Actions

Work Header

under pink skies

Chapter Text

“Are you sure this thing is still safe to drive?”

 

Christen isn't even trying to hide the hesitancy in her voice. Her eyebrows are raised and her head is tilted like a confused puppy. Tobin would be a little annoyed she didn't trust her if she didn't look so damn cute.

 

“I promise, it's fine. I drive it every time I'm home and Jeff takes it for a spin every now and again to make sure everything is okay.” Tobin pulls the rest of the car cover off her high school, navy Jeep Wrangler and stands back to marvel at one of her most prized possessions. She ignores the way Christen fake coughs as all the dust is thrown in the air, proving how long it’s been since it was last used.

 

“Why don't you bring it to LA? It can't be good for it to just sit in a garage all the time.” Christen’s eyes move warily over the Jeep, looking for some sort of sign that they definitely should not be driving in this relic.

 

“Nelson would never made it all the way to California, would you buddy?” Tobin pats the hood and then turns to Christen with a grin.

 

“Nelson? You seriously named your car?” She seems more amused by it all than anything, but she still enjoys giving Tobin a hard time any chance she gets.

 

“Whoa, Nelly is not a car. He's a Jeep.”

 

Christen rolls her eyes and walks around to the passenger side. “Are we going to the beach or what?”

 

“You mean you're actually going to let me drive you around in this?”

 

“Trust me, I'm much less thrilled about this than you, but I figure if I don't then you'll just pout about it the whole time, so I might as well just go along with it.”

 

“You're the best, you know that?”

 

“I know, but it's nice to be reminded.”

xxx

The trip to the beach isn't entirely smooth sailing. The Jeep doesn't want to start at first and makes a terrible grinding noise when Tobin turns the key, but after a few tries it starts up.

 

They barely make it to the end of the street before it dies at the stop sign, but Tobin doesn't even panic before she puts the car in park and starts it again, pointing out how easily it goes that time to a very worried Christen. There are a few jerky moments as Tobin remembers how to drive stick again, but by the time they pull up to Tobin’s favorite surfing spot, Christen has stopped complaining about getting whiplash and Tobin has finally gotten the hang of it.

 

“You're lucky I love you or else I would have abandoned ship before we even got out of the neighborhood,” Christen complains, watching as Tobin pulls the surfboards from the back. She rubs at the back of her neck, trying to work out a kink she’s definitely going to make Tobin massage out tonight considering she’s the cause of it.

 

“Oh, I’m very lucky,” Tobin says. She leans over and kisses Christen’s neck, right where it hurts, and then she pushes one of the surfboards towards Christen.

 

“You aren’t allowed to tell Nata about this. He’ll be so jealous if he knows you took me surfing before him.”

 

“I would have taken him months ago, but it turns out his mom is a bit of a hard ass.”

 

“Watch it,” Christen warns, though she’s fighting a smirk. “Just because I don’t want my child in danger of drowning until he’s a stronger swimmer doesn’t mean I’m a hard ass. And besides, I’ve worked a lot to get my ass as hard as it is, you should be a little more grateful.”

 

“Oh, I’m definitely grateful.” To prove her point she reaches out and slaps Christen’s ass playfully, dancing away when Christen tries to smack her back. “Just think of it this way, when you do finally let me take Nata surfing, you can go too and you’ll already know what you’re doing and Nata will be so impressed.”

 

“That’s the only way I’m thinking of it. Haven’t you realized by now my plan for dating you all along is to use you to make myself look cooler in front of my son? I thought we established that on the second date.”

 

“I’ve never been so happy to be used.”

 

Christen rolls her eyes and follows along beside Tobin as they head down towards the beach.

xxx

Two hours later, the longest Christen has managed to stay up on the board is six seconds and that might be a little generous. She gets frustrated the first few times she falls, but then she manages to just let it all go and enjoys herself despite wiping out each time she stands up.

 

A lot of time is spent just sitting on their boards and enjoying the easy current and the beautiful day. But eventually, they're both hungry and cold, so Tobin suggests they go in, but Christen insists she's going to try one more time.

 

It takes a few minutes for what she claims is the ‘perfect wave’ to come along, but when it finally does, she looks so totally determined that Tobin knows before Christen even stands up that this is going to be the time she finally gets it right.

 

She lasts way longer than six seconds this time. Her stance is perfect. If this was the only wave Tobin ever saw Christen ride she would've thought she'd been doing it for years. She goes as long as she can until the wave starts to die out and she turns to Tobin with a huge smile on her face, her arms thrown up above her head, before she gracefully falls into the water.

 

Tobin has never been so proud, and she tells her as much after she swims over to Christen and helps pull her back up on her surfboard.

 

“That's was really fun,” Christen gushes, kissing Tobin with salty lips.

 

“Keep that up and Nata will be so impressed when we go surfing.”

 

“Oh no, I'm never surfing again,” Christen says, her voice light with laughter.

 

“Oh come on, that was so good! You'll only keep getting better.”

 

“I got lucky. I'm proud of myself for trying but I'm freezing and reminded again of why I don't do sports. I'd much rather chill on the beach and watch you surf instead. If you're lucky I'll help you out of that wetsuit once we get to the Jeep.”

 

“I guess that's a good enough compromise,” Tobin grins. “Thank you for doing this with me.”

 

“Yeah of course. Race you to shore?”

 

Christen is already paddling away before she's even finished the question, knowing she'll need the advantage over Tobin to beat her.

 

It still doesn’t help.

 

It’s okay though, because Christen still helps Tobin out of her wetsuit with slow, steady fingers.

xxx

Once they've dried off and stopped in at a hole in the wall diner for the best grilled cheese Christen has ever had, Christen asks Tobin to take her on a tour around her hometown. She wants to learn all about the place Tobin grew up, everything that's important to her.

 

Tobin happily obliges. She loves her little corner of the world and appreciates any chance she gets to share it with other people, especially when that person is Christen.

 

She drives her around the high school, points out the different classrooms they can see from the outside that were her favorite. She spends a little extra time at the soccer field, telling her about her most memorable games. Anyone else might think Tobin was just showing off when she talks about all the goals she scored, but Tobin can tell from the way Christen smiles that she doesn't see it that way. She knows it's just because she's really good and she’s proud of it. Christen tells her as much with a sly grin.

 

“Wait, do you have a letterman’s jacket?” Christen asks. Tobin says yes and Christen follows the answer up by asking, “can I have it? I’ve always wanted one but you know as well as everyone else that I suck at sports and Nima would never even let me touch his.”

 

“If you really want it you're going to have to fight my mom for it, but sure.”

 

After the school, Tobin drives her through downtown and points out the restaurants and movie theatre and bowling alley she and her friends used to hang out at during the weekends. Or more accurately, the places her friends would hang out and she would sometimes tag along if she wasn't busy training.

 

She shows Christen the spot she got her first speeding ticket and the house where she had to pick Perry up when she got drunk in high school and didn't want their parents knowing. She shows her where she and Katie got a flat tire in the middle of the night when they snuck out to get ice cream and tells her about how mad their mom was when they called her and how their dad had just smiled and taught them how to change a tire.

 

Tobin finishes up the tour by taking Christen to the park and pulling into a parking space in front of a wide stretch of flat land that's broken up into several soccer fields.

 

“And this is my soccer field,” Tobin says, a cocky smirk on her face.

 

“Oh really? It's yours, huh? Did you buy it?” Christen teases her.

 

“No, but it seriously is named after me.” Tobin points to the sign a few yards away and laughs at the way Christen’s eyes go wide.

 

“You seriously have a soccer field named after you? How did I not know that? This is so cool. Did you have like a dedication ceremony with a speech and everything?”

 

“Yeah and it was awful. I hate having that much attention on me.”

 

Christen raises an eyebrow. “You literally play soccer in front of twenty thousand fans every home game and you thrive in it, but yet you say you don't like attention on you?”

 

“That's different. When there's a ball at my feet, that's all I'm focused on. I could be playing in front of 200,000 people or zero and I would still feel calm. As soon as I step on a field, everything else just falls away,” Tobin says. “Unless we're playing in San Jose and it's a rivalry game in which case I definitely pay attention to the crowd because it's so much fun shutting them up when I score.”

 

Christen rolls her eyes. She unbuckles her seatbelt and turns so she's more towards Tobin. “I love that you have something to calm you like that. Yoga does that for me. I think it's important to have something to channel your emotions into.”

 

“Yeah for sure. I don't know what I would do without it.’

 

“Do you ever think about what you'll do once you retire?”

