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“If you embarrass me, I swear I'll--”

 

“You'll what, Tobin? Cole threatens to run away every time I tell him he can't have another lollipop and he's yet to actually do it. Your threats mean nothing to me.” Her oldest sister, Katie, laughs and shoves her shoulder playfully, letting her know she isn't nearly as intimidating as she was hoping.

 

“Whatever,” Tobin grumbles, feeling like she's eight years old again and Katie just took the last red popsicle, claiming seniority as always and Tobin knew there wasn't a thing she could do about it. “Denying your kid candy is a totally valid reason to want to run away, though. Just saying.”

 

Katie rolls her eyes and smiles at Tobin like only an older sister can. “Yeah, I knew you would say something like that.”

 

“Seriously, though, just please don't embarrass me.”

 

I’m not the one you need to worry about. Mom, Perry and I are just thrilled you're actually bringing a girl home that we're going to be on our best behavior so she doesn't come to her senses and run away. Jeff on the other hand? He's totally going to do his best to make you look like a fool. He’s still bitter about you nutmegging him repeatedly in that pickup game with that soccer girl he was dating in high school.” Katie grins and looks down at her phone to check the time again, a picture of Cole with a carbon copy of her smile holding his new brother looks back at her.

 

They're at the airport waiting for Christen’s flight to get in. Since Katie had her son two weeks ago, she's barely had the opportunity to leave the house so she jumped at the chance to go with Tobin, though Tobin is pretty sure she just wanted to be the first to meet her.

 

Tobin has already been in New Jersey for a couple days, getting into town the day after their game in Boston on Wednesday. They have a game against Sky Blue tomorrow and then a bye week so Tobin is sticking around town for a few days and asked Christen to join her so she could meet her family.

 

It had been a spur of the moment decision, inviting Christen along. They'd been lying in Christen’s bed two days before Tobin had to leave for Boston and as she'd been drifting off to sleep she was thinking about how she didn't want to be away from Christen for so long. Things are much better after their fight and Christen is feeling more like her usual self again, but part of Tobin feels like some things are still left unsaid. She's almost afraid that leaving will cause the tension to come back.

 

She doesn't want to ask Christen to come home with her for just that reason, though. It's selfish and unfair. The more she thinks about it though, she really would like for her to meet her family.

 

She calls her mom at least twice a week and every single time her mom asks when she's going to bring Christen home to meet everyone. If it weren't for the fact both of her sisters were late in their pregnancies, they both would have been on a plane to California to meet her weeks ago. Tobin wants to bring her home, she really does, she's just never done something like that before.

 

She watched her older sisters bring the guys they were dating home all the time and it never really seemed like a big deal. Then again, they were both in and out if relationships since they were old enough to know what it meant. Not that that's a bad thing, it just became common practice for them to bring a guy home and so they stopped freaking out over it.

 

Christen is Tobin’s first real relationship, so this is a big deal for her. It's a big deal that she wants to share with her family though. She wants them to be a part of this and to see how happy she is.

 

So she asked.

 

Christen accepted immediately, almost as if she's been waiting for Tobin to ask.

 

She probably has.

 

There are obviously some details to iron out before it can actually happen though, the biggest being Nata. They both would love for him to come along of course, Tobin knows her family would love to meet him, but they all know traveling across the country with a broken leg isn't the best idea.

 

They decide to have him stay in California with her parents. Nima insists on taking him a few days, which Nata is of course thrilled about. He's a little disappointed to be left behind, but he accepts it. He even tells Christen he wants her to have some time with Tobin alone because he knows it will be good for her. He literally says that, “it will be good for you.”

 

Seriously, how is this kid only six?

 

Plane tickets are bought, bags are packed and a hotel room is booked a few minutes away from Tobin’s mom’s house.

 

Tobin's mom was a little upset they wouldn't be staying with her, but they've never taken a trip together before and Tobin insisted it would be nice for them to have their own space.

 

What Tobin didn't tell her mom, of course, was that she refused to have sex with Christen knowing her mom was right down the hall. And she's far from well behaved enough to not take advantage of the privacy away from Nata to control herself around Christen for that long.

 

Tobin compromises by saying she'll stay at the house instead of the team hotel until Christen gets there and that they'll spend as much time at her house as they can. It's not what her mom wants, but it's enough that she backs off on the issue.

 

“Were you nervous when you brought Jack home for the first time?” Tobin asks her sister, balling her hands into fists in an attempt to stop them from shaking. Judging by the way Katie’s eyes dart down to her hands, she isn’t as sly as she thinks.

 

“Honey, I was terrified when I brought him home,” Katie admits. She reaches out and takes one of Tobin’s hands loosely in hers before she continues. “He was the only one I was ever nervous about. The guys I dated in high school and the couple in college before I met Jack, I was never really nervous about them and I used to think it was because I was confident enough in the relationship that I knew I didn’t need to be worried. Once I got nervous about bringing Jack home though, I realized the reason I was never nervous before was because it wasn’t worth it. Deep down I knew I wouldn’t be with those guys forever so there was no sense in being worried or caring if mom liked them or not. I knew they wouldn’t stick around. With Jack, though, I knew he was for real. I knew he wasn’t going anywhere and I got nervous about no one else recognizing that. I was nervous because it meant so much to me that my family liked him. I got nervous because I cared. It’s a good thing you’re nervous about this, I promise.” Katie smiles softly and then she turns away from Tobin as if she didn’t just drop all this wisdom on her.

 

Tobin takes her sister’s words to heart. She’d never thought about it quite like that before. She never thought the nerves could be a good sign.

 

“I love her,” Tobin says unplanned, her mouth speaking the words before her head was able to tell it to, her heart seizing control before she's able to think better of it.

 

She's never said those words aloud before. She admitted to Kelley she loved her, but she didn't actually say those three all important words.

 

She's laid awake at night trying to convince herself to say them, stared at herself in the mirror and tried to force herself to, but it hasn't worked. The words get caught in the back of her through until she nearly feels like she's choking if she tries too hard.

 

Now though, standing in the middle of a crowded airport with her sister’s arm linked through hers, they fall from her lips with an ease she's never known.

