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If someone had told Tobin six months ago she'd be standing in her kitchen with her insanely hot girlfriend packing her belongings into boxes while she watches her girlfriend's son try to teach her dad how to play FIFA on Xbox, she would've laughed in their face. She would've told them there was absolutely no fucking way that could ever, ever be true.

 

And yet, that's exactly where she finds herself right in this moment. She can't help the grin that finds its way onto her face.

 

“No one should look this happy while packing.” Christen slides up behind her and wraps her arms around her waist. “Why are you smiling so big?” she asks before resting her chin on her shoulder and leaning her head against Tobin's.

 

“Just that I have a pretty amazing life with some pretty amazing people. As much as it sucks I'm leaving, and it sucks even more to see my life packed up in boxes, I still have so much to be grateful for. I just want to focus on that instead.”

 

“You do have a pretty great life.” Christen kisses the side of her head again. “And our lives are better because you're in it.”

 

Tobin can only grin. She never thought about making people's lives better by being in them. It's not that she's never thought that highly of herself, she’s just never considered it. Hearing it now though, it feels pretty damn good.

 

“Speaking of packing your life into boxes, I had an idea.”

 

Tobin turns in Christen’s arms so she can face her. She leans her hip against the counter and places her hands on Christen’s forearms where they're wrapped around her waist.

 

“Let's hear this brilliant idea,” Tobin says

 

“Well I didn't say anything about it being brilliant,” Christen teases. “But I was thinking, instead of packing everything up and using this apartment as basically a storage unit for the next three months--which I'm sure has to be pretty expensive--you could just leave your boxes in my garage. And then when you come back for the off season, you can stay with me and Nata. At least for a few nights a week, I know Kelley was excited to have you live with her in the off season since she won't see you every day now.”

 

“Are you asking me to move in with you?” Tobin blurts out without thinking better of it. She loves Christen and she loves Nata, but that's a big step and she isn't sure if she’s ready for that yet. She isn't sure if they're ready for that yet.

 

Luckily, Christen feels the exact same way.

 

“No, it's too soon for that,” she says quickly. “But I do want that to be the direction we’re heading. I think this could be a good first step without all the pressure. Once you're back, you can stay with me more, but you won't have to every night. I'm sure Amy and Lauren will want to spend some time with you too after being away so long.”

 

Tobin takes a deep breath, glad she didn't upset Christen by seeming worried about moving in so soon. Because she wants that to be the direction they're moving in too, of course she does. She wants everything with Christen. Absolutely everything.

 

“So you're asking me to partially move in with you?” She grins and pokes Christen in the ribs with a thumb.

 

“Exactly. You can come over for dinner and spend the night so we can have sex, but you won't be a permanent resident so you won't be added to the chore wheel or be expected to manage Nata. You'll get all the benefits without the burden,” she teases.

 

“Well for the record, Nata would never be a burden. A chore wheel, though? That's asking a lot of me.”

 

“Oh that’s too bad, because you’re definitely going to be added to the chore wheel one day. We just aren't there quite yet." She leans up to kiss Tobin, holding her as close as she can.

 

Like with everything else, if someone told Tobin six months ago she'd be talking about one day moving in with a single mother, she would've tried to have them diagnosed with hallucinations. But yet, a conversation that should freak her out is actually making her excited to think about.

 

She wants to be added to the chore wheel. She would complain about said chores the entire time, but she can't wait to be included one day. She can't wait to have not just a drawer, but a full dresser in Christen’s room. She can't wait until Christen doesn't feel like she’s burdening Tobin by asking her to help out with Nata, but instead it feels normal to let her take care of him.

 

Tobin knows they aren't there yet, won't be for at least a little while longer, but she can't help the butterflies she gets in her stomach from excitement just thinking about that day.

 

“You know, with all the money I'll save not having to pay rent for an extra three months, I'll be able to take you on the sickest vacation ever this off season.”

 

“I didn't say I wasn't going to charge you rent for all your boxes. I just think we can come up with an alternative payment method that doesn't involve money.”

 

Her voice has dropped to that low register she knows sends shivers down Tobin's spine and she bites her lip in the way she always does when she wants to work her up.

 

“Mmm, I like the sound of that.”

 

Tobin leans in and kisses Christen quickly, not nearly as deeply as she wishes she could, but Nata is still giggling over on the couch and her dad is letting out frustrated scoff and defeated laughs every time he makes a mistake, so they make sure to behave.

 

Unfortunately.

 

“Okay, enough distractions,” Christen says. She pats Tobin's shoulders once firmly and then steps out of her grasp. “We need to finish packing so we don't have to worry about it tomorrow and can just enjoy the next two days.”

 

“I'd rather enjoy you right now,” Tobin pouts even though she knows that clearly isn't a valid option.

 

“There will be plenty of that on Monday, I have surprise plans. But for right now, we need to focus.” Christen turns around and goes back to packing up Tobin's silverware drawer.

 

“Wait, what? You have plans? What plans?” Tobin glues herself to Christen's side and puts her arms around her so she isn't able to leave before she answers the questions.

 

“They wouldn't be surprise plans if I told you what they were.” Christen's voice is light, like she's just trying to stay above it all and stay logical about her deception, but she's barely containing her smirk so it's clear she's enjoying toying with Tobin.

 

“I promise I will still act super surprised. You'll never know the difference.”

 

“Babe, I love you and there are some things you're very, very good at, but acting is not one of them.”