 

“You mean when I'm like 60? Because you're going to have to drag me away from the game at that point. I’m too stubborn to do it on my own,” Tobin says.

 

Christen smiles shyly, her eyes lighting up at Tobin so casually saying they'll be together when they're 60. She doesn't call her out on it though, letting the moment be quiet and simple instead.

 

“Well whatever age you are when you do decide to retire, what do you think you'd like to do?”

 

“Honestly, I don't like to think about it a lot. The idea of not playing anymore makes me so incredibly sad,” Tobin admits. “I mean, I know it's a day that will come eventually, but I like to just be present in the moment now while I'm able to play and worry about the rest whenever it comes. But I guess if I do think about it, I don't think I'll ever be able to step away from the game completely. I think I'd like to coach one day, or maybe go back to school and become an athletic trainer so I could work with a team that way. It's going to be hard to entirely give it up.”

 

“I think you'd be an amazing coach.” Christen smiles sincerely, her eyes a little out of the moment as if she's imagining that life for Tobin--that life for the both of them. “And you'd probably be really good at being a trainer too. I could totally help you study for anatomy.”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes at how quickly Christen transitions from being sweet to dirty, but she blushes all the same. “I'd be the best student if you helped me. I've always wanted to hook up with a teacher anyway, so that would be my chance.”

 

Christen wrinkles her nose at that. “Seriously, babe? That's so cliche.”

 

“So is wanting to hook up with a milf but I'm currently doing that and it's great, so are cliches really that bad?”

 

Christen's eyes widen in mock offense. “You did not seriously just call me a milf!” She laughs and smacks out at Tobin's thigh.

 

“You can't take offense to that!” Tobin complains, laughing as she tries to dodge Christen's attack. “That's a compliment and you should be flattered. You are a mother and I would like to fuck you.”

 

“Oh whatever.” Christen rolls her eyes, her smile revealing she's not actually annoyed.

 

“Although, I guess it would be more apt to call you a miaf.” Tobin grins as she watches Christen's eyebrows knit together as she tries to figure out the acronym. Tobin doesn't give her the chance. “Mother I am fucking,” she says.

 

“It's more accurate to say I'm a mywf. Mother you were fucking.”

 

“Oh stop,” Tobin laughs, leaning in to pull a resistant Christen into a long, slow kiss. “You know you're the only mom I'd ever want to fuck. You're the only one I need.”

 

“Yeah, I guess I am a pretty great one, huh?” She mumbles against Tobin’s lips.

 

“You're the best one.”

 

They kiss a while longer before Christen pulls away. “I'm sorry, I love you but I can't keep making out to The Beach Boys.”

 

“There's no better make out music.”

 

“I'm going to tell myself you're joking because I'm really worried you aren't.” She reaches for Tobin's phone and scrolls through her music to find something more suitable. “Oh my god,” she says suddenly, stifling in a laugh as best she can. “I can't believe you have this song on your phone.”

 

Tobin gets nervous. Most of the music on there is from playlists Lauren used to make for training and she hasn't cleaned any of them out in years. It's honestly hard to tell what's on there. She reaches for her phone, but Christen pulls it away and then hits play.

 

As soon Tobin hears the song, she stops being nervous. She can't even blame this one on Lauren because she knows she downloaded this one on her own and she’s not at all ashamed.

 

“The Pussycat Dolls? Seriously, Tobin?” Christen teases.

 

“‘Stick Witchu’ is a good song!”

 

To prove just how good of a song it is, she starts singing right as the lyrics start. Christen giggles and rolls her eyes, but Tobin can tell she wants to sing along as well.

 

“Come on, Chris. I know you're not too cool for The Pussycat Dolls,” Tobin says, trying to coax her into joining. It takes more than a couple playful pokes to her ribs before Christen finally joins in at the chorus.

 

They aren't actually terrible singers, but they're signing loudly and exaggerating the whole thing, so the rest of the song is an out of tune mess of laughs and fumbled lyrics as they try to remember the words.

 

It's a terrible rendition of the song, but Tobin can't remember the last time she felt so light. As much fun as they're having with it, she means every word and she sings them right to Christen.

 

By the time the song ends, Christen has a huge grin on her face and leans over to kiss Tobin softly.

 

“See, I told you that was a good song,” Tobin says.

 

“That might have been the gayest thing I’ve ever done.”

 

“Really? Because I think that thing you did with your tongue last night was probably a lot gayer than this.”

 

Christen doesn’t take the bait. She simply rolls her eyes and unplugs Tobin’s phone from the aux chord so she can plug her own in. “I want to play a song for you,” she says.

 

“If it’s not The Pussycat Dolls, then I don’t want anything to do with it.”

 

“Sorry to break your heart,” Christen deadpans. “Seriously though, this is about to be super sappy, but Nata was listening to this the other day and it made me think of you.”

 

“Oh, well if Nata approves then so do I. That kid has great taste in music.”

 

“His taste in music begins with Ricky Martin, ends with Shakira and has the Tangled soundtrack mixed somewhere in the middle. That's it.”

 

“Exactly, which is why I said he has great taste.”

 

Christen rolls her eyes yet again, somehow making the gesture ridiculously cute. “It’s in Spanish, so I know you might not understand all of it, but I’m going to embarrass you and sing it to you anyway, so you’re not allowed to laugh at how bad I am.”

 

“I would never,” she swears. “Besides, you’re singing to me in Spanish. I don’t care if you’re completely tone deaf, I will still be super turned on by it.”

 

“Speaking in Spanish is all I have to do? I'll make sure to remember that.”

 

Christen pushes play and a light, upbeat song starts playing. Tobin grins immediately at the way the bouncy music makes Christen dance around in her seat. It's the exact same way Nata dances around in his booster seat and the similarities between them warm her heart in a way she didn't know possible.

 

When the words actually start, Tobin is relieved to hear they're slow enough she can actually somewhat follow along. Keeping up with Christen speaking quickly in English is enough of a task, she'd have no hope trying to keep up on Spanish.

 

Christen is right, it's super sappy. Even if she doesn't understand every word, she can tell by the tone of the song and the way Christen grins. It isn't until the last line of the chorus that Tobin really gets what the song is about.

 

“Lo mejor de mi vida eres tu,” Christen sings right along with Ricky Martin. Tobin understands every word.

 

Tobin kisses her then, cutting her off mid-lyric. There's a brief protest from Christen for being interrupted, but then Tobin pulls Christen's bottom lip between her own and all thoughts of complaint are dashed.

 

Tobin leans across the console, wrapping the collar of Christen's tank top between her fingers and pulling her in as close as possible. Christen falls against her willingly, sighing when Tobin’s other hand slides up against the outside of her thigh. Christen's lips taste like salt water and her coconut chapstick and Tobin can't get enough of it.

 

Once breathing starts to become difficult, she catches her breath as her lips find Christen’s neck, moving slowly across skin still warmed from the sun. Tobin starts to move her leg to climb across the console, but Christen puts a hand on her chest and pushes her away.

 

“We are not having sex in this car,” Christen laughs, pulling away so Tobin's lips aren't on her neck and she can speak normally without her voice breaking.

 

“Oh come on, I'll be quick,” Tobin bargains, leaning in for more, but Christen just leans further away.

 

“You don't know how to be quick. Even when we are you just want to go again right after.”

 

“Do you blame me?”

 

“Not at all, but I'm still not having sex in a car that smells like old, dirty soccer cleats and Gatorade.”

 

Fine, you win,” Tobin groans, moving back to sit in her own seat. “But just for the record,” she tilts Christen's chin up with the tips of her fingers, “lo mejor de mi vida eres tu, también.”

 

Christen's eyelids flutter closed for a moment and her jaw clenches. “Okay, yeah,” she sighs. “I totally get what you mean about the speaking Spanish thing. That was incredibly sexy. You should speak French to me sometime, you lived in Paris for a year.”

 

“The only French I ever really learned enough to remember are soccer terms and swear words.”

 

Christen leans in and whispers in Tobin’s ear, “then you should use those French swear words when I'm fucking you later. That would be seriously hot.”

 

“You're so mean,” Tobin complains when Christen leans back with an evil smirk. “I definitely won't be coherent enough to be able to do that, but for you I'll try.”

 

“That's all I ask.”

 

Tobin reaches out and unplug Christen's phone so she can plug hers back in. “Since we're playing songs for each other, I want to play one for you.”

 

“Please not a Beach Boys song,” Christen begs, crossing her fingers.

 

“You're lucky you're so cute or else all this Beach Boys hate would be such a deal breaker.”