 

For a moment, she almost thinks she's just imagined it, but then her sister's arm tightens around hers and Katie’s other hand comes up to grip at her bicep as she literally squeals.

 

“Oh my god!” She practically shouts, drawing the attention of several people around them, causing Tobin to blush furiously. Seeing her embarrassment, Katie reins in her volume for her next words, but Tobin can tell how hard it is for her. “Are you serious right now? Did you really just say that or is the lack of sleep from raising a newborn making me delusional?”

 

“Yes, I actually said it,” Tobin mumbles, scratching at the back of her neck with the hand that isn't currently in Katie’s death grip.

 

“Oh my god,” Katie says again in shock. “I didn't realize you guys had exchanged ‘I love you’s’ yet.”

 

“We haven't. I mean not really.”

 

“What do you mean? You haven't told her how you feel yet?”

 

“No,” Tobin admits. “I haven't worked myself up to it yet, it's a big deal for me.”

 

“Of course it is, sweetheart.” Katie’s grip loosens to one that's much more gentle. There's sincerity in her words as she says, “you're the most empathetic, caring person I know. You love every person you ever meet, but I know romantic love has always been something that you've struggled with. I'm not going to pretend like I don't know why that is. I know this is hard, but I'm really proud of you, okay? The way you talk about her, I can tell how important she is to you, so even if you haven't told her yet, I'm sure she already knows. Just tell her when you're ready.”

 

Tobin blinks several times in quick succession and stares at a crack in one of the tiles by her foot so she doesn't actually have to look at her sister. She's never been big on talking about emotions, especially in person. Texting has always been a preferred method of communication for her because she doesn't have to give away too much of herself. The cracks and inflection in her voice, the watery eyes, the shaking hands--no one can see that through text. No one can know any more than what she's willing to tell them.

 

As uncomfortable as she may be talking to Katie, it isn't a conversation she wants to steer away from. She wants to talk about this with her, even if it means she has to grit her teeth and force the words out.

 

“She told me she loves me,” Tobin says, the accompanying pride that comes with that fact makes her puff her chest out a little. Christen is easily the most beautiful girl she's ever seen. She's brilliant and funny and a kick ass mother. She could have anyone, but yet Tobin is the one she loves. That's something no one can ever take away from her.

 

“What? When? Tell me everything!” Katie gushes, spinning so she's standing in front of Tobin now so there are less places for her to avert her gaze.

 

Tobin feels the slightest chill cross over her skin, like there's a shift in energy and the electricity in the air pricks at her, begging her to take notice. Tobin turns to her left and sees why. Christen is coming down the stairs, a World Now duffle bag and Ironman backpack that she must have stolen from Nata thrown over her shoulders.

 

“We’ll talk later,” Tobin mutters in her sister’s vague direction, eyes locked on Christen who grins when she finds Tobin in the crowd. Her hair is loose around her shoulders, a curly, tangled mess that Tobin wants to run her fingers through. She's wearing one of Tobin’s button ups that she's been missing for weeks, but she can't even be upset about it because Christen looks better in it than Tobin could ever hope to manage.

 

Katie mutters something, Tobin thinks it’s about how she doesn’t understand how Tobin landed someone as gorgeous as Christen, but Tobin isn’t even paying attention. It’s been four days since she’s seen Christen and it’s been way too long. The only thing she wants to focus on is the way Christen’s eyes light up and the way her footsteps increase ever so lightly when she sees Tobin so she can get to her as quickly as she can.

 

Tobin steps away from Katie, who understands what’s going on and stays where she is, giving them a moment to reunite. Tobin meets Christen a few feet away from her sister and wraps her arms around her tightly, burying her face against her neck and breathing in the scent that she's come to identify as home. She can't even be bothered to identify the specific blend of smells anymore.

 

It's Christen.

 

It's happiness.

 

It's home.

 

“I've missed you so much,” Tobin says, words muffled by Christen’s skin, the vibrations causing a chill to run through Christen's body.

 

“It's only been four days,” Christen says, followed by a laugh. “But I've missed you too.”

 

Tobin steals a quick kiss, not wanting to do too much in such a public place despite no one paying her any attention so far. They aren't public, but they also aren't outwardly trying to hide anything. That doesn't mean she wants to blow everything up by being caught kissing her girlfriend in public.

 

“Any time away from you is too much. I hate it.”

 

“Then it's a good thing I'm not going anywhere.”

 

Tobin reaches out to take Christen's duffle bag, letting her keep her backpack after Christen insists she can handle it on her own.

 

“Are you ready for this?” Tobin asks.

 

“Are you kidding? Moms love me. I'm so ready for this. I think the better question is are you ready?”

 

Tobin shrugs and then looks over her shoulder at her sister, who's currently bouncing from one foot to the other, clearly trying to rein in her excitement and not rush forward towards the two women. She laughs at how anxious Katie is and then turns back to Christen.

 

“As ready as I'll ever be I guess.”

xxx

“Do you have any idea how good you look holding a baby?”

 

Christen saunters over, a little tipsy from the wine Tobin’s sisters insisted she drink for them since they couldn’t, and sits on the arm of the couch next to Tobin. She leans over her shoulder to look at Perry’s son, Matthew, who is passed out in Tobin’s arms. Christen reaches a hand forward to lay over Tobin’s where it’s resting on the baby’s stomach. Their hands rise and fall together as he breathes and Tobin looks up to see a wide, dazed smile stretching across Christen’s face.

 

“What are you thinking about?” Tobin asks.

 

“Nothing,” Christen says. “Just that you look really good holding a baby.”

 

“Yeah, you already said that,” Tobin smiles. “What are you really thinking about?”

 

Christen’s eyes turn dreamy and though she’s looking at Tobin, she definitely isn’t seeing her. She’s lost in some fantasy, her words a little slurred as she says, “just about how I really like seeing you hold a baby and it’s something I’d like to see more of one day.”

 

Tobin knows the only reason she has the nerve to say what she does next is because Christen still looks like she’s in another headspace and isn’t giving Tobin her full attention. “I haven’t even worked up the nerve to tell you that four letter word yet and you’re already thinking about babies?”

