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Remember the words said

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Something 'bout the way the hair falls in your face
I love the shape you take when crawling towards the pillowcase
You tell me where to go and
Though I might leave to find it
I'll never let your head hit the bed
Without my hand behind it

You want love?
We'll make it
Swim in a deep sea
Of blankets
Take all your big plans
And break 'em
This is bound to be a while

Your body is a wonderland
Your body is a wonder, I'll use my hands
Your body is a wonderland
I'll never speak again, again
I'll use my hands

(Christen - "Your Body is a Wonderland" cover by Boyce Avenue)


I wanna take you so far
Out past the Saturn rings
And into my heart

I wanna drive you
Wild, wild, wild
I wanna love you
For miles and miles
We can go slow, we don't need to rush
I'll take the wheel, make you feel every touch
I wanna drive you
Wild, wild, wild

Lay on the passenger's side
Tell me how fast you want
We'll get there tonight
Oh, fire, you set me on fire
I swear you're the only one
I'd take on this ride

I wanna drive you
Wild, wild, wild
I wanna love you
For miles and miles

(Tobin - "Wild" by John Legend, Gary Clark Jr.)


“I’ll count to sixty this time, but Momma, you have to hide better. I’m almost ten,” Scottie giggled, covering her face on the couch, her hair spilling out of the messy bun that Tobin had done for her that morning. 

Christen hesitated on the stairs and took a moment to watch Scottie as she started to count again. She felt a warmth bloom in her chest as the sound of the word ‘Momma’ echoed around the living room.

It had been a month since Scottie had started calling her that. And in every moment of every single one of the days that made up these last four weeks, Christen had never felt happier. She’d been waltzing on cloud nine. She’d been a beaming, giddy mess who couldn’t stop smiling. 

She was Momma. She was Momma who got to stay home on this rainy, summer day while Tobin was out at a gallery, setting up paintings for an exhibit. She was Momma who pretended to suck at hide and go seek, just because it made Scottie smile.

With one final soft look aimed in Scottie’s direction, Christen silently took off up the stairs, heading for the office at the end of the hallway.

She dodged her yoga mat and some boxes of her old soccer awards and opened the small closet door. She wiggled in, squeezing between old coats and a stack of boxes, shutting the door quietly behind her.

“42, 43, 55, 56, 57…” Scottie called, intentionally skipping numbers to go faster. 

Christen chuckled softly and tried to rearrange the coats so they were blocking her if Scottie opened the closet door. But she accidentally bumped into the stack of boxes, sending a small one that was precariously perched at the top, falling to her feet.

“Shit,” Christen whispered, hoping the noise hadn’t alerted Scottie to where she was hiding. 

Thanks to the small bit of light peeking beneath the door, Christen managed to catch sight of what was inside of the box. 

Christen felt her eyebrows climb high on her forehead and her mouth flop open in shock. 

She was…well, frankly, she was stunned.

She was floored.

She was-

The sound of the office door opening had Christen scrambling to pull a coat off a hanger and throw it over the open box sitting at her feet so Scottie wouldn’t see it.

“This is my favorite hiding spot!” Scottie called, pulling open the closet door with a flourish. 

Christen stepped out of the closet, shutting the door quickly behind her. 

“It’s a good one, sweetheart. And I really suck at this game,” Christen replied, trying to keep her breathing at a normal level and the images of what had been in that box out of her mind.

“I’m not as good at hiding as I am at seeking,” Scottie admitted, grabbing onto Christen’s hand and leading the way back down to the living room. “Do you want to play soccer downstairs now?” 

“Finally, something we’re both amazing at,” Christen winked, squeezing Scottie’s hand softly, casting one final glance at the office over her shoulder as they walked down the hallway. 

Tobin washed out the two wine glasses she and Christen had used during dinner, flipping them over and placing them in the drying rack. Scottie was already asleep, having passed out easily after an active day playing games inside with Christen. 

Tobin had been in the best mood all day. She’d woken up with Christen cuddled up against her chest, eaten breakfast with both Scottie and Christen, met up with a few friends and artists at a shared gallery space, set up her own part of the exhibit, and come home to Scottie and Christen’s laughter coming from the turf field. It was a perfectly normal, perfectly happy day, and Tobin couldn’t stop herself from humming softly as she washed dishes and put away leftovers. 

“Hey, babe?” Christen called out softly, folding up the blankets and draping them over the back of the couch.

“Mhm,” Tobin hummed, drying her hands on a dishtowel. 

Christen crossed into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around Tobin’s waist, pressing a fleeting kiss to her cheek. 

“Will you do something for me?” Christen asked softly.

“Of course,” Tobin breathed out, leaning into Christen’s body. “What’s up?” 

Christen moved her lips gently along Tobin’s cheekbone, over to her ear, her whispered words ghosting across the shell of Tobin’s ear.

“Wait for me in the bedroom? There’s something I want to show you.”

Goosebumps spread over Tobin’s entire body as soon as Christen’s words reached her ears. 

“My birthday was last week,” Tobin murmured. 

“I know,” Christen replied, squeezing Tobin’s hips and pushing her gently toward the stairs.

Tobin tried to be cool. She tried to walk up the stairs without seeming overly excited. It wasn’t like it was a rare occasion. She and Christen regularly spent nights together, doing more than sleeping. But she couldn’t get enough. She loved every moment with Christen, but there was something especially perfect and comforting about being intimate and completely bare with Christen between the sheets. 

So, instead of keeping her cool, Tobin turned her head to look over her shoulder and stared at Christen for a brief moment, her mouth flopping open a little at her. 

“Bedroom,” Christen called out with a small smile.

“I’m going,” Tobin replied, racing up the stairs two at a time, trying to keep quiet despite the pure excitement coursing through her. She was suddenly thankful that she’d shaved in the shower yesterday, realizing that she wasn’t entirely dressed for whatever sexy, surprise night Christen was in the mood for. 

Tobin quickly stripped, pulling on a nicer pair of underwear and a bra that looked slightly less like a sports bra. She then tugged a t-shirt and shorts on and dumped her dirty clothes into their shared hamper. She bounced down onto the foot of the bed for approximately two seconds before standing back up and reapplying deodorant and running a hand through her hair. 

She had absolutely no idea what was going on, but she felt like her body was vibrating with the possibilities as she scooted back onto the bed and waited for Christen to come upstairs. When she did hear her, she wasn’t sure why Christen was banging around in the office. 

Suddenly, she was grateful that she’d hidden the tiny, black, leather box that held the ring she had picked out for Christen with Channing and Tyler’s help in a pair of old Jordans that were zipped up in a suitcase under their bed. She didn’t trust Scottie not to snoop and she didn’t trust Christen not to accidentally knock something over. 

When the time came, she knew she’d show Scottie and talk to her about it before asking Christen, but now was definitely not that time.

Christen entering the bedroom quickly brought Tobin out of her thoughts. Christen kicked the door shut and locked it. She then tossed the small box from the office closet onto the bed and arched a brow in Tobin’s direction, her hands on her hips. 

“I found this when Scottie and I were playing hide and seek today,” Christen said.

Tobin let out a laugh, covering her mouth slightly as soon as she pulled the beat-up lid off the top of the box and looked into it. 

“This is funny?” Christen asked.

“I just tossed a box of sex toys at me,” Tobin shrugged. “That’s kind of funny.”

Christen shook her head, an amused huff escaping her lips. “Where the hell have these been for two years? Were you saving them for a rainy day?”

“ rained today,” Tobin offered with a sheepish smile. “I honestly forgot where I put them. Where did you find them?” 

“Office closet. I knocked the box over when I was hiding,” Christen replied with a shake of her head and a smile, dropping down onto the bed beside Tobin. “Made me think you were holding out on me or something.”

“I mean, I didn’t know that you wanted that,” Tobin said, nodding to the box. “All you had to do was ask me.”

Christen’s eyes darkened at the offer, a small, breathless gasp leaving her lips. “At first, I wasn’t sure if...parents with kids in the house kept those sorts of things lying around.”

“We don’t. We keep them hidden in closets,” Tobin teased, her eyes crinkling as she laughed. 

Christen felt an airy laugh escape her. “Good to know,” she hummed, subconsciously wetting her bottom lip. “I’m, umm, I’m definitely into it if you are.”

“I would never hold out on you,” Tobin whispered, moving closer to Christen and resting her hand on Christen’s hip. 

Christen cradled the corner of Tobin’s jaw and pulled her closer, bringing their lips together in a kiss that lacked softness and poetry. It was hot and bruising and wanting. But then Christen pulled back abruptly, her forehead furrowing.

“You didn’t use those with…” Christen trailed off.

“What?” Tobin mumbled, in a complete desire-fueled fog, already trying to chase Christen’s lips with her own. 

“If you used those with- well, with Roni, I’d really like to not use them,” Christen explained, her jaw tightening slightly.

“None of those were used with her. Honestly, most of them were just used for...self-enjoyment,” Tobin replied, putting a hand on Christen’s cheek and pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. “Just toss the blue one, and you’re good,” she added with a smirk. 

Christen snorted and recaptured Tobin’s lips, her mind focusing on the self-enjoyment piece, and not anything else. 

“Which one’s your favorite?” Christen asked, tugging Tobin closer on the bed with a hand on her hip. She tapped Tobin’s thigh once, silently asking for Tobin to move into her lap.

“The orange one,” Tobin breathed out as she moved to straddle Christen’s hips. “It’s ridged.”

Christen groaned into the kiss, nipping none too gently on Tobin’s bottom lip as she buried a hand in Tobin’s soft waves.

“What are you doing Thursday after Scottie leaves for camping?” Christen wondered a little breathlessly, mumbling the words against Tobin’s lips as she encouraged Tobin’s hips to roll down into her.

“Hopefully something with you,” Tobin husked, moving her head and pressing her lips against Christen’s jaw. 

“Definitely something with me and the orange one,” Christen replied, rolling her head to the side to give Tobin more room to work.

“Yeah?” Tobin rasped, reaching up to hold onto the back of Christen’s neck as her lips moved down the side of Christen’s throat. 

Christen nodded, the motion a little jerky and uncontrolled as Tobin’s lips found the sensitive spot at the base of her throat.

“So, I totally respect and agree with not using the box you found today with a kid down the hall, but can I still make you feel good tonight?” Tobin asked, her lips brushing against Christen’s skin. 

“Wait your turn,” Christen husked with a smile, slipping her hand beneath the waistband of Tobin’s shorts.

“Did you know that Gemma’s dad used to have a poster with you on it in his house, but then Gemma said it was weird,” Scottie said before shoving a forkful of scrambled eggs into her mouth. 

“I’m hoping it wasn’t just of Christen,” Tobin sighed, dropping down into the seat next to Christen and handing Christen a fresh cup of coffee. 

Christen chuckled softly and dropped her hand to Tobin’s knee beneath the table, using her other to cradle the mug to her chest. 

“Nope, it had Momma and Abbs and Autie Moe Moe and Coach Becky on it for sure. I forget who else,” Scottie shrugged. 

“It probably wasn’t the swimsuit photoshoot, don’t worry,” Christen whispered, leaning closer to Tobin so only she’d hear.

Tobin choked on her sip of coffee, nearly knocking her mug over as she put it down on the table. 

Christen bit back a smile and moved her hand to Tobin’s back, patting gently. “You good, babe?” Christen asked innocently.

“Great,” Tobin choked out. 

“Mommy, Momma, I have an important question, and I need complete attention,” Scottie said, setting down her fork and folding her hands in front of her on the table. 

Christen and Tobin shared an amused look and then turned back to Scottie. 

“What is it, sweetheart?” Christen asked with a warm smile, still moving her hand up and down Tobin’s back soothingly.

“It’s my birthday next month,” Scottie said.

“Double digits,” Tobin nodded with a tiny laugh. “As if we could forget.”

“Well...this year, my birthday is on a game day. I already looked at Momma’s schedule,” Scottie continued like she was presenting a Powerpoint presentation in a boardroom. “So...I was wondering if maybe I could have some friends come and then sleep over?” she asked, smiling hopefully across the table. 

“That sounds fun, little bit. How many friends are you wanting to invite?” Tobin asked. 

“Gemma’s invited for sure. Then I think I want to invite one other friend that Gemma and I have and two friends from Academy. So five of us in total,” Scottie replied, looking between Tobin and Christen with the sweetest smile she had in her arsenal. 

Tobin put her arm on the back of Christen’s chair and squeezed her shoulder softly, letting her take the lead on this one. 

“Would you like everyone to sit in the box or do you want to be ball girls?” Christen asked softly.

“I mean...I want to walk you out on my birthday,” Scottie replied. 

“That’s a given, sweetheart,” Christen grinned.

“Gemma gets anxious because one of the Racing players yelled at her last time to throw the ball faster,” Scottie added. 

Christen’s brow furrowed. “Players shouldn’t be talking to her like that. I can just have her walk out with Crystal and then head back to the box, if she’d prefer.”

“Sure! Aimee and Carson from Academy probably would like to be ball girls, but Ivy’s mom won’t let her do contact sports, so she’s totally gonna be in the box,” Scottie said with an eye roll. 

“So...who do I need to figure out stuff for?” Christen wondered with a laugh, almost having a little bit of trouble keeping everything straight.

“Seats for Mommy, Gemma, and Ivy, and three ball girls,” Scottie clarified, drumming her fingers over the table in excitement. 

“And a special birthday surprise for Scottie Heath,” Christen nodded, winking at Scottie. “I can do that, if Tobin says it’s okay.”

“Sounds good to me. We’re gonna need two cars to get everyone home, though,” Tobin hummed, running her thumb along the inside of Christen’s knee. 

“Kel can drive me. You can take the kids,” Christen grinned, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s cheek.

“What a sacrifice, baby,” Tobin snorted, already imagining just how loud that car ride would be. 

“I know, I’m so selfless,” Christen agreed with a teasing lilt in her voice.

“You gonna come home that night?” Tobin asked with a smirk. 

“She always comes home, Mommy,” Scottie replied with an eye roll, scooping another forkful of eggs into her mouth. “Why would you ask a silly question like that?”

“You’re right, that was silly,” Tobin agreed, reaching across the table and stealing a piece of toast off of Scottie’s plate. 

“Thief!” Scottie scoffed, grabbing the toast and keeping Tobin from stealing it. “I’m almost ten, I need my breakfast! Eat your own.”

Christen hid her laugh behind her hand, gently placing a piece of her own toast onto Tobin’s plate. 

“Do you know how much food three-year-old you stole from me?” Tobin asked Scottie with an arched eyebrow. 

“I bet you want to tell me, but I’m too busy eating this toast,” Scottie grinned, stuffing her face with the toast she’d taken back from Tobin, getting jelly on her upper lip.

“Almost ten-year-olds are savage,” Tobin sighed, taking a bite of Christen’s toast and handing it back to share. 

“Wonder where she learns it from,” Christen hummed under her breath, sipping her coffee.

“Probably her Momma,” Tobin shrugged, pressing a kiss to Christen’s temple. 

“Definitely my Momma,” Scottie agreed, her jelly-stache making Tobin and Christen chuckle.

“Just take these socks, sweetheart,” Christen reasoned, holding up a plain pair of black socks.

“I really wonder where my tie-dye socks are,” Scottie hummed, lifting up her bedsheets to see if the socks were lost in the covers. 

“Gemma and her dad will be here any minute and you still need to pack your USA bucket hat you got from Auntie Pinoe,” Christen replied, tucking the black socks into the small duffel bag she and Scottie had spent all morning packing.

“Did Mommy find my swimsuit?” Scottie asked, pulling open her sock drawer for the fourth time. 

“Tobin!” Christen yelled, folding a UNC sweatshirt and stuffing it into the duffel too. “Swimsuit?”

“In her duffel!” Tobin called from the living room where she was pulling things out of the dryer. 

“Oooh maybe the unicorn socks are the move,” Scottie murmured to herself, picking up a pair of blue socks with unicorns on them. 

Christen chuckled and held out her hand for them. “Hand the corns over,” she grinned.

“What are you and Mommy gonna do this weekend while I’m camping?” Scottie asked, handing Christen the socks and pulling open another drawer. 

Christen schooled her features and went for as nonchalant of a response as she could muster. 

“I have trainings and some books to catch up on, and Tobin has a backload of commissions to work through. So we will have absolutely no fun while you’re gone,” Christen replied, sticking the unicorn socks into the bag.

“Sad,” Scottie sighed. “I’ll eat some s’mores for you both.”

“I got a towel for the lake,” Tobin said, handing Christen a clean pool towel as soon as she walked into the bedroom. 

“Mommy, my lucky tie-dye socks are missing,” Scottie announced. 

“Why do you need lucky socks on a camping trip?” Tobin asked, already looking through Scottie’s sock drawer. 

“Because Gemma is scared of the dark and I want to be brave for the both of us,” Scottie replied with a shrug, grabbing her USA bucket hat from her desk and putting it on her head.

The front door buzzed, announcing Gemma and Gemma’s dad’s arrival. 

“Okay, okay, I have something better than lucky socks,” Tobin said, picking up the duffel and leading the way down the hall to the hall closet. 

“Nothing can beat lucky socks,” Scottie argued, grabbing onto Christen’s belt loop and falling into step with Christen as they followed behind Tobin.

“Are you sure?” Tobin asked, reaching up to the top shelf and pulling down an unopened package of glow sticks. 

Scottie’s eyes widened. “Whoa,” she whispered. “I take it back. Those beat socks.”

“There are ten sticks. Use them wisely,” Tobin grinned, tossing the package at Scottie. 

Scottie caught it one-handed and then moved her hand from Christen’s belt loop. She opened the package and took two glow sticks out, holding them up for Christen. 

“So you won’t be sad this weekend,” Scottie said with a smile. “One for you and one for Mommy.”

Christen took the glow sticks and bent down to kiss Scottie’s forehead. “You are the sweetest kid in the whole world, Scottie Heath. Thank you.”

“I’ll miss you both,” Scottie added, wrapping her arms around Christen and then Tobin. 

“We’ll miss you more, sweetheart,” Christen hummed, adjusting the bucket hat on Scottie’s head.

The buzzer sounded again, sending all three of them racing down the stairs. 

“I love you, little bit. Have so much fun,” Tobin said, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead as Christen opened the front door. 

“Bye, Mommy,” Scottie mumbled, pressing her face against Tobin’s shirt as she gave Tobin a hug. She then did the same for Christen. “Bye, Momma.”

Scottie skipped out the door with her backpack and her duffel bag, waving at Tobin and Christen as she stood with Gemma next to Gemma’s dad’s Jeep.

“I love you both, forever and ever!” Scottie yelled with a toothy grin.

“We love you, forever and ever!” Tobin called back. 

Scottie tapped her fingers to her chest, over her heart,  and then pointed at Tobin and Christen before hopping into the Jeep.

Christen let out a shuddery breath, surreptitiously wiping at her eyes as she watched the Jeep pull away.

“You okay?” Tobin asked, wrapping her arm around Christen’s waist. 

“I feel like I blinked and she grew up a lot,” Christen replied softly, leaning into Tobin’s side. “She usually has such trouble leaving, but this time...she was gone so fast.”

“Get ready because she’s about to hit a major growth spurt,” Tobin murmured, shutting the front door after the Jeep disappeared. “She’s eating like seven meals a day.”

Christen groaned and dropped her forehead to Tobin’s temple. “She just grew an inch last month.”

“It kind of makes your heart hurt,” Tobin laughed. “Remember when she was under four feet?” 

“Stop, you’re going to make me cry, and I don’t have plans to be a weeping mess today,” Christen chuckled, the sound a little wet and weak.

“I don’t know, you might cry. Sometimes you cry after sex,” Tobin shrugged, focusing on what they’d actually planned to do today. 

Christen scoffed and pulled away, a slightly offended expression on her face. “I do not cry after sex!”

“Fine, sometimes I cry after sex,” Tobin admitted, leading the way up the first flight of stairs. 

Christen laughed and shook her head. “No way. You have not cried after sex with me.”

“Baby, loving you is very amazing and emotional, and sometimes I get a little dewy-eyed,” Tobin mumbled, keeping her head slightly bent to avoid Christen’s gaze. 

Christen pulled Tobin around to face her, using her thumb and pointer finger to lift Tobin’s chin so their eyes would meet. 

“You’re something else, did you know that?” Christen asked softly, a small, wonderstruck smile on her face.

“I’m a softie,” Tobin nodded. 

“And I wouldn’t want you any other way,” Christen hummed.

“Thank you. I’ve definitely heard sniffles from you too, so you’re just as soft as I am,” Tobin added with a smirk. 

“Okay...maybe on occasion I get a little choked up because you’re- you’re it for me and sometimes that just takes my breath away,” Christen admitted with a blush.

“I don’t know if a strap-on is gonna make you mushy like that,” Tobin teased. “But you’re it for me too baby, and you take my breath away all the time.”

Christen smiled and leaned forward to kiss Tobin softly. “Yeah, I don’t know about getting mushy after that. Guess there’s only one way to find out, though,” Christen whispered.

“It’s a good thing I have all weekend alone with you,” Tobin hummed against Christen’s lips. 

“Three, uninterrupted days,” Christen grinned, stepping away from Tobin and dodging her kiss. She dropped her hands to the hem of her tank top, pulling it over her head and dropping it onto the stairs at her side. She walked backwards up a few steps, in the direction of the kitchen, her fingers focused on unbuttoning her jeans. She shimmied out of them quickly, dropping them onto the stairs as well. And all the while, her eyes never left Tobin’s and her smile never faltered.

Tobin followed Christen’s every move, unconsciously wetting her bottom lip with her tongue. Heat rushed through her body, coiling low in her stomach. 

“Bedroom?” Christen asked with an arched brow, reaching behind her to the clasp of her bra as she reached the top step.

“I want you on every floor of this house before the weekend’s over,” Tobin husked. 

“Only if you’re good,” Christen winked, unhooking her bra and letting it slide down her arms, discarding the item of clothing at the top of the stairs.

Tobin stepped forward, climbing up the stairs, taking Christen into her arms, and lifting her off of the ground. She wrapped her hands around Christen’s waist and let Christen wrap her legs around her hips. 

“You’re stunning,” Tobin murmured, immediately taking one of Christen’s nipples in her mouth. 

Christen felt a stuttering gasp leave her lips as she tilted her head back, clinging tightly to Tobin’s shoulders.

“Just wai- just wait until- God, Tobin,” Christen sighed, pleasure coiling tightly in her stomach.

“You want me to wait?” Tobin asked, releasing Christen’s nipple with a soft pop of her lips. 

“No, I- I was just going to say. If you think I’m stunning now...wait until I’m fucking you with your favorite strap-on,” Christen husked, her green eyes dancing with desire and her voice seductively low.

“Chris,” Tobin moaned softly, moving her mouth back to Christen’s chest. Tobin made her way across the living room and started up the stairs to the bedroom, all the while relishing every inch of Christen’s chest with kisses and scrapes of her teeth and brushes of her tongue. 

Tobin had never taken her clothes off as fast as she did once she’d laid Christen on top of their bed. She couldn’t take her eyes off of the woman she loved so much, the woman she wanted to spend her entire life with, the woman whose finger was the perfect size for the ring under their bed. 

“Are you gonna insist that you go first or can I?” Tobin asked, pressing kisses to Christen’s ankles as she spoke. 

“Even if I tried to insist, you’d still find a way to win,” Christen chuckled, leaning up on her elbows and smiling down at Tobin.

“I just really like making you feel good,” Tobin husked, moving her trail of kisses up Christen’s leg. 

“You can go first, baby. They are yours,” Christen teased.

“Us and ours can include toys,” Tobin smirked. 

“You should put that on a mug or a t-shirt,” Christen replied with a breathless laugh.

“Our anniversary is coming up,” Tobin chuckled, moving up Christen’s body and pressing a kiss between Christen’s legs. 

Christen huffed out a short breath at the jolt of pleasure that Tobin’s brief touch sent through her. Her hips involuntarily lifted off the bed, seeking the friction Tobin’s lips promised.

“We have three days to flirt. Can we please break open that box now?” Christen asked, her chest rising and falling a little quicker now. 

Tobin moved away from Christen with a smile on her lips. She walked into the walk-in closet they now shared and grabbed the harness and orange toy that they’d already prepared for this moment, both unable to think of anything but their three days of uninterrupted adult time. 

She carried it back to the foot of the bed where she stepped into the harness and tightened it around her waist, watching Christen’s face the entire time for a reaction. 

“You’re- God, baby. You’re everything in that,” Christen murmured, swallowing thickly as she tried to form a coherent thought amidst the delirious haze settling in her mind.

“Yeah?” Tobin rasped, crawling onto the bed and hovering over Christen. 

“Definitely worth the wait,” Christen whispered with the ghost of a smile on her face.

Tobin leaned down to press kisses to Christen’s neck. She moved her hands over Christen’s body and rolled her hips just enough to move the toy teasingly between Christen’s legs. 

The first feeling of the toy bumping against her wrenched a guttural moan from Christen’s chest, making her push her head further back against the bed and tug mercilessly on the hair at the nape of Tobin’s neck.

And then the front door opened and slammed shut.

“What the-,” Tobin mumbled, scrambling off of Christen fast enough for Christen’s hand to get caught in her hair. 

“Ow, babe,” Christen hissed, quickly untangling her fingers from Tobin’s hair and shaking her hand in pain.

“Sorry, sorry,” Tobin whispered, moving back to the side of the bed and pressing a quick kiss to Christen’s hand. 

“Mommy! Momma!’” Scottie called up the stairs, her footsteps thudding around in the living room.

“Oh my fucking god,” Tobin hissed, reaching for her robe that was hanging on the wall. 

“Shit,” Christen choked out, rolling out of bed and swiping her own robe from the hook beside Tobin’s. She quickly tugged it on and ushered Tobin backward toward the open closet.

“Umm, get in,” Christen whispered, gesturing at the closet. 

“The closet?” Tobin asked, raising an eyebrow at Christen. 

“We can debate the irony later. Get. In,” Christen replied, tugging her robe tightly around her and tying the belt. She ran a hand through her hair quickly and gave Tobin one last panicked look. “This will be a funny story someday,” she added with a tense smile before pushing the door to the closet shut. 

“Really?” Tobin’s muffled voice came from the closet. 

“Momma! Mommy!” Scottie called, climbing the last few steps to the upstairs hallway. “Who’s doing laundry? You spilled clothes everywhere.”

Christen took a few deep breaths and crossed her arms over her chest, sending up a silent prayer that she’d be able to talk her way out of this.

“Momma?” Scottie asked, poking her head into their bedroom. 

“Hey, sweetheart. What are you doing back so soon?” Christen replied with a smile, knowing it looked a little forced but unable to do anything about it. She strategically positioned herself between Scottie and the closet door, blocking Scottie’s view of it. 

“I was looking for those socks all morning, and you know what I forgot?” Scottie asked with a shake of her head and a laugh. 

“What?” Christen said, willing away the flush creeping up her neck.

“My sleeping bag!” she replied, facepalming as she answered. 

“Can’t go camping without a sleeping bag!” Christen nodded. 

“Right?!” Scottie chuckled. “Are you taking a bath or something?” 

“...yes,” Christen replied slowly. “Definitely. A bath. Yup.”

“Where’s Mommy?” Scottie asked, stepping into the room.

Christen slid just a bit to the right, staying between Scottie and the closet. “Umm...on a run. Outside.”

“I thought you and Mommy liked running together,” Scottie said, her eyebrows furrowing slightly. 

“We do, but today she wanted to do it on her own,” Christen hummed, scratching at the corner of her jaw. All of these lies and half-truths were making her stomach roll and she wasn’t sure how long she could keep it up.

“Are you two arguing?” Scottie asked, the crease on her forehead growing deeper. “You’re scratching your jaw.”

Christen immediately dropped her hand away from her jaw, crossing her arm over her chest again. 

“No! We’re good. We’re great. She just wanted to run solo today, and I wanted to take a...bath,” Christen managed, shooting Scottie a hopefully convincing smile.

“Mommy’s sneakers are right there,” Scottie said, pointing at Tobin’s running shoes near the dresser. 

“She’s wearing new ones. So, where’s that sleeping bag?” Christen asked, reaching out to guide Scottie out of the bedroom in hopes of distracting her and putting an end to the inquisition.

“Oh, popsicles! I’m gonna forget it again if I keep talking. It’s in my room. We almost made it all the way to New Jersey when I realized I forgot.”

“We better get that for you then so you can get on the road,” Christen murmured, pulling the bedroom door closed. 

She got Scottie’s sleeping bag for her and walked her back downstairs toward the front door, kicking her bra out of the way and cringing at the fact that Scottie had run past it on her way upstairs.

“I love you, Momma,” Scottie said, wrapping her arms around Christen and giving her a hug. 

“I love you more, sweetheart. Have fun and don’t lose those house keys, okay?” Christen replied, squeezing Scottie tightly. 

“I won’t,” Scottie promised, holding up the house keys that Tobin had given her at the beginning of the summer, the ones she’d used to get into the house a few minutes ago. “Give Mommy a hug for me when she gets back home,” she added. 

“I will!” Christen said, standing half-hidden behind the front door so she could make sure Scottie got to the car safely.

Scottie looked both ways before running across the street to the Jeep and getting into the car. 

After getting a wave and a blown kiss from Scottie, Christen shut the door and leaned her forehead against it. 

“Oh my Lord,” she grumbled under her breath, taking a moment to process the clusterfuck that was the last five minutes before racing back upstairs. She pulled open the bedroom door, walked across the room, and opened the closet.

Tobin was still sitting in their walk-in closet, covered by her flannel robe, her knees bent and her forehead resting against them. 

“She forgot her sleeping bag,” Christen said softly, biting back an amused laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

“Oh, I heard. I need to buy new running shoes too apparently, and you’re about to take a bath,” Tobin mumbled, keeping her face down. 

“Baby,” Christen chuckled, sinking down onto the floor in front of Tobin. “Crisis averted. The orange toy lives to fight another day. Or, stay a secret another day.”

Tobin lifted her head slowly, letting her eyes meet Christen’s. “You remember when you watched that YouTube video of my injury in college?” 

“Uh...yes?” Christen replied, her forehead furrowing slightly as she reached out to grab onto Tobin’s knee.

“I used to think that that was one of the most terrifying moments in my life, one of the few times my body went into flight or fight mode,” Tobin whispered, a laugh spilling from her lips. “But this tops that.”

Christen chuckled just a bit, rubbing soothing circles on the inside of Tobin’s knee.

“Baby, two seconds difference and we would have...Nope, I would have hit the floor and let you do the talking,” Tobin laughed, her stomach starting to hurt. 

“Me?” Christen scoffed in amusement. “What happened to us and ours?”

“You’re so great with Scottie. I’d hate to take away a moment between the two of you,” Tobin snorted. 

Christen shoved Tobin’s arm playfully and got to her feet. “Very cute, Tobin,” Christen replied with a smile, holding out her hand to help Tobin up from the ground.

“Hey, my love?” Tobin asked, standing up and tucking a loose strand of hair behind Christen’s ear. 

Christen softened just a bit, loving when Tobin used that term of endearment for her. 

“Yes?” Christen wondered, her voice quiet.

“Can we return to this weekend’s regularly scheduled programming?” Tobin asked, resting her forehead against Christen’s. 

“Can we wait eight more seconds? My adrenaline is still pumping,” Christen chuckled softly, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s.

“You’re a surprisingly good bullshitter,” Tobin hummed. 

“I blacked out. I have no idea what I even said,” Christen admitted with a wry grin.

“You were very convincing,” Tobin murmured, pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. “Scottie’s much more perceptive than I realized, though. She notices the way you scratch your jaw when you’re anxious or upset too.”

“Like mother, like daughter,” Christen hummed, sliding an arm around Tobin’s waist.

“We love you. It’s our job,” Tobin whispered, holding Christen close. 

“I love you too. And I think that was more than eight seconds,” Christen said with a small smile.

Tobin slowly untied Christen’s robe, pressing kisses down Christen’s chest as she walked them back into the bedroom and toward the bed. 

Christen made similar work of Tobin’s robe, tugging the belt and undoing the knot, letting it fall from Tobin’s shoulders so they were both equally bare once more. Tobin helped Christen get situated on the bed, following her onto the mattress and hovering over her again. 

“Where were we?” Tobin asked with a tiny blush on her face. 

Christen grinned and hooked her leg around the back of Tobin’s, flipping them so that now she was on top. 

“I was about to do that,” Christen replied, leaning down to place her lips on Tobin’s, capturing them in a bruising kiss. 

They kissed and let their hands wander, stoking the flames of desire back into a blaze neither one of them could ignore. It didn’t take long for quickened breathing and soft gasps to fill the room. 

And when Christen felt the toy press against her again, she knew it was time. She kissed down the hard line of Tobin’s jaw and moved to straddle Tobin’s waist, her weight suspended by her hands on either side of Tobin’s head. 

“I’m so glad this part wasn’t interrupted,” Tobin husked, running her hands up and down Christen’s hips and along her thighs. 

“Me too,” Christen replied breathlessly, pulling back and looking down at Tobin with hooded eyes. “Is this- will this way be good for you?”

“Yes,” Tobin choked out, squeezing Christen’s hips with her hands. “Literally any way with you is perfect.” 

Christen felt a slow smile make its way onto her face. 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Christen hummed, lifting up onto her knees and guiding herself down slowly. She let out a choked gasp, her eyes slamming shut at the immediate pleasure that coiled low in her stomach and the feeling of fullness. 

“Fuck, baby,” Tobin moaned at just the sight of Christen on top of her, at the way Christen took the toy so easily. 

Christen rolled her hips down and dropped her weight onto a single hand placed on Tobin’s chest, using her other hand to push her hair out of her face as a delighted gasp left her lips. 

Tobin lifted her hips up to meet Christen’s, rolling into her as Christen’s head dropped back in pleasure, sending more heat between her own legs. She kept her hands moving from Christen’s hips to the back of her thighs, urging Christen to keep moving at a steady pace. 

It could have been moments or millennia, how long Christen stayed like that, riding Tobin and feeling wave after wave of pleasure crash through her. It had been so long since she’d had this, and she didn’t even realize she missed it until this moment. She felt suspended in this space that defied time, simply strung along by the ecstasy building up her spine and the whispered words of encouragement and love coming from the woman beneath her. 

And then Tobin twisted her hips and pulled Christen down a little harder, and Christen was sure she’d never felt pleasure like that before. It had her hurtling toward the edge, ushered in that direction with continued thrusts and twists, with choked gasps and guttural moans escaping her parted lips. 

She came with Tobin’s name on her tongue and explosions of color behind her tightly shut eyelids, with those coils of pleasure in her abdomen unfurling and spreading out to every single part of her. 

“How do you get sexier?” Tobin husked, slowly helping Christen ride out the very last of her aftershocks by just barely twitching her hips. 

Christen sucked in deep lungfuls of air as she pushed curls away from her face, her eyes finally fluttering open to meet Tobin’s. Her lips pulled up into a slow, sated smile as she shook her head. 

“I was wondering the same thing about you,” Christen managed, her chest rising and falling rapidly as she caught her breath. 

“I’m glad we have the whole weekend because I’d already like to go again,” Tobin admitted, running a hand over Christen’s cheekbone and along her jaw. 

“Patience, my love. I believe it’s my turn,” Christen grinned. 

“When was that decided?” Tobin laughed, wetting her lips in anticipation. 

Christen simply smiled, sighing as she lifted out of Tobin’s lap, the toy sliding out of her easily. She dropped onto the bed by Tobin’s side, reaching out to brush some flyaways off of Tobin’s forehead. 

“Somewhere between stunning and me fucking you with your favorite strap on,” Christen replied, propping her head up on her hand so she could trail her eyes across Tobin’s bare body. 

“We aren’t leaving this house for the next three days, are we?” Tobin asked hopefully. 

“Only if you’re good,” Christen teased. 

Tobin loosened the strap around her waist and lifted her hips for Christen to take it off of her. 

“But first, I’d like to taste you,” Christen said, removing the harness from Tobin's legs and dropping it onto the bed. She gracefully moved back on top of Tobin, her right leg slotting between Tobin’s as she hovered above the brunette. 

“I love you,” Tobin murmured, already feeling pleasure course through her body. 

“I love you, too,” Christen whispered, kissing Tobin quickly before venturing down, marking a blazing trail with her lips toward the apex of Tobin’s thighs. 

Tobin made good on her promise. They made love in the studio, on the couch in the living room, on the lounge chair on the roof. They traversed every single floor, coaxing pleasure and orgasms from each other with touches full of tenderness and kisses tasting of desire. 

And now they were back upstairs, tangled in the sheets of their bed, sated and spent, not knowing what time it was and not really caring one bit. 

Christen traced mindless circles across Tobin’s stomach as she laid curled against Tobin’s side.

“Do you...want more kids?” Christen asked softly, the question kind of coming out of nowhere. 

“I’m pretty sure we’d have like twelve right now if it were biologically possible,” Tobin teased, her eyes remaining closed and her body staying completely relaxed under Christen’s touch. 

Christen’s breathy laugh ghosted across Tobin’s collarbones as she continued to drag her fingertips across Tobin’s skin. 

“Probably more,” Christen hummed. “But...since it’s not biologically possible, do you- I mean, do you want more? More than just Scottie?” she asked quietly, her heart rate starting to pick up a little with the question. 

Tobin let her eyes flutter open then, focusing on Christen and the slight insecurity she could hear in Christen’s voice. 

“When I first started fostering kids, I thought it’d be nice to have three. And then life did its thing. I didn’t want to adopt again on my own, but I’d love to have a bigger family with you if that’s something you’d want.”

Christen felt her lips quirk up into a small smile. She turned her head and propped her chin on Tobin’s chest, gazing up at her with the softest look she’d ever given Tobin. 

“I...I do,” Christen admitted softly. “I had a dream about it the other night. You, me, Scottie, and this little baby with your eyes and my curls were at some game and- and I guess I’ve been trying to figure out how to ask if that was a dream you shared too.”

“All you need to do is ask,” Tobin whispered, running a hand up and down Christen’s back. “You and Scottie and any other person we bring into this family is my dream.”

Christen’s smile grew at Tobin’s response, a shaky breath leaving her lips. 

“Cool beans,” Christen murmured, blinking away the prickle of tears from her eyes. “Because I’d really love that. Someday.”

“Scottie would be a really good big sister,” Tobin hummed, pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. 

“She’d be the best,” Christen agreed. “You see how she is with Sloane every time Orlando’s in town or we’re at a camp.” 

“I know. She’s obsessed with Sloane,” Tobin chuckled, unable to take her eyes off of Christen and think about the dream that Christen had just described. “And you’ll look really amazing with a baby.”

Christen blushed a little at the compliment, her stomach fluttering at the love she could see swirling around in her favorite pair of brown eyes. 

“If we get a baby. There are so many kids who need won’t matter to me how old they are. I just want them to be in this universe of love with all of us,” Christen replied softly.

“Agreed,” Tobin murmured, a lump forming in her throat at Christen’s words. She couldn’t help but think about the future and the ring under the bed. She was tempted to crawl out from under Christen and the tangled sheets, to take out the box and propose right then and there. 

But it wouldn’t be right. She knew that it wouldn't mean as much if she did it now. 

“Sorry, I think we’re skipping a few steps talking about this, but I...I just wanted you to know about the dream and make sure I wasn’t dreaming alone,” Christen hummed, reaching up to tuck a few strands of hair behind Tobin’s ear.

“You aren’t dreaming alone,” Tobin promised. “And you never need to be worried or nervous to ask about dreams like that.”

Christen’s smile turned into a smirk as her green eyes grew playful.

They had time to discuss things like this. She had time to continue to search for rings for Tobin and figure out when she would talk to Scottie and Tobin’s parents. They had time for someday later. Right now, they had two and a half more days of kid-free time and Christen was keen to take advantage of that.  

“Just dreams like that or...any dreams that I have?” Christen asked, her voice dropping an octave with her question.

“Any dreams you have are dreams I’d like to make reality,” Tobin grinned, playing along with Christen’s sudden change in mood. 

“Any dreams?” Christen clarified, skirting her touch down Tobin’s stomach and dancing her fingertips right above the apex of Tobin’s thighs.

“All your dreams, my love,” Tobin smirked, reaching out to bring Christen closer before pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips. 

“In that case, I’m pretty sure one of those toys in the box vibrates,” Christen whispered, nipping gently at Tobin’s bottom lip.

“Mmm that’s a good one,” Tobin hummed. “I can get it.”

“Let dream doesn’t involve you wearing it,” Christen smirked, getting up from the bed and walking into the closet, making sure to sway her hips just a little extra since she could feel Tobin’s gaze on her.

“Oh, really?” Tobin husked, trapping her bottom lip between her teeth as she watched Christen pull the toy out of the box and grab the harness from the edge of the bed. 

Christen simply quirked an eyebrow in response, stepping into the harness once she’d gotten everything set up.

“Holy…” Tobin mumbled, letting her jaw drop as she watched Christen’s every move. 

“Did you use this one a lot?” Christen asked with a slow smile, settling on top of Tobin, her curls cascading down as she hovered above Tobin.

Tobin nodded, running her hands along every part of Christen that she could reach. “It’s very single-user friendly,” Tobin murmured. “But I prefer it on you.”

“How’d you use it?” Christen asked softly, her eyes dancing between Tobin’s as she settled between Tobin’s legs. It wasn’t that she needed the guidance. She knew her way around toys like these, as both the giver and the receiver. And she knew her way around Tobin's body and Tobin's pleasure.

But she wanted to hear Tobin say it. She wanted to hear Tobin’s voice falter and her words stutter.

Tobin wordlessly reached down and pressed the power button, thanking her past self for putting batteries in the toy. 

“I liked this one,” Tobin started, swallowing down embarrassment that she definitely would have felt with anyone other than Christen, “because it’s easy to tease myself with it. I get really worked up.”

Christen pulled her lower lip between her teeth and followed the instructions Tobin hadn’t even realized she’d given her. She teased and she worked Tobin up, all without ever moving inside of her fully.

“I can tell. You’re looking a little flushed,” Christen murmured, her voice dripping with amusement and saturated with desire. 

“You have no idea what you in that does to me,” Tobin rasped, thumbing her finger against the strap across Christen’s hips. 

Christen guided the toy to Tobin’s entrance and dipped in ever so slightly, watching the way Tobin’s mouth flopped open slightly and her eyes widened.

“Oh, but I think I do,” Christen smirked. 

“Baby,” Tobin choked out, tugging on Christen’s hips and twitching up to meet her. 

“After you teased and worked yourself up, what would you do?” Christen whispered, pulling the toy back out as she ghosted her lips across Tobin’s.

“I’d- I’d fuck myself,” Tobin panted, begging for friction with her hips. 

Christen grinned and then kissed Tobin, their lips only meeting for a moment before Christen asked another question. “Hard? Slow?” Christen wondered, her stomach tightening with anticipation.

“Fast, Chris,” Tobin whined, trying to pull Christen close again. 

“I can do that,” Christen replied with a smile, finally sinking the toy where Tobin had wanted it to be all along.  

A keening moan ripped itself from Tobin’s chest. She felt like she was desperately clinging to the desire that was racing through her body. She couldn’t pick a spot to touch, her hands gliding over Christen’s body aimlessly. She threw her head back as Christen’s body worked against her own. 

Sex with Christen was amazing. It always was. Tobin had never been with anyone who knew and read her body as well as Christen did, and this was no different. Tobin felt full and completely overwhelmed in the best way possible. Every inch of her body was reacting to Christen inside of her. 

“Baby,” Tobin rasped, gripping tightly to the bedsheets beneath them. “Fuck, right there,” she added, rolling her head back as Christen slotted her hips perfectly with Tobin’s. 

She knew it wouldn’t take long. It never had when she’d used this toy on her own as a newly single parent, desperate for some sort of release, desperate to lose the overwhelming stress she felt. And now, with it situated on Christen’s hips, with Christen answering her call for a quick pace, she knew it would be even faster. 

With a loud groan and a tensely arched back, Tobin felt herself tighten around the toy. Christen’s name fell from her lips, and her hands finally settled, one tangled in Christen’s hair and the other intertwined with one of Christen’s. 

And it felt, just like much of her time with Christen, like a dream. It felt like some sort of dream that she might wake up from. Only, this was a shared dream; even this moment was a shared dream, something they wanted for the rest of their lives. 

“You’re extraordinary,” Christen murmured softly, peppering kisses across Tobin’s face as she coaxed Tobin through her aftershocks, turning off the vibrations and stilling her hips once Tobin stopped twitching beneath her. “You’re so extraordinary, baby, and I love you so much.”

“I’m completely in love with you,” Tobin whispered. “And you are the most spectacular person I’ve ever met.”

Christen captured Tobin’s lips with her own in a long, slow kiss, already thinking of the ways she could continue to show Tobin just how extraordinary she was.  

Tobin used her elbow to open their bedroom door, pushing it with her foot once the handle was fully turned. She kept the tray in her hands steady despite the way her stomach flipped and her heart fluttered at the sight of Christen in their bed. 

It didn’t matter how long they were together. It didn’t matter that Tobin often woke up to the sight of Christen in their bed, sometimes in their bed naked. No matter how many times she saw it, that view always made her fall even more in love with Christen. 

She tiptoed across the room, placing the tray on her side of the bed and putting their coffees on either of their bedside tables, right beside the picture frames they had of one another and of Scottie. 

And then Tobin just took in the moment, sinking down onto the bed beside Christen. She ran a hand up and down Christen’s bare back as softly as she could, admiring the smooth skin and strong muscles. She untangled a curl from the chain of the necklace she’d given Christen for Christmas their first year, the one Christen only took off for games or showers. She pressed kisses to Christen’s shoulder, breathing in the honeysuckle and jasmine that followed Christen around wherever she went. 

The words “Will you marry me?” floated through Tobin’s head like a mantra as she watched Christen’s nose scrunch up slightly, presumably smelling the coffee that sat a foot away from her. Tobin held the mantra in, though. She had phone calls to make and things to fix and organize before she could let the words spill from her lips. She needed Scottie to know and be involved, and she needed things to be special enough for the woman who changed Tobin’s definition of special. 

“If I don’t wake up, the weekend’s not over,” Christen grumbled, sleepily scrunching up her face.

“If you don’t wake up, I’ll have to eat breakfast by myself,” Tobin murmured, leaving a trail of kisses down Christen’s spine. 

“Omelets?” Christen asked, a content hum leaving her lips at the feeling of Tobin’s mouth moving across her skin.

“With bacon and onions and mushrooms and a little bit of cheese,” Tobin replied, punctuating each word with another kiss. 

“So sexy,” Christen hummed, angling her head so she could blink her eyes open and fix Tobin with a sleepy smile. 

“That’s you,” Tobin whispered, leaning forward and brushing her lips against Christen’s. 

When she felt Tobin settle beside her and push gently on her hip to get her to roll over, Christen chuckled into the kiss. 

“Don’t start something you can’t finish. Those omelets will get cold,” Christen murmured.

“Sorry,” Tobin smirked, placing one last kiss to Christen’s lips before sitting up again. “You’re difficult to resist.” 

Christen followed suit, sitting up and tousling her sleep-mussed curls. She stretched her arms overhead and let out a soft yawn. 

“I know the feeling,” she replied with a grin, letting her eyes fall to the skin revealed by Tobin’s choice of boxers and sports bra.

“I love you,” Tobin said with a soft smile. “And you clearly missed Scottie last night.”

Christen cocked her head to the side. “What do you mean?” she asked, an enamored smile on her face.

“You put a pillow between us and snuggled us both,” Tobin whispered. 

Christen blushed and ducked her head. “I didn’t realize I did that. Sorry,” Christen chuckled, reaching out to grab ahold of Tobin’s hand and tangle their fingers together.

“It confuses me when you apologize for being adorable,” Tobin smirked, grabbing  Christen’s coffee from the bedside table and holding it out for Christen’s free hand. 

“Snuggle blocking you is adorable?” Christen asked with a breathy laugh, taking the offered coffee cup.

“Well, it’s easier to pull a pillow out of your arms than a nine-year-old,” Tobin shrugged. “I thought it was pretty cute.”

“I do miss her,” Christen admitted after lifting their clasped hands to her lips and kissing the back of Tobin’s hand. “I love our alone time, but I miss our girl a lot.”

Tobin reached across the bed to where she’d left her phone. She opened the text she’d gotten that morning from Gemma’s dad and showed the picture of Scottie to Christen. 

Scottie was standing in her 23 snapback and the full Gotham gear set she’d gotten from Christen, her arms outstretched and the sun rising behind her. 

Christen just shook her head with a smile, completely floored by the fact that this girl had chosen her, that this family had chosen her. She spent every day thanking whatever lucky stars she had that Scottie and Tobin had found her and wanted her in their lives, and right now was no different. She felt thankful and grateful as she looked away from the picture to meet Tobin’s gaze.

“I love being that girl’s Momma,” Christen whispered, her throat getting a little thick with emotion. 

“God, I love you,” Tobin sighed, kissing the back of Christen’s hand and feeling impossibly lucky. 

“I love you too, and I love being yours,” Christen replied, bringing their clasped hands to her chest, right over her racing heart.

“Breakfast? Or do we need eight more seconds?” Tobin asked softly. 

“I always need eight more seconds when you look at me like that,” Christen hummed, her heart fluttering beneath their hands.

“And then, Grandma, I put four marshmallows in my mouth and sang Hootie and it made Gemma snort soda out of her nose,” Scottie said, dipping a french fry into the pile of ketchup on her plate.

“It sounds like you had a super fun time, Peanut,” Cindy laughed, passing the bowl of salad down the table toward Tobin. 

“It was super-duper, Grandma. And then Gemma’s dad told ghost stories but I wasn’t scared because I had my glow sticks,” Scottie continued, stealing another french fry from Christen’s plate.

“Glow sticks scare ghosts away?” Jeff interjected with a chuckle. 

“Mhm, and then and then-”

“Sweetheart, breathe,” Christen murmured, rubbing Scottie’s back gently.

“There’s just so much to tell,” Scottie sighed, leaning into Christen’s side. 

“I know,” Christen said with a smile. “But the stories aren’t going anywhere and french fries are much better warm.”

“She’s right,” Tobin hummed from Christen’s other side. 

“Momma’s always right,” Scottie grinned.

Christen froze and looked up at Tobin with wide, panicked eyes. They hadn’t exactly gotten around to telling Cindy and Jeff about the change in name thing yet, but it seemed like now was the time to get into it. It wasn't like they had a choice in the matter.

“Who?” Cindy asked quietly, glancing over to Tobin. “Who’s Momma, Peanut?” 

“Umm…” Scottie trailed off, sensing Christen’s hesitation. “Paging Mommy,” she mumbled with a weak smile.

“Scottie and Christen-” Tobin started, not having really thought out how she’d explain this. “Uh...Scottie decided that calling Christen, Christen didn’t feel special enough. So, the two of them found a name that fit.”

Christen nervously looked between Cindy and Jeff’s faces, running her hand through Scottie’s hair gently as she waited for some sort of answer.

“Oh, wow,” Cindy breathed out, putting her fork down. 

“That’s a big step,” Jeff murmured. 

“How do you feel about that, Tobs?” Cindy asked softly. “Shoot, I can ask you that later,” she added, putting a smile on her face and picking up her glass of water. 

“No need. Scottie, let’s go sit on the swings while they talk,” Christen said softly, standing up from the table and taking Scottie’s hand in her own.

“You don’t need to,” Tobin mumbled, running her hand along Christen’s back. 

“It’s fine. You three do your thing,” Christen replied, swallowing her nerves as she led Scottie away from the dining room table and out to the backyard of Cindy and Jeff’s house

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ask that in front of Scottie. I shouldn’t have,” Cindy blurted out as soon as Scottie and Christen were outside.

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Tobin replied, leaning back in her chair. 

“I just- that’s a big step,” Cindy said, echoing Jeff’s sentiment.

“I’m very aware that it’s a big step,” Tobin said, nodding at her mom’s words. “It wasn’t something we decided on a whim. They both thought a lot about it and didn’t officially decide to use the word Momma for nearly seven months. We all talked about it.”

“Okay,” Cindy sighed, holding up her hands. “If that’s what you three decided.”

“You’re upset,” Tobin said, her eyebrows furrowing at her mom’s reaction. 

Cindy shook her head and fixed Tobin with a surprised look. “Not at all. I think it’s wonderful that it happened. I just didn’t expect that before you married the girl and made it official. That’s all.”

“I’m planning on marrying her,” Tobin said quietly. “And in the meantime, if picking a word makes us feel more like a family unit and makes Scottie feel better about explaining things to other people, then I don’t see any harm.”

“Lay down your armor, Tobs. I’m not fighting you on it. I’m happy for you. All of you,” Cindy replied softly.

“Sorry,” Tobin mumbled, reaching a hand across the table. 

“I know you’re not used to us being supportive, got a good one, Tobs. We’re really happy for you,” Jeff added.

“You want to see the ring?” Tobin asked at an even lower volume, excitement shining on her face. “I designed it, and the designer sent it to the house a few weeks ago.”

Just then, Scottie poked her head past the sliding door that led to the backyard. 

“Can we come back inside now?” Scottie asked with a smile.

“We’re telling secrets, Peanut! You’re gonna have to wait another five minutes,” Jeff laughed, already taking Christen’s seat to get closer to Tobin. 

“Can I know the secret?” Christen called out, sticking her head inside as well, a nervous smile playing at her lips as she looked between the three Heaths seated at the table.

“You two are nosy,” Cindy laughed. “Scottie, why don’t you play badminton with your Momma?” 

Christen’s face brightened at Cindy’s use of the name she and Scottie had settled on, her eyes finding Tobin’s as her nervous smile softened into something full of wonder and relief.

“Come on, sweetheart. Let’s leave the Heaths to their secrets,” Christen said, pulling Scottie back outside.

Tobin opened the picture on her phone that she’d taken and shared with Channing and Tyler when the ring had arrived in the mail. She angled the phone for both of her parents to see the gold-banded ring. 

“Oh, Tobs. It’s gorgeous,” Cindy cooed, her eyes filling with tears as her hand covered her mouth.

“She’ll love it,” Jeff said, putting an arm over Tobin’s shoulder. 

“I hope so,” Tobin replied, nerves already bubbling up in her stomach. 

“Please, kiddo,” Cindy chuckled, reaching out to pinch Tobin’s cheek. “That ring is perfect, and it comes from a place of pure love. Your love. No way does she not love it.”

“When are you gonna ask?” Jeff asked, squeezing Tobin close as she put her phone back into her back pocket. 

“I’m not sure, actually. That’s kind of been an issue,” Tobin mumbled. 

“How so?” Jeff wondered.

“I want everything to be perfect, and for me that means that...When I ask her, I want it to be asking her everything. I want her to be able to say yes to me and to Scottie,” Tobin admitted. 

“You want her to adopt Scottie,” Cindy offered, filling in the blanks with a nod.

“Yes. Only, you can’t have three people on adoption papers in New Jersey or New York, which means I need to get Roni to take her name off,” Tobin said, clenching her jaw a tiny bit as she thought about the phone calls she’d been making and would have to continue making. 

Cindy and Jeff let out similar sighs as they sat back in their chairs. “Well, it’s a good thing we raised you patient. That won’t be easy,” Cindy replied with a tight smile.

“Yeah, so save the date for a wedding in fifty years,” Tobin said dejectedly. 

“Hey, now, have some faith. Twenty years, tops,” Jeff joked, clapping Tobin on the shoulder. 

“It won’t be an easy ask, but the end result will be worth it,” Cindy added, taking Tobin’s hand again. “ She’s worth it.”

“I’m very aware,” Tobin replied, unable to keep the dopey smile off her face that always rose to the surface when she thought about Christen. 

“Can we come in now?” Scottie and Christen asked together, leaning through the door and shooting matching smiles at the Heaths.

“I guess you can, now that we’re done gossiping about you, Peanut,” Jeff teased. 

Scottie gasped and ran over, jumping into Jeff’s lap. “Gossip isn’t cute, Grandpa. I learned that in fourth grade.”

Cindy stood up from her seat and met Christen halfway, wrapping her arms around her tightly. 

“Oh,” Christen gasped, accepting the fierce hug despite her confusion.

“Scottie is a very lucky little girl to have two moms like you and Tobs,” Cindy whispered, holding Christen close. 

Christen softened and sank into the hug. “Thank you for thinking so. And...for welcoming me into your family,” she murmured. 

“We wouldn’t be the family we are without you,” Cindy replied, pressing a soft kiss to the side of Christen’s head. 

Christen swallowed down the threat of tears and squeezed Cindy tight before stepping out of her arms. She followed Cindy over to the table, dropping down into the seat opposite Tobin since Jeff and Scottie were now in hers. 

“Momma and I have secrets now too, and you don’t get to know about them,” Scottie announced, shooting a toothy grin at Tobin.

“Secrets from me?” Tobin gasped, poking her finger into Scottie’s side to make her laugh. 

“Yup,” Scottie grinned, squirming away from Tobin’s attempts at tickling her.

“I guess that’s okay,” Tobin sighed. “Considering your Momma and I have secrets from you about your birthday presents.”

Scottie immediately pouted and looked over at Christen, jutting out her bottom lip. 

“Is that true, Momma?” Scottie asked softly.

“Oh God, I can’t look at her,” Christen laughed, ducking her head. “The pout is too strong!”

“Resist,” Tobin laughed. “Scottie, you don’t want to spoil the huge present that your Momma and I got you.”

“But- but-” Scottie protested, still shooting her powerful pout in Christen’s direction and seeing Christen falter. “I think I’m gonna break her, Mommy,” she added at a whisper.

“Stop! I won’t break,” Christen chuckled, pointedly looking away from Scottie and meeting Cindy’s amused gaze. 

“Scottie Katherine Heath,” Tobin warned. 

“Sigh,” Scottie said dejectedly, finally turning off the pout. “I give. You can stop hiding your face, Momma.”

Christen looked up and shot Scottie a smile. “Thank you,” she said with a small laugh. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it there for a second.”

“We only use cuteness for good, little bit,” Tobin said with a wink. 

“With great power, comes great responsibility,” Scottie agreed. “It’s tough being so cute,” she sighed dramatically, hopping out of Jeff’s lap and walking around the table toward Christen. “Sorry I was too cute, Momma.”

Christen settled Scottie in her lap, which was becoming increasingly difficult as Scottie got bigger.

“It’s okay, sweetheart,” Christen hummed, kissing the top of Scottie’s head and smiling across the table at Tobin. 

“You three are cavity-inducing,” Jeff announced, standing up and collecting everyone’s dishes, as Tobin, Christen, and Scottie all shared a laugh at the observation. 

Chapter Text

I see the whole world in your eyes
It's like I've known you all my life
We just feel so right
So I pour my heart into your hands
It's like you really understand
You love the way I am

And ahh, you're my favorite thing
Ahh, all the happiness you bring
Well, it feels like I've opened my eyes again
And the colors are golden and bright again
And the sun paints the skies and the wind sings our song
It's a better place since you came along

(Christen - "Better Place" by Rachel Platten)


Hey, sweet pea

Apple of my eye

Don't know when, and I don't know why

But you're the only reason I keep on coming home

(You're the reason, yes, you're the reason) Hey

Sweet pea baby

Keeper of my soul

I know sometimes, I'm out of control

You're the only reason that I keep on coming (yes, you)

You're the only reason that I keep on coming (yes, you)

You're the only reason that I keep on coming home

(Tobin - "Sweet Pea" by Amos Lee)


“Babe,” Christen whispered, shaking Tobin’s shoulder gently.

“No,” Tobin whined, rolling closer and burying her face in the crook of Christen’s shoulder. 

Christen chuckled and scratched gently at Tobin’s head. “Want me to tell our girl ‘no’ when she asks why you didn’t come wake her up for her birthday?”

Tobin let out a long sigh before pressing a few kisses to Christen’s neck and pushing herself up onto her knees. 