 

“I don't hate the Beach Boys. It's just I can only listen to ‘Wouldn't It Be Nice’ so many times before it becomes excessive.”

 

“I repeat, you're lucky you're so cute. But no, it's not them.” She scrolls until she finds the song she's looking for, then with a nervous smile, she presses play.

 

Christen recognizes the song immediately, but instead of smiling, she looks suddenly serious, realizing the weight of the song and what Tobin is trying to say without actually saying it aloud.

 

“But I can't help, falling in love with you,” Elvis croons through the speakers before Christen reaches out suddenly and turns off the radio.

 

“Okay, you already took away my Beach Boys. You can take away my Elvis too. I know you like the Tori Kelly version, but the original is still the best,” Tobin whines, trying to turn the song back on. She can't deny feeling a little dejected. She's trying to lay all that she can on the line right now and Christen turns the song off 15 seconds in.

 

“I love the song,” Christen says. She unplugs Tobin’s phone and then leans over to kiss her. “Just trust me, okay?” She waits for Tobin's nod and then adds, “now come on.”

 

Christen gets out of the car and heads off towards the soccer field. Confusion leaves Tobin stuck in her seat, but then Christen turns around and coaxes Tobin along by curling her fingers and Tobin finally bursts into action.

 

Tobin follows Christen until they're standing in the center circle of the field. The sun is setting and Tobin is having a little trouble seeing as it shines right in her eyes, but Christen's eyes burn brighter as she looks down at Tobin.

 

“Dance with me,” she whispers. The song starts playing again, muffled a little by Christen's palm as she reaches to wrap her arms around Tobin’s waist.

 

Tobin can't deny that wish.

 

She links her fingers behind Christen's neck and they sway together. There's nothing elaborate to their dancing like they usually do, there doesn't need to be. This moment is bigger than the style of dance. The song says it all for them. All they need to do is hold onto each other and let the song speak for itself.

 

It's a short song, but Christen starts it again before Tobin is able to lean back out of her arms. Christen ducks down this time to rest her forehead against Tobin’s neck. Tobin can feel Christen's lips moving slowly along with the lyrics against the top of her shoulder and it sends a chill down her spine.

 

“Christen, I need to tell you something,” Tobin says suddenly. She leans back so she can look at Christen as she starts to say, “Christen, I--,” but the words die in her throat.

 

“Don't,” Christen says, a simple shake of her head and an understanding smile on her lips. “Don't say it yet, okay?”

 

“But I want to.”

 

“I know, but when you do say it I want you to mean it.”

 

“I do mean it,” Tobin sighs, sounding almost petulant with her frustration. She doesn't understand what the fuck is wrong with her that she can't just say three syllables properly. She doesn't know why they keep getting stuck in her throat.

 

“I know,” Christen sighs. “I'm sorry, that didn't come out right. I just meant when you say it, I want it to be because you can't bear to not say it. I want you to be completely ready so that it just comes naturally. Don't force it, okay? I'm here, I'm not going anywhere. We have all the time in the world.”

 

She knows Christen is right. As much as she wants to say it, she knows she should wait until she needs to, until she has no other choice but to say it. That's what Christen did when she told her. Who knows how long she wanted to say it before then, but when the moment happened that it needed to be said, it was. Tobin can wait for the same to happen to her.

 

“Okay,” Tobin relents. “I'll wait.” She shakes her head slightly, feeling a little disappointed in herself for not being able to say it. She changes the subject so she doesn't keep dwelling on it. “So where does this rank in terms of the gayest things you've ever done?”

 

“You mean dancing to the epitome of sappy love songs in the middle of a soccer field that's named after you as the sun sets and turns the sky pink just like in our song? I'd say probably third, right behind that thing I did with my tongue last night and belting out The Pussycat Dolls.” Christen laughs--the tip of her tongue trapped between her teeth in the most adorable way--before she adds, “actually, I'm going to move it to fourth. There's something else I want to do to you tonight that will definitely rank first.”

 

Tobin groans when it's clear Christen isn't going to elaborate and instead is going to leave her hanging. “You know, teasing is really rude and I don't appreciate it.”

 

“Trust me, you'll appreciate in soon.” Christen smiles and leans in to kiss her. “Can we please go back to the hotel now? Because I was so serious when I said you speaking Spanish majorly turned me on and I'd really like to do something about it right now.”

 

“If you would just have sex with me in the Jeep, we could solve this problem much sooner and put us both out of our misery.”

 

“Yeah, I'm not that desperate yet,” Christen laughs, backing away and heading towards the Jeep. “Keep trying though.”

 

Tobin wracks her brain for any other Spanish words she remember to try and convince Christen but all she can remember are simple phrases that she knows won't help, but she tries anyway.

 

“Como estas? El carro es azul. Donde estas?”

 

Christen just smiles and shakes her head. “Your pronunciation is atrocious.” She stops and grabs onto Tobin's shirt to pull her forward. She leans in close to Tobin's ear and says, “it's all about the tongue. Don't worry, I'll teach you.” She bites on Tobin's earlobe before she pulls away and then steps back quickly to get into the Jeep, leaving a completely dumbstruck Tobin behind.

 

“You're so mean!” Tobin shouts so Christen can hear her from inside the Jeep.

 

Christen just smiles and blows her a kiss.

xxx

The next two days are spent in pretty similar fashion. Christen stays true to her word and doesn't join Tobin while she surfs, but she does lay out on the beach and tan. Every now and then when she gets too hot, she'll meet Tobin in the water to cool down. They'll sit on either end of Tobin's surfboard and make plans for later in the day.

 

The first day they spend all afternoon in a bookstore. Tobin buys a surf magazine and a sports science one and gets comfortable on a couch tucked away in the corner of the store to start reading. Christen finds her twenty minutes later, holding a bag so full of books it looks like it may burst.

 

“Did you buy out the whole store?” Tobin asks, laying the surf magazine down in her lap.

 

“Almost, but I cut myself off at 8 books.”

 

Christen joins her on the couch and slips off her shoes so she can rest her feet in Tobin's lap. She reads Tobin the back of each book and asks for suggestions on which book to read, which is pointless because she doesn't even pick the one Tobin suggests anyway.

 

As Christen starts reading her book, Tobin heads off to get them coffee. They spend the next two hours sipping their drinks and picking bites off the banana nut muffin Tobin buys them as they read. Tobin ends up dozing off, she isn't sure for how long, and wakes up to Christen gently kissing her neck and claiming she's starving.

 

They head back to the hotel to shower and get dressed for dinner. Tobin's sisters join them Monday night, grateful for a night out while their husbands stay home with the babies. They venture into New York City for dinner and then head towards a club for drinks and dancing.

 

It’s her sisters’ first time drinking since their pregnancies so two drinks in and they’re already a lot to handle, but Christen decides to stay sober and play babysitter so Tobin can have a fun night with her sisters.

 

Being the youngest sister and the tom boy out of the three, she’s always felt a little left out when it comes to her sisters. They’ve always had such a tight bond and Tobin has always struggled a little to break through it. But now that they’re older, they’re all on a level playing field and Tobin is able to feel like their equal. She doesn’t get many moments like this, so she takes full advantage, letting go of her inhibitions even though she isn’t really that drunk and dancing like a fool with her sisters.

 

She’s grateful for Christen being selfless and watching over them all so that she can have a fun night with her sisters and by the time they’ve made it back to their hotel, Tobin is just sober enough she can thank Christen properly.

 

The next afternoon they head back to the hotel right after surfing and don't leave their bed for the next several hours. They realize it might be a while before they get this much alone time to themselves without Nata (even though they both miss him terribly), so they make sure to capitalize on it. They get lost in the warmth of each other's sun kissed skin, committing to memory the lines of curves of their bodies even though they were memorized months ago.

 

They're so caught up with each other, dozing in and out as well, they're almost late to dinner with Tobin's family. Jeff has recently moved into a townhouse and decides to invite everyone over for dinner, which basically means their mom shows up two hours early and cooks everything while Jeff plays Xbox until everyone else shows up and then he pretends to play host.

 

Tobin’s sisters take it easy on Christen this time and let her stay sober during dinner, still feeling grateful to her for last night. Tobin and Christen hang back once everyone is gone to hang out with Jeff though, and he doesn’t go quite as easy on her. Or more accurately, she doesn’t go that easy on him.

 

Christen’s hand-eye coordination may suck at sports while she’s sober, but once she gets a couple beers in her, she somehow becomes a master at Quarters. Christen makes four in a row before missing one and the only reason she misses it is because Jeff cheats and nudges the table’s leg right as she goes to bounce the coin.

