Tobin slowly drops her training bag from her shoulder to the floor, tilting her head to the side and squinting at Christen as she tries to catch up to whatever’s going on. “I'm gonna need a little more context because I have no idea what this is about,” Tobin says eventually.
She tries to run through a list in her head of all the things she could've done to piss Christen off, but she's at a complete loss. The only thing she can think of is when she moved stuff around at the house to help Nata get around. Maybe she messed with Christen’s system or something, but she told Christen about that and she was appreciative.
She's completely out of ideas.
Christen narrows her eyes like she's annoyed Tobin doesn't even realize what's such a big deal. “You paid entirely for Nata’s medical bill by claiming to be his parent,” she scoffs out. “I called today to figure out how much I needed to pay and they told me it was paid in full by his mom. Why the hell would you do that? This isn't your place.”
Tobin raises her hands up, palms out to show Christen she isn't looking for a fight even though that's clearly what Christen came here for. “Okay, I know this seems like, super controlling or out of line or whatever, but I promise I was going to tell you about this. I just--”
“When were you planning on telling me, Tobin?” Christen interrupts, starting to raise her voice. “After you paid for Nata’s karate lessons? Or hey, maybe you could go ahead and pay for his school too while you're at it. You can just tell them you’re his mom and it should be totally fine, right?”
Tobin bristles at the accusation that Christen thinks Tobin would ever try to do something like that. She's got her reasons for what she did, if Christen would just give her a second to explain, but she would never try to intervene so much in their lives as to try and do that.
“Chris, I wouldn't do that, come on. I was only--”
“No, you come on!” Christen interrupts yet again, nearly shouting now. “What were you thinking? Why the hell would you assume it would be okay for you to do this?”
“If you would stop interrupting me for two fucking seconds maybe I'd be able to explain!” Tobin nearly shouts, frustrated at the situation and not being able to defend herself.
“Please don't raise your voice at me.”
“You raised your voice at me!” Tobin runs a hand through her hair in frustration, wishing she would've just told Christen what she did from the beginning instead of waiting for the dust to settle after yesterday. She takes a deep breath to make herself calm down, knowing this could get so much worse if she let’s herself get angry. “Can we please just sit down and talk about this?” She asks, as calmly as she can manage.
“What, so you can placate me and try to act like this isn't a big deal because you're Tobin Heath, the famous soccer player and you've got all this money lying around for you to just blow, so of course it's not big deal to pay for some measly medical bill? A couple thousand is just a drop in the bucket for you, right?”
“What the fuck?” Tobin’s jaw drops. She's never seen Christen so pissed off before. She didn't even know Christen could get so angry. More than the shock of the sudden emotions, though, she's pissed that Christen would ever say such a thing about her. Sure she has money, but she's always been sure to make a conscious effort not to let that get to her head and or start thinking she's better than anyone because of it. She hates those kind of people. “Are you kidding me right now? Where is this coming from?”
“It's coming from the fact you just spent thousands of dollars on my son without telling me or even asking if it was okay! You can't just buy people off, Tobin and you don’t get to pretend that Nata is your son!”
She's trying her best to stay calm, she really is, but her hands are shaking and she feels like she's filled with gasoline and one wrong word from Christen is going to make her explode.
“That's not at all what I was trying to do,” Tobin explains, her voice as steady and composed as she can manage. “I would never try to buy you, or anyone else for that matter, off and honestly I'm a little hurt you would even suggest that. And I wasn’t trying to pretend Nata is my son. My intention was--”
“I know what your intention was! You wanted to help out the poor, defenseless single mother who of course can't take care of her son on her own. So you had to step in and handle things all on your own and look like the hero to everyone so you can pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you did this great thing. Well guess what, Tobin? You fucked up. This isn't your place. I don't need you and I definitely don't need your help!”
Tobin flinches at that last line. One of the things she’s loved about being with Christen is feeling like she’s needed. Obviously Christen can take care of herself too, Tobin knows that and she respects her so much for that, but she’s liked being depended on. Knowing Christen trusted her enough to call her first after Nata broke his leg meant so much to her. But now to have that thrown back in her face? Tobin can’t stay calm anymore. She can tell by the way Christen turns suddenly small that she regrets what she said, but Tobin doesn't give her the chance to take it back. Not yet.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about!” Tobin shouts. “Sure, maybe I over stepped, and I’m sorry for that but I wasn’t trying to keep anything from you. You had a stressful day and I was just trying to make things as easy for you as possible for as long as I could. I was going to tell you at dinner tonight about it and also tell you that I’ve already talked to my sister and she helped me work out a payment plan since I knew you would want to pay me back completely.”
“But nothing! I wasn’t trying to look like a hero! I was just trying to take away some of the burden for a day or two until you felt better. You were so scared yesterday and money was the last thing you should’ve been worrying about. Dr. Kim doesn’t exactly come cheap and the only reason he was Nata’s doctor is because I wanted him to be so I didn’t want you to have to see that ridiculous bill the day after you were so upset. So yeah, I said Nata was mine so they would let me pay and fill out the paperwork so you wouldn’t have to worry about it, but Christen you know me better than to think it was anything more than that. I was just trying to help but apparently that was my mistake for thinking you needed me at all. My bad.”
“Tobin…” Christen sighs. “It’s just that--”
“And another thing,” Tobin interrupts, giving Christen a taste of her own medicine. “I can’t believe you would ever suggest I think you’re some defenseless single mother who can’t take care of herself and her son. I really thought you knew me better than that, but apparently not.”
“Tobin, I didn’t mean it like that. I--”
“I know exactly what you meant!” Tobin snaps. “You think I’m manipulative and have a hero complex and that I don’t respect you enough to let you take care of your own kid. You think I’m controlling and you’ve made it very clear you don’t need me.”
“That’s not true,” Christen pleads. She tries to cross the distance between them, clearly regretting what she said in the heat of the moment, but Tobin takes a quick step away from her. “Tobin,” she says, her voice soft and unsteady.
“I’d like you to leave.”
Christen’s face fall and her voice cracks as she asks, “what?”
“Chris, I’m pissed off right now and I don’t want to say something to you that I can’t take back. You should know a thing or two about that, right?” Her voice is acidic and the words burn her tongue on the way out but she can’t hold them in.
