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[Christen <3: 3:23 PM]
Do you mind if I post this on
insta to wish you good luck
for the game?

 

[Christen <3: 3:23 PM]
New Attachment:
training.mov

 

The text comes through as Tobin is waiting on the bus for the rest of her teammates outside their hotel to go to the field. They’s in Kansas City and even though she’s only been away from Christen for two days, her heart aches. Every text she gets from Christen, her heart flutters in the most wonderful way.

 

Tobin’s counting down the minutes until she’s back in LA.

 

Tobin’s grinning as she watches the video. It’s from the day Christen trained with her three weeks ago, the day after their first night together. Christen had insisted Tobin record her taking free kicks from outside the 18 yard box with one of the plastic dummies standing in the way, determined to actually make one on camera. She swore she was going to pull off the free kick Tobin made a few weeks ago that Nata had raved about all night. It took her three tries to angle it past the dummy and into the goal and even then, the ball hit the post and was lucky enough to bounce back in, but it didn’t matter to Christen how she made the goal, just that she had. She turned around towards Tobin with the camera, arms splayed out wide like airplane wings with the tip of her tongue sticking out between her teeth as her lips curled into a wide grin. Tobin can be heard in the background cheering her on. She’d been so proud.

 

The video makes Tobin’s heart ache just as much as it makes her smile.

 

She watches it four times until she’s sure her heart’s about to burst.

[Tobin: 3:26 PM]
Of course you can :)

[Tobin: 3:26 PM]
Why wouldn’t you be able to
post it?

[Christen <3: 3:28 PM]
Well my account isn’t private
so if I tag you in it all your
fans will be able to see..I
didn’t know if that’s something
you’d be comfortable with..I
wasn’t sure how open you
wanted to be about your
personal life..

 

Honestly, it’s not something Tobin’s ever really thought about before. She so rarely posts anything on social media that it’s not like anything she did post would be super revealing or anything because there would never be any follow up.

 

Her twitter feed is pretty much just a sporadic series of bible verses, tweets about game days and commentary on Arsenal or Barcelona games.

 

Her instagram is a sparse collection of pictures of the beach, a training field, sunsets, her family, Ryan, her teammates or a highlighted phrase is her worn bible.

 

She’s never been very big into social media. She’s always preferred to live in the moment and not be distracted by screens. Whenever she does post something, it’s because she’s had a really good day and wants to share it or she’s bored at an airport. She’s never had to think twice about anything she’s posted, except for maybe an occasional passive aggressive tweet after a loss where the ref was particularly stingy with fouls. She’s never had a Christen to post about or be concerned with posting about.

 

As she thinks about it, she realizes she would like to keep that part of her life private, but not to the point she’s hiding it completely. She thinks a picture every now and then with some vague caption might not be so bad. They don’t have to explicitly saying anything. They can just share their happiness through a thin veil and her fans can think whatever they like. She never reads comments anyway.

[Tobin: 3:30 PM]
Post it :) I wanna be the
first one to like it

[Christen <3: 3:31 PM]
Act fast then or else Allie
might beat you to it..I think
she’s got notifications on for
when I post because it’s
ridiculous how quickly she
likes everything..

[Tobin: 3:34 PM]
Yeah I think she might be more
obsessed with you than I am

[Tobin: 3:35 PM]
I miss you :(

[Christen <3: 3:37 PM]
I miss you too baby..Score me
a goal and then come home
to me..

xxx

8,395 views
allie_long_, laurenholiday12 and 6,549 others like this
christenpress Good luck to @tobinheath in your game
tonight! Hopefully your aim is a little better than mine...
#morelikealotbetter #ineverclaimedtobeathletic
View all 27 comments
kelleyohara What no good luck message for me? I’m
playing tonight too ya know
nimajd you literally claim to be athletic all the time. are
you finally admitting that’s a lie?

xxx

Tobin does score the goal Christen asked for, but it’s on the final kick of the game and they’re already down by two, so it’s more a consolation prize than anything. It was a hard fought match with fair officiating, so there’s really nothing for Tobin to be too upset over. Kansas City’s defense was solid and Barnie snuffed out any ball that came remotely near her. LA controlled the midfield and most of the possession, but an insane free kick from Yael in the first half and a low, driven shot from Mandy in the second sealed their win.

 

Tobin makes sure to complain to Becky and Barnie about just how frustrating that was when she congratulates them after the final whistle blows.

 

After the game, a bunch of their teammates go out with some Kansas City players, but Kelley, Mallory and Tobin decide to have a quiet night. They head over to Sydney’s house to watch Dom’s game in Vancouver that she recorded during theirs. Tobin falls asleep twenty minutes into the game with baby Cassius passed out on her chest. When she wakes up hours later with the house dark and a blanket draped over her now baby-less chest, she’s got a three hour old message from Christen that makes her grin as she falls back asleep.

 

[Christen <3: 11:03 PM]
Kelley sent me a picture of you
and Cash..I’ve got to admit, I’m
very jealous he gets to cuddle
you and I don’t.. :( Sweet
dreams beautiful.. <3

xxx

When Tobin gets home the next evening, exhausted from the flight and still kinda bummed about the loss in Kansas City, all she wants to do is fall asleep for as long as she can, but Christen and Nata apparently have other plans.

 

As soon as she unlocks her apartment door, the solid mass of a six year old boy crashes into her and wraps his arms around her lower back.

 

“Tobin, you’re back!” Nata exclaims, squeezing her tighter. “I missed you!”

 

Tobin hugs him back as best she can, hindered by the bag thrown over her shoulder. “I missed you too, dude. What are you guys doing here?”

 

“Momma said we could surprise you.”

 

Tobin looks up and sees Christen standing in the kitchen, wearing an apron and holding a whisk in her hand. She smiles thoughtfully at Tobin as she says, “I thought maybe you’d like a little cheering up after the game.”

 

“You thought right.” Tobin shoots Christen a wink and then looks back down at Nata. “I bet that you can’t carry my bag back to my room all by yourself. If you win, then you get to be Messi on FIFA.”

 

“Okay!” Nata practically jerks the strap out of Tobin’s hand in his excitement. He ends up having to drag it down the hall, but he’s got his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth showing how determined he is to win the bet.

 

“You’ve got my kid doing manual labor?” Christen teases with a kinked eyebrow.

 

“Totally,” Tobin replies. “But just so I have a chance to do this.” She glances down the hallway for a moment to make sure Nata isn’t in the line of sight, and then she leans in and kisses Christen softly. It’s quick, neither of them wanting Nata to catch them, but it’s exactly what Tobin needs. She leaves her eyes closed as long as she can afterwards, savoring the moment. “I really needed that,” she whispers.

 

“Sorry about the game,” Christen says, putting down the whisk and reaching for Tobin’s hand, squeezing it for a moment. “For what it’s worth, you played really well. That offsides call on you in the first half was a little iffy if you ask me. If they hadn’t called it, I’m sure you would’ve had another goal.”

