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“Tobin, I love you, but I need you to stop.”

 

Christen reaches out to place a hand on Tobin's knee to stop it from moving. Tobin hasn't even realized she'd been bouncing her knee so badly. There's an ache in her calf from the constant movement that she's only just feeling now that attention has been brought to it.

 

“Sorry,” Tobin mumbles, leaning back in her seat until her head rests back against the wall.

 

Christen is quiet for a moment and out of the corner of Tobin’s eye, she can see her girlfriend chewing on her bottom lip as she tries to figure out what she wants to say next. Tobin doesn't rush it, she lets Christen take her time until she says, “you know you don't have to be here, right? You can go nap in the car while I go, then we'll pick up Nata from Amy’s and go home and get ready for dinner. You don't have to do this with me.”

 

“I want to,” Tobin insists. She lifts her head from the wall so she can look at Christen as she flips her hand over to link her fingers with her girlfriend's. “I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be. I'm sorry if I'm a little freaked out, but I want to be here. I promise.”

 

“You don't have to apologize for being a little freaked out. Therapy isn't for everyone, trust me I know. It took me a long time to get to the point that I was comfortable with it. If at any point during this you don't want to talk about something or even if you want to leave, just say so, okay? I promise you, I won't get angry.”

 

“Thank you for saying that, but this is important to you, so it's important to me too. I want to be here. I'd be back at Amy’s playing legos with Nata and Ryan if I didn't want to be here.”

 

“You're really jealous they're building Star Wars legos without you, huh?”

 

“Ryan said he would wait for me to build them! I wouldn't have bought them for his birthday if I knew he wasn't going to let me help,” Tobin complains in a grumble, crossing her arms over her chest.

 

“Don't worry, with the way those boys play, I'm sure they'll be needing you to put them back together soon enough.” Christen reaches up to scratch at the back of Tobin’s neck, letting her fingers get tangled in her hair.

 

Tobin hums and leans back against the wall again, letting her eyes close. “You're good at that.”

 

“It would be pretty hard to be bad at running your fingers through someone's hair.” Tobin hears Christen move in her seat, followed by her warm breath near her ear saying, “then again, we both know I'm exceptionally good with my fingers.”

 

As Tobin's luck would have it, Christen’s therapist chooses that exact moment to open her door and catch Tobin just as a flush of red washes across her cheeks.

 

“Christen, hi!” she says in a bright, cheerful voice, a welcoming smile curling the corners of her lips. They hug briefly, clearly familiar and comfortable enough around each other after so many years meeting with each other. She then turns towards Tobin and offers her hand, staying professional and keeping boundaries until Tobin is comfortable. Her bright smile doesn't dim in the slightest when she says, “and you must be Tobin. It's so nice to finally meet you. I'm Dr. Bénédicte Cottard, but you can just call me Ben or Dr. Cottard if you'd prefer. Or if you'd like to make my very French grandmother happy, you can call me Bénédicte, but I promise I won't be offended if you avoid that one completely.”

 

Tobin can pick up on the faint accent as she speaks. She takes a quick moment to think through the words in her head, make sure her conjugation is correct, and then says, “c'est un plaisir de vous rencontrer, Bénédicte.”

 

Ben absolutely beams at that. She brings her other hand up to hold Tobin’s in both of hers and squeezes gently. She turns to Christen with a mildly offensive look and says, “oh wow, Christen, you never told me she spoke French!”

 

“I don't, really,” Tobin says quickly, wanting to discourage her from trying to start an actual conversation, something Tobin can definitely not do. “I spent a year playing soccer in France and just learned enough to get by.”

 

“Well your pronunciation is exquisite, I'm impressed,” she compliments and then finally drops Tobin's hand. “Are you guys ready to get started?”

 

Christen's hand finds Tobin's instantly, squeezing it once in a silent question. Tobin nods solidly and speaks her answer. “Yeah, definitely.”

 

They follow Ben into the room, hand in hand. The room is painted a soft yellow color and there are hand drawn pictures pinned up all around, in the messy, crayon scrawled way that indicated they must have been done by a child. There's a large collage on one wall with various pictures of French landscapes and architecture. Ben’s desk in the corner is covered in hand written notes and folders. To anyone else it would look like a mess, but Tobin's sure it's just organized chaos and makes complete sense to Ben.

 

They settle close to each other on a couch made of soft, gray fabric and Ben sits across from them in a low wooden chair that doesn't possibly look like it could be comfortable, but she doesn't seem to mind.

 

Christen rests a hand gently on Tobin's knee and settles back into the couch just as she's done a hundred times before.

 

Ben takes a moment to pull a legal pad out of, what Tobin assumes is, Christen's folder and she scribbles something at the top before she turns to them with a gentle smile. It's so much different from the smile out in the hall. It's less blinding and more comforting, less friendly and more professional, but no less inviting. Tobin appreciates that she seems to keep her professional and personal lives well separated.

 

“So, how are you both doing?” The way she says it makes it clear she's looking for much more than just a simple one-word answer.

 

Christen, of course, takes the lead and answers first. She told Tobin countless times before this that she didn't have to talk much if she didn't want to. She said she would carry on like she usually does during her therapy sessions, and if Tobin was comfortable enough to chime in then she could, but she wasn't going to force it. She said that she talked to Ben about it in her last session and they agreed Ben would give her the opportunity to speak, but she also wouldn't push it until Tobin was ready

 

“Overall, I'm doing really well. Nata is doing better with his leg than I thought he would. He's bummed about missing soccer of course, but he's started watching a lot of games so he can learn more. He asked me to buy him a notebook so Tobin can take notes for him to remember later, it's really cute. Seeing him happy despite circumstance really makes me happy. Things with Tobin are better than they've ever been. We just got back from visiting her family in New Jersey and it was so great.” Christen's hand moves from Tobin's knee to hold her hand and she smiles over at Tobin as she continues, “it was so nice to see where she grew up and I think we both learned some new things about each other that are really going to help us out long term. Uhm--oh! I just found out yesterday in going to be an aunt for the second time so that's really exciting.

 

“I have a lot of really good things going for me right now, so it helps a lot when I'm not having the best day. As happy as I can be, there's still this deep sadness within me that's fighting for my attention. It's just a tricky balance of giving it enough attention that I'm not allowing it to go unchecked to the point it totally takes over, but not too much that I don't have any attention left for everything else in my life. It's hard, but the new dosage of my medicine really helps and I've been doing a lot of those breathing exercises you recommended, so it's been okay. It's nothing I can't handle.”

