don’t reach,” Scottie recited. 

“Just checking,” Christen murmured, dropping a kiss to Tobin’s shirt and squeezing Scottie’s hand. “We’re going to miss her a lot, aren't we?”

“Soooo much,” Scottie nodded, burying her face into the pillow and Tobin’s shoulder. “But she’s gonna FaceTime us every night, and she always comes back.”

Christen hummed, feeling a sleepy smile make its way onto her face. “She does. She always comes back to us.”

“Always,” Tobin agreed, her voice hardly a whisper as she tightened her arms around Christen and Scottie. 

“You have my mom’s number. She’s in Florida visiting Katie, but she can talk you through anything if I’m not answering. I should be answering. Babysitter’s number is on the fridge if something comes up and you need someone to watch her-”

“Oh, I shouldn’t set Scottie up with a gin and tonic in front of the TV and head out with the girls?” Christen teased, her arms looped around Tobin’s waist.

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” Tobin grinned. “But...uh don’t leave her home alone. You know that. Sorry. Her pediatrician’s number is on the fridge, and the health insurance card is in the drawer of my bedside table under all the handkerchiefs. Should I stop lecturing and just let you have your super fun weekend now?”

Christen felt a small smile make its way onto her face as she took in the slightly worried look on Tobin’s face.

“Need to get anything else off your chest? Did you leave me her dentist’s number just in case?”

“Oh, I didn’t even think of that,” Tobin mumbled, already reaching for her phone. 

“Babe,” Christen laughed, pulling Tobin back into her. “Stop worrying. We’re going to be fine.’

“I know you will be. It’s me I’m worried about,” Tobin said with a lopsided smile. 

“You’re going to be fine too. You’re going to sell some paintings, make a little money, have some fun in Philadelphia, and be back before we know it,” Christen replied, kissing the corner of Tobin’s mouth.

“You want me to bring you a miniature version of the Liberty Bell?” Tobin teased. 

Christen shook her head, capturing Tobin’s lips with her own in a long kiss. “Just get back to us safely, okay?” she whispered, leaning her forehead against Tobin’s. “No need to get a bell. Just get home.”

“Are you sure you don’t need the car?” Tobin asked for the hundredth time. 

“Positive. Kelley’s going to drive us to training tomorrow,” Christen replied.

“Okay, I’ll stop worrying then,” Tobin sighed, finally relaxing her shoulders slightly. 

“No you won’t,” Christen teased, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s. “And I love you, you worrywart.” 

“I love you. Thank you for forcing me back into bed this morning,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips. 

“Of course,” Christen hummed, sinking into her last few moments with Tobin, knowing they were almost done for the next three days. 

“I’ll call you tonight to say good night, if you aren’t too busy,” Tobin promised, smiling about the fun weekend Scottie and Christen were likely about to have together. 

“Never too busy for you,” Christen replied, pulling Tobin in for another kiss. 

She’d been strong, shouldering Tobin’s nerves and worries and doing her best to assuage them. She’d been so strong that up until this very moment, she hadn’t let herself be sad that Tobin was leaving. She hadn’t processed just how much she would truly miss Tobin and the light she brought to her everyday life. 

So, now that she realized just what she would be missing for the next few days, Christen made the most of her final few moments. 

She buried her hand in the hair at the back of Tobin’s head and kept their lips locked, running her tongue along Tobin’s bottom lip. Christen backed them up towards the bedroom wall, feeling incredibly thankful she’d remembered to lock the door while Tobin threw some last-minute things into a suitcase and Scottie took a shower. 

“Is this what it feels like when I leave? This hollow ache in your chest?” Christen whispered, keeping her body pinning Tobin’s to the wall as she ghosted her lips across Tobin’s cheek and down her jaw. “If it is, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I make you feel like this when I go.”

“It’s always like this,” Tobin sighed. “It’s an ache chest that doesn’t go away until I have my arms around you again. But I don’t envy you having to leave for games and camps. Leaving feels awful.” 

Christen kissed her way back to Tobin’s lips, capturing them once again in a bruising kiss. She kissed Tobin again and again, their lips moving against one another’s with ease. Their kisses spoke of the depth of their feelings and how much they’d miss one another. They spoke of how they couldn’t wait for their time apart to end. 

“Let’s try not to do a whole lot of leaving then,” Christen mumbled against Tobin’s lips, her free hand cradling Tobin’s cheek. 

“Hey, you and Scottie can still come with me if you want,” Tobin smirked, knowing that Christen had off-season training to do and that an art exhibition would bore Scottie to death. 

“Don’t tempt me, Tobin Heath,” Christen chuckled, tucking her face in the crook of Tobin’s neck and holding Tobin impossibly close. 

“I really don’t want to leave you two, but honestly, I’m actually really excited for you to have time, just the two of you,” Tobin said, running her hands up and down Christen’s back. 

Christen pressed her smile into Tobin’s neck, feeling the exact same way. 

This felt big and monumental. This felt like the weekend where Christen would truly know if she was ready and able to step into a role that carried the label of Momma. This weekend had the potential to change things in the absolute best way and Christen was giddy and nervous and ready. 

She was ready. 

“This feels like an important weekend for us,” Christen admitted quietly. 

“It is,” Tobin said honestly. “I mean it’s you taking on the parent role sort of, right? Not that you need to feel pressure. I think it’ll be a good weekend.” 

“I feel…oddly ready? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because these last few months it sort of feels like we’ve been moving this direction. But, I’m not scared. Not really,” Christen replied, leaning back and meeting Tobin’s gaze. 

“You already do this all the time. You took care of her when we were sick; you talk her through homework problems; you pick her up from school sometimes; you- you love her. Me not watching for three days just gives you even more space to feel out that role. I’m glad you aren’t scared because I’m not,” Tobin hummed, tucking a curl behind Christen’s ear. 

Christen couldn’t help herself. She kissed Tobin again, almost smiling too much to really pull it off.  

“I love you, Tobin Heath,” Christen whispered against Tobin’s lips, feeling her heart fluttering in her chest at the faith Tobin had in her. 

“I love you, Christen Press,” Tobin replied, her smile growing even more as she looked at her favorite pair of green eyes. 

Three knocks sounded at the door, making both women chuckle. “Why’s the door locked? I want hugs!” Scottie yelled. 

“You want hugs?!” Tobin called, lacing her fingers with Christen’s and walking to the door to let Scottie in. 

“Three long ones since you’ll be gone three days,” Scottie replied, knocking on the door again. 

Tobin pulled the door open and opened her arms for Scottie, her heart melting when Scottie pressed her face against her shirt and tightened her arms around her waist. 

“I’m gonna miss you, little bit,” Tobin murmured. 

“I’m gonna miss you more, Mommy. My heartstrings already feel stretched,” Scottie mumbled, her hot tears staining the front of Tobin’s shirt. 

“Hey,” Tobin cooed softly. “First of all, there’s no way you’ll miss me more. You remember, I told you that you’re my universe. And second of all,” she added, lowering her voice to a whisper, “my heartstrings are stretching too. But Pennsylvania isn’t too far, and I’m gonna call every single day.” 

Scottie nodded, not lifting her head from Tobin’s stomach as she reached out and pulled Christen closer, keeping the both of them in her arms. 

“You’re my whole universe too,” Scottie whispered, her voice still thick with tears. 

“Do you know how long it takes to drive to Philadelphia from here?” Tobin asked quietly, running a hand over Scottie’s hair. 

“No,” Scottie replied with a sniffle.

“Less than two hours. That means that the heartstrings will only stretch a little bit and that I can be home super fast if you need me,” Tobin promised. 

“I hope you bring your speedy shoes so you can come home super duper fast,” Scottie said, lifting her head and looking up at Tobin, her gray eyes watery.

“I packed my super speedy shoes, so that I’ll get home fast on Tuesday,” Tobin whispered. “I’ll pick you up from school.” 

Scottie sighed, her lower lip trembling. She leaned into Christen this time, offering Christen’s shirt the same tear-stained treatment as she clung to the two adults.

“We shouldn’t do goodbyes anymore after this. It’s too much for my heart,” Scottie mumbled.

Christen let out a shaky breath, running her hand over Scottie’s hair as she leaned against Tobin’s shoulder. She felt the exact same way.

“Well, how about I just say see you in a few days instead of goodbye then?” Tobin offered, leaning over to kiss the top of Scottie’s head. 

Scottie silently held up her fist for a fist bump, keeping her face pressed against Christen’s stomach.

“And you’ve got to promise me that you two will take care of each other,” Tobin added, fist-bumping Scottie and peppering more kisses on Scottie’s head before placing a kiss on Christen’s cheek. 

“We’ve got each other’s backs, right Scottie Heath?” Christen asked, her voice gentle as she offered Tobin a small smile.

“Always, Christen Press,” Scottie nodded, tightening her arms around Christen’s waist. 

Tobin had to force herself to back out of the garage. She’d put her suitcase in the trunk, loaded paintings in the back of the car, and then stood in the garage, holding both of her girls for as long as possible. Christen had pressed kisses to her neck, and Scottie had kept a finger hooked around her belt loop. 

And now. Now, she had to back out and wave goodbye. She had to try and ignore the tears slipping down Scottie’s cheeks and the watery smile on Christen’s face and swallow down the lump in her throat. 

It was only three days, but leaving them felt impossible. So she squeezed her eyes shut for a second, took a deep breath, and then blew kisses to both Christen and Scottie, finally disappearing out the garage door and driving down the street, every impulse telling her not to go. 

Christen held Scottie tightly to her, mumbling words of comfort and love when Tobin’s car turned the corner. She felt hot tears hitting her shirt again, so she crouched down and scooped Scottie into her arms. 

Even if Scottie was growing and getting a little big for this, Christen didn’t care. She held Scottie as close as she could, rubbing a soothing hand up and down her back as quiet sniffles left the girl in her arms. 

She closed the garage door before she walked them back upstairs, dropping down onto the couch and keeping Scottie koala'ed around her, pulling a blanket close and draping it around Scottie’s shoulders.

“Can I tell you something, sweetheart?” Christen whispered, pressing a kiss to the top of Scottie’s head. 

“What’s that?” Scottie hiccuped. 

“We’re really lucky because this ache that we both have in our hearts? That means we have someone extraordinary worth missing,” Christen murmured.

“Mommy is extraordinary,” Scottie mumbled, gripping Christen tighter. 

“She is,” Christen agreed softly.

“So are you,” Scottie added, burrowing close. 

Christen blinked her tears away, knowing she needed to stay strong for the girl in her arms. 

“You are too,”  Christen replied, making sure to keep her voice quiet. “Do you want to have a couch potato day? I’m too sad to do anything else.”

“I’d love to just cuddle with you. We can snuggle and order Gio’s tonight,” Scottie murmured. 

“You want to get that without Tobin? Are you sure?” Christen asked, a little taken aback at the request.

“It’s family Gio’s night,” Scottie shrugged. “Mommy said it was okay if you and I had family Gio’s night.” 

Christen tightened her arms around Scottie and pushed her face into Scottie’s hair. “Gio’s it is, sweetheart.”

“Unless you want something else. Mommy told me that you like sushi or…I think she told me you like tacos too.” 

With a smile, Christen readjusted Scottie in her arms to get a little more comfortable on the couch. “I want garlic bread and pasta and Tiramisu, and I want that with you. We can get tacos tomorrow.”

“Do you want to watch a movie or do a puzzle?” Scottie asked quietly, lifting her head just enough to see Christen’s face. 

“Hmmm…how about we watch Frozen II ?” Christen whispered with a smile. 

“Oh my goodness,” Scottie gasped, her eyes widening with excitement despite her splotchy cheeks and wet eyelashes. “Is this just a weekend of spoiling me?” 

Christen winked and kissed Scottie’s forehead. “I won’t tell if you won’t,” Christen teased, feeling a small bit of relief when she saw a light back in Scottie’s eyes. 

“Mommy said I have to tell you that I have a tiny bit of math homework, but I promise not to get frustrated,” Scottie said shyly. 

Christen chuckled, remembering how Tobin had also added math homework to her list of things to remember this weekend. 

“How about you bring it to training tomorrow, and we can work on it with your soccer aunts? I bet Coach Becky would love to help you with long division.”

“That’s a good idea,” Scottie hummed, deciding to sit up and turn on the Disney Plus account that Tobin had definitely borrowed from her mom and never logged out of. 

“Want super secret drink while we watch?” Christen wondered softly.

“Oooh yes please,” Scottie grinned. 

Christen helped Scottie out of her lap, getting her settled against a pillow with a blanket tucked around her like a burrito. She then moved into the kitchen, hating the way it felt a little emptier in the house without Tobin’s soft footfalls or low humming or warm laugh. 

She returned with two mugs full of super secret drink, blowing on Scottie’s before handing it to her.

“Careful,” Christen hummed, sitting down beside Scottie and pulling a blanket into her lap.

“Do you want to know something?” Scottie asked, ignoring the start of the movie in favor of talking to Christen. 

“What’s that?” Christen replied with an amused smile, turning to face Scottie.

“I first knew you were important when you made Joni do push-ups for making fun of my name,” Scottie said softly. 

Christen’s heart melted in her chest at Scottie’s words, feeling a shaky breath escape her lips. 

It was a moment she barely remembered. 

Those early days were full of so much pain, so much grief, that so many of her memories were clouded by that. But it was there, in the recesses of her mind. The faintest hint of it.

She couldn’t remember how many push-ups she’d made Joni do. She couldn’t remember what exactly she’d said. 

But she did remember the mocking laughter and the way Scottie’s face had fallen. She remembered the impossible-to-explain instinct to protect this girl, who was smaller than the rest. She remembered feeling a need to do everything she could to make sure the girl with the stormy gray eyes and messy blonde bun was happy again.

She just didn’t realize Scottie remembered. She didn’t realize that was the moment that had started it all for Scottie.

“Really?” Christen asked, a surprised, almost awestruck smile on her face.

“Mhm, lots of people have made fun of it, but not many tell them to knock it off,” Scottie sighed. 

“You have the coolest name in the whole world,” Christen replied, setting her mug down on the coffee table so she could wrap an arm around Scottie and keep her close.

“Mommy picked it. Well, I helped, but Mommy picked it out,” Scottie grinned, leaning into Christen’s side. 

“You two did a good job. It’s the best,” Christen said with a smile.

“Thank you for standing up for me before you knew me,” Scottie hummed. 

“I’ll always stand up for you, Scottie Heath,” Christen murmured, grabbing the remote and pressing pause on the movie. “Do you want to keep talking or do you want to watch now? We can do either one.”

“Sorry,” Scottie mumbled with a tiny smile. “Mommy says I talk through movies all the time.” 

Christen set the remote aside and grabbed onto Scottie’s hand, dipping her head to catch Scottie’s eye. 

“I love talking to you. We can watch this movie whenever we want. There’s no rush to finish it. So what’s a few more minutes?”

Scottie squirmed even closer on the couch, pressing herself as close to Christen as she could without actually wrapping herself around her. 

“I love you,” Scottie said for the hundredth time, her words holding more meaning each and every time she said them. 

“I love you too. And I knew you were going to be important at the very first Gotham game you were with me for,” Christen replied.

“Were you and Mommy dating then?” Scottie asked. 

“No,” Christen chuckled, thinking back on how desperate she was not to feel something, to ignore the feelings Tobin awakened within her.

“So…you loved me first,” Scottie said with a mischievous smirk. 

Christen’s chuckle turned into a full-blown laugh. “I guess I did, sweetheart,” Christen replied, her chest feeling warm and her heart feeling light. Despite the ache and the emptiness that echoed around inside of her without Tobin there, Christen couldn’t deny that Tobin still felt like she was there in moments like these. 

“Don’t worry. I won’t tell her,” Scottie giggled. 

Christen poked her nose against Scottie’s, making the girl’s face scrunch up adorably. 

“You make the ache less achy,” Christen said softly, tapping her heart and her heartstrings.

“You make my ache less achy too,” Scottie sighed, tugging the blanket closer and settling into the cushions. 

“Movie time?” Christen asked, grabbing the remote again.

“Movie and snuggles,” Scottie agreed, relaxing in a way she hadn’t been able to all morning. 

Scottie had been having the same nightmare all year, since visiting the zoo with her class in August. In the nightmare, she was alone in the herpetarium, and all the glass was missing from the habitats. 

It was very Harry Potter, only she didn’t speak parseltongue, and the snakes weren’t friendly or polite. She always tried to run, searching for an unlocked door, but sooner or later, the snakes and alligators and lizards would surround her, winding their way up her legs and biting at her heels. 

Tobin had tried to talk her through the dream, to help her understand it better, and much to Scottie’s surprise, the dreams had become less frequent. 

But when she was stressed or even a little anxious, or now when Tobin was far away, the nightmare would take over, making Scottie sweat, twisting in her sheets until she finally woke up, feeling like the reptiles were in her bed. 

When she woke up, there was no hesitation. It didn’t matter that Tobin wasn’t home. She pulled the sheets off of her and padded down the hallway, trying to steady her breath as she made her way to Tobin’s bedroom where she knew Christen was sleeping. 

Christen woke easily from her fitful slumber, not having been able to sleep well without Tobin’s warmth or comforting weight in the bed next to her. She heard the door open and Scottie’s stuttering breaths and knew Scottie hadn’t been sleeping well either.

“Bad dream?” Christen asked, sitting up in bed and rubbing at the pounding behind her eyes.

“Snakes again,” Scottie sighed, knowing that Christen knew about the recurring nightmare. She’d woken Christen up before, crawling into bed with her and Tobin a few times during the school year if a nightmare struck. 

“Come here,” Christen called out, patting the bed next to her. “You can sleep with me tonight.”

“Yeah?” Scottie asked, stepping across the floor and climbing into the bed on Tobin’s side. 

“Yeah,” Christen hummed, settling back down on the bed. She left an arm out to the side, opening herself up in case Scottie needed to cuddle.

“You aren’t sleeping well,” Scottie murmured, squirming into Christen’s space and cuddling against her. “Usually I have to touch your arm to wake you up.” 

Christen chuckled, the sound low and weak with exhaustion. “I just miss your mom. It’s hard to fall asleep without her.”

“She’s kind of the best cuddler,” Scottie hummed, squeezing Christen to try and make her feel better. 

“You’re not half bad yourself,” Christen teased, keeping Scottie close as she settled against her pillow again. “Do you want to talk about happy things to make the bad dream go away?”

“Yes, please. Do you want to know a super-secret that I’ve been keeping for three whole months?” Scottie asked quietly. 

“Only if you want to tell me, sweetheart,” Christen whispered, feeling her eyes get a little heavy but forcing herself to stay awake. She wouldn’t let herself go back to sleep until Scottie had gone to bed and was nightmare-less. 

“Hmm…maybe I shouldn’t,” Scottie teased. “I don’t know if you’ll be as good at secret-keeping as I am.” 

Christen huffed out a laugh. “I think I can manage it if you want to tell me,” she replied with a smile in her voice. 

“It’s about Channing,” Scottie whispered, smiling against the fabric of Christen’s t-shirt. 

“Oooh Press Pack secrets. Those are always fun,” Christen chuckled. 

“It’s about Mikel too,” Scottie added, fisting her hand into the excess fabric of Christen’s shirt. 

“And the secret is…” Christen trailed off, lazily running her hand up and down Scottie’s back, trying to soothe her and calm her after her nightmare, just like she’d seen Tobin do a dozen times. 

“When we went to Palos Verdes this Christmas, Mikel showed me a ring in a box,” Scottie murmured sleepily. 

Christen immediately felt a little more awake, her eyes flying open. 

“A what in a what?” Christen asked, her voice holding complete surprise. 

“A ring in a box. It was a black box, and there was a shiny ring in it, and Mikel wanted to know if I thought it was pretty enough to give Channing. But he said I had to keep it secret…maybe I’m not a good secret keeper,” Scottie sighed, palming her forehead with her hand. “Please don’t tell. I didn’t even tell Mommy. I was being super duper good.” 

Christen set aside her surprise and elation and tugged Scottie closer to her. 

“You’re a great secret keeper. I think it’s just more fun to think about pretty rings and weddings than other stuff tonight. Mikel would understand that, so don’t worry, okay?” Christen hummed. 

“Plus, I didn’t tell Channing. That’s what’s most important because the proposal should be secret,” Scottie added. 

“You’re very right about that,” Christen replied, an amused smile tugging at her lips. “I bet it was really exciting that Mikel told you out of everybody else, right?”

“Yeah, he said I had the best style and would know if it was classy enough or not,” Scottie whispered. 

“And is it?”

“Yes, but what’s most important is that he picked it out for her with tons of love,” Scottie yawned, scooting even closer to Christen. 

“Sleepy girl,” Christen murmured, dropping a kiss to Scottie’s forehead and then yawning herself.

“Sleepy Christen,” Scottie parroted. 

