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“But Mama, I don’t want to go to bed yet,” Nata whines. “I want to stay up and talk to Tobin.”

 

It’s Thursday night and she’s been facetiming with Christen and Nata for nearly three hours as they watched the Atlanta and Dallas game together, but now it’s nearly midnight on the east coast and Nata’s bedtime on the west coast. Tobin gets the feeling of not wanting to go to sleep yet, she could stay up and talk to them forever. She’s getting tired, though and sure she took a nap this afternoon so she could stay up later, but she has an early training session in the morning and she really needs to get to sleep.

 

“I know, baby, but it’s bedtime. Tobin is going to bed too, isn’t that right?” Christen asks.

 

“Yeah dude, I’m totally going to sleep. I’m exhausted.” Tobin makes herself yawn for added effect and it takes Nata a couple seconds of looking at her curiously, but then he’s unable to hold back his own yawn.

 

“Okay, fine,” he yawns again. “I guess I’m a little sleepy too.”

 

“That’s my boy,” Christen grins, happy how easily convinced he is by Tobin. She kisses his forehead and says, “how about you go brush your teeth and change into your pjs while I say goodnight to Tobin? I’ll be back in just a minute to tuck you in.”

 

“Okay, Mama,” Nata concedes. He smiles a sleepy grin at Tobin and gives her a small wave. “Night, Tobin. I miss you.”

 

“Oh I miss you too, buddy. So so much. Sleep tight, little dude. I love you.”

 

“I love you too.” He blows her a kiss and she blows one back, then Christen kisses his cheek and he hops off the couch to make his way back to his bedroom. He walks much more easily now that his leg is in a boot and he doesn’t need his crutches, but his steps are still a little awkward as he gets used to the boot.

 

“I kept quiet in front of Nata, but damn you look really hot tonight,” Tobin says once he’s gone.

 

Christen rolls her eyes, but she also flushes slightly at the compliment. “I’m literally wearing sweats and a ratty t-shirt.”

 

“Yeah, but your hair is up the way I like it and you’re wearing your glasses, which you know I’m so weak for,” Tobin explains. “And besides, you’re always hot. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing.”

 

Christen smiles and lays back against the couch with a sigh. “Thanks, sweetheart. You look pretty hot too.”

 

“I know I do.” Tobin shoots Christen a grin and then lets out another yawn. “As much as I love flirting with you, I really do need to get to sleep.”

 

“Yeah me too. The board is in town tomorrow so it’s going to be meeting after meeting all morning. I probably won’t get to talk much until later on in the day.”

 

“You mean no freaky texting while you’re at work tomorrow?”

 

Christen laughs and Tobin grins at the sound. It’s one of her favorite sounds in the whole world and never fails to brighten her mood. Even from 3,000 miles away it still sends a charge through her heart.

 

“You can send me as many freaky texts as you want, I just won’t get to answer until later.”

 

“I’ll give you something to look forward to, then.”

 

“You know how to treat a girl right,” Christen teases.

 

“You’re damn right I do,” Tobin smiles. “All right, I’m about to crash. I’ll talk to you later tomorrow. I love you, honey.”

 

“And I love you. Sweet dreams, Tobs.”

 

“Goodnight,” she says and then Christen ends the call.

 

She’s barely able to plug her phone into the charger before she’s falling asleep.

xxx

Christen was right about not getting to talk much. Aside from a few quick texts first this in the morning once Christen woke up, it’s been radio silence from her end. Tobin shoots her a couple texts when a thought crosses her mind or she sees something that makes her think of her (like the fluffy yellow dog she sees at the cafe where she grabs lunch with her teammates). She hasn’t heard anything back yet, but she wasn’t expecting to.

 

After their training session this morning, she and about seven other teammates all grab lunch before heading back to the training facility for a film session before their game against Seattle on Sunday. They only have a light training session tomorrow afternoon, so their coaches want to keep them busy today.

 

Heather teases her every time she checks her phone to see if Christen has texted her yet. Tobin laughs it off, but deep down she feels a little embarrassed by it. She usually isn’t so attached to her phone or so needy when Christen isn’t able to talk to her, but she thinks the distance is finally settling in for her.

 

The first 9 days have been great so far.

 

She's really enjoying her team. Heather was right when she said they're young. The average age on the team is 27, but that's just because Heather is 34 and drives that number up a bit. Without her, they don't even reach 25. They’re young, but they're good. They just need a little development and Tobin knows within the next season or two, they'll be serious contenders for the title. She's so glad she gets to be a part of what they're building here.

 

The more she trains with the team, the more she realizes she got a little lucky with how well she did in her first game. She thinks everyone's adrenaline was so high they managed to make things work well enough it seemed like they knew how to work together.

 

The first few training sessions after the game are a little frustrating. Her passes are either just too fast or just too slow to link up with her teammates. She's always just slightly out of position or slightly ahead of the play. But by the end of the second full session, she feels more confident in herself and she can tell her teammates are more confident in her. It shows on the field and they start linking up like they've been playing together for months. There, of course, are still smaller nuances they need to work on, but they're meshing well enough they're proud of what they're able to create.

 

After her lunch with Heather and their talk about her becoming captain, Christie asks her to stay behind after training on Monday so they can discuss it as well. She pretty much just reiterates what Heather had already told her, but hearing how much faith she has in her already means the world to Tobin.

 

She used to think she had such a great relationship with her coaches back in LA, especially Julie, and while she maybe did in the beginning, it hasn’t been that way in a long time. It’s refreshing to have a coach she knows has endless amounts of confidence in her. She can’t wait to prove her worth and confirm all that faith.