 

Ben smiles softly as she scribbles down some notes. “That's really good, Christen. I'm glad to know you have so many good things going for you right now. It can be hard when things get really bad to focus on the good things, so I like that you're focusing on all the good things now so you're able to more easily reflect back on them. That's really good,” she says again. She turns to Tobin, her eyes kind and inviting. “How are you doing, Tobin?”

 

Tobin is a little caught off guard even though she definitely shouldn't be. Her original question was how they were both doing, of course she wasn't going to get away with not being specifically called out. She knows she doesn't have to answer or go as in depth as Christen did, Christen assured her of that. But she thinks she wants to. It would kind of defeat the whole purpose of coming to therapy if she just sat there the whole time not saying anything.

 

She didn't like the couple therapy sessions her mom and Lauren convinced her to go to after her dad left, but she's at a different place in her life now. She's not this angry, confused kid. She's unbelievably happy and she's in love and that's something she wants to talk about.

 

“I'm uh--” she pauses to clear her throat and compose herself again, swallowing the last of her nerves about opening herself up to a total stranger. “I'm really good. Uhm…like Christen said, we had a really good trip visiting my family and that was really nice. I don't get to see them that often, so I always really appreciate when I can. It was really great to see Christen get along so well with them. I uh--I think I need a new hand from how much Nata is making me write in that notebook.” She grins as she thinks about how much Nata wants to learn from her. He wants to know absolutely everything about soccer. “I don't mind helping him learn, though. I swear that kid's brain is wired for soccer. He’s going to be such a baller when he gets older. I wish soccer was going as well for me as it is for him.” She clears her throat, hating the way failure tastes on her tongue. “Things aren't going so well with my team right now, which is upsetting, but I'm trying as hard as I can so I'm able to be proud of that at least. I'm just really competitive and I hate losing, but Christen has been really great about making me smile after losses so that really helps. So there are definitely some not so bright spots to my life right now, but in general things are really good and I'm really happy.”

 

She's amazed how easy it was to say all that. Christen’s hand in hers certainly helped, as did the serious, yet comforting look Ben was giving her, letting Tobin know she has her full attention.

 

Ben nods and writes something else in her notebook before she gives Tobin a proud smile, clearly excited she was able to participate despite her obvious nerves.

 

“That's great, Tobin. Like with Christen, I'm very glad you're able to focus on the positives in your life despite the negatives. That's a very important quality and I'm sure it's one that helps you both bond so well.” She writes something else in her notebook and then sets it face down on the table between them. “You both mentioned how you recently went to New Jersey to visit your family, Tobin. It's seems like you both had a really nice time, which is great. Christen, is it okay with you if I speak freely about things you've said in previous sessions in front of Tobin?”

 

That makes Tobin's stomach roll, not because she thinks Christen talks badly about her during her sessions, but because it feels weird to know there's a near stranger who knows so many personal details about her life and she wasn't the one to share them. Tobin isn't an inherently private person, but she does like to be in control of what people know about her.

 

Of course Christen is going to talk to her therapist about her, though. It wouldn't be fair to ask her to stay quiet about such a huge part of her life just because Tobin isn't sure how she feels about it. She trust Christen though and she wants total honesty between them, so as weird as this whole situation may be for her, she wants to hear whatever Ben wants to say.

 

Christen nods and squeezes Tobin's hand. “Yes, of course. There's nothing I want to keep from Tobin.”

 

“So what I'm curious about is in our last session before your trip, Christen, you mentioned you thought Tobin was very nervous about bringing you home. Tobin, was there any truth to that?” Ben asks.

 

“I uh...y-yeah, that's definitely true,” Tobin admits. She and Christen already had this conversation, so she doesn't know why she's so nervous to talk about it again. “I'm sure Christen has mentioned this, but she's pretty much my first real relationship. I've never brought a girl home before, so I was definitely nervous about that. She's so great and I knew my family would love her, but I was still worried that there could be an off chance they didn't. But honestly, I think I--” she cuts herself off when she realizes what the next works out of her mouth are about to be.

 

It's something that's never really crossed her mind, but suddenly makes so much sense. She thinks it's always been there in the back of her head, she just never shed enough light on it to fully understand. Now that she's letting herself think about it though, she thinks she finally knows exactly why she was so nervous about it.

 

She sucks in a breath and continues in a slow, quiet voice. “I think maybe I was a little self conscious too, maybe a little embarrassed for her to see what my life was like at home.”

 

Ben opens her mouth to speak, but Christen beats her to it, though she likely still asks the exact same question. “Why would you ever be embarrassed by that?”

 

“I don't know,” Tobin mumbles, punctuating the statement with a shrug. “I guess I've always been a little embarrassed any time I introduce anyone to my family. I think I was the same way with Lauren and Amy and Kelley too. I guess I'm embarrassed they'll pity me or something because of the situation with my parents.”

 

This time, Ben is the one who beats Christen to the question. “Because of their divorce?”

 

The question makes Tobin pause, reminding herself this woman probably knows far more information about her personal life than she realizes. She gathers herself quickly, though, and answers.

 

“Honestly, yeah. Not to imply that everything's perfect with them, I'm not naive enough to assume that, but the common link between them all is their parents are still together. They aren't screwed up because of a divorce like I am and I guess I've always been worried that once they actually see that side if my life close up, they'll think differently of me and I don't want that.”

 

“Honey, you are not screwed up,” Christen insists, turning so that she's facing Tobin with her entire body. She curls her legs underneath herself and presses her knees against Tobin's thigh in a way that would almost be uncomfortable if it didn't help ground Tobin so much. “I have never thought that you were, even for a second.”

 

“I know, but I just--” She swallows hard, trying to keep the hot tears threatening to fall from her eyes at bay. She really didn't expect this to happen when she agreed to come to this. Surprisingly though, she doesn't think she minds. It feels kind of good to finally drop this weight she didn't even know she'd been carrying around for years.

 

“I think I just never took the time to really admit how deeply I was hurt when everything happened and because of that, now I'm realizing all these residual effects that maybe could've been avoided if I had just acknowledged it at the beginning.”

 

“Do you think it would be easier to introduce people to your family if their parents were divorced as well?” Ben asks.

 

“Maybe?” Tobin shrugs her shoulders and brings her other hand over to trace the veins on the inside of Christen's wrist. She feels her shiver and it's enough to set her totally at ease. “Probably,” she says, more confidence in her voice this time. “I would need to really think about it more.”

 

“Now, this is just me speaking freely and trying to spark a conversation to dig deeper, so please don't feel as if I'm trying to imply anything,” Ben says, her voice cautious in a way Tobin knows it wouldn't be if she were speaking to Christen. Tobin appreciates her efforts to explain in order to comfort her. “Do you think it's possible you hold it against your friends, in any way, that their parents are still together? Maybe deep down you're jealous, so you project that onto the situation and make it harder for yourself?”