Christen smiled, getting that gobsmacked feeling in her heart again that this was the life she got to live and the life she got to continue to live for forever. 

“Just a little. I’ll stay up and make sure you fall asleep, though. I’ll protect you from the snakes and the bad dreams,” Christen whispered.

“You’re pretty extraordinary,” Scottie mumbled, her eyes drooping closed and her grip on Christen loosening as sleep started to overtake her. 

“Good night, sweetheart. You’re the best Scottie in the whole wide world, and I love you,” Christen said, tugging the comforter a little higher so it covered them both more fully.

“Good night, Christen,” Scottie breathed out, her voice barely audible as she replied and her legs already twitching slightly like they always did when she crashed into sleep. “You’re the best Momma in the whole wide world. I love you too.”

Christen felt her heart stop in her chest at the whispered word she hadn’t heard in months, not since Scottie was sick. 

But this time there were no tears. There was no fear or a feeling of inadequacy. Instead, tonight, Christen felt only love as she held her Scottie in her arms, watching over her until she was sound asleep.

“Momma,” Christen whispered with a wonderstruck smile, almost unable to comprehend that that was her. 

That was what Scottie saw her as. And for the first time maybe ever, Christen felt like the person Scottie saw her as. She felt like Momma, and that thought had Christen drifting off, a peaceful night’s rest awaiting her.

Kel [8:24AM]: 

Got a pretty bad headache. So, maybe a rain check on training today. Tell Mini Tar Heel sorry for me 

Pressy [8:26AM]:

I hope you feel better, Kel. Do you need anything? Scottie and I can bring you something. 

Kel [8:27AM]: 

Nah, I’d hate for the kid to catch anything. I’m just gonna sleep it off 

Pressy [8:27AM]: 

Don’t hesitate to call if you do need anything okay?

Pressy [8:27AM]: 

Scottie and I are sending you big hugs!

Kel [8:29AM]: 


Kel [8:29AM]: 

Enjoy your next few days single parenting 


Christen grinned at that final text and set her phone down, looking across the studio at Scottie. 

“How’s that painting coming, sweetheart?” Christen asked. 

“I think Mommy’s gonna love it,” Scottie hummed, smearing another glob of green paint across the thick paper that Tobin had bought for Scottie to use whenever she wanted. 

“Of course she will,” Christen grinned. “Do you want to do your math homework together? We won’t be able to go train today because Kelley’s sick,” she added, joining Scottie at the easel. 

“Poor Kelley,” Scottie hummed, pausing her painting to look up at Christen. “We can always train downstairs. It isn’t as big as a real field, but the goal’s the right size.” 

“That’s a great idea,” Christen replied, wiping a bit of paint off Scottie’s cheek. 

“And when I get tired, I’ll do math while you finish. You can check it when you’re done practicing,” Scottie suggested. 

Christen chuckled and nodded. “Want to go change into our matching jerseys and kick the ball around?”

“Yes please,” Scottie grinned, getting up from her table and heading to the stairs, her paint-covered hands held out carefully in front of her. 

“Hands first,” Christen called after her, following Scottie upstairs toward the bathroom so that they could wash their hands. 

“You mean I shouldn’t put my hands on the couch?” Scottie teased, pausing near the top of the stairs and wiggling her fingers at Christen a little. 

“Maybe not the couch,” Christen laughed, steering Scottie up the final few steps. 

When they reached the kitchen, Scottie turned around to face Christen again. She shook her hands in front of her at Christen playfully. 

“Scottie Heath,” Christen said in warning, her tone full of amusement. 

“Christen Press,” Scottie said, her voice innocent as she stepped forward. 

“Are we gonna do this?” Christen challenged, crouching down a bit in an athletic stance, ready to dodge Scottie’s paint-covered hands. 

Scottie let out a loud laugh that perfectly matched Tobin’s, her eyes and smile imitating her mom’s. 

“Bring it on, cutie,” Christen grinned, waggling her brows in Scottie’s direction. 

Scottie pounced forward, holding her hands out as she started to run toward Christen, the thick layers of wet green paint, shining under the lights in the room. 

Christen laughed and ran away, dodging Scottie’s attempts at wiping her hands on her old t-shirt. They ran up and down the stairs and made circles around the living room and the kitchen, their shared laughter bouncing off the walls. 

Finally, Christen decided to let Scottie catch her. She pretended to slip, letting Scottie get close. 

Only Scottie miscalculated her footsteps just slightly, skidding in her sock feet, her left hand grabbing onto Christen’s bare forearm, and her right smacking against the side of the living room wall. 

“Oopsies,” Scottie mumbled, peeling her hand off the wall and looking at the smear of paint left behind. 

“Oh, popsicles,” Christen sighed, looking at the green paint on the wall. “Uh, we should probably wash your hands now.”

“Maybe Mommy won’t notice,” Scottie hummed, staring at the long streak of bright green on one of the few bare pieces of wall. 

“Maybe…we should move the chair over there and cover it?” Christen suggested, pulling Scottie into her side. 

“I did that once when I drew on the wall, and I got in lots of trouble,” Scottie sighed. “I can call her and tell her.” 

“No!” Christen said quickly, steering Scottie toward the kitchen. “We should just…not tell her that we did that. Okay?” 

“Why? Honesty’s the best policy,” Scottie chirped. 

Christen got Scottie’s stool and set it up in front of the sink. “Because...well, you’re right. It is the best policy. I’ll tell her,” Christen mumbled, cringing at the size of the green smear on the wall as she leaned against the counter next to Scottie. 

“Can we call her?” Scottie asked, holding her hands under the sink faucet and waiting for Christen to turn the sink on with her clean hands. 

“You bet, but let me tell her about the paint,” Christen replied, turning on the sink before she pulled out her phone and FaceTimed Tobin. 

“Good morning,” Tobin said, answering the phone on the second ring. She stepped out of a gallery space and into a quiet hallway, beaming at the phone. 

“Good morning,” Christen grinned, holding the phone 

“Good morning, Mommy!” Scottie called, scrubbing her hands under the water as green paint washed down the drain. 

“What’re you two up to?” Tobin asked, leaning against the wall and focusing on Christen’s face. 

Christen felt her heart flutter in her chest at the soft look on Tobin’s face, an easy smile tugging at her lips. “Well, we woke up and had some breakfast-”

“Pancakes!” Scottie cheered, shutting off the water and grabbing a dish towel. 

Christen laughed and nodded. “Pancakes. And then we did some painting and now we’re going to play footy and do some math.”

“That sounds like an awesome morning,” Tobin laughed. “You two must have been up early.”

“Just 6:15,” Scottie replied. “Not too too early.”

Christen grimaced, confirming that it was in fact too early.

“That’s pretty early, buddy,” Tobin said, sending Christen an apologetic smile. 

“We had trouble sleeping, but we have a fun day ahead of us,” Scottie replied, leaning even further into Christen.

“Bad night? Nightmares?” Tobin asked softly. 

Scottie leaned her head on Christen’s shoulder and sighed. “Yeah. Snakes for me and sad for Christen.”

Christen turned to drop a kiss on the top of Scottie’s head, hiding her face a little from Tobin’s worried gaze.

“It’s hard for me to sleep alone,” Tobin murmured. 

“That’s what Mo- my Christen said too,” Scottie nodded, moving past the slip up easily. “But then I slept in your room with her, so both of us were better.”

“That’s good, little bit,” Tobin hummed, love obvious in her eyes as she stared at her girls. 

“Mommy?” Scottie asked, wrapping an arm around Christen’s waist.

“Scottie?” Tobin replied. 

“How much do you like perfect green?”

Christen tensed and lifted her face away from Scottie’s head, fixing Scottie with a hard look. 

“Scottie Katherine Heath,” Christen whispered.

Tobin’s eyes widened at Christen’s use of Scottie’s full name. 

“Uh...why’d you just get full-named, dude?” Tobin asked. 

“I wasn’t gonna tell her about the paint, Christen- oh, oopsies,” Scottie grimaced, smacking her forehead.

“Where’s the paint, Chris?” Tobin asked, an amused smile on her face already. 

Christen sighed but couldn’t help the small laugh that left her lips. Scottie was just too cute and Tobin looked unbothered by the prospect of paint somewhere in the house. 

“Living room wall,” Christen admitted with an embarrassed flush. “I’m sorry. I chased her around and she had paint on her hands and it was totally my fault. I’ll wipe it off or paint over it or something.”

Tobin let out a long sigh, rubbing her hand over her face. “Will you show me?” 

“Oooh, we're big busted,” Scottie whispered, hopping off the stool. 

Christen let Scottie lead her and the phone over to the wall. Christen turned the camera around so Tobin could see the green smudge on the light orange wall. 

“You’re really beautiful and I love you so much,” Christen said with a weak smile, on her face, feeling Scottie squeeze her hand comfortingly.

Tobin squinted her eyes and looked at the paint, the bright green standing out on the soft orange. 

“Hmm...that’s a problem,” Tobin murmured. 

Christen winced and turned the camera back around, so Tobin was looking at her again. “I’m really sorry, Tobin,” Christen sighed.

“I think something’s missing,” Tobin mused, almost to herself. “Scottie, I’m not sure one color is enough for a wall mural.” 

Christen felt a small huff of disbelief leave her lips, her heart warming in her chest. With a smile, Christen shook her head at the small image of Tobin on her phone screen, loving the lopsided grin she could see on Tobin’s face.

“You mean, we can add more?” Scottie gasped. 

“How about you wait for me to come back, and then all three of us can add some more colors. I’ll put down a sheet and protect the floor,” Tobin suggested, her smile only growing as she watched Christen and Scottie’s reactions. 

Christen ran her hand across Scottie’s head, smoothing out Scottie’s hair as she continued to smile at Tobin, her expression full of love and wonder.

“I think we would love that. Right, Scottie Heath?” Christen asked, her eyes still on Tobin.

“Absolutely, Christen Press,” Scottie nodded. 

“Is that why you called?” Tobin laughed. “Trying to make sure I won’t freak out when I get home?” 

Christen nodded, her cheeks filling with a light blush. “Honesty’s the best policy,” she hummed. “Scottie taught me that.”

“I love the new art, and I love both of you,” Tobin said, glancing up at another artist who was moving their paintings into their assigned space. 

“We love you too, Mommy!” Scottie grinned, blowing kisses at the phone screen.

“Go do your thing, baby. Call us later?” Christen asked softly.

“Always,” Tobin nodded. “Have fun playing soccer and kicking math butt.”

“A vegetable needs to touch your lips before Tobin’s back,” Christen said, arching a brow at the way Scottie was pushing around her broccoli on her plate.

“I already did math. Why punish me more?” Scottie groaned, poking the broccoli with her fork. She’d already made a dent in the chicken that Christen had prepared and absolutely demolished the mac and cheese that she’d fixed, but the broccoli was a hang-up. 

“Because as much as I love spoiling you, I also want you to be healthy, and grow up big and strong,” Christen replied.

“I guess you’re allowed to want that,” Scottie huffed. “I just don’t understand why broccoli had to be invented to taste so gross.”

Christen tapped her nose, trying to think of some way she could make broccoli a little more appealing. 

“Well...when I was a kid I really didn’t like bananas. And my dad wanted me to eat them, so he put whipped cream on top,” Christen said, smiling fondly at the memory. “So why don’t we figure out something yummy to put on top. What about...cheese?”

“Yucky,” Scottie mumbled. “Cheese belongs on grilled cheeses and noodles and pizza, not on veggies. I’ll take the banana and whipped cream, though.”

Christen laughed at the way Scottie’s face was screwed up in distaste and tried another option. “What about ketchup?”

“I- Hmm…” 

“You’re considering, that’s progress,” Christen said, jumping up from the table and grabbing the bottle from the fridge. “Here,” she offered, sliding the bottle across the table and taking her seat again next to Scottie.

“If it’s really gross and I throw up in front of you, will you still love me?” Scottie asked with a goofy smile. 

Christen grinned right back at Scottie. “Forever and ever, even if you throw up,” Christen promised. “It’s a Press and Heath promise.”

“Forever,” Scottie breathed out, squeezing the ketchup on her plate. She stuck her fork into a piece of broccoli and dipped it into the ketchup, slowly sticking it in her mouth and chewing. Her face screwed up just like it always did when she ate broccoli, but she was able to get it down easier than usual.

“Verdict?” Christen asked, leaning her elbows on the table.

“Mommy’s gonna be really impressed,” Scottie said, sticking her fork into another piece of broccoli. 

Christen held up her hand for a high-five. “We bested broccoli!”

Scottie returned the high-five, popping the second piece into her mouth and chewing quickly. It still wasn’t delicious, but it was better.

“You’re kind of magical,” Scottie said with a tiny smile. 

Christen felt those handful of words wrap around her heart and further solidify her feelings about where this was all headed. Someday felt so soon, especially when Scottie looked at her like that.

“I think that about you all the time,” Christen replied with a smile of her own. 

“Why?” Scottie giggled, dunking another piece of broccoli in ketchup. “I don’t make broccoli taste better.”

“Because...well just like I told you on my birthday, you and Tobin made feeling happy again, possible. You’re magical because you make me happy every day,” Christen admitted softly. “So you’re way better than ketchup,” she added with a wink.

“You’re way better than ketchup too,” Scottie grinned, fishing the last bite of broccoli with a flourish. 

“Now that we’ve got broccoli behind us, what do you say we do the dishes, get ready for bed, and watch a movie together in the big bed?” Christen asked.

“Do you think maybe I can sleep in there with you?” Scottie asked, her wide eyes staring at Christen’s. 

“I think I need you in there with me if that’s okay. I don’t want to sleep alone,” Christen murmured softly, reaching out to poke her finger against the tip of Scottie’s nose. “And you’re a great cuddler.”

“When you’re gone, I sleep with Mommy too,” Scottie admitted. “I don’t mind sleeping alone, but the house feels a little empty when one of you has work.”

Christen nodded, having had the same thought yesterday, the moment Tobin had left. 

“It does for me too,” Christen agreed.

“And that’s why cuddling is the best,” Scottie added, standing up and taking her plate and Christen’s plate to the sink. 

Christen grabbed their cups and followed behind Scottie, agreeing with her on that fact as well.

Christen hadn’t expected to be woken up in the middle of the night again, not after getting Scottie to fall asleep easily tonight. 

Tobin had stayed with them on FaceTime until Scottie had dozed off, falling asleep on Christen’s chest. They’d kept talking in hushed voices for a bit, catching up on their days and whispering words of love until it was time for Christen to call it a night as well.

She’d fallen asleep holding Scottie close to her, with her phone forgotten on the bed beside her.

But close to midnight, the vibrations of her phone woke her up.

“Hello?” Christen whispered into the phone, not awake enough to even register who was calling or what time it was.

“Oh, thank god,” Crystal sighed. “Becky didn’t answer. I tried her phone like six times.”

“What’s up, Crys?” Christen asked, letting out a small yawn.

“Kelley. She’s- Well, I don’t know what’s going on with her, but from the videos, I’d say she’s pretty fucked up,” Crystal blurted out. 

That had Christen’s eyes widening. She was immediately awake and alert, slipping from the bed and padding into the bathroom. She closed the door and flipped the light on, leaning against the countertop. 

“Videos? Where is she? Why is she fu- messed up?” Christen whispered, feeling alarm settle over her.

“They’re all over Twitter. She’s at some club. I think we went there for Pinoe’s birthday one year when we were all here,” Crystal said. 

“Okay, is it...bad? I mean, she’s an adult and she’s allowed to party. It’s offseason,” Christen reasoned quietly.

“No, she’s- I just texted you the videos. If I were there, I’d go get her, but I took the train to see my parents, and there aren’t any more running this time of night. I’m- Every time I try to get a ridiculously expensive Uber, the driver cancels,” Crystal huffed. 

Christen’s alarm turned into full-blown concern. “I’ll figure it out, Crys,” Christen assured. She quickly said her goodbyes to Crystal and watched the videos, each one getting progressively worse. 

Kelley taking shots with random strangers. Kelley kissing some random brunette girl at the bar. Kelley slipping and falling on the dance floor. Kelley kicking over a speaker and leading the drunk crowd in a cheer.

“Shit,” Christen sighed under her breath, feeling an odd sense of poetry about this moment.

Two years ago, this was her. She was the one with the booze and the girls and the questionable decisions. She was the one teammates would worry about. 

And without fail, every single time, Kelley was the one who would come get her. Kelley pulled her out of clubs and off curbs, with understanding in her eyes and kind words on her lips. Kelley was there for her in her lowest moment, and now she was going to be forced to do the same. 

She wasn’t just Kelley’s captain, she was Kelley’s friend. Her best friend. She had to be the one to try and help her now. 

So, Christen tried Tobin first. She called and called, getting her voicemail every single time. 

She knew Tobin would be asleep, but she needed Tobin to answer. She needed to know what to do. 

But Tobin didn’t answer.

So, after thirteen attempts, Christen gave up and tried calling everyone else. Someone to take Scottie or someone to pick Kelley up. She just needed someone.

She called the babysitter who lived a few doors down. She called both Abby and Glennon. She called a few of her teammates who lived in Manhattan.

But hardly anyone was answering, not so late at night, when the ‘city that never sleeps’ actually did in fact sleep. And those who did answer were out of town, enjoying off-season, and too far away from the city to go rescue Kelley from herself. 

So after twenty minutes of going through every single person she could think of, Christen felt a pit growing in her stomach. 

She didn’t have someone Scottie could go to, and she couldn’t leave Scottie here by herself. Tobin had told her as much right as she was leaving. 

She couldn’t leave Scottie, she couldn’t drop Scottie somewhere, and she couldn’t leave Kelley out there to get more wasted, make more stupid decisions, and possibly get arrested. 

This went so far past a rock and a hard place. She was between a fucking boulder and a spot so impossible, she knew there was no right answer.

But there were two things she knew for certain. She couldn’t leave Scottie and she couldn’t leave Kelley. So, after taking a deep breath, Christen turned the bathroom light off and walked back into the bedroom to wake Scottie up.

Chapter Text

What am I supposed to do without you?
Is it too late to pick the pieces up?
Too soon to let them go?
Do you feel damaged just like I do?
Your face, it makes my body ache
It won't leave me alone

And this feels like drowning
Trouble sleeping
Restless dreaming

You're in my head
Always, always
I just got scared
Away, away
I'd rather choke on my bad decisions
Than just carry them to my grave
You're in my head
Always, always, always

(Christen - "Always" by Gavin James)

Everything has its place
It is certain to me now
Wild and arranged
We were built for the same purpose somehow

Every word in the world
Could join hands and sing
And still fall short of ever

As sure as a ring goes with a hand
Stars with the moon
Just like the ocean pairs well with the sand
I go with you

(Tobin - "Everything Has Its Place" by Young Mister)

“Kel, listen. Just walk outside, I’ll be waiting for you out there, okay?” Christen said quietly into the phone, running her fingers through Scottie’s hair. They were sitting in the back of a Lyft, Scottie’s head in her lap. Scottie was drifting back to sleep, a blanket wrapped tightly around her, which Christen was extremely grateful for.

She’d hated waking Scottie up. She’d hated having to dodge questions about where they were going and why. She’d hated having to put Scottie through this.

But thankfully, Scottie was sleeping her way through most of it.

“You don’t understand,” Kelley slurred, the sound of a glass breaking in the background. “Fuck.” 

“Just tell me and I can try to understand. Walk outside and talk to me on the phone until I get there,” Christen replied, cringing at the loud noises in the background behind Kelley’s voice.

“I don’t want to go outside. I can’t- I’m just gonna finish this drink,” Kelley mumbled as music blared at an uncomfortable volume in the club. 

“The hell you will, Kelley O’Hara. You get up, you walk outside, and you meet me,” Christen said, her voice leaving no room for argument. “I’m not coming in to get you. You have to choose to walk away from this mess you’re making.”

“Oh, yeah,” Kelley scoffed. “Like you ever walked away on nights when you wanted to disappear.” 

“You didn’t let me disappear though. You helped me walk away. So that’s what I’m doing for you now, okay? Please, Kel. Walk out of there and meet me. We just pulled up,” Christen murmured.

“She doesn’t want me,” Kelley whimpered, sliding against the wall in the back corner of the club. 

Christen cringed, realizing that her worst fears about why Kelley was getting trashed on a Sunday night were right. 

“She’s an idiot if she doesn’t want you. Now please, please , Kel. Come outside and let me help you,” Christen pleaded, signaling the Lyft driver to keep waiting.

“I don’t think going outside is gonna feel good,” Kelley whispered, hiccuping as she spoke. 

“I don’t think staying in there, getting blackout drunk, and breaking more stuff that’ll get you arrested is gonna feel good, either.”

Christen could hear the sound of ice clinking in a glass, a sure sign that Kelley was still working on whatever drink she was on. 