 

Tobin scoffs in offense, but then it turns into a despondent whine when she realizes Christen really isn't going to tell her anything. “You know it's rude to drop a bomb like that and then just clam up.”

 

“Trust me,” she leans in to whisper right in Tobin's ear, “the anticipation will make it so much better.” Christen then skips out of Tobin’s grasp and flits across the kitchen.

 

“That was mean,” Tobin groans. “So, so mean.”

 

“I promise I'll make up for it.”

 

Tobin takes a moment to close her eyes and compose herself, reminding herself again they need to behave given their current company. She takes a deep breath and shakes her head, picking up where Christen left off with the silverware drawer now that she's moved on to another task a safe distance away.

 

“You know, I love you dearly, but you are incredibly frustrating sometimes,” Tobin complains.

 

“I know,” Christen agrees. “But I also know I have the skills to backup my words and make the frustrations worth it, and you know that too.”

 

“Yeah, I guess,” Tobin groans, knowing she's absolutely correct. She's frustrated with her now, but by the time she figures out what is going on, Christen will be working her over so well she won't even remember ever being upset about this.

 

“Oh come on!” Nata suddenly shouts from the couch.

 

Tobin looks up to see him flopped back defeated against the pillows and her dad with his hands up in the air, laughing in disbelief. Tobin looks at the TV and sees what's going on. Tobin's dad managed to actually score a goal on Nata for the first time all night in the dying seconds of their game. It ends in a 1-1 tie, but it feels like a victory to her father and a defeat to Nata.

 

The two immediately get into it once the final whistle blows, playfully arguing about the validity of her dad's goal and whether or not he cheated to get it.

 

Tobin is grinning so damn big, so focused on watching what's happening between the two, that she doesn't notice Christen sliding up behind her for a second time tonight.

 

“I love how happy this is making you,” Christen says softly. “I know how hard things are with you dad and I'm so glad he's really trying like this.”

 

“Me too,” is all Tobin can say.

 

Part of her is jealous, seeing how effortlessly Nata and her father get along and wishing she still had that kind of easy relationship with him. But mostly she's happy, incredibly grateful of the progress she's making with her dad and not wanting to ask for more than she can handle right now.

 

“I love you in ways I'll never be able to explain,” Christen says into her neck, barely whispering the words like she's afraid of them and the power they hold.

 

Tobin hears every one, though. She grins even wider and leans her head isn't Christen's. “I love you too and I can't wait to spend a lifetime proving it to you.”

 

Yeah, Tobin's life is pretty damn perfect. Despite everything that led to them being in the circumstance they are right now, Tobin couldn't care less right in this moment.

 

She loves and is loved in a way she never thought possible and that's all that matters to her because despite the situation, she knows that love is never going away. Aside from her faith in God, she doesn't know if she's ever believed so absolutely in anything ever in her life. She's amazed how easy that is for her to feel, but she can't imagine ever feeling any other way.

 

She may be moving across the country, but she knows their love will span the distance. As scary as it all is, she knows she truly has nothing to worry about.

 

This is her little family. She loves them and they love her and that's all that matters.

xxx

“I know I'm a professional athlete, but I'm so exhausted I think I might pass out. I can't move another box,” Tobin complains as she flips down in Christen's front yard.

 

Her dad rented a moving truck and they spent all morning loading boxes out of her apartment into the truck, and then out of the truck into Christen's garage. They still have one more trip to make back to her apartment for her furniture, but Tobin doesn't quite know if she'll make it that far. Even with Christen, her dad, Kelley and Emily helping, she thinks this might just be the way she's going to die.

 

“You're so fucking dramatic,” Kelley complains right back, kicking out at Tobin's foot.

 

“Language, Kell!” Emily chastises her, smacking her in the shoulder.

 

Nata is in the garage with her dad showing him all the different soccer balls he has and is far out of range to be heard by Kelley, but that doesn't stop Emily from trying to look out for him. They've bonded in a way she truly appreciates. That's probably because Emily is just as big of a child as him, if not more so, but they get along wonderfully so Tobin doesn't question it.

 

“But seriously, you're being way dramatic, dude,” Emily follows up.

 

Christen is the only one that shows her any sympathy. She's the only one who seems to understand it isn't just physical exhaustion she's feeling, but mental and emotional too. Having to pack up her entire life is taking a toll on her she never could've prepared for, despite it being absolutely expected.

 

Every box she moves takes three times the effort it usually would and Christen seems to be the only one who's picked up on that. She places a comforting hand on Tobin every chance she gets, whether it's on her shoulder, or the small of her back as she passes around her, or the side of her neck as she leans in for a quick kiss. Without even saying any words, Christen has said more to her all day than anyone else.

 

I'm here for you.

 

I can't imagine how hard this is.

 

I promise we'll get through this.

 

I hate this just as much as you.

 

I know we'll be okay.

 

I love you.

 

That last one she's actually said aloud plenty as well. No matter what's about to happen, Christen makes every single effort she can to make sure Tobin never forgets just how strongly she loves her, just how sure she is everything will work out.

 

“Poor baby,” Christen pouts, sitting down next to her in the grass, close enough that Tobin can move over a bit to rest her head in her lap. Christen starts instantly playing with her hair and Tobin is immediately at ease. “You focus too much on your legs and not enough on your arms.”

 

“My legs are my tools. I don't need my arms to play,” Tobin says.

