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under pink skies

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Tobin’s only ever been truly, deep down to her core afraid once in her life and that was when she saw her phone after practice the day her dad left and was sure someone in her family had died. The fear she felt then was inexplicable. She knew in the pit of her stomach that her life was about to change and there was nothing she could do about it. Of course, no one had actually died, but she wasn’t wrong about her life changing.


She’s felt fear before, obviously.


She used to be afraid of the dark as a kid and refused to sleep without a green Tinker Bell nightlight her dad bought her until she was almost twelve. On a flight to Asia for a youth tournament when she was seventeen, one of the tires blew out on the landing and the plane fishtailed for the longest ten seconds of her life before the pilots managed to get it under control. When she was twenty, just three days after she’d gotten back from the Beijing Olympics, she and Amy had gotten in a car accident that flipped them over a guardrail. Amy came away with just a fractured arm and Tobin a couple bruised ribs and a small gash on her forehead, but she’d been so sure while the car was airborne that they were both going to die.


The fear of death and the fear of having to continue living with an earth shattering change of events are two different things entirely. Most people don’t want to die, of course, but once you’re dead, that’s it. It’s done. All the fear is gone. Getting a phone call and knowing your life is about to change, knowing that there’s nothing you can do to stop it and the only choice you have is to figure out how to find a way through it. That’s the real fear.


It’s the exact type of fear she feels when she answers Christen’s call just as she pulls up to her apartment after training and hears how frantic her voice is.


“Tobin!” Christen shouts as soon as she hears Tobin’s oblivious greeting. “Oh thank god you answered.” Her voice is shaking and breathless, her words stumbling out so quickly they fall over each other, the next almost starting before the last is even finished.


“Christen, talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.”


Part of her wishes she never even answered the phone, could have lived in her happy little world, oblivious to whatever has happened a little while longer. Christen sounds so afraid, Tobin’s sure she’s about to tell her something awful. She’s been acting off the last couple of days, so she wonders if it has something to do with that. Tobin doesn’t want to know. She just prays it doesn’t have anything to do with Nata.


“Oh my god, I’m freaking out. I don’t know what to do. It all just happened so fast and I couldn’t stop him and I--”


Fuck, it does have to do with Nata.


“Chris!” Tobin interrupts, knowing Christen will probably hyperventilate if she doesn’t breathe. “Babe, slow down and take a deep breath for me, okay? Tell me what’s going on, I can’t understand a thing you’re saying.”


Tobin hears her inhale for a couple long seconds and then exhale twice as long. In the quiet in between her breaths she can hear Nata crying and Tobin’s pretty sure her heart stops.


“Nata fell down the stairs on the back porch and I think he broke his leg, I don’t know,” Christen explains, slower this time.


“Oh, thank God,” Tobin rushes out grateful her fear was unwarranted and it isn’t anything too serious. She corrects herself once she realizes how bad that sounds. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean I’m happy he broke his leg, I was just freaking out. I was sure it was something so much worse.”


Christen blows right by Tobin’s comments. “He’s crying and freaking out. I can barely touch him without him losing it, though. I’m trying to pick him up and get him in the car to go to the hospital, but he won’t let me. I don’t know what to do. I wouldn’t called my dad, but you’re so much closer.”


Tobin lets out a sigh of relief and then says, “I’m glad you called me. Let me talk to him and try to calm him down.” There are the sounds of fumbling around and then Tobin hears Nata whimper her name and sniffle through his tears. “Hey, buddy. Can you take a deep breath for me? Just like your mom did?” He listens, though the breath is much shakier than Christen’s. “Good. That’s really good, dude.”


“It really hurts, Tobin,” Nata cries, barely getting the words out before he’s wracked with another sob.


Tobin’s heart breaks to hear the pain in his voice. She can only imagine how upset Christen must be, no wonder she was freaking out when Tobin answered the phone.


“I know it does, buddy,” she tells him. “I’m so sorry it hurts, but you’ve got to let your mom pick you up and get you to the car, okay? She needs to take you to the hospital so a doctor can look at your leg.” She restarts her car then, knowing there’s no way she can sit at home while she knows Christen and Nata are at the hospital.


“I want you to take me,” Nata whines, more sobs shaking his breaths.


Tobin wishes more than anything she could be there to hold him right now. “I’m in my car and I’m going to meet you at the hospital, all right? The sooner you get there, the better. It would take too long if you guys had to wait for me to get to your house and then go to the hospital, okay? Let your Mama get you into the car and then I’ll be at the hospital when you guys get there, I promise. Do you think you can do that for me?”


“I think so,” he sniffles.


“Good, buddy. That’s good, I know you’re tough enough to handle this. I’ll see you soon,” she promises. “Let me talk to your mom now, okay? I’ll tell her about out plan.”


“How did you do that?” Christen asks once she’s back on the phone. “I can’t believe you calmed him down enough to talk, he’s just been wailing for the last five minutes.”