 

Christen’s a good sport and doesn’t complain when Jeff’s next quarter manages to go in, taking her shot like she’s supposed to. She claims she’s tired after that, but really she’s just taking mercy on him, knowing full well she’d make so many in the glass she’d have him passed out drunk in just a few more turns.

 

Tonight, just like on their first night, Tobin is the one that’s sober as she helps Christen to bed. Thankfully for Tobin’s sanity, Christen’s a little too drunk and a lot too tired to think about escaping to the bathroom to get herself off in the shower tonight, though.

 

Instead, she crawls into bed and lets Tobin shed her of her jeans and bra, and get her into a more comfortable shirt to sleep in. When Tobin joins her in bed, she curls up against Tobin’s side and holds onto her tightly.

 

“I really like it here,” Christen mumbles against Tobin’s chest.

 

“In Jersey?” Tobin asks.

 

“No, next to you,” Christen says. She cuddles in closer and adds, “but I guess Jersey is pretty cool too.”

 

“This has been a really good trip.”

 

“This has been a perfect trip.”

 

“You’re right, this have been a perfect trip. Which is exactly why we should get on a plane tomorrow morning and skip whatever else we had planned for the rest of the trip. We don’t want anything to ruin it.”

 

Christen may be a little drunk, but she’s coherent enough to get what Tobin is hinting at. She pushes herself up onto an unsteady elbow before realizing she’s too wobbly and moves over to lay on top of Tobin instead, crossing her arms under her chin on Tobin’s chest to hold her head up.

 

“You know,” Christen starts, getting interrupted by a drunken hiccup before she continues. “You know, we don’t have to go to dinner tomorrow night with your dad if you don’t want to. I feel like I sort of pushed you into that and I don’t want to be responsible for making you do something you don’t want to.”

 

“You didn’t push me into anything, at least not in a bad way. I asked my dad to dinner because I wanted to, not because you made me. As much as I want to keep you to myself, I want my dad to see how great you are too. I want to show you off. I know I have a weird relationship with him and it seems like I don’t want him in my life, but I do. It’s just always weird when we’re together.”

 

“So you’re hoping I make a nice barrier?”

 

“Maybe,” Tobin says sheepishly. “Does that make me a terrible girlfriend?”

 

“Not at all.” Christen pushes her toes down into the mattress so she can reach up to kiss Tobin’s chin. “I’ll be your barrier whenever you want me to be. Although to be honest, I may need you to be my barrier a little bit tomorrow night too or else I might be really mean to your dad.”

 

Tobin laughs and says, “you mean like the way you were mean to the mom of that kid who elbowed Nata during karate?”

 

“That kid had been picking on Natanael for weeks!” Christen pushes herself up on her hands so she’s right above Tobin. “That mom’s lucky you were there to pull me away or honestly I might have hit her. She was such a bitch. Stop smiling at me like that!” Christen complains, despite her laugh.

 

“Like what?” Tobin asks, the words barely making sense because her lips are turned up in such a bright smile.

 

“Like you’re making fun of me because I’m not intimidating.” Christen pouts and sits back on her heels so she can cross her arms.

 

Tobin does her best to contain her smile and sits up as well, bringing her hands up to rest on the outside of Christen’s thighs. “It’s not because I think you’re not intimidating. I think you’re very intimidating. There’s a reason I pulled you away from that mom and it’s not because you were the one I was worried about getting their ass kicked. I’m smiling, because you being protective and getting all mad and worked up is totally sexy.”

 

Christen smirks and inches her knees forward the slightest bit so the insides of her thighs are perfectly framing Tobin’s hips. “Oh yeah? You think that’s sexy?”

 

“Incredibly,” Tobin admits. “Do you not remember all the things I did to you that night?”

 

“You know, I’m not sure if I do actually.” Christen taps her chin with a thin index finger as she pretends to actually think about it. “I might need you to remind me a little.”

 

“I’m more than okay with that.” Tobin leans up to meet Christen’s lips for a moment before she finds herself on her back, completely at Christen’s mercy.

xxx

When they pull up to the restaurant the next evening, Tobin doesn’t put the car into park immediately. She holds onto the brake, hand twitching on top of the gear shift. She takes a deep breath and then shifts into park, her hand hesitating for a moment above the reverse position before she pushes the gear up into park.

 

“Are you okay?” Christen asks after Tobin turns off the Jeep, but hasn’t made any move to get out.

 

Tobin’s quiet for another moment before she answers, dropping her keys into her lap so she can play with the little carved wooden surfboard keychain. She picks at the paint that’s barely still there before she blows a quick stream of air through her lips.

 

“I don’t know,” she answers honestly.

 

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Do you know anything?” Christen asks, teasing her instead of being frustrated by her lack of answers.

 

“I know you look really fucking hot in that dress,” Tobin tells her, shooting her a sly look out of the side of her eye.

 

It’s just a relatively simple navy dress with lacy shoulder width straps and reaches below her knees. The color complements Christen’s skin tone so well, as well as Tobin’s dark green and navy flannel that she wears buttoned up with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows with her nicest dark jeans she owns.

 

“Yeah, you’ve said that like four times already since I put it on.”

 

“I can’t help it,” Tobin says with a shrug. “You really do look super hot. I’d much rather just go back to the hotel and have my way with you than go to this dinner.”

 

Christen doesn’t engage with her girlfriend’s dirty mind. Instead, she brings the conversation back to what Tobin is so transparently trying to avoid. “Are you nervous about tonight?”

 

“Honey, I’m terrified,” Tobin says honestly. She drops her keys into the cup holder and flips her hand over, palm up, until Christen’s hand finds hers. Her thumb immediately starts tracing in wide arcs along the outside of Christen’s palm.

 

“That’s okay,” Christen tells her softly. “I know how big of a deal this is to you. If you really don’t want to do this, then we won’t. You won’t disappoint me at all and honestly, who cares if it disappoints your dad?”

 

Tobin lets out a laugh in a quick burst and tightens her grip on Christen’s hand. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” she says.

 

She isn’t just talking about tonight.

 

She’s only had Christen in her life for four months, but yet she doesn’t know what she’d do without her. She doesn’t know what she ever did before her. Every moment of stress and worry and discomfort she’s had in the last few months, Christen has been her constant source of support and ease.

 

She’s always thought she was strong, and she still is, but in those areas where she always felt like she was lacking, Christen is now there to fill in the gaps. She complements her in a way she never realized she needed and she doesn’t know how she could ever go without that now. She never wants to have to figure it out.

 

“Well lucky for you, you’ll never have to find that out,” Christen says, basically reading Tobin’s mind. “But for the record, I know you’re strong enough that you’d be okay even if you were on your own.”

 

“You make me a better person, though,” Tobin says. “You make it so much easier for me to get through things like this.”

 

“Stop it or you’re going to make me ruin my makeup.” Christen laughs as she says this, but the way she sniffles afterwards tells Tobin she’s serious about crying if she doesn’t stop.

 

“Okay, okay, I’ll stop.” Tobin brings Christen’s hand up to her lips and kisses it for a long moment. “All right, let’s do this.”

 

“Yeah? You’re ready?”

 

“No, but if I keep sitting here then I never will be, so we might as well just get it over with.”

 

“That’s the spirit!” Christen teases. “You’ll be okay, I promise.” She leans over and kisses Tobin’s cheek, then she unbuckles her seatbelt and opens the car door, walking around to Tobin’s side to open her door for her so Tobin doesn’t have a choice but to follow.

xxx

The first few minutes are surprisingly less awkward than Tobin was expecting. Christen is polite when she shakes hands with Tobin’s dad, but the way the arm around her waist pulls her in tighter shows how on edge she is.

 

Tobin is amazingly calm. She's pretty sure it's because she has Christen sitting right next to her, a warm hand on her thigh. The night after the game she was a tangled mess of nerves and anger and frustration. Now though, she feels more at ease than she has around her dad for as long as she can remember.

 

While they wait for their drinks, they keep things light and talk about the menu. It's a new restaurant that Tobin hasn't been to before, but her dad has been here several times so he's not short for conversation about his favorite dishes.

 

Once the menus are gone, there's an awkward moment of silence as their only conversation topic walks away with the waitress.

 

“So, uhm,” Tobin’s dad clears his throat and sits up straighter. He leans forward, resting his forearms on the edge of the table and tries again. “So how long have you two been together?”

 

Tobin doesn’t even need to think about it, she already knows the answer, but she doesn’t want to seem overly eager to have this conversation with her dad, so she takes her time before she answers.

