“Are we even allowed to be here?” Tobin asks in a hushed whisper, leaning as flat as she can against the brick wall as if that’s going to make her invisible.
“Of course we are, I’ve got keys.” Christen proves this fact by holding them up in front of Tobin’s face and jingling them.
“Yeah, and I’ve got keys to the LAFC training facilities, but technically I’m not supposed to be there without permission.”
Christen just rolls her eyes and unlocks the door in front of them, ignoring Tobin’s concerns. “This is fine, I swear. I’m partial owner of the magazine. I’m allowed to come here whenever I want.”
“I’m just saying if I get arrested, then you’re taking the fall with my coaches.”
“I promise to protect you when we totally don’t get arrested.” Christen seals her words with a kiss and then pushes open the door, waving her hand forward so that Tobin can step inside.
“Oh, hell no. I’m not going in first. If we’re breaking and entering, then you’re taking the lead. This is all your idea.”
“You’re such a baby,” Christen groans as she pushes past Tobin and walks into the building.
After another moment’s hesitation, Tobin sighs and follows after her. She sticks as close to the wall as she can, still thinking that she’s liable to get caught, so she might as well try to hide.
Tobin’s never liked doing things she wasn’t supposed to. She never felt the rush. Even as a little kid, she always did her chores on time and did whatever her parents asked of her. As she got older, she was always home by curfew and she never snuck out of the house. Breaking the rules has never been appealing for Tobin, so even if Christen promises this isn’t breaking the rules, she still wants to be sure.
When Christen had told her there was somewhere she wanted to take her after dinner, Tobin hadn’t known what to expect, but she’d do pretty much anything Christen wanted, so she went along with it. If she’d known they were going to be sneaking into her office after hours, then she might have been a little more reluctant to agree.
There are dim lights on along the hall, giving them just enough light to see. Christen doesn’t bother flipping on any of the other switches they pass, which strikes Tobin as odd, so she asks why.
“Because, what I want to show you will look best in the dark, trust me,” is Christen’s only answer.
“What is it you need to show me?”
“You’ll see in a minute.” Christen pushes open the door to a wide, open area with lots of desks and she clicks her tongue at something she sees. “Huh, I guess we aren’t the only ones here.” She doesn’t seem too bothered by someone else’s presence, however, because she walks right into the office, motioning for Tobin to follow along after her.
“You’re lucky you’re so hot,” Tobin grumbles as she follows.
They’re in a wide room filled with probably about twenty desks all behind individual cubicles. It doesn’t feel like a stuffy, boring office place, though. The cubicles are low so the employees can see everyone around them and there are bright colors all over the place, framed pictures of scenic views and even a colorful Spongebob pinata hanging above one desk that Tobin instantly assumes is Nima’s for some reason. When she squints to make out the nameplate, her suspicions are confirmed. She makes a note to question him about it next time she sees him.
It looks like an enjoyable place to work. It seems laidback and modern. She knows how much Christen enjoys working from home so she can be with Nata, but she has to assume she loves coming in to work here as well.
“Hey, what are you doing here so late? You’re usually long gone by now,” Christen says to a slender brunette girl who’s hunched over at her desk, typing away on a laptop as scenic pictures of a savannah landscape flip by on a wide monitor next to it.
“Is that your way of saying I’ve got a poor work ethic, boss?” Jokes the girl as she spins around in her seat.
Tobin would be lying if she said this girl wasn’t beautiful. She’s not Christen’s level of beautiful, but still. Her light brown eyes are bright and her smile is even brighter. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows and high cheekbones just make her even more attractive. Between Christen, Nima and now this girl, Tobin’s starting to think being gorgeous is a requirement for the job.
“Oh hush, you know you’re one of the best writers here.” Christen leans against the cubicle surrounding the girl’s desk and motions Tobin closer. “Sofia, this is Tobin. Babe, this is Sofia, the ridiculously talented writer who’s gunning to steal my job one day.”
“Oh, whatever. This place would be nothing without you, I don’t want your job. I could, however, see myself being your boss,” Sofia teases as she reaches out a hand towards Tobin. “It’s nice to meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you. Literally so much. She once said your name 26 times within a span of 5 minutes. I counted.”
“Okayyyy, that’s enough,” Christen cuts in before Sofia can say anything else. “What are you working on?”
“I just wanted to get this Botswana article mostly finished tonight so I can leave early tomorrow since Matt and Nima get back.”
“Her boyfriend Matt is a photographer for the magazine,” Christen explains to Tobin. “He’s been in Russia with Nima the past three weeks.”
“That’s pretty cool you guys get to work together,” Tobin says, joining into the conversation. “Do you guys work on assignments together too?”