 

Christen’s grin turns up even more, showing that even though she isn’t totally in the moment, she definitely heard the question. “I think about a lot of things involving you and our future, Tobin Heath.” She kisses the side of her head and then starts to slide onto the couch until Tobin takes the hint and moves over for her. “But don’t worry, I’m very patient. In fact, it’s my middle name.”

 

“Hey, you can’t just steal my line like that,” Tobin complains, remembering their first night together.

 

“That’s a very common phrase.”

 

“Yeah, but we have a history with it involving that particular word and you totally just stole it.”

 

“You’re cute when you’re annoyed.”

 

“Yeah and you’re cute when you’re drunk.” Tobin rolls her eyes and decides to let Christen have this one. “He’s seriously so cute isn’t he?”

 

“He’s very cute,” Christen agrees. “Not as cute as Nata of course, but still very cute.”

 

“Don’t tell my sister, but I totally agree with you.”

 

“You think my son is cuter than your nephew?” Christen tilts her head, like she’s trying to figure out a question Tobin didn’t know she asked her.

 

“Yeah,” Tobin says, dragging out the word, still trying to figure out why that’s such a big deal. “That’s why I said not to tell Perry about it.”

 

Christen kisses her on the mouth this time. It takes Tobin by surprise so much that their teeth clash before Tobin is able to adjust. Christen’s lips taste like white wine and the butter pecan ice cream Katie bought for dessert.

 

Someone lets out a low whistle, Tobin’s pretty sure it’s Jeff, and she starts to pull away. Christen isn’t finished though. She brings a hand up to the back of Tobin’s neck and holds her there for another couple seconds before she finally moves back.

 

“Sorry,” Christen says, her breath nearly gone even though the kiss couldn’t have been more than maybe eight seconds. “I just really needed to do that.”

 

“You can do that anytime you want.” Tobin thought she was against PDA, but if it involves Christen kissing her like that? Then she’s changing her mind. She's totally for it.

 

Christen grins and places a kiss on Tobin's nose. At least it's supposed to be on her nose. Tipsy Christen has seriously impaired depth perception so it ends up more on her eye than anything, but Tobin still appreciates how gentle she is.

 

Tobin has never had someone be so soft with her before. She never knew how much she needs that sometimes. Christen knows when Tobin wants her to not be so delicate, to let Tobin prove how durable she actually is. But she also knows when it's a softer touch Tobin needs, even if Tobin hasn't realized it herself yet.

 

Tobin has never liked being taken care of, she doesn't like feeling weak. But Christen knows how to care for her in a way that doesn't make her feel fragile. Tobin doesn't know how she does it--how she knows exactly when she needs it--but she loves her for it.

 

Now if only she could just tell her that.

 

“I'm going to play Assassin's Creed with Jeff,” Christen says suddenly as she hops off the couch.

 

“You hate video games.”

 

“I'm bonding.” Christen winks her crooked blink at her and then heads into the kitchen to find Jeff and challenge him to a game.

 

Tobin is still watching Christen follow Jeff down the hall to the bonus room when Perry plops down on the couch on the opposite side that Christen was just a minute ago.

 

“You’re lucky I like her or I'd be super offended you thought it was okay to make out in front of my innocent, newborn son,” Perry says.

 

“We weren't making out,” Tobin insists.

 

“Oh whatever. Two more seconds and we would've had to come pull you apart.” Perry reaches out and tugs at the edge of the blanket wrapped around her son, smoothing out a crease in the fabric. “I'm sure you're already well aware, but she's really great, you know? You did good kid.”

 

“I've known that since the day I met her, but it really means a lot to know you guys think so too.”

 

“Katie says you're in love,” Perry says in a light, sing-song tone.

 

“She wasn't supposed to say anything.”

 

“She didn't have to!” Perry laughs. “It's totally obvious to everyone. I brought it up and Katie just confirmed what we all already knew.”

 

“You guys never could keep any of my secrets from each other,” Tobin complains.

 

“Oh hush, don't get all dramatic. It's really great, Tobin. You always were the best one out of all of us, so it's really nice to see you so happy. We aren't making fun of you, we're just really proud and we want to talk about it.”

 

“I am not the best one.”

 

“Yes you are.” Perry’s tone tells Tobin not to even bother arguing because there's no way she would win. Ever. “You have the biggest heart out of anyone I’ve ever met and you’re so incredibly loyal. I could go on and on, but the pregnancy hormones are still screwing with me and I don’t want to start crying.”

 

“You’re such a sap you’d still be crying even if you didn’t just have a baby.” Tobin knows she’d start crying too, so of course she deflects with sarcasm. It’s what she does best. She loves her sisters, but two emotional conversations with them in the same day is too much.

 

“Shut up.” Perry rolls her eyes. “I hate to do this to you because you do look super cute together, but I need to get Matthew fed and keep him awake for a little bit or else he’ll never sleep tonight.”

 

“Oh gosh, thank you so much. I didn’t want to say anything because I love spending time with him, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never regain feeling in my left arm.”

 

“Wait until you have one of your own and don’t have a choice about holding them. You forget quickly what it’s like to not having tingling arms.”

 

Tobin doesn’t get a chance to think about what her sister said before she’s reaching over and taking her son as gently as she can from Tobin’s arms. Perry makes soothing noises as Matthew starts to get fussy, but he calms easily in his mother’s arms.

 

Perry heads towards their mom’s room to breastfeed her son and Tobin heads in the opposite direction towards the kitchen. She considers going to see how Christen and Jeff are getting along, but she figures giving them space to bond is a good idea.

 

Katie, Jack, their three-year-old son, Cole, and their newborn son, Jacob, have all left already, and Perry’s husband Tom as well because he has to work early in the morning. That means only Tobin’s mom is in the kitchen, scrubbing away at the dishes from dinner.

 

It's a little daunting. She hasn't been alone with her mother since Christen got here this morning and while she's pretty sure her mom adores Christen just like the rest of her family, she's nervous about talking to her about it.

 

What if she actually hated her and was just being polite?

 

What if she thinks Christen isn't good enough for her? (Which would be dumb.)

 

What if she thinks Tobin isn't good enough for Christen? (Which is totally correct.)