 

“A little over four months,” she says.

 

“Oh wow.” He doesn’t do a very good job of hiding his surprise. “That’s really great. How did you guys meet? Do you play soccer too, Christen?”

 

They both can’t help but laugh at that and it’s a nice break in tension. Tobin’s dad looks awfully confused at what’s so funny, but he tries to awkwardly laugh along until Christen explains.

 

“No, I definitely don’t play soccer. As much as Nata would love that, I’m unfortunately terrible at sports.”

 

“Wh-who’s Nata?”

 

Tobin’s smile falls from her face. All week she’s been answering questions about Nata--how he’s dealing with his broken leg, how he was doing with his soccer team before the injury, what he wants to do for his upcoming birthday, why he didn’t come with Christen this week. Everyone in her family already knows all about Nata and they’ve been so invested in getting to know him as well as they can without meeting him.

 

Tobin’s dad, though, he doesn’t even know Nata exists.

 

She can’t believe she actually let herself have the tiniest bit of hope that this would actually work. Her dad knows absolutely nothing about her. How could she ever think this would go well?

 

Christen handles it as gracefully as she can considering she already doesn’t like her dad. She runs her hand up Tobin’s thigh so she can squeeze her knee to reassure her as she says, “he’s my son, Natanael.”

 

“Oh wow,” he says again, apparently not knowing another reaction to show his surprise. “I didn’t know that. That’s great, though. Kids are great.” He laughs nervously, folding his hands together on top of the table. “How old is he?”

 

Christen’s grip tightens on Tobin’s knee, letting Tobin know she’s just as bothered by the fact she even has to answer these questions as Tobin is.

 

This is going to be a long night.

xxx

The rest of the night isn’t quite as awkward, but it still isn’t great.

 

They talk about Tobin’s season, avoiding the downward slope the team has been on for the past few months and instead focusing on a few really great games they had earlier in the season. Tobin and her dad may not talk much, or really ever, but he does still follow her soccer career, so that has to count for something she supposes.

 

He asks Christen countless questions about her job, which she can’t help but enjoy talking about on account of how much she loves her job. He’s totally fascinated by all the places she’s traveled and promises to subscribe to the magazine first thing tomorrow.

 

All in all, it’s not a terrible night.

 

She’s had worse nights with him. Unfortunately though, she’s also had way more great nights with him that she can’t help but miss.

 

They make it through dinner after the bumpy start when they were talking about Nata. Things go relatively well, considering.

 

That is until after dinner when they’re waiting for the bill. Tobin leaves for a few minutes to go to the bathroom and everything was going okay, but when she comes back, the mood seems to have completely shifted. Tobin’s dad will barely make eye contact with her and Christen’s hand feels suddenly heavy on her thigh. She doesn’t get to think much about it though because suddenly the waitress is coming back with her dad’s credit card and they’re leaving.

 

“I'll give you guys a few minutes,” Christen says when they get outside. “It was nice to meet you, Mr. Heath,” she says as she turns to Tobin’s dad, still refusing to call him by his name, refusing to let him think she's okay with that type of informality.

 

He holds his hand out to shake hers, but Christen turns back to Tobin as soon as she notices, acting like she didn't see what he was doing to cover up the intentional avoidance. Tobin’s a little surprised by Christen’s blatant effort to ignore him when things seemed to be going relatively well earlier. She figures Christen’s probably just reached her threshold for being polite with him.

 

“I'll go wait in the car.” Christen kisses Tobin’s cheek and then she's gone, leaving Tobin on her own with her dad for the first time in so long Tobin doesn't even remember.

 

The uncomfortable silence that stretches on after Christen leaves is nearly unbearable. Tobin used to be able to talk to her dad so easily. They were best friends and they never lacked for conversation topics. Now though, he just feels like a stranger. That was one of the hardest parts about him leaving. Not only did she lose her dad, but she lost her best friend too. She knows no matter how good things get between them, she'll never get that back.

 

“Thank you for inviting me to dinner,” he finally says for lack of anything else. “It was really nice to see you again and to meet Christen. She's really great, Tobin.”

 

“Yeah I know she is.” The words are abrupt and forceful, but she doesn't need her dad telling her someone she's already well aware of. Maybe she's being petty or immature, but she doesn't care.

 

Her dad takes the hint and clears his throat, swallowing down whatever else he was going to say about how great Christen is. “So I was uh…I was thinking about maybe heading out to LA for your last home game? I know I haven't been out there ever, but I'd like to see the place you call home. I know those fans really love you there, it would be really great to see you totally in your element.”

 

Tobin knows then something else is going on. He's never once offered to come out to LA, he's never even brought it up as a possibility. Things are so strained between them they both know a trip to LA would cause nothing but disaster. When Tobin looks up at his eyes though, those deep brown ones that are the exact same as hers, she sees nothing but sincerity. He isn't just saying this to be polite. He's completely serious.

 

“Yeah, I uh--” Tobin chokes out, coughing over her own surprise. “I mean the season is almost over, so that would be pretty soon, but uhm…” she swallows hard before she says what she does next, “that would be cool. We could definitely figure something out if you're able to get off from work.”

 

“Don't worry about that. Going to see you is more important, I'll figure it out.”

 

Tobin has no idea what the hell is going on, all she knows is that she's a little scared. She's afraid of getting her hopes up about maybe actually getting her dad back in her life in a decent way and then it all blowing up in her face and leaving her devastated. She can't lie, she would love to have her dad back in her life, but more like the way he was before. It'll never be quite the same, but she'll accept as close as she can get.

 

“That would be really nice, dad. It would be cool for you to meet Nata too.”

 

He smiles widely at that, another reminder of things they'll always have in common. Everyone says her smile comes from her mom, but there's a level of her smile when she's really, really happy that is all from her dad. The eye crinkles when she smiles are definitely from her mom, but the wide toothy grin is undeniably from her dad.

 

“He seems like a really cool kid. You really love them both, huh?” It's so casual how he asks. It's not like he's trying to get some secret information out of her, he just genuinely cares and wants to know about a really important part of her life.

 

For the first time in a long time, she wants him to be involved.

 

“Yeah, yeah I really do.”

 

He nods quickly and then gives her a tight smile, seemingly more uncomfortable than he's been before this. Tobin was starting to think they were finally getting somewhere. Maybe she just stupidly let her hopes get up once again only to be disappointed.

 

“There's uh--I have something I want to talk to you about,” he says. “It's long overdue, but uhm…” He blows out a long stream of air through his teeth, long enough for anxiety to creep into Tobin’s mind, wondering what he might possibly have to say. “Tobin, I’m sorry.”

 

She pauses for a moment, either waiting for his follow up comment or trying to process what it is he just said. Maybe both. She tries to speak, but her throat closes up. She just stares up at her dad with wide eyes, trying to make sense of what’s happening.

 

He looks just as frightened, like he’s surprised himself with the turn this conversation took. He knows he’s the one that initiated this though, so he clears his throat and continues.

 

“I’m sorry for the way I handled everything and for the way I hurt you. I was a coward back then and handled everything so wrong. I could stand here and give you some long explanation about why I did what I did, but it would all just sound like feeble excuses, so I won’t waste your time. All that matters is I regret hurting you. What I did was irreparable. I’m not stupid enough to think you could ever forgive me, but I just want you to know that I regret it every single day that I haven’t been able to be a part of your life these past few years. I’m so proud of you for everything you’ve accomplished and I just…” he sighs and shakes his head, knowing there’s really nothing he could ever say to fix anything. “I’m just really sorry. I’ve never apologized to you for the right things, but I want to now.”

 

Tobin's at a loss for words. She's wanted to hear this from her dad for so long, but now that it's actually happening, she's not sure what it means to her. It's been so long, there's such a canyon between them now she doesn't know if they'll ever be on the same side again.

 

She knows she has two choices though.

 

She can choose to still be bitter. She can hold a grudge and tell him she doesn't care if he's sorry or not. She can tell him is doesn't change anything and continue to be estranged.

 

Or.

 

She can forgive him. She can let all the pain go and stop poisoning herself and their already feeble relationship with it. She can start to help bridge the gap like he's starting to and they can work together to have some semblance of a normal relationship again.

 

She knows which choice is easiest, but the also knows which choice is best for her in the long run.

 

So she lets it go.

 

“Thank you,” she tells him. “I really wish you would've said this along time ago, but we can't change the past. I think I'm still going to need a little time to figure out how to completely forgive you, but I promise I'll start to work on it.”