“Most of the time, yeah,” Sofia replies. “We both have the same kind of vision when it comes to work, so he’s great about capturing pictures that explain what I write on a deeper level than just matching a picture to a description. He really gets to the heart of the story. He’s got a great eye, so sometimes Nima will drag him away on his adventures.”
“Nima gets lonely sometimes, he just doesn’t like to admit it, so he’ll steal Matt away under the guise that it’s ‘guy time,’ but we all know the truth,” Christen teases. “I was just going to show Tobin something in the gallery, we shouldn’t be too long.”
“Take as long as you guys want, I’ve got another hour or so here. You guys won’t be in the way.” Sofia sits back down at her desk as Christen takes Tobin’s hand and starts to pull her away. “Oh, but if you guys like, decide to have sex or something back there, could you try to keep it down? I don’t have my headphones with me.” Sofia’s grin is downright devilish as she sees Christen’s cheeks flush red.
“You’re lucky I don’t have the power to fire you,” Christen grumbles. “That definitely won’t be happening and we’re leaving now before you decide to keep being a jerk.”
“Love you too, Chris,” Sofia quips, winking at Tobin before she leans back down in front of her computer and starts typing away.
“She seems nice,” Tobin says after they’ve stepped into another hallway and Sofia can’t hear them.
“She’s one of the nicest people I know. Except tonight apparently,” Christen responds with an embarrassed groan. She stops in front of a door that’s labeled ‘gallery’ and turns to Tobin with an excited grin that she’s just barely suppressing. “Okay, close your eyes.”
Tobin tilts her head skeptically and says, “is this the part where you kill me?”
“Yes, but I still need you to close your eyes. Trust me, this is going to be really cool.”
Tobin rolls her eyes before she closes them. “Make sure to tell my mom I loved her, okay?”
“You’re ridiculous, now come on.”
Tobin hears the sound of the door swinging open and then Christen leads her forward into a room that most certainly doesn’t have the lights turned on judging by the way Tobin’s eyelids go dark. There are a few clicks that must be Christen switching on and off different lights and each one sends a quick flash of light across Tobin’s eyes.
“Come on, which one is it?” Christen asks with a frustrated sigh. She literally gasps out, “aha!” when she finally finds the right one, and then she’s closing the door behind them and pulling Tobin further into the room.
Once Christen is satisfied with where they’re standing, she puts her hands on either of Tobin’s hips and tilts her just a little to the left. Her hands remain in place as she leans forward and rests her chin against Tobin’s shoulder, breath tickling her ear.
“Okay, so what I’m about to show you is from one of my very first assignments with the magazine. It was the first time I was able to travel alone with just a photographer and a guide, without a senior writer tagging along to pretty much babysit me,” Christen whispers right against Tobin’s ear. “We were in Finland checking out all these little small towns outside of the traditional touristy stuff, but our flight ended up getting delayed so we had to push everything back a day. We stayed the night in this tiny little town just outside Tampere and in the morning we were going to actually get started. I was so nervous by the time we got to the hotel that I could barely sleep. It wasn’t just a jetlag thing either. I was so anxious I was going to do something wrong and the article was going to suck that I just paced my room for like an hour before I finally felt so claustrophobic and I just had to get out of there.
“So I got dressed and went outside to take a walk. Just before I stepped out the hotel door, I felt this need to grab the little digital camera I brought along for personal pictures. I don’t know why. It was the middle of the night, it’s not like there would be anything to take pictures of, but I just knew I needed to bring it. Nima always tells me you get the best shots when you’re not looking for them, so maybe that’s what it was. I don’t know,” she sighs as she finishes her rambling and then gets back on topic. “Anyway, it was freezing outside and not just because I’m from California and not used to the cold. It was awful, but the sting felt so good in my lungs for some reason. It hurt, but it was just enough to distract me from all the thoughts rushing through my head. It wasn’t a big town or anything, but the street was lined with mounds of snow and the streetlights reflected off it so perfectly that I was almost fooled into thinking it was the middle of the day and not midnight. It was so quiet. I could hear the way my boots crunched the ice underneath my feet with every single step and there was music coming from somewhere far away, just barely audible. I didn’t really know where I was going, but I just followed my footsteps down main street until I felt the urge to turn down one of the sidewalks.
“I ended up finding my way onto this path through the forest behind the town. It was so dark under the trees I could hardly see where I was going, but I just knew I needed to keep going. I don’t know what it was, but I felt this pull to keep walking forward, so I did. Eventually, the trees started to thin out and the moon started lighting up the way more and more. I was so concerned with watching my feet to make sure I didn’t trip, I didn’t look up until I made it to this ridge and the path ended. When I finally looked up, my breath was sucked out of my lungs and I actually had tears in my eyes. I’d never seen something so beautiful in my entire life. I looked up and suddenly all my worries, all my fears about the trip, they just faded away.