 

Not that she thinks it would make much of a difference at this point--Tobin always does what she feels is right in her heart no matter what anyone says--but she would still like her mother’s approval about this.

 

“Do you need any help?” Tobin asks.

 

Tobin’s mom turns around with a smile and moves a step over so there's room for Tobin at the sink. “Sure, sweetheart. I'd love help.”

 

Tobin walks over and grabs a clean rag to start drying the dishes as her mom finishes washing them. It was the task she was always assigned when she was younger after three broken plates because her hands always slipped on the wet dishes. While she may be great with her feet, she's more than a little clumsy with her hands.

 

They're quiet for a few moments until Tobin is able to catch up with the drying. It's her mom who breaks the silence.

 

“So do you want to talk about her or do you want to put it off as long as possible?” She's smiling softly as she asks, teasing instead of making fun of her proclivity to not want to talk about serious matters. Her mom has always known her so well.

 

“I guess it depends what you have to say about her.” She tries her best not to sound shy, but she doesn't know how good she is at it. Judging by the fact that her mom puts down her rag, dries her hands off and take Tobin’s hands in hers, she wasn't as good at hiding it as she hoped.

 

“Tobin, she's absolutely wonderful,” her mom says. “Listening to you talk about her on the phone is one thing, but seeing the two of you together? Tobin I've never seen you happier in your whole life, and I was there to see you win a gold medal. Twice.” She brings a hand up to cup the side of her face while she says, “can I let you on on a little secret?”

 

“Yeah, of course,” Tobin grins. Her mom had always been closer to her sisters, they all just understand each other better. So she's always jumped at the chance to have a special moment with her, something that's just theirs.

 

“When Katie brought Jack home for the first time, I knew immediately he was the man she was going to marry. I knew in my heart that God put him into her life to be her husband. It took a couple times being around Tom before I felt that feeling, I think because he and Perry had such a whirlwind romance I was a little caught off guard, but I still felt it with him too.” She whispers the next words, making sure they're just for the two of them. “I got that exact same feeling when I met Christen.”

 

Tobin feels the heat rise to her cheeks, but it isn't out of embarrassment. It's a rush of excitement at realizing the feeling she's had all along finally has a meaning, and she isn't the only one who feels it. She and Christen have talked about it before, being fated or destined or whatever to be in each other's lives, but Tobin always knew it was more.

 

They aren't just meant to be a chapter in each other's lives.

 

They're supposed to be the entire second half.

 

For Tobin there are now two measures of time, before Christen and during Christen. There's no such thing as after Christen because that's a time that won't ever come to pass. She's in it for the rest of her life with Christen.

 

She's felt it since the moment they met, though she was too afraid to admit it. Now that she knows her mom feels it too though, she can no longer deny it.

 

“I don't know how to do this, mom,” Tobin says. She hasn't really said that since the beginning, figuring she would just learn as she goes. And she has for the most part, but sometimes she still feels overwhelmed, anxious she's doing everything wrong.

 

“That's okay,” her mom says. “From what I can tell, you're doing a pretty good job despite that. And for the record, I thought I knew what I was doing with your father, and look how that all turned out.”

 

“None of that was your fault.” Tobin knows her mom unfairly blamed herself for a while. That's always been her biggest grievance with her dad. She doesn't care what he did to her, but it's how he screwed over her mom so badly she thought it was her fault and that's something Tobin can never forgive.

 

“I know. I just mean that sometimes knowing what you're doing isn't all it's cracked up to be. You figure stuff out as it comes. There are a lot of things you can't ever really know until the time comes, so try not to get too hung up on knowing everything ahead of time. You've always been my wild child, following her heart before her head. It's never led you wrong so far.”

 

“I don't know about that. I've made some pretty dumb decisions through the years.”

 

“But you're still here right? You're healthy and happy and in a really good place? All those supposedly dumb decisions have led you here, so were they really that dumb to begin with?”

 

“Well when you put it like that, I guess not.” Tobin’s smile is tight and she swallows hard, willing herself not to cry. She's felt too many emotions today and she's honestly exhausted, but she's so grateful for the reassurance from her mom and sisters that whatever it is she's doing, she's doing it right.

 

“You're going to be okay, my love. I know it.”

 

Tobin's mom squeezes her arms gently before she drops her hands and goes back to the dishes, knowing Tobin has hit her limit right now and needs a break.

 

She always did know Tobin better than anyone.

xxx

“I think your brother has a crush on me,” Christen tells Tobin when they step through the door to their hotel room. They only stopped by long enough after the airport to drop off Christen's bags before they went to Tobin’s mom’s for the rest of the day. Tobin didn't think much of it at the time, but now she's grateful they did because she's practically carrying Christen’s full weight as she leans against her side, exhausted from the flight and still a little tipsy from the wine Katie and Perry gave her.

 

“I think my entire family has a crush on you,” Tobin says. “I don't blame them at all. They've got great taste.”

 

“You have a good point. I'm a total catch.” She flops back on the bed and stretches her arms above her head, causing Tobin’s button up she's wearing to ride up and expose part of her stomach.

 

“You're even better than that,” Tobin says, her eyes stuck to the revealed skin and wishing Christen were a little more sober right now so she wouldn't feel like she was taking advantage of her if she were to do the things she wants to her right now.

 

“Come here,” Christen says, her voice low.

 

Tobin abides her wishes and crawls onto the bed next to her. Christen apparently wants to be even closer though because she rolls over on top of Tobin and kisses her soundly.

 

“I had a lot of fun today,” Christen tells her before leaning down to tuck her head under Tobin's chin, already preparing for sleep. “I really like your family. Not as much as I like you of course, but pretty close.”

 

“I'm glad you think so. I was really worried about this trip.”

 

Christen lifts her head and looks up at Tobin as she says, “I know you were. I was too.”

 

“What were you nervous about?”

 

“Tobin, you aren't just some temporary thing to me. I plan on being with you for a very, very long time so long as you'll have me. Getting your family's approval was really important to me.” Christen's eyes look as clear as they were before she had her first glass of wine. She's totally present in the moment when she says this and Tobin doesn't doubt a single word.