“I’m ready. My vocal cords are warm, and I’m awake,” Tobin croaked, pushing hair out of her face. 

Christen reached over to turn the lamp on, illuminating the room in a soft glow. “I’ll get the coffee started,” Christen offered, sitting up to give Tobin a quick kiss before getting out of bed.

“Baby,” Tobin hummed, catching one of Christen’s hands in her own as Christen tried to walk to the bedroom door.  

“What? Did we run out of coffee?” Christen teased, turning back to look at Tobin with an amused smile.

“If you wait for the coffee to brew, you’ll miss the sunrise. I usually do it after,” Tobin said, running her thumb along Christen’s hand. 

“That’s your thing. I don’t want to impose,” Christen replied softly.

“Christen Press, do you really think Scottie wants just me to wake her up on her birthday?” Tobin asked, sliding out of bed. 

Christen shrugged a little self-consciously. “Possibly. It’s what she’s used to,” Christen hummed.

“She calls you Momma, she thinks of you as a parent, and she loves you more than most people on this planet. She wants us both, not just me,” Tobin replied, trailing her thumb across Christen’s cheekbone. 

“Only if you’re sure,” Christen said, leaning into Tobin’s touch.

“What she’s used to is the three of us together, and that’s what she wants every day,” Tobin added. “I’m sure. I also think Scottie would ask where you are if you don’t come with me.”

Christen softened, a smile tugging at her lips in response to Tobin’s words and the way they chased her hesitation away.

“Do you want to know something really sweet?” Tobin whispered. 

“Always,” Christen replied.

“The first birthday you were a part of, when you came over with a balloon, Scottie told me that morning that we needed to get a third lounge chair to put on the roof for you for birthday sunrises,” Tobin said, wrapping her arms around Christen and kissing her cheek softly. 

Christen looped her arms around Tobin’s neck, pressing her face into Tobin’s soft waves. 

“You’re right. That is really sweet,” Christen murmured. 

“So, I’m gonna need you to put your singing pants on and forgo the coffee. This is the only day all year I’ll ask you to talk before coffee,” Tobin added with a smile. 

“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Christen chuckled, slipping on her robe over her pajamas and then following Tobin out of their bedroom and down the hall.

Tobin pushed Scottie’s bedroom door open and immediately started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ softly. She and Christen padded across the room, keeping their voices low and soft as Scottie squirmed in bed. 

“There’s the birthday girl,” Tobin whispered, sitting on the corner of the mattress and tugging the comforter away from Scottie’s face. 

“I’m ten,” Scottie said with a sleepy smile, rubbing her hands over her eyes.

“That’s right. You’re ancient,” Tobin teased. “Chris, do you see that gray hair?” she asked, running her fingers through Scottie’s hair. 

“Don’t listen to her, Momma. She always lies about gray hairs,” Scottie giggled, blinking her eyes open and smiling up at Tobin and Christen.

“Little bit,” Tobin said seriously, tracking her eyes up and down the bed. “I think you’re too tall for this bed. I think you grew overnight.”

Scottie gasped and shoved the comforter off of her. “I knew it! I knew I was growing! I’m tall, and I’m ten!” Scottie cheered, jumping up from the bed and hugging Tobin and then Christen.  

“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Christen hummed, rocking Scottie back and forth as they hugged. 

“Thanks, Momma,” Scottie grinned. “I’m ten.”

“I know,” Christen chuckled. “And you grew.”

“Hey, buddy,” Tobin said, unable to wipe the smile off of her face at the image of Christen holding Scottie in a tight hug. 

“Hey, Mommy,” Scottie replied, looking over at Tobin as she continued to hold onto Christen.

“Have you ever shown Chris your heights on the office door?” 

Scottie’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, popsicles. No, I haven’t!”

“Maybe she’ll measure you if you ask her,” Tobin suggested with another smile. 

Christen’s heart fluttered at Tobin’s offer, knowing just how important this birthday morning ritual was to the two of them. 

“That would be so rad,” Scottie gasped, propping her chin on Christen’s chest and smiling up at her. “Will you pretty please with whipped cream and sprinkles on top measure me?”

“Of course, sweetheart,” Christen replied softly, poking her finger in the dimple in Scottie’s cheek.

“I bet I grew at least an inch,” Scottie said, holding onto Christen’s hand and leading her out of her room and toward the office, Tobin trailing behind with a fluttering heart. 

“Let’s see,” Christen said, setting Scottie up against the doorframe. “Stand tall,” she added, using the Sharpie Tobin grabbed from the desk to mark Scottie’s height.

“I think my spine is stretching,” Scottie giggled. 

Christen chuckled, writing the date and Scottie’s age next to the new line. “Wow, sweetheart. You grew a lot.”

“How much?” Scottie asked. 

“Check it out,” Christen said, stepping back to give Scottie room. 

Tobin grabbed a ruler from the desk and held it out to Scottie, letting her measure her height herself. 

“Oh my goodness. I’m a giant,” Scottie said, her mouth flopping open. “That’s almost two whole inches.”

“It’s probably the ketchup broccoli,” Tobin teased, taking the ruler back when Scottie was finished. 

“I think it’s the ice cream,” Scottie quipped with a toothy grin, grabbing onto both Tobin’s and Christen’s hands and leading them to the door to the roof.

Tobin let Scottie run up first, then Christen, following both of her girls up the stairs. 

“Okay?” Tobin asked softly, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist once they reached the top of the stairs. 

“Yeah, just- feeling a lot,” Christen replied, rubbing her hand over her sternum and the ball of emotion that was making her chest tight. “Feeling very lucky to be here.”

“I feel lucky that you’re here too,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s shoulder. 

“Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Christen murmured.

“I’m ten today,” Scottie said again, dancing around in front of Tobin and Christen as soon as they got settled on the outdoor couch. 

“And what would you like to do today, Miss ten-year-old?” Christen asked, snuggling into Tobin’s side.

“Mommy said we could have pancakes, and you said we could do some painting before you go to the stadium with Coach Kelley. And then, my friends get here at three, and then we’ll all go to the game!” Scottie said, moving her hands around excitedly as she spoke. “Mommy said we could camp out in the living room. Is that because you and Mommy want to actually sleep while we stay up all night?” Scottie asked, dropping onto the couch beside Christen and putting her head in Christen’s lap. 

“Well, we’re not ten and super full of energy, so we probably will want to sleep tonight,” Christen replied with a smile. “But you guys will want to sleep too or else you’ll be grumpy tomorrow.”

“Me? Grumpy?” Scottie gasped, squirming closer to Christen and wrapping her arms around her waist. 

“I know, crazy to think about, right?” Christen chuckled, brushing some of Scottie’s wild bed head away from her eyes.

“This is the best start to a birthday ever,” Scottie mumbled, reaching a hand out for one of Tobin’s. 

“It’s about to get better too,” Tobin whispered, squeezing Scottie’s hand in her own. 

Scottie immediately sat up and looked at the sky, smiling as it started to get lighter.

“GOOD MORNING, SUN! I’M TEN TODAY!” Scottie yelled.

“SHE’S TEN TODAY!” Tobin yelled, joining in on Scottie’s excitement. 

“AND SHE GREW TWO WHOLE INCHES!” Christen added with a laugh, unable not to jump in on the joyful yelling.

“I’M SUPER TALL!” Scottie called out, giggles taking over her voice. “AND I GET TO SPEND MY BIRTHDAY WITH MY MOMMY AND MY MOMMA!” 

Christen beamed and looked over at Tobin, reaching out to tangle her fingers with Tobin’s free hand. 

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that,” Christen whispered softly, cognizant of the ten-year-old sitting right next to her, greeting the sunrise. 

“I feel like I’ve won the lottery,” Scottie said, turning around to look at Tobin and Christen with a huge, toothy grin. 

“I need you to take them all. I’ll ride with Kelley,” Tobin whispered as she wrapped her arms around Christen outside the locker room after the game was over. 

“The only ones who have made eye contact with me are Scottie and Gemma,” Christen whispered back, holding Tobin close after a grueling game. “So, that’s a no from me.”

“And them being starstruck is the quietest they’ve been all afternoon,” Tobin murmured. “We listened to ‘Reindeers are Better than People’ the entire drive. Nothing else. Just that.”

“My poor baby,” Christen hummed, pressing a quick kiss to Tobin’s cheek and then moving out of her arms when the group of five girls rounded the corner, led by Crystal and Becky.  “Hey, guys,” she greeted, putting her hands on her hips and fixing a smile on her face. “Did you enjoy the game?” Christen asked, nodding at Becky and Crystal as they walked by her into the locker room. 

“It was awesome,” Gemma grinned, leaning into Christen’s side and giving her a hug. 

“You played so great, Momma,” Scottie added, leaning into Christen’s other side and beaming up at Christen.

“Thanks, sweetheart,” Christen replied with a smile.

Ivy stared at Christen with her mouth slightly open, just like she had when Christen had met them at the front of the stadium before the game. Aimee and Carson were similarly quiet, despite having worked with Christen since last summer at Academy.

“ okay, kiddo?” Tobin asked, reaching out and squeezing Ivy’s shoulder. 

Ivy just nodded, still looking up at Christen with wide eyes. 

“Dude, chill. It’s just my Momma,” Scottie said with an eye roll.

“It took me a few times not to freak out too,” Gemma offered, shooting Christen a small, bashful smile before looking back at Ivy.

“Uh-huh,” Ivy nodded. 

“Why don’t we head back to the house and let Chris shower and meet us there,” Tobin offered as soon as Ivy started sidestepping behind her. 

“Would it be cool if a few of my teammates crashed the cake and ice cream party?” Christen asked, sharing a smile with Tobin.

“Ooooh which ones?!” Scottie asked, bouncing up and down next to Christen. 

“You’ll see,” Christen, winking down at Scottie. “Have a safe drive back, guys. And don’t forget to listen to ‘Reindeers Are Better Than People.’ Tobin loves that song,” Christen added.

“Scottie, Christen wants to sleep downstairs with you guys tonight,” Tobin announced, ushering the five girls towards the opposite end of the tunnel. 

“Tobin wants to be woken up at the crack of dawn to make pancakes!” Christen called down the tunnel with a laugh.

“ANNEMARIE!” Tobin yelled in a last ditch effort to get Christen to stop. 

“POWELL!” Christen yelled back, blowing Tobin a kiss and moving toward the door of the locker room.

“Are they always like that?” Ivy asked Scottie quietly. 

“They’re the coolest parents around,” Scottie nodded, grabbing onto Gemma’s hand and swinging it between them. “The definition of super-duper in love.”

“They’re totally talking about crushes,” Christen whispered, waggling her brows in Tobin’s direction and putting her toothbrush in its holder. She then grabbed her lotion from the counter and started applying it, the sounds of laughter from downstairs making her chuckle.

“Scottie doesn’t have a crush,” Tobin mumbled as she rinsed off her face soap. 

“She’s ten now; she could have a crush,” Christen reasoned.

“No way,” Tobin scoffed, drying off her face with a towel. 

“I bet you they’re talking about crushes, and Scottie definitely is contributing to the conversation,” Christen grinned, leaning her hip against the counter.

“My little girl does not have a crush,” Tobin argued. “She’s- she’s little. And, she would’ve told me.”

“When I win this bet, I want you twice in the bathtub tomorrow night,” Christen said with a cheeky smile, rubbing the rest of the lotion onto her face.

“Fine, when I win, I want you twice in the hot tub in Palos Verdes during your sister’s wedding weekend,” Tobin said, a huge smirk sliding across her face. 

Christen’s eyes sparkled at the suggestion. “You don’t need to make a bet with me to get that,” Christen hummed.

“Like you need to make a bet to get me in the bathtub with you,” Tobin laughed. 

“Still...want to go see who’s winning?” Christen grinned.

“We have to be so quiet. Scottie would kill us if she knew we were eavesdropping,” Tobin warned. 

Christen grabbed Tobin’s hand, a playful smile on her face. “She won’t even know we’re there.”

The two of them snuck down the stairs, quelling their laughter as best as they could. They paused near the bottom step and listened in, Tobin’s arms around Christen’s waist and Christen’s face tucked into the crook of Tobin’s neck.

“His name is Jasper and we go to art camp together,” Gemma giggled, making three of the four girls inside the pillow castle giggle too. 

“Are you in love?” Carson asked, her question making it seem like that would be the coolest thing to ever happen.

“I mean...I’m in like with him,” Gemma replied, her voice a little dreamy as she spoke. 

“What does he look like?” Ivy asked softly. 

“He has red hair and freckles,” Gemma answered. 

“Boys are dumb,” Scottie pointed out, her voice oddly tight.

“That’s only because you haven’t had a boyfriend yet,” Aimee scoffed. 

“I was married, thank you very much, and it sucked. So, boys suck,” Scottie grumbled.

“You can’t keep saying that. It was third grade,” Gemma laughed. “Yates was stupid.”

“What makes Jasper not stupid?” Scottie argued.

“He likes my art, and he talks to me while we paint and do pottery,” Gemma shrugged. 

“I liked your art first,” Scottie said softly.

“Yeah, but you’re my best friend. That’s your job,” Gemma grinned. 

It was quiet for a few moments and then Scottie spoke up again. “I think I want some water. I’ll be right back.”

“Go, go, go,” Tobin whispered, ushering Christen up the stairs. 

They high-tailed it back into their room, barely making it beneath the comforter before there was a soft knock at their door. 

“Uh, come in,” Christen called out, smoothing down her hair and flipping the book around in her hands so it wasn’t upside down.

“Are you guys busy?” Scottie asked, poking her head into their bedroom. 

“No, what’s up, dude?” Tobin asked, patting the small space between her and Christen. 

Scottie sighed and walked into the bedroom, her eyebrows scrunched together and her mouth turned down into a small frown. She jumped onto the bed and got herself comfortable between the two women, her arms crossed over her chest as she leaned against the headboard. 

“Does a yucky feeling inside always mean that I’m sick or angry or anxious?” Scottie asked, looking between Tobin and Christen. 

“Not always,” Tobin murmured.

“Because I’m none of those things but I still feel yucky,” Scottie said softly.

“Can you explain the yucky feeling?” Tobin asked, brushing some hair away from Scottie’s face. 

Scottie thought on that for a few moments, unfurling her arms and reaching out to take ahold of Christen’s hand. 

“It’s like I’m angry but I’m also upset,” Scottie began, her eyebrows still scrunched together. “I used to be the only one who liked Gemma’s art but now she has Jasper and that makes me feel yucky.”

Christen squeezed Scottie’s hand gently in her own and shared a quick look with Tobin over the top of Scottie’s head.

“Why can’t you both like Gemma’s art? She’s really good at it, and I know she loves showing you what she makes,” Christen replied.

“I don’t know. That’s the problem,” Scottie sighed. “It’s good art. It makes sense that other people would like it. You don’t get upset because other people like Mommy’s art.”

“You’re right, I don’t,” Christen nodded. “But maybe it doesn’t really have to do with the art?”

“I think being ten is complicated,” Scottie sighed, falling against Tobin. 

“I don’t think you’ll lose Gemma, even if other people see how cool she is too,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead. 

“I hope not. I love her,” Scottie mumbled, burying her face in Tobin’s shoulder.

“You two are best friends, so it’s your job to be there for one another, right?” Tobin hummed. 

“How can I be there when she has Jasper ?” Scottie sighed, her nose wrinkling as she said his name.

“Sometimes it’s hard to share,” Tobin admitted. “But Christen and I get to both be there for you and love you, and it’s even better than just one of us being there for you.”

“I love you guys, but I’m still feeling yucky,” Scottie mumbled, pulling on Christen’s hand to get her to scoot closer.

“Do you need cuddle puddles tonight?” Tobin asked, wrapping an arm around Scottie and squeezing her close. 

Scottie lifted off of Tobin’s shoulder and shook her head. “I should go back. Gemma’s probably worried I got lost on my way to the fridge.”

“We’ll be here if you change your mind, okay?” Christen offered, dropping a kiss to the crown of Scottie’s head.

“I love you guys. You’re the best moms in the whole wide world. Good night,” Scottie said, pressing a kiss to each of their foreheads before sliding off the bed and leaving their bedroom. 

“So I think I won the bet but I don’t like that I did,” Christen sighed, tossing her book onto the bedside table and turning to face Tobin.

“What do you mean you won?” Tobin asked, rolling closer to Christen and putting her arm around Christen’s waist. 

“Scottie definitely has a crush,” Christen replied like it was obvious.

“The only one talking about a crush down there was Gemma,” Tobin argued. 

“Baby, she’s jealous of Jasper,” Christen hummed, running her fingers through Tobin’s hair.

“No way- She- But she’s ten,” Tobin sighed, sinking down and burying her face in Christen’s chest. 

“I had my first crush on a girl when I was ten,” Christen pointed out. 

“I didn’t even know hormones were a thing until I was seventeen,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Well, since she’s ten, this probably will fade or change. Crushes are like favorite movies at this age. They change weekly.”

“I hope so,” Tobin sighed. “She looked so bummed.”

“I didn’t like seeing her so sad,” Christen agreed, moving her hand up and down Tobin’s back.

“Made me want to tell Jasper to drop out of art camp,” Tobin grumbled, fisting her hand in the excess bit of fabric on Christen’s t-shirt. 

“Made me want to do the same,” Christen murmured, dropping a kiss to Tobin’s head.  

“It also made me think about all the parenting firsts I get with you,” Tobin whispered, “as sappy as that is.”

Christen buried her smile in Tobin’s hair, feeling her heart skip a beat in her chest. 

“Yeah?” Christen said softly.

“And I’m warning you now, as evidenced by me thinking Scottie was just having trouble sharing a friend, you’re probably taking the lead on crushes,” Tobin murmured, pressing a kiss to Christen’s collarbone. 

“Are you sure?” Christen asked, gently pulling Tobin up off her chest so she could look into Tobin’s eyes. 

“I’m sure that I want to parent with you, and I’m also sure that there are some things you’re better equipped to help Scottie with,” Tobin replied. 

A slow smile spread across Christen’s face. She leaned forward and kissed Tobin gently. 

“Parenting with you is going to be the adventure of a lifetime,” Christen whispered, kissing Tobin once more just because she could.

“Crushes who break Scottie’s heart won’t stand a chance,” Tobin teased softly. 

“Not against us and ours,” Christen agreed, sinking into their next kiss with ease.

Christen put the car in park and then turned around, offering Gemma a small smile. 

“All set, kid?” Christen asked. 

Gemma nodded, grabbing her backpack and then looking across the backseat at Scottie, who was looking out the window.

“I’ll see you later,” Gemma offered, reaching out and squeezing Scottie’s hand. 

“Yeah,” Scottie said softly, turning away from the window to look over at Gemma.

“Thanks for having me over,” Gemma said, looking at Christen and then Scottie. 

“You’re welcome anytime,” Christen replied, her eyes narrowed a bit as she watched Gemma linger in the car waiting for more of a goodbye from Scottie, Scottie not giving it.

“Okay, well I’ll ask my dad about going to the pool. He can call your moms,” Gemma offered, pushing open the car door and climbing out. 

“Bye,” Scottie whispered, her sad, gray eyes tracking Gemma through the window as she walked up the front step of the townhouse. 

Christen waved at Gemma’s dad as he stepped out to greet Gemma and then pulled the car away from the curb. Clearing her throat, she looked at Scottie in the rearview mirror.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Christen asked softly.

“I should’ve given her a hug or something,” Scottie sighed, sitting back in her seat. 

“It’s okay that you didn’t,” Christen replied, maneuvering the car through city traffic with ease. “Sometimes hugs aren’t the move when you feel yucky.”

“Yeah,” Scottie nodded, watching buildings move past the car window. 

Christen let out a long breath and tapped her fingers on the steering wheel, trying to figure out the right words to say.

“Momma?” Scottie asked. 

“Yeah?” Christen replied, stopping the car at a stoplight. 

“How did you know that you liked Mommy?” Scottie asked, her voice softer than a whisper. 

Christen felt her eyebrows shoot up at the question, not having expected that. But after a moment of surprise, Christen shook herself out of it and looked at Scottie in the rearview mirror, reaching an arm back and offering her hand to Scottie.

“She made me feel butterflies in my stomach but safe in my heart,” Christen replied, her voice equally soft. 

Scottie reached out and took Christen’s hand, squeezing it in her own. 

“Why do you ask, sweetheart?” Christen said, already knowing the answer as she clung to Scottie’s hand.

Scottie shrugged, keeping her lips pressed into a tight line as her eyebrows scrunched together. 

“I don’t know. I- I don’t care that Carson likes Henry. I don’t know why I care about Jasper, but I do. I like doing art with Mommy, and I don’t know why I wish I was at art camp instead of Jasper because painting at home is more fun.”

Christen nodded and quickly put on her blinker, pulling up to a curb and putting the hazards on. She turned around in her seat and looked back at Scottie, hating the confusion and the pain she could see on Scottie’s face. 

“It’s okay to care,” Christen began, running her thumb along the back of Scottie’s hand. “And it’s okay not to know. You’ve got a whole life ahead of you to know those kinds of things. But…”

“But what?” Scottie asked, her eyes wide and fully focused on Christen. 

“But liking Gemma isn’t a bad thing, or something you need to feel weird about,” Christen replied gently.

A tiny tear slipped out of the corner of Scottie’s eye as she nodded along to what Christen was saying. 

“Oh, sweetheart,” Christen sighed, unbuckling her seatbelt. She quickly got into the backseat and pulled Scottie in for a tight hug. “It’s okay. Whatever you feel is okay .”

“I don’t like growing up,” Scottie whispered, her voice shaky. 

Christen huffed out a laugh and held Scottie close. “Growing up sucks sometimes, but there are so many wonderful things about getting older. You’re just in a sucky part of it right now, and I’m sorry that you are.”

“Did you have a Gemma before Mommy?” Scottie asked, tightening her arms around Christen’s shoulders. 

“I did,” Christen murmured. “Her name was Bailey, and we were in the same fifth-grade class. I didn’t really know what I was feeling or why I felt that way but looking back on it...I liked her as more than a friend. She made me feel butterflies and safe at the same time.”

“But now you love Mommy and not Bailey,” Scottie said softly. 

“I do,” Christen replied. “I liked Bailey, but I love your mom.”

“I don’t want to like Gemma like this, though,” Scottie admitted. “I just want to be her best friend.”

Christen let out a shaky breath and soothingly rubbed Scottie’s back. “You can be her best friend for as long as you want to. This doesn’t change that. You two are just starting fifth grade, and you have so much life left to live. This might feel like the end of the world right now, but it’s not, sweetheart. I promise.” 

“I love you,” Scottie mumbled. 

“I love you more,” Christen whispered. “And you can always come talk to me about anything, okay?”

“Thank you,” Scottie breathed out, squeezing Christen once more before sinking down into her seat. 

Christen smoothed out Scottie’s hair and offered her a small smile. “How about we go grab Tobin and do your final birthday surprise?”

“Really?” Scottie asked, a smile finally slipping onto her face. 

“Really, really,” Christen winked, dropping a kiss to Scottie’s forehead before moving out of the backseat.

Tears spilled down Scottie’s cheeks as she held her arms out to keep the employee away from her. 

“Offsides!” Scottie called out.

“I swear to God she asked me a thousand times to get her ears pierced for her birthday,” Tobin mumbled to Christen as they both reached out for Scottie. 

“Ten is a rough year so far,” Christen whispered.

“ want me to do the other one and make it even?” the employee asked, holding the piercing gun. 

“Nope. Get that thing away from me,” Scottie shook her head, tears still streaming down her face.

“We’re going for the one earring look, actually,” Tobin said, helping Scottie off the chair. 

“That’s not a thing, Mommy,” Scottie blubbered, taking the handkerchief Christen held out for her.

“Yeah it is, little bit. Only cool people wear just one earring. That’s why Christen only wears one,” Tobin said, motioning for Christen to take out one of her earrings. 

Christen pretended to scratch her jaw and quickly took out the hoop from her right ear, stuffing it into her pocket.

“Yup, only one for me,” Christen said, pointing at the one earring she had left. The three of them walked out of the store, Scottie still sniffling.

“Why do people willingly shoot holes into their ears?” Scottie asked, wiping her eyes with the handkerchief. “I mean, I wanted to pierce my ears because it’s pretty, but it isn’t worth it.”

“You don’t have to get the other one done if you don’t want to,”  Christen hummed, swinging her and Scottie’s clasped hands between them. 

“Mommy, why are you wearing two? You look lame,” Scottie said, making Christen burst out laughing. 

Tobin quickly took out the left earring and tucked it into her pocket. “Is that better?” 

“Yes, thank you,” Scottie nodded. “Can we go home and cuddle puddle now?”

“Of course. Do you want ice cream first?” Tobin asked, feeling guilty about taking her to get her ears pierced, even though Scottie had begged for it. 

“Three scoops,” Scottie said, jutting her bottom lip out in a pout. “I’m having a week , guys. Ten is rough and tough.”

“How about two?” Tobin countered. 

“Two big ones,” Scottie replied, looking up at Christen. “Please, Momma?” 

“She’s going after you,” Tobin laughed. 

Thinking back on their car conversation and seeing the tears still caught in Scottie’s lashes, Christen caved easily.  “Of course, sweetheart. You are having quite the week. But we need to have extra veggies with dinner, okay?”

“I’ll even eat broccoli!” Scottie promised, squeezing both Tobin’s and Christen’s hands. 

Chapter Text

There's no life, without love they say

None worth having anyway

You're a mystery to me some days

That's what keeps me sane

'Cause we're just you and me

We drink and laugh and dance 'til three

I have everything I need when I'm with you alone

Home is where we stay all night

No roof above our starry sky

I'd lie here 'til the day I die

And our time together's flown

So, take me home and don't spare the horses

Away to a silence I need

Take me home and don't spare the horses

Away to a gossamer breeze

I don't need to build a house of stone

Wherever you are is where I call home

(Tobin - “Home” by Bruno Major)


I'm running out of real estate

Tryna make all the right moves

I don't wanna hesitate

I would bet the house on you

You, you

I still have no windows in my room or my halls

I was hoping I could look through yours

Sitting in a chair next to your front door

As I watch you do your makeup on the floor

(Christen - “Real Estate” by Adam Melchor)


Scottie poked her tongue out of the corner of her mouth and dipped her paintbrush into the green paint on her palette. 

“I love perfect green,” Scottie hummed under her breath, painting swirls onto the canvas. “Perfect green is perfect.”

“Perfect green is a great color,” Tobin nodded, looking over at Scottie from her spot in the studio. “That’s a cool painting.”

“I’m trying to channel, not explode,” Scottie replied, adding some dark blue to the canvas as well. 

“What are you channeling?” Tobin asked, putting her own brush down and walking over to Scottie. 

Scottie shrugged and continued to paint, humming softly under her breath. 

“The same reason you didn’t want to invite Gemma over this weekend?” Tobin asked softly, brushing hair away from Scottie’s forehead. 

“Momma told you what we talked about, huh?” Scottie sighed, looking up at Tobin, her bottom lip trembling just a bit. 

“She tells me everything,” Tobin hummed. “It’s kind of what we do.”

“I told her she could. I just- it’s confusing in here,” Scottie said, tapping her chest right over her heart. “I want to see Gemma, but I don’t want to talk about Jasper. So I don’t see Gemma ‘cause all she wants to do is talk about stupid Jasper.”

“That doesn’t sound fun, little bit,” Tobin sighed, pulling a stool over to sit next to Scottie. 

“Momma says it’s okay to feel like this, and that I should feel it, not ignore it. So I’m painting what I feel,” Scottie continued, gesturing at the canvas. 

“Your Momma is a very smart lady, and I agree with her. It’s better to paint what you feel than push it away,” Tobin said softly. 

“Is that why your painting has hearts on it?” Scottie wondered with the ghost of a smile, a pale imitation of her typical toothy grin. 

“That’s right. I have tons of love for you and Christen, so I paint it,” Tobin nodded. “But I’ve painted sad feelings before too.”

Scottie set down her palette and her paintbrush and threw her arms around Tobin’s neck. 

“Sad sucks. I don’t like sad, ‘specially because Gemma doesn’t make me sad at all.”

“Can you think of anything I can do right now to make it a tiny bit better?” Tobin asked, holding Scottie close. 

“Hug me super-duper tight?” Scottie whispered.

“I’ll always do that,” Tobin promised, tightening her grip on Scottie. 

“When does Momma come home?” Scottie wondered in a quiet voice. 

“In four days, unfortunately,” Tobin sighed, the ache that had settled in her heart when she and Scottie had dropped Christen off at the stadium starting to throb a little more. 

“My heartstrings don’t like that answer,” Scottie mumbled, sniffling slightly against Tobin’s chest. 

“Mine don’t either, buddy,” Tobin murmured. “Maybe if we work on something super fun and super-secret we can distract ourselves from her being far away.”

Scottie pulled back and tilted her head to the side, fixing Tobin with a confused look. 

“A secret fun job?” Scottie wondered. 

“You know how Christen has that cool apartment in Chelsea?” Tobin reminded Scottie. They hardly ever spent time at Christen’s place, but Scottie had been there a handful of times, enough to remember it well. 

Scottie nodded. “She doesn’t own the building, and she has nice neighbors and a rad coffee maker and Peanut Butter Marshmallow Crunch in the freezer for me.”

“That’s right,” Tobin chuckled. “Well, she’s about to have to sign a contract to live in that place for another year.”

“But she doesn’t live there, Mommy. She lives with us,” Scottie pointed out. 

“I know,” Tobin agreed, squeezing Scottie’s hand in her own. “She keeps the other place just in case.”

“In case what?” 

“I think she thinks it’s good for when she comes back to the city late or has to leave early,” Tobin tried to explain. Christen had talked to her about her old apartment, explaining that it was good for her hectic schedule if she came home and didn’t want to wake up Scottie or Tobin. 

“But we don’t mind if she comes home late, because she always comes home to us. It doesn’t matter what time it is,” Scottie replied with a furrowed brow, not entirely understanding. 

“That’s what I think too. And maybe Christen just likes her apartment and wants to keep it, but I think it might be nice if we gave her the option to stop renting her place and move the rest of her stuff here,” Tobin suggested quietly, looking at Scottie’s face for a reaction. 

Scottie’s eyes widened as everything finally clicked for her. 

“No more nights without Momma unless she’s traveling?” Scottie asked softly. 

“Yeah, that’s what I’d like if that’s something you’d like,” Tobin hummed. 

“Oh, gosh,” Scottie replied, hugging Tobin tightly again. “Maybe being ten doesn’t suck if Momma lives with us forever.”

Tobin let out a soft laugh, wrapping her arms around Scottie and sinking into this moment and the lump that was rising in her throat. 

“Well, Christen might still want to keep it. We just have to ask and see if that’s something she wants,” Tobin warned, not wanting Scottie to get her hopes up just in case. 

“Maybe if we say please and ask really nicely, she will say yes. Or you could smile, Mommy. She likes it when you smile,” Scottie suggested, grinning as she clung to Tobin. 

“I’ll definitely smile when I ask,” Tobin snorted, poking Scottie in the side. “I think we should make a gesture, though.”

“Like…shakas?” Scottie asked, scrunching her brows together as she pulled out of the hug. 

“Not a hand gesture, a heartfelt gesture. We should do something that shows her that we want her around all the time, that she has space here, not just us telling her,” Tobin clarified. 

“Oh, we need to make space for her. I can clean out my room if you want,” Scottie said with a shrug. 

“No way, dude. That’s your space. And Christen has space in the bedroom she and I share. But, you and I have art stuff in the studio and all of our books and games in the living room. I think maybe she needs some space that’s hers,” Tobin said with a huge smile. 

“Hmm…” Scottie trailed off, tapping her finger against her nose. “Momma likes meditating. So maybe we can make her a meditating space?”

“That’s a really good idea, and I think I know just what we could clear out,” Tobin hummed, running her index finger along the bridge of Scottie’s nose. 

“Not my toy closet. That’s where I draw the line,” Scottie grinned, her tone teasing and her smile a little more genuine. 

“Christen can’t meditate in a closet, buddy. That’s cramped and no fun,” Tobin replied, loving that this conversation was distracting Scottie from the sadness that had been in her eyes. 

“Momma can meditate anywhere. Last week, she did it in the bodega when this lady took the last Van Leeuwen’s from the freezer,” Scottie argued, putting her hands on her hips in the Press Power Pose™️. 

“You’re right. She’s very good at doing her deep breathing anywhere. But I was thinking maybe we could clear out the office upstairs. We don’t use it for anything other than storage and hide and seek,” Tobin suggested. 

Scottie nodded enthusiastically, tilting her head up to kiss Tobin’s forehead. 

“You’re so smart, Mommy,” Scottie grinned.  “You got a big brain in there.”

“Not as big as yours,” Tobin winked. 

Scottie rolled her eyes and hopped off the stool. “Now you’re just making stuff up to make me smile.”

“I would never,” Tobin gasped, standing up and taking Scottie’s hand. “You think we can fix up the office into Christen’s space before she gets home?”

Scottie tugged Tobin toward the stairs. “Let’s get started right now!”

“Scottie, I don’t think we need that,” Tobin laughed, watching Scottie spin around in an egg-shaped chair in the IKEA showroom. 

“But it’s like an egg and I’m a chicken!” Scottie giggled, spinning around again. 

“You’re an adorable chicken, little bit,” Tobin laughed. 

“A chicken like a chick magnet, right Mommy?” Scottie grinned, planting her feet on the ground and blinking through the dizziness. 

“No, you’re not magnetic,” Tobin said, a blush heating her cheeks quickly. “We’re going for cool stuff that Christen will like and a filing cabinet for the stuff that’s currently on the desk.”

“I don’t know why we’re looking at chairs then.  She needs a rug and a lamp and maybe some crystals. Not an egg,” Scottie giggled, skipping over and taking Tobin’s hand. 

“I was thinking something cooler than a lamp,” Tobin said, leading Scottie through IKEA toward the lighting section. 

“A torch?” Scottie wondered, her eyes widening as her voice got more and more excited. “A flamethrower? Oh, oh, a lightsaber?”

“How about something like that?” Tobin asked, pointing to a hanging light fixture. The lightbulbs were tiny and not too bright, arranged in a circle, almost like a large halo. Tobin could imagine it hanging in the corner of the room, something Christen would turn on if she wanted to bypass the harsher office lights and enjoy some softer lighting. 

“It’s no lightsaber but it’ll do,” Scottie nodded. “It reminds me of Christmas. Christmas with Christen.” 

“It does kind of feel like Christmas. I guess if she doesn’t like it you can have it in your room,” Tobin shrugged, grabbing a box and putting it in the cart. 

“She’s going to love it,” Scottie said confidently. 

“What color rug are you imagining?” Tobin asked, leading Scottie through the store, the two of them pausing to look at cool decor and admire showrooms. 

“That one,” Scottie said, pointing at a navy blue and gray rug with patterns that looked like ocean waves. “It’ll make her feel like she’s in Palos Verdes.”

“You think so?” Tobin asked, running her hand along the rug and feeling just how soft it was. 

“Mhm, it’s like the specific ocean.”

“That joke’s always funny,” Tobin grinned, rolling up the rug and putting it in the cart. 

“That’s because I’m always funny,” Scottie chirped, shooting Tobin a lopsided smile. 

“You’re the funniest,” Tobin agreed, taking Scottie’s hand again. “I like how soft the rug is,” she added, looking at the two things they’d picked out so far. 

“Momma will like that, too,” Scottie nodded. 

“Are you gonna start doing yoga with her if there’s a room for it?” Tobin teased, knocking her hip into Scottie’s. 

“Blegh,” Scottie groaned, her face twisting up in distaste. “No way, Mommy. I can’t sit still for that long. I get bored.” 

“Me too. I’m not sure how she can be quiet for that long,” Tobin agreed. 

“It’s like her superpower,” Scottie hummed, skipping ahead of Tobin and the cart as they reached the plant area. She grabbed a fake potted plant and held it up. “What about this? It’s perfect green!”

“I think she’d like a real one. Check out those over there,” Tobin said, pointing at another section of plants. 

Scottie threw up a shaka sign and hurried over to the real plant section, scouring it for the perfect one to put in Christen’s meditation room. 

“Why don’t you pick your favorite three,” Tobin hummed once she reached Scottie’s side. 

“What if my favorite isn’t her favorite?” Scottie sighed, putting her hands on her hips as she looked at all the options. 

“I bet you she’ll love what you pick out. What three do you like best?” Tobin asked, putting an arm across Scottie’s shoulder. 

“Umm…that one, that one, and…that one,” Scottie decided, pointing out three different plants. “They’re pretty and make me feel calm, like Momma does.”

“I completely agree,” Tobin breathed out, making space in the cart for Scottie to put the plants in it. “Let’s get the filing cabinet and the egg chair and head home.”

“Yes, the egg chair!!!” Scottie cheered, pumping her fists in the air. 

“Scottie Heath!” Christen grinned, waving at Scottie from her side of the FaceTime. 

“Momma, I was so nervous this morning I forgot my shin guards,” Scottie said, letting out a long breath as she leaned back into the living room couch in Tobin’s parent’s house. 

“Good thing we packed your bag before I left with an extra set, huh?” Christen replied softly, noting the nerves on Scottie’s face and in her voice. 

“Yes,” Scottie sighed. “I’m trying to deep breathe like you do, since we have to go to the field in…How long Mommy?” 

“Thirty minutes,” Tobin replied, making her way across the living room and dropping down onto the couch next to Scottie. 

“Deep breathing only works if you let it work. So why don’t we try something else instead?” Christen asked, offering Tobin a soft smile before looking back at Scottie. 

“Like what? I really don’t think downward dog is that fun,” Scottie said with a sheepish smile. 

Christen laughed, her eyes crinkling as she shook her head. 

“Not yoga, sweetheart. Can you tell me about your most fun soccer memory ever?” Christen wondered, getting comfortable on the couch in the hotel room in Portland that she and Becky were sharing. 

“Umm…I have a lot, but I have two favorites,” Scottie said with a big smile. “My first one is after my first ever practice when I was super little and Mommy and Grandma held their hands up to make a tunnel for me to run through.” 

“That’s a really good one,” Christen hummed. 

“And my second one is when you helped me work on my corner kicks, and then you and Mommy played my corner kicks into the goal after Academy training.” 

Christen’s heart melted at Scottie’s answer, not having expected that she’d be part of Scottie’s favorite soccer memories. 

“I loved that day too, sweetheart,” Christen murmured. “How do those memories make you feel?” 

“Super happy,” Scottie shrugged. “It’s soccer and family.” 

“How about when you’re out there today, you remember how super happy soccer and family make you? Remember this super happy feeling and keep it in your heart,” Christen replied, tapping her hand to her chest, over her heart. 

“What if I miss every goal I try to score or don’t connect any passes?” Scottie asked, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. 

“That’s okay. Because tomorrow you’ll try again and you’ll score goals and connect passes. All we can do is try again,” Christen assured, keeping her voice gentle. 

“But then I might not get on the team if I don’t do well today,” Scottie murmured. 

Christen’s heart ached, and she wished she could give Scottie a hug and take away all the worries she could see in those gray eyes. 

“Can I tell you a secret?” Christen asked. 

“Of course,” Scottie nodded. 

“When I was ten, I didn’t make the competitive team. And look at me now. I’m playing against the Thorns tonight in a sold-out stadium, and I’m going to score a goal for my girls. So even if you don’t make this team, that doesn’t mean you won’t make the next one,” Christen promised, giving Scottie a warm smile. 

“And you won’t be…” Scottie started, looking between both Christen and Tobin, “disappointed?” 

“You could never disappoint me, Scottie Heath,” Christen replied, her voice soft yet strong. 

“You could never disappoint us,” Tobin agreed. 

“Then I’ll just have fun,” Scottie said, leaning into Tobin’s side as she looked at Christen on the phone. 

“Why do we play, sweetheart?” Christen asked, knowing that Scottie knew the answer, but wanting her to say it anyway. 

“To have fun and feel free and because it’s easier than breathing,” Scottie responded softly. 

“That matters more than any team or any goal or any pass,” Christen hummed, leaning against the back of the couch and propping her phone up on a pillow. 

“Mommy said she’d video it for me to show you since you can’t be here,” Scottie said with a lopsided smile. 

“I can’t wait to watch you school those 12-year-olds,” Christen grinned, her eyes flicking to Tobin on the screen. She shot Tobin a wink and then looked back at Scottie. 

“And we’re staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s tonight, so that we don’t miss your game because of traffic,” Scottie said. 

“You two didn’t need to do that,” Christen said with an affectionate shake of her head. “There are always more games.”

“I don’t know about that. One time I lied and said we were missing a game, and you got very upset,” Tobin teased. 

Christen pursed her lips and arched a brow in Tobin’s direction. “You want to go there right now?” Christen asked with a laugh. 

“Momma, you can’t be upset. Not when you get home and see-”

Tobin covered Scottie’s mouth with her hand, keeping their secret a secret. 

“See what?” Christen asked, narrowing her eyes as she looked between the matching guilty looks on her girls’ faces. 

“Nothing,” Scottie mumbled from behind Tobin’s hand. 

“Mhm, likely story,” Christen said with an eye roll. “You feeling better now, sweetheart? Ready to have some fun today?”

“Yes,” Scottie beamed. “I’m gonna meg as many people as I can.”

“Of course you are,” Christen chuckled. “And how are you feeling, babe? Ready to watch our girl meg everybody?”

“I’m ready to watch her have fun,” Tobin replied with a huge smile. 

“Mommy’s nostal- shoot…notag…” Scottie interjected. 

“Nostalgic,” Christen supplied with a laugh. 

“Yes! She’s nostalgic,” Scottie nodded. 

“Missing your PDA days, Tobin?” Christen teased. 

Scottie grinned and patted Tobin on the cheek. “Mommy got teary,” Scottie laughed. 

“I did not,” Tobin scoffed, rolling her eyes at Scottie’s teasing. 

“I bet you did, you sap,” Christen grinned. 

“So you wouldn’t get choked up if Scottie was trying out for Slammers?” Tobin challenged, raising an eyebrow at Christen. 

“I…you know what I probably would,” Christen chuckled, running a hand through her hair. 

“You’re both saps,” Scottie giggled, her nerves completely forgotten. 

“Shit,” Tobin mumbled, dropping one of the dozens of IKEA screws she was holding in her hands. 

“That’s a bad word,” Scottie sing-songed, spinning around in her egg chair in the office. 

“Sorry,” Tobin sighed, squatting down next to the partially built filing cabinet. 

“Mommy, I have a question,” Scottie announced, still spinning in the chair and tugging the strings of her unicorn beanie.

“What’s up, buddy?” Tobin asked, glancing at Scottie but focusing on getting the cabinet built and the piles of papers put away. 

“Is someday soon?” Scottie wondered with a toothy grin. “Because I have narrowed my wedding outfit down to three options.”

Tobin put down everything she was holding and crawled over to be closer to Scottie. “What outfits are you thinking of?” she asked softly. 

“Well, I have a really pretty dress that Momma got with me for my birthday. It’s perfect green. Or that cool suit I wore for Momma’s birthday in Los Angeles. And then I have my comfiest pair of jeans, which are just so comfy!” Scottie grinned, leaning forward and poking Tobin in the forehead with the unicorn horn attached to the top of her purple beanie. 

“You can wear whatever you want whenever she and I get married, okay?” Tobin said, feeling her throat get a little thick at the idea. 

“And that’s going to be...soon?” Scottie asked, her voice rising in excitement, her eyebrows waggling in Tobin’s direction.

“There are some things I have to do before I can ask her that,” Tobin admitted, thinking about the ring under her bed. 

Scottie just smiled, waiting for Tobin to fill in the blanks and disclose the things standing between them and a wedding.

“Like...asking her to move in. That’s an important thing to do before marriage,” Tobin explained. 

With a nod, Scottie bounced around in the egg chair. “And a ring. You need that too. But not a ring pop. Auntie Dunny told me that ring pop marriages don’t last.”

“Do you remember when you told Christen about Mikel’s ring for Channing?” Tobin asked, making the decision to let Scottie see the ring, even if it would mean her possibly spilling the secret. 

“I do...but I think that you shouldn’t show me the ring. If you have a ring for Momma,” Scottie said softly. 

“Ooookay,” Tobin nodded slowly, completely confused about Scottie’s response. 

“I want her to be the first one to see it,” Scottie murmured. “That’ll be so magical, and I don’t want to take away the magic by peeking. That’s why I never go in the hall closet and peek at my Christmas presents early,” Scottie added with a bashful smile.

“I’m glad you aren’t peeking,” Tobin chuckled, reaching out and squeezing Scottie’s knee. “Can I ask you a really serious question?” 

Scottie rolled her eyes and just gave Tobin a look to the effect of ‘ Really? You have to ask? ’.

“You know how we have the adoption papers that say that I’m your Mommy?” Tobin started, taking one of Scottie’s hands in her own. 

Scottie nodded slowly, her gray eyes locked on Tobin’s as she scooted to the edge of the egg chair, getting closer to Tobin.

“And I know we’ve sort of talked about how you want Christen to be officially your Momma, which would mean your Momma on paper,” Tobin continued. 

Scottie’s bottom lip started to tremble as Tobin spoke, her eyes filling with tears. “It’s almost someday for official?”

“I think someday is getting closer every day. And the official stuff is something I want to figure out before any wedding can happen,” Tobin replied, pressing kisses to the back of Scottie’s hand. 

Scottie sniffled and threw her arms around Tobin’s neck. “I’m super-duper patient, Mommy.”

“I want to ask your opinion, though,” Tobin said, gently rubbing her hands up and down Scottie’s back. 

“About what?” Scottie mumbled, burying her face in the side of Tobin’s neck.

“If we decide to put Christen’s name on the official stuff, we’re gonna have to take Roni’s name off. I just want you to know that before we start really working on the official stuff. I want you to tell me if that’s okay with you or not,” Tobin whispered. 

Scottie let out a long sigh, tightening her arms around Tobin’s neck.

“I know it’s a big and scary thing to think about, so we don’t have to decide right now. You can think about what you want,” Tobin said patiently, knowing that this was an adult decision that she wanted Scottie to think about. 

“I don’t need to think about it,” Scottie whispered. “I know who my Momma is.”

“So, you want me to start trying to make official things happen?” Tobin asked, pressing a kiss to the side of Scottie’s head. 

Scottie nodded against Tobin’s neck. “Yeah. I’m patient, but I don’t think I can be patient forever, Mommy. I hope it goes fast for the official stuff.”

“I’ll try to make it go fast, little bit,” Tobin promised, feeling her eyes get teary. 

“Someday makes my heart go boom, boom, boom,” Scottie said quietly, a small smile making its way onto her face as she leaned away from Tobin and touched a hand over her heart.

“Mine too,” Tobin murmured. “I guess you and I better finish this room before Christen gets back tonight, then,” she added. 

“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Scottie replied, fist-bumping Tobin.

“No peeking!” Scottie giggled, leading Christen down the hallway.

“I couldn’t even if I wanted to,” Christen replied with a laugh, nearly stumbling when Tobin accidentally bumped into her. “Babe, you can’t trip me while you’re covering my eyes,” she added, her tone full of amusement. 

“Sorry,” Tobin chuckled, moving her hands away from Christen’s face and wrapping her arms around her waist instead. The three of them stood in front of the office’s closed door, Scottie bouncing with excitement and Christen staring ahead, a confused smile on her face. 

“Did you...put a new wood finish on the door?” Christen wondered, looking between Tobin and Scottie.

“Were we supposed to do that Mommy?” Scottie asked, her eyebrows furrowing at Christen’s question. 

“No,” Tobin replied with a grin. “We’re making a gesture, right, little bit?” 

Scottie let out a sigh of relief and threw up two shaka signs, grinning at Christen. “Yup, and not these ones either.”

“You two are adorably secretive,” Christen chuckled, reaching out to poke her finger in the dimple in Scottie’s cheek. 

“You can open the door, silly,” Scottie giggled. 

“Will you do it with me?” Christen asked, moving her hand to the door handle and waiting for Scottie to help her.

“Mommy and I spent all weekend in here,” Scottie said as she put her hand on top of Christen’s and helped her turn the handle.  

Christen stepped into the office and let out a surprised gasp, not recognizing the room around her. There was a new rug, new lighting, new furniture. It didn’t look like a room full of clutter or things that didn’t have a place any longer. It didn’t look like the same room she’d played hide and go seek in the other week.

Tobin looked at the cleared space. Half of the room was cozy, perfect for relaxing or meditating. And the other half was covered by a mat, giving Christen space to work out at home if she wanted to. She and Scottie had donated the desk, since she hardly ever used it. They’d moved an armchair from storage up to the office, put all the cluttering paperwork and mail into the filing cabinet. There was a yoga mat and some weights in one corner. The fuzzy rug covered half of the room, and a new bookshelf held their library of parenting books that they’d both stress-bought. 

“What is all this?” Christen asked as she clung to Scottie’s hand.

“It’s your meditation room,” Scottie murmured. “Mommy said we should make you your own space if we were gonna ask you to live with us all the time.” 

“What she said,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s shoulder. 

Christen’s eyes widened at the response, quickly turning around in Tobin’s arms. “Are you- are you serious?” Christen wondered softly.

“If you don’t want to give up your apartment, that’s okay. But, we’d really like you to be around all the time,” Tobin answered, tucking a strand of hair behind Christen’s ear and letting her hand slide down the side of Christen’s neck. 

“What she said,” Scottie echoed, beaming up at Christen.

Christen looked between Scottie and Tobin, her eyes growing teary. “I’d love to be around all the time,” she said after a few moments, her tone full of wonder and awe. “I can’t believe you guys did this for me.”

“This is your home too,” Tobin whispered. “We want this to be your home.”

“It is,” Christen promised, kissing Tobin quickly as she held Scottie close. “It has been, and now it can officially be my home too.”

“I love official stuff,” Scottie giggled, propping her chin against Christen as she smiled up at her moms.

“We made space for Janice too,” Tobin teased, leaning her forehead against Christen’s. 

Now it’s officially home,” Christen laughed. 

“Officially official,” Scottie hummed, attempting to wink at Tobin, the effort coming off as more of a double blink.

Tobin reached down and ran her hand over Scottie’s hair. “Officially official,” she parroted. 

“Are you keeping your house?” Scottie asked, staring wide-eyed up at Christen. 

“No. I don’t need to,” Christen replied, smoothing her hand across Scottie’s hair on her head.

“Will you bring the comfy chairs?” Scottie asked, thinking about the armchairs in Christen’s living room area that she had a habit of falling asleep in. 

“I can do that,” Christen grinned, her heart fluttering in her chest. She kept expecting a debilitating wave of nerves. She kept expecting to regret her agreement to move in. Even if she was in this, even if she was so in this that there was no way for her to get out, her apartment had been the last hold out. If she kept that, she had an exit strategy. She had a foot out the door. 

But she hadn’t needed one. Not for a long time. Not for the entirety of her relationship with Tobin. She didn’t need to hold onto the apartment and the anxiety that this wasn’t going to work anymore. She didn’t need to because this was going to work. It worked every single day because they all put in the work. 

“Those are the best living room chairs,” Tobin hummed, pressing a kiss to Christen’s temple. 

“Can I bring my blue couch?” Christen asked, smirking slightly in Tobin’s direction at the reminder of all that had been done on that couch.

“Of course,” Tobin nodded, a light blush spreading across her cheeks. “I love that couch. You can bring anything and everything you want.”

“Yeah, silly. Mommy said our house,” Scottie giggled, hooking a finger in one of Christen’s belt loops. 

“Oh, I’m silly?” Christen asked, grinning down at Scottie. 

“The silliest,” Scottie murmured, burying her face in Christen’s shirt as she wrapped her arms around her. 

“How do you use it?” Scottie asked, her eyes growing large as she stared at Janice. It didn’t matter how many times she saw the coffee maker, she was always caught off guard by how fancy it looked. It especially looked fancy, taking up a large part of the counter near the fridge, dwarfing the small orange kettle on the stove. 

“Ask Tobin,” Christen smirked, flipping pancakes at the stove. 

“Ha. Ha,” Tobin huffed, wrapping an arm around Christen’s waist. 

“It only works for Stanford alumni and Stanford lovers,” Christen teased. “So you should be good to go, sweetheart,” she added, nodding at the Stanford Soccer t-shirt Scottie had stolen from her and was currently wearing.

“I love a Stanford alum,” Tobin whispered, trailing her nose along the back of Christen’s neck. 

Christen shivered at the sensation, accidentally flipping a pancake too hard and sending it into the tile backsplash on the back of the stove. 

“Like Momma, like daughter,” Tobin hummed, already reaching for some paper towels and the sponge. 

Christen caught herself against the countertop, her knees getting a little weak at Tobin’s words. 

It didn’t matter how often she heard them. It didn’t matter how many times Scottie called her ‘ Momma ’ when she was excited or sad or upset or sleepy. It didn’t matter because every single time, her heart leaped into her throat and her eyes stung. Every single time, it felt completely and totally right. 

Hearing Tobin call Scottie her daughter, despite the lack of legality or paperwork to back it up, felt completely and totally right as well. Even if it was the first time she’d heard that from Tobin, it felt impossibly right. It felt like another piece of someday, of us and ours.

“You can’t say things like that to me, pre-coffee,” Christen whispered to Tobin, wiping at the corners of her eyes with the sleeve of Tobin’s flannel robe she’d borrowed this morning.

“Little bit, you gotta push the big button on the right, the red button, and then the smaller button on the left,” Tobin said, putting Christen’s favorite mug underneath the coffee machine’s spigot. “Sorry, baby.”

“I’m not,” Christen murmured, adding more batter to the pan, making this pancake in the shape of an ‘S’ for Scottie.

Scottie pressed the coffee machine’s button, making it hiss to life. “Wooow,” she sighed, watching attentively as coffee spilled into the mug. 

“I think if we play this right, she’ll make us coffee for at least a month,” Tobin whispered. 

“Wait until I teach her the frothing options,” Christen whispered back with a small smile playing at her lips. “We’ll have an in-house barista for a year.”

“Have I mentioned how much I love having you here all the time?” Tobin asked, returning her hands to Christen’s waist. 

“Yes, Mommy. Like five billion times this week already!” Scottie groaned, rolling her eyes in Tobin’s direction. “Momma is gonna get sick of us if you keep saying it!”

Christen chuckled and perfectly flipped the ‘S’-shaped pancake over. She then turned to press a kiss to the corner of Tobin's downturned mouth. 

“I’ll never get tired of hearing it, babe,” Christen murmured. “And I’ll never get sick of you two,” she added, winking at Scottie.

Scottie blew Christen a kiss before racing across the room and flinging herself into one of the armchairs that Christen had brought from her apartment. 

“You sure you want your couch downstairs in the studio? We can move things around in the living room or just get rid of the couch up here,” Tobin offered. 

“We’re almost in our mid-thirties. I can’t keep having-” Christen paused, craning her neck to make sure Scottie wasn’t close by. When she realized Scottie was out of earshot, she leaned back and shot Tobin a coy smile. “- sex with you on your studio table. That couch will serve us well down there.”

“So, we can have sex on the table and then the couch?” Tobin asked quietly. 

Christen chuckled and kissed Tobin quickly before spinning back toward the stove to make sure the pancakes weren’t burning. 

“At least until we’re forty. Then the table might need to be retired,” Christen replied softly. 

“No way,” Tobin gasped, holding Christen tightly in her arms. 

“When you pull a muscle, you’re going to regret this fight you’re putting up,” Christen laughed quietly.

“Maybe I could visit Gotham’s massage therapist. Family perk,” Tobin teased, sneaking a chocolate chip from the bag on the counter. 

Christen simply shook her head at Tobin’s words and her surreptitious chocolate stealing. 

“I’m sure Lisa would love a visit from you and your hypothetical sex-related injury,” Christen replied, scooping Scottie’s pancakes onto the plate on the counter.

“Your teammates would be very supportive, I’m sure,” Tobin grinned. 

“Mhm,” Christen hummed, turning the stove off. She turned and kissed Tobin quickly and then stepped out of her arms, picking up Scottie’s plate. “Sweetheart, breakfast,” she called out, walking the plate to the table. 

Scottie raced to the table, skidding across the floor in her sock feet. “Thank you, Momma,” Scottie murmured, smiling down at the ‘S’-shaped pancake on her plate. 

“You’re welcome,” Christen replied, kissing Scottie’s forehead. She returned to the kitchen and slipped her arms around Tobin’s waist. “Yours is the plate with the hearts,” Christen added softly, inclining her head in the direction of the plate of pancakes sitting on the counter. 

“You love me,” Tobin said softly, her heart hammering in her chest at just how right and perfect everything felt. 

“I do,” Christen whispered, placing a kiss on Tobin’s cheek. “Nothing says love like three wonky, heart-shaped pancakes.” 

“I agree,” Tobin replied, taking Christen’s hand in her own and placing it over her heart. 

“Momma, you make the best pancakes in the whole universe,” Scottie announced, breaking the tender moment. 

“She does,” Tobin agreed, reaching out and grabbing her plate from the counter. 

“We should serve these at the party,” Scottie continued, drowning her pancake in maple syrup before taking a big bite.

“What party are you throwing, dude?” Tobin laughed, grabbing Christen’s plate of pancakes and taking both plates to the table. 

“Well, I was talking with Coach Becky and Auntie Dunny before the game yesterday, and I told them about Momma being home with us all the time,” Scottie began, talking as she munched on the pancake. 

“Finish chewing, sweetheart,” Christen chuckled, settling beside Tobin at the table. 

Scottie nodded, finishing up her bite before offering Christen a sheepish smile. “Sorry, Momma. But anyways. I told them about how happy I am in here,” Scottie said, tapping her hand over her heart. “And we all decided that having a party to celebrate you living with us would be a good idea. So I invited everyone over!”

“When?” Tobin asked, grabbing onto Christen’s thigh and running a hand over her forehead, really hoping Scottie would say next week. 

“Umm…” Scottie trailed off, checking her right wrist as if she were wearing a watch. “Tomorrow at four. I promised pancakes and popsicles.”

Christen barked out a quick laugh and hid it behind a sip of coffee, feeling Tobin’s grip on her thigh tighten.

“I really thought I wouldn’t have to worry about you throwing house parties until you were a teenager,” Tobin snorted, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. 

“It’s only Coach Becky, Auntie Dunny, Coach Kelley, Auntie Moe Moe, Abbs, Glenny, Coach Amanda, Grandma and Grandpa, and...well I didn’t actually get around to inviting Gemma. But we can invite her if you want,” Scottie said, her shoulders dropping just a bit.

“We can invite Gemma if you want to,” Tobin said softly. 

Scottie looked to Christen, almost like Christen would have the answer for her.

“Are you ready for that?” Christen asked, reaching across the table and holding her hand, palm up, for Scottie. 

“Maybe,” Scottie answered, taking Christen’s hand. “I miss my best friend.”

“Then let’s invite her, sweetheart. And we’ll be here the whole time. If it gets too hard and that maybe turns into a no, you can,” Christen replied, running her thumb along the back of Scottie’s hand.

“I can do that,” Scottie nodded. “Plus, I’ll have all my family here, and that makes it easier.”

“Family always does,” Christen agreed softly.

“Dude, you shacked up!” Kelley greeted, holding out her arms and throwing them around Christen.

Christen accepted the hug with a laugh, rocking her best friend back and forth a bit on the front stoop. 

“Come on in, even though you’ve been here more than a few times,” Christen replied, hugging Becky and then Crystal who were also waiting on the stoop. 

“We brought wine and were promised popsicles,” Crystal laughed, linking her arm with Christen’s as they walked through the front door.

“You have more than just pancakes, though, right? Mama’s gotta eat,” Kelley smirked, leading the way up the stairs. 

“Momma is going to eat. Mommy made her favorite!” Scottie grinned, standing at the top of the stairs in another one of Christen’s Stanford t-shirts. She was quickly joined by the four women as they finished climbing up the stairs.