“Listen, I’m in the car now and I’m headed to Washington General, okay?” Tobin says. She feels bad for ignoring Christen’s question, even if it was rhetorical, but she knows the sooner Christen gets Nata to the hospital, the better. “Do you think you can get him in the car and meet me there? I don’t want you to have to wait for me to get to your house.”


“Okay, yeah. I’ll get him.”


“Are you sure? I can come to your house if you need help,” Tobin suggests, cutting off a car and ignoring the angry honks she gets in return. She’s focused on getting to the hospital as soon as she can and that’s all that matters.


“No, it’s okay. I can get him, I’ll be fine. We’ll meet you at the hospital.”


“Okay, I’ll let you go. Call if you need me, I’ll see you soon.”


As soon as Tobin hangs up the phone, she dials in another number, one she hasn’t called in four years.


“Hey, Dr. Kim. It’s Tobin Heath,” she says once the person on the other line answers. “I’ve got a huge favor to ask from you.”


The relief that floods Christen’s face when she steps into the ER, hot on the heels of a nurse pushing Nata in a wheelchair, makes Tobin feel more needed and appreciated than she has in a long time.


“Tobin!” Nata exclaims in his teary voice as soon as he sees her. He tries to push himself up out of the wheelchair, forgetting a moment about his leg, but then he winces and plops back down in his seat and waits for Tobin to walk over to him.


“Hi, sweetheart,” Tobin says softly, running a hand through his dark hair that’s become so much longer since the first time she met him. She pushes his shaggy locks away from his tear stained face and rests a hand gently on his palm. “How are you feeling?”


“It really hurts,” he whines.


Tobin can tell from the way he clenches his teeth that he’s holding in just how badly it really does hurt. All she wants to do is help him. “I know,” she tells him. “I’m going to get you some help, okay?” She smiles softly at him and then rises to her feet. “I can take him from here, thanks,” Tobin tells the nurse, stepping behind the wheelchair.


“It’s so good to see you,” Christen says, her voice exhausted, after the nurse has walked away.


“I’m glad you called me.” Tobin wraps her up in a quick hug, kissing the side of her head before she pulls away. “Come on, follow me.”


“Wait, don’t I need to fill out paperwork and wait in line or something?” Christen asks in confusion.


“Don’t worry about right now. I took care of it,” Tobin dismisses, pushing Nata’s wheelchair down a long hallway to an exam room. Christen clearly has no idea what’s going on, but she follows along anyway, at a loss for what else to do.


When they get towards the end of the hall, Tobin stops and pushes open the door. In the room, there’s a doctor that looks more like he should be on Grey’s Anatomy than in an actual hospital doing actual doctor things. He’s got high cheekbones, biceps stretching the short sleeves of his deep purple scrub top and thick, wavy black hair that would put McDreamy to shame.


He pops up from his chair where he was swiping through something on his iPad when he sees them enter the room. “Ah, you must be Nata,” he says, stepping over to kneel in front of the wheelchair. “I’m Dr. Kim, but you can call me Danny.” He holds out his hand for Nata to shake, smiling brightly at him. “And you must be Christen,” he says as he stands and offers his hand to Christen.


“Yes, it’s nice to meet you, Dr. Kim.” Christen’s still confused, almost seems a little dazed.


“Please, call me Danny,” he smiles.


“Danny is the orthopedic surgeon that works with the team. He operated on my ankle a few years ago,” Tobin explains, wanting to get Christen up to speed.


Christen’s eyes go wide as she gasps out, “you think he needs surgery?”


“No!” Tobin rushes out. “No, no, no, definitely not. I just wanted the best doctor possible to take care of Nata and Danny is the orthopedic surgical attending so he’s the only one I trusted to do that.” Christen’s eyes soften at the information as they flicker between Nata and Tobin for a few moments before she just smiles gently. “No offense you your residents, I’m sure they’re great,” Tobin says to Danny, who just laughs.


“No offense taken. My daughter is such a big fan of yours she’d never speak to me again if I told her Tobin Heath asked for a favor and I said no.” He kneels down in front of Nata again and says in a steady voice that inspires absolute trust, “I know it probably hurts a lot right now, but I’m going to give you some medicine to help with that, then we’ll get some x-rays to check out your leg. Sound good?”


Nata nods and reaches back for his mom’s hand, gripping it tightly. Christen’s other hand finds Tobin’s and holds on so tightly Tobin thinks Nata might not be the only one with a broken bone, but she doesn’t even feel the pain.


She lets Christen hold on as tightly as she needs without any complaint.


Once Nata isn’t in as much pain anymore, he’s quite the cooperative patient. He asks Danny endless questions, wanting to know how everything works. It’s nearly impossible to get him to stay still while he’s getting his leg x-rayed, but once he sees the scans he’s so fascinated that he tries to convince Danny to x-ray his entire body so he can see everything.


The only real snag is when it comes time to put his cast on. He insists that he will only let them put on a gold cast so that he matches LAFC’s colors, but they don’t have gold. Black would be the logical next option because it still fits the team’s theme, but that’s not good enough for him. He wants gold or nothing.


