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under pink skies

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and one day, you will understand
how some people feel familiar the
moment you meet them. . . as if
your souls have met many years ago
and they pick up right where they left
off. And one day, out of the blue,
someone will run up to you and tell
you. . . “I have been waiting for you
and I have missed you for so long.”

--r. m. drake

“Tell me what you want.”

 

“More, harder,” comes the breathless response.

 

Tobin does as she’s told and though the action results in a high pitched whine, she wants verbal confirmation it’s what was wanted. “Like that?” The smirk on her face lets on just how badly she wants the validation that what she’s doing is pushing this girl closer and closer to the brink.

 

“So--so good. Don’t stop.”

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

 

Tobin finds better use of her mouth by latching her lips onto the other girl’s throat. She’s just started to bite down on the smooth skin when she hears a phone ringing on the nightstand. She thinks it’s hers, but she’s obviously a little distracted so she can’t be sure.

 

“Who the hell is that?” The girl under her asks, clearly annoyed.

 

“Ignore it.”

 

That’s what they do. Tobin keeps at what she’s doing, picking the pace up when the other girl’s moans turn into only strained sighs. She wants to hear a reaction out of her.

 

After a minute the ringing stops and the room is once again dominated by the sweet, breathless sounds of sex.

 

Then the phone starts ringing again.

 

“Oh my god,” the girl groans.

 

“Just ignore it,” Tobin repeats. She couldn’t care less about who’s calling her in a moment like this. All her attention is elsewhere and none can be spared for whoever’s on the other end of the phonecall.

 

Apparently she’s the only one who feels that way.

 

“I’m not going to be able to come with that obnoxious ringing.”

 

Tobin groans, but she does as is requested of her. She removes her hand from the girl’s breast and ends the call, barely acknowledging that it’s Amy who’s called her twice before she ignores it. She’ll deal with that later, when she’s not doing something so important.

 

Tobin’s barely set the phone back down when it starts ringing again.

 

“Just answer the fucking phone so they stop,” the girl complains with a huff.

 

Answering her best friend’s phone call while she’s three fingers deep in the gorgeous new intern she’s been trying to hook up with for the last three months (the blonde one, the brunette was over two weeks ago) is certainly not ideal, but the only other rational option she can come up with at the moment is shattering her phone against the wall to make it stop.

 

She answers the phone.

 

“I’m kinda busy right now, Aims. Can I call you back later?” Tobin asks, trying to control her breathing.

 

“No, this is important! It’ll just take a minute.”

 

Amy’s far too cheerful for the moment and Tobin’s forced to remove her fingers. She can’t have a conversation with Amy while she’s in such a compromising position. The girl underneath her whines in complaint when her source of pleasure is taken away.

 

“What’s up?” Tobin questions, trying to keep as much annoyance as she can out of her tone.

 

“Why are you breathing so heavy? Did I interrupt your workout or something?”

 

Tobin scoffs. ‘If only you knew,’ Tobin thinks. “Yeah, something like that. What’s up?”

 

“Sorry, I’ll let you get back to it soon. Is there any way you would be able to pick up the boys from their play date at 4:00? Please, please, please? I know it’s really short notice, but one of the other professors got food poisoning so I got roped into taking their place on an Academic Honor Court hearing and it doesn’t start until 3:30. I don’t know why they waited until the week before finals to do this, no one has time. But anyway, I won’t be out in time to get them and Adam’s got that deadline at the new building site, so I know he won’t be able to get away.”

 

Tobin sighs at her best friend’s rambling and pulls her phone away from her ear to look at the time. She’s got a little over an hour before she’d probably have to leave. She’d had other plans for that hour and all the ones following it tonight, all involving the girl currently underneath her, but she’s never been able to say ‘no’ to Amy.

 

Tobin sighs and rolls off of the girl. “How does Luke already have a playdate? He’s not even a year old.”

 

“The mom of Ryan’s friend always offers to watch Luke too, but that’s not the point. Are you able to get them or not?” Tobin can practically hear Amy cringe when she realizes how harsh those words sounded. “Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just in a rush and you know how I get when I’m stressed. I’m really sorry for snapping.”

 

“It’s cool, don’t worry about it,” Tobin dismisses her apology. “Yeah, of course I’ll get them. Just text me the address.”

 

Tobin hears a sigh from the girl in her bed, who is now sprawled across her back on the other side of the bed. She’s got a hand between her legs, fucking herself deeply, and another on one of her breasts, tweaking a nipple. She’s doing exactly what Tobin was doing to her just moments ago and Tobin’s throat goes dry at the sight.

 

She needs to get Amy off the phone.

 

“Thank you so much!” Amy exclaims. “Seriously, Tobin. I owe you so big. I hated to ask, but I didn’t know who else to call and I knew you didn’t have training today. I won’t make you bring them all the way to the house, just take them back to your apartment and I’ll pick them up on my way home from campus.”

 

Tobin’s eyes are trained on the girl next to her, too entranced to really focus on her conversation with Amy. “Uh, yeah, don-don’t worry about it, Aims. I’m always up for time with my godsons.”

 

Amy’s laugh filters through the phone. “Tobin, how many times do I need to remind you only Luke is your godson? Lauren is Ryan’s godmother.”

 

“Yeah, and I’m still bitter about that so I’m going to continue to claim the both of them. You don’t see her picking them up, do you?”

 

“She’s working that case in Phoenix. She’s not exactly right across town like you,” Amy points out.

 

The girl next to her moans, not loud enough for Amy to hear, but loud enough that Tobin feels herself get even wetter as a result.

 

Yeah, she really needs to get Amy off the phone.

 

“I’ve g-got to go, but text me the address,” Tobin tells her again. Her voice is low and thin and she clears her throat before continuing, but it doesn’t do much. “I’ll text you when we’re back at my place.”

 

“You’re a lifesaver, Tobin. I appreciate this so much.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, stop sucking up and go punish the hell out of that delinquent student. I expect details when you come get the boys.”

 

“Of course,” Amy laughs. “Thanks again, love you.”

 

“I love you too.” Tobin hangs up the phone and switches it on silent, letting the phone drop off the edge of the bed. She crawls over so she’s straddling the girl again and kisses her hard. She smirks devilishly when she pulls away. “Now where were we?”

 

“You were about to make me come so hard I forget my name,” the girl responds. “Or at least that’s what I was promised earlier.”

 

“Oh right. Well, we can’t leave you disappointed, now can we?”

 

The time for talking is over then as Tobin slips her fingers back in and lowers her mouth to the girl’s chest.

xxx

An hour and a half later, she’s knocking on the door of a moderately sized blue house with a red door and white picket fence in a subdivision filled with carbon copies of the same house in varying colors. It reminds her of the subdivisions Amy and Lauren live in, duplicates of the same houses plopped along winding roads with wide sidewalks and surrounded by impeccably manicured lawns, at least when they aren’t in a drought.

 

It makes Tobin sick.

 

She still remembers crushing frat guys in beer pong with Amy and taking body shots off the chiseled soccer boys with Lauren in college. Well, she doesn’t vividly remember on account of all the alcohol, but she remembers enough to know it happened. It’s so hard to imagine those same two party girls in college now living such stereotypical lives with their handsome husbands and well mannered children in lavish homes and driving their family friendly cars to boring jobs five days a week.

 

Tobin’s definitely not ready for that.

 

She doesn’t know if she ever will be.

 

They were supposed to take on the soccer world together. They all got signed by LAFC as the first three picks in the college draft the year they graduated and they were supposed to make names for themselves together.

 

Then Amy got pregnant just before the season started and she decided not to make a comeback after Ryan was born, wanting instead to stay at home a be a mom. She was the top college draft pick and Hermann Trophy winner their senior year, but she gave up a stellar career for her family, something Tobin could never be angry at her for. Now, she’s educating young minds teaching Literature at UCLA and she has a beautiful family.

 

Tobin and Lauren started their rookie season at LAFC together, but they wouldn’t end it that way.

 

Lauren tore her ACL so badly in the semi-final match that she wasn’t able to come back. She was the golden boot winner, Rookie of the Year and League MVP that season, and it all got thrown away because of a pissed off veteran defender from Philly who got fed up with being repeatedly burned by a player fifteen years younger than her. The other player barely even got a yellow for the vicious tackle, much to Tobin’s frustration, resulting in a yellow of her own for telling off the ref about how it should’ve been a red.

 

Now, Lauren is a public health lawyer, fighting for the greater good or something along those lines, Tobin has never really understood what all it is she does.

 

Her friends stepped away from the game they all love so desperately and settled down, but she stayed on the same path they’d all dreamed about when they were cocky freshmen breaking records at UNC and planning world domination.

 

She only partially achieved the world domination part, but only for bullshit reasons that she can’t control.

 

As she waits for Ryan’s friend’s mom to open the door--she thinks Amy’s text said her name is Christen?--she tries to picture herself in a house just like this, with a wife and children and a happy little life.

 

She can’t do it.

 

The door swings open to reveal Christen and Tobin swears she’s being punked.

 

This woman is ridiculously gorgeous, so gorgeous that Tobin has to clench her jaw to keep it from literally dropping open in shock. She’s got smooth, dark skin and Tobin tries really hard not to imagine what it would look like covered in hickeys and bite marks. She looks down at Tobin with green-gray eyes the color of an early morning sea, glittering just as the sun starts to rise. Tobin wants to swim in that color, she wants to bathe in it and drown herself in it. Her dark hair is wavy and loose around her shoulders and the smile she flashes Tobin is so staggeringly beautiful, Tobin almost stumbles backwards.

 

“Hi! You must be Tobin, I’m Christen.”

 

‘Fucking hell, even her voice is beautiful,’ Tobin thinks.

 

This has got to be a joke. Amy’s fucking with her or she’s got the wrong house or something. There’s no way a girl this ridiculously gorgeous lives in a mundane house like this on a mundane street in the middle of a mundane neighborhood. There’s no way. She should be walking runways or gracing the covers of magazines. This can’t be right, but yet she knows it is because the woman knows her name and was clearly expecting her.

 

“Uhm, y-yeah I’m Tobin.”

 

She can’t believe she’s getting so flustered. She doesn’t do this. She’s the one who makes girls flustered, not the other way around. She can still taste the last girl she made flustered on her tongue and now she’s the one stuttering and trying not the turn red.

 

“The boys are out back kicking the ball around and Luke is sleeping. Come inside and I’ll let Ryan know you’re here.”

 

Christen pushes the door open wider and steps aside so Tobin can come in. Tobin walks cautiously, not trusting herself to not stumble over the threshold or fall over completely when she moves past Christen and she can feel her breath on her shoulder.

 

Spring in southern California is much warmer than New Jersey and this year has been particularly warm, uncomfortably so. The moment she steps inside Christen’s house, though, she feels warm in the best way possible.

 

It’s an inviting type of warmth. Tobin can tell right away this house is loved and cared for. It’s neat and tidy, but not in an obnoxious way that suggests Christen is overly concerned with appearances.

 

There are shoes haphazardly lying by the front door and a child-sized backpack dropped without care by the foyer table. There’s an Ironman blanket thrown over the back of the couch that hasn’t been folded and a shelf with DVDs carelessly stacked sitting next to the TV, but other than that, the house is spotless. By the stairs there are messy pictures drawn in crayon right on the light yellow wall with frames around them. The way they’re neatly mixed in with family photos in matching dark brown, wooden frames makes Tobin think they were planned.

 

She can tell right away that Christen likes order on a large scale, but small kinds of disorder don’t bother her. Maybe she’s even emboldened by them, feeling like she’s living a little rebelliously by not micromanaging quite every aspect of her life.

 

Either way, Tobin likes the house, surprisingly considering how stereotypical it is, and she tells her as much.

 

“Thanks!” Christen says cheerfully as she closes the door. “I mostly work from home, so I try to make sure it’s comfortable.”

 

Tobin wants to ask what she does, wants to know all sorts of things about her, but she just hums in response instead. She doesn’t trust herself to talk to her without sounding like a fool.

 

Christen leads her through the house to the kitchen where Luke is sacked out in a portable crib by the kitchen table, which is covered in various papers and photos of landscapes from around the world. Tobin can only assume it’s all for Christen’s job. Christen slides open the glass door as quietly as possible and steps out onto the back deck.

 

Tobin can immediately hear Ryan’s sparkling laugh before she even sees him. She loves his laugh so much, it’s so innocent and full of life. Whenever she’s having a bad day or loses a game on the road, she always FaceTimes Amy so she can talk with Ryan and get him laughing. It’s like instant relief from all her troubles.

 

Ryan and Christen’s son have the ball trapped between them, kicking and trying to win possession, swarming the ball like kids always do. Ryan manages to get the ball away and tries to do some step over trick that she knows he’s seen her do before, but he ends up stumbling and the other boy is able to steal the ball away and score a goal in one of the little pop up goals set up crooked and only a few meters apart.

 

“Mama, did you see that? I scored!” The little boy shouts up at Christen. He’s got dark hair and skin just like his mom, but unlike Christen, his eyes are so dark they look almost black. His smile is just as bright as Christen’s, but yet it’s totally different. Tobin figures he must get those two features from his dad.

 

“I did, sunshine, great job!” Christen beams with pride as she watches her son go fetch the ball from the back of the net as Ryan pushes himself to his feet and tries not to pout. “Ryan’s aunt is here, so he’s got to go get his stuff together to leave.”

 

“Just two more minutes, Mama! Next goal wins. Pleaseeeeee,” the little boy begs.

 

Christen looks over to Tobin with an amused smirk. “Are you in a rush to get back home?”

 

“Not at all,” Tobin replies with surprising confidence. “They can play for a while longer, let Luke sleep. That kid’s awful at napping.”

 

Christen gives her a knowing laugh, fully aware of how hard it is to get Luke to sleep in the middle of the day. Christen’s laugh has an effect on Tobin similar to the one Ryan’s does, but for entirely different reasons. It makes her stomach flip a little bit, something Tobin’s relatively unfamiliar with.

 

‘Get it together, Tobin.’

 

“All right, just a few more minutes though, okay?”

 

Both boys throw their arms up in celebration and start kicking at the ball again.

 

“Natanael always has bruised shins for a week after they play. I don’t understand soccer at all, but I can’t imagine they’re playing it right,” Christen laughs. “Do you like soccer?”

 

“I guess you could say that,” Tobin shrugs. She doesn’t know if Christen knows she plays professionally and she doesn’t want to sound like she’s bragging, so she leaves it alone. “Your son’s pretty good,” she tells Christen, knowing how much parents love to hear compliments about their kids. “You and your husband must be proud.”

 

She hopes she’s subtle by bringing the topic up like that. She noticed there isn’t a ring on Christen’s finger and there was a noticeable lack of a male parental figure in the pictures on the wall, but she doesn’t want to be presumptuous.

 

Not that Tobin ever actually sees anything happening with the girl, but she’d like to know if she stands a chance at all, even if it is minute. She’s worked with worse before. There’s never been a challenge she’s faced that she hasn’t been able to overcome with heavy flirting and persistent charm.

 

“Oh, I’m not married,” Christen says quickly. The words come out with a little too much force and Tobin interprets that as things ending badly between Christen and her ex.

 

’Good one, Tobin. Way to upset the girl five minutes into knowing her.’

 

She rushes to recover, hoping she can salvage the conversation in some way. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up any painful memories or anything.”

 

Christen laughs again and the way she does let’s Tobin know it’s aimed right at her, but for some reason she doesn’t mind being laughed at by Christen. She almost wants to make a fool out of herself just to hear that laugh. It would be easy to do with how anxious she feels around her.

 

“I’m not divorced or anything, I was never married,” Christen explains. “I adopted Nata three years ago, so it’s just the two of us.”

 

She doesn’t say it in a bitter or lonely way. Tobin can tell Christen is perfectly happy with just herself and her son. The way she smiles at him proves he’s all she needs to be happy.

 

“Oh, that’s awesome. I’ve always thought about maybe adopting one day.”

 

Tobin doesn’t know where that came from, but she’s desperate to get a conversation going if only so she can hear Christen’s voice more. It’s not a total lie, she has thought about adoption before, but it isn’t something she’s spent a ton of time considering or anything. Kids certainly aren’t on her radar anytime soon, maybe not at all. Ryan, Luke and Lauren’s daughter, Tyler, are all the kids she needs right now.

 

“Really?” Christen’s eyes light up at that and Tobin thinks she’d tell this girl just about anything to make her look at her like that. “You should definitely do it if it’s really something you want. It's been so wonderful. I met Nata when I was in Puerto Rico for work four years ago and I fell in love with him instantly. He was just this happy little two-year-old who wanted to be loved. It was a really stressful year trying to work out all the adoption details, but I’m never happier than when I’m with him.”

 

“It’s clear you really love him,” Tobin muses. She keeps talking before an awkward silence is able to fall over them. “Puerto Rico sounds like a fun business trip, what is it you do?”

 

“I’m an editor for World Now, it's an international travel magazine. I started out as a writer, traveling the world on one assignment to the next, but I didn’t want to travel so much once I adopted Nata, so I was able to get promoted to be one of the editors. Since we’re a pretty small project, it lets me work from home so much more and very rarely do I have to leave the country, although I do miss the travel.”

 

Tobin knew Christen seemed smart. She’s not surprised to find out she has a job like this, it suits her. “No way, I love that magazine,” Tobin tells her honestly. “My best friend and I always use it when we’re planning surf trips.” Kelley’s really the one who uses it, reads it obsessively, but she’s shared enough articles with Tobin that she feels like she’s got a subscription herself.

 

“Well I’m glad you find it useful for more than just the ‘pretty pictures’ as Nata always likes to say.” There’s another proud smile on her face talking about her job, but it’s not nearly as wide as the one she gets when she’s talking about her son.

 

There’s suddenly two sets of feet pounding up the wooden stairs and Ryan’s launching himself at Tobin, wrapping his arms and legs around her middle and holding on tightly so he doesn’t fall before Tobin manages to wrap an arm around him.

 

“Dude, I keep telling you you’re getting too big and I’m getting too old for that. You’ve got to warn me next time,” she teases, ruffling his hair with one arm as she pulls him up onto her hip with the other. It was a much easier task when he was two and not six.

 

“Toby, did you see me? I won!”

 

“You won? No way, that couldn’t have happened. You always lose.”

 

“Only to you,” he giggles. He squirms in Tobin’s arms until she lets him down. “Nata, this is my aunt Toby I told you ‘bout. She plays soccer for a job and she’s really, really good.”

 

“Wow,” Nata says with wide eyes, looking Tobin up and down like she’s a unicorn or something and he can’t believe he’s in her presence.

 

“You play professionally?” Christen asks her, eyes narrowed in skepticism.

 

“Yeah, for LAFC.”

 

“Wow, silly me. Here I am asking if you even like soccer and you’re getting paid to play. Shows you how ignorant I am about the sport.” Christen places a hand on her son’s shoulder. “Nata, why don’t you take Ryan inside and help him get his things together, yeah? Be super quiet though, because Luke is sleeping, remember.”

 

“Okay, Mama. Come on, Ryan,” he whispers, already preparing himself to sneak past the sleeping baby.

 

“So I feel dumb,” Christen says once the boys are gone. “Professional soccer, that’s really cool. Did you play with Amy?”

 

“Yeah, that’s how we met, on the team in college. We’ve been best friends ever since.”

 

“Lucky you, Amy’s a good one.”

 

Tobin scoffs, trying her best to gather her confidence. “Please, Amy’s the lucky one for knowing me. I’m the good one.”

 

“I’ll bet you are.”

 

Christen smirks and heads into the house after the boys. Just before she steps back into the kitchen, she looks back over her shoulder at Tobin and--‘wait, was that a wink? Did she really just wink at me?’

 

“She is something else,” Tobin whispers to herself, heading after Christen.

xxx

Ten minutes later, Tobin has Luke--still fighting for sleep--in her arms and his diaper bag thrown over her shoulder. Ryan’s standing at her elbow with his own bag, telling Christen goodbye and thanking her for letting him come over. They’re about to part ways and head towards Tobin’s car when Ryan looks up at her, his big brown eyes sparkling, and Tobin knows he’s about to ask for something.

 

“Toby, can Nata come to the game with us this weekend?”

 

“Sure buddy, that’s cool with me. He’s got to ask him mom, though.”

 

“Oh no,” Christen says. “I’m sure you’ll be busy with the game and everything. I don’t want him to be a bother.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous, he won’t be a bother at all. Amy and Ryan come to all the home games. You guys should both come, I can get you seats with them. It’ll be fun,” Tobin says.

 

“After the game, Toby brings me on the field with her. I get to score on a real goal,” Ryan tells Nata in the most excited voice Tobin’s ever heard from him.

 

Nat’s eyes go wide as he looks up at Christen. “Please, Mama? Can we go? Please, please, pleaseeee?”

 

“I don’t know.” Christen looks up at Tobin cautiously. “Are you sure we wouldn’t be in the way? That’s so much to ask.”

 

“Seriously, Christen, it’s not a big deal. It would be a lot of fun. Just let Amy know if you decide you guys want to go and she’ll let me know so I can reserve four seats. The boys will have fun.”

 

It isn’t just for the boys’ sake that she wants Christen and Nata to come to the game, of course. She wants to see Christen again. She knows she has no business trying to get closer to Christen. She’s a single mom and who knows if she’s even into girls? This isn’t something Tobin needs to be pursuing, but she can’t help it.

 

She wants to get to know Christen.

 

She wants to get to know everything there is about her.

 

“Please, Mama?” Nata begs again, tugging on Christen’s hand to get her attention. “Please can we go?”

 

“We’ll talk about it, all right, sunshine?” Christen runs a hand through his curly, dark brown hair and looks up at Tobin. “I’ll let Amy know, yeah?”

 

“Of course. I’d love to see you guys there.” She nudges Ryan with a knee against his hip to move the boy along. “Okay, dude, we’ve gotta get going. Your mom will be by to pick you guys up soon.”

 

“Bye Nata, bye Ms. Press!” Ryan takes off down the front steps towards Tobin’s car, waving over his shoulder.

 

“It was nice to meet you, Christen. I hope to see you guys at the game Saturday,” Tobin says, trying not to sound too desperate, trying not to give away just how much she wants to see her there.

 

“I’ll see what I can do,” Christen promises. “It was nice to meet you too, Tobin. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you soon.”

Chapter Text

“Who’s that sitting next to Amy?”

 

Tobin doesn't need to look up from the ball at her feet to know who Kelley’s talking about. She's been fighting with herself to not stare at Christen all through warm ups. She even went as far as to turn her back towards the stands while she and Kelley kicked the ball back and forth so she wouldn't be tempted to look up into the stands.

 

She'd been absolutely giddy when Amy texted her to say Christen and Nata were coming to the game. It had only been a few days since she last saw the girl, but already she couldn't wait to see her again.

 

Tobin doesn't understand.

 

She's lusted after girls before, of course. She loves girls playing hard to get because it just makes her try that much harder. She loves the chase because it makes the reward that much sweeter.

 

But Christen’s different.

 

She doesn't seem like the type to play hard to get or play games at all.

 

Tobin knows it's stupid. She's probably reaching thinking that Christen’s interested in her at all. She's a settled, mature single mother. Tobin’s a mildly immature, aimless wanderer who runs at the idea of commitment.

 

They simply don't match.

 

That doesn't mean Tobin can't try.

 

“Does she have something to do with you sinking every rocket upper 90 shot you took a few minutes ago? You've never been that consistent.” Kelley’s grin gives way to how much she's already figured Tobin out.

 

Tobin and Kelley knew each other growing up through youth national teams, but they were never super close. Then Kelley got traded to LAFC before Tobin’s second season to replace an injured Lauren. Tobin and Kelley have been thick as thieves ever since. Kelley latched onto Tobin right away and didn't really give Tobin a choice of whether they were going to be friends or not. Tobin never minded. Kelley’s hilarious and witty and fiercely loyal.

 

Kelley can read Tobin like the slow speed teleprompters they use when filming promo spots for the team. Tobin can't hide a thing from her, not even a small crush.

 

“She's just a friend of Amy’s.” Tobin dismisses Kelley with a wave of her hand and kicks the ball back towards her.

 

That was a mistake because Kelley traps the ball under her foot and doesn't kick it back. She stands with her hands on her hips and squints at Tobin in the early evening California sunset.

 

Just Amy’s friend?” She asks. “If that's true, then I guess you won't mind if I go introduce myself.”

 

Kelley moves to step around Tobin, but she quickly blocks her path.

 

“Just...just don't, all right?”

 

“Tell me who she is and I won't,” Kelley bargains, kicking the ball up to juggle after their assistant coach sends them a glare for talking more than warming up. She boots the ball high up in the air, but Tobin easily traps it against her chest on the way back down and kicks it back.

 

“She really is a friend of Amy’s. Her son and Ryan go to school together.”

 

“Then how come you're avoiding looking at her and showing off?”

 

“Have you seen her?”

 

“Yeah, she's fine as hell, but since when has a hot girl made you act like a fool?”

 

Tobin’s squirming under Kelley’s line of questioning, so she tries to get the attention off herself. “Does Emily know you look at other girls so much?”

 

Kelley rolls her eyes and knees the ball directly at Tobin’s stomach. “Please, have you seen her?” Kelley repeats Tobin’s earlier question with a smirk. “Emily would be acting like an even bigger fool than you and I wouldn't even blame her. Don't worry about my girlfriend, worry about yours.”

 

“She is not my girlfriend,” Tobin hisses, but Kelley doesn't miss the blush in her cheeks.

 

“Maybe not, but you want her to be.”

 

Thankfully, their coach blows her whistle to call them back to the locker room to suit up for the game and Tobin knows Kelley will drop her teasing and start focusing on winning and continuing to stay high in the table.

 

But not without one last jab, apparently.

 

“Go win this one for your girl, yeah?”

 

Kelley taps Tobin’s ass as she jogs past her towards the locker room, shooting her a grin over her shoulder.

 

“She's not my girl,” Tobin grumbles.

 

She looks up in the stands just before she disappears into the tunnel and sees Christen smiling down at her. She's in a black tanktop and has her hair tied up in a bun. Way too much skin is exposed and shining in the sunlight and Tobin promises herself right then she won’t look in the stands once during the game because she knows seeing Christen would distract her completely.

 

Tobin takes one last look at Christen, giving her a matching smile, and swallows hard when Christen gives her the most adorable little wave.

 

“She’s not,” she repeats, more for herself this time than Kelley.

xxx

They beat Houston 4-0.

 

Tobin scores one and assists two more.

 

Kelley tells her to stop showing off for her girl.

 

Tobin tries to deny that’s what she’s doing, but she can't.

xxx

“Toby! You won!”

 

Ryan’s jumping up and down, waving his arms wildly in the air as Tobin approaches the stands where they’re waiting. She’d drawn her time out, signing for a bit and talking to coaches longer than she usually does. She wanted to settle her heart rate before she went around Christen because she knew it would just speed up again.

 

She hates being so fragile around her.

 

She’s never like this.

 

“I scored that goal for you, buddy!” She reaches up and he launches himself over the fence like he always does.

 

“Ryan! Be careful!” Amy chastises even though she knows fully well Tobin would never let him get hurt.

 

“I wanna score goals like that one day,” Ryan tells her.

 

“How about you go score goals like that right now?” She sets him down on the ground and he immediately takes off towards one of the goals. Tobin turns back to the stands and looks up at Nata. “You want to come with us Nata?”

 

The little boy looks up at his mom, silently asking permission.

 

“Are you sure it’s all right?” Christen asks warily, fingers running through his thick, black hair.

 

“Totally, Ryan does every game.” Tobin extends her arms up towards Nata and says, “come on, dude. It’s cool, I promise.”

 

He hesitates, but then Ryan calls after him as he runs off after Kelley and Nata’s eyes light up. He climbs over the fence far more gingerly than Ryan did, letting Christen help him over the edge with steady hands and guide him into Tobin’s arms.

 

Christen’s fingertips might brush against Tobin’s forearm.

 

Tobin might start to turn red.

 

Tobin might be grateful she just played a full 90 and so her flushed face is somewhat acceptable.

 

Christen might smirk at her like she knows that’s not all it is.

 

Tobin would deny all of it if ever asked.

 

“Stay with Tobin, okay Natanael? Don’t go running off,” Christen warns.

 

“I won’t Mama!” Just as further proof that he won’t disobey his mother, he reaches up and takes Tobin’s hand in his, pulling her along as he starts walking in Ryan’s direction, eager and excited now that he’s actually on the field.

 

“I’ve got him, I promise, Christen.” She can see the parental worry in her eyes and she wants Christen to know she can trust her even if she doesn’t know her that well yet.

 

Tobin grins up at the girl and she smiles right back.

 

Tobin swears she’ll never get used to that smile.

xxx

“You mean I get to keep this?”

 

Nat’s eyes are as big as the soccer ball he holds in his hands as he looks up at Tobin. She was able to snag two of the game balls, one for each Nata and Ryan (even though Ryan has enough to last him the rest of his life, but she didn’t want him feeling left out.)

 

“Yeah, dude. That’s all for you.”

 

“Is this the one you scored your goal with?”

 

“It might be. Why don’t you and Ryan go score some goals with it? I’m sure those will be better than any goal I could ever score.”

 

“Okay, come on Ry!”

 

The two boys run from the sidelines over to the goal with far more energy than Tobin could ever hope to muster after such a draining game. She’s grinning as she watches them go, remembering when she was that age, just a goofy kid in love with the first soccer ball her dad ever gave her.

 

That’s how Kelley finds her when she walks over.

 

“Not only are you all heart eyes for the mom, but you’re heart eyes for the kid too? You’ve got it bad, man.”

 

“Shut up,” Tobin says with a roll of her eyes. She tries to be unaffected by the teasing, but she knows her friend has a point. “He’s a cool kid, okay?”

 

“I’m sure he is.” Kelley plops down on the ground at Tobin’s feet and stretches a thigh across her body, working out her hamstrings. “So what did your girl say when you told her you scored that bomb of a goal for her? Was she so flattered? Did she kiss you as thanks? Did she beg you to love her forever?”

 

“You’re a dick.”

 

“Look me in the eye and tell me you aren’t into her and I’ll drop it,” Kelley challenges. She knows Tobin well enough to know she can’t.

 

“I don’t even know her, okay? Is she cute? Yeah. Would I like to get to know her more? Yeah. Do I think that’s actually going to happen? Probably not.”

 

Tobin looks back over at the boys playing, laughing and taking turns shooting at goal. One of the rookies, a nineteen-year-old prodigy named Mallory, has joined them. She’s pretending to stand them up when they challenge her and letting them steal the ball away from her with ease and they’re eating it right up.

 

Tobin makes a mental note to thank her for that later.

 

“Why don’t you think it’ll happen?” Kelley’s voice brings her focus away from the boys and back to her currently annoying friend.

 

“She’s a single mom and an editor for World Now, she doesn’t have time for me, I’m sure.” She sits down across from Kelley and unlaces her cleats, wondering why she hasn’t taken them off long ago. That’s usually the first this she does after games, but she’s admittedly been a little distracted tonight.

 

“Wait, the travel magazine World Now? For real?”

 

“Yeah, she used to be a writer, but she got promoted to editor shortly after she adopted Nata.”

 

“That’s fucking awesome. Do you think she can introduce me to Brianna Cope? They just did that article on her last issue. Maybe she can take us with her on her next surf trip.” Kelley’s eager smile turns downright conniving as she looks behind Tobin’s shoulder and sits up like she was electrocuted. “Or I can just ask her myself.”

 

Tobin turns to see Amy and Christen walking over from the sidelines. She hadn’t prepared for this. She’s more nervous than she’s ever been on this pitch in her entire life. For the past seven seasons, this field has been her safe place. It doesn’t matter what she has going on in her personal life, it doesn’t matter what team is across the pitch from her. This is her field and this is where she’s most comfortable out of anywhere in the world.

 

Christen brings butterflies with her, though.

 

“What’s up, A-Rod?” Kelley stands and wraps her arms around Amy tightly. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever, how are you?”

 

“You just saw me at the game two weeks ago,” Amy points out with a laugh.

 

“Two weeks is way too long for me to go without seeing your pretty face,” Kelley coos as she pinches Amy’s cheeks. “Speaking of pretty faces, who’s your friend?”

 

Tobin’s going to kill Kelley.

 

“Kell, this is Christen. Her son goes to school with Ryan.”

 

“Nice to meet you Christen, I’m Kelley. I’m Tobin’s far more attractive and far more talented teammate. I let her show off tonight, but trust me, I’m better.”

 

Tobin can’t tell for sure, but she’s pretty sure Kelley winks.

 

Yeah, she’s definitely going to kill her.

 

“Well I know absolutely nothing about soccer, so you both seem pretty amazing to me,” Christen laughs.

 

“Aww, did you hear that, Tobs? She thinks we’re amazing.” Kelley spins around with the most obnoxious grin on her face and it takes every ounce of strength Tobin has not to pull a face and tell her to fuck off.

 

Luckily, Amy’s quick to rescue her as she so often is.

 

“Kell, come help me take on the boys. Maybe I’ll actually be able to win with you on my side.” Amy tugs on Kelley’s arm and leads her off in the direction of Ryan and Nata.

 

“I’m sure she’s good enough to win on her own. Wasn’t she like first round draft pick or whatever that means?” Christen asks once they’re out of earshot.

 

“Yup. One pick above me and she’ll never let me live it down.”

 

Tobin runs a nervous hand over the back of her neck. She’s appreciative Amy got Kelley far away from Christen and even more appreciative that she gets to spend more time with Christen, but her nerves are ramping up with each passing second and she’s praying she doesn’t embarrass herself too badly.

 

“Thanks for inviting us tonight, Nata really had a lot of fun,” Christen says. “I put him in soccer because that just seems to be the thing parents do, but it seems like he really enjoys it, especially after tonight.”

 

Christen’s eyes are more gray than they are green under the harsh stadium lights. There are little flicks of gold around her pupils that Tobin hadn’t noticed before. She’s honestly so beautiful that Tobin still isn’t able to wrap her brain around it.

 

“And did you?” Tobin asks.

 

Christen’s eyebrows knit together in confusion. “Did I what?”

 

“You said Nata had fun,” Tobin explains, “but did you have fun too?”

 

She doesn’t know what she’s hoping to accomplish with that question, doesn’t know where she’ll takes things after Christen answers, but she just needs to know. If she hated it, then Tobin pretty much has her answer about any potential there might be between them. Tobin is too obsessed with soccer to likely ever be with someone who has zero interest in it, as petty as that may seem. But if she liked it, then maybe Tobin will be able to make something work out between them.

 

“I really did!” Christen says with an excited grin. “I felt so bad annoying Amy with questions every other minute, but it was really a lot of fun. You were kind of ridiculous out here.”

 

“Good ridiculous?”

 

“Definitely good,” Christen confirms with a smirk.

 

‘She’s flirting, right? Maybe it’s subtle, but it’s happening isn’t it?’

 

Tobin swallows her nerves and puts herself out on the line. “Would you want to go to dinner?”

 

“What?” Christen isn’t good at hiding her surprise.

 

“With Amy, Ryan and me,” Tobin rushes to recover. “We go out for dinner after most games. Would you and Nata want to come with us?”

 

Tobin knows Amy wouldn’t mind if they tagged along and Ryan certainly wouldn’t mind getting to spend more time with his friend. Tobin doesn’t know what she expects to come out of this thing with Christen--can she even call it a ‘thing?’ There’s not really anything at all happening--but she does know she wants to keep spending time with her.

 

“Oh, I’d love to, but we’re actually heading to my parents’ home in Palos Verde tonight. My cousin is getting married on Sunday, so we’re spending the weekend there.”

 

She sounds disappointed as she says this and Tobin finds confidence in that. It means she’s not just saying she’d ‘love to’ as a way of making Tobin feel better for being turned down. It means she really does mean what she’s saying and that’s good enough for Tobin. It gives her hope that maybe this isn’t a lost cause afterwards.

 

“Some other time, though?” Christen asks with a hopeful smile.

 

“I’m going to hold you to that.”

 

“I plan on it.”

xxx

At dinner, Tobin’s surprised Amy takes as long as she does to ask about Christen. It isn’t until they’ve ordered their pizza (Ryan got to choose the restaurant) and Kelley’s dragged Ryan away from the table to play arcade games (Kelley may have had some input in the location choice) that Amy brings her up.

 

“Christen really had fun tonight,” Amy tells Tobin like she doesn’t already know. “She was kinda lost a lot of the time, but she was really getting into it.”

 

“Yeah, that’s what she said,” Tobin responds casually, taking as long of a sip of ice water as she can before she starts to feel a brain freeze coming on. She considers to just keep on drinking and let the numbing get worse so that the pain will distract her from Amy’s inevitable line of questioning. It would probably be more enjoyable.

 

“She’s pretty great, right? I’m glad Ryan and Nata are such good friends because it means I get to hang out with her more. It’s so much fun to listen to her talk about all her travels.” She’s trying to be subtle, but it’s not working. She’s slowly working herself up to asking what she really wants to, prying a little at a time in hopes that Tobin will just tell her what she wants to know without having to actually ask.

 

Tobin’s well aware of Amy’s methods, though. She’s dealt with them enough over the years to not be caught off guard. She isn’t going to make this easy on her friend.

 

“I haven’t really talked to her much,” Tobin dismisses. She picks up her phone and starts scrolling through the ESPN app, checking MLS scores, but not really remembering any of them. She’s just trying to act like this isn’t bothering her as much as it is.

 

“Well you should,” Amy tells her, carrying right on like she doesn’t know damn well how uncomfortable Tobin is. “I think you guys would get along really well.” She lets the observation hang there for a few moments, waiting for Tobin to bite. When she doesn’t, she continues. “She seems to think you’re pretty great.”

 

That gets Tobin’s attention.

 

She switches her phone off and pushes it to the side so she isn’t tempted. Her eyes scan over Amy’s face, trying to tell if she’s just baiting her or if Christen really did seem interested in her.

 

“What makes you say that?” Tobin asks eventually, not able to get a clear read.

 

Amy shrugs, now trying to play the whole thing off like it’s much more casual than she was making it out to be just moments ago. “Just a feeling. She kept saying how great it was of you to get them tickets and she liked how good you were with Nat.”

 

“She said that?” Tobin grins, knowing she’s falling right into Amy’s trap, but too eager to be able to help herself.

