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Getting a call from her head coach and the general manager of LAWFC two hours before she's supposed to show up for practice, and being asked to come in early is not the way Tobin planned on starting her day.


Christen had to go into work early and Nata stayed the night with Tyler the night before, so Tobin is spending a lazy morning in Christen's bed when she hears her phone ring. She'd been half asleep not 5 seconds before, but as soon as she sees the GM’s contact pop up, she's wide awake.


He all but skips over the pleasantries, asking how Tobin's morning is and then barely letting her finish her answer before he's telling her he's in his office with coach Foudy, who tells her hi quickly, and then asks if she can come in and meet with them.


Tobin's words are thick as she forces them out of her throat. It feels like she swallowed a gallon of quick dry cement and the more she tries to open her mouth to speak, the faster it solidifies. The rest of the brief conversation, including her own responses, sounds as if it's coming from the next room, all muffled and distorted.


She doesn't really remember what happens after that, her mind too preoccupied with thinking about what they could possibly want to talk to her about to focus on what's she's doing. One moment, she's pulling on clean clothes from Christen's dresser and the next she's pulling into a parking space at LAFC’s front office. The whole chunk of time in between is gone and Tobin doesn't know whether she's grateful she can’t remember all the rushing thoughts or terrified she doesn't even remember driving here.


She rushes down the hall, not quite jogging, but moving too quickly to be considered walking. She acknowledges as many people as she can along the way, but she's entirely too focused on the conference room at the end of the hall on the left to really pay attention.


As she gets closer, she tries to tell herself it's just a contract negotiation discussion. They usually save those talks for the off season so it's not a distraction, but she's the captain so maybe they just want to lock her in as early as possible and then figure out where else to go from there.


As soon as she gets to the partially opened door and sees the owner of the team, Jared, sitting on the far side of the conference table in between Julie and the GM, Mateo, she knows she couldn't be further from the truth.


Jared has never been in any contract negotiations with her. He only ever shows up on the day of signing for the photo op. He's a decent owner, but he tends to let others manage things for him while he watches over from afar. If he's here too, then this definitely can't good.


The forced polite expressions on their faces just confirm her worst fears.


“Ah, Tobin. It's so good to see you.” Mateo is the first, and only, one to stand from his seat. He reaches across the table and shakes Tobin's hand with both of his. His Chilean accent is more subdued today, something Tobin has noticed only happens when he's being formal and wants to make sure he's understood. When he's happy and friendly and joking around with the team at press dockets or the random practices he shows up to, his accent is so thick he can be a little difficult to understand without practice.


Tobin misses that rushed, excited voice right now.


Jared and Julie just offer her tight smiles and cordial greetings. Julie doesn't even meet her eyes.


“Please, take a seat,” Mateo says as he does the same.


Tobin swallows hard, eyes each of them for another moment, and then finally sits down. She knows if she tried to stand much longer she probably would've lost her balance and fallen over. She has a bad habit for sinking into chairs, slouching even in more professional settings. She has no trouble sitting up ramrod straight today, though.


“Thank you for coming in today,” Jared says, leaning forward on the table and folding his hands together after he taps the his phone screen to check for any notifications.


“As you know, you are a huge part of this club,” Mateo starts and it sounds like he's rehearsed what he's about to say 10 times in the mirror before this. “You've been with us since we drafted you and--”


“Look, not to sound rude,” Tobin interrupts. “But whatever is going on, can you guys just come out and say it? This whole thing is really freaking me out and I'd rather not be placated. Whatever this is, just tell me.”


“We're trading you,” Julie blurts out, finally meeting Tobin's eyes. “We have traded you; the league just signed off this morning.”


Tobin knew that was coming. From the moment she saw Mateo’s number show up on her phone, she had this sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach and she knew. She didn't give herself really think about it until right in this moment, but she knew.


The lack of surprise does little to prepare her for how to react.


She's up out of her seat in an instant, the chair nearly falling over in her rush. She walks towards the door behind her, not stopping until her toes hit it and then she freezes. She closes her eyes and holds her breath, trying to remember how she felt when she woke up this morning.


Christen's breath was warm against the back of her neck, her arm strong across her stomach, holding her close. Her voice was so heavy with sleep, but Tobin could still hear the smile on her face when she said ‘good morning’. She was warm and safe and happy.


She'd give anything to go back in time and stay in that moment forever.


Tobin doesn't know how long she stands there, but eventually someone, she thinks Jared, clears his throat. She hears him take a breath like she's about to speak and then she whips around and holds up a hand to stop him.


“Where?” She hates the way her voice cracks when she asks that single word.


“To Sky Blue,” Mateo says.


Tobin falls back against the door, not even bothered by the sharp thud her head makes as she hits the solid wood. She brings her hands up to push the hair out of her face and sighs.


“Are you fucking kidding me?”


“Look, Tobin I’m sure this comes as a surprise,” Jared begins. Tobin cuts him off before he can continue.


“You’re damn right it’s a surprise!”


“Our season has been on a steady decline since the end of June,” Mateo says, his voice slow and measured as he tries to regain control of the situation. “When Madeline broke her leg and then Lana tore her hamstring and then her achilles in her first game back, our defense took a huge hit. You know as well as anyone how poorly we’ve been playing since then. We made this trade to shore up our defense and you are our best bargaining chip.”


“It’s nothing personal, it’s just business,” Jared says.


“Are you fucking kidding me?” She exclaims again. “I’ve been with this team for eight years and captain for three. I’m literally the face of this team and I’m not too humble to admit I’m the best player on the roster. I have always been loyal to this team. I have given absolutely everything I have to this team for eight seasons, so don’t you dare try to tell me this isn’t personal. This is a betrayal.”


“Have you really ‘always’ been loyal to this team?” Jared asks. He looks bored with this whole conversation, annoyed that he even has to be here. He glances at his phone before he continues. “I seem to remember you taking nearly an entire season off one year to play in France. We struggled without you that year and you had the opportunity to come back midway through the season, but you chose to stay in Paris. Where was your loyalty to us then?”


Tobin’s eyes immediately find Julie. She can’t believe she, of all people, is letting him talk to her like this. Her coach may be controversial in the eyes of some people, but they have always had each other’s backs.




When Tobin was struggling after being cut from the national team, Julie tried everything she could to help. She reached out to PSG herself and busted her ass to make a deal happen so Tobin could get some time away and fall in love with the game again. Julie orchestrated the entire thing herself, assuring Tobin she would always have a place on the team in LA when she was ready to come back. If it weren’t for her, Tobin never would have gone to Paris.


If it weren't for her, Tobin probably would have retired after that season and never touched a soccer ball again.


And now, Jared is throwing that back in her face and using it against her and Julie just sits there in silence, refusing to even make eye contact with Tobin.


Only once in her life has Tobin ever felt so betrayed. Only last time, Julie was the one helping her through it. Now unfortunately, she’s the one helping stab her in the back.


“All I’ve ever wanted was to help this team. I was dragging the team down while I was here that season. True, they struggled even without me, but they were still better than they were with me. When I was myself again, I came back and took us to two straight playoff runs. I did that.” She doesn’t even know why she’s fighting. This is already a done deal and there’s nothing she can do to reverse it. She can’t just let this go, though. She can’t just let them toss her aside without trying to make them understand how fucked up it is.