 

“I don't know, remember the way you wrestled that Vancouver player to the ground last month? You may not need your arms, but you definitely use them,” Kelley says with a smirk.

 

Emily chokes out a laugh, clearly remembering the yellow Tobin had received for that move and the way she had so vehemently played innocent even after watching the replay on the giant overhead screen at BC Place.

 

“Listen, that girl was all over me the entire game and nothing was called. I put an arm around her for two seconds and suddenly the ref decides to do her job.” Tobin has already pleaded her case repeatedly to Kelley, but she still refuses to admit she's right.

 

“Yeah, so you've said,” Kelley scoffs and rolls her eyes. “HAO better be ready to keep you in line since I won't be there to do it anymore.”

 

The words are said as a joke, but no one laughs. They just go awkwardly silent and then avoid eye contact with each other. Maybe in a few days Tobin will be able to laugh over something like that, but right now it's still too fresh. She still doesn't know what to do with this.

 

Tobin pulls herself together first, knowing someone needs to. “Please, have you seen the way HAO fights? She'll be right there out of line with me.”

 

Everyone actually offers up a laugh at that, though it's weak, but Tobin appreciates the effort.

 

“Moving sucks,” she groans. She puts both her hands over her face and takes a moment to herself, enjoying the way the world goes dark for a moment once her eyes are covered.

 

When she pulls her hands away, she sees Kelley with her eyes closed, bottom lip trembling slightly. Emily is pressed right against her side, whispering something into her ear that Tobin can't hear at all, but after a few seconds it makes Kelley smile.

 

“You guys stay here,” Kelley says suddenly. Her eyes pop open and light up like this is the best idea she's ever had. “We’ll go with your dad and Nata back to your apartment to get the rest of your stuff loaded up. You guys just hang back and spend some time together. We'll be back in a bit.”

 

“You don't have to do that,” Christen insists.

 

“Yeah, you seriously don't,” Tobin agrees, sitting up to get a better look at Kelley. “It's my stuff, I can help move it.”

 

“You will be moving it. In a few days when your dad gets to Jersey with the truck, you can unpack as much as you want. Let us do this now.”

 

Tobin opens her mouth to protest, but Kelley narrows her eyes and crosses her arms across her chest. She knows there's no point in fighting her.

 

Instead, Tobin pushes herself up from her spot on the ground and pulls Kelley into a tight hug. It only lasts a second. Once Tobin kisses the side of Kelley's head, Kelley is pushing herself away and taking a big step back.

 

“Okay no, don’t do that. I only just stopped crying. I don't need to get started again,” Kelley explains.

 

Tobin raises her hands palm up in surrender and takes a step back. Kelley sniffles once and then she heads off towards the garage to tell Tobin's dad what's going on, but really Tobin knows she just needs a moment to compose herself before she falls apart.

 

Tobin turns to Emily and says, “you take care of her.” She means to say it as a question, but her voice is more stern than she intended it to be and it comes out as more of a demand.

 

Either way, Emily doesn't even hesitate. She nods surely and says, “I've got her. I'll make sure she's okay.”

 

Tobin mutters her thanks and then turns to Christen, knowing if she tries to hug Emily right now she'll break down. Emily understands, walking away with another nod and leaving them alone.

 

Tobin reaches out a hand and helps Christen up to her feet, pulling her in tightly once she does, needing desperately to feel the comfort she always does when Christen wraps her arms around her.

 

“So now that we have a couple hours to ourselves, what do you want to do?” Christen asks, running her fingers along Tobin's scalp to soothe her.

 

“You know exactly what I want to do. I've been asking if we could do it for weeks.” Tobin pulls away with a smirk and levels Christen with a knowing look. Her girlfriend should know her well enough to figure it out.

 

Christen smiles and bites her bottom lip for a moment. “Seriously? That's what you want to do?”

 

“Did you really expect anything else from me?”

 

Christen shakes her head with a laugh. “Okay, let's do it then.” She takes Tobin's hand and leads her to the front door and everyone else piles into the moving truck for another trip.

xxx

Just twenty minutes later, Tobin is sweaty and out of breath. She rolls over against Christen and kisses her on the cheek. “Thank you,” she says with a grin. “That was so much fun.”

 

“I never knew that could be so exhausting. I don't think I can move,” Christen huffs, pushing her damp hair out of her face.

 

“You're such a baby. I used to jump on the trampoline for hours as a kid and never get tired.”

 

To prove her point, she pushes herself up and starts jumping again, as if her legs aren't actually burning, and tries to pop Christen up in the air as high as she can. She laughs wildly as Christen's half hearted protests turn to giggles as she tries to find her way to her feet despite the relentless bouncing from Tobin.

 

After a minute, Christen is still unsuccessful at standing up, so instead she just launches herself forward and tackles Tobin instead. Tobin fights her, but she's breathless from laughing and jumping so she's no match. Christen sits on her thighs and pins her arms down by her side, effectively trapping her.

 

“We're not kids anymore though,” Christen tells her. “We're adults and there are much more fun things we can do on a trampoline.” She leans down and kisses Tobin until she's senseless just to prove her point.

 

“You uh…” Tobin takes a moment to close her eyes and compose herself after that kiss, and then continues. “You want to show me some more of these fun adult things we can do?”

 

Christen hums and leans in for one more kiss. “Maybe later once we're inside and not on my son's trampoline.” She nips at Tobin's bottom lip playfully and then rolls off her. She links their hands together between them and sighs in content.