He’s nearly in tears over it and Christen is about three seconds from crying herself out of frustration, but Tobin manages to quell the situation. She convinces him to get a simple white cast and then she can draw on it for him. It’s like flipping a switch how quickly he goes from being upset to being thrilled. Christen can hardly believe it, her sigh of relief echoing in Tobin’s ear as she leans her forehead against Tobin’s temple.


It isn’t until they’re about to leave that Christen realizes she still hasn’t filled out any paperwork. She tries to flag down a nurse to figure out what she needs to do, but Tobin stops her, insisting she’s already taken care of everything and she doesn’t need to worry about it right now.


Tobin can’t explain the look Christen gives her then. It’s a bit gracious, a bit appreciative, a bit confused and a bit of something like realization that Tobin doesn’t really understand, but it’s gone before she can ask. Christen kisses her softly on the cheek and then turns to thank Danny for all his help.


When they get back to Christen’s house, Nata is fast asleep in the back seat, exhausted from the day and drowsy from the pain meds. Tobin scoops him up in her arms and carries him inside, laying him gently in Christen’s bed as she pulls back the sheets. It takes a bit of convincing, but Tobin is finally able to get Christen to take a nap too. Tobin insists that setting up the guest room downstairs for Nata and making his favorite chicken noodle soup to cheer him up can wait until later. Eventually, Christen is too tired to fight her and after kissing Tobin, she lays down next to Nata and is asleep within seconds.


Tobin considers going home to get some clothes, knowing she’s going to want to stay over for the next couple nights to help Christen out with Nata, but she decides that can wait until later. There are some things she wants to do first so that Christen doesn’t have to worry about them later. Cooking is definitely not her thing, especially if it’s a special recipe that she’s sure she would screw up, but there are other things she can do to help.


Setting up the guest room downstairs comes first. The bed is bigger than Nata’s so he can’t have his sheets, but she does get the Ironman comforter from his bed and lays it across the one downstairs so he’ll have that at least, even if it is a little too small. She brings down all the Harry Potter books (not that he can read them very well on his own yet) and stacks them on the nightstand. She moves his Xbox down and hooks it up on top of the dresser, moving the TV until it’s at the perfect angle to be seen from the bed. She brings down his pillows and trades them out for the ones already on the bed. She isn’t sure what all clothes she should bring down, so she gets a little of everything and puts them in the dresser, matching up the drawers as closely as she can to his dresser upstairs.


After the room is as set up as best she can think to get it, she brings down his things from the bathroom upstairs--his toothbrush, his shampoo, his favorite bright red towels. She even switches out the light green shower curtain downstairs with his ocean coast view one from upstairs. (It takes her an embarrassingly long amount of time to perform this simple task because she misaligns the curtain and shower liner three times before she gets the hooks to match up perfectly.)


Then, she starts straightening up around the house. It’s not like the house needs to be cleaned, but she’s had to deal with a broken ankle before, so she knows how annoying it can be to maneuver around the house on crutches. She organizes the shoes by the front door and moves one of the tables in the hallway a few inches so there’s more room. She pulls the coffee table away from the couch a bit and adjusts the recliner so there’s more room between it and the wall for Nata to get through.


Once she’s made the downstairs just about as crutch-friendly as she can manage, she finishes folding the clothes in the laundry basket sitting on the kitchen table. Based on the way some of the clothes are strewn on the floor, Christen must have dropped what she was doing the moment she heard Nata fall. After folding the last shirt, an LAFC one that Christen stole from her, she checks the washer and dryer to make sure there isn’t anything else that needs to be done.


Once she’s sure she’s done all she can, she sits down on the couch, only meaning to stay for long enough to check her phone, but she underestimated how tired she is and ends up falling asleep moments later, halfway through reading an email about travel plans for the game next weekend.


She isn’t sure how long she was asleep for, but a little while later she’s woken up by a soft thudding sound coming from the stairs. She jumps up immediately, sure there’s something wrong, and walks out to the foyer to investigate. What she finds brings a soft chuckle to her lips.


“Dude, what are you doing?” Tobin asks as Nata carefully slides down the stairs on his butt with his broken leg held outwards, holding onto the railing to make sure he doesn’t slide down too many too quickly.


“I didn’t want to wake up Mama,” he explains in a sheepish voice like he’s just gotten caught doing something he shouldn’t.


“Here, let me help,” Tobin offers.


She wraps an arm under his shoulders and lets him hop down the rest of the stairs on his non-casted leg. She hands him his crutches once he gets to the bottom. He shakily makes his way over to the couch, still getting used to the crutches, and plops down with a sigh.


“How are you feeling?” Tobin asks, putting one of the couch pillows on the coffee table and helping Nata prop up his leg.


“I won’t get to play soccer anymore this summer,” Nata says in place of a traditional answer, but it’s an answer Tobin understands completely.


“I’m sorry, Nata. I know how upsetting that is. It was during the offseason when I hurt my leg, but I was still upset I wasn’t able to train for almost two months.”


“You broke your leg?”