“Tobin, I’m worried if I leave then I won’t be able to fix this and that scares me.”
It’s the first tear that starts to fall from Christen’s eyes that almost makes Tobin’s resolve fade and take Christen in her arms and forgive her for everything she said.
She does, however, take a step closer and kiss Christen on the forehead quickly. “We’ll be okay, I promise,” Tobin tells her even though she doesn’t necessarily believe it right now. Later, she’ll mean what she’s saying, but right now she just wants time to be angry and calm down. “I just need some time, okay?”
“I’m sorry,” Christen whines, biting her bottom lip to stop it from trembling.
“I know,” is all Tobin says before she steps back away from Christen and opens the front door, not really giving Christen any option but to leave. “I’ll call you when I’m ready to talk, okay?”
She’s reluctant, but eventually she nods and walks towards the open door. She hesitates before she actually walks across the threshold and then surges forward to kiss Tobin on the lips, just for a moment, before she pulls away and walks down the hallway without turning back.
Tobin waits until she sees Christen get on the elevator before she slams her door closed and swears loudly.
That’s the first time they’ve really fought. Sure, they’ve had a couple small arguments over dumb things like Christen refusing to turn the subtitles on when Tobin asks her to because she finds them distracting or Tobin accidentally breaking one of Christen’s flower pots with a stray soccer ball after Christen asked her repeatedly to be careful.
But they’ve never fought like this. They’ve never yelled at each other. They’ve never let themselves say things simply for the sake of hurting each other and trying to get the upperhand in the conversation.
Tobin wants to chase after Christen and take everything back, she even goes so far as to open her front door again, but she stops herself before she can step out into the hall. She needs to cool off; they both do.
She tells herself she’ll call Christen when she’s ready to talk.
She just wishes she knew when that will be.
Tobin can't remember a time she felt so awful. She doesn't know what she used to do before Christen was in her life. Since the very first day Christen texted her, they haven't gone a single day without talking. Even if it's just a couple of texts throughout a busy day, they're constantly in communication.
She doesn't talk about it with Kelley, but she knows her friend can sense something is off. She's more persistent than usual about trying to get her to hang out after practice, but luckily Tobin is able to find a way out of it.
When Lauren and Amy show up at her door the evening after the fight with a bottle of wine and entire series of The OC on DVD--something they haven't watched since college--Tobin knows it's Kelley’s doing. She invites them in, not that she really has a choice with them, but she doesn't talk about Christen. They try to bring it up, but she slips away from answering every time, changing the subject as smoothly as possible until they learn to just leave it alone.
The nights are the worst. During the day she's able to distract herself with prolonged training sessions or surfing until she’s the last one in the water. At night, though, she can't escape it. She's gotten so used to sleeping next to Christen that the left side of her bed feels cold and empty. She'll stare up at the plastic stars on her ceiling until they start to blur together and then she'll force her eyes closed until eventually she falls asleep. In the mornings, she'll roll over and feel her stomach drop when she stretches her arm across the bed and doesn't meet the warmth of Christen’s back.
She runs until her legs barely move and she practices her shooting until her muscles carry out the motions without her even having to tell them to.
She almost texts Christen once.
She's settling down for bed on the second night and her heart hurts so badly she doesn't even care about the things Christen said to her or the things she said back. She just wants to hold her. So she picks up her phone and clicks on her thread with Christen only to see the little ellipses in the bottom corner that tells her Christen is in the midst of texting her. She closes out if the message as soon as she can and throws her phone across the bed, hating that she got caught.
She never picks up her phone again that night.
And whatever text Christen was planning on sending never comes through.
She isn't sure what the text says. She isn't sure what she even wants it to say, but after a full two minutes of staring at the phone letting her mind run wild with all the possibilities, it vibrates again in quick succession with two more messages and Tobin’s reaching for the phone before the second vibration is even over.
[Christen <3: 10:12 AM]
Can we call a truce for today?
[Christen <3: 10:14 AM]
[Christen <3: 10:14 AM]
I really need you today
Tobin’s up off the couch, slipping on shoes and grabbing her car keys before she can even finish typing out a response. Whatever is going on between them, Christen’s clearly upset over something and Tobin isn't going to let her stubbornness prevent her from being a good girlfriend right now.
[Tobin: 10:15 AM]
I'm on my way
The second weird thing she notices once she's let herself inside with the spare key Christen gave her is the mess. It's not really much of a mess but considering Christen’s usual cleanliness standards, it's a disaster. There's an open bag of chips and three empty Gatorade bottles scattered on the coffee table in the living room. Nata’s got two changes of dirty clothes rumpled and tossed behind the couch on the way to the kitchen. The blinds are closed, making the place seem so much darker than it really is and the familiar vacuum treads from Christen’s daily vacuuming sessions are missing from the carpet.
Nata lifts his head up from the couch when he hears Tobin come in and he grins when he sees her, but it's subdued compared to his usual greetings. “Hey, Tobin,” he says in a sleepy voice.
“Dude, did you sleep on the couch?”
“Yeah,” she says, almost sheepish. “Mama is having a sad day so I wanted to be close to the stairs when she came down.”
“Has she not been downstairs yet this morning?”
“She came down this morning and made me some cereal and put on some cartoons. She just went back upstairs a little bit ago.”
Something must really be wrong for Christen to be acting like this. Tobin feels so guilty, like it's her fault for this whole stupid fight that's made Christen so upset she can barely even get out if bed. If she would've just told Christen about paying the bill the day it happened then she wouldn't even need to be cleaning up this stupid mess she made.
“I’ll go check on her,” Tobin says as starts for the stairs. Just before she goes up though, she stops and looks back at Nata. “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”
Nata doesn’t even hesitate before he says, “I just want Mama to feel better.”
Tobin nods and starts up the stairs before Nata can see the tears that spring to her eyes at the sincerity of his words.
She knocks on Christen’s door gently and pushes it open a second later after not hearing a response. The room is as dark as she's ever seen it and Christen is sitting on the floor with her back against the foot of her bed, her knees pulled to her chest and head buried in her hands.