“You’re right, you did,” Jared tells her in the most condescending tone Tobin has ever heard. “And we are incredibly grateful for that. But just like you said, all you’ve ever wanted to do it help us and that’s exactly what you’re doing now. By being involved in this trade, you’re helping us get the players we need.”


“And what players are they, exactly? What players are so important to you that you’re tossing me aside?”


“Several players from Sky Blue and Portland are all involved,” Mateo explain. “Sky Blue gets you in addition to our second round draft pick next year and a rookie outside back from Portland. We get Emily Sonnett and a third round draft pick from Portland, Tierna Davidson and a first round draft pick from Sky Blue. Portland gets Raquel Rodriguez from Sky Blue, and an international spot, allocation money and the rights to Katie Johnson from us if she ever decides to come back from Germany.”


Tobin’s brain hurts from trying to keep all the moves straight in her head, but it takes too much effort. She’s still trying to play catch up in order for this to sink in, she definitely can’t understand all the pieces of this puzzle right now.


“How long have you been working on this?” She asks them. “How long have you been planning to trade me away?”


“We’ve been trying to work out a trade for three weeks,” Mateo says.


“You weren’t originally part of it,” Julie says, as if that’s supposed to make her feel better. “We knew we could get the best deal for you, but we tried as hard as we could for that first week to make it happen without you.”


“But in the end, we couldn’t deny how valuable you are to other teams in this league and we knew our best option of getting what we needed would be to let you go,” Jared finishes.


“Two weeks?” Tobin scoffs. “You’ve been trying to trade me away for two weeks and you didn’t think at any point during that time it would be nice to mention this to me? You didn’t think it would be polite to let me know you were about to completely uproot my life here and ship me completely across the country?”


She’s trying really hard to keep her volume and tone under control, but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult. She angry. She’s livid. She knows yelling is only going to cause them to become defensive and she’ll never get the answers she wants, but she can’t fucking believe this is happening. It doesn’t feel real and she doesn’t know what to do.


Part of her wonders if this is just all a bad dream. She did take a benadryl last night to help her sleep and that usually gives her weird dreams. Maybe this isn’t happening at all. She pinches the fleshy part of her thumb as hard as she can between two fingers though, and she feels the pain shoot out through her hand.


Unfortunately, there’s no waking up from this.


“This trade is what's best for everyone involved,” Jared says, completely disinterested. “Each team gets what they need. You'll do well with Sky Blue, they're a very young team and need a solid veteran leader such as yourself. Plus, your family is from New Jersey so you'll get to be at home. You'll be happy there, this isn't the end of the world.”


His complete lack of empathy and the way he checks his phone three times while he speaks tempts Tobin to leap across the table and smack him across the face just to see if that will cause him to show emotion. She doesn't though, of course she doesn't. She stays rooted to the spot and blinks furiously, refusing to cry in front of them.


She turns to Julie, this woman who has not only been her coach, but her friend, for the last eight years.


At least she thought she was her friend.


This person she's trusted since she was just her assistant coach wrapping a scarf around her neck on the day she was drafted.


At least she thought she trusted her.


“Did you fight for me at all?” Tobin asks her. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Mateo start to answer, but she holds up a hand to cut him off without looking away from Julie. “I want to hear it from her. I want to hear you tell me if you even tried to keep me on this team.”


Julie at least has the decency to look ashamed, not that it does Tobin any good at this point. She's looking at her hands as she opens her mouth to answer, but then she closes it and swallows hard, forcing herself to look up at Tobin. “It’s just business,” she actually has the audacity to say. “This is what's best for everyone.”


Tobin just shakes her head, completely at a loss for words. She racks her brain to think of something, but then decides that doesn't even warrant a response. She turns to Mateo, refusing to look at Julie even a moment longer.


“When do I need to be in Jersey?”


“They would like you there Wednesday for their game. You don't have to be ready to suit up, they’ll still want to conduct their own physical evaluations with you, but they want to be able to present you at least,” he says.


“Three and a half days?” She chokes out. Three and a half days. A chanting chorus of, ‘this isn't fair. This isn't fair. This isn't fair,’ echoes on a loop through her head.


She can't believe this is happening.


She wants nothing more than to break down, to scream and cry and maybe hit something. She wants nothing more than to fall completely apart.


How is she supposed to tell Christen about this? How is she supposed to look her in the eye and tell her she has to move across the entire country?


How is she supposed to tell Nata their soccer study sessions are going to have to be postponed until the end of the season?


And Ryan. Oh god, Ryan. How is she supposed to tell him? He's already so angry at her for not telling him about Christen and now he has to listen to her tell him this?


This isn't fair. This isn't fair. This isn't fair.


“Are we done here?”


“Yes, I think that's all,” Mateo says quickly, understanding Tobin's need to leave the room as soon as she possibly can. “Someone from Sky Blue will be in touch with you later today, the trade will be announced on social media at 5 o’clock Pacific time so you have a few hours to tell your family.” He rises from the table and extends a hand, eyes full of sympathy, but not enough sympathy to keep her here.


Begrudgingly, she steps forward and shakes his hand. She doesn't even remember the last time she shook his hand aside from the beginning of this meeting. His favorite greeting and farewell is a tight hug, one that usually involves Tobin's feet being lifted off the ground a little. A handshake feels so informal, but judging by the way he's looking at her, he understands a hug is certainly not in order.


As she clasps his hand, Jared and Julie stand from the table and offer their hands as well, but she steps away before they can take hers. Mateo at least has been honest with her though this, answering her questions without trying to feed her any bullshit.


Julie has betrayed her. Julie let Jared throw going to Paris in her face without coming to her defense. Julie had the audacity to look her in the eye and tell her this was just business. Julie stabbed her in the back and yet still finds it okay to look hurt that Tobin won't shake her hand.


Jared, well, Tobin never really liked Jared. And judging by the way he doesn't even react to her ignoring his handshake, just drops his hand to check his phone yet again without blinking, he isn't too bothered by the rejection.


Tobin turns and walks towards the door, lamenting in the fact the door is so heavy she can't wrench it open in a show of anger. Instead, she pauses before she steps out. She looks down at the LA crest on the breast of her jacket and decides it's the last time she'll ever bear it.


She unzips the jacket, grateful she didn't put on the rest of her training gear yet. She couldn't exactly leave with dignity in just boy shorts and a sports bra in order to rid herself of the team logo; the same logo that used to fill her with so much pride, but now makes her feel nothing but agony. She pulls the jacket from her shoulders and drops it behind her without turning around, and then she leaves the room and heads back down the hall.


She's glad she doesn't see anyone on her way out. Either they're all hiding from her or they all just so happened to choose that moment to find something else to do away from their desks. She figures it's the former.


She gets all the way out to her car, barely managing to fight off the tears, before she sees the first person since she left the conference room.




She's pacing in front of Tobin's car, her hands clasped behind her neck and her head hanging low. She's still wearing the ratty Stanford sweat pants she wears to lounge around the house, her sleep shirt is wrinkled and two sizes too big and she has two different sneakers on like she got dressed with her eyes closed.


She doesn't hear Tobin approaching until she's just a couple feet away, too focused on mumbling under her breath something that sounds a lot like just a steady stream of curse words.