“I sat down on the frozen ground and just stared up at the sky until the tears stopped falling and I could finally breathe normally again. I don’t know how to explain it, but I’d never felt so at peace in my entire life. I’d been meditating for a few years at that point, but in that moment, sitting there in the dirt staring up at the sky, I’d never felt calmness like that. I felt like despite all the bad things going on the in world, despite the fact I was nervous about the assignment and what my future would be, I knew that everything would be okay. I knew that no matter what, things were going to work out for the best and I was going to be okay. I feel that same sort of calmness when I’m with you. When I opened the door that day and saw you, I felt like I could finally breathe again. I didn’t even know I’d been holding my breath.” Christen kisses Tobin’s neck softly, nudges her jaw with her nose, and then whispers, “open your eyes.”
Tobin does and when she finally sees what it was Christen wanted to show her, she loses her breath just like Christen described happened to her on that night. The longer she looks, the more her eyes sting, and suddenly she feels tears welling in the corners.
They’re standing in a large room that’s almost entirely dark aside from the two bright lights angled at a section of the wall they’re standing in front of. Hanging on the wall, illuminated by the lights, is a large, framed photograph of what Tobin knows is the sky Christen saw that very night.
There are more stars in the sky than Tobin’s ever seen, even more than when she was in Maine looking up at the sky through her dad’s telescope. She can hardly see the black of the sky due to all the little pinpoints of light. There are streaks of blue and green and pink cutting through the darkness. Tobin knows it isn’t enough to be the northern lights, but it’s just as beautiful. The moon is barely visible at the top of the picture and as Tobin keeps looking at it, she can swear the streaks of color start moving in gentle waves, the stars flashing and dancing right along with them.
“I’ve never seen something like this before,” Tobin breathes out, words only audible because of how closely Christen is leaning in.
“Neither have I.” Christen kisses the side of Tobin’s neck to punctuate her words. Tobin knows she isn’t talking about the picture. “So I was looking at this the other day and I noticed something.” She raises an arm from around Tobin and points at the picture. “There are the legs. There’s the head. There’s the big dipper.”
“Ursa Major,” Tobin grins. “My favorite.”
“It’s probably more just a coincidence than anything. I was in Finland and it’s a northern hemisphere constellation so of course it’s going to be in the picture, but you know how I feel about fate. I think that night, that feeling I got sitting there looking up at the stars, it was a little preview of what was to come for me. It was a preview of you.”
“Damn, that was smooth,” Tobin teases.
“Shut up,” Christen teases, nipping at Tobin’s ear lobe in retaliation. “I’m not trying to feed you a line or anything, I’m being serious.”
“I know you are,” Tobin sighs. She spins in Christen’s arms, rests her forehead against hers and says again, “I know.”
The kiss that follows is soft, gentle. It feels so goddamn natural at this point that Tobin doesn’t even have to think about it. She just leans in and her body takes care of the rest. Her lips take Christen’s bottom one between her own. Her hand move to frame Christen’s face. Her body moves in gentle waves against Christen, as if Christen is the moon and she’s got no choice but to respond to her gravitational pull and crash into her.
It’s all so easy.
Tobin’s hands are just finding their way underneath the hem of Christen’s shirt when suddenly, Christen pulls away and takes two giant steps back, putting as much distance between the two of them as she can.
“I should get you back home.”
“No,” Tobin groans. “Let’s just go back to what we were doing before.”
Christen lets Tobin take her in her arms again, but she leans her upper body back so that Tobin’s lips end up chasing aimlessly. “You’ve got an early flight in the morning and I’ve got to pick up Nata from Amy’s. There’s no time.”
“There’s always time. Ten minutes. That’s all I need.”
“Yeah, well it’s not all I need. I like to take my time with you,” Christen coos in that sultry voice that is just so not fair. “We’ll just have to wait until you get back.”
“That’s four days away,” Tobin whines.
“Then you better make sure to keep your phone on you while you’re gone. I might send you some pictures to help you pass the time.” She kisses Tobin as a consolation prize, but it’s almost as bad of a tease as her words. “Let’s get you home,” she says when she pulls away, walking towards the door before Tobin can stop her.
“Tease,” Tobin complains, but she follows after her anyway.
She’s not obnoxiously competitive or anything, she doesn’t let it drive her crazy, but losing has always made her miserable. Whether it was a fair loss, a dirty one or an absolute rout, it’s never mattered.
She hates losing.
Losing to a team that hasn’t won a game all season, a game that should’ve easily been won, that’s something Tobin especially hates.