 

“Maybe,” Amy shrugs again, “what do you care?”

 

“I--I don’t, you just said she did, so I was wondering if it actually happened.” She’s trying to play it cool, be nonchalant about the whole thing, but the damage has already been done by her overeagerness at her last question.

 

“Do you have a thing for Christen?” Amy asks her outright, bored with trying to get Tobin to admit it on her own.

 

Tobin nearly chokes on her water at the sudden question. “Why would you ask me that?” She sputters out.

 

“Why are you avoiding the question?” Amy challenges.

 

“No, I don’t have a thing for her. I barely know her.” She said the same words to Kelley earlier, but they feel like they have less power behind them when she says them to Amy.

 

“Since when has the length of time you’ve known a girl ever affected you being able to like them or not? In college I used to watch you pick girls up in bars after knowing them for a few minutes.”

 

“Christen isn’t just some tipsy college girl in a skeevy bar,” Tobin explains, feeling the need to defend this girl she claims to barely know. She knows it wasn’t Amy’s intention, but she doesn’t like her comparing Christen to the girls she fooled around with in college.

 

Christen’s so much better than all those girls.

 

“I know she’s not,” Amy says softly, understanding that she upset Tobin with her poor reference. “I just meant that you’ve never let something like how long you’ve known someone stop you from pursuing them before, that’s all.”

 

“Christen’s different.”

 

It’s only two simple words, but they seem to convey Tobin’s meaning perfectly. Christen isn’t just some other girl like all the ones Tobin’s been with before and Amy seems to understand this by the way she leans back in the booth and lets Tobin off the hook.

 

Or at least Tobin thought she let her off the hook.

 

“Just be careful, all right, Tobs?”

 

Tobin cocks her head curiously and leans forward on the table. “Are you saying that in Christen’s defense, or in mine?”

 

There’s something about the weight in Amy’s words, the tone she uses, that makes Tobin think she’s looking out more for Christen--someone she’s only known for a year or so--than she is Tobin--someone she’s known for over a decade.

 

Amy lets out an exasperated sigh and crosses her arms across her chest, steeling herself for Tobin’s annoyance. “Both. You’re my best friend, Tobin. You’re practically like my sister, but Christen is my friend too. I don’t want to see either of you end up hurt.”

 

“You think I’m going to hurt her,” Tobin accuses.

 

“I didn’t say that.”

 

“You didn’t have to,” Tobin scoffs. “It’s great to know you think so little of me.”

 

“Don’t you dare put words in my mouth,” Amy snaps. She leans forward on the table so she can speak low, but her words are coming through clenched teeth. “I think so highly of you, Tobin, how dare you accuse me otherwise. I have more faith in you than I have in most people. I trust you with my life, with my sons’ lives. You’re one of the best people I’ve ever met and I love you so much, but I also know your track record when it comes to dating. I’m not saying you aren’t capable of having a mature relationship, because I think deep down you are, but I am saying I want you to really think about this before you pursue anything with Christen. You’ve never dated someone like her before and I just want you to consider that carefully before you do anything. It isn’t just the two of you, there’s a kid involved and that makes everything more complicated.”

 

Tobin lets Amy’s words sink in, knowing as much as she’s annoyed for being called out, her friend is right. Not only is Christen herself different from anyone Tobin’s ever been with before, but she’s also part of a package deal. If Tobin wants Christen, she also gets Nata and that’s something Tobin needs to figure out if she’s prepared for or not before she pursues anything.

 

“Sorry I pissed you off,” Tobin mumbles eventually, feeling the same way she did when she was a child and her mom yelled at her for not letting Jeff play with her toys. She maybe feels worse even because Tobin knows how hard it is to upset Amy to the point she has to actively control the volume of her voice.

 

“You didn’t piss me off.” Amy’s voice is back to its usual softness as she reaches across the table and takes Tobin’s hand in hers. “I’ve never been lacking in faith for you, I just need you to have faith in yourself once in awhile, yeah?”

 

“I’ll do my best,” Tobin scoffs, smiling wryly. “I don’t think anyone can ever be as optimistic as you, though, so don’t expect too much out of me.”

 

Amy squeezes Tobin’s hand once and then lets it go. “Back to my original point of bringing this all up in the first place, I think you and Christen would be really good for each other, it’s just something I want you to take seriously if you pursue anything, okay?”

 

“Who says I want to pursue anything with her?”

 

Amy rolls her eyes at Tobin becoming defensive again, but she doesn’t let herself get pulled back into an unnecessary argument. She reaches for Tobin’s phone and snatches it away before Tobin’s able to react quickly enough to stop her.

 

“You don’t even know my pass--”

 

Amy cuts Tobin off by entering the four digit code correctly on the first try. “1717? Not very original. You better hope this never falls into the wrong hands or else you’re screwed.”

 

“I’m pretty sure it did just fall into the wrong hands,” Tobin grumbles, but she doesn’t try to fight with Amy, knowing she was always quicker than she was.

 

“Relax, I’m not doing anything bad, I’m just giving you Christen’s number.” She pulls up Christen’s contact in her own phone and types in the number before she switches the phone off and slides it back across the table to Tobin. “Use the number or don’t, but please just be sure to think about it before you decide, okay? All I want is for you to be happy.”

 

“Okay, mom,” Tobin says with an eye roll, but she knows Amy knows how much she truly appreciates how much she looks out for her.

 

“Ew,” Amy wrinkles her nose, “don’t call me mom. Lauren’s mom. I’m the cool aunt who always spoils you on your birthday and lets you do all the things your mom won’t.”

 

“So basically you’re me with Ryan?”

 

Amy’s quiet for a moment, realizing she backed herself into this corner. “I’m you, but cooler,” Amy finally says lamely, not able to come up with a better comeback.

 

Kelley and Ryan get back then, both breathless as Kelley accuses Ryan of cheating and Ryan swears to Amy that he did no such thing. Their food shows up a couple minutes after that and they all go quiet as they eat until Tobin starts to steal some of the pepperonis off Ryan’s pizza until he starts laughing.

 

Amy doesn’t mention Christen again the rest of the night. Aside from a knowing look after they hug goodbye, reminding Tobin to think about what she said, Amy lets her off the hook for now, silently agreeing to let her figure it out on her own.

 

Once Tobin’s back home and in bed, she opens a new message and types in Christen’s name until the contact Amy put in her phone pops up. She taps out at least twenty messages, but they all end up deleted. They’re all just some similar variation of each other, thanking her for coming to the game and saying how she hopes to see her again sometime.

 

All the messages sound wrong, though, and she can’t bring herself to hit send on any of them.

 

Eventually, she just erases the message all together and turns her phone off, setting it on the nightstand to charge.

 

She doesn’t know why she’s stressing about this so much, but she suspects it has something to do with what Amy said to her. Sure, she got defensive about Amy calling out her dating history, but she knows she isn’t wrong. She doesn’t have the best track record. She’s known for sleeping with a girl once, maybe a couple times more if they’re really good, and then she moves on. Nothing has ever stuck for her and she’s never really made much effort to make anything work.

 

She knows Amy is just looking out for her, and Christen too, so she decides to take her advice to heart and do what she says.

 

She’ll think about it.

 

She’ll take it all seriously and think about whether she’s actually interested in Christen or if she’s just a pretty face that distracted her for a while. Once she figures that out, then she’ll decide to text her or not.

 

Tobin has a feeling she’ll be texting her sometime soon.

Chapter Text

“What about her? She’s hot.”

 

Tobin looks in the direction across the bar that Kelley is nodding towards, noticing a table of three girls, one of which keeps looking over at Tobin, smirking while she sips her beer. She’s blonde and has blue eyes and pale skin that practically glows in the dim lighting of the bar.

 

On any other night, Tobin would’ve already scoped her out and would be halfway towards getting her to take her back to her place (Tobin and Kelley’s hotel room isn’t exactly a viable option.) She’s cute and seems just flirty enough to make this relatively easy on Tobin.

 

Any other night and she wouldn’t hesitate before going over to the girl’s table and buying her a drink.

 

Tonight, though, she just isn’t feeling up to it.

 

Tobin shrugs and takes another long pull from her beer. “She’s all right I guess.”

 

Kelley’s jaw drops and her eyes widen in shock. “All right? Come on, she’s a babe.”

 

“You sure check out other girls a lot for someone who has a girlfriend,” Tobin points out, trying to shift the attention from herself to Kelley. She knows there’s a reason she doesn’t want to go talk to the girl and she knows what that reason is--or more aptly, who that reason is--she just isn’t prepared to admit it yet.

 

They’re not even supposed to be here. Coach Foudy would be so pissed to find out they’re drinking just a few hours after a game, especially when their next is in just four days. But after a scoreless draw against DC in which they both had several frustratingly close chances, they needed to blow off a little steam.

 

Kelley snorts out a laugh. “What you don’t realize is I’m just trying to get you out of the hotel room tonight so I can have FaceTime sex with my girlfriend.”

 

Tobin groans and kicks out at Kelley’s shin. “Oh my god, that’s fucking gross. I did not need to hear that.”

 

Kelley smirks with her tongue between her teeth and twirls around the cheesy pink umbrella in her drink. “Look, all I’m saying is that girl is hot and she seems to be very interested. Usually you’d be all over that. What’s going on?”

 

“Nothing,” Tobin grumbles. She can’t admit the problem to herself yet, she definitely doesn’t want to admit it to Kelley.

 

She doesn’t need to, though. As always, Kelley’s already got her figured out.

 

“Is this about Christen?” Tobin glares, but it practically goes unnoticed by Kelley who just continues. “Because Tobs, yeah she’s hot and everything, but she doesn’t seem like the type to have a one night stand or anything. She’s a mother, she’s mature and established and doesn’t seem like your type.”

 

“I never said she was my type.”

 

“Then prove you aren’t pining over Christen and go pick up that girl.” Kelley lifts her drink to her mouth and keeps talking once her lips are hidden. “And you better think of a good line fast because she’s coming over here right now.” She takes a quick sip and then plasters on a bright smile and twists in her seat to greet the girl. “Hi, I’m Kelley, and this is Tobin.” She aims her smile at Tobin and there’s a glint in her eye that Tobin is going to give her hell about later.

 

The girl smiles back, having eyes only for Tobin, and says, “hi, I’m Kiersten.”

 

‘Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me,’ Tobin thinks, kicking out at Kelley’s shin again when she sees the devilish smirk on her face. She gives her a knowing look, warning her not to say anything.

 

Of course the girl the Kelley tries to get her to hook up with in order to distract her from Christen has practically the same name. Of fucking course she does. If she didn’t need the distraction so much, she’d be thinking of a way to excuse herself back to the hotel, Kelley’s gross plans for cyber sex with Emily be damned, but she does need this.

 

So she sucks it up and turns on her cocky smirk that has always worked so well for her in the past, deciding just going with this is the best course of action.

 

It’s the only course of action.

 

It’s not like she actually stands a chance with Christen, but Kiersten, she’s right here and the way she’s running her eyes up and down Tobin’s body lets on just how interested she is. Tobin just needs to suck it up and get over whatever she thinks she feels for Christen and take advantage of the tangible opportunity she has in front of her.

 

This is what she’s always been best at, why mess with a good thing?

 

“Can I buy you a drink?” Tobin asks, swallowing whatever plan for escape was bubbling in the back of her throat and choosing to see where this thing leads.

xxx

Two more beers each and barely an hour later, Tobin has Kiersten pressed up against the wall back by the bathrooms with Kiersten’s bottom lip between her teeth. It was easy enough to find herself here, but now that they’re actually kissing, Tobin just can’t get into it.

 

She’s going through the motions, she’s doing what she’s supposed to, reacting the way Kiersten expects her to, but she can’t get herself to enjoy it.

 

She just can’t get her head into it. She keeps thinking about how Kiersten’s lips are thinner under hers than she thinks Christen’s would be. Kiersten is shorter than her where Christen is a couple inches taller. Her hair is too straight and the little sighs falling from her lips are too high pitched compared to what she would expect out of Christen.

 

It’s just all wrong, which should honestly be a good thing. Kiersten being the complete opposite of Christen is exactly what Tobin needs in order to get her mind off Christen, but it’s not working.

 

She’s got her tongue in Kiersten’s mouth and Kiersten’s hands are tangled in her hair, but yet she can’t stop thinking about Christen. It’s not fair to this girl and Tobin feels so guilty. She doesn’t want to feel so sick to her stomach like this and she doesn’t want to be using Kiersten like she is, especially when it isn’t even working. She doesn’t feel any better about her feelings for Christen. If anything, she just feels worse.

 

Tobin knows she needs to stop this.

 

So she does.

 

She pulls away, taking a step back when Kiersten chases after her lips. “I’ve uh--I’ve got to go. We have an early flight in the morning.”

 

It’s a lie, their flight isn’t until later in the afternoon. Coach believes in giving them ample time to rest when they’ve got back-to-back-to-back-to-back away games in just a two week stretch. Kiersten doesn’t need to know that, though.

 

“Oh come on, my apartment is just a few blocks away. We’ll get you back to the hotel in plenty of time.” She tries to lean in and kiss her again, but Tobin takes another step back, not willing to get pulled back into this.

 

“I can’t,” Tobin insists, running a hand through her hair to smooth it back out from Kiersten’s fingers. “I’ve got to go,” she says again. She turns and heads back to the bar to find Kelley so they can leave, ignoring Kiersten calling after her.

 

She finds Kelley posted up in front of a dart board with three younger guys who are so obviously fraternity members or college football players or something equally obnoxious based on the muscle tees and unironic pastel colored shorts.

 

“Kell, we’ve got to go,” Tobin says before Kelley even sees her, tugging on her arm.

 

“But I’m just about to win!” She complains, then she turns around and sees the look of complete panic in Tobin’s eyes. “Whoa, what’s wrong?” Her eyes look Tobin’s face over before she looks over Tobin’s shoulder, presumably for Kiersten, trying to figure out what happened to get Tobin stressed out like this.

 

“I don’t want to talk about it right now, I just want to go. You can stay, but I’m leaving.” Tobin starts walking towards the door, needing fresh air as soon as she can, something she certainly isn’t going to get in this overcrowded dive bar.

 

Kelley reaches out and grabs her arm to stop her, forgetting completely about her game of darts, despite slurred protests from the guys. “I’ll go with you,” she says. “Go wait outside and get us an Uber, I’ll go close out the tab.”

 

It’s clear from the confusion on her face that she doesn’t understand why Tobin is freaking out like she is, but she isn’t going to question it. She’s just going to help her best friend and get her out of here if that’s what she wants.

 

Tobin mutters her thanks and then pulls out her phone to do as Kelley says, grateful that her friend understands her need to leave and isn’t going to ask for an explanation until Tobin’s ready to give one.

 

It’s humid outside, so the fresh air Tobin was seeking isn’t as much of a relief as she was hoping, but it’s better than inside the bar. She breathes in deep lungfuls and leans back against the wall of the bar, ignoring the groups of people already standing around outside.

 

She doesn’t know why she’s so affected by this.

 

Well, she knows, but she doesn’t understand why whatever she thinks she feels for Christen is bothering her so much. She hasn’t even known the girl two weeks and she doesn’t even really know her at all. They’ve had two practically meaningless conversations that lacked any substance that could make Tobin think of Christen as anything more than Ryan’s friend’s mom or just Amy’s friend.

 

She doesn’t know her middle name. She doesn’t know how many siblings she has. She doesn’t know what college she went to, what her major was. She doesn’t know her favorite color or her favorite food or her favorite song.

 

She doesn’t know anything about her other than that she’s beautiful and works for World Now and seems like a great mom and knows absolutely nothing about soccer. She doesn’t know enough to justify all the time she’s spent thinking about her, all the sleep she’s lost wondering what Christen thinks of her.

 

It’s ridiculous and something Tobin isn’t at all familiar with.

 

She tries to think back when Amy met Adam or Lauren met Jrue, trying to remember if either of them ever described feeling this way.

 

Amy and Adam practically got engaged on their first date, so she doesn’t really consider them a fair comparison.

 

Lauren and Jrue were both dating other people when they first met, but both relationships quickly fizzled out and it wasn’t long before they were together. Tobin was there when they met, saw the way they smiled at each other. Tobin had never seen Lauren smile like that before. She tried to be nonchalant, ignore whatever she might feel for Jrue and respect her boyfriend at the time, but Tobin knew as soon as they met that Lauren wouldn’t be with the other guy much longer.

 

Once Lauren broke up with the other guy, but before Jrue and his girlfriend broke up, she was pretty miserable. She denied breaking up with her boyfriend for Jrue, insisted it just wasn’t working out, but Tobin and Amy knew the truth. It wasn’t until a drunken confession two weeks after the break up that she admitted she had feelings for Jrue.

 

She pretty much didn’t stop talking about him after that. She was in a somewhat similar situation to Tobin now. Lauren didn’t really know Jrue other than he was cute, funny, had a nice smile and unfortunately had a girlfriend as well. She didn’t know him, but she knew she liked him and she tortured herself with those feelings for another two weeks before she found out Jrue and his girlfriend had broken up and then barely a month later they got together and they haven’t left each other’s side since.

 

Knowing how Lauren felt about Jrue and how they’ve ended up, Tobin starts to panic again.

 

Lauren swears she knew they would end up together the first moment they met and she was right. But if that’s true and Tobin feels the same way about Christen that Lauren felt about Jrue all those years ago, that would mean Christen and Tobin could end up together and Tobin certainly isn’t ready to even consider something like that.

 

She’s always told herself she never wanted to get married. She’s watched both her older sisters get married, she’s watched Amy and Lauren get married too and a few other friends through the years, but it was never really something Tobin pictured for herself. She doesn’t like the idea of tying herself down to one thing for the rest of her life.

 

When LAFC offered her a four year contract extension after her first two years, she considered it for as long as they’d let her before she finally agreed. She can’t see herself playing anywhere else, except maybe back home in Jersey, but she’s always liked the idea of having the option available to go somewhere else should she so desire. Four years is a long time to commit herself to one thing, and if that freaks her out as much as it did, she can’t even imagine committing herself to someone for life.

 

She doesn’t even know why she’s thinking about this.

 

She’s not marrying Christen. She’s not even dating her. What she needs to do is just fuck someone else and forget about whatever she might feel for Christen. She’s about to go back into the bar and see if she can salvage the night with Kiersten, but then Kelley walks out the front door and the Uber arrives and she knows it’s best if she just goes back to the hotel and gets to sleep.

xxx

Kelley’s gracious, she doesn’t say anything about what’s bothering Tobin the entire ride back to the hotel, the elevator ride up to their floor, or the walk to their room. She’s quiet as they get ready for bed and scroll through their phones before turning the lights off.

 

When she does finally say something, it isn’t about Christen at all.

 

“I pined over Emily for over a year before we finally got together,” Kelley says into the dark.

 

Tobin had thought she was already asleep. Her breaths had turned slow and she’d stopped moving around to try and get comfortable. Turns out she was just building herself up to say whatever it is she’s trying to say.

 

“Okay…” Tobin says slowly, not sure where she’s going with this.

 

Kelley takes a deep breath and out of the corner of Tobin’s eye, she sees her turn over on her side so that she’s facing Tobin, but Tobin stays on her back, staring up at the ceiling.

 

“I pined for her for over a year while her relationship with that guy from UVA faded away, but it wasn’t like I was waiting on her or anything,” Kelley explains. “I dated other people, or tried to at least, but nothing ever lasted. I wanted something to stick so desperately, but it didn’t matter how hard I tried, nothing ever felt right. The girls I hooked up with were either too tall or too short. Their hands were too small and they didn’t have enough freckles. Their hair was the wrong color and their voices were too high or too low. I tried so many times to move on from Emily, but I couldn’t because I compared every girl I came across to her.

 

“I felt like such a bitch for doing that. I had all these beautiful, perfectly fine girls willing to be with me, but they could never hold my attention because they weren’t the girl I wanted. They wanted me, but I could never get myself to want them, I couldn’t force it no matter how hard I tried. I was unhappy and surly--I mean, you know, you were there--but no matter how much I wanted to stop feeling something for Emily, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, I couldn’t stop wondering what she was doing when we were apart, I couldn’t stop looking at her when we were together. I couldn’t stop wanting to be with her.”

 

She’s quiet for a moment, letting her words settle into the darkness, letting Tobin understand what it is she’s saying even though she doesn’t understand why she’s saying it.

 

Tobin keeps waiting for Kelley to say something else, but she doesn’t. She stays on her side and Tobin can feel her eyes on her, but she doesn’t say anything. Kelley just lets the silence seep in until it makes Tobin so anxious she has to say something, which Tobin knows is exactly what Kelley wanted. She didn’t want to ask her anything, but she isn’t above tricking her into talking. Tobin hates how much Kelley knows her, but doesn’t even care at this point, she just needs to discuss this with someone.

 

“I don’t even know her,” Tobin says to the ceiling.

 

“But you want to.” It isn’t a question, it’s a statement. Kelley’s just looking for the confirmation to what she already knows is true.

 

“So much,” she admits. “I can’t stop thinking about her and I don’t get it. I’ve never gotten so hung up on a girl before. Never. I don’t understand what’s so different about her, but it’s been eleven days since I met her and I can’t get her out of my head.”

 

“You might not like me saying this because you might not be ready to hear it,” Kelley starts warily, “but maybe the reason why you’ve never been hung up on a girl before is because they’ve never been the right girl.”

 

“And you think Christen is the right girl?”

 

Tobin can practically hear Kelley shrug even though it’s just a subtle movement. “Maybe, maybe not, but I do think it’s something worth looking into. There’s a reason she’s having such an effect on you and I think you need to take a chance and see what happens.”

 

“Who even knows if she likes me?” Tobin tries to dismiss.

 

“I do. The way she was smiling at you after the game, the way she was watching you when you kicked the ball around with her kid? She’s definitely into you.”

 

Tobin’s throat gets tight at the thought of that, Christen possibly feeling the same way about her. She doesn’t know what to do with that. In the past, she’s only ever run from girls having feelings for her. But this time, she only wants to run towards Christen.

 

She just doesn’t know how.

 

“Do you know when you’re going to see her again?” Kelley asks.

 

“I have no idea. I don’t see any reason why I would need to see her again any time soon.”

 

“But you want to,” Kelley repeats, once again already knowing the answer.

 

“Yeah,” Tobin admits. “I really do.”

 

“Why don’t you ask Amy for her number or something? I’m sure she’d be thrilled to hear from you. Ask her to another game, ask her out to lunch or something, just see what happens,” Kelley suggests.

 

“I already have her number,” Tobin mumbles.

 

Kelley shoots up at that. She sits up and swings her legs over the side of the bed. Tobin thinks she’s about to join her in her own bed for the ensuing interrogation, but she stays put. “What was that?” She asks, even though Tobin knows damn well she heard exactly what she said.

 

Tobin knows if she wants any chance of getting any sleep tonight, she’s got to just give in to Kelley and tell her what she wants to hear. “I already have her number,” she repeats, much more clearly this time.

 

“She gave you her number and you’re still moping around thinking she doesn’t like you?”

 

“I’m not moping,” Tobin says defensively. She may be pining somewhat, but she’s not moping. “And she didn’t give it to me, Amy did. I didn’t even ask for it, she just took my phone and put it in.”

 

“Are you seriously complaining about how you got her number and not just taking advantage of the fact that you have it?” Kelley asks incredulously. “I’m assuming you haven’t used it yet?”

 

“No, I haven’t. I wouldn’t even know what to say.”

 

“Literally anything!” Kelley jumps up from the bed now, starting to pace like she tends to do when she gets worked up. “You’ve got to text her, let me see your phone.” She takes a step towards the nightstand where Tobin’s phone is charging, but Tobin’s quick to snatch it away.

 

“You are not texting her for me,” Tobin argues.

 

“Then text her yourself!” Kelley starts pacing again and Tobin can see the gears turning in her head. “This is good, Tobin. I had no idea you had something as valuable as her number. If I’d have known that, I never would’ve tried to set you up at the bar. We would’ve been working out a plan of action for Christen instead.”

 

Tobin can’t help but laugh at her friend’s excitement. She pushes herself up on her elbows and watches in the faint moonlight from the gap in the curtains as Kelley walks back and forth in front of their beds, mind running wild.

 

“Why are you getting so excited about this?” Tobin asks with an amused smirk that Kelley might not be able to see, but can probably hear from her tone.

 

Like the flip of a switch, Kelley turns suddenly serious. She stops pacing and turns to stare down Tobin. “Dude, we’ve been friends for what? Eleven, twelve years now?” She doesn’t wait for an answer before she continues. “Since then, I’ve seen you go through I don’t even know how many girls. And I’m certainly not judging because I’ve had my fair share as well. I mean, that one offseason we spent in Europe? Shit, I don’t think we were sober or celibate for more than a few hours at a time. If you told me then that I’d be hopelessly in love with the best girl I’ve ever met in my life and planning a future together, I would’ve laughed in your face. But that’s where I am and I know neither of us ever considered something like that, but now I know how great it is and I want that for you.

 

“I’ve never seen you like this with a girl and I know from experience that when you find someone like this, you’ve got to stick with it. You’ve got to put everything you have into it and see where it takes you. I know it seems scary and I know it’s easy to want to just push it away like you’ve pushed everything away in the past, but don’t run from this. If you think you like her, then go for it. If you’ve got her number, then text her. If you can’t keep her off your mind, then there’s a reason for that and it’s not just because she’s hot. Maybe going for this means going against everything you’ve trained yourself to do over the years, but honestly? Who fucking cares? If you let this opportunity slide by, you’ll regret it, I promise you.”

 

There’s a beat of silence before Tobin says, “well shit, that was heavy.”

 

“Fuck you,” Kelley groans, going back to her bed and getting under the covers. “I’m trying to be a good friend and help you work up your courage to take a chance on this girl and that’s all I get?” She complains, but Tobin knows she’s just teasing her. “You ungrateful little shit, we’ll see if I help you out next time you need it.”

 

“Thank you, Kell. Seriously,” she says, wanting Kelley to know she genuinely does appreciate her. “I’m just scared, you know? I don’t know what I’m doing.”

 

“No one ever does, but you’ve just got to go for it and figure it out along the way.”

 

“Is that what you’ve been doing with Emily?”

 

“Hell yeah,” she says, rolling over onto her back, getting ready for sleep once again. “I haven’t had a fucking clue what I’m doing with her for the last two years, I just know that I love her more than anything and don’t want to be with anyone else. She’s the one that’s always figuring out what the hell is going on.” She pauses before she adds, “Christen seems like the type to do that to. I think you just need to give her the chance.”

 

“I’ll text her soon,” Tobin tells her.

 

“Are you saying that because you know it’s what I want to hear or because you really will text her? Because you know I know your passcode so if you don’t, I’ll find out.”

 

“First Amy and now you? Lauren’s my new favorite,” Tobin complains.

 

“Please, Lauren’s the one that told me your passcode when she wanted me to send her a picture because you kept forgetting to.”

 

“Whatever,” Tobin scoffs. “I really will text her, though. I want to, I just need to work myself up a little, you know?”

 

“Good, because I know you’ve been holding out for me, just hoping things with Emily won’t work out, but that’s not happening. I hate to break it to you, but you’ve got to move on. We had a fun time, but it’s over,” Kelley teases.

 

“Oh, shut up,” Tobin groans, throwing one of her spare pillows over at Kelley. “It was one time like five years ago and we were drunk. Don’t let it go to your head.”

 

“It was three times, actually, but it was just in one night, so I’ll give you that. All I’m saying, is waiting for me is a hopeless cause. Make it work with Christen before you let her slip away too.”

 

“You suck,” Tobin complains, rolling over so her back is to Kelley, but she can still hear her laugh as Kelley squirms around to get comfortable in her bed.

 

Tobin knows she’s right, not about the waiting around for her thing, but about the needing to take a chance with Christen thing. If she feels something, then it’s probably because something is there. She needs to see if they can make something happen before she let’s the opportunity get away.

 

‘I’m going to text her,’ Tobin tells herself. ‘I will, soon.’

xxx

She’s right about texting Christen soon, but she isn’t the one to initiate it.

 

They’re on the road for over two weeks for a string of four away games, which means that Tobin doesn’t get to see Christen again for what she considers to be far too long. She thinks about Christen’s smile way too much and she keeps daydreaming about when she'll get to see it again and plans out what she'll say to make that smile even brighter.

 

She channels all her energy into training sessions, their games and a couple photo shoots with her sponsors in order to distract her, but they only take up so much time. That means there’s way too much time for her to think about how she’s had Christen’s number for two weeks and hasn’t been able to do anything about it.

 

Tobin’s phone feels heavy in her pocket, weighed down by Christen’s number and the idea of just sucking it up and texting her. She’s wasted so much battery staring at a blank message addressed to Christen and trying to convince herself to just type something out and hit send.

 

When she’s not trying to work herself up to texting Christen, she’s stalking her instagram. She feels a little creepy for it, but she can’t bring herself to actually follow her. She promises herself she will after she actually works up the nerve to text her first.

 

Christen’s account is public, but there isn’t really much to be seen. She only posts maybe once a month and it’s usually just pictures of Nat, sunsets over the ocean or two dogs that Tobin figures out are really her parents’ dogs, but she claims them as her own. She’s only had the account for two years based on her earliest post, and only five of the pictures actually have her in them, so the account isn’t really a wealth of information, but she’s smiling in the pictures she’s actually in, so Tobin will take what she can get.

 

She's on a bus ride after their game in Seattle to Portland for their last away game before finally heading home when she gets a text that makes her smile wider than she has in a long time. It also has her wishing she’d been able to just work up the courage to text first, but she’s too happy to care right now.

 

[Christen Press: 10:19 PM]
Hey!! It's Christen, Amy gave me
your number.. Great game tonight!!
Nata was cheering for you the whole
time.. I think Ryan has some
competition as your #1 fan lol, he
sleeps with that ball you gave him..

 

Tobin reads the message seven times before she even thinks about what she'll say back.

 

On the inside, she's definitely geeking out over the fact Christen went through the trouble of asking Amy for her number. She doesn't even care Amy’s likely going to tease her about it relentlessly that Christen had to put in the effort since Tobin wouldn’t just do it herself. She really hopes Amy didn’t say anything to Christen about the fact that Tobin’s had her number for almost two weeks and has yet to do anything with it.

 

On the outside, she couldn't turn her smile down even if she wanted to and she definitely doesn’t want to. She welcomes the ache in her cheeks from smiling so hard as she reads the message yet again. She's grateful she's in the very back on the bus and that Kelley’s passed out in the seat across the aisle so no one can see how much she's beaming.

 

She's finally planning out her response when another message vibrates through.

 

[Christen Press: 10:21 PM]
I hope it isn't weird I asked Amy
for your number or anything.. I
just wanted to talk to you again :)

 

Kelley would never let her live it down if she saw the way Tobin turns red as she reads that text. She’d definitely never let her live it down knowing that it was Christen who finally initiated texts between the two of them.

 

She feels so much better about her crush, as Kelley calls it, knowing that it's at least on some level mutual. Christen seems to have been thinking about her just as much as she's thinking about Christen. Her stomach does a little somersault as she taps out her reply.

[Tobin Heath: 10:24 PM]
Definitely not weird I'm glad you
did :) thanks for watching! Tell
Nata my goal was for him ;) next
game you guys come to I'll get him
a jersey

She contemplates the emojis for a full three minutes, especially the winking one, before she just bites to bullet and hits send before she's able to talk herself into deleting them.

 

She doesn't know if she's any good at such innocent flirting, it's been so long since she's done it. Any flirting she does nowadays is with the sole intention of getting a girl into bed with her as quickly as possible.

 

With Christen though, it's all smiles and butterflies in her stomach. She isn't solely fixated on getting her on her back. She's interested in getting to know her and taking her out on dates--that is if she still remembers how to do that.

 

[Christen Press: 10:25 PM]
I couldn't ask you to do that,
you've already done so much..

 

Kelley stirs in her seat across the aisle and for a second Tobin’s worried she'll wake up, but she just moves into a more comfortable position and drifts back into her dreams, mumbling something about Emily that Tobin’s definitely going to tease her about when they get to their hotel.

[Tobin Heath: 10:26 PM]
It's really no big deal I've got
about 50 of them. I'll even make
sure to wash it before I give it to
him lol

She decides to change the subject before Christen can try to refuse her again and because she wants to talk about more than just soccer with her.

[Tobin Heath: 10:27]
How was the wedding the other
weekend?

She thinks that's a good move. It's personal without being too invasive considering they don't really know each other. She's also hoping it gets her a couple bonus points for remembering Christen mentioned it after the game. She doesn't know how she'd forget it when she spent the entire time at dinner that night internally grumbling that the wedding kept Christen from going out with them.

 

Christen’s reply isn't a reply at all. Instead, it's a picture from the wedding that nearly gives Tobin a heart attack.

 

Christen’s in a burgundy dress that makes Tobin’s throat go tight. Her legs seem so much longer when they're bare and not hindered by jeans. No matter how tight the ones she wore to the game might have been, her legs look so much better in the picture. Her hair is curly again, pushed over one shoulder, and her makeup brings out the green in her eyes. Nata is standing beside her in black dress pants with black suspenders over a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a burgundy bow tie that matches Christen’s dress perfectly. They've both got equally bright smiles on and if Tobin’s heart weren't beating fast before, then it definitely is now.

 

Tobin tries to control her reaction, tries not to groan as her eyes trace up Christen’s legs for the tenth time. There's a child in the picture after all, so she can't let her thoughts get too inappropriate.

 

She spends a long time thinking about what she should type back. She doesn't want to be too forward and tell her what she's really thinking, but Christen must have sent her the picture for a reason. She must be looking for some sort of reaction out of Tobin, testing the waters to see if Tobin’s interested.

[Tobin Heath: 10:32 PM]
Oh wow. You guys look great! Nata
is adorable in his bow tie

She hesitates before sending a second message, but she does it anyway.

[Tobin Heath: 10:32 PM]
You look beautiful

Christen takes a few minutes to reply and Tobin starts to worry she said the wrong thing. Maybe she was too forward. Maybe she's annoyed by the double texts. Or maybe, just maybe, Christen is as nervous about this as she is and she needs to think about her response as much as Tobin does.

 

Finally, a text comes through and Tobin forgets all about how long it took.

 

[Christen Press: 10:38 PM]
Thank you, I was hoping you'd say
that ;)

 

They talk for about fifteen minutes more before Christen says goodnight, citing Nata’s early game the next morning. Tobin’s sad for the conversation to end, but Christen promises to watch her next game in a few days and that she'll talk to her soon and Tobin feels better about it.

 

She isn't able to get any sleep the last hour of the bus ride, still buzzing from her talk with Christen and spending way too much time staring at the picture she sent and hoping she gets to see her in person again soon.

 

When they get to the hotel and she and Kelley get settled into their room, Tobin has no trouble falling asleep easily once she gets in bed, her head clearer than it’s been in months.

Chapter Text

Following that night, it’s four straight days of texts that never really end, but only get put on hold during sleeping hours or while Tobin’s at training.

 

It's almost mindless conversations, just getting to know each other and learning each other’s personalities, but every single text she gets from Christen feels immensely more important than that.

 

Tobin learns that Christen’s favorite color is yellow and her favorite flowers are lilies. She tells Christen her favorite color is pink (but only if it’s pink like a sunset, not obnoxious bubble gum pink) and that she doesn't like flowers because the smell reminds her of funerals, but if she had to pick one, it would be tulips because they're her mom’s favorite.

 

Christen shares details about growing up in California and her time at Stanford. (Tobin teases her for being a nerd and Christen doesn't deny it.) Tobin tells her about New Jersey and her years at UNC. She tells her she's loved all the places she's been, but that California is definitely her favorite and not just because of the surfing, though that's a big part of it.

 

Christen teases her for taking the surfer girl role too seriously when Tobin says The Beach Boys are her favorite band and Tobin teases her right back when she says Tracy Chapman is her favorite.

 

Christen talks about Nata a lot, which she apologizes for when she realizes how much he's monopolized their conversations, but Tobin insists she doesn't mind. Even though they're just talking through text, Tobin can tell how much Christen lights up when she talks about her son and Tobin loves it. Tobin loves listening to people talk about their passions and for Christen, hers is her son.

 

They talk about their jobs some, Christen is still trying to learn about soccer and Tobin has no idea what being a magazine editor entails, but they teach each other.

 

They don't make official plans for seeing each other again, but they do talk about it. Tobin can tell Christen is waiting for her to ask her out, but Tobin doesn't want to do it through text or even a phone call, so she just bides her time until she sees Christen again.

 

That day can’t come soon enough.

xxx

“As interesting as I’m sure your phone is, please don’t leave me to deal with the lovebirds on my own. It’s nauseating.”

 

Tobin looks up from her phone, where she’s of course typing out a response to Christen, and sees Allie--her closest friend from UNC aside from Amy and Lauren--glaring at her with icy blue eyes.

 

She has enough shame to blush as she tucks her phone away--not before finishing her text--and then turns her attention back on her friends.

 

As per tradition, Allie, Kelley, Emily and Tobin are all out after their game in Portland. It ended in a 2-2 draw, which would usually be for the best because it means they’re all equally annoyed. Tonight though, Emily was marking Kelley on a corner in the final seconds of second half stoppage time and Kelley managed to slip away and score the equalizer, so Emily is definitely more annoyed than anyone. That means Kelley is trying extra hard to make her not annoyed by being overly gross with her affection, despite being in public.

 

Allie’s right about it being nauseating.

 

“She’s paying just as much attention to her girlfriend as I am,” Kelley mutters, planting another obnoxious, smacking kiss to Emily’s cheek until she starts to, reluctantly, giggle.

 

Tobin kicks out at Kelley’s shin, ignoring the grunt in pain she receives. She can’t believe she actually did that. Well, she can because it’s a total Kelley thing to do, she just really wishes she hadn’t. This isn’t how she wanted Allie to find out.

 

“Whoa, wait. Girlfriend?” Allie asks in shock, wide eyes bouncing back and forth between a glaring Tobin and an oblivious, loved up Kelley. “Since when do you have a girlfriend and why was I not informed about this?”

 

Tobin’s about to answer and deny everything when Kelley steps in instead, managing to pull her lips away from Emily’s face for five seconds. “Since the hot mom she’s been crushing on for the past few weeks texted her. She’s been all googly eyed the past few days. She hasn’t told you because she’s in denial that she’s completely smitten with the girl.”