“Oh my god, Tobin,” Kelley says with a heavy sigh. She stops pacing and turns to face Tobin, crossing her arms over her chest. “I drove over here as soon as I heard.”


“I'm assuming Emily told you?” Tobin can't help but let some disdain drip from her words. She knows Kelley didn't have any say in the trade, but it still sucks she's getting shipped off away from Christen while Kelley now gets to play on the same team as Emily.


Kelley bristles at the obvious anger Tobin is feeling, but she stays calm. “Yeah, she just called me and I rushed over. I can't believe this is happening.”


“Yeah, well believe it,” Tobin bites out. She can feel herself growing angrier by the second and she knows Kelley isn't the one she's actually angry at, but unfortunately she's the only one here.


“I'm so sorry, Tobs.”


“Are you?” Tobin asks. “Are you really?”


“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Kelley's arms drop and her hands land on her hips. She leans forward a little, instantly more defensive. Tobin can tell she's holding back, not wanting a fight, but she also isn't going to stand down and let Tobin berate her.


“I got traded for for your girlfriend, you can't honestly expect me to believe you aren’t happy about that.”


Kelley narrows her eyes. “Look, I know you're pissed right now, but you don't get to be a dick towards me because of it. Of course I'm not happy about this. I know how much this sucks.”


Tobin scoffs. She swallows as hard as she can, really hoping she can swallow all her anger down as well.


It doesn't work.


“You get your girlfriend. You get to be captain. You get to be the face of the team. You get to play with Tierna ‘Stanford Prodigy’ Davidson that you're obsessed with. You win! You get to stay here and keep building your life and I'm getting thrown away to fucking Jersey and have to leave my entire life behind. Don't you dare tell me you know how much this sucks because you have no idea!”


She regrets blowing up the second she does it, but then she sees rage flare up in Kelley's eyes and suddenly she doesn't feel quite as bad. She wanted a fight and that's what she's getting.


“Oh fuck you, Tobin.” Kelley is almost laughing as she says it, like she can't believe they're actually fighting over this. “I'm here as your best friend to support you through this, don't take it out on me. I didn't trade you. It's not like Emily or I made a request for her to be traded here. Yeah, long distance sucks, but we've figured out a way to make it work. She loves Portland. She isn't exactly happy to be leaving.”


“Why wouldn't she be? She gets to be with you. Her sister just moved here. She lives here during the off season anyway so no more relocating. US Soccer’s home base is just down the road. It's perfect! I'm sure she couldn't wait to call you and tell you the great news.”


She pushes past Kelley towards her car, her brain commanding her muscles to get away before she can say anything else. She's barely opened the door though before Kelley is slamming it shut.


“You don't get to say those things to me!” Kelley shouts. Kelley is naturally a pretty loud talker, especially when she's excited. But a mad, shouting Kelley is completely different. Her voice takes on a deeper, harsher tone and it makes Tobin's skin prickle to know it's all her fault Kelley is this angry.


“You want to know the very first thing Emily said to me when she called? I could tell from the moment she said ‘hi' something was wrong because she sounded so sad. I asked her what was going on and the first thing she told me was that you were being traded. She didn't even tell me she was coming to LA until I'd already grabbed my keys and rushed out the door. She told me you were leaving and they were telling you this morning and I needed to find you to make sure you were okay. She didn't give a fuck about the fact she gets to come here because she was so upset I'm losing you and that you have to leave your life here and if you would stop being such a jerk for just five seconds, you'd know that's all I'm concerned about right now too.”


Tobin tries to open her car door again. She can feel the tears stinging her eyes and she knows she isn't going to be able to hold them back any longer. She isn't angry anymore, it all melted away when she told her Emily was more worried about how Tobin was feeling about the trade than how she was.


Tobin is such a jerk, but she still doesn't want to cry in front of Kelley. She doesn't want to break down in the parking lot beside the stadium she used to think of as her home. She doesn't want to break down in front of her best friend and the best teammate she's ever had that she's been so rude to when all she's trying to do is comfort her.


She wants to leave, but Kelley slams the door shut again before she can. She reaches out and takes Tobin's keys, then she locks the car and throws the keys over her shoulder.


“No!” Kelley shouts, her voice cracking so much Tobin feels herself splinter as well. “You don't get to leave. You're going to listen to me for two minutes and then if you still want to storm off and go be surly somewhere else, then go ahead.” She pauses for a moment, but Tobin knows it's just so she can catch her breath and not to give Tobin a chance to disagree again.


“If you think for a second I'd rather have Emily here than you, then I've been doing a shitty job of letting you know just how important you are to me. Like I said, having a long distance relationship sucks, but Emily and I make it work. We have a method to it and it's not ideal, but we're happy. If I could make it work that I got to have both of you here, that would be the happiest day of my life. But if it comes down to choosing between which of you gets to be on my team, I would choose you and Emily would make the exact same choice for me. You are my best friend. This sucks for me too, okay? I know it sucks more for you, but I'm upset about it too. Is there a small part of me that's happy I'll get to be with Emily? Yeah, there is and I won't lie to you about that. But there's an even bigger part of me that doesn't want to sacrifice you in order for that to happen. So if you want to be pissed, then that's fine. But just know I'm heartbroken here too.”


Kelley backs away and goes to find Tobin's keys that she aimlessly tossed, giving Tobin a few moments to let it sink in what Kelley's just told her.


Of course Kelley is upset Tobin's leaving. Tobin should have already known that. She knows how much Emily loves Portland too, so obviously she wouldn't be thrilled about having to leave. She feels like such a dick for being mean to Kelley and saying rude things about Emily. She knows she didn't actually mean them, but it would've been more detrimental for her to go off on Jared, Julie and Mateo than it is for her to go off on Kelley, so unfortunately that's what happened.


Kelley comes back with Tobin's keys and holds them out for her.


Tobin just looks at them for a moment, trying to figure out what she wants to do. She needs to apologize, she knows, but she also feels like if she tries to keep standing much longer, she's going to collapse.


So she does both.


Tobin ignores her keys and instead falls against Kelley and wraps her arms around her waist as her tears finally start falling. “I'm so sorry,” she chokes out after a sob.


Kelley doesn't even hesitate before she wraps her arms around Tobin's shoulders. She has to stand on her toes a little bit to compensate for the slight height difference, but she doesn't complain. She holds Tobin tightly and rubs her back. Letting her apologize a few more times before she answers.


“That's five apologies down, a couple more and I may actually start to forgive you,” she jokes.


Tobin laughs for a moment, but that only makes her cry even harder afterwards, realizing just how much it is she's going to be leaving behind.


She doesn't know how long they stand there like that. She hates doing this out in the open, especially right in front of the office building where anyone inside could see. She doesn't want them seeing her break down like this. She can't help it though. She's devastated and she can't hold it back any longer.


Kelley doesn't complain about the way her arms are probably tired from holding Tobin up. She doesn't complain about the ways her calves probably ache from having to push herself up to hug Tobin properly. She doesn't even complain about the giant wet spot on her shoulder from Tobin's tears. She just holds on tightly, swaying a little and rubbing her back to try and calm her down.