 

Tobin feels the slightest wave of anger flare up in her chest at the suggestion she could ever resent Christen or Amy or Lauren for such a thing, but it subsides quickly as she realizes there may be some truth to it. The jealousy is definitely there and while she may not hold it against her friends, she does hold it against herself.

 

It's for that exact reason she's never dated before, never had any interest in it. She's always thought she wasn't good enough and besides, what's the point if there's a strong chance the relationship might not last anyway?

 

She always needed that positive influence on her, though. She thinks maybe that's what helped her bond so deeply with Amy and Lauren, and what's kept them so close even now. They were good friends in college before her dad left, but they became so much closer after that. She always loved when their parents would come to visit and take them all out to dinner or when she would third of fifth wheel with them to dinner or movies with Adam and Jrue and she never felt like she was out of place. She always felt included and wanted. She thinks maybe that's why she clung to them so fiercely in those few months after everything happened. She thinks that's why they're so infinitely important to her now and she knows that will never change. Those positive, healthy relationships are so important and beneficial for her to see.

 

She tells Ben and Christen as much. Trying to say it in a way that makes it clear she isn't just using her friends for their relationships. She'd love them endlessly even if they were more like her, she has absolutely no doubt about that, but they've helped her in a way she never even realized.

 

“I think maybe…” She struggles to figure out what it is she wants to say. “Maybe they were all put in my life for a reason. I mean, I've always thought that, but I'm realizing maybe there's more to it. I needed Amy because she's so soft and caring, Lauren because she's kind and protective, Kelley because she encourages me to let loose be a little crazy sometimes and yet she's the most sincere person I know, and Christen because she makes me a better person and loves me a in a way I didn't ever think was possible. They're all so amazing, but I think maybe God out them in my life for more than that. They all have something in common in that their parents are all still together, so He brought them to me because He knew I needed to see that in my life. I needed to know that relationships aren't all bad and it's possible to be happy in one and stay happy.” Tobin finally manages to tear her eyes away from Christen's hand and look up at her eyes. “So, so happy.”

 

Christen gives her the softest, yet brightest smile--one corner of her mouth turned all the way up, her bottom lip pulled slightly between her teeth, trying and failing to contain it. Without using words, Tobin knows just how much Christen is telling her that she loves her. She leans over and kisses Tobin's forehead, her lips gentle, but determined.

 

Ben is smiling too, but in a different way. She looks proud of Tobin for making this kind of breakthrough, and maybe a little surprised that she dug so deeply inside herself to bring this all to light. Honestly, Tobin is surprised too. She didn't think she had it in her--both the ability to expose herself so clearly to a complete stranger, and also those deep lying concerns buried inside.

 

Tobin smiles back at them both, proud of herself for doing this, and grateful for Christen convincing her to.

 

She really shouldn’t be surprised, though. Christen has always been one step ahead of her, knowing exactly what she needs before even she does.

xxx

“Are you okay?” Christen asks as soon as she puts the car in park in her driveway.

 

They'd had a relatively quiet drive back from Ben’s office. They had talked about Tuesday night dinner that night, which Christen was hosting and was far more nervous about than she was willing to admit. Tobin assured her repeatedly they had everything they needed to make dinner and and that Amy and Lauren were only joking when they said they were going to use tonight as a final test to see if Christen was good enough for Tobin or not.

 

(They weren't actually joking at first, but after days of groveling and multiple promises of babysitting so they could have date nights with their husbands, they finally agreed. She's pretty sure they were joking all along, they just wanted to see what they could get out of it from Tobin, but she wasn't taking any chances.)

 

They were able to drive straight to Christen's house after she got a call from Amy saying the boys wanted to hang out longer, so she would just bring Nata to dinner instead. Tobin was a little bummed, knowing Nata would've been the perfect buffer to ease both of their nerves (and totally not because she knew they would have even less legos for her to help with the longer they were together).

 

After the dinner discussion was over, they had just listened to music for the rest of the drive. Tobin held Christen's hand in her lap the whole time, tapping out a rhythm against her fingers to whatever song was playing and bringing it to her mouth to kiss each knuckle in turn whenever she got the urge. She knew they were going to talk, but she was grateful Christen was giving her some time to process.

 

“Yeah, I'm okay,” Tobin shrugs.

 

“You're not upset I made you go and talk so much?” Christen curls her fingers around Tobin's hand and tugs until Tobin finally meets her eyes, as dark and rich as Tobin’s ever seen them, filled to the brim with concern.

 

“You didn't make me do anything. You asked me and I agreed,” Tobin points out. It's the truth, but her tone makes her sound like a smart ass, which is exactly what she was going for. It breaks the tension and Christen rolls her eyes with a smirk. “Seriously though, I'm glad I went.”

 

“Really?” Christen's voice sounds so unsure and Tobin wants to kick herself for not doing a better job of proving to Christen she was okay with this.

 

She brings Christen's hand up to her lips and kisses her palm. “Yes, really,” she mumbles against the warm skin. “I've always been so reluctant to talk about this stuff, but it was really good for me, I think. It's progress I probably should've made years ago, but better late than never. It's going to take a little time, but I made a start today. That's good, right?”

 

“That's so good,” Christen agrees with a nod. “I'm really proud of you.”

 

“Thank you.” She leans over to kiss Christen and then brings her forehead down to rest against her shoulder and wraps an arm across her stomach, hugging her as well as she can from the passenger seat. “Can we take a nap, please? Talking about emotions is exhausting, especially after an early morning training session.”

 

Tobin can feel Christen's cheek move into a wry grin where it's pressed against her temple. She brings a hand up to scratch gently at Tobin's scalp and honestly, she's pretty sure she could fall asleep just like that, awkward position be damned.

 

“Babe, we have to get ready for dinner.”

 

“Dinner isn't for another four hours,” Tobin whines.

 

“Three hours and forty minutes, actually.”

 

Tobin lifts her head as a thought strikes her. “You totally have a countdown on your phone for this dinner, don't you?” She asked with a kinked eyebrow.

 

“This is important! They're your best friends and I want this to go well,” she says, smoothly avoiding the question.

 

“So I'm going to take that as a ‘yes' to the countdown,” Tobin smirks. “But dude, this is going to so so great! They all already love you. They've known you longer than I have and have never had anything but wonderful things to say about you. You have absolutely nothing to be worried about.”

 

Christen narrows her eyes for a moment, clearly racking her brain for any possible comeback to that, but she comes up empty handed. “Fine,” she eventually give in. “We can take a thirty minute nap, but that's it. Then you have to get up and help me with the cleaning, okay?”