 

Tobin balls up her napkin and throws it in Kelley’s direction, but the flimsiness of the paper means it lands in Emily’s lap instead, but she barely notices, just as shocked by this information as Allie is.

 

“I have so many questions,” Allie gasps, eyes wide with shock.

 

“I’ll start. ‘Hot mom?’” Emily asks a second later.

 

“You’re a dick and I hate you,” Tobin groans at Kelley, rolling her eyes and leaning back against the booth with a huff. She resists the urge to cross her arms, not wanting to start pouting completely, but she comes close.

 

“I’ll repeat Emily’s question, ‘hot mom?’” Allie asks, not letting this go no matter how obvious Tobin is making it that she wishes she would.

 

“It’s not a big deal,” Tobin says before Kelley can jump in and drop another bomb that’s totally going to result in Tobin lacing all of Kelley’s shoes upside down while Kelley is at Emily’s tonight. “She’s a friend of Amy’s I met when I picked up Ryan from her house one day. Her son is friends with Ryan, so they came to a game a few weeks ago. That’s all it is.”

 

Kelley has an amused smirk on her face at Tobin’s lame explanation, but she doesn’t say anything more. She just reaches forward to pick at the remaining cheese fries they ordered as an appetizer (it’s not as bad of a cheat if they split it four ways) and let's Tobin work herself out of the mess she put her in.

 

Neither Emily or Allie appear to believe Tobin, but Emily holds back on her own questions, deciding that since Allie knows her better, she’s going to let her take the lead and then she’ll follow up after.

 

Allie narrows her eyes, trying to size Tobin up, as she asks, “if that’s all it is, then why have you spent the last hour texting her?”

 

“Last four days,” Kelley corrects, trying to lamely pass it off as a cough.

 

“Four days? You’ve been texting this girl for four days and you’re trying to pass it off as nothing?” Allie asks incredulously. “You never text any girl you’re pursuing for more than a day or two and then you get bored.”

 

“I’m not pursuing her,” Tobin insists, though she’s not convincing anyone, not even herself.

 

While she may be doing it slowly, she’s most definitely pursuing Christen. She’s taking her time and making each moment count, but there’s really no way she can deny that she’s actively trying to seek something out with Christen. She wants her and has wanted her for a few weeks now. She knows she can’t keep pretending she doesn’t, but that isn’t going to stop her from trying.

 

“I know I’ve only known you for a little over two years, but I have never seen you blush over a girl, so this one must be something special,” Emily observes, earning her yet another kiss on the cheek from Kelley, who’s proud her girlfriend is joining in on teasing her best friend.

 

Tobin starts to open her mouth and deny that she’s doing any such thing, but she can feel the heat in her cheeks, so she knows it’s useless. Instead, she decides to just admit as much as she’s willing, enough to satisfy her nosy as hell friends and get them off her back, but little enough that she isn’t revealing her most poorly kept secret.

 

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Tobin clarifies, though she doesn’t think any of them actually believe it. “But I may or may not have feelings for her.” Allie literally squeals at this information, but she manages to keep her questions in until Tobin continues. “She’s cute and she’s smart and yeah, we’ve been texting for the last few days, but we’re still just getting to know each other, okay? There’s really nothing else to tell.”

 

“Cute is a fucking understatement,” Kelley finally chimes in, ignoring the glare from Emily. “She’s ridiculously hot. Show them that picture you’ve been drooling over when you think I’m not looking.” She groans in complaint when Emily elbows her ribs. “You’re obviously way hotter, sweetheart,” she says as sweetly as possible.

 

“Watch it,” Emily warns smoothly, narrowing her eyes in Kelley’s direction one more time before turning towards Tobin again.

 

“You have a picture?” Allie asks. “This I’ve definitely got to see. Show me the girl who’s turning Tobin Powell Heath into a blushing fool.”

 

Tobin groans, but knows she isn’t going to get out of this one until she just shows them the picture (that she has, in fact, spent an embarrassing amount of time looking at since Christen sent it the other night.) She takes out her phone, reluctantly ignoring the text from Christen for the time being, and pulls up the picture in question, taking yet another moment to appreciate it before she shows Allie.

 

“Holy shit!” Allie exclaims, wrenching the phone out of Tobin’s hand for a better look. “Hot mom is right, no wonder you’re blushing, this girl is so out of your league,” she teases. “I love my husband, but if she asked me to make out, I wouldn’t even hesitate.”

 

“She isn’t going to ask you to make out,” Tobin complains, yanking her phone away and handing it over to a patiently waiting Emily.

 

Shit,” she observes. “She is ridiculously hot.” She manages to pull her eyes away from the picture for the five seconds it takes to kiss Kelley and apologize for jabbing her in the ribs, understanding now that Kelley’s reaction was only appropriate given how gorgeous Christen actually is. “I’m assuming this is her son?” Emily asks, handing Tobin her phone back, which she promptly tucks safely away under her thigh.

 

“Yeah, that’s Natanael,” Tobin says, unable to contain her grin as she thinks about the way he lit up when she gave his the game ball.

 

“Look at you,” Allie says in awe. “You’re totally smitten.”

 

“I hate that word,” she grumbles, but she doesn’t even try to deny it, knows she can’t, but she does try to change the subject. “Can we just--can we talk about something else? At least until there’s actually something to talk about between us? Please?”

 

Her friends take mercy on her and move the conversation to the upcoming national team camp. Allie, Kelley and Emily will all be attending, but Tobin won’t be. The thought doesn’t make her bitter like it used to, instead she just accepts it. She knows if she wanted on that roster, all she has to do is make a call, but she doesn’t. She’s made her peace with that part of her life and she’s moved on from it. She doesn’t have any intention of opening that door again.

 

The rest of dinner goes smoothly, no one mentions Christen even once. When they part ways afterwards--Kelley going home with Emily for the night and Allie taking Tobin back to the hotel on her way home--Tobin watches Kelley and Emily walk towards Emily’s car with their arms around each other and wonders what it might be like to have that with someone, with Christen.

 

She thinks it might be nice.

 

In the car, Allie rambles on about her husband and the dog they’re fostering, anything to avoid the topic she really wants to talk about. When she puts the car in park outside of Tobin’s hotel, though, she can’t hold herself back anymore.

 

“You know I love you, right?” She asks, with a hint of shakiness in her voice that let’s Tobin know this conversation is probably about to get a little deeper than she wants it to.

 

“Of course I know that, Al. You’re one of my best friends, I’ve never doubted that you love me,” Tobin assures her. “What’s this about?”

 

“I just want you to be happy,” Allie tells her. “I’ve watched you bounce around between countless girls for the last several years, since college basically, and I’ve never said anything because you always seemed content, like you were doing exactly what you wanted to, but I’ve always wanted more for you. I look at what I have with Bati and I look at what Kelley has with Emily, and I want that for you, babe. I know you’re happy doing what you’re doing, but I want you to be happy like we are and I know that you can be. I just don’t want you to miss an opportunity because you think it might not be something you’d be good at.”

 

Like all of Tobin’s closest friends, Allie knows her far too well. Tobin didn’t even need to voice her fears about not being good at being in a relationship for Allie to know that it’s something that’s been bothering her. Tobin wonders if she’s that transparent or if she’s just surrounded herself with great friends who care about her enough to pick up on her subtle tells.

 

“I don’t know how to actually be in a relationship,” Tobin admits, staring at her hands as she twists her ring around her middle finger, avoiding Allie’s careful gaze. “I like her, you know? And I don’t want to mess this up because I’m not mature enough to handle it or whatever.” She hates how small her voice sounds, but she can’t help it.

 

“Babe, just because you’ve never been in a relationship before doesn’t mean you’re going to be bad at it, it just means you’re going to have a lot to learn and that’s okay. I’ve been with Bati for over five years, married to him for over six months and I’m still learning new things about our relationship all the time. It’s a constant learning process and something tells me that you care enough about this that you’ll be willing to learn. You wouldn’t be as worried about this as you are if you weren’t willing.”

 

“She’s got a son, though. It makes everything more complicated than it would be if it was just the two of us,” Tobin says, still looking for some reason why she shouldn’t go after this, still trying to talk herself out of this because it seems easier.

 

“Tobin, look at me,” Allie says, poking her knee when she doesn’t listen right away. She waits until Tobin reluctantly turns towards her before she continues. “The way you smiled at that picture of the two of them tonight tells me that you’re willing to figure out the extra complications if it means you get to be with her. Just take your time and figure everything out together, all right? Don’t let you being afraid make you miss out on a really great thing.”

 

“How do you know it would be a great thing?” Tobin asks, regretting it almost immediately when she sees the way Allie smirks at her.

 

“She’s fine as hell, Tobin. Everything about her is great.”

 

They talk for a couple minutes more before Tobin yawns and Allie tells her to head inside so she can get some sleep. They part ways after a tight hug and Allie reminding her once again to take things slow with Christen and figure everything out as they go. Tobin makes sure to really think about what Allie told her, knowing she’s right and trusting her to lead her in the right direction.

 

Once she’s finally tucked into bed--after changing, brushing her teeth and deciding she’s too tired to fuck with Kelley’s shoes right now--she plugs her phone into the charger and finally answers Christen’s text from earlier.

[Tobin Heath: 10:12 PM]
Sorry I got caught up at dinner,
are you still up?

She’s worried Christen will already be asleep and she won’t get to talk to her anymore tonight, but a few minutes later, just as she’s finishing catching up on her instagram feed and liking the picture Emily posted of the four of them tonight, a text from Christen vibrates through.

[Christen Press: 10:19 PM]
Barely, but I’d rather talk to you
than sleep :)

Tobin grins, knowing that she feels the exact same way. She’s exhausted after the game and could easily pass out right now, but she’s rather spend time talking to Christen instead. She can always sleep on the plane back to LA tomorrow.

[Tobin Heath: 10:20 PM]
:)

[Tobin Heath: 10:20 PM]
How was your night? Did Nata
finally go to sleep?

[Christen Press: 10:22 PM]
Only after I read to him for nearly
an hour.. That’s what I get for
letting Channing take him out for
ice cream after we watched your
game.. He’s always wired after he
has any amount of sugar..

[Christen Press: 10:23 PM]
He asked about you..

Tobin’s stomach twists at that, nervous about what it was exactly Nata was asking about. She doesn’t think he knows about anything going on between her and his mom, doesn’t know how he would unless Christen said something to him, which she highly doubts she did. But if that’s the case, then what was he asking about? Tobin doesn’t need to ask before Christen’s answering, though.

[Christen Press: 10:25 PM]
He wants to know when he gets to
see you again..

[Christen Press: 10:25 PM]
Or come to another game I mean..

She smirks at the slight slip up, knowing Nata was definitely more concerned about going to another game than he was about seeing Tobin. She could let it slide, but she decides she doesn’t want to.

[Tobin Heath: 10:26 PM]
He wants to know when he gets to
see me again or you want to know?

Tobin watches with a stomach full of nerves as the three little dots appear on her screen as Christen types her response. They stay there far too long and Tobin’s starting to get worried she pushed things just a little too far when Christen’s response finally comes through.

[Christen Press: 10:30 PM]
Definitely me.. I want to see you :)

Yeah, Allie was right.

She’s completely smitten.

xxx

They end up seeing each other sooner than they were expecting, and they didn’t even realize it would happen.

 

“Are you going to teach me some of your karate moves after lessons?” Tobin asks Ryan with an exaggerated karate chop that she saw in a lame movie. Since she hasn’t seen him in a couple weeks, she offered to take him to his class on the Tuesday after they get back in town from Portland. She’s missed him dearly and wanted to spend as much time with him as she could after being gone for so long.

 

“Sensei Wyatt said we aren’t allowed to use our karate skills for fun. They’re only supposed to be used in class and for self defense,” Ryan tells her as she holds the door open for him, effectively shutting down her plan.

 

“Sensei Wyatt?” Tobin asks. “That doesn’t sound like a very cool ninja name.”

 

“Toby, he’s not a ninja. He’s a karate master,” he says with an exasperated sigh, already having explained this to Tobin at least five times before.

 

“Aren’t those the same thing?” She knows she’s egging him on, but it’s cute when he gets worked up.

 

No,” he huffs out with an eye roll.

 

She was hoping he’d get a little more frustrated, but she grins and lets him off the hook. “All right dude, well you go have fun with Not a Ninja Sensei Wyatt and I’ll be over with the other parents when you’re done, okay?”

 

“Okay, bye Toby.” He gives her a quick hug, which is really just an arm around her thighs for a second, before he runs off onto the mat, the ends of his white belt around his white robe that’s a little too big for him flopping as he goes.

 

Tobin stands by the door for a minute and watches him run off with a smile. She loves road trips, but she loves Ryan more and she hates being away from him for so long. It makes it easy to understand why Amy gave up soccer when she got pregnant in exchange for a job that meant she could stay at home all the time instead of jetting off around the country.

 

She doesn’t think she’d make the same decision Amy did, she’d want to have both a family and a soccer career for as long as she could before she gave the game up, but she understands it.

 

She watches as Ryan plops down next to another little boy and starts stretching. She’s so busy smiling at the way Ryan is laughing at something the boy next to him just said that she doesn’t even realize right away that the boy looks just like--

 

“I didn’t know you’d be here,” someone says as they walk up beside Tobin and bump hips with her softly.

 

Tobin would recognize that voice anywhere. She’s only heard it a handful of times, but it’s burned in her brain. She looks over and sees Christen grinning at her, eyes bright despite the harsh fluorescent lights in the studio. She’s dressed casually, yoga pants and a gray Nike zip up, but she’s just as beautiful as Tobin remembers.

 

“H-hey,” Tobin stammers, trying and failing to make it seem like she isn’t taken completely by surprise and suddenly being face to face with Christen after a week of only texting. “Yeah, I offered to take Ryan since I haven’t seen him in a while. I didn’t know Nata did karate.”

 

“He insisted after Ryan told him how excited he was when Amy signed him up. I swear those two boys can’t do anything on their own. They’re basically a package deal.” She takes a step closer to Tobin so she can step out of the way of a group of parents walking by and even though it results in them barely touching, Tobin gets a hit of Christen’s perfume or shampoo, something that smells like honey and makes her head spin.

 

She’s got it so bad.

 

“Please tell me you’ll sit next to me,” Christen whispers. “All these parents have like their own little cliques and they all secretly judge me when I sit on my own. I of course like to think I’m above caring what they think, but they’re so damn persistent.”

 

“Of course I’ll sit with you, how could I turn down an offer to sit with the prettiest girl in the room?”

 

She completely cringes at the fact she actually just said that aloud. She’s 100% sure it’s the lamest, most juvenile line she’s ever used on a girl and she’s about to run away and hide in her car until the class is over, but then Christen’s gripping her bicep and offering her a shy smile.

 

“You’ve already got my attention, you don’t need to flirt to try and get it,” Christen teases. She nods her head towards the section where the parents are supposed to sit and leads Tobin with a gentle hand on her elbow.

 

“But what if I like flirting with you?” It’s a somewhat better line, but it still makes her curse herself for being so lame. She blames it on the two fingers Christen has curled around her bare elbow, rendering her completely useless.

 

Christen leans over to whisper in Tobin’s ear, and Tobin knows it isn’t just so no one around them hears. She’s doing it purely in hopes of getting a reaction out of Tobin.

 

“Then you’re in luck, because I like flirting with you too.”

 

If it weren’t for the railing just a few inches from Tobin’s hand that she’s somehow coherent enough to remember to grab, she would fallen flat on her face going up the four stairs to the raised platform where the other parents are. She prays no one noticed, but she can’t bring herself to actually look up and see. Christen noticed and that’s embarrassing enough as it is.

 

“Easy there, I can’t have you injuring yourself every time I use a line on you,” Christen says softly, sitting down in one of the open chairs against the wall and patting the empty seat beside her. “What’s going to happen when I use my A game on you?”

 

Tobin swallows hard before she sits down, choking down her pride and trying to play into the love struck fool since that seems to be what Christen reduces her to these days. “I can honestly say I probably won’t survive that,” she says, trying to pretend her voice doesn’t crack at the end. She hates how ridiculous she’s being, but she can’t seem to remember how she used to ever be confident around girls.

 

“Well then I guess I’ll just have to go easy on you.”

 

“I would appreciate that,” Tobin laughs, happy that Christen doesn’t seem intent on continuing her embarrassment.

 

It’s easier to talk to her when the conversation turns away from flirting and instead about the article she’s editing on the best surf spots in Costa Rica, something Tobin is definitely interested in. It’s even easier to talk to her through text when Christen can’t see the way she blushes and can’t hear the way the stutters, but the bright smiles she gets out of Christen make all her blubbering worth it.

 

“So what do you usually do when it’s just you at these classes?” Tobin asks once she’s managed to go three sentences in a row without stuttering. “Do you find other women to flirt with?”

 

“Only the really cute ones,” Christen teases. “No, most of the time I’ll talk to Amy for a while, but then Luke usually gets fussy and she’ll take him outside. I’ll tell you what I do after that, but you aren’t allowed to laugh at me or call me a grandma or anything,” she warns.

 

Tobin’s eyebrow shoots up in intrigue, wondering what Christen could possibly do to occupy her time. She promises she won’t tease her and then watches as Christen reaches into her bag and pulls out a ball of soft, dark pink yarn and a little metal rod with a blunt hook on the end.

 

“You know how to knit?” Tobin asks, more impressed than anything. She’d never want to tease Christen over having a skill like that, something Tobin knows she’d never have the patience for.

 

Crochet,” Christen corrects. “Knitting has two needles.”

 

Tobin raises her hands palm up in defense and says, “my bad, my bad. So how did you learn how to do this?”

 

“Well, when I was writing for the magazine, there were a lot of long plane rides to and from different countries and there were only so many books I could read, so I wanted to learn something else I could do to pass the time. I bought a couple skeins of yarn, a crochet hook and one of those instructional books from the craft store and taught myself on a twenty hour flight from DC to Botswana. By the time we landed, I’d made a very hideous hat and a sad excuse for a scarf. I’ve just been working at it ever since.” Christen looks at the yarn in her hands and then back up at Tobin. “Why are you smiling at me like that?”

 

“You just keep surprising me, that’s all. Bad ass mom, bad ass editor, bad ass...crochet-ist?” Tobin asks with a grin. “It’s a pretty cool talent, I’m impressed. I don’t think I know a single other person that can do that.”

 

“Want me to teach you?” Christen asks.

 

“I don’t know, I’d probably be terrible at it.”

 

“Nonsense, here.” She hands over the yarn and crochet hook. “I know it’ll be kinda weird at first because you’re left handed and I only know how to do this right handed, but let’s see how it goes.”

 

It goes just about as badly as Tobin predicted.

 

Her tension is terrible, one stitch is so tight the needle can barely fit through it while the next is so loose she can fit two fingers through. Using her non-dominant hand means that she slips every other second and drops so many stitches that she has to start over multiple times. She has no idea what she’s doing and no matter how patient Christen is being with her, she can’t help but get increasingly frustrated.

 

Christen’s easy laughs keep her from getting too angry, though. That and the impossibly soft hands that keep closing over the backs of hers to lead her through the motions, have her forgetting how to breathe. Christen touches her so casually, like she doesn’t know how much such a simple touch is working Tobin up, but the grin Tobin sees out of the corner of her eye tells her Christen knows exactly what she’s doing. Tobin welcomes her touch despite how flustered it makes her. It helps calm her down and makes her keep trying until eventually, she concedes that she’s never going to figure this out and it’s best if she just leaves the crocheting to Christen.

 

“Well, maybe you’ll be able to figure it out next time,” Christen laughs, taking the yarn back and tucking it into her bag.

 

That makes Tobin smile, Christen thinking about the idea of there being a next time for them. It makes her realize maybe she isn’t the only one thinking there’s something here between them.

 

“Next time,” Tobin says softly.

 

Parents around them start rising to their feet as the class is over and Tobin tries to ignore the way her heart sinks as she realizes she’s going to have to part ways with Christen soon. All she wants is to be around her.

 

Tobin’s never had a person like that in her life, someone she thinks about being with all the time, someone she dreads being away from. She loves hanging out with Ryan and hates when road games take her away, but she knows she can still talk to him on the phone and it makes things better.

 

Her phone isn’t enough of a solution for Christen, though. As much as she loves her text conversations with Christen, she wants more. She just doesn’t know how to go about getting it.

 

Ryan and Nata find them while Christen is packing up her bag, Ryan launching himself at Tobin, who just manages to catch him at the last moment, as she always does.

 

“My man, you are getting way too big for this,” Tobin complains with a laugh.

 

Ryan lands a smacking kiss on Tobin’s cheek and then wriggles his way back to the ground. “Sensei Wyatt said I did really good today, did you see me?” He asks with a beaming smile.

 

Tobin feels a little bit guilty when she realizes that she didn’t really see him. She was watching at first and sporadically a few times after that, but most of the time she was focused on Christen. She enjoyed too much, watching Christen’s hands as she tried to teach her to crochet, willing herself not to think about what else those hands might be capable of.

 

“I did, buddy,” she says as a little white lie. “You looked great out there, I’m proud of you.” She runs a hand through his sweaty blonde hair and then looks over at Nata. “You looked good too, dude. I definitely wouldn’t want to have to fight you.”

 

He blushes slightly, still a little starstruck by her, and quietly says his thanks before tugging on Christen’s hand until she leans down and he can whisper something in her ear. She stands back up with a grin and aims it right at Tobin. “We were going to get dinner after this, would you two like to come with us?” She asks with a shy smile. This was clearly Nata’s idea, but the way Christen won’t hold Tobin’s gaze for more than a couple seconds at a time almost has her thinking this was all part of Christen’s plan.

 

Tobin looks down at Ryan and sees he’s totally avoiding eye contact with her, suddenly very interested by a nonexistent loose thread on his white belt. She knows immediately that this was something he and Nata cooked up and she hates that she isn’t going to be able to let it happen.

 

“We’d love to, but Ryan’s dad was finally able to get home from work at a decent hour tonight and he’s making dinner. It’ll be ready as soon as we get back,” she tells Christen, her stomach tight as she has to reject the one thing she’s been wanting more than anything, more time with Christen. “I’m sorry,” she says with a shrug, wondering if Amy would be annoyed if she dropped Ryan back at the house and then ditched dinner to go with Christen instead even though she already promised she’d be there.

 

As much as she wants to, she knows she can’t do that.

 

“It’s okay,” Christen says with a sad smile, nothing but understanding in her eyes. “We’ve both rejected each other’s dinner proposals now, so I guess we’re even,” she laughs, trying to get rid of the slight frown on Tobin’s face.

 

“I guess we’ll just have to keep trying until it finally works out.”

 

“I guess so.” Christen gives her a wink (or at least her best attempt at one considering her other eye almost closes too, making it almost look like a blink. It’s the most adorable thing Tobin’s ever seen in her entire life and all she wants is to see it again.)

 

“Sorry dudes,” she says to Nata and Ryan, finally managing to tear her eyes away and thankful that the boys aren’t able to pick up on the not so subtle flirting that’s happening between them. “We’ll make plans to get dinner some other time though, yeah?”

 

“Okay,” they say in unison, pouting equally.

 

Ryan perks up first as they all make their way outside to the parking lot. “I’ll race you to the car, Toby,” he says, taking off before the words have even left his mouth, knowing the unfair head start is the only way he’ll ever beat her.

 

Tobin’s first several steps are taken backwards, accepting defeat before she even really starts. She smiles at Christen as they start going their separate ways and says, “I’ll see you soon, yeah?”

 

Christen grins. “You better. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

 

‘I wouldn’t dare dream of it,’ Tobin thinks.

 

She waves goodbye and turns around to run towards the car for real, even though Ryan is only a couple yards away at this point. She shoots a wink over her shoulder, a proper one compared to Christen’s, and she swears she’ll never forget the way Christen giggles softly, eyes glued on her as she goes.

Chapter Text

[Christen Press: 12:19 PM]
I can’t believe the girl I like has the
same favorite movie as my son.. Are
you sure you’re 29 and not 6??

[Tobin Heath: 12:19 PM]
Don’t insult Harry Potter! Those
movies are classics! And the books
are even better!

[Christen Press: 12:20 PM]
Yeah, maybe if you’re a child..

[Tobin Heath: 12:21 PM]
When they came out I WAS a child…

[Christen Press: 12:21 PM]
I’ll bet you were a cute child..

[Tobin Heath: 12:22 PM]
I’m cuter now ;)

[Tobin Heath: 12:22 PM]
Wait…

[Tobin Heath: 12:22 PM]
Did you just say that you liked me?

[Christen Press: 12:23 PM]
I’ve been trying to make that
pretty obvious for a while now..
Try to keep up ;)

[Tobin Heath: 12:24 PM]
Good to know :)

[Tobin Heath: 12:24 PM]
Whoops, Lauren is giving me a
death glare for ignoring her. I’ll
text after lunch

[Christen Press: 12:25 PM]
Don’t make her too angry.. I like
you better alive :)

[Tobin Heath: 12:25 PM]
I like you too…

[Tobin Heath: 12:25 PM]
You know, just for the record…

[Christen Press: 12:26 PM]
You better.. I don’t spend this
much time texting just anyone

[Christen Press: 12:26 PM]
Now get off your phone and enjoy
lunch.. I’ll talk to you after :)

 

“Sorry, I’m here,” Tobin tells Lauren, grinning as she turns her phone on silent and slips it under her thigh so she won’t be distracted anymore. “I’m here, I’m paying attention.” She brings her hands on top of the table and steeples her fingers, leaning forward so Lauren knows her full focus is on her.

 

“You know, if I wanted to be ignored while my lunch buddy makes googly eyes at their phone the whole time, I would’ve stayed back at the office with the new intern,” Lauren grumbles, spinning her straw between two perfectly manicured fingers.

 

“I’m sorry,” Tobin says, eyes downcast to display her shame. “I promise I won’t look at my phone again.”

 

“Were Jrue and I this insufferable when we first started dating?”

 

“Pretty much,” Tobin scoffs. “There was one point for like three weeks when the only time Amy and I saw you was at practice. Also, we’re not dating,” she corrects.

 

“Who’s fault is that?” Lauren challenges, smirking proudly at the way Tobin’s face goes red as a result. “Seriously, though, I’ve met this girl and she’s a babe. She’s gorgeous and a total catch, and judging my the way you’ve had your nose glued to your phone for the last twenty minutes, she’s clearly interested in you. What’s the hold up?”

 

“I don’t know,” Tobin mumbles despondently, running her finger along the side of her water glass and collecting the condensation. “I want to ask her out, but what if I’m like…bad at it?”

 

Lauren sighs and leans forward on her elbows like she’s about to tell Tobin some big secret, maybe she is. “Don’t tell Amy I’m telling you this because she’d never let me live it down,” she warns. “For our first date, Jrue invited me over to his townhouse, while his three other roommates were home. We ordered pizza and then I sat there awkwardly on the couch while they played some basketball game on the Xbox and screamed at each other until I finally got fed up and left. Jrue totally ignored me the entire time and barely acknowledged me when I left. It was probably the worst date I’ve ever been on.”

 

“What? That’s not what happened,” Tobin says, a confused expression on her face. “You guys went to dinner and played mini-golf, then he bought you your favorite ice cream.”

 

“Yeah, that’s just what I told you guys because I was upset and embarrassed. I’d spent a couple months at that point obsessing over him only to have this awful first date and I didn’t want you guys to know.”

 

Tobin takes a moment to let this sink in before she finally looks up at Lauren with a teasing smirk. “How did that loser ever manage to get a second date with you?”

 

She doesn’t even try to argue about Tobin’s name calling because she knows it’s the truth. “He came to me the next day with flowers and apologized profusely. He explained that he was really nervous to be alone with me, so he thought it might be better if we did something with a group. He took full responsibility for fucking up royally and begged me for a second chance. I agreed on the condition that I got to plan that date. That’s when we went to dinner and played mini-golf.”

 

Tobin nods her head, trying to figure out where exactly Lauren is going with this. “So what you’re saying is, I shouldn’t invite her over for pizza and Xbox on the first date?”

 

“Well, that too, but what I’m really trying to say is if you’re worried about being bad at it, then ask for help. Maybe not from her so there can still be some sort of element of surprise to the first date, but ask me or Kelley or Amy. Literally ask anyone except for Jrue,” she laughs. “And I’m also saying that in case things go wrong on the first date, flowers and grovelling usually do the trick.”

 

“She said she likes me,” Tobin admits, not even trying to hide the blush. She’s been squirming internally for the past few minutes, ever since she realized what Christen had said, and it’s been killing her to keep it bottled in. She wants to tell Lauren. She wants to tell Kelley. She wants to tell the older couple sitting in the booth behind them. She wants to tell literally everyone.

 

Lauren could tease her. She could call out the heat in her cheeks. She could make fun of the goofy grin she’s sure she has. She could laugh at her for not even being able to look up at her right now because she’s too embarrassed. There’s so much she could tease her for right now, but she doesn’t.

 

“She’d be crazy not to, babe,” she says instead, reaching across the table to give Tobin’s hand a quick squeeze.

 

“You really think so?”

 

She tries not to get her hopes up, but something about Lauren’s kind eyes and soft smile convinces her she believes what she’s saying.

 

She doesn’t think of herself as a bad person. She thinks she’s nice and caring and she’s always quick to help out wherever she can. She’s confident in her physical appearance and the way she carries herself. She’s never had a problem convincing girls she’s worth their time in the past, but it’s different with Christen.

 

Christen is gorgeous and established and probably the best person Tobin’s ever met. She’s better than Tobin in pretty much all aspects and she finds that just as intimidating as she does attractive. She’s worried about Christen going out with her and then realizing she isn’t as interested as she thought she was.

 

She doesn’t know if she could handle that kind of let down. She’d probably never go on a real date ever again if that were to happen. It would ruin her.

 

“Tobin Powell Heath,” Lauren scolds lightly. “Don’t you dare make me give you some cheesy, super emotional speech about how wonderful you are and how any girl would be lucky to have you. I’ll do it if you insist, but honestly I think it’s a waste of both of our time because I know deep down you already realize how great you are. You deserve this, Tobs. Go get your girl.” She blows her an exaggerated kiss with her hand and then gives her an obnoxious wink until Tobin’s rolling her eyes and laughing. “But don’t go get her right now because we’re in the middle of lunch and you’ve already ignored me enough.”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes again, but she doesn’t reach for her phone, knows she would never want to ask Christen out through text anyway. If she’s going to do this, she’s going to do this right. That means asking out Christen in person, looking into her eyes and using her words aloud and not through a typed message on a LED screen.

 

She just has to wait until she sees her again.

xxx

It’s three days later when she sees Christen again, and it’s not soon enough for Tobin’s liking, but she’ll take what she can get. Just like the last time they saw each other, it’s because of the boys, but this time it’s at a rec league soccer game, so even though they’re surrounded by a bunch of kids, she already feels infinitely more comfortable just by being near a field. She’s glad she didn’t take Adam up on his offer to help coach the team, electing to just stand on the sidelines and enjoy the game instead, because it means she gets to stand next to Christen instead of a bench of hyperactive six-year-olds.

 

Tobin didn’t even realize that the boys were on the same team until the night before, something she honestly should’ve figured out sooner by how attached at the hip they are. Christen told her about how it was her turn to bring the post game snacks to the game and then Tobin figured it out and she got absolutely giddy about seeing Christen again. She made Christen promise to bring an extra juicebox and Christen teased her for continuing her childish ways, but she agreed.

 

Tobin barely sleeps the night before, knowing that she promised herself she’d ask Christen out the next time she saw her. She just didn’t realize it would be so soon.

 

Her knee bounces through the entire sermon at church until Amy reaches across Ryan to place a hand on her leg, finally making her stop. Tobin assures her she’s fine and she can tell by the skeptical look on Amy’s face that she doesn’t believe her, but she lets it go. She feels guilty enough having the thoughts about Christen she’s having while sitting in a church, she doesn’t want to say it out loud.

 

When she goes home to get ready quickly after church, she spends far too much time checking over herself in the mirror, even though it’s pointless because she wears the same thing to every single one of Ryan’s games.

 

Through her Nike sponsorship, she was able to get a real version of his team’s jersey instead of the t-shirts they wear. It's an awful orange color, but it's authentic and has Ryan’s name and number on the back and his messy autograph proudly scrawled on the front. He'd freaked when he first saw Tobin wearing it and he still grins every time she shows up at his games in it.

 

Tobin’s standing on the sideline next to Amy when, just like on Tuesday, Christen walks up and knocks hips gently with her. Tobin turns to see Christen smiling at her, thankfully pushing her sunglasses up on her head so Tobin can see those green eyes she's missed so much.

 

Christen mutters a soft, “hi,” and then pulls Tobin into a loose hug, which is something they haven't done before, but only feels right after all their conversations.

 

Tobin never knew a hug could feel so good.

 

Christen is just as soft as she imagined, but solid and strong in her arms. She wraps her up tight enough that she can feel Christen’s heartbeat against her sternum and she’s happy to learn it’s racing just as much as hers. She doesn’t want this feeling to ever stop, never wants to let Christen go. Christen seems perfectly content to just stand there holding Tobin as long as she wants, but eventually, Tobin knows they have to let go of each other.

 

“Hey, so where’s my juice box?” Tobin asks her as they pull away.

 

“Is that all I’m good for?” Christen asks, trying to be offended. She toes the big blue and white cooler next to her with her sandal and says, “you’ll get it after the game like everyone else. I can’t give up all my tricks in the first few minutes, what will I be left with?”

 

“Something tells me you’ve still got lots of tricks.”

 

They're foolishly smiling at each other when Amy clears her throat behind Tobin and says, “it’s good to see you too, Christen,” in a tone that lets Tobin know her best friend has figured it all out and she'll definitely be teasing her about this later.

 

Lauren and Jrue show up a few minutes later and judging by the look Lauren and Amy share when Lauren sees Christen standing so closely next to Tobin, her best friends have been talking about her behind her back. She doesn't plan on calling them out on it though, because doing that would mean she'd have to ‘fess up about what’s going on with Christen. She’s too embarrassed to talk to both of them about it at the same time just yet.

 

Instead, she ignores the look and carries on like everything is just fine.

 

It's not hard to think things are fine when Christen’s standing so closely beside her that their hands brush every few seconds.

 

Tobin can feel the sweat collecting at the base of her spine from her internal temperature rising at just that simple contact. Knowing how worked up the brush of a hand gets her makes her fear that she’ll pass out if Christen ever kisses her. Anything more than that and she’d probably just drop dead.

xxx

The game ends in a 7-7 draw because the kids are so focused on scoring they forget to defend and because they’re six-years-old and don’t really know what they’re doing. Neither Ryan nor Nata score, but they both technically get an assist even though the rec league doesn't count those for kids so young, but Tobin makes sure to bring it up to them after the game because she knows they’ll be excited about it.

 

Tobin tells Christen to ask her any questions about the game she wants, not because it's at all comparable to a real game, but because she wants to hear Christen’s voice after having to settle for imagining it through all their texts.

 

After the game, Ryan begs for Amy and Christen to let Nata come over for a few hours. Christen agrees, claiming it will let her get more work finished without him to entertain and the boys run off towards Amy and Adam’s car in celebration.

 

Tobin offers to walk Christen to her car, saying she'll help her take the cooler she brought the snacks in. It's a lame excuse since the now empty cooler barely weighs ten pounds and is on wheels so it isn't at all a burden, but Christen graciously accepts.

 

Tobin hugs her friends goodbye and politely turns down dinner at Lauren’s tonight, already planning on using the bye week to catch up on her sleep and filled DVR.

 

They take their time on the walk back to Christen’s car, wanting to prolong their time together as long as possible.

 

There's a simple solution to their desire for more time together. All Tobin has to do is ask her out, even if it's just something as simple as coffee after the game since they've both got the rest of the day free, but still Tobin hesitates.

 

She doesn't date. She doesn't take girls to dinner or movies. She thinks she'd like to with Christen, but she needs to figure it out. Nata plays a big role in Tobin asking Christen out and as much as she likes the kid, dating a woman with a kid is a big commitment and Tobin’s never been one for commitment.

 

They get to Christen’s car and Tobin is working herself up to actually asking her out when Christen turns to her with a smile as she unlocks her car. “I have something for you,” she says, opening the rear door and leaning in to grab something off the seat.

 

Tobin has no idea what it could be and spends a few seconds struck with curiosity until Christen stands back up and presents Tobin with something that makes her grin so hard her cheeks hurt instantly.

 

It’s the pink scarf that Christen had been working on at karate, the same some she’d tried to teach Tobin how to crochet with. It’s completed now, neat and even unlike when Tobin was working on it. It’s looped back around to make it an infinity scarf and Tobin ducks her head so that Christen can reach up to lay it around her neck.

 

“No way, you finished it?” Tobin asks in disbelief, knowing something like this would take her weeks and the end product would be atrocious. Christen probably sat down and finished this in a couple hours and it looks perfect. Tobin brushes her cheek against the yarn. It’s soft and impossibly fuzzy and smells like vanilla, just like Christen’s house did the day she picked up the boys. There’s the most subtle hint of honey, the smell of Christen herself, and Tobin thinks she could get drunk off that.

 

“Yup,” Christen says, popping the last letter. “I know May going on June in LA isn’t exactly the right temperature to be wearing a scarf, but I thought it could keep you warm on the drafty bus rides that you complain about.”

 

Christen seems shy now. She’d been full of confidence when she’d been putting the scarf on, but now that she’s explaining her reasoning for making it, she’s getting embarrassed. Tobin wants to do her best to quell those nerves.

 

“Thank you so much,” Tobin says sincerely, trying to convey with soft eyes how much this means to her. “I love it.”

 

“Yeah?” Christen asks, eyes lighting up with something other than fear? “I hope it’s the right shade of pink. It’s the closest I could find to sunset pink.”

 

“It’s perfect, thank you.” She leans in for a hug, wanting to hide the heat that’s rising to her face from how thoughtful this gift is.

 

No one’s ever made her anything like this before. Sure, Ryan draws her pictures and her nephew Cole likes to make her playdough sculptures that look more like rainbow colored blobs that anything, but this is different. Christen went out of her way to find just the right color of yarn and spent her time making this perfectly. Tobin can imagine her undoing stitches just to make sure each one is right, just like she did the other night when she was teaching Tobin, not satisfied with a row until each stitch was perfect.