 

“Amy told me the exact same thing. Looks like you finally learned what offsides means,” Tobin says proudly.

 

“Or maybe I’ve understood it for weeks, I just think it’s ridiculously cute how frustrated you get when you try to explain it to me for the hundredth time.” Christen winks and Tobin knows she’s been duped.

 

Tobin’s about to complain when Nata runs back in, cheeks red from exertion. “I did it! I get to be Messi now! You can be the shark man!”

 

“Go ahead and turn on my Xbox and I’ll be there in just a second,” Tobin tells him.

 

“Shark man?” Christen asks.

 

“Yeah, one of the guys has bitten other players like three times.”

 

“What kind of violence are you exposing my kid to?” Christen teases. “Go play your game, dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes.” She checks to make sure Nata’s focus is on the TV and then she kisses Tobin’s cheek and pulls away with a grin before she turns back to the brownie batter she’s mixing.

 

Tobin reaches in lightning quick and steals a scoop of batter with a finger, just barely dodging Christen’s hand as she tries to smack her away. She licks the batter off her finger slowly, smirking at the way Christen’s eyes go dark before she turns around and leaves her hanging, ignoring the frustrated groan Christen lets out with a satisfied grin.

xxx

“I don’t think I could eat another bite,” Tobin complains, stretching back and sinking even deeper into the couch.

 

“I told you not to eat that fourth brownie,” Christen chides from the other end of the couch. Nata is asleep between them with his head in Christen’s lap and his feet in Tobin’s. They’d watched the LAFC men’s team take on Portland after dinner and Nata had barely made it to halftime before he’d fallen asleep.

 

Tobin watches as an LA player gets stripped of the ball at midfield and swears under her breath as she feels Christen’s fingers reaching over to scratch at the back of her neck.

 

“So, I’ve got to be honest about something,” Christen says. She waits until Tobin manages to pull her eyes away from the screen and actually look at her before she continues. “Tonight wasn’t just about trying to cheer you up after the game. I may have been trying to butter you up.”

 

Tobin tilts her head curiously. “Trying to butter me up for what?”

 

Christen pushes a long breath through her teeth and swallows before she explains. “Okay, so Friday at lunch with my mom, Tyler may have let it slip--well, she didn’t really let it slip, it’s not like it’s a secret or anything--but she kinda told our mom that she’s met you and my mom got super jealous and got upset thinking I was keeping you from her and I explained that I was doing no such thing, we just haven’t been together that long is all--”

 

“Chris, slow down,” Tobin interrupts. The rambling is cute, but she’s getting a little anxious wondering what this is all about.

 

Christen takes a deep breath and then continues. “Basically, my mom wants you to come over for dinner Wednesday night to meet my parents.”

 

Tobin’s stomach twists at the suggestion. She’s never met the parents of anyone she’s dated before. She’s never had any reason to. The last parents of anyone she met were Mallory’s after a game one night and they’d hugged her tightly and thanked her for looking after their daughter, which Mallory had whined out a complaint about and pulled them away before they could embarrass her any further.

 

Tobin doesn’t know what to say. She doesn’t want to be rude and say no. Christen’s mom invited her and would likely be upset if she said no. That’s not a very good impression to make. At the same time, though, she doesn’t really know if she wants to say yes. This seems like such a big step and the commitment this entails makes Tobin queasy. It’s not that she isn’t committed to Christen, because she is, but this is a pretty big deal and she doesn’t know if she’s ready for that yet.

 

“So you, uhm…she wants…I-I mean it’s like, parents…wow.” She cringes at how flustered she sounds, but honestly she isn’t capable of much more at the moment.

 

Christen speaks up again once the tense silence has stretched on a little too long. “Please don’t feel like you have to say yes, because you don’t. This is really just a tentative plan because I told my mom I wasn’t sure if this was something we were ready for. We’ve only been together for almost two months and I don’t want to rush into something like this. I don’t want to freak you out or anything. So you can totally say no and I won’t be upset at all, I promise. I’m not just saying that to make you feel better about not wanting to do this, I’m serious. I don’t even want to really do this, so I won’t care if you don’t. In fact, I’ll actually be pretty happy if you don’t because then I’ll get out of it too and then--”

 

“You’re rambling again,” Tobin smirks, knowing if she doesn’t stop her, she could probably go on for hours.

 

“Sorry,” she says with a shy laugh. “I just want you to know that it really is okay if you say no. It’s kinda soon for this, I know. I don’t want you to feel pressured by this or think that I’ll be upset with you if you don’t want to go. My mom won’t be either. I love the woman to death and she can be a little overbearing when it comes to my dating life, but she’s very understanding and she’d get if this isn’t something we’re ready for. She wouldn’t hold it against you or anything. She just wanted me to at least ask because she’s been dying to meet you.”

 

“She wants to meet me?” Tobin asks with a surprised scoff. It isn’t something they’ve ever talked about, so she wasn’t really expecting it.

 

“Of course she does,” she grins. “She’s probably going to act like Allie does with me, honestly. She gets so excited whenever I talk about you and I had to argue with her for thirty minutes a couple weeks ago why it wasn’t acceptable for her to go back to the beginning of your instagram feed and like every single picture.”

 

“Wow,” Tobin muses. She isn’t thrilled about the whole idea, but knowing that Christen’s mom is so looking forward to meeting her changes things. The knots in her stomach untangle as she thinks about it. Christen’s only ever had great things to say about her parents, so really, Tobin doesn’t have any reason to be afraid of meeting them. Sure, it’s a little daunting, but they seem like warm and welcoming people, so she should be fine.

 

“Okay,” she says without really meaning to.

 

“Okay?” Christen asks. “Do you mean like, you’re okay with meeting them or you’ll think about it and get back to me?”

 

“Okay as in let’s do it. Thursday is my day off, so we won’t have to worry about driving out to Palos Verde and staying late.”

 

“Wait, you’re serious? You really want to do this? You aren’t scared or anything?

 

“Honey, I am terrified,” she says with a nervous laugh. “But your mom seems great and if she wants to meet me so badly she wants to instagram stalk me, then we better give the woman what she wants.”

 

“You’re sure? Because we can wait a few more weeks if you want,” Christen offers.

 

“Yes, I’m sure. Dinner with your parents on Wednesday sounds great. Will your sisters be there?”

 

“I’ll make sure they are. They’ll be a great buffer so my mom doesn’t ask you too many invasive questions. Plus, Tyler’s been wanting to get to know you more and since we haven’t been able to work out a lunch with her yet, this will be perfect.”

 

“Let’s meet your parents,” Tobin says, swallowing any remaining nerves and putting on her best smile.

xxx

“Wow,” Lauren coos, dragging out the word. “Meeting the parents? That’s a big step.”

 

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Tobin denies, though she does a poor job of it. She knows how big a deal it is, she just doesn’t like to think about it because it makes her nervous. She hates being nervous. “I’m sure you weren’t worried when Jrue met your parents for the first time.”