 

Tobin tries to focus on the way Christen's hand feels in hers, commit how smooth her skin is and the weight of her hand to memory thoroughly. It's such a small thing, but something she loves so much and is going to miss once she's in Jersey.

 

Thinking of Jersey (not like that isn't all she's thought about since the moment she found out she was traded) makes her think of the difficult thing she needs to tell Christen now. She was up half the night thinking about this, but she knows it's what she needs to do. She knows Christen will understand, she's just worried about it hurting her, which is the one thing she always wants to avoid.

 

“Hey, sweetheart,” Tobin says gently. She waits until Christen raises her head to look over at her hums in acknowledgment before she continues. “I have something I want to say. It might upset you, though.”

 

That catches Christen's attention. “Okay,” she says, dragging out the word. “What's going on?” She sits up and moves around so she can face Tobin without having to crane her neck around.

 

“I don't want you to help me move to New Jersey.”

 

Christen’s eyebrows scrunch together and a small smile forms on her lips, like she thinks Tobin is joking, but can't figure it out for sure. “Wait, what?” She asks.

 

“It’s not that I don’t want you there. It’s more like I just can’t have you there yet,” she explains. She sits up so she can look Christen on the same level. “Of course I want you there, but I know it’s going to break me completely if you come with me and then leave in less than 48 hours. I think I need to go by myself and get settled in a bit, figure out how I’m supposed to do this on my own before I have you there. The idea of having to say goodbye to everyone here and then have another goodbye to you just a few days later, I don’t think I can handle it. I need to say goodbye to you here.”

 

Christen’s bottom lip trembles slightly, but she doesn’t cry. She mostly just looks confused still. Tobin can tell there are thoughts battling in her head and she gives her a moment to decide which one she wants to voice.

 

After another few moments, Christen sighs and says, “I’m going to tell you this because I promised I would be honest about the thoughts I’m having, even the bad ones. Honestly Tobin, it feels like you’re saying you want to leave me and your old life behind so you can go live your new one in Jersey by yourself.”

 

“No!” Tobin rushes out, speaking a little too loudly. “No,” she repeats, softer this time. She reaches out for Christen’s hands and holds them tightly. “I promise you, that isn’t what I meant. I love you more than anything and I promise you I am not trying to leave you behind. All I meant was that I need a little time to adjust to a new team and a new home. Of course I want you there, but if I let you come to Jersey with me now, there’s no way I’m letting you get on that plane back home without me. If I have you there, I won’t be able to stay there without you. I’m still going to call you every single day and blow your phone up with texts every single chance I get.

 

“This is the start of a new chapter professionally for me, and I need to figure out how this next part is going to go. This isn’t a new chapter personally, though. It’s different, sure, but I’m still just as desperately in love with you and this isn’t going to change that. I just need to focus for a bit on the professional side and I know I can do that because nothing is going to change on the personal side.” Tobin sighs and runs a hand through her hair. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m making any sense right now.”

 

“No hey, you are,” Christen says. She leans forward and kisses Tobin for a quick second, then she takes one of her hands away from Tobin’s and brings it up to cup Tobin’s cheek. “I get it now, I do. It makes sense and I agree it’s best because honestly, I think if I come to Jersey with you I wouldn’t be able to leave you. I would tell my parents to put Nata on a plane to us and we would never ever leave you. I get it, I promise.”

 

Tobin has to bite her bottom lip until she starts to taste blood in order to stop herself from crying. She tilts her head forward until her forehead is pressed against Christen’s and she lets out a shaky sigh.

 

“Fuck, this is going to suck so much,” she says with a bitter laugh.

 

“I know it will, babe.” Christen nods and then adjusts so Tobin’s head is leaning against her shoulder and she can wrap her arms around her. “But we’re going to be okay. It’ll hurt, but I know everything is going to work out for us.”

 

“I know you’re right, but I still hate this,” Tobin says against Christen’s neck.

 

“I do too,” Christen admits. “We just need to look at the positives.”

 

“How is there anything positive about this?”

 

“You’ll be playing for a team who loves and respects you. They worked so hard and gave up so much to get you because they believe in you. You’ll get to play with HAO, who I know you miss so much. You’ll be able to keep working on your relationship with your dad. You’ll get to watch your nephews grow up, which is something I know you hated missing out on with Cole.” Christen runs her fingers through Tobin’s hair, scratching at her scalp until Tobin sighs and she feels some of the tension melt away from her shoulders. “And the most positive thing of all, I’m going to send you so many dirty pictures to get you through until we see each other again.”

 

Tobin’s head pops up at that. “You’re going to what?” She asks, wanting to make sure she heard her correctly.

 

“You know what I said,” Christen smirks. “I may have already gotten a jump start on things this morning when you all went to get the moving truck and I stayed back at your apartment. You left your phone in your bedroom.”

 

“Wait, what?” Tobin scrambles to reach for her phone in her back pocket.

 

The idea of what’s waiting for her makes her hands shake in anticipation so much that she can’t manage to type her passcode in correctly. It isn’t until she’s locked her phone for five minutes that Christen giggles and pulls the phone away from her and tosses it to the other side of the trampoline.

 

“You don’t need those for a couple more days yet. Enjoy the real thing while you have it.”

 

Christen’s eyes are so dark and her voice so low, Tobin is pulling her off the trampoline in seconds and rushing them upstairs to Christen’s bedroom.