“Close your tab and come outside. You don’t want to lose your career over this,” Christen pleaded gently, still moving her fingers through Scottie’s hair to keep her asleep.

“Maybe I’ll just find someone to go home with. That worked for you,” Kelley said, her voice jagged and vulnerable. “Maybe Emily would notice me then.” 

Christen felt the words hit her in the chest, stealing the breath from her lungs. She knew they were just drunk words, but they still stung.

“That won’t fix things, and you know it,” Christen sighed. “It is nearly one in the morning. I’m only going to wait out here for five more minutes. After that, you’re on your own. I’ll be waiting right outside, on the curb. Please come outside, Kel. Let me help you.”

“Let me find my wallet,” Kelley grumbled. 

“Say the words back to me. You’re going to come meet me outside,” Christen instructed.

“I’m gonna meet you,” Kelley slurred, moving from her spot and checking her pockets for her wallet. 

“Five minutes, Kel,” Christen replied, hanging up the phone. She quickly checked her texts, seeing if Tobin had replied to any of them, or if Tobin had tried to call her back. Still seeing nothing, Christen sighed and pocketed her phone. 

She looked at the driver and offered her a small smile. “I hate to trouble you, but could I just stand on the curb and wait for my friend? I’ll pay an extra fee or something.”

“Must be some friend,” the Lyft driver sighed, turning on her hazards. 

“She did it for me,” Christen replied softly. 

“Don’t leave the kid drooling in my backseat,” the driver said, pulling out some takeout that she’d had in the passenger seat and starting to eat as she waited. 

Christen nodded, gently shaking Scottie awake. 

“Hey, sweetheart?” Christen whispered.

Scottie groaned and pressed her face further into Christen’s lap. 

“I know, I know. We’re going to get out of the car now, but I’ll have you in my arms the whole time and you can sleep,” Christen murmured softly. “Then we’re going to drive Coach Kelley home and get back in bed.”

Scottie pushed herself up into a seated position, rubbing her hands over her eyes. 

“I can stand. You don’t have to hold me,” Scottie sighed. 

“Yes I do,” Christen replied, unbuckling her seat belt. “I’m going to hold you and keep you with me the whole time. Trust me on that, please?”

“Okay,” Scottie mumbled. 

Christen opened the door and stepped out, scooping Scottie up into her arms. She tucked Scottie’s face into the crook of her neck, thankful she’d picked one of Tobin’s UNC sweatshirts to wear with a large hood, giving Scottie something to rest on.

She held Scottie tightly to her and leaned against the side of the car, her eyes boring holes into the door to the club not ten feet away from her.

“Why are we here?” Scottie asked softly, keeping her forehead against the side of Christen’s neck. 

“Coach Kelley needed a friend, and I thought two friends would be better than one. So we’re here to get her,” Christen explained softly, running a hand up and down Scottie’s back.

“Coach Kelley really likes loud places,” Scottie commented, listening to the music pouring out of the few clubs around them. 

“I know, sweetheart. I’m sorry. She should be out soon, and then we can go home. We’re going to get in bed and under the covers. We can cuddle and fall asleep and then have pancakes in the morning,” Christen replied quietly.

“But I have school. Pancakes take too long,” Scottie hummed, playing with the hair at the back of Christen’s neck. 

“Maybe French toast sticks then,” Christen said, gently rocking the tired girl in her arms.

People passed by them, making their way into their desired club or restaurant. Some didn’t even notice Christen and Scottie. Others gave them weird looks, confused about why a kid was out so late. Still, others were obnoxious. 

“Is that your baby mama?” a guy teased his buddy, laughing until he saw the angry glint in Christen’s eyes. “Shit, we take it back. Sorry.”

“That’s a bad word,” Scottie whispered for only Christen to hear. 

“I know, sweetheart,” Christen mumbled back, glaring at the guys until they walked off.

“Coach Kelley’s usually faster than this,” Scottie murmured. 

Christen sighed and looked toward the door again, willing Kelley to come outside. And then she saw her, in a tight dress and smeared make-up, stumbling in her heels with a glassy look in her eyes. 

Christen’s gaze hardened, watching Kelley approach, her grip on Scottie tightening.

“You brought Mini Tar Heel?” Kelley laughed, tripping past the bouncer with her wallet in one hand and her phone in the other. 

“Get in the car,” Christen replied firmly, pulling open the car door and gesturing to it.

“Jesus, chill. I was never mean to you when you did stuff like this. Is she asleep?” Kelley asked, loud enough to wake even the heaviest sleeper. 

“Don’t talk to her. Just get in the car,” Christen hissed. “And keep your voice down.”

And then there was a flash. It was enough of a flash to draw Christen’s attention away from Kelley and across the sidewalk. But by the time she looked over, seeing eight different people talking with their phones in hand, not stopping as they walked past, it was too late to see who’d taken the picture. 

Christen’s heart immediately sank at the sight of the eight people, all who could have a photo on their phones. A photo of her, Kelley, and a sleepy Scottie in her arms, less than a stone’s throw away from a club at one in the morning.

She was no longer between a fucking boulder and an impossible spot.

Now, she was royally and epically screwed.

“Christen,” Scottie yawned, halfway asleep again. 

Christen shoved Kelley into the car, following quickly behind her. She got Scottie buckled into the seat to her right and buckled Kelley into the seat to her left. 

“Yes, sweetheart?” Christen replied, turning around to look through the back windshield at a few people still lingering on the curb, their phones trained on the car.

“I’m just sleepy,” Scottie said, her head already drooping against Christen’s side. 

Christen put her arm around Scottie, letting the girl lean against her as the car pulled away from the curb. 

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” Kelley blanched, leaning forward and grabbing ahold of the seat in front of her. 

“Absolutely not. Keep it together,” Christen hissed, reaching out to squeeze Kelley’s knee in warning. 

“Why did you go out if you were sick?” Scottie asked, keeping her eyes closed. 

“Scottie, don’t,” Christen whispered, her voice softening for Scottie, her lips pressed against the crown of Scottie’s head. “Just try to sleep, sweetheart. We’ll be home soon.”

“I hope Emily gets traded internationally,” Kelley grumbled. 

“I hope our people can undo the mess you just got us into,” Christen replied quietly.

“Oh, please,” Kelley groaned. “We have tons of pictures of us in bars and clubs doing god knows what with strangers.”

“Not with Scottie in them, Kel,” Christen growled.

“Why the hell did you bring her?” 

“I didn’t have a choice,” Christen replied, her jaw tightening. She forced herself to take a deep breath, to calm the anger building within her. “I tried to get someone else to take her, but no one answered.”

“Probably a good life experience for her in the long run, right?” Kelley said, trying to joke. 

“Don’t say another word until we get to your apartment,” Christen sighed, scooting closer to Scottie and holding the girl tightly to her, her phone already pulled out so she could text her agent and her publicist. They needed to get ahead of this picture before it came out.

“Another word,” Kelley muttered, making herself laugh way too loudly again and making Christen regret her decision to pick her up. 

It was the hotel phone that finally had Tobin jerking up in bed at 5:56AM. 

And then her heart slipped into her throat as she saw the dozens of missed calls and texts from last night, all from Christen. 

She rolled from the bed, yanking the hotel phone to her ear and letting out a raspy “Hello?” 

“Tobs?” Cindy said into the phone, her voice holding tinges of concern.

“Mom, it’s not even 6:00. How do you even know what hotel I'm staying at?” Tobin mumbled, unplugging her phone and scrolling through the text messages that she’d gotten from Christen. 

Most of them were requests for Tobin to call her as soon as she could, only they’d been sent after they’d both gone to bed. Her heart was racing, and her mind was reeling, and she was a second away from hanging up on her mom and calling Christen. 

“Please, I've been tracking you since you got your first phone. I know you told me not to go on that Discord thing anymore, but I couldn’t help myself with my morning coffee. You know how I like to be up early and catch up on the news. So I was and I came across this photo and-” Cindy paused, weighing her words. “It’s of Christen and Scottie, and they don’t look too thrilled to be on camera, which just made me all worried.”

“Chris doesn’t like paparazzi. Neither do I. We’ve talked about not wanting Scottie on display like that,” Tobin said quickly. 

“I don’t think these were paparazzi,” Cindy replied. 

“What do you mean?” Tobin asked, trying to dissect the words her mom was saying and the tone of voice she was using. 

“It’s a photo from last night, outside of a... Ray’s Bar and Club ? I don’t know where that is or what time that was taken at, but something had to be wrong.”

“No,” Tobin mumbled. “They wouldn’t. That’s not somewhere they would be.” 

“That’s what I thought. Christen also assured me that-”

“What? You talked to her?” Tobin asked, her heart simultaneously beating harder and relaxing with the knowledge that Christen and Scottie were okay. 

“Of course. I spoke with her to make sure I didn’t repeat any rumors that were ill-founded. But I’m still worried, dear. She sounded very stressed out.”

“So, she was or wasn’t at the bar…?” 

“You haven’t spoken to her?” Cindy asked, sounding almost surprised.

“I just woke up. You woke me up,” Tobin answered, swallowing thickly at the idea that her kid was out late at night in a huge city and she had been asleep, not answering important calls. 

“Oh, for goodness sake, Tobs. Call her,” Cindy sighed. “I assumed you already knew.”

“I don’t understand what I’m supposed to know,” Tobin mindlessly said, her head too busy thinking about the possibility of photo evidence of her daughter late at night, at a nightclub, on a school night. 

If the jumbotron and bullies at school had made her worry about Roni, this completely petrified her. She didn’t wait for her mom to explain. Instead, she hung up the phone and dialed Christen’s number, feeling like she might just shake out of her skin if Christen confirmed what her mom had said. Because jumbotrons and bullies were nothing. 

Tobin was a good mom, maybe even a great mom sometimes. But pictures of Scottie out late at night in the most non-kid-friendly environment…those could be used. Those could be damning in a custody battle. 

“Sandra, I’ll have to call you back,” Christen said quietly, pulling the phone away from her ear and seeing Tobin was calling her back. Finally. “Just get it pulled. From anywhere and everywhere. Get rid of it. Thank you.”

Christen quickly hung up with her publicist and picked up Tobin’s call, already dreading this conversation.

The pit in her stomach was all-consuming as she paced around the kitchen, Scottie sound asleep upstairs in her and Tobin’s bed.

“Babe, I-” Christen tried to say, but Tobin quickly cut her off.

“Please tell me that my mom’s reading something completely untrue again,” Tobin said, tossing her toiletries in her bag. 

Christen ran a hand over her head, smoothing her hair down, worry and anxiety and guilt making her movements jerky.

“I...I can’t do that. But-”

“You took her to a club,” Tobin said, her voice getting low and tense. 

Christen felt her whole body recoil at the accusation lacing Tobin’s words. “I didn’t take her in, Tobin,” Christen replied coolly.

“What time was it?” Tobin asked, clenching her jaw as she pulled on her sneakers. 

“Kelley needed to get out of there before something bad happened. Nobody else was picking up and nobody was here to take Scottie, so I-”

“What time was it?” Tobin repeated. 

Christen rolled her shoulders and continued to pace around the room. 

“One in the morning,” Christen whispered. “But I didn’t take her inside. We waited on the curb-”

“I’m coming home,” Tobin said, already zipping up her suitcase and dragging it to the door. She didn’t care if she was in a wrinkled t-shirt and sweatpants. She needed to get home. It had been selfish and irresponsible to leave, and she needed to be home with Scottie. 

“You don’t have to do that. She’s fine. She’s asleep and I’m taking care of it,” Christen assured, hating that Tobin’s voice, which usually made her feel loved and cherished, was now striking just a flicker of apprehension within her.

“Just stay at the house,” Tobin sighed, running a hand over her face. “I’ll be there in a couple hours, depending on the traffic.” 

“Tobin-” Christen tried again, only to be interrupted for the millionth time, this time by Tobin hanging up the phone.

Christen let out a frustrated huff and bit back the urge to chuck her phone across the room. Instead, she walked to the couch and dropped heavily onto it, her eyes focused on the green smear on the orange wall. She found herself wishing for time to stop so they could all go back to the happiness they’d felt when they’d been looking at that green paint together.

“It’s taken care of. Fans or smaller circles could still circulate it, but no large articles or newspapers will have it,” Sandra assured, calming some of Christen’s worries.

“Thank you,” Christen sighed, her eyes still on the green paint, the smear of it almost blurring before her eyes she’d been staring at it so long.

“How is she?” Sandra asked softly, having only met Scottie twice but fallen in love with the girl immediately. 

“Sleeping. I don’t think she knows what’s going on, and I’m grateful for that,” Christen replied. “But Tobin does. So...we’ll see.”

“I’m sure she’ll be as worried as you are,” Sandra hummed. 

Hearing the garage door open, Christen immediately felt her stomach roll and her heart clench painfully in her chest. 

“Yeah,” Christen mumbled. “I gotta go, Sandra. Thanks a million for this. Keep me posted,” she added, hanging up the phone and dropping it to the couch.

Tobin didn’t even get her suitcase out of the car. She hurried up the stairs, feeling guilt and frustration prickle beneath her skin and behind her eyes. She needed to see Scottie. 

It had taken her five minutes at a gas station in Pennsylvania to find the picture of Scottie and Christen. And while it had made her angry and annoyed and worried and afraid, more than anything, she felt guilty. She felt a weighted sense of shame on her shoulders because she hadn’t been there. She hadn’t answered the phone or done her job as a parent. 

So, she walked through the living room, just barely meeting Christen’s eyes as she climbed up the second flight of stairs, hurrying down the hall to peek into her bedroom where Scottie had been sleeping all weekend. 

Scottie always looked smaller when she was asleep, completely vulnerable and tiny. And Tobin had to swallow down the lump in her throat and push down the stinging behind her eyes as she ran a hand over Scottie’s head and kissed her forehead softly. 

Once she’d laid eyes on her and knew Scottie was okay, Tobin stepped back out into the hallway, shutting the door quietly behind her. 

“Tobin, I’m sorry,” Christen called out softly, leaning against the wall of the hallway, her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes suspiciously wet.

Tobin shook her head softly, trying to grasp at the thoughts currently sprinting through her mind. It was like she was trying to grab ahold of moving clouds, the thoughts slipping through her fingers and the words moving too fast to actually voice. All she could do was breathe, her lungs begging for air that she’d been refusing to fully take in until she saw Scottie. 

“You have to understand, I would never bring her into a situation that would harm her or put her in danger. I kept her with me the whole time, and I didn’t take her inside. I didn’t have any other choice. That was the best one I had at the time,” Christen continued, her voice taking on a pleading tone.

Tobin looked up and met Christen’s eyes, feeling her skin start to itch as her body temperature warmed up, as the frustration and guilt and shame consumed her. 

“You thought- You thought that that was the best choice,” Tobin said, her voice eerily quiet. 

“I didn’t have another one. I called, I texted, I- I tried everything else but nobody could get Kelley and nobody could watch Scottie. I tried every other option,” Christen whispered, her voice having a tough time staying quiet as frustrated tears blurred her vision.

“You-” Tobin shook her head, pushing the heels of her hands against her forehead. “You didn’t-”

Hearing Tobin’s voice rise, Christen winced. “We should take this outside,” she offered, nodding her head at the closed bedroom door and the sleeping girl behind it.

Tobin let out a huff, disbelief weighing heavily on her chest. But she still listened to Christen. She made her way down the hall to the door that led to the roof. She pulled it open and gestured for Christen to go first, all the while trying to grab onto a few words that she could string together to form a sentence. 

Christen stepped outside, pulling the sleeves of Tobin’s UNC sweatshirt over her hands. It was chilly, this early in the morning. The sun had risen but it provided very little warmth. There was a distinct lack of warmth right now on this roof and it had Christen’s chest tightening. 

“I called her in sick,” Tobin said, walking across the roof and staring at the view that she’d always loved. It didn’t feel quite as comforting as it usually did. Standing with Christen didn’t feel quite as comforting, not when she couldn’t decide what she should say, not when she was upset with both of them, herself and Christen, but mainly herself. 

“I tried but the school said only a parent could,” Christen admitted softly, that hurting almost as much as the distance currently between her and Tobin. 

“I don’t understand how that was the best option,” Tobin said, finally turning around to stare at Christen. 

“Can you try to see this from my perspective? I get a call in the middle of the night that Kelley needed help and there was no one else,” Christen said, her arms crossing over her chest protectively. 

“You took a nine-year-old out to a club at one in the morning,” Tobin said, her tone getting harder as she thought about how Christen had woken Scottie up to take her out and find Kelley. 

Every word felt like a slap to the face. And on some small level, Christen felt like she deserved them. 

She knew how this looked, on the surface, without context. She knew it looked horrible and irresponsible. 

But there was more to the story. 

“I had no other option. I couldn’t leave her, I couldn’t have someone else watch her. There was nobody else, Tobin. I- I made the best decision I could at the time,” Christen defended herself, her stomach twisting. 

“She would have been better off here by herself,” Tobin huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. She didn’t mean that. She regretted it once she’d said it, but her mind was still reeling, seemingly out of control. “I don’t- I mean- God, Christen, what were you thinking?” 

Christen physically recoiled, the first tear slipping from the corner of her eye. 

'What were you thinking?'  repeated on a loop through her mind, bringing up every small insecurity she had, digging up the fears she had tried to bury.

Ten hours ago she felt ready for someday. She felt ready for ‘Momma.’ But now, with the harsh words from Tobin’s lips and the skepticism in Tobin’s eyes, Christen didn’t feel ready anymore. 

“What was I thinking?” Tobin muttered to herself, squeezing her eyes shut as another wave of guilt rolled through her body. 

That question hurt more. It was one thing to question what Christen had done. In some ways, it was fair enough, and even if it hurt like hell, Christen could understand questioning her decision.

But for Tobin to question the decision she had made to leave Scottie with Christen...that was a blow Christen might never recover from.

“ don’t trust me with her, do you?” Christen asked at a whisper, swallowing thickly as she voiced the fear, the insecurity. 

“I do. I just- Chris,” Tobin sighed, swallowing thickly as she searched for words. 

“You don’t,” Christen argued, reading the hesitation on Tobin’s face. “You don’t trust me to make a decision that keeps her safe. You don’t trust me to do that and-” Christen faltered, feeling another tear slip out of the corner of her eye. “I don’t even know if I can blame you for that.”

“I didn’t say that. I didn’t say I don’t trust you,” Tobin argued, feeling lightheaded and dizzy and itchy, the frustration still coursing through her. 

“You don’t have to say it when I can read it all over your face,” Christen murmured dejectedly. “I need- I need to go. I can’t- I can’t be here right now. Not with this; not when it feels like this,” Christen whispered, her voice cracking.

And Tobin couldn’t find the words to ask her to stay. She searched. She tried to grasp at the moving clouds, at the vapor in her head. But nothing stuck. Maybe she didn’t find them because she needed Christen to go, because she needed a new kind of breather. 

Tobin sat on the living room floor staring at the green paint on the wall. Her frustration wasn’t simmering anymore. Her worry about Scottie had sunk into the recesses of her brain, replaced by an ache in her chest that felt debilitating, an ache that played the words she’d said to Christen over and over. 

The guilt was worse now. 

She no longer only felt guilty for leaving Christen and Scottie, for not answering and being there when they needed her. Now, she felt guilty because she’d put that pain in Christen’s face. She’d made her favorite pair of eyes tear up. 

And that guilt was soul-crushing. 

Because even if she hadn’t been there when Christen and Scottie had needed her, even if she’d been a bad mom for not sleeping with her phone volume on, at least Scottie had been safe with Christen. 

The guilt she felt about hurting Christen made her stomach twist and bile rise in her throat. It overwhelmed her and exhausted her and brought her to her knees. 

And as she sat there, imagining what she would have done if she’d been in the same position, what she would have done, alone with Scottie, if Abby had needed her like Kelley had needed Christen, she realized that she would have done exactly what Christen had done. 

She’d hurt the woman she loved most with careless words and rash responses. She’d hurt her, despite Christen doing everything she could to keep Scottie safe, to not leave Scottie alone, and to be a decent friend, a good human being. And that realization made the first few tears fall, blurring and smudging the green paint on the orange wall even more than Scottie’s hand had. 

“Christen?” Scottie mumbled, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she padded down the stairs and into the living room.

“Hey, little bit,” Tobin greeted, choking down the lump in her throat and looking up at the ceiling briefly to get her watery eyes under control. 

“MOMMY!” Scottie yelled, rushing over to jump into Tobin’s arms, clinging to her tightly. 

“I missed you,” Tobin murmured, holding Scottie close and using the neck of her t-shirt to dry off her cheeks. 

“I missed you so much! What are you doing here? Where’s Christen?” Scottie asked, smiling into Tobin’s shoulder.

“I missed home so much that I came back early,” Tobin hummed, rubbing Scottie’s back with her hands. “Christen had to go to her apartment.” 