“Sweetheart,” Tobin says softly, walking towards her. She lowers herself onto the floor. Christen flinches when their shoulders brush, but then she turns and buries her face in Tobin’s neck. Her breaths fall in short, uneven bursts on Tobin’s skin like she's on the verge of tears. “Honey, what's wrong?” She asks, stroking Christen’s hair until her fingers catch on a knot and she decides rubbing her back is better.
“It's not a good day,” Christen mumbles, her voice so quiet Tobin can barely make the words out. She snakes an arm across Tobin’s stomach and holds on tight, like she’s afraid if she lets go she’ll just drift away.
“What do you need me to do, Chris?” Tobin asks without hesitation. If Christen wanted to talk about how she was feeling right now, then she would have. She’s obviously not in a good place and Tobin knows enough about her to know what’s going on right now. The depression that Tobin was worried about creeping up on her the past few days has finally reared its ugly head and Christen’s helpless against it.
Tobin wants to feel guilty, she wants to blame herself for making things even worse for Christen, but that’s selfish. She knows now isn’t the time to feel those things. Right now, she just needs to take care of Christen and help her in any way that she can.
“Can you take Nata for the day?” Christen asks, gasping afterwards like it’s taking everything in her to be able to speak. “I feel like such an awful mom asking, but I just…I can’t today Tobin, I can’t.”
“Hey, hey, stop it,” Tobin says. She reaches up and brushes Christen’s messy hair out of her face, brushing a thumb across her cheek. “You are not a bad mom, okay? You admitting that you can’t take care of him today makes you the best mom because you’re putting him first. Of course I’ll take him.”
“I hate inconveniencing you.”
“You’re not. I’m happy to help you however I can, but are you going to be okay here on your own?”
“I’ll be fine,” Christen insists, pressing the softest of kisses to Tobin’s skin. “You taking care of him today will really help me be able to take care of myself.”
“Of course,” Tobin whispers. “Chris, I’m so sorry about the other day.”
“Stop it, this isn’t your fault, I promise. This was always going to happen. That’s the thing about depression, you can’t really stop it once it decides to show up. The medicine can only do so much, you know?” Christen tries to give a sarcastic smile, but it’s shaky and falls from her lips after just a moment. “We’ll talk about it later, okay?”
“Okay,” Tobin agrees. “Have you eaten anything today?”
Christen’s reluctant to answer, like she doesn't want Tobin to know how bad it is, but the way she shakes her head tells Tobin it's been way longer than she's going to admit since the last time she did eat.
“If I make you some eggs or something will you eat them before I leave, please?”
Christen almost rolls her eyes, showing how much she hates being taken care of, but then she nods. “Yeah, okay,” she mumbles.
“And when’s the last time you took your meds?”
“Tobin,” Christen whines, moving away so there's a bit of space between them. “I'm fine, okay? Just take care of Nata today, please. That's all I need from you.”
Tobin knows if she keeps pushing the subject she's risking another fight about her overstepping her bounds, but this is important, so it's worth the risk.
“Christen, babe, you are so clearly not fine right now,” Tobin says, blunt. “But that's okay. It's perfectly all right to not be fine 100% of the time, but when you're not, I need you to be honest with me and know that it's okay to ask for help. I get if you're embarrassed or whatever, but you don't need to be with me. I just want to make sure you're okay before I leave, so please just let me do that.”
Christen’s voice is small when she says, “I took them yesterday.”
“But not today?”
Christen shakes her head and then lays it on Tobin’s shoulder, breathing a deep sigh of relief at the feeling of Tobin’s skin on hers again.
“I'll go downstairs and make you some breakfast and set your pills out. How about you change your clothes and then I'll bring everything up? Sound good?”
Christen nods, letting the slow hand she moves across Tobin’s stomach be all the answer Tobin needs. They sit that way--quiet, still--for a couple more moments before Tobin kisses Christen’s head and then moves to stand up.
“I'll be right back, okay pretty girl?” She smiles softly at Christen, pushing hair out of her face so she can see those bright green eyes she loves so much.
“I don't feel very pretty right now,” Christen mumbles.
“You're beautiful right now,” Tobin insists. “You always are.” Tobin kisses her lips quickly and then leaves the room, closing the door gently so Christen can change.
Tobin makes her way downstairs and the first thing she notices is that Nata’s not on the couch. She barely has a second to wonder where he is before there's the clattering sound of something falling from the kitchen and Tobin rushes in, sure he's just fallen over his crutches. Nata’s not the one on the floor, but his crutches are still to blame. He's standing in front of the medicine cabinet, one of his crutches stretched up to the high shelf where Christen keeps all the medicine. Nata’s tongue is poking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration as he tries to nudge a little orange bottle off the shelf. He's almost got it when the crutch slips and several more bottles fall than he intended, just barely missing him on the way down.
“Hey Natanael, let me get those.” Tobin steps into the kitchen and kneels down to pick up all the bottles that have fallen. “Does your leg hurt? Do you need something for the pain?” Tobin asks, assuming that's what he was trying to get and didn't want to be a bother by asking. He takes after his mother so much.
“It's not for me,” Nata says. “Mama didn't take her medicine this morning and she always does. I was trying to get it for her, but it's too high.” He starts to lift up a crutch again, but Tobin reaches out a hand to stop it.
Tobin swallows the lump in her throat that forms as she sees the determined look on Nata’s face. He's so young, but he's so aware of what Christen is going through. Maybe he doesn't understand it, but he knows enough to sense when things aren't right and wants to do all he can to help. Honestly, Tobin has a hard time believing he's only six years old.
“Careful, let me get it.” Her throat is tight, but she manages to force the words out as she reaches up to get the two little orange bottles she knows are Christen’s from seeing her take them so many mornings. She sets them on the counter and then turns to Nata, leaning down a little so she's more level with him. “How would you like hanging out with me today? You can come to training with me and then maybe we’ll go see a movie or something. How does that sound?”
There's a flicker of excitement on his face, but then his eyes narrow a little as he realizes Christen won't be joining them. “What about Mama?”
“She's going to stay here and hang out. I think it'll be good for her to just relax a little bit, don't you think?” She’s trying to phrase it in the best way possible without it sounding like Christen wants to be alone without him. Nata doesn't seem too worried because after a moment he smiles a little and nods.
“Mama will like that. She likes her quiet time by herself.”