 

“Seriously?” Lauren asks with a raised eyebrow. The incredulous expression should be thrown off on account of the baby sleeping against her chest, but for some reason it just makes Tobin even more uncomfortable. “You really think I wasn’t nervous bringing my black, three years younger boyfriend home to meet my white, Christian, midwest family? Really?” She rolls her eyes and says, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. My parents had never been prejudiced before, but with that midwest mentality, sometimes it’s a little different when it’s a black guy dating your only daughter instead of just cashing your checks at the bank.”

 

“Yeah, but it turned out totally fine. Your parents love Jrue.”

 

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t still look like my mom was about to have a heart attack when I walked through the door over fall break with Jrue on my arm. They got over the shock quickly, which was great, and they fell for his charm just like everyone else does, but the whole act of bringing him home was still scary. It’s okay to be nervous,” she tells Tobin with a knowing look, refusing to let her off the hook and believe her when she denies being scared.

 

Tobin closes her eyes and lets her head fall with a thud onto the back of Amy’s couch, wishing Luke would fall asleep faster so that Amy could come and save her. Of course, there’s also a pretty good chance she’d team up with Lauren and make this even worse for her, but the slim hope of a savior is enough for her to take that risk.

 

She’s over at Amy and Adam’s for Tuesday night dinner and she finally convinced herself bringing up dinner with Christen’s parents was a good idea.

 

Kelley wasn’t much help considering she’d met Emily’s parents plenty of times before they started dating so they’d loved her even before Emily realized she did.

 

Allie was so excited about Tobin taking the next step that Tobin couldn’t half understand Allie’s tale about meeting Bati’s parents for the first time, but she gathered that it at least went well.

 

Lauren and Amy were the obvious next choices to go to for advice, but Tobin finds herself wishing she’d gone to the basement to watch baseball with Adam and Jrue (no matter how much she detests the sport) and asked them for help instead. They would’ve given her straight, clear cut answers and then went back to watching the game. They wouldn’t have gushed over it and gotten Tobin even more worried than before.

 

“I just want them to like me,” Tobin says so quietly Lauren has to ask her to repeat herself.

 

“That’s not something you need to worry about. Trust me,” Lauren insists.

 

“How can you be so sure?”

 

“Because, babe, they’re going to take one look at the way you make their daughter and grandson smile and they’re going to be just as smitten with you as Christen and Nata are.”

 

“Who’s going to be smitten with Tobin?” Amy asks as she walks down the stairs, baby monitor in hand and looking more relieved than Tobin has ever seen her.

 

Tobin doesn’t get a chance to answer before Lauren’s doing it for her. “Christen is taking Tobin home for dinner with her parents tomorrow evening.”

 

Amy stops dead in her tracks in front of the couch and looks back and forth between Lauren and Tobin, asking, “wait, seriously? You’re meeting her family so soon?”

 

“It’s been two months,” Tobin tells them, refusing to let them make an even bigger deal out of this than she already thinks it is. She went to them for help because she thought they would ease her worries, not increase them five fold.

 

“I was with Adam for like nine months before I brought him home,” Amy says.

 

“Yeah, and you brought him home with a ring on your finger and a wedding date already picked out,” Lauren interjects. “You guys are like an anomaly for all relationships. You can’t compare yourselves to others.”

 

Amy scowls at Lauren as she sits down next to Tobin and says, “just because we were a little unconventional doesn’t mean I don’t know what it’s like to be afraid to meet the parents.”

 

“I’m not afraid,” Tobin insists, but her friends both just roll their eyes and move on.

 

“Don’t stress yourself out over this, seriously,” Amy says. “If she wants you to go home with her so soon, then that’s a good thing. It means she’s comfortable and secure enough with you that she doesn’t think it’ll strain things between you, and it means she’s happy enough with you that she wants to share that with her family.”

 

Tobin hadn’t thought of it like that. She’d only focused on the fact that this was happening because Christen’s mom wanted it to, not because Christen was okay with it enough to even bring it up in the first place. If she’d been vehemently against it, she never even would have broached the subject and she would have shut her mother down as soon as she asked. But she didn’t. She let her mom talk her into extending the invitation and she agreed with Tobin that they were ready for this. Christen wants to share her with her family, and that thought alone is enough to unravel the snakes coiled tight in her gut.

 

This is why she came to her friends for advice.

 

“I guess you’re right about that,” Tobin acquiesces. “I’ve just never met anyone’s parents before and I want to make a good impression. I mean, what do I do? What do I say? What do I wear?”

 

“Just be yourself,” Lauren suggests like it’s the most profound advice in the world. “Don’t actively try to impress them or try to be someone you think they want you to be because you’re a terrible actor and would just make things awful.”

 

“And wear that navy dress with the black cardigan you wore to church two weeks ago,” Amy chimes in. “It’s tasteful for the occasion, but not too dressy. Plus, you know how good you look in it so that will help give you a confidence boost.”

 

Tobin does a mental run through of her closet and knows she’ll have to wash it tonight and bribe Kelley at practice tomorrow to come over and iron it for her. She knows Amy is right. If she feels good about the way she looks, then it’ll make her feel better about the situation in general. Lauren’s right too. The person she is for real is enough for Christen and Nata to like her, so that should be good enough for Christen’s parents too. Christen’s smart. She wouldn’t be dating just anyone and she certainly wouldn’t let someone around her son that she didn’t trust. Tobin’s sure Christen’s parents know this about their daughter as well.

 

She’ll just have to hope she’s able to charm them like she has Christen.

xxx

Tobin’s standing on the curb outside her apartment bouncing her foot up and down so hard she’s worried about bruising her heel from the force she’s putting on it. The moment Christen’s car pulls up, though, Tobin’s foot instantly stills. She can barely even see Christen due to the glare from the sun on the windshield, but just knowing she’s close eases her mind.

 

“Wow, you look beautiful,” Christen says when Tobin opens the door and slides into the passenger seat.

 

“Yeah, Tobin. You look pretty!” Nata adds from the backseat.

 

“Thank you, buddy. I like your shirt, you look very handsome,” Tobin tells Nata, reaching back to tug on the bottom hem of his green button up shirt that he’s untucked (probably just moments after Christen had him tuck it in). She turns back to Christen and says, “you look nice too.” She does her best to keep her eyes off Christen’s bare legs that are visible below the hem of her black dress for Nata’s sake, but just barely.

 

“Thanks,” Christen grins. Her eyes lock on Tobin’s lips for a moment, but then she quickly looks away, clearing her throat and putting her hands back on the steering wheel. “You ready to go?”

 

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

 

Christen looks in the rearview mirror to make sure Nata’s distracted by something outside the window before she places her hand over on Tobin’s knee and squeezes gently for a moment. She shoots her a reassuring smile and then she’s turning on her blinker and pulling out into traffic.

 

“We can still get out of this,” Christen suggests softly. “We can go to dinner just the three of us and ditch this plan all together.”