“Did she forget something?” Scottie wondered, leaning back and fixing Tobin with a curious look. “I thought most of her stuff was here.”

“I think she just had some work to do outside of the house today,” Tobin lied, her heart cracking with each word she said. 

“Huh,” Scottie said with a furrowed brow. “She didn’t tell me she was leaving. She just came in to give me a kiss and said she’d see me later. But I don’t really remember since I’m so sleepy.”

“You had a late night last night,” Tobin commented, running her fingers through the baby hairs next to Scottie’s ears. 

“We took a field trip to see Coach Kelley and Christen gave me extra good cuddles when we came back home,” Scottie grinned.

“I’m glad she did. I bet the cuddles helped you sleep,” Tobin murmured, her stomach tightening as she kept picturing Christen’s tear-stained face. 

“Yeah,” Scottie hummed, a sleepy smile still on her face. “She took really good care of me, Mommy. I loved my Christen weekend.”

Tobin had to clench her jaw and suck in a deep breath to keep from breaking down in front of Scottie. So, she just nodded and offered Scottie a small smile. 

“She always takes good care of you. I’m glad you had a good weekend with her,” Tobin choked out. 

Scottie scrunched her brows together. She put her hands on either side of Tobin’s face and looked at her with narrowed eyes. 

“You’re sad, Mommy. Did nobody buy your paintings? I can buy one if you want. The tooth fairy gave me five dollars,” Scottie said matter-of-factly.

“Did she really? Pearl’s getting generous,” Tobin grinned, pulling Scottie back in for a hug. 

“Why are you sad?” Scottie asked, leaning her head back to look up at Tobin.

“I’m not sad,” Tobin lied, hating herself as she did it. 

“That’s what sad people say when they don’t want people to know they’re sad,” Scottie pointed out. 

“I just missed you. That’s all. I’m glad I’m back with you,” Tobin said softly. 

“I’ll pretend like I believe you. And when Christen gets back, we can make you laugh and then you’ll feel better,” Scottie declared with a smile.

“You’re already making me feel amazing with your magical hugs. And I was thinking maybe you and I could have some bagels on the couch for brunch, really enjoy playing hooky from school,” Tobin suggested. 

Scottie grinned. “When Christen was tucking me in after our field trip and told me I got to miss school today, I was so excited because that meant another full day with her. I hope she comes back soon. Let’s get her a bagel. She likes cinnamon raisin.”

“Buddy, I don’t know if she’s gonna have time today,” Tobin murmured, the guilt only growing in her chest when she watched Scottie process her words. 

“ is that possible, Mommy? She would have to spend time with me if you didn’t come home,” Scottie wondered, not completely understanding the turn of events.

“It- well…” Tobin let out a short breath and ran a hand through her hair. “I think I made her a little sad today,” Tobin said honestly, not wanting to lie over and over again to Scottie. 

Scottie’s eyes widened and her mouth formed a little ‘o’ in response to Tobin’s words. “You made my Christen sad?” Scottie asked, her voice quiet.

“I made our Christen sad,” Tobin admitted. “And you know how sometimes when you’re sad, even if it’s me who makes you sad, you like a little bit of time alone?” 

Scottie got a thoughtful look on her face, her eyes dropping away from Tobin’s. “It was because of last night, wasn’t it?”

“Do you remember when you first met Christen and you cried because she told you how to kick the ball better, and you got frustrated?” Tobin asked gently. 

Scottie nodded, her focus on Tobin’s t-shirt.

“And remember how I got upset and I turned into a Mama Bear and wasn’t very nice?” Tobin added. 

“You raised your voice at her,” Scottie recalled, nodding again.

“I got a little protective about last night too. I didn’t like that you were out so late,” Tobin murmured, keeping her hands on Scottie and rubbing gentle circles on her back. 

Scottie looked up then, her face scrunched up in confusion. “But Mommy...Christen protected me too. She held me the whole time and made me feel safe. Why do you have to be protecting me when she’s protecting me too?”

“Sometimes it’s hard to learn new things when you’ve been doing the same thing for so so so long. And I’ve been protecting you as your Mommy for so long by myself that it’s hard to remember that Christen’s now doing that too,” Tobin hummed, trying to make it make sense for a kid. 

“Oh, you have to learn how to share,” Scottie replied, clarity making her gray eyes light once more. 

“Basically,” Tobin nodded, feeling a familiar sense of shame wash over her. 

Scottie put her hands back on Tobin’s cheeks and smiled up at her mom. “I bet a sorry bagel would make it better. I can go to school for the rest of the day. I feel a lot better. And when I’m at school, you can go see Christen and tell her you need to learn how to share. Then you both can come pick me up and we can get hot chocolate.”

“That’s a good idea, but I’m not sure she wants to see me again today, little bit,” Tobin sighed, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead. 

Scottie dropped her hands from Tobin’s face, tapping the tip of her nose in thought. “Hmmm...maybe you should wait an hour and then go see her. Or maybe two hours. But no more than that, since that would be a long time.”

“That would be a long time,” Tobin hummed. 

“I’ll get ready for school, you get the bagels,” Scottie chirped, kissing Tobin’s cheek and then hopping out of her lap.

Tobin stood up from her spot on the floor, trying to figure out how she could take the guilt in her chest and form an apology that would actually take the sadness out of Christen’s eyes and the insecurity out of her heart. 

It was freezing outside, but Christen kept running. Her hands were numb and her legs were burning and her face felt frozen, but she kept right on running.

It had been hours since she’d left the house and with every passing moment that stretched out between her and Tobin and their conversation this morning, Christen felt worse and worse.

Had she made a questionable choice? Yes. Had she made the best possible choice out of everything available to her? Also yes. Was Tobin failing to see that and making her question if she could ever be a parent Tobin trusted with her kid? Abso-freaking-lutely.

She pushed herself harder, sprinting up the sidewalk and dodging the handful of pedestrians who braved the cold March morning. 

If given the chance to go back and do it all again, Christen wouldn’t change her decision. She had done the right thing for Kelley, helping her out of a situation that could have jeopardized her career. She’d also done as right of a thing as she could for Scottie. She’d held her and reassured her. She’d talked to her and cuddled with her afterward. She’d tried to call her out sick because she knew Scottie was in no shape to go to school. She’d done everything as right as possible, and she would do it again.

She still worried though. She still held onto that fear and apprehension that she’d hurt Scottie in some way, especially with this photograph that had almost gotten out. She was terrified that Tobin would never trust her again, which spelled disaster for their forever.

Even if she’d do it all again the same way, she didn’t feel good about it. In fact, she felt like complete shit, especially with how the conversation with Tobin went this morning. 

It almost felt like something too big to overcome. A hurdle too high, a barrier too unclimbable. If Tobin could never trust her, if Christen could never trust herself, then where did that leave them?

It left Christen on mile nine of a long run, completely drained and exhausted and hurting. It left her hobbling back to her apartment, wishing she'd worn more than leggings and a sweatshirt. It left her in complete and utter surprise when she saw Tobin sitting on the steps of her apartment building, two coffees and a bag in hand, a tortured look on her face. 

“What are you- I mean, what are you doing here?” Christen managed, still a little winded from her run.

“I’m hoping to apologize, but I’m prepared to just give you a coffee and bagel and let you have space if you need a longer breather,” Tobin replied, immediately standing up as soon as she saw Christen. 

Christen sighed and ran her hands over her head, her eyes darting away from Tobin’s.

“I don’t know if I do, but- just come up. It’s cold,” Christen replied with a tense grimace.

“You can ask me to leave any time you want,” Tobin said softly, following Christen through the front door of the building. 

They rode the elevator in awkward silence, both not really knowing what to say, both knowing that there was almost too much to say to fill the space between them.

Christen led Tobin into her apartment, the space feeling much more empty than it usually did because most of her stuff was now at Tobin’s.

“Do you want to sit or…” Christen trailed off, tossing her keys onto the counter and turning around to face Tobin.

Tobin squeezed her eyes closed for a second, hating the awkwardness between them and the discomfort she felt in a place that had always been comfortable. 

“We can sit,” Tobin said, thinking about how long Christen had been running and how tired her legs must be. 

They moved to opposite ends of the couch, acres of space between them, the bagels on the coffee table and their coffees in their hands.

Christen scratched her nail against the sleeve on the coffee cup, wondering if there was anything she could say to earn back the trust she’d lost, to earn back the confidence she’d found in herself.

“I’m sorry for reacting so rashly,” Tobin said, cutting through the silence with the first apology that rolled through her mind. 

“You were looking out for Scottie. I understand,” Christen murmured, her eyes still on her coffee cup. “I’m sorry too, for the record. It wasn’t the best decision, even if I’d make it again.”

“After you left, I tried to think about what I would have done if I’d been in that same position,” Tobin said softly. “And I couldn’t think of anything different, anything I would have done better in that kind of situation.”

Christen let out a noncommittal noise, telling Tobin she heard her words but didn’t actually hear them. 

“And I tried to think about what I would have told you if I’d woken up to your call. I would have told you to do what you did. I would have asked you to call people, and then I would have told you to take Scottie and get Kelley.”

Christen swallowed thickly, her eyes getting a far-off look in them as she continued to fiddle with her coffee cup.

“I...I was in a really dark place before I met you. I don’t remember a lot of it, to be honest. But no matter what bad decision I was making, no matter where I was or what time of night it turned out to be, Kelley would come. She’d drag me out of bars and back alleys and off curbs. She was there for me when I wasn’t even there for myself. And last night, Emily broke her heart and she was in need of a friend. She needed someone to be there for her. So I...I had to go. I couldn’t leave her,” Christen said, her voice quiet, almost strangled. 

“I’m glad you went and got her,” Tobin murmured, her chest tightening and her heart cracking as the shame settled more fully on her chest. She hadn’t meant to hurt Christen, but it was evident in Christen’s eyes that she had. 

“I am too, but at what cost,” Christen replied softly.

“What do you mean?” Tobin asked, wishing more than anything that she could reach out and hold onto Christen, that she could tether herself to the woman across from her. 

“I was ready. I was ready for someday and to take off the sticker we’d put on that. This weekend made me feel ready to be- to be more than I am now for Scottie. But the way you looked at me on the roof this morning…” Christen trailed off, shaking her head slightly, willing the looming tears to recede. “I realized it wasn’t just me doubting myself anymore. It wasn’t just me wondering if I could actually be that person Scottie needs me to be. You were doubting and wondering too. So next time, maybe I won’t be the person you trust her with, and if that’s the case...I don’t know where that leaves us. And that’s the cost.”

“I do trust you,” Tobin whispered, feeling her heart ache at the pain in Christen’s words. “I trust you with her more than anyone else, and I want someday. I want you to be more to Scottie than you are now. I was caught off guard this morning and worried about both of you, and I didn’t know what to say. I was shocked and wasn’t empathizing with the situation. And I was- I feel so guilty. But I always trust you.” 

Christen tugged mercilessly on her lower lip, her eyes filling with tears. 

“Why do you feel guilty? You were just- you were being her mom,” Christen shrugged. 

“Do you remember early on when Scottie lost a tooth, and Abby called and interrupted us? I left and picked her up instead of staying here. Or the morning that my phone rang because Kelley was calling about Pancake Sunday? We picked Scottie up from my parents’ house and came back home to make breakfast. Or pretty much any other time we’ve been interrupted because Scottie needed something and was staying with someone else,” Tobin said, leaning over and putting her untouched coffee on the coffee table. 

“Yes,” Christen nodded, not entirely sure how this answered her question but deciding to just go along with it. 

“I always keep my ringer or at least vibrate on when I’m away from Scottie. I always kept it on because I didn’t really trust that she wouldn’t need me with my parents or with Abby and Glennon or with Rebecca. But when I left her with you, I- I don’t know. I didn’t have that same anxiety that I always feel when I leave her because she loves you, because you love her unconditionally and so fiercely, because I trust you with her. So, I kept my phone on silent. And I missed your call, and I wasn’t there when you two needed me to be there,” Tobin whispered, her throat getting thick again. 

“You turned your ringer off?” Christen clarified softly, finally looking up from the coffee and at Tobin, her green eyes watery. 

“I turned it off, and I missed your call,” Tobin nodded, the guilt she’d been feeling since waking up in Pennsylvania swallowing her whole. 

“You couldn’t have known,” Christen replied, setting her coffee down as well. “There was no way of knowing something would happen. You can’t beat yourself up for that.” 

“But I saw your face, and I heard the worried voicemails you left last night, and now you don’t think I trust you. But I trust you with her. You’re the only person I want to share her with. And I’m sorry I didn’t empathize immediately. I'm sorry I didn’t put myself in your shoes right when I found out. I’m sorry I let myself get protective and scared and forget about how protective and scared you probably were when you decided what to do last night,” Tobin said, words that had been missing this morning now tumbling from her lips. 

With every word, Christen drifted closer on the couch. With every word, Christen bridged the divide between them until they were sitting with their legs pressed against one another on Tobin’s end of the couch, Christen’s hands cradling Tobin’s cheeks as she wiped away the tears streaming down Tobin’s face. The tears she knew were falling from her own eyes as well. 

“I was terrified,” Christen admitted quietly. “I was so terrified that I was making the worst mistake I could make. I was terrified I would hurt you two. And I’m so sorry for putting you both in that situation. I’m so so so sorry.”

“You didn’t,” Tobin assured, pulling Christen closer, not feeling like she could handle any space between them. “You didn’t choose that situation. And you didn’t hurt anyone. I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I’m so sorry I didn’t answer your call.” 

Christen tilted forward and leaned her forehead against Tobin’s, taking her first deep, calming breath in hours. 

“When I…when I left the house this morning, I was also terrified that there was no way back from this. That I- that the other shoe was finally dropping. That this was it,” Christen whispered, her thumbs still swiping at the tears gathered beneath Tobin’s eyes. 

“I was really scared when my mom called the hotel. First I was terrified that something had happened to one of you, and then I was terrified about the picture and people misconstruing it. And I didn’t mean to let that fear keep me from thinking about how you were feeling last night. I- I trust you implicitly, but I’m not 100% used to sharing the overprotective worry. But I want to. I want to share everything with you, and a situation like last night would never change that,” Tobin said softly, catching a tear that slipped from the corner of Christen’s eye with her thumb. 

Christen felt a shaky breath escape her lips, leaning back a little so she could look into her favorite pair of brown eyes. 

“I know I sound like a broken record, but I have no idea what I did in my life to deserve this. To deserve you and the way you love me and trust me,” Christen murmured, a small, awed smile on her face. 

“I have no idea what I did to deserve someone who loves me and who loves Scottie as deeply as you do,” Tobin replied, tracing Christen’s cheekbone with her thumb. 

“I…well, we fit and I don’t think I’ve ever understood that more than I do now,” Christen admitted softly. 

“Baby,” Tobin whispered, cupping Christen’s cheek with her hand. “We do fit. And there isn’t a shoe that’s gonna drop. Even when we have to talk through things or need breathers, I- Chris, you’re it for me. There’s no shoe dropping.” 

Christen didn’t look entirely convinced, but she still smiled softly nonetheless. 

“You’re it for me too. And…be patient with me for the rest of it? I’ve asked a lot of you, a lot of patience and understanding. But this feels new to me every day. Being a- a kind of parent to Scottie. A lot of it feels natural because I have my mom’s voice in my head and in my heart guiding me,” Christen hummed, getting a little choked up as she spoke. “But I’m going to make mistakes and I just- please be patient with me?” 

“I promise,” Tobin murmured. “We’re both going to make mistakes, not just you. I’m still learning how to do this too. But I promise to be patient, to love you, and be as empathetic and compassionate as I possibly can.” 

“Thank you,” Christen breathed out. 

“I love you,” Tobin said, her voice gentle and soft. “I am sorry about this morning. Thank you for holding her last night, for not letting go.”

Christen’s smile grew as another tear slipped from her eye, but this one wasn’t of fear or worry. This one was happy. 

“I’ll always hold her…and I’ll always love you.”

“And I’ll also apologize if Scottie ordered the wrong bagel. She said I wasn’t going fast enough, so she typed in the order,” Tobin whispered. 

Christen chuckled, her chest lightening as she did so. The knots in her stomach uncoiled, and the worry in her heart slipped away. 

“Now that it feels like you and I are okay, can I ask you something?” Christen said softly, not letting Tobin get up from the couch just yet, her gentle touch still on Tobin’s cheeks. 

“Of course,” Tobin murmured, keeping her eyes and hands on Christen. 

“Is Scottie okay? I left so fast this morning that I barely even said goodbye. I didn’t check to see if she was all right,” Christen sighed, her brow furrowing slightly. 

“She’s very okay. She’s at school. Apparently, she’d rather be there for a half-day than at home without you,” Tobin said, smoothing her thumb over the crease between Christen’s eyebrows. “She said you two cuddled last night.” 

And with that, the last of Christen’s worry melted away, lifting the burdensome weight she’d been carrying around for the past few hours.

“Until last night, it was such a great weekend, baby,” Christen hummed, a small smile playing at her lips. “It felt right. Especially when she called me Momma again.”

“She what?” Tobin asked, pressing her forehead into Christen’s shoulder. “She told me she’d be patient and wait for you.”

Christen’s eyes crinkled as her smile grew. “She has been really patient with me. It just slipped out when she was falling asleep after her nightmare. I don’t mind that it did.”

“Yeah?” Tobin breathed out, an awestruck look on her face as she leaned back to look at Christen. 

“I mean, I did spend the past five hours feeling very inadequate and unworthy of the title, but...yeah. I more than didn’t mind,” Christen replied.

“I’m sorry,” Tobin sighed. “I’m so sorry, I-”

“Enough of those. We’ve said them too much for one day,” Christen murmured, quietly interrupting Tobin and her hundredth apology for the day.

“So…you more than didn’t mind,” Tobin said quietly, tucking a loose bit of hair behind Christen’s ear. 

Christen swallowed the last bit of nerves she had about this and nodded, leaning into Tobin’s touch.

“Way more than just more,” Christen whispered, moving a hand to hold Tobin’s against her cheek, slipping her fingers between Tobin’s to try and get that much closer. “Which is crazy, right? It hasn’t even been two years.”

“I feel like I’ve had that same thought since we started dating, but there’s no timeframe or rulebook. I don’t think there’s a too soon when it comes to the kind of love that you share with Scottie, not if you both feel the same way,” Tobin hummed.  

Christen pulled their clasped hands from her cheek and put them over her heart, the way her heart was hammering in her chest clearly felt by the two of them.

“It’s not just me and Scottie,” Christen murmured. “You said that I’m it for you, and I know that you’re it for me. I’ve known it for a long time. Honestly...I think I’ve known it since I saw you throwing hands with Janice for the first time and guessed what I liked in my coffee,” Christen added with a teasing smile, her heart still thundering beneath their joint hands.

Tobin laughed, throwing her head back slightly at how ridiculous and tiny that moment was. 

“Okay, it isn’t too soon when it comes to the kind of love that all three of us share. I knew this was it for me on the drive to my parents’ barbecue, the first time you met them,” Tobin admitted softly. “You and Scottie were singing in the car, and I knew that was all I wanted.”

“My questionably terrible singing voice is all you want, for forever?” Christen chuckled.

“I want all the screech- I mean singing and the love and the laughter and the smiles. I want all of that with you and Scottie,” Tobin murmured, keeping her voice light and teasing but looking at Christen with every ounce of seriousness she felt. 

There was one final gap to bridge, one final hurdle to jump. And Christen did it as easily as she always did. Only this time, when she captured Tobin’s lips with her own, she made a promise. 

With the softest kiss they’d ever shared, Christen made a promise of forever, one she finally felt like she deserved. 

“Oh, thank goodness! You made Christen happy again,” Scottie beamed, racing down the steps of the school and heading straight for Christen and Tobin, wrapping her arms around both of them at once. 

“It must have been the bagel, dude,” Tobin said, running her hand over Scottie’s head and smiling at Christen with the dopiest smile she’d ever worn. 

“Thanks for remembering I love cinnamon raisin,” Christen added, offering Scottie a wink before looking back up at Tobin with a lovestruck smile on her face.

“Of course,” Scottie hummed. “Mommy likes a plain bagel or an everything bagel, and Christen likes cinnamon raisin.” 

“That’s right, and Scottie likes plain or chocolate chip,” Tobin hummed, taking one of Scottie’s hands as the three of them walked away from the school. 

“Or ash-ago. Gemma let me try hers today at lunch today and woah,” Scottie said, pulling her hands from Christen’s and Tobin’s and putting them next to her head, mimicking being mind blown.

“Asiago?” Tobin asked, trying to guess what bagel Scottie meant. 

“Oh, sure. As-i-a-go. The cheesy one,” Scottie shrugged. 

“Yeah, those are pretty good,” Tobin grinned. 