“Exactly, it'll be good for her. How about you go change while I make her some breakfast, okay? Let me know if you need any help.” She straightens back up and starts putting the bottles of medicine that Nata knocked down back on the shelf.
Nata starts to crutch away to his room, but then he turns around with a smile on his face like he just thought of the best idea. “You should make Mama scrambled eggs with cheese and ham. That's her favorite.”
Tobin grins, deciding not to tell Nata that's exactly what she was planning on cooking and letting him think the idea was all his own, charmed again by how in tune he is with his mom. “That's a great idea, dude. I think she'll love those.”
Tobin is helping him get a backpack together of a few things he might need when Christen comes downstairs. Not only is she changed into fresh clothes, but her hair is brushed and up in a bun, showing off her face which is still a little red and damp from being washed. She still looks worn down and exhausted, but she looks more like herself than she did fifteen minutes ago.
“Mama!” Nata hobbles over to her, forgetting his crutches and just hopping on his intact leg. He wraps his arms around her waist and presses his face against her stomach. “I told Tobin to make your favorite eggs for breakfast,” he tells her once he pulls away from the embrace and looks up at her with wide eyes.
“Is that what smells so good?” Christen asks, her lips curling up into the best resemblance of a smile Tobin has seen all morning.
They all make their way into the kitchen and Christen pretends not to notice the way Tobin and Nata both watch her intently as she swallows her pills with some orange juice and then takes a couple bites of her eggs.
“Guys, I'm okay. I promise,” Christen insists after taking another sip of orange juice. “You guys go have fun. I'll be fine.”
Nata looks a little wary, but he walks over and hugs Christen when she holds her arms out and then he heads to the front door like he's trying to give them their privacy while Tobin says goodbye. Yeah, there's no way that kid is actually just six.
Tobin steps up to the barstool Christen is sitting in and stands between her legs, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist. “You sure you're going to be okay on your own today? I could get Amy to take Nata and I'll stay here. Or I could call your mom or one of your sisters.”
“No no, I'm okay, really. I just need a little quiet time to myself.” Christen's arms reach up to snake behind Tobin’s neck and she pulls her down for a kiss, her lips tasting like oranges. “By taking care of Nata you're taking care of me because you're giving me the space to take care of myself.”
“You'll call me if you need anything?”
“Of course. You guys go have fun.” Christen kisses her once more and then reaches down to lift her fork and take another bite of food like she's trying to prove to Tobin just how fine she’ll be.
Tobin is still a little reluctant to leave, but she knows she needs to trust that Christen knows what's best and will be okay. She needs to respect the choice she's makes and not try to push her luck. She already knows how that turned out last time she tried to help and she'd really rather avoid another fight.
So instead of arguing that she should stay, she squeezes Christen’s knee gently and then she picks up Nata’s bag off the floor and heads toward her car.
“Okay, so I've got to go to training for a couple hours, but you'll get to hang out on the sidelines and maybe help out a little too. Sound cool?” Tobin asks Nata on the way to the stadium. He's sitting in the backseat with his leg propped up on the center console with one if Tobin’s many sweatshirts she never cleans out of her car.
“I get to help?” Nata asks with wide eyes.
“Yeah, dude. My coach loves having help. I think you might even get your own whistle and everything.”
“Whoa,” Nata gasps. His face looks shocked, like Tobin just told him he won the lottery or something, which by his standards she probably did.
“Then after that, how about we see what movies are playing and maybe get some pizza or something?”
“That sounds cool,” Nata says, though he sounds a little less enthusiastic than he did just moments ago. “Is Mama gonna be okay?” He asks, changing the pace of the conversation significantly.
“Yeah, she'll be just fine, I promise. She just needs a little rest and she'll be better.” Tobin knows she's maybe downplaying it, but she doesn't really know what else to say. Nata has dealt with Christen’s depression before. She hasn't. A child is more qualified to care for Christen than she is. She knows it's what Nata needs to hear, though.
“Can we bring her flowers home? She really likes flowers.”
“Of course we can,” Tobin grins, flattered at how sweet he is. Christen has done such a great job raising him and Tobin is reminded of that every day. “What kind do you think?” Tobin knows exactly what kind she'd get, but she wants to hear what he has to say.
“Sunflowers,” Nata says without even taking a moment to think. “Those are her favorites.”
Tobin grins. That's the exact same thing she was going to say. “Sunflowers sound perfect. She's going to love them.”
“Can we get her a puppy too?”
Tobin stifles a small laugh. “I think she might get a little mad if we bring home a puppy without asking.”
“Yeah,” Nata sighs. “You're probably right.” He sounds sad, like he was so excited and thought he had a great idea and then realized it wasn't as good as he thought. Tobin hates making him feel so discouraged.
“But how about this,” she says suddenly, the words spilling out before she's really even planned them. “After lunch, we’ll head to the dog park and ask the owners if we can take pictures with the dogs and then you can show those to your mom.”
“Yeah!” Nata shouts excitedly. “She loves pictures of dogs. And pictures of me.” He goes quiet for a moment before he adds, “and pictures of you too,” almost as an afterthought.
That gets Tobin’s attention. She looks up in the rearview mirror to try and get a read on Nata’s face but he's looking out the window so it doesn't help. “She likes pictures of me?” She asks curiously.
“Oh yeah, she's got lots of pictures of you on her phone. She always smiles at them. She said it's because you're important to her.”
Tobin feels a little guilty for continuing to question Nata behind Christen’s back, but she hopes it's harmless enough that it's okay.
“She really said that?”
“Uh-huh,” Nata nods, not understanding the importance of the situation.
“You know,” Tobin says slowly, hoping she isn't overstepping. “Your Mama is really important to me too. And so are you, buddy.”
“Cool,” Nata grins, finally turning from the window and meeting Tobin’s eyes in the mirror. “You're important to me too.”
Tobin doesn't know how to explain the way she feels in that moment. She feels so loved and appreciated and she knows Nata isn't even aware of it. He isn't trying to flatter her, but he is. Christen telling her she didn't need her the other day had really struck a nerve with her even though she knew it wasn't true. To hear Nata say she's important to him and Christen just confirms everything Tobin has been trying to reassure herself of.