“Not that Momma, this Mama,” Kelley said with a wink. “That’s an awesome shirt, Mini Cardinal.”

“Kelley, you’re uninvited!” Tobin yelled from the kitchen. 

“You’re not a Mama,” Scottie giggled, bypassing Kelley and wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist. 

“She should still get some food though, right?” Christen asked, grinning down at Scottie.

“Yeah, she can have food,” Scottie agreed. 

“Where’s my hug at, cutie pie?” Crystal called out with a smile.

Scottie grinned and wrapped her arms around Crystal, squeezing her tightly. She made sure to hug Becky and Kelley too before running back to Tobin in the kitchen. 

“Okay, the office looks great,” Tobin’s mom announced when she and Jeff reached the bottom of the stairs. 

“I might start meditating,” Jeff chuckled. “Especially if I had a space like that.”

“Grandpa, you can’t be quiet for more than two minutes,” Scottie teased, squealing when Jeff reached for her. 

That made the soccer players all burst out laughing as they stood around the kitchen.

“We knew you were special, but you got our daughter to clean the messiest room in her house, so you’re officially magical in our books,” Cindy said, a playful lilt in her voice. 

“Hey, hey,” Tobin grumbled, sliding a plate of small bites that Scottie and Cindy had picked out at the grocery store onto the counter. 

Christen laughed and handed Cindy a glass of wine, clinking her glass against Cindy’s. 

“She and Scottie did it without me. They’ve got the magic all on their own,” Christen replied, shooting Tobin a wink across the kitchen. 

“Nope,” Scottie shook her head. “We’re magical with you.”

“My uterus can’t keep taking these hits,” Crystal mumbled to Becky, earning her a snort. 

The door buzzed for the third time, announcing more of Scottie’s guests. 

Scottie immediately stood up a little straighter. She hesitated, tapping her fingers along the counter. 

“Umm...Momma, will you get that?” Scottie asked, shooting Christen a slightly apprehensive look.

Christen left her wine glass on the counter and bent down to Scottie’s eye level. She reached up to smooth her thumb along the furrow in Scottie’s brow, the one that looked just like the furrow Tobin got whenever something caused her to feel anxious or worried or scared. 

“Are you sure you don’t want to get it?” Christen wondered quietly, keeping her voice soft so as to not be overheard by the other people in the kitchen talking amongst themselves.

“Will you come with me if I go?” Scottie asked, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. 

“You’re stuck with me, remember?” Christen replied with a small smile. She stood up and held out her hand. “Let’s go let your best friend join the party.”

Gemma’s dad was beet red and open-mouthed when they opened the door. 

“That’s- that’s Abby Wambach,” he muttered to Christen, making Glennon chuckle. 

“Abby, this is Gemma’s dad, Aaron. He’s a big soccer fan,” Christen grinned, keeping an arm around Scottie’s shoulders. “Do you all want to come inside and keep the introductions going? There are a few more players to meet.”

“It’s good to meet you, Aaron,” Abby grinned, walking into the house after Glennon and their three kids. 

“He gets tongue-tied,” Gemma said, tugging on her dad’s hand to get him to come inside. 

“Abby made me starstruck the first time I met her too,” Christen chuckled, her smile faltering a little bit when Scottie tucked her face against the front of her sweater.

“Good to know,” Aaron laughed. 

“Hey, Scottie,” Gemma said softly. 

Scottie blew out a long breath, turning her face slightly to face Gemma, her hand fisting in the back of Christen’s sweater.

“Hi,” Scottie whispered.

“I brought a new board game to play,” Gemma said, holding up her tote bag. 

“I’m sure Coach Kelley and Auntie Dunny would love to play with you,” Scottie replied, scuffing her shoe against the floor.

“I’ve been saving it for you and me to play, though. I haven’t even opened it,” Gemma replied with a hesitant smile. 

Scottie’s eyes brightened a little bit at that. She returned Gemma’s hesitant smile with one of her own, loosening her grip on Christen’s sweater.

“You want to play with me?” Scottie asked quietly.

“You can’t play a board game for the first time without your best friend. It’s the rules. I mean, other people can play too, but you definitely have to play,” Gemma grinned. “It’s a unicorn game.”

Scottie gasped and looked up at Christen, her hesitation gone from her face. “Can we go play it in my room, Momma?”

“Sure, sweetheart,” Christen hummed, the worry that had been lurking in the back of her mind dissipating at the sight of the smile on Scottie’s face.

“Can I be the blue unicorn?” Gemma asked, taking Scottie’s hand and leading her up the stairs ahead of Christen. 

“She’s missed Scottie a lot,” Aaron murmured, watching the girls walk up the stairs. 

“Scottie’s been busy helping me get all my stuff moved into the house,” Christen replied, leading Aaron up the stairs. “But she’s missed Gemma too.”

“I’m really happy for you guys,” Aaron said, his smile matching Gemma’s. 

“Thank are you ready to meet some of the Gotham players?” Christen asked with a laugh when they reached the top of the stairs.

“I’m gonna need a drink,” Aaron mumbled, reaching out and squeezing Christen’s shoulder. 

“We have plenty of that here,” Christen replied. She quickly looked past the kitchen at the stairs that led to the third floor. She saw Scottie and Gemma walking up those stairs together, their hands still clasped. When Scottie looked over her shoulder and smiled in Christen’s direction, Christen offered her girl a wink and a smile in return.

“Oh my god, that’s Crystal Dunn,” Aaron hissed. “I’m gonna need a few drinks.”

Chapter Text

Now I'm sinking in deep a sea of green eyes
Feel your lips on my cheek and taste the red wine
On you there's nothing that I'd rather do
Than lay here inside this room for two
And do what lovers do

And we'll brave out this storm together
Parting the clouds till it gets better

While we kiss under covers
Touch one another
Do what lovers do

(Tobin - "Lovers Do" by The Brummies)

Now I can't find the words to say
That'll be the perfect balance between loud and clear
And I can hear so well, your lovely voice inside my head
Saying you love me, oh

But I only think of you
Will we be together soon?
I'm thrown to the wayside
You're planted in my mind, alright

But I don't wanna be okay without you

(Christen - "I Don't Wanna Be Okay Without You" by Charlie Burg)


“What do you mean it was sent back?” Tobin hissed into the phone, flipping on the light to the closet in her studio and shutting herself inside to keep her voice from traveling. “Was it the wrong address or did Roni send it back?” 

“Hard to say, Heath. I’ll look into it,” Jerri sighed on the other end of the phone.

“I don’t want her to waste months of my time,” Tobin groaned, leaning her forehead against the wall. “There’s no way I can take her name off without her permission?” 

Jerri sighed again. “Unfortunately not. I’ll re-send the papers. Hopefully, it was just a mix-up and Roni will sign them.”

“Is there anything I can do other than wait and see?” Tobin asked softly, feeling her throat grow a little thick. 

“I wish there was. I’ll call you when I know something,” Jerri replied. 

“Thanks, Jer,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Take care, Heath.”

“I swear she isn’t down here!” Scottie yelled. 

Tobin hung up the phone and flinched at the sound of a small crash and Scottie’s quiet ‘oopsies.’ 

“Let’s check the roof, sweetheart,” Christen said. “And maybe don’t tell her about the painting we knocked over.”

“It’s not my favorite one, anyway,” Scottie said with a shrug. 

“I think it has a special something to it,” Christen hummed, steering Scottie back toward the stairs.

“Of course you think that,” Scottie giggled. “It’s supposed to be your eye color.”

Scottie’s and Christen’s voices disappeared up the stairs as they made their way back to the second floor, leaving Tobin alone once more. 

Tobin pushed the closet door open, turned off the light, and made her way to the painting that was now upside down on the easel. She narrowed her eyes at it, thinking about what was missing. It was easier to worry about a piece of art, something that could be scrapped or painted over or sold. 

It was harder to think of the month of radio silence she’d suffered through only to hear that the letter she and Jerri had composed to Roni had been returned, unopened. Tobin’s stomach felt tight, and her heart felt way too heavy for her chest. She knew it wouldn’t be easy to get official paperwork changed, but she hadn’t expected it to be so disheartening. 

It was worse now that Scottie knew, now that she asked when Christen was out of earshot. And seeing Christen loving and caring for Scottie just made the ache in her chest throb even worse. Because Christen and Scottie deserved official, and Tobin wanted to give that to them more than anything in the world. 

“Maybe she went on a walk,” Scottie said, her voice carrying down the stairs from the kitchen. 

“Why don’t you go check the bedrooms again,” Christen replied.

“I’ll check under the bed this time!” Scottie teased, racing upstairs. 

A few moments later, Christen’s footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs into the studio.

“You were in the closet, weren’t you?” Christen asked with a small, worried smile, moving across the studio and over to where Tobin stood.

“Long enough to hear that Scottie thinks this one needs work,” Tobin joked, trying to ease Christen’s worry with a smile. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Christen replied, her eyes searching Tobin’s face for an answer to her worry.

“No,” Tobin shook her head softly. 

“Okay. I’m here if you ever do,” Christen hummed, kissing Tobin’s cheek before stepping back. “I found her!” Christen yelled in the direction of the stairs. 

“I love you,” Tobin murmured, reaching out and tangling her fingers with Christen’s. 

“I love you too,” Christen whispered, squeezing Tobin’s hand with her own.

“Don’t worry,” Tobin added, pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips. 

“I’m going to until you stop walking around here with a heaviness on your shoulders,” Christen replied.

“Me? Heaviness?” Tobin scoffed. “No way. I’m just a little stressed with some work.”

Christen narrowed her eyes, hearing the lie in Tobin’s words. But instead of pushing, she kissed Tobin softly and decided to drop it. She knew it was something big. Tobin Heath didn’t let small things weigh her down for long, especially not for an entire month. 

She’d been watching Tobin shuffle around the house with the weight of the world on her shoulders for the past four weeks. And now it was well into September, nearly October, and the weight wasn’t going anywhere. 

But Christen didn’t push. She knew Tobin would talk to her at some point. She could be patient. She had some other things on her mind anyway.

“I’m here when you’re ready,” Christen offered.

“I know you are,” Tobin mumbled, hoping that she wouldn’t have to wait much longer to tell Christen what was going on, hoping that she could ask her to marry her soon. 

“Mommy, it’s like you were playing hide and seek without telling us!” Scottie laughed, joining Tobin and Christen in the studio and taking both of their hands in her own. “Momma and I wanted to ask if you want to stop working and watch a movie with us.”

“I’d love to watch a movie with my girls,” Tobin replied, letting a smile take over her face. “It’s a good day for a cuddle puddle too.”

“Brian, Press,” Amanda called out, poking her head into the locker room. “My office.”

Christen’s laughter died in her throat at the serious look on Amanda’s face and the tightness in her voice. She shared a quick look with Crystal and Becky and then got to her feet, leaving her teammates in a post-training high in the locker room as she and Morgan made their way to Amanda’s office. 

“It definitely feels like we’re in trouble this time,” Morgan joked weakly, settling into the chair next to Christen.

“I wouldn’t call it trouble,” Amanda sighed, pulling her chair out from behind her desk and sitting so that there wasn’t anything between them. 

“Who wants us?” Christen asked softly, her hands tightly clasped in her lap. She could see it written all across Amanda’s face. She could see the devastation and the desire to be anywhere but in this office. She could see it and it chased away every single bit of happiness she’d been feeling up until this very moment.

“ACFC wants both of you,” Amanda answered without any hesitation or filler words. “They’re offering us a large amount of allocation money and the first-round draft pick.”

Christen swallowed thickly and looked away from Amanda, her eyes locked on the NWSL Challenge Cup trophy sitting in the glass case, the one she’d helped her team win last season.

“They’d pay you both a lot more than you get here if I’m being honest,” Amanda murmured, her voice sounding hoarse and slightly dejected. 

“Is it a done deal?” Morgan asked with a furrowed brow.

“No, that’s why I asked you both to come to my office,” Amanda replied. “It isn’t just my decision. If it were, I would’ve told ACFC to fuck off and enjoy their draft pick. I’m willing to say that and to tell the administration that it’s smartest to keep you both here. But I want you both to have the chance to decide for yourselves.”

“And if we say no?” Christen wondered, moving her eyes back to Amanda.

“Then, I’ll talk to the suits upstairs and fight like hell to keep you. I’ve already got a couple of them on my side,” Amanda answered, shooting a sympathetic look at Christen. 

Morgan nodded and got to her feet. “I’ll do whatever is best for the club, Coach.”

“Talk to your families. Do what’s best for you too,” Amanda said, nodding at Morgan. 

When Christen made no move to get up, Morgan squeezed her shoulder and left the office.

“The suits don’t like me, Coach. They never have. So...what am I looking at here?” Christen asked, swallowing thickly as her hands tightened into fists in her lap.

“Honestly, it’s happening at a good time. A few of the old geezers are retiring or moving on. We’ve got a couple new, younger faces upstairs. Three of them are big fans and think keeping you is our best shot at back-to-back Challenge Cup titles. Best case scenario, we win out this season, and I can try to get you a long contract, one where you don’t have to worry about this again,” Amanda said, being as positive but truthful as she could. 

Christen nodded, hearing the positivity in Amanda’s voice but not letting herself buy it just yet. 

“I...can I be frank?” Christen replied.

“Of course,” Amanda nodded. 

“If they try to trade me, this will be my last season with Gotham and my last season on the pitch. I won’t move my family from here, and I won’t go anywhere without them,” Christen said quietly, surprising herself a little at how sure she sounded about this, despite never having truly considered it until this moment.

“Then I better start hounding people upstairs,” Amanda said, her eyes narrowed and her tone serious. 

“I’d appreciate that because I’m nowhere near done,” Christen replied with a tense smile.

“You’re one of the players I’ve enjoyed watching grow the most,” Amanda murmured. “And I don’t think I’m finished watching the rest of your career.”

With a tight nod, Christen got up from the chair, a pit forming in her stomach as she walked out of the office, down the familiar halls that no longer felt safe.

“Let’s go, buddy!” Tobin yelled, watching Scottie hold her arms out and zoom around the field after scoring her second goal. 

Tobin couldn’t sit down. She’d brought two folding chairs, but all she could do was pace in front of them, fist-pumping when Scottie did something creative with the ball, sent a good pass to a teammate, or took a shot on goal. Pretty much any time Scottie got a touch on the ball, Tobin was focusing on Scottie or cheering or biting her tongue and not telling the ref that the other team was committing fouls. 

“How’s she doing?” Christen asked, breathless from her run from the parking lot. After the conversation with Amanda and feeling like bad news was right around the corner, Amanda has allowed her to leave the weight lifting session early to make the second half of the game. 

“Team’s up two to zero, and she’s scored both the goals,” Tobin grinned, turning away from the field to press a kiss to Christen’s lips. 

Christen felt a genuine smile make its way onto her face as she dropped down into the folding chair, watching as Scottie ran around on the field.

“That’s our girl,” Christen hummed, feeling her heart ache a little at the prospect of not getting to see these games if she got traded, of not playing any longer if she quit. 

Scottie stripped the ball from a midfielder on the opposite team and started dribbling down the field, dodging and weaving faster than all the other girls. 

“She plays like you,” Christen pointed out with a small, half-smile.

“She scores like you,” Tobin mumbled, keeping her eyes on Scottie as she crossed the ball to a teammate and assisted her goal. “What a ball!” Tobin yelled, getting a shaka sign from Scottie. 

“Tobin,” Christen said softly, reaching out to pull Tobin down into the folding chair by her side as the teams walked back to their positions for kick-off.

“Sorry, I’m way too invested,” Tobin chuckled, trying to take a deep breath and release the excitement and nerves that she felt for Scottie. 

“No, you’re perfect,” Christen replied with a tight smile. She tangled their fingers together and let out a short breath.

“What’s wrong? Rough practice?” Tobin asked, turning to look at Christen. 

“Yes and no. I- ACFC is leveraging a trade and I don’t know- I know this isn’t the time but I’m freaking out a little bit.”

Tobin leaned forward in her chair and stared down at her sneakers, her stomach suddenly sinking and blood thrumming in her ears. She kept her hand in Christen’s, running her thumb along Christen’s hand as she searched for any words that she could say. 

“I’m sorry,” Christen whispered, her throat getting thick.

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Tobin said, her voice completely serious. 

“She’s on the ball, babe,” Christen murmured, squeezing Tobin’s hand. 

Tobin glanced up to see Scottie nutmeg someone on the other team before passing to a teammate. 

“It’s not a bad place to be traded to,” Tobin said softly. “You have family there.”

“I have my family here. So I’ll play for Gotham or I’ll be done,” Christen replied.

“Absolutely not,” Tobin replied with a scoff. 

“We can talk about it as a family, but I won’t uproot our dau- I won’t uproot Scottie’s life like that,” Christen whispered, her eyes following Scottie as she ran around on the field.

“She won’t want you to quit because of her,” Tobin said, keeping her eyes trained on Scottie. “There are schools in L.A. and soccer clubs and anything else she’ll want to do.”

Just then, the referee blew the whistle, signaling the end of the game. Christen stood up, gently pulling Tobin to her feet as well.

“Momma, you made it!” Scottie shouted, sprinting across the field and wrapping her arms around Christen as soon as she reached her. 

“I told you I wasn’t going to miss it,” Christen hummed softly, hugging Scottie tightly, maybe tighter than she ever had before.

“Did you see my assist?” Scottie asked. 

“And your goal,” Christen replied.

“You played a great game, little bit,” Tobin murmured, running a hand over Scottie’s ponytail. 

“Great enough to get ice cream?” Scottie asked, looking between Tobin and Christen with a lopsided smile. 

“You’re always great enough to get ice cream,” Tobin said, trying to force a bright smile onto her face. 

Scottie licked the melting scoop of Peanut Butter Marshmallow Crunch and narrowed her eyes, looking between the tense frame of Tobin in the driver’s seat and Christen, withdrawn and fidgeting in the passenger’s seat. 

“Am I in trouble?” Scottie asked, trying to figure out why there was tension in the car.

“No, buddy,” Tobin answered, shooting a smile back to Scottie through the rearview mirror. 

“Are we getting a puppy?”

“Not until you’re twelve,” Christen replied automatically, looking out the window and scratching at the corner of her jaw.

“Are we moving?” Scottie asked, naming the last question she asked any time she could tell the adults in her life were keeping something from her. 

It was quiet for a moment, where neither Tobin nor Christen spoke. And then Christen cleared her throat and turned around in her seat to look at Scottie. 

“No. We’re not,” Christen said softly.

“Don’t say that,” Tobin mumbled, gripping the steering wheel hard enough to turn her knuckles white. Christen turned and shot Tobin a hard look.

“I’m confuzzled,” Scottie said, her brows scrunching together. 

“We can talk about it later, Scottie,” Tobin replied, her voice tight and her eyes glued to the road. 

“But-” Scottie protested. “But I want to understand now. Are we moving?”

Christen took in the worried look in Scottie’s gray eyes and felt her heart tighten in her chest.

“We aren’t sure yet, buddy,” Tobin answered, trying to think of the best way to avoid answering questions she didn’t have answers to. 

“Pull the car over,” Christen said softly. 

“We’re in Kenilworth,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Please,” Christen replied, reaching out to put a hand on Tobin’s shoulder.

Tobin turned her blinker on and got off the Garden State Parkway, parking on the curb across from a golf course. 

Christen unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car. She moved around the front of it and then climbed into the backseat, settling next to Scottie. 

“ you remember the promise I made to you last year? The night your Grandma talked about me leaving Gotham,” Christen began, holding out her hand for Scottie to take. She could feel Tobin boring holes into the side of her head, but she just looked at Scottie, her throat growing thick with emotion.

Scottie’s eyes immediately widened and grew teary. She understood the seriousness behind Christen’s words. She could hear the way Christen’s voice was tight, the way she spoke slowly and thoughtfully. She could see Tobin too. Scottie could tell that her mom was upset, that something was wrong. 

“Where are we going? Where do they want you?” Scottie asked. 

“Amanda’s going to do everything she can. They- they want me in L.A. but I don’t want to go,” Christen replied.

“Why not?” Scottie asked, her voice wobbly and her hands holding onto Christen’s. “Your sisters are there.”

“But you’re here . Tobin’s here. My life is here and that’s more important to me than a game,” Christen said softly, her own eyes starting to burn.

Tobin pushed her car door open and closed it behind her, leaning against the side of the car and staring up at the sky, willing the frustration to stop simmering in her stomach. 

She knew she was getting irrationally frustrated. She knew she was working herself up for no reason because this was Christen who wanted to put their family first, Christen who’d chosen them, Christen who was in this , Christen who loved them. 

But Christen had also made up her mind without even talking to them. She’d chosen what she thought was best and had come home to tell Tobin that she’d made a decision. At least, that was what it felt like. 

And all Tobin could think about was the possibility that Christen might grow to resent them, that if Christen quit just to stay in New York, just to keep them comfortable, she’d resent them. And Tobin didn’t want another person resenting Scottie like Roni had grown to resent her. 

Christen let out a sigh at the lingering sound of the car door slamming in the air around her and Scottie. She shook her head and refocused on the girl sitting in the car with her, blinking away the burn of tears.

“I promised you that we would talk about it as a family and I’d like to talk about it. Even if I don’t want to go, I want to know what you think,” Christen managed to say.

“Mommy told me that sometimes players don’t get a say in where they go,” Scottie said quietly. 

“Amanda’s going to try really hard to give me a say. And...if Amanda can’t do that, I don’t know if I will keep playing. Not if it would take me away from you,” Christen replied, her voice a little wobbly.

“I’d just go to L.A.,” Scottie said matter-of-factly. “We could live in Palos Verdes, and Gemma could come visit in the summer. Maybe Grandma and Grandpa would come for Christmas.”

Christen blew out a shaky breath and let her chin fall to her chest, feeling the threat of tears become almost too much to bear. Tobin was outside fuming, Scottie was inside being thoughtful and reasonable, and she felt like she was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t.

“Should I not have said that?” Scottie asked. “Is Mommy mad because she doesn’t want to live in L.A.?” 

Christen looked up at Scottie with tears pooled in her eyes. “You said the right thing, sweetheart. You always do.”

“Why don’t you want to go to L.A.?” Scottie asked, reaching up to catch a tear that slipped from Christen’s eye. 

“Because we have a universe of love right here. In the wall mural and written on the doorframe of the office upstairs,” Christen whispered.

“Universes move,” Scottie shrugged. “And Mommy said we could take the wall with us. She said she’d take our mural with us if we ever moved. Plus, you and Mommy are my universe of love, not the wall.”

Christen leaned forward and pressed a shaky kiss to Scottie’s forehead. “You’re right. It doesn’t matter where we are, as long as we’re together,” Christen replied, leaning back and shooting Scottie a watery smile. “I just didn’t want you to have to leave your friends or the city or your grandparents.”

“That would be hard, but I can do that. We’d get Auntie Channy and Auntie Tyler. I can make more friends, I guess,” Scottie said, wiping at her own cheek. 

Christen pulled the handkerchief from her pocket and used it to swipe at the tear stains on Scottie’s cheeks.

“So if it happens, you’d rather go to L.A. than…well, stay here and have me home a lot more often?”

“I want you to play and be happy,” Scottie answered. 

“Okay. One Heath down, one to go,” Christen said with a sigh, dropping another kiss to Scottie’s forehead.

Scottie glanced out the window at Tobin, looking at the way her mom’s arms were crossed over her chest and her face was pointed upward. 

“She’s sad,” Scottie murmured. 

“I’m going to go figure out why. Are you good to sit here, sweetheart? Car’s still running. I can put on Frozen ,” Christen replied.

“Sure,” Scottie shrugged, unlacing her cleats as Christen started playing the Frozen soundtrack on her phone. 

Christen offered Scottie one last smile before scooting across the backseat and opening the car door. She got out and gently shut the door, the sound contrasting the slam of Tobin’s door minutes earlier.

Christen leaned against the car next to Tobin, their shoulders brushing slightly as she looked down at the concrete underfoot. She worried her bottom lip as she tried to figure out how to broach this, how to apologize for something she wasn’t entirely sorry for. 

She’d been thinking of Scottie and Tobin and their family. So of course she’d been ready to quit, to put their family above a game. After talking to Scottie, she realized maybe she didn’t have to, but she still had to figure out why Tobin seemed tense and upset at the prospect of her quitting rather than moving to L.A.

“You two are more important than the game,” Christen said quietly.

“I get that,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Then why does it feel like you’re mad at me for feeling that way?” Christen asked, looking up from the ground and over at Tobin, her forehead furrowing at the tightness she could see in Tobin’s jaw. 

“You made up your mind before hearing how we’d respond to it,” Tobin said softly, swallowing down the thickness in her throat. 

“Of course I did. But I haven't made any decisions yet. I was ready to do whatever I needed to for us...but not without talking to the two of you first,” Christen replied.

“You’re thirty,” Tobin said, her jaw still clenched and her eyes still glued to the sky above the golf course. 

“Yup, all year,” Christen murmured, turning to face Tobin, leaning a hip against the car.

“What happens if you quit just to keep us here, and then you’re forty and Scottie’s off at college and you think about the years that you could’ve been playing, the years you gave up? I won’t- I don’t want you to resent us. That’s not fair. It’s not fair for you or for her,” Tobin whispered, her voice hoarse and cracking. 

“What about you? What’s fair for you, Tobin?” Christen asked, keeping her voice soft as she gazed over at Tobin, as she watched the way Tobin seemed to slump against the side of the car.

Tobin let her head tilt forward, pulling her eyes away from the sky and letting the deluge of tears that had been sitting in her eyes spill over the sides. 

“Oh, babe,” Christen whispered, immediately moving to take Tobin in her arms, pulling Tobin close and tucking Tobin’s head into the crook of her neck. She ran her hands up and down Tobin’s back soothingly.

“You can’t quit for us because you resenting us would kill me,” Tobin croaked out against the side of Christen’s neck. 

“I would never resent you. Either of you,” Christen assured softly, holding Tobin close. “I never could because even if I do quit, which I don’t know if I will, walking away from the game wouldn’t be giving it up. Choosing you two doesn’t mean I would give anything up.”

“You don’t need to walk away from anything,” Tobin breathed out. 

“I know. Scottie made me realize that,” Christen replied, ghosting her lips across Tobin’s head. “She said she’d make L.A. work.”

“She loves the beach,” Tobin replied, letting out a long, shaky breath. 

“She does. And I- I love you, and I could never resent you or her. Ever,” Christen promised.

“I love you, and I’ll love you no matter where we live,” Tobin whispered. 

“Amanda’s going to fight like hell to keep me,” Christen replied.

“I’m glad because I don’t know how to get that wall mural down,” Tobin chuckled, wiping at her eyes while still keeping her body pressed to Christen’s. 

Christen hiccuped out a laugh and held Tobin close. “I hope I didn’t ruin her first competitive game with this whole L.A. thing. You were really into it before I burst your excited parent bubble.”

“I wouldn’t have wanted you to hold it in. I always want to know if something like that happens,” Tobin murmured, pressing a kiss to Christen’s neck. She stepped back, keeping a hand on Christen’s hip but leaning away enough to pull on the back door of the car. “You okay, buddy?” 

“INTO THE UNKNOWN!” Scottie yelled, singing along to the song coming from Christen’s phone.

“I don’t think you ruined anything,” Tobin hummed, shutting the door and wrapping her arms more fully around Christen. 

Christen sank into the embrace, leaning her forehead against Tobin’s. “I think I went into Mama Bear mode. I was ready to go scorched earth to keep Scottie happy and safe and in the place she considers home.”

“Mama Bear mode is dangerous,” Tobin laughed, thinking of all the things she’d done when she’d been overprotective and worried about Scottie. “Thank you for wanting to keep us happy and together and here. We just want you. We can figure out the rest.”

“Let’s just hope Amanda did the hard work for us and figured it out,” Christen sighed, gripping onto Tobin’s hips.

“Hi,” Tobin whispered, running her hands up and down Christen’s back. 

“Hi works,” Christen replied with the ghost of a smile.

“Do you want to go home? I’d really like to just cuddle in bed with you and with Scottie,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Let’s go home,” Christen agreed, hoping beyond hope that it would continue to be their home, that Amanda had worked a bit of magic.

“Does it rain in California?” Scottie asked from inside her egg chair that she’d moved down into the living room. 

“Not often,” Christen replied, pulling off her raincoat and hanging it on the hook. She shivered and pulled her wet hair into a loose bun. “Not as much as it does here.”

“Do you miss it?” Scottie asked, spinning in a slow circle. 

“Sometimes,” Christen said with a sad smile, dropping onto the couch close to the egg chair. “I did a lot at first. But this is home now, so I don’t miss it that much anymore.”

“What do you like about New York?” Scottie continued her list of questions. 

“What do I like now or when I first got here? Those are different answers,” Christen chuckled, pulling the blanket around her shoulders and fighting off another shiver. 

“Both,” Scottie hummed, stopping her spin to look at Christen. 

“At first I liked that I was just one of a million people here. I could get lost. I could be anything and nobody would care,” Christen replied honestly. “But now I like the bike rides we take through Central Park. I like going to Gio’s every Saturday night. I like the first snow of the year and the snowwomen we make on the roof. I like that I’m no longer lost. I like New York City a lot because you’re in it.”

Scottie got up from her chair and hopped onto the couch, wrapping her arms around Christen and sinking into her side. 

“I love all of that too,” she mumbled into Christen’s sweater. 

“But do you want to know what I love the most?” Christen asked.

“What’s that?” Scottie asked, looking up at Christen. 

Christen grinned and tickled Scottie’s sides, making the girl shriek and giggle, the happy sounds echoing off the walls. 

“Tickle sneak attacks. Those are what I love the most,” Christen laughed.

“I’m gonna pee,” Scottie screamed, her entire body shaking from laughter. 

“Real or fake?” Christen asked with a chuckle, momentarily pausing her tickles.

Scottie bit her bottom lip, not wanting to lie. A sheepish smile spread across her face as she shook her head and mumbled, “Fake.”

“Should’ve lied,” Christen grinned, tickling Scottie once more, sinking into the giddiness and elation of the moment, knowing that the training later this evening held the answer from Amanda that she’d been waiting for all week.

“Honesty’s the best policy,” Scottie shrieked, sucking in deep breaths of air. 

“Is your Momma trying to get you to lie?” Tobin asked, laughing at the sight she was met with when she reached the bottom of the stairs, her hair still wet from a shower. 

“No!” Christen called out, dodging Scottie’s attempts at getting her back and making the tickle fight more even. 

Tobin reached over the back of the couch and ran her fingers up Christen’s sides with just enough pressure to make Christen start laughing. 

“No fair! You two can’t gang up on me!” Christen protested, gently tossing Scottie a few couch cushions away from her and playfully glaring up at Tobin. 

“I love you,” Tobin smirked, leaning down, pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips, and intertwining her hands with Christen’s. 

“I love you too,” Christen softened, chasing Tobin’s lips, completely unaware that Scottie was getting closer, ready to pounce.

“I love you three!” Scottie added, tickling Christen’s sides while Tobin held Christen’s hands against the top of the couch. 

The house filled with laughter once more, the sound ushering in a sense of happiness that felt untouchable. 

Well, almost.

Christen hung her purse in her locker and started to get ready for training. She lost herself in the routine of it all, unable to wonder if this was going to be one of the last times she would get to do so.

“You heard anything?” Morgan asked quietly, stopping next to Christen’s locker. 

“Nothing. Amanda said tonight by the latest, so,” Christen replied, shooting Morgan a tight smile.

“I umm...I heard that if ACFC gets us they want us there by next week,” Morgan worried aloud. 

Christen gritted her teeth. She hated the way trades worked in this league sometimes, especially with the quick nature and the quick turnaround. It was already the first week of October. Scottie was well into her fifth-grade year and the last thing Christen wanted to do was take her out and make her transfer to a new school two months into the year. 

“Yeah,” Christen managed, pulling on her cleats.

“Oh, cute. Did Scottie sneak you some art?” Morgan asked, pointing at the front pocket of Christen’s bag where a piece of construction paper was poking out of the bag. 

Christen’s brow furrowed and she turned to look at her purse. “I guess so,” Christen murmured, pulling the folded paper from her purse and opening it up. 

The construction paper was happy yellow. Scottie had drawn a line across the page in Sharpie. She’d drawn a cartoonish, colorful New York skyline at the top of the page. It included full, green trees and shiny skyscrapers. 

Tobin had clearly helped, drawing them in doodle form. One cartoon was of Christen and Scottie building a snowman. Another showed the three of them eating tiramisu in Gio’s. And the third showed all of them on bikes.

On the lower half of the construction paper, Scottie had drawn a beach, clearly representing L.A. There were palm trees and waves and seagulls. 

Tobin had drawn doodles there too. 

One doodle was of the three of them biking and longboarding on a boardwalk. Another was of the three of them building a sandcastle at the beach. The third was of them eating sushi. Scottie’s doodled face looked a little hesitant as Tobin’s doodle held a piece of sushi up to her mouth. 

In the middle of the construction paper, Scottie had written “Home is where we’re together,” in Scottie’s wobbly handwriting. 

Christen felt tears blur her vision as she looked down at the drawing, at the way Scottie and Tobin had captured her favorite things about New York on top, and the possibilities of favorite things in L.A.

She abruptly got to her feet, brushing by Crystal and Becky who called out after her. She marched through the hallways, in her untied cleats, training uniform, and Scottie’s drawing in her hand.

She walked by Bobbie and the staff and pushed into Amanda’s office, catching her coach by surprise.

“Christen?” Amanda asked, quickly reaching for a box of tissues. 

“I’m going to be frank again, and I’d like the chance to be so,” Christen said, blinking away the tears in her eyes and waving off the tissues.

“Of course,” Amanda nodded. 

“I understand that you might not have been able to keep me here. I understand, and I would accept it if you weren’t able to because my family is proving to be even more extraordinary than I ever could have expected them to be.”


Christen continued, not letting Amanda interrupt her. “But I need to be extraordinary for them too. I can’t pull my- I can’t pull Scottie out of school nearly two months into the year. I can’t make Tobin leave when she’s got a gallery exhibit next month. I can’t be ready to go in a week. I thought I could be. I thought I would be after Tobin and Scottie told me how supportive they’d be if you traded me.”

“Press,” Amanda tried again, lowering the tissue box to her desk. 

Christen continued right on rambling, the drawing clutched in her shaking hand. “I’m not ready, Coach. I- I have plans, you know? Plans I haven’t told anybody about. I have a very important lunch scheduled with Tobin’s parents next month and reservations at a bed and breakfast upstate for the end of the season. I have a- I have a Scottie who I need to always put first. Tobin has called her my daughter, but I don’t feel like I can use that word yet because I haven’t asked Tobin to-”

“Press, sit down,” Amanda said a little louder this time. 

Christen’s words died on her tongue at the commanding bite to Amanda’s words. She immediately clenched her jaw and dropped into the chair.

“Take a deep breath,” Amanda said softly. 

“I didn’t mean to explode. I usually try to channel,” Christen mumbled, taking a tissue from the box on the desk.

“I understand why you exploded. You have a lot to think about. It isn’t just you who gets traded, so it’s a good thing you’re not being traded,” Amanda replied. 

Christen blinked and let out a long breath. “Can you- I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

“I just got off the phone with the last holdout. Everyone agrees that you’re too valuable to trade. You’re a great player, and maybe more importantly, you’re an amazing captain. You’ve become a face of this team, and we can’t trade you,” Amanda repeated, taking the seat beside Christen. 

“I’m staying?” Christen asked, a hesitant, half-smile on her face.

“I was actually on the phone talking about contracts that we could write up for you. If you’re interested in a contract that’s longer than three years, I think the administration would like to offer you one,” Amanda said gently. 

Christen’s half-smile grew into an elated, beaming grin. “I- I don’t know what to say. Other than...I’ll talk to my family and get back to you on that.”

“I’ll see you on the field,” Amanda chuckled. “If I were you, I’d call my daughter and my girlfriend and let them know before practice.”

Christen’s heart fluttered as she immediately got to her feet. “Thanks, Coach. I appreciate this more than you could ever know.”

“All I did was voice an opinion. It’s your playing and your leadership that’s keeping you here,” Amanda said, waving away any thanks. 

“You were my voice when I needed you to be. So you deserve the thanks,” Christen replied. “I’ll see you at training.”

With that, Christen left the office and hurried back into the locker room, grabbing her phone and ignoring the questioning looks from her teammates. She walked outside of the stadium and leaned against the wall, dialing Tobin’s number quickly and putting the phone to her ear. And all the while, she looked at the drawing in her hand and felt tears of relief fall down her cheeks.

“You okay?” Tobin asked as soon as she answered. 

“Is Scottie there?” Christen replied, her voice hoarse and thick with tears.

“Let me get her,” Tobin hummed, climbing the stairs up to Scottie’s room, two at a time. She knocked on Scottie’s door before pushing it open, sinking down onto the floor next to Scottie. “You’re on speaker.”

“Are you two sitting down?” Christen asked.

“Yes,” Scottie answered. 

“Sweetheart, can you tell me one thing you really love about living in New York City?” Christen said, a giddy smile making its way onto her face.

“Um...getting our corner table at Gio’s every week,” Scottie said, voicing the first thing that came to mind. 

“How would you like to get that corner table, every week, for at least the next three years?” Christen replied, a wobbly huff of air escaping her lips.

“No trade?” Tobin asked, letting out a long breath that she hadn’t realized she was holding. 

“I’m not going anywhere. None of us are,” Christen murmured.

“We don’t have to move the wall to California?” Scottie asked, her voice taking on a surprised but happy tone. 

Christen felt the corner of her mouth lift into a half-smile. “No, sweetheart. No we don’t. The wall stays, and so do we.”

“I thought Amanda wasn’t gonna tell you until after practice,” Tobin said, relief bubbling up in her chest and escaping in a tiny laugh. 

“I...I kind of ambushed her and didn’t give her that option. Once I found the drawing you two made me, I had to know,” Christen admitted with a sheepish chuckle.

“Do you like the picture?” Scottie asked, leaning into Tobin’s side. 

“I love it,” Christen replied, running her thumb along the yellow construction paper. 

“I really love Palos Verdes, but I’m glad we’re staying home,” Scottie said softly. 

“Me too, sweetheart,” Christen breathed out.

“Me three,” Tobin whispered. 

“And now Gemma and I get to do the science fair together,” Scottie added, pressing her smile into Tobin’s shirt. 

Christen smiled as well, thinking about all that she’d get to do now that they weren’t going anywhere, thinking about the plan she’d mentioned to Amanda that she’d been quietly working on since June.

“I’ll see you both at home when I’m finished with training, okay?” Christen murmured.

“We’ll be here, Momma,” Scottie chirped, her smile spreading even wider across her face. 

“We’ll make something really good for dinner,” Tobin added, running a hand over Scottie’s hair. 

“I love you two,” Christen hummed.

“We love you,” Scottie and Tobin both answered at the same time. 

“And you’re certain that this is the address Roni gave you?” Jerri asked, sounding completely exhausted.

“She sent Scottie a birthday card with that return address on it,” Tobin replied, pressing her knuckles into her forehead. “And when I texted her three months ago about an address, she gave me that same one.”

“Huh,” Jerri hummed into the phone.

“So, she’s returning it. It isn’t the mail,” Tobin said, pressing her hand even harder against her head. 

“Looks that way, Heath. I’m sorry,” Jerri replied.

“What do I do?” Tobin asked, a lump rising in her throat. 

“Legally? You could go to court and prove that Roni abandoned Scottie. But that could get ugly. You might end up in that custody battle you’ve been trying to avoid. In my personal opinion, since she has to willfully give up her parental rights, you need to ask her to do that. Yourself, not in an email or on paper,” Jerri said, her voice a mix of caring and professional.

“How the hell do I ask her to do that?” Tobin asked, speaking now to her friend more than her lawyer. 

“You tell her that Scottie has a Momma who’s ready to be there for her in the way Roni never could be. You need to get Roni to understand that she no longer deserves to be listed as Scottie’s parent,” Jerri said softly.

“Do you remember Roni?” Tobin scoffed, feeling her head start to throb. 

“Tragically,” Jerri sighed. “But there has to be a heart somewhere deep, deep underneath her cold, bitter exterior. Appeal to that or we go to court.”

“I’ll call her,” Tobin grumbled. “Thanks for your help.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.”

“No, you’ve done a lot. It’s...Roni was never gonna make this easy,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Heath, you could explore other options. You could leave Roni listed and still move forward with your family,” Jerri offered.

“They deserve more than that,” Tobin said softly. “I don’t want them to settle because I made the wrong choice in a first wife.”

“Then I suggest you make that call...and congrats on making the right choice this go-round. I’m happy for you,” Jerri replied, her smile evident in her voice.

“Thanks, Jer,” Tobin breathed out. She pulled the phone away from her face and hung up, drumming her fingers against her leg as she thought about what exactly she’d say to Roni on the phone, about how she’d appeal to Roni’s heart. 

“It’s late, Mommy,” Scottie mumbled, rubbing her eye and climbing onto the couch by Tobin’s side.

“Why are you awake, little bit?” Tobin asked, lifting her arm up to let Scottie curl up and rest her head in her lap. 

Scottie tapped her forehead. “Busy brain. It won’t slow down.”

“What’s going on in your busy brain?” Tobin hummed, brushing baby hairs away from Scottie’s forehead. 

“Lotsa stuff. Gemma, Momma, soccer, science fair project.”

“You’ve got tons going on, buddy,” Tobin sighed, putting on a smile as she looked down at Scottie. 

Scottie lifted a hand and put it on Tobin’s cheek. “So do you, Mommy.”

“I’m okay,” Tobin murmured. 

“You should talk to Momma. I know she’s worried about you. She pretends like she isn’t, but she is,” Scottie replied softly.

“I’ll talk to your Momma once I’ve got things a little more figured out,” Tobin said quietly. 

“Oh, it’s officially official stuff. You could talk to me if you want. I’m a great listener,” Scottie murmured with a sleepy smile.

“You remember how I told you that official stuff sometimes takes a long time?” Tobin asked. 

“A test of my patience,” Scottie nodded.

“Well, I’m starting to realize that I’m gonna have to be more patient than I planned. And sometimes I just wish I could snap my fingers and make official things happen,” Tobin admitted. 

“Hmm…” Scottie trailed off, tapping the tip of her nose. And then her face brightened and she sat up, getting on her knees next to Tobin on the couch. She grinned and snapped her fingers. “That snap was for us to be patient.” Scottie snapped her fingers again, her smile growing. “And that snap was to make Momma officially ours in our hearts, which is enough for now.”

“Why don’t we go upstairs and join your Momma in bed,” Tobin suggested, her heart suddenly aching to be in Christen’s arms. 

Scottie snapped her fingers again and waggled her brows at Tobin. “That snap was for you to carry me upstairs please.”

“Nice try, dude,” Tobin laughed, taking Scottie’s hand and leading her up the stairs. 

“Popsicles,” Scotti sighed under her breath, trudging up the stairs by Tobin’s side.

Before they reached the last step, Tobin scooped Scottie off of her feet, succumbing to the thoughts of Scottie getting older and not wanting her to pick her up anymore. She carried her down the hall over her shoulder and pushed her bedroom door open. 

Christen was already curled up under the covers, her breath coming out in soft puffs and her hands reaching across the bed, holding onto Tobin’s pillow. 

“You gotta be quiet,” Tobin whispered, lowering Scottie onto the floor. 

“I’m the quietest,” Scottie whispered back, not as quietly as she should have. Scottie tiptoed over to the bed and slipped beneath the covers, curling up against Christen. She poked her nose against Christen’s gently to wake her up. “Momma,” Scottie whispered.

Christen’s forehead wrinkled as she blinked, a soft groan leaving her lips at having been woken up.

“Scottie Katherine,” Tobin chastised at a whisper. 

“Momma, I got her. I made sure she wasn’t sad downstairs by herself,” Scottie murmured.

That had Christen opening her eyes fully, coming out of her fitful slumber. She threw her arm around Scottie and kissed Scottie’s forehead.

“That’s my girl,” Christen mumbled, her voice thick with sleep.

“Are you sending our girl downstairs to bring me up to bed?” Tobin asked, walking around the bed and leaning over Christen. 

“She won rock, paper, scissors. So she got to get you tonight,” Christen hummed, offering Tobin a tired smile.

Tobin leaned closer and pressed a kiss to Christen’s lips. 

“Sorry I got held up,” she murmured. 

“It’s okay. Come to bed, my love,” Christen replied, holding Scottie close.

Tobin slipped off her robe and crawled into bed on Scottie’s other side. She put an arm over Scottie, her hand landing on Christen’s hip and her thumb rubbing soft circles there. 

Chapter Text


If there was anyone
I'd want to spend about 100 days with
Layin' in the yard
Staring up at stars
Wondering where all the planes went

It would be you
Only you
We might not have forever
No time for taking chances
It would be you
And always you
And when the lights go out
We'll just keep on dancing in the dark
'Cause if the world has got to end
You might as well just end up in my arms
In my arms

(Christen - "It Would Be You (Acoustic)" by Ben Rector, Ingrid Michaelson)

I remember in the schoolyard

The children didn't understand

So they bullied me with silence

Just for being who I am

So I got good at keeping secrets

I used to blend in with the crowds

On the inside I was screaming

With you I didn't have to hide


I used to stare up at the ceiling

Wide awake all through the night

While the world was busy sleeping

I was so caught up in my mind


Only you could see that I was hurting

Only you ever cared to understand

Always know that I'd do the same

I'd do anything for you

(Tobin - "Only You" by Callum Scott)


“She’s not sleeping, Ty,” Christen sighed, repositioning her computer on her lap as she sat up against the headboard in her and Tobin’s bed.

“Uh...what’s she doing instead of sleeping?” Tyler asked as she poured a glass of wine in her kitchen in California. 

“Painting. Pacing. Worrying about something that she still won’t tell me about,” Christen replied, dragging the FaceTime window on her computer to the left corner of her screen, her eyes tracking across the rows of rings on the website she was scouring.

“Tell her you want to know what’s going on,” Tyler said with a shrug. 

“I have. Multiple times. And she always hits me with the ‘I’ll tell you soon.’ If I hear that one more time, I’m going to lose it,” Christen huffed, her tone exasperated but the smile on her face was soft as she clicked on a square-cut diamond ring to get a closer look at it.

“Is she like...leaving the house at night?” Tyler asked carefully. 

Christen looked at the image of her older sister on the left side of the screen and shot her a disbelieving look. 

“Honestly? If Tobin is finding time to cheat, I’d be impressed. There aren’t enough hours in the day. And she wouldn’t. So next option, please,” Christen scoffed.

“Oh, I know Tobin’s not cheating. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t spiraling down that path,” Tyler chuckled, thinking about the ring that Tobin had bought her sister. 

“I’m looking at engagement rings. I’m not spiraling, Ty,” Christen murmured, a light blush heating her cheeks. “I’m just worried about her.”

“You’re looking at rings?” Tyler asked softly, an awestruck look taking over her face. 

Christen nodded, a small smile making its way onto her face. “I have been. For months and nothing I find is...Tobin. She’s an artist with an artist’s eye and everything I find isn’t worthy of that. I’m looking for a...diamond in a haystack and epically failing.”

“Maybe stop looking for a diamond,” Tyler suggested with a shrug. 

“Oh, I have. I’ve looked at emeralds, rubies, sapphires, salt and pepper diamonds. Nothing fits,” Christen sighed.

“What kind of jewelry does she usually wear?” Tyler asked. 

Christen was about to answer and then she heard the front door slam shut. “Shit, they’re home. Gotta go, love you bye!”

“I expect to finish this conversation tomorrow! Love you!” Tyler called out. 

Christen shut her laptop and shoved it underneath her pillow, getting out of bed right as Tobin walked into the bedroom, Scottie on her back. 

“Who’re you talking to?” Tobin asked a little breathlessly. 

“Tyler. She said to say hi to the both of you,” Christen replied, hoping the slight blush that had popped up from talking about rings with Tyler was gone from her cheeks.

“Hi, Auntie Tyler,” Scottie giggled. 

“You okay?” Tobin asked, the first big, genuine smile on her face in days. 

“Super-duper,” Christen nodded, moving across the room and slinging her arms around Tobin’s waist.

“Momma, you’ve got that happy yellow smile on,” Scottie mumbled. 

“That’s because my favorite people in the whole world are back from their post-math homework run around the block,” Christen replied, her smile never falling.

“And now it’s time for little bit to get ready for bed,” Tobin said, letting Scottie slide down her back and onto the floor. 

Scottie scurried out of the room and headed down the hall, leaving Tobin and Christen standing in the doorway of their bedroom.

“You got a sexy smile,” Christen hummed, lifting a hand to trace her thumb along the smile lines at the corner of Tobin’s mouth. “I missed it.”

“Sorry it’s been a little MIA lately,” Tobin whispered, turning her head to kiss Christen’s thumb. 

“It’s all right. Just...even if you feel like you’re up a creek without a life raft or whatever it was that your mom said to you, you’re not alone. I’m a pretty great life raft,” Christen replied softly.

“I’m not up a creek,” Tobin promised, wanting to take all of the worry out of Christen’s eyes. 

“Honesty’s the best policy,” Christen hummed, smiling sadly at the lie Tobin told her, the one she had heard in many forms for over a month now.

“I know it is. So, can I tell you something completely honest right now?” Tobin asked, a lopsided smile slipping onto her face. 

“Of course,” Christen replied softly.

“I haven’t made love to you in a week, and I’m dying to do that tonight,” Tobin murmured, running the tip of her nose along Christen’s nose. 

Christen sank into Tobin’s embrace, shelving her worry once more, just like she had been for a while now. Whatever it was, Tobin would tell her. She would. Maybe not tonight, and maybe not tomorrow either. But Tobin would tell her soon and chase away the concern that seemed to hover in the back corners of her mind whenever Tobin got a phone call late at night or got up at 3 in the morning to stress paint.

“Only if you’re up for it, baby,” Christen replied, ghosting her fingertips along Tobin’s cheek.

“I’m always up for it,” Tobin said softly, leaning forward and pressing a line of kisses to the underside of Christen’s jaw. 

Christen hummed into the feeling of Tobin’s lips on her skin, letting her eyes flutter shut as she sank her hand into the back pocket of Tobin’s joggers and pulled her closer. 

“Will you promise to sleep tonight?” Christen murmured, lolling her head to the side to give Tobin more room to work.

“All night,” Tobin promised, flicking her tongue against Christen’s pulse point. 

“Good, because I miss waking up with you in my arms,” Christen replied.

“I’m sorry, my love,” Tobin whispered, placing a few softer kisses to Christen’s throat. 

Christen moved her hand from Tobin’s cheek to the back of her head and tugged gently, getting Tobin to lean back and look at her.

“Just wake up in my arms tomorrow, please?” Christen asked, her eyes moving between Tobin’s.

“I will,” Tobin promised again, tracing Christen’s collarbone with her index finger. 

“Let’s go put our girl to bed,” Christen whispered, kissing Tobin sweetly. “Because I’d really like to return to this.”

Tobin followed Christen to Scottie’s room, feeling a little guilty about the worry in Christen’s eyes and the way Christen had asked her to stay, something that Christen should never have to ask. 

She took a deep breath, watching Christen pull the covers up over Scottie, and made a promise to herself. She decided she’d try to hide the anxiety a little bit better. She’d push away the worry that she felt when Roni wouldn’t answer her calls, when Roni’s parents verified her address and phone number, when she still hadn’t gotten a response after leaving voicemails. 

Tobin decided while watching her family, both of her girls worrying about her, that she’d do better, even though all she wanted to do was call Roni throughout the night until Roni had to answer and clear up this mess that Tobin was desperate to finish once and for all. 

“I love you, Mommy. You’re the best Mommy in the whole, wide world. Good night,” Scottie said, looking expectantly at Tobin. 

Tobin moved across the room, sitting down on the edge of Scottie’s bed and pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead. 

“I love you, little bit. You’re the best kid in the whole, wide world. Good night,” Tobin replied, brushing hair away from Scottie’s forehead before placing another kiss there. 

“I love you, Momma. You’re the best Momma in the whole, wide world. Good night,” Scottie murmured, rolling her head across her pillow to look at Christen. She lifted her hand to Christen’s cheek and smiled tiredly. “Sleep tight, Momma.”

“I love you, sweetheart. You’re the best kid in the whole, wide world. Good night and sleep tight,” Christen replied, holding Scottie’s hand to her cheek.

“I can’t wait for Momma-Scottie dinner tomorrow night,” Scottie smiled.

“Me neither, sweetheart,” Christen whispered, kissing Scottie’s forehead.

Tobin knew that her smile was extremely dopey, but she couldn’t help it. She absolutely loved that Christen had asked for some one-on-one Scottie time. She loved that Christen wanted her relationship with Scottie to be sacred and close and theirs. 

Tobin leaned down and whispered against the side of Scottie’s head, “Bring me some tiramisu,” before poking Scottie in the sides and making her laugh. 

Tobin and Christen retreated out of Scottie’s room, turning off her light and the hall light before heading back to their room, hand in hand. With the door locked, Tobin made a move like she was going to take them toward the bed, but Christen stepped toward the bathroom, pulling gently on their clasped hands. 

“Come here,” Christen whispered, taking another step toward the bathroom.

Tobin padded across the room toward their bathroom, all the while running her thumb along the side of Christen’s hand. 

Christen pulled Tobin to a stop beside the bathtub. She kept their fingers tangled as she used her free hand to turn on the hot water, testing it and humming in satisfaction before pouring some bath salts into the tub and leaving it to fill. She then stood back up and started to slowly undress Tobin, leaving kisses and touches along every bit of skin she uncovered. She took her time, not just because the bathtub needed to fill, but because she’d missed the slowness. 

It had felt frenzied and quick for weeks, with them running around every which way. With the potential trade, Scottie’s science fair project, moving in together, and whatever secret stress Tobin was harboring, they had been speeding at 100 miles an hour down the freeway, and now Christen wanted to pull them back to a slow cruise.

Christen divested Tobin of every piece of clothing she had on, leaving her in nothing, covering every inch of her skin with soft kisses and whispered words of love, from her ankles to the sensitive spot behind her left ear. 

“Get in the bath, baby,” Christen whispered against Tobin’s lips before kissing her softly.

“Can I undress you first?” Tobin murmured, letting her eyes flutter shut as she pressed her forehead against Christen’s. 

“You look a little dead on your feet, so how about I undress myself...but I’ll do it in a really sexy way while you sit in the warm water,” Christen hummed, tracing her fingertips along Tobin’s bare sides.

Tobin couldn’t stop the lopsided smile that slipped onto her face or the way her heart fluttered at the way Christen was caring for her. “You’ll get in the bath?” 

“I’ll be right behind you,” Christen promised.

Tobin pressed another kiss to Christen’s lips before lowering herself into the warm bath that smelled like the jasmine that followed Christen everywhere, that seemed to be embedded in Christen’s skin. She couldn’t help the long breath that fell from her lips or the way her back settled against the back of the tub. Tobin turned her head and watched Christen, feeling more relaxed than she had been in months. 

“You’re stunning,” she mumbled, leaning her head back against the lip of the tub. 

Christen smiled and kicked away the track pants she’d been wearing. She then pulled off the yellow tank top and dropped that onto the floor as well.

Tobin took in the long, lean muscles on Christen’s body. She let her eyes trail over every freckle and scar that she had memorized. She watched Christen’s curls fall over her shoulders and her slender fingers slide the last pieces of fabric off her body. 

“I missed you,” Tobin whispered from her spot in the bathtub. 

“I’m right here,” Christen replied with a small smile, piling her curls into a loose top knot on her head.

“Come here, baby,” Tobin murmured, reaching out for Christen. 

Christen was quick to comply, sliding into the tub, her knees bracketing Tobin’s hips as she sank into Tobin’s lap.

“I missed this,” Tobin repeated, pressing her lips to Christen’s shoulder. 

“I’m right here,” Christen repeated as well, ghosting her fingertips along Tobin’s hips, lingering on the sensitive spots along her hip bones.

“We’ve been very busy lately,” Tobin hummed, letting her hands trace shapes and swirls along Christen’s legs and stomach. 

Christen nodded and dipped two fingers into the heat between Tobin’s legs. “I know, but I’m right here. Don’t miss me anymore. Let me take care of you. Be with me, right here,” Christen whispered, her touch teasing and not enough, while the love in her words and in her eyes was more than enough.

“I’m here,” Tobin husked, trailing kisses up the side of Christen’s neck, pausing to suck gently on Christen’s earlobe before making her way back down Christen’s neck to her shoulder. 

Christen sighed happily into the sensation of Tobin’s lips moving across her skin as she continued to run her fingers through Tobin, making Tobin’s hips jump beneath her touch. With her free hand, Christen pulled Tobin away from her shoulder and reconnected their lips, the kiss turning a little sloppy as Christen worked Tobin up quickly but tenderly. 

Tobin let out a soft groan, rolling her hips into Christen’s hand and sucking on her bottom lip. For one of the few times in the past couple weeks, Tobin felt completely in the moment. Christen’s fingers were working her up the way only Christen knew how and her lips were making heat coil low in Tobin’s stomach. 

More than that, though, Tobin felt more cared for than she ever had before. She felt impossibly close to Christen, which seemed to be the only thing that settled her worries lately. She felt desired and loved, enveloped by Christen’s touch, the taste of her tongue, and the scent of the bath salts that smelled just like Christen and made Tobin’s heart flutter. 

“I love you,” Christen mumbled against Tobin’s lips, flicking her fingertips across the one spot that would push Tobin over the edge.

“Oh- Chris,” Tobin moaned, twitching with each brush of Christen’s fingers. “God, I- I love you,” she choked out, rolling her head back as her toes curled and her hips bucked up into Christen. 

Tobin fell apart with ‘baby’ on her lips and Christen’s free hand in her own. Her entire body felt warm and tingly and loved. She pulled Christen closer as she rode out the aftershocks, pressing kisses to Christen’s collarbones and dipping her tongue into the hollow at the base of Christen’s neck. 

“I love you so much,” Tobin whispered, peppering Christen’s chest with kisses. 

“And I love you so much,” Christen murmured, gripping gently onto the back of Tobin’s neck, running her thumb up and down the side of her throat. “I’m going to wash your hair now, okay?” Christen said softly, reaching with her free hand for the shampoo bottle sitting nearby.

“It’s my turn to make love to you,” Tobin argued, pressing a kiss to the inside of Christen’s wrist. 

“It will be. Just let me finish loving you first,” Christen replied with a small smile.

“You’re too good,” Tobin hummed. 

“I learned from the best,” Christen whispered, her eyes crinkling as she pulled away from Tobin and grabbed the showerhead nozzle attached to the tub. She turned it on, waiting for the water to match how warm the bathtub was. 

After coaxing Tobin off the back of the tub, Christen tilted Tobin’s head back and ran the water through Tobin’s hair, making sure not to get any in her eyes. She then shampooed and rinsed, conditioned and rinsed, efficiently but with an obvious tenderness. When she was done, she put the nozzle back in its holder, turning back to run her fingers through Tobin’s damp hair, gently massaging Tobin’s head. And all the while, she offered whispered words of love.

“Thank you,” Tobin said softly. 

“You’re welcome,” Christen hummed, holding Tobin close as she continued to scratch gently at Tobin’s head.

“Can I care for you now?” Tobin asked, running her hands up and down Christen’s back and massaging the tense muscles on either side of Christen’s spine. 

“Of course, baby,” Christen replied softly.

With slow, soft kisses, Tobin moved from Christen’s right shoulder, up her neck, along her jaw, and to her lips. She pressed her tongue against Christen’s skin and traced her nose along her shoulder, sinking into Christen’s smell and warmth. 

Tobin moved her hand over Christen’s chest, squeezing her breasts gently and brushing her thumb over her nipples. She trailed her fingers down Christen’s stomach, loving the way Christen’s body reacted to her touch with tensing and twitching muscles and soft sighs. 