“You know what else is pretty good?” Scottie asked, looking between the adults as she took their hands again.

“What’s that, sweetheart?” Christen wondered with a smile for Scottie, swinging their clasped hands between them.

“We’re all together again. We’re home,” Scottie beamed.

“That’s true,” Tobin nodded, her smile morphing into a slightly mischievous one. “Do you remember what I said we could do when we were all together?”

“Umm...cuddle?” Scottie guessed, her forehead scrunched as she tried to remember.

“I mean, sure, but we do that every day…” Tobin teased. 

“Oh, I know. You’re gonna let me skip my homework so we can all go see a movie or go to a museum or something?” Scottie grinned, knowing that wasn’t the right answer, but wanting to see what Tobin would say anyway.

“Nice try. Chris, do you remember?” Tobin asked, looking over at Christen, her heart thrumming a bit harder against her ribcage when she looked at the woman she wanted forever with.

“I think we get to do something with paint…” Christen trailed off, her heartbeat matching Tobin’s.

“OH!” Scottie gasped, the lightbulb going off in her head. “We get to paint the wall mural!” 

“That’s right,” Christen grinned.

“But, since you said homework, maybe we should do that too…” Tobin hummed, her smile just growing at how right it felt to be home. 

“Popsicles,” Scottie grumbled, hanging her head.

“We can probably multitask,” Tobin suggested, squeezing Scottie’s hand in her own. 

“Can we bake cookies too? We can multi-multitask,” Scottie said, immediately lighting back up.

“That sounds like a really good idea,” Tobin grinned. 

“Oh, Mommy! Christen made broccoli taste not horribly awful,” Scottie said, beaming up at Christen. 

“We bested broccoli, didn’t we Scottie Heath?” Christen replied, her smile mirroring Scottie’s.

“Are you kidding me?” Tobin asked, stopping on the sidewalk and making a couple of people behind them grumble before she moved out of their way. 

“No...honesty’s the best policy,” Scottie replied, pulling Christen over to where Tobin had stopped so they were all together.

“H- You made- How?” Tobin pouted. “I’ve been trying for six years.”

“Aw, my love,” Christen chuckled, leaning forward to kiss Tobin’s cheek. “It was just a lucky guess. Nothing to pout about.”

“Scottie,” Tobin sighed, looking down at Scottie with a growing smile. “I think we have to keep Christen around.”

“Duh, Mommy. We were already planning on it,” Scottie rolled her eyes playfully. She looked up at Christen and smiled. “We’re stuck together.”

Tobin began to walk again, rounding the corner onto their street. “But” 

Christen and Scottie shared a smile and then both looked at Tobin. “Ketchup,” they said at the same time.

Tobin made a face, scrunching her nose up at the idea. “Not sure why I didn’t think of that. You’re the kid who used to put ketchup on her mac n cheese.”

“I was so weird when I was six,” Scottie sighed, shaking her head.

Tobin pushed the front door open with a laugh, letting Scottie and Christen in first. 

“Did it get bigger?” Christen asked with a small grimace, tilting her head to the side as she looked at the seemingly larger green smear on the wall.

“Scottie, I really think some happy yellow would look good sprinkled in there,” Tobin hummed, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist and resting her hands on Christen’s stomach. 

“Maybe some happy yellow polka dots!” Scottie giggled, dotting yellow paint onto a few of her fingers and getting to work. 

They’d moved all of the furniture out of the way and laid a large tarp down in front of the wall. They’d all donned smocks and brought a bunch of paint options upstairs, helping each other push their sleeves away from their hands and put their hair up in buns. 

“Is this really okay? I could have just washed it off or something,” Christen whispered, leaning back into Tobin and watching as Scottie started painting on the section of the wall they were dedicating to the mural.

“It’s oil-based, so that would be tedious. Plus, this is cute. It’s living art in the living room,” Tobin shrugged. 

“You realize we can never move now,” Christen murmured with a small laugh. “We can’t take the living room wall with us.”

“Watch me do it if we ever move,” Tobin smirked. “This wall and the office door frame are going wherever we go.” 

Christen hummed and sank into the warmth that always came along with the word ‘ we. ’ 

“Are you two just gonna stand there or what?” Scottie asked, turning away from the wall with her eyebrows raised. 

“I’m sorry. We’re slacking,” Tobin laughed, picking up a tube of blue paint and a tube of purple paint and offering one to Christen. 

Christen took the purple and grabbed a brush. She sat on the floor next to Scottie and started painting, trying not to overanalyze her brushstrokes or where she was going with them. She painted swirls and dashes and dots, helping fill in the spaces around Scottie’s additions.

Tobin showed Scottie how to make the geometric flowers that she was painting on the wall. The two of them did flowers of every color. Tobin added swirls with her fingers whenever she found an empty space that needed a shape. 

And after two hours of multiple paints and layers and patterns, all three of them stood back and looked at the mural. 

It was a hodgepodge collection of colors and shapes, but it worked. It fit, just like the three of them did.

“It’s our universe of love,” Scottie said proudly, wiping at her forehead and smearing some green paint there as she did so.

“It is, but it’s missing something,” Tobin murmured, loving the colorful chaos that was now on a portion of the living room wall. 

“What?” Scottie asked, her face scrunching as she stared at the wall. 

Christen reached down and grabbed ahold of Scottie’s hand. “We have to sign it,” Christen hummed, squeezing Scottie’s hand in her own.

Tobin helped Scottie cover her hand in purple paint before covering Christen’s in yellow. Christen pressed Scottie’s hand into the wall, making sure that it didn’t smear. She then chose another empty space for her own handprint. And then, the two of them picked out the darkest orange that would stand out on the light orange of the wall and covered Tobin’s hand in it. She pressed her hand into her own empty space, knowing she would, without a doubt, take this entire wall down and replace it if they ever moved. 

Chapter Text

Dame with eyes of green
Legs lie soft on the sand beside the sea
With tilted shades, beaming eyes they looked at me


But, ooo I love it
When you talk to me like you do
Oh, my lady by the sea
Come and lie next to me
Oh, my lady by the sea
Come and lie next to me
Your voice it blooms the flowers on the beach
With lips that glisten in the moonlight every time you speak


But, luckily, luckily she's got her eyes on me

(Tobin - "Lady by the Sea" by Stephen Sanchez)

A great big bang and dinosaurs
Fiery raining meteors
It all ends unfortunately

But you're gonna live forever in me
I'll guarantee, just wait and see

Parts of me were made by you
And planets keep their distance too
The moon's got a grip on the sea

And you're gonna live forever in me
I guarantee, it's your destiny

Life is full of sweet mistakes
And love's an honest one to make
Time leaves no fruit on the tree

But you're gonna live forever in me
I guarantee, it's just meant to be

(Christen - "You're Gonna Live Forever in Me" by John Mayer)


“I think it’s pretty cool,” Scottie said, holding up the project she’d been working on for the past month. It was finally the last week of school, and Scottie was incredibly antsy to be finished with fourth grade and starting Development Academy soccer again. 

Her family tree consisted of photographs of each and every Heath family member. She and Tobin had painted a tree on a canvas, and while Tobin was biased, she had to admit that the tree had turned out pretty cool. After it had dried, Scottie had pasted the photographs onto the canvas, placing them on branches, so that her aunts and uncles and cousins were with one another. Above her own picture, she’d put Tobin’s, and just to the right of Tobin’s, she’d put a picture of Christen. She’d finished the entire piece by spraying it with a sealer spray to keep the pictures stuck to the canvas and the paint shiny. 

Christen looked up from her book, her fingers still tracing along Tobin’s palm that resting in her lap. She narrowed her eyes, noticing a picture to the right of Tobin’s.

“Is that me?” Christen asked, closing the book and setting it aside.

“Yep, Mommy almost has as many pictures of you on her camera as she has of me,” Scottie grinned, looking at the picture and then back at Christen and Tobin. 

Christen shot Tobin an amused look and then looked back at Scottie, her heart quickening in her chest at the fact that she’d been included on Scottie’s family tree. It wasn’t something she’d expected in the slightest. But as surprised as she was, she was also incredibly moved.

“I didn’t know you were going to put me on the tree,” Christen murmured softly, her throat getting a little thick with the emotion of the moment.

“It’s a family tree, silly,” Scottie grinned. “You’re family...right?” 

“Right,” Christen replied quickly, not wanting Scottie to doubt that for even a second. “Thank you, sweetheart. And thank you for picking such a nice picture of me,” she added with a laugh, loving that the one Scottie selected was of her and Scottie at the Olympics, smiling for the camera as they sat in a pile of confetti.

“I hope Ms. Hubbard lets us take them back after she grades them. I want to hang it in my room,” Scottie said, leaning the canvas against the wall now that she was finished presenting it. 

“You did a really good job, little bit,” Tobin said, catching Christen’s hand in her own and squeezing it gently. 

“Best looking family tree I’ve ever seen,” Christen agreed. She patted the bed by her side and motioned for Scottie to join them. “What are you doing standing all the way over there?” she asked with a wink.

Scottie took a running start toward the bed and flopped onto it, narrowly missing Christen’s legs. “Gosh, I love a good cuddle puddle,” she mumbled, sinking her face into the pillows next to Christen. 

“Me too, Scottie Heath. Me too,” Christen hummed, reaching down with her free hand to grab her book.

“Me three,” Tobin mumbled, sinking back into the position she’d been in before Scottie asked to present her family tree. She pressed her face against Christen’s arm, breathing in the comforting smells of honeysuckle and jasmine and Christen. She wrapped her arm over Christen’s waist and pressed kisses to Christen’s arm, her eyes fluttering shut. 

“Hey!” Kelley called, jogging down the hall of the stadium to catch up with Christen, the team having finished a grueling training session not too long ago. 

Christen paused and turned around, readjusting her purse on her shoulder as she offered Kelley a tight smile.

“Hey,” she replied.

“You’re trying to leave without your Wednesday apology cookie,” Kelley said, digging through her bag for the cookie she’d picked up for Christen. 

“I’ve told you twenty times not to bring me anything. You don’t need to keep apologizing. It’s fine,” Christen assured, crossing her arms over her chest.

“So...what should I do with the three Frozen on ice tickets I bought?” Kelley mumbled, holding three tickets out to Christen as soon as she grabbed them from her bag. 

Christen cracked a smile and shook her head. “Kel, you don’t need to buy our forgiveness. There's nothing to forgive anymore.”

“Okay, fine. One more, and then I’m done. I’m sorry I lost it after Emily decided not to be with me and put you in a situation that could have been bad for you and Tar Heel and Mini Tar Heel. You can pass that on to Tobin, but I sent her a fruit basket already that should have gotten to her house this morning,” Kelley said with a dorky smile. 

“We survived it, and we’re better for it. All three of please stop feeling bad. I’m always going to be here for you...just maybe next time plan to have a complete breakdown when Tobin’s actually in town? That way Scottie won’t have to go on any more late night field trips to Midtown,” Christen chuckled.

“I can do that,” Kelley laughed. 

“Have you talked to her?” Christen asked, offering Kelley a sympathetic half-smile.

“I mean, after the initial fight about her rejecting Gotham’s offer and choosing to go to Houston instead, she tried to call a few times. I just...I don’t really want to talk to her. I- I’m weak. It’s been two months, and I’m still weak for her, and I know that if she apologized or asked to keep doing some distance thing, I’d give in. But I don’t want to give in. I want what you have...maybe minus the kid because I’m not as mature as you are,” Kelley rambled. 

Christen laughed and pulled Kelley in for a hug, giving one of her oldest and best friends a tight squeeze. 

“You deserve to feel this happy. You’ll find your Tar Heel, I know it,” Christen promised. 

“Hopefully not a real Tar Heel, though. ‘Cause...ew. I was drunker than I’ve ever been that night, but I remember that UNC sweatshirt you were wearing. If the alcohol hadn’t done it, that sweatshirt alone would have made me throw up,” Kelley teased, always in the mood to rib Tobin about her alma mater. 

With another laugh, Christen pulled out of the embrace. “I’ll see you and Brun and Crys for family dinner tomorrow, right? Scottie’s very excited for everyone to try broccoli and ketchup.”

“I’m down for broccoli and ketchup, and I’m excited to see my favorite kid,” Kelley said, walking alongside Christen as they made their way to the parking lot. 

“She’s excited for Academy to start so she can see everyone more often,” Christen replied, falling into step with Kelley,

“She’s getting too good for Academy,” Kelley smirked. 

“I know. Tobin and I have been looking at competitive teams in Manhattan she could play for. But Tobin wants to drive her to and from Jersey so she can play for PDA,” Christen laughed.

“Of course she does. Honestly, I think you should let Tobin win that argument since we both know Scottie’s gonna shatter her heart when she chooses Stanford,” Kelley chuckled. 

“Oh my god! Is that Christen Press!?” Tobin yelled across the parking lot, laughing at the surprised look on Christen’s face. 

“Dude, you’ve got a mega-fan. Gotta watch out for those. Want me to call security?” Kelley teased, pulling her car keys out of her bag.

“I think I can handle her,” Christen teased right back. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Kel.”

“See ya! Bye, Tar Heel!” 

Christen crossed the parking lot as fast as her tired legs would allow, immediately pulling Tobin in for a long hug once she reached her. 

“I have the car. How the hell did you get here?” Christen asked with a laugh, pressing her face against the side of Tobin’s neck.

“It was a kind of pricey Uber, but I really missed you,” Tobin mumbled, wrapping her arms completely around Christen and holding her close. 

“I missed you too, you dork,” Christen replied with a smile. She dropped a lingering kiss on Tobin’s neck and ran her fingers through the soft waves at the back of Tobin’s head. 

“I’m hoping I can get a ride home,” Tobin grinned, pressing a kiss to Christen’s temple. 

With a laugh, Christen pulled away from Tobin’s neck. “I think that could be arranged.”

Tobin feigned wiping non-existent sweat off her forehead, making Christen laugh easily. “We can get home and maybe shower before we pick Scottie up from school.”

“You do know I just showered right?” Christen asked with an amused smile.

“Ooookay, it doesn’t have to be shower sex,” Tobin smirked, opening the passenger door of her car for Christen. 

Christen stepped into Tobin’s space and kissed her softly, holding Tobin’s chin gently.

“I never said I wouldn’t shower again,” Christen winked, kissing Tobin once more before hopping into the car.

“Have I mentioned that I love you yet today?”Tobin asked after she climbed into the driver’s seat and turned the car on. 

Christen beamed and leaned across the center console to kiss Tobin again, just because she could.

“Yes, a few times. Have I mentioned that I love you yet today?” Christen asked, repeating the same question and knowing full well she already had.

“I lost count after the sixth time you said it this morning,” Tobin winked, letting Dad Rock play in the car as she pulled out of the parking lot and started driving toward Manhattan. 

Christen leaned her head against the headrest and gazed over at Tobin, her fingertips tracing circles into the fabric of Tobin’s jeans. 

“You ever think you’ll get tired of hearing me say it?” Christen asked with a soft smile on her face.

“Absolutely not,” Tobin said, glancing over at Christen before focusing on the road. 

“Good. Because I love you,” Christen replied.

“I love you too,” Tobin hummed. 

“Do you need water?” Tobin asked, smirking like she always did when she knew she’d done a good job. 

Christen half-heartedly flipped Tobin off as she caught her breath. “Stop smirking. I can hear it in your voice,” Christen replied, her voice a little breathy.

“I’m not. I just feel really lucky. I’m really happy,” Tobin mumbled, folding her arms across Christen’s chest and resting her chin on her forearm. 

Christen lifted her arm away from her eyes and looked down at Tobin, a smile playing at her lips. She ran her thumb along the smirk Tobin clearly wore.

“Happily smirking,” Christen teased. 

Tobin pressed a soft kiss to Christen’s chest and nodded. “Extremely happy.”

“Me too,” Christen hummed, tracing the smile lines at the corners of Tobin’s mouth. “But I will after shower sex defeats the purpose of the shower,” she chuckled.

“Not if you’re planning on more shower sex after Scottie goes to bed,” Tobin mumbled. 

“God bless our water bill,” Christen teased.

“Worth it,” Tobin muttered. 

Christen pulled Tobin up and off her chest, reconnecting their lips in a slow, languid kiss. They didn’t have too much time, with it already being almost two. But they had enough to linger for a few more moments, and Christen took advantage of that.

But eventually, they had to get out of bed and put clothes on, gracefully moving around one another in a coordinated, familiar dance as they got dressed to go pick Scottie up from school. 

Christen slipped Tobin’s UNC sweatshirt on over her head, despite it being unseasonably warm outside.

“Have you decided when you want your Scottie day?” Tobin asked softly, moving around Christen to get her own clothes. 

“I was thinking after the first Academy training,” Christen admitted with a small blush as she tugged her curls into a messy bun. “Maybe we would go to the park or get some ice cream or something.”

“That’s very poetic,” Tobin hummed, pressing a kiss to the side of Christen’s neck after pulling on a pair of joggers. 

“She told me she first knew I was important to her on the first day of Academy training two years ago. telling her that I’m ready for the whole ‘Momma’ label feels like it should happen on the first day of Academy training too.”

“You’re very sweet,” Tobin said with a smile as she tugged on a t-shirt. 

“I just want it to go well,” Christen admitted, turning around to lean against the dresser, pulling at the hem of Tobin’s t-shirt nervously.

“She’s been waiting for you to have this conversation with her for seven months,” Tobin said, raising an eyebrow at Christen. “I think it will go well.”

“On some level, I’m with you. It’’s Scottie and me. It’ll be great. But I just want her to feel comfortable with this too. Calling me that. I mean, you and I aren’t even married or anything. So I just don’t want to move too fast for her,” Christen rambled, toying with Tobin’s t-shirt. 

“She’ll tell you if she isn’t. And...for the record, I’m intending on doing that,” Tobin whispered. 

Christen’s eyes lifted to meet Tobin’s, her heart fluttering in her chest as her stomach flipped.

“Someday?” Christen asked, the hope she felt in her heart making her voice soft and her eyes shine a brighter green than ever before.

“Someday,” Tobin nodded, loving the woman in front of her even more than she had five minutes ago, her love growing and growing every single moment. 

Christen smiled and leaned forward to kiss Tobin sweetly, pouring every bit of love and hope she had about someday into the kiss.

“Go brush your hair, my love,” Christen murmured, kissing Tobin once more before pushing Tobin towards the bathroom. “I messed it up a little bit when I was on top,” she added with a wink.

Tobin smirked again, coming back to press another kiss to Christen’s lips before she relented and made her way into the bathroom. She’d hardly picked up the hairbrush when her phone started ringing on her bedside table. 

“Baby, will you get that?” Tobin called, running the brush through her tangled hair, the blush still on her cheeks from talking about getting married someday, a someday that felt soon for her, a someday that felt like it had already started. 

Christen padded across the hardwood floor and grabbed Tobin’s phone from the bedside table. 

“It’s the school,” Christen called back. “Do you want it?”

“You can answer. Unless you want me to,” Tobin said, peeking her head out of the bathroom and watching Christen’s facial expressions to see if that was okay. 

With a smile, Christen picked up the call, meeting Tobin’s gaze as she did so. A smile that faltered when she heard the principal’s voice on the other line.

“I know it wasn’t all Scottie, but she is the one who said ‘Go to hell,’” the principal sighed, steepling her hands in front of her as she stared at Tobin, Scottie, and Christen, all seated on the other side of her desk. 

“Did you ask her what the other kids did?” Tobin asked, keeping an arm around the back of Scottie’s chair as she listened to the principal. 

“She did but she didn’t listen to me,” Scottie mumbled, her arms crossed over her chest as she stared out the window.

“I gave the other kids a talking to, but there is no excuse for cursing,” the principal said, her voice firm. 

“They shouldn’t have been mean to me,” Scottie protested, her bottom lip starting to tremble.

Christen ran her hand up and down Scottie’s back soothingly, reaching her other hand into her pocket, pulling out the ‘ Scottie ’ handkerchief, and handing it over to Scottie.

“What did they say to you?” Tobin asked, turning her attention to Scottie and away from the principal. 

“They made fun of my family tree,” Scottie whispered, wiping her eyes with the handkerchief. 

“That sounds like bullying to me,” Tobin said, looking up at the principal with a clenched jaw and fierce eyes. 

The principal met Tobin’s gaze head-on. “Like I said, I already spoke to the other kids and disciplinary actions are being explored. But we have-”

“You didn’t have the other kids’ parents come into school,” Tobin said matter-of-factly. “You haven’t done anything this whole school year, and Scottie’s teacher and I have already talked about the bullying, so I know it was noticeable.”

“Homophobic bullying,” Christen whispered under her breath, taking the handkerchief from Scottie once Scottie was done.

“They made fun of my family, my Mommy, and my Christen,” Scottie murmured, looking up with watery eyes at her principal. 