 

She thinks she’s been so caught up in trying to get to know her teammates and impress her coaches the last few days, she hasn’t really had time to let it sink in how much she misses everyone she left back in LA.

 

She knows everyone is just a quick call or text away, but that’s so much different than knowing she could pick up her keys and be at Amy’s or Lauren’s or Kelley’s places in just a few minutes if traffic was on her side. Ever since college, she’s hardly spent any significant time away from Amy or Lauren, so it’s hard accepting being so far away from them is the new normal.

 

Of course she hates being so far away from Christen and Nata as well, but it’s hard in a different way. It makes her feel heartsick and alone. She’s already spent some time away from them whenever she had away games, so she tries to tell herself this is just like an extended away trip, but it doesn’t work because she knows this is her new home now too.

 

She manages, though. Any time she’s really missing them, she just looks at her lockscreen picture and is greeted by their smiling faces, which always helps cheer her up a bit.

 

Their film session lasts longer than any of them were expecting it to. Seattle is a very dynamic team and they recently signed a young Chinese striker that has given all their opponents since a very tough time. Tobin has already faced Seattle twice this season in the western conference, but this will be the first and only time Sky Blue faces them. Christie asks her to share her thoughts on a few situations with the group since she’s already seen them up close this season and she’s happy she appreciates her input enough to ask.

 

There’s a lot to break down and they all learn a lot from the session, but they’re also all thrilled when the lights finally come back on and Christie dismisses them for the day. Tobin says goodbye to her teammates and heads to her car so she can get home.

 

She still doesn’t have a text from Christen and she tries not to seem so disappointed by that.

 

When she gets back to her apartment, she tries to unlock the door and is confused when she finds it’s already unlocked. She isn’t sure why because she knows she checked it twice before she left; it’s a habit she’s had for years and she knows she didn’t miss it today. She wonders if maybe her mom stopped by while she was gone and forgot to lock it when she left, but her mom has told her when she’s stopped by so far so she doesn’t think she would show up unannounced.

 

She pushes open the door slowly, mildly nervous to find out what she’s walking into, but once she gets inside and sees why, every ounce of nerves she had in her body fades away instantly and is replaced with absolute joy.

 

“Tobin!” Nata shouts from his spot on the couch when he sees her.

 

“Toby!” Ryan exclaims and jumps up to run towards her, Nata following along closely behind.

 

Tobin drops her bag and falls down to her knees so she’s on their level and is able to hug them both properly. “Oh my god, I missed you guys,” she sighs as she hugs them tightly. She ignores asking why they’re here for the moment and instead just appreciates the fact they are.

 

“Did we surprise you?” Ryan asks when he pulls away, excitement brimming over in his voice.

 

“Yeah you did, guys. I had no idea you were here. What are you doing here?” She runs a hand through their hair and can’t help but tear up a little bit at how happy she is to see them.

 

“Mama said we could surprise you,” Nata tells her, leaning back in for another hug.

 

“Really it was Nata’s idea, but he couldn’t afford a plane ticket so I had to help out.”

 

Tobin looks up and sees Christen standing in front of her with a huge grin and Tobin doesn’t know if she’s ever been so happy in her entire life. She’s in yoga pants and one of Tobin’s old UNC shirts and Tobin is reminded for the thousandth time she’s the most beautiful girl in the entire world.

 

“I can’t believe you’re here.”

 

Tobin stands up and walks over so she can hug Christen tighter than she thinks she ever has. She kisses the side of her head, her cheek, her jawline over and over until she finally makes it to her lips. Ryan and Nata giggle at their reunion, which makes them both pull away with huge grins on their faces.

 

“I had no idea you guys were coming here,” Tobin says.

 

“Well good, that’s the whole point of a surprise,” Christen smirks at her smartass comment.

 

“Yeah, but you’re a terrible liar. I don’t know if I should be impressed this worked or worried about you lying in the future.”

 

“I’m just trying to keep you on your toes. The real feat was not letting it slip to the boys so they wouldn’t say anything. I didn’t tell Nata until this morning because I knew he wouldn’t be able to keep a secret.”

 

“Yeah-huh I can keep a secret!” Nata protests.

 

Tobin laughs and says, “maybe you can, but Ryan is a terrible secret keeper.”

 

“I just get so excited about stuff,” Ryan admits with a shrug, not even bothering to argue.

 

Tobin hugs Christen again and the boys head back to the living room to continue watching cartoons. Once they’re distracted, she kisses Christen again, taking the time to really enjoy it.

 

“Mmm, I’ve missed that,” Christen hums.

 

“You have no idea how much I’ve wanted to do that the past few days.”

 

“I think I might have an idea,” Christen winks before she kisses her again.

 

Tobin loses herself in it. Her brain is still trying to catch up with what’s going on, but her body is having no trouble responding to Christen’s lead. Kissing her is a habit for her body at this point, the best and most enjoyable habit she’s ever had.

 

“How long are you here for?”

 

“We leave Tuesday afternoon,” Christen says. “I asked Nata what he wanted for his birthday and all year all he’s wanted is a dog, but when I asked him a few days ago, he said the only thing he wanted was to spend the day with you. Things are calm at the magazine right now, so I booked our flights that night after I checked with Amy to see if Ryan could come too.”

 

“You’re amazing,” Tobin gushes, kissing her one last time before she picks up her training bag from where she dropped it in the foyer to throw in the hall closet.

 

“Why don’t you go hang out with the boys while I start dinner?”

 

“I can help with dinner.”