When Tobin does finally pull away, she's a little wobbly on her feet and she leans back against her car with a defeated sigh. “This sucks.”


“Tell me about it. I'm lucky you came out here when you did, I was about five seconds away from storming in their and kicking Jared’s ass,” Kelley says and Tobin knows from her tone she isn't joking at all.


“He's not even worth it,” Tobin tells her.


“This sucks,” is all Kelley can say in response.


“How am I going to tell Christen?”


“Fuck,” Kelley sighs, like it's finally hitting her just how complicated Tobin leaving is going to be, how many people will be hurt by it.


“What if she breaks up with me because of it?” Her voice is quiet. She's so scared to even voice the thought aloud, terrified of speaking such a terrible thought into existence.


Kelley shuts her down quickly. “She would never,” she insists. “Dude, she loves you so much, this isn't going to change that. It'll be a challenge, I can tell you that firsthand. But you guys are too good together, too solid to ever let this break you apart. It'll take a lot of work, but I promise you guys will make it through this. The season will be over in a couple months anyway.”


“Yeah, and then I'll get barely three and a half months here and it's back to New Jersey for nine months.” She shakes her head, hanging it heavy and low. “What if it's too hard?”


“It won't be. It will be hard, yeah, but not too much. It won't be anything you guys can't handle.”


“You sound so sure.” Tobin doesn't know how Kelley is so convinced of this when she's so scared to let herself be so hopeful. She believes in her relationship with Christen wholeheartedly, but Christen didn't sign up for this. Neither of them did.


“Look, if a screw up like me can make it work long distance for two years, then so can you.”


“You aren't a screw up.”


“No, but I was. You know me, I was a lot to handle before I got with Emily. I was immature and borderline crazy.”


“You're still immature and borderline crazy,” Tobin teases.


“True, and so is Emily, but we also have a very healthy, stable, loving relationship. If we can manage that, then Christen's very mature, kind, loving self can keep you guys in line too.”


Tobin can't help but nod, able to see some shreds of truth in that statement. If anyone can make something like this work, it's Christen. It certainly won't be easy, but Tobin would be an absolute fool if she let this come between them. She loves her far too much to let this affect them more than it needs to.


“You're right,” Tobin agrees.


Kelley smiles softly, but she doesn't say anything. She just throws an arm around Tobin's shoulders and pulls her into a loose side hug.


“So does Emily know you're so in love with me you'd choose me over her in a heartbeat?” Tobin asks after a few moments of silence.


Tobin expects Kelley to act annoyed, maybe shove her shoulder and tell her to fuck off or something. Instead she sighs and says, “yes, she's well aware. But it's okay because she's just as in love with Christen so we're even.”


“Oh great, that's comforting to hear three days before I'm leaving the state and she's coming here,” Tobin complains.


“Don't worry, I'll make sure to keep her in line, Christen too. The three of us can handle things together here without you.” Kelley smirks, telling Tobin she meant that exactly as it sounded.


“Get the fuck out of here,” Tobin groans, twisting away from Kelley's grasp. “You can't make jokes about having a threesome with my girlfriend, especially not when I'm about to move across the country.”


Kelley grins devilishly, like she's deciding how far she can push this. “Emily will be here the day after tomorrow. Want to make it a foursome as a going away present? I already know how good you are in bed.”


“Oh my god, shut up.” She pushes Kelley away from her car. “If you still want to be my friend, you'll stop this right now,” she warns, though the way Kelley smirks even more tells her she knows she isn't all that serious about the threat.


Despite not taking her seriously, Kelley gives her a break. Tobin’s day has been shitty enough as it is already, she doesn't need Kelley giving her a hard time.


“Go find your girl and let her know what's going on. I'll go to training and wipe everyone's tears away when they hear you're leaving. Typical Tobin, leaving a string a broken hearts behind her.”


“Typical Kelley, taking my seconds after I've moved on.”


“That was one girl!” Kelley says, incredulous. Tobin barely ducks out of the way of Kelley's arm swinging towards her shoulder.


“It was three girls, and don't you even deny it.” Tobin swings open her car door, grateful that Kelley doesn't slam it shut for a third time. Before getting in, she looks over a Kelley again, a more serious look on her face this time. “Hey, can you tell Mal for me? I don't want her to hear it from Julie the same as everyone else. Tell her I'll stop by her place later after training.”


“Yeah, of course dude. I'll let her know,” Kelley agrees with a nod and a sad smile.


“Thanks.” She gives Kelley a tight smile and then gets in her car.


As soon as she starts the engine, her stomach becomes incredibly tight, realizing what she's about to go do is going to hurt so much.


This sucks. This sucks. This sucks.


Tobin loses her nerve on the 30 minute drive over to Christen's work. All the comfort Kelley had brought her has completely vanished by the time she pulls into a parking space outside World Now’s offices.


The cement is back in her chest, expanding as it dries until she feels like her ribs are about to crack open from the pressure.


She can't believe she has to do this.


She sits in her car for a solid 10 minutes trying to find the courage to get out. Part of her wants to believe if she just stays in her car and never leaves, time will stop and this won't actually happen. Deep down she knows it's silly, but if she closes her eyes tightly, she can almost believe it for just a moment.


Eventually, she forces herself out of the car and into the building. She isn't prepared for the way she knows Christen's face is going to fall when she tells her. She hates she has to hurt her like this.


This isn't fair. This isn't fair. This isn't fair.


This sucks. This sucks. This sucks.


The first two people Tobin sees when she gets up to the office are Sofia and her boyfriend Matt, which makes what she's about to do even harder, something she didn't think was possible.


The four of them have started going out whenever they get the chance and they've both quickly become two of Tobin's close friends. Like Tobin with Christen, Matt is completely powerless against Sofia and after a couple drinks, their girlfriends enjoy teaming up to tease them. She and Matt bonded quickly over what complete suckers they are for their girlfriends.


Matt spots her first and waves her over to the table where they're sitting. It's filled with pictures of cliff sides next to a crystal clear, blue ocean and white sand beaches. Tobin tries to focus on the pictures and let them calm her, but it doesn't work like it usually would.


She doesn't think anything can right now.


Matt holds his hand out to smack Tobin's, then he pulls her into a tight, familiar hug. Her heart aches as she realizes they're two more people on the long list of goodbyes she has over the next three days.


“What's up, dude?” Matt asks as he pulls away so Tobin can hug Sofia. “How ya been? Christen's told us all about New Jersey. I'm glad you guys had such a great time.”


“I'm all right,” Tobin says, lying right through her teeth.


Sofia picks up on Tobin's poorly masked bad mood. She reaches out a hand and squeezes Tobin's bicep. “Everything okay? Christen didn't mention you were coming by.”


“She doesn't know,” Tobin replies. She thought about calling ahead to let Christen know she was coming, make sure it was okay for her to drop in. But Christen knows Tobin is supposed to be at practice and her anxiety would've run rampant trying to figure out what was wrong.


Tobin hated the idea of a sneak attack too, but she knew it was the best way to go about this.


“Aww, you're surprising her. That's so sweet,” Matt coos, grunting in pain when Sofia elbows him in the ribs for not realizing something much more serious is going on right now.


“Christen should be in her office,” Sofia says. Her voice is soft and easy. Tobin knows it's supposed to comfort her, but it just makes her stomach roll.