“For a school that boasts diversity, you’re really not doing a great job of protecting your students who don’t come from heteronormative families, and I’d say that there’s even less of an excuse for this kind of bullying than for cursing,” Tobin said, her heart aching as Scottie sniffled. 

The principal sat back with a long sigh, her hard shell seemingly cracked. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I will speak to Naomi’s and Simon’s parents. I don’t believe they’re a good fit for this school if these are the sorts of things they’re teaching their children. I’m sorry it got this out of hand,” the principal said, her words apologetic. 

“Can I have my tree back?” Scottie asked, slumping in her seat, despite the principal’s change of tune.

“Of course, Scottie,” the principal replied softly. “Do you think you could wait outside so I can speak to your parents for a moment?”

“Are they in trouble?” Scottie asked, staying seated until she knew things were okay. 

The principal laughed and shook her head. “No, I just want to talk to them about some things for next year.”

“We’ll be right out,” Tobin said, ruffling Scottie’s hair gently. 

Christen leaned over and kissed Scottie’s forehead. “Hold onto this for me until we get out there, okay?” Christen asked, handing Scottie the  handkerchief back.

“Okay,” Scottie said, slipping from her chair and leaving the room. 

Once Scottie had shut the door, the principal looked back at Tobin and Christen, an apologetic grimace on her face.

“I truly am sorry for not stepping in sooner.”

“I thought I’d keep Scottie here until high school, but if next year is like this year, I can’t do that,” Tobin said honestly. 

“I understand. I will do everything in my power to ensure next year is different. And speaking of next year, if you choose to stay, I need to update the paperwork. Might as well do it while I have you both here,” the principal replied, pulling some files from her drawer.

“What do you mean?” Christen asked, looking over at Tobin for the answer.

“They want you as an emergency contact,” Tobin said softly, her heart fluttering a little more. 

“You’ll be listed on the paperwork as someone who can call her in sick, take her out of school for appointments, someone we’ll call if she needs a parent. You’ll also be added to the school text chain for inclement weather information,” the principal added. 

Christen was a little stunned, blinking rapidly as she tried to wrap her head around this.

“If that’s okay...Tobin mentioned it when she dropped Scottie off a couple days ago,” the principal said, holding out a clipboard of paperwork for Christen. 

“Sorry, I meant for next year. I didn’t think you’d get ambushed today. You don’t have to,” Tobin said under her breath. 

Christen softened and shook her head, reaching out to grab ahold of Tobin’s hand. “I know I don't have to. But I want to,” she said softly. Christen gave Tobin’s hand a quick squeeze and then she reached out for the clipboard to start filling out the paperwork, her hand shaking slightly with excitement and wonder as she did.

Tobin slid into Scottie’s abandoned seat and put her arm around the back of Christen’s chair, knowing the magnitude of this moment for Christen and wanting to be close if she needed. 

“And I just...sign at the bottom?” Christen asked in a slightly trembling voice, the shaking pen held above the signature line.

“Yep, just sign, and we’ll put it into our computers here,” the principal nodded. 

Christen had signed her name thousands of times. On jerseys, on posters, on someone’s bra once. She’d signed her names for thousands of reasons. But no signature before now had ever held the weight this one would. Signing her name on this piece of paper made every other signature she’d ever done pale in comparison. 

As she completed the loop of the ‘P’ in her last name, she felt Tobin’s hand squeeze her hip, a silent reminder that she wasn’t alone.

“Here you go,” Christen murmured, handing the clipboard back to the principal, hoping the handful of tears in her eyes weren’t noticeable. 

“Fantastic,” the principal said, taking the clipboard and setting it down on her desk. “Again, I am sorry about calling you in and about Scottie’s experiences this past year. She’s incredibly bright and creative, and our school would miss out if we didn’t have her.”

Tobin tried not to roll her eyes at the slight groveling. Instead, she tried to take it as a genuine statement. Scottie was bright and creative and kind and talented. She was spectacular, and Tobin didn’t need someone else to tell her that, even if it was sometimes nice to hear. 

“She’s the best, and I really hope you guys start to see that,” Christen replied, speaking up for the first time in response to something the principal said.

“Of course,” the principal hurried to say, picking up the canvas that she had behind her desk and handing Scottie’s family tree to Christen. 

Christen hesitated, unsure why the canvas was being offered to her. But after a brief second, she took the canvas with a tight smile.

“Will you be keeping us updated on the conversations with the other parents?” Christen asked, unafraid to use her voice now that she’d found it.

“I will,” the principal nodded. “Why don’t I call you both next Friday?” 

“We’ll look forward to hearing from you,” Tobin said, ready to leave the office and get to Scottie. 

“If we don’t hear from you, you’ll hear from us,” Christen added, standing up and taking Tobin’s hand, walking them and Scottie’s canvas to the door.

“Protective you is spicy,” Tobin whispered, as soon as the door closed. 

“I had so much more I wanted to say,” Christen gritted out. “But it didn’t feel like my place.”

“It’s your place,” Tobin mumbled, “and if we don’t hear from her on Friday, you’re welcome to say anything you want when we call.”

“The gloves will come off next time,” Christen whispered with a teasing smile.

“You got my tree,” Scottie said, a tiny smile spreading across her face. 

Christen handed Scottie the canvas and smoothed her hand over Scottie’s hair. “Nobody can take this away from you, sweetheart,” Christen replied softly, her words holding conviction. 

“Can we go home?” Scottie asked quietly, clutching the canvas close. 

Christen looked to Tobin, smiling softly as she waited for Tobin to answer for the two of them. 

“Sure, little bit. I think we should go home and order some Gio’s tonight,” Tobin suggested, wanting Scottie’s eyes to be bright again. 

“We can even get extra garlic bread,” Christen added.

“Cool,” Scottie said, offering a tiny smile but not much else before leading the way out of school. 

“You know what else I think we need, Scottie Heath?” Christen asked, holding tightly to Scottie’s hand.

“What’s that?” Scottie asked, scuffing her sneakers as she walked. 

“A pillow castle and Frozen II ,” Christen replied with a smile.

“Or a Frozen marathon,” Tobin suggested, shooting a smile over to Christen. 

“We can do that,” Scottie said, focusing on the sidewalk in front of them and not on the two adults walking beside her. 

Thinking back on the tickets Kelley offered her, Christen decided to throw them in the mix as well, just wanting Scottie to feel better. 

“Or, after we watch all the Frozen ’s, we could go see Frozen on Ice,” Christen offered, sending Tobin a small apologetic look about not having mentioned this earlier. “And we can wear our matching Frozen Mickey ears when we go.”

“Where they ice skate?” Scottie asked, her eyebrows crinkling together. 

“Yeah, exactly,” Christen confirmed with a nod.

“That sounds like fun,” Tobin said, squeezing Scottie’s shoulder. 

“Only if you want to, sweetheart. We don’t have to go anywhere tonight if you want to stay home,” Christen offered, letting out a small sigh of relief at Tobin’s smile of gratitude that she sent her direction.

“Maybe,” Scottie hummed. “Maybe napping will help. Mommy naps when she’s sad.” 

“Why don’t we all get comfy on the couch and talk about your day and how you’re feeling,” Tobin suggested quietly. 

“I guess,” Scottie mumbled.

Tobin shot a look at Christen, one of worry and slight sadness for the mood that Scottie was in, for the way Scottie’s shoulder slumped. She quickly unlocked the door to the house and let them all in. 

“I’m making a super secret drink. Do you guys want one,” Tobin asked, watching Scottie intently. 

Before Christen could answer, Scottie was setting the canvas aside, throwing her backpack down, and sighing. 

“I’m okay, thanks though,” Scottie replied, walking over to the couch and collapsing, face-first, onto it.

“What did they say?” Tobin asked point-blank, following closely behind Scottie. 

Scottie shrugged and kept her face pushed against the couch cushion.

“You know what they said. You’re my daughter, which means those words are spinning around in your head on repeat right now,” Tobin continued. 

Christen sat down next to Tobin on the couch and wrapped an arm around Tobin’s waist, hoping her touch could help keep Tobin calm as they waited for Scottie to speak up. 

“I can’t say it,” Scottie mumbled.

“Why not?” Tobin asked. 

“Because I have to be patient,” Scottie replied, finally lifting her head up from the couch and looking at where Tobin and Christen sat nearby. She flicked her eyes over at Christen and then looked back at Tobin, hoping her mom got the message.

“You want to whisper it to me so that it’s out of your head?” Tobin asked gently. 

Reading the looks between Tobin and Scottie, Christen got up from the couch. 

“Why don’t I go make us the super secret drinks? I’ll be right back,” Christen offered, giving Scottie a reassuring smile and Tobin’s shoulder a squeeze before walking into the kitchen, out of earshot.

“So, they said something about Christen,” Tobin murmured, scooting closer to Scottie. 

“They said she couldn’t be on my tree because she wasn’t my mom. But then I tried to explain to them that she was my Momma even if we haven’t used that word yet. And then they told me she couldn’t be because you’re not married. I tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen. And they were just so loud and mean and laughing at me so I- I said a bad word,” Scottie rushed out quietly, her eyes filling with tears as she buried her face back in the couch cushion.

“You don’t need to feel bad about the bad word. I probably would have said it too,” Tobin whispered. 

“I thought of, like, four worse words but I didn’t say them,” Scottie admitted, her voice muffled by the couch.

“You know that a piece of paper isn’t needed for your feelings to be real. Adoption papers and marriage papers are just paper. But the love you feel and have is what makes a family, and you love your entire family tree. That’s pretty special,” Tobin hummed. 

Scottie looked up at Tobin again, her chin propped up on the cushion as tears glistened in her eyes. 

“I just wish they believed my heart, not some stupid papers,” Scottie sighed.

“I know that’s frustrating and hurtful, little bit. And maybe someday they’ll believe; maybe they won’t. But the people who matter the most believe. Christen knows that we’re her family. We’d be on her tree,” Tobin said under her breath, glancing at Christen in the kitchen. 

“Is it bad if I want it to be officially official? Not just in my heart or yours or Christen’s?” Scottie wondered, sitting up on the couch a little bit.

“That’s not bad,” Tobin sighed. “It makes things a little easier when it’s officially official, doesn’t it?”

“Mhm. But that sounds like a someday thing to me. Right, Mommy?” Scottie asked, cocking her head to the side thoughtfully.

“Making things official sometimes takes a little bit of time, but it’s definitely something I’d like to do someday,” Tobin whispered. 

Scottie crawled across the couch toward Tobin. She crooked her finger so Tobin would lean closer to her.

“I’d like that too, Mommy,” Scottie whispered with her first genuine smile of the day.

“Good, then I think we should start thinking about super secret plans,” Tobin grinned, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead. 

“I’m so good at keeping secrets like this. Just ask Mikel,” Scottie giggled, wrapping her arms around Tobin.

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” Tobin teased, holding Scottie tightly against herself. 

Scottie leaned around Tobin, looking at where Christen was moving around the kitchen making super secret drinks and humming to herself. 

“I feel like I’m going to explode with excitement,” Scottie grinned, her arms looped around Tobin’s neck.

“About?” Tobin laughed, craning her neck to look at Christen. 

“Someday,” Scottie whispered.

“I can see them,” Scottie squealed, squeezing Tobin’s and Christen’s hands. 

Christen saw them too. Tyler, Channing, Lindsey, and Mikel were waiting for them in baggage claim. 

It wasn’t exactly a spur-of-the-moment trip. She had a game against ACFC in three days, so she'd been coming to Los Angeles anyway. A day earlier than her team to get some family time. 

But then Tobin had surprised her, just like she always did. 

Christen had been sitting in the window seat of the plane, resigning herself to missing her girls when she was on her first away trip of the spring season, when she had felt someone sit next to her.

She’d looked to the side and seen Scottie and Tobin in their PRESS Gotham FC jerseys and 23 hats, matching smiles on their faces as they sat in the same row as her.

And now here they were, descending an escalator in LAX all together.

“Did she freak out?!” Channing asked, opening her arms for Scottie to run into them. 

“She was so surprised when we sat down next to her,” Scottie giggled, leaving Tobin and Christen’s sides and racing to wrap her arms around Channing.  

“She has the best surprised face,” Tyler chuckled, stealing Scottie away from Channing for a big hug. “Her mouth just hangs open for days .”

Scottie threw her head back laughing before mimicking Christen’s surprised face for Channing and Tyler, sending all three of them into a fit of giggles. 

“All right, you three,” Christen rolled her eyes, smiling as she stepped forward to greet everyone with hugs. “You’re trouble together,” she added, looking between Channing, Tyler, and Scottie.

“Cute trouble,” Scottie grinned, holding tightly to Channing and Tyler’s hands. 

“It’s good to see you guys,” Tobin said, offering everyone a hug. 

“You pack lighter this time?” Mikel teased. 

“It isn’t Christmas,” Tobin answered with a smile. 

Scottie got a mischievous smile on her face and leaned into Tyler, whispering in her ear. Tyler chuckled and nodded, standing back up. 

“What is it, cute trouble?” Christen asked, arching a brow in Scottie’s direction. 

Tyler shared a look with Scottie and then looked back at Christen, her mischievous smile matching Scottie’s.

“And look Scottie, she wore these shoes forever ,” Tyler said, pointing down at the picture in the scrapbook. “They had glitter soles and lit up when she stomped them on the ground.”

“Those are cute,” Scottie said, unable to hide her laughter at seeing little Christen in all the family photos. 

Christen just shook her head, a blush heating her cheeks. She opened up a bag of Goldfish and handed it to Scottie, who took it with a quiet ‘ thank you ,’ her attention still on the scrapbook. 

They were all sitting around the large dinner table, piles of scrapbooks spread out on top of it. Channing, Mikel, and Lindsey were showing Tobin scrapbooks from Christen’s high school years, despite her protestations. And Tyler was showing Scottie the ones from her younger years, while she just sat in the middle of it all feeling both very embarrassed and very loved. 

“That was Christen’s first girlfriend,” Channing said, pointing at a teenage Christen heading to the prom. 

“What was her name again?” Tyler asked, scrunching up her face in thought.

Both sisters tried to think, jumping through mental hoops as Christen hid her flaming cheeks behind her hands. And then they both remembered at the same time.


“Honestly, she and Tobin have a similar smile,” Channing said, looking closely at the photograph. 

“And those brown eyes,” Mikel pointed out with a chuckle.

“Christen has a type,” Lindsay teased. 

“What does she mean a type?” Scottie asked, craning her neck to see the picture Tobin was looking at. 

Christen narrowed her eyes in Lindsey’s direction. “Nothing, sweetheart,” Christen replied quickly.

“How many girlfriends did you have before Mommy?” Scottie asked, looking at Christen instead of the photo albums. 

“Oh boy,” Tobin mumbled, looking closely at the next page in the photo album that showed Christen playing soccer in high school. 

“None of them mattered as much to me as she does,” Christen replied, hoping her half-answer would be enough to quell Scottie’s interest.

“But how many?” Scottie asked, cocking her head to the side. 

“Hey, Scottie,” Tobin said, an amused lilt in her voice. “You remember how Grandma taught you not to ask adults how old they are? That’s kind of a similar question that you don’t really ask.” 

“Christen’s thirty,” Scottie said, scrunching her eyebrows together in confusion. 

Tyler snorted and hid it behind her hand after getting a warning look from Lindsey. Channing and Mikel looked similarly amused. 

Christen sighed and looked over at Scottie with a tight smile. “I had four. But again, none of them were Tobin, okay? That’s what matters.”

“Woooow,” Scottie hummed, her mouth flopping open a little. “So five counting Mommy?” 

“Yep,” Christen grimaced, silently cursing her sisters.

“How?” Scottie gasped. “I’ve had one, and Yates was exhausting!” 

Everyone around the table laughed at Scottie’s response. Christen was more amused by the situation now, especially since Tobin had dropped her hand to her knee and was rubbing soothing circles into her skin. 

“The wrong ones are always exhausting,” Christen replied, smiling at Scottie. 

“Mommy’s had five. Six including you, so you don’t need to blush,” Scottie grinned, tossing Tobin under the bus immediately. 

“Ooookay, I wouldn’t call all five of those women ex-girlfriends,” Tobin spluttered. 

“What would you call them? Flings? I learned that word from Auntie Pinoe,” Scottie replied, her teasing smile aimed in Tobin’s direction now.

Tobin swallowed thickly, feeling the blush spread across her cheeks. 

“Megan isn’t allowed to spend time with you anymore,” Tobin huffed. 

“I love it when you guys visit,” Channing declared, looking around the table at the smiles on everyone’s faces.

“And we love visiting,” Scottie beamed. “Especially because you guys have a beach and dogs and a pool. And we love you.”

“We love you too,” Tyler replied, ruffling Scottie’s hair. 

“Chan, will you grab the wine? I’ll grab Ty,” Christen called out, slipping on Tobin’s UNC sweatshirt since it was going to get chilly once the sun went down.

“Already on it,” Channing said, pulling on her own sweater as she jogged down the stairs. 

Christen left Tobin and Scottie in the guest room, reading the next chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and headed down the hall to Tyler and Lindsey’s room.

“Hey,” Christen said, knocking on the door and poking her head in.

“Hey, I’m almost ready!” Tyler called from her closet where she was grabbing a pair of sneakers. 

“Sunset won’t wait for ya,” Christen teased, heading back down the hall and down the stairs to the backyard. 

She joined Channing on the grassy hill overlooking the ocean that sat on the edge of their property, getting comfortable on a blanket Channing had set out.

“I’m so curious about this family meeting,” Channing grinned, already sipping from her metal wine cup. 

Christen took the bottle and poured herself some wine, feeling nerves and excitement swirl around in her stomach.

Once Tyler joined them and had a glass of wine herself, Christen took a deep breath, looking away from the summer sky and over at her sisters.

“I wanted to talk to you guys about something,” Christen began, fiddling with the cup in her hand.

“Are you proposing?” Channing asked softly, reaching out a hand and squeezing Christen’s knee. 

Christen flushed and shook her head quickly. “Not yet,” she chuckled, ducking her head as she ran a hand through her hair. “Someday I will.”

“We approve, just so you know…for someday,” Tyler murmured. 

Christen offered her sisters grateful smiles and then came back to the reason she’d asked Channing and Tyler to join her for a Press sisters sunset. 

“Thanks, guys. But um- I wanted to talk to you about Scottie.”

“Is everything okay?” Tyler asked, her protective tendencies bristling as she worried that maybe something was wrong with Scottie. 

Christen felt her heart soar at how quickly her sisters had grown attached to Scottie. In truth, it made this conversation a whole lot easier. 

“Everything’s great, actually. Really great. So great in fact that...well, a few months ago she accidentally called me- um, she called me Momma when she was sick. And I wasn’t ready for that at the time. But I’m...I’m ready now. I’m talking to her about it when we’re back home. And I wanted to tell you guys that we’re taking this step as a family because you’re my family too,” Christen said softly, her misty eyes moving between Channing and Tyler as she spoke. “I wanted to share this with you two. And Mom. I’m going down to tell her tomorrow. But I wanted to tell you both first.” 

“Mo,” Tyler choked out, her eyes immediately tearing up. 

“That’s- Christen, that’s amazing,” Channing whispered, her voice wobbly and hoarse. 

Christen felt a few tears slip out as she released a shaky breath. “It’s everything I didn’t know I wanted. I’m gonna be her-” Christen faltered, almost overcome with the weight of it all. “I’m gonna be her mom .”

“Mom would be so proud of you. She’d be- She’d be overjoyed,” Tyler murmured. 

“You really think so?” Christen asked in a quiet voice.

“I know so. You’re- The way you are with Scottie is infused with Mom. You’re- It’s like she’s here when I see you with Scottie. I don’t know if that makes sense or if that’s crazy,” Tyler sniffled, wiping at her cheeks. 

“It’s not crazy. Mom and Dad are in all of us, and I see Mom in Christen every time she’s with Scottie,” Channing added, scooting closer to Christen on the blanket. 

Christen wrapped an arm around each of her sisters, her tears falling freely now. All of theirs were.

“I feel her too. And Dad. I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer to them than I do now, with Scottie,” Christen admitted shakily.

“Hey,” Channing whispered, lifting her head up to look at Tyler over Christen’s head. “We get to have a niece.” 

“You get to be aunts,” Christen agreed with a wet chuckle, sniffling just a bit.

“Mo Mo,” Tyler mumbled, squeezing Christen tightly. 

“Yeah, Ty?” Christen replied softly, looking over at her older sister.

“She’s won the lottery getting you as a mom,” Tyler said quietly, leaning closer to press a kiss to Christen’s head. 

The tears started again and Christen let them fall. She let her sisters hold her as she cried tears of joy and relief and excitement and peace.

“Scottie?” Channing said, a serious expression on her face, far too serious for the beach. 

“Channing Press?” Scottie asked with a grin.