 

If Christen wants her to enjoy the real thing, then she’ll be damned if that isn’t exactly what she’s going to do.

xxx

Christen’s surprise plans she mentioned the other night involve renting an Airbnb right on the beach for the next two nights.

 

Tonight, they get it all to themselves, to enjoy some alone time together, just the two of them (and maybe a couple bottles of wine and a secluded hot tub out of sight of any neighbors).

 

Tomorrow, Amy, Lauren, their husbands, Nima, Christen’s sisters and parents have all taken off work and are coming over for a beach day with all the children. They’re going to have Tobin a huge send off party for their last Wednesday Night Dinner until the offseason. Kelley, Emily, Mal and a couple of her now former teammates are coming over later in the afternoon after training to join in on the party too.

 

Tobin knows the whole thing is going to be incredibly bittersweet, but she’s so thankful to Christen for organizing all this she’s choosing to focus only on the sweet part of it. She wanted to have a big send off celebration for Tobin and she wanted it to be at her second favorite place, the beach. She can surf and play sand soccer and hang out with her friends she loves like family all day, which will hopefully be enough to tide her over until she comes back at the end of the season.

 

Tobin’s dad is watching Nata back at the house tonight. Tobin could tell Christen was a little nervous about it given her obvious feelings towards her dad, but they’ve both gotten along so well, it only took Nata practically begging for a few moments for her to agree.

 

She has to admit, she’s a little jealous seeing how easily Nata and her dad get along. It reminds her of when she was that age and her dad was her best friend in the whole world before everything went so wrong.

 

Nata doesn’t know about any of that, though. All he knows is Mr. Jeff is easy to beat at FIFA, likes helping him build legos and will listen to him drone on about Iron Man for seemingly forever.

 

So while she’s a little jealous, she’s also not surprised at all by how well they’re getting along. Her dad has always been so great with kids and Nata could make friends with a tree if he really wanted to. It’s great to see them having fun together. It gives her hope of continuing to repair her relationship with her father.

 

(Christen may or may not leave him with a two page list of rules and instructions for taking care of Nata, but her dad doesn’t even bat an eye. He just accepts the list with a nod and promises to call Christen with any questions or concerns.)

 

As Tobin settles into the hot tub that night, a fresh glass of wine in either hand, she doesn’t think she’s ever felt so at ease in her entire life, which is amazing considering why she even found herself in this situation.

 

She hands one of the glasses over to Christen, accepting a kiss as payment, and then leans back against the built in seat, enjoying the way the jets hit her muscles, sore from a day of moving. She looks up at the sky and imagines all the stars she can’t actually see. When she closes her eyes, she can almost see them.

 

“Truth or dare?”

 

Tobin opens her eyes and lifts her head. She’s pretty sure she heard Christen right, but then again the bubbles are pretty loud.

 

“What?”

 

“You heard me,” Christen clips back. Her eyes are bright and mischievous, fueled by the wine and the multiple orgasms Tobin gave her just before dinner. “Truth or dare,” she repeats anyway.

 

“I haven’t played this game since middle school.”

 

“That’s unfortunate. It’s so much more fun once you’re older.” Christen takes a sip of her wine, grinning over the rim of her glass. “Now come on! Pick one.”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes playfully. Not that she ever needs convincing to do anything Christen asks of her, but she enjoys the way Christen is so insistent. She lets out a sigh and drops her head back against the edge of the hot tub, taking a moment to make her choice.

 

“Dare,” she replies. She figures if she’s going to go for, she might as well go all the way.

 

Christen’s eyes narrow until she looks downright devilish and Tobin’s regretting ever agreeing to playing this game in the first place. Somehow, Tobin knows what her dare is going to be before Christen even says it, simply because of the way she’s looking at her.

 

“I dare you to take your bathing suit off for the rest of the evening.”

 

“Seriously?” Tobin asks, almost surprised she would go so far for the very first dare. If this game is supposed to increase in difficulty as time goes on, she can’t even imagine what Christen will try to make her do by the end of this.

 

“Yes, seriously. You picked ‘dare’ and that’s my dare. Now come on, give me a little dance while you do it,” Christen teases.

 

“The dare was for me to get naked, not for a lap dance.”

 

“It was worth a shot.”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes again, but then she does as she’s told. She takes a quick sip of her wine and then sets it safely on the edge of the tub so she can free both her hands. She leans towards Christen, who’s sitting diagonally from her. She gets just close enough that Christen starts to lean in to meet her lips, and then she moves back with a grin before she reaches back and unties her bikini top. It falls from her shoulders easily enough and she tosses it outside the hot tub. She doesn’t miss the way Christen licks her lips as Tobin slides off her bikini bottoms and discards them as well.

 

Once she’s naked, she leans back in her seat and reaches for her wine glass. She takes a sip before smirking proudly at the way Christen can’t take her eyes off her. She’s proud of the way Christen’s entranced, but she’s also starting to feel worked up by how hungrily Christen is eyeing her. She isn’t about to end this game without getting in a couple of her own shots, though.

 

“Truth or dare?”

 

Christen doesn’t answer right away, doesn’t seem like she even heard Tobin’s words. Once they register, she shakes her head and blinks a few times. “What?” She asks, trying to play catch up.

 

“Truth or dare?” Tobin repeats.

 

“Dare,” Christen says without hesitation.