 

Christen cocks an eyebrow at her, not believing that’s a possibility in the slightest. “Tobin, you’re a terrible cook. You can make like three things for breakfast, but that’s it.”

 

“I’ve been learning!” Tobin says in her defense. “I told you Heather was going to teach me to cook. She gave me such a hard time about being thirty and hardly being able to cook.”

 

“That may be true, but I think I’d feel better about letting you in the kitchen after you’ve had a few more training sessions with Heather.”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes. “Fine, watching cartoons is more fun anyway.” She leans in to place a kiss on Christen’s temple and hums with content. “I’m so happy you’re here.”

 

“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

xxx

They stay up way too late that night. Nata and Ryan both blab on and on about every little detail Tobin has missed since she left. Mostly it's just about the games they've played in gym and what they've learned in school, but every new story they tell is with such excitement Tobin finds herself grinning and enjoying every single moment.

 

After dinner, they play FIFA for a while and then settle in to watch a movie. Their bodies still feel like it's 6:00pm when it hits their bedtime on the east coast, so they're wired until nearly 11:00pm when Christen finally manages to convince them to get to sleep. They aren't thrilled about it, but a day of travel and their excitement at seeing Tobin have taken their toll and they fall asleep easily.

 

After that, Tobin and Christen spend way too long reacquainting themselves with each other in bed, but yet it almost doesn't feel like they spend nearly long enough. It's only been 9 days and Tobin has missed her so much, she isn't sure how she's supposed to manage a full season next year, but she figures the brief time apart is a good way to start building up to that.

 

Tobin holds Christen tightly against her and places a line of kisses across her shoulder. “We should get to sleep,” she mutters against her skin.

 

“In order to do that, you'll need to stop kissing me,” Christen smirks, playfully trying to push Tobin away.

 

“But I don't wanna,” she complains, pulling Christen in closer.

 

“I don't know what to tell you then, babe,” Christen laughs. “You can't have both, I'm afraid.”

 

“You're so mean to me.”

 

Christen pulls her head back so she can look at Tobin with an amused expression. “I'm mean because I'm telling you the truth?”

 

“When the truth isn't something I want to hear, yeah,” Tobin says like it makes all the sense in the world.

 

Christen rolls her eyes playfully. “Noted, I'll make sure to lie to you from now on.”

 

Tobin's brow furrows as her words get turned around her, but she's too tired to try and sort them out right now. “That's not what I meant,” is all she says before moving on. “I've just missed you so much.”

 

Christen places a smile and a kiss against Tobin's temple before reaching over to turn off the lamp on the bedside table. After, she settles down a little further down the bed and rolls over so her back in facing Tobin, who without hesitation takes the hint and rolls over on her side so she can wrap her arm around Christen. Even through the layers of clothes Christen insists they put on before falling asleep in case one of the boys decide to come into the room in the middle of the night, she can feel such warmth radiating off Christen. She hadn't realized just how cold her bed has been since she left LA.

 

“I still just can't believe you're here,” Tobin says after a moment. “I'm so afraid I'm going to wake up in the morning and realize this was all just a dream.”

 

Christen takes Tobin's hand from where it rests on her hip and brings it up to her mouth. The quick, sharp bite she receives on the fleshy part of her palm is the last thing she expects to happen next. She doesn't get a chance to complain before Christen speaks up.

 

“See, this is real. If it were a dream, you wouldn't have felt that.”

 

Tobin just laughs and relishes in the soft kiss Christen places on the same spot to soothe the already fading pain from the bite. “Thanks for the gesture, but not all of us share your biting kink,” she teases.

 

“Oh my god,” Christen groans, rolling around to face Tobin, but staying wrapped under her arm. “It's not a kink, it's just something I like sometimes.”

 

“Exactly, kink.” Tobin smirks as she sees the mild frustration that passes over Christen's face before she rolls her eyes and smiles back.

 

“I promise this is real,” Christen tells her. “I know it doesn't quite feel like it, I feel the exact same way. But I promise it's real and I'm going to be right here when you wake up in the morning.”

 

Tobin closes her eyes and lets out a content sigh. “That sounds so perfect.”

 

“Because it is.” Christen leans in and kisses Tobin's cheek softly before pushing her shoulder slightly until she lays on her back and she can curl up against her side.

 

“I love you,” Tobin whispers once they're settled again.

 

Christen repeating the words back to her is the last thing she remembers before she falls asleep, more at ease than she's been since she left LA.

xxx

Tobin has a light practice early Saturday afternoon, so she doesn't get to sleep in nearly as long as long as she wishes she could. Plus, the time change means Nata and Ryan come barreling in just before 6:00am, excited and ready for the day. After climbing all over Tobin and Christen so they can settle in between them, Christen pulls up a stream for a Premier League game and the boys happily watch, allowing the adults to get another hour or so of sleep before the boys become too restless and they insist the day begins.

 

Christen takes them into the living room and plays the game on the big TV while she starts breakfast, allowing Tobin to lounge around for a little while longer, knowing she likes to take her time waking up. She doesn't stay in bed too long though, wanting to spend as much time as possible with them before they head back home.

 

She helps Christen in the kitchen, taking frequent small breaks to watch the game and shout at the screen along with Nata and Ryan whenever there's a poor call. Despite Christen's slight disapproval, they eat breakfast on the couch so they can keep watching the next game.

 

Once they're all finished eating, Tobin and Christen collect all the dishes and bring them back to the kitchen. After they get everything in the dishwasher and clean up the counters, Christen walks up to Tobin and wraps her arms behind her neck, pulling her in for a long, lazy kiss.