 

“I plan on you being with you for a long time too,” Tobin says.

 

Christen grins and kisses the end of Tobin’s chin. “Just a long time? Because I said a very, very long time and I feel like we should establish a time frame here so we're both on the same page. “

 

“Fine, a very, very, very, very, very long time,” Tobin says, punctuating each ‘very’ with a kiss to Christen's nose or cheeks.

 

“Wait, five very’s? That's a lot. I don't know if I'm ready for that kind of commitment.”

 

“Well too bad, because you're stuck with me.”

 

Christen sighs and shrugs her shoulders. “I guess I can figure out a way to work with that.”

 

“Not to ruin the moment, but I'm really fucking exhausted and I just want you to scratch my back until I fall asleep right now,” Tobin pouts.

 

“We haven't seen each other in four days and sleeping is all you want to do?” Christen asks, eyebrow raised.

 

“You know my rule, no sex before game days.”

 

Christen groans and rolls off Tobin, knowing it's no use arguing, but that doesn't mean she can't still complain a little. “That's a stupid rule.”

 

“Sorry, babe.” Tobin pats Christen’s thigh as she gets up from the bed to change her clothes. “You’re lucky Coach is even letting me stay here with you tonight instead of the team hotel.”

 

“A lot of good that's doing,” Christen grumbles.

 

Tobin grins as she pulls her shirt off and reaches for an old UNC one out of her suitcase. “I can go back there if you'd rather. It's just down the street.”

 

“Don't you dare!” Christen shoots up, planning on complaining more, and then she gets a glimpse of shirtless, braless Tobin and her breath catches in her throat. “Now that's just not fair. How can you expect me to not want to fuck you when you look like that?”

 

“You can want me all you want,” Tobin says, pulling her shirt over her head. “It's just not going to do you any good tonight.”

 

Christen narrows her eyes, clearly taking that as a challenge. “Fine then.” She rises from the bed and goes to her suitcase to grab a change of clothes. “I'll just go get myself off in the shower since you're not going to help me.”

 

Tobin’s smirk she had from frustrating Christen falls flat on the floor at that statement.

 

“Wait, what?” Tobin blinks as she watches Christen walk towards the bathroom in slow motion, her mind not able to catch up with what her eyes are seeing.

 

Christen tucks her clothes under one arm and starts slowly unbuttoning Tobin’s button up as she backs up towards the bathroom. “You had your chance,” she says. “Have fun trying to sleep while you think of all the things I'm doing to myself in here.”

 

“W-wait,” Tobin says, desperate to involve herself in this, her cardinal rule be damned. “On second thought, maybe I can help you out. I just won't get anything in return. That isn't technically breaking my rule.”

 

“No way, I'm not risking it. Night, Tobin.” She gives her a small wave and then steps into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Tobin is about to try to join her when she hears the lock slide into place.

 

“Fuck,” Tobin mumbles, both completely turned on and totally frustrated at how easily it is for Christen to screw with her

 

She knows there's no use in fighting it, she's not going to go grovel by the bathroom door and she knows she would regret it tomorrow if she did when her energy levels aren't what she needs them to be.

 

She concedes the battle with a sigh, even though she knows she already lost before it even really began. Tobin finishes changing, trying to block out the sound of the shower running and the thoughts of what Christen is doing.

 

As she stretches out in bed and closes her eyes, she finds herself hopeful that Christen was just messing with her and she isn't actually going to do anything except for shower.

 

But then she hears Christen moan.

 

It's definitely a little exaggerated, but not because it's fake. Tobin knows it's real. Christen is just trying to make Tobin even more jealous and frustrated than she already is.

 

“Oh my god,” Tobin groans, pulling the sides of the pillow she's laying on up so they cover her ears and then flipping over so her back is to the bathroom.

 

Even when she messes with her like this, Tobin still loves Christen more than anything.

 

Now if only she knew that, maybe she wouldn't mess with her so much.

xxx

LAFC loses 0-6 to Sky Blue on a first half hat trick from Heather O’Reilly and a goal from each rookie in the second half that rubs the salt in the wound a little deeper.

 

Tobin has never lost by 6 goals. The worst loss she ever suffered was by three a few seasons ago and at least in that one they scored two of their own so it wasn't quite as bad as being shutout.

 

She's beaten a few weaker teams when she was on the national team by larger margins, but that was almost expected. LA is barely out of a playoff spot in the West and Sky Blue are one spot off the bottom of the table in the East.

 

It's the fourth loss is a row and the worst in club history and Tobin is so far past angry after the game that she just feels heavy with how sad she is. She and Christen are supposed to go to dinner with her family, but all she wants to do is curl up in bed with Christen and sleep away this terrible game.

 

Coach Foudy doesn't give them much of a post game pep talk or even a scolding for that matter. She's just as frustrated and exhausted as they are and doesn't have the energy to yell at them right now. Tobin knows they aren't off the hook though. Next practice they'll be ran into the ground, but for right now she's giving them a break.

 

After they're dismissed and told they have off until Thursday, Tobin goes over to the section she knows her family is in. She signs for a few fans that she sees have LAFC gear, but she just doesn't feel up to it tonight and stops after a couple minutes.

 

Christen is the first to lean across the guardrail and wrap her up in a hug. She doesn't say anything, knows that after a loss there isn't anything Tobin can hear to make it better. She just holds her tightly for a moment and places a discrete kiss to her neck before she pulls away.

 

Her mom hugs her next and then she and her siblings start talking to her, but Tobin doesn't really register what they're saying. She hears herself answer, but it's muffled and she doesn't really know what she's saying. She doesn't understand any of it until Katie leans across the railing and whispers in her ear.

 

“Dad's here.”

 

Tobin’s not surprised, her dad sent her a text this morning saying he would be here. She'd responded hours later with only a thumbs up emoji. She knew she would have to see him, she was just hoping it would be under better circumstances than fresh off such an embarrassing defeat.

 

Tobin looks over in the direction Katie nods and sees her dad standing up the the bleachers a few sections away. He has a black LA scarf wrapped around his neck and his hands shoved in his pockets as he looks around awkwardly, clearly feeling out of place.