Philadelphia’s defense, which has been broken and battered all season, held strong the entire game. Nothing got through or even came close to getting through. LA only had one shot on target and it was off a shotty free kick from Kelley that slowly dipped towards the goal and was easily caught by the keeper, completely harmless. The game was sure to end in a 0-0 draw, but then Philly managed to get a corner in the dying seconds of the game. Poor man marking by a rookie defender and a lucky deflection resulted in Philly scoring their first goal in five games and their first win of the season. They were still celebrating the victory as the ref blew the whistle and called the game.
The locker room was somber afterwards. They were still in a prime position in the standings to comfortably make the playoffs, but it was a game they all knew they should’ve won. They couldn’t connect passes, they couldn’t maintain possession for any kind of spell and each clearance they made was shaky at best. Players started cramping by the 60th minute and they were slow to get up from even the softest of tackles.
They were all exhausted and their upcoming bye week couldn’t be coming at a better enough time.
When Tobin goes to sleep that night, all she can think about is how badly she wants to be held by Christen right now. She hates that it’ll be another 15 hours at least until that happens.
She thinks she hates that more than losing.
By the time they finally manage to get on the plane back home, it's nearing 9:00 PM when they finally land and once they get their bags and take a bus back to the stadium to get their cars, it's after 10:00. Tobin just wants to go home and pass out in her bed, forget about the game and the exhausting travel day and sleep until their light recovery training session in the morning.
She intends to go home, but it isn't until she pulls up in front of Christen’s house that she realizes she was even driving there. She didn't even think about it, not consciously at least. Christen’s house is in the opposite direction of her apartment, but turning left instead of right out of the parking lot hadn't even registered. She'd just followed the route in her head, or maybe more so her heart, and the next thing she knew, she was putting her car in park along the curb.
The light in Christen’s room is still on. It doesn't necessarily mean she’s still awake, though. She falls asleep reading all the time and won't get around to turning the light off until she wakes up in the middle of the night.
Tobin considers just heading home, forgetting she even drove over here and just meeting Christen for lunch tomorrow instead like they planned, but much like her drive over here, she picks up her phone and starts calling Christen without really meaning to.
Christen answers on the second ring and her voice is soft as she says, “hi, baby. How are you? Did you get back okay?”
“Yeah, we got back to the stadium about thirty minutes ago,” Tobin replies. “Are you still up?”
“Duh, I'm on the phone with you,” Christen teases before adding more seriously, “yeah, I was just up reading, though. That piece Sofia was working on the other night is really beautiful. Did you get back to your apartment yet?
“No, I didn't go back home.”
“Oh?” Christen asks curiously. Tobin can picture her so clearly in that moment, probably laying down the article and capping her purple pen (purple because red is too abrasive according to her). She'd push her glasses up on her head and pull her knees to her chest as she asks, “well where did you go?”
“I'm uh,” Tobin hesitates, wondering if she should just tell her she went to Kelley’s or something instead. With Nata home, she doesn't know how happy Christen would be with a surprise visit. It's not that she wouldn't want her there, it's just that, even though Nata’s asleep, she likes to know when Tobin is dropping by. Things have become more open between the three of them, but holding Christen’s hand while out at dinner with Nata and showing up unexpected late at night while he's home are two different things entirely. Ultimately, though, Tobin decides she really needs to see Christen tonight, even if it's just for a moment. She's too sad and she's missed her too damn much to wait until tomorrow. “I'm parked outside your house, actually,” she finally says.
“You are not,” Christen says in disbelief. Tobin sees her shadow jump up from the bed and cross the room go pull back the curtains. When she sees Christen’s grin, she's so glad she unknowingly decided to come here tonight. It was just what she needed. “What are you doing here?” She asks softly, resting her forehead against the window and still smiling down at Tobin in her car.
“I missed you so much and I just really wanted to see you. Can I come if for a few minutes? I'm just still upset by the loss and I'd really love it if I could kiss your pretty face for a minute.”
“Such a charmer,” Christen teases. “Yeah, all right. Come meet me downstairs and I'll let you in.”
Tobin’s out of her car and standing by the front door in record time. The idea of actually holding Christen in her arms right now makes her feet move faster than she did the entire game last night. She wants her so badly.
Christen flips on the porch light before Tobin hears the lock turning. When the door finally opens, Christen’s face is lit up more by her smile than it is the porch light. Tobin’s never seen something so beautiful in her entire life.
Christen takes her by the hand and pulls her into the house, wrapping her arms around her shoulders tightly and tucking her head against her neck as she kicks the door closed. “I'm sorry about the game,” she mumbles against her neck. “I know how badly you wanted to win this one.”
“It's okay,” Tobin shrugs. “I feel so much better now that I'm with you. I missed you so damn much.”