 

Tobin has never seen someone so relieved. His shoulders must slump a solid six inches from how tightly wound up he'd been standing. The tension that's normally so palpable between them slowly fades away and he looks more relaxed than he's been with her in years. Tobin knows her own stance mirrors his now when she feels the slight ache between her shoulders from finally letting the muscles there relax.

 

There's a genuine smile on her dad's face when he says, “that's more than I deserve, I know, but thank you. I'm not foolish enough to think we'll ever have the kind of relationship like we did before, but I'd definitely like to have a better one than we do now.”

 

“I'd like that too,” Tobin admits, only realizing just now how much she truly would. “Being this mad at you for so long is exhausting,” she says with a wry grin.

 

Her dad scoffs out a nervous laugh. “Yeah, I'd imagine it would be.” He sighs and then checks the time on his watch. “Well I better let you go, it's getting late.”

 

“I'll call you when I get back to LA, okay? We'll plan out a time for you to come visit.”

 

“I'd really love that, Tobin.”

 

This time when they step towards each other to hug, it feels natural. It isn't awkward and practiced like it's been the past few years. It's almost, almost, feels comfortable like it did so long ago. Tobin used to love being wrapped up in her dad's arms. He's a tall, solid guy so she always feels so small when he hugs her and she used to find comfort and safety in that. She only realizes now as her chest aches slightly at the memory that she's really missed this.

 

The hug lasts longer than usual and when Tobin's dad finally pulls away, Tobin swears she sees the beginning if tears lining the bottoms of his eyes. He sniffles once and blinks them away so quickly Tobin barely sees them, but she knows they were there.

 

“You two enjoy the rest of your time here and have a safe flight back,” he says. “Tell Christen it was really nice meeting her.”

 

“I'll be sure to tell her, thanks dad.”

 

“Thank you for inviting me tonight. I'll see you soon.” With a small wave and a smile he heads off in the opposite direction towards his car.

 

Tobin watches him walk away for a moment, counting how long her breaths are to ground herself. It doesn't feel real, what just happened. She's imagined her dad apologizing to her so many times, but she's given up hope on it ever actually happening. She's trying to have a ‘better late than never’ mindset, but she can't help but wonder how different things could be between them if he'd said this all 10 years ago.

 

When he rounds the corner of the building and she can no longer see him, age let's out a long breath and turns to walk towards her own car, towards Christen.

 

“Are you okay?” Christen asks as soon as soon as Tobin opens the car door.

 

Tobin waits until she's settled in her seat and has pulled her seatbelt on before she answers. “I think so,” is all she says.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Christen's voice is cautious, but not like she's afraid of saying the wrong thing. It's more like she's afraid Tobin is mad at her and doesn't want to make things worse.

 

Tobin notices the way Christen’s eyes won't lock on her a for more than a couple seconds, but she's still a little too dazed to think about what that might mean right now. Instead, she starts her Jeep and turns to Christen with a soft smile.

 

“Can we go to the beach?” She asks, hoping Christen understands what she's trying to say. She does want to talk, but she doesn't want to do it here. An empty beach or an empty soccer field is always where she's done her best thinking. The beach is closer.

 

“Yeah of course,” Christen says, bringing a hand over to squeeze Tobin's knee.

 

Tobin takes a moment to squeeze her hand back, grateful for how well Christen understands her.

xxx

It's a quick drive to the beach, but they don't talk the whole way. Christen is giving Tobin the time to herself to think, but she also seems to be worrying about something herself considering the way her grip on Tobin's knee becomes increasingly tighter until eventually she pulls her hand away entirely.

 

Tobin doesn't know what she's thinking about.

 

They park and walk hand-in-hand to the beach until they make it to the sand. They both take their shoes off and leave them by the wooden stairs.

 

Christen doesn't take Tobin's hand back as they walk towards the water. She instead crosses her arms over her chest and let's out a deep breath.

 

Tobin thinks she pieces together then what's going on, but still she waits. It's a slow walk to the water and Tobin feels them slowing down the closer they get, buying themselves a little more time.

 

Eventually though, the cool water hits Tobin's toes and she knows she needs to speak up.

 

“Did you say something to my dad when I went to the bathroom?” She can tell by the way Christen avoids eye contact with her that she definitely did, but she wants to hear her say it.

 

“Why would you think that?” It's clear by the way her voice shakes she's worried about upsetting Tobin by answering truthfully, which tells Tobin all she needs to know.

 

“Christen, just tell me,” Tobin says, not wanting to dance around this like Christen is clearly trying to right now. “I’m not mad, okay? I’m just wondering what brought on everything he said to me.”

 

Christen sighs and then finally raises her eyes to meet Tobin’s. They’re watery as she says, “okay, yes. I did say something to him. I know that I shouldn’t have, but I just got so upset with him asking all these questions about me and Nata, things that your mom and sisters already know. It made me so angry because those are things he should know too, but he doesn’t because you guys don’t talk to each other about those things because he fucked you over. And I know that this all happened long before we met, but Tobin, I’m so mad at any person who has ever hurt you and has ever made you feel like you aren’t loved. I can’t tell all those people what I think about them, but I was presented with the opportunity to tell him and I just took it without really thinking. I’m sorry. I know it wasn’t my place, but I just couldn’t stop myself.”

 

Tobin doesn’t say anything for a moment. She just tries to imagine a usually very composed Christen Press going off on her father. She assumes she was probably still calm while she was doing it. Her words were probably scathing, but her demeanor was likely still put together. She wouldn’t have wanted to draw attention the attention of anyone around them to what she was doing, so her face was probably still neutral even as she was spewing out cross words.

 

“What did you say?”

 

Christen pulls her bottom lip between her teeth and looks up at the moon. She sighs and then says to the stars, “I told him he was a fucking idiot.”

 

Tobin laughs. It’s a deep, rich laugh that almost knocks her off her feet. She grips out to hold onto Christen's arm to steady herself and Christen looks over at her with the most bewildered look on her face. She looks legitimately concerned for Tobin’s sanity in that moment on account of how hard she's laughing, but she doesn't try to calm her down.

 

Moments later, Tobin is finally able to catch her breath. She wipes under her eyes to get rid of the tears that formed as she laughed. She lets go of Christen's arm and places that hand over her stomach, which aches.

 

“You seriously said that to him?” Tobin asks.

 

“Yeah,” Christen says. “I know I probably shouldn't have, but I couldn't stop myself.”

 

“What did he say back?”

 

“I don't think he really knew what to say back. He was super caught off guard and mumbled a bit, which pissed me off even more because he was acting like he had no idea what he had done to make me so mad, so I told him.”

 

“What did you tell him?”

 

“I told him that I wanted to feel sorry for him because he doesn't get to see what a strong, beautiful, amazing woman you've turned into, but I don't feel sorry for him because he did it to himself. I said I hope he feels ashamed of himself and I hope he realizes what a great person he's missing out on having in his life and I hope he realizes there's no one to blame but himself. I think I may have said some other things, but I don't really remember. I was so mad I was rambling a bit.”

 

“You really said all that?” Tobin asks, her voice so soft it's almost drowned out by the crashing washes.

 

“Yeah I did. I know it's not my place, but I couldn't stop myself. I'm sorry, Tobin.”

 

“Why are you sorry?”

 

“Because it was a stupid, immature thing to do. Whatever issues you have with your dad aren't my responsibility to fix. We just got through our fight about not crossing lines with each other and then I go and do this. It was dumb and I'm sorry.”

 

“I don't need you to apologize,” Tobin says. “I really appreciate you looking out for me. I just--” Tobin trails off, either at a loss for words or unsure how to phrase what she's about to say. She sighs and shakes her head and then after a long moment of staring at her toes wiggling in the sand, she reaches out and takes Christen's hand. “He apologized,” Tobin says at last.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“He said he was sorry for everything he did. He’s never said that before to me, to any of us. He’s said he was sorry, but never for anything specific. It always seemed like the was just apologizing for the fact we were upset, but not for the reasons he upset us. He never accepted the blame for everything he’d done to us.”

 

“But tonight he did?”

 

“Yeah,” Tobin says, her voice thin. “I mean it’s ten years too late so I don’t really know what it’s worth, but he apologized for everything. He accepted blame and admitted he really screwed everything up.” She starts to tell Christen what all he told her, but she knows she wouldn’t be able to hold it together long enough to do so. Besides, she has other things that are more important to tell her right now. They can talk about the rest later.