 

The whole morning has been so soft and slow and perfect, that honestly Tobin still isn't 100% convinced this isn't a dream. But if it is, in fact, a dream, it's the best one she's ever had and she has no intention of waking up anytime soon.

 

“So listen,” Christen says once she's content and pulls away. “While you're at practice, I was going to shop for a couple hours for Nata's birthday.”

 

“I thought I was his present?” Tobin teases.

 

“You are. You're all of our present,” Christen says with a smile. “But you know I have a bad tendency of spoiling him, I just can't help it.”

 

“Completely understandable,” Tobin laughs.

 

“But anyway, while I'm shopping, I didn't know if you wanted to boys to come with you or if they're even allowed. But Jeff said he would take them if we need them to.”

 

“My brother Jeff?” Tobin asks in disbelief. She leans back slightly so she can get a better look at Christen, seeing if she can read her face to know if she's joking or not.

 

Christen rolls her eyes playfully. “Yes, your brother. He's an adult and he's very responsible. The boys will have a blast with him.”

 

Tobin's still a little skeptical, overprotective of the boys, but Christen is cool with it so Tobin let's her shoulders relax and agrees. “Jeff can take them for a while and I'll check with Christie to make sure it's cool they stop by a bit at the end. I'd love to show them around the stadium.”

 

“They'll definitely love that. Maybe I'll get done in time and be able to stop by too. What time is your practice?”

 

“Practice starts at 1:00, but I'm meeting with the trainer at like 12:15.”

 

Concern washes over Christen's face. “Why? Is everything okay?”

 

“Yeah, I'm all good. Just typical end of the season aches and pains. He just wants to monitor my ankles since I'm new for him.” She kisses Christen's cheek to assure her she's doing just fine and then steps out of her grasp. She busied herself with wiping down the kitchen counter before a thought hits her and she freezes. “Oh, shit,” she mumbles under her breath.

 

“What's wrong?” Worry fills her words as Christen steps closer and places a hand on the small of Tobin's back.

 

“I just remembered I gave my mom Nata's birthday presents to ship to LA for me the other day when I had practice,” she whispers so he won't hear her from the living room, though he's clearly too entranced by the TV to even bother with her at the moment. “I'm not going to have anything to give him! Oh my god, I'm the worst ever.”

 

Christen just smiles, clearly amused by Tobin's panic, though Tobin isn't sure why. She questions her about it, which just causes Christen to laugh, only further frustrating Tobin before Christen explains.

 

“Your mom knew we were coming. She never shipped the presents, that's why she offered to do it so you wouldn't. She's holding onto them until dinner tonight.”

 

Tobin sighs as relief floods her entire body. “You really thought of everything, didn't you?”

 

“That one was actually all your mom. I never would've even thought to do that.”

 

“Well remind me to thank her then. Apparently at dinner tonight?” Tobin quirks an eyebrow, letting Christen know she definitely didn't miss that bit of information.

 

“Again, that was all your mom's idea. She wanted to have a pre birthday party for Nata since we'll be busy with the game on his actual birthday tomorrow. All your siblings and their families. I think even your dad's invited.”

 

That last part catches Tobin completely off guard. She doesn't remember the last time her parents have been in the same room together, let alone her mom inviting her dad to be in the same room with her. She's sure she must have heard Christen wrong, but the slight hesitation coloring her features tells Tobin she actually heard her loud and clear.

 

“Seriously? My dad?”

 

“Your mom knows he and Nata bonded while he was in LA and since it's for his birthday, she didn't want to exclude anyone he cares about. Plus, she told me she's happy you're trying again with your dad and she wants to show her support.”

 

“You guys were talking about me?” Tobin suddenly feels defensive, not sure how else to feel about the idea of them talking about her behind her back.

 

Christen's face turns soft and she brings a hand up to Tobin's face, fingers lying delicately along the underside of her jaw. “It wasn't like that, I promise,” she assures her. “I wouldn't do that to you. I didn't tell her any new information, nothing you haven't already told her yourself. And same for your mom. You told me the other day she was happy about you and your dad hanging out again.”

 

Tobin feels embarrassed in an instant. Of course Christen wouldn't gossip about her with her mom. She knows how much Tobin values trust, and she shares that value as well. She would never divulge information Tobin has shared with her in private.

 

“Sorry, this whole thing with my dad is still kind of weird to me. I'm still getting used to him being a part of my life again,” she explains. She turns her head to kiss Christen's palm.

 

“You don't have to apologize for that. It's okay if this is weird for a while, I get it.” She kisses Tobin's lips, short and sweet, before she drops her hand and reaches for her phone on the counter, no doubt checking her work emails already, anxious she's missing something.

 

“Does Jeff know my dad's going to be there tonight? My sister's are civil with him, especially for family functions, but Jeff has a hard time.”

 

Christen pulls her eyes away from her phone after a short moment to meet Tobin's. “Your mom said we shouldn't worry about it when I asked her the same thing. I guess she's going to talk to him, I didn't ask for specifics.”

 

Tobin chews at her bottom lip for a moment, wondering how that conversation would go. She doesn't get a chance to linger on it though, before the boys are charging into the kitchen and crashing into Tobin.

 

“Can we go play soccer?” Ryan asks, staring up at her with big brown eyes that are so used to always getting their way.

 

“Yeah, can we please?” Nata asks. “I can play in my boot.”

 

“I don't think so, sunshine,” Christen says before Tobin can respond. “Your leg is still hurt and if you push too hard you'll hurt it again. You don't want to have to get another cast on it, do you?”