For the third time tonight, Tobin finds herself in a situation she didn't really mean to happen. Christen’s got her on her back on the couch with Tobin’s legs wrapped around her back, pulling her as tightly against her as she can. It isn't until Christen lets out the breathiest of moans as she rocks her hips against Tobin’s that she pulls a way as if she's been shocked.
“You should, uh…y-you should go,” Christen chokes out, struggling to catch her breath.
“What if I didn't?” Tobin doesn't mean to voice the thought aloud, but she can't help it. The thought of leaving Christen right now makes her so inexplicably sad she can't stand it.
“Tobin,” Christen says, her voice warning mildly. “You know Nata’s here.”
“Yeah, but he's passed out in his own room. He'll never know I'm here,” she reasons. “I just don't really want to be away from you right now.”
Christen reaches back to untangle Tobin’s legs from around her and sits up. She's still sitting in between Tobin’s legs, but there's a distance between them Tobin hates.
“Please don't guilt me into this,” Christen sighs, running a hand through her hair to show her slight frustration.
Tobin feels like an ass. She wishes she could've just kept her mouth shut and left like Christen wanted her to. “I'm sorry,” she tells Christen as she sits up. She rests a hand softly against her cheek and continues, “that's not what I'm trying to do, honestly. I'm really sorry, I'll just go.”
Tobin rises from the couch, but before she's able to collect her jacket Christen pulled off from the floor, Christen is tugging her hand and bringing her back down to the couch.
“Wait, don't go just yet. It's not that I don't want you to be here, I do, it's just…” Christen sighs as she trails off, clearly not knowing how to finish that sentence.
Tobin waits a moment until she's sure she isn't going to be interrupting Christen and then she says, “look, I get why you don't want me to stay the night, I do, but I'm not talking about reading him a bedtime story or asking him if it's cool if I have a sleepover with his mom. He'll never even know I'm here. I just want to sleep next to you tonight and then I'll leave before he's up in the morning. I understand why you’re holding out on this, but you don’t need to. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. This isn’t just some fling for me. If you need more time, I’m okay with that. But if you’re waiting to make sure that I don’t leave you, then I can promise you that’s not happening.”
Christen’s face softens at that. “I know you aren’t,” she whispers, her words soft. She brings a hand to Tobin’s cheek and holds her with such great care Tobin feels like she’s made of glass. The kiss that follows is just as gentle, but it’s no less satisfying. It’s exactly what the situation calls for. When she pulls away, Christen says, “I really don't think I'm going to feel comfortable having sex when I know he's sleeping right across the hall. That night two weeks ago was just an exception.”
“I'm not talking about having sex with him here. I just want to lay next to you with your arms around me tonight and wake up next to your droopy eyes and ridiculous bedhead.”
“Hey, my bedhead is not that bad,” Christen complains in self defense.
“Honey, it’s terrible, but that’s okay because it’s also adorable. I promise to be on my best behavior. Maybe we’ll make out a little dirtily, but that’s it.”
“I’m not sure if dirtily is a real word,” Christen challenges.
Tobin watches as Christen wracks her brain to figure out if it’s proper grammar, relishing in how cute her little grammar nerd is, and then says, “well it is now. If you really don’t want me to stay, then that’s okay. I won’t. I get it and I won’t be mad about it, I swear. I’ve just really missed you, you know?”
Christen melts at those words. She runs a thumb across Tobin’s lips, staring right at them as she asks, “you swear you’ll behave yourself?”
“Chris, I’m currently wearing ratty granny panties that I wear for travel days and I smell like mothballs from the elderly group of tourists on the plane with us. I’ll even put in my retainer for good measure, so even if I can’t behave myself, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble pushing me away if I try to go too far.”
“Granny panties and a retainer, huh? You sure do know how to make a girl swoon,” Christen teases, finally pulling away and meeting Tobin’s eyes. Tobin will never get over how beautiful her eyes are.
“They’re a size too big, have multiple holes and are this hideous shade of green, but they’re comfortable so they’re perfect for long hours on planes.”
“Well now that you’ve talked them up so much, I just have to see them.” She gives Tobin her most infectious smile and Tobin’s never been happier to be sitting down. She’d never be able to stay on her feet with Christen looking at her like that.
It takes Tobin a couple tries and she has to swallow twice before she’s actually able to say, “if you let me stay, I’ll show you. I’ll even drool a little with my retainer in for good measure.”
“Okay,” Christen relents with a sigh, even though it’s clear by the way she says it she already made up her mind a while ago. “But you have to be quiet until we’re in my room because I don’t want him waking up and I’m so serious about the no sex thing, all right? I’m not ready for that.”
After Tobin promises profusely, Christen kisses her one last time and rises from the couch, pulling Tobin along after her.