Channing glanced down at the shining ring on her finger, the one that had been placed there a month ago, the one Scottie had known about all along. 

“I have a very important question for you,” she answered, sitting down on the beach and motioning for Scottie to join her. 

“I have a very important answer,” Scottie giggled, jumping down next to Channing and leaning into her side.

“I’m getting married to Mikel, and that’s gonna be a super fun day for family.”

“I know. I knew before everyone else,” Scottie nodded.

“I know you did, shortstack,” Channing laughed. “You kept the secret really well. Did you know that Christen and Tyler are going to be my bridesmaids, so they’ll walk with me and stand up there while I say ‘I do’?” 

Scottie hummed, bobbing her head. “I’ve seen The Little Mermaid a few times. So I know all about weddings. I had my own on the playground last year if you need help planning. I would say no to mud pies, though. Not yummy.”

“I do need your help,” Channing laughed, “but not for planning.” 

“What can I help you with, Channing Press?” Scottie asked with a lopsided grin.

“You see, sometimes there’s a flower girl who walks in front of the bride and throws flower petals so that the path is all covered in flower petals. And there’s also a ring bearer who holds the really important rings for Mikel and me to give each other,” Channing described. 

Scottie’s eyes lit up as Channing described everything. “That sounds super-duper,” she whispered.

“Well, you’re my favorite kid, and I was hoping that you might do both of those jobs. You can wear a flower crown and whatever dress or suit you want. I just want you to be a part of it,” Channing said, wrapping an arm around Scottie as they sat in the sand. 

Scottie’s mouth flopped open, just like Christen’s did when she was surprised. She shook her head a few times, almost like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“You Out of all the kids?” Scottie asked, flabbergasted.

“You’re family. I want my family to be a part of my wedding,” Channing hummed, kissing the top of Scottie’s head. 

Scottie threw her arms around Channing, tucking her head against Channing’s shoulder. 

“I’ll do it,” Scottie mumbled. “Thank you for asking me.”

“Thank you for helping me,” Channing smiled. “And because you said yes, here,” she added, handing Scottie a small box. 

Scottie took the box and carefully opened it, her brows shooting up at what she saw inside.

“It’s a flower ring because you’re my flower girl and ring bearer,” Channing hummed. 

“Oh gosh, this is so cool,” Scottie whispered, slipping the ring on her index finger. “Thank you, Auntie Channy. I love it, and I love you, and I can’t wait to be your flower ring girl.”

Channing’s heart immediately melted at the new name Scottie was calling her. She tightened her arms even more, soaking up the alone time with her niece. 

“I love you, shortstack.” 

“Can I tell you something now?” Scottie asked, looking up at Channing.

“Of course,” Channing replied. 

“I really hope this isn’t the last wedding I get to go to for our family,” Scottie grinned, looking out at the ocean where she could see Tobin and Christen chasing each other around in the ankle-deep water near the beach, kicking the water up at each other and laughing.

“It won’t be,” Channing promised. “I’m so excited for when Christen and your mom get married.” 

“Me too,” Scottie agreed. “I just haven’t decided if I want to wear a dress or a suit or jeans. I have time to think on it, though.”

“I’ll have to think about what I’ll wear too,” Channing chuckled. 

“Thanks for being my family, Auntie Channy,” Scottie sighed happily, leaning her head against Channing’s shoulder.

“Thanks for being mine. I didn’t realize how much I needed you,” Channing hummed. “Now, do you want to go splash your mom and Christen?” 

“Duh!” Scottie giggled, jumping to her feet.

Christen took a detour on her way back to Palos Verdes from their pre-game training. She parked near her house but decided to take the long way down to where her parents were, walking the winding path along the cliffs.

When she came to the pile of rocks, she felt that familiar ache in her chest and that prickle behind her eyes. For a moment, she wished she hadn’t come alone. She wished she’d brought Tobin or her sisters. But then she realized this was something she had to do alone. 

She cleared her throat as she sat down in front of the pile of rocks, pulling two pennies from her pocket.

“Sorry, Dad. No sunglasses this time,” she chuckled weakly, setting the two pennies on the rocks.

She took a few deep breaths, centering herself and getting a handle on her emotions. Once she felt somewhat ready, she removed the ‘ Scottie ’ handkerchief from her pocket and held it in a slightly trembling hand.

“You guys have missed a pretty big six months,” Christen began, her eyes falling shut, a sad smile tugging at her lips. “Everyone’s doing good though. Chan is radiant, and Mikel can’t stop smiling. Those two make such a beautiful couple, and their wedding is going to be gorgeous. Tyler and Lindsey bicker like they’ve been married for a lifetime. They bicker like you guys used to, with love behind their words. Tobin, uh,” Christen paused, a smile tugging at her lips. “Tobin’s art is selling like crazy and she’s getting more and more opportunities. And Scottie had a tough school year, but she never lets it get her down.”

Christen gulped, forcing out a long breath.

“I don’t know why I’m nervous,” Christen admitted with a laugh, blinking her eyes open, her gaze falling to the two pennies. “The truth is, I’m happy. I’m happier than I was last time I visited you. Maybe than I ever have been. And it’s because that second somebody who means everything to me. My Scottie? I get to…well, I think I get to be her mom,” Christen whispered, her voice cracking as her eyes filled with tears. 

With the handkerchief, Christen wiped at her eyes, knowing more tears would come no matter how many she wiped away.

“You two were the best parents a girl could have, and I’m going to try every single day to be half as great as you were for that little girl. She deserves great, and I hope I can be,” Christen said softly. “I- I want to ask you both something and I know it might be asking a lot, but I’m going to ask anyway.”

Christen put her hand over her heart and let her eyes fall shut, grounding herself with her heartbeat. “Will you help me? I- Help me be everything she needs me to be. Help me be as great as you both were. Please.”

Christen knew no answer would come. She was whispering her words to the ocean and the sky and the wind. She was whispering them to people who could no longer answer her. 

But that didn’t keep her from asking. That didn’t keep her from feeling like her parents were there. Like they could hear her quiet pleas for help. 

“Mom, Dad, please help me be the kind of mom Scottie deserves,” Christen whispered, opening her eyes once more, the vision of the pennies and rocks blurry from the tears in her eyes. 

Christen wasn’t sure how long she sat there. Her tears had long dried and the sun had long set. But she couldn’t quite bring herself to leave just yet. She had asked her parents for help and she felt like if she left now, she’d be leaving without it. Without an answer, without a sign. So she sat and she waited. 

“Christen!” Scottie called. 

Christen whipped her head around, squinting her eyes as she watched two flashlight beams break up the darkness.

“It’s really dark out here,” Scottie said, skipping through the grass in search of Christen. 

Christen quickly got to her feet, stuffing the handkerchief in her pocket. She turned back and offered her parents an understanding smile before walking to where she could see and hear Scottie and Tobin nearby.

She’d asked for help. She’d asked for some kind of sign that her parents had heard her. 

And then Scottie and Tobin had shown up looking for her, and Christen got her answer. Scottie and Tobin were the answer.

“Scottie Heath,” Christen called out, stuffing her hands in her pockets as she walked up the trail.

“Christen!” Scottie yelled, picking up her pace and racing to Christen, her arms wrapping around her immediately. “Mommy told me to wait, but we got a little worried about you in the dark,” she murmured, burying her face against Christen’s sweatshirt. 

“I was just talking to- well, I was just out here looking for a little guidance. I’m glad you two came to find me,” Christen replied, holding Scottie close and bending down to kiss the top of her head. “Sorry I was out so late.”

“You needed guidance?” Scottie asked, looking up at Christen. 

“I thought I did. But it turns out I have everything I need right here,” Christen said, tapping her heart and then tapping Scottie’s as well.

“My heart is happy,” Scottie sighed, burying her face into the front of Christen’s sweatshirt. 

“Mine too,” Christen murmured, looking up at Tobin and smiling to assuage the slight worry she could see in her favorite pair of brown eyes. 

“Mine three,” Tobin added, reaching Christen and Scottie’s sides and wrapping her arms around them both. 

Chapter Text

They say we're young and we don't know
We won't find out until we grow
Well I don't know if all that's true
Cause you got me, and baby I got you
I got you babe, I got you babe
They say our love won't pay the rent
Before it's earned, our money's all been spent
I guess that's so, we don't have a pot
But at least I'm sure of all the things we got
I got you babe, I got you babe

(Tobin - "I Got You Babe" by Boom Forest)


Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dream of
Once in a lullaby, oh

Somewhere over the rainbow

Bluebirds fly
And the dreams that you dream of
Dreams really do come true-ooh-ooh
Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney tops that's where
You'll find me, oh

(Scottie - “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole)


A little girl, a little small for her age
A little too slow for the field day race
Momma's waiting at the finish line
And wipes the teardrops from her eyes
She says, "You did just fine honey, that's okay
Sometimes life's just that way
You're gonna lose the race from time to time
But you're always gonna find
You can't lose me
Bet your life
I am here and I will always be
Just a wish away
Wherever you go
No matter how far
My love is where you are
You won't be lost if you believe
You can't lose me"

(Christen - "You Can't Lose Me" by Faith Hill) 


“Are you sure you don’t want to just skip to the fun part of the night?” Tobin whined, flopping face-first down onto Christen’s bed. 

Christen chuckled and put her hands on her hips. “You aren’t getting out of this,” she replied with a shake of her head.

“What if I take off my shirt right now?” Tobin grinned, rolling over to look at Christen. 

“Then you’d be calling your ex-wife shirtless,” Christen countered, holding Tobin’s phone out for her. 

“Ew,” Tobin grumbled, making a face at that visual. 

“Agreed. So call first, lose everything plus the shirt second,” Christen replied, walking around the bed and settling behind Tobin, her legs on either side of Tobin’s. She dropped Tobin’s phone onto Tobin’s lap and then wound her arms around Tobin’s middle.

“You know what sucks? Calling someone you know is gonna be mean,” Tobin groaned, picking up her phone and scrolling through her contacts. 

“I know, baby,” Christen hummed, kissing the side of Tobin’s neck and holding Tobin tightly to her. “I’ll be right here though. The whole time.”

Tobin stopped scrolling when she saw the contact: Veronica 👿. 

“Really? The emoji?” Christen snorted.

“Is it inaccurate?” Tobin teased. 

Christen chuckled and kissed Tobin’s neck again, wanting to take away the tension she could feel in Tobin’s body.

“No, it’s not. You can do this, by the way. It’ll be short and terrible and then we can get naked,” Christen whispered.

“I love you,” Tobin mumbled, pressing the contact to call Roni and putting the phone up to her ear. 

“I love you too,” Christen murmured, propping her chin on Tobin’s shoulder and holding the woman she loved most in the world as tightly as she could.

The phone rang for almost fifteen, agonizing seconds. And then Roni answered.

“What a pleasant surprise,” Roni greeted, her voice clipped.

“Hello,” Tobin said, swallowing thickly as soon as she heard Roni’s voice. “I’m really hoping you can clear something up for me.” 

“How am I? Oh, I’m great, thanks for asking. Been doing some writing for a magazine. They have me down in Atlanta. How are you?” Roni replied, her tone dripping with sarcasm.

Tobin clenched her jaw a little tighter, forcing herself to play along, despite the edge in Roni’s voice. “I’m great. Enjoying the start to Scottie’s summer break.” She reached down and tangled a hand with Christen’s, grounding herself in the woman holding onto her. 

“How is Scottie?” Roni asked, her voice softening just a bit.

“She’s doing really well. She’s finished with fourth grade, and we took a trip to the beach.” 

“I’m sure she liked that,” Roni replied. “What can I clear up for you, Tobin?”

“Jerri told me you were looking for a lawyer. A long time ago, months ago. I’ve been- I’m wondering what you needed a lawyer for?” Tobin said honestly, closing her eyes and leaning back into Christen. 

Christen moved her lips to Tobin’s temple, tightening her grasp slightly when she heard the question.

“It’s not what you think,” Roni sighed. “I needed some legal advice about the last apartment I lived in. My landlord screwed me out of my security deposit, which he’s done to some other people too. It’s all sorted out now but the only lawyers I knew were Jerri and Gail.”

“I’m,” Tobin took a deep breath. “I’m sorry they iced you out. I’m sure that didn’t feel good.” 

“I didn’t expect them to roll out the red carpet for me,” Roni scoffed. “But it’s fine, I got it all figured out.”

“Yeah, but they were our friends. I- Well, I’m glad you got it sorted,” Tobin said, running her thumb along Christen’s hand. 

“Was that all?” Roni asked, her voice holding no trace of hope, not like it had years ago.

“Yeah, that’s it. I hope you’re enjoying your new city,” Tobin replied. 

“I hope you’re enjoying your new family,” Roni replied, her tone an odd mix of jealous and genuine.

“Bye, Roni,” Tobin said, waiting for the line to go dead before she pulled her phone away from her ear. 

Christen just held Tobin, not filling the silence that descended upon them. There was nothing she could say. There was nothing to do really, except hold Tobin and whisper words of love into her skin.

“She wanted legal advice about a bad landlord,” Tobin murmured. 

Christen nodded, still feeling Tobin tensing in her arms. “Well, that’s a relief. Right?”

“Yes,” Tobin hummed. 

“Then why are you still braced for impact, my love?” Christen whispered, ghosting her lips across Tobin’s temple.

“She didn’t sound…normal,” Tobin shrugged. “I mean at first she did, but then she asked about Scottie.” 

“Is that a bad thing?” Christen wondered.

“No,” Tobin shook her head, releasing her grip on Christen’s hand and scooting forward out from between her legs. 

Christen felt her brow furrow as she watched Tobin move away from her, her chest tightening with worry. And then Tobin turned around and all but fell into her arms, Tobin’s face pressed against her chest.

“She sounded sad,” Tobin mumbled. “It’s hard to use a devil emoji for someone who’s sad.” 

Christen fell back against her pillows, bringing Tobin down with her. She ran her fingers through Tobin’s hair as Tobin continued to speak, to voice every worry and thought she had.

“And then I think about that one time she called you a flavor of the month, and my empathy shuts down,” Tobin added with a tiny smile, pressing her lips to Christen’s collarbone. 

Christen chuckled and kissed the top of Tobin’s head. “You certainly can hold a grudge, Tobin Heath.”

“When it comes to you and Scottie…yes,” Tobin murmured, leaning up slightly and moving so she could place a kiss onto Christen’s lips. 

Christen kissed Tobin back softly, hoping her kiss could help chase away the lingering tension in Tobin’s frame, the lingering worry in her words.

“You did it,” Christen whispered, reaching up to cradle Tobin’s cheek. “It’s done. She isn’t going to take Scottie away from you.”

“From us,” Tobin hummed, pressing another more eager kiss to Christen’s lips. 

A kiss Christen easily returned.

It was funny the way life worked. Everything seemed slow and happy and easy for long stretches of time, and then in the blink of an eye, a handful of monumental things could happen all at once.

First, the call with Roni. And now, the call with the school.

“Can you both hear me?” Principal Matthews asked, making sure the three-way call was working. 

“Yes,” Christen replied, closing the door and walking into the empty weight room and away from her boisterous teammates.

“I can hear you,” Tobin said, leaning against the table in her studio, the sound of a Disney movie starting upstairs. 

“I had two separate meetings on Wednesday. I met with Simon’s parents first. They weren’t really aware of the content of the teasing, and from what I can tell, they were upset about it.”

Tobin held back the slightly snarky response she thought of, the words ‘Yeah, I’m sure they have consciences’ flowing through her mind. She wasn’t really that sold on Principal Matthews’ words, though. A kid has to learn behavior from somewhere. 

“Upset doesn’t acknowledge the role their son played in what happened this year,” Christen replied, her voice taking on the tone she usually reserved for the media and interviews. It was a professional voice, a voice that left little room for argument.

“I agree,” Principal Matthews sighed. “I told them that if anything like that happened again, even to a student who isn’t Scottie, he’ll be suspended, and the next step would be...well, we like to call it an invitation to transfer.”

“I assume the fifth-grade teachers will be informed,” Tobin said, running a hand over her face. 

“They will be. It’s in his file, and the information will be shared with Scottie’s teacher too. Although, I am also guaranteeing that Scottie and Simon won’t be in the same classroom. We’ve kept her with Gemma since that seems to be a close relationship,” Principal Matthews said, staring at her computer screen with the fifth-grade roster, organized by classrooms. 

“What about Naomi?” Tobin asked, keeping her voice quiet so that the girl upstairs wouldn’t hear. 

“Her parents decided to transfer her into a private school,” Principal Matthews informed. 

Christen bit her tongue, keeping herself from saying something like ‘ Good riddance .’ Instead, she let out a short breath and sank onto a bench, leaning her elbows on her knees.

“Did they say why they chose that course of action?” Christen asked.

“Something about disciplinary issues looking bad on a future college application,” Principal Matthews replied. “Which...sounds kind of fake to me, since it’s fourth grade,” she added, her voice slightly less uptight and professional, a little warmer and softer. 

“We appreciate you meeting with them,” Tobin said. 

“And for keeping us updated,” Christen added.

“Why don’t we all keep updating throughout the next school year. Hopefully, we won’t have any news, but I’d like to help make fifth grade better,” Principal Matthews said, her voice genuine. 

“That sounds good,” Tobin agreed. 

“Thank you for the call,” Christen said.

“Enjoy summer break,” Principal Matthews added before they all said goodbye. 

Tobin immediately called Christen back, wanting to actually hear what she thought and not wanting to wait the hour or two it would take before she got home. 

“Like transferring is going to keep that girl out of trouble,” Christen grumbled, fully embracing the protective instincts she’d been keeping in check on the call.

“They didn’t transfer because of college applications,” Tobin scoffed. “They transferred because the principal sided with Scottie who has two moms.”

Christen was still upset, still angry at this little girl and her parents and the hell they’d put Scottie through. She could still feel her blood boiling and her palms itching. But something Tobin said cut through all of that, seeming to take the fight right out of her.

“Moms?” Christen replied, her voice going soft.

“Uh...well- I thought you decided. Aren’t you talking to her about it next week? I mean, if you change your mind before then, that’s okay-”

“Baby, breathe,” Christen chuckled, interrupting Tobin’s rambling. “I am still talking to her next week, I just- that was the first time you said it. You said moms,” she added with a radiant smile, her heart fluttering in her chest. “Plural. You and me. Moms.”

“Yeah,” Tobin murmured, her stomach flipping as she replayed the sentence she’d said. It had just slipped out. And maybe they were doing things a little backwards, letting Scottie call Christen Momma before they were even engaged, before any legal connection was made. 

But she really didn’t care. Scottie had already told her that Christen felt like a mom, that she was her Momma. She’d chosen the word, and Christen had accepted it. The rest, the legality of it all, would fall into place. They were moving in that direction, and using the words that made them feel like a family wouldn’t hurt anyone, not when the paperwork would eventually come too. 

“Was that too much?” Tobin asked softly. 

“A lot but not too much,” Christen replied, just like she always did. “It was perfect.”

“Good,” Tobin breathed out. 

Christen couldn’t wipe the grin off of her face, her heart still fluttering. “I’ll see you at home in a little bit?”

“Drive safely but get home soon please,” Tobin said, a dopey smile making itself onto her face as she spoke. 

“I will. I love you,” Christen murmured.

“I love you too.”

Christen stood with her hands on her hips, watching the group of girls run around on the field, playing Sharks and Minnows. 

Just like two years ago, to the day, she couldn’t stop watching Scottie. 

Scottie was running circles around the other girls, most of them still either older or taller. She was impossibly fast and having the time of her life, laughing and smiling. 

And just like two years ago, Christen felt a matching smile make its way onto her face. 

She loved that kid. She loved that kid more than she ever thought possible. And today, she was going to sit this kid down once the first day of Academy training was over and have the ‘Momma’ talk. 

“Happy looks good on you, and you look even happier than normal today,” Becky hummed, bumping her hip into Christen’s. 

Christen looked over at her co-captain and felt her smile soften. 

“Thanks, Beck. I am,” Christen murmured with a beaming smile. “I’m talking to Scottie after training today, broaching the whole Mom thing.”

Becky reached out and squeezed Christen’s hand. “I’m impressed you’re this calm. That’s a huge, amazing step.” 

“I wasn’t this morning,” Christen laughed, remembering how stressed she’d been when she’d woken up. 

“What changed?” Becky asked, squeezing Christen’s hand once more before she let go. 

“Tobin just- she knew I was freaking out and so she pulled me out of our bedroom and took me to Scottie’s room. We stood there, watching her sleep with her family tree next to her bed and-” Christen faltered, feeling herself get a little choked up at the memory. “And Tobin told me that I was on her family tree. I was already her mom and that I could do this. She has so much faith in me…how could I not have it in myself?”

“She chose you,” Becky hummed, nodding her head toward Scottie. “Not many kids get to do that.” 