“I’m in love with you,” Tobin whispered, moving her hands down over Christen’s hips, letting her fingers settle between her legs, tracing patterns on Christen’s inner thighs. 

“I’m so in love with you,” Christen husked, wrapping a hand around the back of the tub as she rolled her hips down into Tobin’s touch.

Tobin kept her fingers soft, brushing lightly between Christen’s legs to see just how sensitive Christen already was. She moved her fingers slowly, just barely touching Christen before moving them away. 

“Baby,” Christen sighed when Tobin’s touch skittered away from her again.

“More?” Tobin asked, adding a little more pressure with the next swipe of her fingers. 

Christen’s breathy moan was answer enough as her hips twitched under Tobin’s ministrations. Her grip on the tub and on the corner of Tobin’s jaw tightened.

Tobin slipped two fingers inside Christen with ease, not caring in the slightest when water sloshed out of the tub as Christen sank down into her hand. She couldn’t care when Christen was clenching around and responding to each curl of her fingers. When she felt Christen get even tighter, she leaned forward and took a nipple between her lips, flicking her tongue back and forth as her fingers worked at a quicker pace, rocking steadily against Christen. 

“Don’t- don’t stop, Tobin. I- fuck,” Christen gasped, feeling that familiar heat and fluttering low in her stomach, that delightful pleasure building up the base of her spine. 

With a final curl of her fingers and a final flick of her tongue, Tobin caressed Christen over the edge, Christen’s choked, guttural moan filling the air around them. 

Once Christen’s hips stilled and the water stopped moving around in the tub, Christen loosened her grip on the back of the tub and collapsed down against Tobin.

“Holy,” Christen managed, sucking air greedily back into her lungs.

“You’re incredibly sexy,” Tobin hummed, holding Christen close as she caught her breath. 

“Mmm,” Christen hummed, dropping a kiss to Tobin’s temple. “So are you.”

Tobin silently pushed at Christen’s hips, getting a confused look from Christen as she helped her move out of her lap. She helped Christen turn around, keeping her hands on Christen’s waist as Christen lowered back down into the tub, settling in front of Tobin, her back pressed against Tobin’s front. 

Tobin reached for Christen’s body wash, squeezing some into her hand and spreading it across Christen’s chest. She quietly spread soap along Christen’s arms and shoulders before moving down her back and around her waist. She grabbed another bit of body wash before focusing on Christen’s legs, slowly lathering every bit of skin and making suds rise on the surface of the water. 

“This is why I’m not worried. Not in a big way,” Christen whispered, leaning her head back against Tobin’s shoulder, her eyes having fluttered shut at the first brush of Tobin’s hands against her chest.

“What do you mean?” Tobin asked softly, pressing a kiss to Christen’s jaw. 

“Because no matter what, we always have this. We always care,” Christen replied quietly, careful not to break the serenity or tenderness of the moment.

“I care most about you and Scottie. That never changes. You are my everything,” Tobin murmured against Christen’s cheek.

The corner of Christen’s mouth twitched up into a soft, awed smile. “It never changes for me, either. It’s us and ours and everything. It always is.”

“Us and ours is all I want,” Tobin said, keeping her voice low. 

Christen opened her eyes and gazed over at Tobin, reaching up to wipe a bit of soap off of Tobin’s chin with a breathy laugh. 

“Will you take me to bed now?” Christen asked.

“Always,” Tobin mumbled, holding Christen close for eight more seconds before she helped Christen get the rest of the soap off of her body. 

Scottie ran back to the table after giving Gio a hug, slipping into the chair next to Christen and drumming her fingers on the table in anticipation for garlic bread. 

Christen scratched at the corner of her jaw and perused the menu, despite not needing to. She hadn’t needed to look at a menu in two years.

“Am I in trouble?” Scottie asked, watching Christen perform her nervous tick. 

Christen barked out a laugh and looked up at Scottie over the menu. “No, and we’re not getting a puppy, and we’re not moving either,” Christen replied, setting the menu aside.

“You look like Mommy did when she told me she was dating you,” Scottie said, offering Christen a lopsided smile. 

Christen smiled at that, letting out a deep breath and settling the small flutter of nerves in her stomach. 

Sixteen months ago, standing across the field from Tobin as Tobin held a happy Sloane strapped to her chest, Christen had realized that she not only wanted a forever with Tobin, she wanted that forever to include marriage and kids. She wanted that forever to include everything. 

Every moment since then had been building to this. Every laugh, every touch, every kiss. Every ‘ I love you ’, every disagreement, every smile. It had all been building to the moment when she would ask Scottie if it was okay if she shared her forever with Tobin. 

She hadn’t told anyone she was ready. She didn’t confess to Crystal that she’d been looking at rings and planning a proposal. She hadn’t discussed her fear over asking Tobin’s parents for permission to Becky. She didn’t confide in Kelley that she was even more scared for this conversation with Scottie.

The only person she’d told was Tyler, and it had been unintentional, in a moment of weakness. The first person she wanted to really tell, the first person she wanted to know , was Scottie.

And without knowing it, Scottie had given her the perfect segue into the conversation she was about to have with her favorite kid in the world.

“Do you remember what you asked me when I came to dinner with you guys after Tobin told you about us?” Christen asked, reaching across the table for Scottie’s hand.

“Umm...if you kissed, and we all know you do that,” Scottie teased, taking Christen’s hand in her own. 

“Anything else?”

“I asked you a lot of questions that night,” Scottie said, her eyebrows scrunching together in thought. 

“You did,” Christen chuckled, breathing through her nerves. “But this question was a really big one, and Tobin told you that you could ask me again when you were eleven.”

Scottie’s eyes grew wide, her grip tightened on Christen’s hand, and her breath caught in her throat. She knew exactly what question Christen was talking about. She’d been thinking about things being official, about this wedding for a long time. 

“I know you’re not eleven yet, but...I don’t think I can wait for you to be eleven. I’m not very patient,” Christen admitted with a smile. 

“Really?” Scottie asked, forcing the word out around the lump in her throat. 

“Scottie Heath,” Christen began, her voice getting a little wobbly. “I would really love to marry your mom, and I’d really love your blessing to do so.”

“What do you mean my blessing?” Scottie asked, a happy, relieved tear slipping from the corner of her eye. 

“Well…” Christen trailed off, reaching up to catch the tear on Scottie’s cheek. “A blessing is kind of like you telling me you think it’s okay. It’s you supporting me. And it matters to me because I don’t want to marry Tobin if it’s not okay with you.”

“How could it ever not be okay?” Scottie asked, slipping from her chair and wrapping her arms around Christen’s shoulders. “That’s all I want,” she added against Christen’s neck. 

Christen hugged Scottie tightly, blowing out a shaky breath, feeling a single tear slip from the corner of her eye. 

“You promise this is okay?” Christen asked softly.

“Momma,” Scottie said, leaning back to look at Christen. “You marrying my Mommy is the greatest thing that I can think of.”

Christen’s eyes crinkled as a beaming smile made its way onto her face. “Yeah?” Christen whispered, getting a little choked up.

“I’ve had to be really patient because I would’ve given you my blessing when I asked you the first time in Gio’s,” Scottie admitted. “I’ve been patient for years.”

Christen chuckled and leaned forward to poke the tip of her nose against Scottie’s, making the girl giggle.

“I have too,” Christen murmured with a blush.

“Do you have a ring?” Scottie asked, beaming at Christen. 

Christen grimaced a little sheepishly as she shook her head. “I can’t seem to find anything special enough. It’s like the ring I can picture for her in my mind doesn’t exist.”

“Why don’t you make it exist?” Scottie shrugged, reaching back to pull her chair closer. 

Christen was about to explain that she couldn’t, and then she paused. With a delighted laugh, she realized that once again, Scottie was right. She could make it exist.

“Sweetheart, you’re a genius,” Christen replied with a smile.

“Thank you,” Scottie grinned. “Are you gonna make a ring?” 

“I am. Would you like to help me?” Christen asked, meeting Scottie halfway and taking ahold of Scottie’s hand on top of the table again.

“Sure,” Scottie nodded. “I’m really good at knowing Mommy’s style.”

“I know you are,” Christen beamed, feeling like some small bit of weight was lifted from her shoulders now that Scottie knew, now that Scottie had given her her blessing. With that weight gone, all she felt was excitement and a slight bit of impatience.

“Do you know when you want to ask Mommy?” Scottie asked. “It’s gonna be really hard to keep this secret if I have to wait years again.”

With a laugh, Christen shook her head. “I do. I’m going to ask her before Thanksgiving.”

“That’s super soon!” Scottie said, practically vibrating with excitement. 

“We should probably get working on that ring then, huh?” Christen chuckled, squeezing Scottie’s hand softly.

“We can start tonight,” Scottie nodded, reaching for Christen’s purse.

Christen used her free hand to hand her purse over to Scottie, a little perplexed as to why Scottie wanted it. “You’ve got yourself a deal, sweetheart. What are you looking for?”

Scottie dug, one-handed, through Christen’s purse, her tongue sticking out as she focused on what she was searching for. She triumphantly pulled out a tiny pad of paper that she’d snuck into Christen’s bag for when she got bored. 

“When did that get in there?” Christen laughed, tilting her head to the side as she watched Scottie produce a pen from her purse moments later.

“Sometimes I like to doodle while you talk to teammates,” Scottie shrugged. “What does it look like in your head?” Scottie asked. 

“ jewel. I can’t see her with a diamond or any other kind of stone, and trust me I’ve tried,” Christen replied, watching with an enamored smile as Scottie started to sketch.

“What color?” Scottie asked. 

“Gold,” Christen said without hesitation.

“You’re right about the diamond,” Scottie said. “How fat is the ring?” 

“Hmm,” Christen hummed in thought. She slipped off a ring from her middle finger that she’d gotten from her parents years ago and held it out for Scottie. “I think twice as thick as this. Practical but stylish. What do you think?”

“Mommy is rough with her hands,” Scottie said matter of factly. “She needs a fat ring.”

“I thought so too,” Christen murmured, peeking at the paper in front of Scottie, curious as to what the sketch looked like.

“You think you’ll write anything in it?” Scottie asked, tilting her head as she looked at the ring she’d drawn. 

“Us and ours,” Christen whispered.

“You’re gonna make Mommy cry,” Scottie hummed as she scribbled the words on the sketch. 

Christen chuckled and used the sleeve of her jacket to dab at the corners of her eyes. 

“I’m making myself cry,” Christen admitted with a shake of her head, her smile never falling.

“Mommy’s gonna be really happy,” Scottie added with a dimpled smile. 

“You think so?” Christen wondered, running her thumb along the back of Scottie’s hand. “Because all I ever want to do is make her happy.”

“Mhm, she’ll be really happy,” Scottie nodded, keeping the secrets she knew about Tobin’s plans to herself. 

“Are you happy?” Christen asked quietly, squeezing Scottie’s hand to get her attention.

“I’m more than happy,” Scottie answered, her eyes getting a little teary as she looked at Christen. 

“What’s more than happy?” Christen replied, her smile softening as she caught another tear from beneath Scottie’s eye.

“I don’t know if there’s a word for it,” Scottie said honestly. “Is there a word to use when all you’ve dreamed of happens?” 

Christen felt her own eyes fill with tears as warmth enveloped her heart. “Goofy, awesome, happy,” Christen replied with a wobbly voice. “Which are three words, our words, but that's all I can think of right now.”

“I love you, Momma,” Scottie murmured, squeezing Christen’s hand tightly in her own. 

“I love you , sweetheart. And don’t you ever forget it,” Christen whispered back. “Can I see you drawing now?”

“Oh, yeah,” Scottie said, sliding the small pad of paper over to Christen. 

Christen smiled down at the sketch. It was imperfect and not to scale and clearly done by a ten-year-old. But it captured exactly what she’d wanted it to. It was the right shape and it had the inscription she wanted it to have. And it was done by Scottie, so even if it was imperfect, it was perfectly imperfect. 

“This is beautiful. Exactly what I was thinking of,” Christen murmured.

“Really?” Scottie asked, her smile growing impossibly bigger. 

“Really, really,” Christen nodded. “This is the ring I’m going to give your mom when I ask her to marry me.”

“Now, here’s an important question,” Scottie said, leaning forward against the table. 

Christen laughed and leaned forward as well, getting closer to Scottie.

“I still can’t decide what to wear to the wedding. I have a really nice suit from Mommy, that green dress that you and I got on my birthday, and my super comfy jeans.” 

Tilting her head to the side, Christen relished in the way her heart quickened and her stomach flipped at the sound of the word ‘ wedding ’ coming from Scottie.

“You can wear whatever you want, sweetheart. Whatever will make you feel goofy, awesome, and happy.”

“That’s what Mommy said too,” Scottie hummed. 

“That’s because we both love you a lot,” Christen replied with a wink.

“What do you want to wear to the wedding?” Scottie asked, bulldozing through another question now that she was on the subject of the wedding. 

“Oh,” Christen said softly, her forehead furrowing a bit. “I- I honestly haven’t thought about it much, sweetheart. I don’t know what I should wear.”

There were a whole bunch of questions that Christen didn’t really have the answer for. So many parts of the wedding and the wedding day that sadly would look different than how she’d always imagined them. All she knew right now was that she wanted that wedding day to include Tobin and Scottie. The other details could be ironed out later.

“Mommy thinks you’re beautiful in any outfit,” Scottie said. “So, you don’t have to know.” 

“What do you think I should wear?” Christen wondered.

“Hmm…” Scottie breathed out, tapping her nose in thought just like Christen did. “I think you should wear something that you’re comfortable in because I know Mommy will want to dance with you.”

“I think comfortable sounds perfect,” Christen hummed. “Thank you,” she added softly.

“For what?” Scottie asked, cocking her head to the side. 

“For giving me your blessing. For choosing me. For choosing me not just for Tobin, but for you too,” Christen said with a smile, feeling herself get choked up again.

“Thank you for wanting to be my Momma and for making Mommy happy and for becoming my home,” Scottie replied. 

“Come here,” Christen hummed, opening her arms for Scottie.

Scottie sank into Christen’s arms, feeling more complete than she could ever remember feeling as promises of forever no longer simply felt like words. 

Tobin listened to her phone ring on speakerphone as she read one of Christen’s books from her bedside table. Just like every single time she tried calling, Tobin would read a full page of the book only to get Roni’s voicemail. She’d stopped leaving messages after the first six calls weren’t returned. And now, she was hoping that her incessant calling would annoy Roni enough that she’d eventually answer her phone calls. 

She was spending most of her time like this. She’d let her phone ring while she painted or whenever she had the house to herself. She’d call while she cooked or when Scottie had a friend over and was busy. She’d call at every spare moment, just hoping that she could get through to her ex-wife.

No such luck. 

Tobin groaned when the voicemail sounded again. She hung up and tossed her phone onto the bedside table, focusing instead on the book she was reading and waiting for Christen and Scottie to get home. 

“Scottie Katerine Heath,” Christen’s voice drifted up the stairs.

“What?” Scottie mumbled, her voice slightly garbled. 

“That’s for Tobin. Unhand the tiramisu,” Christen said, her voice trying to be stern but her amusement palpable.

“Mommy doesn’t mind sharing,” Scottie laughed. 

“She loves the top layer, and now it’s got a Scottie-sized thumb hole in it,” Christen reasoned.

“It’s delicious,” Scottie replied, making Tobin smile upstairs. 

“You and I already had our pieces at Momma and Scottie dinner. Come on, sweetheart. Let’s go take that upstairs for Tobin and not steal any more of it,” Christen said, her tone gentle but leaving no real room for argument.

“Okay,” Scottie sighed, starting her trek upstairs. 

“And go hide this drawing upstairs. Use your speedy shoes,” Christen added.

“Speedy shoes activated!” Scottie yelled, racing upstairs and slamming her bedroom door shut, Christen following behind her with the tiramisu.

Christen poked her head past the open bedroom door, holding up a to-go container and a fork. 

“It’s delicious, so I’m told,” Christen hummed, shooting Tobin a soft smile, her heart still warm and fluttering from how well dinner had gone.

“I hear the top layer is the best,” Tobin teased, closing the book she was reading and putting it down on the bedside table. 

Christen chuckled and made her way into the room, sitting down on the bed and handing the fork and dessert over. But before Tobin could grab it, she pulled it back and leaned forward. 

“I hear it costs a kiss,” Christen grinned. 

“It’s a good thing I’ve been saving up my kisses all night,” Tobin murmured, leaning closer to Christen. 

Christen pulled Tobin in for a kiss with a hand cradling Tobin’s cheek. Christen let herself linger for a moment, their lips moving against each other’s with ease. And after a final moment where she deepened the kiss and earned a breathy sigh for her efforts, Christen pulled back, a small smile tugging at her lips. 

“Tiramisu for you,” Christen whispered, holding out the fork and the container with her free hand. 

“Thank you,” Tobin hummed, her eyes still fluttering open and closed. “Did you have a good night?” 

“It was perfect,” Christen murmured, running her thumb along Tobin’s cheekbone a few times before letting her hand fall to her lap.

Tobin opened the to-go container, a suspicious look on her face as she glanced up at Christen. 

“What?” Christen asked, her eyes narrowing as an amused half-smile made its way onto her face.

“You’re totally hiding something,” Tobin hummed, popping a bite of the tiramisu into her mouth. 

“Wha- why would you say that?” Christen stammered, a flush creeping up her neck and her hand itching to reach up and scratch the corner of her jaw.

“You uninvited me to family dinner to have private time with Scottie. And now Scottie’s hiding something,” Tobin said, grinning at Christen’s flustered response. 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Christen huffed, her hands fidgeting in her lap.

“Are you planning a secret trip?” Tobin asked, putting the tiramisu down on the bedside table and rolling closer to Christen. 

“You’re going to keep guessing aren’t you?” Christen asked with a chuckle. 

“Not if you don’t want me to,” Tobin hummed, wrapping an arm around Christen and squirming closer. 

“How about I just distract you from your questions instead?” Christen grinned.

“That could work,” Tobin laughed, pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek. 

Christen turned her head and captured Tobin’s lips with her own, immediately deepening the kiss and getting that same breathy sigh from Tobin.

“Ugh, you guys kiss so much,” Scottie grumbled from the doorway with a hand over her eyes, the smile on her face taking the sting out of her words.

“I’m sorry, little bit. Would a bite of my tiramisu help you feel better?” Tobin asked, propping herself up on an elbow and looking at Scottie. 

“That was four kisses, so I get four bites,” Scottie bargained, peeking between her fingers and shooting Tobin and Christen a toothy grin.

“Four tiny bites,” Tobin clarified. 

Christen shot Scottie a wink and then turned back to face Tobin, catching her off-guard with a quick kiss. 

“Five kisses means five tiny bites for our girl,” Christen said with a laugh.

“I’m not gonna have any tiramisu left,” Tobin grumbled, not feeling grumpy about it in the slightest. 

“Careful, keep it up with that cute pout and I’ll give you a sixth kiss,” Christen murmured, grinning at Tobin as Scottie raced across their room and launched onto the bed. 

“Did you have fun at dinner, buddy?” Tobin asked, taking Christen’s hand in her own. 

“It was goofy, awesome, and happy,” Scottie sighed dreamily, curling up against Tobin.

“That sounds like the best night,” Tobin hummed, wrapping an arm around Scottie and opening up her other arm for Christen to move closer. 

“It was,” Christen confirmed, sharing a smile with Scottie as she scooted closer to Tobin and tucked herself against Tobin’s side.

“How was your night, Mommy?” Scottie asked, slowly reaching a hand out for the to-go container sitting on the bedside table.

“It was fine,” Tobin said, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s head. 

“Not goofy, awesome, or happy?” Scottie continued, dipping her pointer finger into the tiramisu and stealing a bite. 

“It feels pretty goofy, awesome, and happy right now,” Tobin murmured, tightening her arms around Scottie and Christen. 

Chapter Text

I'm broken, tell you I'm fine
But you wouldn't believe me
If you knew the things that crossed my mind
And I'm hurting, but I show no sign
'Cause I'm afraid to give in, break down and waste your time

Now I'm begging you to come and pull me out the fire
Come and save me like you did when we were young
Oh please come bring me up from my lowest, take me higher
Can you see me through the ashes and the smoke?

(Tobin & Christen - "Broken" by Jonah Kagen)


“I don’t think I can do this,” Christen said, pacing across the bedroom floor, running a hand through her curls.

“You don’t want to marry Mommy?” Scottie asked, her eyebrows scrunching immediately. 

“No- I mean, I do. I do want to marry her,” Christen assured, pausing her pacing and shooting Scottie a tight smile. “I’m just freaking out a little bit because we’re going to talk to your grandparents about that.”

Christen went back to her pacing, letting her nerves carry her back and forth across the room.

“Grandma and Grandpa love you,” Scottie said, pushing herself up onto her knees on Tobin’s and Christen’s bed, her gray eyes tracking Christen's movements. 

“I know they do. But loving me and wanting me to marry their daughter might be two different things,” Christen replied, scratching at her jaw.

“The worst they can say is no, and then we’ll ask again,” Scottie said, reaching out for Christen’s hand. “And I’ll tell you a secret.”

Christen moved over to the bed and took Scottie’s hand in her own, looking down at Scottie with a hesitant half-smile, her face still clouded with worry.

“Grandma and Grandpa can’t handle my puppy dog eyes,” Scottie said matter-of-factly. 

Christen softened and dropped down onto the bed by Scottie’s side, clinging to Scottie’s hand. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the white velvet box that she’d gone to pick up at the jeweler's yesterday.

“Do you think they’re going to like it?” Christen asked, putting the box on the bed between her and Scottie.

“Well, we like it, and Mommy’s going to love it. That’s what Grandma and Grandpa care about, right?” Scottie said softly, running her finger along the top of the soft box. 

“I don’t think I could do this without you, sweetheart,” Christen confessed, feeling some of her nerves melt away with every one of Scottie’s answers.

“I can’t wait for you to be officially official,” Scottie said with a beaming smile. “And I think Grandma and Grandpa will be really happy too.”

“Peanut butter sandwich for my Peanut,” Jeff hummed, putting a plate in front of Scottie. “And some hot chocolate,” he added with a kiss to Scottie’s head. 

“A winning combination,” Cindy grinned, winking across the table at Scottie.

“Christen, do you want any tea or hot cider or hot chocolate?” Jeff asked, smiling down at the goofy face Scottie was making at him. 

Christen shook her head, the nerves that had come back full force since pulling up to the Heath house in New Jersey making her unable to even stomach water.

“We should have asked. You always eat turkey sandwiches…” Cindy hummed, looking at Christen’s untouched plate. “Are you wanting something different?” 

“I-” Christen faltered, her hand curling around the box in her pocket. “Sweetheart, would you do me a favor?” she asked, looking away from Cindy and over to Scottie.

“Of course,” Scottie nodded. 

“I know we talked about you helping me today, but do you think you could go upstairs to Tobin’s room and pick out your favorite puzzle from the ones she has under her bed to take home?” Christen said, offering Scottie a reassuring smile and ignoring the confused looks on Cindy’s and Jeff’s faces.

Scottie got a knowing look on her face before she stood up from the table. She knew Christen needed adult time, that she needed to ask her grandparents. So, instead of arguing, she grabbed her sandwich and her hot chocolate, paused to press a good luck kiss to Christen’s forehead, and headed up the stairs. 

“See, I told you it wasn’t just a lunch,” Cindy whispered, pulling Jeff down into the chair next to her, both of them sitting across from Christen. 

Christen cracked a smile at that, letting out a nervous breath. She looked between Cindy and Jeff, Abby’s words about Tobin’s first marriage running through her mind. How Roni hadn’t asked for permission, how they’d eloped, how it hadn’t been the family affair Tobin wanted it to be. 

Gripping tightly onto the box in her jacket pocket, Christen pulled it out and held it in her lap, resolving herself to do things differently for Tobin this go-round. And it all started with this conversation. 

“A long time ago, Abby told me about the first time Tobin went through this. She missed out on a lot, a lot of things she wanted. And from the very beginning, all I’ve ever wanted to do was make Tobin happy. I’ve wanted to show her that her life’s not too messy for me, that love isn’t a competition or a path to resentment,” Christen began, trying to keep her breathing controlled, trying to remain calm despite the soft, not-all-that-surprised looks Jeff and Cindy were giving her. “So I’m here today to do right by her and try to give her those things that she always wanted-”

Cindy couldn’t choke back the sob that slipped from her lips, her hand finding Jeff’s on the table. She couldn’t hold it back even though she knew it was too loud and too emotional. For years, she figured this wouldn’t happen for Tobin, that Tobin and Scottie would be the two she needed to worry about the most and care for the most. 

But when they’d brought Christen over for the first time, Cindy had finally let herself hope that Tobin would get everything she deserved, that she’d get a life full of happiness and love, not just the love she felt for Scottie, but romantic love with someone who saw her for all that she was. 

“Shit, I umm- I’m sorry,” Christen rushed out, her eyes widening in alarm at Cindy’s response. 

“No, don’t be sorry,” Jeff replied for the both of them, reaching out for Christen’s hand. “Keep going. She’s okay.”

Christen slid her hand into Jeff’s and after giving him a slightly skeptical look since Cindy was basically bawling now, she forged on.

“I...I love your daughter, more than I ever thought I could love another person. She’s- she’s everything to me. She and Scottie. They made being happy again, possible. Both of them are the reasons I’m sitting across from you trying not to cry,” Christen said with a weak chuckle, her eyes starting to sting. “And with your blessing, I’d like to ask Tobin to-” Christen paused, the first stubborn tear slipping from the corner of her eye. “I’d like to ask Tobin to be mine. To do the big wedding thing she never got. With your blessing, I’d like to ask her to marry me,” she finished, her voice shaking slightly as she clung to Jeff’s hand and the box in her lap. 

“Of course,” Cindy choked out. 

“We’d love nothing more than to have you in our family,” Jeff added, knowing that Cindy wouldn’t carry this conversation like she did most of the time. 

Christen’s shoulders sagged in relief as a smile made its way onto my face. “Oh thank God,” she managed with a weak chuckle.

Cindy moved from her chair and joined Christen on her side of the table, immediately wrapping her arms around Christen’s shoulders. “You have no idea how much we love you,” Cindy mumbled. “You were the answer to so many prayers.”

Christen couldn’t exactly stop the tears now, not after that. She held tightly onto Cindy and finally succumbed to the emotions of the moment, the ring box now held against Cindy’s back as she hugged her.

“They were the answer to mine,” Christen replied in a slightly hoarse voice.

“Scottie knows?” Cindy asked. 

Christen pulled back with a nod and smile, wiping at her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket. She put the box with the ring in it on the kitchen table proudly. 

“She was the first person I talked to. She helped me get that perfected,” Christen said, nodding down at the ring.

Cindy reached out a tentative hand, waiting for Christen to nod again before she opened the box, a gasp leaving her lips as she looked at the smooth, gold ring. 

“Oh, honey,” Cindy sighed, taking the ring out of the box to look at the engraving. 

“If you hate it, I can’t exactly return it,” Christen joked, tucking some curls behind her ear. “I had it made.”

“It’s perfect. She’s going to love it,” Cindy answered, handing the ring to Jeff. 

Christen let out her millionth sigh of relief that day. “She’s a hard woman to jewelry shop for,” Christen said with a smile. “So Scottie suggested turning the idea I had in my head into something real and...there it is.”

“Brilliant granddaughter,” Jeff hummed, smiling down at the ring. “It really is perfect.”

Christen accepted the ring back from Jeff and slid it back into the box, looking down at it. “Since it’s customized, I think I avoided any repeat design from the last one,” Christen murmured, closing the lid of the box and sliding it back into her jacket pocket.

“What do you mean?” Cindy asked, her eyebrows furrowing slightly. 

“Well, I know Roni didn’t do the whole ‘turkey sandwich, kitchen table’ thing we just did, but I assume she had a ring at least,” Christen replied.

“No, she didn’t,” Jeff answered with thinly-veiled annoyance. 

“I’m not sure that Roni was a big fan of things that let people know she was married, so rings weren’t part of that engagement,” Cindy said carefully, not wanting her voice to carry the anger that she’d felt on behalf of Tobin for so long. 

Christen reached out and gently held onto Cindy’s hand, offering her an understanding half-smile. “Selfishly, I’m a little happy this will be the first ring for her then,” Christen admitted softly.

“We are too,” Jeff chuckled. 

“She deserves someone who will love her out loud,” Christen added.

“She does,” Cindy agreed, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own. “Do you have a proposal plan yet?” 

Christen blushed and ducked her head, nodding ever so slightly. “I do...she made some throwaway comment about wanting to see the Finger Lakes region upstate a while ago, and I found this little B&B she hopefully will like. We go up there after my last game in D.C.”

“Do you need babysitters?” Cindy asked, taking the handkerchief that Jeff was offering across the table. 

“You might have to fight Abby and Glennon for Scottie, but I think you two could take them,” Christen chuckled, looking between Cindy and Jeff with a smile.

“We have Disney+, which is basically the ultimate Scottie leverage,” Jeff grinned. 

“A B&B upstate sounds perfect,” Cindy hummed. “Any wine tasting?” 

“A little, yeah. I have some places on my list,” Christen replied, her smile growing. “I just know she wouldn’t want some big spectacle. She would want personal. So I’m hoping to pull that off.”

“I think all Tobs ever wants is time with you,” Cindy said softly. 

“Feeling’s mutual,” Christen chuckled.

“Did you ask them yet, Momma?!” Scottie yelled from the top of the stairs. “Or do you need help?”

“They said yes!” Christen called back, earning her laughter from Cindy and Jeff.

“Well, obviously!” Scottie giggled, walking down the stairs with her empty plate and half a mug of hot chocolate. When she walked into the kitchen, her smile grew even bigger. She set her dishes down and went straight to Christen, wrapping her arms around her. “Isn’t it amazing?” she sighed, looking at her grandparents. 

“It truly is, Peanut,” Jeff replied softly.

“Momma wants to be officially official,” Scottie hummed, pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. 

“You’re a lucky girl, Scottie,” Cindy offered, smiling at her granddaughter and her future daughter-in-law.

“I know I am. I get the best moms in the world, and maybe if I’m really good, they’ll let me help pick the cake for the wedding,” Scottie said with a lopsided smile. 

Christen laughed and held Scottie close. “You can help us with the whole thing, sweetheart. Once Tobin agrees to marry me, that is. We still need that part.”

“Mommy would say yes, even if you texted her the question right now,” Scottie giggled, rolling her eyes at Christen’s worry. 

“She’d say yes if you did it in emoticons,” Jeff chuckled.

“Emojis, dear. The kids call them emojis these days,” Cindy corrected with a laugh. “And he’s not wrong.”

“Momma wants to be romantic, though,” Scottie mumbled, playing with the baby hairs at the base of Christen’s neck. 

Christen turned her head and dropped a kiss on Scottie’s temple. “I’ve got a few ideas that don’t involve emojis or text messages,” she grinned. 

“You’re gonna sweep her off her feet,” Jeff said. 

“I think she already has,” Cindy hummed, shooting Christen a wink. “And now that all that is out in the universe, do you want a different sandwich?”

“We can make a B.L.T. instead or a ham sandwich. I think we have pimento cheese too,” Jeff offered. 

“That’s not a real cheese, Grandpa. You just made that up,” Scottie scoffed, keeping her arms around Christen.

As Jeff, Cindy, and Scottie dove into a conversation about how pimento cheese was in fact real, Christen looked around the table with a soft smile, completely loving that this was her life and that she got to continue to live it.

“My dad bought her a lab coat,” Tobin mumbled under her breath as she and Christen wound their way through the gymnasium searching for Scottie’s project. 

“Stop it,” Christen chuckled, tightening her grip on Tobin’s hand. “She’s not allowed to get cuter.”

“You should have seen her walking to school this morning with all of her stuff in a little white lab coat,” Tobin laughed, wrapping her arm around Christen’s waist as they rounded a corner and saw the top of Scottie’s poster board. 

“...and that’s how Gemma and I tested which baking soda would make the biggest explosion. My moms weren’t happy when we discovered that it was McCormick because it made the volcano explode all over the kitchen floor,” Scottie said, grinning at the judges as she finished her presentation. 

“We’ll take any questions now,” Gemma added with a smile. 

“Did it make a big boom noise when it exploded?” a kid asked, his eyes wide as he looked at the pictures on the poster board.

“It was more of a fizzing noise,” Gemma answered with a shrug. 

“Like when you shake a soda and open it too fast,” Scottie added.

One of the judges raised her hand with a smile. “I have a question.”

“Ask away,” Scottie nodded, tucking her hands into the pockets of her white lab coat. 

“Was it a big mess to clean up?” she asked with a chuckle, already finished grading the presentation and beyond impressed with the work for the two ten-year-olds.

“Oh my popsicles, yeah,” Scottie sighed, running a hand over her forehead. “I was big busted when the explosion went all over the kitchen floor. And then I was big-big busted when it moved onto the wood floor in the living room. It took a lot of towels and a mop.”

Light laughter echoed around the small group gathered around the poster. Christen raised her hand at the back, smiling softly at Scottie as she waited to be called on.

“You in the back,” Scottie said, repeating something she’d heard Christen say during a press conference. 

“Hi there. Christen Press of the Heath, Press household. Do you think you’ll ever do a study on which All-Purpose Cleaner is best at cleaning up volcanic explosions?” Christen called out with a wink for Scottie, sinking into Tobin’s side just a bit.

“You and Mommy can definitely do that,” Scottie giggled. “I prefer making the explosion, not cleaning it up.”

“Agreed. We like making the messes,” Gemma laughed, waving at Christen and Tobin at the back of the huddled group.

“Well,” the head judge declared, clapping her hands together. “You two should be very proud of your project. Blue ribbons for both of you,” she said, taking two ribbons from her fellow judge and handing them to Scottie and Gemma. 

“Sweet!” Scottie said, fist-pumping as she got her ribbon. 

“We did it!” Gemma cheered, throwing her arms around Scottie and hugging her tightly. “My best friend is the smartest, coolest person in the universe!”

“My best friend is the smartest, coolest person in the universe,” Scottie laughed, happy dancing with Gemma, their ribbons in hand. 

Tobin and Christen made their way to the front of the quickly dispersing crowd. “Congrats, girls,” Christen grinned, loving the way Scottie seemed to be feeling lighter and happier around Gemma.

“See, the mess was worth it,” Scottie said, stepping out of Gemma’s arms and wrapping her arms around both Tobin and Christen. 

“Oh, is that right?” Tobin chuckled, running her hand along Scottie’s shoulders. 

“We got the blue ribbon. Big worth it,” Scottie nodded, shooting Gemma a smile over her shoulder.

“I’m proud of you both,” Tobin said, reaching out and bringing Gemma in to join their hug. 

“I am too,” Christen chimed in.

“Hiya, G,” came a voice from nearby, causing the four of them to look up. When Christen felt Scottie grumble and press her face against her sweater, Christen knew exactly who it was.

“Hi, Jasper,” Gemma answered, letting go of Tobin and Scottie and turning around to look at the boy. 

“Cool ribbon,” Jasper said with a smile.

“Thanks,” Gemma beamed. “The volcano’s even cooler.”

“Hiya, Scottie,” Jasper said with a wave.

“Hello,” Scottie replied, forcing herself to look over at Jasper. 

“Can I steal Gemma so she can see my magnets?” Jasper asked, shooting Gemma a shy smile before looking back at Scottie.

“Magnets sound cool,” Gemma said with a small smile. 

“Have fun,” Scottie mumbled. 

As Gemma and Jasper walked away, Scottie sighed and tucked her face into Christen’s chest again, too tall now to hide her face against Christen’s stomach any longer. 

Tobin moved around and wrapped her arms around Scottie so that Scottie was sandwiched between the two of them. 

“I’m sorry, little bit,” Tobin murmured, running a hand over Scottie’s hair. 

“Magnets are lame compared to a volcano,” Scottie sighed. 

“Your volcano is definitely the coolest project in here,” Tobin hummed. 

Scottie pulled back and looked up at Christen, her gray eyes a little misty. “The safe butterflies aren’t going away,” Scottie whispered sadly.

Christen nodded and ran her hand across Scottie’s hair, offering her girl a comforting smile.

“What are safe butterflies?” Tobin asked, looking up at Christen for clarification. 

“I asked Momma how she knew she liked you and she said you gave her butterflies in her tummy and made her feel safe in her heart. So, safe butterflies are how she knew,” Scottie explained quietly.

Tobin hummed in acknowledgement, feeling her heart simultaneously flutter for the woman she loved and ache for her daughter. 

“Do you want to get out of here?” Tobin asked Scottie, running her hands up and down Scottie’s arms. 

“Gio’s?” Scottie mumbled, looking between Tobin and Christen. 

“What do you say, babe? Think we could go get some garlic bread?” Christen hummed, sharing a sad smile with Tobin for the slight hurt they could hear in Scottie’s voice.

“There’s nothing else I’d rather do tonight than get garlic bread with you two,” Tobin replied. “And I bet Gio would love to hear about your project and your blue ribbon.”

“Do these buses get more uncomfortable every time?” Christen grumbled, pulling her neck pillow out of her backpack and slipping it around her neck.

“You just get more grumpy about leaving your family every time,” Becky chuckled, reaching out and squeezing Christen’s knee. 

“Last trip, it was that the bus was too cold,” Crystal laughed, turning around in her row to look back at Christen and Becky.

“And the time before that there was a smell...that only you could smell,” Kelley teased. 

“Don’t even get us started on the complaints about the plane rides. Too much turbulence,” Becky said with a smile.

“Oooh or when the hotel mattress is lumpy or too soft,” Crystal added. 

Christen looked between her friends and laughed, shaking her head slightly. “God, you guys put up with a lot from me, don’t you?”

“We love you, and we’re glad leaving home is hard for you,” Crystal said softly. “We’re glad you have them to go home to.”

“Yup, agreed. And just curious, feel free to ignore me like you usually do. But are you...married to the idea of them? Oh, perhaps are you taking the plunge and not one that requires an ice bath?” Kelley asked with a mischievous smile.

“Why are you being weird?” Becky sighed with an eye roll. “Don’t pressure her.”

Christen just blushed and looked out the window, thinking about the box she’d been carrying around for two weeks, not trusting herself to hide it and then forget where she’d hidden it.

“I’m just saying, when it does happen, there better be an open bar,” Kelley winked.

“Scottie looked sad to see you go this morning,” Crystal said gently, ignoring Kelley. 

“With the moving in and the almost trade and her first crush, she’s had a tough few months,” Christen replied with a sigh. “They both have.”

“Growing up sucks,” Kelley huffed. “I’m sure you’ll all be excited once this game’s over and we can end the season on a win.”

“Yeah. I’m ready to be home and be there,” Christen murmured. 

“Any vacation plans?” Becky asked, leaning back in her seat. 

Christen blushed again and looked between her friends, feeling her heart beating a little faster in her chest at the thought of the reservations she’d gotten confirmation for yesterday morning.

“A few,” Christen replied with a smile.

“I’m going to the beach as soon as I can,” Crystal hummed. 

“I’m going to Portland,” Kelley said softly with a shrug. “Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

“Take care of you,” Becky said, knowing that Kelley had been avoiding Emily since their breakup. 

“That’s why I’m going,” Kelley mumbled. “Camps start up soon and I don’t want it to be awkward or anything.”

Sensing Kelley’s desire to be out of the hot seat, Christen cleared her throat. “I’m taking Tobin to the Finger Lakes region,” she announced. 

“That sounds super gay,” Kelley snorted, turning around in her seat with a shit-eating grin on her face and a grateful glint in her eyes. 

“She’s not wrong,” Crystal chuckled.

“What are you planning on doing there...other than the obvious?” Kelley asked with a smirk. 

“It’s not that I don’t love you guys, because I do. But I’ll tell you after we come back from the trip, okay?” Christen replied with a smile, sending her friends a look that communicated exactly what she and Tobin would be doing up there.

“Open bar,” Kelley said simply before dropping down into her seat. 

Becky squeezed Christen’s knee again, feeling incredibly happy for her friend and bus buddy. 

“Oh, I’m so excited for the post-trip phone call,” Crystal squealed. 

“Engaged will be a good look on you,” Becky whispered, shooting Christen a smile.

“Thanks, Beck,” Christen whispered back, her heart fluttering in her chest at the thought.

Scottie’s laughter bounced around the house as she played hide and seek with Glennon and Abby’s kids before the game started. It had been the most laughter Tobin had heard since Christen had left for the game in D.C., and Tobin was extremely grateful for it. 

“Save me,” Glennon whispered, walking into the kitchen. “Abby won’t stop explaining to me how our forwards need to move around on the field to beat the Spirit’s defenders. All I did was ask her about the color of the costumes today.”

“Cider?” Tobin offered, pulling a glass bottle from the fridge.  

“Where’d you put my happy cake? I’m going to need a slice of that too,” Glennon huffed, taking the offered bottle.

“It’s hiding next to Janice,” Tobin grinned, stepping to the side and moving the cake closer to Glennon on the kitchen island. 

Glennon shot Tobin a grateful look and then opened the container, visibly relaxing at the sight of the two-tiered cake with sprinkles on top. 

“Leave me with Janice and happy cake. Your turn to talk sporty spice stuff with my wife,” Glennon said, shooing Tobin out of the kitchen.

“I can do that,” Tobin laughed, leaving Glennon in the kitchen and joining Abby on the couch. 

“Amanda’s sending them out in a 4-2-3-1? What is that?” Abby huffed, standing in front of the TV with her arms crossed. 

“I’m sure she has her reasons,” Tobin shrugged, reaching forward to grab a nacho from the plate on the coffee table. 

“Press has been playing significant minutes in every game. She’s setting her up for 90 minutes of sprinting between the backs,” Abby sighed.

Tobin frowned at that thought, knowing just how exhausted Christen would be after the game and just how long she’d have to wait to give Christen a massage. “It’s a good thing it’s the last game of the season. She deserves a break.”

Abby rolled her shoulders, forcing herself to relax. “She’s going to be great and this is going to be a great game. We have happy cake and nachos, how could it not be?” Abby said with a smile, clapping Tobin on the back.

“And I’ll get to pick her up tomorrow and let her sleep for a week,” Tobin added, pulling her legs up onto the couch. “Why are you stressing out, dude?” 

Abby craned her neck, seeing that Glennon was distracted in the kitchen with the cake and her cider. 

“Gotham asked me to be an assistant coach next season, so you could say I’m a little invested,” Abby whispered, looking back at Tobin.

“That’s awesome!” Tobin said, consciously keeping her voice down. “Why are we whispering about it?” 

“I haven’t told Glennon yet. If I take this job...we’d move out of the city. I wouldn’t be here for the kids during the day anymore.”

“Oh, wow,” Tobin breathed out, realizing just what a change this job would bring to their lives. 

“I’m worried because Glennon loves the city and might not want to leave it,” Abby murmured.

“She loves you more than this city,” Tobin said confidently. “You’ll get to work on the same property pretty much. That’s awesome.”

Abby smiled at that and nodded. “I’ll be right back. Yell if the game comes on,” she said quietly, getting up from the couch.

“Godspeed,” Tobin teased, taking another nacho from the plate as she settled into the couch to finish watching pre-game coverage. 

“And what are you most looking forward to from this game?” the on-field reporter asked Christen. 

Christen smiled at the question. “The team is ready to leave it all out there on the field and bring home a win. But I’m most looking forward to having some fun tonight,” Christen replied, handing the microphone back to the reporter and then heading off the field toward the tunnel, right as the first few flakes of snow fell from the sky.

“Mommy, did you make sure Momma packed her gloves?” Scottie asked, vaulting over the back of the couch and landing next to Tobin.

“I put them in her bag myself,” Tobin nodded, reaching out for Scottie and letting her settle between her legs. 

Scottie leaned back against Tobin’s chest, looking up at her with a lopsided smile. “She loves the first snow of the year.”

“I know she does. I hope we get some snow before she comes back. Maybe we can all build a snowman,” Tobin hummed, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s head. 

“And make snow angels and have a snowball fight,” Scottie added.

“That sounds like the perfect way to enjoy the first snow,” Tobin replied. 

“Okay, see!” Abby groaned, pointing at the TV. “That’s why I freaking hate 4-2-3-1s.”

Scottie peeked between her fingers and dramatically groaned. “This is torture,” she grumbled, leaning into Tobin’s side.

Tobin cringed as Christen got up from her fifth tackle of the night. She shook the snow off of her gloved hands and smoothed out her ponytail, waiting to take the free-kick she earned. 

It had been a brutal, extremely physical game, both teams wanting to finish their season off with a win. The snow only made things worse. The ball moved slower, the players slipped into harder tackles than necessary, and at some points, the snow fell hard enough to inhibit players’ vision. 

Gotham had gone down 1-0 on an early goal from the Spirit, but Christen had gotten them back into the game after she nutmegged the outside back to get her shot off, her long-range shot chipping the goalkeeper. 

“Yeah, this is hard to watch,” Tobin agreed, squeezing Scottie closer. 

Christen sent a curling cross into the box, finding Crystal. Crystal sent a half-volley into the top corner of the goal, putting Gotham up 2-1 with six minutes left to play. 

The Gotham team celebrated by making snow angels on the field, laughing and throwing snow at each other. And as they got back up to head to half field for kick-off, the camera zoomed in on Christen. She kissed two fingers and tapped them to her heart, pointing at the camera with a smile before hustling to the halfway line.

Scottie snuggled closer to Tobin on the couch, smiling at the snow angels and at Christen’s heartstrings. 

“I can’t wait for Momma to be home,” she whispered. 

“Me too. I can’t wait to pick her up tomorrow,” Tobin agreed. 

The game continued on the screen as the minutes left in regulation counted down, the snow falling harder and the tensions on the field rising. 

“Number 15 has been mean to Momma all game,” Scottie grumbled, her brow furrowing when that same player shoved Christen off the ball, hard.

“Yeah, she’s been playing rough,” Tobin replied, her jaw clenching as Christen shoved back, trying to take possession again. 

Scottie sat straighter as Christen fought number 15 off and carried the ball up the sideline, toward the corner flag. She was outpacing the Spirit defender, having caught the Spirit defense stretched. 

Morgan was sprinting up the middle of the field, wide open and ready for the cross Christen was going to send. 

“Cross it,” Scottie whispered under her breath, her feet tapping on the floor as she moved to the edge of the couch. 

And Christen did. 

With only a couple of minutes left in the game, Christen sent a perfect cross to Morgan. 

“Jump, Momma. Jump,” Scottie mumbled, standing up from the couch. She saw the slide tackle coming from a mile away and she hoped Christen did too.

But Christen didn’t.

“No!” Scottie yelled as Number 19 caught Christen’s legs in a slide tackle, sending them both tumbling to the snow. She sank down between the couch and the coffee table, her hands covering her face enough that she could just peek out between her fingers. 

Tobin was on the edge of the couch, her eyes glued to the screen, glued on Christen lying in the snow. 

“Come on, Press,” Abby managed, her grip on Glennon’s hand tightening.

A tense silence descended upon the room as the camera stayed on Christen who was still lying in the snow, one hand covering her face and the other holding onto her leg.

Tobin could feel a lump rise in her throat and a tightness starting to form in her chest. She knew Christen well enough to know that she’d get up if she could. Christen knew Scottie was watching, and she never wanted Scottie to worry. If she could, she’d get up, and that was what was making Tobin’s heart race erratically. 

“Get up,” Scottie said quietly, her voice shaking. “Please, get up.”

“Come here, buddy,” Tobin murmured, reaching down for Scottie. 

Scottie brushed off Tobin’s hand and shot to her feet. She walked over and stood right in front of the TV, her wide, gray eyes locked on Christen. 

“Please, Momma. Get up,” Scottie pleaded, her bottom lip starting to tremble.

“She’s just gotta sell it and get that penalty kick,” Abby offered, hoping her words would comfort Scottie, even though she knew they were false. 

“Penalty kicks happen in the box. She’s not in the box, Abbs,” Scottie replied, her hands fisted at her sides as she watched her Auntie Moe Moe and Auntie Dunny kneel in the snow next to Christen.

“Little bit,” Tobin hummed, moving across the room to squat next to where Scottie was standing. 

“She’s going to get up, Mommy. I just need to keep watching. She’s going to get up,” Scottie mumbled.

Tobin was about to say something comforting. She was about to say something that would give Scottie hope, something that she wanted to believe, but then a stretcher was brought out for Christen, sending the Gotham players away from Christen’s side. 

“Mommy, I don’t- I don’t understand,” Scottie choked out, her eyes filling with tears. “Why isn’t she getting up? She always gets up.”

“I think her leg must hurt a lot, buddy,” Tobin said softly, wrapping an arm around Scottie’s waist. “Sometimes you have to get help leaving the field when it hurts. When I got hurt in college they carried me like that.”

“But Momma doesn’t get hurt. I give her forehead kisses so she doesn’t get hurt,” Scottie argued, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Tobin ignored the TV as the game restarted, the players playing through the last few minutes of added time. 

“I know, little bit. I’m sorry,” Tobin said softly. 

“She can’t be hurt like you, Mommy. She can’t be done. Not yet,” Scottie blubbered, her breathing getting faster and faster.

“Oh, buddy, I didn’t mean she was done playing,” Tobin said, pulling Scottie into her chest. 

“That’s what you said,” Scottie cried, her hands fisting in Tobin’s Gotham FC jersey.

“She just needed a little help leaving the field. How about you and I try to call her,” Tobin suggested. 

“Umm, Heath?” Abby called out, her face twisted up in concern.

“What?” Tobin asked, looking over at Abby. 

“Bobbie texted me,” Abby replied, flicking her eyes to Scottie and then back to meet Tobin’s gaze, communicating that this wasn’t something Scottie should hear.

“Little bit, will you do me a favor?” Tobin asked, handing Scottie the handkerchief from her pocket. 

“What?” Scottie croaked, wiping at her cheeks.

“Will you run upstairs and get our toothbrushes and some PJs for both of us?” Tobin asked softly. 

Scottie was about to ask, but then she saw the furrow in her mom’s brow and the worry in her mom’s eyes and she thought better of it. So instead, she just nodded and hurried upstairs to pack a bag for them. 

“What?” Tobin repeated, forcing herself to rise to her feet, even though her legs were shaky, even though she knew that this wasn’t good. 

“They’re taking her to Holy Cross in Germantown. Near the field,” Abby said quietly. “She didn’t have time to get her stuff, so she doesn’t have her phone.”

Tobin didn’t respond. She raced up the stairs after Scottie, ready to throw clothes in a bag and drive the four hours that separated them from Christen, ready to ease the helplessness that they both felt, watching from New York without any way of knowing what exactly happened.  

“You’re doing great,” Crystal said quietly, brushing some hair away from Christen’s face. 

Christen tugged the neck of her jersey over her face, holding it over her eyes as she tried to breathe, to stay calm, not to jump to worst-case scenarios. But the pain radiating from her left shin, the purple bruising prominent on it, had her jumping.

“It’s broken,” Christen whispered, feeling tears leak from behind her tightly shut eyes. 

“You don’t know that yet,” Amanda said, trying to be as hopeful as possible. 

“The World Cup is less than eight months away, and my leg is fucking broken,” Christen snapped, still holding the jersey over her face.

“Hey,” Crystal whispered, pulling Christen a little closer so that Christen could rest her head against her shoulder. “It’s gonna be okay.”

Christen let out a shuddery breath, feeling like it was going to be the opposite of okay. Not when the World Cup was in less than a year and she was supposed to propose in a week. She was meant to get down on one knee in a week and there was no way for her to do that now.

“I won’t be able to get down on my knee,” Christen whispered brokenly, a choked sob leaving her lips as she sagged against Crystal’s side.

“Tobin won’t care if you kneel. She just wants to be with you. It doesn’t matter if you kneel or not,” Crystal assured with a soothing voice. 

“Is she close?” Christen asked, finally pulling the jersey away from her face, looking at her coach with watery eyes.

“She said she’s under two hours out. Snow’s making it a little slow,” Amanda answered, checking her phone like she had been since she’d first called Tobin. 

Christen nodded and then lifted the jersey back over her eyes. “Can I be alone, please?” Christen asked in a strangled voice, feeling a fresh wave of tears threatening to overcome her.

“Okay,” Crystal murmured, running her hand along Christen’s back one last time. “We’ll be right outside. Just call if you need something. Becky’s bringing your bag over from the locker room.”

Christen waited until the door clicked shut to finally succumb to the tears she’d been holding back for the last few hours. She hadn’t cried when she went down, when she’d been put into the back of an ambulance, when she’d gone to x-rays. She’d kept it together. But now, with the silence around her no longer filled with Amanda tapping on her phone screen or Crystal’s reassuring words, Christen let herself cry.

“I’m afraid that your fibula is broken,” the doctor said, glancing between Christen and her tear-stained cheeks, Crystal and Becky in their full uniforms, and Amanda and the look of complete worry on her face. “But the good news is that it’s a stable fracture, so we’ll get you in a cast shortly. No surgery needed.”

“What’s the recovery time like?” Crystal asked, knowing that Christen was thinking about the World Cup. 

“Cast for six weeks, a boot for an additional two to four weeks, and then physical therapy and rehab, barring complications. You could be back on the field by...early March? Late February at the earliest.”

“That’s good news,” Becky said quietly. “You’ll get to play at the start of next season.”

Christen just nodded, her eyes unfocused and trained on her hands fidgeting in her lap.

“Excuse me,” a nurse interrupted, knocking against the doorframe. “I have two visitors who claim to be family.”

“They are family,” Amanda corrected, shooting Christen a look that betrayed how sorry she was that all this was happening. 

“Would you like to see them now, or should I tell them to wait?” the nurse asked, looking at Christen. 

“You can bring them in,” Christen replied, her voice strained. 

“Do you want me to stay and explain the break to them too?” the doctor asked. 

“Stable fracture. 6 weeks in a cast, 2 in a boot. Back in time for season,” Christen said, repeating what the doctor had told her. “I got it.”

“I’ll give you some privacy then, before we put the cast on,” the doctor said, hanging Christen’s chart at the foot of the bed and leaving the room. 

“We can go too. We can wait in the waiting room,” Crystal said, walking toward the door. 

“Thanks for staying,” Christen said quietly, looking between Becky, Crystal, and Amanda. 

“Always will,” Becky replied, leaning over to press a kiss to Christen’s head. 

“Let us know if you need anything. We can pick up dinner or get your bags from the hotel. Whatever you need,” Amanda added, pulling open the door for Crystal and Becky to head out first. 

“I’ll keep you looped in,” Christen murmured, offering the three of them a weak smile as they left. 

“I don’t know if I can go in,” Scottie mumbled, tugging on Tobin’s hand to stop her in the hallway. 

“Why?” Tobin asked, tilting Scottie’s head up with a hand. “She’s okay. Amanda said she was going to be okay.”

“I’m scared she’s not,” Scottie whispered, her voice wobbly.

“There’s only one way for us to find out,” Tobin said quietly, kneeling down on the ground so that now she had to look up at Scottie. “And I bet the one thing that would make your Momma feel better right now is getting to see us. She’s probably a little freaked out in there by herself.”

“We shouldn’t let her be in there all alone,” Scottie replied.

“And if you get sad or scared, just say the word, and you and I can take a walk to get her some snacks from the vending machine or something,” Tobin offered. 

“I’m sad and scared without her,” Scottie sighed. “I’m ready to go in, I think.”

“Let’s go give her some hugs, then,” Tobin hummed, standing up and leading Scottie into the hospital room. 

As they moved into the room, Tobin’s heart cracked seeing the look of pain in Christen’s eyes and the way she was sniffling, her chest moving up and down as she tried to force calm breaths into her body. 

“Momma,” Scottie whimpered, keeping a finger around Tobin’s belt loop as she stepped closer. 

Christen whipped her head around, seeing Tobin and Scottie standing in the doorframe. She immediately felt a fresh wave of tears crash over her, stealing the air from her lungs when she saw the matching, haggard looks of concern on their faces. 

“Hi,” Christen managed, forcing the single word past the lump in her throat.

“Oh, baby,” Tobin breathed out, closing the door and leading Scottie closer to Christen’s side. Scottie pressed her face into Tobin’s side, letting her tears fall into the fabric of Tobin’s shirt. 

“Why the long face, sweetheart? I’m fine,” Christen choked out, wiping at the tears on her cheeks.

“No, you aren’t. You didn’t get up,” Scottie croaked, turning her face just enough to get a tiny look at Christen. 

“I’m sorry. I tried but- my leg wouldn’t let me,” Christen replied, her face screwing up in pain and regret.

“No sorrys,” Tobin whispered, leaning forward and pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead and running a thumb along Christen’s cheek to catch a few tears. 

“I am, though. I didn’t mean to scare you or make you drive all the way out here in a snowstorm,” Christen said softly.

“Baby,” Tobin sighed, pulling Scottie closer as she looked at Christen’s face. “Don’t apologize. We would be here no matter what. We’re always going to be here.” 

Christen swallowed thickly and pushed herself up on the bed a little bit, hissing slightly as it jostled her leg. She made room on the bed by her good side, scooting toward the opposite side of the bed.

“Stop,” Tobin said gently, putting a hand on Christen’s shoulder. 

“She's hardly looked at me since you got here. So I’m gonna make room on this bed for her,” Christen argued quietly but forcefully. 

Tobin sighed and then helped lift Scottie up onto the bed. She made sure to help Scottie get situated so that she didn’t jostle Christen as she moved. After fidgeting for a few moments, Scottie settled against the pillow, her eyes wide and tears still evident on her lashes. 

“I’d offer you a handkerchief, but it’s in my jacket pocket and my jacket is out in the waiting room with Coach Becky,” Christen murmured, brushing the tears away from Scottie’s cheeks with a gentle touch.

Tobin reached into her pockets and pulled out two, handing one to Christen and one to Scottie. She then walked around the bed and pulled the nearest chair up to Christen’s side, settling into the chair. 

“Scottie Heath, will you look at me please?” Christen whispered, watching as Scottie wiped at her face with the handkerchief and pointedly avoided eye contact.

Scottie looked up at Christen, her eyes filling with a new round of tears as she met Christen’s gaze. 

“I’m sorry,” Scottie mumbled. 

“For what, sweetheart?” Christen asked, her forehead creasing.

“I thought good luck forehead kisses worked,” Scottie whispered, blinking and sending a few tears down her cheeks. 

Christen let out a shaky breath and pulled Scottie closer, tucking Scottie’s head under her chin as she rubbed Scottie’s back. 

“They do work. I scored, remember?” Christen replied, reaching her free hand out and grabbing ahold of Tobin’s.

“You got hurt,” Scottie sighed, trying to steady her breathing despite the tears. 

“I did. I...I get to be in a cast for a while. But-”

“You can’t play in a cast,” Scottie interrupted, pulling her face back to look at Christen, her lip wobbling and her forehead creasing. 

“But when my cast is off, I can play again,” Christen assured. “I’ll be back in time for the start of the season and hopefully the World Cup, too.”

“I never want you to be hurt,” Scottie murmured, sinking back into Christen’s arms. 

“I know,” Christen whispered, holding Scottie tightly to her. “I didn’t either.”

Tobin pressed a few kisses to the back of Christen’s hand, letting her eyes flutter shut as she sank into the feeling of Christen’s skin against her lips, the worry in her chest slightly uncoiling. 

“Does it hurt a lot?” Scottie asked, fisting her hand in the neck of Christen’s jersey.

“It did. But I’m not feeling a lot of pain now,” Christen replied. “How could I, now that you two are here?” she added, shooting Tobin a wobbly smile as she continued to rub soothing circles across Scottie’s back.

“I love you,” Tobin whispered against the back of Christen’s hand, placing a kiss on each knuckle. 

“I love you too,” Christen whispered back.

“I love you three,” Scottie mumbled.