 

“You should go talk to him,” her mom says, drawing her attention away from her dad.

 

She doesn't want to, but she knows she needs to. She hasn't seen him in person since Christmas and she probably won't see him until that time again if she doesn't go over now. She's not thrilled about it, but she grits her teeth and nods.

 

“Get out of here, Tobin. You know your family would rather talk to me anyway,” Kelley says, coming up behind Tobin and squeezing her hand quickly for a moment. She must have seen her dad too.

 

Kelley quickly distracts Christen and Tobin's family, drawing the attention away from what they all know Tobin is about to do. No one is thrilled about it. Kelley must be just as exhausted as she is, but she's perked up enough to lay on the charm and help ease some of the tension. Tobin makes a mental not to take her out to dinner when they get back to LA to thank her.

 

Tobin gives Christen a tight smile and then heads down the fence a few sections. When her dad sees her approaching he comes down the steps and waits by the fence. To prolong her time as much as possible she signs a few autographs and takes a couple pictures, but she knows she can't avoid him forever.

 

“Hey, Tobin,” her dad says when she finally makes it to him.

 

His hands are still shoved in his pockets, he makes no efforts to hug her. He always waits for her to initiate, so she does. It's a quick, loose hug without a lot of emotion behind it, but it's a typical one for them.

 

“You played great,” he says.

 

Tobin scoffs and asks, “were you watching the right game? We lost.”

 

“Yeah, but you were working your ass off. Your team just wasn't helping you. You still looked really good out there, you should be proud of that.”

 

“Thanks dad,” she says. She knows she may agree with him later when she's watching game tape, but right now she doesn't want to admit to that. “How's Debbie?”

 

He immediately drops eye contact. He clears his throat and talking to his shoes when he says, “she uh…we aren't together anymore, so I don't really know how she is.”

 

Tobin feels her eyes start to widen before she stops herself. She hadn't been expecting that. Granted the only time she was ever around her dad's wife was once a year at Christmas, and even then she was only cordial to her at best, but they seemed perfectly happy. He'd left her mom for Debbie so there had to be something pretty special about her considering how great her mom is, but Tobin never really saw it. She wonders why her siblings never said anything. Maybe they don't know.

 

“Oh, well I uhm…I'm sorry,” she says because it's the polite thing to do. She isn't sure if she really means it.

 

“It's okay. Some things just aren't meant to be, you know?”

 

Tobin nods, but she doesn't respond. She can feel someone’s gaze on her and she knows it's Christen. She doesn't want to look over at her right now, doesn't want her dad's attention drawn over there which might cause him to ask questions. He doesn't know they're together and having that conversation with her dad isn't something she really wants to do tonight. Or ever.

 

She can't help it though. She's so drawn to Christen that she can't stop herself from looking over and locking eyes with her. Christen gives her a smile when she catches Tobin's return gaze, but Tobin knows she was scowling before that. Christen blows her a kiss which finally makes Tobin smile and then she turns back to whatever Kelley is going on about.

 

“Who's that?” Her dad asks, because of course he can't just understand she doesn't want him to know.

 

“She's my girlfriend,” Tobin says, knowing it's easier to just tell him so this can be over sooner. She doesn't realize until after she's said it that it might sting a little for her dad considering he's separated from his wife, but he wanted an answer and she gave it to him.

 

“Oh wow,” her dad says, clearly surprised. He knows Tobin has never had a girlfriend before. He was always the most supportive right after she came out to her family, but he knew her tendency to just keep things casual. “That's really great, Tobin. I'm happy for you.”

 

It's incredible, really, how quickly an awkward silence falls on them considering they're standing around dozens of excited fans screaming for their favorite player. In their little bubble though, it's eerily quiet.

 

Tobin breaks it when she can't stand it anymore.

 

“We were actually all gonna go to dinner afterwards, so I should probably go get changed and meet back up with them.”

 

“Yeah of course,” he says, looking almost relieved to get out of the situation. “You guys have fun. And good luck the rest of the season. You guys can make playoffs, I know it.”

 

“Thanks, dad.” She gives him a smile and then starts to walk away before they try to awkwardly decide if another uncomfortable hug is in order. It isn't.

 

She briefly stops by to tell her family she's going to go get changed and will meet them in the parking lot later. Christen gives her an odd look before Tobin walks away, but she doesn't think she has the energy to ask why right now and based on the way Christen’s face changes so quickly once she realizes, she doesn't want to talk about it either.

 

Back in the locker room, she takes a shower, but it's only long enough to wash the sweat and grass away. The embarrassment and disappointment lingers.

 

Once she's changed and has said goodbye to the teammates that are still around, she heads off in search of her family. She's just spotted them when someone calls her name from behind. She turns around and sees Heather, and despite feeling so low, she can't help but smile at the sight of her longtime friend.

 

“Sorry about the game, buddy,” Heather says as she hugs Tobin tightly.

 

“You can't be that sorry, what with the hat trick and all,” Tobin jokes.

 

Heather grins and throws an arm over Tobin’s shoulders as they start walking towards Tobin's family again. “Yeah, you've got me there. I'm not that sorry,” she teases. “Now introduce me to this girl of yours, I need to see if she's as hot as her pictures.”

 

“So much hotter.”

 

Tobin appreciates how easy it is to fall back into such a familiar rhythm with Heather. They don't get to see each other nearly enough and she never realizes how much she misses that until they're reunited again.

 

Christen and Heather get along perfectly of course, and Tobin's mom has always loved Heather so they're all smiling around and joking in no time. They must stand around catching up for about 15 minutes until Jeff complains about being hungry and they say their goodbyes.

 

“Bye, Tobs,” Heather says as she hugs Tobin. “I really hope to see you again soon, kid.”

 

“Yeah, you too,” Tobin says. “I'll make sure to let you know next time I come back.’

 

Heather smiles at her and something about it seems off, but then again she's always been a little weird, so Tobin brushes it aside.

 

She just wants to salvage what she can of the night with her family and not worry about anything else right now.

xxx

“Can I ask you something?” Christen says quietly once they get back to the hotel after dinner.