Tobin offers a tight smile and then walks off towards Christen’s office. Other people greet her as she walks through the loose maze of desks and she does her best to return their gestures, but her eyes are locked on Christen through the glass wall of her office. She’s typing on her computer, eyes focused in such an intense, yet calm way as they always are when she’s doing her job that she loves so much.


Tobin hates she has to ruin this moment of peacefulness, and she wants to turn and leave, but then Christen is looking at her and an easy, bright smile tugs at her lips. At least that is until she sees Tobin’s somber face and realizes she should be at practice, and then the smile drops to a look of concern mixed with panic.


Christen’s up out of her seat and opens her office door for Tobin just as she reaches it. “What’s wrong?” She asks immediately, not bothering to dance around this.


“Can we talk?” Tobin asks, her voice already cracking as she’s failing to hold it together. “Somewhere that everyone can’t see us?”


Christen hesitates, like she wants to say no and delay whatever is about to happen. Instead, she swallows hard and nods her head. She takes Tobin’s hand and leads them down a hallway.


Christen holds her hand a little too tightly, like she’s afraid of ever letting go again. Tobin wants to tell her everything will be okay, but she can’t get her mouth to form the words right now, doesn’t even know if she’d believe them. In place of words, she squeezes Christen’s hand, trying to let the action say everything she can’t. Christen squeezes back before she flips on the light to the gallery and leads Tobin in.


“Please don’t break up with me,” Christen says the moment the door closes behind them. She doesn’t turn towards Tobin to say the words. Her eyes are locked on the picture of the Finnish night sky she showed Tobin months ago. Her voice sounds distant, like she’s back in that moment instead of this one.


Tobin can’t blame her.


“Wait, what?” Tobin asks, moving around to face Christen.


“The therapy was too much. I pushed you too far and it freaked you out. And then everything with Ryan and Amy the other day. I don’t blame you for wanting to leave, for choosing them over me. They’ve been in your life so much longer. God, I’m so stupid.” Christen’s words are rushed and jumbled as her mouth tries poorly to keep up with her racing mind.


“Christen, stop!” Tobin says, probably a little too loudly, but she doesn’t know how else to stop Christen’s frantic rambling. She reaches out and puts a hand on either of Christen’s shoulders to stop her nervous pacing. “I’m not breaking up with you.”


“I shouldn’t have even brought up therapy yet, you weren’t ready and I just…wa--wait, what?” Christen asks once Tobin’s words finally set in.


“I’m not breaking up with you,” Tobin repeats, slowly so the words will sink in.


Christen’s eyes go wide and she smacks out at Tobin’s hip. “You could’ve led with that!” She’s almost shouting, but she’s also laughing in relief. “I thought you were about to tell me something terrible.”


“Well, I kind of am.”


Christen’s eyes soften. She brings her hands up to Tobin’s hips, her thumb running in circles over the place she just smacked. “Sweetheart, what’s going on?”


The sincerity in Christen’s voice brings tears to Tobin’s eyes. She really wanted to get through this without crying. She cried out of anger and frustration and sadness enough already today. She doesn’t want to cry out of absolute heartbreak now.


Tobin breathes deeply and tries to remember as vividly as she can the way she felt the last time she was here with Christen. The way her heart raced, the way her skin felt alive with electricity, the way her fingers twitched with desire to touch Christen, the way it felt like every single star in that picture was exploding inside her chest in the instant Christen’s lips touched hers.


That night it felt like they had all the time in the world.


Now it feels like they’re on a clock that runs out in three and a half days.


She opens her eyes and the words tumble out before she can stop them, her head unable to handle the anxiety and pain in Christen’s eyes for even a second longer.


“I got traded.”


Those three words hang there for an impossible amount of time, the silence stretching on until Tobin feels ready to jump out of her skin just to feel better.


Christen speaks first. “What are you talking about?” Her words are slow and careful, completely devoid of any emotion, so Tobin has no idea how she’s feeling aside from the obvious confusion.


“I got traded,” she repeats, the words much clearer this time.


Christen’s face is completely unmoving as she hears this information again, clearly still processing. Tobin continues to explain, slowly so she doesn’t overwhelm Christen.


“They got tired of losing and wanted to bring in stronger defensive players since we’ve struggled there so much because of injuries. They said they knew they could get the best deal for me, so they used me to get everything they wanted. They didn’t outright say it, but I know they think I’m getting too old and I’m not worth it anymore. That’s why they traded for such younger players, I mean god, Tierna’s only 19. They think it’s more worth their time to develop players than spend anymore time on me despite how much I've given them. It’s bullshit,” Tobin scoffs, unable to hide her disdain.


“Why would they do this?” Christen asks, another emotion finally flaring up. Anger. “You’re the captain, the face of the team. You’ve spent eight years of your life here. There are literally two thirty foot tall banners of you hanging outside the stadium! How could they do this?”


“Like I said, it’s bullshit.”


Tobin’s trying to stay calm, but hearing Christen point out all the reasons this feels like getting stabbed in the back and tossed aside causes tears to sting her eyes again and manage to fall too easily. “Dammit,” she curses herself quietly, rubbing at her eyes.


Christen steps forward and encelops her in a tight hug and that’s all it takes for Tobin to completely break down again. She falls apart in Christen’s arms the same way she did with Kelley earlier. She collapses against her chest and wraps her arms tightly around Christen’s waist, partially for the comfort and partially to keep herself from falling to her knees.


“Shh…” Christen says quietly near her ear, hand running slowly through her hair. “It will all be okay,” she pauses, realizing what a trade will mean for them, and adds, “we’ll be okay. I promise we’ll be okay. I love you so much and everything is going to be okay.”


Tobin tries to tell Christen she loves her back, but all that comes out is a choked sob. Instead, she presses a hand against Christen’s hip three times, slow and solid. Christen kisses her temple and whispers the same words in response, letting Tobin know she understands.


Tobin doesn’t know how long they stand there like that--Tobin crying, Christen switching between rubbing her back and running her fingers through her fair, whispering sweet words to her all the while.


Eventually, once Tobin’s sobs have turned to just small hiccups, Christen leans back so she can run her thumbs under Tobin’s eyes to dry the tears off her cheeks.


“Sorry you have to see me like this,” Tobin says, her small laugh watery.


“Stop, you look beautiful as always. And I’m not just saying that to make you feel better. You seriously look way better than a person should after crying so much and I’m seriously jealous.” The joke is slight, but it does the trick and Tobin offers her a shaky smile. “Where did they trade you?” The hesitance in her voice makes it clear she hopes it’s not too terribly far away, which makes admitting the truth even harder.


“New Jersey. I have to be there on Wednesday.”


There’s only a split second where Christen’s face starts to fall as she realizes that’s only three and a half days, and almost 3,000 miles away, but then she quickly corrects herself and gives Tobin a tight smile. “You’ll get to play at home,” Christen says, trying to find a silver lining.


This is my home. You and Nata and Amy and Lauren, you’re my home,” Tobin says.


“And we still will be,” Christen assures her. “There are only two months left in the season and then you’ll be right back here.”


“Only for a few months, then I’ll be back completely across the country for nine months.”