“Thank you, Nata. That really means a lot to me.” She waits a moment before asking her next question, not wanting to offend him. “Do you know what important means?”
Nata is quiet for a moment and his eyebrows scrunch up as he thinks about it. It's amazing how similar the expression is to the one Christen makes when she's deep in thought as well. They don't have any blood relation, but yet his mannerisms mirror Christen’s so much Tobin would never know the difference. It's a testament to how observant Nata is, especially when it comes to Christen.
“It means you care about someone a lot,” he finally says. “And you want to share all your snacks with them like when Ryan shared his animal crackers with me. I’d share all my snacks with Mama and you too.” He's smiling as he says this, but then a moment later his face turns serious. “Except my goldfish. You guys have to get your own goldfish because those are my favorite snack.”
Tobin grins at his sincerity, almost wanting to pull over so she can hug him and let him know just how much that means to him. Instead, she reaches her hand back and waits until he reaches out and takes her hand in his. She squeezes gently and smiles as she says, “fair enough. We’ll buy our own goldfish.”
Nata squeezes her hand back and then he drops it, reaching down to scratch at the top of his cast, something he's done increasingly more since he got it. Tobin knows from personal experience it'll only get worse.
“So you really think I'll get my own whistle?” Nata asks suddenly, clearly having his priorities in order and reminding Tobin once again that despite his maturity, he's still a little kid at heart.
Tobin reaches out and tugs at the corner of his shirt, a black LAFC polo with “coach” stitched over the logo in gold letters. It's five sizes too big for him, but he couldn't care less. “Yeah, you had fun?” She asks.
“Totally! You guys were moving so fast! And those shots were all so good! Mallory is so so good. She was spinning around everybody. That was so cool.” He has a dopey grin on his face as he talks, showing Tobin he's still a little dazed.
“Mallory, huh?” Tobin asks with a worked eyebrow. “Do you have a new favorite?”
“No way!” Nata days quickly, looking annoyed Tobin would even like about something like that. “You're always my favorite.”
“Thanks, dude.” Tobin grins as she reaches for his crutches on the back of the golf cart and helps him down. “So Kelley went to get us a pizza and then she's heading back here.”
“Why is she coming back here? I thought practice was over.”
“It is, but I've got something planned for us to do while we eat. But first, we need to get you suited up so when your leg is better you can come join us at practice for real.”
Nata looks over at her curiously, but only for a moment so he can keep his eyes on the ground in front of him so he doesn't trip over his crutches. “What do you mean suited up? I thought that's what this shirt was for.”
“If you thought the shirt was cool then just you wait.”
A few minutes later Nata finds out that Tobin is completely right. He nearly falls her his crutches from trying to jump up and down excitedly when she tells him that the equipment manager, Jason, is going to personalize an LAFC jersey just for Nata.
Nata’s grin nearly breaks his cheeks when Jason holds up the jersey with “Press” printed on the back. He picks out the number 23 because that's his mom’s favorite number since his birthday is on August 23rd and Christen adopted him on October 23rd. He even gets his own shorts with 23 on them as well as a training jacket. Nata can't believe he actually gets to keep it all and despite the humid temperatures, he refuses to take the jacket off as they walk across the parking lot to the main office.
“What are we doing?” Nata asks as Tobin holds the door open for him. Tobin can see the look of relief on his face as the air conditioning hits him and he wipes at the sweat on his forehead, barely zipping open the jacket despite how hot he must be.
“Just hang on a minute, you’ll see,” Tobin grins, knowing he’s going to be excited about what’s next.
Tobin introduces him to the few people they pass as they make their way through the building. They all smile and greet him like they already know him. Apparently Tobin talks about him to people way more than she realizes.
When they get to the room they’re headed to, Tobin pushes open the door and reveals Kelley, who’s messing with a laptop set up at the back of the room. She’s mumbling under her breath and is about to start cursing until she looks up and realizes Nata is there.
“Hey dude!” Kelley says, nodding towards Tobin and then the laptop, telling her to figure it out because clearly she’s had enough. “Nice jacket, I love it.” Kelley tugs at the matching one she has tied around her waist. “Did you get a jersey too?”
“Yeah, look!” Nata finally unzips the jacket and throws it on a chair next to him, clearly relieved for an opportunity to take it off without it seeming like it was too hot for him to handle. “It has my name on the back and everything.”
“Whaaaaaat? That’s sick, dude. Let me see.” She spins him around and reads that back of the jersey. “That’s so cool. You’d fit right in on the team. I like the number, is it your favorite?”
“No, it’s Mama’s. It’s the day of my birthday.”
“Oh sweet, when’s your birthday?”
“Wow that’s soon,” Kelley says, her eyes darting up to Tobin’s like she’s wondering if she knew it was coming up and what she’s planning to do about it. Kelley breaks eyes contact as quickly as she made it and looks back at Nata. “Are you hungry?” He nods up and down quickly. “Sweet, that’s my kind of kid. Let me show you what we’ve got.” She points over at the table against the wall. “Cheese pizza for you. Veggie pizza for Tobin and me so we’re at least being somewhat healthy. And there may be a some mozzarella sticks in that box over there.”
“Those are my favorite!”
“Yeah, that’s what Tobin said,” Kelley grins.
“Why are we eating in here?” Nata looks around the room, taking in the rows of chairs and giant screen where they watch game tape.
“Because we aren’t just eating here,” Tobin says, finally stepping away from the laptop. “I thought we might watch a movie on the big screen too.” Tobin aims the remote at the laptop and presses play and watches as Nata’s eyes light up as he sees what movie they’re watching.
“Ironman! No way, this is so cool!” Nata crutches his way over to the very front row and plops down right in front of the screen, food forgotten in favor of getting the best seat even though there’s only three people and the room is so small all the seats are good.
Tobin and Kelley get their food and put together a plate for Nata too. Tobin flips the lights off and then settles into the seat next to Kelley a few rows back from where Nata is sprawled across the front row with his leg propped up in a chair.
They eat quietly. Well, Tobin and Kelley do. Nata gasps every time anything remotely intense happens like he hasn't seen the movie a thousand times. It isn't until Kelley has thrown their plates away and sat back down next to Tobin that she says anything.
“You know this is a really cool thing you did for him,” Kelley whispers.