“Close,” Tobin answers, reaching for the TV remote from the coffee table. “I broke my ankle a few years ago. It was awful.”


Nata is quiet for a few moments while Tobin flips through the channels and tries to find a soccer game or movie worth watching. Once she’s settled on Tangled, which she knows is one of Nata’s favorites, he finally speaks up.


“So you broke your ankle and you were still really good at soccer afterwards?”


“Of course,” Tobin tells him. “Are you worried you won’t be good anymore?”


“I don’t know,” he says with a shrug that says he’s definitely worried.


“You’ll be fine, buddy. I promise. Once your legs heals you’ll be back out on the field like nothing ever happened.”


That answer seems to appease Nata. He leans into Tobin’s side and scratches at the top of his cast as they settle in to watch the movie and wait for Christen to get up.


“What’s going on down here?” Christen asks as she comes down the stairs to find balled up socks scattered all over the living room floor. Nata is laying on the couch with his leg propped up, but Tobin is halfway behind the entertainment center. When she hears Christen’s voice, she pops back out, nearly smacking her head on the TV in the process, a blue striped sock in her hand.


“Mama, look! Tobin is teaching me to play sock ball!” Nata emphasizes his words by tossing a sock towards a laundry basket on the other side of the room where it bounces off the wall behind it and then into the basket. There are a few socks that actually managed to get inside, but mostly they’re littered around the floor in front.


“I can see that,” Christen hums as she walks over to the couch. She tries to smile, but it just comes off as a grimace as she expresses her concern for her son. “How are you feeling, sunshine?” She asks as she kneels by the couch and brushes hair out of Nata’s face.


“I’m okay,” Nata dismisses as he tries to move past Christen so he can take another shot. “Look what Tobin did to my cast! Isn’t it so cool?” He asks as if he suddenly remembers the drawings are even there.


Though the plaster is white, barely an inch of it isn’t colored now as it’s split up into three sections of drawings. At the bottom, a blue ocean wraps around Nata’s foot, complete with fish and other sea creatures swimming below the surface. At his ankle where the water ends, there are a few shadows of people surfing in front of a pink and orange sunset. Above that, there’s the basilisk from Harry Potter curling around his calf with the Deathly Hallows symbol, a dragon, Harry’s glasses and scar, a golden snitch and a wand scattered around it. At the top, there’s a stretch of green grass with a soccer field and a tiny dark haired boy in a black and gold jersey kicking a ball towards a goal.


“Wow,” Christen gasps. “I had no idea you could draw like this,” she says, turning to face Tobin who’s now made her way over to join the others.


“It’s nothing,” Tobin shrugs, though she knows it’s much more than that. “I used to draw a lot more in high school, but I’m more into painting now.”


“Nothing? Are you kidding? He’s never going to want to get this cast taken off now.”


“Yeah-huh, Mama. I have to get it off so I can play soccer.” Nata’s tone suggests he’s offended she could ever forget that.


“Soccer isn’t really that important though, is it?” Christen teases. Nata’s eyes go wide like he can’t believe she would ever say such a thing. “Don’t worry, I’m just messing with you.” She leans in and kisses his forehead before standing up. “Does your leg hurt at all? I can get you some medicine if it does.”


“I’m okay,” Nata replies, ducking around his mom so he can throw another sock, clearly more concerned with the game than he is his leg at the moment.


“Okay, well let me know if it starts hurting. I’ll be in the kitchen making you some soup, all right?” The only response she gets is a quick nod before Nata gives his full focus to sinking his next shot. Christen takes Tobin by the hand and pulls her towards the kitchen.


“Don’t worry about the socks, I’ll clean them all up. It’s just something I used to play when my ankle was broken so I didn’t get bored. I thought it might cheer him up,” Tobin says.


“Clearly it did, he barely even acknowledged me when I told him I was making his favorite soup.” Christen stops in her tracks when she notices the laundry folded on the table. “Did you do that?”


“Yeah, I tried to stay busy while you guys were napping so you wouldn’t have so much to worry about.”


Christen turns around with a soft smile on her face. “What else did you do?”


Tobin blushes like she’s been caught doing something she shouldn’t. “I may have set up the guest room and bathroom for him, but I’m sure there’s more you’ll want to do. I moved some things around so it would be easier for him to get around with his crutches. I cleaned a little, but honestly you keep this place so immaculate there really wasn’t much to do.”


“Tobin, you didn’t have to do all that.”


“I know, but I wanted to. You’ve had a crazy day and I figured the less you had to worry about when you woke up, the better.”


Christen tilts her head down to kiss Tobin, holding her tightly against her with two strong arms wrapped around her shoulders. “You’re amazing,” Christen whispers.


“You know, I’ve actually thought that for years now, but it’s great to finally get recognized for it,” Tobin grins, sarcasm dripping from her voice.


Christen rolls her eyes and playfully pushes her away while she mumbles, “you’re ridiculous.” She moves behind the kitchen counter and says, “you got a lot done, how long was I asleep for?”


“Like four hours, I think?”