“We’ll make it work,” Christen says without hesitation. “I told you everything is going to be okay and I meant it. We will figure this out. It will suck, but we’ll get through it. Nata doesn’t have school for three of those months and I don’t need to be at the office for most of my work, so we can come stay with you during the summer. There are bye-weeks and international breaks where you can come back here. We’ll cross all those roads when we come to them, okay? Right now, just focus on going to Sky Blue and kicking ass and making LAFC regret they ever traded you.”


Tobin smiles weakly. “I’ll focus on that later. Right now I’m too sad to focus on anything else.”


Christen looks at her thoughtfully for a moment before she reaches for Tobin’s phone in her back pocket.


“What are you doing?” Tobin asks.


“I’m calling Channing to see if she can take Nata tonight.”




“Because you’re going to get one day you can be sad and mopey about this, okay? Tonight we’ll order takeout that’s really bad for us and we’ll get drunk and wallow in how much this sucks and we’ll have sex until we pass out. Then, tomorrow we’ll clean ourselves up, push away all the sadness and I’m going to help you pack up your apartment and we’ll start getting through this. Deal?”


“Has anyone ever told you you’re really good in a crisis?” Tobin’s blown away by how well Christen is taking this. She’s upset, obviously, but she’s staying strong enough to take care of Tobin and she loves her so very much for it.


“Tobin, I’m the most anxiety-riddled person you know. Do you really think anyone has told me that before?” Christen teases with a kinked eyebrow.


Tobin just smiles and kisses her gently, eternally grateful to have her in her life.


Tobin’s mom does a poor job of masking her excitement at the idea of having all her children living within driving distance again. She of course sympathizes with Tobin having to pick up her entire life and she has a few choice words (tame by Tobin's standards, but absolutely wild coming from her mom) for Jared and Julie, but she can't help but be excited she's moving “back home”.


Tobin can't even blame her. She has to admit it will be nice to be so close to her parents and siblings and nephews. She just wishes the trade off wasn't moving away from everyone here in LA.


Her mom doesn't keep her on the phone long, knowing how many people she needs to tell and how busy she'll be the next few days. She offers to tell Katie and Jeff and Perry for her. Tobin is grateful. She wants tell them herself, of course, but the less people she has to tell, the better. Because honestly, she thought the more she said it the easier it would get, but it only feels worse each time the words leave her mouth.


She calls her dad next while she's on her way to Amy’s. She considered holding off, but she's trying to be better with him, so she dials his number. He picks up after only one ring.


“Tobin, hey,” he says, clearly surprised by the random call. “How are you?”


Tobin hesitates before answering because she definitely isn't okay right now, but being so open with her dad is still hard for her. She chews her bottom lip for a second before saying, “I'm not doing too well, honestly. I have something I need to tell you.”


“Are you okay? Did something happen? Are Christen and her son okay?” The words come out in a rush, like he's worried there was an accident or something. Weirdly, Tobin feels a bit of comfort from that, knowing he's so concerned for their wellbeing.


“No, no, they're okay. We're all okay, it's nothing like that. It's just…well we're going to have to cancel your trip out here to see a game because uhm--well I uh…I’m not going to be playing for LA anymore,” she tells him, unable to force herself to say the ‘t’ word anymore. It's like a dirty word for a professional athlete and she's already said and heard it way too many times today.


Tobin's dad doesn't answer right away, like he isn't quite sure what she's saying, but then he lets out a long sigh as the realization hits him. “They traded you?”


“Yeah.” Tobin hates the way her voice cracks over that single word.


“Oh, Tobin. I'm so sorry.” The sympathy dripping from his voice is almost a little too much for her to bear, but she can tell it's genuine. “Why would they do that?”


She gives him the same spiel about wanting a stronger defense and getting younger players and the rest of the bullshit. She's getting tired of saying it over and over.


“Those idiots,” he scoffs. “Davidson is only as good as she is because of her partnership with Skroski. Who knows how she'll do without her? And Sonnett only started improving once she was in Portland. They're trying to pair two players who are most comfortable in their current environments and just crossing their fingers and hoping they'll do well together. They've only been paired twice internationally and they lost both games. That's a stupid risk they're taking, thinking they're more valuable than you. You're in the middle of one of the best seasons in your whole career. Those idiots.” Tobin can practically hear his head shaking in disdain.


“I didn't realize you paid so much attention to the league,” Tobin says. What she really means is, “I didn't realize you paid so much attention to my career.”


“Well of course,” he tells her. The staggered way he says it tells her he's shy, but his tone tells her it should be obvious he watches so much. “I watch every one of your games and as many of the rest as I can to keep up with the other teams. You'll do well with Sky Blue, but LA will be seriously hurting without you. Maybe they won't realize it in the last few games of the season, but next year they'll be kicking themselves for letting you go, I just know it.”


“Thanks, dad.” She's still heartbroken, of course, but knowing he has so much confidence in her and cares so much about following her career makes her shoulders throw back a little with pride.


“I uh--” He stops himself short, hesitating for some reason. Tobin gives him the time to decide what he wants to say next. “I'll get the earliest flight out there I can tomorrow, help you pack and move your stuff back here.”


That catches her completely off guard. She never would have guessed he would offer to do something like that. She's not quite sure why he even is.


“You don't have to do that.”


“I know, but I want to. I can drive your car back and rent a moving trailer if we need it for all your non-essential things. That way you can stay in LA as long as possible to spend time with everyone until you have to go. Then you can just fly back with what you need for a couple days and not have to worry about everything else.”


He has a good point. She hasn't even thought about how she would move everything, let alone her car. She isn't planning on taking everything. She wants to keep her apartment in LA for at least the rest of the off season, she'll figure out what to do with it after that. She has her Jeep back in Jersey, but she knows she needs something more reliable. Having to drive her car across the country would take way too much time out of her limited time left here. She'd have to leave tomorrow and she's nowhere near prepared for that.


The more she thinks about it, the better it sounds. She hates asking so much of her dad, though. They're working on their relationship, but they're surely not at that point yet.


“That's asking too much of you.” She's still a little shocked he's even talking about this.


“You're not asking, I'm offering.” She can hear the sarcastic smirk in his voice, the one that matches her own so perfectly. He clears his throat and then he's serious again. “I'm serious, Tobin. I want to do this. You have enough to deal with, having to completely move your life. Let me help as much as I can.” He sighs and then tacks on a, “please,” for good measure.


“Okay,” she agrees. “If you're really willing to do that, I would really appreciate it.”


“I'll check flights and let you know when I should be there tomorrow. Send me your address and I'll get a ride from the airport.”


“I'll pick you up,” she says before she's able to even process it. Once she has she adds, “it's the least I can do for all your help.”


“That sounds great, Tobin.” If she could see him, she knows he'd be beaming at the effort she's making. She can't help but smile a little too. “I'll send you my flight details just as soon as I have them.”


“Okay cool. I'll uhm…I'll see you tomorrow, I guess.”


“Yes, of course. I'll see you tomorrow.” There's an uncomfortable moment of silence where neither of them knows what to say next. “I love you, Tobin. And I'm really sorry this is happening, even if selfishly I'm a little glad you'll be closer.”