 

“No one has ever stood up for me like that before,” Tobin tells her. “I mean my mom stood up for all of us back then, but never…like, never me specifically. No one has ever taken care of me like that. Katie and Perry took care of each other. Jeff took care of my mom and she did her best to take care of him. But I was so far away at school. No one ever just took care of me. Lauren and Amy did their best, but the two games my dad ever came to, they never wanted to cause a scene. But you? You did that for me. Only me.”

 

“I'd do so much for you, Tobin. I know you don't need me to take care of you, you're strong enough to do that on your own. But when I see someone treating you poorly, I can't just sit back and let them do that to you. Maybe I'm overstepping, but I can't help it.”

 

“I love you,” Tobin says, the words tumbling from her lips in a rush. Her eyes go wide after, as she realizes what she just did. She opens her mouth to speak, but nothing comes out so her bottom lip just quivers.

 

She looks terrified.

 

Christen on the other hand, looks entirely calm. She smiles softly--slowly so it doesn't take Tobin by surprise. She reaches out a gentle hand and curls her fingers around Tobin's wrist, tugging her closer.

 

“Say it again,” Christen says, her voice low and slow. “Say it again for real. Do it on purpose this time.”

 

Tobin knows what she's doing, trying to ground her by giving her the choice to say it this time. She's not going to draw too much attention to it until Tobin says it intentionally.

 

Christen knows Tobin would want this to happen on her terms, that's the whole reason she's never pressured her into it. Tobin’s mouth may have jumped in line in front of her head on this one, but that doesn't mean they can't still salvage the situation.

 

Tobin appreciates her so much for it, knowing exactly what she needs.

 

So she takes a deep breath, slips her wrist through Christen's fingers until they're linked with her own. She looks her right in the eyes, those bright, warm eyes that make her feel like they’re the only two peopl on Earth, and when she says it this time, she's never been more sure of anything in her entire life.

 

“I love you, Christen.”

 

And just like that, the final piece of the puzzle clicks into place. That thing that Tobin has been searching for her entire life, that’s always eluded her, is finally in her grasp. She’s completely in love with a kind, intelligent, beautiful, compassionate woman and Tobin doesn’t think she’s ever felt so at peace.

 

Christen smiles so wide, her eyes crinkle and her teeth light up as the moon hits them. She brings both her hands up to either side of Tobin’s face and touches her so gently, Tobin hardly feels it. Christen leans in and kisses Tobin, soft but sound.

 

“How much are you freaking out right now?” Christen asks when she pulls away.

 

“I’m not freaking out,” Tobin denies, but her voice cracks and her hands are shaking as they hold onto Christen’s hips. “Okay, maybe I’m freaking out a little bit,” she relents with a nervous laugh. She leans in and rests her forehead against Christen’s, taking a deep breath and letting it out in a slow, steady stream. “I’m good, though. I’m okay.”

 

“I know you are.” Christen leaves absolutely no room for doubt. She tilts Tobin’s face up until their eyes meet and says, “if it helps, I love you too.”

 

Tobin chokes out a laugh and pulls Christen closer by the hips. “Yeah, that definitely helps,” she says before she kisses Christen.

 

Given the emotions that have been running high all night finally coming to a head, it doesn’t take long at all for the kiss to deepen. Tobin’s fingers dig into Christen’s hips and Christen’s are tangled in Tobin’s hair, holding her close.

 

“You need to hurry up and get me back to the hotel now or else I’m going to be forced to go back on my word and actually let you fuck me in your Jeep and I’m really not going to be happy with myself tomorrow if that happens,” Christen says against Tobin’s mouth, the words taking much longer than usual to form because she can’t bear to take her lips off Tobin’s for more than a couple seconds.

 

Tobin kisses her hard one last time and then she takes her hand and leads her towards the parking lot.

xxx

Tobin’s never been in love before, but later that night when she’s lying naked in the hotel bed, completely breathless and absolutely exhausted, a ghost of a grin still on her face from the way her thighs ache--well she’s 100% sure there’s no better feeling in the world than being in love.

 

The notion is only further proved when Christen steps back into the room from the bathroom wearing only Tobin’s flannel shirt from tonight. It hangs below her waist and three of the buttons are fastened so it’s hiding far too much for Tobin’s liking.

 

She sits up on her elbows and says, “you missed a button,” nodding at the way one side of the shirt hangs down further than the other.

 

Christen looks down at the shirt and then back up at Tobin with a grin. “What, this one?” She asks as she unbuttons the top one. The shirt’s barely hanging over her breasts now and Tobin sits upright as Christen walks slowly towards her.

 

“Not quite,” Tobin says, her throat tight with want despite all that already happened in the last couple hours.

 

“What about…this one?” Christen unbuttons the bottom one, revealing enough of her thighs that Tobin can now see the purple mark she left on the inside of her thigh, right at the sensitive spot that always makes Christen squirm.

 

“Nope, you still missed it.”

 

Christen’s made it to the edge of the bed now. Her knees bump against Tobin’s. Christen brings her hands out to drag her fingernails down the tops of Tobin’s bare thighs. “Why don’t you show me which one it is?”

 

Tobin swallows hard and then starts to raise her hands so she can undo the last button and rid Christen of the shirt that is covering way too much warm skin, but Christen’s hands find hers to stop her.

 

Christen clicks her tongue and shakes her head. “No hands,” she says as she brings her index finger up to Tobin’s mouth and taps her lips.

 

Tobin doesn’t need anymore direction. She leans forward and takes the hem of the shirt between her teeth. She’s amazed that all it takes is a strong flick of her tongue to undo the button, but when it comes to getting Christen naked, she supposes she determined enough to accomplish just about any task she needs to. She kisses a line up Christen’s stomach to her chest.

 

Impressed, Christen pushes the shirt off her shoulders and pushes Tobin backwards, following her onto the bed. She kisses Tobin as her reward and pulls away with a content sigh, an understandably sleepy smile on her face.

 

“Being in love is the best, dude,” Tobin says. Her lips are curled up into her classic dopey smile, the one that’s reserved just for Christen.

 

“I’m going to forgive you for just calling me dude while I’m lying on top of you naked hours after you told me you loved me for the first time because you’re right. Being in love is the best,” Christen grins. “Being in love with you is the best it ever gets though.”

 

“I was so worried I’d never be able to make myself tell you,” Tobin admits. “I was afraid I was going to do something stupid to push you away and then I’d never get the chance.”

 

“You’d have to do something like, really, really stupid to ever push me away. And we’re lucky because you’re way smarter than that.”

 

“I seriously love you so much, Christen.” Tobin’s lost track of how many times she’s said that in the last couple hours. It’s taken her weeks to work up the nerve to say it aloud and now that she has, she can’t stop those three words from falling off her lips every possible chance she gets.

 

“Good, because I love you too, dude.”

 

“I should probably be worried how hot I find that. Like, you calling me dude seriously turns me on, that’s kinda weird right?”

 

Christen laughs and leans down to kiss her. “Don’t worry, I won’t kinkshame you. Just don’t expect me to call you that often, because that word is definitely not in my vocabulary.”

 

“Then I’ll make sure I appreciate it whenever it comes around.” Tobin tilts her head up to kiss the spot right between Christen’s eyes and then she leans back with a sleepy sigh. “Je t’aime,” she whispers.

 

“You were supposed to speak French to me while I was fucking you, but I’ll take what I can get.”

 

“Just let me sleep for a few hours and we can try that again.”

 

“Deal.” Christen kisses Tobin quickly and then rolls over onto her side. She pulls up the sheets that are tangled at the foot of the bed and pulls them up to cover them both. She snuggles into Tobin’s side, her breath warm against her chest as she rests her head on her shoulder.

 

“Te amo,” Tobin says, her voice barely a whisper as she tries to fight off sleep.

 

“How many languages are you going to tell me you love me in?”

 

“Every one that I can possible learn. I love you in all languages and I need to make sure you know it.”

 

Christen presses a smile into the smooth skin on Tobin’s neck. “Trust me, I already know. But I won’t stop you from telling me however you want to. I’m all ears, baby.”

 

“Ich liebe deine. Okay, that’s all I know. I’ll have to use google translate later for the rest.”

 

“I don’t think that last one is quite right, but I’ll take it.”

 

They both fall quiet and their breaths start to even out. Right before Tobin finally drifts off to sleep though, she has one more thing she needs to say.

 

“Tonight ended up being a really good night.”

 

“They’re all really good nights with you,” Christen responds.