There’s a flash of panic that crosses over Christen’s face. “Four hours? Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I haven’t napped like that since…well, since a really long time.” She’s quiet for a moment until the panic finally subsides from her face. She shakes her head and just like that, she’s back in the moment, smiling softly at Tobin. “You didn’t have to stay here that long, I’m sure you’ve got other things to be doing.”


“Honey, don’t worry about it. I’m happy to be here, okay?”


Christen curls her fingers in Tobin’s direction until she walks towards her so Christen can wrap her arms around her waist. “You’re too good to me, Tobin Heath.”


“I wish I could be better, Christen Press.”


“Stop trying to one up me!” Christen laughs, smacking Tobin’s arm. “I’m trying to express my gratitude and you’re being a flirt like usual.”


“I’m sorry, I can’t help it.” Tobin winks and kisses Christen’s forehead before she pulls away. “What can I do? You know I suck at cooking anything other than breakfast, but I want to help.”


“You’ve done enough. You can head home if you need to, I didn’t mean for you to be here all day.”


“I’d like to stay if that’s cool.”


Christen looks at Tobin curiously, her head cocked to one side just like she did at the hospital earlier when she realized Tobin had taken care of the paper work and made sure the best doctor possible was taking care of Nata, but the expression fades quickly and is replaced with a bright smile. “Of course you can stay, but I don't want you helping anymore, you've done enough.”


“I think I might go shower if that's cool. I didn't get the chance to after practice.”


Christen glares at her and says in a teasing voice, “that's so not fair suggesting a shower when you know I can't join you.”


Tobin kisses her pouting lips and pulls away with a grin. “I mean, you technically could. It's not like Nata can get back upstairs to catch us.”


Christen just rolls her eyes and pushes Tobin away. “Go shower, I'll have food ready when you're finished. You've got some clothes in my second dresser drawer.”


“You gave me a dresser drawer?” Tobin asks, grinning at how domestic that is. She's never shared a drawer with anyone other than Lauren when they shared an apartment with Amy in college, but that was just because Lauren’s dresser wasn't big enough and Tobin didn't nearly fill her own.


“No, I gave you a third of a drawer. You know there's no way I'd ever be able to consolidate all my clothes enough to give you a full drawer.” Christen grins sheepishly, having been teased by Tobin countless times over how many clothes she has.


“Well, it's the thought that counts I guess,” Tobin says as she kisses Christen’s cheek. “Try not to get too distracted thinking of me all naked and wet and soapy up in the shower, all alone,” she whispers in her ear before jumping away to avoid being smacked by the dish towel Christen grabs off the counter.


“You're so mean,” Christen groans, pouting hard.


Despite his nap, Nata starts to drift off soon after they eat dinner. He’s curled into Tobin’s side with his leg propped up in Christen’s lap as Tangled plays for the third time that night when he starts snoring softly. However, it isn’t until the third time Christen suggests she take him to bed that he’s too gone to protest.


Tobin turns off the TV and opens the door to Nata’s temporary room, pulling back the sheets so Christen can lay him down. Christen is tedious as she fluffs a pillow and angles it perfectly under his leg. She leaves her old phone on the bedside table, the one with only hers and her parents’ numbers in it and no internet access that she lets him have on the weekends he’s away because he says he can’t sleep without hearing Christen tell him ‘goodnight.’ Christen tells him it’s there and to call if he needs her, but he’s already too deep in sleep to acknowledge her.


After they both kiss him goodnight on the forehead and Tobin closes the door softly, Christen takes her by the hand and pulls her up towards her room. Once there, she wraps her arms around her tightly and tucks her head under her chin.


“Has anyone ever told you you’re great in a crisis?” Christen asks.


“My mom said I was great at cheering up my brother after his hamster died when he was eight, but other than that, no,” Tobin says.


Christen scoffs out a laugh and pulls back so she can look at Tobin. “Well, you should know that you are. Seriously, I don’t even know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t been here with me today. You’re so good with him.”


“He’s a good kid,” Tobin shrugs. “He makes it easy for me.”


“Tobin, I’m serious,” Christen insists, her voice dropping in pitch and becoming steady as she emphasizes her point. “He’s never gotten along so easily with someone so quickly; not even me. He was so good with me in Puerto Rico, but he barely spoke to me the first two weeks after I brought him home and it took him a month before he’d even make eye contact with my parents. Not with you, though. He’s warmed up to you so easily and it really means a lot to me how good you are with him.”


“He’s important to me,” Tobin tells her. “And it’s not just because he’s your kid and if I want to date you I want him to like me. He’s a really cool kid. He’s smart and he’s polite. You’ve done such a good job raising him and I really enjoy hanging out with him.”


“It’s not just with him, though. You’re really good with me too. You took care of everything at the hospital and you called in your own doctor and everything. I was an absolute mess and you were so good at calming me down.”


“I just want to do anything I can to be good enough for you,” Tobin says, her voice shy.


“Is that what you think, that you aren’t good enough for me?” Christen brings a hand up to rest against Tobin’s neck, her thumb reaching up to rub at Tobin’s clenched jaw until it starts to relax under her touch.