 

“Deal,” Tobin agrees. She was hoping for longer than thirty minutes, but she knows to take what she can get with Christen or else she'll end up vacuuming the moment they step through the door. Trying to compromise with a single mother never ends well. “But wait, you don't want my help with cooking too?”

 

“If there's any possible way for this dinner to go badly, it's if I let you help cook.” She leans over to kiss Tobin's cheek and then takes the keys from the ignition. “Besides, I already promised Amy and Lauren in the group chat that I wouldn't let you near the kitchen.”

 

“What? No you didn't. If I saw that I definitely would've fought back on that.”

 

“Not that group chat. The one with the three of us without you.” Christen jumps out of the car quickly, narrowly avoiding Tobin's hand reaching for her arm to stop her so they can talk about this.

 

“Wait, what?” Tobin exclaims just as Christen closes the door and hurries off towards the house. Tobin's fumbles with the lock on her door in her rush, but once she finally gets out of the car, she's after Christen in a flash. “Don't think you're getting out of this!”

 

Christen is giggling as she backs away into the living room. Tobin finds her there and steps towards her with a grin until Christen's knees hit the back of the recliner.

 

“Tell me you're joking,” Tobin says, trying to appear like she's annoyed by the idea if her girlfriend and her best friends having a group chat without her, but really she's just happy they all get along so well.

 

Christen just shakes her head and grins. “Maybe,” she shrugs.

 

“Do you guys talk about me?”

 

“Maybe,” she repeats with an ever growing smile and another shrug.

 

“Let me see your phone.” Tobin reaches out to try and get to Christen's back pocket where she knows her phone is, but her hand is batted away.

 

“Not happening.”

 

They both narrow their eyes, trying to see who will back down first even though they both know neither of them will.

 

Christen makes the first move, trying to dart around Tobin and towards the kitchen to escape, but she isn't fast enough. Tobin is able to get an arm around her waist and pulls her backwards down onto the couch. They're both laughing as Christen tries and fails to wriggle away. She doesn't seemed inclined to give up until Tobin starts tickling her stomach and then she's pushing away from her in defeat.

 

“Okay, okay, okay. You win, let me go!” Tobin relents and frees Christen who plops back down on the couch with a heavy sigh, nearly panting from how much she was laughing. “That was a dirty trick.”

 

“I can't help it. You know I like being dirty.” She winks, but all she gets is an eye roll in return.

 

“Do you really have to see my phone?” Christen pouts.

 

“You said I won. That means I get your phone so I can see what you've been saying about me. You lost, fair and square.”

 

“Fine,” she grumbles.

 

She lifts off the couch just enough to reach behind her and pull out her phone. She's frowning as she holds it out for Tobin, but at the last second the corner of her mouth ticks up into a grin. Tobin isn't fast enough to realize what it means though. Christen throws her phone across the room and as Tobin's eyes follow it, Christen leaps forward and pins her back on the couch, her hands held above her head.

 

“I can't believe you just did that! What if it broke? I was just kidding, I wasn't going to actually look at anything.” Tobin cranes her neck to try and see where the phone landed, but she can't.

 

“Oh please, I've dropped phones down mountains in Switzerland and waterfalls in New Zealand in that kind of case and they've been totally fine.”

 

“Nice humble brag,” Tobin mumbles. She makes a weak attempt at trying to get free, but honestly, she's completely happy with her current position. “That was a dirty trick,” she says, echoing Christen's words from a minute ago.

 

“You know I like being dirty.”

 

“I can tell.” She shoots her eyes up to where her hands are pinned and it makes Christen smirk.

 

“So are you still wanting to nap? Because I can think of a better way to spend the next thirty minutes.”

 

Tobin's only response is to lift her head up until she can kiss Christen's lips and Christen is more than happy to oblige.

 

Their “nap” ends up lasting forty-five minutes.

 

And even though it's completely Christen's fault, Tobin willingly accepts the blame and hurries off to clean just as Christen wanted.

xxx

For Tobin, seeing her girlfriend get along so well with her best friends and their families gives her the same sort of rush it did when she saw her getting along with her family.

 

She and Christen have hung out with her friends before, at Nata and Ryan's games, at her games and dinner afterwards, lunch with Lauren in her day off, even a double date with Amy and Adam before. She's seen them together and she loves it every time, but there's something about inviting Christen (and letting her host) their Tuesday Night Dinner that just feels so intimate and meaningful. They've carried this tradition on for so long and aside from Kelley crashing a few times or someone's family tagging along when they in town visiting, they've never included anyone else.

 

This is deeply personal for her and she hopes the way she smiles at Christen as Lauren hands her baby Jrue to hold shows that.

 

Lauren steps out out of the living room and into the kitchen to help Amy finish up dinner. The boys are in the backyard with Jrue and Adam playing soccer (well, Ryan is playing soccer, Nata is being “coach” to both teams at once), so Tobin takes the chance to slide up behind Christen and rest her chin on her shoulder, her hands on her hips.

 

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

 

Christen grins, but she doesn’t take her eyes off baby Jrue. “She’s seriously so beautiful. I wish I had known Nata when he was this little.”

 

“Oh my gosh, I’ll bet he was ridiculously cute. Are there any pictures of him this young?”

 

Christen shakes her head as her shoulders tense. Tobin can hear her swallow loudly. “No, the earliest picture I have of him is from just a few months before I met him.”

 

Tobin can’t imagine that. She’s been fortunate enough to watch Ryan, Luke, her nephews, and baby Jrue grow up right before her eyes since the day they were born. She can’t imagine what it must be like for Christen to meet Nata two years into his life and know next to nothing about him before then.

 

Tobin kisses her cheek, knowing there’s nothing she can say in response to that. She looks down at baby Jrue and smiles at the way she looks up at Christen with such wonder in her eyes. Tobin can totally relate.

 

“Do you think you want to have more kids?” Tobin asks.

 

“You really want to have this conversation right now?” Christen grins. She seems open to having the conversation, she’s just surprised Tobin decided to go there.

 

“I’m just curious.” Tobin can’t fight her smirk as she moves around to stand in front of Christen, reaching out to run her fingers through Jrue’s curly hair. The little girl laughs at the sensation and turns her grin towards Tobin. “Babies are cute. And I’m just saying, we both have already agreed we look ridiculously good holding them.”

 

“This is true,” Christen agrees, a sly smile on her face. She cocks at eyebrow at Tobin, keeping her on edge by avoiding answering the question until Tobin is nearly pouting. “Honestly? Yeah, I would like one or two more kids,” she finally says. “If I do, I want to adopt them. I have nothing against having kids, obviously, but after going through this whole process with Nata I can't imagine doing it any other way. And I wouldn't want any more for a few more years. I would like to be settled down more and married by the time that comes.”