 

Tobin knows she’s hoping she dares her to get naked too. That would surely speed along this process and get Tobin back in bed soon enough as she’s so obviously wanting.

 

Tobin has another idea, though.

 

Christen’s the one who wanted to play this game after all. She’s going to have to deal with the consequences a bit.

 

“I dare you to go run into the ocean, go completely under, and then run back.”

 

“It’ll be so cold!” Christen says indignantly. “Can’t I just get naked like you?”

 

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” She teases, but only lightly because honestly, she’d like it too. “It’s my dare, and this is what I pick. Run along now.” She waves her hand in the direction of the ocean to tell her to get a move on.

 

Christen rolls her eyes, but she’s not one to back down from a challenge, especially one she agreed to. She finishes off her wine quickly, wanting the liquid courage, and then she rises from the hot tub.

 

“You better warm me up after this,” Christen complains as she heads towards the end of the deck to the beach.

 

“Only if you dare me!” Tobin calls after her.

 

Just before Christen makes it to the sand, Tobin sees her psych herself up with a quick, sharp breath and then she takes off towards the water. She lets out a little scream when she hits the cool ocean and Tobin can’t help but laugh. Christen can’t be in the water for more than five seconds, but she did as she agreed and goes under completely.

 

Christen runs much faster back up the beach than she did down, desperately wanting the warmth of the hot tub to make up for the chilly salt water. She hops back into the tub in a flash and instantly sighs as her skin starts to warm back up.

 

“That was mean,” Christen grumbles.

 

“Fair is fair. You picked a dare and that’s what I gave you.” She leans forward until she’s just inches from Christen’s lips and says, “I’m proud of you for going through with it, though.” She kisses Christen then, tasting the salt water on her lips.

 

“Of course I did it. I’m not a cheat,” Christen says. She leans in for another kiss, making this one last longer with a hand to the back of Tobin's head.

 

Tobin doesn't complain. She figures Christen deserves it after all.

 

Once Christen is satisfied with the kiss, and Tobin is a little out of breath, Christen leans back with a content smile across her lips. She reaches for her wine glass, only to realize it's empty and then frowns. “I dare you to go get me wine.”

 

“I haven't even picked truth or dare yet!”

 

“Fine, truth or dare?”

 

“I'm definitely not picking dare now because I know what it's going to be.” She shakes her head at Christen's pouting, and hands over her wine glass instead. She's naked after all and while the hot tub is secluded from the neighbors, the walk back to the house isn't. “Truth,” she says.

 

Christen thinks for a moment, taking a slow sip from Tobin's glass. “When was the very first moment you realized you loved me?”

 

Tobin doesn't even need to think about it.

 

“The first moment I realized I felt something for you I’d never even come close to feeling for another person was the morning after I stayed over for the first time. I woke up before you and when I rolled over and saw how beautiful you looked, my heart just broke with all the things I felt for you. I don't think I realized it was love then, though. The first moment I realized I loved you was a couple weeks later. We were out to lunch with Lauren and you were holding Jrue Tyler in your lap. There was just something about the way you laughed and the sun caught your face in just the right way and I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you and I wanted to be able to hear you laugh like that until the end of forever.”

 

Christen's grinning like a fool as she finishes her story. It's one she's more or less heard before, but it still makes her smile like a fool all the same.

 

“You're quite the charmer, you know that?” Christen asks.

 

“You've said that a few times, but it's always nice to be reminded.” Tobin sends her a quick wink and ignores the little butterflies she feels in her stomach that always show up when she thinks about how much she loves Christen. “Truth or dare?” She asks.

 

“Dare.”

 

Tobin fakes being in thought for a moment, but she already knows exactly what she wants to say. “I dare you to go get us more wine.”

 

Christen crosses her arms and pouts, annoyed Tobin turned what was meant to be her date around on Christen. “Seriously?”

 

“Oh yeah,” she says before finishing off her glass. “I'm all out.”

 

“You're such a brat. That was supposed to be your dare,” Christen complains, but she does as she’s supposed to.

 

Tobin knows she's teasing, so she eggs her on further by giving her a quick smack to her ass as she's getting out of the hot tub and says, “hurry up, I'm thirsty!”

 

Christen throws a middle finger up over her shoulder as she heads into the house.

 

Tobin waits until the sliding glass door is closed before she hops out of the tub. She dashes across the porch quickly, not wanting to give the neighbors a show. She opens the door quickly and clicks the lock into place before she tiptoes across the living room to where Christen is standing in the kitchen. She's grateful for the music playing because it means Christen doesn't know she's there until she has her arms wrapped around her waist and she pulls her in close.

 

Christen jolts at the surprise contact, but she sinks into it easily enough. “I thought this was my dare?” Christen murmurs, playing dumb even though she clearly knows what's going on.

 

“I don't want wine anymore,” Tobin mumbles, her lips pressed firmly to the back of Christen's neck.

 

“Then why didn't you dare me to do something else?” Christen asks, still acting like she doesn't know what's happening.

 

“I just wanted an excuse to get you inside.”

 

She uses her teeth to teeth to pull at the strings tied at the base of Christen's neck. She tugs until the knot falls loose and the bikini top slides from Christen's shoulders. Her fingers undo the tie at her back so it can fall completely to the ground.

 

“Then why didn't you just dare me to come inside?”

 

“Oh my gosh, enough about the dares,” Tobin groans. She puts her hands on Christen's hips and spins her around so she can kiss her lips.