Upstairs, Tobin learns that mundane tasks she’s used to doing on her own, ones she does every night that are habitual after thirty years, are so much more enjoyable when she does them with someone else. Specifically, when she does them with Christen.
Christen knocks her elbow into Tobin as they brush their teeth side by side in Christen’s bathroom and makes dumb faces in the mirror until Tobin is laughing so hard she has to spit her toothpaste out in the sink quickly before it goes all over the mirror.
She splashes water on her as they wash their faces. Then, after she’s promised to stop, she leans over and kisses Tobin’s neck until she’s entirely lost her focus and they end up making out with Christen pressed against the counter for a few minutes until they can get back on track.
She teases Tobin for her underwear while they’re changing for bed and then curls her fingers under the elastic and pulls her close to kiss her so deeply Tobin sees stars.
One of the things Tobin’s ever understood about relationships before is the idea of having someone around all the time. Sure, Tobin likes company and she likes knowing someone’s there when she needs them, but she’s always been content to be on her own. So long as she can depend on herself, depending on someone else always took a backseat. She was always worried the more time she spent with another person, the more chances they’d have to realize they didn’t actually like her or she’d have to become annoyed with them.
It’s not like that, though, not with Christen. There’s nowhere else Tobin could ever imagine wanting to be more than by Christen’s side. Even when they’re together but Christen is in the kitchen working on an article and Tobin’s in the living room watching game tape, just the knowledge that someone is closeby makes Tobin calm in a way she never could have expected.
It’s different with her friends. Lauren and Amy ease her mind and make her feel safe, but it’s more of a familiarity thing. She’s known them so long that she can’t imagine
ever not knowing them. With Christen, she felt that ease immediately and it’s never faded. Kelley and Allie make her feel like she can be herself and never be judged, but even still there are moments where she’s hesitant to share things. It’s not because she doesn’t feel comfortable with or thinks she can’t trust them. It’s just that she isn’t comfortable enough with herself to share those parts. But with Christen, she’s never had that kind of doubt.
It’s all just so goddamned easy with her that sometimes Tobin feels like it’s too good to be true, but then Christen will smile at her or she’ll say something so sweet and Tobin knows everything is going to be okay.
When they get into bed that night, Tobin’s reminded again how well they fit next to each other. They don’t even have to try. Whether she’s holding Christen or Christen’s holding her like she is tonight, they just roll into each other and they work. There’s no awkward tangling of limbs or knocking of heads.
After such a tough couple of days, nothing feels better than Christen’s arms around her and her breath against the back of her neck.
Tobin doesn’t even have to try to make good on her promise of no sex. She passes out almost as soon as her head hits the pillow, ruling out any chance of that happening.
She’s naturally a soft person--gentle, quiet and kind--but in the mornings when she’s still asleep, eyelids fluttering as she dreams, lips parted slightly as she breathes slowly, Tobin’s never seen something quite so serene. There’s not a single thing about her that isn’t beautiful, but this might be one of Tobin’s favorite looks on her. She’s so peaceful and she’s in the one place where Tobin knows no one can ever hurt her. She’s safe and comfortable and so beautiful and…
“Holy shit,” Tobin whispers as a thought creeps into the back of her mind.
She thinks she might be in love with her.
She really might love Christen.
The realization is startling. She doesn’t even know if it’s true, she’s never been in love. Sure, she came close that one time in France, but she left before she could ever figure out how she really felt. Sure, she loves people, her family, her friends. Sure, she loves God and her faith with a sort of devotion she can’t ever imagine having for anything else in quite the same way. But she’s never been in love. She wouldn’t even know where to begin with that.
Rather than lay around and think about how beautiful Christen is with the early morning sun streaming in through the windows and lighting up her face in the most perfect way, she rolls out of bed as quietly as she can. She knows if she lays there any longer thinking about the realization she’s just had, she’ll talk herself out of it and that’s the last thing she wants to do.
The tiles in the kitchen are cool under her feet as she walks towards Christen’s Keurig sitting on the counter. She knows her way around the kitchen at this point and opens the drawer to her left to find Christen’s favorite k-cups and starts the coffee maker.
As she leans back against the counter and listens to the water being drawn up into the machine, she’s struck by how familiar it all feels. She hasn’t ever stayed the night here before, that’s been reserved for apartment, but it feels natural. She doesn’t feel like a stranger here. She’s comfortable. She’s happy. She’s at peace.
She’s so lost in her own head thinking about what she thinks she might have maybe realized this morning that she doesn’t even notice the soft patter of feet on the stairs.
“Morning, Tobin,” Nata says in a sleepy voice, rubbing at his eyes as he walks into the kitchen and moves to lean against Tobin’s side, clearly not happy about being awake so early.