 

Tobin thanks her again when she pulls away, pressing the quickest of kisses to the side of her head, just enough to make Christen avoid eye contact afterwards. Christen escapes for a moment to pop the trunk and Tobin is glad to know that she has the same dizzying effect on Christen.

 

After Tobin’s lifted the cooler into the trunk of Christen’s car and Tobin asks her briefly about the article she’s working on, Tobin knows they’ve extended this time as long as possible. She hugs Christen goodbye--a longer hug this time now that they aren't under Amy’s careful eye.

 

She's waving goodbye, cursing herself for not just asking Christen to go get a coffee with her, something to show just how interested she is. She can’t do it, though. Can’t make her mouth form the words.

 

Christen figures them out for her though, calling after Tobin with a laugh in her voice. “So are you ever going to ask me out or I'm I going to have to do it for you?”

 

Tobin turns around dumbstruck. Christen’s standing by her open car door with her hands on her hips and a devilish grin that says she's got Tobin caught.

 

“Wh-what? Why do you think I want t-to ask you out?”

 

Tobin wants to kick herself for fumbling her words so much, but she can't help it. It's hard enough as it is to control herself around Christen. Getting caught so off guard only makes it worse.

 

Christen’s perfectly pink lips are curled up into a smirk, every bit as teasing as the ones Lauren and Amy kept sending her all game. Tobin doesn't mind the teasing when it's from her.

 

“Come on, you're not exactly subtle what with the good morning texts every day, staring at me all the time, sucking up to my son after your game and now offering to carry an empty cooler for me. Or have I been way too subtle in letting you know I want you to ask me out? I figured outright telling you I liked you and making you a scarf would’ve given me away.”

 

Tobin doesn't say anything. She's still too shocked this is happening to get her shit together and just ask her out. It's something she's been working herself up towards, but she was hoping she'd get a little more time.

 

Christen wrongly interprets her silence as rejection. She sighs in disappointment and says, “all right, maybe I was wrong. My bad, I guess. I'll see you around, Tobin.”

 

Christen’s sliding into her seat when Tobin finally wakes up and shouts, “wait!” It's a little too loud considering she's only standing a couple feet away, but Christen just
smiles and stands up again.

 

“Yes, Tobin?” She asks, feigning ignorance. She definitely isn't going to make this easy on her.

 

“Will you uhm, would you…uh--” She clears her throat rather forcefully and finds herself regretting she finished off her water bottle during halftime. The sugar from the juice box she insisted Christen give her after the game only makes her throat feel thick, making speaking even harder. “Would--would you want to go out with me sometime?”

 

Christen’s smirking as she says, “I'll think about it,” and slips back into her car.

 

Tobin’s face falls as she takes a step closer, reaching out to put her hand on the door before Christen can close it. “Whoa, what?”

 

This is what Christen wanted. She'd edged Tobin towards this and now she's backing out? It doesn't make any sense. Deep down, she thinks she knows Christen is just messing with her, but she's still too confused to see that now.

 

“I'll think about it,” Christen repeats.

 

This must be payback for Tobin waiting so long to ask her out, now she's going to make Tobin wait for her to accept. There's nothing Tobin can do about it, so she lets go of the car door and takes a step back.

 

“Oh, uh…okay. Yeah, all right. I'll see you around.” Tobin gives a meek wave and turns around to leave. She's running a confused hand through her hair, trying to figure out what went so wrong. She’s a few feet away from Christen’s car when she hears Christen shout again.

 

“Hey, Tobin!” She waits until Tobin turns back around before she adds, “I'd love to go out with you.”

 

Tobin breathes a huge sigh of relief, making no effort to hide the goofy grin that creeps across her face. “Awesome, th-that's awesome, yeah. I'll uh, I'll call you? We’ll set something up?”

 

She knows she'll need to get her nerves under control when they actually go out. She can't continue to be a blubbering mess like this around Christen, no matter how endearing she appears to find it.

 

“You better call,” Christen challenges. “And don’t wait two weeks to do it this time.”

 

“I'll call,” Tobin promises.

xxx

It's three more days before Tobin calls. She's been busy with training and wanted to take her time planning out the date before she called. They texted in the meantime, but not as much as the week before because there was an anxious energy to it, both of them waiting for Tobin to make her move.

 

She finally calls on Wednesday evening, late enough so she knows she isn't interrupting dinner, but early enough that Christen isn't busy putting Nata to bed yet.

 

Tobin tries to play around it when Christen answers, taking her time and asking about her day before she gets to the heart of it. Christen plays along, drawing out her answers until she's got Tobin worked up enough that she interrupts her right in the middle of a sentence about an art project Nata was working on today.

 

“Do you have plans, Saturday?” Tobin blurts out in a rush.

 

“I don't,” Christen tells her sweetly. “What did you have in mind?”

 

“The details are a surprise,” Tobin says. “Does it work if I pick up up at 5:00? I know that’s kind of early for dinner in LA, but I have plans for after. Will you be able to find someone to watch Nata on such short notice? I wanted to ask earlier, but I wasn't sure if my coach was going to plan a surprise training session or not before the game on Sunday.”

 

She’s rambling, but Christen doesn’t seem to mind. She just laughs lightly before she says, “5:00 sounds great. My little sister will be able to watch him, they love hanging out.”

 

“Great!” Tobin’s trying to hold back her enthusiasm. She hasn't been so giddy over a girl since college and that was mostly because it was the first time she ever asked out a girl.

 

“Do I get a hint about what we're doing after dinner?” Christen’s voice is downright adorable. It's a little raspy and not just because of the static through the phone. She sounds sleepy, like she's had a long day, but Tobin can practically hear her smile and the crinkles by her eyes as she grins.

 

“Nope. All I'll say is you don't have to wear something too fancy, but nothing too casual either. Just wear something you're comfortable in.”

 

“That's annoyingly vague.” Christen’s laugh rings through the line, softening her words.

 

“Sorry, you'll find out soon, though.”

 

“Fine,” she grumbles. “I'd love to talk more, but I've got to get Nata to sleep. He's been having an awful time sleeping lately and he's exhausted.”

 

“He's exhausted or you're exhausted?”

 

“Just him.” Christen’s body betrays her words as Tobin hears her yawn quietly. “Okay, fine. We're both exhausted.”

 

Tobin wants nothing more than to hear that sleepy voice in person.

 

Hopefully she will one day.

 

They say their goodbyes quickly and Christen promises to text her tomorrow.

 

Part of Tobin wants to three way Skype with Lauren and Amy right now and gush about Christen, but another part of her wants to stay quiet and keep it to herself. She could talk to Kelley about it since she’s the one that helped her plan out the date, but she'll just tease her and she isn't exactly looking forward to that either.

 

She just wants to enjoy this by herself right now, so that’s what she does. She goes over the conversation in her head again and again until she knows she needs to get to bed or else early training in the morning is going to destroy her.

 

She dreams of Christen’s smile that night.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you asked me to come help you get ready for a date. Are we back in highschool?”

 

Kelley’s laughing as she slides through all the hangers in Tobin’s closet at lightning speed, looking at each shirt for barely a second before she moves on to the next one.

 

“Shut up, I don’t even know the last time I went on a real date, dude. I don’t know what I’m doing,” Tobin groans.

 

She feels a little pathetic having to ask Kelley for help. She stared at her closet for a solid two hours before she broke down and called Kelley for help. She laughed, but she’d rushed over right away, offering whatever assistance she might bring.

 

Tobin just wants to make sure everything goes well. Like she told Kelley, it’s been forever since she was last on a real date and she sure as hell didn’t care as much then as she does now. It’s a big deal for her and she hopes it’s a big deal for Christen too, though she’s sure she isn’t freaking out as much as she is.

 

“Do you even own a shirt that doesn’t have anything to do with UNC, LAFC or Nike?” Kelley asks, shooting her an incredulous glare, eyebrows raised high.

 

“Maybe?”

 

“Oh my god, you’re hopeless.” Kelley goes back to swiping through her closet, determined to find something acceptable for a date. “You know, if you would have told me about this sooner, we could have gone out and bought something. Or if I had known how desperate your clothing situation is, I could have brought over some of mine so you had options.”

 

“Maybe I should just cancel,” Tobin mumbles, growing increasingly anxious the longer it takes Kelley to find something suitable for her to wear tonight.

 

“Don’t you dare!” Kelley sticks her head out from the closet and settles Tobin with a hard glare. “You are not cancelling on her less than two hours before you’re supposed to pick her up. You’ll never get a second date that way. Let me work my magic, I’m sure I’ll be able to find something that will work. Make yourself useful by finding those white skinny jeans you wore last time Emily was in town, the ones without the holes in the knees because honestly that trend needs to die. Your ass looks great in them.”

 

Tobin does as she’s told. She only owns two pairs of white jeans and only one doesn’t have holes, so she knows exactly which ones Kelley’s talking about. She’s pulling them out of a drawer when Kelley’s excited shout echoes from the closet.

 

“This is perfect!” She steps out of the closet with a loose, dark gray top that Tobin’s never seen before.

 

“I didn’t even know I owned something like that.”

 

“That’s because I’m pretty sure you stole it from me, but I’ll forgive you because it’ll look better on you anyway. Put this on.” She throws the shirt at Tobin and then frowns when she sees her jeans. “Seriously? Those are so wrinkly. Where’s your iron and ironing board?”

 

“Hall closet?”

 

Kelley’s jaw literally drops at Tobin’s ignorance about her own apartment. “You better hope I’m able to save you enough that this date goes well and she wants to wife you up. You clearly need someone to take care of you and I don’t have nearly enough patience to do it forever. And even if I did, I don’t think I’d be able to convince Emily to adopt you with me.”

 

“You’re an ass.”

 

“You love my ass,” Kelley deadpans. “Go put this shirt on and scrounge together whatever makeup you have so I can see what I’m working with. I’ll go find your iron and take care of these jeans.”

 

Once again, Tobin does what Kelley tells her, knowing this will all go so much more smoothly if she lets Kelley take control and doesn’t fight her too much. Kelley’s the one who actually managed to land a girlfriend after all and she was just as big of a mess before Emily as Tobin is now. She must know what she’s doing. Although, Emily is as much of a child as Kelley is, so maybe she isn’t actually as put together as she seems.

 

Ten minutes later, Tobin walks out to find Kelley standing in her kitchen, running the iron back and forth across her jeans. She’s got her tongue poking out of her mouth in concentration, something Tobin’s only ever seen her do as she’s lining up a penalty kick.

 

“Dude, this iron is awesome and you don’t deserve it,” Kelley informs her.

 

“I think my mom bought it for me for Christmas one year or something.”

 

“Well tell your mom she has excellent taste in irons.” She flips the jeans over and continues on the other side.

 

“I didn’t know someone could have a ‘taste in irons.’”

 

“Clearly,” Kelley scoffs. “Go find those black strappy sandals you wore to my birthday party last year.”

 

“Does Emily know you’re this bossy?” Tobin grumbles even as she turns around to head back to her room.

 

“Yeah and she loves it!” Kelley calls after her.

 

Tobin has no idea what shoes Kelley is talking about, put it doesn’t take her long kicking through her shoes to find them considering 90% of the shoes in her closet are sneakers, cleats or basic flip flops.

 

By the time she’s walking back into the kitchen with the shoes hanging from her hand, Kelley’s holding up her jeans, giving them one last look over. “Your ass is going to look so good in these. Christen won’t know what to do with herself.”

 

“You know, I wasn’t aware you spent so much time concerning yourself with what my ass looks like.”

 

“I’m gay and you’re hot. I quite enjoy looking at hot girls’ asses. Deal with it.” Kelley busies herself with turning off the iron and wrapping the cord neatly around her arm. “And before you ask, yes. Emily does know I think you have a nice ass and she agrees.”

 

“I don’t even want to think about the two of you discussing my ass. Your relationship is way too weird.”

 

“Well hopefully tonight will go well and then you’ll have your own weird relationship so you can stop judging mine. Here, go put these on.” Kelley hands Tobin her jeans and takes the shoes out of her hand, looking them over carefully to make sure they’re the right ones. “Once you’re dressed, the fun part begins. Hair and makeup.”

 

The way Kelley’s grinning at her reminds Tobin of the cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. It doesn’t make sense how a smile that big and dangerous should fit on Kelley’s freckled face. It makes her groan and wish she’d never even texted Kelley asking for help in the first place.

 

“I’m definitely going to regret this.”

xxx

A month ago, Tobin stood on Christen’s doorstep, knocked on the door, and didn’t have a trace of nerves as she waited for Christen to answer. She didn’t have a clue who Christen was and she couldn’t have cared less. She’d just left her apartment where she’d fucked a cute, younger girl who was eager and flexible and had been playing hard to get for weeks, which made the payoff even better. She was the only thing on her mind.

 

And then Christen opened the door.

 

She kind of turned Tobin’s world on its head and Tobin is still figuring out what to do about it, but she’s going along for the ride.

 

Standing in front of Christen’s door now, her hands are shaking the slightest, so she shoves them in her pockets and tries to bottle up her nerves, pack them away in the deepest part of her brain where they can’t haunt her anymore.

 

Or at least for the next few hours.

 

When the door swings open this time, Tobin thinks she knows what to expect. She thinks she’s prepared for the girl she’s going to see on the other side unlike last time.

 

She’s so, so wrong.

 

Seeing Christen dressed up in a picture is one thing, but seeing her in person is so much more.

 

“Holy shit,” Tobin whispers as she takes in the sight in front of her.

 

Christen’s in a loose-fitting, teal, cotton skirt that flows down to her ankles and a cream colored crop top that makes her skin seem so much darker and richer than usual. Tobin’s eyes immediately go to the small strip of skin on her stomach where her shirt doesn’t quite meet her skirt. She’s not embarrassed to think about how badly she wants her lips on that skin. Christen’s hair is curly how she likes it, but it’s braided and laying over one shoulder.

 

The thing that really gets Tobin, though--like always--is her eyes.

 

They’re the brightest, clearest shade of green Tobin’s ever seen before. Christen has put the perfect amount of mascara and eyeliner on to make them standout more than Tobin’s ever seen them. They’re honest to god glittering, like sunlight reflecting off the ocean’s surface and Tobin’s considering skipping her date plans all together and just sitting on Christen’s couch and staring into her eyes for the rest of the night. That’d be more entertaining than any date idea Tobin could ever come up with.

 

“Hi,” Christen says softly. “Am I dressed okay? I feel like it’s too much.”

 

“No, no, no. You’re perfect,” Tobin assures her with her most convincing smile.

 

Tobin hesitates for a moment, wanting to hug Christen, but not knowing if she should. She doesn’t remember proper date etiquette, doesn’t know if she ever really learned it, honestly.

 

Christen makes the decision for her, thankfully.

 

“Hi,” she says again, stepping forward to wrap her arms loosely around Tobin’s waist.

 

Tobin accepts the hug willingly, struck with the soft smell of Christen’s perfume. There’s something about the feeling of being held by Christen that Tobin can’t really explain, but it doesn’t last long enough for her to figure it out.

 

She takes a risk when Christen pulls away from the hug and kisses her quickly on the cheek. She knows she made the right decision when she sees the way it makes Christen grin.

 

It gives Tobin the confidence she needs to dampen some of her nerves.

 

“You look beautiful,” she tells Christen, despite the word feeling absolutely insignificant, but there’s nothing else she can come up with that comes even close to describing the way Christen looks right now.

 

“Thank you,” Christen beams. “So do you.”

 

“You ready to go?”

 

“Are you going to tell me what we’re doing yet?” Christen challenges.

 

Tobin shakes her head in response and motions like she’s zipping her lips shut. She’s not going to budge on this.

 

Christen looks like she’s going to challenge her, push to find out what they’re really doing, but then her serious gaze breaks down into a soft smile and she relents with a sigh and a mumbled, “fine.”

 

She turns around and locks the door, then she surprises Tobin by reaching out to take her hand and leads them off the porch and towards Tobin’s car.

 

Tobin’s never really understood hand holding. She’s never seen the appeal. The only time it’s ever served a purpose for her is when she holds her nephew’s or Luke’s hand so she doesn’t lose them in big crowds. She’s never understood why people hold hands when they date, but maybe that’s because she’s never really dated.

 

Holding hands with Christen just makes sense.

 

Christen’s hand is just about the same size as hers, so their long, thin fingers wrap together effortlessly. Her skin is warmer and softer than any other hand Tobin’s ever known. Tobin can feel Christen’s pulse where their wrists touch, can feel the steady beat of the life flowing through her veins.

 

Tobin decides then that she likes holding hands.

xxx

“Okay, so I know this might seem a little lame, but I promise you the best food I’ve ever gotten in LA is at some of these trucks,” Tobin tells Christen, defending her location choice for dinner.

 

Christen doesn’t see anything wrong with it, though. “Oh, stop it, this is perfect. I’ve got a six-year-old son who won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets, so it seriously limits our choices when we go out. This is the most options I’ve had for dinner in months. Please tell me there’s a taco truck, I can never eat them with Nata.”

 

“There are like twelve taco trucks, but more importantly than that, are you telling me I’m dating someone whose son doesn’t like tacos? Because that’s a deal breaker for me.”

 

Christen laughs and squeezes Tobin’s hand as they walk down the path lined with dozens of various food trucks, eyes scanning around for one that catches her interest. “Trust me, I know. It drives me crazy. It would be a deal breaker for me as his mom, but he’s just so damn cute, so I have to let him get away with it.”

 

“That’s pretty much my reason for letting you get away with it too.”

 

“What, because I’m cute?” Christen asks coyly, bringing her other hand up to twist Tobin’s ring between her fingers.

 

“I believe your exact words were ‘so damn cute,’ but yes. That’s exactly why.”

 

Tobin feels more and more confident the longer they’re together. She still gets knocked off her feet every time Christen smiles at her, but she’s getting better at her recovery time. Her stuttering doesn’t happen so much anymore and she’s gotten better at controlling her heart rate. She’d pat herself on the back if she weren’t too concerned with holding Christen’s hand to bother.

 

“Okay, so take me to your favorite truck and order me your favorite thing. I don’t care what it is, I just want to know you a little better,” Christen says.

 

The idea of ordering something for Christen makes her nervous. What if she hates it? What if she judges her for it? What if she somehow manages to offend Christen with her choice? Can food even be offensive?

 

She decides to just go with it. They have time before part two of the date, so it’s not like Christen can’t just order something else if she hates it.

 

A few minutes later they’re next in line in front of Tobin’s favorite food truck of all time, Mac-Attack. (She forgives the ridiculously lame name because they make the best macaroni and cheese ever, hands down, and she’s not just saying that because she’s friends with the guy who owns it.)

 

“Mac and cheese? You’re teasing my son for his favorite food being chicken nuggets and you bring me to a mac and cheese truck?”

 

“Hey now, don’t judge before you try it. This is no ordinary mac and cheese. They serve 53 different types and I’ve had every one. Even the weird ones are incredible,” Tobin argues.

 

“You’ve had every single one?” Christen asks her skeptically.

 

“I swear. It helps that I’m friends with the owner. I helped him get a permit to set up outside our games and he always gives me sample cups on my way into the stadium. It’s kind of become like a good luck thing.”

 

“53 different types?”

 

“He’s working on a 54th.”

 

“Well then, I’m hoping this date goes well and you can bring me back, because I’d definitely like to make my way through the menu. If it ends up awful, you’ll ruin this place for me.”

 

“So much pressure,” Tobin scolds. “It’s like you want me to fail.”

 

“No I don’t,” Christen denies, ducking her head to kiss Tobin’s cheek. “I promise.”

 

“Tobin!” Comes a loud, boisterous voice from the truck in front of them. “How’s my favorite girl doing?”

 

“I’m great, Finny. How are you?” Tobin beams, stepping to the front window.

 

“Better now that you’re here. Who’s this pretty girl?” Finny juts a strong, stubbly chin in Christen’s direction. He leans forward on his elbows and ducks his head out the window so they can talk.

 

“Finny, this is my date, Christen. Christen, this is James Finnigan.”

 

Christen drops Tobin’s hand to shake Finny’s and Tobin feels colder right away without that line of contact.

 

“How did you manage to convince a girl as pretty as this to waste her time on you? Clearly I should’ve become a professional soccer player,” Finny jokes, shaking his head and leaning back into his truck when he looks behind Tobin and Christen and sees a line starting to build up. “What can I get for you guys?”

 

Tobin asks Christen if there’s anything on the menu board that catches her attention, but she remains tight-lipped, insisting that Tobin make the choice.

 

There are so many options that Tobin’s at a loss, but luckily Finny comes to her rescue.

 

“How about I give you guys a double sampler with all your favorites? I’ll pick all the good ones, keep this girl interested in you.”

 

“That sounds perfect.” She mouths a silent ‘thank you’ that she hopes Christen doesn’t see and waits patiently for their food, explaining to Christen how she met Finny surfing one day and they became friends right away.

 

“That’s pretty cool of you, loaning him the seed money to get the truck.”

 

“Cool’s an understatement. This girl saved my ass,” Finny tells Christen, popping back up in the window with their food and two blueberry lemonades, Tobin’s favorite. “I was a total surf bum bouncing around between friend’s couches when I met her and this truck allowed me to get my own place right on the water. I tried to make her a partial owner, but she refused. Such a kind lady, this one.” Finny winks at her and Tobin knows exactly what he’s doing, trying to talk Tobin up to impress Christen.

 

“Okay, okay, stop trying to embarrass me. How much do I owe you?” Tobin asks as she reaches for her wallet.

 

“Nothing, this one’s on me.”

 

“Dude, I can’t let you do that.”

 

“Too bad, your money’s no good here tonight. Consider it thanks for referring a new customer.” He nods in Christen’s direction and slides their food across the metal counter. “Now get out of here. I’m trying to run a business and you’re slowing me down.” He leans forward and kisses Tobin on the cheek, his patchy orange beard scratching at Tobin’s skin. “It was nice to meet you, Christen. Take care of this one for me.”

 

They say their goodbyes and Tobin leads Christen to one of the open picnic tables behind the line of trucks, right along the beach. Tobin grins when she opens the box, filled with six plastic cups the size of large muffin tins overflowing with various mac and cheeses. Not only did Finny include the top five customer favorites, but he also added in Tobin’s favorite. It’s one that he made as a joke before one of Tobin’s games, but she ended up loving it and scored a hat trick, ending her six game goalless drought. It’s been her favorite ever since.

 

Christen wrinkles her nose in disgust when Tobin tells her about it.

 

“Gouda, sriracha, bacon and cocoa powder? You can’t honestly like this.”

 

“I know it sounds awful, but I promise it’s really good. I wouldn’t lie to you.” Tobin unwraps one of the plastic forks and hands it over to Christen.

 

“I can’t possibly know that you wouldn’t lie to me. I’ve only known you for a month.”

 

“Fair enough,” Tobin relents. “Just try one bite, though. Take a chance and trust me. If you hate it, I’ll buy you a month’s supply of tacos, how about that?”

 

Christen narrows her eyes, but she picks her fork up and reluctantly agrees. “Fine, but if this poisons me, make sure to tell Nata I love him.” She stabs her fork into the plastic cup, picking up only two of the spiral noodles, but it’s enough to appease Tobin. She slowly raises the fork to her mouth, sighing before she actually takes the bite.

 

Tobin’s quite as Christen chews slowly, taking forever to actually swallow the food. Christen has an excellent poker face, not giving a single thing away to a patiently waiting Tobin.

 

“So?” Tobin finally asks after several moments as she sees Christen swallow.

 

How is that possibly good?” Christen asks in amazement.

 

“I told you!” Tobin exclaims in victory, hands thrown in the air in celebration until Christen is giggling and rolling her eyes.

 

The rest of the mac and cheeses far are less adventurous. Various cheeses and seasonings and herbs. Christen enjoys every one of them so much they’re able to eat in silence for a few minutes, commenting only on the food.

 

Eventually, Tobin wants to talk, though. She wants to know everything she can about Christen and she loves her voice so much that she would listen to her talk for hours if Christen let her.

 

“So, tell me about Nata,” Tobin says around the straw of her drink.

 

“You know Nata,” Christen grins.

 

“All right, smart ass,” Tobin rolls her eyes, “yeah, I know Nata, but I mean like…tell me about when you adopted him, when you knew you wanted to and everything. That must have been a really big decision.”

 

Christen takes one more bite of food, a seven cheese mac and cheese that she claimed as her own and only let Tobin have one bite of. “Do you want the long story or the short story?” She asks before washing her food down with a sip of lemonade.

 

“Long story, definitely,” Tobin tells her without hesitation. “Tell me everything.”

 

“Okay, well let’s see,” Christen starts, leaning forward and resting her elbows on the table. “I was twenty-five and in Puerto Rico doing a piece on this cafe that boasted the best tembleque in the world, which they were totally right about by the way,” Christen insists. “One of the biggest points of the magazine is sustainable ecotourism, it’s all about leaving a place the way you found it or even better. So when I used to be a writer and travelling so much, I always tried to do some charitable thing everywhere I went. Give back, you know?”

 

“Of course,” Tobin smiles, thinking it sounds like such a Christen thing to say.

 

“While in Puerto Rico, one of the photographers, Patrick, and I went to an orphanage to spend time with the kids. We were there for a few hours playing baseball with a bunch of the older kids and they made me look like a complete fool, but it made them laugh, so it was a good time. We were about to leave when one of the women working there asked if we wanted to see some of the younger kids before we left. Patrick and I were both exhausted after such a long day and he wanted to go, but I just felt this--this pull to go with her. I can’t even explain it, but I knew I had to go.”

 

“Nata?” Tobin guesses, knowing it doesn’t even need to be said.

 

The smile on Christen’s face as she nods proves how much she loves her son, not that there was ever any doubt. “Nata,” she agrees with a thoughtful nod. “He was just this lanky little two-year-old with a big crooked grin and bright eyes that couldn’t be dimmed despite the less than favorable situation he was in. Aside from my younger cousins, I’d never really gotten the appeal of kids before. They were always something I thought I’d like to have later on down the road, but I certainly wasn’t in a position to want them anytime soon. We got along so well, though. He latched onto me right away and cried when I had to leave. They said they’d never seen him like that before with anyone else. There was just something about him, I knew we were meant to be together.

 

“I talked to someone before I left about adopting him, knowing it was something I needed to do and I called my lawyer as soon as I got back to the hotel. It took nearly a year to get everything to work out and I was miserable every second I was away from him, terrified I’d never actually get to bring him home. I flew back to Puerto Rico three more times that year to see him again. My mom told me I shouldn’t just in case it didn’t work out, she kept warning me I’d get attached. I couldn’t help it, though. I loved him the moment I saw him and even if I wasn’t able to adopt him, I still wanted him to know someone out there loved him as much as I did. Everything finally worked out though, so I went back a fourth time and brought him back home with me. It’s just been the two of us ever since.”

 

“That’s really beautiful,” Tobin tells her. “I can tell how much you love him.”

 

“He’s the best thing I’ve ever done with my life. The best thing I ever will do with my life.” Christen’s so sure of herself. There’s no room for doubt at all.

 

Tobin steals a bite from the mac and cheese Christen claimed, rolling her eyes when Christen tries to act offended. She steals another bite and tries to distract her with words. “He’s really lucky to have you, you know?”

 

Christen shakes her head in vehement denial. “I’m the lucky one. I gave up a lot for him there in the beginning and I’ve never once regretted it. He’s worth absolutely everything and I wouldn’t change a single thing.”

 

“What do you mean?” Tobin asks curiously. She hadn’t gotten a hint of anything bad having happened before she adopted Nata in all the conversations they’d ever had.

 

It takes a moment of silence before Christen talks. She takes the last bite of her mac and cheese and washes it down with a long pull from her lemonade. Tobin is about to take back the question and tell her she doesn’t have to answer when Christen clears her throat and starts to talk.

 

“I don’t know if this is exactly first date material, but I was dating this girl, Alex,” Christen starts, clearing her throat again to rid her voice of any trace of pain. It barely works. “We met in college and were together for almost 5 years when I told her I wanted to adopt Nata. It was out of the blue, I know, and I felt bad just springing it on her, but I couldn’t help it. I knew this was something I had to do. I told her I wasn’t expecting anything from her, I didn’t expect her to adopt him too or anything. We weren’t ready for that yet. I hated putting her in a situation like that, but I just didn’t really have a choice.

 

“She did her best to understand. She listened to me talk about him and even came with me once to see him. She knew how much I loved him, how sure of myself I was. They got along well, but it just wasn’t the same as it was with me. I knew within minutes of them meeting each other that we weren’t going to make it. We broke up as soon as we got back home. She just wasn’t ready for such a big commitment and I couldn’t fault her for that. We loved each other, but we were moving in different directions. There was nothing either of us could have done except for me not adopting Nata, but that wasn’t an option for me.”

 

“I’m sorry you had to go through that.” Tobin extends a leg under the table and wraps an ankle behind Christen’s wanting some form of physical contact and not wanting to pull one of Christen’s hands from under her chin.

 

Christen shakes her head and waves a hand in dismissal. “Thank you, but there’s really no need. Like I said, I knew in my heart what I had to do and it was worth it in the end. It hurt like hell and it took me awhile to get over it, but the moment I signed the adoption papers, it just confirmed what I already knew. I made the best decision for me and Natanael. I’m happy with Nata and Alex is now happily married to a really great guy.”

 

They go back to eating more consistently, Christen claiming the baked mac and cheese with bread crumbs tastes exactly like the kind her grandma makes for Thanksgiving every year. She tells Tobin she’ll ask for the recipe and make it for her sometime to prove it.

 

The idea of going out with Christen again makes Tobin smile like a fool and reach for Christen’s hand across the table so she can kiss her knuckles. Tobin can count on one hand the number of second dates she’s had in her life and not a single one made her as excited as a second date with Christen would.

 

They talk for awhile about simpler things, Christen asking Tobin about how the team is doing this season since she has no idea, Tobin asking Christen about her job and her favorite place to travel.

 

Around the time they finish eating, though, Tobin wants to dig a little deeper again. There’s something Christen said about it just being her and Nata that caught her attention and she wants to satisfy her curiosity.

 

“Have you dated anyone since Alex?”

 

Christen’s lips curl up into a smile and she finishes off her drink before saying, “just you.”

 

“Really?” Tobin asks in disbelief. “Three years and you haven’t dated anyone?”

 

Christen smirks teasingly, knowing exactly what it is Tobin is getting after, but wanting to make her work for it a little more. “Nope, no one. You should feel very honored.”

 

“I definitely do,” Tobin assures her, linking their fingers together across the table. “But wait, have you even casually dated anyone? You had to have, right?”

 

Tobin doesn’t know why she’s getting so hung up on this, why it’s bothering her so much. She just finds it so hard to believe someone as beautiful as Christen hasn’t had so much as a date in three years. She has to have had people lining up at the door to date her.

 

Christen sighs and decides to put Tobin out of her awkward misery and get to the heart of what Tobin wants to know. “You can ask the question you really want to. I’m not going to be offended.”

 

Tobin practically blurts out the question. “You’ve been totally celibate for three years?”

 

“Yup,” Christen says simply, letting the ‘p’ pop off her lips. She squeezes Tobin’s fingers before pulling her hand away to ball up her napkin and throw her trash back into the box the food came in.

 

“Shit,” Tobin sighs, not really meaning to say it aloud. She picks up her drink so she doesn’t say something else stupid.

 

Christen just so happens to choose then to knock Tobin completely back on her ass, figuratively that is.

 

“I’m perfectly capable of taking care of that aspect of a relationship myself.”

 

Tobin chokes on her drink, narrowly avoiding spitting it all back out, right in Christen’s direction. She splutters and coughs like an idiot, accepting the napkin from a concerned Christen so she can wipe her lips when she’s finally gotten her breath back.

 

“You are not allowed to talk about touching yourself like that.” Tobin makes the mistake of taking another sip of her drink to further clear her throat, but it just ends up making it worse when Christen decides to push things more.

 

“Who said touching myself was all I did?”

 

Tobin chokes again, much more dramatically than before. Christen’s amused by the whole thing, offering to pat Tobin’s back like you would to burp a baby and laughing when Tobin waves away the offer.

 

When Tobin finally has herself under control again, she pushes her drink far away so she’s not able to let this happen again.

 

“You’re definitely not allowed to talk about…that.”

 

Something in Christen changes. Her pupils dilate and her eyes go a little dark. She still has that same innocent, playful smirk on her face as she tilts her head in and speaks in a low voice so no one passing by is able to hear. Tobin suspects the real reason she’s talking low is because it makes her voice raspy and it drives Tobin downright insane.

 

“What, are you getting all hot and bothered thinking about me fucking myself?” She asks it as casually as if she’s asking Tobin about soccer and the way she raises her eyebrows after Tobin’s quiet for a few seconds tells Tobin she isn’t just doing this to screw with her, she wants an honest response.

 

Fuck…” Tobin whispers through her teeth, trying to ignore the way her thighs clench as thoughts of Christen doing exactly what she said try to creep into her brain. “I’m definitely getting all hot and…something.”

 

“Down girl,” Christen laughs, leaning back and bringing her voice to a normal volume. Just as quickly as Christen turned sensual, she turns right back to being coy. “It’s only the first date, you’ll be lucky if I even kiss you.”

 

“I’ll take whatever you give me.”

 

It’s the truth.

 

Tobin wants nothing more than to kiss Christen at the end of the night, she’d do it right now if she’d let her, but she knows that isn’t all she’s after. There’s something deeper here with Christen and Tobin’s willing to stick around to get it. Even if Christen doesn’t let her kiss her at the end of the night, Tobin won’t mind. Well, she’ll mind, but she won’t be upset about it. Tobin has a feeling she’ll be sticking around for a while, so if she has to wait for her kiss, then so be it.

 

She’s not going anywhere.

 

“Okay, so what’s part two of this already wonderful date?”

 

Christen’s word choice catches Tobin’s attention. “You think the date is wonderful?”

 

“I’m a simple girl, Tobin,” Christen says. “You bought me food and told me I looked beautiful like five times in the car. That’s really all I need to be happy about a date.”

 

“Well, I’m glad you gave me such attainable standards. I’ve been worried the whole time this is stupid and I’m messing everything up.”

 

“You’re not messing it up, I promise,” Christen tells her sincerely. She reaches for Tobin’s hand again, flipping it over and tracing along the various scars on her forearm from tackles gone wrong, drunken falls in college, and one too many stupid pranks Tobin let Kelley rope her into. “I just like spending time with you, that’s what’s important.”

 

Tobin lets out a slow breath through her nose, surprised at how something as simple as two fingertips brushing across her skin is having such an effect on her.

 

“You might hate part two, just a warning.”

 

“Why do you think I’d hate it?”

 

“I don’t know. I’m just worried that maybe it won’t really be your thing. Kelley told me to stop worrying, but Kelley also thinks it’s acceptable to believe every article she ever reads on Facebook, so I’m not sure how reliable her opinion is.”

 

“I’m sure part two will be just as wonderful as part one,” Christen says, stressing the word Tobin loved so much the first time she used it. “Can I get a hint about it yet?”

 

“How do you feel about live music?”

Chapter Text

The credit can’t entirely go to Tobin for part two of the date. Kelley’s the one who got her listening to LANY in the first place with her mellow playlists she always makes when they go on long drives to new surf spots. Tobin isn’t really picky with music, she’ll listen to anything honestly, but she really liked this band when she first heard them and so she downloaded all their music on her phone.

 

Kelley’s also the one who told her about the concert, but she’d told her with the intention of the two of them going and maybe a few of their teammates. She had been a little annoyed when Tobin told her she hijacked the idea for her date, but luckily there was a show on Friday night too and so she went to that one instead.

 

She wanted to do something memorable for her first date with Christen. Dinner and a movie is so high school and Christen has a kid so any of the other ideas Kelley suggested (mini-golf, amusement park on the boardwalk) seemed like things she probably did often enough on her own.

 

Tobin’s always loved live music. Kelley always says that if you can’t feel the bassline of a song in your chest, then you aren’t playing it loud enough. Tobin surprisingly agrees.

 

Concerts always make her so energized, she’s buzzing for days afterwards. Two seasons back, Kelley dragged her to a Taylor Swift concert the night before a game that would help them secure a playoff spot. The next night, Tobin scored a brace and notched two assists and it wasn’t just because she was having a good game. She was hyped and her blood still felt like it was vibrating in her veins, giving her an extra edge she’d never had before.

 

The concert is good, really good.

 

Tobin has never seen LANY live before and Christen has never even heard of them, but after one song, she leans up to say loudly in Tobin’s ear that she likes them. It’s a standing room only show and they’re probably thirty feet from the stage, surrounded by a couple hundred people all bouncing around and shouting out the lyrics.

 

Tobin doesn’t miss the way Christen starts getting a little anxious during the third song. Her eyes dart around at all the people close to her and the sway in her hips slows until it stops completely. She’s getting overwhelmed and Tobin starts cursing herself for not asking if this is something Christen would even want to do beforehand instead of forty minutes before it started.

 

She panics for a moment, trying to figure out a way to calm Christen down.

 

After a minute, she ends up sliding behind her instead of next to her. She rests a hand gently on Christen’s hip and lets her lean back against her. She’s a couple inches shorter than Christen, so she has to tilt her head in a way that becomes uncomfortable after a few minutes so that she can see, but she doesn’t mind. She can feel Christen’s muscles relax as she leans back into her and Tobin knows she’ll be okay.

 

On the slower songs, Christen leans back into Tobin more, gently sways her hips until Tobin’s move right along with her. Tobin can tell she’s being careful about it, not grinding too much so she doesn’t get Tobin worked up, but enough so that it’s still flirty.

 

On the faster songs, she gets into them a little more. She doesn’t rely on Tobin as much, so she doesn’t lean against her, but she reaches back for her hand and lays hers over top Tobin’s, bringing their tangled hands to rest on the skin of Christen’s stomach where her shirt rides up. She bounces on her toes and nods her head to the beat, raising her other hand above her like the rest of the crowd.

 

As much as Tobin loves the band, she ends up just watching Christen most of the time.

 

Christen moves effortlessly with the music, picking up on the rhythm of each song after only a few measures. She doesn’t know any of the words, but by the second and third time the choruses come around, she’s mouthing the lines she remembers, her lips forming the words in a way Tobin can barely see, but the glimpses she catches make her stomach flutter.