“I don’t know,” Tobin shrugs, her eyes focused on a loose thread on Christen’s shirt so she doesn’t need to look at her eyes. “You’re just so good and I’m…I don’t know.”


“You’re what? You’re not good? Tobin, just because you slept around before me and haven’t ever had a long term relationship, that doesn’t mean you aren’t good. Your dating life has nothing to do with your worth as a person. You’re so much better than you think and it breaks my heart to know you don’t realize how truly special you are.”


Tobin swallows hard. She closes her eyes to try and keep back her tears. She’s never had someone try so hard to convince her of her worth. People have spoken highly of her before, but they’ve never taken the time to make sure she believes what they say. With Christen, though, it’s more important that Tobin understands what she’s saying that it is what her actual words are.


Tobin wants to tell her she loves her, the words are right there on the tip of her tongue, but she can’t get them to pass her lips. “Thank you,” she says instead, hoping Christen understands what it is she’s really saying based on the tear that manages to find its way past her eyelid.


She must get it because she reaches up to wipe the tear away with a thumb and then kisses the same spot. “You don’t have to thank me, but you’re welcome,” Christen says gently.


Tobin sniffles and blinks a couple times to rid herself of any more tears, then she swallows hard to steel herself for what she’s about to say, something she probably should’ve told Christen about awhile ago. “While on the topic of my dating life, though, you should know while I haven’t technically been in a relationship before, there kind of was someone I was involved with for a while. I don’t know why I’ve never told you about this before, it’s not like it’s something I think about often, but I guess I just figured you should know.”


“The blonde from France?”


Tobin’s eyes jerk up from Christen’s shoulder to meet her eyes. “Wait, you know about that? How?”


“Tobin, you don’t talk about relationships like a person who’s never been in one. You talk about them like someone who’s been hurt by one.”


“Why didn’t you ever say anything?”


Christen shrugs, showing she isn’t too fazed by the situation. “I figured if it was something that needed to be talked about then you would bring it up.”


“How did you know it was Laure?”


Christen bristles a little at hearing her name, but she doesn’t let it stop her from answering. “I didn’t for sure. I saw the picture in your apartment and just assumed. Do you want to talk about her?”


“There really isn’t a lot to say. We started hooking up when I played in France. We were close for the few months I was there, but once the season ended, so did we. That’s really all there is.”


“What if you had stayed another season? Do you think you guys would have become something more than just a fling?” Christen’s tone suggests she isn’t just asking because she’s curious or jealous and wants to know for selfish reasons. It’s almost like she’s asking because she thinks talking about it will be good for Tobin and so she’s encouraging her to open up.


“They offered me a contract for another season, actually, but I turned them down. Kelley thinks it’s because I was too afraid to get any closer to Laure.”


“And what do you think?” Christen asks.


“I think she’s right,” Tobin admits for the first time ever. “Things with my dad kind of messed up relationships for me and it was so soon after everything with the national team that I was in a vulnerable place. I guarded my heart more than I really needed to. I know if I’d stayed another season she would’ve gotten through to me and I wasn’t ready for that yet.”


“And are you ready for it now? With me?”


“I’m still here aren’t I?” Tobin smirks.


“Yes, yes you are.”


They get ready for bed slowly, both still tired from the day despite their naps. They brush their teeth side-by-side and then Tobin gets into bed and scrolls through her phone while Christen washes her face and changes into shorts instead of her sweatpants.


When she comes out of the bathroom, Christen drops her sweatpants onto a pile of clothes at the end of her bed instead of the laundry basket Tobin knows she has in her closet. It isn’t the first time the uncharacteristic behavior has caught Tobin’s attention, she’s noticed it a couple times over the past couple weeks, but she hasn’t said anything yet. Tonight, though, Tobin decides to bring it up.


“Hey babe,” Tobin says as she turns off her phone screen and setting it on the nightstand. “Are you feeling okay?”


“Yeah,” Christen says, dragging out the word to show her confusion. “I’m fine. Why would you think I wasn’t?”


“You’ve just seemed a little off lately. You get tired more easily and you seem a little distant, I guess? Plus, I think you’re starting a depression pile, so I just wanted to check.”


“A what?” Christen asks with a confused laugh.


“A depression pile, I read about them. I think there’s a technical term for it, but I can’t really remember what it is. But basically, it’s like when you don’t have the energy to put clothes and other things away so you just kind of pile them all together like you’re doing at the end of the bed,” Tobin explains.


Christen goes quiet as she looks at the pile in question. She picks up the pair of sweatpants she just dropped there and folds them quickly, but then she drops them right back. “I hadn’t even noticed,” she says with a defeated sigh, like she’s been trying to deny how she feels and it’s finally all caught up to her. “I guess maybe I have been feeling a little weird lately.” She moves to sit next to Tobin on the bed, but then she stops mid-step. “Wait, you read it?”