Tobin can't help but smile. It's the most affection her dad has shown her in years. “I love you too, dad. It will be nice to be closer and see everyone more.” She doesn't explicitly say it will be nice to see him more, but she knows he'll understand.


“I'll let you go now. Give Christen my best.”


“I will dad, see you tomorrow.”


She's still smiling as she pulls up in front of Amy’s house, but then her stomach tightens and the smile fades. She's never dreaded seeing her best friend, but they haven't spoken a single word in three days and she doesn't know what she's about to walk into.


As she's walking up to the front door, she realizes she probably should have asked if Amy and Ryan were even home right now, but she doesn't think she could have stomached the rejection if Amy had ignored her call.


She has a key, but it doesn't feel right to use it right now, so she knocks instead. She hates how foreign that feels to her.


It only takes a moment for Amy to answer the door. Her hair is up in a disheveled bun and she has one of Luke’s burp cloths laid over her shoulder. She looks exhausted, like she barely slept the night before. Her eyes widen a little when she sees Tobin and her bottom lip starts to quiver before she steps forward and pulls Tobin in tightly.


“Oh Tobin, I'm so sorry,” she practically cries against her shoulder. Based on the way her shoulders start to shake a little, she's definitely crying.


Tobin wraps her arms around her and holds her close. She's never gone so long without talking to Amy and the longest Amy has ever been mad at her is a few hours. They've never spent so much time apart without being in near constant communication. They're practically estranged after three whole days.


“I'm sorry too,” Tobin tells her, unable to hold back her own tears from forming. She prefers these tears over the last ones she had around Amy.


“No, no, stop it.” Amy pulls away a little so she can look at Tobin, still sniffling. “I completely overreacted, you didn't deserve that.”


“I don't think you overreacted,” Tobin says. She's had a lot of time to think about it and Amy had every right to get so mad at her for upsetting Ryan. “He's your son, you have to look out for him.”


“Yeah, but you're my best friend. You're family and I have to look out for you too. There’s no reason I couldn’t have told him about you guys, I don’t know why I didn’t.”


She chuckles a little, because it's typical Amy to try and shoulder all the blame off of those she cares about, even when it isn't deserved.


“How about we agree that we both should have handled the situation differently and then move past it?”


“Deal.” Amy holds up one of her pinkies for Tobin to link with hers, something they haven't done in years.


Tobin obliges with a nostalgic grin, then leans forward and kisses Amy’s pinkie until Amy does the same. Tobin used to always tease her about the ritual, telling her it was so lame, but Amy never cared.


Her friend hugs her tightly once more and then pulls away completely. “I've been going crazy these last few days without talking to you. I regretted everything immediately, but I was too embarrassed to call.”


“I feel the same. I was so worried you would still be pissed and ignore my calls so I didn't even try.”


“I would've answered on the first ring, darling.” Amy flashes a grin and then leans back against the couch. “Catch me up on what's happening with you! Three days is way too long to go without talking.”


Tobin feels the slight smile that was on her lips fade instantly when she realizes she's going to have to kill the happy mood they've found themselves wrapped up in. Amy can sense the mood shift and tilts her head, concern filling her eyes.


“Tobs, what's going on?”


She blows a quick puff of air out before she speaks. “You know how you always said you never trusted Jared at LAFC? Well it turns out you were 100% right to feel that way.”


Amy's eyes somehow scrunch together and go wide at the same time, emotions conflicting on her face as she tries to decipher what Tobin means. She doesn't give Amy the chance before she's tells her.


“They traded me to Sky Blue.”


Amy's immediate reaction is to frown, but it falters and turns into more of a grimace as she lets Tobin's words settle in her brain. She shakes her head like she doesn't believe her, even smiles a little like she's sure Tobin is just screwing with her to get back at her for freaking out the other night.


But then her eyes search her face for a few seconds and the smile fades. Tobin can tell the moment she realizes this isn't a joke because her shoulders slump and her eyes close tightly, a single tear working its way out.


“Those bastards,” she curses, ripping the burp cloth from over her shoulder and throwing it to the ground in a heap. She starts pacing behind the couch, one hand pinching the bridge of her nose as she mumbles to herself, “dammit, dammit, dammit.” After a moment of pacing, she stops solidly in her tracks, like she walks through a glue board and her feet get stuck instantly. “How did Julie let this happen?”


“She was involved in it,” Tobin says. She's not crying, surprisingly. Maybe she's becoming numb to it or maybe she's still so unused to seeing such an angry Amy she isn't sure how to react. “One of the players they got for me is Tierna Davidson and Julie’s never hidden her love for her. I'm sure she's thrilled to have another Stanford player on the team, even if she did only go for a year.”


“I can't believe her. Those bastards.” She starts pacing again, throwing her arms wildly in front of her as she rants. “You've given nearly your entire professional career to them. One season in France when you were on the verge of retirement doesn't negate that. You've fought for them every single step of the way! You literally are LAFC; they're nothing without you. Even the men's team was struggling to gain traction after their lackluster first season until you came along and had a breakout rookie year that turned the heads of even some Galaxy fans. That team is nothing without you! Those bastards!”


Tobin can't help but smile a little at Amy’s rage, not because it's amusing for such a tiny, lovable person to be so mad (okay, maybe a little because of that), but because it feels so nice to see Amy defending her so vehemently. There's only been one time Amy hasn't rushed to her defense and that was three days ago, it makes Tobin so happy to see her fighting for her again.


“I'm going to call Julie right now and tell her to go to hell. I can't believe she would do this.” Amy breaks the rut she's been pacing in and heads to the kitchen to find her phone.


Tobin catches up and takes her arm before she's able to find it though. “Don't do that, it's already done. There isn't anything that can fix it.”


Amy glares at her a little, annoyed at Tobin for holding her back. After a moment, she deflates and Tobin let's go of her arm, convinced she won't storm off again.


“Fine,” Amy huffs, crossing her arms over her chest. “But I'm unfollowing her on all social media, the team too. I'm a Sky Blue fan now. Oh gosh, does this mean I have to become a Red Bulls fan too? Gross.”


Tobin smiles softly at how quickly Amy's allegiance switches to accommodate Tobin's trade and the way her nose wrinkles in disgust at the idea of being a Red Bulls fan.


“Don't worry, no one will force you into that,” Tobin assures her.


“They practically are! I can't keep supporting the men, Jared owns them too. And I can't become a Galaxy fan because that's just disgusting. I have no other ties to any other team except the Red Bulls now since they bought Sky Blue a few years ago. That Tyler Adams kid is really good though, I guess I can make this work. I'm not buying any of their merch though, too many primary colors. I would look terrible in their gear. They have a bad habit of trading their captains away too though, so they'll have to be on notice until I decide they're worthy of my support.”


It's amusing watching Amy talk herself through this, deciding Tobin's new team is enough of a reason to support a team she doesn't like, even if it is tentatively.


“Thank you,” Tobin whispers.


Amy stops mid-rant and her eyes shoot up to Tobin in confusion. “For what?”


“For always having my back.”


“Well, not always,” Amy laments, clearly still disappointed in herself for what happened at dinner the other night.


“That's already forgotten. Besides, you had Ryan's back, which is way more important than having mine.”


“Always, buddy.” She brings a hand out to find Tobin's and squeezes. “Have you told Christen yet?”