 

Tobin’s sitting on the edge of their bed, leaning over to untie her shoe, but she stops when she hears Christen’s words. “Is everything okay?” She asks cautiously, picking up on the worry in Christen's tone.

 

Christen chews the corner of her lip for a moment before she responds. “I don't know, honestly. Maybe I'm just reading too much into this but…” she pauses, starts to shake her head as if to say ‘never mind,’ but then she blurts out her question before she can truly talk herself out of it. “Why didn't you introduce me to your dad?”

 

Tobin had been starting to stand so she could get clothes from her suitcase, but when Christen asks her question she falls back onto the bed with a heavy sigh. She tries to explain but Christen cuts her off before she can.

 

“I know things are bad between you guys, with him and your whole family really. I mean he sat three whole sections away from everyone else just so they wouldn't have to interact. I know it's a tricky situation, I just…I don't know, maybe I just had unrealistic expectations.”

 

“This might sound bad,” Tobin starts, bracing herself to have this conversation. She really doesn't like talking about her relationship with her dad. “But honestly, it didn't even cross my mind to introduce you to him tonight. I promise that has nothing to do with you, though. Or I guess maybe it does, but not in a negative way. You're just…you're like the best thing I have going on in my life right now. You and Nata are two of the best parts of my world and my dad…well honestly, he's one of the worst. He's my dad and I love him, but we just do better at a distance. Talking to him tonight wasn't something I was looking forward to. But with you, you're just so good and I didn't want to mix those two parts of my life I guess. I wanted you to be just mine for a little longer. I'm already sharing you with the rest of my family this week, I didn't want to have to share you with him too.” Tobin’s fingers dig into her knee as she uses the slight ache she has there as a distraction, trying to massage away the irritation. “I'm sorry,” she whispers. “I should have talked to you about this before.”

 

“You don't have to apologize about this,” Christen says, slowly crossing the room so she can sit down next to Tobin, leaving just a couple inches of space between them so Tobin can still have her distance if she wants it for this conversation.

 

She doesn’t.

 

Tobin turns so one of her knees is pressed up against Christen’s thigh and she lifts the other to lay in Christen’s lap, letting her take over the massage duties for her knee. Tobin leans in, brushing the hair that has started to come loose from Christen’s bun back behind her ear. Christen leans her face into the touch, kissing her palm before she continues.

 

“I know this is hard for you. I’m not upset you didn’t introduce me, I promise I’m not. I guess I just wish you would talk to me a little more about him. I wish you knew it was okay to, that you can trust me with all this.”

 

“Chris, that is not what this is about at all. I trust you more than maybe anyone,” Tobin admits, taking a moment to wonder when she realized she felt that way before she moves on. “It’s like I said, I just don’t want to mix those two parts of my life yet…but I know I need to.”

 

“You don’t have to do anything you aren’t ready for, baby.”

 

“Yeah but I don't think this will ever be something I'm totally ready for. I think I just need to rip off the band-aid and do it.”

 

“If that's what you want to do, then I do too.”

 

“I'll text him,” Tobin says, the words nearly sticking in her throat. “I’ll see if he can meet us one night before we leave.”

 

“That sounds nice.”

 

“I don't think ‘nice’ is the exact word I would use for it,” Tobin scoffs dryly.

 

She makes herself pull her phone out of her back pocket and send the text before she can stop herself. The last text before the one he told her he was coming to the game today is from over three weeks ago. He'd told her she played well against Dallas. She didn't respond until the following afternoon and all she'd said was “thanks.”

 

She types out the message with heavy thumbs, forcing herself even though she doesn't completely want to do this. She can feel Christen's eyes on her, watching intently. She doesn't want to look up and see the concern that’s surely there. Once the message is sent, she powers down her phone and tosses it onto the chair across from the bed.

 

“Tonight kind of sucked. Can it just be the three of us until we go to sleep?” Tobin asks with a sigh, leaning forward to rest her chin on Christen’s shoulder and kiss the side of her head?

 

“Three of us?” Tobin doesn't even need to look at her to know the way her eyebrows are creased together. “Is there something you're not telling me?”

 

Tobin grins, considering being a smart ass but honestly she's just too damn tired right now. “Can we FaceTime Nata? I miss that kid so bad.”

 

Christen pulls away a little so she can run her hand gently over Tobin’s tired face, pushing some of the perpetually loose hair from her ponytail behind her ear. “You really mean that don't you?”

 

“Of course I do,” Tobin says. “I meant it when I said you guys are two of the best parts of my life and I didn't just mean that because you two are a package deal. He's important to me on his own too.”

 

“I really love you for that, you know?” There's a hint of something like hope in Christen's words, like she's just waiting for Tobin to say those three words back to her. Hell, she probably is.

 

Tobin wants to, wants it more than anything, but something stops her. It's not that she doesn't, but when she does finally tell her she wants to make sure it means everything it possibly can to Christen. It may sound stupid waiting for that perfect moment, but it's what she wants. It's a big deal and it deserves a big moment.

 

“I know you do. Thank you for that,” Tobin says instead.

 

Christen doesn't look disappointed, she's more understanding than that. She maybe looks a little impatient, but definitely not disappointed. She kisses Tobin softly and then scoots back up the bed to pull out her phone and then FaceTimes Nata.

 

Tobin curls up next to Christen, sharing the same pillow because they can never be too close. Suddenly Nata’s smiling face is filling the screen and Tobin's cheeks hurt from smiling back, but she wouldn't change the thing.

 

The terrible loss, talking to her dad--all the bad thoughts fade away in that moment and she becomes happier than she's been since the last time the three of them were together.

 

Tobin loves her little family.

xxx

Christen going to church with Tobin and her family the following morning isn’t something she expected to happen or even planned. Tobin’s mom brought it up the night before, but a decision wasn’t made. Christen isn’t religious and Tobin didn’t know how she would feel about attending church. She didn’t want Christen to feel obligated to go just because her mom invited her. It’s a part of her life she would love to share more with Christen, but she doesn’t want to overstep into territory Christen may be uncomfortable with.

 

She obviously isn’t uncomfortable with it though, considering she’s the one that rolls over on Sunday morning with a sleepy smile on her face and asks if they can go. Tobin happily agrees and her mom is thrilled when she calls and asks if she can come pick them up on her way.