“Yeah, my uh…my brother-in-law’s best friend is a nurse practitioner and he recommended a really helpful book for me to read. I don’t really know a lot about depression and I wanted to educate myself so I can help you whenever you need it. I just wanted to be more aware in case the time came that it would be useful.”


“You read a book on depression for me?” Christen asks in disbelief, finally sitting down on the bed and scooting closer to Tobin so she can take her hands, holding them up against her heart.


“Of course. I told you, I just want to be as good for you as I can be.” Tobin’s blushing despite how hard she’s trying not to.


She doesn’t even know what made her call Aaron to ask for book recommendations. She still had his number leftover from wedding planning, but she hasn’t used it in years. A few days after Christen told her about her depression, though, she just picked up the phone and called.


It hadn’t been an easy book to read, it made her stomach churn thinking about Christen having to go through any of that. Christen hasn’t told her any of the dirty details of what her episodes are like for her, but if the one in college was bad enough she needed to ask for help, then Tobin can only imagine. All she wants to do is protect Christen and keep her safe from anything that could possibly hurt her, but she can’t fight this off. She’s powerless against it and she hates it. That’s why she wanted to understand it as best she could, in hopes that it would somehow help her with Christen should the time come.


The way she’s been acting lately, she feels like it could be coming soon.


“No one’s ever read a book like that for me before. I mean, my parents read a few articles online after I was diagnosed, but nothing like this.” Christen leans in slowly, taking one of her hands away from Tobin’s so she can hold her face lightly, nudging her forward so she can kiss her. It starts out soft, but turns intense after a few as Christen tries to get as close to Tobin as possible. She’s a little breathless when she pulls away and says, “there’s something I want to show you.”


Christen pushes herself away from Tobin and off the bed. She opens up the bottom drawer of her nightstand and pulls out a book that has an absurd amount of brightly colored sticky notes marking certain pages. Even with the book closed, Tobin can see the highlighter stains on the edge of the pages. The spine is cracked and the front cover can’t even stay closed because of the way it’s curled open. Christen hands the book to Tobin and her throat tightens once she’s able to read the cover.


“Soccer for Dummies?” Tobin says with a small, grateful laugh. She thumbs through the pages and sees Christen’s familiar, impeccable handwriting along the margins in a variety of different colors of ink. The one that catches her eye as she skims through the pages is a section that’s breaking down the different positions. Above the paragraph describing a left winger, Christen has written Tobin’s name with several hearts all around it. Tobin feels like her heart is about to beat its way out of her throat. “You read all this?” She asks in disbelief, amazed at the dedication Christen has clearly shown to try and understand the sport Tobin loves so much.


“Cover-to-cover like three times,” Christen confirms with a nod.


“So our second date was a total scam, then?”


“Oh no, I really had no idea what was happening that night. I didn’t read the book until a couple nights after that, actually, but I bought it awhile before that.” Christen’s smile turns sheepish as she realizes what she just said, her eyes moving down from Tobin’s to land on the book.


“When did you get it?” Tobin asks with a cocked eyebrow, curious at the confession and more importantly, Christen’s reaction to it. “We’d only known each other for a few weeks at that point.”


Christen lets out a drawn out sigh, almost as if she’s trying to buy herself more time to come up with an out, but eventually, she gives in and says, “I’ll tell you, but you have to promise not to tease me about it.”


“Why would I tease you?”


“Just promise me you won’t,” Christen insists.


“Okay, okay,” Tobin relents, the anticipation nearly killing her at this point. “I promise I won’t tease you over it.”


“I bought it the day after we met,” Christen confesses. “I was walking through the bookstore and I just so happened to find myself in the sports section as I was trying to find the travel section. For some reason, I looked over at this one shelf and this bright yellow book was staring right at me. I walked past it at first, telling myself I had no business buying it, but something made me go back before I left and added it to my basket. I told myself I was buying it because of Nata, but that’s just because I didn’t want to admit it was for you. By the time I got home, I’d worked myself up so much I felt like a stalker for buying it. I mean, just because I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about you didn’t mean you even gave me a second thought. You’re a big time soccer player and ridiculously hot. Why would you waste your time on me?”


“You thought I wasn’t interested?” Tobin scoffs. “I tripped over my own feet and my words like a dozen times within the span of the ten minutes we were around each other. I fell hard on sight.”


“Well, you may not have noticed, but like 80% of my time is spent doubting myself.”


“Now that you mention it, I had noticed,” Tobin says sarcastically. “Which brings me back to my original point. Are you sure you’re okay? I’ve been worried about you for a few days, honestly, but I figured I wouldn’t say anything until you asked for help.”


“Honestly? I haven’t been feeling the greatest lately,” Christen admits. She flinches when Tobin’s hand reaches out for hers, but then she turns her hand over so she can hold Tobin’s. “It comes it waves. I spend a lot of the time trying to convince myself I’m fine and so I don’t realize it when I’m not.”


“I don’t want you doing that, okay? If something feels off, even if it’s just a little bit, I want to know as long as you feel comfortable enough telling me. I don’t want you to feel like you’re bothering or inconveniencing me or anything like that because you aren’t. If you need help, I want to be here. I loved being able to help you out today, knowing that you depend on me. Even if you just need help around the house or getting Nata out of your hair for a few hours or even just lying in bed and binge watching Netflix all day. Whatever I can do to make it better, I want to do it.”