 

Tobin leans forward every now and then to press a kiss to Christen’s cheek or to tell her this song is one of her favorites before she kisses her ear too.

 

When the band plays ‘pink skies,’ Tobin recognizes it from the first electronic note.

 

She leans forward and tells Christen this is her favorite out of all of them.

 

Christen smirks and turns back towards her, lips dangerously close considering Tobin’s chin is almost resting on Christen’s shoulder. “You’ve said that like four times,” Christen laughs, barely loud enough for Tobin to hear.

 

“Okay, but I really mean it this time,” Tobin tells her with a grin.

 

Christen rolls her eyes and turns back around to listen to the song.

 

It really is Tobin’s favorite, it has been since the first time she heard it, but as she stands there listening to it with Christen leaning back against her chest, it takes on a new meaning for her and she starts hearing the lyrics in a different way.

 

Get ya under pink skies I know exactly where we should go,
‘Cause I love the way your green eyes mix with that Malibu indigo,
Talking under pink skies I think our hearts are starting to show,
That it’s better you and I, under pink skies

 

Tobin’s never been the type to identify a song with a certain person, but she can’t help but think of Christen’s eyes every time the lead singer sings about them. She told Christen how her favorite color was pink like a sunset and she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t been enjoying the way the light from the setting sun framed Christen’s face while they were eating, silhouetted by that shade of pink Tobin loves so much.

 

She thinks Christen feels it too.

 

Christen reaches for both of Tobin’s hands and knots them all together in front of her, leaning her head back until it rests on Tobin’s shoulder. She tilts her head so it’s pressed right against Tobin’s jaw.

 

Tobin sings the words quietly at first, and then a little louder when Christen kisses Tobin’s jaw for a long moment.

 

By the time the last few bars are being played, Tobin finds herself wishing there were more verses, anything to make the song last a little longer, but eventually it ends and Christen lifts her head from Tobin’s shoulder with one last kiss to her jaw.

 

Christen keeps one of Tobin’s hands loosely in hers the rest of the night, though.

xxx

“They were like, really freaking good,” Christen tells Tobin once they’re in the car, headed back towards Christen’s house. “I hate I’d never heard of them before now.”

 

“I’m glad you hadn’t heard of them,” Tobin says, eyes locked on the road, knowing how much of a distraction it would be to look over at Christen. “I like turning people onto new music.”

 

“You like turning people on, huh?” Christen teases.

 

Tobin’s eyes flit over to Christen for a moment and the way she’s smirking makes heat rise to her cheeks. “Okay, I could’ve phrased that a little better, but you know what I mean.”

 

“I know exactly what you mean, but for the record,” Christen leans forward and whispers the rest in Tobin’s ear, “I’m very turned on right now.” She presses a kiss to Tobin’s ear and then leans back in her seat like she didn’t just do what she did.

 

All the air leaves Tobin’s lungs and if Tobin’s cheeks weren’t warm before, they’re absolutely burning now. Christen’s tone suggested she meant every word she said, but the way she sat back in her seat so easily gives Tobin whiplash. She did the same thing at dinner, talking about touching herself one moment and then acting like nothing had happened the next.

 

Tobin can’t keep up, but she’s sure as hell going to keep trying.

 

“You’re so mean,” Tobin chokes out in a thin voice. Her grip tightens around the steering wheel and she forces herself to keep looking forward. She wouldn’t stand a chance if she looked over at Christen right now.

 

“You’re the one who brought up turning people on. I was just letting you know you accomplished your goal.”

 

“Can we stop talking about being turned on?” Tobin grumbles, ignoring the way her throat has gone dry. “At least while I’m driving?”

 

“So I can talk about it later then? Noted.”

 

Christen slides a hand across Tobin’s thigh, but makes sure to keep it a safe distance away from the juncture of her legs so she doesn’t get Tobin even more worked up than she already is.

 

They don’t say anything for a while, just let the radio quietly playing Top 40 hits fill the air between them until Tobin switches gears completely and asks Christen a question about her son, still wanting to know more about her.

 

“What’s your favorite thing about Nata?”

 

Christen rolls her eyes, both at the complete 180 of conversation topic and also at the question she chose. “Oh, come on. You can’t ask me that about my son. That’s such a hard question to answer,” Christen pouts.

 

Tobin isn’t letting her off the hook, though. She wants to know. She also wants to make Christen work a little bit after she teased her so much, but she doesn’t tell her that’s the reason, of course.

 

“There has to be something you like about him best, though. I’m sure you can think of something,” she presses.

 

“What’s your favorite thing about soccer?”

 

Christen asks it in a tone that suggests she thinks she’s just asked Tobin a question as difficult to answer as the one she asked her, but it’s actually rather easy. Tobin’s known the answer to this question since the very first time she had a ball at her feet.

 

“The sound of the ball hitting my foot just right,” Tobin tells her, a small smile playing at her lips just thinking about the sound. “When the ball’s struck perfectly, right in the sweet spot, it comes off my booth with the most beautiful, perfect sound. It’s this striking, hollow thud and it sounds like a drumbeat or something. I hear that sound, and I know it’s going in. I know it.”

 

Christen brings the hand on Tobin’s thigh up to trace the backs of her fingers along the underside of Tobin’s jaw. She pushes hair that’s already behind Tobin’s ear a little further back and then she drops her hand back into her own lap.

 

Tobin lets her eyes move over to Christen for a moment and she’s got this soft, adoring smile on her face that makes Tobin feel warm all over, giving her cheeks a break as the rest of her skin heats up.

 

“Okay, that’s a really good answer,” Christen tells her softly.

 

“I know,” Tobin says cockily. “Now come on, favorite thing about Nata.”

 

Christen groans, but she tilts her head back against the seat rest in a way that suggests she’s thinking of an answer. After a few moments, she turns in her seat so she’s facing Tobin.

 

“How curious he is,” she finally answers. “He’s always asking questions. A lot of the time I can’t even answer them. He just wants to know everything. He struggles in school a lot, but it’s not for lack of trying. He asked me to explain quantum physics to him the other day because he heard it in a TV show and wanted to know what it was.”

 

“I wasn’t aware you knew anything about quantum physics.”

 

“I didn’t!” Christen confirms with a laugh. “I do now, though. I spent two hours googling everything I could and reading whatever made some sort of sense, then I spent another thirty minutes fumbling through a shitty explanation for him only to nod and say ‘cool’ afterwards, and then ask if he could color before bed.”

 

“Wow, what an appreciative kid you raised there,” Tobin teases.

 

“Oh, hush,” Christen gently smacks Tobin’s shoulder in mild offense. “The best thing he’s asked me about, though, is where babies come from.”

 

“He’s six!” Tobin exclaims in surprise. “What could’ve possibly made him even think to ask that?”

 

“Oh, he asked this when he was five. It was a couple months before Luke was born. He saw Amy when she picked Ryan up from school one day and he asked Ryan what was wrong with his mom and he told him she was going to have a baby. It didn’t matter how many times I distracted him, he just kept asking until I finally gave in and told him.”

 

“Don’t tell me you told him the truth. He’s practically still a baby himself.”

 

“Of course not, don’t be ridiculous,” Christen dismisses, glaring at Tobin for even suggesting she would go into that much detail with her son. “I kept it as G-rated as possible, I promise. I wasn’t going to tell him the stupid story about a stork, though. I’m not going to lie to him. He would never believe something like that anyway. This is the kid who won’t let me read any bedtime stories to him involving talking animals because he knows animals can’t talk and thinks books like those are ‘frauds.’”

 

“Frauds?” Tobin asks in disbelief. “He seriously said that?”

 

“I swear. I don’t know where he learned it, but he used it every chance he got for a month. He once called me a fraud because I wouldn’t let him have an extra cookie before bed.”

 

“That’s a perfectly reasonable reaction. I would’ve called you a fraud for that too,” Tobin teases. She’s never considered herself a very funny person, but she’d learn every joke ever told and tell every single one to Christen if they made her laugh and smile like she does right now. “I can’t believe you had the sex talk with a five-year-old.”

 

“I did not!” Christen smacks Tobin’s shoulder again, but it’s much gentler this time. “I glossed right over that section about babies. I may have lied a little bit and told him babies just show up in the mommy’s stomach when they want one.”

 

“You told your kid babies are all immaculately conceived? I think Jesus might be a little jealous to know he’s not so special anymore.”

 

“I’ll explain to him how it really happens one day, but like you said, he’s still a baby, so I’m hoping that day is far, far away. I just want him to be a baby for as long as possible. He certainly doesn’t need to know the whole process yet. I just told him enough to appease his curiosity.”

 

“Nata’s a really cool kid,” Tobin says casually.

 

She doesn’t realize the weight of saying that until she feels Christen staring at her out of the corner of her eye. She turns her head to look at Christen for a quick moment and she sees her smiling at her softly, eyes shining brightly in the dark car. She brings a hand to the back of Tobin’s neck and twists her fingers in the wispy hairs there.

 

“You really think so?”

 

“Of course,” Tobin says like she’s surprised Christen would even need to ask that. “I know I’ve only been around him a few times, but he seems so great. I’ve heard so much about him from you and from Ryan too. Ryan’s a good judge of character, so if he likes him, then he has to be cool,” Tobin smirks. “You did a good job raising him.”

 

Christen leans over and presses the softest of kisses to her cheek, her jaw, her neck, her shoulder. She’s smiling so big when she pulls away that Tobin can’t help but match it.

 

“I’m actually really glad you brought him up,” Christen says.

 

“Why is that?”

 

“Because I like you,” Christen takes a deep breath and then continues. “I like you and I had a lot of fun tonight and I’d like to keep seeing you. Before I do that, though, I need to make sure you understand that if you’re dating me, you’re dating Nata too.”

 

Tobin sees Christen cringe at the way that last part sounded, but she’s not able to correct herself before Tobin’s making a joke about it. “I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.”

 

“Stop it, you know what I mean,” Christen complains. “I’m being serious.”

 

Tobin takes one hand off the steering wheel and reaches over for Christen’s with a sigh. “I know you are, Chris.” She kisses the back of Christen’s hand and then brings it to rest in her lap, thumb tapping along the inside of her palm. “I get that as a mom, you have to be worried, you have to say this. I get that you haven’t dated anyone since you adopted him so you have to be really careful about it, but you don’t need to be with me. I knew before I even met you that day that you had a kid and I haven’t minded once. If anything, it makes me like you more seeing how good you are with him. I know the two of you are a package deal and I’m totally okay with that.”

 

“You really mean that don’t you?” Christen squeezes Tobin’s hand as she asks.

 

“Of course I do,” Tobin assures her, kissing the back of her hand again. “I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never dated anyone with a kid. I’ve never really even dated anyone period, at least not the way I want to date you. But I want to figure out how to do that. I like you enough that I want to stick it out even if I’m bad at it at first.”

 

“You definitely aren’t bad at it,” Christen promises.

 

They spend the rest of the drive talking about an assignment Christen’s working on for the magazine about the best places to travel on a budget and about Tobin’s game tomorrow. Tobin explains the eastern and western conferences in the league while Christen explains the pros and cons of staying at hostels while abroad.

 

The drive goes by far too quickly.

 

All Tobin wants is more time with Christen, but she has to get home to Nata and Tobin has to get home to sleep or else her coach will be pissed at her for staying out so late the night before a game.

 

When Tobin pulls up in front of Christen’s house, she starts to turn her car off so she can walk Christen to the door, but Christen’s hand closes over hers before she can reach her keys in the ignition.

 

“You should probably stay in the car,” Christen tells her.

 

“Okay…” Tobin mumbles in confusion.

 

She doesn’t want to stay in the car. She wants to walk Christen to her door. She wants to get as much time with her as possible, even if it’s only an extra minute or two. She wants to hug her tightly before she goes inside, maybe even kiss her.

 

She really wants to kiss her.

 

Tobin doesn’t want to press her luck, she wants to wait until Christen says it’s okay, but she’s a little embarrassed how much time she’s spent tonight and in the days leading up to the date thinking about what it would be like to kiss Christen.

 

Christen just has these perfect lips. They’re pink and pillowy and Tobin wants to know what they taste like more than she’s wanted anything in a long time. She wants to know what they feel like between her own, what her bottom lip feels like between her teeth. She wants to know what Christen sounds like when they kiss, the soft noises she makes, the whimpers and sighs.

 

Kissing Christen is something Tobin wants to become very familiar with, but she’ll be as patient as she needs to be until that happens.

 

“It’s just that my sister is inside and I know if you walk me to the door she’ll ambush us and interrogate you for at least an hour. I don’t want to go through that and I don’t want you to have to go through that. She’s relentless,” Christen explains.

 

“Fair enough,” Tobin laughs, knowing her sisters would be the exact same way. “Can I at least get out of the car and hug you, though?”

 

“You better,” Christen smirks, unbuckling her seatbelt.

 

They meet at the back of Tobin’s car, standing awkwardly for a moment or two before Christen takes pity on Tobin and initiates the hug.

 

It’s different than the one they shared when Tobin picked her up. It’s more familiar, more comfortable. It still makes Tobin feel warm and makes her insides turn over, but it also feels easy. It doesn’t make her feel quite as nervous as she did before. She feels like she’s hugged Christen far more than she actually has and Tobin welcomes that familiarity.

 

When Christen finally pulls away--Tobin has no idea how long it’s been--Tobin wants to ask if she can kiss her, but Christen answers her before she can even get the question out.

 

“If I let you kiss me, I’m not going to be able to stop and I know you need to get home and sleep before the game.”

 

“I would gladly sacrifice sleep if it means I get to kiss you,” Tobin insists.

 

“Yes, but I can also currently see my sister watching us through the blinds and I’d rather her not witness our first kiss.”

 

Sure enough, when Tobin looks over her shoulder she can see a shadow peeking through a gap in the blinds. Christen waves at the window and the shadow quickly disappears, knowing she’s been caught.

 

Tobin’s laughing as she turns back around, but she knows a kiss isn’t happening tonight. She’s surprisingly okay with that. No kiss means she’ll have to go out with Christen again for it to happen. That means so much more time spent with the girl and Tobin’s completely okay with that.

 

Tobin sighs and leans in to kiss Christen’s cheek instead, letting her lips linger for a moment longer than needed. “I’ll see you guys at the game tomorrow?” She asks as she pulls away.

 

“Of course, I do believe you promised my son a jersey with your name on it.”

 

“Oh, I see how it is. You’re only dating me because of all the free swag I give your son. I get it,” Tobin pouts, trying to appear sad about it.

 

“I’m dating you because you’re hot and you’re sweet, the free swag doesn’t hurt, though.”

 

Tobin’s grateful that the taillights on her car are already turning her face red because she’s pretty sure her cheeks are redder than they’ve ever been when she hears Christen tell her she thinks she’s hot. She doesn’t need Christen seeing how embarrassed she gets at that.

 

“Good to know,” she chokes out, wanting to say something to appear okay, but her voice is thin and based on the way Christen smirks, she knows exactly what that line did to Tobin.

 

“As much as I hate to say goodbye, it’s probably about time we call it a night.” Christen’s the one who kisses Tobin’s cheek this time and then she steps away and pulls her crossover bag higher on her shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the game,” she promises, bringing a hand up to brush against Tobin’s cheek. “Night, Tobin.” She lets her fingers linger for a moment before she drops her hand and starts to walk towards her house.

 

“Goodnight, Christen,” Tobin says softly, turning to watch her walk away.

 

Tobin stays exactly where she is until Christen gets to the door. She turns around and offers Tobin a small wave, which Tobin promptly returns, before she slips inside the door and is gone.

 

On Tobin’s drive to her place, she’s stopped at a red light when she pulls out her phone to text Christen, already having been too long for her liking since the last time they talked, even though it’s only been a few minutes.

[Tobin Heath: 10:54 PM]
Is it bad I miss you already?

[Tobin Heath: 10:54 PM]
Because I totally do

[Christen Press: 10:56 PM]

I was just asking myself the same
thing :)

 

That text leaves Tobin grinning the rest of the way home.

xxx

Tobin’s cheeks hurt from smiling by the time she walks through her front door, but then she trips over a pair of shoes and the smile falls. “What the hell?” She mumbles, knowing she didn't leave a pair of shoes there.

 

She flips on the light to see which shoes they are, but they're a blue Under Armor pair that she knows she doesn't own. She has no idea how they got there until Kelley’s sleepy voice cuts through the silence in her apartment.

 

“Turn the fucking light off, I'm sleeping.”

 

Kelley? What are you doing here?”

 

Tobin throws her keys and wallet on the kitchen counter and walks into the living room where Kelley is sprawled across the couch, arm thrown over her face to try and block out as much light as she can.

 

“I'm trying to sleep, but you're making that difficult.”

 

Tobin tugs at the blanket Kelley has across her body and Kelley whimpers as her warm cocoon is disturbed. “Let me rephrase, why are you here?”

 

She walks around the couch and pulls Kelley’s legs off one end so she can sit down. Kelley groans in complaint and then lays her legs on Tobin’s lap and tries to cuddle deep into the blanket again.

 

“I wanted to see how your date went,” Kelley mumbles, already falling back asleep.

 

“And you couldn't have just waited until tomorrow? Or I don't know, called like a normal person?”

 

Tobin’s too damned happy to actually be annoyed by Kelley still being here, but that doesn't mean she isn't going to give her a hard time. She knows she should be getting to bed, but she's still buzzing from her date, so she doesn't mind staying up a bit longer to gush about it to Kelley.

 

She's not the type to gush at all, but damn does she want to.

 

“Talking to you on the phone is like talking to a wall,” Kelley groans, flipping over on her back and lifting her head to look at Tobin. She's still half asleep, but she manages a wry, crooked grin. “So how was it? Did she let you get to second base?”

 

“I didn't get to any base at all,” Tobin sighs, not as disappointed as she would've thought she'd be.

 

“Seriously? She didn't even let you kiss her?” Kelley scoffs.

 

“We’re taking it slow,” Tobin explains. “Not everyone jumps right into bed after their first date like you did with Emily.”

 

“See, you knock it, but we're coming up on two years, so clearly we did something right.”

 

“Fair enough.” Tobin lets out a long breath and lets her eyes close for a moment, imagining the way Christen smiled at her right before she went inside. “I really like her, dude.”

 

Kelley sits upright then, leaning forward on her knees with a teasing glint in her eye. “I know you do,” she says. “And you know how I know that?” She pauses for a moment, but Tobin knows she isn't actually looking for a response. “You actually got kinda dressed up and let me do your makeup and took her out on a real date like an adult. The old Tobin never would've done that.”

 

“The old Tobin?” She cocks a curious eyebrow and starts drumming out a soft beat on Kelley’s ankles in her lap, songs from the concert still stuck in her head, one song in particular. “I wasn't aware there was a new Tobin.”

 

“Oh yeah,” Kelley insists. “I know you've only known her a month, but you're smiling more, laughing more. You're even playing better than before, which is something I didn’t think was possible. You're totally into her and it's doing good things for you. As your friend, it makes me really happy.”

 

Kelley has a sappy grin on her face as she says this, conveying how much it really means to her to see Tobin happy.

 

Their friendship is 90% snippy, sarcastic comments and making teasing digs at each other, giving the other as hard of a time as possible, but the other 10% is real, genuine, loving friendship. Those are the moments Tobin loves best even though she'd never admit it because Kelley would give her hell for it.

 

Tobin has a suspicion Kelley feels the exact same way.

 

“I guess the new Tobin is pretty cool.”

 

“Are you kidding? She’s not cool at all. She’s a total dork crushing on a girl way out of her league.”

 

Tobin pulls a blanket out of the basket by the couch and throws it right at Kelley’s face. “You’re such an ass.” Tobin cuts Kelley off before she can come back with her inevitable follow up joke. “And don't you dare say I love your ass, because have you seen Christen’s? Yours doesn't compare.”

 

Kelley sticks the tip of her tongue out between her teeth as she grins, playfully shoving Tobin’s shoulder. “Oh, whatever.” She runs her hands through her hair and lets out a loud sigh, slumping her shoulders significantly afterwards. “As much as I would love to stay up and discuss hot girls with great asses, I'm absolutely exhausted and I don't think Coach would like it very much if I slept through our game. Besides, I've got to make sure I'm up in time for the pancakes you're going to make me in the morning.”

 

“I wasn't aware I was making you pancakes,” Tobin says.

 

“You have to pay me back for helping your pathetic ass out with your date somehow, I'd like to collect my payment in the form of enough pancakes to make me sick.”

 

“Only because you asked so nicely,” Tobin says sarcastically, pushing Kelley’s legs off her lap and standing from the couch. She holds out a hand to help Kelley stand and says, “come on, let's get you to bed before I have to carry you there.”

 

“Please, you really think you could carry me with your scrawny arms?”

 

She takes Tobin’s hand anyway.

xxx

Two assists from Tobin and a gorgeous free kick goal from Kelley in stoppage time help LAFC hand Atlanta their first loss and shut out of the season.

 

For the first time in her life, Tobin’s teammates aren't the only ones she wants to celebrate the win with.

 

She finds Christen in the stands as soon as she can, wrapping her arms tightly around her and only apologizing afterwards for how sweaty she is.

 

Christen doesn't seem to mind, giggling as she pulls away and congratulating Tobin on the win.

 

Ryan’s hugging her next, complaining about a bad tackle on Tobin that happened way back in the beginning of the first half, Amy tells Tobin he's been in an uproar about it ever since.

 

Nata still looks at her like he's a little starstruck, but he's smiling when she lifts him and Ryan over the barrier so they can run off to track down Mallory.

 

“I'd help you climb over too, but security usually frowns upon it. You'll have to go down the stairs like a normal person.” Tobin winks, unable to keep the giant grin off her face. She's simply so damned happy that all she wants to do is smile at Christen, but Amy clears her throat and interrupts the moment.

 

“While you guys are busy undressing each other with your eyes, I'm gonna go find Kelley.” She's giving them a hard time, but she's smiling as she does it, shooting Tobin as subtle of a thumbs up as she can as she makes her way towards the stairs and the gate leading towards the field.

 

“You should probably follow her,” Tobin suggests. “Talking to you from the other side of a fence isn't favorable. I can't hug you properly like this.”

 

“Judging by that grin, I'm thinking hugging isn't the only thing on your mind,” she teases. “Go find Nata, I'll meet you guys down there.”

 

Tobin does as Christen told her, tracking down the boys where they've roped Mallory and Kelley into playing keep away. Even after 90 minutes, Mallory is still keeping up with them easily. Kelley, on the other hand, is struggling. When she sees Tobin walk over, her eyes light up and she calls time out.

 

“I'm tapping out, Tobin can take over for me.” She doesn’t even wait for Tobin to agree before she’s flopping down on the ground on her back, chest heaving as she tries to catch her breath.

 

Tobin plays along, trapping a pass from Mallory and kicking it deftly around Ryan. When she gets it back, it’s Nata that’s challenging her this time. She decides to have fun with it, showing off with tricks as if she’s trying to evade a defender in a game. She knocks it back and forth between her feet, rolling her cleats over the ball and causing Nata to keep lunging the wrong way, laughing each time he oversteps and misses the ball completely.

 

Ryan lets out a frustrated sigh and tells Tobin to stop messing around, so she passes the ball back to Mallory, letting Nata off the hook. After a few more passes, though, she starts up again.

 

Nata’s having fun, he’s laughing and enjoying spending time with Tobin. She wants him to like her, knows it will make things so much easier with Christen if he does, so she keeps baiting him, letting him think he’s about to get the ball and then scooping it right out from under his feet.

 

Nata has a great laugh, obviously not as special to Tobin as Ryan’s, but it’s a good laugh. It’s light and carefree and a little strained from him being out of breath, but it’s rich and it makes Tobin smile.

 

Christen’s is better, though.

 

Where Nata’s laugh just fuels her to keep messing with him, Christen’s laugh as she and Amy walk up to the group makes her falter. The second she hears it, she takes too heavy of a touch and Nata is able to get it away from her and pass it safely to Ryan, who throws his arms in the air in victory.

 

“That’s what you get for being dumb, Toby,” Ryan says proudly.

 

“Ryan Michael, we do not say dumb,” Amy scolds.

 

Ryan mumbles out a sorry and then recovers quickly, asking Nata if he wants to go play 1v1 on the goal, Mallory offers to follow after them, earning a wry comment from Kelley about how she’s finally found her people.

 

“I thought you had passed out,” Tobin tells Kelley as the girl sits up on her elbows.

 

“And miss the chance to talk to your beautiful girlfriend? Not a chance.”

 

Dude,” Tobin hisses. She looks over at Christen, about to start panicking when she sees her smiling widely. She lets out a sigh when she sees that Christen isn’t bothered by the joke, but she’s still annoyed Kelley made it. She makes a mental note to run through the list of every embarrassing thing Kelley’s ever done and bring the best one up to Emily when Portland comes to town next month.

 

Amy’s amused by it all, rolling her eyes at Kelley and laughing at Tobin. She helps Tobin get off the hook, though, changing the subject back to the game. “That was a sick goal, Kell. Were you trying to replicate the goal I scored against Stanford in the NCAA quarter finals our sophomore year? I know you’ve been jealous of that one for years.”

 

“Please, mine tonight was so much better,” Kelley scoffs. “Yours took a lucky deflection off the post. Mine was a curling laser to the near post, right into the side netting. When you can score a goal like that, then I’ll be impressed.”

 

“It was a really good goal,” Christen adds, wanting to show that despite not knowing much about soccer, she can recognize talent when it’s there. “Both of you guys looked really good out there tonight.”

 

“Damn right they did. Tobin definitely looked the best, though.”

 

The four women turn to see one of the team’s interns, Cassie, walking towards them, hips swaying and eyes locked on Tobin.

 

She’s the same intern Tobin hooked up with the day she met Christen. Tobin hasn’t talked to her since that day aside from Cassie asking her a couple post-game questions after their game in Seattle for a YouTube video on the team’s channel.

 

There’s a glint in her eye that tells Tobin she’s up to no good right now. “Hey, Tobin,” Cassie says casually when she gets closer.

 

Something about her tone makes Kelley get to her feet, understanding that whatever is going on can’t be good and getting ready to step in and diffuse the situation if need be. She takes a step closer and tries to break up the tension before it can become thicker. “Hey Cass, need me to film an interview? I’m sure the fans want a play-by-play of my ‘sick goal,’ as Amy called it.”

 

Cassie barely even looks at Kelley. She does, however, look over to Christen, clearly sizing her up before she turns back to Tobin with an unimpressed shake of her head. “I’m actually just here to see if Tobin wants to hang out tonight. It’s been awhile since the last time.”

 

Tobin doesn’t miss the way Christen flinches at this information. She’s good at keeping a poker face, not letting on to whatever she’s thinking in her head, but her hands clench a little by her sides, forming loose fists as she tries not to get too worked up.

 

Tobin barely looks at Cassie, keeping an eye on Christen to let her know that she’s the only one who has her attention. “No, no that’s not, uh…that’s not going to happen,” Tobin tells her as surely as she can. Her heart’s beating too quickly as she tries not to panic at the situation she’s managed to find herself in.

 

“Oh come on, we had so much fun last time,” she purrs, trying to coax Tobin into her plan even though the look in her eyes tells Tobin she knows this is a lost cause. She doesn’t expect anything to actually come out of it. She’s just jealous and trying to stir up drama.

 

It pisses Tobin off that she’d do something like this, she seemed nice enough before, but this interaction is proving otherwise. Tobin would chalk the immaturity up to her age, but 23 is more than old enough to know not to do something catty like this.

 

Tobin gives Christen one last wary look before she finally locks eyes with Cassie, wanting there to be no room for questioning where Tobin’s interest lies. “I’m sorry, but no. If you want to get a video with me, then that’s cool, but if not, then I’m trying to have a conversation with my friends.”

 

It’s a step above outright telling her to get lost, but Tobin doesn’t want to completely sink to Cassie’s level. She’s cute and they had a fun time together, but Tobin hasn’t so much as thought about her since the moment she met Christen. She hasn’t thought about anyone else since she met Christen.

 

Cassie visibly bristles at the rejection, but she throws her shoulders back and tries to act like she’s above it all. She had to know this is exactly how this would play out, but she does her best to seem bothered by it, while still appearing mature enough to handle the situation.

 

She glances over to Christen, trying to seem unimpressed, before she turns back to Tobin. “Whatever, your loss.”

 

There’s markedly less sway in her hips as she walks away, heading straight to the locker room instead of mingling with the rest of the team and coaching staff like she usually does. She’s barely ten feet away before Amy takes control of the situation.

 

“Kelley, let’s go see who can score the better free kick.”

 

She grips Kelley’s arm and pulls her away before she can protest, knowing that Tobin will want a moment to explain things to Christen and also knowing that Kelley is nosey as hell and would want to witness the whole thing. There’s a disappointed pout on Kelley’s face, but she allows herself to be led away.

 

Tobin barely waits for them to walk away before she’s stepping towards Christen and taking her hand loosely. “I am so sorry, Chris.”

 

Christen smiles softly and shakes her head. “You don’t have to apologize. Don’t worry about it.”

 

“I am going to worry about it. I can’t believe she just did that.”

 

“Tobin, it’s really okay,” Christen insists.

 

“No it’s not, that was such an awful thing to do. I had no idea she would ever do something like that. It was just a one time thing between us and it was like a month ago. I don’t know why she would come up to us like that. I don--”

 

“Tobin, stop,” Christen cuts her off with a soft laugh and tugs on her hand to get her attention. “It’s okay, really. I wouldn’t say it were if it weren’t.”

 

“It’s not, though, I--”

 

She tugs on Tobin’s hand again and asks, “did you sleep with her last night after you left my place?”

 

Tobin’s eyes go wide and she’s quick to defend herself. “What? God no, I would never do that.”

 

“Then I don’t care about what happened between you two. It happened before we were seeing each other, so it doesn’t matter.”

 

Tobin finally lets the tension in her shoulders fall. She sighs and lets the relief wash over her, taking a small step so she’s even closer to Christen, even though their shoes are pressed against each other from how close they already are.

 

“You really mean that?”

 

“Of course I do,” Christen smiles. “You’ve been with other people before me and that’s not something I have any right to be upset about. You can’t control someone coming up to you and trying to start something. That’s not on you. It’s really okay, I promise.”

 

Tobin knows she’s serious. She may not have liked when Cassie first walked up, but she’s being mature and level headed about it now. Tobin knows better than to have expected anything less from Christen, but it means a lot to her to be taking this whole thing so seriously. She easily could’ve gotten upset over it, mistrusted Tobin about when she was with Cassie, but she didn’t.

 

“You’re amazing, you know that?” Tobin asks lovingly.

 

Christen smirks cockily and shifts her weight so one of her hips juts out confidently. She scrunches up her nose, eyes crinkling at Tobin. “I’m well aware, but I always love being reminded, so thank you.”

 

Tobin’s heart flips over in her chest. She leans in closely so she can lower her voice to a whisper. “If we weren’t in public and your son weren’t right over there, I would kiss you so hard right now.”

 

Christen groans and gently knocks her forehead against Tobin’s. “Teasing is rude.”

 

“If it makes you feel any better, I’m teasing myself too.”

 

“So we’re both miserable? That definitely doesn’t make me feel any better,” Christen laments.

 

“Soon enough,” Tobin promises. “Soon.”

Chapter Text

[Tobin Heath: 5:04 PM]
[New Multimedia Message]

[Christen Press: 5:05 PM]
God, you’re so cute..

[Christen Press: 5:05 PM]
Seriously, so adorable..

[Christen Press: 5:05 PM]
Gorgeous..

[Tobin Heath: 5:06 PM]
You know you’ve already got me
hooked, you don’t need to keep
trying to flatter me ;)

[Christen Press: 5:08 PM]
Too bad because I like flirting with
you too much to stop

[Christen Press: 5:08 PM]
Are you pouting because you're cold
or because you miss me?

[Tobin Heath: 5:09 PM]
Definitely because I miss you. The
scarf keeps me from being cold, duh

[Christen Press: 5:12 PM]
I miss you too.. I don’t like when
you have away games.. Orlando is
too far :(

[Tobin Heath: 5:14 PM]
I’ll be home soon

[Tobin Heath: 5:14 PM]
I’ve got a bye week and 4 home
games in a row next so I’ll be back
for a while

[Tobin Heath: 5:15 PM]
Then I can finally take you on that
second date

[Christen Press: 5:18 PM]
Oh no, next date is mine..

[Tobin Heath: 5:19 PM]
Hopefully yours will measure up. I
was told my date was wonderful

[Christen Press: 5:21 PM]
I’m sure I’ll think of something ;)

xxx

Tobin used to love away games.

 

She loves the travel. She loves having the home team’s crowd against her. She loves silencing them with a goal to the back of their net. She loves getting to know her teammates better by rooming together. She loves learning which hotels have the best coffee and which ones to stay away from. She loves the camaraderie of being thrown into unfamiliar cities with her teammates and pulling together to find a way to win.

 

Away games have always been a challenge for her, a different stadium, a different pitch than the one she’s so used to. It’s easy to get complacent with long stretches of home games. You get comfortable on your field, in your stadium, with your crowd cheering you on.

 

She’s always loved the pressure and challenge of away games.

 

She hates this one, though.

 

She just wants to be with Christen. She hates being away from her and no amount of endless texts can dull the ache in her chest she feels from the distance.

 

Tobin’s never had something like that, she’s never missed someone the way she misses Christen. Sure, she misses her family back in Jersey. She misses Lauren, Jrue and Tyler when they go to Indiana to visit Lauren’s family. She misses Amy, Adam, Ryan and Luke when they all go to Seattle to visit Adam’s family. She knows what it’s like to miss people.

 

At least she thought she did.

 

Nothing compares to how she misses Christen.

 

It was unexpected, the way her chest tightened when she left Christen’s after stopping by to tell her goodbye. They only spent a few minutes together, some mild flirting and a few kisses on cheeks that were far too close to mouths, but Tobin spent the entire flight to Orlando thinking about it.

 

The texts between them don’t ever stop, except for when Tobin’s at training or in film sessions, or when Christen has a work deadline and turns her phone on silent. There are phone calls or FaceTimes in the evenings, after dinner when they’ve both got free time. The time difference is a little bit of a challenge, but the communication doesn’t stop between them.

 

It still doesn’t feel like enough, though.

 

She just wants to go home to LA so she can see Christen again.

xxx

They’re only apart for four days, they’ve gone longer than that before, but it’s different when she’s across the country and not across the city. She drives to Christen’s as soon as they get back to the stadium, barely taking the time to say goodbye to Kelley and the rest of her teammates before she’s getting in her car and headed towards Christen’s house.

 

Nata’s there, which means Christen was hesitant when Tobin asked if she could come over to say hi for a few minutes, but she wanted to see her so much and Tobin and Nata get along so well, that she decided it would be okay for a little while. Nata has no idea anything is going on between them, so as long as Tobin stays on her best behavior, Christen said it would be fine.

 

When Tobin gets there, Nata’s the one who opens the door with an excited shout.

 

“Tobin!”

 

“Hey, dude, what’s up?” She reaches out to ruffle his hair, something that always makes Ryan grin and does the exact same thing to Nata.

 

“I’m watching your game from last night!” He exclaims proudly, tugging at the jersey Tobin gave him to show it off. “You were really good, but you didn’t score. I wanted you to score.”

 

“It was a tough game, but I’ll try to get one next time. Hopefully you’ll be there to watch me, right?”

 

“Of course, we wouldn’t miss it,” Christen says as she comes down the stairs. “Nata, you know what I said about answering the door without me. You don’t know who could be on the other side.”

 

“Mama, it’s just Tobin,” Nata whines, embarrassed about getting scolded in front of Tobin.

 

“Yeah, Chris, it’s just me,” Tobin bargains.

 

Christen narrows her eyes at Tobin trying to undermine her in front of her son, but she smiles as she makes her way down the last few stairs. “Hi,” she says softly. “Nata, why don’t you go get changed for bed, yeah?”

 

“Mama,” Nata pouts, “I wanna hang out with Tobin.” He crosses his arms over the LAFC crest on his jersey and hangs his head.

 

Christen sighs and looks towards Tobin. “Mind hanging out for a little while?”

 

Tobin looks down at the hopeful smile on Nata’s face and she knows she can’t say no. She wasn’t planning on staying for long, just wanting to spend a little time with Christen before she went back to her apartment to sleep the rest of the night, tired from a day of cross-country travel. But suddenly, all she wants to do is stay here and hang out with Nata and Christen until it’s time for bed.

 

“Only if I get to sit next to Nata on the couch,” Tobin bargains.

 

“Yay!” Nata shouts, reaching for Tobin’s hand. “Let’s go finish the game, Tobin! Come on, Mama.”

 

“Yeah, Christen. Come on,” she smirks, following after Nata.

 

Christen rolls her eyes and follows the two of them into the living room, settling down on Nata’s other side as he presses play on the game he paused when he jumped up to answer the door.

 

“Mallory is about to score her goal. It was so good,” Nata says in awe, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees in order to get even closer to the TV, eyes wide as he takes in every single detail of the game.

 

Christen taps Tobin’s shoulder to get her attention. When Tobin turns her head, Christen says quietly, “this is the third time he’s watched the game today. He’s obsessed.”

 

It brings a proud grin to Tobin’s face. Nata reminds her of Ryan with how excited he gets about her games and it means so much to her.

 

It’s been years since she first saw someone in the crowd wearing her jersey who wasn’t one of her family members. It was a young girl, no older than twelve years old, and her face paled when she saw Tobin walking up to her, armed with a sharpie and a hug. Tobin still has the picture she had taken of the two of them together framed on her trophy shelf in her apartment and it makes her just as happy to see it now as it did that day.

 

Tobin still never gets used to seeing people in her jerseys--kids, teens, adults. It always makes her so happy to think about kids asking for her jersey for their birthday or Christmas or about adults who spend their hard earned money to treat themselves with her merchandise.

 

That never gets old.

 

Seeing Nata so excited about watching her game while wearing her jersey makes Tobin happy in a way she can’t explain. It feels different than it does with all the other kids at her games and she knows it’s because he’s Christen’s son. Knowing how much he likes her, knowing how much they get along, it gives Tobin hope that this thing with Christen can really work out.