 

Nata's face falls in near defeat, but he doesn't give up just yet. “Please, mama? I won't kick with my bad leg. I can use my left foot like Tobin. Just a few minutes,” he pleads, hobbling over to Christen and pulling the same stunt Ryan just did with his wide eyes.

 

Christen looks up to Tobin for support, but she only shrugs her shoulders. Sure, she doesn't think it's the greatest idea ever, but she also totally gets the desire to want to even just somewhat be able to play again after an injury. Nata loves the sport just like she does and she knows firsthand how hard it is to have to step back.

 

Christen rolls her eyes playfully, clearly realizing this isn't something Tobin is going to side with her on. She sighs and looks back down at her son. “Twenty minutes only, and if your leg starts to hurt at all you stop or else I'll put the new cast on you myself. Got it?” The narrowed eyes tell Nata not to even bother challenging her on this because it's the best he's going to get.

 

“Okay!” He exclaims happily. “Ry, let's go change!”

 

Just as quickly as they entered the kitchen, they leave again, storming down the hall to the guest bedroom.

 

“I don't like it when you guys team up on me,” Christen pouts.

 

Tobin laughs, “I didn't even say anything.”

 

“Exactly!” The gleam in her eyes betrays her false annoyance, revealing she's actually just happy Tobin and Nata have bonded so well.

 

“I promise I'll keep him safe. I've played in a boot before and I was just fine,” Tobin says.

 

“Why doesn't that not surprise me at all?” Christen rolls her eyes again. “If he gets hurt, then you won't get to see the very dirty lingerie I have packed in my suitcase for tomorrow night when the boys stay over at Katie’s.”

 

Tobin pales at the threat. This trip has been nothing but surprises so far, she shouldn't be surprised Christen has yet another one. She's tempted to just bar the door and keep the boys inside all day so there's no way they could possibly get hurt, but instead she just says, “I'll wrap him in bubble wrap myself if I have to.”

 

“I'm going to hold you to that,” Christen grins. She heads to the bedroom then so she can shower and get ready for the day, leaving Tobin glued to her spot as she tries to clear her head of all the images swirling through it.

xxx

Tobin used to think her heart was in LA.

 

The very first time she visited she was just sixteen and checking out colleges with her parents. The moment the plane touched down at LAX, she instantly felt a shift inside her chest. She fell in love with the city and the state in an instant. She ended up deciding not to go to school there because she wasn’t quite ready to be that far away from her parents, but she always knew she would be back.

 

There was no way she could stay away.

 

She could never really explain it, but she always felt this pull to LA. It's like she lived there in a past life and the city just kept trying to call her home, echoes of what used to be pulling at her heart.

 

The eight years she spent there were the best of her life. She never felt so comfortable, so at ease. For the first time in her life, she truly felt as if she’d found her place in this world.

 

Tobin used to think her heart was in LA.

 

But she was wrong.

 

Her heart is on a soccer field in New Jersey, watching Nata, Ryan, and HAO challenge Christen and Jeff to 2v2. Nata is playing on both teams, pretty much just standing in one place and gently kicking the ball whenever it comes near him, but the smile he gets at such a simple move makes Christen feel better about letting him do even that, knowing how happy it makes him.

 

She stands on the sideline, meant to be giving an interview, but she’s so distracted by what’s happening on the field she has to keep asking the reporter to repeat his questions.

 

“I’m so sorry, could you please say that again?” She asks, giving the reporter a bashful smile for having so little focus.

 

“I asked who that is on the field,” he says with a kind laugh, knowing that she's barely paying attention to this interview, but more amused than he is annoyed. “You seem to be very happy watching them.”

 

Normally, Tobin would be caught off guard by such a question. She wouldn’t want to answer something so personal. She doesn’t make much of an effort to keep her private life private, but she also doesn’t go out of her way to make personal details about her life known. She certainly doesn’t respond to questions like this.

 

But today, she’s so overwhelmingly happy, she’s answering the question before she’s even able to think about it.

 

She manages a bashful smile at least, embarrassed she isn't able to just focus on this interview. “Uh, it’s my family,” Tobin says, shaking off her nerves in those couple words and speaking confidently for the next. “My girlfriend, Christen, and her son, Nata. My brother, Jeff, and my best friend’s son, Ryan.” She can’t fight the giant grin that stretches across her lips.

 

“Do they still live back in LA?”

 

“My girlfriend and the boys do. My brother lives here in Jersey.”

 

“That must be hard, being away from them. This trade couldn’t have made things easy,” the reporter says.

 

Tobin lets out a small laugh at how obvious the statement is, but she’s kind about her response. “It definitely makes things harder, but we’re learning how to deal with it. It’s nice they’re able to come visit. And I have a couple away games the rest of this season they’re able to go to. We’re making the best out of things. It isn't easy, but I love them dearly so we're making it work. They know how happy I am on this team and they're happy I'm comfortable here. Their support means the world.”

 

“That’s great,” he says with a smile. “I’m glad you’re able to make things work. That’s all the questions I have, good luck tomorrow.”

 

Tobin shakes his hand and then heads off towards where five of the most important people in her life are waiting for her. Ryan sees her first and passes her the ball. She shoots a curling shot over them that smacks the side netting as it crosses the goal line.

 

Nata sticks his arms out like he's an airplane and hobbles over to Tobin shouting, “gooooooooooal.”

 

Tobin laughs, impressed with how long he's able to hold out the word and then reaches down to pick up Nata. He's a little too big to be picked up, but he doesn't mind. He wraps around her and hugs her tightly until Christen comes over to stand next to them and takes some of Nata's weight as he leans back against her.