 

Christen barely let's the kiss last for a second before she pulls away, ignoring Tobin's searching lips following after her.

 

“Truth or dare?”

 

“I don't want to pick,” Tobin mumbles, trying and failing again to keeping kissing Christen.

 

“Trust me,” Christen starts, her voice reaching that raspy low register she knows Tobin loves so much. “You want to pick.”

 

“Dare,” Tobin chooses immediately. She only has a singular focus right now and this game isn't it, but if appeasing Christen gets her to her goal faster, she'll happily play along.

 

“I dare you to take me upstairs.”

 

Tobin grins. She should've known better than to think this isn't exactly what's on Christen's mind.

 

“Well if it's a dare, then I guess I don't have a choice.”

 

Without another word, she reaches down to pull Christen's thighs until she hops up and wraps her legs around Tobin's waist.

 

Tobin's a little off balance from the wine, but her steps have never been so steady and sure as when she's carrying Christen to bed.

xxx

Driving away from the beach house on Wednesday morning is one of the hardest things Tobin has ever had to do.

 

Tuesday had been everything she wanted it to be and so much more. As heartbroken as she is about her circumstances, she's trying to be as positive as she can about it all. She just wanted to have a fun, relaxing day with so many of the people she loves most in this world and that's exactly what she got.

 

She surfed and laughed and danced and ate and played sand soccer and did it all again from the moment the sun came up to well after it went down.

 

She spent the entire day feeling so loved and appreciated. She can't remember the last time she's ever felt so wholeheartedly happy in her entire life. She honestly thinks maybe she never has.

 

Obviously the reasons she found herself in the situation at all are far less that fortunate, but they all made the most of the opportunity they were given and Tobin wouldn't have changed a single thing about that day.

 

She woke up Tuesday morning with Christen in her arms and she went to sleep that night--well, technically Wednesday morning--with Nata on one side and Ryan on the other, tucked in under a pile of blankets in the massive pillow for they built. And every single moment in between in one she’ll hold onto on the days she's particularly lonely in New Jersey.

 

When Christen wakes her up Wednesday morning, Tobin closes her eyes as tightly as possible. She's trying to convince herself if she just stays asleep, then the events of today never have to take place and she can just stay here forever.

 

Eventually though, after enough gentle coaxing from Christen, she crawls out of the fort and gets up to shower and get ready for the day.

 

By the time she makes it back downstairs, most everyone else is awake as well and Lauren is cooking way too big of a breakfast in the kitchen. They all laugh and eat and enjoy themselves all over again, but this time there’s a bittersweet fog clinging to every single detail that they were fortunate enough to avoid yesterday. Today though, with Tobin’s inevitable departure just hours away, there’s absolutely nothing they can do to hold it at bay.

 

But they all do their best.

 

When it comes time for Tobin to leave, she refuses to hug anyone goodbye. She knows if she lets that happen, she’ll burst into tears after the first hug and then she’ll never actually make it out of the house. Lauren and Amy still cry anyway, which brings tears to her eyes, but they understand and respect her wishes. They’ll see each other again so soon, and that’s all that holds Lauren and Amy back from charging Tobin with open arms.

 

She also doesn’t actually say goodbye to anyone.

 

‘See you later.’

 

‘I’ll see you soon.’

 

‘I’ll call you as soon as I land.’

 

‘Be back soon.’

 

That’s all she’ll allow herself to say.

 

Nata and Ryan make her break her no hugging rule, though. They’re the only two she’s okay with doing so.

 

They’ve made up since their fight about Tobin and they’re closer than they’ve ever been. They spent all day yesterday building sand castles and then destroying them with glee. They stayed up half the night giggling and making shadow puppets on the ‘ceiling’ of their blanket fort with the light on Tobin’s phone. Tobin finally had to roll over
and separate them so they would actually go to sleep.

 

They are the last two she says goodbye to before leaving and before she can even take a step back to try and stop it, they collide into her and wrap their arms around her so tightly it breaks her. She kneels down and hold them both as close as she can. They’re crying and she’s crying and everyone around them is crying and Tobin wants nothing more than to go punch every board member at LAFC in the face for letting this happen.

 

She promises to FaceTime and call whenever she can and tells them the first thing she does when she gets to the training facility will be to get a jersey made for both of them with her name on it. She tells them she loves them and wipes their tears away as best she can. She promises them beach trips and superhero movie marathons when she gets back, and summer road game trips next season.

 

It’s Christen who has to eventually pull her away.

 

She places a gentle hand on her shoulder and tells her if they don’t leave no they’re going to miss her flight. As if that’s supposed to convince her to actually leave.

 

She does leave though.

 

She’s moving forward, she reminds herself.

 

The situation is far from ideal, but she has a team that wants her and sacrificed to get her waiting in New Jersey. Underneath all her sadness, she’s excited about that. She’s looking forward to it and so that’s what she tries her best to focus on.

 

They don’t talk much on the drive to the airport.

 

Christen goes through a checklist to make sure Tobin has everything she needs before her dad will get there with the rest of her things in three days.

 

She tried to convince him to just let her ship everything, but he refused. He’s bound and determined to do this for her, so Tobin lets him. She knows he’s trying to prove to her how committed he is to fixing things between them, so she lets him go about this how he wants.

 

The drive goes by incredibly too fast and before Tobin’s even ready, Christen is pulling up to the drop of lane and it putting her car in park.