 

“As tempting as that is,” Tobin teases, “I’m okay with this, really. I’m looking forward to it even.”

 

Christen shoots Tobin a sidelong glance and says, “you should know now that you’re a terrible liar. That knowledge might do you well in the future if you ever try to lie to me about something big.” She’s got a bright grin on her face and Tobin knows she’s trying to lighten the mood and make Tobin smile.

 

Tobin relents and gives her the best smile she can manage. Thankfully, even though Nata hasn’t picked up on the tension at all, he breaks it.

 

“Mama, can you turn up the music?” He asks, sounding rather impatient that Christen hasn’t already done so.

 

Christen does what her son wants and soon there’s a Latin guitar riff floating through the car and Nata starts singing along with the words in Spanish, wriggling around and doing his best to dance in the limited confines of his booster seat.

 

“Shakira?” Tobin asks with a teasing grin. “Seriously?”

 

“Don’t look at me. This is Nata’s playlist,” Christen insists, even though the slight sway in her shoulders tells Tobin that she enjoys the music as well. “Shakira is his favorite.”

 

“Nu-uh, Mama,” Nata says from the backseat. “Ricky Martin is my favorite. He’s from Puerto Rico like me!”

 

“Oh right, I’m sorry, sunshine. Ricky Martin is his favorite, my mistake,” she smiles. “Shakira is second, right?”

 

“Yup!” Nata agrees happily before he goes back to singing along to the music.

 

Tobin looks back at Nata for a moment, grinning at how happy he is in the moment. He’s so carefree and full of life that Tobin can’t help but let her smile grow wider as she watches him. She’s known him for such a short period of time, but she’s so grateful to have such a lively kid in her life. It’s so hard to be upset around him, he’s so much like Ryan in that way. She suspects that’s why the two boys get along so well and why Tobin enjoys his company so much.

 

She starts humming along to the music even though she only knows one out of every three words and she’s brought back into moment a second after when she feels Christen’s hand curling around her own. Christen brings her hand up to her lips and kisses the back softly, leaving a faint imprint of lipstick behind.

 

“Thank you,” Christen whispers.

 

“For what?”

 

“Just for being you. I quite like who you are, you know?”

 

“Good to know, because the feeling is mutual.”

 

Moments ago, Nata spoke up and broke the tension between Christen and Tobin. Now though, he speaks and brings the tension with his words.

 

“Mama, Tobin es tu novia?”

 

It’s been over ten years since Tobin’s had a Spanish class, but she knows exactly what those words mean and suddenly her throat feels so tight she can barely swallow. She feels the panic wash over her and doesn’t know what to say, so she looks to Christen for help and is surprised by what she finds.

 

Christen doesn’t seem concerned at all. She appears to be cool and collected and not taken aback by the sudden question at all. Her words are even calmer than her exterior appears to be when she responds to her son.

 

¿Qué te hace pensar eso, mi sol?

 

Tobin’s less familiar with the meaning of those words, but she gets the gist from Christen’s tone.

 

“No lo sé,” Nata sighs, suddenly seeming bored by the conversation and wishing he could go back to singing. “She’s around a lot,” he says after a moment. “She makes you laugh and smile a lot too. Ryan said girlfriends are supposed to make you laugh and smile.”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes, unsurprised that Nata heard this from Ryan because it sounds like such a Ryan thing to say. “Ryan told you that, huh? What are boyfriends supposed to do?” She knows she’s getting distracted from the current topic of conversation, but she’s curious to know what all Ryan is filling Nata’s head with.

 

“Boyfriends are supposed to make the girlfriend happy,” Nata says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Or they’re supposed to make the other boyfriend too,” he adds after a moment of thought, not even realizing how important the meaning behind those words is to Tobin. Christen has obviously raised her son to be as open minded and accepting as she is, but it’s nice to see that even though he’s so young, he still understands what it all means.

 

“How would you feel if Tobin were my girlfriend?” Christen asks, bringing the conversation back to its original point. “Would you be okay with that, sweetheart?”

 

Nata shrugs, not seeming to understand the big deal. “That would be cool. I like Tobin. She makes you smile, so I guess she’d be a good girlfriend.”

 

“I’m happy you feel that way, because she is,” Christen says, reaching for Tobin’s hand again, holding it on the center console so Nata can see, though he doesn’t pay their linked hands much mind, really. “She’s my girlfriend, I mean. That’s okay with you? You don’t mind if she hangs out at our house and we go over to hers some more too?”

 

“Yeah, that sounds fun.” Nata is clearly already bored with the conversation, so he asks, “can you turn this song up some more?” Christen turns the knob on the radio and then Nata goes back to singing and dancing like the conversation they just had never even happened.

 

“That was easy,” Tobin says with a sigh of relief. She’d been so worried just a moment ago, but the cool sense of ease floods through her chest and she’s able to lean back into her seat and relax. “Are you okay?” She asks softly.

 

“I’m happy,” Christen says, her voice cracking on the last syllable.

 

Tobin looks over to see that Christen’s eyes look wet and suddenly understands just how important that simple conversation was to her. She hasn’t dated anyone since she adopted Nata and Tobin never really took the time what it would mean to her for Nata to accept the person she finally dates so easily.

 

Tobin squeezes her hand a little harder.

 

“Good,” Tobin says, hoping a small joke will help make Christen smile. “Because according to the boys, that’s what I’m supposed to do, so mission accomplished.”

 

Christen smiles, just like Tobin hoped she would.

xxx

“Your hand is shaking,” Christen whispers as they walk up the front walk to her parents house. She reaches out to take Tobin’s hand and says, “you look really pretty tonight.”

 

Tobin grins at the callback to their first night together three weeks ago. She considers teasing her for stealing her material, but she decides to let it slide. The moment means too much to her to make a joke out of it. “Well, when I’m trying to compete with you, I’ve got to try pretty hard to look good.”

 

“If you want to look good, you don’t even have to wear anything,” she whispers, dropping her voice down in pitch, the one she knows gets to Tobin and makes her squirm.

 

Tobin knows Nata’s too far away to hear considering he’s already run all the way to the front door and is knocking frantically, but she still glances up to make sure. Such innocent ears don’t need to be hearing his mom say things like that.

 

“I don’t think your parents would be too impressed if I showed up to meet them naked.”

 

“No, but I would. I might’ve even taken you upstairs to my childhood bedroom and shown you just how impressed I was.”

 

Tobin has to actively stop herself from groaning, swallowing hard instead to keep down her desire. “You’re not nice,” Tobin musters out, the best insult she can handle at the moment.

 

“That’s the first complaint I’ve heard from you about it,” Christen adds, just as they make it to the front stoop and her mom swings the door open.

 

“Abuela!” Nata shouts when he sees her, throwing himself forward and jumping up into her arms.

 

“Hi, my sweet boy!” Christen’s mom gushes as she holds him tightly. “I’ve missed you so much.” She puts him back down, but keeps his hands held in hers, grinning down at him like most people are apt to do when they’re looking at Nata.