“It's not that big of a deal,” Tobin shrugs. “It's just a movie.”
“Yeah, but it's his favorite movie. On a gigantic screen. After he got to hang out at training with us and got his own personalized jersey. You've only ever done this sort of thing for Ryan before. Not even Cole gets to do this when he visits.”
“Cole is three. This wouldn't mean as much to him,” Tobin dismisses, trying not to admit this is as big as it is.
“That's not the point. I know you are Christen are fighting or whatever and you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, that's fine, but you can't deny the fact that despite your fight you're still taking care of her kid when she needs you. That means something, dude.”
Tobin looks up into the front row and makes sure Nata is too engrossed in the movie to be paying any attention to them and then whispers under her breath, “I paid his medical bill the other day.”
“You what?” Kelley gasps, far too loudly, but Nata doesn't even turn around. “Wait, like you paid all of it? Why did they let you do that?”
Tobin sighs before she says, “I told them I was his mom.”
This time they do catch Nata’s attention but luckily some big action scene is happening and he just looks at Kelley with a big grin and says, “it's so awesome right?” And then he turns back around like nothing happened.
“Dude, will you shut the hell up?” Tobin asks through gritted teeth. “He doesn't know about any of this. I'm pretty sure he doesn't even know we're fighting.”
“Please, with as intuitive as that kid is? He probably knew you guys were going to fight before it even happened,” Kelley scoffs, rolling her eyes as hard as she can. “Why did you pay the bill though?”
“Well for starters I asked Danny to look at him and--”
“Hold up, you asked the best orthopedic surgeon on the west coast to examine a kid with a broken leg?”
Tobin blushes, realizing how ridiculous that sounds when said that way. She did what she needed to though and she's sticking with it. “I was really worried, okay? I just wanted Nata to get the best care possible and Danny owed me a favor so I asked him to come down. I wouldn't have freaked out if he said he didn't have the time or anything like that, but luckily he had a slow day and he was happy to help. He's the only one I trusted to see Nata.”
“Dude, you are so fucking whipped,” Kelley smirks.
“I seem to remember you driving five hours to get Emily her favorite chicken noodle soup from Miss Claudette’s in San Jose one time when she was sick instead of just getting it from somewhere local,” Tobin counters, hoping it'll get Kelley to lay off the teasing.
“Yeah and I'd do it again if I needed to. Giving her that soup was the first time I'd seen her smile in two days and the first time she'd eaten in almost three. I'm not saying being whipped is a bad thing. Honestly, it's pretty great when the other person has it just as bad. And it's even better when the person’s kid is just as obsessed with you.” Kelley elbows Tobin in the ribs to help drive home her point.
“He's not obsessed with me,” Tobin scoffs.
“Come on, Tobin. We both know you're way more than just a pretty face,” Kelley teases. She tries to pinch Tobin’s cheek, but she smacks her hand away before she's successful. “Look, all I'm saying is you guys have a really good thing going, okay? Even if you're fighting right now, you guys are really good together, all three of you are. So if you did something to make her mad, then fix it. Don't ruin this thing over a medical bill.”
“I'm not trying to ruin it,” Tobin grumbles, turning petulant.
“Sure you're not. Just like you didn't try and ruin things with Laure.”
“What the fuck?” Tobin gasps, almost loud enough for Nata to hear but he doesn't pay them any mind. “Why would you bring her up? This has literally nothing to do with her.”
“I'm just saying that with Laure you spent the entire time with one foot out the door, just waiting for enough of a reason to cut ties and run. The moment they offered you a contract extension you left so fast there was a Tobin shaped hole in Laure’s front door. Don't spend so much time waiting for the other shoe to drop or else you're going to be the one dropping it.”
“I literally dropped thousands of dollars on him two days ago. I help tuck him into bed. I make them breakfast in the morning. What part of that makes it seem like I have one foot out the door?” Tobin rolls her eyes, still annoyed that Kelley brought up Laure in the first place and even more annoyed that she would try to imply she was waiting for a reason to ruin things with Christen. She's used to Lauren saying she self destructs but she doesn't need Kelley whispering in her ear too.
“No part of it at all. I was just checking to make sure you aren't doing something stupid as you're so prone to do.” Kelley clicks her tongue and pulls her leg away just in time before Tobin can smack her knee. “So have you told her you're madly in love with her yet?”
Tobin wants to be annoyed, ants to roll her eyes and avoid the question, but she knows Kelley well enough to know it's just best to go along with her and be done with it.
“No, I haven't told her yet,” Tobin sighs. “But she did tell me,” she adds at the end, quick and in hopes Kelley won't actually hear her.
“Shut the fuck up,” Kelley gasps. “She legit told you she loved you. Like not just that she loved when you do certain things or she loved something about you? She legit just said that she loved you?”
“Yes, she legit said she loved me. She said she was in love with me.” Tobin can't fight the grin that spreads across her face as she tells Kelley this. Hearing it from Christen is one thing, a very big thing obviously, but being able to tell someone else makes Tobin happy in a way she can't explain.
She's never had something like this that she really wanted to share with other people before. Sure, winning gold medals and trophies is amazing, but she's never got to tell people about those things. Everyone worth yelling already knows. This is the first time she's had information that's her own that not everyone else in her life knows. This is the first time she has something she wants to share with others.
It's a feeling she doesn't think she'll ever get over.
“Holy shit, dude. That's really amazing, I'm happy for you,” Kelley smiles, wrapping an arm around Tobin’s shoulders and squeezing tightly. “You didn't tell her back, though?”
Tobin shakes her head. “I don't think I'm ready yet. It's a big deal, you know?”
“Yeah, I know. But Tobin, by paying for Nata’s bill and doing all this I'm pretty sure she already knows. And she did the hard part by telling you first, saying it back is way easier.”
“I'm gonna tell her, I am. It just wasn't the right time.”
“There's no such thing as the right time. There's only the time you're given at any moment. What you do with it is up to you. You're responsible for making it the right moment.” Kelley shrugs afterwards, like she didn't just say something so profound.
“Shit dude,” Tobin laughs. “That was really like, deep.”
“I know. It's totally out of character, right?” Kelley grins with the tip of her tongue sticking out between her teeth. “You really should tell her though. Whether she already knows it or not, it's something she wants to actually hear.”