 

Once Tobin is sitting in the pew, her fingers tangled with Christen’s between them, looking over at Christen as she nods along slowly as she listens intently to everything the pastor says, Tobin wonders if she's ever felt closer to Christen.

 

Her faith has always been such an important part of her life. Faith, family and soccer. That's what Tobin’s world revolves around. Christen has become her family and she's integrated herself into soccer, now she's integrating herself into her faith and Tobin is overwhelmed with how much she loves her.

 

The pastor talks about keeping faith, even when it seems like there's no reason to. He says that it's easy to believe and trust in God when things are going well, but when it gets hard--when God is needed the most--that’s when it's most important to have faith. When everything else is encouraging doubt, faith is the only thing that keeps them in track.

 

“When our faith is blindest, is the only time we can truly see,” he says.

 

It resonates with Tobin. Sometimes at church, she understand what the pastor says, but she doesn't always personally identify with it. This though, she feels it on the deepest level. She's been in that spot so many times, wondering what the point of it all is.

 

But at the end of the day, her faith is the only thing that's ever truly been there for her every single time she needed it. People aren’t perfect--family and friends, they fall short sometimes and aren't there when she needs them. Soccer betrayed her in one of the worst ways possible and led her into the darkest moment of her life.

 

But God? He's always been there for her. Every time. Maybe not when she wanted Him to be, but when she's needed Him, which is really the only time it ever truly matters.

 

Tobin's almost amazed at how seamlessly Christen fits into this part of her life. Even if she doesn't believe everything she's hearing, she listens respectfully and with a focus Tobin doesn't know if she's ever had herself.

 

When it comes to singing hymns, she leans in close to Tobin and reads the words, her soft voice warm against Tobin’s cheek.

 

When the Sunday school teacher invites the younger children up to the front to read a passage from the children's bible--the same one Tobin still has on her bookshelf back in LA--Cole pulls Christen up to the front with him instead of his mom like usual.

 

After the service, she mingles with old family friends just as well as she always does, charming everyone easily. She drops Tobin’s hand once they're around other people, unsure of what the boundaries are here, but Tobin links their fingers again and squeezes gently, assuring her it's okay. This church being as accepting as it is helped her through her coming out process and now that she's on the other side, she wants to be able to be proud of Christen. Maybe even show her off a little considering the way she wraps her arm around Christen's waist when her high school history teacher’s grandson gets a little too hopeful the longer he talks to Christen.

 

Tobin's mom invites them out to lunch with some friends, but Tobin politely declined, wanting to take Christen to one of her favorite cafes she always used to go to when she wanted some quiet time to herself. She's never shared the place with anyone else before, but she wants to with Christen.

 

Once they're tucked away in the back corner, coffee cups warming their hands and orders placed, Christen brings up the service.

 

“Thank you for bringing me with you,” Christen says.

 

“Of course, thank you for wanting to go. It really meant a lot to me,” Tobin says, raising her cup to her lips for a small sip before realizing it’s still too hot.

 

“It meant a lot to me too,” Christen says. She reaches out for a sugar packet and crinkles one of the corners between her fingers. When she speaks again, she’s talking to the pink paper. “How come you’ve never asked me to go to church with you before? Like back home in LA, I know you go every almost every Sunday unless you have a game.”

 

“I don’t know if I’ve ever really given it much thought,” Tobin confesses, cringing when she realizes how bad that sounded. “I didn’t mean it like that, I just meant I didn’t think it was something you would be interested in, so I never thought to ask.”

 

“If it’s interesting to you, then it’s interesting to me.”

 

Tobin smiles, knowing Christen means that wholeheartedly. “I just never wanted you to feel like I was trying to push my beliefs on you. I don’t care that we don’t have the same faith, but I never wanted it to seem like I was trying to convert you or anything.”

 

“I would never think that. And just because I maybe don’t believe it, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy hearing about it. I love learning about the things that mean so much to you. Why do you think I read a book on soccer three times?”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes, knowing Christen is right. “Okay, okay, I get it. Next time I go to church back in LA, I’ll make sure you bring you along.”

 

“That’s all I ask.” Christen smirks like she just won an argument that didn’t even happen. She’s so damn cute Tobin can’t even bother to be annoyed by the slight superiority.

 

“What did you think of the sermon? Did you get anything out of it?” Tobin asks. It meant a lot to her and made her reminiscent of their first night together, so she’s curious if Christen took it the same way.

 

Judging by the way Christen bites her bottom lip and looks up at Tobin with darkened eyes, she’s remembering more than just their conversation that night. After a quick, poorly executed wink at Tobin, Christen controls her expression and focuses on answering Tobin’s question.

 

“I really liked what Pastor Queen said about being able to see the best when your faith is blindest,” Christen says, making Tobin smiles proudly since that’s the line she loved so much as well. “That’s one of the things that’s always challenged me about religion, how someone can constantly put so much trust in God and believe that everything will always work out. That’s always been so hard for me to wrap my head around, which is why I asked you about it that night. I don’t know if this will make sense, but I understood what you were saying that night, I just didn’t get it.”

 

“No that makes complete sense. Like, you understood what I was telling you, it just didn’t completely click until you heard it this morning.”

 

“Exactly. Maybe it was the way he phrased it or just hearing it a second time, but I can totally see why your faith is so important to you and why it’s so unwavering. I think it’s really beautiful, honestly.”

 

“Thank you,” Tobin says. She reaches across the table and takes Christen’s hand in hers. “I really, really appreciate you coming with me today. It was a great idea and I’m glad you encouraged it.”

 

Christen just smiles, pulling Tobin’s hand up to her mouth so she can kiss the smooth ridges of her knuckles, letting the gesture say everything she doesn’t need to. “You know what else was a great idea?”

 

“What?”

 

“Those blueberry banana pancakes I ordered.”

 

Tobin looks over her shoulder to see their server approaching the table with way too much food since she foolishly let Christen convince her that ordering that extra side of bacon was a great idea. Then again, the way Christen smiles as she gets caught stealing a piece from Tobin’s plate makes the enormous cheat meal totally worth it.