The hospital room was quiet for a few moments, no words exchanged between the three of them as more tears fell. Christen just held Scottie close and kept her hand in Tobin's, realizing that the pain had gotten manageable the moment her girls walked into the room.

“Hey, sweetheart?” Christen asked, pulling back a little to look down at Scottie.

“Yeah?” Scottie sniffled. 

“Think we could make room in this bed for Tobin too?” Christen murmured, brushing some flyaways off of Scottie’s forehead.

“I’m okay right here,” Tobin protested, not wanting Christen to move at all. 

“Please?” Christen asked, her need for Tobin to be close outweighing her worries about pain.

Tobin stood up and walked around the bed, helping Scottie sit up and scoot to the foot of the bed. She slipped her shoes off before sliding onto the bed and lying on her side, giving Scottie enough room to sandwich herself between them. Scottie was mainly on top of Tobin, but she kept an arm around Christen and her face pressed into Christen’s shoulder. 

Laying cuddled together like that, it didn’t take long for Scottie to fall asleep, her breath steadying and her grip on Christen’s jersey loosening. When the doctor came back in, Tobin was prepared to slip off the bed and carry Scottie over to a chair, but Christen wouldn’t let go, keeping her arm around Scottie and her hand in Tobin’s. She asked the doctor if it was possible for her to get her cast in the room with Scottie and Tobin. Tobin wasn’t sure if it was Christen’s status as an Olympic soccer player, the private room that Gotham had paid for, or Scottie’s soft snores that convinced the doctor, but she was grateful when they got to stay together. 

“You look good in awesome purple,” Tobin whispered when the cast was on Christen’s leg and they were left alone again. 

“They wouldn’t let me do purple, orange, and yellow,” Christen whispered back.

“How are you feeling? No lying,” Tobin asked, reaching her hand up and tucking a strand of hair behind Christen’s ear. 

“Not great,” Christen replied, smoothing her hand over Scottie’s hair continuously as her eyes stayed fixed on the far wall of the room. 

“Baby,” Tobin hummed, brushing her thumb along Christen’s cheekbone. “Now you aren’t looking at me.”

Christen pulled her trembling lip between her teeth, keeping her eyes locked on the wall. 

“If I look at you right now, I’m going to lose it, and I can’t lose it. Not yet. Not with Scottie here. I need to keep it together for her,” Christen replied quietly.

“Okay,” Tobin mumbled, understanding why Christen felt that way, why she didn’t want Scottie to hear her or see her cry. 

“You’ve got tears in your eyes and worry on your face and I can’t see that. I can’t see that, or I’ll- I’ll break,” Christen whispered in a strangled voice.

“Okay,” Tobin repeated, moving her hand away from Christen’s face. “Let me go ask them about discharge papers.”

“Eight more seconds,” Christen murmured, using her free hand to reach out for Tobin’s again. “Don’t leave. Not yet.”

“I won’t,” Tobin promised, clinging to Christen's hand. “I’ll stay until you’re ready to go to the hotel. I'll always stay.”

Chapter Text

I've been wishing on a star but I never could have imagined
I would land just where you are after all this lonesome traveling
Took one look in your eye, reached out to hold your hand
This is when I realized what I could never understand

Do you want to be my one and only love?
Do you want to be my one and only love?

So you wanna be my friend, so you wanna be my lover
With you I do confess I can't be one without the other
That was hard for me to say, I hope I said it right
Whichever, come what may, you see I need to know tonight

Do you want to be my one and only love?

(Tobin - "One And Only" by Teitur)

If someone cares to listen in
I've been up and down in life
Sure, every day's a chance to fight
Forever wrestling, trying to make amends again

But I break down and I lose control
The band don't care 'cause they had a good show
I won't cry 'cause I'm lucky I know
A restless heart and a beautiful soul
It really doesn't matter if I stay or go
It's hitting me hard but I'm lucky I know

All of my friends
Don't understand
Maybe I'm crazy
Maybe I'm blind
Maybe we all get lost sometimes

(Christen - "Sometimes" by Kodaline)

Scottie ran ahead with their bags, completely overloaded with Christen’s duffel, Tobin’s and her duffel, and Christen’s backpack. 

“It’s time,” Tobin hummed, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist. 

“Maybe if I just-” Christen sighed, trying to maneuver her crutches on the first step.

“Chris,” Tobin warned, not about to let Christen injure herself further by tripping on the stairs. “Please let me.”

Christen hung her head in defeat, tossing one crutch and then the other to the floor. 

“You’re going to get tired of doing this,” Christen mumbled.

“I get to hold a really sexy woman who I love,” Tobin said as she scooped Christen up into her arms. “I don’t really think it’s possible to get tired of that.”

Christen tucked her face into the crook of Tobin’s neck and let out a tired sigh, feeling her leg start to throb.

“Bed or couch?” Tobin asked softly, pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead as they made their way up the stairs. 

“Whichever is easiest,” Christen replied.

“No,” Tobin shook her head. “I know it isn’t always easy, but I’m gonna need you to let me take care of you. I really want to take care of you.”

“Bed,” Christen whispered, tightening her grip around Tobin’s neck.

“Thank you,” Tobin hummed, heading to the second staircase that led up to the upstairs hallway. “Are you hungry at all?” 

“I’m okay,” Christen mumbled.

“Are you really?” Tobin asked again, reaching the top step and heading toward their bedroom.

“No,” Christen laughed humorlessly. “But I’m not hungry.”

“Do you want to sleep?” Tobin asked as she lowered Christen down onto the mattress and made sure that Christen had two pillows behind her back. “Or we could watch a movie or read or listen to music,” she added, grabbing one of the pillows from her side of the bed and putting it under Christen’s leg. 

“You’re a cute worrier,” Christen said softly, the ghost of a smile on her exhausted face.

Tobin looked up at Christen with a dopey smile before leaning down and kissing Christen’s knee. “I’m glad because I’m sure I’ll be worried again at some point in our lives.” 

“I know you will be. But for now, will you- will you just lay with me?” Christen asked, her eyes moving between Tobin’s. 

“Of course,” Tobin murmured, walking around the bed and crawling into bed beside Christen. She practically molded her body to Christen’s side, wrapping her arm around Christen’s hips and pressing her face to the side of Christen’s head. 

A knock at the door had Christen angling her head, catching sight of Scottie hovering in the doorway.

“I brought Boo-Boo bear but I don’t think he’s going to fix anything,” Scottie whispered, holding the bear-shaped ice pack in her hands.

“I think the perfect medicine right now is cuddles,” Tobin said, rolling to the side slightly to give Scottie a space in between them. “Come here, little bit.”

Scottie put the ice pack on the dresser and then carefully got in bed, squirming her way up so she was lying between Christen and Tobin, just like she had been at the hospital and in the hotel last night. She put her head on Christen’s chest and fisted a hand in her sweatshirt.

“I like the color, Momma. It’s awesome,” Scottie whispered, referencing the clunky cast in bed with them.

“That’s why I picked it. Awesome purple just for you,” Christen replied, dropping a kiss to the crown of Scottie’s head.

“Do you think Mommy and I could decorate it?” Scottie asked softly. 

“I was hoping you would. It looks a little plain right now,” Christen hummed, her eyes falling shut as she felt Tobin’s hand slide around the back of her neck, gently massaging the tense muscles she found there.

“Mommy and I could draw cartoons on it to make you feel better,” Scottie mumbled. 

“What kinds?” Christen asked softly, hoping to distract Scottie with talk of drawings, hoping to take away the worry in her gray eyes. 

“You like when Mommy draws cartoons of us, right?” Scottie asked. 

“Mhm,” Christen agreed, sinking into the feeling of Tobin working the kinks out of her neck.

“We could draw us,” Scottie suggested. 

“You know what we could do,” Tobin murmured. “We could draw us doing all the things we’re planning to do for the next six weeks while Christen has the cast. Like Thanksgiving and going to Palos Verdes for Christmas.”

Scottie gasped and pulled her head off Christen’s chest. “Momma,” she whispered, her brows scrunching together. “Your plans.”

Christen gave Scottie a sad, tired smile. “Plans can change. Don’t worry, I’m working on it,” she replied, tapping her temple with her pointer finger.

“Super secret,” Tobin whispered, a teasing lilt to her voice. 

“I’m sorry the plans changed, Momma,” Scottie mumbled, tucking her head against Christen’s chest again.

“It’s okay,” Christen hummed, running her hand through Scottie’s hair, gently untangling the knots she found.

“Do I get to know or should I give you two the room?” Tobin asked, her curiosity officially peaked. 

“It’s the holiday season, you can’t ask stuff like that,” Christen teased, her voice still weak and tired, but getting stronger by the minute.

“Sorry,” Tobin chuckled, keeping her thumb moving along Christen’s muscles at the back of her neck. 

It was quiet for a few moments, as Christen ran her fingers through Scottie’s hair and Tobin worked her hand along the back of Christen’s neck.

“I know Thanksgiving isn’t for a few days, but I’m really thankful for you two,” Scottie whispered. “I’m also really thankful the hospital had that color purple. Because there are some not cute purples in the world but you got a good one, Momma.”

“I’m thankful for you two, and I’m thankful that we all got to come home together,” Tobin offered, adding to Scottie’s thankfulness list. 

Christen took her time answering, working past the thickness in her throat and the burning behind her eyes. 

“I’m thankful for you both and that you came to get me. I’m...I’m thankful I’m not going through this alone,” Christen whispered shakily.

“You won’t go through anything alone,” Tobin promised quietly. 

“You’re stuck with us, Momma,” Scottie added, kissing the front of Christen’s sweatshirt and then getting comfortable again. “Like really stuck with us. Your crutches are downstairs.”

Tobin snorted, letting out a loud laugh at Scottie’s words. “She’s not wrong, babe.”

Pretty soon, Christen and Scottie were giggling as well, the three of them moving past the heaviness of the previous moment with the lightness of their shared laughter.

Christen huffed and stretched up on her tip-toe, reaching for the jar of peanut butter on the shelf. 

“I can get it,” Scottie offered, jumping up from her spot at the table. 

“I love you, sweetheart, but put your butt back in your chair,” Christen said, her fingertips just grazing the jar.

“I’ll get it,” Tobin offered, putting an arm around Christen’s waist. 

“I love you , but you need to back up and let me do this,” Christen sighed, leaning some of her weight against the crutch under her arm and then stretching as tall as she could to get the jar. 

“Oookay,” Tobin hummed, stepping away and turning back to the dishwasher that she’d been unloading. 

Christen let out a sigh of victory when she managed to grab onto the jar. But when she went to pull it from the shelf, she stumbled a bit, sending the jar falling to the kitchen floor. The glass jar shattered, the sharp sound echoing around the second floor, peanut butter oozing all over the hardwood.

Christen stared at the spilled peanut butter for a moment before grabbing her other crutch and crutching out of the kitchen and toward the stairs that led to the third floor.

It wasn’t about the peanut butter, not really. It was about the fact that she’d been housebound for three weeks. It was about the fact that she couldn’t do anything by herself. It was about the fact that she still had Tobin’s engagement ring tucked in her coat pocket that was hanging on the hook by the front door, completely out of reach for her currently. 

Painstakingly, Christen hobbled up the stairs, tears of frustration blurring her vision.

“Scottie, will you grab a pair of shoes for me?” Tobin asked, basically trapped in the kitchen, barefoot and surrounded by glass. 

“You got it!” Scottie called out, grabbing Tobin some slides from the hall closet and tossing them, one at a time, to Tobin. 

“Thanks, little bit,” Tobin said with a small smile. “Are your French toast sticks good?” she asked, trying to distract Scottie while Christen made her escape, trying not to draw attention to the way Christen seemed like she was about to lose it just a little bit. 

“Delicious nutritious,” Scottie nodded, her eyes flicking over to the stairs. She winced as she watched Christen stumble and right herself before climbing up the next stair.

“Is your bag packed for school?” Tobin asked, grabbing a dustpan from under the sink to get most of the glass off the floor before she could clean up the peanut butter. 

“Yup,” Scottie mumbled, tapping her fingers along the table as she watched Christen slowly make it up to the next step. 

“Did you look over the vocab words for your quiz today?” Tobin asked, dumping the glass in the trash can. 

“Earthquake, e-a-r-t-h-q-u-a-k-e,” Scottie replied distractedly. “Evidence, e-”

“You want me to quiz you on the walk to school?” Tobin asked, finally cleaning up the peanut butter with a paper towel and a spray bottle of cleaner. 

“You can call Gemma’s dad and ask if he’ll walk me. So you can check on Momma,” Scottie said quietly, looking away from the staircase and over at Tobin.

“Are you sure?” Tobin asked, standing up from the floor and tossing the paper towels in the trash. 

“I worry about her too, Mommy. I just have to go to school so I can’t stay here and be worried with you,” Scottie replied.

“I don’t want you to worry at all. I’ll call Gemma’s dad and then make sure that Christen has a great day,” Tobin said softly, grabbing her phone off of the kitchen island. 

“She’s just frustrated. F-r-u-s-t-r-a-t-e-d, frustrated,” Scottie said, finishing off her French toast sticks and hopping up from the table.

“Good spelling,” Tobin mumbled. “I know she is, buddy. I’ll do something really fun for her today.”

“I have a few ideas,” Scottie grinned, putting her plate in the dishwasher.

“Care to share?” Tobin asked with a lopsided smile. 

“Salted caramel ice cream, Frozen II , and painting.”

“Those are good ideas, little bit. I’ll see what she wants to do. Let me call Aaron first while you get your bag and your big coat,” Tobin replied, dialing Aaron’s number and putting the phone up to her ear. 

“Well that’s impressive,” Tobin mumbled from the door to the bathroom. After sending Scottie with Aaron and Gemma, she came upstairs and found Christen in the bathtub, her cast propped up on the side of the tub, her clothes trailing into the bedroom. 

“Just about the only thing I’ve been able to do right,” Christen sighed, keeping her arm crossed over her eyes, her head tilted back against the lip of the tub.

“Chris,” Tobin said softly, pushing off the door frame and kneeling down next to the tub. “Having an injury doesn’t mean you do things wrong.”

“Tell that to the peanut butter,” Christen grumbled.

“Scottie dropped a jar of honey on the floor last month without a broken leg. It’s okay to drop things or need help or make a mess. Speaking of, is your foot okay?” Tobin asked, reaching out for Christen’s ankle and looking at her good foot, checking to make sure glass hadn’t cut it. 

“Survived the shattered glass,” Christen replied softly, her jaw tightening as her eyes stung.

“I’m sorry that this sucks so much. I’m sorry that our house is full of stairs and that you’re hurting and that easy things don’t feel easy right now. I’m sorry that this is so frustrating,” Tobin said, resting her chin on top of the arm that she had resting on the tub. 

“One hundred and seventy-two,” Christen whispered, finally pulling her arm away from her eyes and fixing Tobin with a watery gaze.

“One hundred and seventy-two...times you wished you’d asked us to move into your apartment building that had an elevator?” Tobin guessed with a tiny smile. 

The corner of Christen’s mouth twitched up into the ghost of a smile. “That’s how many times you’ve apologized to me since we got home three weeks ago. And I have no idea what you keep apologizing for.”

“I-” Tobin started, letting her eyes move across Christen’s face, noticing the dark circles under Christen’s eyes and the way her lips were turned down. “I can’t fix it.”

“You’re not meant to. The doctors did,” Christen replied, nodding down at the cast that was now decorated with cartoons and doodles and the signatures of her teammates.

“But it’s my job to...It’s my job to make you happy, and I can’t do that right now, and I don’t know how to fix that,” Tobin whispered, her eyes settling on Christen’s as she spoke. “I don’t know what I can do to make you feel better.”

“Yesterday, you and Scottie woke me up by singing ‘Waterfalls’ by TLC. A few days ago, you let me help you make dinner even though I just stood there stealing bites of food while you pretended not to notice. Last week, you set out a tarp in the living room and carted buckets of snow inside so we could try and make a snowman together,” Christen replied softly, reaching out to smooth her thumb along Tobin’s furrowed brow. “I’m not doing a great job of showing it, but you’re making me feel better every single day. Without you, I don’t think I’d be getting through this.”

“I want to take the frustration away,” Tobin said with a sheepish smile, knowing that it was an impossible wish. 

“You can’t,” Christen shook her head. “But you make it easier. You make it survivable.”

“I’ll work on not apologizing,” Tobin hummed. 

“You could apologize for butchering ‘Waterfalls,’ if you wanted to. But that’s it,” Christen teased, her lips pulled up into a tired smile.

Tobin let out a laugh, dropping her arm off the side of the tub and letting it slip into the water, running her thumb over Christen’s knee. “I’m sorry for messing up the lyrics to your favorite song.”

“Oh that’s not my favorite song,” Christen said with a smile, Tobin’s laughter acting like the best medicine in the world.

“What’s your favorite, baby?” Tobin asked, tilting her head to the side in question. 

“Reindeers Are Better Than People,” Christen replied, as if it were obvious, her smile growing.

“Would you like me to put that on repeat on my phone and leave it in here for the rest of your bath?” Tobin asked with a smirk. 

“I’d prefer if you’d sing it to me while you join me,” Christen hummed, tugging at the collar of Tobin’s shirt.

“I definitely don’t know the words to that song,” Tobin said apologetically. 

“Just join me, then,” Christen murmured, her eyes holding an apology of her own.

“Are you sure?” Tobin asked, giving Christen an opportunity to change her mind if she needed time for herself. “It won’t offend me if you just want time alone. I know Scottie and I have been all over you trying to help.”

“This is the first time in three weeks I haven’t felt like a burden. Please, baby. Join me,” Christen whispered.

Tobin silently pulled her t-shirt up and over her head, leaving her in only her boxers and basketball shorts. She got up from the floor, shimmying her shorts and boxers off before reaching out to help Christen scoot forward in the tub. 

“You are never a burden,” Tobin promised as she slid into the bathtub behind Christen, pulling Christen back against her chest. 

“I hear you here,” Christen said, gesturing at her heart, “but sometimes I don’t hear you here,” she added, gesturing to her head. 

“I’ll keep saying it then,” Tobin hummed, pressing a kiss to Christen’s shoulder. “You could never be a burden. I said I want this forever. In sickness and health is the phrase people say, right?” 

“Yeah,” Christen whispered, her heart starting to beat just a little faster in her chest. “In stomach flus and broken legs might be ours.”

“I love you in any way, even with a purple cast and even when you drop peanut butter on the floor,” Tobin murmured. 

“I’m sorry I didn’t clean that up,” Christen whispered, sinking back into Tobin’s arms.

“Don’t make me start keeping track of your unnecessary sorrys,” Tobin teased, peppering kisses along Christen’s neck and over her cheek. 

“When you get to one hundred and seventy-two, let me know,” Christen chuckled.

“No way did I actually say sorry that many times,” Tobin scoffed, smiling against Christen’s skin. 

“Stanford grads are all about mental math,” Christen murmured, threading her fingers between Tobin’s and holding their clasped hands against her stomach.

“I didn’t mean to apologize so much, but I won’t apologize for it because then you’ll keep counting,” Tobin teased, tracing her nose along Christen’s neck. 

“One hundred and seventy-three. It counts,” Christen hummed, a breathy laugh leaving her lips.

“How are you feeling? And I’m not just asking about the leg. How are you feeling?” Tobin asked, moving her hand and tapping her index finger over Christen’s heart. 

“Solid six,” Christen whispered, pulling their clasped hands from the water and dropping a kiss to Tobin’s palm.

“Scottie suggested we eat ice cream while she’s at school today or watch Frozen II ,” Tobin chuckled. “Is there anything we could do that might change your solid six?”

“Let me go pick up Scottie with you?” Christen asked, knowing it was a silly request since the ground was covered in ice and snow and she was on crutches still, but asking anyway. 

“We can do that,” Tobin said quietly. “Will you get frustrated if I suggest we leave with a lot of time to get there slowly?”

“I was going to suggest a sled, but your plan works,” Christen replied with a chuckle.

“Oooh, the sled sounds fun,” Tobin grinned. “I could run and really get you some air.”

Christen let out a loud laugh, the sound freely leaving her lips for the first time in weeks. 

“I’m so in love with you, Tobin Heath,” Christen said, her laughter quieting down. 

“I’m completely in love with you, Christen Press,” Tobin replied, holding Christen even closer. “And I love hearing you laugh.”

“Excuse me! Excuse me! Coming through!” Scottie yelled, pushing Christen through the LAX airport.

Christen pulled her hat lower over her head, hiding her embarrassment. 

“Baby, don’t hide,” Tobin laughed, carrying all of their carry-ons in her arms as they walked through the airport. 

“I could have walked,” Christen grumbled, tapping the crutches across her lap.

“But it would have felt pretty shitty since we’ve been standing around and walking through airports all day,” Tobin replied, pressing the button on the elevator that led to baggage claim. “Plus, Scottie really wanted to push the wheelchair.”

“On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer,” Scottie sing-songed, pushing the wheelchair into the elevator with a toothy grin. 

When the elevator doors reopened at baggage claim, Scottie raced out of the elevator, forgetting Christen and Tobin and all of their bags, instead choosing to fling herself into Christen’s sisters’ arms. 

“Auntie Channy! Auntie Tyler!”

“Don’t worry, I still love you,” Tobin teased, leaning down and pressing a kiss to Christen’s temple before she pushed the wheelchair out of the elevator. 

Christen chuckled and shook her head, waving at her sisters when they looked up.

“How’re you doing?” Tyler asked, leaning down and wrapping her arms around Christen’s shoulders. 

“I just spent six hours sticking a pencil down my cast trying to itch my ankle, so I’m fabulous,” Christen huffed, hugging Tyler back.

“Two weeks,” Tobin repeated for the hundredth time that day, brushing baby hairs away from Christen’s face. 

Christen leaned into Tobin’s touch and shot her a small smile. “You need to get some new lines, babe.”

“Try fourteen days,” Tyler grinned.

“Or three hundred and thirty-six hours,” Channing offered, giving Christen’s arm a squeeze as she kept Scottie tucked into her side.

“I don’t think that helps,” Tobin grimaced, hearing Christen sigh. 

“I know what can help!” Scottie said, keeping one arm around Channing and slipping the other one around Tyler’s waist.

“What’s that shortstack?” Channing asked. 

“You’re getting maaaaaarried,” Scottie grinned, looking up at Channing with a dopey smile.

“I aaaammmm,” Channing beamed, the epitome of the blushing bride. 

“And I get to be your flower ring girl!”

“You do,” Channing said as she poked her index finger against Scottie’s nose. 

“And Momma gets to- oh, well I guess she gets to crutch down the aisle,” Scottie said, getting a little less excited. “Maybe that doesn’t help.”

Christen offered Scottie a smile, wanting to assure her that she did, in fact, help.

“Don’t worry. We actually have it set up so you and Tyler and the groomsmen can sit during the actual ceremony,” Channing said, squeezing Christen’s shoulder again. “I don’t care if you crutch down the aisle. I’m just so excited that you’re gonna be there!” 

“Thanks for picking long dresses. That way my cast will be hidden,” Christen chuckled.

“We actually went with the shorter option. You have to go try it on,” Channing grimaced, offering Christen a weak smile. 

“Okay, well at least the dress is like a neutral gold,” Christen replied, holding onto whatever positives she could.

“Umm…it’s actually like an orange now,” Channing murmured. 

“It’s more brown-ish,” Tyler added, grabbing Scottie’s suitcase off the carousel. 

Christen’s eye twitched at every added piece of information. 

“Breathe,” Tobin whispered, reaching down and squeezing Christen’s shoulders. 

“The cast will match the flowers,” Channing said, shooting Christen a tentative smile. 

“And my dress will match yours!” Scottie grinned at Christen, excited to be twinning on the wedding day. 

“What color even is this?” Christen scoffed, turning every which way to look at herself in the reflection of the mirrors at the dress shop. 

“Not goofy orange. More like...burnt orange,” Scottie declared, swishing the dress around herself as she moved from side to side. She grinned as she stood next to Christen, loving that they matched.

“It’s called Champagne Sunset,” Channing said from her spot on the couch next to Tobin. 

“Whatever it is, you both look beautiful,” Tobin offered, snapping a few pictures on her phone of her two girls standing together. 

“Psst,” Scottie whispered, looking up at Christen with a smile.

“What’s up?” Christen whispered back.

“If I wear a dress to this wedding, maybe I should wear a suit to yours and Mommy’s,” Scottie suggested with a shrug. 

Whatever lingering annoyance or discomfort or hurt immediately dissipated, leaving Christen smiling down at Scottie. 

“If that’s what you want, sweetheart,” Christen said quietly, balancing on the crutches and reaching out to tuck some of Scottie’s soft curls behind her ear.

“Ooh, that tickles,” Scottie giggled when the seamstress tugged at one of the straps on her shoulder to take the dress in. 

“Sorry,” the woman laughed, sticking a pin in the strap. 

“Momma, can I wear sneakers?” Scottie asked with a beaming smile. 

“For Channing’s or for…” Christen replied, keeping her voice quiet, cognizant of Tobin and Channing sitting nearby.

“Both,” Scottie replied. 

“Yes and yes,” Christen grinned.

“Do you think I can convince Mommy to let me get some fancy sneakers for yours?” Scottie asked, reaching out and holding Christen’s hand. 

“I don’t think it will take much convincing,” Christen chuckled.

“Maybe we can get you some fancy ones too,” Scottie hummed, looking over at Tobin’s pair of Jordans. 

“Fancy what nows?” Channing called out, having caught the tail end of Scottie’s comment.

“Nothing!” Christen and Scottie said at the same time, dissolving into laughter.

“They do that to me a lot,” Tobin sighed, sticking her tongue out at Scottie just to make her laugh. “Don’t take it personally.”

As soon as Scottie and Christen stepped out the back door to go watch the sunset, Tyler turned on Tobin and narrowed her eyes.

“That’s a naked looking ring finger, Tobin,” Tyler said, earning her an eye roll from Lindsey.

“I know,” Tobin cringed, hating the reason behind the lack of proposal. 

“You got the ring six months ago. I couldn’t sit on my ring six hours before asking her to be my wife,” Tyler continued, hooking her thumb to her left and gesturing at Lindsey.

“I’m...I’m getting my ducks in a row,” Tobin said, knowing that her response was not going to stop Tyler’s questioning. 

“Ducks as in doubts?” Tyler pushed, arching a brow in Tobin’s direction across the dinner table.

“No! No, no, no. No doubts,” Tobin blurted out as she shook her head. 

“Ty, chill,” Lindsey sighed. “Not everyone moves at the speed of light,” she added, kissing Tyler’s head and clearing some of the plates from the table.

Tyler waited for Lindsey to step into the kitchen and then she continued her questioning, not heeding Lindsey’s warning. 

“What’s the hold-up? The injury? Because that’d be pretty messed up, in my personal opinion.”

“Of course not,” Tobin sighed, running a hand through her hair. “It isn’t the injury. It isn’t Christen.” But she couldn’t say that it was her ex-wife’s refusal to give up her parental rights. 

“Is it the blessing?” Tyler asked, a little fight seeping out of her at the conviction in Tobin’s words. 

“What do you mean the blessing?” Tobin asked, her eyebrows furrowing at Tyler’s words. 

“You know, Mom and Dad,” Tyler shrugged, leaning her arms on the table.

“That’s not holding me back. I mean, I want to pay my respects and tell them that I’m going to propose, but that’s not the holdup. Speaking of the blessing, though, you could definitely keep Christen busy one night this week,” Tobin said, feeling her stomach flip slightly at the idea that she was going to check off something on her list that would get her that much closer to proposing to Christen. 

“I can do that,” Tyler nodded. “Do you want to talk about the hold-up?”

“I’m okay,” Tobin mumbled, knowing that Tyler would tell Christen about the holdup and then Christen would stress about Roni, which she definitely didn’t need right now. “Her finger will not be naked for much longer. This week is Channing’s, though.”

“No rush,” Tyler said nonchalantly, secretly wondering who was going to get to the proposal first, Christen or Tobin.

Lindsey came back in and snorted. “Didn’t sound like no rush a few minutes ago,” Lindsey chuckled.

“Tobin knows I’m the protective sister. She knows it’s just part of our relationship,” Tyler sighed, patting Tobin on the back. 

“Yeah, Tobin knows that,” Tobin parroted with a cheeky grin. “Tobin’s not afraid of it at all.”

“I could still push you into the pool,” Tyler warned, shooting Tobin a quick wink to take the sting out of her empty threat.

“Why are we pushing Mommy in the pool?” Scottie asked, holding the door open for Christen to crutch back inside. 

“She probably deserves it,” Christen teased.

“Unicorns or beluga whales?” Scottie asked, holding up her two swimsuits.

The four adults sitting around the table all shared a look. Tyler chuckled and shook her head, Lindsey grinned into her coffee, and Tobin and Christen both sighed, hating that they had to break the news that the beach wasn’t warm enough right now to swim.

“How about your wetsuit?” Tobin suggested. “You could wear the unicorns under it.”

“It’s a little chilly outside right now,” Christen added, offering Scottie a sympathetic smile.

“I’m gonna go with the beluga whales,” Scottie said matter-of-factly, ignoring Christen and Tobin’s warnings. 

“And the wetsuit!” Christen called after Scottie as the ten-year-old zoomed out of the dining room, headed for the stairs. 

“I’ll pack her sweatshirt and a few towels,” Tobin hummed, running her fingers along the top of Christen’s shoulder, her arm resting on the back of Christen’s chair. 

“Incoming,” Tyler coughed under her breath. 

Channing stalked into the dining room, her arms full of binders and color-coordinated seating charts and tablecloth swatches, looking beyond frazzled.

“What are you all doing? We have 48 hours until my wedding. There’s no time for relaxing!”

“We’re talking about lunch,” Tyler said with a smirk. “We’re thinking a picnic on the beach sounds nice.”

“The beach? The beach ? Who will help me rearrange the tables because two whole families called to cancel their RSVPs?” Channing asked, her eyes wide.

“We can always do that tomorrow,” Tobin offered. “Maybe Mikel and I can do that.”

Channing narrowed her eyes at Tobin’s helpful response, her face hardening.

“Oh, shit,” Tobin mumbled, slouching in her seat a little. 

Christen chuckled and patted Tobin’s cheek affectionately. “Meet stressed Channing, she can glare like nobody else I know.”

“You have that same glare. Remember when you thought I went fishing?” Tobin teased, unable to stop herself from leaning forward and pressing a kiss to the top of Christen’s arm. 

“You’re never living that down,” Christen hummed, sliding her hand to wrap around Tobin’s knee beneath the table.

Channing seemed moments from another glare or angry comment, and then a series of quick footsteps sounded coming down the stairs.

“Auntie Channy! I haven’t seen you all day!” Scottie announced, walking into the dining room in her swimsuit, a pair of flip flops, and her purple sunglasses on her head. “Are you gonna come to the beach?” 

It might have been Scottie’s sweet smile or her adorably unseasonable outfit, but it had Channing immediately calming down, dropping her armload of stuff onto the table.

“Hey shortstack,” Channing greeted with a small smile.

Scottie rushed to wrap her arms around Channing’s waist, almost losing her sunglasses in the process. 

“She’s magical,” Tyler whispered, making Lindsey, Christen, and Tobin chuckle.

“Momma said we could have a picnic at the beach, and if you aren’t busy, maybe you could come,” Scottie said, looking up at Channing with wide, gray eyes. 

“I could swing a beach day,” Channing grinned, fixing Scottie’s sunglasses.

“Do you want to eat popsicles with me?” Scottie asked, squeezing Channing with excitement. 

“Sweetheart, it’s chilly, remember?” Christen offered, smiling at her sister and her Scottie.

“But it’s the beach. I just don’t get that,” Scottie sighed. “I think it’s the perfect day for popsicles and kites and maybe a frisbee. I promise to try not to hit Mommy with it this time.”

“But it was so funny when you did,” Christen chuckled, leaning into Tobin’s side when Tobin let out a grumble.

“Don’t you have some seating to stress over, Chan?” Tyler asked with a teasing smile. 

“Tobin offered to do it tomorrow,” Channing hummed, shooting Tyler the bird behind her back where Scottie wouldn’t see it. 

Christen let out a snort and kissed Tobin’s temple. “That’ll show you to volunteer so enthusiastically.”

“I’d rather volunteer enthusiastically and save you the trouble of voluntelling me to do something,” Tobin replied with a wink. 

“Smart woman,” Lindsey chuckled. “I do the same thing with Tyler.”

“Does she also get that crease in the middle of her forehead when she starts to stress about more than one thing?” Tobin asked, leaning forward against the table to speak conspiratorially with Lindsey.  

“Yes! And that thing that happens to their voices when they see a dog, literally anywhere?” Lindsey added, leaning forward as well.

“Oooh Momma loves dogs,” Scottie said, getting ready to ask for a puppy again. 

“When you’re twelve,” Tobin and Christen said at the same time, matching smiles on their faces as they looked over at Scottie.

“I hate this,” Christen grumbled, tightening her arms around Tobin’s neck.

“Me touching you? Because I can let go,” Tobin teased, pretending to loosen her grip on Christen right over a large sand dune. 

“Tobin!” Christen shrieked, gripping tightly onto the woman carrying her, bridal style, through the sand.

“You wouldn’t want to crutch through sand,” Tobin hummed, tightening her grip and pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. 

“I could,” Christen argued stubbornly.

“Oh, I know you could. You’re extremely determined,” Tobin agreed. 

“I’d crutch through this sand so well. Gliding across the sand. Making moves,” Christen continued, tucking her face into the crook of Tobin’s neck.

“I’m sure you’d do just fine. But I’d be worried about you not getting there before all the lunch is gone,” Tobin teased.  

Christen scoffed and leaned back to narrow her eyes at Tobin. “And to think I went down on you last night and this is the stuff that leaves your mouth today?” Christen said, clicking her tongue.

“MOMMA!” Scottie called, making Tobin’s blush immediately deepen and Christen’s smirk grow. 

“Sweetheart?” Christen called back, turning away from Tobin to look at where Scottie was dropping her towel and backpack at the spot Tyler, Lindsey, and Channing had chosen for them to set up camp.

“Why is it so chilly?” Scottie whined, wrapping the picnic blanket around her shoulders and making Lindsey and Tyler laugh. 

“Huh, did anyone try to warn you about that?” Christen asked with a chuckle.

Scottie just shrugged and turned around to help Lindsey spread the blanket on the sand. 

“She’s also very determined and stubborn,” Tobin whispered, squeezing Christen closer. 

“Her teenage years are going to age us decades,” Christen whispered back.

“Just think about it too. We might have a teenager and a toddler at the same time,” Tobin murmured. 

Christen looked back at Tobin, a soft, wonderstruck smile tugging at her lips as her stomach flip-flopped inside of her. She leaned forward to nuzzle her nose along Tobin’s.

“Still not used to it,” Christen murmured softly.

“Which part?” Tobin asked, slowing her steps to hold onto this conversation and moment for just a few seconds more. 

“Every part,” Christen replied reverently. 

“Mommy, you’re being slow on purpose!” Scottie yelled, making Tobin snort. 

“I just need eight more seconds, little bit!” Tobin called back, sinking into the love she could see in Christen’s eyes, into the feeling of Christen’s hands at the back of her neck. 

“One...two....three…” Scottie counted, making Tyler, Lindsey, and Channing burst out laughing.

“I’m really glad I have you for the teenage years,” Tobin murmured, pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips before she started walking again. 

“I wouldn’t want to be doing this with anyone else,” Christen whispered.

“Okay, so who wants to go in the ocean with me?” Scottie asked, putting her hands on her hips in the Press Power Pose™ once Tobin had gotten Christen situated on the picnic blanket. 

“Tobin definitely does,” Christen replied with a smile.

“Why would you do that? We had a moment,” Tobin whined, 

“Baby, we’ll have a lifetime of moments. You getting in the freezing cold ocean with our girl is something I definitely want to see,” Christen grinned.

“You’re not very nice this afternoon,” Tobin huffed. “I didn’t bring a wetsuit because I didn’t think I was getting in the water.”

“Come on, Mommy! You have a swimsuit. Let’s gooooo,” Scottie begged, jumping up and down in the sand. 

Christen crooked her finger at Tobin, asking her to come closer, an apologetic but playful glint in her green eyes.

“Yes?” Tobin hummed, already pulling off her long-sleeved t-shirt to reveal a bikini top. 

“Baby,” Christen whispered, beckoning Tobin closer, her eyes lingering on the newly revealed skin and flexed muscles of Tobin’s torso. 

“Chris?” Tobin replied, raising an eyebrow at Christen as she leaned closer. 

“I’ll make the voluntelling up to you,” Christen murmured with a slight smirk playing at her lips.

Tobin narrowed her eyes slightly, enjoying the way Christen was teasing, seemingly lighter than she had been earlier on in her recovery process. 

“I’m looking forward to that, my love,” Tobin whispered, hopping up from her spot and shimmying her joggers off before she let Scottie drag her toward the water. 

“Families go to this beach, Christen,” Channing teased, knocking her shoulder into Christen’s as she settled on the blanket next to her sister.

Christen blushed and ducked her head, stopping her obvious ogling of Tobin.

“Honestly, it’s a good thing. You’d hate for Mo Mo to marry her and then get tired of her body. Clearly, it’s still making an impact,” Tyler joked, unpacking the lunch that they’d made at the house. 

“Oh God, stop,” Christen laughed, fighting off a deeper blush at her sisters’ teasing.

“She has a good butt, I’ll give you that,” Channing hummed, tilting her head to the side as she watched Tobin lift Scottie over a wave. 

“Solid six-pack,” Lindsey chimed in.

“It’s the legs, isn’t it?” Tyler asked. 

“If I wasn’t in a cast, I’d walk away from this conversation right now,” Christen huffed with a breathy chuckle.

“What’s your favorite? Be honest,” Channing smirked. 

“Her heart,” Christen replied immediately, looking away from her sisters and Lindsey and out at Tobin, smiling when she saw Tobin playfully dip Scottie toward the water and lift her back up without getting her wet.

“Kinda boring but cute,” Tyler laughed, pulling out a bottle of wine and pouring some in a metal wine cup for Christen. 

“Hey, we’re not boring,” Christen defended with a laugh, turning back to her family.

“Oh, I know,” Tyler shuddered, a teasing glint in her eyes. “Noise carries upstairs.”

“Oh, please,” Christen replied with a fierce blush. “Remember when you and Lindsey came to visit me my first year in New York? In a studio with no walls !”

“We are definitely not boring,” Lindsey smirked, high-fiving Tyler. 

“Poor Scottie,” Tyler hummed, goading her sister. 

“I’m getting her earplugs for Christmas,” Channing laughed.

“We couldn’t actually hear you,” Lindsey finally said with a wink. “Although, now we all know that you had sex last night.”

A high-pitched scream came from Scottie, making Christen’s stomach clench and all of the adults' heads whip around to the water. 

“Offsides!” Scottie screamed, leaving Tobin in knee-deep water and racing out of the waves. 

Christen let out a sigh of relief when she saw that Scottie was fine and running up the beach toward her.

“Momma,” Scottie breathed out, her teeth chattering and her hair dripping with water. 

Christen hissed in discomfort as she got up on her knees, grabbing Scottie’s towel and pulling it around Scottie’s shoulders.

“You okay, sweetheart?” Christen asked.

“I’m a popsicle,” Scottie shivered, leaning her head down enough to tuck it into the crook of Christen’s neck. 

Christen sighed and took the loss, pulling Scottie into her. She shivered as water soaked her sweatshirt, but she couldn’t complain when Scottie hummed happily and clung tightly to her.

“Chilly out there, huh?” Christen hummed, rubbing her hands up and down Scottie’s back to try and warm her up.

“Mommy told me not to dive under the water, but I really wanted to,” Scottie whispered. 

“And now you regret it,” Tobin chuckled, reaching down to pull her t-shirt back on. 

“I have regrets,” Scottie agreed, pressing a kiss to Christen’s shoulder before she straightened back up and looked around for her backpack. 

“Here,” Christen said, reaching behind her, wincing just a bit when her leg protested at her movement. She grabbed the backpack and held it out for Scottie.

“Thank you,” Scottie grinned, plopping down on the blanket and digging through her backpack for the sweatshirt and pants Tobin had packed her. 

“You should sit down,” Tobin whispered, resting her hands on the top of Christen’s shoulders, offering help if Christen needed it. 

Christen considered trying to do it herself, but her leg was really hurting today so instead, she just held up her hands, silently asking Tobin for some help.

Tobin reached down and held onto Christen’s waist, lifting her up just enough for Christen to get her legs back in front of her. Then, Tobin sat down next to Christen, already putting an arm around her. 

“Thank you,” Christen whispered, leaning her head on Tobin’s shoulder.

“Next year, you can get in the ocean with Scottie,” Tobin whispered back before placing a kiss on top of Christen’s head. 

“Where did Mommy go?” Scottie asked with a yawn as she crawled into bed beside Christen. 

“She’s got to see a man about some tables,” Christen replied sleepily, throwing an arm around Scottie’s middle and pushing her face further into the pillow.

“Aunty Channy gave her a job?” Scottie asked, squirming close to Christen. 

“Mhm. You’re the flower ring girl, I’m one of the Maids of Honor, and Tobin is crisis clean up,” Christen hummed.

“I have a secret,” Scottie whispered. 

“Is it that you want to sleep for another hour?” Christen whispered back, cracking an eye open and grinning at Scottie to show her that she was teasing.

“I mean, we can do that,” Scottie giggled, pressing her bare feet against Christen’s good leg. 

“What’s the secret, you popsicle?”

“I’m a tiny bit nervous,” Scottie admitted softly, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. 

That had Christen waking up the rest of the way, her eyes blinking open. “About what?” she asked quietly, moving her arm from around Scottie. She lifted her hand and brushed some hair away from Scottie’s face.

“Yesterday we did the rehearsal,” Scottie said, nervously spinning the ring Channing had given her around her finger. “I guess I didn’t realize there would be so many people. And I don’t even know most of them.”

Christen hummed, completely understanding the nerves about doing something in front of a whole bunch of people she didn’t know. 

“I felt the same way before my first college game,” Christen whispered.

“Really?” Scottie asked, nuzzling close to Christen. 

“Really, really,” Christen confirmed with a small smile.

“How did you make your stomach not get all tickly and nervous?” Scottie asked, her words slightly muffled against the neck of Christen’s shirt. 

“Well, all that ticklish, nervous stuff in your tummy needs to go somewhere. You can’t just let it sit there,” Christen began, using her good leg to kick off the covers gently.

“How do you get it out?” Scottie asked. 

“Two words, sweetheart. Dance. Party,” Christen murmured.

Scottie smiled against Christen, her eyes crinkling and her dimple appearing immediately. 

Christen reached behind her and grabbed her phone from the bedside table. “Hey Siri, play ‘Only Wanna Be With You’ by Hootie and the Blowfish,” Christen said, putting the phone down when the song started playing.

“I knew you liked Hootie,” Scottie said, leaning back and narrowing her eyes at Christen. “You love me and Mommy too much not to love Hootie!” 

“Scottie Heath, will you dance out your tickly nerves with me?” Christen asked with a smile.

“Yes,” Scottie nodded, feeling lighter than she had since the rehearsal the day before. She bounced out of bed and handed Christen her crutches, already moving to the beat of the song. 

“YOU AND ME WE COME FROM DIFFERENT WORLDS!” Scottie sang, bouncing from foot to foot. 

“YOU LIKE TO LAUGH AT ME WHEN I LOOK AT OTHER GIRLS!” Christen sang back, hopping around on her good leg and swinging her cast around as she balanced on the crutches.

Scottie was by no means a good dancer. It wasn’t something she’d grown into. She was dorky and constantly offbeat, but the complete joy that overtook her when she danced or sang or just goofed around was enough to shake the nerves she had. She bobbed around the guest room, moving her hands as she spun in small circles, getting a little dizzy. And when the song finally ended, she fell back onto the bed, slightly breathless with aching cheeks. 

“How are the tickly nerves?” Christen asked, a little winded from their dancing as she set her crutches down and sank onto the edge of the bed.

“Less tickly,” Scottie said with a content smile. “Thank you.”

“Always, sweetheart,” Christen replied, a smile on her face as well.

“You and Mommy are really cool,” Scottie mumbled, reaching out and tangling her hand with Christen’s. 

“Takes cool to recognize cool,” Christen winked, squeezing Scottie’s hand gently.

“Christen Press!” Channing yelled from downstairs. 

“Oh, I’m big busted,” Christen sighed, hanging her head.

“We’re doing hair and makeup! Let’s go! Bring shortstack!” Channing announced. 

“Okay, um...maybe a little offsides,” Scottie coughed as Tyler sprayed hairspray over her hair. 

“Tyler, enough. Her hair’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future,” Christen sighed, taking a sip of coffee as Channing finished straightening her hair for her.

“It’s crunchy,” Scottie mumbled, reaching up to touch one of her curls. 

“You’re welcome,” Tyler grinned, winking at Scottie and setting the can of hairspray down.

“Tyler, will you finish Mo’s hair? I’m gonna do Scottie’s makeup,” Channing hummed. 

“Unless she doesn’t want makeup. She’s beautiful just as she is,” Christen interjected, offering Scottie a smile.

“Thanks, Momma,” Scottie mumbled. “Sorry, I think I’m a tomboy.”

“That’s my girl,” Christen winked.

“Do you want to pick out a fun nail polish?” Channing asked instead. 

“Do you have purple?” Scottie asked. 

Channing led Scottie to the downstairs bathroom to scope out the nail polish options, while Tyler straightened Christen’s hair.

“Sooo, Tobin’s finger’s pretty naked,” Tyler hummed. 

Christen choked on her sip of coffee and spluttered, thankful that Tyler had set the flat iron aside before asking her question. 

“Really? It’s Channing’s day,” Christen replied, setting her coffee down on the table.

“You’ve always been good at trying to dodge questions,” Tyler snorted. 

Christen knew it was said in jest, but she still winced slightly. “I don’t mean to. injury set things back a little bit.”

“You know she’d say yes to you in a purple cast, right?” Tyler asked, squeezing Christen’s shoulder. 

Christen cracked a smile and nodded. “Yeah, but I want to get down on one knee without needing help or using a crutch.”

“You don’t need to get down on one knee. She’ll say yes no matter how you ask,” Tyler said softly. 

“She didn’t get the whole engagement, wedding experience the first time, and I want to give her everything. She deserves everything,” Christen replied, equally as soft. “My doctor said I should be good to go by February for that. So I’m trying to be patient.”

“So, we’ll plan to fly out in February to throw you a party?” Tyler asked, a huge smile spreading across her face. 

“That’s a safe bet,” Christen murmured, looking back at her sister.

“Is Scottie excited about it?” Tyler asked. 

“Understatement of the century,” Christen chuckled. “She asks to see the ring once a week.”

“Okay, that’s freaking adorable,” Tyler cooed, picking the flat iron up again to finish the last section of Christen’s hair. 

Christen turned back around in her chair in time to catch Scottie and Channing walking back into the room.

“Find any awesome purples?” Christen asked, picking up her coffee once more.

“Yes, the awesomest purple!” Scottie answered, holding the bottle of nail polish out to Christen. 

“It glows in the dark,” Channing grinned.

“Do you want to wait to paint nails until after we’ve gone down to see Mom and Dad?” Tyler asked, glancing up at Channing. 

“Good plan,” Channing nodded, getting a little misty-eyed. “Thank goodness we’re saving the makeup for after too,” she added with a laugh, reaching for a tissue.

Scottie raced out of the room without a word, making all three of the Press sisters pause what they were doing and stare at where she’d just been standing. 

“Sweetheart, you okay?” Christen called out, ready to get up and go after Scottie if she needed to.

“Yeah!” Scottie yelled back, rummaging around in the guest bedroom upstairs. There were a few loud thuds before she was racing back down the stairs with a thin, rectangular box. 

“Mommy and I got you something, but I think now’s a better time to give it to you than tonight,” Scottie said, holding the box out to Channing. 

Channing took the box with a grateful smile. She opened it up and let out a small gasp, her tears threatening to fall now.

“It’s a family thing. And now, you and Mikel are family, and maybe someday you’ll want little kids for your family, and these come in handy,” Scottie shrugged, putting her hands behind her back and rocking forward on her toes in anticipation. 

“Shortstack this is- thank you,” Channing whispered, more than a little choked up. She looked down at the handkerchief in the box, with her and Mikel’s names embroidered on it, and felt the first tear slip down her cheek. “Thank you,” she repeated, pulling Scottie in for a tight hug.

“Plus it’s blue. I don’t know why that matters, but Mommy said that’s lucky or something,” Scottie added. “You’re welcome.”

Christen blew out a shaky breath and grabbed a tissue from the box on the table, dabbing at her eyes. 

“We’re all going to be weeping messes today, aren't we?” Christen asked with a wet laugh.

“Mommy brought her whole collection of handkerchiefs,” Scottie said with a lopsided smile as she moved closer to Christen’s side. 

“I think they might come in handy,” Christen replied, reaching out to poke her finger in the dimple in Scottie’s cheek. “That was a great gift, cutie. A really great gift.” 

Christen kept Scottie by her side as they walked, and she crutched, behind Tyler and Channing, heading down the path that wound along the cliffs.

“Um...what are we doing?” Scottie asked quietly, recognizing the change in energy in each of the Press sisters. 

Christen paused and balanced on her crutches, turning to face Scottie. “We’re going to visit our parents. But...I get if that might be uncomfortable or weird, so we can always turn back and go to the house.”

“Oh,” Scottie nodded, not batting an eye at the response. “It isn’t weird. Mommy takes me to see my tummy mom every year. I can wait right here if you want sister time. I won’t move a muscle.”

“I like my sister time, but I love my Scottie time. Would you come with me? I’d kind of like them to meet you,” Christen replied softly, offering Scottie a slightly wobbly smile.

“Sure,” Scottie answered, hooking a finger in one of Christen’s belt loops and slowly moving alongside her. “I’d like to meet them. Since you’re my Momma, they’d probably be like Grandma and Grandpa, right?” 

“They would have really loved the chance to be your Grandma and Grandpa,” Christen whispered, swallowing the lump in her throat.

“They still get to be sort of,” Scottie replied, touching a hand over her own heart. “It’s not the same, but they still get to be.”

“You're right, sweetheart. They do,” Christen replied. She let out a shaky breath and finished crutching the rest of the way to the pile of rocks Channing and Tyler were already standing at, feeling her heart ache in her chest and her eyes sting.

Scottie stayed quiet, following Tobin’s example and letting Christen and her sisters have their time. Any time Tobin took her to see her tummy mom, Tobin would sit quietly, giving Scottie the space and time to talk about her year. It wasn’t a sad moment for her. It was a touchstone, a moment where she got to remember what brought her to Tobin, what led to the life she had now. 

But this was sad. This was painful, and Scottie could see that. She watched three people she loved, three people who she’d chosen as family outwardly experience the pain that they typically kept deep inside. And her heart ached for her Momma and her aunts and for the grandparents that she’d never get to meet in the way that she wanted to. 

Christen dropped a hand onto Scottie’s back and rubbed her hand in small circles. She could see Scottie’s trembling bottom lip and she knew it matched her own. She might not be able to hold Scottie in her arms or bend down and pull her in for a hug, but she could be by her side and remind her she wasn’t alone.

Channing cried on Tyler’s shoulder after stumbling through some words about how she wished they were there for this day. Tyler stayed stoic as she shared some words about how she missed their parents and about how she would make them both proud by walking Channing down the aisle today. 

And then they both offered Scottie and Christen watery smiles and made their way back up the hill, leaving the two of them alone like Christen asked.

“Come here,” Christen said, nodding at the pile of rocks a few feet away. She led Scottie closer and then set her crutches down, hobbling into a seated position.

Christen reached into her pocket and pulled out two pennies, one from 2013 and one from 2023. She handed the 2013 penny to Scottie and held onto the other one.

“Hi guys,” Christen greeted, the act of talking to her parents coming easier to her now than it had the last few times. “I brought someone really special with me to meet you.”

“Hi,” Scottie whispered quietly, pressing her head against Christen’s side. 

“This is my Scottie,” Christen introduced, turning her head to drop a kiss to the top of Scottie’s head. “And I’m the luckiest person in the whole world because she chose me to be her Momma. I’ve told you both a lot about her, and I thought it was time for you to meet the incredible girl I always tell you about.”

“You’ve told them about me?” Scottie asked, looking up at Christen with wide eyes. 

“Of course,” Christen replied softly. “You’re Scottie Heath and you’re part of my universe of love. The people who raised me and taught me how to love deserved to know about you.”

“You did a really good job teaching Momma how to love,” Scottie said, turning her head back to the rocks that Christen was facing. 

Christen let out a long breath, willing away the stinging at the corners of her eyes. “I- uh, I brought you guys some pennies, just like I always do. But they’re special this time. Sweetheart,” Christen whispered, looking down at Scottie, “will you put your penny on that rock right there?”

“Yeah,” Scottie agreed, hopping up from where she was sitting next to Christen and placing her penny, face up on the rock. 

“That one’s from 2013, the year Scottie was born. I wanted you to have it because she’s now part of your-” Christen faltered, letting out a shaky breath. “She’s now part of your universe of love too.”

Christen used the shoulder of her sweater to wipe at her eyes, finding herself thankful that they’d decided to do make-up later. 

“And umm, this one,” Christen said, looking down at the penny in her palm, “this one is from this year. 2023. The year I made the decision to ask Tobin to marry me. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will.”

Scottie moved back to Christen’s side and held out her hand, offering to put it next to her penny. 

Christen passed Scottie the penny, feeling the first stubborn tear slip down her cheek. She sniffled and wiped it away, watching Scottie gently kiss the penny and put it down next to the other one.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” Christen whispered. Feeling Scottie press against her side again, Christen wrapped her arm around Scottie’s shoulders and looked down at the two pennies. “I wish like hell you two could be here today, and I wish like hell you could be there to see me marry my person. But it’s okay because I know wherever you are, you’re watching. You’re going to see me get down on one knee, broken leg notwithstanding, and ask Tobin to be mine. You’re going to see me get married to one of my everythings. And just like I know you have been this whole time, you’ll get to see me be this girl’s Momma every single day. I love you guys.”

Scottie held out a yellow handkerchief with a daisy on the corner of it, one of the many that Tobin had brought from their house for this trip. Christen took it and wiped at her eyes, her hand shaking ever so slightly.

“Can I talk to them?” Scottie asked at a whisper, glancing up at Christen. 

Christen gripped tightly onto the handkerchief in her hand and nodded wordlessly down at Scottie, not trusting her voice not to break.

Scottie thought for a second about what she wanted to say, about what she’d want to hear if she wasn’t there, if she missed out on things with the people she loved most. She thought about the things her tummy mom would miss, things she’d already missed. She thought about the life that she got to live with her moms and the path that had led her there. And even though she didn’t understand it all, even though there was only so much that she’d been able to ask Tobin and only so much she’d been able to understand from what Tobin said, she spoke. 

“I put the pennies heads up because Mommy told me that was lucky. She likes to flip pennies to heads up so that when people find them they have good luck because there should be more luck in the world. When I was a baby, I was unlucky. I lost my tummy mom when I was super small. I don’t remember her except for some pictures, so it doesn’t hurt to not see her every day. I was also really lucky, though, because I got Mommy and now I have Momma. And they make up a universe of love that’s super fun and colorful and safe,” Scottie said, staring over the cliffside at the waves that she’d grown to love. 

“Mommy and Momma have given me a lot of family, which was something I didn’t have when I was a baby. I have aunts and uncles and cousins, and I have grandparents. I think you’d like my Grandma and Grandpa because they taught Mommy how to love, and now she loves Momma. It’s really fun to have movie nights with Grandma or play games with Grandpa, and I wish I could do that with you.”

Scottie drummed her fingers along her thighs and glanced back to the rock formation. “I probably wouldn’t call you Grandma and Grandpa because that would be confusing. We’d probably come up with something else, though. I can think about it and let you know. Anyway, I think that there’s always gonna be a spot right here,” Scottie said, pointing to her heart, “that knows I’m lucky because of you. You brought me Momma and showed her how to love, and she loves me. So, I’m always gonna love you.”

Christen muffled her sob behind her hand, turning away slightly to give herself a moment to compose herself. Her tears fell freely now as Scottie’s words wrapped around her heart and made her feel impossibly lucky too. 

“Was that okay?” Scottie murmured, looking at the way Christen had turned away. 

Christen quickly wiped at her eyes with the handkerchief, forcefully expelling a shaking breath from her lips. She then turned back to Scottie and nodded, pulling Scottie closer and pressing a wobbly kiss to her forehead. 

“That was wonderful, sweetheart,” Christen replied, her voice thick with emotion.

“I really love you,” Scottie whispered, sinking into Christen’s side. 

“I really love you too,” Christen whispered back.

“I’m glad I got to meet them,” Scottie added quietly. 

“I know they’re happy they got to meet you too,” Christen replied, holding Scottie close.

“Mommy, we have a 9-1-1,” Scottie whisper-shouted, catching Tobin’s attention from where she was sitting in the second row of the outdoor venue.

“What do you mean?” Tobin asked, already slipping from her seat. “Please tell me you didn’t lose the rings.”

Scottie rolled her eyes and held up her thumbs, showing off the two wedding bands. 

“Momma and Tyler are about to throw hands.”

“Where did you learn that phrase?” Tobin asked, leading Scottie away from the chairs and back to where the bridal party was waiting inside. 

“Coach Kelley,” Scottie shrugged.

“Coach Kelley’s weird,” Tobin sighed, following Scottie up the steps and through the door to the reception area. 

“If I say I can do it, I can do it, Ty,” Christen said quietly, trying not to raise her voice at Tyler. 

“What’s up? What are you doing?” Tobin asked, holding onto Scottie’s hand and letting her spin around to make her dress twirl. 

Christen looked away from Tyler and over at Tobin, softening just a bit. “What are you doing back here? We’re about to start.”

“I was told you and Tyler were throwing hands. Apparently, it was a 9-1-1 situation,” Tobin smirked, nodding her head at Scottie. 

Tyler snorted. “We’re disagreeing like we always do. And now that you’re here, would you tell your girlfriend that she’s not walking down the aisle before Chan and me because she can’t put weight on her leg yet?”

“You haven’t been cleared for weight-bearing activities,” Tobin said, looking over at Christen. 

Christen’s jaw tightened at the reminder, her green eyes flashing dangerously as Tobin got between her and Channing’s request.

“Oooh Momma’s not happy yellow anymore,” Scottie giggled as she got a little dizzy. 

“I can do it,” Christen argued again, narrowed eyes moving between Tobin and Tyler.

“So, you want to walk without crutches...well, hobble without crutches down the aisle because…?” Tobin asked, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion. 

“We’re talking about that word choice later,” Christen said, arching a brow.

“Big busted,” Scottie hummed, spinning the other direction with Tobin holding onto her hand. 

“Channing is going without so much today, I won’t be another thing on that list. Maid of Honors walk down the aisle before the bride. Not crutch or hobble . I can do that for her. I can,” Christen affirmed, her hands tightening around the grips on her crutches.

“What about one crutch?” Tyler suggested. 

“Uhh...that’s probably still not part of the doctor’s orders,” Tobin said softly, lowering her eyes to avoid Christen’s glare. 

Christen looked ready to argue and throw hands with both Tyler and Tobin and then Scottie spoke up.

“One crutch and Mommy?” Scottie suggested with a smile.

It was quiet for a moment as the three adults all shared a look. Finally, Christen sighed and agreed.

“That’s a good idea, sweetheart. Thank you,” Christen said, offering Scottie a small smile.

“See, easy peasy,” Scottie said with a smile directed back at Christen. “Can I throw flowers now?” 

“Don’t throw so hard you lose the rings,” Tyler winked, grabbing the bouquets from the table and holding one out for Christen. Thinking better of it, she redirected and passed it to Tobin. “She’s stubborn and will try to, but she shouldn’t be holding this.”