 

“You just saw me two days ago,” Nata tells her.

 

“Yes, and that’s two days too long.” She kisses his cheek and then straightens back up. “Go find your abuelo, he’s got something to show you.”

 

“Okay!” Nata exclaims as he dodges past his grandma and heads into the house.

 

The moment Nata’s gone, Tobin wishes he would come back, instantly nervous all over again. Christen’s mom does a good job of easing the nerves somewhat as she smiles brightly at Tobin and reaches out her hands to take hers just like she held Nata’s a moment ago.

 

Her hands are soft and strong as they squeeze Tobin’s and she says, “Tobin, it is so nice to meet you. We’ve heard such great things.” She’s absolutely beaming, giving Tobin no doubt that she truly has heard nothing but good things about her, not that she expected Christen to say anything bad, but the confirmation is nice.

 

“It’s nice to meet you too, Mrs. Press. Christen had talked so highly of you,” Tobin says, plastering on her most charming smile, the one Christen says is unfair for her to use when she’s annoyed with her because it dissolves all her bad feelings immediately.

 

“Please, call me Stacy,” she insists, squeezing Tobin’s hands once more before she lets them go. She hugs Christen quickly and kisses her on the cheek, then she steps out of the doorway so they have room to step in the house.

 

“She’s serious about that one,” Christen says in a mock whisper. “Calling her Mrs. Press makes her feel old.”

 

Tobin laughs along with Christen and her mom and she starts to realize that this truly isn’t going to be so bad after all.

xxx

The night goes better than Tobin ever could have imagined it would.

 

Christen’s parents are wonderful and kind, much like Christen herself. Tobin learns that Christen has her father’s smile and her mother’s eyes and those two qualities alone make her feel at such ease around them. Stacy and Cody are warm and inviting and they do their best all night to include Tobin in whatever conversation is going on, even if she isn’t always in on the inside joke.

 

Stacy only gets invasive once when she grills Tobin about her family for a couple minutes before Will comes to her rescue and starts in on a story about Myla trying to bring home a frog from the park in her pants pocket the other day. Tobin shoots him an appreciative smile, and he just nods in understanding, having been on the receiving end of Stacy’s line of questioning not too long ago.

 

The rest of the night goes off without a hitch. Christen’s younger sister, Channing, is great too. Tobin’s starting to think there isn’t a single bad member of the Press family because all the ones she’s met have been ridiculously nice.

 

What Tobin enjoys most about the night is learning the dynamic of the three sisters. Channing is quiet, using her words wisely and saving them for when she has something important to say. Tyler pretty much says whatever comes to her mind. She’s loud and assertive with her words, but not in a rude way. She’s just got important things to say and she wants to make sure she’s heard. Christen is a nice mix of the two. She saves her words for when they’re needed, but when she does speak, she likes to make sure people are listening.

 

Channing is reserved.

 

Tyler is outgoing.

 

Christen is the perfect blend of the two that matches up with Tobin so seamlessly.

 

Tobin enjoys herself more than she thought she possibly could have and when the night comes to a close, she’s looking forward to the next time she gets to spend time with this family. One of the few things Tobin dislikes about LA is how far away she is from all her family on the east coast. Spending time with Lauren and Amy’s family is great and gives her her fix when she needs it, but there’s something special about hanging out with Christen’s that makes her feel closer to home than she ever has while living in California.

 

The only real snag of the night is when Tobin goes to get her cardigan and Christen’s car keys from the foyer and she notices a bunch of pictures on the wide table by the stairs. Christen had warned her mom countless times over not pulling out the photo albums, so Tobin takes her chance to try and find a baby picture of Christen while she has it. She’s not so lucky to find a baby picture, but she does find several pictures of a younger Christen that are good enough for now.

 

There’s one from what Tobin assumes is Christen’s high school graduation, surrounded by a large group of friends in matching neat white clothes and colorful leis. She picks Nima out of the group and she makes a mental note to tease him for his ridiculously shaggy hairstyle the next time she sees him.

 

There’s another of Christen and her sisters that can’t be more than a few years old, all dressed in matching Christmas onesies with garish green tinsel draped over their shoulders.

 

The next one Tobin’s eyes land on makes her stomach twist uncomfortably. Christen is smiling in her black college graduation gown with the red honor stoles. That’s not what makes her eyes linger on the picture longer than they probably should. What does is the fact that Christen’s got her arms wrapped tightly around a ridiculously beautiful girl with tanned skin and bright blue eyes.

 

Tobin knows right away that it’s Alex even though Christen has never said anything about what she looks like. There’s just something about the way they’re holding each other that makes Tobin realize.

 

She forces herself to look away from the picture, knowing it’ll only upset her even more the longer she looks at it. Looking to another picture doesn’t do much to help,
though, considering Alex is in that one too.

 

This one hurts more, though. This time, Christen and Alex still have their arms around each other, but Christen is kissing her cheek. They’re surrounded by all of Christen’s family and Alex seems so comfortable with them that Tobin suddenly feels like maybe tonight didn’t go as well as it should have. Tobin was smiling tonight, but was her smile anywhere near as big as Alex’s is in this picture?

 

Tobin isn’t so sure.

 

She isn’t able to linger on that thought too long, though, because suddenly Christen is there kissing her on the cheek and twisting around so she can kiss her lips, lingering longer than she has all night.

 

“Find anything embarrassing?” Christen says with a laugh as she looks down at the pictures. Tobin can pinpoint the moment Christen realizes exactly which pictures have caught Tobin’s eye by the way she sucks in a breath and digs her fingers into Tobin’s hip a little tighter. “I guess embarrassing isn’t the right word for it. I told my mom to get rid of those, it’s been years,” Christen sighs, reaching out to turn Tobin towards her, forcing her to stop looking at the pictures.

 

“So that’s Alex?” Tobin asks abruptly, unable to hide just how uncomfortable she is.

 

Christen hesitates and Tobin wonders if maybe Christen is trying to come up with a way to talk herself out of this, but then she sighs and relents to answer Tobin’s question the way Tobin wants her to.

 

“Yeah,” she says shyly. “That’s Alex.”

 

“She’s pretty,” Tobin says, at a loss for what else she could possibly say.

 

“You’re prettier,” Christen responds without hesitation, even though Tobin finds that hard to believe, but Christen seems to believe what she’s saying. “Please don’t worry about this, I promise you don’t need to. My mom hoards pictures. There’s one in the bonus room upstairs of me and my first ever boyfriend from middle school. It’s not even a good picture. It’s out of focus and crooked, but my mom refuses to get rid of it because she’s so attached to literally all memories.”

 

“You seem happy there.”

 

Christen sighs, clearly wishing Tobin would just let this go, but then she says honestly, “I was.” Then she kisses Tobin solidly and follows it up with, “but I’m happier now. I promise you. Please just let this go. This has been such a good night, I don’t want to ruin it.”