 

Tobin knows there's no chance of marriage happening between them any time soon, that would be ridiculous, but she can't help but bite her lower lip at the way Christen’s eyes light up when she says the word.

 

“I've loved raising Nata on my own and I know I could raise another child on my own if I had to, but I'll be the first to admit being a single parent is hard,” Christen continues. “If and when I become a mom again, I would like to have a partner to help me through it.”

 

Tobin hums in acknowledgement and leans in to kiss Christen's cheek. “Noted,” she muses.

 

“But for the record, if I could be guaranteed my baby would be as cute as this little munchkin,” she makes a face and scrunches her nose at Jrue until she giggles, “then I'd adopt all the babies.”

 

“I don't think I could handle you, Nata and a bunch of super cute babies.” Tobin leans down and kisses Jrue’s forehead. “I wouldn't know what to do with myself.”

 

“I'm sure you'll figure it out,” Christen winks.

 

Tobin makes a mental note of the way she used the present tense instead of talking hypothetically about the future, their future, but she lets it go.

 

Luke starts crying from where he's napping in Nata’s temporary room downstairs and Tobin calls over her shoulder to tell Amy she'll get him so she can keep cooking.

 

“Watch out, we've never both held cute babies before at the same time. We might forget how to function,” Christen teases as she walks away.

 

“Don't worry, I know how to control myself,” she shoots back. Her words lose their meaning though when she hip checks the wall on her way around the corner.

 

“Nice control, Tobin,” Lauren laughs at her from the kitchen.

 

“Really Tobs, A for effort. I'm impressed,” Amy adds.

 

“You guys are jerks,” she mumbles, continuing to walk towards Nata's room to avoid more teasing.

xxx

It’s amazing how effortless the whole evening feels. Christen and Nata fit so seamlessly into her life that it feels like they’ve been in it for years. Part of Tobin finds it hard to believe this is the first Tuesday Night Dinner they’ve been a part of, even though she knows it is. They just work so well together with everyone else.

 

Nata and Ryan eat quickly, despite multiple warnings from their mothers to slow down. They’re on a mission to finish early so they can build a ‘top secret lego castle’ before Ryan has to go home though, so the warnings do little to deter them and they’re hopping up from the table barely 15 minutes into dinner.

 

Nata forgoes his crutches, convinced he can move faster without them. Ryan stands next to him with Nata’s arm across his shoulders and they hustle back to Nata’s room where his massive box of mismatched legos awaits them.

 

Once the kids are gone, aside from baby Jrue still in Christen’s lap and Luke in Adam’s arms, conversation--and maybe a little too much wine--flows freely between the adults.

 

Tobin feels light and happy and totally at peace. She leans over and kisses Christen’s cheek, whispering that she loves her in her ear and feeling warmth flood her chest at the way it makes Christen smile.

 

“You guys need to chill it with the cuteness. It almost makes me sick,” Amy teases over the rim of her glass before she takes another sip. She’s switched to water, though she wasn’t happy about it. Classes start back up soon, though, and she has an early morning of preparation tomorrow.

 

“You’re just jealous,” Tobin quips back.

 

“Why would I be jealous? I set you guys up, clearly I wanted this to happen,” she says.

 

“Just because you got tied up at work and sent me over here to get the boys that day doesn’t mean you set us up. You couldn’t have known we were going to get together.”

 

“Oh, but I did,” Amy says, a glimmer of something Tobin can’t quite place in her eyes. “I didn’t get tied up at work that day.”

 

Tobin tilts her head in curiosity and out of the corner of her eye, she can see Christen do the exact same thing. “What do you mean? You said another teacher got sick and you had to cover for her in academic honor court.”

 

“Yeah, that was a total lie. I was at the salon getting my nails done.”

 

Lauren laughs knowingly, clearly well aware of Amy’s stunt. Adam just shakes his head with a grin, amused with his wife as always.

 

“Why would you do that?” Tobin asks. She’s not annoyed, at least she doesn’t think. She’s just confused about what is happening. All this time she thought meeting Christen was a twist of fate, but maybe that’s not true now?

 

“Did you guys seriously not know?” Amy kinks one of her eyebrows, trying to tell if her best friend is lying or not. “I’d been trying to set both of you up on a blind date for like two months before that and I was getting annoyed by the constant rejections, so I decided to force the issue and make you guys met on your own. I really thought you guys would have connected the dots by this point.” Amy’s tone makes it seem like this whole thing should have been obvious.

 

Should it have been?

 

Did Tobin just miss the signs?

 

Amy is right about trying to set her up on a blind date. She’d asked more times than Tobin can remember if she would go out with this girl she knew. She swore they would be perfect for each other. Tobin considered it a few times, but honestly? She wasn’t looking to really date someone and she figured Amy would have known that, so she always said no.

 

Could that woman really have been Christen, though? Amy never mentioned a name. She just said she was beautiful and exactly the type of girl Tobin would like. Although, now that Tobin really thinks about it, Amy did say it was the mom of one of Ryan’s friends.

 

Wow.

 

Tobin really should have figured this one out. Two days before she met Christen, Amy had tried to set her up again. Tobin was getting annoyed with the constant pestering about it and Amy was getting annoyed by the constant rejections and they’d gotten into a mini fight over it. Tobin just assumed that was the end of it.

 

She should have known Amy wasn’t going to let it go, though. Her friend is far too stubborn for that.

 

“Wow,” Christen says, a slight grin on her face like she can’t believe they’ve been so blind, but is also impressed with Amy’s tactics. “I honestly had no idea, but that makes complete sense in retrospect.”

 

Tobin isn’t sure what to make of this revelation.

 

She’s always loved the idea of destiny or fate or God or something along those lines bringing them together. She likes thinking they’re meant to be.

 

But what if they weren’t?

 

What if the only reason they ever even got together is because Amy just refused to accept their rejections?

 

What if instead of God bringing them together, it was actually her tiny blonde friend?

 

Tobin is kind of reeling a little bit when Christen’s free hand finds her thigh and presses gently with her fingertips. “It’s no matter how we found each other,” Christen says, her voice confident and eyes locked on Tobin’s. “All that’s important is that we did. We’re together now and she’s the love of my life. That’s all I care about.”

 

That second to last sentence catches Tobin’s attention. She’d been looking down at Christen’s hand on her leg, but now her eyes look up to Christen, taking in her wide smile and kind, loving eyes. She’s telling Tobin exactly what she needs to hear without her having to ask or even saying a word.