“Oh my god,” Christen sighed under her breath. “You’re as bad as mom was. I’m fine .”

“Why don’t you and Scottie get lined up with Channing,” Tobin suggested to Tyler before turning her attention to Christen. 

Tyler waited just long enough to kiss Christen's forehead, the two sisters sharing a smile that said all was forgiven and forgotten, before Tyler walked off with Scottie by her side.

“I didn’t mean to say hobble,” Tobin said with a sheepish grimace. 

“Mhm,” Christen hummed, shaking her head affectionately.

“I’ll be your crutch, though, and I’ll even ignore Tyler and let you hold the bouquet,” Tobin murmured, stepping close to Christen and pressing a kiss to her forehead. 

“Thank you,” Christen replied, dropping a crutch on the ground. She slid her arm under Tobin’s, her hand gripping tightly to Tobin’s bicep. 

“You look stunning,” Tobin hummed, putting the bouquet in Christen’s hand that was linked around her arm. 

Christen blushed slightly and angled her head to look over at Tobin. “So do you,” Christen whispered, nodding down at the green dress Tobin had donned for the occasion. “Perfect green.”

“Scottie picked it,” Tobin chuckled, running her free hand through her hair. 

“Our girl has great taste,” Christen hummed.

“Did you two have a good morning?” Tobin asked, making sure the crutch was situated under Christen’s other arm before she took a step toward the door. 

Christen nodded and slowly followed Tobin’s lead as she walked them over to the door that led outside.

“Do you really always flip pennies head’s up?” Christen asked.

Tobin’s lips quirked up into a smile. “I mean, if I’m in a really gross bathroom, probably not. But usually, yes.”

“I love you,” Christen whispered softly.

“I love you too, baby. Did Scottie flip a penny today?” Tobin asked as she pushed the door open and let Christen move through it just barely ahead of her. 

“Two. One for her, and one for you,” Christen replied, offering Tyler, Scottie, and Channing a beaming smile as they all gathered outside, waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Tobin hadn’t brought her camera because Channing had hired a professional, but that didn’t stop her from pulling her phone out to take a picture of Christen and Scottie. She couldn’t help herself when Christen was sitting at the dinner table, her arm wrapped around Scottie’s waist, and Scottie was standing next to her, pointing across the room at the dessert table. 

Tobin was only human, and seeing her girls in matching dresses and matching smiles completely melted her heart. So, she snapped photo after photo on her phone, thankful that Christen and Scottie were being good sports and ignoring her as best as they could when they got tired of smiling. 

“If you don’t ask her to dance, someone else will,” Mikel grinned, clapping Tobin on the shoulder.

“They better not,” Tobin laughed, tucking her phone into the purse that Christen had brought. “Don’t you have a wife to dance with?”

“Slow song’s coming or so I’m told. I’m on my way to find her,” Mikel replied, offering Tobin one final smile before moving away, working his way through the crowd.

“Thanks for the tip,” Tobin replied, already rising from her seat and walking around to put her hands on Christen’s shoulders. “Hi,” she whispered, leaning down near Christen’s ear. 

“Hi back,” Christen whispered.

“A solid source just told me there’s a slow song coming up. And I would love to dance with you,” Tobin murmured. 

Christen tilted her head to the side, looking up at Tobin with an enamored smile. “I think that’s against doctor’s orders.”

“I’ll keep you off your broken leg,” Tobin replied with a lopsided smile. 

“What about me?” Scottie asked, jutting out her lower lip.

Christen and Tobin shared a look, both trying to think of something, and then Tyler swooped in.

“Scottie Heath, may I have this dance?” Tyler asked. Getting an elbow in the side from Lindsey, Tyler cleared her throat. “Sorry, may we?”

“I would love to,” Scottie nodded, reaching her hand out for Tyler’s and leaving the table. 

“Okay, now I can say yes and not feel like a terrible parent,” Christen chuckled, letting Tobin help her up from the chair. She hopped on one leg, keeping weight off of her cast.

Tobin wrapped her arms around Christen’s waist and lifted her up off the floor, just enough to take a few steps away from the table and end up on the very corner of the dance floor. 

“So strong,” Christen teased, her arms looped around Tobin’s neck.

Tobin lowered her slightly, letting Christen’s casted foot settle on her own foot. “I think you secretly like it, despite the teasing,” she said, already starting to sway to the opening notes of whatever slow song they were playing. 

“Strong yet soft. That’s you,” Christen hummed, following Tobin’s lead as they danced. Or, as Tobin danced and she allowed Tobin to pull her along.

“I could argue that you are too,” Tobin murmured. “You’re really incredible.”

“What makes you say that?” Christen asked, tilting her head to the side with a small smile.

“Well, today. The way you love Scottie stands out the most. I’m really really glad you want to be hers,” Tobin breathed out, thinking about what Scottie had told her on their most recent trip to the buffet table, detailing her morning with Christen and Christen’s parents.  

“I’m not just hers, Tobin,” Christen whispered, letting her fingers move through Tobin’s soft waves.

“I know,” Tobin nodded, placing a soft kiss on the corner of Christen’s mouth. “We’re both yours. Completely yours.”

Christen smiled and leaned forward to capture Tobin’s lips with her own, keeping the kiss quick yet full of love.

“They do that a lot,” Scottie giggled from across the dancefloor, her laughter only growing when Lindsey covered her mouth with her hand. 

“I love weddings,” Scottie yawned, wrapping her arms around Christen’s neck as she said good night. 

“I do too, sweetheart,” Christen whispered, kissing Scottie’s cheek. She’d had that same thought all day, about how wonderful this wedding day was and how excited she was at the prospect of getting to do that with Tobin.

“Me three,” Tobin hummed, tucking the bedsheets around Scottie. She couldn’t stop the countless images in her head of the wedding she wanted with Christen. She couldn’t quit imagining their first dance and Scottie being a part of the ceremony. She couldn’t stop thinking about it. And unbeknownst to her, neither could Christen.

“Next time, I think I’ll wear a suit,” Scottie announced with a toothy grin.

Christen chuckled and ruffled Scottie’s freshly washed hair. “Next time, we’re getting you in bed before midnight, you dancing queen.”

“I can’t help it that everyone wanted to dance with me,” Scottie laughed, her smile growing when Tobin poked her in the sides. 

“Maybe we’ll sleep in and have some late pancakes tomorrow,” Tobin suggested. 

“And Christmas in three sleeps!” Scottie grinned. “Christmas with Christen is now Christmas with Momma, even if it doesn’t sound as...Mommy, what’s the word?” 

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

“That’s a made-up word. Why do adults make up words all the time?” Scottie asked, rubbing her eyes tiredly.

“When you’re an adult, you can do it too,” Christen teased.

“I will,” Scottie sighed, her eyes already starting to droop. “I love you both. You’re the best moms in the whole, wide world. Good night.”

“We love you too, little bit,” Tobin replied, squeezing Christen gently. 

“You’re the best kid in the whole, wide world,” Christen added, leaning into Tobin’s side and sinking into the warmth in her heart. It was the first time Scottie had wished them good night jointly, and it felt like another part of us and ours. A glorious, heart-achingly beautiful part.

“Good night,” Tobin finished for the both of them. She brushed her hand over Scottie’s forehead before handing Christen her second crutch and leading the way out of Christen’s childhood bedroom and back down the hall to the guest room. 

“Sleeping in?” Christen asked when they got into the guest room, tossing the crutches and dropping to the edge of the bed. She collapsed down on the bed with a tired sigh.

“Absolutely,” Tobin agreed, crawling onto the bed and lying down next to Christen. “I’m exhausted. I have no idea how you’re still awake,” she added, wrapping an arm around Christen’s waist. 

“Sheer will and determination to see you take that dress off,” Christen grinned, her eyes closed as her hand fell to Tobin’s back.

Laughter bubbled out of Tobin’s chest as her arm tightened around Christen’s waist. “You want to pick a song for me to strip to,” she teased, pressing a few kisses to the side of Christen’s neck. 

“Don’t threaten me with a good time, Tobin Heath,” Christen replied with a chuckle.

“Let’s get ready for bed, baby,” Tobin whispered, forcing herself to get out of bed and reach a hand down for Christen. “If we’re quick, I’ll give you a back massage before you pass out.”

“Threaten me with a good time any time,” Christen grinned, letting Tobin help her up.

Tobin detangled herself from Christen’s arms, making sure not to wake her up as she pulled on an old Stanford sweatshirt and slipped on her glasses and a pair of sneakers. 

It was already lucky that Tobin had woken up so early, the clock on the bedside table reading 7:14AM when she first opened her eyes. Christen was down for the count, completely exhausted after the wedding set-up, the ceremony, and the reception. It had been emotionally draining, and Tobin knew Christen could easily sleep for another three hours if left uninterrupted. 

She padded out of the room and down the hallway, keeping her steps as soft as possible. The door to Christen’s childhood bedroom was closed, Scottie likely still sleeping soundly. Mikel and Channing were already enjoying their honeymoon at a nearby hotel before traveling to Paris, and Tyler and Lindsey had given Scottie express instructions not to wake them up until the pancakes were made and the clock read 9:00AM. 

By the time she stepped out the back door of the house, her eyes felt slightly less bleary, a little more awake and alert. And the nerves were starting to set in, making her heart beat a little quicker and her stomach twist as she searched for the right words, words that she’d been practicing for a few months, words that never seemed perfect. 

She walked down the path, enjoying seeing the trail in the sunlight and understanding even more fully why Christen and her sisters had decided that this spot was the perfect place to give their parents a place to rest that had a view. The waves were crashing against rocks, sending soothing sounds all the way up the side of the cliff and making Tobin feel slightly less awkward when she reached Christen’s parents’ place, all the while still struggling with what she should say first. 

She cleared her throat and stepped forward, looking at the two pennies on top of the topmost stone, a small smile slipping onto her lips. 

“You met Scottie,” she said softly, running her hand over the top of the rock as a quiet hello. “I’m really glad Christen wanted to introduce her to you both. She’s...your daughter is really incredible, and she loves Scottie more than I could have hoped for. She loves me more than I could have imagined possible.” 

Tobin looked out at the water again, taking a deep breath and trying to ground herself in this moment. There wouldn’t be any do-overs. Their week was packed with Christmas plans and family time, and this was likely the only moment she would have on her own with Christen’s parents. 

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a penny and a pair of sunglasses she’d bought the morning of the wedding. 

“They’re not quite as fancy as the ones Chris bought you last time, but they look cool. And I’ll just add this to your collection,” she murmured, putting the penny face up next to what she presumed were Scottie’s and Christen’s. 

“If you were here , I can guarantee that I’d be a complete wreck. Lindsey told me that you were a little intimidating to ask for a blessing to marry Tyler. She said you made her worry for a few seconds before saying yes. I...I really wish that you had the chance to make me worry like that. Christen would love that. She’d probably tease me about it a lot.”

Tobin ran her hand through her hair and put the sunglasses next to the penny before taking a small step back. “Chris loves you both, and she misses you so much. And I know how hard it’s going to be for her to do this without you. I just want you to be involved, even if you can’t scare me with silence or make me sweat. I want you to be involved because she needs you to be a part of this. And I just want to make her happy. That’s all I want to do.” 

Tobin reached into the pocket of her joggers and pulled out the black, leather box that she’d had hidden under her bed for nearly the past six months and popped it open. “I designed a ring for her that I really think she’ll love. I really hope she loves it. And I’m planning on asking her soon. I want her to be Scottie’s mom, and I want that to be official, so I’m working on that. But I wanted to ask for your blessing because I don’t know if we’ll visit again before I ask her. I’m really hoping not because sitting on this ring for this long has been kind of torturous.” 

“I know you can’t really give me a yes or no answer. I know that’s not fair. You should be here to do that. But I want you to know that I’m intent on doing everything I can to make your daughter happy. She’s- Chris and Scottie are everything to me, and I want you to know that I’m going to make sure that my family feels loved and safe no matter what. I promise to try every day to be good enough for her, to be great for her,” Tobin said as she closed the box and put it back into her pocket, fidgeting with the sleeve of Christen’s old sweatshirt. 

“I’m uh...I’m gonna head back to the house so that she doesn’t wake up alone, but I’ll be back, probably with Christen and maybe Scottie. We’ll keep checking in,” she murmured, her eyes stinging and her heart aching for the people she’d never get to meet and the woman she loved most who would have to settle for this kind of blessing. 

Tobin turned back up the trail, wishing she’d grabbed a handkerchief as she rubbed the back of her hand over her eyes. She kept her footsteps soft on the way inside, even slipping off her slides to tiptoe up the stairs. 

When she shut the guest room door, she felt like she could breathe a little easier at the sight of Christen, curled up against the pillow she’d left unoccupied. Tobin tucked the ring back in her suitcase, burying it inside a pair of her jeans and covering the jeans with a few sweaters. Then, she crawled under the covers, squirming back into Christen’s space.

“Cold,” Christen grunted, pushing her face against the pillow.

“Sorry,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. 

“Where’d you go?” Christen mumbled, lifting her arm and flinging it across Tobin’s stomach.

“Just checking on Scottie,” Tobin lied, running her hand along Christen’s back. 

“She okay?” Christen asked, her forehead furrowing slightly as her eyes blinked open.

“Yeah, baby. She’s perfect,” Tobin nodded, trailing her fingers up to the base of Christen’s neck. 

Christen looked over at Tobin through half-lidded eyes. “Are you okay?” she asked softly.

“I’m more than okay,” Tobin nodded. “Are you okay?” 

“I’m happy,” Christen replied with a sleepy smile. “I have you.” 

“Me too, my love,” Tobin breathed out, scratching the back of Christen’s neck to help soothe her back to sleep. “Me too.”

Chapter Text


Everything’s golden,

My love when you're holdin’, holdin’ me.


A thousand red roses,

Surround us and slowly fall to our feet.

Well every evening with you my dear is enchanted,

I vow right now I won’t take one moment for granted. 

Oh cause I know in this life, we’ve only got so much time,

So pull me in close and promise you’ll always be mine.

 I’m right by your side, lookin’ into your eyes,

Thinkin’ I’d be the luckiest fool,

If I got to spend the rest of my days with you.

(Christen - “Rest of My Days” by Emily James)

How long will I love you?

As long as stars are above you

And longer if I can

How long will I need you?

As long as the seasons need to

Follow their plan

How long will I be with you?

As long as the sea is bound to

Wash upon the sand

How long will I want you?

As long as you want me to

And longer by far

How long will I hold you?

As long as your father told you

As long as you can

How long will I give to you?

As long as I live through you

However long you say

How long will I love you?

As long as stars are above you

And longer if I may

How long will I love you?

As long as stars are above you

(Tobin - "How Long Will I Love You" by Ellie Goulding)


Christen gritted her teeth and wiped the sweat from her brow with the hem of her workout shirt.

She’d been out of the cast for three and a half weeks, she’d been out of the walking boot for a week, and she’d been doing PT since the New Year. But right now, it felt like she was back at square one.

“Come on, Press. One more single-leg squat,” her physical therapist, Trish, encouraged, clapping her hands.

“I’ve given you ten, one mores. I want to practice getting down on one knee,” Christen protested. “Come on, Trish. Please?”

“Last squat, and then we’ll spend the rest of the hour working on your proposal,” Trish grinned. 

After struggling through one additional squat, Christen collapsed down onto a chair and chugged water, feeling drained from a simple set of activities. It was hard sometimes to believe that she would come back from this. That she would come out on the other side of it better than she had when she’d left. But she had to believe it. It was only the end of February and she still had time. And when she couldn’t believe it, she had Scottie and Tobin believing it for her until she was ready.

“All right, let’s see it!” Crystal cheered, walking into the workout room with Becky and Kelley in tow. 

“I hope it’s better than Monday. You looked like a gassy baby when you tried to get down on one knee,” Kelley snorted, sitting down on the floor. 

“I don’t think teasing is the way to motivate her,” Becky said, her eyes settling on Christen’s already sweaty and frustrated face. 

Christen took a few deep breaths and then stood up from the chair, wincing at the soreness in her muscles. She then slowly got down on her right knee, her left leg bent in front of her. She made a face when she slipped a little and dropped down hard on her knee cap, catching herself with a hand on the ground. 

“ was that?” she asked, looking between her teammates and Trish. “As shitty as it felt?”

“I think it looked better than Monday’s,” Crystal said, plastering on an optimistic smile. 

“Beck?” Christen asked, arching a brow at her fellow co-captain.

“I don’t think Tobin needs you to kneel,” Becky said softly. 

“Unhelpful, thank you. Kel?”

“You looked like you stepped on one of Scottie’s Legos,” Kelley answered, dropping her eyes from Christen’s. 

Christen sighed and slowly got up, tightening her hands into fists. This time she closed her eyes and thought of Tobin as she bent down, trying not to think about what muscles she needed to flex or how much weight to leave off of her left leg. She just thought of Tobin as she got down on her right knee.

When nobody said anything, she cracked an eye open. “What? Still bad?” Christen asked with a grimace.

“That was really good,” Trish answered. 

“It didn’t look painful,” Kelley agreed. 

“More like if Kelley stepped on one of Scottie’s Legos and you watched it happen,” Becky grinned.

“You’re gonna be a really beautiful bride,” Crystal hummed softly, her eyes already feeling a little teary for her best friend. 

Christen felt her lips quirk up into a smile as she dropped down onto the ground, sagging in relief that her final hurdle was taken care of. 

All she had to do now was ask.

Tobin was seconds from throwing her computer off the table in her studio. It was the fifth email she’d sent to Roni, just trying to break through the radio silence that she’d been getting for months. And she now had five return to sender, automatic responses in her inbox. 

It wasn’t like she thought Roni would respond. She felt pretty hopeless at this point, pretty certain that Roni wouldn’t answer or give her what she so desperately wanted. But she was ready. She was so ready to pull out the ring that was now hiding in her favorite pair of sneakers in the back of her closet. 

She didn’t want to wait anymore, and it was torturous to try and figure out a way to give Christen everything when the universe, or more truthfully, when Roni wasn’t cooperating. It was frustrating enough to eat away at Tobin all hours of the day, keeping her up at night and distracting her while she worked. 

Really, only spending time with Christen and Scottie distracted her from the anxiety she felt about never being able to make things officially official like Scottie had asked. That was all she wanted to do. She wanted to marry Christen, and she wanted to give Scottie that official piece of paper so that she never had to worry about her security with Christen and Tobin as her moms. 

Tobin picked up her phone, dialing Roni’s number for the third time that afternoon. She knew how many rings it would take to get the robotic voice that announced that Roni’s voicemail box was full. She knew when the phone would automatically hang up on her. But that knowledge didn’t make it easier. It didn’t make her not want to scream. 

She slammed her phone down on the table beside her computer when she didn’t get through, clenching her jaw and trying to focus on getting the paint off of her forearms instead of the anger that was bubbling in her body. It wasn’t just the frustration that was wrecking her. It was the sense of no control, a sense of helplessness, a sense that she couldn’t even fulfill what she’d promised to do for Christen. She wasn’t keeping her family safe and happy and secure because she couldn’t even get them the proper paperwork to ensure security.

“No, you should do it...yes I’m sure,” Christen’s hushed voice reached Tobin’s ears. And then Tobin heard a series of footsteps coming down the stairs.

Tobin took a deep breath and tried to untense her shoulders, knowing Scottie was about to be in her studio. Instead of the unanswered phone calls, she focused on the adorable way Scottie and Christen whispered, far too loudly and definitely not secretly. And that was what got the smile to slip back onto her face. 

Scottie skidded to a stop next to Tobin and beamed up at her.  “Momma and I are taking you to a just because dinner. You have an hour to get ready,” Scottie announced, handing Tobin an orange tulip. “Oh, and wear the black fancies,” Scottie whispered with a smile. “Momma will like that!”

Giggling, Scottie took off up the stairs again. “Momma I did it! She looked super-duper excited!” 

“Did you tell her about the...thing?” Christen asked, her voice oddly tight.

“Popsicles,” Scottie sighed, turning back and sprinting down the stairs. “I forgot, Mommy. Don’t go on the roof. It’s a just because surprise for after dinner!”

“You’re sneaky, today!” Tobin called, laughing as she followed Scottie up the stairs. 

“Like Momma, like me!” Scottie called back, turning to grin at Tobin over her shoulder.

“You want the black fancies?” Tobin asked as soon as she saw Christen at the top of the stairs. 

“Wear whatever you want to, baby,” Christen replied with a shake of her head, accepting the hug Scottie gave her with a smile.

“So, what’s so special about today?” Tobin asked, making her way to the kitchen sink to wash the paint off her hands and forearms. 

Christen and Scottie just shared a smile. “Nothing!” they both replied, walking hand in hand to the stairs that led to the third floor.

Tobin shook her head, her mood completely turned around within a matter of seconds with her two favorite people. And she was determined to keep this happy, light mood and actually enjoy her time with them, setting her stress on the backburner and settling into time with her family. 

Christen gripped the edge of the sink in the bathroom at Gio’s and breathed deeply, looking at her reflection in the mirror. 

“You can do this. It’s just a proposal. It’s only the rest of your lives. What’s the worst she could say? No?” Christen mumbled to herself, trying to make light of a situation that felt heavy with promise and forever. “Please don’t say no,” she added at a whisper.

Giving herself one last look, she walked out of the bathroom and back to the table, her smile coming easily despite the nerves that had been her constant companion all day.

“You got some sauce,” Christen pointed out, gesturing at Tobin’s white shirt.

“Shoot,” Tobin sighed, looking down at her shirt. 

Christen chuckled and flicked her finger against Tobin’s nose. She dropped a kiss to the top of Tobin’s head and then slid back into her seat. 

“Couldn’t resist,” Christen hummed.

“Buddy, you’re teaching her too many tricks,” Tobin huffed playfully, narrowing her eyes at Scottie and then Christen. 

“Mommy really fell for it this time,” Scottie laughed. “And for that, I get to ask a question.”

“Oh God, okay,” Tobin hummed, leaning back in her seat. “What is it?” 

“If you had to pick one thing out of the kajillion things that you love about Momma, what’s your favorite?” Scottie asked, propping her elbows up on the table and then dropping her chin in her hands.

Tobin’s heart melted a little at the question, her smile growing at the thought. She reached out for Christen’s hand, tangling her fingers with Christen’s and running her thumb along the side of Christen’s hand. 

“That’s a hard question because I love everything about her,” Tobin said, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own. 

“Eh!” Scottie replied, sounding like a buzzer. “Try again!”

“I love your Momma’s heart the most. It’s my favorite thing about her. She cares so much, and she loves so much, and she wouldn’t be who she is if her heart wasn’t so full and open,” Tobin answered, looking over at Christen. 

Christen lifted their clasped hands to her lips, brushing a kiss along the back of Tobin’s hand.

“What did you think the third time you saw Momma? Not the first or second, because those times you were protective Mama Bear and yelled at her,” Scottie continued, completely excited about what the rest of the night held and not holding back on asking any of the questions she’d always wondered about her moms’ love story.

Tobin laughed, running her hand over her face at the memory of freaking out on Christen when they’d first met. 

“Well...when I wasn’t being a protective mom and I saw her for the third time, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen,” she leaned closer to Scottie and whispered conspiratorially, loud enough for both Scottie and Christen to hear. 

Scottie beamed at the answer, looking between Tobin and Christen. “And when did you know that you looooooved her?” Scottie wondered.

“Why aren’t you asking her these questions, little bit?” Tobin asked before she reached for her water glass and took a sip. 

“Just because!” Scottie replied with a shrug.

“Hmm...well, you want to know something silly?” Tobin asked, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own. 

Scottie nodded excitedly.

“The first time I told her that I love her, she was fast asleep,” Tobin admitted. 

Scottie’s face scrunched up in confusion and a giggle escaped her lips. “But she can’t hear you if she’s asleep,” Scottie replied.

“I know! That’s why it’s silly,” Tobin grinned. 

“I think love makes people silly in a good way,” Scottie declared, grinning as she looked between Christen and Tobin.

“Me too,” Tobin hummed. 

“Me three,” Christen agreed, winking at Scottie.

“Okay, next question,” Scottie said, drum rolling on the table. “Favorite Momma memory, go! And I already have nineteen favorites in my brain, so don’t try to beat me.”

“That was a really nice just because dinner,” Tobin said, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist as soon as they stepped into the studio from the garage, Scottie already running around upstairs. 

“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” Christen replied softly, turning to press a kiss against Tobin’s cheek.

“I did feel like I was in the hot seat a little, but I always enjoy every minute with you two,” Tobin teased, squeezing Christen’s hips gently. 

“Want to spend some more minutes together?” Christen asked with a shy smile.

“Sure,” Tobin nodded as a lopsided smile spread across her face. “You aren’t going anywhere, right?” 

“No, baby. And neither is that winter coat so keep it on,” Christen replied, stepping out of Tobin’s arms and holding out her hand. 

“The secret on the roof? Did you order her a trampoline?” Tobin chuckled. 

“Better than a trampoline,” Christen winked.

“Oh, one of those inflatable hot tubs?” Tobin guessed. 

“Better,” Christen hummed, leading Tobin up the stairs.

“But it has jets and everything. That’s pretty cool,” Tobin teased. 

“You’ll see and hopefully you think it’s better too,” Christen replied softly, pulling them by the kitchen and up the second flight of stairs.

“You’re very secretive, my love,” Tobin murmured, trying to figure out what exactly Christen had planned. 

All Christen did in response was smile as they got to the third floor. “Sweetheart, follow behind us with that surprise, okay?” she called out.

“Okie dokie!” Scottie answered from her bedroom. 

“Okay, I’m really lost,” Tobin said, brushing small circles onto Christen’s hand with the pad of her thumb. “My birthday isn’t for another three months.”

Christen squeezed Tobin’s hand and led her to the roof, revealing the empty easel and a small pillow next to it on the ground. A bouquet of yellow, orange, and purple tulips was in a vase next to the pillow, and there were even more twinkly lights hanging around the roof than Tobin remembered there being.

“Baby,” Tobin breathed out, her heart suddenly pounding against her ribcage because this was romantic and intentional and looked extremely serious and planned out, and Tobin knew it was only a matter of time before her eyes got teary. 

“It’s funny that you say you’re lost,” Christen began, pulling Tobin over toward the easel.

“I mean...I’m feeling slightly less lost but maybe not 100%,” Tobin mumbled, taking in every inch of the roof. 

Christen pulled Tobin to a stop in front of the easel and faced her, taking both of Tobin’s hands in her own. She fought past the lump in her throat and the prickling at the corners of her eyes and focused on the hopeful look on Tobin’s face.

“I was lost. For a really long time. And then on a sunny day in May, I wasn’t lost anymore,” Christen said softly.

“I spilled coffee on you,” Tobin supplied. 

Christen nodded, smiling wistfully at the memory. “You did and from that moment on, I was found. You found me, and there’s never going to be a way to thank you enough for that.”

At the sound of the door to the roof opening, Christen flicked her gaze over to where Scottie had just walked out.

“One second,” Christen whispered, ghosting her lips along the smile lines at the corner of Tobin’s mouth and walking slowly across the roof. She took the painting from Scottie’s hand and then walked over, Scottie’s hand in her own. “Go stand with Tobin,” Christen said quietly, offering Scottie a smile.

“Hey, little bit,” Tobin breathed out, her eyes officially starting to sting with emotions.

“Mommy, it’s someday,” Scottie whispered excitedly, tears caught in her lashes already as she stood in front of Tobin.

Tobin pulled Scottie closer, not having the words to respond. 

Christen set the painting on the easel and then stepped behind the pillow, turning back around to face her girls. She stuffed her hands into her pockets, feeling a small box in each one.

“I’m not the artist in this family, I’m well aware of that fact. But Tobin, you think in art. You feel in art. And since this is the most heartfelt thing I’m ever going to do, I wanted to speak your language,” Christen murmured, fiddling with the boxes nervously as she pulled them out of her pockets.

Tobin glanced down at the boxes in Christen’s hands before looking at the painting. She couldn’t help but smile at the amount of colors. Orange, yellow, and purple were obviously prominent, but there were a few added colors. Some strokes of green made appearances and a few splotches of blue. 

The painting was adorably sweet and carefree and creative, and Tobin knew immediately that this was going to be her favorite painting. It didn’t matter how many she painted or how many she collected from other artists. This was the one piece she couldn’t live without because it was them and their love, made by the woman she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, the woman she was fairly certain was about to ask her that. 

“This is our universe of love. How I see it anyways. Scottie helped me with it,” Christen chuckled. “It’s messy and colorful and shouldn’t make sense, but it does. It does because it’s us. We all fit together, the three of us. We’re a family and that makes the most sense to me.”

Christen then did as she’d been practicing, as she’d been waiting to do, and got down on one knee, looking up at Tobin and Scottie with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. She set down the white box and kept the purple box in her hand, holding it up and resting it on her knee. 

“I didn’t tell you about this part,” Christen murmured, smiling through her tears at Scottie.

“You’re super sneaky,” Scottie said with a beaming smile, her finger hooked on one of Tobin’s belt loops. 

“I know you and I already had our Momma and Scottie dinner where I asked you for your blessing, but I wanted you to be included tonight too. I’m not just asking Tobin something really important, I’m asking you too. And I’m not just asking, I’m making you another promise to add to our list. I promise to always come back, I promise to never leave, I promise to share the last piece of garlic bread, I promise that I want to stay, and...I promise that I’m never going to stop choosing you. I choose you today and every single day. So with that in mind, Scottie Heath, would it be okay if I asked your mom to marry me now?”

Tobin blinked and felt the tears escaping, slipping from the corners of her eyes and blurring the world around her for a second until she blinked them away enough to watch Scottie step forward. 

“I didn’t know you got me a super secret box,” Scottie whispered, her voice awestruck and her eyes wide. “Thank you.”

Christen took the locket necklace out of the box and helped Scottie put it on, pulling her in for a tight hug. 

“You’re welcome. Go stand with Tobin again, sweetheart. She might need you,” Christen whispered, dropping a kiss on Scottie’s forehead.

After Scottie returned to her spot in front of Tobin, Christen reached down and grabbed the white box, looking up at Tobin. She smiled at the tears already streaming down Tobin’s face, knowing she had some on her cheeks as well. 

“I’m honestly a little surprised that I was able to do this without wincing, and I definitely won’t be able to stay down here much longer, so I’ll make this quick,” Christen began, letting out a long, happy breath. “A long time ago, I told you about a metaphor for grief. I talked about a ball in a box and that day will forever be tattooed on my heart because until that day, I’d never known love like that. Selfless and honest and true. You walked alongside me as I grieved and grew into someone I never knew I could be. And tonight, while we’re freezing our butts off, I want to tell you about another metaphor. It’s called the journey of love.”

“Did you make that up?” Tobin asked, her voice hoarse and wobbly and completely wrecked. 

“Shh, I’m being romantic,” Christen chuckled, sniffling just a bit as she forged on. “You and me? We’re on this journey together. It’s got twists and turns and bumps in the road. It’s got stomach bugs and broken legs and invasive journalists. But it’s also got spectacular views and moments of stillness and serenity and beauty. It’s got your smile and your laugh. It’s got Gio’s and pancake Sundays. It’s got promises. So many promises. Promises like I’m going to love you every minute of every day. I’m going to make you laugh so hard you snort when you’re sad. Promises like us and ours is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life cherishing and protecting and loving that. It’s us and ours and I want that every single day, for forever. So, Tobin, my love, will you keep walking alongside me on our journey of love, will you keep existing in this universe of love by my side, and will you marry me?”

Tobin had to swallow down the lump in her throat. Her hands were already begging to reach out, help Christen up off the ground, and pull her into her arms. She hadn’t planned for this. She hadn’t planned to be asked because she’d imagined doing the asking, and now she was overwhelmed and awestruck and completely, hopelessly in love with the woman in front of her. 

“Mommy, this is when you say yes,” Scottie whispered, looking up at Tobin with a toothy grin.

“Only if she wants to,” Christen added softly, popping open the white box and revealing the ring she and Scottie had crafted, the one she was hopeful the artist she’d fallen in love with would recognize the artistry behind.

“There isn’t a universe where I wouldn’t want to. Of course,” Tobin nodded, moving around Scottie and reaching down to help Christen up. 

“Yeah?” Christen asked with a small, hesitant smile.

“Yes. Always, yes,” Tobin repeated. “You didn’t need to kneel.”

“You deserve someone who will love you out loud and in a big way. You deserve romance and someone who would get down on their knee to ask you to be theirs,” Christen said softly.

“All I ever want is to be someone who deserves you,” Tobin replied, catching a tear with her thumb. 

“You have me. Forever,” Christen murmured, taking the ring out of the box and holding it up between them, her smile growing impossibly wide.

“That’s really beautiful,” Tobin sniffled as her eyes kept tearing up and her smile kept getting bigger. 

“You also deserved a ring like no one else’s. A work of art for my artist,” Christen whispered, leaning closer and kissing the tear stains on Tobin’s cheeks.

Tobin moved her hand to Christen’s jaw and pulled her in for a kiss, one that was slow and meaningful, full of all the love they felt for one another and all the plans of a future that were coming together in this one moment, full of the promises just made and the vows they would one day make.

“You made that?” Tobin asked, her smile impossibly brighter. 

“Technically Scottie and I designed it, and a very lovely woman named Klaudia made it,” Christen said with a small, breathy laugh.

“You helped design that?” Tobin asked, turning around to see Scottie, who was now sitting in a lounge chair and fiddling with her new necklace, her own smile glued to her face and showing no signs of going anywhere. 

“I just helped Momma draw the ring she had in her mind,” Scottie replied. “I’m a little obsessed with it. It’s cool beans.”

“I’m a lot obsessed with it,” Tobin chuckled. “And I love it even more because you and Christen both made it.”

“Want to try it on for size?” Christen asked quietly, a fresh wave of tears making her green eyes shine.

“Yeah,” Tobin murmured, lifting up her hand for Christen. 

Christen slowly, tenderly slid the gold band onto Tobin’s left ring finger, her eyes holding Tobin’s the whole way.

“I love you,” Christen whispered reverently, lifting Tobin’s left hand to her lips, dropping a kiss to the ring that now sat on her fourth finger.

“I love you so much,” Tobin breathed out. “I’m completely in love with you.”

“And I am with you,” Christen replied softly.

“We get to do this forever,” Tobin whispered, her heart thrumming in her chest. 

“We do. No take-backs,” Christen teased, cradling Tobin’s hand against her cheek.

“No take-backs,” Tobin repeated, brushing her thumb along Christen’s cheek, her eyes once more filling with tears. 

“You two are saps,” Scottie said with a smile, holding up two handkerchiefs for Tobin and Christen.

“You’re pretty sappy yourself,” Tobin laughed, taking the offered handkerchiefs and handing one to Christen. “You asked some pretty sappy questions tonight.”

“I was setting the mood,” Scottie grinned.

“You did a great job. You both did a really great job, and you’re both very good at keeping secrets,” Tobin said, pulling Christen closer and reaching out to take Scottie’s hand. 

“Oh, I have another secret Mommy,” Scottie admitted.

“What’s that, little bit?” 

“I can’t give you snuggles tomorrow morning to congratulate you on being engaged because I’m sleeping over at Gemma’s tonight,” Scottie replied. “But I promise to give you afternoon snuggles!”

“I’ll hold you to that,” Tobin said with a laugh before she leaned her face closer to Christen. “You thought of everything,” she added at a whisper.

“You have no idea,”  Christen whispered back.

“I told you this couch belonged down here,” Christen hummed, pushing Tobin’s legs open a little wider and sucking a bruise into her inner thigh. She readjusted a bit on the pillow she was kneeling on, fleetingly thankful that her leg was healed enough for her to do this.

“You’re very right,” Tobin murmured, another sigh leaving her lips as she leaned her head on the back of the couch. 

“Oh I know I am. You just signed up for a lifetime of me being right,” Christen chuckled.

“Yes, dear,” Tobin teased back, reaching down and brushing a hand over Christen’s hair. 

Christen wrinkled her nose adorably at the response and looked up at Tobin through her lashes, dropping her cheek onto Tobin’s thigh.

“Thank you for saying yes,” Christen whispered with a small smile, trailing her fingertips along Tobin’s other thigh.

“Thank you for asking,” Tobin replied, continuing to brush her fingers over Christen’s forehead and the baby hairs there. “Were you not expecting a yes?” 

Christen parted her lips, set to answer, and then closed her mouth again. She turned her head and dropped a kiss to Tobin’s thigh and then looked back up at her.

“I feel very secure in this. In you and me and us and ours. But there’s always a moment when you wonder if the mess is too messy, if the journey is too twisty or difficult. There was just one moment where I wondered if you would say yes, and then I saw the look in your eyes, and I knew I had nothing to wonder about,” Christen replied thoughtfully.

“There is no mess too messy or journey too twisty,” Tobin said confidently. “You’re the one and only person I want to do this with, and I will always say yes.”

Christen’s smile was slowly building but blinding. “Always?” she asked, her voice soft and her green eyes softer.

“Are you about to ask for a dog? Because now’s probably your best chance before Scottie’s twelve,” Tobin laughed, scratching the back of Christen’s neck with her fingers. 

Christen lifted up on her knees and caught Tobin’s lips in a quick kiss. “I was going to ask if I could make love to you like I’m going to marry you, but now that you mention a dog…” she trailed off with a breathy laugh. 

“Only if I get to make love to you like I’m going to marry you right after,” Tobin hummed, her smile growing impossible softer. 

“Yes, dear,” Christen replied, kissing Tobin once more before settling back down on the pillow on the floor and pushing Tobin’s legs apart once more.

Tobin wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and pressed a few more kisses to Christen’s twitching thighs. The sky was a light shade of blue, hinting at an imminent sunrise, but Tobin didn’t care at all that they’d likely be exhausted for the rest of the day when Scottie got home. This very well had been the best night of her life, committing to a future that she’d been wanting for an extremely long time with Christen and making love to her for hours. 

“My fiancée is really good in bed,” Christen said breathlessly, pushing some curls out of her face.

“So is my fiancée,” Tobin murmured, placing a few kisses on Christen’s hips. 

Christen let out a low hum, gently tugging on the back of Tobin’s head. “I really love how that sounds, Tobin,” she admitted softly, a beaming smile playing at her lips.

Tobin felt her stomach flip for the hundredth time that night, sending butterflies through her stomach and into her chest. 

“Me too,” she agreed as she moved up Christen’s body, finally settling against a pillow, her body still almost fully on Christen’s and her arm secure around Christen’s waist. 

“You’re my fiancée,” Christen whispered, gazing up at Tobin with nothing but love in her eyes, her heart fluttering. She ran her hands up and down Tobin’s sides as her eyes got a little misty. 

“You’re my fiancée,” Tobin whispered back, pressing a few kisses to Christen’s cheeks. “And your proposal was really perfect.”

“I wanted to do it in November,” Christen admitted with a blush.

“Why didn’t you?” Tobin asked, pressing another kiss to Christen’s temple. She knew exactly why she had put off her own proposal, why her ring for Christen was still hidden in a sneaker, but she didn’t know why Christen had put it off for three months. 

Christen lifted up her left leg in bed and gestured down to it with her head. “Couldn’t get down gracefully on one knee with an awesome purple cast on. And...I wanted this to be happy. Untainted by anything else. And I knew it would be tainted if I tried to rush it after my injury. That would have been hanging over us and I didn’t want that.”

“You know, I would’ve said yes if you’d been in a purple cast and sitting down instead of kneeling,” Tobin assured, wanting Christen to know that she’d say yes in every moment and any scenario. 

“It wasn’t the answer that had me postponing it or pushing it back. It was the way you deserved to be asked the question,” Christen replied softly. “You deserved this. How tonight went, and I’m happy I waited.”

“It was really perfect,” Tobin hummed. “When you went to the bathroom for so long at Gio’s, I got flashbacks to our first time eating there.”

“I was overwhelmed for an entirely different reason tonight,” Christen chuckled at the memory.

“You overwhelm me,” Tobin whispered, sinking impossibly closer to Christen. “In the best way possible.”

Christen inclined her head up and brushed her lips across Tobin’s. “Feeling’s mutual,” she replied before deepening the kiss. She reached down to where Tobin’s left hand was settled against her hip and tangled their fingers together, grinning into the kiss at the feeling of the ring on Tobin’s left ring finger. “I’m a little obsessed with you in this ring,” Christen added softly.

“I’m really obsessed with the ring,” Tobin replied, looking down at the thick, gold band. “I always thought picking one out would be impossible because I don’t like the classic stuff. But this is...It makes me think you know me better than I do sometimes.”

“Did you see the inscription?” Christen asked with a small smile.

“The what?” Tobin asked, already slipping the ring off of her finger and looking for words. 

“I do know you, and that’s why I added that. So you’d always be able to carry my promise around,” Christen managed to reply, her eyes filling with hot tears as she gazed up at the woman she loved.

“Chris,” Tobin breathed out, a new wave of emotions crashing into her as she read the words, us and ours , on the inside of the ring. She only had to blink once for a tear to slip down her cheek. 

A tear Christen was quick to catch with her thumb. “Us and ours is the only journey I ever want to be on.”

“This is the journey,” Tobin said as she slid the ring back on her finger. “Everything else, all the bumps in the road, it’s just been part of getting to you. This is it for me.”

Christen lifted Tobin’s left hand to her lips and kissed the thick gold band she’d slid onto Tobin’s finger hours earlier. 

“Me too, baby,” Christen murmured, dropping their hands to her chest, right over her heart that was pounding in her chest. “You’ve been it for me from the beginning.”

“You were it for me the minute you put me in my place for being protective,” Tobin said as a smile spread across her face. “And now I love getting to be protective with you.”

“Did you feel that?” Christen asked with a soft smile, pushing their hands more firmly against her chest.

“Your heart?” Tobin murmured, resting her head in the crook of Christen’s neck. 

“Boom, boom, boom,” Christen replied in confirmation.

“My heart has been doing that for the past three years,” Tobin whispered, pressing her lips against the side of Christen’s neck. 

“Mine too. And I think they’ll do that for the rest of our lives.”

“And then Momma got down on one knee and Mommy immediately started crying,” Scottie said, holding her slice of pizza with one hand and gesturing with her other hand. 

“You cried, Tar Heel?” Kelley teased, immediately getting a smack in the arm from Becky. 

Morgan grumbled and slid Kelley a ten-dollar bill and glared at Tobin. “Dude, I had money riding on this!”

“Are you kidding me?” Tobin asked, raising her eyebrows at her college teammate. 

“Wait, wait, did Press cry too? I had twenty on that,” Abby chuckled.

“Momma cried too. They both cried a lot,” Scottie announced. 

“They’re sensitive,” Cindy hummed, wrapping an arm around Scottie and pulling her closer on the couch. 

Christen blushed and snuggled closer to Tobin, both of them having squeezed onto an armchair. She fiddled with the ring around Tobin’s finger, the smile she’d had on her face all night just growing as their friends showed their love through their teasing.  

“As someone who didn’t bet on tears or put money on the proposal, am I allowed to ask when you think the wedding might be?” Crystal asked with a big smile. 

“Not in the cold,” Scottie begged, holding her hands up to her moms in a pleading motion. 

“Well...I guess it depends on where we decide to get married,” Tobin answered slowly. “It’s never really that cold in California.”

Christen lifted her head off of Tobin’s chest and fixed her fiancée with an awestruck half-smile.

“You want to get married in California?” Christen asked softly. 

“Your parents are there,” Tobin murmured for only Christen to hear. 

Christen’s bottom lip trembled a bit before she leaned forward and kissed Tobin, hard. “I love you,” Christen mumbled against Tobin’s lips. “God, I really love you.”

“I really love you,” Tobin whispered, resting her forehead against Christen’s and holding her even closer in her arms. 

Everyone gathered around the living room, Crystal and Becky, Kelley and Morgan, Abby and Glennon, Cindy, Jeff and Scottie, all looked on with smiles on their faces.

“Do they get sappier every time?” Kelley asked Scottie, her eyes suspiciously wet.

“I just close my eyes and wait for them to start talking again,” Scottie teased as she munched on her pizza crust. 

Cindy chuckled and pulled Scottie to her feet. “How about you help me and your Grandpa with something, Peanut?”

“Okie dokie!” Scottie nodded, following Cindy and Jeff out of the room and leaving everyone else with her moms. 

“We’re all really happy for you two,” Glennon said, grinning over at the happy couple. 

“I’m ready for the party of the year,” Kelley agreed, leaning back against the coffee table.

“Just wait for the bachelorette party,” Abby smirked. “You two want to have a joint party, right?” 

“Absolutely,” Christen chuckled.

“Okay, so two huge ragers this year,” Kelley said with a huge smile. “I can fit that into my schedule.”

“I think we should rope in Pinoe, Ash, and Ali into the planning. They know how to throw a party,” Crystal pointed out.

“That sounds like a good idea,” Tobin agreed, too distracted by messing with Christen’s hand in her own to look up at their friends. Christen was equally as distracted, her eyes on Tobin and her smile luminous.

Abby noticed that they were completely lost in one another and had dissociated from this conversation. So, she decided to take advantage.

“And at the bachelorette party, we’re definitely getting strippers,” Abby threw out with a devious grin.

“Totally,” Christen agreed, distractedly, running her fingers through Tobin’s hair.

“And some of those really sugary, tropical drinks that you love, Christen,” Kelley added, knowing that Christen drew the line at excessively sugary drinks, preferring margaritas and whiskey sours. 

“That’s great, Kel,” Tobin hummed. 

“It’s gonna be like this until the wedding, isn’t it?” Crystal laughed, looking over at Glennon and Abby. 

“Sometimes longer,” Glennon mumbled, pressing a kiss to Abby’s cheek. 

“My money’s on forever,” Becky offered with a smile.

Scottie skipped back into the living room and skidded to a stop next to the armchair that Tobin and Christen were sitting in, a happy smile on her face and her pizza crust out of her hands. 

“What’s up, dude?” Tobin laughed, pulling her eyes away from Christen to see the excitement on Scottie’s face. 

“I helped Grandma find a big box,” Scottie shrugged, bouncing from foot to foot. 

“A box?” Christen asked, smiling over at Scottie.

“A box,” Jeff repeated, carrying whatever gift they’d hurried upstairs to grab. 

“What’s in the box?” Tobin asked, letting her dad put it on her and Christen’s laps. 

“Just a little engagement present,” Cindy grinned, wrapping her arm around Jeff when he joined her.

“It’s not a puppy, Momma. I wish,” Scottie sighed, leaning against the arm of the chair. 

“Maybe when you’re twelve,” Christen winked.

“Definitely when you’re twelve,” Tobin agreed. “You can open it,” she added, squeezing Christen’s side. 

“Together?” Christen asked softly.

Kelley made a tiny vomiting sound which only got her a smack in the shoulder from Abby, then Crystal, and then Becky. 

Tobin lifted the lid of the box, and Christen pushed the tissue paper aside, revealing the folded-up light blue quilt that Tobin had seen in her parents' house for her entire childhood. 

“It’s a wedding quilt. The design is supposed to look like rings. Your great-grandmother made it and passed it down,” Cindy said softly. 

“I thought Katie got it,” Tobin whispered, the lump in her throat too big to speak loudly. 

“No, Katie got great-grandma’s necklace. Perry got her china. We saved this for you,” Cindy replied. 

Christen ghosted her lips across Tobin’s temple and squeezed Tobin’s hand, hearing the shaky breaths leaving her fiancées lips.

“For you and for the right person,” Jeff added gently. 

“It’s old and blue, so that’s lucky,” Scottie mumbled. “Grandma said that’s lucky, right?”

“Right,” Cindy nodded. 

“Thank you,” Tobin whispered, reaching out and taking her mom’s hand. 

“Thank you both,” Christen echoed, smiling over at Cindy and Jeff. “It’s beautiful.”

“I didn’t realize I needed to bring a box of tissues tonight,” Becky whispered to Crystal, rubbing her teary eyes with the back of her hand. 

Crystal chuckled and nudged Becky, pointing over at where Kelley was openly crying. “You owe me thirty bucks, Beck.”

Chapter Text

Pitch black, pale blue

There was a stained glass, variation of the truth

And I felt empty handed

You let me set sail

With cheap wood

So I patched up every leak that I could

'Til the blame grew too heavy

Stitch by stitch I tear apart

If brokenness is a form of art

I must be a poster child prodigy

Thread by thread I come apart

If brokenness is a work of art

Surely this must be my masterpiece

I'm only honest when it rains

If I time it right, the thunder breaks

When I open my mouth

I wanna tell you but I don't know how

I'm only honest when it rains

An open book, with a torn out page

And my inks run out

(Tobin - "Neptune" by Sleeping At Last)


I will stand by you

Even when we fall

I will be the rock that holds you up

And lifts you high so you stand tall

I won't let you go

No one can take your place

Oh, a couple fights and lonely nights

Don't make it right to let it go to waste

And I won't let you fall

I won't let you go

No matter where you are

No matter where you are, I'll be there

(Christen - "No Matter Where You Are" by Us the Duo)


Tobin slumped down on the couch in the studio, leaning forward and pressing the heels of her hands against her eyes, willing the frustrated tears to go away, not to fall. But it was hard not to be frustrated. It was hard not to feel desperate because now Christen had proposed, and Tobin could tell that Christen was waiting. It had been three weeks since,  and she could see that Christen was waiting on the ring that Tobin hadn’t moved from the back of their closet. 

Roni wasn’t answering, Jerri had no tips other than taking Roni to court and dragging Scottie through a custody battle, and Christen was waiting. Now, it wasn’t just Tobin who Roni was hurting by ignoring calls. She was hurting Christen, even if Christen didn’t know what the holdup was for. And that made Tobin’s frustration shift into a deeper feeling of anger. 

She loved Christen’s proposal. She loved the beautiful ring Christen and Scottie had designed. Everything was perfect, but looking down at the ring she completely adored, a ring that she never wanted to take off, she couldn’t help but think about the ring she’d made for Christen, the one that would hopefully make Christen feel this good. 

Tobin was dying to give it to her, but she wanted everything to be perfect. She didn’t want ghosts or loose ends. She wanted complete finality, absolute devotion, officially official. She wanted it for Scottie and for Christen and for herself. 

“Oopsies,” Scottie mumbled, wiping up the bit of drink she’d spilled down the side of the mug. 

Scottie shuffled the rest of the way into the studio and gently set the mug on the small table in front of the couch, giving Tobin a sad smile. She could see the stress in her mom. She could see the weight on her shoulders and the bags under her eyes. Even if she could see the happiness inside of her because Christen’s ring was sitting on her finger, Scottie knew Tobin was carrying something around and that it probably had to do with Roni.

“I made you super secret drink with Momma’s help. We love you and we’re ready to watch a movie together whenever you’re ready,” Scottie said softly, putting a hand on Tobin’s cheek. 

“Thank you,” Tobin said softly, reaching out and pulling Scottie into her lap. She held her close, burying her face in Scottie’s shoulder. 

“I’m sorry you feel yucky, Mommy,” Scottie mumbled.

“How could I feel yucky with you in my arms and Christen upstairs?” Tobin asked, placing a kiss on Scottie’s cheek. 

“We know you feel it though. You don’t have to pretend,” Scottie replied with a furrow between her brows. “We still love you even when you feel yucky.”

“I can see that worry between your eyebrows. You’ve got a wrinkle. You don’t need to worry, little bit,” Tobin said, smoothing her thumb along Scottie’s forehead. 

Scottie rolled her eyes and smiled. “I’m always going to worry about you, Mommy.”

“That’s not your job. That’s my job,” Tobin argued, a small smile spreading across her face. 

“It’s mine and Momma’s job,” Scottie stubbornly disagreed.

“I guess we better not keep her waiting any longer then,” Tobin hummed. 

“You wanna know something, Mommy?” Scottie said, putting her hand back on Tobin’s cheek.

“I always want to know things from you,” Tobin answered, running a hand up and down Scottie’s back. 

Scottie let out a deep breath and fixed Tobin with a thoughtful look. “Officially official isn’t worth you feeling yucky.”

“You don’t need to worry about that, buddy. I’ve got all the officially official stuff handled,” Tobin lied, putting on her best smile and squeezing Scottie’s side. 

Scottie gave Tobin a look full of disbelief. “You don’t have to tell me, but at least be honest with Momma,” Scottie said quietly, hopping out of Tobin’s lap. She pressed a kiss to Tobin’s forehead and then ran up the stairs.

Tobin’s heart ached with that same yucky feeling she’d felt for the past seven months and an added layer of guilt that she suddenly felt for keeping Christen in the dark. She followed after Scottie, swallowing down the emotions she didn’t want to permeate into family time. Instead, she focused on the weight of the ring on her finger and the promise that it held from the woman she loved.  

“Nice try, sweetheart,” Christen chuckled, snagging the box of Oreos from Scottie’s hands. “You already had Oreos today.”

“But, they’re so gooooood,” Scottie sighed, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist. 

“I know they are,” Christe replied, holding up the box out of Scottie’s reach.

“They’re addicting,” Tobin added, taking the box from Christen and stealing a cookie for herself. 

Christen immediately looked over at Tobin, her eyes softening a bit. “You okay?” Christen asked quietly, keeping her arm around Scottie.

“Mhm,” Tobin hummed, her mouth busy chewing the cookie she’d just popped into her mouth. 

“If I was as cute as Mommy would you let me steal an Oreo?” Scottie asked with a smile, looking up at Christen.

Christen let out a laugh and ruffled her hand over Scottie’s hair.

“You can’t ask her that,” Tobin laughed, putting the box of Oreos in the cabinet. “I know for a fact that you ate five cookies this afternoon. I watched you sneak them.”

“You can’t count, Mommy. I stole seven,” Scottie admitted with a giggle.

“Your dinner is gonna be all broccoli,” Tobin threatened with a teasing smile. 

“Six more and so is yours,” Scottie replied, sticking her tongue out at Tobin.

“Your Momma probably wouldn’t let me steal six,” Tobin said, shutting the cabinet door and removing the Oreos from view. 

“Just give her those heart eyes and you’re set!” Scottie declared, racing over to the couch and flopping down onto it. “Can we pretty please watch a movie now?”

“What movie?” Tobin asked as she stepped into Christen’s space and wrapped her arms around her waist. 

“I already said no to her top choice,” Christen whispered with an amused half-smile.

“Oh, sorry, dude. Christen said no. Pick another,” Tobin shrugged without even asking what movie Scottie had chosen. 

“But I’ve seen Bend it Like Beckham twice with Gemma. It’s our favorite!” Scottie protested with a pout.

“Thank you, Aaron,” Tobin sighed. 

“Please, please, please, pleeeeeease ,” Scottie begged, propping her head up on her crossed arms on the arm of the couch. 

“I think Chris gets to pick because she vetoed Bend it Like Beckham ,” Tobin said, leaving this decision up to Christen. 

“I didn’t know she’d already seen it,” Christen whispered, leaning back into Tobin’s arms.

“Up to you, baby,” Tobin murmured, pressing a kiss under Christen’s ear. 

Christen hummed and looked back at Scottie. “No repeating the really funny lines. Do we have a deal?”

“I won’t repeat any of the lines,” Scottie promised, a huge smile spreading across her face. “I Press and Heath promise.”

“That’s a serious promise, little bit,” Tobin warned. 

Scottie threw up her hands in shaka signs and then skipped over to the couch, grabbing the TV remote. “That’s why I made it!”
“All right,” Tobin said, letting Scottie turn on the TV. “Just because I wear trackies and play sports doesn’t make me a...wait,” Tobin whispered against Christen’s cheek, quoting the movie for Christen. 

Christen chuckled and lifted Tobin’s left hand to her lips, kissing her ring finger and the gold band on it like she had been for the last three weeks. 

Our designs will make even these little mosquito bites look like juicy, juicy mangos ,” Christen quoted back with another laugh. 

“I love you,” Tobin sighed, pressing her face against Christen’s neck. 

“I love you ,” Christen murmured.

“What’s a Beckham anyway?” Scottie asked as the movie started playing. 

“Oh God, that gave me gray hair,” Christen shuddered, leading Tobin over to the couch and pulling Tobin down next to her.

“Don’t you just love how she makes you feel old with a single comment?” Tobin laughed. 

“I don’t want to bend it like some old dude. I want to kick it like Christen,” Scottie said softly, smiling at Christen and getting a smile in response from Christen.

“You could shoot it like Scottie too,” Tobin suggested as she squeezed Christen close on the couch. 

“Or...tackle it like Tobin?” Christen offered, grimacing at her suggestion. “What else do you do in soccer that starts with a t?”

“Tricks like Tobin?” Scottie offered with a shrug. 

“Yeah, that’s a good one, sweetheart,” Christen chuckled, running her hand through Scottie’s hair.

“Mommy does a lot of tricks,” Scottie hummed, lying down on her end of the couch so that her feet were against the arm of the couch and her head was in Christen’s lap. “And Momma is almost back to healthy. I saw you dribbling downstairs,” Scottie hummed, squeezing Christen’s knee.

“I’m getting there. Maybe you’ll want to come to training with me next Thursday? Amanda’s been asking where her favorite assistant coach is, which really irritates Abby,” Christen replied with a smile.

“Abbs loves me. She can share,” Scottie giggled. “Can I go?” 

“Of course,” Tobin nodded. “You should use Chris’s phone to take videos for me.”

“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Scottie grinned, completely transfixed by the movie on the screen. 

“You are-” Christen sighed, letting Tobin pull her back in for another kiss. “-going to be-” another kiss, this one longer and with Tobin’s hand slipping beneath her shirt. “-late, baby. You’re going to be late,” Christen chuckled against Tobin’s lips, gently pushing her away.

“Dinner can wait. They’ll hold it at the restaurant,” Tobin protested, tugging on Christen’s hips to pull her back into her space and press another kiss to Christen’s lips. 

Christen indulged Tobin for a bit. She let Tobin push her against the fridge, let Tobin’s hands wander, let hers wander as well. And then her phone started buzzing on the counter, and she reluctantly broke the kiss. 

“Get our food and hurry back. I’ll be in bed,” Christen grinned.

“You could always come with me,” Tobin pouted as she brushed her thumbs under the hem of Christen’s sweater. 

“It’s cold outside and so warm inside,” Christen replied with a smile.

“Fine,” Tobin sighed, stepping back. “I’ll be super fast.”

“Get your speedy shoes on,” Christen teased, fisting a hand in Tobin’s shirt and pulling her back in for one more kiss.

“I love you,” Tobin hummed, pressing another three kisses to Christen’s lips. 

“I love you too,” Christen laughed. “ Fiancée,” she added with a lovestruck smile.

“I’ll put my speediest shoes on and undress my fiancée when I get back,” Tobin sighed happily, stealing a final kiss and then slipping out of the kitchen and down the stairs to the front door. 

Christen lunged for her phone and pulled it to her ear, managing to catch it before it went to voicemail.

“Before you ask, no. It didn’t happen,” Christen grumbled into the phone, already knowing who was on the other line.

“Jesus Christ,” Tyler huffed. “What is her problem?” 

“I’m sure Lindsey made you wait this long after you popped the question,” Christen said quietly, listening for the closing of the door before walking into the living room. She was now home alone and could worry aloud to her sister, with Tobin out getting dinner and Scottie spending the night at her grandparents.

“Lindsey asked me the next day. She already had a ring,” Tyler answered truthfully, her voice holding an edge. She knew Tobin had a ring too. In fact, she knew Tobin had picked her ring first, and she had no idea why she was hesitating. The more Christen worried about it, though, the more Tyler felt an urge to call Tobin and give her a sisterly kick in the butt. 

“That was an invitation to lie to me, Ty. I needed you to lie to me,” Christen sighed, dropping down onto the couch dramatically.

“Shit, sorry,” Tyler mumbled into the phone. 

“Maybe I- I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with whatever’s got her stressed still. Maybe it’s about finding the right ring?”

“She’s still stressed? I thought it was getting better,” Tyler sighed, suddenly wishing she’d pushed when Tobin had come to California for Channing’s wedding and Christmas. 