 

“Okay,” Tobin relents, even though she obviously doesn’t actually want to let it go. “Let’s go say bye to your parents. I’m sure Nata is getting sleepy.”

 

“I’m pretty sure he’s passed out against Will’s side with a death grip on that Ironman toy my dad got him.” She kisses Tobin again, lingering longer than she usually would, but clearly feeling like she needs to considering the events that just transpired. “Come on, let’s get home.”

xxx

Tobin lets the Alex conversation go long enough for them to tell everyone goodbye and then to get down the road far enough for Nata to fall asleep with his head leaning against the window.

 

“You and Alex seemed super close,” Tobin says, though she knows she shouldn’t.

 

Christen groans and reaches out to turn the volume on the radio down. “Tobin, please don’t do this right now. I don’t want to talk about Alex. Tonight was a nice night with you and my family and I just want to focus on that. I wouldn’t want to think about Alex right now.”

 

“I’m just saying you guys seemed super close is all.” Tobin doesn’t know why she keeps pressing the issue when Christen couldn’t make it anymore clear that she doesn’t want this to happen right now. Tobin just can’t help it. She’s curious and she’s jealous and she wants to suss out the situation further.

 

“Yeah, well we were together for five years, Tobin,” Christen snaps. “We were obviously very close. Is that what you want to hear? You want me to tell you all the dirty details? You want to hear about how we first met? Our first date? What we did for our five year anniversary? Is that what you want?”

 

Tobin sees the way Christen’s hands tighten on the steering wheel, but for some reason, that just makes her want to keep asking questions. She’s stupid for it, she knows, but she can’t find it in her to stop.

 

Lauren would say she’s trying to hit her self destruct button.

 

Tobin would deny it, but secretly know she’s probably right.

 

She can’t stop, though. She needs an answer to this question or it’s just going to keep nagging at her until she combusts. “How close were you?” Tobin asks, trying to ignore the way Christen’s jaw clenches.

 

“I don’t understand what you’re asking.” Her voice is strained and exasperated. Tobin wishes she could just get over this and respect Christen’s wishes to leave it alone, but she can’t.

 

She just can’t.

 

“I mean, you guys weren’t engaged or anything were you?” There’s an uncomfortable length of silence that passes before Christen brings a hand to pinch at the bridge of her nose, but she still doesn’t answer Tobin’s question. “Were you?” Tobin presses further, becoming more and more uncomfortable the longer Christen stays silent.

 

“Dammit Tobin, I told you I didn’t want to talk about this tonight.” Her words are quiet, defeated by Tobin’s persistence.

 

“So that’s a yes?”

 

Tobin thinks she’s going to be sick.

 

“I was planning on proposing when I got back from Puerto Rico,” Christen says with a sigh, finally giving in and just telling Tobin what she wants to hear even though she obviously doesn’t want to. “I would’ve done it before, but she ended up getting food poisoning and my plans just fell through. It’s something we’d talked about for a long time and we were both ready.”

 

Tobin doesn’t know how she feels about this confession. Honestly, it isn’t that surprising. Like Christen said, they were together for five years. It shouldn’t be that far out to imagine them being engaged.

 

For Tobin, though, she can’t even imagine being with someone that long or being engaged to someone, so it’s a little more shocking for her. That kind of commitment scares the hell out of her, while Christen is talking about it so calmly.

 

Tobin swallows hard and asks, “then you met Nata?”

 

“Yeah, then I met Nata,” Christen confirms. “I took it as a sign, you know? Alex getting sick.” Her words are much more calm now, she doesn’t sound so bitter about Tobin not letting this go. “If we had already been engaged, I honestly don’t know if I’d have Nata today. I hate even thinking about that, but I think that type of commitment with Alex would’ve changed things. Sure, we were pretty much unofficially engaged already at that point, but there wasn’t a ring on her finger. The deal wasn’t sealed just yet and I could still get out of it. Her getting sick and me having to postpone the proposal was the universe’s way of telling me Nata was a part of my long term plan, but Alex wasn’t. I truly believe that.”

 

“Wow,” Tobin whispers, honestly not knowing what else to say that this point. She hadn’t expected Christen to unload all that on her.

 

It makes sense, Christen’s line of thinking. They had a talk weeks ago about how they both thought that the other one was a part of their plan, so clearly Christen believes in fate and the universe setting the path for everyone. Tobin just doesn’t like to think of others being a part of Christen’s plan, even if it was only for a short time. It’s ridiculous, she knows. She’s had people involved in her life before, even one that she could’ve loved, so it’s only fair that Christen’s had those people too. Tobin’s still learning how to be in a relationship, though, so she just hopes Christen will be patient with her through it.

 

“Tobin,” Christen says quietly, bringing her back into the moment and out of her head. She reaches over for Tobin’s hand and pulls it into her lap, tracing her thumb along the inside of Tobin’s wrist. The simple touches ground Tobin in a way she didn’t know she needed. “Please don’t stress about this, okay?” She continues. “It’s been three years. We’ve both moved on, I’m with you now and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. You don’t need to worry about anything else that happened before you.”

 

“I know,” Tobin assures her, twisting her hand so she can link her fingers with Christen’s. “I’m not worried, I guess I just didn’t realize you two were so serious.”

 

“Well, when you’ve been with someone for five years, marriage is kind of the obvious next step for a lot of people.”

 

“I can’t imagine ever wanting to marry someone.”

 

It isn’t until the words have left her mouth that Tobin realizes just how awful they sound. Christen’s hand goes slack in hers like she wants to pull away but doesn’t want to make this any bigger than it already is. Her jaw is tight and in the faint light from the dashboard, Tobin can see the way she swallows slowly, trying to keep down whatever snap reaction words it is she wanted to say.

 

Tobin tries to backtrack as soon as she’s remembers how to speak. “Chris, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that, I just--”

 

“It’s okay,” Christen interrupts in a rush, stopping Tobin from talking herself into a deeper hole than she’s already in. “It’s okay, I know what you meant.” She takes a moment to clear her throat and then says, “let’s just not talk about this anymore, okay?”

 

“Deal. I’m sorry for forcing the topic in the first place,” Tobin apologizes, wishing she would’ve just learned to keep her mouth shut earlier. This is a conversation they were bound to have at some point, but she knows she should have waited until Christen was ready for it. She shouldn’t have backed her into a corner about it.

 

Christen decides to change the topic, not so much ignoring Tobin’s apology as she is just avoiding discussing the issue anymore. “Overall, tonight wasn’t so bad, right?”

 

Tobin shakes her head, surprised at herself how vehemently she does so. “No, it really wasn't. It was actually really good.”

 

“Yeah?” Christen asks with a proud grin, obviously glad that Tobin enjoyed her time so much when it could've gone so differently.

 

“Yeah, your family is really cool. I really liked your parents.”

 

“They absolutely adored you,” Christen beams, tightening her grip on Tobin’s hand.