“Oh…uh, g-good morning, Nata.” She wraps an arm around him cautiously, not sure what to do. It’s barely 7:00 AM. She didn’t expect him to be awake yet, so she figured she’d be safe to come down and get coffee before sneaking out. Apparently not, though. ‘Go get Christen, let her figure this out,’ Tobin thinks to herself, knowing this isn’t really her place.
Nata has other ideas, apparently. “I’m hungry,” he mumbles, moving out of her grasp to pull himself up onto one of the stools by the kitchen counter.
“Okay, uhm…do you--do you want me to make you something?” She asks, thinking the best course of action is to just go along with what Nata wants, not do anything to make him think this is weird. If she acts like this is normal, then he’ll think it’s normal.
Nata nods sleepily from his spot at the counter and asks, “can you make me eggs, please?”
“Eggs?” Tobin scoffs, “come on, dude. Eggs are so boring. Think bigger,” she suggests.
Her tilts his head curiously and thinks for a moment before he tries again. “Blueberry pancakes?”
“You can do even better than that.”
Nata’s whole face lights up as he finally comes up with what he thinks will satisfy Tobin. “Chocolate chip pancakes!”
“Now we’re talking, dude!” Tobin reaches out for a high five and then tousles his hair until he’s grinning and pushes her away playfully. “Let’s see if I can find where your mom keeps everything.”
Nata turns out to be a good help in the kitchen. Granted, all they need to do is stir the pancake mix together with water and then add in some chocolate chips, but he’s good at finding the exact mixing spoon Tobin needs and filling up the measuring cup with the perfect amount of water. He giggles conspiratorially as he adds in twice as many chocolate chips as Tobin told him to, but Tobin just grins and lets him get away with it.
They’re having so much fun cooking together, that Tobin completely forgets about the fact that Christen is still upstairs sleeping, completely unaware to what’s going on downstairs. It isn’t until she and Nata are posted up at the kitchen table, plates piled high with pancakes drowned in syrup, that she remembers she probably should’ve woken up Christen to approve all this. It’s too late, though, because Tobin hears her walking down the stairs and into the kitchen.
Christen’s eyes are narrowed at first as she takes in the sight in front of her, but she smiles when Nata notices her and turns around with a smile. “Mira, Mamá!” He says happily. “Tobin made me chocolate chip pancakes!”
“I can see that buddy. Are they good?”
“So good,” he manages to say around the mouthful of pancake he stuffs in his mouth. He stabs at another bite and holds it up towards Christen. “Try some.”
Tobin knows Christen’s already had her pancakes before, and that she prefers them with significantly less syrup and far too much peanut butter, but she’s a good sport about it. She smiles wide as she chews her bite and nods in Nata’s direction. “Oh wow, those are really good,” she tells him as if it’s the first time she’s ever had them. “Gracias, sunshine.” She looks over at Tobin now and Tobin can’t quite figure out what the emotion behind her eyes is. “Tobin, can I talk to you for a minute?”
Tobin nods as she rises from her seat. She sends a smile in Nata’s direction so he doesn’t sense anything is wrong, but he’s distracted by his food so he doesn’t even notice. Tobin walks into the foyer and turns around to see Christen settling her with a stern look, her arms crossed.
“Okay, I know what you’re going to say, but let me explain,” Tobin rushes out before Christen can get a word in.
“Tobin,” she sighs. “I didn’t want him knowing you were here.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry,” she starts. “I didn’t plan this, Chris, I swear. I just came down to make you some coffee, then I was going to go right back up and get my stuff and get ready to leave after that. I guess in hindsight I shouldn’t have done that, but it was so early I didn’t think he’d be up for a couple more hours, so I figured it was safe. He came down and asked me to make him breakfast and I didn’t know what to do. I panicked and so I just agreed, I’m sorry. I should’ve come up and asked you what to do, but I didn’t want him to think anything was wrong.”
Christen sighs loudly and shakes her head as she says, “it’s okay, it’s not your fault. I should’ve warned you about him getting up so early. He’s been having so much trouble sleeping through the night lately. I clearly didn’t think this through at all, I’m so stupid.” She brings her hands up to hide her face and groans, clearly disappointed in herself.
“Hey, don’t say that,” Tobin says softly, pulling Christen closer by two hands on her hips. “You’re not stupid at all. We both probably could’ve planned this a little better. I just shouldn’t have come over last night. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have pressured you to let me stay.”
“Stop it, I liked having you here.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t want him knowing I was here and now I’m making him breakfast.”
“Did he ask why you were here? Did he seem weird at all about it?” She asks frantically, worry creeping back into her voice.
“No, not at all,” she assures her. “He just walked down, gave me a hug, said good morning and then asked me to make him breakfast. He seemed totally cool about it all.”
“Okay, good. That’s good, right?”