“It is some days. But she’s still carrying something around, and whenever I ask, she dodges the question. I just wish she’d talk to me. I asked her to spend the rest of her life with me, and I’d really like the rest of our lives not to be spent with her shouldering something and not sharing it with me,” Christen said quietly.

“You could just ask her. Just ask her to tell you,” Tyler mumbled, feeling bad for her sister and the obvious worry in her voice. 

“If she doesn’t talk to me by next week, I’ll stand my ground and ask for an answer,” Christen affirmed, running her hand through her hair.

“Give her a freaking ultimatum. That’ll get her to spill,” Tyler offered as she smirked at the idea of Tobin freaking out and telling Christen whatever was going on. 

“I’m going to pass on that, but thanks,” Christen said with a weak chuckle. 

“I’ll call her. I’ve been dying to call her and let her know what I think,” Tyler grumbled. 

Christen rolled her eyes at her sister. “I’m going to pass on that too. I just needed to vent and get the words out of my own head for a while.”

“Okay, vent away,” Tyler sighed. “But if things don’t change, I have vacation days to use, and I’m not afraid to fly to New York and take her to lunch.”

Christen hoped it didn’t come to that. She hoped Tobin would finally share whatever burden she was carrying around. She hoped Tobin would let her walk alongside her in that too, whatever it was. If not, she wasn’t entirely sure what that meant for them.

“Night training, night training, night training,” Scottie sang, sliding across the hardwood floor in her soccer socks.

“You want some glow sticks?” Tobin asked with a laugh as she watched Scottie and finished fixing dinner that Christen and Scottie would eat after getting back home. 

Scottie’s eyes grew wide at the suggestion. “That would be so rad,” she grinned.

“There’s a packet in the hall closet. Bottom shelf,” Tobin replied, putting the lid on the pot of rice she’d made and shoving it to the back of the stove.

A steady rhythm of small thumps reached the upstairs, coming from the basement.

Tobin made sure the oven and stove were off before heading down the stairs to find Christen. She jogged through the studio and into the garage, pulling open the basement door and hearing the sound of dozens of soccer balls being shot at a goal, over and over and over. 

“You’re gonna be tired before you even get to New Jersey,” Tobin called out as she watched Christen strike a ball perfectly, her form and fitness making it seem like the broken leg had just been a bad dream that they’d woken up from. 

Christen felt a small smile play at her lips when she heard Tobin’s voice. But that didn’t stop her from running up to the final ball and striking it into the small goal.

“You’re the only person I know who can bounce back and make it look easy,” Tobin said as she walked across the turf floor and made her way over to Christen’s side. 

Christen bent down to grab her water bottle, taking a small sip of it. “It wasn’t easy and I haven’t bounced back completely,” Christen pointed out.

“You look pretty sexy taking those shots, though. And you’re kicking them hard enough for us to hear in the kitchen.”

“Sorry,” Christen grimaced. 

“Why would you ever apologize for filling our house with noise?” Tobin asked, wrapping her arms around Christen and pulling her in for a slightly sweaty hug. 

“That kinda sounds a little dirty,” Christen chuckled, looping her arms around Tobin’s neck.

“That kind of noise is also very welcome,” Tobin hummed. 

Christen grew quiet for a few moments, looking deeply into Tobin’s eyes. “What if I never- what if I’m not the same player I was?” she asked finally, her voice quiet.

“You might not be,” Tobin said honestly. “You might be better,” she offered with a smile. “You might not. It might be really hard. But, you aren’t just a soccer player, and no matter how today feels or how the next week or month feels or what happens in the next year, nothing on the field will change this, nothing will change who you are. I know that’s not comforting, career-wise.”

“It is,” Christen assured quickly. “I’m more than my career and knowing I won’t disappoint you if I don’t play at the same level I was at is comforting.”

“You could never disappoint me, and you could never disappoint Scottie. I know that’s something you’re worried about,” Tobin replied softly. “But you stopped being Christen Press the soccer player as soon as you became her Christen and then her Momma.”

Christen tucked her face into the crook of Tobin’s neck and felt Tobin’s words chase away her lingering worries.

“I’m going to try. And even if it isn’t the same, I’m going to try and be as great as you both make me feel like I can be.”

“You are always great. There is nothing that will change that. You are great. Your career doesn’t determine that,” Tobin whispered against the side of Christen’s head. 

“I wouldn’t have gotten through this without you,” Christen mumbled.

“I don’t think that’s true,” Tobin murmured with a kiss to Christen’s temple. 

“I know it is. You two kept me believing when that was the opposite of what I wanted to do. You two kept me happy,” Christen replied, clinging tightly to Tobin.

“That’s all we want to do,” Tobin promised. 

Christen leaned away from Tobin’s neck and fixed her with a thoughtful look. “And you’re happy too?”

“I’m extremely happy,” Tobin nodded, a lopsided smile slipping onto her lips. 

Christen’s own smile mirrored Tobin’s as the heaviness of their conversation drifted away.

“It’s my favorite look on you,” Christen whispered softly, her eyes crinkling as her smile grew.

“Happy?” Tobin laughed, her smile growing even more as well. 

“Happy you is beautiful.”

“It’s a good thing you make me happy every day,” Tobin hummed, leaning forward and pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips. 

“Momma, I got glow sticks for everyone on the team! And you and me get two each!” Scottie yelled down the stairs.

“She knows the field is lit, right?” Christen chuckled.

“Sorry,” Tobin said with a sheepish smile. “You can tell Amanda that was on me.”

“I’m sure Amanda will love it,” Christen replied, kissing Tobin once more before stepping back to grab her water bottle.

“Be careful tonight, please,” Tobin said quietly. “No tackling teammates.”

“I’ll be careful. You be careful too, please” Christen murmured, lacing her fingers with Tobin’s and letting Tobin lead the way upstairs.

“I’m gonna finish a commissioned piece and eat dinner before Glennon gets here, so I doubt there’s danger there,” Tobin teased. 

“Have fun visiting with her, but take care of you. You’re the only fiancée I have and the only one I want,” Christen replied softly, kissing Tobin’s cheek.

“You’re the only one I have and the only one I want,” Tobin repeated, agreeing with the sentiment completely. 

Tobin put her fork down as the phone rang again. She’d already had to go upstairs and get her charger from her room, having dialed Roni’s number dozens of times, only getting her voicemail. Now, she was sitting at the table, the phone on speaker and her dinner half-eaten, hoping that she was annoying Roni enough for her to finally answer the phone. 

“You don’t take a hint, do you?” Roni asked in greeting, her voice tight.

“I’m stubborn,” Tobin said, her heart leaping in her chest at the sound of Roni’s voice, at the reality that Roni had finally picked up the phone. 

“I used to like that about you. But now it’s giving me a migraine and I’d like you to stop.”

“I’ll stop calling if you hear me out,” Tobin said, feeling the hair on the back of her neck stand up in anticipation. 

Roni was quiet for a few moments before replying. “You have ten seconds before I hang up and block your number.”

“Last year, I sent you some documents and a letter in the mail, and it was returned three times. I want to marry Christen, and I want her to be Scottie’s mom because she’s amazing with her, and she’s the kind of mom Scottie deserves. But, to do that, I need you to let go. I need you to give up your-”

“Stop,” Roni interrupted, her voice full of pain.

“Roni,” Tobin sighed, wishing she could get Roni to listen, wishing she had time to have a mature conversation with Roni, not just the ten seconds Roni had given. 

“Please just stop. I...I need some time. I need to think about it.”

“You’ve had seven months to think about it. I sent those papers months ago. I’ve sent emails. I’ve called,” Tobin said, running her hand through her hair. 

“And I need more time. This isn’t easy for me and I’d appreciate a little understanding,” Roni replied.

“You- I understand that it’s hard. She’s a great kid. It’s hard to let go. But...I know you love her. I know you love Scottie, and I’m- God, I’m begging you to let Scottie have what she deserves,” Tobin said, feeling her heart ache for her daughter that was at practice with Christen, likely having an amazing time. 

Roni hung up without giving Tobin a verbal answer, but her decision to end the phone call was an answer in and of itself.

Tobin shoved the chair back, not caring when it fell to the ground behind her. She clenched her teeth together, making pain shoot through her jaw and her eyes start to sting. She ignored the chair and her plate of food and even her phone, stalking through the kitchen and down the stairs. 

She moved around the easels in her studio, knowing that painting wasn’t going to fix anything right now, not when she felt like punching a wall. So, instead, she shoved open the garage door and trudged down the stairs to the basement. She lined up the balls Christen had been using earlier to take shot after shot on goal, hoping that with each shot she could feel more in control of the frustration raging inside of her. 

With every kick, her mind spun through her phone call. Roni’s voice burned in her brain. “It isn’t fair,” was the main sentiment that sat in Tobin’s chest.

And it wasn’t fair. 

Roni didn’t care for Scottie. She wasn’t there. All the phone call had proven was that Roni was still out for control. She was still punishing Tobin. No, she was punishing Scottie. She’d blamed Scottie for taking Tobin away from her. She’d blamed a child for a doomed, toxic marriage. She’d blamed Scottie, and now she was punishing her. And that completely destroyed Tobin. 

“She shoots, she scores! Tobin Heath with a hat trick for the Tar Heels!” Glennon cheered, leaning against the wall next to the stairs, grinning as she watched the ball sink into the back of the net.

Tobin turned around, the pounding behind her eyes officially too much, sending a choked sob out of Tobin’s throat and the first of many tears falling from Tobin’s eyes. 

Without thinking, Glennon was moving across the basement and pulling Tobin in for a tight embrace. 

“Shit, sweetie what happened?” Glennon mumbled, feeling Tobin completely shatter in her arms, making her heart hurt and her mind recall images from six years ago when Tobin had left Roni, when Tobin had left Scottie with her and Abby. 

“I can’t-” Tobin choked out, unable to get enough air into her lungs to actually speak, to tell Glennon what had happened, what she’d been dealing with for the past seven months.

“Is it Christen?” Glennon asked softly.

“No...I mean kind of,” Tobin croaked out. 

“Kind of?” Glennon clarified, keeping her voice gentle. “Did something happen? Did she kind of hurt you?”

“No,” Tobin shook her head emphatically. 

“Did you kind of hurt her?”

“I want to marry her,” Tobin whispered, hating how her chest ached and tensed. 

Glennon pulled back and shot Tobin a confused look, taking in her red-rimmed eyes and snotty nose and tear-stained cheeks. 

“I know that, sweetie. You’re wearing the ring she got you. So why does it look like you got your heart dropkicked? You’re engaged. That’s a good thing. A great thing,” Glennon replied with a furrowed brow.

“I can’t ask her to marry me,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Like hell, you can’t,” Glennon scoffed. “She already asked you.”

“I want her to be Scottie’s mom. I want to ask her to be ours . Not just my wife but Scottie’s mom,” Tobin admitted, running both of her hands over her face. 

“I’m still waiting for the dropkick, Tobs,” Glennon said softly, her hands on Tobin’s shaking shoulders. “Christen is her mom. She’s already yours.”

“Roni won’t take her fucking name off the papers. And Scottie wants it to be official, and Christen and Scottie deserve that. They deserve the official paperwork. And she won’t give up her parental rights,” Tobin clarified, feeling like a hole had been punched in the center of her chest. 

Glennon’s shoulders dropped, a crestfallen, understanding look making its way onto her face.

“I hate that bitch,” Glennon growled, her words hard but her grip on Tobin’s shoulders gentle. “Is there nothing we can do?”

“I’ve sent mail through a lawyer. I’ve sent a letter from me personally. I’ve sent emails. I’ve called for months. She finally answered and gave me ten seconds to explain. And then she said it was something she needed to think about. I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. I tried to appeal to some part of her that wants to do the right thing. I- I don’t know what else I can do,” Tobin choked out, her voice hoarse and tight. 

Glennon got quiet for a moment and then squeezed Tobin’s shoulders. “Come on, we can figure this out. But not here. You and I need a drink.”

Glennon slid a beer toward Tobin and settled across the booth from her, the two of them occupying the back corner of a hole-in-the-wall bar in SoHo.

“Run it by me one more time,” Glennon said. “Why can’t you just fly to bumfuck wherever she is-”

“It’s Atlanta,” Tobin sighed, taking a large sip of beer and willing the beer to take the lump in her throat with it. 

“Okay, fly to Atlanta and confront her. Stand up for your daughter. For your future wife. For yourself . You’ve done it before and you need to do it again,” Glennon reasoned, gulping down a few sips of beer, the second beer going down faster than the first.

“What can I say in person that I haven’t said over the phone or in a letter or an email to get her to change her mind?” Tobin sighed, downing another gulp of beer. “Glennon, I’ve never- I don’t think I’ve ever been as angry as I got tonight. I don’t think being in the same city as her is a good idea.”

Glennon reached across the table to run a hand across Tobin’s forearm, still feeling tension radiate off of her friend. 

“I think it’s the only way you’ll get what you need. She can’t ignore you or hang up on you in person. And I’ll come with you. Or, I’ll send Abby with you. I know how much she loves seeing Roni,” Glennon offered.

Tobin sighed, pressing the heels of her hands against her eyes. “You’re right. She can’t hang up on me in person.”

Tobin took another few gulps of her beer, hating the idea of seeing Roni in person again, or going to Atlanta and begging her to let Scottie go. 

“To finally ridding yourself of the devil incarnate,” Glennon said, holding up her pint.

“Cheers,” Tobin grumbled, clinking her glass with Glennon’s. 

Glennon set down her mostly finished pint and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. 

“Now, tell me about making Christen your wife. Let’s bring some happy into this night. I assume you bought her a ring too?”

“Oh shit,” Tobin grumbled, kicking her sneaker off and leaning against the kitchen counter. She pulled her sock off and looked at the toe that she’d just stubbed on the last step. Not seeing anything, she kicked off her other sneaker and pulled off her other sock, choosing to go barefoot. 

Tobin squinted through the dark kitchen, seeing that her plate was no longer on the table and her chair was upright again. And her mind immediately went to Christen. Christen, who loved her and cared about her, and loved Scottie. 

Tobin grinned a dopey smile at the thought of her future wife and started humming “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” at a much louder volume than intended, a few of the words slipping from her lips as she stumbled up the stairs, leaving her sneakers downstairs. 

“Are you singing?” Christen whispered, her voice quiet as she shut the bedroom door behind her. She flipped on the hall light and pulled the flannel robe tighter around herself. 

“You’re just too good to be true,” Tobin crooned, a lazy smile spreading across her face. 

“Are you drunk?” Christen hissed, her forehead creasing in concern. She’d arrived back home with Scottie three hours ago to an empty house. She’d found a note from Tobin saying she’d gone out with Glennon, but that was it. Her calls went unanswered, her texts went unanswered as well. So Christen had cleaned up the dinner dishes, let Scottie fall asleep in their bed, and resigned herself to stay up, worrying impossibly about her fiancée.

“Maybe just a little bit,” Tobin slurred before she jumped back into her song. “Can’t take my eyes off of you.”

Christen immediately moved into Tobin’s space, slapping a hand over Tobin’s mouth, her green eyes narrowed dangerously. 

“Our girl is in our bed, asleep. You will not wake her up with a poor imitation of Frankie Valli.”

“Pardon the way that I stare,” Tobin mumbled from behind Christen’s hand. 

Christen let out a sharp huff and pulled Tobin into Scottie’s room, shutting the door behind her and then flipping on the light.

“Ouch,” Tobin winced, squinting slightly at the harsh light. 

“You’re kidding, right?” Christen asked, her voice dangerously low.

“Oh...I’m big busted,” Tobin mumbled, leaning against the wall in Scottie’s room. 

“You bet your ass you are,” Christen whispered, her hands falling to her hips. “Do you have any idea how long you’ve been gone? How many times I called you? I only stopped when Abby assured me you were with Glennon and that nothing could possibly be that wrong since you were together.”

"I left my phone on the table,” Tobin slurred, trying to sober up a little to match Christen’s seriousness. “I’m sorry, baby. Did you have a good practice?” 

“We’re not talking about practice. You- you’re going to sleep in here and sober up and hopefully have some sort of coherent explanation for me tomorrow,” Christen replied.

“Baby,” Tobin sighed, reaching out for Christen’s hand. 

“Don’t ‘baby’ me right now. I’m- I’m so angry with you Tobin Heath,” Christen said, letting out a frustrated huff. 

“Don’t be angry,” Tobin pouted, her ears still thrumming a little from the loud music that had been playing at the tiny bar she and Glennon had spent the evening in. 

“Sleep this off, Tobin. Whatever is going on with you, whatever this has been for the last seven months...I’m worried. This worries me,” Christen said, her voice barely louder than a whisper. “I asked you to be mine, and I slid that ring on your finger but I’m worried about you.”

“You don't need to worry. I’m gonna fix it. I- I’m fixing it. You don’t need to worry,” Tobin mumbled. 

“That’s what you told me last week. And the week before. And the months before that. And look at you now,” Christen sighed. She hesitated and then moved into Tobin’s space, pulling her in for a quick hug. “You’re worrying me, my love. And…you’re going to need to shower before you see Scottie tomorrow,” Christen added, stepping away before Tobin could so much as hug her back.

“I’ll stop worrying you, and I’ll shower,” Tobin said, hanging her head slightly. “And I won’t do this,” she gestured at herself, “again. I’m sorry.”

“You’re allowed to drink, to go out and get plastered. You’re just not allowed to disappear for a night and leave me to try and explain to our da- to Scottie where you are.”

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking,” Tobin sighed, pushing hair away from her face. 

“Get some sleep, Tobin,” Christen said softly, moving backward toward the closed door. “I’ll take Scottie to school in the morning so you can sleep. Good night.”

“Good night,” Tobin replied quietly. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Christen whispered, giving Tobin one last look, full of concern and worry, before leaving the room and shutting the door softly behind her.

Tobin opened her eyes and immediately wanted to close them. The headache that sat behind her eyes was reminder enough that she’d been an idiot the night before. The nausea was unnecessary but probably punishment for making Christen worry. She blinked her eyes closed, feeling absolutely disgusting in her clothes from the night before, still smelling like beer and the bar. 

“No wonder Chris’s pissed,” Tobin mumbled to herself, pushing up in the bed and immediately smacking her forehead against the bottom of Scottie’s top bunk. “Shit,” she groaned, sliding from the bed. She looked down at the bedside table and felt even worse about how she’d been acting for the past months when she saw the bottle of Aspirin and the glass of water that Christen had set out. 

With one last deep breath, Tobin took the Aspirin and headed for the bathroom in the hallway, intent on showering like Christen had told her to last night. 

When she was finished showering and had pulled on a pair of joggers and a t-shirt, Tobin stripped Scottie’s bed of all the sheets she’d slept on. She carried them down the stairs, glancing quickly at Christen and then tossing the sheets into the washer. 

Christen sat at the kitchen table, thumbing through the newspaper. Two coffee cups sat on the table, one in front of her and one in front of the chair on complete opposite sides of the table. 

“Thanks for the Aspirin,” Tobin mumbled as she carefully moved around Christen’s chair and took the one Christen clearly wanted her to sit in, the distance between them uncomfortable and foreign. 

“Mhm,” Christen hummed, turning to the next page in the newspaper. 

“I’m sorry,” Tobin said softly, putting her hands around the coffee mug and focusing on the warmth that emanated from it. 

“You said that a few times last night,” Christen replied, her brows furrowing slightly as she forced herself to try and make sense of the words on the page.

“Yeah, but now I’m soberly saying sorry,” Tobin murmured, feeling extremely guilty and slightly embarrassed for losing it. 

Christen finally set down the newspaper, looking at Tobin with slightly narrowed eyes. She set aside everything else, the anger she’d felt when Tobin showed up drunk, the hurt she’d felt coming home to an empty house and hearing no communication from Tobin, the frustration that she’d had about putting Scottie to bed alone. She set all that aside and focused on the hurt she could see in her favorite pair of brown eyes.

“Seven months, Tobin. I’ve watched you walk around here like you’re scared of your own shadow, like you had lead in your shoes and heaviness in your heart. And initially, I didn’t ask because it scared me. It made me wonder what could possibly make you turn away from me,” Christen said quietly, swallowing the lump in her throat and willing away the stinging behind her eyes. “But then I proposed, and you said yes, and yet, you still carried all of that around. So I’m not just scared anymore. I’m worried and concerned and terrified, because no matter how happy you say you are, there’s still a cloud over your head, just like there is now. Please, talk to me. Tell me what’s going on. Let me in .”

“I didn’t mean to turn away from you,” Tobin said, her voice taking on a pleading tone, wanting Christen to know that she hadn’t meant to pull away. “I- This wasn’t supposed to take this long. I wanted to fix it in July. I didn’t mean to shut you out.”

“Fix what?” Christen pried gently, leaning her forearms on the table and getting just a bit closer to Tobin.

Tobin held her forehead in one hand and placed her other hand on the table, a silent gesture to bridge the gap between the two of them. 

But Christen didn’t take Tobin’s hand.

Instead, she pushed back out of her seat and walked over to where Tobin was sitting. Christen dropped down onto the edge of the table right in front of Tobin and reached out to take Tobin’s hand off of her forehead, lacing their fingers together.

Tobin swallowed thickly, looking up at Christen through teary eyes, her heart officially crumbling with the weight that she’d been carrying, the frustration she’d been letting simmer in her blood and expand in her head. 

“Oh baby,” Christen whispered, using her free hand to gently brush the tears collecting under Tobin’s eyes. “Talk to me. Let me walk by your side in this,” she added, pressing her lips to Tobin’s forehead softly, whispering the words into her skin.

“I was going to propose at the end of the summer,” Tobin said quietly, forcing words out that she’d tried desperately to keep secret. 

Christen’s breath caught in her throat as she leaned back to look down at Tobin, her green eyes dancing with confusion. 

“But I didn’t want to only ask you to marry me. I don’t want you to just be my wife. I want you to be Scottie’s mom,” Tobin continued despite the way her voice was cracking. 

“Aren’t I already?” Christen wondered softly, cradling Tobin’s jaw with her hand.

“Of course, you are. Of course, you are,” Tobin said quickly, moving her free hand to Christen’s waist. “But Scottie told me she wants all these things to be official. And I can’t blame her. She deserves to have that. You both deserve to have paperwork that ties you together, not just you and me.” 

“I don’t know if I entirely understand what that means,” Christen replied, her eyes moving between Tobin’s, her heart breaking at the pain she could see in them.

“Right now, it’s my name and Roni’s name on her adoption paperwork. And I’ve been spending the past seven months trying to make it just my name so that you can put your name on the paperwork when we get married,” Tobin clarified. 

“Oh,” Christen breathed, her own eyes filling with tears now that she understood what Tobin had meant by official. 

“And I can’t just take Scottie to a lawyer and get that done. Roni she- she has to willingly give up her right to custody. It’s either that or I take her to court and start a custody case. I’ve been trying to avoid that, but she wouldn’t answer my calls for months, and last night she did. She answered and said she wouldn’t do that, that she needed time to think about it,” Tobin croaked, closing her eyes and trying to force away the added pressure in her head and the tears that were gathering in her eyes. 

Christen understood now. The stress, the weight, the pressure. And while at one point they would be having the discussion about sharing things with one another so they could shoulder life’s bumps in the road together, right now she needed to make one thing clear. 

“I’m sorry you had to go through that, baby. I’m so sorry that Roni continues to hurt you and Scottie, that she continues to steal your happy away for however brief a moment. But...I don’t need that. I don’t need a piece of paper to feel like Scottie’s mom,” Christen assured, her voice holding a quiet conviction. “I know I am, in here,” she added, tapping her hand over her heart. “That’s all I need.”

“I’ve heard you struggling to say daughter,” Tobin whispered. “I don’t want you to feel like she isn’t yours. I want her to be our daughter.”

Christen dropped her forehead to Tobin’s, expelling a shaky breath into the space between them. 

“It felt like a big word,” Christen whispered back.

“And you don’t have to use it. I just want you and Scottie to feel official, even though I can’t give that to you,” Tobin murmured, a tear slipping from the corner of her eye. 

Christen let out another long, shaky breath. She lifted off Tobin’s forehead and kissed the tear that trailed down Tobin’s cheek.

“I don’t need paper. Scottie’s our- she's our daughter in every way that counts. You’ve given that to me. You’ve given everything to me,” Christen said softly, continuing to catch the tears that slipped from the corners of Tobin’s eyes with her lips. “She’s our daughter , and I love you for trying to make that officially official. But it’s official in every way I need it to be.”

“I can still keep trying. I can-” Tobin murmured. 

“Don’t let her take anything more from us,” Christen interrupted gently.

“I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you. I wanted- I wanted it to be amazing and surprising, and then months just kept going by without a response. I didn’t mean to shut you out,” Tobin whispered, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own. 

Christen ran her thumb along Tobin’s cheek and dropped a kiss to Tobin’s forehead. “Please don’t again. I want to be in this with you, all of this. Every bump in the road, every twist and turn on the journey of love.”

“It was really twisty,” Tobin sighed, bringing Christen’s hand up to her lips and placing kisses on each knuckle. “I won’t do it again. I won’t shut you out or pull away or come home drunk without telling you where I am.”

“I’d appreciate that,” Christen murmured. 

“I’m especially sorry about last night,” Tobin said with a grimace. 

“In the light of day, your singing was kind of cute,” Christen replied, the ghost of a smile playing at her lips.

“Oh God,” Tobin groaned, moving her head down to rest against Christen’s legs. 

“You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you,” Christen sang softly with a breathy laugh, shaking her head at the memory of Tobin drunkenly singing that to her last night.

“You are too good to be true,” Tobin mumbled against the fabric of Christen’s sweatpants. 

“And you must have a really great hiding spot, because I haven’t stumbled on something I shouldn’t have,” Christen teased, running her hand through Tobin’s hair.

“Tyler’s probably ready to murder me,” Tobin sighed. “She and Channing might also know about that something .”

Christen chuckled, finally understanding why Tyler seemed so irritated every time she answered the phone sans-engagement ring these past few weeks. 

“It’s honestly nice to know there is a something,” Christen admitted. 

“Of course there’s a something. There’s been a something for seven months,” Tobin groaned, pressing a kiss to Christen’s leg before she looked back up at Christen apologetically. 

“I’d wait seven more if I needed to. I just want to marry you, Tobin Heath. In front of our families and our...our daughter. That’s all I could ever want,” Christen hummed, cupping Tobin’s cheek once more.

“That’s all I want too,” Tobin promised, turning her head to press a kiss to Christen’s hand, finally feeling that crushing weight release off of her chest. 

Chapter Text

Lightning takes its time
It lingers in the night
And wakes the darkest skies without a warning

You were just the same
Waiting for the day
To fall into my life one summer morning

I searched forever through the blue
I spent the hours of my youth
And just when I thought I was through
I found you

I longed for a way
For everything to change
Finally, I'd have what I'd been seeking

A sudden gust of wind
From nowhere, we begin
It's like I dreamed you up while I was sleeping

I searched forever through the blue
I spent the hours of my youth
And just when I thought I was through
I found you

(Tobin - "I Found You" by Kina Grannis, Imaginary Future)

I felt it from the start
It grew inside my heart
It changed me from that day
This love I can't contain

I waited for a sign
So patient and divine
For fate was on our side
That day I came to find

That you are all
I was hoping for
It's you I'll call
My evermore

The garden as our home
A place where we can grow
You're planted in my soul
To nurture and to hold

(Scottie - "Evermore" by Hollow Coves)


At last
My love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song
Oh, yeah, yeah

At last
The skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped up in clover
The night I looked at you

I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream that I can call my own
I found a thrill to press my cheek to
A thrill that I've never known

(Christen - "At Last" by Eta James, cover by Kina Grannis)


Cindy straightened her purse on her arm and hit the buzzer once more, tapping her foot on the cute new mat she was sure Scottie had picked out for the front door since it had unicorns on it.

“Mom?” Tobin asked, pulling the front door open with a slightly paint-covered hand that was covered with a rag. 

“I raised you better than this,” Cindy huffed, brushing by Tobin.

“Um...excuse me?” Tobin asked, wiping her hand with the rag and shutting the door with her foot. 

Cindy set her purse down on the couch and turned to face Tobin, her arms crossed over her chest.

“Do you or do you not want to marry Christen?”

“You can’t seriously be asking me that. Yes, I want to marry her. That’s what I want to do most,” Tobin answered, tossing the rag on the nearest stool. 

“Do you want me to take my beautiful engagement gift back?” Cindy continued, looking unimpressed by Tobin’s answer.

“Mom, we’re engaged. Do you want the quilt back?” Tobin sighed, leaning against the table that her paintbrushes were currently spilled across. 

“I want to know why my daughter is sitting here with her thumb up her butt, instead of giving the woman she loves the gorgeous ring I know she has for her,” Cindy countered.

Tobin raised her eyebrows at her mom, surprised that her mom was being as harsh as she was. 

“My thumb isn’t- I’ve been trying to do the right thing, and now that I know I can’t do what I desperately want to do for them, I’m proposing today,” Tobin replied matter-of-factly. 

“If I have one more friend ask me why you haven’t given her a ring in return, or if your father asks me- wait, you’re what?” Cindy asked, faltering on her diatribe as Tobin’s words registered.

“I’m picking Scottie up from school at noon, and we’re going to the soccer field to propose,” Tobin said with a shrug as if she wasn’t panicking a little with the amount of nerves she felt. 

“Oh, well that’s great,” Cindy replied breezily, grabbing her purse from the couch. 

“Are you leaving? That’s all you wanted?” Tobin laughed. 

“I have lunch plans with my bridge group. I just wanted to look out for my future daughter-in-law. Make sure she was being treated right,” Cindy winked, walking over and patting Tobin’s cheek affectionately. “Go sweep her off her feet, Tobs.”

“That’s my plan. Thanks for uh...Mama Bearing on her behalf, I guess,” Tobin mumbled. 

“I always will,” Cindy grinned, turning and walking back toward the door. “And don’t get so nervous you forget the ring!” she called over her shoulder with a wave.

“Jesus, Mom! I wasn’t nervous about that part until now!” Tobin groaned, patting her pockets to make sure that the ring was still there. 

“I bet it’s simple and classic,” Becky guessed, leading their small group in a stretch.

“She’s an artist,” Crystal countered. “I think it’s unique. Probably classy but also really creative.”

“We’ve all seen her house. She’s loaded. I bet it’s a rock,” Kelley added with a smirk. 

“I’ve tried not to picture it, honestly,” Christen chuckled, massaging the muscles around her left shin.

“I can’t believe she’s had a ring since summer,” Crystal hummed. “Her willpower must be insane.”

“Roni’s a bitch,” Kelley muttered, voicing what everyone was thinking. 

“Won’t argue with you on that one, Kel,” Christen sighed. “But I have a feeling it’ll happen soon. She’s been jittery all week, which is just adorable.”

“You should say no,” Kelley snorted. “Or take a pregnant pause and really test those nerves.”

Crystal threw a soccer ball at Kelley’s head on Christen’s behalf, making Becky laugh. 

“I’ve been waiting a long time to say yes to her. I’m not going to put it off for a second,” Christen admitted with a small smile, looking down at her bare ring finger and feeling a small flutter in her stomach at the prospect of it not being bare for much longer.

“You think it’s gold like the one you got her?” Becky asked, knocking her cleat against Christen’s. 

“Whatever it is, it’ll be perfect because it’s from her,” Christen replied, a small blush heating her cheeks.

“Mommy!” Scottie cheered, zooming through the halls with her backpack bouncing around on her back.

“Hey, little bit! You ready?” Tobin asked, feeling unnecessarily nervous. 

“It’s someday again,” Scottie grinned.

“It’s someday, buddy,” Tobin answered with a beaming smile. “Let’s get out of here.” She took Scottie’s hand and led her through the front door of the school to where her car was definitely illegally parked, the hazards still flashing. “Run, run, run,” she said when she saw the traffic cop making his way to her car.  

“Not today, please! My Mommy is proposing to my Momma!” Scottie yelled, waving at the traffic cop.

“Just hop in, dude,” Tobin said, as she pulled open the back door and sheepishly waved an apology at the cop. 

By the time he made it to their car, she was in the driver's seat and backing up, ignoring the way he was glaring at her and blasting the Frozen II soundtrack. 

“Someday, someday, someday,” Scottie hummed under her breath, tapping her hands on her knees.

“That’s right,” Tobin nodded. “Do you want to see the ring now or keep waiting for Christen to see it first?” 

“Momma sees it first,” Scottie replied easily, not even having to think about it.

“You saw mine before me,” Tobin laughed. 

“I don’t need to see the ring to know Momma is gonna love it. I saw yours to help Momma make it.”

“I hope so. I got one of your gifts. Do you have the other?” Tobin asked, reaching back to hand Scottie the long rectangular box Scottie had picked out for Christen. 

Scottie took the box and put it in her lap, then lifted up her backpack and tapped it with a grin. “Got it! Gemma helped me draw hearts on it.”

“She’ll love it,” Tobin said, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel. 

“You should tell yourself that about the ring,” Scottie giggled, shaking her head at the obvious nerves in Tobin.

“I know it’s super silly, but I’m nervous, little bit,” Tobin admitted. 

“Let’s unpack that,” Scottie replied thoughtfully.

Tobin barked out a laugh. “Who taught you that?” 

“Glenny,” Scottie replied with a shrug.

“Of course. That sounds just like her. Let’s know when something is really exciting and you have butterflies in your tummy?” 

“Mhm. But doesn’t Momma make you feel safe in your heart? So they’re safe butterflies?”

“They’re definitely safe butterflies,” Tobin agreed. “This is just a really important thing for me to get right, and that makes the butterflies really fluttery.”

“You’re not gonna get it right, Mommy,” Scottie said, unknowingly making Tobin’s butterflies even worse.

“Great,” Tobin groaned, her palms starting to sweat as she drove. 

Scottie leaned forward and put her hand on Tobin’s shoulder. “You can’t get it right, because you can’t get it wrong either. You’re going to get it goofy, awesome, happy because you love Momma.”

“Way to scare me for a second there, Scottie Katherine,” Tobin teased. 

Scottie giggled and sat back. “Oopsies, sorry Mommy.”

“Do you know what you’re gonna say to her?” Tobin asked. 

“I practiced it twice in the bathroom at school today for Gemma, and I made Gemma cry which made me feel a little bad but then we hugged it out,” Scottie admitted, pulling the rectangular box close to her chest.

“You’ll probably make your Momma cry too,” Tobin said. 

“If I do, Coach Kelley owes me three ice cream trips and Auntie Pinoe owes me a sweat set.”

“Are you gonna shower?” Becky asked, trying to casually dig through her locker. 

“ I can shower at home,” Christen replied, unlacing her cleats.

“Dude, you stink. You can’t get in my car like that,” Kelley yelled, tossing a dirty sock at Christen. 

“I’m downright fragrant right now,” Christen teased, catching the sock and throwing it back at Kelley. “It was just a light session this morning.”

“Christen Press,” Crystal said, putting her hands on her hips.

Christen arched a brow in Crystal’s direction, surprised at the tone Crystal was taking with her. 

“If you value your friendship with me, go take a shower,” Crystal said, setting her jaw to show Christen that she was ready to argue if necessary. 

“You’re being weird. All of you,” Christen sighed, peeling off her training top and grabbing her shower stuff from her locker. “I expected more from a Tar Heel,” Christen added, brushing by Crystal.

“I’ll wait for you!” Kelley called, a huge smile glued to her face. 

Once she’d showered and even taken the time to fix her hair, Christen walked back into the locker room in her towel and found it completely empty. Well, except for one person who should definitely be in a fifth-grade science class right now.

“The traffic is a lot better when you take the tunnel at noon instead of 3:30,” Scottie hummed, swinging her legs back and forth from her spot on Christen’s chair. 

“What are you doing here, sweetheart?” Christen asked, walking over to where Scottie was sitting.

“I had some questions I really needed you to answer,” Scottie said, a happy smile on her face as she looked up at Christen. 

Christen’s brow furrowed slightly despite the excitement in Scottie’s words. “Is everything okay?” she wondered.

“Do you want to get dressed?” Scottie asked with a small laugh. 

“I probably should,” Christen chuckled.

“I can turn around,” Scottie offered, slipping out of Christen’s chair and moving to Crystal’s chair. 

“Everything’s okay, right?” Christen repeated, getting dressed quickly.

“Everything’s goofy, awesome, happy,” Scottie nodded. 

Christen tousled her curls and straightened her sweater and jeans. “Is my outfit okay?” Christen asked with an amused smile, completely taken by surprise as to why Scottie was here but deciding to just roll with it.

“You look beautiful, Momma,” Scottie said, spinning around to look at Christen. “Can I ask you my questions now?” 

“Of course, sweetheart,” Christen replied, sitting down in her chair and patting the one beside her for Scottie.

“If you had to pick one thing out of the kajillion things that you love about Mommy, what’s your favorite?” Scottie asked, moving over to Christen’s side. 

Christen immediately smiled at the question, taken back to their meal at Gio’s in February over a month ago.

“It’s hard to choose one since every single thing about her makes me love her a lot. But since I know you won’t accept that favorite thing about your mom is how safe she makes me feel,” Christen murmured, holding her hand, palm up, on her leg for Scottie.

“She makes me feel safe too,” Scottie agreed as she took Christen’s hand in her own. “Both of you do.”

“I’m guessing you have a few more questions?” Christen chuckled, squeezing Scottie’s hand in her own.

“Yes. Thank you. What did you think the third time you saw Mommy? After she was finished being protective Mama Bear,” Scottie continued. 

Christen closed her eyes, letting herself travel back to that moment. Her smile softened as she remembered the change of tune, the change of outfit, and the change of heart.

“I thought she was brave to wear a beanie in the summertime. And then I thought that she looked like someone who could see me for more than I was then. Does that make sense?”

“She made you feel special?” Scottie asked, tilting her head to the side. 

Christen nodded. “She made me feel special when I hadn’t felt special in a long time.”

“When did you know that you loved Mommy?” 

“Can I tell you something silly?” Christen asked, mirroring what Tobin had asked Scottie at dinner.

“You sound just like Mommy,” Scottie said with an eye roll. “Yes, you can tell me something silly.”

“I knew I loved Tobin when she got my coffee order right,” Christen murmured.

“That is silly. It’s just coffee,” Scottie giggled. 

“But it’s the meaning behind the coffee that made me love her,” Christen replied, reaching up to poke her finger in the dimple in Scottie’s cheek.

“What does a coffee order mean?” Scottie asked, hopping up from her seat and moving to stand in front of Christen. 

“Well...she took the time to figure mine out. Which means she’s patient, so she would be patient with me. She guessed wrong a lot, but she never let it stop her. Which means that she didn’t mind making mistakes and she was going to keep showing up after making them. And when she got it right, she never got it wrong again. Which means she listened to me and chose to listen to me every time she made me coffee from then on out,” Christen explained, getting a little misty-eyed as she talked about this.

“That makes a lot of sense, Momma,” Scottie said, nodding thoughtfully. “I don’t like the way coffee tastes, but I get why you like it.”

Christen laughed and used the sleeve of her sweater to wipe at the corner of her eye.

“You don’t have to like it, sweetheart. You can stick with your orange juice and super-secret drink.”

“I will,” Scottie said with a smile. “Can I practice doing corner kicks? You can tell me what keeps making mine fall short.” 

“Right now?” Christen clarified with a surprised smile. “Wait, how did you get here? Where’s your mom?”

“She’s busy right now,” Scottie shrugged. 

Christen narrowed her eyes at the obvious lie.

“Momma, will you please help me with corner kicks,” Scottie asked, poking out her bottom lip. 

“Let me grab my shoes,” Christen replied with a shake of her head, slipping into her Nikes and then grabbing onto Scottie’s hand. 

“You can tell me your top favorite Mommy moments while we’re on the way,” Scottie said, practically skipping at Christen’s side. 

“We better slow the pace, I have a lot of them,” Christen teased, swinging their clasped hands between them.

“I really love when Mommy makes pillow castles,” Scottie hummed, leading Christen around the corner toward the practice field where she’d played with the Development Academy. 

“Me too, that’s why-” Christen faltered when she saw what was waiting at the practice fields for them.

“Okay, this is your first gift of the day, and I have a feeling you need it now,” Scottie said, tugging on Christen’s arm to stop her. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a soft, pale yellow handkerchief, the words Heath-Press embroidered on it in a simple yellow thread. 

Christen took the handkerchief in a trembling hand, her thumb moving across the hyphenated last name as tears pooled in her eyes.

“Someday, right?” Christen asked in a wobbly voice, looking down at Scottie with a smile.

“Yeah, Momma,” Scottie nodded. “It’s someday.”

Scottie led Christen across the empty parking lot, the only car being Tobin’s. She walked Christen over to where Tobin was already sitting, a picnic blanket and a large picnic basket on the ground. 

“Mommy, I found her!” Scottie announced, making Tobin jump up to her feet and turn around with a beaming smile on her face. 

“Hi,” Christen greeted in a soft voice.

“Hi back,” Tobin replied, stepping forward to take one of Christen’s hands in her own. 

“Momma, do you want to eat lunch first or do the really important stuff first?” Scottie asked. 

“Tobin’s call,” Christen hummed, gazing over at Tobin with a knowing smile.

“Nope, your call,” Tobin said with a shake of her head. 

After a few moments where Christen held Tobin’s gaze and waited for her to break, she sighed and gave up. Looking back down at Scottie, Christen smiled. “How about we do the important stuff? Since I’m all ready for it,” she said, holding up the handkerchief. 

“Can I go first?” Scottie asked, her body nearly shaking with excitement. 

“Sure, buddy,” Tobin hummed. 

“Okay, Momma, you need to sit because this is really important,” Scottie said, tugging Christen toward the picnic blanket. 

Christen laughed and sat down on the blanket, looking between her girls who sat down in front of her with an enamored smile on her face. 

“I’m ready,” Christen declared, folding her hands in her lap, clutching the handkerchief securely, knowing she was going to need it.

“Mommy told me about officially official maybe being hard to do,” Scottie admitted quietly, her lips held in a sad smile for a moment. “But I feel officially official already.”

“I do too, sweetheart,” Christen replied, her throat getting thick.

“But this week I thought a lot about how I won’t get to see you sign papers like Mommy, and that made me kind of sad. Because Mommy and I have a gotcha day, and I want to have one with you too,” Scottie added, reaching for her backpack and pulling out a folder. “So, I’m really hoping that maybe you’ll sign these.” Scottie handed Christen the papers she’d been working on all week. 

Christen looked down at the papers Scottie had given her, each of them covered in colorful doodles and words that Scottie had come up with to describe their relationship. She’d added a list of Christen’s promises to her, a list of things she expected from Christen as her mom, and a list of things she wanted to do for Christen as her daughter, all of which they already did. And at the sight of the word daughter in Scottie’s adorable, loopy handwriting, the first tear fell. 

“You want me to sign these?” Christen clarified in a slightly shaking voice, looking between Scottie and Tobin, both of whom looked just as moved as she felt.

“They’re adoption papers,” Scottie said. “You sign here, and I’ll sign there, and Mommy will sign there.”

Christen reached out for the pen Scottie offered her, clutching tightly onto Scottie’s hand after she got the pen in her right hand. 

Tears spilled down Christen’s cheeks as she signed her name on the line Scottie had designated for her, next to the name Momma . She had thought signing her name to be Scottie’s emergency contact was the most important signature she’d ever done. But now, sitting here on the practice field with her girls, on a day she had the sneaking suspicion was about more than adoption papers, Christen realized this signature was the most important one she’d ever done.  

“I’m so lucky,” Christen whispered, handing Scottie the pen back and smiling over at her.

“Me too,” Scottie replied, getting up on her knees and pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. Christen didn’t let her pull away, wrapping her up in a tight hug for a moment, a hug Scottie happily returned.

“I love you,” Scottie murmured. 

“I love you too, sweetheart,” Christen replied softly. “You’re the best daughter I could have ever asked for.”

“You’re the best Momma I could have ever dreamed of,” Scottie said, blinking back a few tears and moving out of Christen’s arms. “Okay, Mommy, your turn to sign,” Scottie said, holding the papers out to Tobin. 

Tobin took the papers and looked at each of them, keeping her face serious, like she was reading every single thing, like she hadn’t signed adoption papers before, ones with less color and more legal jargon. 

“Wait...I don’t know if I agree with this. Chris gets to split all the garlic bread with you?” Tobin asked, looking slightly worried. 

“Not negotiable,” Scottie nodded, leaning into Christen’s side. 

“Can I split the last piece of bruschetta?” Tobin asked. 

Scottie turned to Christen, the two of them whispering in hushed tones for a few moments before Christen gave Scottie a smile. Scottie nodded then turned to look back at Tobin, her lips twitching into a smile.

“We can agree to that.”

“Okay, then I can sign,” Tobin said, flipping to the last page and putting her signature on the line labeled Mommy . “It’s all you, little bit.”

Scottie took the papers back and carefully scrawled out her signature on the line designated for her. 

“Now, I get to be yours,” Scottie said, tucking the papers back into her folder and sliding the folder into her backpack. “And you get to be mine,” she added, focusing on Christen again.  

“Officially official,” Christen agreed, using the handkerchief to dry her eyes.

“Happy gotcha day,” Scottie said, picking up the rectangular box and handing it to Christen. 

“I’m going to cry again, aren’t I?” Christen chuckled, taking the box from Scottie.

“Probably,” Tobin hummed, reaching out and brushing her fingers along Christen’s ankle. 

Christen offered Tobin a watery smile and opened up the box, her breath catching when she saw the thin, gold-chained necklace. In the center was a handwritten script of the word that had quickly become the most important one in Christen’s life.

“Yup, definitely gonna cry,” Christen said with a smile, looking up from the Momma necklace. She reached out and ran her hand over Scottie’s hair, completely devoted to the girl in front of her.

“I picked out the shorter chain so you can wear it with your heartstrings necklace,” Scottie said, scooting closer to look at the necklace she’d picked for Christen. 

“You’re the best. Thank you,” Christen whispered, wrapping her arm around Scottie’s waist and pulling her close to her side. “I love it.”

“Now it’s Mommy’s turn,” Scottie announced, clearly excited about seeing the ring. 

“Can I have some water to rehydrate first? I’m crying a lot, and I bet it won’t stop anytime soon,” Christen joked, sniffling just a bit as she wiped away the fresh tears.

“Yes,” Scottie nodded, scrambling up and pulling a water bottle out of the picnic basket. She handed it to Christen and then sat beside her, patiently waiting for her to be ready. 

After taking a few sips and drying as many of the tears as she could, Christen put the water bottle aside and fixed Tobin with a soft look. She knew what was coming, there was no way not to. And even if she knew, her heart still pounded and her stomach still fluttered and everything felt impossibly perfect.

“I love you,” Christen murmured softly, keeping Scottie tight to her side as she gazed over at Tobin.

“I love you too,” Tobin replied, moving closer and reaching out to hold onto Christen’s hands. “Are you hydrated?” 

“As I’ll ever be,” Christen chuckled.
Tobin took a deep steadying breath before starting, keeping her eyes on Christen’s in order to ground herself. “This has become one of my favorite places,” she said, gesturing out at the practice field. “For a while, I was really afraid of Scottie finishing Academy training. I was worried about that first summer ending because I just wanted more excuses to spend time with you. And then I didn’t need any excuses because you wanted to spend time with us.”

“You chose us. I think it’s pretty easy to choose Scottie because she’s Scottie,” Tobin added, smiling bigger when Scottie stuck her tongue out. “You chose me even though I didn’t feel cool enough to be chosen by you. You wanted me when I felt messy, and you keep choosing me and choosing our family, every day. We’ve always fit. The three of us have always seamlessly fit with one another, and that is the most special thing in my life. Finding my family in you and in Scottie will always be the most miraculous thing I’ve experienced.”

Tobin pushed herself off the picnic blanket and kneeled on her right leg, keeping her eyes on Christen despite the way she was already fighting back tears, despite the way Christen was openly crying.

“Christen Press, you see me, even on the days when I feel invisible. You love me for who I am, mistakes and flaws and stubbornness included. You make me feel this universe of love, even on days when the world seems unkind. And most importantly, you fight for this tiny family we’ve made, and I wasn’t sure that I would ever find someone who would completely understand, consistently defend, and always stand up for Scottie and me.”

Tobin pulled the box that she’d been hiding in a sneaker for nearly eight months out of her jacket pocket. She held it in front of her and opened it for Christen to see. 

“You are the love of my life, the Momma of my daughter, the person who makes me laugh no matter what, my best friend, my soulmate. I don’t want to spend a day of my life without making you smile. I want Pancake Sundays and cuddle puddles and pillow castles and family dinners at Gio’s. I want all of you, and I choose all of you every day, forever. So, I’m finally asking you, will you marry me and keep creating this miraculous universe of love and this beautiful family with me?” Tobin finished, not even caring that tears were sliding down her cheeks. 

Christen understood now why Tobin hadn’t instantly said ‘yes.’ It was impossible to form words, to string together a coherent thought when it felt like her entire world had stopped. She was suspended in a moment of complete beauty, a moment of love, a moment of forever, and she couldn’t have spoken even if she’d wanted to.

She pushed her hand to her chest, right over her racing heart, and tried to breathe through the tears that were freely falling down her cheeks. She tried to see through her blurry vision, to stay looking at Tobin, to stay locked on the universe of love Tobin had spoken into the space between them and had nestled in her brown eyes.

And then she looked down at the ring and felt a stuttering breath leave her lips. 

It was gorgeous, in every single way. A constellation of diamonds sat nestled on top of a golden band, seven by her count. It gleamed under the light of the sun, sparkling and making Christen’s heart flutter.

It was all she could have ever dreamed of. The ring, the proposal, the look on Tobin’s face. It was perfection personified. 

“This is the part where you say yes, Momma,” Scottie whispered, tapping Christen’s knee with her hand. 

“If you want to,” Tobin murmured.

Christen let out a wet chuckle and got up on her knees, moving into Tobin’s space. She cupped Tobin’s cheeks with her hands and nodded, tears still streaming down her cheeks.

“I’ve never been more sure of a yes in my entire life,” Christen whispered, capturing Tobin’s lips in a sweet kiss.

“Yes!” Scottie cheered, flopping back on the picnic blanket. 

“Thank goodness,” Tobin mumbled as she wrapped her arm that wasn’t holding onto the ring around Christen’s waist. 

“Easiest yes I’ve ever given,” Christen replied, swiping her thumbs beneath Tobin’s eyes and brushing away the tears she found there. 

“Can I see the ring?” Scottie asked quietly from her spot on the ground behind Christen.  

“Do you want to put it on? You’ve waited a long time,” Tobin asked. 

Christen dropped her left hand from Tobin’s cheek and held it up between them. “I’ve been waiting for you since you figured out how I take my coffee,” she teased.

Tobin couldn’t stop the smile that grew on her face. She took the ring out of the box and slid it onto Christen’s ring finger, her stomach flipping and her heart racing when she saw it on Christen’s finger. 

“Holy,” Christen whispered, looking down at the ring Tobin had gotten for her, at the promise Tobin had just slipped onto her finger. 

“Good holy? Mine’s not really returnable either,” Tobin hummed, looking at Christen’s face for her reaction. 

“Goofy, awesome, happy holy,” Christen grinned, holding up her hand over her shoulder so Scottie could see the ring. She kissed Tobin as she did it, unable not to.

“I’m obsessed with that one too,” Scottie said reverently. 

“Me too,” Christen admitted, kissing Tobin once more before leaning back. 

“Wait until you see how in sync we are,” Tobin chuckled, reaching down and tapping the ring with her index finger. 

“I don’t want to take it off yet to look,” Christen said with a breathy laugh.

“You don’t have to,” Tobin replied, wrapping her arms around Christen and pulling her flush against her body. 

“Eight more seconds,” Christen murmured. 

“CUDDLE PUDDLE!” Scottie cheered, throwing her arms around Christen and Tobin, sending them all falling down onto the picnic blanket in a fit of laughter.

Christen settled against Tobin’s side, her head on Tobin’s chest, and Scottie molded herself against Christen’s side, propping her elbow up and dropping her head onto her hand.

Once they were comfortable, Christen gently pulled off the ring and checked the inside of the band, her smile growing at the inscription. 

“Us and ours,” Christen whispered reverently, looking over at Tobin as she slid the ring back on.

“It’s like our catchphrase, I guess,” Tobin whispered back, placing a kiss on Christen's forehead. 

“Best gotcha day ever,” Scottie beamed, looking between Tobin and Christen. “And now that you both have rings, I have some requests.”

  “You didn’t waste any time. What kind of requests?” Tobin asked with a laugh, Christen chuckling against her chest as well.

“I want there to be ice cream at the wedding. I want at least one Disney song to play. And I want to invite Gemma to come. Oh, and I want some J1’s to wear with my suit.” 

“I’m obsessed with our daughter,” Christen whispered, turning to kiss Tobin’s cheek, almost unable to do so because she was smiling too much.

“She’s got some pretty good requests for the wedding day,” Tobin hummed, squeezing Christen closer. “What kind of ice cream?”

“Salted Caramel for Momma, Cookies and Cream for you, and Peanut Butter Marshmallow Crunch for me,” Scottie grinned.

“Which Disney song?” Tobin asked, enjoying the way Scottie was already helping to plan the wedding. 

“I currently have a list of thirteen and can’t get it down any further. So I’m going to need help,” Scottie sighed.

“We can definitely help you narrow that down,” Christen hummed in reply.

“Definitely,” Tobin agreed, knowing for a fact that some of her least favorite songs were likely on that list. 

“Now let’s talk about my J1’s,” Scottie announced with a toothy grin.

“What color?” Tobin laughed, pressing her lips to Christen’s forehead again and breathing in the sweet smell of honeysuckle and jasmine that was always on Christen’s skin and in her hair.

Scottie started to ramble off shades of purple and other design elements, and all the while Tobin and Christen stayed wrapped in each other’s arms, both of them finally wearing engagement rings.

Chapter Text

We got to give a little love, have a little hope
Make this world a little better
Try a little more, harder than before
Let's do what we can do together
Oh, whoa, oh
We can really make it better, yeah
Oh, oh, oh, la, la, la
Only if we try
Got the words on our minds
Got the troubles on our shoulders
Sometimes it seems so much
What we go through
Maybe if we take the time
Time to understand each other

(Tobin - "Give A Little Love" by Noah And The Whale) 

She ain't got my smile, that don't bother me a bit
She's got somebody else's eyes I'm seeing myself in
I'm holding on to every moment, God knows I've missed a few
The day we met I knew I had some catching up to do

She ain't my blood, ain't got my name
But if she did, I'd feel the same
I wasn't there for her first steps
But I ain't missed the ball game yet
And that ain't ever gonna change
I could never walk away
Yeah, she's my baby my whole world
She ain't my blood but she's my, she's my girl

(Christen - "My Boy - My Girl Version" by Elvie Shane)


Scottie juggled the soccer ball on the sidewalk, her attention moving between the ball and Gemma who was jumping rope.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them. But they’re still in engagement bliss,” Scottie grumbled.

“What’s that?” Gemma asked as she continued to jump. 

“That’s what they call it. It’s where they’re just happy and kissing all the time,” Scottie rolled her eyes.

“I thought they got engaged a month ago,” Gemma hummed. 

“That’s why I’m grumbling here, G,” Scottie sighed, kicking the ball a little higher, balancing it on her knee, then juggling again.

“Don’t you like that they’re happy? You were in engagement bliss before they even proposed, talking to me about the ring and everything,” Gemma laughed. 

Scottie nodded thoughtfully and then shot Gemma a toothy grin. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s their turn to be in E.B.”

“E.B.,” Gemma repeated, her smile growing. 

“Escaped baboons,” Scottie replied, starting to laugh.

“Electric bass,” Gemma offered. 

“Ooooh good one. Extra bacon,” Scottie continued, settling the ball at her feet. 

“Bacon would be good right now,” Gemma chuckled, dropping her rope and sitting down on the curb. 

Scottie pulled the ball into her lap as she sat down next to Gemma.

“Extra-special best friend,” Scottie said softly, smiling over at Gemma.

Gemma knocked her shoulder into Scottie’s, her smile now beaming. 

“I have a question,” Gemma announced. 

“Shoot,” Scottie shrugged.

“Do you think they’ll want to have another kid?” Gemma asked, catching a runaway basketball and tossing it to the kid who’d lost it. 

“Well…” Scottie trailed off, tapping her hands against the soccer ball in her lap. “I definitely want a little sister or little brother. And I have a feeling Mommy and Momma want our universe of love to be bigger too.”

“It’d be cool to have a little kid to teach to jump rope,” Gemma said. 

Scottie got a goofy grin on her face as she nodded. “You could teach them how to jump rope, and I could teach them how to juggle!”

“Would it be hard?” Gemma asked, her brow furrowing in thought. 

“I mean, juggling was hard at first but then I did it a lot and now my Momma says I’m really good at it.”

“No,” Gemma laughed as she pulled her legs up and tucked her chin onto her knees. “Do you think it’ll be hard to share with another kid? Like share more than just stuff but share your moms.” 

Scottie scrunched her face up at the thought, never really having considered that before. 

“I mean, I guess. But my Mommy learned how to share me with my Momma, so I guess I can learn how to share them. And if I get frustrated, I’ll just call you and we can do the breathing stuff,” Scottie replied, holding up her pinky for Gemma.

Gemma locked her pinky with Scottie’s and gently squeezed it. 

“I think my dad met someone,” she hummed, staring at the four square chalk lines in the street. 

Scottie let out a low whistle and nodded. “Been there.”

“Yeah, but you got Christen,” Gemma mumbled. 

“There might not be another Christen but maybe there’s someone cool that met your dad,” Scottie replied.

“I haven’t met them. He just keeps going out on the weekends. I see a lot of my babysitter these days,” Gemma sighed. 

“Do you need to do the breathing stuff?” Scottie offered.

“Probably,” Gemma nodded. 

“Okay,” Scottie replied, getting off the curb and sitting on the ground in front of Gemma, taking Gemman’s hand in her own and doing a series of deep breaths, just like Christen had taught her.

“Ready for the update?” Scottie asked as she skidded across the hardwood floor in her socks.

“Should we take notes?” Tobin teased from her spot on the couch next to Christen. 

Scottie just rolled her eyes and shot Christen a look. “She thinks she’s so funny,” Scottie replied.

Christen grinned and leaned into Tobin’s side. “She is pretty funny, sweetheart,” Christen hummed.

“Oh my goodness,” Scottie sighed, running a hand over her face. “This is a lot of E.B.”

“Are we supposed to know what that means?” Christen whispered.

“I have no idea,” Tobin mumbled. 

“E.B. stands for engagement bliss. Gemma and I made it up,” Scottie shrugged. 

Christen chuckled and readjusted on the couch so her arm was around Tobin and her hand was tracing slow circles on Tobin’s shoulder.

“Is that the update?” Christen asked.

Scottie zoomed over to the couch and jumped onto it, landing on her stomach near where Christen and Tobin were sitting. 

“Gemma’s dad might be dating, I got over two hundred juggles at recess before Gemma and I did deep breathing, and I learned a new song,” Scottie announced, leaning up on her elbows and smiling at her moms.

“Are you gonna sing it?” Tobin asked, already bracing herself for Scottie’s lack of singing ability and plastering a smile on her face.

Scottie just grinned. “Baton Rouge, Louisiana, south of Helena, Montana, and Columbus is the capital of Ohio. There’s Montgomery, Alabama, Indianapolis, Indiana, and-”

“You still want to marry me?” Tobin teased against the shell of Christen’s ear. 

“Excuse me, Mommy. I’m singing the capital song,” Scottie said, raising her brows at Tobin for the interruption.

“Sorry, little bit. Keep going,” Tobin said with a sheepish look on her face. 

“Wait!” Christen said, turning to kiss Tobin on the cheek really quickly. “Yes, I still want to marry you,” she whispered with a smile.