 

“Your dad seems really cool,” Tobin says without really thinking it through beforehand. She just feels this indescribable need to make sure Christen knows just how lucky she is to have the dad that she does. “He's just like, a real dad, you know? Like, when you're a little kid and think about how a dad should be, he's what you imagine.”

 

Christen nods slowly, understanding what Tobin is saying, but not getting why she has this fixation. “Yeah, I get that. He's the best and I really love him a lot. We're all lucky to have him.”

 

It's in the few seconds of silence that follow Christen’s words that Tobin finally realizes just why she's so hung up on this in the first place. When she remembers, she doesn't feel guilty about it, not like she used to. She just feels sad.

 

This isn't really something she feels like talking about tonight, but she figures if she made Christen talk about something she didn't want to, then this is the least Tobin can do, settle the score in a way even though it's not a competition.

 

Tobin swallows hard, steeling herself to have this conversation, and then she says in the smallest voice she thinks she's ever heard from herself, “I used to think my dad was like that.”

 

“Used to?” Christen asks in a way that let's Tobin knows she's curious, but doesn't want to pry in case Tobin isn't ready to share all the information yet.

 

Tobin pauses, taking a moment to choose her next words carefully. Eventually, she says, “there's a reason I haven't really talked to you about him. Like, at all.”

 

“You don't have to say anything about him,” Christen rushes, giving Tobin an out if she wants it. “It's okay, I'm sorry for bringing it up the other week. I shouldn't have done that. This isn't any of my business.” There's a slight edge to her voice, just enough that Tobin knows she's still a little bitter about Tobin making her talk about Alex, but that she isn't going to force her to do the same.

 

Tobin feels guilty, which is why she continues on her current train of thought. “No, no, it's okay,” she assures Christen, adding in a squeeze of her hand for good measure. “It's just…it's not like I haven't talked about him with you on purpose. I just don't really think about it I guess, if that makes sense. The thing you have to understand about my dad is it's not like we have a bad relationship necessarily, but we also don't have a great one. It's kind of hard to explain. We used to be best friends when I was younger. We'd go to soccer games all the time and once I went to UNC we'd talk on the phone almost every day. We were really close and I felt like I could always count on him. Then…”

 

She gets choke up without even realizing it. Usually she can feel the emotions building, climbing up to rest at the back of her throat and tasting of bile or sitting just behind her eyes and making them sting more and more with every word. She doesn't want to cry. She's spent more than enough time crying over her dad and she swore to herself years ago that she'd never let that happen again. She certainly doesn't want to cry in front of Christen, but she feels like that's where this is almost definitely headed.

 

Still, she wants to tell her. And it's not just because she told her about Alex, she realizes. She wants to tell Christen because she wants her to know. She's been quick to share all the shiny, proud details with Christen, but now she wants her to know the dirty ones too, no matter how much it hurts.

 

“Tobin, you don’t have to tell me about this,” Christen says warily, easily picking up on how much this is affecting Tobin and not wanting to pressure her. Tobin wishes she could have been as graceful with her.

 

“I want to,” Tobin insists. “I just need a moment to think of how I want to say this. It’s a lot.”

 

“Take as long as you need.” Christen pulls up her hand to her mouth and kisses it softly. When she brings their joined hands back to her lap, she plays with the ring on Tobin’s finger, staying quiet until Tobin’s ready to talk.

 

It takes her a while, but eventually Tobin says, “I was in my sophomore year at UNC, leaving practice one afternoon when I saw I had eleven missed calls from my brother and three from each of my sisters. I’d stayed long after practice to work on my free kicks and I was suddenly so angry at myself for not just leaving with everyone else and being there to answer my phone when it rang. I go so freaked out, I thought someone had died or something. I found out later my oldest sister had called practically all my friends trying to find me too, but Lauren and Amy were the only ones who knew and by the time they found me, I’d already figured out what happened.

 

“I called back my brother first and he was practically hysterical. He was going on and on about something, but I couldn’t make sense of anything. It was totally incoherent nonsense. He was talking so quickly and his words were so jumbled that the only thing I could make out was him saying ‘how could he do this,’ over and over. It was several minutes before I was finally able to get him to calm down enough to tell me what had happened.

 

“He told me he came home from school that day to find our mom sobbing in the kitchen. She was an absolute mess and he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He just held her and let her cry and tried to tell her it was okay while inside he was freaking out because he didn’t know what was happening or what to do. Then, he saw a crumbled up piece of paper under the kitchen table and he picked it up. It was a letter from our dad saying he was leaving our mom. He already had a house a few towns over and he took as much of his stuff with him as he could that morning while our mom was at work. He was just gone. Just like that.

 

“It was a complete shock. None of us ever had any reason to believe anything was wrong with our parents and we found out our mom didn’t either. They were happy, we all were. I can count on one hand the number of times I saw my parents fighting growing up. They were always laughing and having fun together and while they weren’t overly affectionate in front of us, they always loved making us cringe when they kissed. There was no reason to think there was anything wrong between them, but dad was done. He said that our mom hadn’t done anything wrong and neither had we, but he was done. He just decided one day he didn’t love her anymore, he wasn’t happy and he wanted out, so he left.

 

“A couple months later, he was dating someone else. He hadn’t even moved all of his things out of our house yet. He proposed a year later literally the day after the divorce was finalized. He just moved on so easily. He up and left out of the blue one day, destroyed all of us, and started a family with someone else. He walked away scot free and left us all broken in his wake. None of us understood and he never made much of an effort to help us understand. I don’t think he could have even if he wanted to. He was done and nothing was going to change that, so the way he saw it there was no point in dwelling on it. He’s happy now, so I guess that’s the one positive thing that came out of it all, but he messed us all up in order to get there.

 

“Over the years, I guess I’ve gotten over it, but I don’t think I ever will completely. I thought so highly of my dad and all it took was one decision for him to ruin that. I was never able to look at him the same way again. Jeffrey only ever speaks to him at Christmas and even then it's maybe only a few words. Things are better between us, as good as they can be, I guess, but we'll never be close like we were before. We only talk maybe once a month and a lot of that is because, as bad as it sounds, I don't really think about him that often. Like with my mom, I think about her all the time--I wonder how she is and want to know if she's having a good day. I don't go a day without texting my mom at least once. It's not like that with my dad. I can go weeks without thinking of him once. I feel awful for saying that, but I can't help it. He distanced himself and because of that, he just doesn't cross my mind very often.”

 

Christen doesn't say anything for a while. Whether that's because she's waiting to make sure Tobin’s finished speaking or she's still digesting it all, Tobin doesn't know. But eventually, she kisses Tobin’s hand again and holds it tightly against her chest as she says, “Tobin, I'm so sorry. I had no idea all that happened. I hate you had to go through that.” She almost sounds like she might start crying, but there's an edge that makes Tobin think it's more out of anger than sadness.