 

“He’s been watching it, or you have?” Tobin teases.

 

“His idea,” Christen insists quietly, “but I can’t deny that I haven’t minded seeing you on my TV screen all day. You’re quite nice to look at, you know?”

 

Tobin scoots a little closer now that Nata is barely even on the couch on account of leaning so far forward. She takes advantage of the extra room and throws her arm around Christen’s shoulders. She waits until Nata is distracted complaining over a soft foul call and then leans in to kiss Christen’s cheek as quietly as she can.

 

“I missed you,” Tobin whispers.

 

“I missed you too,” Christen replies.

 

“Is this okay?” Tobin asks, nodding towards her arm.

 

Christen’s quiet for a moment while she thinks about it. She studies Nata’s back for a while, most likely thinking about how he might react if he were to turn around and see Tobin with her arm around his mom. She straightens up after a while, not moving away, but just adjusting so she isn’t leaning into Tobin quite as much. Her arm is still around her, but it isn’t quite as intimate anymore.

 

“Yeah, it’s okay,” she finally says with an honest smile. “It’s really nice.”

 

Tobin says, “it is nice,” with a grin and then turns back towards the game.

 

She asks Nata different questions about the last twenty-five minutes of the game, getting his opinion on the referee’s calls and what he thinks of various players. He’s young, so obviously he doesn’t know everything, but Tobin is surprised by how much he does know. It’s clear soccer isn’t just a hobby or something Christen pushes him towards. He really enjoys it, loves it even, and he wants to learn as much as he can. He doesn’t just watch the game for entertainment, he watches it to learn. Tobin can see him moving subtly from side to side, imitating a player’s movements as they weave through defenders. His eyes dance across the screen, taking in every single detail.

 

He reminds Tobin of herself when she was that age. She’d watch any game she could whenever she could. She’d wake up early on Saturday mornings, but instead of watching cartoons like most kids, she’d flip through every channel until she found Premier League games. She used to beg her dad to take her to MetroStars games and once he realized how much she loved it, it became a weekend tradition for them and he bought season tickets for them every year up until Tobin went off to college.

 

Nata seems like a cool kid on his own, but it’s that passion she sees in him that makes her feel so drawn to him. He isn’t just Ryan’s friend or Christen’s son, someone she spends time with just out of association with the shared people in their lives. He’s someone Tobin likes getting to know, likes hanging out with.

 

After only a few minutes, Tobin pulls her arm away from Christen and leans forward just like Nata so he can follow along better as she points out different plays on the screen. Christen was right about him being curious and Tobin takes full advantage of that. She explains offensives runs, defensive building, midfield control. Nata eats it all up, nodding along, eyes following wherever Tobin points.

 

Christen’s hand finds Tobin’s back eventually, fingernails scratching lightly over the fabric of her shirt as she watches how well Tobin and her son get along. Tobin turns back to see a loving smile on Christen’s face. She isn’t even watching the game, she’s just watching the two of them.

 

When there are only about eight minutes left in the game, Nata starts rewinding certain plays, asking questions he already knows the answers to, doing anything he can to extend their time together, knowing Christen is going to make him go to bed once the game ends.

 

Eventually, though, there’s nothing else he can do. The game is over and it’s getting late and as much as he wants to spend more time with Tobin, he’s yawning every five words and he can no longer hide how tired he is.

 

“Sunshine, why don’t you tell Tobin goodbye, then go upstairs and get ready for bed, okay? It’s getting late,” Christen tells him.

 

He pouts, but it’s a weak protest. He’s too tired to put up much of a real fight. “Okay,” he says slowly. He turns and wraps his arms tightly around Tobin, yawning over her shoulder. “Night, Tobin. Thanks for hanging out with me.”

 

“Of course, buddy. I had fun.”

 

“I’ll be up in a few minutes, okay sunshine? Don’t forget to brush your teeth.” Christen tells him, kissing the side of his head.

 

“Okay, Mama.” He hops down from the couch and starts walking towards the stairs, rubbing at his tired eyes. “Bye, Tobin.”

 

“Bye, Nata,” Tobin says over her shoulder. She turns back to Christen as Nata starts up the stairs and she tilts her head in confusion when she sees the intensity with which Christen is looking at her. “What?” She asks lamely, not knowing what happened to make Christen’s eyes go dark like they are.

 

Christen doesn’t say anything. Instead, she takes Tobin’s hand in hers and pulls her up from the couch. Tobin doesn’t know where she’s taking her, but she follows her lead through the kitchen and out onto the back deck. Once they’re outside and the door is closed, Tobin is about to ask what’s going on when Christen gives her the answer.

 

Christen pushes her back against the wooden railing of the deck, out of sight of the sliding glass door, and presses her lips to Tobin’s.

 

It’s completely unexpected and not at all how Tobin thought their first kiss would go, but she’s thought so much about this that she’s overly prepared and it only takes her a moment to react.

 

Tobin may be the one pressed against the railing, but once she catches up, she takes control. It’s a slow kiss, but it isn’t very soft as a result of the pent up energy from denying themselves this moment as long as they have. Christen’s fingers are digging into Tobin’s hips and Tobin has a hand on either side of Christen’s face, holding her as closely as possible. Tobin doesn’t waste any time taking Christen’s bottom lip between hers, then her top. She kisses her a little desperately, letting on to how badly she’s wanted this.

 

It only lasts for a few seconds, but Christen pulls away breathlessly.

 

“What was that for?” Tobin asks with a smirk, bringing up a thumb to wipe at her bottom lip.

 

“I just really had to do that. I didn’t want to do it inside in case Nata came back down, though,” Christen explains.

 

“Not that I’m complaining, but what brought this on?”

 

“You’re so good with Nata,” Christen tells her. “I’ve never seen him like that with anyone before. He was hanging on every single word you said and I’m pretty sure he would’ve sat there and listened to you talk about soccer until he passed out if I hadn’t made him go upstairs.”

 

“He’s a cool kid,” Tobin says with a shrug. “It’s no big deal.”

 

“It is a big deal to me, though.” Her hands press against Tobin’s sternum, fingertips digging into her collarbones, trying to press her words into Tobin’s skin. “A big reason why I haven’t dated anyone since I adopted Natanael is because I’ve never met someone I felt comfortable enough bringing home to meet him, but I don’t worry about that with you. He really admires you, Tobin.”

 

“He does, doesn’t he?” Tobin asks proudly. “He reminds me of myself when I was that age. He just wants to know everything he can about the game.”

 

“Well I’m glad he’s got you to teach him because I’m hopeless,” Christen rags on herself.

 

“Can I kiss you again?” Tobin asks.

 

“You don’t need my permission, but yes.”

 

Tobin’s the one to initiate the kiss this time, with one hand laid across the side of Christen’s neck and the other on the small of her back.

 

Kissing Christen is an experience. Tobin’s kissed a lot of girls before, some good, some bad, but none of them compare to Christen. It’s not that she’s the best she’s ever kissed skill-wise (though she comes very close), but it just feels different with her. It sets her at ease in a way most kisses work her up. This feels heavier, but in a good way, like it means more.

 

Tobin knows that it does.

 

Tobin doesn’t know how long they kiss for, but eventually Christen pulls away with a sigh. She brings her hand up and wraps her fingers around the wrist of Tobin’s hand that is still on her face. She turns her head and kisses the inside of Tobin’s palm before she takes a half step back in order to get a better look at Tobin without feeling like she’s going cross eyed.

 

“I forgot how much I liked making out,” Christen laughs. “It’s been way too long.”

 

“Well, you’re very good at it even if you are out of practice. I can’t wait to see how much better that gets the more we do it.” Tobin kisses the tip of Christen’s nose. “Hey, can I ask you something?”

 

“Of course you can.”

 

“What does Nata think I am to you? I’m not asking you to tell him we’re dating or anything, I just want to know so I don’t accidentally slip up and say something in front of him that I shouldn’t. I don’t really know how this works with a kid involved,” Tobin says nervously.

 

As much as she’s enjoyed tonight, it felt a little weird. She doesn’t know what to say or do regarding Christen when she’s in front of Nata. Obviously she isn’t going to start making out with her or anything, but she knows this is something that needs to be on Christen’s terms, so she wants to know where she stands.

 

“He doesn’t know we’re dating,” Christen tells her. “He knows that you’re my friend, but that’s it. I’m okay with you being here and hanging out with him so long as that’s all he thinks you are right now. You get along so well that I don’t want to keep you apart, but I also don’t want him knowing we’re together yet. This is still too new for that and I don’t want him forming any deep attachments until I feel more comfortable with this.”

 

“Yeah, of course. That makes total sense,” Tobin agrees. She starts to kiss her again, but Christen speaks before she can.

 

“Can I ask you something now?”

 

“Of course you can,” Tobin says, repeating Christen’s own words from earlier with a smile.

 

“I know it’s only been one date, but I guess I just want to know where we stand. Like, are we exclusive? Are you interested in this lasting long term? Is it just a fling? Whatever you say is okay, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page because I like you and I don’t want to mess this up because of miscommunication and--”

 

Tobin cuts her off with a kiss. It’s slow and deep and honestly a little dirty with the things Christen’s doing with her tongue. It lasts about a minute and then Tobin ends it with a quick peck.

 

“I’m in this,” she tells Christen. “I don’t want to make some huge commitment right now because I know we’re still figuring everything out and there are other factors to consider, like Nata, but I like you and I want to keep seeing you. I want to keep seeing only you. I’ve never done something like this. It’s usually just been more of a casual thing for me, but I know that I want to try this with you.”

 

“I was really hoping you’d say that.”

 

They kiss for a couple minutes longer, but then Tobin nearly yawns right into Christen’s mouth and they break apart laughing, knowing it’s time for Tobin to get home. Christen kisses her once more and then lets her off the railing so she can lead her back inside to the front door.

 

“Get some sleep,” Christen says. “I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? We can work out our second date for this weekend maybe since it’s a bind week.”

 

“Bye-week,” Tobin corrects her, grinning at how adorable Christen’s ignorance is.

 

She never imagined she’d ever be able to date someone who wasn’t another soccer player or involved in the game somehow or at least a fan of it, but she finds Christen’s naivety refreshing. She likes teaching her about the sport she loves so much and she enjoys Christen’s willingness to learn, even though she doesn’t pick it up nearly as well as Nata does.

 

“Bye-week, got it.” She looks up the stairs once to make sure Nata isn’t there even though Tobin’s pretty sure he’s passed out in his bed by now, and then leans up to kiss Tobin one more time. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” she promises. “Goodnight.”

 

“Tomorrow,” Tobin agrees. “Night, Christen.”

xxx

Tuesday night dinners have been a tradition for Tobin, Amy and Lauren since their freshman year at UNC. Tuesdays were most always their shorter practice days, which means they’d actually feel up to doing something for dinner other than grabbing to-go boxes from the dining hall, barely making it in time before they closed for the night.

 

Some nights they’d brave their dorm’s communal kitchen and cook something simple (it was always Lauren cooking while Amy and Tobin tried not to get in the way) and other nights they’d go out to dinner somewhere off campus.

 

Tobin’s pretty sure she can count on only both hands the amount of times they’ve had to cancel Tuesday night dinners. Unless one of them is deathly ill or out of town, Tuesday night dinners always occur.

 

Since Amy and Lauren had their children, the dinners have become more of a family affair, but Tobin’s never minded. She loves the tradition and the way it’s evolved over the course of their friendship.

 

This week’s dinner is at Lauren’s house and Tobin’s almost fifteen minutes late.

 

She was on the phone with Christen and completely lost track of time. After she hung up, she had to rush to change out of her sweaty practice clothes, put on some body spray since she no longer had time for a shower, smooth out her ponytail and rush out of the door, having to go back once she realized she forgot the bottle of wine she was planning on bringing.

 

When she finally makes it to Lauren’s, she walks right in, trying to be as discreet as possible and hoping her friends won’t realize how late she is. Ryan’s the first one to spot her, poking his head up from the couch where he’s watching Jrue play peek-a-boo with Tyler, and he betrays her right away.

 

“Toby! Mama says you’re late,” he says, calling her out before she’s even stepped across the welcome mat.

 

“Well maybe you guys are just early. Did you ever think of that, dude?” She walks over to the couch, sets the bottle of wine and her car keys down on the table next to it, and reaches over the couch to lift Ryan over her shoulder.

 

“Put me down, Toby! Please!” He giggles, banging his fists gently on her back.

 

“Fine, but only because you asked nicely.” She doesn’t tell him that she also has to put him down because throwing a sixty-pound, wriggling kid over her shoulder takes a lot more energy than she has left after a day of training. “How’s it going, Jrue?” She leans over the back of the couch and runs her hand through Tyler’s dark brown hair, just as curly as her mom’s. “And how are you, my sweet girl?” The baby smiles up at her with wide, deep brown eye, looking so much like Jrue it’s crazy.

 

“I’m good, Lauren’s annoyed with you, though. She had a tough day at work and she’s been looking forward to that wine,” Jrue teases. “And this little girl just woke up from a long nap and drank a whole bottle, so she’s in a great mood.” He switches into a baby voice easily and says, “isn’t that right, baby girl? You’re just a happy little baby, huh?”

 

“So cute,” Tobin muses, as she does every single time she’s around the five-month-old. “Let me go get this wine to Lauren before she throws a fit.”

 

“Good luck,” Jrue calls after her.

 

When she gets to the kitchen, Amy and Adam are standing in front of the stove, Adam doing most of the work while Amy talks to Lauren, who has Luke on her hip, tapping him on the nose with a fingertip to make him giggle. Lauren’s loving it, laughing right along with him, but as soon as she sees Tobin, her whole demeanor changes.

 

“Thank god you’re here,” she says desperately. Her eyes spot the wine bottle in Tobin’s hands and she sighs in relief, walking around the counter towards her. “Please, for the love of god, trade me. I need that more than you do, I can assure you.” She hands off Luke to Tobin before she even gets a chance to answer and takes the wine from her, asking Amy for the corkscrew.

 

“Rough day at work?” Tobin asks, kissing the side of Luke’s head as she hops up on one of the barstools at the counter.

 

“You have no idea,” Lauren groans, pouring a large glass for herself.

 

She doesn’t usually drink much, maybe a small glass of wine or a beer with dinner, but that’s it. She and Jrue don’t even keep alcohol in the house at all unless it’s for a special occasion, like an anniversary or birthday. You can always tell how stressed Lauren is based on the level she pours her wine. It’s been a long time since Tobin has seen it this high.

 

She goes on a rant about some new intern at her firm who lost important files or something and then a new guy they’re hiring from Chicago that will push her further down the totem pole from becoming a senior partner. Tobin doesn't really understand a lot of the lawyer speak, but she nods her head and acts offended when appropriate so that Lauren knows she cares and is paying attention. She finishes her rant with a long sip of her drink, then turns to Tobin with a forced smile. “Enough about me, how was your day?”

 

“Not nearly as eventful as yours,” Tobin laughs. “Just training and then a meeting with Vitamin-Water about a sponsorship.”

 

“Is that why you were late?” Amy asks. She’s been hard on Tobin about being on time ever since college. According to Amy, if a party started at 9:00, you were supposed to show up at 8:55. Luckily, Lauren thought that was crazy just as much as Tobin did and they were able to always show up ‘fashionably late’ as Amy called it, even though they still got there before most people did.

 

Tobin blushes a little without meaning to and leans in to kiss Luke’s head again, hoping to hide her heated skin. “No, I was on the phone,” she mumbles, trying to make it seem as casual as possible, but her friends know her too well.

 

“On the phone with who?” Lauren asks.

 

She knows she could lie and say it was her mom or one of her sisters, but she doesn’t want to lie. She wants to share personal details about her life with her friends, especially the ones involving Christen. She knows it’ll most likely lead to teasing, but she’ll just have to deal with it.

 

“Christen,” she tells them.

 

“Ha!” Adam shouts suddenly from his place in front of the stove, stirring the pasta sauce. “I told you it had something to do with Christen. You owe me 10 bucks, Lauren.”

 

Tobin’s jaw drops in surprise, even though it really shouldn’t. She should have expected this out of them. “You guys took bets on why I was late?” She asks incredulously.

 

“Don’t look at me,” Amy says in self defense. “I’m not involved.”

 

“Oh, whatever. You were the one who brought it up, you just backed out when Adam put money on it because you’re a sore loser and didn’t want to be wrong,” Lauren calls her out.

 

“All three of you suck,” Tobin complains. She looks to Luke and lets him wrap his fingers around one of hers. “You hear that, buddy? Your mommy is not a nice person. Luckily you have a godmother as great as me to make sure you’re raised to have manners and be nice to your friends.”

 

“Oh hush, don’t turn my son against me,” Amy harps. “You and Christen are getting pretty close, huh?”

 

It’s a simple question, but there’s a weight to it. Amy’s asking a much deeper question than she’s making it seem. She knows about Tobin’s date with Christen, but she doesn’t know about the kiss Sunday night. She knows they talk often, but she doesn’t know that their conversations never really stop, they just pick back up wherever they leave off.

 

Tobin has one of two ways she can play this.

 

She can be subtle, not let on everything she could, keep this to herself for a little while longer, or she could just be upfront with them. She could tell them she really likes Christen and that Christen feels the same way and while they’re taking things slow, they’re seeing what happens.

 

She decides it’s better to just be honest right away. They’d get the answer out of her eventually and at least this way it’ll be on Tobin’s accord and it’ll be a lot less painful for her.

 

“We’re hanging out, we’re seeing how things go,” Tobin tells them with a shrug.

 

A grin stretches across Amy’s face and she leans forward with her elbows on the counter, her chin resting in her hands. “So you guys are together? Like, together together?”

 

“Yeah,” Tobin beams. “Yeah, we are.”

 

“Wow,” Lauren says, dragging out the second ‘w.’ “You guys are really going for it, huh? That’s a nice change to see.”

 

“It’s not a big deal,” Tobin shrugs. “We’re letting whatever happens happen.”

 

“It is a big deal, Tobs,” Amy says. “It’s clear you really like her, which means she’s important to you. Dating someone like this, you haven’t done this since college, not really ever. That makes it a big deal.”

 

“We’re seeing what happens,” Tobin says, not wanting this to become a big discussion right now and hoping that her friends will understand that.

 

“Well, we’re happy for you, Tobin. Christen seems really great. Bring her to dinner sometime soon, I’d love to get to know her better,” Lauren tells her softly. She reaches across the counter and takes Tobin’s hand, squeezing gently before she pulls it away and takes another sip of her wine.

 

“What does Nata think about it?” Amy asks.

 

“He doesn’t know anything, she doesn’t want him to. He just knows we’re friends and that’s it. We hung out the other night actually, he was watching my game from Friday and wanted me to watch it with him. He really loves soccer,” Tobin says proudly, knowing she has a little influence on his passion.

 

“You were hanging out with Nata?”

 

Tobin turns around to see Ryan standing a few feet away, a confused look on his face.

 

“Uhm…yeah, I was. And with his mom,” Tobin clarifies, not missing the way Ryan’s face contorts slightly as he takes in this information.

 

Tobin wants to say something else, ask what’s bothering him, but she doesn’t get the chance because Adam’s announcing that dinner’s ready, oblivious to what’s happening behind him.

 

Ryan runs into the living room to tell Jrue dinner is ready, but Tobin doesn’t forget the look on his face when she mentioned Nata’s name.

 

It’s sits in her throat like a pill she can’t swallow no matter how many times she tries.

xxx

Dinner goes smoothly aside from one crying fit each for Luke and Tyler, but they’re easily calmed and things go back to normal.

 

Her friends don’t tease her about Christen anymore, instead asking her about her plans during the international break and the upcoming Club World Cup qualifying matches LAFC has. A third place finish last season in the Western Conference clenched them a wildcard spot, but they’ve got a home and away series against a Swedish club before they’re officially in the tournament. Tobin’s confident in the team’s ability to easily make it through the games with little difficulty and qualify for the tournament that starts at the end of summer.

 

Ryan’s a little quieter through dinner than he usually is, but Tobin seems to be the only one who really picks up on it because other than that, he’s acting totally normal and Amy doesn’t seem to be concerned.

 

It isn’t until after dinner and after Ryan’s brushed his teeth and changed for bed, that he brings up what’s bothering him, though.

 

He’s tucked into his Batman sheets with Tobin laying on the comforter next to him, reading The Goblet of Fire to him when he says what’s been on his mind all night.

 

“Do you like Nata more than me?” Ryan asks suddenly, quietly like he’s afraid what he’s asking might just be true.

 

Tobin’s never heard him sound so afraid before. She was there to hold his hand when he was getting stitches after he slipped off a diving board and banged his head on the edge. She was there to give him a pep talk before he went on for his role in their church’s Christmas program and he was so nervous he was nearly in tears. She was there to explain to him as best she could what was going on when Amy was having Luke because Ryan thought his mom was dying from seeing her in so much pain when the contractions started.

 

Tobin has been with him through so much and she’s always been able to help him overcome his fears.

 

This is different, though. This time not only does he sound afraid, but he sounds heartbroken and it’s all her fault.

 

“What? No, of course not, Ry.” She closes the book, careful to her LAFC trading card that he’s obsessed with between the pages to save their place. “Why would you ask me that, buddy? You know you’re my number one dude always.” She adjusts so she’s laying on her side and scoots down the bed so their faces are level. Her feet are hanging off the end and there isn’t much room given they’re in a twin bed, but she can tell by the way his breathing turns shallow that this is serious and so she forgoes her own comfort for a better vantage point.

 

“You told Mommy you were at his house watching a game with him,” he mutters, rubbing at his eyes to try and make himself not cry.

 

It absolutely breaks Tobin’s heart to see him so distraught over this. She never even thought how he might feel knowing that she was spending time with Nata. Not only does Christen have Nata to consider in all this, but Tobin has Ryan. She’s cursing herself for forgetting that. He may not be her son, but they’re close and she needs to remember to respect that, especially considering Nata was Ryan’s friend first before Tobin even came into the picture with Christen.

 

She swallows hard, choking on the regret that rises in her throat for not thinking this through more clearly beforehand. “That’s because I’m friends with his mom,” she explains. “I went over to his house to see her and he asked me to watch the game with him. Does that bother you?” When Ryan stays quiet, barely even acknowledging that Tobin asked him a question, she tries again. “Does it bother you I was spending time with him?”

 

“I don’t know,” he mumbles, sniffling softly. Tobin waits for him to say what else is on his mind, knowing there’s something he’s building himself up towards. “I just don’t want him to be your new favorite little man.”

 

Tobin feels her heart shatter in her chest.

 

‘Favorite little man’ is a nickname Tobin used to call Ryan since the day he was born. She’s called him that more than she’s called him his actual name. She hasn’t done it as much the past few months, assuming he’s getting too old for the pet name, but clearly he’s been missing it.

 

She moves to wrap her arms around the little boy, holding him tightly against her chest as she hears him start to cry. She’s so angry at herself for upsetting him like this. She can’t believe she was so careless with the whole situation. First, she selfishly invites Christen and Nata to the games, where she spends more time talking to Christen than she does playing with Ryan like she usually does. Then he sees Tobin give Nata and Christen both jerseys of hers after the last game when Ryan knows he’s the only one she’s ever saved jerseys for. And then to make matters worse, he overhears her talking about hanging out with Nata and not telling him.

 

She can’t imagine what this all must feel like for him. It’s only been a couple weeks, but admittedly, Tobin’s been paying slightly less attention to him than she used to. She even ended a FaceTime session with him early this past weekend so she could answer Christen’s call. He’s been getting the short end of the stick lately and Tobin wants to kick herself for handling this all so poorly.

 

“Buddy, I need you to listen to me, okay?” She pulls away and wipes at his tears, tilting his chin up so he has to look at her. “That’s not going to happen, I promise you. No one could ever take that title away from you. Well, maybe Luke eventually when he’s older, but we’ve still got a few years before that happens.” He smiles the slightest bit at the joke and she knows she’s getting through to him. She kisses his forehead before she continues.

 

“You’re still my best friend, okay, buddy? You’re always my favorite little man and me spending time with Nata will never change that. I promise.” She’s struck with an idea that she thinks will be just what she needs to cheer him up over this all. “How about we spend the whole day together Thursday? We’ll go to the beach in the morning, you can sit on the front of my paddle board and help me steer just how you like. Then you can come to training with me and help out Coach Foudy with the playbook, maybe even scrimmage a bit with us at the end. Then after that we’ll go to dinner and catch a movie, and then we’ll have a sleepover at my apartment with a pillow fort and everything. Just the two of us. How does that sound?”

 

Ryan visibly brightens at that. He blinks away the last of his tears and even smiles a little as he asks, “can we get popcorn at the movies?”

 

“Dude, we’ll get so much popcorn you’ll be sick of it. Extra butter too. We won’t tell your mom about that part, though.” She crinkles her eyebrows together and rubs her nose against his, something that always got him laughing as a baby and still does apparently, as a giggle bursts out from behind his lips.

 

“That sounds fun,” he says. “Do you think Coach will let me practice PKs with you guys?”

 

“I’m sure she will,” Tobin promises.

 

Tobin likes to bring Ryan to practice every now and again. The team loves having him there and Coach Foudy is always great about making him feel like he’s a part of the team. He hasn’t been since preseason, though, so it’s about time she brought him again.

 

“Do you still want to read a bit or are you tired?” She asks Ryan, not missing the way his eyes are starting to droop.

 

“Can we just read a little more? I don’t want you to go yet.”

 

Tobin kisses the top of his head for a long moment before she tells him, “of course we can still read,” and picks up the book from the nightstand.

 

He’s asleep before she’s even able to finish the chapter, but even then Tobin still doesn’t want to leave. She sets the book down and lays quietly with her arm around Ryan, listening to his breathing and the tiny sighs he makes as he sleeps.

 

She loves this boy more than she loves almost anything. She’s known him since the very first day he spent on this world and she’s been dedicated to protecting him ever since.

 

She never realized she could ever be the one to hurt him.

 

Now that she realizes she’s mishandled the situation with Christen thus far, she makes a promise to herself to be more conscious about it in the future. She doesn’t ever want Ryan feeling again like Tobin doesn’t love him just as much as she always has and always will. She never wants him to feel like he’s anything less than her favorite little man.

 

Amy comes in after a few minutes and smiles at the sight of her son sleeping against her best friend’s stomach. “Want me to take over?” She asks.

 

Tobin doesn’t so much as hesitate before she says, “I think I’m just going to stay here tonight, if that’s okay?” After what just happened, she can’t bear to leave him right now, even if he is fast asleep.

 

Amy looks at her curiously. Her eyes flick down to Ryan and something in them changes when she sees his face, like she can tell he’s upset and has been crying. She must know something is up between them, but she doesn’t question it right now. She trusts Tobin with Ryan and she knows if there’s something bothering her son that she needs to know about, Tobin will be the first to tell her.

 

“Hang on a sec,” Amy whispers, holding up one finger as she leaves the room.

 

She comes back after a few minutes with a pair of her sleep shorts and a contact container so Tobin can take hers out for the night. She helps move Ryan slowly off Tobin so she can get out of bed to get ready for sleep.

 

Amy doesn’t ask her what’s going on even though her eyes show she desperately wants to. Instead, she pulls down a blanket and pillow from the hall closet and lays them on the futon in Ryan’s room while Tobin is in the bathroom changing, knowing with how much Ryan tosses and turns at night he’ll kick Tobin out of the small twin bed in minutes.

 

Right before Tobin turns off the light to go to sleep, she runs a hand through Ryan’s hair and kisses him on the forehead.

 

“I love you,” she whispers softly.

 

He turns over at the sound of her voice and replies, “I love you, Toby,” though the words are nearly lost in his pillow.

 

She kisses his head once more and then flicks off the light and stretches out on the futon. It’s certainly not the most comfortable place she’s ever slept, but after how upset Ryan was, Tobin feels like she deserves this bit of punishment.

 

She falls asleep listening to the steady sounds of Ryan breathing, sheets rustling as he turns over endlessly.

Chapter Text

When Christen calls Tobin about her date idea, Tobin can tell right away how excited she is about it.

 

She invites her over on Saturday afternoon so that they can watch a ‘big soccer game’ Christen read about online (a friendly between the US national team and Canada) and then she can make Tobin dinner afterwards. Nata is spending the weekend with her parents so they’ll have the house to themselves. She gets flustered after realizing how suggestive that sounds and tells Tobin that’s not her plan, but there’s still a slight tension between them indicating it isn’t completely off the table.

 

Tobin doesn’t get her expectations high, but she does make sure she shaves carefully when she showers and trims her nails, just in case. She spends ten minutes trying to decide which bra and underwear to put on. Nothing too suggestive so it doesn’t look like she’s expecting it, but something nice enough in case they do make an appearance, she doesn’t have to feel self conscious.

 

She goes over to teach Christen about soccer, but they spend the first fifteen minutes of the game making out on the couch (Tobin’s so fucking weak for Christen in leggings) before a goal is scored and the shouting from the TV tears them apart.

 

“This is a valuable teaching moment we’re missing out on,” Christen mumbles against Tobin’s lips.

 

“Yeah, I’m teaching you how good of a kisser I am.” Tobin goes in for more, but Christen only lets it go on for another few moments before she’s pulling away again.

 

“Not what I meant,” Christen rolls her eyes and kisses Tobin once more before she puts a careful distance between them and wipes Tobin’s chapstick from her lips. “Seriously, I want to learn about soccer. This is something you love, something Nata loves, I want to know more about it so I can connect with you guys.”

 

“I’m trying to connect with you,” Tobin tries again, leaning in for Christen’s lips, but she pushes her away with a steady hand on her shoulder. “Fine,” Tobin groans, sitting back against the couch and folding her hands in her lap so she’s not tempted. “What do you want to know? My soccer brain is yours to use however you’d like. As is the rest of my body.”

 

“You’re impossible.” Christen rolls her eyes before she continues. “So Kelley’s on this team, right? How is she on both your team and this team?”

 

“Because this is the national team,” Tobin explains.

 

“And that’s different from the league you play in?”

 

“Yeah, I play at the club level and this is the international level,” Tobin starts. “You know how they have basketball in the Olympics? Well, the US national basketball team is made up of different American players in the NBA. That’s what this is like. The NBA is the league level, like I play in, then this is the international level, like in the Olympics. So how I play against teams like Orlando or Seattle, the national team plays against France or England, or in this case, Canada. It’s a much larger scale.”

 

Christen nods in understanding and then watches the game for a few moments before she asks, “so the international level is like, the best of the best?”

 

“Yeah, that’s about right. You have to be really, really good to get called up to this team.”

 

Christen scoots closer and rests an arm behind Tobin’s shoulders on the back of the couch. She does it casually, but there’s a hint of need to it that tells Tobin she was getting antsy by the lack of physical contact between them. She tries not to smirk knowing how much Christen wants to be close to her.

 

She wants the exact same thing.

 

“Then why aren’t you on this team?” Christen asks. “I guess I’m not the best judge of soccer players’ skill levels, but I’ve seen a few of your games and you seem like you’re really good. Nata is always raving about some play you’ve made and you’re always making the crowd cheer about something.”

 

Tobin swallows hard and leans back into Christen’s arm, wanting the comfort of the warmth of her skin in order to talk about this. “I used to play on this team, actually,” she admits.

 

“Wait, really?” Christen turns more towards her for a better look.

 

Tobin scratches nervously at her jawline. “Yeah, but it’s been a few years.”

 

Christen moves her arm so that her hand is resting on Tobin’s shoulder, fingers tapping to draw her attention away from the TV and onto her. “Can I ask what happened? You seem kind of bitter about it,” Christen says carefully.

 

“I’m not really,” Tobin says honestly, “it’s just kind of a screwy situation.” She sighs, knowing it’ll be best to just tell Christen everything. She feels comfortable enough with her to do so, she just doesn’t like admitting how much it still bothers her, even though she swears it doesn’t.

 

It’s a tricky thing watching your dreams slip through your fingers for shitty reasons.

 

“When I was first brought on the team in college, we had this great coach and I really liked her,” Tobin continues. “She gave me a lot of freedom to play the game the way I wanted and encouraged me to push myself as a player. I improved so much because of her. Then about four years after I joined the team, they hired this new guy, and he and I just butted heads a lot. He was trying to box me in and force me to play the style he wanted me to play. I’m not good at confining myself on the field and he got fed up with it, so he replaced me with a player who would do what he wanted. I stopped getting called up after that.

 

“It really kind of broke me, you know? That season with LA was the worst I’ve ever had. I only scored two goals and had three assists, which might be okay for like, a defender or something, but was really shitty for me. It was awful. I was trying my hardest to snap out of my slump and just play, but after being punished for playing the way I loved, it wasn’t an easy thing to just get over it. Coach Foudy did all she could, but eventually I became more of a liability on the field than anything and I ended up getting benched a lot. She hated doing it, but I wasn’t contributing and there were other players who could. I decided to spend a season playing in France and eventually I found my way back to who I was before. After the national team coach was fired, the current coach called me back into camp, but the whole situation just left a really bad taste in my mouth and I didn’t want to get involved again even though Kelley really loves this new coach. I just wanted a clean break, you know? Playing for that team didn’t mean the same thing to me anymore.”

 

It’s easier to tell Christen than she thought it would be. She feels comfortable, safe, around her. It still hurts her pride to talk about it, but it doesn’t hurt her heart anymore. Even if it did, Christen’s there to ease the pain, so it’s barely noticeable.

 

She’s never found it easy to bare her soul, despite being as transparent as she is with so many of her close friends. It’s never been something she’s been inclined to do, but Christen makes her want to tell her everything there is to know about her.

 

“I’m so sorry, that’s awful.” Christen tangles her fingers in the wispy hairs at the back of Tobin’s neck, fingers scratching at her skin. “I can’t imagine anyone trying to change the way you play. You’re really beautiful to watch.” As she realizes what she just said, her cheeks flush red. “I meant like your footwork, or whatever,” Christen tries to save herself.

 

“Uh-huh, sure,” Tobin smirks. “You totally just called me beautiful.”

 

“I mean, you are, but that wasn’t how I meant it.” Christen leans in for a brief kiss. “So how you said there’s basketball in the Olympics, does soccer play too?”

 

Tobin can’t help the cocky smirk that crosses her lips. “Yeah, I uh--I actually played in two Olympics.”

 

“Shut up,” Christen rolls her eyes, “no you didn’t.”

 

“I’m dead serious,” she jabs at Christen’s phone in her pocket. “You can google it right now. I was on the roster in Beijing and London. Lauren and Amy were both with me in Beijing, but they’d retired by London.”

 

Christen’s eyes go wide. “For real? How did I not know this? You seriously played in the Olympics?”

 

“Even better, I won.”

 

Christen goes back to being in denial. “No way. There’s no way you have two gold medals. I know I don’t know a lot about soccer, but there’s no way.”

 

“I promise I do,” Tobin insists. “Google it right now if you don’t believe me. They’re hanging on my bookshelf at home along with my silver medal from the World Cup. You’re more than welcome to join me at my apartment anytime you’d like to see them. Maybe some mood lighting, a little wine, some slow music; I’ll regale you with tales of my international heroics.”

 

“You’re so full of yourself,” Christen groans, but she kisses Tobin all the same. “Wait, what’s a World Cup?” She asks when she pulls away.

 

“It’s kinda like the Olympics, but just for soccer and with a lot more teams.” Tobin leans in and tries to kiss Christen again, but she’s rejected. She tries and fails not to groan in complaint.

 

“This is so crazy,” Christen says, ignoring Tobin’s protest. “I had no idea you were this good.”

 

“You’ve yet to see just how good I am.”

 

“I’m dating a horny teenager,” Christen complains, but she lets Tobin kiss her for a moment before she leans back and turns towards the TV again. “Seriously, tell me more about soccer, I really want to learn. I know there’s a goalkeeper and I know you’re a…left winger? That’s all I know, though. Tell me more about the different positions.” She stops Tobin before she can interrupt. “And I swear if you make a joke about sex positions, I’m kicking you out of my house.”

 

“You’re no fun,” Tobin grumbles, but she tells Christen what she wants to know. She explains outside backs and centerbacks, forwards and midfielders. She tells her what all their roles are and how they interact with each other. She explains how a center midfielder is different from a winger like she is and the difference between a true striker and a regular forward.

 

Christen takes it all in, nodding along with every word Tobin tells her. She points to the screen and asks questions and follows Tobin’s finger when she’s the one pointing. She reminds Tobin of Nata with the way she hangs on every word Tobin says. She listens tentatively and if her notepads from work weren’t tucked away in her bag in the kitchen, Tobin’s pretty sure she’d be making notes of everything she tells her so she could study later.

 

“So there are three rows of players?” Christen asks when she’s finished.

 

“Most of the time,” Tobin confirms. “Different teams use different formations, but three is pretty standard. Sometimes it’s more like four if you have a striker who spends all their time up top, but they can also fall back so it’s like three lines again. Formations change depending on how the game is flowing.”

 

The crowd on the TV shouts about something and Christen’s head jerks towards the screen, but it was just a close shot from one of the forwards that went a little too wide.

 

“So I know Kelley,” Christen says after the replays are finished and the ball starts getting knocked around midfield again. “But do you know any of these other players? Wait, I guess that’s a dumb question. You did play on the team after all.”

 

“There’s been a lot of turnover since I played on the team, but I know all of them really. Only a couple of them don’t play in the NWSL.” Tobin points at the screen towards one of the players. “That’s Kelley’s girlfriend, Emily. She’s a centerback, number 16.”

 

Christen squints her eyes and looks where Tobin is pointing. “Oh, good job, Kelley. She’s cute,” she observes.

 

“She’s a tiny pixelated figure,” Tobin complains.

 

“Yes, but she’s a cute tiny pixelated figure,” Christen adds, knowing how much Tobin’s getting annoyed. She scrunches her nose and smirks at Tobin, making sure to let her know she’s only teasing.

 

Tobin pouts until Christen kisses the frown off her face and then she continues. “Okay, so I went to college with the captain, number 9. Her name’s Heather and she’s from Jersey too so we spent a lot of time playing in the youth leagues growing up. I also went to college with Allie, the one that just had the ball. She’s one of my best friends. And also with Whitney, she’s the other centerback next to Emily. Mallory is one of the forwards.”