“That’s good,” Tobin nods. “It’s really good, babe.”
“So what do we do now?”
“I made extra pancakes, so right now I say we go eat breakfast, maybe watch a couple cartoons because Nata asked me to and then I’ll go home and get ready for training and everything will be totally fine.”
“Okay,” Christen smiles. “I can do that.” She leans up and kisses Tobin quickly, then takes her by the hand and pulls her back towards the kitchen.
As Tobin watches her go, all she can think about is the realization she had this morning and how the way Nata smiles at the both of them as they walk back in the kitchen only confirms it.
Tobin doesn’t know the last time she felt so happy.
When it comes time to leave, she’s absolutely dreading it. She waits until the last possible minute, to the point she’ll have to head straight to the practice field with no time to go home beforehand.
“All right, buddy,” Tobin says solemnly after the fifth episode. “I’ve got to head to training now.”
Nata tries not to pout, but his sad eyes give way to just how upset he is that Tobin has to leave. “Okay,” he says, his voice thick with regret, wishing Tobin could stay just a little while longer. “Will you come back soon?”
Tobin looks over to Christen before she answers, but Christen ends up speaking before Tobin gets the chance. “How about Tobin comes over later this evening and we’ll all have dinner together, yeah?”
That does just the trick to cheer Nata up. “Okay! Maybe if there’s time, you can teach me that step over trick you did in the game the other night? That was so cool. The girl defending you fell down.” He mimes an explosion, sound effects and all, to show just how hard the defender apparently fell.
Tobin promises him with a smile that she will definitely teach him and then they’re all getting up from the couch so Tobin can leave.
“How about you go upstairs to make your bed and brush your teeth while I walk Tobin to the door, okay, mi sol?” Christen asks Nata.
“She doesn’t know where the door is?” He asks curiously, pointing over his shoulder to emphasize that it’s literally right there.
“I’m really bad with directions,” Tobin teases him, which only makes his eyebrows scrunch in confusion even more, totally missing the sarcasm. “If it weren’t for the ball on the field, I’d have no idea where to run during games.”
His narrowed eyes tell Tobin that he still has no idea what’s going on, but he does what his mom asked of him and heads upstairs to make his bed after he hugs Tobin tightly.
“I’ve just got to get my bag from upstairs and then I’ll head out,” Tobin tells Christen as she tries to follow Nata up the stairs, but Christen stops her with a hand on her shoulder, guiding her back in front of her.
“Just leave it,” Christen says.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if you’re going to be staying here tonight too, then you’ll need clothes, so you might as well just keep the ones you already have here in my room. There’s no sense in unpacking your bag just to fill it up with the same things later.”
“Wait, I’m staying here tonight?” Tobin’s pretty sure she knows exactly what’s going on by the way Christen’s grinning, but she needs verbal confirmation to be sure.
“If you want to,” Christen nods. “This was really nice, having you here and spending a lazy morning with the two of you. I think I underestimated just how much I would enjoy it. I’m kicking myself for being so silly and not letting you stay before now. I should’ve known he wouldn’t mind you being here at all. He adores you.”
“Yeah, well I kind of adore him too.” Tobin blushes at the admission, but Christen only smiles even wider.
“I can kind of tell,” Christen beams.
Tobin kisses her, soft and sweet, without even checking to see if Nata has started to come back downstairs yet. Based on the way Christen pulls her back in after she tries to pull away, Tobin’s pretty sure she wouldn’t mind even if he did catch them.
“This was really nice,” Christen says when she finally pulls away.
“It was, wasn’t it? I’m sorry again about him catching me. I seriously did not mean for that to happen.”
“It’s okay, you have nothing to be sorry for,” Christen insists. “I’m happy everything happened the way it did. I realized I had no reason to be worried. I like having you here with us.”
“Good, because I like being here.” Tobin tries to kiss her again, but Christen puts a hand on her shoulder to keep her at bay.
“Don’t you have training?” Christen asks with a kinked eyebrow.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Her next attempt at another kiss fails as well, but that doesn’t stop her from trying. “Fine,” she groans when she finally accepts no more kissing is going to be happening tonight. “I’ll see you tonight?”
“I’ll call you later,” Christen promises. “I like you a lot,” she says with a grin as she twists the doorknob and hold it open for Tobin.
Tobin aches to tell her how she really feels, but she doesn’t have the courage for that yet, so instead she settles for repeating Christen’s words back to her. “I like you a lot. Bye, honey.”
Christen gives in and kisses her once more as she’s walking out the door, car keys swinging on her index finger and she smiles dumbly on her way to her car.
Tobin thinks about the way she felt waking up next to Christen on the entire drive to practice. She can’t believe she gets to wake up to that again tomorrow.