“I know,” Tobin nods. “I'm going to tell her. Soon.”
Something explodes in the movie just then and Nata goes wild over how awesome it is and suddenly all the heavy stuff is past them and both Tobin and Kelley focus back on the screen, but Tobin can't stop thinking about what Kelley said.
“Soon,” she thinks, making a promise to herself.
Christen switches off the vacuum quickly and then hugs Nata back. “Hola, mi sol,” Christen says softly, kissing the top of his head. “How was your day?”
“It was so awesome!” Nata exclaims, pulling away from Christen and unzipping his jacket. “I got a real life LAFC jacket.” He pulls his arms out of the sleeves and hands it to Christen, then he pulls at the when of his jersey, displaying the number on the front. “And look, I got a jersey and shorts too!”
“Wow, sweetheart. I love it.” Her enthusiasm is much less forced than it would've been this morning, but it still isn't natural. Tobin can tell Christen has to physically make an effort. Christen traces her fingers over the number 23 on the front. “Who's number 23 on the team?”
“23 is you, Mama. Mira!” He spins as gracefully as he can, hindered by his crutches. He shows Christen the back of the jersey and her face genuinely lights up.
“Oh wow, Nata. This is really cool, I love it.” She kisses the top of his head and then stand up again. “How about you go get yourself ready to shower okay? I'll be back in a minute to wrap your leg and help, okay?”
Nata nods and starts to head back to him room, but then he stops and looks up at Christen curiously. “Mama, como te sientes?”
Christen smiles softly and steps forward to hold Nata’s chin. “Estoy bien, mi sol. Okay? No te preocupes.” She kisses his forehead and that seems to be enough to convince him. He nods and then continues back to his room.
Tobin clears her throat softly, both to remind Christen she's still here and to shoe how uncomfortable she is. She's never felt uncomfortable in this house, or with Christen in general, and she hates it. She wants to hold Christen and tell her everything is going to be okay, but she doesn't know if that's her place to do that right now.
Christen needed her help today, but she seems to be doing better now so maybe she doesn't anymore. Maybe she's just waiting for Tobin to take the hint and leave so she doesn't have to ask herself.
Tobin doesn't want to leave though. She wants to stay right here and not just because she's still worried about Christen and wants to make sure she's really okay. She feels safe and at peace here. She feels like she's home.
“You didn't have to worry about cleaning and everything. I was planning on doing that when we got back,” Tobin says, her voice thinning because of nerves until she clears her throat.
“It's okay, I like cleaning. It helps me relax,” Christen shrugs.
Tobin hates the idea of having to have small talk with Christen. She doesn't think they've ever really done that in the entire time they've known each other. She doesn't know what else to say though, so she's honestly about to talk about how hot it was today when luckily Christen speaks up again.
“Thank you for taking him today,” Christen says slowly. She reaches down and unplug the vacuum cleaner from the wall, carefully wrapping it up around the hooks on the vacuum.
“It's no big deal,” Tobin shrugs, taking another careful step into the living room. “I really had a lot of fun with him.”
“It's a big deal to me though, Tobin.” Christen stands back up and wraps her arms over her chest, matching Tobin’s one step closer and raising her two more. “It really means a lot to me that you still showed up today when I needed you even though we're fighting. And it means even more that you didn't let what's going on between us affect your relationship with him.”
“Of course I still showed up. I always want to be here if you need me.” She takes another step, closing the distance between them to only a couple of feet now. “And I would never let something like that get in the way of me and Nata, I promise.”
“I know you wouldn't and I really appreciate that,” she says with a tight smile.
An awkward, tension filled silence falls over them then. Tobin doesn't know what to say and judging by the near helpless look on Christen's face, she doesn't either. Tobin wants to close the distance between them so she can hold her and kiss her tell her how awful these past two days have been without her.
She doesn't know if now is a good time for that though. Christen is dealing with enough on her own that she doesn't need Tobin making this any harder for her and Tobin also doesn't want to be selfish and make this about herself.
“How are you?” Tobin asks in lieu of everything else she wants to say.
Christen already looks better than she did this morning. She's clearly showered and is wearing the black stretchy shorts and a loose fitting tank top that she always wears when doing yoga so she's definitely been able relax. The house is back to its normal cleanliness so all around it seems like Christen is feeling much better. Tobin wants to hear it from Christen though.
“I'm okay,” she says, repeating what she told Nata earlier just in English this time. “Thank you for giving me today, really. I hated asking, but I really just needed a little time to myself.”
“You don't have to explain. I'm just happy I was able to help you out somehow.”
“Good,” Christen says quietly, a shy smile on her face. She takes a shallow breath and then adds, “because despite what I might say when I'm angry, I really do need you Tobin. Nata and I both need you.”
There's a brief moment’s pause where they both just stare at each other, trying to figure out what to say next. Tobin can actually feel the breath getting pulled out of her lungs with each millisecond that passes until she's sure she'll never breathe again. But then it's like a spark of electricity jolts them at the exact same moment. They meet in the middle, falling into each other's arms, apologies falling from their lips.
“I'm sorry I paid Nata’s bill without telling you about it,” Tobin rushes out against Christen’s neck, needing to be the first to apologize since it was her actions that started this whole ordeal in the first place.
“I'm so sorry I freaked out without giving you the chance to explain.” Christen’s words are pressed into Tobin’s shoulder, followed by a string of kisses that end at the base of her throat.
“You don't have to apologize for that,” Tobin says. “Of course you would get mad over what I did. It was way out of line and I--”
“Tobin, please stop talking,” Christen blurts out, leaning forward and pressing her lips to Tobin’s before she has the chance to say another word. It's a soft kiss, only lasting for a couple seconds before Christen pulls away with a sigh saying, “you have no idea how much I needed that after today.”
Tobin grins and leans back in, bringing her hands down to the small of Christen’s back and pulling her as close to her as possible. Tobin gets a little bit lost in the kiss, lost in the way Christen’s lips move against hers, lost in the way Christen’s hands come up to tangle in her hair, lost in the way sighs fall from Christen’s lips.
They've gone longer than this without kissing before, when Tobin is away on extended road trips. But during those times not a day passed where they didn't talk. Kissing Christen after the past three days is like coming up for air after she's nearly been drowned. Sure, she kissed her this morning, but that was more of a comfort thing. She wanted to be there for Christen however she knew how.