Christen nodded and swallowed, feeling beyond lucky that Scottie had. 

“Still feels a little bit surreal at times. Like, who knew when we were doing this two years ago, we’d be standing here like this today?” Christen replied, shaking her head in disbelief. 

“What, that you’d be a mom in two years?” Becky grinned, feeling giddy for her friend. 

Christen laughed, that same giddiness inside of her as well. 

“I definitely didn't have that on my Bingo card,” Christen chuckled, her eyes watching Scottie fake out one of her fellow players and sprint away. “I can’t believe this is my life, Beck. Do you think it’ll always feel like this? A bit surreal and a bit completely normal?” 

“It’ll probably become more normal the more time passes, but I don’t think this will ever not be incredible and special,” Becky murmured. 

Christen reached out and squeezed Becky’s hand with her own. “Yeah, it always will be,” she agreed softly. 

“How are you gonna tell her? You’re you, so I assume you have a plan,” Becky chuckled. 

Christen told Becky everything. She shared the excitement and elation, the hopes and fears, the things she planned to say. She shared it all while the Academy session wound down. And once she’d said her goodbyes to Becky and Crystal and Kelley, once the girls had all gone back to their parents, Christen sat down in the grass next to Scottie. 

She took a breath and sank into the moment, wanting to remember this. She wanted to remember how she felt, how the day looked around them, how Scottie was already smiling at her. She wanted to remember this moment, because life would never be the same again, in the absolute best way. 

“Did you have fun today?” Christen asked, helping Scottie untie her cleats. 

“Yes,” Scottie beamed, slipping off a cleat and her sock, preparing to be barefoot like Christen always was after practices and games. “I think I’m faster than last year.” 

“You’re way faster than last year,” Christen confirmed, slipping her own feet out of her cleats and socks to match Scottie. 

Scottie wiggled her toes in the grass, enjoying the warm sun on her skin. 

“Isn’t it crazy that we’ve known each other for two whole years?” Christen asked, leaning back on her hands as she grinned at Scottie. 

“Feels like a lot longer sometimes,” Scottie hummed, squinting across the soccer field. “You know what’s hard?” 

“What’s that?” Christen wondered. 

“Corner kicks,” Scottie sighed, giving Christen a lopsided smile. “You make them look easy.” 

Christen laughed and knocked her foot against Scottie’s. “Yours we’re good today! They’re pretty tough, though. Maybe we can work on them next time?”

“Sure,” Scottie nodded, her face lighting up even more with excitement. “And if Mommy comes, we can stay after again, and all three of us can play.” 

Christen nodded and took a deep breath, her smile never falling. 

“Hey sweetheart, can I talk to you about something pretty cool?”

“Cooler than corner kicks?” Scottie teased, looking over at Christen. 

“Cooler than corner kicks and maybe even cooler than soccer in general,” Christen replied softly.  

Scottie gasped a little and turned her body to completely face Christen, sitting crisscross applesauce and giving Christen all of her attention. 

“So you know how you call me your Christen and you’re my Scottie?”

“Yeah,” Scottie nodded. 

“I was starting to think that maybe we could change that. Because as much as I love calling you Scottie Heath, it doesn’t feel special enough for how special you are to me,” Christen murmured, reaching out her hand and laying it in the grass between them. 

Scottie didn’t hesitate to take Christen’s hand in her own, flipping it over and lacing her fingers with Christen’s. 

“You’re special to me too,” Scottie said, forcing her words around the lump that was slowly starting to form in her throat. 

“Would it be okay if we maybe changed up what we called each other?” Christen asked, feeling her eyes start to fill with tears. 

“I like sweetheart. What did you want to change it to?” Scottie asked, trying to calm the way her heart was thrumming with anticipation. 

“I- I wasn’t exactly talking about me. I’d really love to keep calling you sweetheart because that’s what my…my mom used to call me. But I was thinking that maybe, if you wanted, you can call me something else. Instead of Christen?” Christen rambled slightly, running her thumb over the back of Scottie’s hand. 

And Scottie couldn’t hold the tears back anymore. The lump in her throat was huge, and the stinging behind her eyes was getting stronger. She’d waited seven months for this conversation, and now that it was here, she was completely overwhelmed. 

Christen wanted her. She wanted her in the same way that Scottie had been wanting. And that was so perfect, so unbelievable that Scottie couldn’t catch her breath. Her shoulders shook as she pulled air into her chest, her hand grasping tighter to Christen’s. 

“Oh, sweetheart,” Christen hummed, scooting across the grass and pulling Scottie into her lap. “We don’t have to if you’re not ready. I can be patient now. You were so patient with me, and now I can wait. I’ll wait as long as you need me to.”

“No,” Scottie croaked, wrapping her arms around Christen’s neck and burying her face in her shirt, her wet cheeks leaving dark splotches on the light gray t-shirt. 

Christen’s heart clenched in her chest. Maybe she’d missed her chance at Momma. Maybe she’d waited too long and Scottie didn’t want this anymore. 

“Oh,” Christen mumbled, holding Scottie close. “Well, that’s okay too. I can be your Christen for as long as you want me to be. We don’t have to change what you call me.”

“No, I- You’re more than that,” Scottie finally rasped, clutching herself as close to Christen as she could. “You aren’t just my Christen. You’re more. You’re- I don’t want to wait.” 

Christen’s tears started then, spilling from behind her tightly shut eyes. “Are you sure?” Christen asked, pressing her awestruck smile into Scottie’s hair. 

“You’re like Mommy,” Scottie blubbered. “Different, but like Mommy.” 

“That’s what I feel like. I feel like Tobin but different, and I love that feeling,” Christen admitted softly. 

“I want-” Scottie whispered, letting her fingers play with the baby hairs at the back of Christen’s neck, a way to distract herself from the nerves she was feeling. 

“You can tell me, sweetheart,” Christen whispered back, running a hand up and down Scottie’s back softly. “You can always tell me anything.”

“I want you to be my Momma,” Scottie said, so quietly that it was hardly a whisper. “But I can be patient if you aren’t ready.”

Christen let out a shuddery breath, feeling her heart, which had slowly started to heal two years ago to the day, finally feel whole. 

“I’d love to be your Momma,” Christen choked out, clinging to the girl in her arms. 

“Really?” Scottie asked, her voice wobbly and soft. 

“I’m ready,” Christen nodded, dropping kiss after kiss on Scottie’s head. “Thank you for being patient with me.”

“I really love you,” Scottie murmured, pressing her forehead against Christen’s neck and fisting her hands in the back of Christen’s t-shirt. 

“I really love you, sweetheart,” Christen whispered. “And I’m really excited to be your Momma. I’m really, really excited,” she added softly. 

As she held Scottie in her arms, the two of them smiling through their happy tears, Christen felt an odd sense of calm and peace,  and she knew that wherever her parents were, they were happy for her too. 

“I’d like one scoop of the Peanut Butter Marshmallow Crunch, and my Momma wants a scoop of the Salted Caramel,” Scottie said, keeping her arms wrapped around Christen’s waist as they stood at the counter in Van Leeuwen’s. 

Christen just smoothed down Scottie’s hair and smiled at her, not even looking up at the young guy behind the counter. 

She couldn’t get over how good that sounded, how great the word ‘Momma’ sounded coming from Scottie. 

“You got it,” the cashier said, taking Christen’s credit card and busying himself with charging the card and scooping the ice cream. 

“I feel like I won’t want to let go for a whole week,” Scottie murmured, tightening her arms around Christen’s waist. 

“You don’t have to. We can hug for as long as you want,” Christen replied softly. 

“Probably not a whole week. Amanda wouldn’t want you to bring me to every practice,” Scottie hummed, looking up at Christen. 

“I could always ask,” Christen grinned, poking her finger in the dimple in Scottie’s cheek. 

“Hey,” Scottie hummed. 

“Hey,” Christen whispered, rocking Scottie from side to side. 

“I love you, Momma,” Scottie said, repeating those words for what felt like the hundredth time since leaving the practice field in New Jersey. 

“I love you too, sweetheart,” Christen replied, her throat getting thick as tears blurred her vision. She still wasn’t used to it, the way her heart was warm and happy whenever Scottie said those words to her. They felt impossibly right. “You ready to take our ice cream home and see Tobin?” Christen asked softly. “I bet she’s really excited to see us.”

“Yes, I hope she’s done with work,” Scottie grinned. 

“Me too,” Christen hummed. 

“Here you go,” the cashier said, handing them their cones. 

After a quick thank you, Scottie and Christen headed out the door and down the street. 

“Did she know?” Scottie asked, looking up at Christen as they walked back to the house where they’d parked the car. 

“She knew that I was ready to talk to you, yes,” Christen replied, swinging Scottie’s hand in the air between them. 

“Did she know you were gonna talk to me today?” Scottie asked, licking the side of her cone where ice cream was starting to drip. 

“She did. She knew I was a little nervous and she helped me feel a lot better,” Christen murmured, doing the same for her ice cream. 

“Why were you nervous?” Scottie asked, tilting her head to the side slightly. 

Christen chuckled at herself a little bit, hindsight making her feel a little ridiculous. 

“Because this is…well, it’s new for me. I’ve never been someone’s Momma before and I was really worried that I wasn’t going to be good at it. But Tobin and you, you both make me feel like I can do this,” Christen replied, smiling down at Scottie. 

“You’ve been doing it for a while,” Scottie said with a shrug. “I accidentally called you Momma a long time ago,” she added with a tiny blush. 

“I know,” Christen hummed, squeezing Scottie’s hand in her own. “But I don’t want you to feel embarrassed about it. Because if you hadn’t? I don’t know if I would feel ready like I do right now. Hearing you call me Momma made me feel like one.”

“Even when I was being patient and called you Christen, you still felt like my Momma. You still took care of me like moms do,” Scottie said, glancing up at Christen. 

Christen felt tears loom again, for the hundredth time that day. She had a feeling she’d be a blubbering, emotional mess all day long. 

“I’ll always take care of you, sweetheart,” Christen replied with a smile. “Pause on the sappy stuff so we can eat these ice creams before they melt?” 

“Okay,” Scottie giggled, digging into her ice cream, a smile frozen on her face with no signs of melting away. 

“Mommy!” Scottie called, hurrying up the stairs as fast as she could with Christen’s hand still in her own.  

Christen shut the door behind her and raced after Scottie, struggling to keep up with her excited pace and laughing as Scottie yanked her up the stairs. 

“Little bit?” Tobin answered, walking toward the top of the stairs from the kitchen to greet them both. 

“Momma and I are home!” Scottie yelled, throwing a smile over her shoulder at Christen. 

“I take it you both had a good day at practice and getting ice cream,” Tobin hummed, wrapping an arm around Scottie when she reached the top of the stairs and keeping her eyes on Christen’s face. 

Christen couldn’t force the words past the thickness in her throat, the one put there by Scottie calling her Momma in front of Tobin. She could only manage a watery smile and a nod, stepping into Tobin’s side and dropping a quick kiss onto Tobin’s cheek. 

“You okay?” Tobin whispered against the side of Christen’s head, her voice muffled in Christen’s hair. 

“More than. I’m a Momma,” Christen whispered back, her voice tight with the emotions of the moment. 

Tobin kissed Christen’s temple and pulled her a little closer, holding tightly to the two people she loved most. 

“Can we get Gio’s tonight? We’re celebrating!” Scottie cheered, looking up between Tobin and Christen with a toothy grin. 

“That sounds like a great idea,” Tobin said, squeezing Christen’s hip gently. 

“What do you want to do for the rest of the night?” Christen asked, hurriedly wiping away her tears before Scottie saw them. 

“Well, what I really want to do is call everyone I know and tell them about today, but I think maybe a cuddle puddle and family time would be the best,” Scottie sighed. 

“You know who you could call if you wanted to?” Christen asked, smoothing her thumb along Scottie’s furrowed brow. 

“Who?” Scottie asked, her smile growing even more, if that was at all possible after the day she’d had and the joy she felt. 

“Channing and Tyler. I bet they’d love to hear about our day,” Christen murmured with a soft smile. 

“Oooooh my gosh! You’re so right! I can call them and tell them about you being my Momma,” Scottie grinned, letting go of Tobin and Christen and hopping from foot to foot. 

“Tell them we say hi,” Christen said with a smile. 

“Momma, can I use your phone?” Scottie asked, the word now falling off her tongue without hesitation, making her beam every time she said it. 

Christen pulled out her phone, her eyes growing misty once more. 

“Sure, sweetheart,” Christen murmured softly. 

Scottie took the phone and raced to the couch, already searching for Channing’s contact on Christen’s phone. 

“You want to go downstairs?” Tobin asked quietly. “Give her the room.” 

“Please,” Christen whispered, squeezing Tobin’s hand. 

Tobin led Christen down the stairs to her studio, holding onto her hand as they walked. Once they reached the studio, Tobin wrapped her arms around Christen, pulling her close and running her hands up and down Christen’s back. 

“It’s good?” Tobin murmured. 

“It’s great,” Christen whispered, sucking in a shuddery breath. “I’m just- I’m almost overwhelmed with how much great I’m feeling.” 

“Too much?” Tobin asked quietly, leaning back to look into Christen’s eyes. 

“A lot but not too much,” Christen replied softly, the familiar words rolling off her tongue. She shot Tobin a watery smile, lifting her hand to cradle Tobin’s cheek. “Never too much.”

“I just want you to feel good. I don’t want this to feel too fast or too overwhelming,” Tobin said, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. 

Christen just shook her head, almost in disbelief as she ran her thumb along Tobin’s cheek. 

“My love,” Christen murmured, her eyes crinkling. “I haven’t stopped feeling good since you came into my life. Someday you’re going to realize that.”

“Me either,” Tobin replied. “Life never felt this right before you.” 

“I don’t think it’ll ever stop feeling like that,” Christen replied, her voice as soft as her touch.

“I have something for you,” Tobin whispered, not moving out of Christen’s arms until Christen replied or moved. 

“Can we just stay like this for a bit? I just need- I need this,” Christen murmured, tucking her face in the crook of Tobin’s neck. 

“We can stay as long as you want,” Tobin hummed, securing her arms around Christen. 

“Eight more seconds,” Christen whispered, clinging to Tobin. 

“I’m gonna need more than eight more seconds,” Tobin said softly, pressing kisses to the side of Christen’s head. 

“Are you okay?” Christen asked, checking in just like Tobin always did with her. 

“I’m more than okay,” Tobin replied. “I’m completely in love with you.” 

Christen leaned back and fixed Tobin with a wonderstruck look, her thumb moving slowly across Tobin’s cheek again. 

“As I am with you. Completely and wonderfully and inexplicably and totally in love with you,” Christen hummed. “What did you want to show me?” she asked softly with a smile. 

“You don’t need eight more seconds?” Tobin asked, feeling a little bit shy all of a sudden. 

Christen chuckled, leaning forward to kiss the shy look off Tobin’s face. 

“What is it, baby?” Christen murmured. 

“It’s under that sheet over there,” Tobin said, nodding to an easel in the corner of the room. 

“Walk with me?” Christen requested softly. 

“Always,” Tobin breathed out, keeping a hand on Christen’s waist as they walked to the easel. 

Christen kept her arm around Tobin’s shoulders and leaned forward to pull the sheet off of the easel. 

A soft gasp escaped her lips as she saw what was on the canvas. 

“Tobin…is that-“ Christen managed, tears looming once more. 

“You told me it was the one you wanted,” Tobin murmured. “I didn’t mean to take two years to get her eyes right. And it’s isn’t exactly the one you saw the first time you were here. I mean it’s the same canvas, but I changed some things. She’s a little older now.” 

“I…this is-“ Christen replied, almost unable to comprehend that Tobin remembered she’d asked for this, that Tobin had spent two years doing this for her. “Thank you,” she whispered, her eyes tracking across the slightly older version of Scottie, maybe age eight or nine instead of age three, now on the canvas in front of her. “You got the eyes perfect, baby.”

“I love you,” Tobin said, unable to speak all of her feelings aloud. There weren’t enough words. “I want-” 

Christen turned away from the canvas to look at Tobin, almost unable to read the look in Tobin’s eyes. 

“What?” Christen hummed, lifting a hand to push a strand of hair behind Tobin’s ear. 

“Momma, they want to talk to you!” Scottie called from the top of the stairs. 

“One second, sweetheart!” Christen called back, staying in the moment with Tobin. “What is it?” she added, her voice softening. 

“Nothing,” Tobin said with a soft smile. “I just love you.” 

“Come on, tell me,” Christen grinned, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s. “Please?” 

“I just want to share every single thing with you. Everything in this life,” Tobin murmured, her eyes getting teary for the first time all day. 

She’d been keeping it together for the sake of Christen’s nerves, but this entire day and the deeply serious and emotional joy that encompassed it could easily bring her to her knees. 

“This life is all I could ever want,” Christen whispered, swiping away the tear that slipped from Tobin’s eye. “Thank you for sharing it with me.”

“I don’t think they’re kissing,” Scottie giggled on the phone at the top of the stairs. “They’re talking.” 

“We could be!” Christen yelled back with a smile. 

Tobin pressed a kiss to Christen’s lips before leaning back with a smirk. 

“You should probably go put your sisters out of their misery and talk to them,” Tobin said, a goofy, beaming smile on her face, just like it had been since Christen and Scottie had come home. 

“Don’t have too much fun without me,” Christen teased, kissing Tobin and lingering for a moment. “And I’ll kiss you really good later to show you just how much I love that painting.”

“I hope Channing and Tyler talk fast,” Tobin grinned, following Christen up the stairs. 

“I love you, Mommy. You’re the best Mommy in the whole, wide world. Good night,” Scottie yawned, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s cheek. 

“I love you, Scottie. You’re the best kid in the whole, wide world. Good night,” Tobin replied, placing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead before she moved and let Christen take her spot right next to Scottie on the bed. 

“I love you, Momma. You’re the best Momma in the whole, wide world. And I’m really glad you want to be my Momma and not just my Christen,” Scottie whispered, sitting up and wrapping her arms around Christen as she pressed a kiss to Christen’s cheek. 

“I- I love you sweetheart. You’re the best kid in the whole, wide world. And I’m really glad you want to be mine,” Christen whispered back, holding Scottie close. “Sleep tight, sweetheart,” she added, kissing Scottie’s forehead and then pulling back, surreptitiously wiping the tears from her cheeks. 

Tobin stood by the door, sinking into this moment that felt kind of bizarre but incredibly right all at the same time. It was fast and serious and deep, but it felt right. Everything with Christen felt right, and she wanted everything with Christen. She didn’t want a day to go by without her. 

She waited until Christen stood up and walked to her side before she said one last good night and shut Scottie’s door behind them. 

Christen pulled on their clasped hands and led them into their bedroom, a funny little smile on her face. 

“What?” Tobin asked, focused on Christen’s face and all the emotions she could read on it. 

“Nothing,” Christen chuckled lightly, shaking her head as she walked over to the dresser to grab some pajamas. 

“Come on, tell me,” Tobin pouted, repeating the words Christen had said to her in the studio. 

“Maybe someday,” Christen hummed, shooting a smile over her shoulder at Tobin.

She wouldn’t tell Tobin exactly what she’d just thought of. 

She wouldn’t tell Tobin that she’d just imagined a lifetime of nights like that, of putting Scottie to bed together and hearing Scottie call her Momma. 

She wouldn’t tell Tobin that she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about marriage ever since Tyler and Channing had mentioned it two weeks ago. 

She wouldn’t tell Tobin that being more than just Scottie’s Momma, that being Tobin’s wife , was the next thing she wanted to do. 

Not yet. Maybe someday. 

“I’ll ask tomorrow,” Tobin grumbled, flopping down onto the foot of the bed and settling in to watch Christen get changed. “You’re beautiful.” 

Christen blushed, just like she always did whenever Tobin complimented her. She pulled on her pajamas with a smile, which consisted of a stolen National Parks t-shirt from Tobin and a pair of Tobin’s comfiest boxers. 

“Thank you, baby,” Christen murmured. 

“I’m not sure why you’re getting dressed, though,” Tobin hummed, leaning back onto her elbows. 

Christen arched a brow, her smile bleeding into a smirk. 

“Maybe I got cold,” Christen countered, walking over to the bed and dropping into Tobin’s lap. “Or maybe I just like when you take your clothes off of me.”

“I do enjoy doing that,” Tobin hummed, running her hands up Christen’s sides, underneath the t-shirt she’d just pulled on. 

“And I enjoy you enjoying it,” Christen grinned, running her fingers through the hair at Tobin’s temples. “I can’t wait to enjoy this forever.” 

“Why wait? It’s kind of already started,” Tobin murmured quietly, letting her hands rest on Christen’s lower back. 

Christen couldn’t agree more. So, she leaned down and connected their lips in a kiss that spoke of promise and forever, of someday and today.