“Thank you,” Christen whispers, kissing Tobin’s forehead. She gets that same look on her face from earlier, like she’s got something inside that’s eating away at her, wanting to find a way out. This time, though, Christen doesn’t try to quell it. She takes a deep breath and then says, “Tobin, I want to tell you something, but I don’t want to freak you out.”


Tobin swallows, not sure where Christen’s going with this, but wanting to be as dependable as she just told Christen she could be. “You won’t freak me out,” she says as confidently as she can manage.


Christen’s grip on Tobin’s hand tightens. “You say that, but I just need to make sure, okay? I don’t want to mess things up.”


“Chris, I’m okay. You won’t mess anything up,” Tobin assures her. “Just tell me what’s going on.”


Christen sucks in a deep breath and holds it for a moment, like she knows as soon as she lets it out, everything will change. After a few agonizingly slow seconds, she barely parts her lips to let out the breath and then she says, “Tobin, I love you.”


The pause after that feels even longer than the one before it even though Tobin’s pretty sure it’s only a second or two. Tobin’s never heard those words from anyone other than family members or friends or the fans that scream it at her after games.


None of them have ever meant it like this, though.


None of them have ever said the words quietly and in a rush like if they don’t get it out now, they never will.


None of them have ever let their eyes dance across Tobin’s face, looking for any sort of sign that they just messed things up forever.


None of them have ever tightened their grip on her hand like it will keep her present in the moment and not let her mind run wild like it’s trying so desperately to.


None of them have ever smiled softly like Christen does now and followed up their confession with, “I don’t want you to think you have to say it back. I don’t need you to. I know it’s a big deal for you, so please don’t feel pressured to say it until you’re ready. I’m not going to start saying it every day or anything, either, I just needed to do it once for now. I wanted you to know. I needed you to know, but not just for me. I feel like it isn’t something you hear enough and I wanted you to know just how important you are to me. I was pretty sure I felt this way before today, but today just confirmed it for me. You handled everything so well and you never wavered once.” Christen pauses long enough for a look of panic to settle across her face. “Oh shit, I totally just ruined everything, didn’t I?”


“No, no, no,” Tobin rushes out, bringing her other hand to rest on Christen’s knee so she can’t move away. “Nothing’s wrong, I just…I think I know how I feel, but like you said it’s a big deal for me, and I’m sure for you too, so I just want to be completely sure before I say it. Is that okay?”


“Of course it’s okay!” Christen says with a bit too much enthusiasm, clearly thrilled she didn’t royally screw anything up and by the fact that Tobin all but said she loves her back. “I want you to wait until you’re ready. Totally no pressure at all, I promise.”


“Would it be totally cliche for me to say ‘thank you’ right now?” Tobin asks with a laugh, feeling downright giddy at the moment and not knowing what else to say.


“Not if you keep grinning at me like that when you say it,” Christen smirks.


Tobin hadn’t even realized how hard she’s been smiling, but suddenly her cheeks are aching and she can’t seem to remember how to control her muscles to make it stop. If anything, the realization only makes her smile wider. She leans in and presses that smile against Christen’s lips, pushing forward until she’s on top of Christen, her legs laying comfortably between Christen’s.


“Thank you,” Tobin says, a quick kiss after both words. “Family love, friend love, that’s one thing, but this feels really, really nice.”


Like the flip of a switch, Christen’s eyes turn dark and her grip on Tobin’s ribs tightens, pulling her upper body down against hers. “Show me how nice it feels,” she says in a voice so low and raspy that Tobin can feel it in her gut.


“What about Nata?” She asks in a whisper.


In all the times that Tobin has stayed over in the past month, they’ve never once had sex with him in the house. They’ve come close a few times, but they’ve always pressed the brakes before they could cross any lines.


Based on the way Christen’s looking at her, though, she’s already cut out the brakes before they’ve even pressed ‘go.’


“Like you said, it’s not like he can make it back up the stairs.”


That seems to be the only explanation Christen plans on offering as she surges up to meet Tobin’s lips and suddenly Tobin is powerless to stop things.


Tobin comes with Christen’s hand between her legs and her lips whispering ‘I love you’ right against her ear.


She swears she sees stars burst to life on Christen’s ceiling.


The next day, Tobin stops by her apartment after training to shower and grab some clothes before she heads back over to Christen’s, but when she steps through the front door, she sees Christen is already there waiting for her.


“Hey, what are you doing here?” She asks before she’s able to take in the way Christen’s standing. Her arms are crossed over her chest, her eyes are narrowed and something about the way she’s furiously tapping her foot scares Tobin. She’s clearly on the defense about something and Tobin has no idea what. “Honey, what’s wrong?


“What the hell did you do?” Christen asks through gritted teeth.


Tobin has no idea what she’s talking about, but she does know that she clearly fucked up.