Tobin nods, her throat becoming tight as she remembers the way Christen’s face fell when she realized she was moving so far away. “I was there before I came over here.”


“How did she take it?”


“Pretty well,” Tobin shrugs, and then tells her about Christen's reaction.


“Wow, can I date her when you're gone? She seems like such a great girlfriend.”


Tobin groans. “Emily got traded here too and I already have Kelley making jokes about the two of them wanting Christen, I can't handle you too.”


“Oh come on, I would be such a good girlfriend! Ask Adam, I'm so great at it he proposed after five months.”


Tobin laughs and shakes her head, so grateful she and Amy are able to fall back into their comfortable rhythm. “I'll admit, I'd rather have you dating her than Kelley and Emily. I'll consider it.”


Amy does a little fist pump in celebration and then squeezes Tobin’s hand once more time before finally dropping it.


“Is Ryan here?” Tobin asks, knowing the hardest part of this visit has yet to come.


Amy nods and gives her a sad smile. “Yeah, he's upstairs in his room.”


“You mind if I tell him about this?”


“Of course not, go right ahead. He should hear this from you.” Amy gives her shoulder an encouraging squeeze before she heads towards the stairs.


When she gets up to Ryan’s room, she can see him through the crack in the door. He's sitting at his desk with a giant box of crayons dumped out in front of him, coloring in the superhero coloring book she got him for his birthday. The fact he hasn't thrown out all reminders of her after saying he hated her is a good sign. At least she hopes, the kid really, really does love to color after all.


She takes a deep breath and knocks on the door gently. Ryan’s head whips around quickly, clearly expecting his mother. When he sees Tobin, his eyebrows scrunch together and he turns back around to his book.


“Hey, Ry,” she says, her voice soft as she pushes the door open a little more. “Can I come in?”


He doesn't say yes, but he also doesn't say no. He just keeps coloring in his book, focusing very hard in order to ignore Tobin. She takes the lack of response as an ‘okay' to come in, but she still walks slowly in case he changes his mind.


She sits down on the edge of his bed, behind his desk. She notices he took down her LAFC jersey that he had hanging on his wall, but she sees it sticking out from one of his dresser drawers, so at least he didn't throw it away. Plus, the scarf she gave him is still hanging up, so that has to be a good sign. (Then again, it's too high for him to reach so maybe that's why it's still there. She chooses to ignore that bit of information.)


“I'm really sorry I didn't tell you about Christen and me. That wasn't fair to keep that from you.” When she doesn't get any response or even an acknowledgement, she continues. “This doesn’t change anything with you and me, though. You're still my best friend. I still love you so much. You're still my favorite little man.”


“But what about Nata?” Ryan asks after a long pause. He stops coloring, but he doesn't put the crayon down just yet.


Tobin sighs and says, “well buddy, I love Nata too. He's important to me just like he's important to you. But that doesn't mean he replaces you. Can't I have you both in my life?” Ryan's only response is a shrug so she continues. “I know that it's a tricky situation and you should have learned about it from me. I can't apologize enough for not telling you sooner. I really love you, and I love Christen and Nata too. I really hope that doesn't change anything between me and you because I really don't want it to.”


“I just wish you told me,” Ryan mumbles. He puts his crayon down and turns a little in his chair, not quite facing Tobin just yet.


“I know, buddy. I wish I had too and I'm so, so sorry I didn't. I won't keep anything from you anymore, I promise.” It physically pains her to know she made Ryan ever doubt her love for him. She mishandled the situation horribly and now all she wants to do is correct it and never make a mistake like this again.


Ryan stays quiet. He chances a glance out of the corner of his eye at Tobin, but he looks away just as quickly when he realizes he's been caught. He drums his fingers on his thigh as he thinks, something Amy always does the exact same way.


“Okay,” he says eventually.


Tobin's eyes go a little wide, wondering if she heard him correctly. “Okay? We're okay?”


“Yeah,” he says with a little nod. “I'm still kinda mad though.”


“That's okay. I totally understand that, dude. I'll do whatever I can to make it up to you.” She's so happy he's forgiving her she almost forgot why she came here. Her face falls and she can tell from the way he furrows his eyebrows he knows something is up. “I actually have something I need to tell you. It's kind of some not good news.”


He looks even more confused now, but he nods his head to tell her to continue.


“So I found out this morning I'm not going to be playing soccer for LA anymore. I'm going to play for Sky Blue instead.”


Why?” Ryan asks, his eyes wide like she just told him they stopped making his favorite candy. He lurches forward, almost tumbling out of his seat as it clicks in his head. “They traded you?” As soon as Tobin nods, he jumps out of his seat completely and throws his arms in the air. “Why would they do that? You're the best player in the world!” He exclaims, pacing in front of Tobin. She smiles, not from the compliment, but at how similar his reaction is to Amy’s. (And okay, maybe she smiles a little from the compliment too, even if she knows it's not true. It's still nice to know someone has so much confidence in her.)


“They wanted a better defense,” she explains. “But it'll be cool because Kelley’s girlfriend Emily got traded here. You always love hanging out with her.”


“I love hanging out with you more!” Ryan stops his pacing at the same moment his voice starts to crack. All his anger fades away and is replaced with sadness. His chin starts to tremble and tears form in the corners of his eyes.


Tobin opens her arms, hoping he'll let her hug him. He starts to step towards her, but then he hesitates and walks back to his desk. He pulls his chair across the room and she's about to ask him what he's doing when suddenly he climbs up on the chair and reaches up for the LAFC scarf hanging on the wall. He pulls it down and hops back to the floor. Then he crosses his room and, as forcefully as he can, throws the scarf in the trash can.


“Will you buy me a Sky Blue one to replace it?” He asks, his voice soft and unsure.


“Of course, Ry. I promise it'll be the first thing I do.”


“Just don't buy me any Red Bulls stuff. I still don't like them. I don't like LA anymore, but the Red Bulls are gross. Maybe I'll like Columbus? They're black and yellow like Batman.”


“You can like whoever you want, buddy. Let me know who your new favorite team is and I'll get you a jersey too.”


“Okay. I'll have to think about it,” he huffs out. He seems so stressed at such a big decision, but then he looks up and Tobin and starts to cry again. He rushes across the room and jumps into Tobin's lap, wrapping his arms around her neck. “I'm going to miss you, Toby.”


Tobin bites her bottom lip to try and stop herself from crying, but as soon as Ryan chokes back a sob, she completely loses it. “I'm going to miss you too, Ry. But I'll be back soon. And maybe you can come visit me in the summer when you're out of school and come along for a couple road games.”


“Really,” he gasps, his excitement battling with his sadness at the idea of traveling with the team. He pulls back a little so he can look at her. “Do you think Mama would let me do that?”


“I'll make sure she does,” Tobin promises.


Ryan grins for a second before he starts to frown. “I'm sorry I said I hated you. That's not true.” He reaches up and wipes the tears off her cheeks with both hands. He isn’t exactly gentle, probably never having done that before, but it’s such a sweet gesture Tobin doesn’t even care.


“I know it's not. I love you and nothing is going to ever change that, okay?”


He nods quickly and says, “I love you too,” and then he leans back in to hug her.


She holds onto him a little tighter, grateful at least one good thing came out of today.