 

They’ve told each other ‘I love you’ countless times since they were in New Jersey last week, Tobin finally able to reciprocate the feeling. They’ve said it with words. They’ve said it with flowers bought after practice. They’ve said it with hot baths drawn and waiting after a double day. They’ve said it with assured hands pressed to warm skin between cool sheets.

 

Christen saying Tobin is the love of her life is a new development, though it isn’t one that freaks her out. It makes more sense than anything Tobin’s ever heard in her entire life and she realizes Christen is the exact same for her.

 

She’s never loved anyone before Christen because there really was no point. No one else could have ever measured up, so why waste her time on anyone else when she could just save up everything for Christen? She’s never going to love anyone else after her. She knows it with every fiber of her being.

 

Christen’s right.

 

It doesn’t really matter how they got together. They’re together and they’re happy and in love and family. That’s the only thing that’s important.

 

So maybe God didn’t play a direct hand in bringing Tobin to Christen’s door that day. That’s okay, because she knows he was still involved. He still made Christen, the girl of Tobin’s dreams. He still spoke to her without Tobin even really realizing it and told her Christen was the girl for her. He still guided her through the process of falling in love with Christen and building a life with her and Nata.

 

So maybe this isn’t all just divine intervention. Maybe they both had to work at this a little harder than Tobin thought. Maybe Amy has a much bigger role in bringing them together than she knew.

 

So what?

 

No matter how they found themselves here, the important thing is they did.

 

And Tobin is completely okay with that.

 

Tobin leans over and kisses Christen’s lips, ignoring Amy and Lauren’s groans. She’s dealt with their PDA with their husbands for years, it’s time to even things out.

 

“I guess thank yous are in order,” Tobin says when she pulls away, turning towards Amy with a smirk.

 

Amy doesn’t get the chance to answer, though, because suddenly there’s a loud crash coming from Nata’s room and Ryan is shouting, “shut up! That’s not true! Stop lying!”

 

Christen and Amy stand from the table immediately, Christen handing baby Jrue to Lauren so she can go check on her son. Tobin hesitates for a moment, wondering if it’s her place to follow. Adam rises from the table a moment later, handing Luke to Jrue and decides now that all the parents are involved, if she hangs back a little, she isn’t overstepping if she goes and finds out what’s wrong.

 

“What is going on?” Amy asks as she steps in the room, her stern, motherly voice in full effect.

 

“He’s lying!” Ryan shouts, pointing an accusatory finger to Nata where he’s sitting on the floor in front of what looks like a destroyed top secret lego castle, pieces scattered all over the room.

 

“No I’m not!” Nata defends himself, looking towards his mom with pleading eyes.

 

“Boys, it’s okay,” Christen says, calm and steady as she walks into the room and kneels by Nata. “Let’s just calm down for a minute, okay? Just take a deep breath and tell me what’s going on.”

 

“He said that Tobin lives here. He said she hangs out with him and Miss Christen all the time and watches soccer with him and makes them breakfast in the morning,” Ryan tells his mother before he finally notices Tobin standing in the doorway. “Tobin, tell him that’s not true.”

 

Tobin sighs heavily. She should have expected something like this to happen. She hasn’t talked to Ryan about being with Christen since that night a couple months back when he got upset about them hanging out. He’s six, she didn’t know what all she should disclose about her dating Christen, not knowing if it was appropriate or if he’d even understand.

 

She clearly should have told him something though, in order to prevent him from blowing up like this.

 

She kneels down, brushing aside a few lego pieces so she can put her knee on the hardwood floor once she’s at Ryan’s eye level. “Look, buddy,” she starts with another sigh, not knowing how to really go about this. “Nata isn’t lying, okay? At least not about everything.”

 

“What do you mean?” Ryan asks, his eyebrows scrunched up in a way that makes him look so much like Amy, Tobin can barely believe it.

 

“I mean that…he’s right about me hanging out here a lot. I do spend a lot of time here, but I don’t live here.” She’s trying to explain this as simply as she can, but Ryan’s eyebrows just curl in even tighter.

 

“Why are you here so much?”

 

“Well, you see buddy…” she trails off for a moment, trying to decide if she wants to go about this delicately or just come out with it. “Christen is my girlfriend, so I come over a lot to spend time with her and I hang out with Nata too.”

 

“You’re dating Miss Christen?” Ryan asks, the confusion falling from his face only to be replaced with something that looks like sadness and maybe a little anger. “How long?” Tobin watches as Amy’s grip on Ryan’s shoulder tightens just a little as she picks up on the sadness in his voice and desires to protect him.

 

“Four months,” she tells him honestly. She’s kept this from him enough, she doesn’t need to dance around it anymore.

 

“Are you Nata’s mom too?”

 

“Dude, no,” she says quickly, maybe a little too quickly based on the way Christen visibly cringes in the corner of Tobin’s vision. “Christen is Nata’s mom. She’s only my girlfriend.”

 

“Are you going to marry her? Momma said she and Dad dated and then they got married.”

 

Tobin looks over at Christen, trying her best to contain her smile at the thought of marrying Christen because it’s totally not appropriate for the moment and also crazy to think about so soon. Christen gives her the slightest nod of encouragement and it helps build Tobin up enough she’s able to look back at Ryan again.

 

“I don’t know, Ry,” she tells him honestly. “Maybe one day, but if that happens it won’t be for a long time.”

 

Ryan’s quiet for a moment. He looks over at Nata, who has his head pressed against Christen’s stomach. Then he looks over Tobin’s shoulder to look at his dad and then up at his mom. It’s like he’s waiting for someone, anyone, to say something and give him some direction on how this is supposed to go, but no one really knows what to say.

 

Finally, Ryan speaks up again. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

That’s the one question Tobin was really hoping he wouldn't ask. It’s the one question she really doesn’t know if she has an answer to, at least not one that’s fair. Truth is, she doesn’t know why she didn’t tell him. Maybe she was scared, maybe she thought it was too complicated for a kid to know, maybe she thought he would just figure it out on his own and she’d never have to say anything at all.

 

She doesn’t know. All she does know is she didn’t and now he’s hurt and Nata is upset for being yelled at and there’s no one to blame but herself.

 

“I don’t know,” she finally answers. “I don’t know, but I should have.”

 

Ryan doesn’t like that answer. His face grows very angry for a moment and Tobin thinks he’s about to start yelling again, but just before it looks like his anger is about to boil over, his face completely falls and tears begin to collect in the corners of his eyes.

 

“You lied to me,” he says, his voice cracking. “You said I would always be your favorite little man, but you lied.”