 

“It's okay. I'm over it, really. I'm not trying to appear cool or anything by saying that, I really mean it,” Tobin assures her. “It's been long enough now that it's whatever at this point. I just wanted you to know it's not like I haven't told you about him because I didn't want to or because I don't trust you enough to share that part of my life with you. It's just it hadn't even crossed my mind to tell you.”

 

“I get that, you don't have to explain. I hate so much that he did that to you.” Tobin can tell she's seething. Both her grip on the steering wheel and Tobin’s hand tighten for a moment before she takes a deep, slow breath and suddenly the tension is gone. “Can I ask you something?”

 

“Christen,” Tobin chides softly, though her voice is still playful. “I told you that you don't need my permission to ask me anything.”

 

“I know, but this might upset you, so I wanted to make sure.”

 

“You can ask me anything, what's up?”

 

“Do you think maybe…” Her voice is shaking, so she swallows and tries again. “I guess do you think maybe the reason you haven't had a long term relationship ever is because you don't want what happened with your parents to happen with you?”

 

Tobin waits before she answers, not because she needs to think of a response, but because she wants to make sure her response is actually true. She doesn't like to make excuses and this sure feels like one. “Probably,” she eventually says. “Though I don't like using that as an excuse.”

 

“I don't think it's an excuse. It's a real reason, Tobin.”

 

“I know, but I don't like blaming my actions on another person. I don’t like saying I've got ‘daddy issues’ or whatever. I feel so lame and cliche saying that. I'm an adult. I'm capable of being mature and making my own decisions. I shouldn't place blame for my own emotional shortcomings on something that happened almost ten years ago. But at the core of it, the whole situation really screwed me up. I mean, you have to understand that I idolized my dad when I was younger. I thought he could do no wrong and then he betrayed all that. It was the first time in my life my trust had really been violated on such a large scale and it was horrible. I never wanted to feel like that again, so I guess I tried to put myself in situations where that couldn't happen. I'm so afraid I'll end up like him and hurt someone I love or someone I love will hurt me, so I try to avoid anything remotely like love so that can't happen.” Tobin leans across the console and nudges Christen’s cheek with her nose until she feels her grin. “I didn't really have a choice when it came to you, though.” She kisses a line across her cheek until she can reach the corner of her mouth, then she leans back in her seat with a content sigh.

 

“Is that why your feelings for me scare you so much?” Christen hesitates, but then adds, “and why you made that comment about marriage earlier?”

 

Tobin twists so she's facing Christen even though Christen can't face her and asks, “it really bothered you I said that, didn't it?”

 

“I mean, obviously I'm not talking about us getting engaged or anything anytime soon, that's crazy,” she prefaces. “But that is what I eventually want my life to be. I want to get married and maybe adopt a couple more kids. I think you should know that's a goal of mine down the line even if it isn't yours.”

 

It's Tobin’s turn to play with the ring on Christen’s finger as she sifts through her next words. “I don't think I've ever let myself have that dream because I never wanted to get my hopes up, but I think I might like that one day. I’ve loved getting to live so close to Amy and watching Ryan grow up. I missed out of that with my nephew in Jersey. I think I'd like to have that for myself one day.”

 

Christen’s grin is the only response Tobin needs to that.

 

“Back to your question, though,” Tobin says, veering back on course. “Yeah, I think so. I've never let myself get in this deep before and while I was super scared at the beginning, this has all been so easy with you so far and I've been so focused on enjoying every moment with you that I haven't had time to think about how scary it all is. Yeah, the risk of putting myself out there with you was scary, but I think it's scarier for me to think about what would happen if I let you go and didn't get to be with you. I there just thinking about not having you in my life. Marriage still freaks me out, obviously, but like you said, it's not like either of this is talking about that right now. I like how we are now and that's what matters.”

 

“I like where we are too,” Christen smiles. She pulls up to a red light and takes the opportunity to turn in her seat and bring a hand up to Tobin’s cheek. “I'm not going anywhere, okay? I'm in this and I need to make sure you know that. I'm here with you and I have absolutely no plans on leaving.”

 

Tobin considers making a quip, but decides the situation is too serious for this. It's not the time for a light hearted joke to deflect her emotions. “I know, neither do I.” she nods. She thinks for a moment before saying her next words, not knowing if Christen will be okay with it, but she decides to try anyway. “You don't have to drop me off at my place.”

 

Christen’s eyes scrunch up in confusion as the light turns green and she starts to drive again. “What, why?”

 

“Because I want to go home with you.”

 

“Tobin,” Christen laments. “I would love that, honestly, but I'm not ready for that yet. Telling Nata we’re together got us a step closer to that, but I'm just not there now.”

 

“No, I know, it's not for that reason. I don't want to stay the night or anything, I’ll get a Lyft or something. I just want to steal you away on the back porch for a couple minutes after you put Natanael to bed. I haven’t gotten to properly kiss you all night and I think I might die if I don’t get to, especially when you look so damn good in that dress.” Tobin slips her hand out on Christen’s and presses her palm flat against the inside of her thigh, pressing in her fingertips in just the right way to suck in a breath and send her a cautionary glare.

 

The slight whimper she lets out tells Tobin she’s already made up her mind, but the way she hesitates means she wants Tobin to think she’s putting up some sort of a fight. “You promise you won’t try to stay?” She asks.

 

“I swear. Kissing you for a few minutes is all I need.”

xxx

Tobin gets her few minutes of kissing, but Christen decides to take things several steps further.

 

Once they get back to the house, Christen can’t get Nata to wake up enough to walk up to the house, so Tobin carries him. He’s snoring softly against Tobin’s shoulder and Christen’s got a hand on the small of Tobin’s back as they walk up the stairs to Nata’s room and it all just feels so domestic that Tobin’s heart feels like it’s about to burst with how happy she is.

 

She can’t explain the feeling she gets knowing she fits so perfectly into this little family. Christen and Nata work so well together, love each other so deeply, but Tobin likes to think she matches with them well, like a three person puzzle and Tobin’s the piece that finishes the pictures. It’s terrifying, thinking about how serious that is and what it means for Tobin long term, but she’s looking forward to figuring it all out.

 

After laying Nata down under the covers that Christen pulls back, Tobin steps back from the whole ‘tucking in’ process. It’s more of a job typically reserved for a parent and Tobin doesn’t want to overstep her boundaries. She watches with a smile on her face as Christen speaks to Nata softly, something she can’t pick up, and then kisses him on the forehead before she gets back up to her feet and leaves the room with Tobin.

 

When they get to the kitchen, Tobin starts to head to the door leading to the porch, but Christen apparently has other ideas. She pulls her back towards the laundry room, the site of one of their previous rendezvous while Nata was at the park with Amy and Ryan, and a safe enough distance from a sleeping Nata to appease Christen.

 

Tobin barely gets the door closed before Christen is lifting her by the hips and setting her up on the counter, fitting perfectly between Tobin’s thighs as she holds her closely and gets to work.

 

Tobin keeps her promise, though, and she doesn’t stay the night, but she does leave with a few new bruises on her inner thighs and feeling higher on life than she has in a long time.