 

The three of them hold each other for a moment watching as Ryan runs around with the ball in his arms, Heather and Jeff chasing after him at half speed to he's able to evade them. Tobin just enjoys the moment, holding the two people she loves most and listening to the laughter of three other people she loves immensely.

 

It's such a simple thing, but Tobin can feels her eyes starting to sting as her heart breaks with how overwhelmed it is by the sheer amount of love she feels right here in this moment.

 

Nata breaks the moment a second later, wriggling out of their arms so he can go help Ryan play keep away. Christen fills the space he left instantly, wrapping her arms around Tobin's waist.

 

“Did you have a good interview?” She asks.

 

Tobin grins, remembering the things she said. “Yeah, I did. I talked about you a bit.”

 

Christen leans back so she can look at Tobin's face. She almost looks like she doesn't believe her, but Tobin sees the exact moment where she's silently convinced and her face softens into a proud smile. “What did you say?”

 

“Not a lot,” Tobin shrugs. “He just asked who you guys were so I told him you're my girlfriend, that you and Nata are my family. I said it wasn't easy at all to be away from you, but we all love each other and we're happy, so we're making things work.”

 

“Oh yeah? Is that all?

 

“I may have also said that you're ridiculously sexy,” Tobin teases, but she isn't able to keep a convincing expression for long.

 

Christen laughs and pushes at Tobin's shoulder before she melts into her side again. “It wouldn't be the first time someone's said that about me.”

 

“I definitely don't doubt that.”

 

Tobin rests her head against Christen's and let's out a content sigh.

 

Her heart has never been so full, residing happily here on a field in New Jersey.

xxx

Later that night, Kelley sends Tobin the article where she talks about Christen along with the message, “lol gayyyyyy.” Tobin laughs and shows it to Christen, who just smiles proudly. Tobin replies with a middle finger and eye roll emoji and then puts her phone away.

 

They're on the back porch with Tobin's mom, her sister Perry and her husband, who's holding their son, and Christen is holding Katie's son. Everyone else is in the backyard throwing around a kickball, trying to keep it out of the hands of whoever is in the middle. It's a game where Nata doesn't have to use his feet, so Christen approves. Jeff agreed to go into the middle for Nata if his throw gets caught so he can stay in place as much as possible.

 

Nata gets along so well with her whole family, though Tobin isn't really sure why there was ever any doubt. Christen fits so seamlessly with every aspect of her life and Nata is just as wonderful, so of course he would find a place alongside them all as well. Still, it brings her so much joy to see just how well her family effortlessly accepts Nata as one of their own.

 

She almost feels a little guilty that isn't what she's most impressed by.

 

Her brother actually getting along with their dad takes the prize for most impressive situation of the evening. Jeff is little more than cordial, but it's such a step up from how they've been for the past decade, everyone in the family is blown away. Of course no one says anything, worried drawing attention to it will ruin everything, but they all hesitantly enjoy it. Jeff has spoken maybe twelve words total to their dad all evening, but that's eleven more than his annual total so they'll take it. They even laugh and joke around when they're stuck in the middle of the circle together, trying to get out before the other. Tobin is pretty sure Dad let Jeff catch a ball that he had a better angle on just so Jeff could get out of the circle, but Jeff doesn't complain.

 

After awhile, Tobin's mom stands up and declares it's time for birthday cake. Nata may be recovering from a broken leg, but he's the first one to run up the steps. He's been ready for cake since he woke up this morning.

 

Everyone shuffles their way inside and huddles around the dining room table. Nata takes his place at the head of the table, just like he did during dinner. Christen hands the baby to Katie’s husband so she can go stand to Nata's left. Nata calls Tobin and Ryan over to stand on his right. When Tobin's mom walks into the room with the Iron Man birthday cake she had custom made, Nata’s smile nearly takes up his entire face.

 

They sing happy birthday to him twice, once in English and once in Spanish and Nata joins in on the singing as well, even though it’s for him. “It's my favorite song!” He claims.

 

“Okay, sunshine. Make your wish,” Christen says once the singing is over.

 

Nata squeezes his eyes shut tightly and thinks of his wish, then he opens his eyes and leans forward so he can blow out his candles, managing to get all 7 out in one breath.

 

Everyone claps and when Tobin looks around the room and her family, almost all of the people she loves the most in this entire world happy and smiling in celebration, Tobin thinks this is just about as good as it gets. She doesn't think she's ever been so happy in her entire life.

 

It's not her birthday, but she makes her own wish anyway.

 

She wishes they can always be just like this. Together and happy and smiling.

 

Forever.

 

Tobin has to carry Nata up to her apartment from the car later that night he's so exhausted. Ryan isn't much better, but he's at least able to walk by himself, though he leans heavily against Christen's side.

 

Once they're changed into their pajamas and their teeth are brushed, Nata's barely because he's half asleep, Tobin and Christen tuck them into bed. There's no reading Harry Potter tonight because they're both practically out by the time their heads touch the pillows.

 

Tobin is reaching up to turn off the bedside lamp when Nata reaches for her arm. "Wait," he mumbles, face half buried against his pillow.

 

"What's up, buddy?" She asks him, pushing hair gently away from his face.

 

"I wanna tell you my birthday wish," he says, turning his head a little and opening one eye to look up at Tobin.

 

"But if you tell me it won't come true," Tobin says.

 

"That's not true. Mama just says that to scare me."

 

Tobin grins. He's way too smart for his own good. "Well if you really want to, of course you can tell me your wish."