 

“Ryan, no I didn’t,” she gets out quickly, hoping she can salvage this. “I promise you, I meant that when I told you. I--”

 

“No you didn’t!” He finally shouts, but his voice is shaking so much it doesn’t have the effect he’s probably wanting. “You lied to me!”

 

“Ryan, please. I didn’t, I just--”

 

“I hate you!” He turns around and buries his face in Amy’s stomach, wrapping his arms around her waist as he really starts to cry now. “I want to go home, Momma.”

 

“Okay, baby. We’ll go home,” Amy tells him in a soothing voice. She leans down and kisses the top of his head. Her hands run in circles on his back slowly, comforting him through his sobs. “Adam, go get Luke’s stuff together please. Ry, how about you go with your dad and he’ll help you get your shoes on, okay?”

 

Ryan nods and then runs to his father, pushing past Tobin like she isn’t even there.

 

It breaks Tobin’s heart.

 

“Amy look,” Tobin starts as she rises to her feet. Her throat is so tight she isn’t sure if her friend even hears the words, but when Amy holds up a hand to stop Tobin from saying whatever she was about to next, she know they were clear enough.

 

Don’t,” Amy says through gritted teeth. “You’ve done enough tonight.”

 

Tobin takes a step back, shocked by Amy’s anger. She seems to take that as an invitation to leave the room now that Tobin isn’t blocking the door.

 

Tobin looks to Christen, torn between staying and helping her with Nata, or going after Amy to talk about this before she’s able to leave.

 

Christen makes the decision for her. “Go,” she says simply. She doesn’t sound angry like everyone else seems to be at her, she’s just sad her son is upset and, Tobin’s sure, sad Ryan is hurting too.

 

Tobin gives her a tight, sad smile and then leaves to find Amy where she’s standing by the front door, helping Ryan into his jacket.

 

“Amy, come on. You don’t have to leave,” Tobin tries, just wanting her to stay a little longer so they can talk about this.

 

Unfortunately, Amy is bound and determined to leave. “Yes we do,” she insists. “Ryan is upset and he wants to go home, so we’re going home.” She picks up her purse from the coat rack and hands it to Ryan before opening the front door. “Go let your dad help you into the car, okay?”

 

Tobin watches as Ryan hurries to the car, like he can’t wait to get as far away from Tobin as possible. She really fucked this up.

 

“Amy, will you please just talk to me for a minute? I’m sorry, okay?”

 

“You fucking better be,” Amy says, her voice sharp and biting. Amy hardly ever swears. On the soccer field was the only exception to that rule. Off the field though, she has to be really angry in order to swear like that.

 

Tobin knows she’s fucked up.

 

“Look, if you just let me talk to him, I can fix this.”

 

“You are not talking to him. I want you to stay away from him,” she threatens, whipping around so she can settle Tobin with one of the harshest glares she’s ever seen from her so she knows that she means it.

 

“Amy, stop it,” Lauren says from behind them, walking up to join her friends and try to mediate the situation.

 

“No,” Amy says as if that’s the dumbest idea she’s ever heard. “My son is heartbroken and it’s all her fault. If I don’t want her around him, then that’s my call.”

 

“Amy, I’m so sorry,” Tobin tries again. She can’t believe how angry Amy is. “I didn’t mean to hurt him, you know I wouldn’t do that. I love him so much. He’s one of the most important things in the world to me.”

 

“Just not important enough to tell him the truth, huh?”

 

“Why didn’t you tell him?” Tobin counters. She’s getting angry herself now and she hates it. She doesn’t want to fight with Amy, but this was an honest mistake and she knows she made it. She doesn’t need Amy to keep throwing it at her to try and make her feel bad for it. She already feels bad enough.

 

“Oh, so this is my fault!” Tobin’s amazed at how similar Amy shouting sounds to Ryan shouting. She’s heard entirely too much of that tonight.

 

“She didn’t mean it like that and you know it, Amy,” Lauren says. Her voice is calm and steady, but it does nothing to ease Amy’s fury.

 

“Just back off, all right Tobin? He’s my son, and I said stay away.” Amy doesn’t give either of them another chance to say anything else. She leaves and closes the door behind her. She doesn’t quite slam it, but it’s hard enough that it feels like the final nail in Tobin’s heart.

 

She starts to tear up, so unbelievably angry at herself for letting this happen. It’s all her fault. She hurt Ryan, one of the most important people in her life. She upset Amy, one of her best friends in the whole world. She upset Nata and Christen and probably Adam too. She made a whole mess out of this entire situation all because she couldn’t just find it within her to tell Ryan the truth.

 

It isn’t until Lauren puts a hand on her shoulder that Tobin really starts to cry. Lauren wraps her in a hug from behind and presses a kiss to her temple.

 

“She didn't mean any of that,” Lauren tells her. “She’s just upset and her son is hurt so she’s going into defensive, mama bear mode. I’ll talk to her, okay? Everything will be fine, she just needs some time to cool off.”

 

“I fucked this all up,” Tobin cries.

 

“No you didn’t. You made a mistake, but you didn’t ruin anything beyond repair. She’ll come around, I promise. And Ryan will too. He’s just a kid and he doesn’t understand it all, but he’ll be okay. He adores you.”

 

“You didn’t see the way he looked at me. He said he hates me and I believe him.”

 

“Tobs, he does not hate you. I promise he doesn’t. That’s just what kids say when they get mad. I don’t even know how many times I told my parents that when I was a kid and they made a decision I didn’t like. He doesn’t mean it.”

 

Dammit,” she curses herself, wishing she could go back in time and fix all of this.

 

All she needed to do was tell Ryan and this all could have been avoided. How many times did she hang out with him since she started dated Christen? How many chances did she have to come clean about all this? Too many to count, she knows.

 

“This will be okay,” Lauren kisses her head again. “I promise it will be. Just give them a few days. Everything will be okay.” She holds her for another few moments and then she finally pulls away, spinning Tobin around with a hand on her shoulder. She wipes at the tears on Tobin’s cheeks and says, “go talk to your girlfriend. I’ll start cleaning up dinner.”

 

“You don’t have to do that.”

 

“Oh don’t worry, I’m not. I’m going to hold my daughter and make Jrue clean instead.”

 

“Hey, I heard that,” Jrue calls, annoyance in his voice, but it doesn’t get his point across since he’s already starting to clear the table, his mini-me perched on his hip, completely oblivious to all of this.

 

Tobin takes Lauren’s advice and goes back to Nata’s room to find Christen. She’s on the floor scooping up legos when she steps back into the room. Nata is nowhere to be seen.