 

“Sweetheart, that’s so gay,” Tobin teases, chuckling as she kisses Christen’s forehead before they both ease into sleep.

xxx

The next day they wake up surprisingly early, but only because Heather invited them to breakfast. They obviously didn’t know they’d have such an eventful night the night before, so they had of course accepted. Tobin’s excited to get to see Heather again before she left and she knows Christen and Heather will get along so well, which is why they somehow manage to drag themselves out of bed and into the shower after just a few hours of sleep.

 

Heather has them laughing so much in the first few minutes of breakfast that they’re wide awake before their coffee has even arrived. Whenever Tobin thinks of one of her oldest friends, she always thinks about how funny she is, but she never truly remember just how funny she is until she’s with her again. She has a wide variety of other traits that make her such a great person--she’s kind and smart and passionate and incredibly loyal--but it’s her humor that always leaves such a lasting impression.

 

They stretch out breakfast as long as they can until Heather is cutting is close to getting back for a training session. She jokes and asks if Tobin wants to come along to get some touches in after a couple days off, but Tobin tells her the promise of a long nap on her mom’s couch is calling her name.

 

And that’s exactly what happens ten minutes after arriving at her mom’s house after breakfast. Since it’s their last day, they promised her mom they’d spend the whole day with her, but Tobin’s condition was that they just hung out around the house, watching movies, relaxing and making dinner later.

 

Tobin gets a jumpstart on the relaxing when she falls asleep almost immediately when she stretches out in the recliner.

 

She wakes up a little while later hours later to her mom and Christen laughing from the kitchen as they bake Tobin’s favorite cookies and joke about how terrible of a cook Tobin is.

 

Tobin can’t even be bothered to be offended that they’re making fun of her. She just grins at how well her mom and her girlfriend and closes her eyes again, dozing off for just a bit longer so she doesn’t interrupt such a special moment.

xxx

“How the hell are you so much faster than me?” Tobin flops down on her back in the sand, arms stretched over her head as she tries to catch her breathe. Her lungs are almost rattling with how hard she has to work to force air into them. She feels like she just played 120 minutes instead of a 2 mile run with Christen down the beach later that evening.

 

“I know, it's weird right?” Christen asks, barely having broke a sweat. She's breathing just fine and grins at Tobin as she says, “it's almost as if I'm the professional athlete in the relationship and not you.”

 

“I don't think there's such thing as competitive yoga, but nice try,” Tobin grumbles.

 

“What, you don't think I'm good enough at any sport to be a professional athlete?”

 

“You said it, not me.”

 

Christen scoffs and lightly kicks Tobin’s thigh. “Oh whatever, I'm good at some sports.”

 

“Name one,” Tobin challenges.

 

It takes Christen a moment. Tobin squints up at her in the dying late evening sunshine and can see how Christen's lips move slowly as she lists off all the sports she knows, trying to find one that sticks.

 

Eventually, she looks down at Tobin with a smirk and proudly says, “I'm really good at sex.”

 

“You are indeed,” Tobin agrees. “But sex isn't a sport. I may have slapped your ass last night after the third round and told you ‘good game,’ but that was just a joke.”

 

“Are you sure? Because what we did last night sure felt like a workout.”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes and sits up, resting her elbows on her knees. “Fine, you're a professional sex athlete. You do realize this means you're either a prostitute or porn star, right?”

 

“I'm sorry, did I miss the part where you paid me for my exquisite work?”

 

“Your payment was the multiple orgasms I gave you.”

 

Christen grins and sits down next to Tobin. “Fair enough.” She reaches down and unlaces her shoes, then she removes them as well as her socks and sticks her toes down in the sand. “Thank you for inviting me to come here with you. I've really had so much fun.”

 

“Thank you for wanting to come with me. You've been so good with my family.”

 

“I really like them all.”

 

All?” Tobin grins, remembering their dinner with her dad only 24 hours ago.

 

“Okay, I like most of them,” Christen corrects with a laugh. “Seriously though, it means so much to me that you wanted me to meet everyone, even your dad. This has all been really important to me.”

 

“It's been important to me too,” Tobin says. “Seriously, I've never wanted to bring anyone home before like this, not even close. I didn't really tell you in detail how I’ve been feeling this week, but I was super nervous about this.”

 

“You didn't need to tell me. You kept doing that thing where you flip your ring around in your fingers for days leading up to this. So I knew how nervous you were, but I never was so I knew it would be okay.”

 

“How did you know?”

 

“It’s just this feeling I’ve had. I love you. More than I've ever loved anyone I've been involved with before, so I just knew this would all work out okay.”

 

That catches Tobin’s attention. She turns away from the water to look over at Christen. She looks for any sign of hesitation on her face when she asks, “really? More than anyone?”

 

“More than Alex, you mean?”

 

Tobin has the good sense to blush for being so transparent, but she doesn't back down. She nods and watches as Christen's face softens.

 

“It's different, the way I love you compared to the way I loved her, but yeah. I love you more. Alex was…she was safe. She was familiar and comfortable and dependable. None of those are bad qualities in a relationship, I feel them all with you too, but Alex just always felt a little too safe and I didn't realize that until I met Nata and took this huge risk. But you, you're different. You're new and exciting and so passionate about the things you love, but you also feel like home. You make my heart race, but you also calm it down.” Christen smiles shyly and suddenly becomes very interested in with the drawstring on her shorts so that she can avoid looking at Tobin. She clearly didn't mean to get so sappy. “I don't know if that makes any sense.”

 

Tobin reaches out and takes Christen’s hand. She lays it across her chest, right above her heart and breathes steadily. “Can you feel that?” Her heart's still racing, but it isn't beating hard like it was a few minutes ago from exertion. It's soft and gentle, rapid beats against her ribs that cause such a sweet, welcome ache in her chest. “That's not from running. That's because of you and the things you're telling me. I get exactly what you mean. You excite me, but you also set me at ease in a way nothing else can. After the game, all I wanted was to be with you. Dinner with my dad, I never would've gotten through it without you beside me. You make me stronger and more brave and I love you so much for that.”

 

If Christen can put herself on the line, it's the least Tobin can do to put herself out there as well. She's glad she did it, and not just because of the way Christen’s face lights up when she hears the words. It feels so good to finally lay all these feelings out on the table. She's always been such a guarded person, but it feels better than she ever could've imagined to let Christen through all that.

 

“Does any of this ever feel a little crazy to you?” Christen asks.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“We’ve only known each other for a little under five months, been together for just over four, but yet we're already so ridiculously in love. You call us your family and you feel like home to me. Does it ever just feel a little fast?”

 

Her words are sincere. She's not asking because she's worried they're being reckless, she just seems a little amazed at how smoothly this has all gone in such a short period of time.

 

Tobin wants to make sure she's just as sincere with her response.

 

“I think it all goes back to our talk that first night. This feels so much bigger some chance meeting, you know? Maybe it's a little fast, but it's never felt rushed. It feels like this has all gone exactly the way it's supposed to. I wouldn't change a single thing.”

 

“Stop it or you're going to make me start crying,” Christen says with a watery laugh, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand.

 

Tobin kisses the side of her head, soft and gentle just like her heartbeat.

 

Neither of them say anything else, they don't need to. They both feel it deep enough it doesn't need to be explained. They sit and watch the rest of the fading light sink down over ocean, watching as the sky turns yellow, then orange, then pink and listening to the crashing of waves and each other's steady breathing.

 

Finally, once the last of the light is gone and Tobin is starting to get cold, Christen stands up suddenly.

 

“I thought of another sport I'm good at,” she says.

 

“What's that?”

 

Christen response is to pull her shirt over her head and throw it at Tobin. Her hands drop to untie her shorts and she's says, “skinny dipping.”

 

“Wait, what?”

 

“Seriously, let's go.”

 

“It's the Atlantic, it's fucking cold!” Tobin shouts so that she's heard over the waves.

 

Tobin's immune to the fact there's a half naked Christen in front of her. All the reasons why this is a bad idea fly through her head as she watches Christen walk backwards towards the ocean, curling her finger in Tobin's direction to try and coax her into following.

 

“What if someone sees? We’re in public!”

 

“Do you see anyone on this beach? Because I don’t. Now come on”

 

Tobin starts to insist that Christen can’t possibly know someone won’t show up soon even though there’s no one here now, but Christen doesn’t let her get the chance.

 

“Don't make me swim alone!” Christen calls from the water line. She turns to face the water and reaches back to unhook her bra and that's when it finally clicks on Tobin’s head that Christen is about to be naked right in front of her. There's no way she's missing out on that.

 

Tobin's after her in seconds, leaving a trail of clothes alongside Christen’s in the sand.