 

Christen wanted to help her get checked in and even wanted to buy the cheapest plane ticket she could find just so she could walk Tobin to her gate and wait for her to take off. Tobin wouldn’t let her, though. She said she didn’t want her wasting the money, but really she just didn’t want to have a tearful farewell where anyone could see them.

 

Christen agrees to let her do this in whatever way she needs, so she doesn’t argue. She does get out of the car and help Tobin get her bags from the car. And she does make Tobin actually hug her goodbye, though Tobin never planned on including her in that rule anyway.

 

Tobin holds Christen for as long as she can before a security guard come by and tells them they need to move on.

 

She doesn’t cry. She doesn’t know if it’s because she’s cried out all her tears by this point or because Christen has been so unbelievably supportive through all this it’s easier to be strong for her than anyone else. Either way, she doesn’t cry and neither does Christen.

 

“I love you more than you’ll ever know,” Christen tells her when she pulls away. She places a soft kiss on Tobin’s cheek and then another on her lips.

 

“I think I have a pretty good idea,” Tobin jokes. “And I love you too, beautiful.”

 

She pulls her in for one last kiss, savoring the feel of her lips, the taste of her tongue, the sounds of her breath, the smell of her moisturizer. She holds on to every single detail.

 

“So I wasn’t sure if I was going to tell you about this or not, but I want to make sure you don’t find it at an inconvenient time, so I wanted to warn you,” Christen tells her.

 

Tobin gives her a curious look and ignore the car that might have just honked at them to tell them to get out of the way. “What are you talking about? Find what?”

 

“I packed you a present in your big suitcase,” is all Christen gives her, but there’s a certain look about her eyes that says it’s so much more than just a simple present.

 

“And what might that present be?”

 

Christen smirks. “You remember that weekend when we had my house to ourselves and we tried something new in bed?”

 

It clicks instantly in Tobin’s head and her face gets so hot she’s pretty sure she’s getting sunburned from the inside out.

 

“You put a vibrator in my suitcase?” Tobin hisses, somehow managing to keep her voice down so no one else around them will know what they’re discussing.

 

Christen just smiles and kisses her on the lips sweetly, the completely opposite style of their current conversation. “I just wanted to make sure even when I’m not with you, I still know you’re getting taken care of exactly how you deserve.”

 

“Oh my god,” Tobin groans.

 

“Yeah, you were saying that a lot that night.”

 

Tobin’s so caught off guard and mildly embarrassed and so unbelievably turned on. The combination of feelings if throwing her so far off her game she doesn’t know if she’ll ever get back completely.

 

“I can’t believe you did that,” Tobin laughs.

 

“Well you enjoyed mine so much, I figured you would get some good use out of your own too.”

 

“I love you so much,” is all Tobin can say. She wasn’t expecting this at all, but the way Christen is so serious and yet so teasing all at once just reminds Tobin of all the ways she loves her. “When did you even get it?”

 

“Amazon prime two-day shipping is an amazing invention. I had Channing pick up the box from my house on her way to the beach house yesterday.”

 

“You had your sister hand deliver my vibrator?” She gasps in disbelief.

 

“She didn’t know what it was!” Christen kisses Tobin again. “Trust me, this is a very, very good thing for us. You should call me tonight and we can use ours together.”

 

“Oh my god, you’re trying to kill me aren’t you?”

 

“Maybe just a little.” Christen winks and then she takes a big step away from Tobin. “Okay, you need to go now. If I don’t let you leave now, then I won’t ever.”

 

This is it.

 

This is the moment she’s been dreading since the moment she learned about the trade.

 

Surprisingly though, she doesn’t feel as sad as she thought she would. She’s sad, of course, but she isn’t worried. She knows this will change some things between them, but it won’t change how much she loves Christen. It won’t change how much Christen loves her. It won’t change the fact Tobin believes she’s meant to spend the rest of her life with Christen.

 

As much as this sucks, she knows they’re going to be okay.

 

“I love you,” Tobin tells her. “I’ll buy wifi on the plane so I can text you and I’ll call you as soon as I land. I’ll call you so I can say goodnight to Nata before he goes to bed.”

 

“And then you’ll call me again once you’re in bed and have opened your present, right?” Christen smirks and bites her bottom lip.

 

“Oh my god, I’m leaving,” Tobin groans.

 

She pulls up the handles from both her rolling suitcases and throws the strap of her carry on bag over one of them. She steps up onto the curb, her bag in tow. She has to take that first step before she looks back at Christen, knowing she’ll never take the next if she looks at her first.

 

“I haven’t said this, but Tobin I am so proud of you. I know this isn’t what you wanted, but you’re handling it with such grace and I love you so much for it.” Christen leans a hip against the back of her car and smiles encouragingly at Tobin. “Go kill it and score a few goals for me, yeah?”

 

“I’ve already promised my first goal to Nata and my second to Ryan, but every one after that is all for you, babe,” she promises.

 

The security guard comes back by then and Christen knows she really needs to leave.

 

She blows a kiss at Tobin and then says, “I love you, and I’ll see you soon

 

“I love you and I’ll see you soon,” Tobin repeats.

 

With that, Christen gives her a small wave and then she walks around to get back in her car.

 

Tobin watches until Christen drives away and she can no longer pick out her car in the mess of all the others. Then, she takes the deepest breath she can manage and turns to step into the airport and into the next chapter of her life, knowing that all the people she’s leaving behind are following right along with her, even if from a distance for a while.