 

Tobin squats down across from Christen and helps her pick up the plastic blocks and put them back in the box. They’re both quiet for a moment, just cleaning in silence. Tobin doesn’t really know what to say. She doesn’t know how Christen is feeling, what she’s thinking. She doesn’t know if she’s angry at her like everyone else seems to be tonight.

 

Eventually, Tobin can’t take the silence.

 

“Chris, I’m so sorry,” she finally says, falling backwards to sit down as if she simply doesn’t have the strength anymore to hold herself up. Honestly, she kind of doesn’t.

 

Christen looks at her curiously. “Why are you apologizing to me? This isn’t your fault.”

 

Tobin can’t believe what she’s hearing. She thought for sure Christen would at least be annoyed with her for ruining the evening with her incompetence. Total dismissal of her apology, she definitely didn’t expect this.

 

“What do you mean? Of course it’s my fault. If I had just told Ryan about us, this wouldn’t have happened.”

 

“Tobin, it’s okay, really.” Christen crawls over a few feet so she can sit next to Tobin and wraps her arms around her neck. “I’m not mad at you. I don’t blame you. I probably should have said something to Natanael so he didn’t say anything to Ryan. I’m still getting used to this whole dating with a kid thing.”

 

“No, stop it,” Tobin says, bringing up a hand to hold on to the outside of Christen’s bicep where it rests across her chest. “You shouldn’t have to censor your son. I should have said something to Ryan. It’s as simple as that.”

 

Christen tilts her head, thoughtful. She sighs and smiles at Tobin, bringing the arm Tobin isn’t holding around so her hand is at the back of her neck and her fingers can scratch gently.

 

“Why didn’t you tell him?” The way she asks it isn’t accusatory or angry like she heard it earlier in the night. She’s just concerned about Tobin, hating that she’s upset and hoping maybe talking will help her through it.

 

“I don’t know,” Tobin shrugs. “I guess I was scared? I was worried something like this would happen and Ry would get pissed at me and he’d get pissed at Nata. I didn’t want to potentially ruin two relationships. I don’t know,” she repeats with a sigh. “It doesn’t really matter why. I should’ve just told him.”

 

“He’ll come around. He’s young, he’s just confused.”

 

“I don’t know about that; I’ve never seen him so upset. And Amy, god, Amy is so mad at me.”

 

“Her son was upset, she was just being protective. She’ll calm down too and everything will be okay. I promise you.” Christen runs her fingers through Tobin’s hair and smiles, not a shred of doubt on her face.

 

“This was a pretty great way to initiate you into Tuesday Night Dinners, huh?” Tobin asks with a wry, sad grin.

 

“Honestly? I’ve never felt more like a part of your family,” Christen admits. “No, it didn’t go the way we’d planned, but life never does. Families fight, families are messy. Getting to see that side of it tonight, and not just the pretty and polished side that’s always shown to the public, well it really made me feel like I was a part of the family tonight.”

 

“You are definitely a part of my family,” Tobin smiles. “For better or worse.”

 

“Well, you’ve seen me at my worse, so I can handle a bit of yours too.” Christen winks and kisses Tobin. “Did Lauren and Jrue leave too?”

 

“No, they’re cleaning up dinner.”

 

Christen’s face completely falls. “They’re what?” She hops up in a second and rushes out into the kitchen where Tobin immediately hears her insisting they don’t need to be cleaning, that it’s her house and her mess to deal with, but Lauren isn’t backing down.

 

Tobin grins at their harmless bickering. Yeah, Christen is really a part of the family now.

 

She’s picking up the last of the legos when she hears Nata crutch back in from the bathroom. He’s changed into pajamas and he has a little bit of dried toothpaste on his chin from his nightly bedtime routine.

 

“Hey, dude,” Tobin says, standing up and walking over to his bed to pull the blankets back for him. “Are you doing okay?”

 

“Yeah, I’m okay,” he says, leaning his crutches against the wall by the bed. He doesn’t sound entirely convincing.

 

She reaches out and uses a thumb to wipe away the dried toothpaste off his chin and then helps him into bed. She fluffs a pillow up and puts it under his broken leg before she pulls the blankets over him.

 

“I’m sorry Ryan got mad at you,” Tobin says. She takes a seat on the edge of the bed, her hands in her lap so she can twist the ring on her finger. “That wasn’t fair to you. I should have talked to him about this sooner.”

 

“It’s okay. I’m sorry he yelled at you. I didn’t mean to tell him, I was just excited.”

 

“Hey, no, Natanael. You do not have to apologize for anything that happened tonight,” she tells him. “This was all on me. I’m not mad that you told him, I promise. I wish I had told him earlier. Of course you’re excited, I’m excited about it too. You should be able to talk about it with your best friend.”

 

“You should too,” Nata says. He isn’t scolding her, he just wants her to be able to talk about her relationship to Ryan just like he wants to be able to.

 

“I’ll talk to him,” she assures. “I’ll fix this, okay?”

 

“I know. He loves you and you love him. It’ll be okay.”

 

Tobin hesitates before saying what she does next, wondering if it’s really her place yet. But it feels right, so she takes the chance. “You know I love you too, Nata, right? Ryan is my friend and he’s important to me, but you’re important to me too, okay?”

 

“I love you too,” Nata grins. He’s a little sleepy and still a little sad from what transpired this evening, but he’s happy too.

 

Tobin leans down to kiss him on the forehead, closing her eyes hard to hold back tears. She’s shed too many tonight already, and even though these are happy ones, she needs a break.

 

“I’ll go let your mom know you’re ready for bed so she can come say goodnight.”

 

“Can you put Tangled on for me to fall asleep to?” Nata asks with a wide smile, trying to be as charming as possible to get his way.

 

It works.

 

“You got it, buddy.”

 

After she has to movie on, she turns off the light and closes the door as gently as she can to go find Christen. She doesn’t have to look far for her, though. She’s leaning up against the wall a little down the hall from Nata’s room.

 

“Hey,” Tobin says softly, taking the two steps to be in front of Christen. She puts a hand on either side of her shoulders on the wall, effectively pinning her to the spot, though Christen doesn’t seem inclined to move.

 

“Hi,” Christen whispers.

 

“How much of that did you hear?”

 

“Enough to know how much I love you,” Christen tells her before bringing fingertips up to Tobin’s chin and pulling her into the softest kiss Tobin thinks she’s ever shared.

 

“I love you too,” Tobin says against her lips.

 

The night certainly didn’t turn out the way either of them wanted it to, but at least this part of her life is going well.

 

She’ll get through this. She can get through anything as long as she has Christen on her side.

 

She doesn’t know how she ever got through anything without Christen, but she does know she’ll never be able to get through anything again without her.