“Are you finished?” Scottie asked with a deep sigh. 

“Now we are, yes,” Christen chuckled, leaning back into Tobin’s side and waiting for the capital song to continue. 

“Wait, where was I?” Scottie asked, her brow furrowing.

“Indiana,” Christen and Tobin responded at the same time. 

“Right. Indianapolis, Indiana...something, something under Boise, Idaho! Texas has Austin then we go North! To Massachusetts, Boston and Albany, New York. That’s us,” Scottie grinned, winking at Tobin and Christen. “Tallahassee, Florida and Washington, D.C. Santa Fe, New Mexico and Nashville, Tennessee! Then there’s more, but Mommy your eyes look lost, so I’m gonna stop,” Scottie giggled.

“No, they don’t,” Tobin argued. “I just- I’m impressed. Great job, buddy!” 

“Wanna know how to remember the capital of Kansas?” Scottie asked, tapping her hands on the couch.

“Sure,” Christen laughed.

“Dorothy was from Kansas and she wears ruby slippers. So when she wants to look at them, she peeks at her toe. Toe-peek-a! Topeka, Kansas!” Scottie cackled like that was the funniest thing she’d ever learned.

Tobin chuckled, her smile growing at the way Scottie was laughing and the way she was sharing her entire day and what she’d learned in school. 

“Our girl is adorable,” Christen whispered.

“I think she’s getting cuter,” Tobin whispered back. 

“I agree,” Christen hummed, lifting Tobin’s left hand and kissing the engagement band on her ring finger. 

“Hey, Momma,” Scottie said with a toothy, wide smile. 

“Yes, sweetheart,” Christen replied, turning her focus back to the ten-year-old.

“It’s a double game weekend!” Scottie grinned, squirming closer on the couch and putting her head in Christen’s lap. 

“It is! I’m so excited to watch you play,” Christen murmured, running her fingers through Scottie’s wild hair.

“I’m excited to watch you play,” Scottie replied. “It’s the first game back, and your leg is gonna be awesome!” 

Christen crossed her fingers and tried not to let her nerves bleed into her smile. “Here’s hoping,” she replied softly.

“I’m gonna walk you out and give you lots of luck,” Scottie hummed, sinking into the feeling of Christen’s hand in her hair. 

“You always do,” Christen hummed. “And guess what?”

“What?” Scottie mumbled. 

“You get to sit on the bench again this game,” Christen whispered like it was a big secret.

“What’s the special occasion?!” Scottie asked, opening her eyes wide and looking up at Christen. 

“It’s my first game back, and I want you there with me,” Christen replied with a small shrug and a smile.

“And then you get to come to my game,” Scottie sighed happily. “And then we get to go to Mommy’s gallery.”

“It’s a big family weekend for us,” Christen chuckled, poking her finger in the dimple in Scottie’s cheek.

Tobin pressed her lips to Christen’s shoulder, completely soaking in this moment, one of the many perfect moments she got with Christen and Scottie. This was more than just engagement bliss. It was a sense of complete bliss, complete comfort, that came from being with people you loved more than anything in the entire world. 

Christen took a deep breath, fidgeting just a little bit as she stood in the tunnel, her cleats clicking against the concrete.

“Momma,” Scottie murmured, reaching up and taking Christen’s hand in her own. 

“Hmm?” Christen replied, her eyes still locked on the green grass of the field, her arm itching under the Captain’s armband.

“What was your favorite thing about soccer when you were ten?” Scottie asked, pulling Christen’s hand, still clasped with her own, up to her cheek. 

Christen blinked and looked down at Scottie, a small smile making its way onto her face. 

“The orange slices at halftime,” Christen chuckled. “And hugging my parents after the games. They always told me I had played great, even if I didn’t.”

“Mommy and I do that now,” Scottie hummed, turning her head and kissing the back of Christen’s hand. 

“Maybe I could do it with you tomorrow too,” Christen replied softly.

“You always can. It’s your job as my Momma,” Scottie nodded. “You wanna know something?” 

“What’s that?” Christen asked, squeezing Scottie’s hand in her own.

“I knew who you were before I met you,” Scottie said with a little bit of a sheepish smile. 

Christen let out a small laugh. “What do you mean?” she wondered, feeling her worries and anxieties about the game melt away as Scottie grounded her.

“When I couldn’t sleep, sometimes Mommy would let me watch Abbs play games that she’d recorded,” Scottie mumbled. 

“And Abby and I played together,” Christen supplied, nodding just a bit.

“Mhm, and I remember you because you always smiled the biggest. So, I knew you the first day I met you,” Scottie admitted. 

Christen let out a shaky breath and bent down, pulling Scottie in for a tight hug. “You brought that big smile back, sweetheart. Thank you,” she whispered.

“It’s my favorite part about watching you play, even if you don’t have a great game or if it’s just the three of us at the park. You’re the kind of happy that makes me feel happy,” Scottie whispered back, her fingers tangling in the back of Christen’s jersey. 

Christen scooped Scottie up and swung her around, making Scottie giggle. “Thank you,” Christen repeated, feeling that happy smile Scottie was talking about make its way onto her face as she continued to swing Scottie around the tunnel.

“I’m proud of you, Momma,” Scottie mumbled against Christen’s neck. 

“And that makes me the happiest,” Christen replied, dropping a kiss on the top of Scottie’s head and then finally setting her back down on her feet. 

“I don’t have orange slices, but I’ll always tell you you’re great,” Scottie said, taking Christen’s hand in her own again. 

Christen swung their hands between them and pulled them back into the line of Gotham players in the tunnel. 

“And I’ll do the same for you,” Christen murmured.

“Momma,” Scottie gasped, tugging at Christen’s hand and straightening out her fingers. 

“Yeah, sweetheart?”

“Did you lose your ring?” Scottie asked, lowering the volume of her voice as low as she possibly could, her eyes wide with worry. 

Christen laughed, a little too loudly, and made Becky turn around to give her a questioning look. Waving Becky off, Christen looked down at Scottie. 

“Tobin’s holding onto it for me while I play, since I can’t wear jewelry out there,” Christen replied, still laughing just a bit.

“That’s silly. It’s your love ring,” Scottie sighed. 

“I know, but I’ve got your names on my wrist still, and I’ll put the ring on right after the game’s over,” Christen murmured.

“Could you imagine if you lost it? Mommy would probably panic,” Scottie giggled. 

“I’d be big busted,” Christen agreed, catching sight of Becky starting to lead the team out of the tunnel. “You ready?” she asked with a smile.

“Yes. Are you ready?” Scottie asked, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own. 

“I am now,” Christen replied, winking down at Scottie and then leading them out of the tunnel toward the field.

“Not yet, cutie pie,” Crystal whispered, her hands on Scottie’s shoulders holding her back.

“Oh my goodness,” Scottie sighed, wrapping an arm around Crystal’s waist and looking up at her. “How many questions could they have?” 

“She scored the game-winner in the 93rd minute. They have a lot ,” Crystal chuckled.

“She’s scored goals before,” Scottie whined, pressing her face into Crystal’s side. 

“How about we go kick the ball around while we wait?” Becky offered, coming up and ruffling Scottie’s hair.

“Oooh, can you score goals?” Scottie asked. 

“Psh, can I score goals? Who do you think taught your Momma how to score?” Becky scoffed playfully.

“You want to score some goals? I can pretend to be a goalkeeper,” Scottie said with a beaming smile. 

“Excuse me, Mini Tar heel, but you won’t be able to score on me. I’ll be the goalkeeper and no way do you get anything past me,” Kelley grinned.

“Yes way!” Scottie argued, moving away from Crystal and jumping up and down in front of Kelley. 

Becky grabbed a bag of balls and the four of them ran over to the closest goal, Christen still talking to the media nearby.

“I’m really good,” Scottie said, tugging on Kelley’s arm as they set up the balls at the top of the eighteen. 

“I know. I’ve seen you school the Development Academy kids,” Kelley nodded.

“I have a game tomorrow,” Scottie mumbled, winding up to kick the first ball into the goal, Kelley wildly flying after it and missing it. 

“We know that too. Christen’s been talking our ear off about it all week,” Crystal laughed. “It’s at the PDA complex right?”

“Yep, and hmm… How can I explain this…? You know how you feel when you play the Thorns, and they’re like really challenging and good?” Scottie asked as she watched Becky take a shot on goal and Kelley jump around before ducking out of the way of the ball. 

“We know the feeling,” Becky agreed, passing a ball to Scottie.

“They’re like the kid version of the Thorns,” Scottie sighed, taking another shot that Kelley once again dodged. 

“What a goal!” Christen called out excitedly, walking, barefoot, over to the goal with a beaming smile on her face.

Scottie ran toward Christen, her smile huge and her arms open. “They took so long!” 

Christen caught Scottie and swung her around, just like she had before the game. She spun them around a few times and then set Scottie back down.

“They had a few more questions, but I told them I had somewhere important to be,” Christen said, bending down on the grass in front of Scottie.

“Were you jealous because we were having fun on the field and you were working?” Scottie teased. 

Christen nodded, reaching up to fix the collar of the polo shirt Scottie got to wear for the game.

“Super duper jealous,” Christen grinned.

“Your goal was really great,” Scottie hummed. 

“Just for you,” Christen replied with a wink.

“Maybe I’ll get a goal just for you, then,” Scottie said as a goofy smile spread across her face. 

“As long as you have fun. That’s the most important,” Christen murmured.

“Did you have fun?” Scottie asked. 

Christen chuckled and nodded. “Did you see me smiling out there? I had a blast!”

“It was a happy yellow smile,” Scottie agreed. “I see Mommy and Glenny,” she added, nodding her head toward the tunnel. 

“Here, take your shoes off. We can go grounding and pick up Tobin on the way,” Christen said with a small smile, looking quickly over at Tobin and feeling her heart flutter in her chest. 

Scottie tugged her sneakers and her socks off and then took Christen’s hand. 

“Bye, guys! I’m grounding myself with Momma!” Scottie called to Crystal, Becky, and Kelley. 

“Bye cutie pie! Good luck tomorrow!” Crystal called back, nutmegging Becky and then shooting the ball past Kelley with a laugh.

Christen and Scottie walked slowly down the middle of the field, over to where Tobin was talking with Abby and Glennon near the tunnel.

“You’ve got E.B. eyes,” Scottie said as she looked up at Christen. 

“I’m just really happy, sweetheart,” Christen hummed, shooting a smile down at Scottie and then looking back up toward Tobin.

“I’m really happy too,” Scottie agreed. 

“The E.B. won’t last forever. Sorry if it’s annoying,” Christen said, squeezing Scottie’s hand. 

“It isn’t annoying,” Scottie shook her head. “You and Mommy are my favorite people. I want you to be happy all the time.”

“I think there’s a really good chance we will be,” Christen admitted, a light blush in her cheeks as she readjusted her grip on Scottie’s shoes in her other hand.

“I think so too. Mommy’s looking at us with E.B. eyes too now,” Scottie laughed. 

Christen chuckled and couldn’t help but agree. Tobin’s brown eyes were soft and she had a small smile playing at her lips, almost like she was trying not to smile and failing epically. It made Christen’s stomach flip and her own smile grow. 

“It’s about to be E.B. central,” Christen warned teasingly, leading Scottie to the edge of the grass, right where Tobin was waving goodbye to Abby and Glennon.

“That was a beautiful goal, baby,” Tobin breathed out, wrapping her arms around Christen in a hug. 

“Thank you,” Christen whispered, holding Tobin tight with one arm, her other hand still in Scottie’s.

“And awesome assistant coaching,” Tobin added, running a hand over Scottie’s head.

Scottie threw up a shaka sign and shot Tobin a goofy grin. 

“Wanna ground with us?” Scottie asked.

“Oh?” Tobin asked, raising an eyebrow at Christen.

Christen leaned closer, moving her lips close to Tobin’s ear. “I can’t kiss you until we leave, but I can walk close to you if we get grounded,” she murmured before backing up.

“I’d love to ground with you two. You want a ring?” Tobin asked, holding out her right hand where Christen’s ring was still on her finger.

Christen gently took her left hand out of Scottie’s and reached out to pull the ring off of Tobin’s right finger, sliding it back home onto her ring finger easily. 

“Much better,” Christen grinned, taking Scottie’s hand once more. “You gotta lose the shoes, babe,” she added, gesturing down at Tobin’s Nike’s.

Tobin made a slightly pained face before taking her shoes and socks off, reaching out for Scottie’s other hand and joining her family on the field.

Tobin was already on her second cup of coffee. Scottie had woken her up in a panic because her jersey wasn’t in her dresser, and by the time she’d shown Scottie that her jersey was hanging up above the washing machine, she was too awake to fall back asleep with Christen. 

She had a few snacks on the counter for the car ride to the game and for after the game. Scottie’s water bottle was loaded with ice and water. Her shin guards and cleats were packed in her bag at the top of the stairs, and now all Tobin was waiting for was her girls who were running around upstairs, having slept later than her. 

Kid games were absolutely brutal. Maybe if they lived in New Jersey, a 9:00AM game wouldn’t be this bad, but coming from Manhattan was time-consuming and caused them to wake up way earlier than normal human hours in Tobin’s opinion.

“We’re coming, we’re coming!” Christen yelled down the stairs, jumping into her shoes as she beckoned for Scottie to hurry up.

“Are you really?” Tobin called back, feeling her body slump forward against the counter. “Your coach is gonna make you run laps!” 

“We’re coming, we’re coming!” Scottie repeated, grabbing Christen’s hand, the two of them starting down the stairs.

“I’ll be in the car,” Tobin groaned, shoving the snacks into a bag and putting the bag over her shoulder. “Coffee’s on the counter. Scottie, don’t forget your bag,” Tobin yawned as she started down the stairs. 

Christen and Scottie parted ways at the bottom of the stairs, Scottie grabbing Christen’s coffee for her and Christen snagging Scottie’s bag from near the couch. Then the two of them hurried after Tobin, laughing a little at the grumpy sound in Tobin’s voice. 

“Don’t forget your bag,” Scottie mimicked, deepening her voice and making Christen laugh as they raced down the last flight of stairs.

“Would you two like to get an Uber to the field?” Tobin asked, shooting a teasing look over her shoulder. 

“We’re too cute to leave behind,” Christen winked, sipping her coffee as Scottie ran ahead with her backpack.

“Mhm,” Tobin hummed, locking the garage door behind them and then heading to the car. 

The long drive was made better by Scottie’s pump-up playlist, featuring an eclectic mix of Disney princess songs, Hootie and the Blowfish, and TLC. They got her to the field right on time for warm-ups, and after two quick kisses and hugs goodbye, Scottie was racing out to the field, leaving Tobin and Christen alone in the car. 

“Now, it’s time for a nap,” Tobin sighed, letting her eyelids droop closed. 

“Nope, it’s time for something else,” Christen corrected, setting her cup down in the holder.

“Baby, we can’t do that at a public soccer field,” Tobin mumbled. 

“That’s not what you said-” Christen started to say teasingly.

“Our kid is right there,” Tobin snorted. 

Christen grinned and leaned across the center console, giving Tobin a quick kiss on the cheek. “I was talking about getting more coffee.”

“Please, cup number three is always the best,” Tobin hummed, opening her eyes and reversing out of her parking spot. 

“I’m only on two since someone didn’t wake me up,” Christen said, arching a brow in Tobin’s direction as she sat back in her seat.

“Did you really want me to wake you up to see Scottie panic and throw her clothes all over the floor?” Tobin asked as she pulled out of the parking lot and headed to the nearest coffee shop. 

“Us and ours baby, us and ours. It includes everything ,” Christen hummed, fiddling happily with her engagement ring sitting on her left hand.

“I’ll wake you up next time, then,” Tobin promised, taking Christen’s hand in her own and kissing the ring on her left ring finger. 

“Always wake me up,” Christen said softly, squeezing Tobin’s hand.

“She’s nervous,” Tobin hummed as she changed lanes to get closer to the Starbucks that was coming up on their right. 

“I know,” Christen replied. “I didn’t know what else to say besides ‘Good luck!’. How lame was that?” she sighed as she shook her head.

“I didn’t know what else to say except ‘Have fun,’” Tobin admitted. “I don’t think it’s lame. I don’t really think there’s much we can say for nerves. Did anything people said to you as a kid make you less nervous?” 

“God no,” Christen laughed. “But maybe we could find something, you and me. Something we can say to Scottie?” she wondered.

“What would you have liked to hear when you were younger or now before you play?” Tobin asked, brushing her thumb along Christen’s hand. 

“Scottie told me she was proud of me yesterday. That helped a lot,” Christeen replied quietly, her lips pulling up into a smile at the memory.

“Well, we can tell her that too,” Tobin said softly, turning into the parking lot. “She’s pretty spectacular.”

“Tobin she’s- she’s such a great kid. I know I say that a lot but...she’s extraordinary,” Christen murmured.  “And I can’t believe-” she faltered, almost shaking herself out of the thought.

“What?” Tobin asked gently as she put the car in park and unbuckled her seatbelt to look at Christen. 

“I can’t believe you let me call her ours. That she’s mine in some way. It just- sometimes it catches me off guard,” Christen admitted softly, taking Tobin’s hand in her own. 

“She is yours. You’re going to be my wife. You’re...well, you’re the only person I trust to love her like I do,” Tobin whispered as she pulled Christen’s hand up to her lips and placed a kiss to each knuckle. 

“I didn’t mean to get so deep before your third coffee,” Christen replied with a small smile. 

“I like getting deep with you,” Tobin hummed. “We’ve never not been deep.”

“Well then I say we get some coffee and head back to the field to make sure our daughter knows we’re proud of her,” Christen whispered, her eyes a little misty. 

“I love you,” Tobin whispered back, pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips. 

“I love you too,” Christen replied. “And I’m going to be your wife. I really love how that sounds.”

“And I’m gonna be your wife,” Tobin added with a dopey smile. “But first we get to watch our daughter play.” 

“Maybe we shouldn’t have come?” Crystal whispered to Christen, cringing as the third goal hit the back of the net against Scottie’s PDA team. 

“Ooh she better not throw that ball,” Tobin mumbled. 

Scottie grabbed the ball from the back of the net and slammed it into the ground, an audible huff leaving her lips. 

“Oh boy,” Christen sighed, laying her hand on Tobin’s back gently. 

“She definitely might have gotten that from me. I got carded for that in college,” Tobin admitted quietly. 

“Mini Tar Heel’s got spice,” Kelley hummed quietly, munching on her donut. 

“Okay, any ideas on diffusing this?” Tobin whispered to Christen. “Because she’s gonna be like that all day.”

As Scottie lined back up, a noticeable scowl on her face, Christen winced. 

“Umm…ice cream?” Christen suggested, letting out an audible oooh along with Becky and Crystal when Scottie shoved a girl over to get the ball, luckily not getting the foul called against her. 

“Don’t you guys go to some Italian place all the time?” Becky asked, her eyes glued to Scottie on the field. 

“We could try Gio’s, babe,” Christen said softly, running her hand up and down Tobin’s back. 

“Yeah,” Tobin murmured, watching Scottie shoot, her ball reaching the back of the net. Scottie didn’t cheer though. Her teammates jumped around, patting her on the back, but Scottie’s frown remained in place. 

“Oh boy,” Christen repeated. 

“At least they got a goal,” Kelley said as she leaned forward in her seat. 

“It’s still 3-1,” Crystal reminded her quietly. 

“I mean, yeah. But she’s only ten,” Becky argued with a tight smile. 

“Right now, this game is all that matters to her. Doesn’t matter if she’s ten,” Christen pointed out, taking a sip of her now-cold coffee. 

“At least there’s another game next week,” Crystal said softly. 

When the ref blew her whistle, Scottie followed her teammates and high-fived the players on the other team. She shook people’s hands and tried to fake a smile, and then she dropped down in the center of the field, yanking her cleats off and covering her face. 

“Shit, guys. Glasses, glasses,” Kelley hissed, pulling the brim of her baseball cap lower and elbowing Crystal and Becky to put their sunglasses back on. 

They were trying to be covert and not take away from Scottie’s game, but they’d been spotted. 

“Are you Becky Sauerbrunn?” one of the PDA kids asked, holding a soccer ball and a Sharpie in hand. 

“Yeah, good game,” Becky replied, taking the ball and the Sharpie 

“Are you Christen Press?” a kid from the opposite team asked, holding a Sharpie and a shin guard. 

Christen hesitated. She could see Scottie in the middle of the field. She could see the slump in Scottie’s shoulders and the heavy way her head was dipped down. And Christen wanted to go. She wanted to go be there for her daughter. But she was caught. 

“I am. You played a great game out there,” Christen replied with a tight smile. 

A group of kids from both teams crowded around their chairs, asking Becky, Crystal, Christen, and Kelley for autographs. 

Tobin squeezed Christen’s forearm and then moved out of her seat, her eyes stuck on Scottie. Christen just nodded and offered Tobin a quick half-smile before turning back to the gathered group of kids. 

“I watch all of your games,” another kid said, handing Christen a Sharpie. 

“Thank you for your support. I’m glad I got to watch yours today,” Christen complimented easily, signing the girl’s jersey. 

Tobin walked out to the center of the field, dropping down onto the grass next to Scottie. She reached out and put her hand on Scottie’s, silently letting her know she was there. 

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Scottie mumbled, her voice thick with tears. 

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to, little bit. But I want you to know that I’m proud of you for playing through that game. I know it was rough, but your goal was great, and you worked through a really tough game,” Tobin said softly. 

“Mommy, please. Please just let me sit in my sad,” Scottie replied softly. 

“Would you mind if I sit with you in your sad? I won’t say a word,” Tobin hummed. 

“You can. Where’s-” Scottie tried to ask, but as she looked up and saw her teammates and the girls from the other team getting autographs from the Gotham players and from Christen, Scottie’s down mood soured even more. “Oh,” she mumbled. 

“You want to go to the car?” Tobin asked as she squeezed Scottie’s hand in her own. 

“I want to go home,” Scottie said quietly. 

“Let’s go home,” Tobin agreed, grabbing Scottie’s cleats, socks, and shinguards. “Will you hold the keys and unlock the car for me? I’m gonna get our stuff.” 

Scottie just hummed in response, taking the keys from Tobin’s hand. 

“I’m gonna wait at the front,” she said, her face falling when Christen and the other Gotham players were still busy. 

“I’ll be there in just a minute, buddy,” Tobin replied, leaning down and pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead. 

Tobin made her way back over to Christen and their stuff, moving around little kids as she picked up the snack bag and her chair. She leaned down next to Christen who was still signing things, her brow furrowed in worry. 

“We’ll be in the car,” Tobin whispered. 

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Christen whispered back. 

Tobin carried most of their stuff to the entrance where Scottie was waiting, and the two of them slipped into the car. Scottie pulled off her jersey and replaced it with an oversized UNC sweatshirt that Tobin had left in the car. Tobin silently handed Scottie some Goldfish, a bag of orange slices, and her water bottle. She picked out a slow, soft playlist on her Spotify and then settled into her seat, waiting for Scottie to say something. 

“I didn’t mean to slam the ball down. That wasn’t very nice of me,” Scottie finally said, her cheeks wet with tears and her voice wobbly. 

“It wasn’t great sportsmanship, but I can’t really get upset. I’ve done it before. Sometimes the game just feels so important and so intense, and we lose our tempers. Maybe we should practice some breathing techniques while playing together,” Tobin suggested. 

“Maybe if Momma watched me play she could help me with that. But she’s busy watching everyone else,” Scottie replied, scooting over and laying her forehead against the window.

“She watched you the whole time, little bit. Those kids just came up at the end of the game,” Tobin said as she turned around to look at Scottie. 

“She didn’t come see me after the game,” Scottie said quietly. 

“I know she didn’t. I think that was a hard moment to navigate. She didn't want to hurt all those other kids’ feelings,” Tobin murmured. 

“I’m the only one who matters. That’s what she said...I think I want to sit in my sad and be quiet again,” Scottie replied, sniffling just a bit.

“I know it’s hard to share her, but she loves you,” Tobin said almost at a whisper. “We can be quiet for now, though.”

Scottie didn’t take her forehead off the cool glass of the window while she and Tobin sat in silence. She didn’t move or respond when Christen opened the passenger’s side door and got in, apologies falling from her lips. Scottie just kept her eyes locked out the window and her lips turned down into a frown as Tobin silently pulled the car out of the parking lot.

Christen scratched at the corner of her jaw and chanced a quick look over her shoulder at Scottie, easily reading how upset she was. With a small sigh, she turned back around and reached out for Tobin’s hand.

“Gio’s shouldn’t be too packed tonight,” Christen said, breaking the silence in the car in hopes of also breaking the tension.

“I’m not in the mood,” Scottie mumbled from the backseat. 

“We can make homemade pizzas,” Tobin suggested, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own. 

“Or quesadillas. You love quesadillas, sweetheart,” Christen added.

“Yeah, well I used to love soccer too,” Scottie huffed. 

“That’s a lie. You still love it,” Tobin said over her shoulder. 

“Yeah,” Scottie sighed, slightly deflated. 

“I know it was a tough game, but you played really well,” Christen murmured.

“Don’t lie,” Scottie grumbled. 

“I’m not. Your goal was wonderful,” Christen replied, her brows scrunching together as she turned around to look at Scottie.

“Mommy, can we please keep staying quiet?” Scottie asked, keeping her eyes glued to the passing scenery. 

“Your goal was wonderful. She’s right,” Tobin said. 

“She should tell that to every other kid she spent time with,” Scottie muttered under her breath, her eyes filling with tears again.

“What was that?” Christen asked, feeling her eyebrows shoot up in surprise.

“Nothing,” Scottie mumbled, pressing her forehead to the window. 

“I’m gonna shower,” Scottie said as she took her soccer bag and cleats out of Tobin’s hands. 

“Think about what you might want for dinner,” Tobin replied, tossing her keys on the counter. 

“Definitely not quesadillas,” Scottie shrugged, trudging up the stairs.

“Scottie Katherine,” Tobin warned as she watched Scottie walk up the stairs. She pushed hair away from her face and let out a long breath. 

“Not Gio’s either,” Scottie tossed over her shoulder as she got upstairs.

“Great, pizza sounds great!” Tobin called out over the slamming of Scottie’s door.

“Whatever!” Scottie yelled downstairs.

Tobin toed off her sneakers and leaned against the counter, trying to prepare herself for the parent talk she was definitely going to be having with Scottie as soon as Scottie was showered and changed. She closed her eyes and rubbed them with her hands, feeling the exhaustion from this morning settle more fully on her body. 

“I really hate the word whatever,” Tobin grumbled. 

Christen looked between the stairs and Tobin, her forehead furrowed in thought. Without saying anything or replying, Christen walked over, gave Tobin a quick kiss on the cheek, and then walked to the stairs. 

“Babe,” Tobin said, a slight warning in her voice. 

“I know it’s me,” Christen said, pausing at the bottom step, her voice tight.

“It’s the game...and maybe you a tiny bit. But she might just need time to cool off,” Tobin sighed. 

“I just spent forty-five minutes in a silent car with her. I think we’ve both cooled off enough,” Christen replied, hoping that her instincts that were screaming at her to go upstairs and talk to Scottie weren’t the wrong ones.

“Godspeed,” Tobin nodded. “I’m here if you need me.”

Christen just offered Tobin a weak smile and climbed the stairs quickly, heading for Scottie’s room. She knocked softly and waited, knowing that Scottie wasn’t in the shower yet.

“I’m busy,” Scottie said, her voice wobbly and weak. 

“No you’re not,” Christen called through the door.

“Yeah, I am,” Scottie sniffled. 

“Can I please come in?” Christen asked.

“I don’t want an autograph,” Scottie replied, quickly wiping the tears off of her cheeks. 

Christen sighed and leaned her forehead on the door, her heart sinking. “I’m not here to give you one. You’re not a fan, you’re- we have a gotcha day, sweetheart. You’re my daughter, and I’m your Momma. And I would really like to come in and give you a hug because that was a tough game.”

“Fine,” Scottie mumbled, the tears rising in her eyes again. 

Christen opened the door and immediately joined Scottie on the floor. She didn’t go for the hug, though. Not yet. Not when Scottie still seemed tense and distant. Instead, she held out her hand and set it on the carpet between them. 

“Want to talk about this? Or do you just want to be quiet together for a bit?” Christen asked softly.

“It was a really bad game. I’m sorry you had to see it,” Scottie murmured. 

“I’m not,” Christen replied, no hesitation in her voice.

“You didn’t- It wasn’t good. It was a waste of time,” Scottie argued, pulling her knees up to her chest. 

“I don’t think it was,” Christen said, moving her hand back to her lap once Scottie didn’t take it. 

“And I got angry, even though it was just a stupid game,” Scottie added, her bottom lip wobbling as she spoke. 

“There is nothing stupid about this game. We get to play the best sport in the whole world. There is nothing stupid about it,” Christen reasoned.

“Maybe it isn’t stupid when you play it,” Scottie said with a sad shrug. 

“Do you want to know why I don’t think today was a waste of time? Why I’m happy I got to watch my daughter play today?” Christen asked softly, tilting her head to try and catch Scottie’s eye.

“It reminded you what not to do?” Scottie guessed, pressing her face against her knees. 

Christen scooted just a little bit closer before replying. “You completed over fifty passes. You nutmegged three girls. You took four corner kicks and almost helped your team get a goal off two of them. You tracked back on defense every time your team needed you. You took nine shots, four on target. One went in. And that goal…” Christen trailed off, shaking her head a little at the memory, a smile slipping onto her face. “It was gorgeous. You just dribbled right at the center back with no hesitation. You faked her out with a move you and I have practiced, and then you sent a perfectly placed shot into the bottom corner. Then after the game, even when you could have walked away, you shook every single player's hand. Today reminded me of how to be a great forward and a great player. You reminded me of that,” Christen finished softly.

Scottie let out a nearly silent sob, her shoulders starting to shake and her arms tightening around her legs. She pressed her face even more firmly against her legs, trying to keep the tears at bay, even though they continued to slip from the corners of her eyes. She took her bottom lip between her teeth to keep it from wobbling. 

“Sweetheart, come here,” Christen whispered, holding open her arms.

“I thought you- I thought you were too disappointed to come see me,” Scottie croaked. 

“You could never disappoint me, Scottie Heath. Never,” Christen promised, still waiting for Scottie to look up.

“But you talked to everyone else, and I know I’m supposed to share. I know I have to share, but you’re not their Momma,” Scottie whimpered. 

“You’re right,” Christen replied, letting out a small sigh of relief when Scottie all but threw herself into her arms. She held Scottie tightly to her, once again feeling the guilt she’d had pressing against her chest with every autograph she’d signed after the game. “I’m your Momma and I should have been there.”

“I know you made them happy. You make everyone happy. I can share. I- I promise, I can share. I don’t know why it hurt,” Scottie whispered. 

“You didn’t have to share me today. You shouldn’t have had to, and I’m sorry you did. I didn’t make you happy today, and that’s the most important to me,” Christen said, rubbing soothing circles across Scottie’s back.

“You do make me happy. You make me happy by being you. I just- I wanted the other kids to go away,” Scottie assured, swallowing the lump in her throat. 

“Next time, I’ll be Momma first instead of Christen Press. How about that? No autographs, no pictures. Nothing until I hug my daughter and tell her how proud I am of her,” Christen murmured, feeling her own eyes burn at the sadness she could still hear in Scottie’s voice.

“I didn’t mean to be mean in the car,” Scottie said quietly, clutching onto Christen, her fingers brushing against the baby hairs at the back of Christen’s neck. 

“You were hurt. I hurt your feelings, and you’re allowed to be upset with me,” Christen replied. “Just as long as you let me in when I knock so we can talk about it, you can always take the time to feel how you feel.”

“I will,” Scottie nodded, pushing her face against the side of Christen’s neck. “Maybe it’s selfish…” she started, searching for the right words. “I- I know how cool you are and that other people want to know you, but I want you as my Momma all the time.”

Christen let out a wobbly breath and held Scottie even tighter. “I am, sweetheart. Even when I’m signing autographs or doing media or playing soccer, I’m always your Momma. I promise.”

“I’m sorry,” Scottie whispered, blinking out a few more tears. 

“I am too,” Christen whispered back.

“I wish Coach Becky, Auntie Dunny, and Coach Kelley hadn’t come to that game,” Scottie hummed, keeping her face against Christen. 

“Do you want me to talk about your passing and your shots on goal and your corner kicks again? Because I can,” Christen said, smiling just a little bit.

“No,” Scottie hiccuped, letting out the tiniest laugh. 

“They’re so proud of how you played today too. And spiking the ball aside, that game was a great one for them to come to because you were playing. That’s all that matters to them,” Christen assured softly.

“That was not a good moment for me,” Scottie interjected, referencing the angry moment she’d had. 

“You looked like Tobin,” Christen teased lightly.

“I know,” Scottie agreed, a small smile finally gracing her lips. 

“And when you nutmegged the same girl twice, you looked like her too,” Christen continued, trying to keep that smile on Scottie’s face.

“And when I scored the goal, I looked like you,” Scottie mumbled, clutching tightly onto Christen. 

“See? How could I not be proud of you? You played the game we all love, and you played it for all of us,” Christen hummed, dropping a kiss to the top of Scottie’s head.

“I think I’m luckier than all of them,” Scottie breathed out. 

“Because you get homemade pizza tonight?” Christen wondered.

“Because I get homemade quesadillas with my Momma and my Mommy,” Scottie corrected. 

Christen finally let out the breath she was holding and pressed her smile against Scottie’s hair. 

“Quesadilla’s sound perfect, sweetheart.”

“I’ll share better next time, and I won’t spike the ball,” Scottie promised. 

“I’ll be better next time. And yeah...maybe don’t spike the ball,” Christen chuckled.

Chapter Text

You look at me
You've got nothing left to say
I'll only pout at you until I get my way
I won't dance
You won't sing
I just want to love you but you want to wear my ring
Well there's nothing I can do
I only wanna be with you
You can call me your fool
I only wanna be with you

(Tobin, Christen, and Scottie - "Only Wanna Be With You" by Hootie and the Blowfish)


“Tobin,” Christen whispered, leaning over into Tobin’s space.

“Yeah?” Tobin hummed absentmindedly, staring at the kids running around the field. 

“If you squeeze my hand any tighter, I’ll never be able to get this ring off,” Christen said softly, chuckling just a bit under her breath.

“Oh, shit. Sorry,” Tobin sighed, completely loosening her grip and moving her hand to the armrest of her chair. 

Christen flexed her left hand to get the circulation going again and then slid her hand on top of Tobin’s. 

“She’s having a great game,” Christen pointed out, smiling a bit when Scottie nutmegged a girl on the opposing team. 

“At least she’s smiling this time,” Tobin agreed. “I just wish these kids would stop putting me through nail-biter games.”

Christen chuckled in agreement and ran her thumb along the top of Tobin’s hand, her eyes locked on the field.

“You’ve never seen me watch one of yours,” Tobin said with a small smile. 

“Is it like this?” Christen asked with an amused lilt in her voice.

“Baby, it’s worse. The stakes are higher, and I don’t have your hand to hold, so I just sit there completely tense,” Tobin laughed. 

Christen moved her hand to the back of Tobin’s neck, gently loosening the tense muscles she found there, an enamored smile on her face.

“It’s like you love me or something,” Christen hummed, moving her thumb across a small knot in Tobin’s neck.

“I really love you,” Tobin murmured, forcing her eyes not to flutter closed at the way Christen was making her relax. 

“This is about to undo all the help I just did, but she’s on the ball near the goal,” Christen whispered, nudging Tobin so she’d look.

“GO SCOTTIE!” Tobin yelled, her body immediately tensing in anticipation. 

On the field, Scottie faked out a defender, danced around a few more with the ball all but glued to her feet, and sent a shot into the side netting.

Christen and Tobin immediately jumped to their feet, cheering and whooping as Scottie ran with her arms out to her sides to celebrate her goal, her teammates racing to hug her. 

Scottie kissed two fingers and pressed them to her heart as she ran past the two of them, her smile completely beaming. 

“She just heartstringed us,” Tobin said, pulling Christen into her side. 

“Oh gosh,” Christen sighed, reaching into her pocket for a handkerchief. 

She was always amazed by Scottie, every single day. 

Early on, things like the way Scottie would smile or laugh just like Tobin, and the way she would say profound or thoughtful things that showed how Tobin had raised her, would knock Christen off balance. And now, nearly three years later, to see Scottie start to incorporate things she did, like heartstrings and the Press Power Pose™, rendered Christen completely speechless. It was unbelievable that she got to not just be a part of Scottie’s life, but she got to help raise her. She got to affect Scottie’s life in that way. And it was so clear to see as Scottie pointed at them after tapping her heart.

“You having a proud mom moment?” Tobin whispered. 

“Yeah,” Christen replied softly, dabbing at the tears pooling in her eyes as she leaned into Tobin’s side.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Tobin hummed as the two of them slowly sank back down into their seats. 

“Thank you for making me a mom,” Christen murmured, clinging to Tobin’s hand now, the complete reverse of how they’d been a few minutes ago.

“Thank you for wanting to be one with me,” Tobin said quietly, brushing her thumb along Christen’s hand. 

Christen let out a small groan when a handful of girls started walking up to her after the referee blew the whistle like they’d been waiting for the game to be over.

“Just ask them to give you a moment,” Tobin whispered, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own as she pushed out of her seat. 

Christen did the same, getting up and walking over to the group of girls, fixing a smile on her face.

“Hi, um… do you think we could get autographs?” one of the kids from the other team asked. 

“My daughter just finished playing, so after I go see her, I can sign some stuff, okay?” Christen replied, looking between the girls and hoping they would understand.

“Okay,” another kid nodded. 

“Thanks, you guys,” Christen replied with a genuine smile.

“Her daughter’s so lucky,” one of the players mumbled as Christen moved past them.

Christen’s smile grew as she walked over to join Tobin, the two of them heading across the field to meet Scottie. 

“Scottie Heath, what a game!” Christen grinned, making Scottie look up from where she was taking off her cleats.

Scottie hopped to her feet and raced the rest of the way to her moms, her arms immediately wrapping around both of them. 

“I did that trick we all worked on last week,” Scottie said, burying her face against both of her moms. 

“And then you switched the point of attack and your team got a good look on goal,” Christen nodded, remembering the play, her smile softening as Scottie clung to them. “You played so great today, sweetheart.”

“You two were so loud,” Scottie giggled. 

“Well, we’re really proud of you,” Tobin replied, poking Scottie in the side. 

“Super-duper proud,” Christen agreed, brushing some sweaty baby hairs away from Scottie’s face.

Scottie leaned back and looked up, grinning. “Did you see my goal celebration?” she asked excitedly, her eyes holding on Christen.

“You looked like someone I know,” Tobin teased. “I just...I’m having trouble placing her.”

Scottie leaned into Christen and rolled her eyes at Tobin. “You’re silly, Mommy,” Scottie replied before looking back up at Christen. “You saw it right?”

Christen nodded gently, her eyes getting a little misty at the reminder.

“You made your Momma cry when you did it,” Tobin whispered. 

“Oh hush,” Christen replied, nudging Tobin in the arm. “I was just- I was moved, is all. It was very sweet of you to do that,” she hummed, willing away the tears she could feel looming.

“It’s our family’s thing,” Scottie said with a smile. 

Christen squeezed one of her eyes closed and let out a shaky breath, fighting a losing battle against the tears. Tobin handed her the handkerchief she kept in her pocket, squeezing her hip as Christen got teary.  Despite having her own handkerchief in her pocket, Christen took the offered one from Tobin.

“You made me cry again,” she chuckled, poking her finger against the tip of Scottie’s nose.

“Sorry,” Scottie laughed. “I won’t make you cry at dinner tonight.”

“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Christen replied with a smile, handing Tobin the handkerchief back once she’d wiped away the handful of tears Scottie’s sweet gesture and words had caused.

“You can go put the other kids out of their misery,” Scottie hummed as she glanced around Christen to see a few kids waiting on the sideline with Sharpies in hand. “Mommy and I can ground while we wait.”

“Why don’t I ground with you for a little bit before I go? They know I’m spending time with my daughter,” Christen murmured, winking down at Scottie.

“Grounding is more fun with both of you,” Scottie replied, her smile growing impossibly bigger. 

Christen smiled back and then slipped out of her shoes, nudging Tobin to do the same. 

“Shoes, Tobin,” she reminded, earning her an amused huff.

“I’m sorry I’m hesitant to slip the Jordans off in a public field,” Tobin grumbled playfully, taking her shoes and socks off.
Scottie and Christen both rolled their eyes at the same time.

“You two love me,” Tobin reminded them.

“Not as much as you love your Royal Toes,” Scottie giggled, putting her cleats and socks into her backpack and sliding it on.

“That’s not true,” Tobin argued. “I love you two more than anything and everything. You two are my whole world.”

“Babe, you tuck them in at night. You literally tuck them in,” Christen chuckled, taking her shoes in one hand and Scottie’s hand in the other.

“I tuck you two in at night too,” Tobin huffed. 

“You’re our world too, Mommy. You and your shoe obsession,” Scottie teased, sliding her hand into Tobin’s.

“I’m sorry...I’m pretty sure I remember someone asking me to get her Jordans for the wedding,” Tobin said with an arched brow. 

Scottie just shrugged and started them on their grounding walk. “I have good taste, not a closet full of shoes,” she replied, making Christen snort.

“Let’s not talk about your jersey collection,” Tobin teased. “A collection that your Momma is almost completely responsible for.”

Scottie had the good sense to look a little guilty for teasing Tobin so hard. She leaned over and kissed Tobin’s arm as they kept walking.

“That’s just because Momma is a World Champion and a Gold Medalist and Gotham’s captain and Stanford’s best soccer player ever. I have to have every single one of her jerseys,” Scottie pointed out.

“Are you really?” Tobin joked, looking over at Christen. 

“That does sound like someone we know...but I’m having trouble placing her,” Christen teased.

“You two are silly,” Scottie sighed, squeezing both of their hands in her own. 

Because of the late afternoon game and the pitstop they’d made at Tobin’s parents’ house, the drive back home was dark. Tobin’s headlights were illuminating the street, Scottie was snoozing in the back seat, and Christen was humming softly to the music on the radio. Their grand plan to go to Gio’s seemed like an afterthought now, all three of them too tired to think about going anywhere. 

They were already through the tunnel and driving through Manhattan to their house, traffic slightly worse than usual. Tobin glanced over her shoulder as she changed lanes, her eyes just grazing over the park they were passing. 

“Baby, stop the car,” Christen said suddenly, sitting straighter in her seat.

“Why?” Tobin asked, already putting her hazards on and slowing down. 

Christen was jumping out of the car as soon as they were parked, not even taking a moment to reply to Tobin.

“Chris!” Tobin called, yanking her seatbelt off and trying to get out despite the cars moving past her door. Unable to actually get her door open, she slipped her legs over the center console and moved to look out of the passenger door. “Babe, what are you doing?” 

“Mommy?” Scottie mumbled from the backseat, waking up from her sleep. 

“Chris,” Tobin called again, watching Christen pick up a diaper box off the ground. “Scottie doesn’t need those,” she teased, completely confused about what Christen was doing. 

“Hi there,” Christen cooed softly, running the back of her pointer finger along the top of the puppy’s head. “You must be scared, huh?” she added, looking around the empty street for any sign as to where this puppy housed in a small box had come from. Not seeing anyone, she carried the box back over to the parked car, unable to stomach leaving it.

“Baby, what is that?” Tobin asked, covering her eyes with a hand. 

“A PUPPY!” Scottie cheered, peering over the edge of the box and getting impossibly excited.

“It’s definitely a young puppy,” Christen agreed, still running her finger soothingly over the puppy’s head and making it let out a small yawn. “I can’t believe someone just left this poor, defenseless baby on the street.” 

Tobin silently slid back into the driver’s seat, immediately leaning forward and resting her forehead against the steering wheel. 

“Can I hold it?” Scottie asked, leaning against the center console. 

“No,” Tobin answered with a groan. “It’s probably got tons of germs right now. Buckle up, little bit.”

Christen silently slid back into the passenger’s seat, the box in her lap.

“You’re cute, Chris,” Tobin sighed as she turned off the hazards and pulled away from the curb. 

“I’m aware,” Christen replied, still smiling down at the puppy.

“We’re gonna give it a bath and then take it to a rescue group or something,” Tobin said as she focused on the road. 

“Mhm,” Christen hummed, not sounding like she was agreeing at all.

“Babe,” Tobin said with a slight warning to her voice. “I’m serious.”

“Mhm,” Christen repeated, making a little kissing noise at the puppy when it let out another yawn. “Aw, big yawn!”

“He’s so cute,” Scottie whispered from the backseat. 

“She,” Christen corrected softly

“She’s got tan hair. Like a Goldfish cracker,” Scottie hummed.  

“I think she might be a staffy,” Christen replied. 

“Oh, we could name her Goldfish! That’s funny,” Scottie giggled. 

“That’s a great idea!” Christen agreed with a laugh.

“We can’t name the dog. It’s not staying,” Tobin argued. 

“She, Mommy. She’s a she,” Scottie pointed out, leaning forward to grin down at the puppy in the box.

“She’s not staying,” Tobin repeated. “You aren’t twelve.”

Christen gently dried the puppy off with a towel. This little girl was definitely less than ten weeks old. She was small enough to hold in her two hands, and was completely dwarfed by the beach towel Tobin had given her to dry her off.

“Momma, I need you!” Scottie called from down the hall. 

“Coming!” Christen called back, keeping the puppy wrapped in the towel as she carried her from the bathroom to the bedroom.
Tobin was lying on the bed, her forearm over her eyes and grumbled words still slipping from her lips. 

“Babe, can you hold her while I go help Scottie?” Christen asked, keeping her voice soft as she smiled down at the sleepy puppy in her arms.

Tobin silently held out her hands, keeping her eyes closed and her lips in a tight smile. 

“I won’t leave her with you if you won’t sit up,” Christen said, arching a brow in Tobin’s direction.

Tobin cracked an eye open and then sighed, pushing up in bed and sitting against the headboard.  Christen set the puppy on Tobin’s lap, pausing to run her thumb between the puppy’s eyes softly.

“You need to tell her that we aren’t keeping it,” Tobin said as the puppy squirmed in her arms. 

“Mhm,” Christen replied again.

“Baby, I’m serious. I get that it was abandoned, but we don’t have the time to take care of a dog,” Tobin sighed. 

“So the coordinated schedule we have so one of us is always at home in case Scottie needs us during the day isn’t conducive to raising a puppy?” Christen asked, trying not to smile.

“She isn’t twelve. That’s the rule,” Tobin argued weakly. 

“She’s basically twelve,” Christen replied.

“She’s ten,” Tobin huffed. 

“Closer to twelve than seven,” Christen argued.

“Chris,” Tobin grumbled. 

“Tobin,” Christen chuckled, already seeing less hesitation in Tobin’s eyes and knowing she might actually win this.

“Momma, I still need you!” Scottie called. 

“Coming!” Christen called over her shoulder. “Play nice,” she whispered, kissed Tobin’s forehead, and then walking out of the bedroom,

“Don’t do that, dude,” Tobin mumbled, looking down at the huge, brown doe eyes that the puppy was shooting in her direction. The puppy wiggled on Tobin’s lap, putting her paws up on her chest and licking Tobin’s chin. 

“Someone was pretty mean to you, dumping you outside in a box like that,” Tobin sighed, running her finger on the tiny wrinkle between the puppy’s eyes. “I don’t know why. You’re pretty cute. Don’t tell Chris I said that, though.” 

The dog let out a long sigh and buried her face in Tobin’s chest. 

“Shit,” Tobin breathed out. “Sweet girl, you can’t do that. We’re taking you to a rescue group tomorrow. You can’t make it hard. It’s already gonna be hard for Scottie and Christen.”

At the soft snores that left the dog, Tobin let her eyes fall shut. “Well, maybe we can wait a few days to call the rescue groups. Tomorrow’s Sunday, so they might not be open. We’ll call on Monday or Tuesday.” 

Tobin cracked an eye open to glance down at the puppy. She shifted on the bed to lie down, her hand on the puppy’s back the entire time. “I always wanted a dog as a kid,” Tobin admitted softly. 

The puppy let out a yawn and burrowed closer, basically tucking her face under Tobin’s chin.

“Don’t pee in my bed, and maybe you can stay until Wednesday,” Tobin murmured. 

A few minutes later, Christen and Scottie poked their heads into the bedroom, matching smiles on their faces.

Tobin was fast asleep on the bed, the puppy asleep on her chest.

“See, I told you leaving her alone with Goldfish was a good idea,” Scottie whispered. 

“You’re brilliant, Scottie Heath,” Christen whispered back, giving Scottie a fist bump.

“Can we get her a cool collar tomorrow?” Scottie asked. 

“We’ll take her to the vet and get her registered and get Goldfish the coolest collar ever,” Christen said softly, her heart melting when the puppy sighed happily on Tobin’s chest, and Tobin unconsciously cradled the puppy closer.

When Tobin climbed down the stairs, Goldish was tucked inside her sweatshirt, just poking her head out of the neck of it. 

Christen snapped a quick picture and grinned. “Just for posterity,” she chuckled before tucking her phone back in her pocket.

“Why posterity?” Tobin asked, grabbing a mug from the cabinet and pouring herself a cup of coffee. 

“To show everyone the moment Goldfish became ours,” Christen replied with a small chuckle. “Plus I needed a new lock screen picture.”

“It’s just a dog. We’ll call a rescue group later this week,” Tobin mumbled unconvincingly. 

Christen just sipped her coffee, hiding her smile behind her mug. “Mhm.”

“Would this dog make you happy?” Tobin asked, finally letting out a sigh. 

“Dogs, in general, make me happy."

“Would this dog make you happy?” Tobin repeated. 

“Would Goldfish make you happy?” Christen countered.

Tobin pursed her lips and tried not to react when Goldfish licked her neck. 

“Aha! I knew it! She squirmed her way into your heart!” Christen said with a beaming smile.

“No! She woke me up twice last night to go outside,” Tobin argued. 

“And I walked down three flights of stairs with you and you didn’t stop smiling the whole time. You love her,” Christen chuckled, her green eyes shining with victory.

“I don’t hate her,” Tobin shrugged. 

Christen got up from the kitchen table and moved into the kitchen, sliding between Tobin and the countertop. She wound her arms around Tobin’s waist and smiled softly.

“You can tell me right now if you don’t want to do this, and I would cry for a second in the bathroom and then drive her to the shelter with you. You can tell me right now and we can do that,” Christen said quietly.

“I didn’t think I’d say this until after we were married,” Tobin started, setting her face in a serious expression, her lips turned down. 

Christen raised her eyebrows, waiting for Tobin to continue.

“Do you want to expand our family?” she asked with the quietest, fakest grumpy voice she could manage. 

Christen’s smile just grew and grew, her heart fluttering in her chest. “Baby, I want nothing more than to add to our universe of love."

“Is her name really gonna be Goldfish?” Tobin asked, reaching out and tucking a strand of hair behind Christen’s ear. 

“Goldie for short,” Christen teased.

“Oh no,” Tobin shook her head. “Maybe Fish?”

“A dog named fish? Isn’t there a joke about that?” Christen chuckled, leaned forward to kiss the top of Goldfish’s head.

“The dog that smiles back, Goldfish!” Scottie called from the bottom of the stairs. 

Christen nodded down at the puppy then looked back into Tobin’s eyes. “She does smile. Look,” Christen whispered.

“Apparently, Staffy’s do that. I googled it,” Tobin admitted. 

“I love you,” Christen murmured, falling impossibly more in love with her fiancée in this moment.

“Scottie, why don’t you feed Goldfish? I got some food delivered this morning on the third potty break,” Tobin sighed, releasing all hesitation she had about having a dog. 

“Did you get the puppy formula? Because that’s very important when they’re this young and-” Christen started to say.

“I googled it,” Tobin nodded. “Also, I love you too.”

Christen pressed a kiss to Tobin’s cheek, staying close and running the side of her pointer finger between Goldfish's eyes.

“Oh my goodness! We have a puppy! I have to call Gemma!” Scottie cheered.

“We have a puppy,” Christen whispered, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s cheek.

“We have a pooping machine,” Tobin teased with a laugh. 

Christen laughed softly as well, slipping her thumbs beneath the hem of Tobin’s sweatshirt and tracing them along Tobin’s back.

“This is good practice,” Tobin murmured against Christen’s cheek. 

“I was thinking the same thing,” Christen replied, her stomach flipping at the implications of their words. 

“Goldfish!” Scottie cooed, lying on the floor next to the puppy and letting Goldfish lick her nose. “We’re going to the park.”

“She’s gonna fall asleep before we get there,” Tobin laughed, looking at the way the puppy was squirming on the ground. 

“But then she’ll wake up and enjoy it with us,” Christen replied, filling up a water bottle at the sink.

“We should call it Central Bark,” Scottie giggled. 

“Oooh good one,” Christen laughed, tucking the water bottle into the bag. “Okay, I have water, food, treats, a water bowl, three toys, the soft blanket she really likes napping on...what am I forgetting?” she asked, looking at Tobin with a furrowed brow.

“Snacks for us and water for us,” Tobin laughed. 

“Right, human stuff,” Christen replied, stepping back toward the fridge to grab some fruits and vegetables they could snack on. “Sweetheart, carrots or apples or both?” she called over her shoulder.

“Both,” Scottie answered with another laugh as Goldfish rolled over on the floor. 

“You’re gonna be a big worrier if we adopt a baby,” Tobin hummed, reaching around Christen to get one of the single-sized packets of hummus. 

“Like you aren’t,” Christen chuckled, kissing Tobin’s cheek as she put the apples and carrots into a bag.

“Me? I’m cool as a cucumber,” Tobin smirked. 

“Was it you who woke me up this morning at two AM because you were convinced Goldfish was, and I quote, ‘breathing kind of funny so maybe we should take her to the vet?’ Feels like maybe that was you,” Christen said with an arched brow.

“You made me like the dog,” Tobin huffed, poking out her bottom lip in a pout. 

“Twisted your arm and everything,” Christen hummed, nodding at Tobin like she believed her.

“Can we bring a soccer ball?” Scottie asked from the floor. 

“Already in the bag,” Christen called back, slipping their snacks into the tote she’d packed.

“Momma, Mommy showed me a video of a dog skateboarding last night, and I think we need to teach Goldfish,” Scottie hummed. 

“Maybe when she’s older,” Christen said, shaking her head at Tobin with an amused smile. “Really? Skateboarding?” she asked under her breath.

“It was a bulldog, and he was shredding,” Tobin snorted, picking up the bag for Christen and putting it over her shoulder. 

“You’re going to put our baby on a board aren’t you?” Christen asked softly, trying to look concerned but just looking completely happy instead.

“There’s a reason I saved Scottie’s toddler skateboard,” Tobin grinned. “Don’t worry. I won’t let go of them. And you can bubble wrap them if you want.”

“I’ll trust you to not let go,” Christen hummed, pulling Tobin in for a quick kiss. 

“Never ever,” Tobin whispered against Christen’s lips. 

“Goldfish, look away! You’re too young to see this!” Scottie giggled, holding the puppy close and playfully covering her eyes.

“Ha. Ha. Very cute,” Tobin said, right before she lunged down to Scottie and poked her in the sides to tickle her. 

“Mommy,” Scottie giggled for a second and then groaned, looking down at her lap and holding Goldfish away from herself. “You made her tinkle!”

“Time for the park, I think,” Tobin said, grabbing a few paper towels and some cleaner from under the sink. 

“I’ll go change,” Scottie sighed. “Having a puppy is messy business.”

“You want to give her away?” Tobin asked, a teasing lilt to her voice. 

Scottie just rolled her eyes and looked up at Christen with an almost exasperated look. 

“She still thinks she’s sooooo funny,” Scottie said, heading for the stairs.

“You’re the cool mom. How does that make you feel?” Tobin asked as she dropped the paper towels in the trash. 

“I’m cool until I trade the Oreo’s in for fruit,” Christen chuckled, scooping up Goldfish and holding her against her chest, pressing a kiss to the puppy’s head. 

“It’s hard to constantly be judged by a ten-year-old,” Tobin sighed, scratching the top of Goldfish’s head. 

“Somehow, you manage it just fine, my love,” Christen teased, playfully making faces at the puppy. “And I think you’re the cool mom, so,” she added, grinning at Tobin.

“I think we’re both pretty awesome,” Tobin shrugged, stealing a quick kiss while Scottie was upstairs. 

“Chris,” Tobin croaked, her voice sleepy and hoarse. She squinted through the dark living room, just barely making out the shape of her fiancée in the corner of the room. 

“I think she was having a nightmare. I just came to check on her and then she was whimpering,” Christen yawned, holding the puppy against her chest and leaning back into the couch cushions.

“Baby,” Tobin sighed. “You’re gonna be exhausted tomorrow. Come to bed. The dog’s fine.”

“She finally stopped once I held her. I’m fine, I can sleep down here,” Christen argued, letting out another yawn.

“She needs to learn to self-soothe,” Tobin said softly. 

“Maybe tomorrow,” Christen replied sleepily.

“Do you not want to sleep with me?” Tobin asked, a last-ditch effort to get Christen to come upstairs. 

Christen just pouted, flicking her eyes down to the puppy, and then back up at Tobin, her question clear.

“Wow,” Tobin sighed, rubbing a hand over her eyes. 

“Please? She’ll be so quiet and I’ll keep her on my side of the bed!” Christen said, still pouting.

“Babe, this dog is never gonna be crate trained if you let her sleep with us,” Tobin replied. 

“Who wants to sleep in a box when she could sleep in a nice big bed?” Christen reasoned.

“She’ll have to be in the crate when we’re gone anyway. If she learns now, it’ll get easier,” Tobin argued, trying to ignore the pout. 

“She can learn tomorrow, baby. Please? I can’t leave her down here,” Christen asked softly.

“If we ever have a human baby, we will not be co-sleeping for more than a few months. I need that in writing,” Tobin said, crumbling under the pout. 

“It’s written in Sharpie,” Christen promised, getting up from the couch with a small smile. She readjusted the puppy in her arms and carried Goldfish over to where Tobin was standing.

“And we will do some crate training, right?” Tobin added. 

“We will, we will,” Christen promised.

“And at some point when Goldfish is potty trained and doesn’t eat everything, she can sleep with Scottie,” Tobin said, brushing her hand up and down Christen’s arm. 

“On the nights she’s not sleeping with us,” Christen replied, her lips twitching into a smile.

“On those rare nights. You realize that I’m talking about protecting our sex life, right?” Tobin hummed. 

“That’s why Goldfish isn’t sleeping with us every night,” Christen replied, tapping her pointer finger against her temple as if she had already thought this through.

“Don’t sleep on the couch, please. I missed you,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips. 

Christen sighed and got a little lost in the kiss, having missed Tobin as well. 

“I’m sorry. I think I might be a big worrier,” she admitted softly, leaning her forehead against Tobin’s.

“When I first adopted Scottie, I slept on her bedroom floor, just waiting for her to need something,” Tobin admitted. 

“So I’m not the only big worrier,” Christen chuckled.

“Nope,” Tobin murmured, taking Christen’s hand in her own and starting up the stairs. 

“I didn’t mean to leave you in bed alone, baby,” Christen hummed, squeezing Tobin’s hand gently.

“Next time, just bring the dog, I guess,” Tobin mumbled. 

“Aww, you love her,” Christen chuckled softly.

“Obviously. She’s adorable. And my girls love her. It’s impossible not to love her when I watch you two with her,” Tobin said with a sleepy smile.

“You can sleep with her on your side tomorrow night. She’s mine tonight,” Christen teased, bringing their clasped hands to her lips and kissing the back of Tobin’s hand.

“How about the middle?” Tobin laughed. “Us and ours, right?” 

“Us and ours,” Christen conceded with a smile, even though she knew she wasn’t really conceding at all.