 

“Oh, I know her,” Christen says excitedly, proud that she knows something before Tobin has to explain it to her. “She’s the really young one. Nata really likes her, I think he has a little crush.”

 

“Well, she’s young, but she’s not that young,” Tobin teases. “She’s ridiculously good.”

 

There’s a shrill whistle from the TV and both their heads jerk towards the screen.

 

“What just happened?” Christen asks.

 

Tobin smirks, knowing even though Christen’s picked up so well on everything so far, she’s about to get confused now. “The Canadian player was offsides.”

 

Tobin’s suspicions are proven right when Christen’s face scrunches together in confusion and she squints back at the replays on the screen, trying to see if she can make sense of what happened. “What does that mean?”

 

“I think that’s a topic of discussion for another night. It’s confusing and I don’t want to overwhelm you.”

 

Christen looks like she’s about to protest, but then she watches the replay again and her face shows she’s still confused. “Okay, yeah. That seems like a good idea.”

 

They watch the rest of the game with few questions asked. Christen starts to really get into it, cheering when appropriate and groaning when shots go just wide. She compliments Kelley and Mallory a lot, paying extra attention to them since she actually knows who they are.

 

Like Christen when she was watching Tobin and Nata watch the game the other night, Tobin spends most of the second half leaning back and watching Christen. Her eyes aren’t wide like Nata’s were, instead she’s nearly squinting, studying the screen and not wanting to miss a single detail. It’s flattering, the effort she’s making to understand the game Tobin loves so much.

 

Tobin leans over to kiss Christen’s cheek several times throughout the game, unable to hold back just how much she likes her.

 

“Thank you,” Tobin whispers to her at one point.

 

“For what?” Christen barely takes her eyes off the screen, too entranced to look away.

 

“For trying so hard to learn the game. I know it isn’t just for me, but I really appreciate the interest you have in the game I play. You can tell me all editing whenever you want. I promise I’ll listen just as intensely,” Tobin promises.

 

“I’m not doing it for you, I just want Nata to think I’m a cool mom,” she teases.

 

Tobin laughs and tilts Christen’s face so she can kiss her for real. “I knew you were just using me to impress your son,” she pouts.

 

“Well, that and you’re hot.”

 

“At least you think I’m hot, that’s good enough for me.”

 

The game ends 3-2 in favor of the US, with Canada making a late surge, but they aren’t able to find an equalizer. Christen follows along with the American Outlaws’ chants at the end of the game, making Tobin grin. She gets even more into it the more Tobin laughs, clearly enjoying the effect she has on Tobin.

 

Tobin tries to convince Christen to spend some more time making out on the couch before they make dinner, but Christen only entertains her for a few minutes before she’s rising from the couch and taking Tobin to the kitchen.

 

Tobin grumbles, but only for a few minutes until she sees how sexy Christen is in the kitchen. She moves around effortlessly, chopping and mixing and seasoning, all without a recipe. Tobin watches with appreciation, stealing food and kisses whenever she can and sipping on red wine. She offers to help, but Christen puts her in charge of music instead.

 

She's scrolling through the recently played songs on Christen’s phone when she sees a familiar one that makes her grin. ‘pink skies,’ the same song they danced to on their first date. She presses play and waits for it to dawn on Christen what the song is. When she realizes, she turns to Tobin with a wide grin.

 

“Good choice.”

 

“You bought this song?” Tobin asks her.

 

Christen blushes slightly, continuing to stir the chicken around the pan slowly until she casually says, “It's a good song.”

 

“It's my favorite,” Tobin reminds her.

 

“You said that about all of their songs,” Christen points out, still trying to make it seem nonchalant that she bought the song and has been listening to it lately. “It's a good song and I like it,” she defends.

 

“Okay,” Tobin says with a smirk, knowing there's more to it than that.

 

“I'm serious. It's just a song that I like.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Seriously, it's no big deal.”

 

“I never said that it was.” Tobin’s still smirking as she slides up behind Christen in front of the stove, bringing her hands to her hips and her lips to her shoulder, kissing her through the soft fabric of her shirt. “Why are you getting so defensive about it?” She teases.

 

“I'm not,” Christen insists, trying to ignore Tobin's hands and lips, though the hitch in her breath and the way the muscles in her arm tighten as she grips the spoon harder give her away. “I just said it wasn't a big deal, that's all.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Tobin, I'm serious.”

 

Okay.” Tobin decides to let her off the hook, knowing she bought it for her, but deciding to let it slide after seeing how flustered Christen is getting. Instead, she starts the song over and tugs on Christen’s hand towards the middle of the kitchen, wanting to not only recreate the moment from their first date, but to make it even better. “Dance with me.”

 

Christen resists at first, planting her feet in front of the stove and not budging. “Tobin, I can't. I don't want to burn dinner.”

 

Tobin’s relentless, refusing to take no for an answer.

 

“Come on, it's a short song. The chicken will be okay until then. Please dance with me?”

 

Christen’s still hesitant, but once Tobin starts pouting, sticking out her bottom lip and giving her best puppy dog eyes, Christen melts. She groans as she sets her spoon down and lets Tobin pull her towards her.

 

“You're worse at sucking up than Nata trying to stay up past his bedtime,” she complains.

 

“I take that as a compliment. Kid’s a genius.”

 

Tobin wouldn't necessarily call herself a great dancer, but she thinks she's okay. She's able to follow a beat and her hips can move fluidly. Dancing with Christen, though, she feels looser than she ever has.

 

They dance on their own, but close, bumping against each other intentionally and egging each other on. There's really no rhyme or reason to it, just moving to the music and doing what feels right. Tobin does her best to make Christen smile, knocking their hips together and pulling her close when she's least expecting it.

 

Christen can't really hold the tempo of the song, hips never keeping a constant beat, but she looks so good while she's doing it, carefree and smiling, that Tobin can't help but stare. She's having fun and letting her guard down and Tobin’s proud of herself for being able to bring this side out of Christen. She's being silly and not caring what Tobin might think of her dance moves. She's simply happy and that's a look Tobin always wants to see on her.

 

Tobin pulls her in closely for a moment and whispers in her ear, “this song reminds me of you,” and then lets her spin away again, grin plastered across her face.

 

Tobin knows that’s the real reason Christen bought the song, aside from it just being a good song. It reminds her of them and it reminds her of that night, so she bought it so she could remember those moments whenever she heard it. It’s the same reason the song’s had a spike in plays on Tobin’s own phone. Christen might be a little embarrassed to admit that, though, so Tobin has no problem doing it for her.

 

By the time the song ends, Tobin tries to keep it going for another, but Christen backs away, citing the chicken on the stove which is starting to smell like it's burning. Tobin lets her go after a long kiss and then follows her across the kitchen, leaning against the counter beside the stove, returning to her glass of wine.

 

“You're a pretty good dancer, you know?” Christen asks, moving the chopped chicken around the pan so it doesn't burn anymore than it's already started to.

 

Tobin laughs, narrowly avoiding choking on her wine. That seems to be a running theme with them on dates and Tobin would really rather it not continue.

 

“I don't know if I'd say that,” Tobin dismisses.

 

“No, I'm serious,” Christen insists, adding in some sort of spice to the pan that Tobin doesn't recognize. “Your hips move really well.”

 

“I’m going to spare you the dirty joke because it’s way too easy,” Tobin smirks with a click of her tongue. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a good dancer, but I have had a few lessons. Kelley was on Dancing with the Stars a couple seasons ago and her partner and some of the other dancers came to practice once day to teach us some moves as part of a promo thing. I guess I just remember them.”

 

“Kelley was on Dancing with the Stars? She seems like she’s way too laid back for that.”

 

“She became good friends with her partner and she liked the challenge of learning something new, but the experience as a whole wasn’t really her thing--all the makeup and cameras and production. They tried to get me to do it first, but there was no way in hell,” Tobin tells her.

 

“You?” Christen asks in disbelief. “Now that’s something I definitely would have watched.” She winks at Tobin in that crooked way she does and it more than softens the blow of the mild teasing.

 

“I can’t even be offended by your tone because it honestly sounded like such a horrible time to me and I can’t deny I wouldn’ve been terrible at it.” Tobin reaches over to steal a piece of tomato from the bowl Christen chopped up earlier, narrowly avoiding getting her hand smacked by Christen. “When’s dinner? I’m starving,” Tobin whines, exaggerating on purpose just to get an eye roll out of Christen.

 

“Never if you don’t stop eating everything.”

 

“I had one piece of tomato!”

 

“Don’t think I didn’t see you stealing pinches of cheese while I was cutting up the chicken. You forget I have a six-year-old who thinks he’s sneaky too, I’m well conditioned to not let anything slip past me.”

 

“You’re just too good.” She kisses Christen’s cheek and walks across the kitchen to the cabinet she saw Christen get a bowl out of earlier. “Let me help, I’ll set the table or something,” she offers as she opens the cabinet.

 

Christen tries to deny her help, citing that it’s her date and her house, so she should be in charge of everything, but eventually she relents and tells Tobin where all the dishes and silverware are so she can set the table.

 

They work well together, moving around each other without getting in each other’s way. They each work on their own task quietly, with just the music playing softly in the background. Tobin slips up behind Christen to kiss her cheek or her neck whenever Christen starts humming along to a certain song because she’s so damn cute and Tobin can’t help it.

 

When it comes time to eat (Christen made her specialty tacos since they didn’t end up eating them on their first date), Tobin only needs to take one bite before she’s groaning over how good it is.

 

“Seriously? You’re a writer, you’re a kick ass mom, you can crochet and now you can cook too? Is there anything you can’t do?” Tobin asks, eagerly taking another bite.

 

“I can’t play soccer,” Christen points out, amused by Tobin’s enthusiasm at her meal.

 

“Then it’s a good thing I’ve got that part covered for the both of us.”

 

“We balance each other well.”

xxx

The rest of dinner goes just as smoothly as the rest of the night. Tobin eats her fill, not just because she wants Christen to think she’s impressed, but because she genuinely is impressed. When they’re cleaning up the table afterwards, Tobin pulls Christen back in to dance again, this time to “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys, Tobin claiming it would be a crime not to dance to her favorite song.

 

“You’ve got a lot of favorite songs,” Christen tells her, but she still sets down the sponge in the sink and let’s Tobin pull her in.

 

“‘pink skies’ is my favorite LANY song. This is my favorite all-time song,” Tobin corrects.

 

Tobin exaggerates the dance this time, spinning Christen around and dipping her low. She holds her close, almost like she’s afraid that if she let’s her go she may never get to hold her again, maybe she is.

 

She’s trying so hard to be strong, but she feels so fragile on the inside. This is all so new to her and she’s putting herself on the line, exposing a part of herself to Christen that she’s never shown anyone before, and she feels like she’s in charge of landing a plane with no flight experience. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, but as the last notes of the song fade away and Christen slants her lips across Tobin’s mouth, she realizes this is the one part of dating she most certainly does know how to do.

 

They only spend a couple minutes making out in the middle of the kitchen until Christen drags them to the living room. Christen pushing Tobin down onto the couch and straddling her while biting her bottom lip is easily the hottest thing she’s ever seen and Tobin tries so hard not to groan when Christen slips her tongue past her lips, but she can’t help it.

 

Christen’s hands never stay still for longer than a few moments. They tangle in Tobin’s hair. They frame Tobin’s face. They curl around Tobin’s biceps. They trace up and down Tobin’s sides, catching on the hem of her shirt on the way up each time, pulling it higher and higher until most of Tobin’s stomach is exposed and Christen’s blunt nails are scratching at her tanned skin, abdominals twitching and Tobin humming into the kiss in response.

 

Tobin grips the back of Christen’s thighs, digging her fingers into Christen’s jeans, careful not to wander too high. Her legs are taut underneath her hands, the product of long hours spent running and doing yoga.

 

Tobin’s first instinct is to bring her hands up to cup Christen’s ass, see if it’s just as firm as she’s been imagining it to be, but she doesn’t want to push things too far. She commends herself for her self control, something she’s frequently lacking with her past conquests (not that Christen’s a conquest, not even close.) She cares about Christen, though--wants to take care of her--so she restrains herself.

 

But Christen doesn’t want her to.

 

After a few minutes of playing it safe, Christen sighs impatiently and wraps her fingers around Tobin’s wrists, moving her hands higher until one is on her ass (even firmer than Tobin had been hoping) and the other is high on her ribs, right beside her breast.

 

“You’re allowed to touch me,” Christen says breathlessly, lips barely glancing Tobin’s ear before she moves lower to her neck. “I want you to touch me.”

 

That’s a request Tobin certainly can’t deny.

 

Turns out Christen has another skill to add to Tobin’s running list. She knows how to kiss better than anyone Tobin’s ever been with. Their brief makeout on the deck the other night was just a glimpse into what Christen is capable of.

 

She knows exactly how long to focus on one of Tobin’s lips before she switches to the other one, taking them between her own and tugging in the most delicious way. Her hands know just where they need to be, moving where Tobin wants them before she’s even able to ask. She can read Tobin’s sighs and body language, giving her what she wants and figuring her out more easily than anyone ever has. She rocks her hips with just the right amount of pressure, enough to work Tobin up slowly. It’s like she’s got a ratchet strap around the core of Tobin’s being and with each gentle push of her hips, she tightens the strap, one notch at a time.

 

Tobin knows she’s good, she’s been told many times before that she is, but she relishes in all the confirmations Christen gives her. Christen’s pretty vocal, letting out strained whimpers and sighs, small moans whenever Tobin does something particularly well. When Tobin spends time kissing down Christen’s neck and across her collarbone, her nails dig into Tobin’s biceps and Tobin can’t wait to see the little crescent shaped marks she knows will be left behind.

 

Tobin finds Christen’s sweet spot early on, right at the back of her jawbone. When Tobin bites down there, Christen lets out this high pitched whine that strikes Tobin right between her legs, working her up just as much as Christen’s rocking hips.

 

Things are going better than Tobin ever could have imagined. Tobin’s always liked making out, but usually she’s just focused on what comes after that. That’s not to say she’s one to skimp out of foreplay, in fact she thinks it’s one of the best parts. But with them still fully clothed and being relatively tame, Tobin thinks this is the longest she’s ever simply just kissed someone before.

 

She likes it.

 

Just as she was afraid of doing earlier, she takes things a little too far too soon. When she moves the hand on Christen’s ribs inwards to cup her breast, Christen pulls away, lips red and ruined, breath coming in short bursts across Tobin’s face.

 

“I-I’m sorry, that was too much,” Tobin rushes to apologize. “I should have asked if that was okay first. I didn’t mean to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.”

 

“No, no, you didn’t do anything wrong,” Christen insists. She spends another few seconds kissing Tobin to convince her she didn’t mess this up. “I just…I can’t do this here. Nata watches Saturday morning cartoons here. It’s too weird, it feels wrong, I guess.”

 

“Bedroom?”

 

“Bedroom.”

 

Tobin pulls Christen closer against her chest and stands, wrapping both arms under her legs so she can hold her up as she walks towards the stairs. Christen busies herself with tugging down the collar of Tobin’s shirt so she can bite down and suck on her collarbone. Her neck is bowed down at an awkward angle to do so, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

 

She only makes it about halfway up the stairs before Christen is pulling away again and pressing her legs against Tobin’s arms so she’ll let her down.

 

“Wait. Wait, stop, I can’t do this,” she says in a shaky voice, eyes filled with panic. She sits down on the stair and buries her face in her hands, dark waves of curls falling to hide her face.

 

Tobin lowers herself slowly beside her, reaching out to carefully brush Christen’s hair away. “What’s wrong?” She asks softly, not wanting to frighten Christen anymore than she clearly already is. “What did I do?”

 

Christen raises her head and leans in to rest her forehead against Tobin’s. She doesn’t open her eyes, but Tobin’s pretty sure if she did they’d be watery. “No, no, you didn’t do anything wrong,” she tells Tobin, her voice as sweet as sugar, albeit a little shaky. “I just…I want this, I promise I do, but I don’t think I’m as ready for it as I thought. I like making out with you, but moving to the bedroom just feels like too much right now. I don’t think I can do that just yet, I’m sorry.”

 

“Will you look at me?”

 

Christen takes her time about it, but eventually she lifts her head and opens those hazy green eyes that Tobin has come to love so much. They’re glassy, but not as bad as Tobin was expecting them to be. Her hands are shaking where they rest in her lap, so Tobin reaches out to hold them in her own.

 

“Don’t apologize, all right? It’s okay,” Tobin says. She leans in and kisses her carefully, continues until Christen’s bottom lip stops trembling. “It’s okay, I get it. I promise.”

 

“I want this, though. It’s just been so long and I guess I didn’t realize how out of practice I was.”

 

“I can promise that you are most definitely not out of practice,” Tobin smirks. “My collarbones are proof of that. She nods down to the purple speckled skin and Christen follows her eyes, grinning proudly when she sees her handiwork, which will just barely be covered by her practice top, but certainly not by just a sports bra. Thankfully the marks will be starting to fade by the time they have practice again or else Kelley would have a field day with them

 

God, I want you so much,” Christen sighs, resting her temple on Tobin’s shoulder and tucking her face underneath her chin.

 

“And you’ll have me, but we have to make sure you’re ready for that first, okay?”

 

Christen tucks her head in closer, lips brushing against the skin on Tobin’s throat as she says, “I don’t know if I’m ready to do that in this house either. It’s just…I don’t know. It feels weird, like it’s too much.”

 

“You don’t need to explain anything,” Tobin assures her, wrapping an arm around her and rubbing small arcs onto her back with her thumb. “I have an apartment of my own that we can use when the time comes. All I care about is you being comfortable, okay? All that matters to me is taking care of you.”

 

Christen lifts her head and studies Tobin’s face carefully. “You really mean that, don’t you?”

 

Tobin’s eyes turn curious, wondering why Christen is questioning this. “Of course I do,” she says slowly. “You’re really important to me, honey.” She lets the word slip without even meaning to, but she likes the way it sounds falling from her lips, the way it feels when the tip of her tongue presses against the roof of her mouth, right behind her teeth, to form the word.

 

“Honey?” Christen asks with a kinked eyebrow. “I like that.”

 

“Good.” Tobin leans in to kiss her slowly, waiting until Christen sighs before she pulls away. “When you’re ready, I’m ready, okay? Let’s just go watch a movie or something. Or I can head out if you want some space.”

 

“I don’t want you to leave,” Christen says quickly. “I liked what we were doing before.”

 

“Yeah?” Tobin smirks. “You liked that, huh?”

 

Christen hums her response and nods, pushing forward until Tobin is pressed up against the wall, kissing her hard. When things start to turn a little dirty (Christen’s tongue is literally too good for words), Tobin pushes her away a little so she can breathe, but Christen refuses to move too far, so the words end up glancing across her lips.

 

“You know, the backseat of my car is much more spacious and comfortable than these stairs. No traces of Nata anywhere and totally not sexy like a bedroom. It’s definitely a safe zone,” Tobin offers with a wry smile, hoping she’s coming off as charming and not like some skeevy high school boy trying to get a girl into her backseat.

 

Even though that’s exactly what she’s trying to do.

 

But only for selfless reasons.

 

For the most part.

 

Christen grins at the suggestion and says, “sounds perfect, let’s go,” as she stands and takes Tobin’s hand in hers, leading her down the stairs.

 

Tobin’s never moved faster than she does when she’s pulling Christen towards her car.

Chapter Text

Tobin feels stupid.

 

It had seemed like a good idea at the time, bringing Christen coffee and a pastry from Christen’s favorite cafe that Tobin passes on her way home from training. Christen mentioned how she was holed up in her house all day working on a deadline she had and how tense she'd been, always stressing until every little detail is sorted out. She had her older sister and brother-in-law take Nata for the day, taking him and their four-year-old daughter to the beach so she could have the house to herself to work is peace.

 

She thought it would be a nice surprise to stop by after training with treats in hand, maybe offer a shoulder massage since she knows Christen always hunches down awkwardly in front of her computer, leaning in too close so she feels more in control. But when she knocks on the door and a handsome man she's never seen before opens it, she starts to wonder if maybe she should have asked permission to come over first.

 

“Can I help you?” The guy asks with a polite smile. He's tall and well muscled, with teeth so white they might rival Christen’s. He's in a simple blue t-shirt that compliments his dark skin, gray sweats and his feet are bare, which suggests to Tobin that he's more than comfortable in Christen’s home.

 

Something about that doesn't sit right with her.

 

“Yeah, uhm…is Christen here?” She doesn't really know why she's asking because she already knows the answer, but this situation is a little jarring, so she feels the need. She could explain herself, tell this guy who she is, but she doesn't want to give him any information until she knows who he is.

 

His eyes cross over her face for a moment before his lips jerk up into an almost blinding smile as he says gleefully, “you must be Tobin! I've heard so much about you. I'm Nima.” He steps forward immediately for a quick hug that Tobin isn't at all prepared for, so it ends up being awkward and half hearted, but he's still grinning as he pulls away, so clearly he doesn't mind.

 

“Oh yeah, it's uh, it's nice to meet you.” He told her his name like she should know who he is, but honestly she has no idea. He thinks she does, though, so she tries to make her tone of voice imply he's right. She must not do a very good job of it.

 

“She hasn't mentioned me, has she?” He doesn't seem annoyed when he says it, just amused as he rolls his eyes. “Nearly twenty years of friendship, but she can't be bothered to tell the cute girl she's dating about me because she's too busy talking herself up. Typical,” he jokes. “Come in, please. We were just finishing up working on this article for work.”

 

The twenty years of friendship part strikes a chord with her. Tobin only has one person from her childhood that she's been friends with that long, Hannah, and Christen knows all about her. Hannah even sent Christen a private message on Instagram introducing herself and trying to get to know her, much to Tobin’s horror. Christen thought it was sweet, though, and they now have each other’s numbers and have started exchanging parenting tips.

 

If Nima is half as important to Christen as Hannah is to Tobin, especially considering they apparently work together, it strikes her as weird that Christen hasn't mentioned him. She racks her brain to think if maybe she has, even just in passing in conversation, but it's a unique name and Tobin’s sure she'd remember it if she'd ever heard it. Considering she pays the utmost attention to every little thing Christen tells her, she knows she'd remember her mentioning him.

 

She certainly hasn't, though, so that only begs one question.

 

Why not?

 

He steps out of the way so she can walk in and she almost tells him she'll just stop by later, not wanting to interrupt, but then Christen is walking towards the door and smiling brightly, eyes gleaming through her glasses that Tobin finds downright adorable and Tobin knows she isn't strong enough to leave.

 

“Hi,” Christen coos, drawing out the word as she pulls Tobin into a tight hug. She kisses her quickly on the lips as she pulls away, leaving her hands on Tobin’s hips. “What are you doing here? I figured you go home and pass out after training like usual.”

 

As uncomfortable as Tobin still is about the idea of Nima, she shakes off as much of that feeling as she can, which is pretty easy to do given the way Christen is smiling at her and the feel of Christen’s hands low on her hips.

 

“That's the plan, but I know you said you were stressed with this deadline, so I figured I'd bring you coffee and one of those strawberry vanilla croissant things you like to cheer you up,” she explains, holding up the to-go cup and small brown paper bag in her hand.

 

“You're the greatest human alive,” Christen beams, leaning in to kiss her quickly again.

 

“I would've brought something for Nima too, but I didn't know you had company.”

 

Christen must pick up on the subtle way Tobin’s voice shakes when she says Nima’s name because she squeezes one of her hips reassuringly and takes the coffee from Tobin’s hand, holding it like it's the most precious gift in the world.

 

“Don't worry about it, he doesn't deserve coffee after the weak ass cup he brought me earlier.” She takes a sip, not bothering to check the temperature first just like always. “This is heavenly,” she says after she swallows her first sip. She turns to Nima with a scowl and says, “three weeks of dating and she already knows exactly how I like my coffee. What's your excuse?”

 

“You're so damn needy,” he grumbles. “I hope you know what you're getting yourself into, Tobin. You might want to run while you still can.”

 

“Oh hush. Go get your stuff and get out of my house if you're going to insult me,” Christen teases, taking Tobin by the hand and leading her to the kitchen.

 

“Yeah, yeah. I'm going,” he says.

 

“Oh, you don't have to leave because of me. I just wanted to stop by for a minute, I didn't mean to interrupt,” Tobin says cautiously. She doesn't really want to leave, wants to stay a little longer and figure out the dynamic between Christen and Nima, but she also knows they have a deadline and doesn't want to steal away her attention.

 

“You're not interrupting anything, Nima was just about to leave anyway. We finished up his part of the article, so now I've just got to do a couple more read throughs for editing,” Christen insists with a squeeze of her hand.

 

“I've got to say,” Nima starts as he closes his laptop and slides it into his backpack, covered in various pins and patches in a multitude of languages. “It's hard to believe Christen here is dating a professional athlete given how awful she is at sports.”

 

“Shut up, I'm not that bad,” Christen argues.

 

Nima turns to Tobin and tells her, “you know in the movies when the kid who sucks at dodge ball always gets picked last? Well, that doesn't just happen in the movies. Christen got picked dead last every single time. Sometimes the gym teacher would let her organize the equipment closet instead of participating because she's so bad, but she loves to organize so it worked out.”

 

Okay, that’s enough. You need to leave now.” She starts shoving him towards the door as he's slinging his backpack over his shoulder.

 

Tobin tries to be a good sport about it and laugh at their antics, but it's forced. Even though they're teasing each other, they get along so well. They're smiling and laughing, having a good time together, and it just confuses Tobin further as to why Christen’s never mentioned him. It's likely not a big deal, she probably just didn't think about it or it never came up, but something about it bothers Tobin. She's never felt like this before and she doesn't know what it is or what to do with it.

 

“I'm just trying to make sure Tobin understands what she's getting into with you,” Nima defends himself, laughing as he slips into his flip flops and reaches for the door. “Tobin, it was nice to meet you. Maybe next time Christen won't be so rude and kick me out and we can actually get to know each other.”

 

“Next time, definitely,” she forces herself to say, even though her throat feels like it's coated with cotton, preventing her from being able to swallow or really even breathe.

 

Nima hugs Christen for a long moment before he opens the door and Tobin’s neck gets hot as she watches the way he holds her with such gentle familiarity. For twenty years he's gotten to know Christen--hold her, love her--and the rational part of Tobin’s brain knows it's not her place to get angry over something like that, but she can't help it. When they kiss each other’s cheeks as they pull away and exchange ‘love yous,’ Tobin has to look away in order to stop her fists from clenching.

 

She's still staring out the kitchen window, trying to stop from thinking of the way Christen smiled at Nima, when Christen twists her arms around Tobin’s waist from behind and presses her lips to Tobin’s neck.

 

“I thought he'd never leave,” she whispers against Tobin’s flushed skin, moving up to the spot at the end of Tobin’s jaw that she discovered always earns her a sigh. When it doesn't this time, she immediately senses something is up. “What's wrong?” She asks as she moves around to stand in front of Tobin, trying to make eye contact that Tobin keeps avoiding.

 

“Nothing’s wrong, I'm just tired from training,” Tobin lies, hoping it'll deter Christen’s line of questioning, but Christen apparently already knows her better than that.

 

“No you're not, when you're tired you get talkative, but your words get all jumbled together. When something’s bothering you, you stop talking. Tell me what's going on.” Her voice is low and sweet, trying to coax the truth out of Tobin.

 

She feels like a brat for being annoyed over this, though, so she's hesitant to tell her, worried Christen will get upset over something so insignificant bothering Tobin. She doesn't want to lie to her, though, and she knows if she ignores this, there's the threat of it getting worse and she's afraid to risk that, worried it'll result in screwing things up with Christen.

 

“Why didn't you ever tell me about Nima?” She finally brings herself to ask.

 

Christen looks at her curiously, but she doesn't seem annoyed by the question, which Tobin thinks is a good sign. She doesn't seem like she's guilty and hiding something, meaning there's nothing to hide and Tobin is just being ridiculous like she first thought.

 

She pushes her glasses a little higher on her nose and says, “I don't know, it never came up I guess.” Her tone of voice suggests she's still trying to figure out what the issue is, but her eyes are thoughtful, showing she's trying hard to understand.

 

“You guys just seem pretty close,” Tobin explains. “He said you've been friends for almost twenty years and he seems very comfortable here.”

 

Christen’s eyes narrow and an absolutely amused smirk crosses over her face, lips twitching as she tries and fails to control her facial expression. “Tobin Heath, are you jealous?

 

The color drains from Tobin’s face and she’s quick to deny the accusation.

 

“Wh-what? No, of course not. N-no, I'm not jealous why would you ask something like that?” She sputters out. “No, I just…” She relents with a sigh, knowing she's getting nowhere judging by the smug look on Christen’s face. “Is that what this feeling is?”

 

Tobin has never been jealous, not in this sense at least.

 

She's been envious of the soccer skills of another player before, but it didn't make her feel like this. She just studied their movements and practiced until she was able to do what they did.

 

She was too angry at the young player the old national team coach called up to replace her that she couldn't ever be jealous. She was furious at the situation and wished it could be jealous, but she wasn't jealous, just angry, heartbroken.

 

If she's ever been attracted to a girl and later found out they were taken and unavailable, she just brushed it off and moved on. She never got upset over something like that.

 

This is different, though. She feels almost territorial over Christen and while she supposes some of that is normal in a relationship, she shouldn't be this upset. Christen and Nima hugged, they smiled at each other and joked like friends. It's clear that's all it is, so then why is Tobin so affected by this? Maybe she just needs the reassurance from Christen in order to move on like she should.

 

“Oh, sweetie,” Christen sighs, leaning in to hug Tobin tightly, turning her head so she can kiss Tobin’s neck. She isn't taking pity on Tobin, she almost sounds a little guilty for not explaining this to her earlier, but her tone makes it obvious she only wants to convey to Tobin this isn't as big of a deal as it may seem. “I promise there's nothing to be jealous of, I'm sorry I didn't tell you about him earlier. I guess I've just been so concerned with trying to impress you that I've really only wanted to talk about myself.”

 

Tobin cracks a smile at that, knowing that's certainly isn't the case given how selfless Christen is, but she understand it was a genuine mistake. She wasn't intentionally trying to withhold anything about her relationship with Nima. It simply never came up.

 

Tobin is still curious about something, though.

 

“Did you two ever…?”

 

Christen doesn't hesitate before she nods slowly. “For like four months our junior year in high school, but it was honestly the most boring relationship I've ever been in. There's absolutely zero chemistry between us. I promise I'm only interested in you. And Anna Kendrick too, but I think she's a little out of my league.”

 

“No one’s out of your league,” Tobin compliments, knowing Christen is joking, but wanting her to know how highly she thinks of her. “Anna is pretty tiny, though. I think I could take her if she tries to steal you away.”

 

“Can't we all just share?” Christen asks suggestively.

 

“Don't tease me,” Tobin warns as a slight chill runs down her spine just at the thought. “So you and Nima work together?” She asks, getting back to the original conversation.

 

“Yeah, he writes and takes photographs for the magazine. He's single and loves traveling absolutely anywhere, so he always gets assigned the most out there trips that no one else really wants. He just packs a bag, brings his camera and passport, and he disappears for weeks at a time, sending in emails whenever he can so we know he's still alive. He's gone a lot and just got back about a week ago, so we were working on finishing up his article from his trip to Bhutan.” She pauses, studying Tobin’s features before she adds, “you're still bothered by him, aren't you?”

 

“I'm sorry,” Tobin admits with a groan. “I'm trying really hard not to be, but I've never had to deal with something like this before, so it's a little weird for me. He's just so charming and his smile is ridiculous and he probably hangs out with Nata and he makes you laugh…and this is absolutely ridiculous and so petty of me to be jealous about this. Seriously, just ignore me. I'll get over it.”

 

“Stop it, it's not ridiculous. This is a new relationship ship, we're still sussing out all the details about each other. It's okay to feel a little threatened. I'll be honest, when Finny kissed your cheek on our date, I got so annoyed because I didn't want anyone else to be able to do that except for me. And when Cassie came up to you after the game? I was imagining all the different ways I could slap her. I think a little jealousy is normal, as long as it also comes with trust. I get being jealous, but I assure you that you don't need to be. We're friends, but that's absolutely all we are. His smile doesn't even come close to yours, no competition. He hangs out with Nata because he takes him fishing and to basketball games, things that I hate. He makes me laugh because he's an idiot. You make me laugh because you're funny. And babe, you're the most charming person I've ever met, so you've got him beat there too.”

 

Tobin kisses her hard, barely waiting for the last word the pass through Christen’s lips before she's pressing her own against them. It only lasts a second, but it’s enough for Tobin to convince herself of what she knew all along, this isn’t something she needs to be worried about.

 

“He’s just a friend,” Tobin whispers, telling herself more than she is Christen, just letting the truth settle over her.

 

“Just a friend,” Christen agrees. “And sometimes an exterminator because he comes and gets the spiders for me when I find them and he’s home. I’m absolutely petrified of spiders, you should probably know that about me.”

 

“I’m not afraid of spiders,” Tobin mumbles, puffing her chest out a little. She doesn’t want to compete with Nima for Nata’s attention or Christen’s, that would be incredibly petty of her. This, though, this she can cover on her own and she’s sure Nima won’t be too bothered by it.

 

Christen grins like she knows exactly what’s going on in Tobin’s mind, but she doesn’t tease her about it, she just gives her what she wants. “Good, because the last spider I called him to get, he didn’t even kill it. He freed it outside and I can never forgive him, so I’m looking for his replacement anyway. This will work out so much better because after you save my life from one of those demons, I’ll be so impressed I’ll just have to take you upstairs and have my way with you to express my gratitude.”

 

That catches Tobin’s attention. “Oh really, now? In that case, I’m going to search for a spider right now.”

 

“Don’t you even joke about that,” Christen scolds, smacking Tobin’s arm just slightly harder than what could be considered playful. “I don’t want to know how many are in this house that are just hiding, biding their time until they attack. It’s terrifying to even think about.”

 

Tobin kisses Christen again as a distraction, using her hips to push her backwards until Christen is pushed against the kitchen counter. It’s a soft kiss, but Tobin’s fingers are persistent, slipping under the hem of Christen’s shirt to stroke along the soft skin of her hips.

 

She’s pretty sure (no, definitely sure) she could kiss Christen forever, but she pulls away after a moment, thinking of something else to add to the conversation.

 

“You know, I’m surprised you want him to kill the spiders considering you’re all about preserving nature and leaving a place better than you found it.”

 

“That’s exactly what I’m doing,” Christen insists. “My house was a much better place before I found the spiders.”

 

“Fair enough,” Tobin relents with a sigh, kissing Christen one more time. “All right, I’ll get out of your way now, I don’t want to distract you from your work anymore than I already have and I’ve definitely got to get a nap. It’s so hot out, practice was draining.”

 

“Stop it, you’re the best kind of distraction there is,” Christen assures her. “Why don’t you stay? You can take a nap here. I only have a little bit of work left and then I’ll join you.”

 

That’s a suggestion Tobin certainly can’t turn down. After another minute or so of kissing against the counter, Tobin makes her way to the couch in the living room while Christen returns to the kitchen table to finish editing Nima’s article.

 

It only take a couple minutes listening to the quiet clack of Christen’s keyboard and her soft humming as she works for Tobin to drift off into an easy sleep.

xxx

Tobin wakes up a couple hours later and the first thing she realizes is the weight of a body lying next to her, which makes a wide grin stretch across her face.

 

Christen is wedged in between the back of the couch and Tobin, with her head on Tobin’s chest, an arm wrapped around her middle and a leg laid in between Tobin’s. There are so many points of contact, Tobin’s starting to feel woozy and she hasn’t even opened her eyes yet to appreciate how beautiful Christen looks while she sleeps.

 

After a few moments of just enjoying the way it feels to have Christen lying against her, she finally opens her eyes, taking in how peaceful Christen looks right now. Her eyes are fluttering as she dreams and her mouth hangs open slightly, breaths falling in short bursts against Tobin’s chest. Even when Tobin closes her eyes again, she can still see Christen, asleep and serene.

 

She tilts her head so she can kiss Christen’s forehead, which causes her to stir against her, eyes blinking slowly open.

 

“Jeez, I didn’t realize you were such a light sleeper,” Tobin whispers, kissing Christen’s head again.

 

“I always have been, t’s awful,” Christen groans, tucking her head under Tobin’s chin and pulling her in tighter. “Why are we awake? I want to sleep.”

 

“We’ve been asleep for like…three hours,” Tobin says after a quick glance at her phone. “It’s nearly dinner time, when is Nata supposed to be back?”

 

Christen wakes up a little more then, pushing herself up on her elbow so she’s propped up above Tobin. She’s blinks hard a few times, getting the residual sleep out of her eyes. “Within the hour, I’m sure. Tyler and Will are meeting friends for dinner and dropping Natanael off on their way.”

 

“So we’ve got a little time, then?” Tobin asks, letting her voice be as suggestive as possible so Christen knows exactly what it is she’s after.

 

“We might have a little time.” Christen’s trying to be coy, but her suddenly dark eyes betray everything.

 

With one subtle, fluid movement, Christen has a knee on either side of Tobin’s hips and her hands are tangled in her hair, their abdomens pressed flush against each other. Tobin’s hands find Christen’s ass more quickly than they did last time they were on this couch and considering what stopped them last time, Christen seems much more open to doing this here, seemingly forgetting about Nata’s Saturday morning cartoon binges.

 

They’ve done this several times since. In the back of Tobin’s car, once in Christen’s. In the empty locker room at LAFC’s stadium when Tobin was showing her around. A particular corner on Christen’s back porch that has essentially become ‘their spot’ since it’s out of sight of any windows that Nata could potentially spot them through. They’re more than acquainted with each other’s mouths and the relatively safe places they can put their hands, at least what could be considered somewhat safe when it’s over a layer of clothing and not on bare skin.

 

They haven’t pushed things too far yet, per Christen’s request, so it’s understandable why Tobin sucks in a sharp breath and is taken aback when Christen slips her hand under Tobin’s shirt to cup a breast over her sports bra. Her thumb is teasing at the elastic of the bra, pressing into soft skin until Tobin moans. She doesn’t think such a simple touch has ever given her such a rush, but from Christen it does.

 

Tobin kisses her harder at that, licking into Christen’s mouth and tightening her grip on Christen’s hips, trying to pull her closer into a space that doesn’t even exist. When Christen’s hips start to rock down into Tobin’s, Tobin lets out another moan, this time one that’s downright filthy and horribly, horribly mistimed.