 

"I wished that me and Mama could move here and live with you so we never have to be apart again." He reaches up with one arm to pull Tobin into a lazy hug. "I miss you too much when you're all the way over here alone."

 

Tobin's chest tightens. She misses him too, more than she ever thought possible to miss a person. In the few months since she's known Nata and Christen, they've worked their way into the deepest parts of her heart and anchored themselves there. Being away from them is hard and of course she wants them here with her more than anything, but she also loves them enough to know they'll be okay if they stay in LA. She's theirs forever.

 

There's certainly a conversation to be had with Christen about all this, but she knows things will work out just fine in the meantime.

 

"That's a good wish. I miss you too, buddy," she says. She doesn't want to draw too much attention to his wish, not wanting to get his hopes up too much. Even if she does wish the same thing deep down. "Get some sleep, we have a big day tomorrow."

 

"Game day," she smiles, a little more life creeping into his tired voice at that.

 

"Game day, best day of the week. And don't forget your birthday too. That's the best day of the year."

 

"Oh yeah, that too." He's markedly less excited about that, and Tobin can definitely relate. Game day always comes first.

 

"Sweet dreams, Nata. I'll see you in the morning." She leans down to kiss his forehead.

 

He's already fast asleep by the time she leans away.

xxx

“What if I fall?”

 

Tobin chuckles and bends down, hands resting on her knees so her face is level with Nata’s. “You aren’t going to fall,” she tells him, trying to be as convincing as he needs her to be. It doesn’t matter if she believes it. She needs him to as well.

 

“But what if I do?” He insists, tugging anxiously at the hem of his jersey.

 

Tobin can tell he’s about ten seconds away from tearing it off and having a complete meltdown. She knows she needs to act fast if she’s going to avoid it. “If you fall, then I will help you back up and then we’ll keep going. I won’t let you stay down. I’m going to be right there holding your hand the whole time. Just hold on tightly and I won’t let you fall, okay? I’ve got you.”

 

Nata still looks like he’s a little unsure, but he stops tugging at his shirt. After another moment of considering his options, he nods and reaches out for Tobin’s hand. “You promise you’ll help me back up?”

 

“I promise. I’ll always pick you back up, dude.” She kisses the side of his head and then stands up again.

 

They’re lined up in the tunnel underneath Red Bull Arena, moments away from walking out onto the pitch before Sky Blue’s game against Seattle. Since it’s Nata’s birthday, Tobin called in a few favors so he can walk out with her before the game. Ryan is walking out with Sam Kerr (he nearly fainted when she told him) and Cole is walking out with Heather. A couple of the other players had to double up with the youth team that are the mascots tonight, but they were happy to do so.

 

Seeing the cheek splitting smile on Nata’s face as they take the first step onto the field makes calling in so many favors absolutely worth all the teasing she’s going to inevitably get from her teammates the rest of the season. She couldn’t care less. All she cares about is making sure Nata has the best birthday she possibly can.

 

She thinks she’s doing a pretty good job.

 

The audience goes wild. She’s told their home supporters are always so loud, and she saw that last game. Tonight feels different though, but she could just be imagining it. It might just be the fact everything feels heightened because this is the first game in her new home with her family in the stands supporting her. It might also be due to the fact she tweeted before the game asking the fans to be extra loud for Nata’s birthday.

 

Nata has her hand in a death grip the entire time, but sure enough they make it to the lineup without him so much as stumbling. He even does a little happy dance when the announcer says her name and then says ‘happy birthday’ to Nata. Tobin’s heart does a damn backflip she’s so happy.

 

After the anthem, all the mascots run off the field, but Tobin tells Nata, Ryan and Cole to stay back for a minute. She joins her team for the starting XI picture, and the she asks the photographer to take one of her and the three boys. She’s pretty sure a few of the pictures snapped have her teammates, particularly Heather, being ridiculous in the background, but she doesn’t even care.

 

Tobin hugs each of the boys and then watches as one of the team reps escorts them back into the tunnel before she rejoins her team for the huddle. She’s so amped up already, their team chant has her practically buzzing. She goes through her usual last minute stretches and says her quick prayer, then she’s lining up on the halfway line. This game can’t start soon enough.

 

Just before the kick off whistle is about to blow, Tobin looks over her shoulder to where she knows her family is. Her eyes find Christen, who’s already looking right at her. She gives Tobin a wink, at least her best attempt at one.

 

Tobin’s never been more ready for a game.

xxx

“Two goals and an assist during the game, three orgasms after. It’s almost as if you’re trying to show off or something.”

 

Christen’s laugh bounces off the walls of Tobin’s room, long after the game has ended. Just like she told Tobin yesterday, Nata and Ryan are having a sleepover at Cole’s so they have the apartment to themselves all night.

 

They’ve taken full advantage.

 

“I can’t help it,” Tobin smiles, not the least bit ashamed. “I’m just trying to make sure my girl has a good time.”

 

Christen’s chest shakes with laughter as she rolls into Tobin. “Your girl had a great time, trust me.”

 

“That’s all I want,” Tobin smiles. She kisses Christen’s forehead and wraps an arm around her tightly. “Tonight was a great night. I love having you guys here.”

 

“We’re happy to be here.”

 

Tobin sighs. She’s almost entirely happy, but not quite. There’s still an aching sadness deep, deep down at the realization that she only has one more day left with Christen, Nata, and Ryan before they head back to California and leave her here again. Her heart can’t help but hurt at the thought of that. Maybe it’s selfish, but she wishes she could go to California, pack up all their things and bring it all right back here so they could be with her always.