This kiss though? This kiss feels like coming home.
And it wouldn't truly be home without Nata too, which he makes perfectly clear when he shouts from his room, interrupting this perfect moment and somehow making it better, completing it in a way.
“Mama! I'm ready to shower!”
Christen pulls away with a breathless laugh, resting her forehead against Tobin’s, her eyes still closed. “I should probably go take care of that.”
“Yeah, he wore that jacket even though it was almost 90 degrees out so he's probably really gross. A shower is definitely in order.”
Christen kisses Tobin quickly like she just can't get enough and pulls away with a grin. “Is it okay if I ask you to stay tonight? You've already done so much today.”
“You couldn't get rid of me even if you wanted to.”
“That's the last thing I'd ever want.” With a kiss to the cheek and a wink, Christen heads off to Nata’s room.
Yeah, it's the last thing Tobin would ever want too.
Nata has no trouble though.
Christen wraps his leg like a pro and he’s able to manage his leg easily into the shower with only a little bit of help from Christen. Once he’s in the shower though, he tells her to leave, wanting his privacy, and that he’ll call if he needs help.
Tobin’s glad Nata doesn’t need much help because that means she and Christen can spend the time making out in the laundry room, Christen perched on the edge of the dryer. They’re close enough to hear Nata if he shouts, but far enough away that they’ll be able to hear when he’s finished so he doesn’t catch them.
Honestly, it’s a little slower than Tobin expected. It’s like they’re taking their time to remember the feel and taste of each other’s mouths. With all the pent up energy of missing each other for the past two days, three really considering they spent the whole day apart, Tobin expected this to be a little frantic, but it’s not. It’s gentle and easy and so fucking soft Tobin half expects some cheesy Ed Sheeran song to be playing in the background while a camera slowly circles them like in some romantic movie.
Once Nata is finished in the shower he gets ready for bed, exhaustion from the day finally catching up to him. He remembers just as Christen and Tobin are leaving the room that they forgot to show Christen all the pictures they took with dogs at the dog park. Christen can tell how tired he is though so she tells him he can show her in the morning and he more than easily accepts that, closing his eyes before Christen can even turn off the light.
Once they get back upstairs, Christen tells Tobin she wants to do a little more yoga before going to bed so Tobin takes a shower to give her space. Tobin takes her time showering, making it last as long as she can so that Christen can have as much time as she needs, but Tobin has never been very good at taking long showers so when she steps back into the room, Christen is still on her yoga mat. Her eyes are closed with her hands resting on her eyes, clearly meditating as she warms down. She’s breathing deeply and she looks peaceful, but Tobin can still see the crease in her forehead that isn’t usually there so she knows she’s still having a tough time.
Tobin gets dressed as quietly as she can, not wanting to disturb Christen’s meditating, but she doesn’t have to worry about that because Christen quietly says her name and then pats the mat right in front of her, wanting Tobin to join her.
She’s a little hesitant, wondering what’s going on, but Tobin does as Christen wants and sits down on the purple mat in front of Christen, their knees pressed up against each other.
“I want to explain why I got so worked up when I found out you paid the bill,” Christen tells her.
“Christen, you don’t have to, okay? Not right now at least. You’re dealing with a lot and I don’t want you to feel like you need to explain anything to me. I’m here to help you feel better, I don’t need you to try and make me feel better,” Tobin says.
“But explaining this will make me feel better,” Christen counters.
Tobin sighs, knowing Christen’s got her there. If Christen wants to explain this right now, then she’s going to let her. Tobin nods to let Christen know it’s okay to continue.
Christen reaches out and takes one of Tobin’s hands, holding it in her lap with one hand and using two fingers from the other hand to trace along the inside of Tobin’s wrist. She takes a deep breath and then starts.
“When I first told people I was going to adopt Nata, some people weren’t exactly thrilled about it, some of my conservative family members and a couple people at the magazine. They didn’t think a single mother raising a son was the best idea. ‘A boy needs a father,’ they all told me. They didn’t think I’d be able to take care of him and raise him the way he needed to be and thought it would be better if I waited until I was married. Once I brought him home, it all made me really defensive about taking care of him. I wouldn’t let my parents or sisters buy anything for him unless it was for his birthday or Christmas. I mean if they took him out to dinner without me, I’d give them money for him and insist that they use it. I was so determined to prove that I could provide for my son on my own and I didn’t need anyone else’s help.
“So hearing that you paid for Nata’s bill and that you’d claimed to be his mother in order to do so just really triggered something in me. I got irrationally angry and charged over to your house immediately without even allowing myself time to process it. I attacked you over it and I shouldn’t have, I’m sorry. I know you were just trying to help me, but it brought up all these old memories and just really upset me. I really appreciate you doing it, I just wish you would have said something first.”
Tobin waits a moment to be sure Christen is finished before she responds. “You’re right, I should have told you beforehand. Honestly though, I didn’t even think about how it might upset you. At the time I was just trying to make things as easy for you as possible so I just did it. My sister is an account so I called her while you were napping after we got back from the hospital and worked out a payment plan because I knew you would want to pay me back. I should’ve just told you then, but I didn’t want you to have to worry about it. I guess I just handled it all wrong.”
“It’s okay,” Christen says, squeezing her hand to make sure Tobin knows she means it. “I know you didn’t mean to upset me. I really do appreciate you doing that, but you’re right. I’m going to pay you back literally every penny.”
“I would expect nothing less,” Tobin grins. “Are we okay?”
Tobin’s pretty sure she knows what the answer to that question is, but it’s the slight off chance that the answer is ‘no’ that makes Tobin’s throat go dry. Christen’s quick to ease her worries though.
“Of course we’re okay.” She leans forward and kisses her softly. “I promise we’re okay.”
“Good,” Tobin sighs with a dopey smile on her face. “Can we please go to bed now? I’m exhausted and I’ve hated sleeping alone the past couple nights.”
“Oh my god it’s been the worst,” Christen groans, letting Tobin know she’s been just as distressed over all this as Tobin had been.
“Please let’s never do that again.”
“Deal,” Christen replies, then she seals it with a kiss.