 

But they have their life in California. And she’ll be home to them soon.

 

She decides not the broach the topic, but Christen has always known her far too well.

 

“What are you thinking about?” Christen asks, leaning back to look Tobin in the eye. She brushes a hand across Tobin’s cheek, turning her face to look right at her. “Talk to me.”

 

“Nata told me what he wished for when he blew his birthday candles out,” Tobin says.

 

There’s a moment’s pause before Christen pushes her for more. “And what was it?”

 

Tobin smirks, “if I tell you then it won’t come true.”

 

Christen rolls her eyes before sitting up and stretching out a leg to lay across Tobin’s. “If that were true then it already isn’t going to come true because he told you.”

 

“Fair enough,” Tobin agrees. She pushes herself up onto her elbows and sighs. She isn’t sure what sort of reaction she’s going to get to this, but she can’t turn back now. “He wished that you guys could move here with me so we wouldn’t have to be apart anymore.” She collapses back onto her back and covers her face with her hands.

 

She doesn’t hear any reaction from Christen, but she can’t bring herself to actually uncover her eyes and see what her facial expression says. So instead she just counts her breaths and wonders how this is going to turn out.

 

Christen could be angry at her for talking about their future with Nata without her, for potentially giving him false hopes.

 

She could completely shut the idea down and say there’s no way they would ever move out here.

 

She could brush the idea off and say it’s ridiculous he would even wish for that in the first place.

 

Sure, she could also have a positive reaction, but the longer the silence stretches out, the worse the ideas Tobin’s having get.

 

Eventually, Christen tugs at Tobin’s hands so she can see her eyes. “Baby, please look at me.”

 

Tobin groans, but she finally opens her eyes. Unfortunately, she can’t get a read on Christen’s face at all. She’s giving absolutely nothing away.

 

“Am I in trouble?” Tobin asks quietly.

 

Christen tilts her head and asks, “why would you be in trouble? You didn’t do anything wrong.”

 

“I just feel bad for talking to him about this without you.”

 

Christen smiles, moving to lay down next to Tobin again. She takes her face in her hands. “Tobin, you didn’t do anything wrong,” she repeats. “Did you tell him we would move here? Did you tell him we never had to go back to California without you?”

 

“No of course not,” Tobin rushes out. “I would never say anything like that to him.”

 

“I know you wouldn’t,” Christen laughs. “And that’s exactly my point. It’s not your fault he brought this up to you. I trust that you handled the situation as well as you could without misleading him in any way.”

 

Tobin lets out a breath, relieved to know Christen isn’t angry with her at all. She doesn’t want their last day to be spent arguing over this.

 

“He really caught me off guard. I had no idea what to say.”

 

“Yeah, he has a way of doing that,” Christen grins. “This probably is something we need to talk about, though.”

 

Tobin drops her eyes, “we don’t have to talk about this right.”

 

“I know, and we don’t have to yet, but there is one thing I want to say about it.”

 

Tobin looks back up, eyes narrowing with curiosity. “Okay…” she says, “what’s that?”

 

“At some point down the line, and I don’t know when, I do want to be wherever you are,” Christen says. “I assume you won’t be retiring for a few more years yet, and I don’t plan on waiting until you retire to finally be living in the same place again, so whether it’s next season or the next or the next, I do want to be here. I want Nata and me to both be here, with you. I think we should wait until the season is over and you’ve really settled with this change for us to really get into this discussion and start planning things, but I also want you to know where I stand. I love you and I want to be with you, whenever and wherever that may be.”

 

Tobin’s grin now might just rival Nata’s on the field tonight. Out of all the possibilities she considered for where this conversation was going, this wasn’t one of them. She couldn’t dare let herself be so hopeful until she heard the words from Christen herself. But now that she has, her heart is steady and sure.

 

“You want to be here with me?” Tobin asks, smiling like a fool and laughing when Christen shoves her shoulder.

 

“Of course I do!” She exclaims. “I just want to make sure it happens in a way that makes sense for all of us. I have my career to consider and yours too. And I want to make sure whatever happens is what’s best for Nata. If we just let our emotions tell us what to do, Nata and I would cancel our flights back home and never leave, but I know we can’t do that. I have to make sure when this happens, it happens in the right way.”

 

“That’s all I want too,” Tobin nods. “And I don’t want you to feel any pressure. Like you said, whether it’s next season or the next or the next, I’m okay with it. Sure, being away from you guys sucks, but being without you entirely because I pushed this too hard would be unimaginable. We can make the distance work for as long as we need to. Because as much as I want you here, just having you in my life is so much more important. I can handle all the rest.”

 

Christen leans down and kisses Tobin slowly. She kisses her chin, her jaw, her cheek before she pulls back again. “We’ll figure this out. Right now, I just want to enjoy the time we have together.”

 

“Are you saying you want to try and add to the night’s orgasm tally? Because I think I can totally muster enough energy for at least one more round,” Tobin suggests, wiggling her eyebrows.

 

“You’re ridiculous,” Christen says, rolling her eyes. “If we don’t get to bed, we’ll be sleeping away our last day together. Is that really what you want?”

 

“Fine,” Tobin groans. “We’ll continue this tomorrow night.”

 

“Whatever you say.”

 

Christen kisses Tobin one last time before they settle against one another, thankful they don’t have to worry about being barged in on and can actually enjoy the feeling of skin on skin instead of pulling on clothes before they fall asleep.

 

Tobin wraps her arms around Christen, holding on to one of the dearest things in her entire life, and she knows everything is going to be okay.