 

Christen’s sister chooses that moment to burst through the front door.

 

“Chris, come get your son. He’s refusing to get out of the car and…” There’s a soft gasp as Tyler sees the sight on the couch--Tobin’s mouth still open in a moan, Christen’s hand under Tobin’s shirt, hips still rocking down. Tobin can’t see her face on account of Christen lying on top of her, but if her tone of voice is any hint, her eyes are wide and her features are twisted in disgust. “Oh my god, eww! What the hell?”

 

“Tyler!” Christen shouts, tearing her hand away from Tobin’s chest and rolling off the couch in a rush to get far away from Tobin, nearly knocking her head on the coffee table in the process. “You could’ve knocked,” she grumbles.

 

Tobin’s sitting up now, so she can see the amused look on Tyler’s face as she asks, “when have I ever knocked?” She crosses his arms and steps further into the house, surveying the scene in front of her now that they aren’t on top of each other. “I didn’t realize you’d be mounting someone on your couch, damn. I’m really hoping this is Tobin or else you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.”

 

“Who’s Tobin?” Tobin asks, enjoying the look of absolute horror that crosses Christen’s face as she realizes what she just said.

 

Christen jumps in to explain what’s going on before Tyler is able to freak out too much. “She’s kidding, Tyler,” she says with wide eyes, shoving Tobin’s leg as she pushes herself up to her feet, combing through her hair with her fingers and pulling her shirt down.

 

“She’s funny, I like her,” Tyler notes with a nod in Tobin’s direction. “And she’s much hotter than you claimed. Understandable why she’s the first one in years to have you like a lovestruck puppy.”

 

Okay, that’s enough,” Christen rushes in before Tyler can say anything else. She reaches out a hand to help Tobin to her feet and asks, “so what’s up with Natanael?”

 

“He didn’t want to leave the beach, so he threw an absolute fit when we told him it was time to go, yelling in Spanish like he does when he gets frustrated. Now he won’t get out of the car and freaks out whenever I reach for the seatbelt because he thinks if she stays in the car, then we’ll take him back to the beach. I’ve never seen him throw a fit like this,” Tyler tells her with as exasperated sigh, clearly exhausted from dealing with Nata’s tantrum.

 

“Oh no,” Christen groans. “Did his shirt come off?”

 

“The shirt definitely came off.”

 

“What does that mean?” Tobin asks, wondering why Christen looks so stressed at the revelation.

 

Christen turns towards Tobin and sighs. “When Natanael gets upset or frustrated, he takes his shirt off and hides his face in it. It’s just how he deals with his emotions. If he’s not yelling in Spanish, he’s taking his shirt off.” She turns back to Tyler and starts walking towards the door. “He’s probably just really tired, he’s been having trouble sleeping lately. I’ll go get him.”

 

“Good luck,” Tyler warns. “He’ll probably freak out on you too, he’s definitely not in the mood today.”

 

Tobin doesn’t know what makes her do it, but suddenly she’s reaching for Christen’s hand and stopping her before she can get out the door. She ignores the confused look on her face and blurts out what she’s thinking before she can talk herself out of it. “Mind if I try? I’m good with Ryan during his tantrums.”

 

She’s worried she may be overstepping her boundaries with Christen’s son, but if this thing is going to last between them, she wants to show Christen that she can handle situations like this. She doesn’t want Christen thinking things like this freak her out.

 

Christen looks at her curiously, but then she’s smiling, happy to know that Tobin cares enough about her son to want to help out when things go wrong instead of wanting to run the other way. “Sure,” she agrees with a challenging smirk, suggesting Tobin has no idea what she’s getting herself into. “Better he’s mad at you than me,” she adds.

 

She ignores the skeptical look on Tyler’s face and instead walks towards the still open front door. When she gets outside, she can see Nata sitting in his booster seat with his shirt balled up in his hands and his face buried in it. A guy that Tobin assumes must be Tyler’s husband, Will, is standing next to Nata’s open door, leaning back against it with his head tilted up to the sky, eyes closed like he’s praying for some sort of miracle to just get Nata out of the car.

 

She’s wondering if maybe she’s a little out of her league judging by how stressed Will looks and how Christen and Tyler looked at her like she had no idea what she was getting herself in to, but she said she’d try and so that’s exactly what she’s going to do.

 

“Dude!” She shouts, watching as Nata recognizes her voice and jerks his head up to stare at her standing on the porch. She’s about to tell him to come inside when suddenly he starts scrambling around in his seat, trying to get the seatbelt off himself.

 

“Tobin!” He yells in his most excited voice, eyes bright and smile wide. He’s still yanking at the seatbelt when he turns towards his uncle. “Will, help me out! I have to see Tobin!”

 

Will’s quick to do what he said, seemingly worried that if he doesn’t do it soon enough, the spell might wear off and he’ll be back to pouting once again. Once the seatbelt is off, Nata is jumping out of the car and running towards Tobin where she stands on the front porch.

 

He wraps his arms tightly around her hips and looks up at her with eager eyes. “Are you gonna hang out with me and Mama?”

 

“That’s up to your Mama,” Tobin tells him, not wanting to step on Christen’s toes. She may already have plans for them tonight or she may want to reprimand him for his tantrum by not letting Tobin stay and have fun with him tonight. Tobin knows it’s not her place to decide this, so she turns towards Christen to let her take the lead.

 

“If Tobin wants, she can stay for dinner,” Christen says. “But only if you apologize to Tyler and Will for being difficult and go get your bag from the car.”

 

Nata starts to pout, but after a gentle nudge from Tobin, he relents and does what Christen told him. He hugs Tyler quickly and tells her he’s sorry and thanks her for taking him to the beach. Then, he’s jumping off the porch and running towards Will to do the same and to get his bag, taking his shirt from Will so he can put it back on.

 

“Are you some kind of miracle worker?” Tyler asks as she watches her husband hug Nata. “I thought that was going to be a lot more difficult than it was, but it was virtually painless. Make sure you hang on to her, Chris.”

 

“Oh, I plan to,” Christen assures her, leaning up to kiss Tobin’s cheek.

 

Once Nata’s apologized and gotten his things from the car, Tobin is briefly introduced to Will and Myla, their daughter. They don’t talk for long because they’ve got friends to meet for dinner and Nata’s freak out has almost made them late, but the four adults make tentative plans to get lunch one day so they can get to know each other better.

 

Tobin expects something like hanging out with Christen’s family to freak her out, but she surprisingly doesn’t mind. Tyler and Will seem like great people and she’s looking forward to getting to know them and making a good impression. Nata liking her is one thing--it’s an important thing, but he’s still only one aspect of Christen’s life. The rest of her family liking her is another thing entirely and Tobin finds herself wanting to make sure they do so that they support her relationship with Christen, which can only ever make things easier.

 

When Tobin, Christen and Nata get back inside, Christen takes Nata upstairs to get him in the shower and, Tobin assumes, to scold him for how he acted at the beach. She hangs back downstairs, scrolling through Twitter on her phone and trying to erase from her mind what she was doing with Christen on this couch just minutes ago.

 

When they finally come back down, Nata with his shirt on this time, he jumps up on the couch next to Tobin and she asks him about his day at the beach while Christen goes into the kitchen to order pizza for dinner.

 

“Mama!” Nata shouts when Christen comes back in the living room. “Tobin said she knows how to surf! She said she’ll teach me, but only if you say it’s okay. Can she please? Please, please, please?”

 

Christen says, “we’ll talk about it,” in a tone that tells Nata there’s no point in arguing with her because he’ll definitely lose, so he accepts the answer and moves on.

 

While they wait for the pizza to arrive, Tobin and Nata argue about which Harry Potter is the best movie. Tobin likes The Order of the Phoenix, but Nata insists The Chamber of Secrets is better. Christen chimes in once to say the only reason Nata likes that one so much is because snakes are, much to her dismay, his favorite animal.

 

They’re in the middle of deciding which house Christen should go in--Tobin says Ravenclaw, Nata says Gryffindor--when the pizza guy shows up. Tobin’s quick to jump up and pay before Christen even has the chance, ignoring Christen’s protests to at least let her give the delivery guy the tip.

 

They put on The Chamber of Secrets--Nata won Rock Paper Scissors--while they eat dinner on the couch, Nata talking loudly through mouthfuls of food until Christen reminds him of his manners and he quiets down until after he’s finished eating. He doesn’t last much longer after that, still exhausted from a poor night’s sleep and a day spent in the sun. His energy burst at seeing Tobin helped him make it through dinner and about half of the movie, but not long after that, Nata is leaning against Tobin’s side, snoring softly with his mouth hanging open slightly.

 

Christen sneaks a picture of the scene next to her before she tries to take Nata up to bed, but Tobin beats her to it, wrapping him up in her arms and carrying him up to his room. She’s never made it past halfway up the stairs, so Christen has to point out which room is his, opening the door and pulling back Nata’s Ironman sheets so Tobin can lay him down. He doesn’t stir the whole time, too tired to mind the jostling and Christen’s kiss to his forehead.

 

Once they’re back out in the hallway, Tobin’s barely gotten the door closed before Christen is pulling her into the room across the hall and closing the door so she can push Tobin back against it. Tobin leaves her eyes open for a moment, just long enough to register that it’s Christen’s bedroom they’re in, before she’s closing them and kissing Christen just as hard as she’s kissing her. Christen’s lips are fervent, but only for a few moments before she pulls away, taking a big step backwards to distance herself from Tobin.

 

“What was that for?” Tobin asks, dumbstruck.

 

“I couldn’t help it, you’re just so damn good with him. Seeing a hot girl get along with my kid so well, it somehow makes you hotter even though I never really thought that was possible.” Christen takes another half step back, like she doesn’t trust herself to be even three feet away from Tobin.

 

Tobin’s still breathless, but she’s able to cock an eyebrow when she says, “I thought the bedroom was off limits.”

 

“It is,” Christen tells her with a grin. “But I didn’t feel right kissing you right outside my son’s bedroom and I didn’t think I could make it to the porch soon enough. There’s a reason I kissed you against the door and not in the bed.”

 

Tobin takes a moment to look around the room. The walls are a soft, light blue color, almost green-ish, and there are large pictures of various mountaintop views, snow covered hills and waterfalls all over the walls. Tobin can only assume they’re from all the places Christen has traveled.

 

There’s one picture that catches her attention the most. It’s on Christen’s dresser and the frame around it is simple and black so that it doesn’t draw focus away from the picture itself. Christen is in cutoff shorts and a tank top in a shade of yellow that should be unflattering, but for some reason works on her. She’s got a two-year-old Nata in her arms and neither of them are looking at the camera. Instead, she’s looking at him and smiling brightly as he plays with the charm on the end of her necklace. Christen looks young, skinnier than she is now, but not in an unhealthy way. More than anything, she looks happy. The building behind them, which Tobin assumes is the orphanage, is rundown with paint peeling off the walls and cracked linoleum floors, but you would have thought they were standing in the grandest of places by the smile on Christen’s face.

 

“That’s from the first day I met him,” Christen tells her softly, sliding up behind Tobin and wrapping her arms around her waist. “He was obsessed with that necklace I’m wearing, would barely let it go.”

 

“You look happy.”

 

“I was happy.” She pauses to kiss the back of Tobin’s shoulder before she adds, “I am happy.”

 

Tobin twists in her arms so they’re standing face-to-face. They kiss again, but it’s slower this time. It’s a series of long, drawn out kisses instead of biting lips and searching tongues. Christen holds her carefully, hands knotted together at the small of her back and Tobin reaches up to wrap her arms behind Christen’s neck.

 

“I’m happy too,” Tobin says after a few moments, whispering the words against Christen’s lips.

 

“I have an idea,” Christen says in a rush, almost like she needs to get the words out before she thinks better of them. “Since the boys don’t have a game next weekend, my parents wanted to take Nata to see our cousins in San Francisco.”

 

“That sounds fun,” Tobin says, not understanding where she’s going with this.

 

“You didn’t let me finish.” She grins as Tobin mimes zipping her lips and then she continues. “I wasn’t planning on going with them, letting him have some quality time with his grandparents. So I was thinking that maybe Saturday after your game, we could stay at your place after we go to dinner with your friends.”

 

It barely takes Tobin a second to realize what Christen’s implying and her skin turns hot and prickly and the idea, but she needs confirmation. “You want to stay at my apartment? With me?”

 

“No, I’m going to kick you out and stay there by myself,” Christen jokes. “Yes, with you. You’ve been incredibly patient with me so far and more understanding than a lot of people would have been, but I’m ready. I know it’s kind of lame to have to plan something like this, but with Nata I kind of have to and--”

 

Tobin cuts her off with a kiss. “It’s not lame,” she says when she pulls away. “It’s not lame at all. I love this idea, but are you sure?”

 

Tobin’s wanted this since the moment she met Christen and she’s thought about it so many times since then it’s like she’s obsessed, which honestly, she kind of is. She’s shamelessly gotten herself off several times just at the thought of Christen, she knows she’ll be an absolute mess when she actually gets her in bed.

 

As much as she wants this, though--and as much as she knows Christen wants this--she needs to make sure Christen’s planning this because she’s ready and not just because she can’t control her lust anymore. She’d never forgive herself if she let Christen do this before she’s ready. Sex has always been a meaningless thing for Tobin, something fun to do when she’s in the mood and that’s it. It’s so much more with Christen, though. It’s everything and she won’t let herself fuck this up.

 

“I’m sure,” Christen says with a quick nod, looking Tobin right in the eye so she knows she means what she’s saying. “I promise, I’m sure. We’ve waited long enough and I don’t want to wait anymore.”

 

“All right then.” She’s trying to hide just how eager she is, but she’s pretty sure the stupid grin on her face gives her away. “Next weekend, then?”

 

“Next weekend,” Christen promises.

Chapter Text

“Wait, you seriously haven’t fucked her yet?”

 

“Really?” Tobin rolls her eyes at Kelley as she plops down on Kelley’s couch next to Allie. She’s not nearly far enough away from an obnoxious Kelley who’s on the recliner with Emily in her lap, nearly asleep on account of the late hour and multiple flight delays between Portland and LA. “Do you have to be so crass about it?”

 

“I’m sorry, let me rephrase. Wait, you seriously haven’t had sexual intercourse with her yet?” Kelley’s conniving grin gives way to the fact she’s well aware of how annoying she’s being, but she doesn’t show any signs of stopping soon. “Or how about this: wait, you seriously haven’t made sweet, sweet love to her yet? Are either of those acceptable alternatives?”

 

Allie snorts out a laugh and even an exhausted Emily manages a wry grin at her girlfriend’s joke. Tobin isn’t amused, though.

 

“It’s a big deal, okay?” Tobin defends, even though she knows she doesn’t actually have to. It doesn’t matter what their reasons are, it’s their choice and Kelley’s opinion doesn’t matter. Even though she knows Kelley is just giving her a hard time, she feels the need to defend Christen’s choice to hold off on the sex part of their relationship. “She hasn’t dated anyone since Nata came into her life and with him involved, everything is a little more complicated. We’re taking things slow.”

 

“‘Taking things slow?’ You guys clearly aren’t ‘taking’ things at all.”

 

“Kell, leave her alone,” Emily mumbles, sleep heavy in her voice. She’s tired, but still conscious enough to know that Tobin’s had enough, so she does her best to rein in her girlfriend.

 

Kelley pouts, but she does try to drop the subject, though not entirely. “I’m just surprised, is all. I’ve never known you to dedicate this much time to someone without getting sex out of the situation. Our little Toby is growing up and joining us on the dark side of monogamous, domesticated relationships.”

 

“Who would’ve thought, huh?” Tobin asks with a self deprecating laugh.

 

“I always knew you had it in you.” Allie reaches over from the other side of the couch and pats Tobin’s knee, smiling proudly. “It just took finding the right one. I can’t wait to meet her after the game.”

 

When Tobin had sent out the group text to Allie, Kelley and Emily about how their usual post-game dinner was going to have an extra person this time, Allie called her within seconds of the text going through and had squealed so loud, Tobin’s ear was ringing for an hour afterwards. She hadn’t stopped blowing up Tobin’s phone since, asking questions about Christen and Nata so that she wasn’t going into this totally blind. Tobin teased her and said to save some of the questions for Christen to answer herself, but Allie just brushed the comment aside and kept right along.

 

Honestly, Tobin doesn’t mind the questions. She likes that one of her best friends has such an interest in the girl she’s seeing. Kelley, Amy and Lauren already know Christen, so it isn’t quite the same. They know firsthand how great Christen is, but Tobin gets to set the stage with Allie and witness Allie going through the process of learning just how wonderful Christen is.

 

She can’t wait until they actually get to meet each other on Friday. If Allie had it her way, Christen would have been there at the airport to greet her when the plane from Portland landed, but she’s been busy with work so Tobin was able to intervene and make her wait.

 

They talk some about the upcoming game and Allie nearly cries when she tells them that the dog she was fostering with her husband got adopted. She was devastated to let him go, but Kelley assures her the dog found a forever home, so it’ll be okay. Soon, Emily’s softly snoring against Kelley’s chest and even Allie is starting to nod off next to Tobin. They say their goodbyes, quietly so as not to wake up Emily, and then Tobin drops Allie off at the hotel.

 

“Is Christen nervous about meeting me?” Allie asks, door halfway opened in front of the hotel.

 

“No,” Tobin says slowly, trying to figure out where her friend is going with this. “Why would she be nervous about that?”

 

“Because once she meets me, she’s going to realize I’m prettier and funnier and better at soccer than you and she’s going to leave you for me. I’m not sure how Bati feels about polyamory, but I’m sure we could make something work. Christen’s freaking hot.”

 

“Oh, shut up,” Tobin groans, shoving Allie towards the exit. “You’re starting to sound like Kelley.”

 

Allie gasps, eyes wide and jaw dropped. “You take that back right now. How dare you!”

 

“You know, I’m starting to think that maybe you’re the one that’s nervous to meet her.”

 

“Oh, I definitely am. She’s scarily pretty and she must be a force to be reckoned with if she managed to tame your slutty ass. No offense.”

 

“No, of course not. Why would I ever take offense to that?” Tobin sighs and leans back in her seat, turning the car off because clearly she isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. “This is becoming a trend with us, serious talks in cars outside of hotels.”

 

“It’s better than the trend we had in college of convincing frat guys we were gay together so they’d buy us free drinks in hopes of having a threesome with us,” Allie points out.

 

“What are you talking about? That was a great trend. There was like a four month stretch our senior year where I didn’t pay for a single shot,” Tobin counters before turning suddenly serious. “Can I talk to you about something, like for real? No sarcastic comments or teasing or anything?”

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about when you say sarcastic comments because I would never, but continue.”

 

“I really like Christen, dude.” Tobin lets out a long sigh like she just revealed her deepest, darkest secret and is thrilled to finally have it off her chest, but Allie just looks at her like she told her the sky was blue and claimed it was some spiritual epiphany that she came to such a conclusion.

 

“I know you do,” Allie says, slow and measured.

 

“Okay, but like for real. I like her, like her. I’ve liked girls before, but it’s usually just me lusting after them and trying to get them into bed, but it’s so different with Christen. I mean you saw how shocked Kelley was when she found out we’ve been together for a month and haven’t had sex yet. Whenever I think about it I start to feel the same way at first, but when I take a step back it just makes sense to me. I don’t just like her for her face or for her body or whatever. She’s smart and she’s funny and she’s such a good mom. I don’t just want her for sexual reasons, I want her for her personality. I want her for the way her eyes light up when we’re out and she sees a dog. I want her for the way she looks at Nata like he’s the greatest thing in the world, even when she’s upset with him. I want her for the way I can always tell when she’s sleepy when we’re texting because she makes lots of typos and doesn’t try to correct them. I want her for the way she purses her lips when she’s putting on her makeup and she just looks so fucking cute. I want her for the way the smiles when she has a cup of coffee in her hands like she thinks everything is right in the world. I don’t know,” Tobin complains, puffing her cheeks out as she blows a stream of air out. “I’m not making any sense, am I?”

 

“Tobin, babe, you’re making perfect sense.”

 

Tobin looks over at her friend to see that her eyes look glassy and she’s got this smile on her face that despite being only slight, conveys emotions Tobin’s never even seen on her face before.

 

“Dude, are you crying?” Tobin asks in disbelief.

 

“Shut up, I’m just really fucking happy for you, okay?” She shoves Tobin’s arm, but it’s too weak to have any real effect. “You’re in pre-love and it’s beautiful.”

 

“What the hell is pre-love?” Tobin’s pretty sure it’s some made up term Allie probably heard some contestant on the Bachelor use, but she’d be lying if she said she weren’t intrigued. She’s never been in love before, not romantically. There may or may not have been one time when she came close, at least according to Kelley, but she bolted before anything could come of it. She has no idea what that emotion is supposed to feel like, so if Allie is about to shed some insight, then she’s all ears.

 

“It’s like when you’re falling in love, but you’re not quite there yet. It’s a few steps above liking someone, but only a step down from being in love with them. You want to be with them and they make you happy and you can see a future with them, but the details are still a little blurry. Once you’re in love with them, everything will snap into focus.”

 

The realization makes Tobin feel the same way she does when they’re in the ice baths after practice and Kelley thinks it’s funny to put ice cubes down the back of Tobin’s sports bra. She feels an icy chill creep down her spine and settle low in her gut, freezing her from the inside out. She’s pretty sure if Allie touched her right now, she’d shatter into a million pieces.

 

Allie’s right. She’s so right, and something about that scares Tobin. It excites her at the same time, but stronger than anything, there’s fear bubbling under the surface of her skin and she’s afraid of it getting out.

 

She’s falling in love with Christen. She knows she isn’t quite there yet, despite not actually knowing what love is supposed to feel like, but if she’s learned anything from listening to her friends drone on about their husbands, she’s close, but still a little ways away.

 

Does she want to be in love with Christen?

 

Is that something she’d be able to handle?

 

She doesn’t know, but this revelation is hurting her brain too much to think about right now. She needs some time to herself to process this and figure out if she thinks she’s even capable of being in love with someone. There’s a reason it’s never happened before and maybe that reason is because Tobin just isn’t cut out for this sort of thing. Then again, maybe it just hasn’t happened because Tobin’s never met someone like Christen. Maybe it’s because she ran from the only other chance she had, though she’s always quick to deny any allegations about that part of her life.

 

“Clearly you’re sleep deprived,” Tobin says, wanting this conversation to end. “You should probably head inside and get to bed now.”

 

Allie must sense her distress, because she doesn’t push the topic anymore. She just sighs and leans in to hug Tobin tightly. “I’m so proud of you, okay? I know you’re scared and I know you don’t know what you’re doing, but this is good for you, I promise.” Allie pulls away with a thoughtful smile and adds, “anyone who makes you smile like this is a good thing. Oh and also, don’t let Kelley get to you about the sex stuff, okay? She and Em had sex like halfway through their first date, so they don’t count. Different couples go at different paces. Bati and I didn’t have sex for like two months after we started dating.”

 

“That’s because you went to Paris a week after you met him,” Tobin points out. “When he came to visit, you guys had sex in an airport bathroom minutes after he landed because you couldn’t keep your hands off each other. I think that’s almost worse than Emily and Kelley. At least they made it through dinner first.”

 

Shut up, you get what I mean,” Allie says with a frustrated laugh.

 

They tell each other goodnight shortly after that and after another tight hug, Allie’s out of the car. Tobin waits until Allie gets into the lobby and disappears down the hall towards the elevators before she starts her car again and heads home. Allie’s given her a lot to think about and now Tobin needs to take the proper amount of time to sift through it all.

 

When she gets back home, there’s one text waiting for her on her phone and it convinces her that everything is going to be okay, no matter how much she’s freaking out internally.

 

[Christen Press: 10:12 PM]
Just wanted to tell you I’m thinking
of you.. I hope you had fun with
your friends tonight.. I can’t wait to
see you again.. I like you a lot and
I hope you have sweet dreams,
beautiful.. Goodnight, text me in
the morning :) <3

 

Yeah, everything’s going to be okay.

xxx

Portland beats LA 4-0.

 

It’s their worst defeat in three seasons.

 

Every single one of Tobin’s shots goes wide or over the crossbar, nothing even close to being on goal. Her frustration builds the entire game and around the 70th minute, it causes her to make a stupid, dangerous tackle that results in a yellow card that with most other refs would’ve been a red, and then she’s subbed off.

 

She stomps around the locker room after that, pacing back and forth with her hands folded together on the back of her neck, head angled towards the floor. A trainer comes to check on her after a couple minutes, but she dismisses her with a wave and a glare. Eventually, she kneels down and unties her cleats, throwing them into her locker.

 

In the silence that follows the sound of reverberating metal caused by her carelessly thrown cleats, she hears her phone vibrate in her bag. It could be her mom or one of her sisters or even Amy, texting to ask her if she’s okay.

 

She knows it’s none of them, though.

 

It’s Christen.

 

She’s probably feeling guilty, thinking it’s her fault that Tobin was so off her game and got so easily frustrated. It’s not, though. It’s Tobin’s fault for letting the events that transpired before the game get to her so much.

 

Tobin had known as soon as Christen called her that morning that something was up based on the nervous shakiness in her voice. She’d tried to dance around it, but eventually Tobin just asked her what was up and Christen finally caved.

 

Turns out Nima is heading to eastern Europe for two months for a couple assignments for the magazine and wanted to hang out with Christen before he leaves on Monday morning. Christen had told him she had plans with Tobin and he asked if he could tag along, take the ticket normally reserved for Nata. Christen, not wanting to tell him the real reason why tonight is so important, had gotten flustered and told him he could come along before she was able to come up with a decent excuse or ask Tobin if she was okay with it.

 

Tobin doesn’t know why the idea of hanging out with Nima bothers her. They’re hanging out with her friends, so it makes sense for Christen to bring one of hers along. The fact it’s a friend she once dated, though, throws a wrench in the works for her. Then again, she once fucked Kelley, which Christen is aware of and has no problem with, so she’s really being a little hypocritical.

 

She knows Nima isn’t the only reason for her bad game, she’s never been one to let issues off the field affect her on it (the national team fiasco doesn’t count because the root of it all did take place on the field.)

 

The ball just hasn’t felt right coming off her foot for a couple days now, she’s just in a little bit of a funk playing-wise, which makes sense considering how well she’s been playing lately. She had to come down at some point. This thing with Nima just happened to coincide with the game tonight (and maybe exacerbate the problems a little more, but they were already there to begin with, so Tobin refuses to place blame on Christen or her friend.)

 

She doesn’t want Christen blaming herself, and she knows she is. There’s a moment where she considers checking her phone, answering Christen’s inevitable question about how she’s feeling, but instead she decides to let her know she’s okay in another way.

 

Ignoring her cleats, Tobin pads her way out of the locker room and back out to the field in her gold socks, plopping down on the bench between a rookie defender and their backup keeper. She doesn’t miss the nod Coach Foudy sends her way, happy that she got over her anger and came back out to the bench to support her teammates.

 

There are only about ten minutes left including stoppage time at that point and they’re already down 4 to nothing, but Tobin’s the best teammate she can be for what little time is left. She shouts out encouragements and claps her hands loudly when her teammates do something well. When Mallory is subbed out late, she’s the first off the bench to hug her and commend her on how well she had played.

 

It’s a bit of a foreign feeling to her, cheering on her team from the bench. It’s been a long time since she hasn’t played the full 90 minutes, but she embraces her new role, wanting everyone who’s watching her to know that while she may have let her emotions get the best of her and flipped out a little earlier, she’s perfectly okay now.

 

Everyone’s defeated and exhausted by the end of the game, but Tobin does her best to keep morale high as she claps hands with all her teammates as she makes the rounds on the field. She points out good moments for everyone, trying to encourage them as much as possible. Kelley calls her a kiss ass for it, but there’s a small spark in her eye when Tobin points out a good play she made that tells Tobin she appreciates it, even if she won’t admit it.

 

Coach gives her a pat on the shoulder and a look that tells her she’s proud of her for getting her emotions in check and coming back out to the field, but that they’ll still be having a conversation about it after their next training session. Tobin is smart emotion to let her shame wash over her for a moment and give her a cautious smile, letting her know she understands, before she hugs the last of her teammates and then makes her way over to where Kelley, Allie and Emily are currently standing.

 

Allie, knowing the last thing Tobin wants to talk about right now is the game, smiles brightly and immediately starts up a different conversation before the game can even come to mind. “So where’s this gorgeous girl? I expect a formal introduction and a number exchange so I can check in with her from time to time and make sure you’re taking care of yourself.”

 

Tobin looks back to the crowd where Christen and Nima were sitting, but they aren’t there. She assumes they’re already making their way down to the field. The security guards know Christen by now and they always open the gate for her without question. She’s about to tell Allie as much when she sees her friend’s face light up and then feels two strong arms wrap around her waist.

 

“Hi baby,” Christen whispers softly against Tobin’s shoulder, for only her to hear.

 

Tobin spins in her arms and sinks into her hug for a moment, ignoring Allie’s expectant stare for the time being and enjoying the comfort that comes from having Christen’s arms around her. She’d apologize for being sweaty, but Christen’s made it more than apparent by now that she doesn’t mind. Despite that, there’s a careful element to the way Christen holds her now that tells Tobin she knows she needs the hug and even if she were drenched in sweat right now, she’d still hold on just as tightly.

 

“Sorry about the game,” Nima tells her as Christen is pulling away with a quick kiss to Tobin’s cheek. He looks as sympathetic as anyone could be and Tobin is reminded again of just how charming he is. The smile he’s flashing is subdued, but it’s still nearly blinding under the stadium lights.

 

“Yeah, you definitely didn’t pick a good one to come to. When you get back you’ll have to make it to another one and I’ll try to make sure we don’t suck,” Tobin jokes, trying to be as friendly as possible even though--nothing against Nima--he’s one of the last people she wants to see right now. Before the game, she couldn’t wait to go hang out with her friends, but now she just wants to go home with Christen and sulk for a little bit before getting to the main part of the night that she’s been looking forward to.

 

Nima opens his mouth to respond, probably to tell her something along the lines of ‘it wasn’t that bad,’ because that’s just the kind of guy he is, but then Allie clears her throat loudly and Tobin remembers the introduction she’s expecting.

 

Tobin turns around and settles her friend with a glare, but then she puts an arm around Christen’s waist and gestures in Allie’s direction with the other hand. “Chris, this is Allie and Emily. Guys, this is Christen and her best friend Nima.”

 

“Hi!” Allie gushes, surging forward to wrap Christen up in a hug tight enough to pull her out of Tobin’s grasp. “It is so good to meet you. Tobin’s told me so much.” She’s gracious enough to acknowledge Nima and tell him it’s nice to meet him too, not wanting to be rude, but then she turns back to Christen. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting the woman who’s got our little Toby wrapped around her finger.”

 

“Don’t call me that,” Tobin grumbles.

 

“I don’t know, I think I might be the one wrapped around her finger,” Christen says, looking over at Tobin with a grin.

 

“Stop it, you guys are way too cute,” Allie sighs, looking between the two of them with admiration in her eyes and her hands clasped in front of her chest. “I’d give you the whole ‘if you break her heart, I’ll break your face’ spiel, but honestly, your face is so pretty I don’t think I’d ever be able to break it.”

 

“Okay, that’s enough,” Emily interrupts before Tobin has the chance. She pushes Allie away slightly and gives Christen a small, much less abrasive, but no less enthusiastic, hug and shakes Nima’s hand. “I’ve heard nothing but great things, from Tobin and Kelley both. It’s really great to meet you.”

 

They spend a few more minutes talking on the field before Kelley gets impatient and demands they go to the locker rooms to shower and change so that they can go out and she can go drown her sorrows over the game in cheap beer that she insists Allie and Emily are going to be buying for her.

 

They part ways with Christen and Nima, who head out to wait by the car while the others get ready. Tobin doesn’t want to leave Christen when they get to the locker room. She wants to just forgo the shower and wear her uniform the rest of the night despite the dried sweat that’s essentially glued her jersey to her back. Then, Christen reminds her of the importance of this night and tells her, quietly, that there’s no way she’s stripping down for Tobin until she’s showered.

 

Tobin heads towards the showers immediately.

xxx

Kelley’s the one that insisted they go to Top Golf, claiming that since she grew up on a golf course, she’d be able to at least win one game tonight, even if it isn’t the one that matters. Emily had scoffed out a laugh and called out the fact that just because Kelley’s house was behind the 10th hole of the Fayetteville Country Club, it didn’t mean she was good at golf. She knew just as well as Tobin that she’d never so much as held a golf club unless it was for mini-golf.

 

They all agree to go, though. Nima and Allie have never been to a Top Golf before, which pretty much settles it. Emily’s a little less than thrilled. She knows better than anyone how obnoxiously competitive Kelley is and doesn’t want to do anything that exacerbates that. She suggests anything that doesn’t involve winning and losing but then Kelley reminds her of a sketchy foul Emily committed on her during the game that’s surely going to bruise and that settles it immediately.

 

The six of them get along well as a group, even Tobin and Nima despite her earlier reservations about him coming. She realizes that she really does have absolutely no reason to be jealous of him. He’s a great guy and she understands why Christen is such good friends with him. He’s funny and kind and just all around really easy to get along with.

 

He and Allie get along best of all. They decided early on that since they were both the third wheels for their friends, they were going to team up and make the game a partner's competition. Despite being the only two that have never been before, they catch on right away and after a couple shaky practice swings to get the hang of it, they’re racking up points more than almost the other four combined. They’re consistently getting points on some of the closer nets while Kelley is determined to hit it as hard as she can in poor attempts to get a bunch of points at once that never actually come to fruition.

 

Tobin and Christen are pretty terrible, even when aiming at the nets right in front of them. Tobin’s good with her feet, but apparently sucks with her hands. She’s only able to aim one ball out of three into a net. Christen on the other hand, is just as terrible at sports as Nima claimed. Despite Nima trying to help her with her swing and Emily, who is the only one who has actually played golf for real, trying to instruct her, she just can’t get the hang of it.

 

After one game, that takes forever because of all the trash talk and insults they all throw at each other (Kelley’s the main instigator), Tobin decides to bow out, letting Kelley and Nima take turns when it’s her time to go. She sits at their table and picks at some of the food they got and takes small sips of her beer that’s gotten too warm, but she doesn’t want to order another. She doesn’t want to get drunk, she just wants to dull her annoyance over the game enough that she’s able to have fun and not think about it too much.

 

It’s pretty easy to keep the game off her mind. Despite being happy about the win, Emily and Allie don’t talk about it. They focus on the golf or some TV show or movie they saw recently. It’s not awkward, the way they avoid talking about the game that only took place a couple hours ago. It’s not like it’s a topic that sits there uncomfortably between them all like an elephant with a bright red sheet draped over it as a poor attempt at a disguise. They both understand it isn’t something Tobin and Kelley don’t want to discuss, so they simply avoid the topic.

 

Four rounds into the second game and Christen decides to join Tobin at the table. Kelley and Emily take over both Christen and Tobin’s turns, but Allie and Nima still manage to crush them.

 

“You seem tired,” Christen says as she sits in one of the tall chairs next to Tobin. She turns so her knees are pressed into Tobin’s thigh as she brushes hair away from Tobin’s face, slightly frizzy as it dries from her shower after the game.

 

“Only about losing twice tonight,” Tobin tells her. It’s meant to be a joke, Tobin’s way of coping with her emotions most of the time, but it makes Christen frown and tangle their hands together. Tobin cuts her off before she’s able to say something as sympathetic as the look she’s giving her right now. “So, Nima’s pretty cool.”

 

There’s a flicker of hesitation as Christen considers not falling into Tobin’s trap to avoid the conversation, but she goes with it anyway. The corners of her lips pull back upwards and she runs a hand across Tobin’s knee. “Really? You think so?” She asks shyly.

 

“I mean, we’re not going to be exchanging friendship bracelets any time soon, but I think I’m okay with him enough that I’m going to stop feeling jealous every time he smiles at you.”

 

“Thank you, Tobin.” She leans in for a quick kiss, and when she pulls away her frown has started to crack through again. “I’m really sorry about the game.”

 

Tobin knows she’s not going to be able to avoid this conversation. She doesn’t want to have it now, but it’s inevitable, so she figures she might as well get it out of the way now. That way when they get back to her apartment, they can just focus on each other.

 

“Please don’t apologize for that, it isn’t your fault. I promise, it had nothing to do with you or Nima,” Tobin pleads.

 

“Yeah, but if I hadn’t let Nima come to the game, you wouldn’t have gotten so upset.”

 

“That’s not true,” Tobin insists. “Every athlete has an off game every now and then, honey. I haven’t felt right in training all week, you can even ask Kelley. I haven’t been playing my best. If I was bothered by Nima being there, then that’s my issue. Not yours. I’m more upset with myself for that stupid tackle than anything. Usually in sports, when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong and that’s what happened with us tonight. It happens. It sucks, but it happens. I messed up, but it’s over now. I don’t want to let this ruin our night, okay?”

 

Christen smiles softly, trusting what Tobin’s telling her and deciding to let it go like Tobin wants. She sighs and says, “if anything’s going to ruin tonight, it’ll be my nerves.”

 

“Are you really that nervous?” Tobin asks, immediately concerned.

 

She knows it’s been a long time since Christen was intimate with another person. Something like this might not be a big deal for Tobin, but it is for Christen and so Tobin wants to make sure she doesn’t mess this up. She wants to treat this delicately and make sure everything goes right. She’s never been so careful with another person before, but then again, she’s never cared about another person so much. She’d balked the other night at Allie’s suggestion of ‘pre-love,’ but she’s starting to think her friend might have been right.

 

“Not a bad nervous, I promise.” Christen solidifies her assurance with a kiss to Tobin’s temple. “More so just anxious, I guess. I just want this to go well.”

 

“It will,” Tobin insists. “Just as soon as we can ditch these fools.”

 

“Who are you calling a fool?” Kelley asks as she walks up to their table, golf club laid casually over her shoulder like a rifle in ROTC. “You two are the ones who bowed out because you suck so badly.”

 

“Kelley, the only reason you’re doing as well as you are is because you’ve got Emily pulling all the weight,” Christen quips.

 

Tobin snorts out a laugh and holds up a hand for a high five from Christen, impressed with her teasing of her best friend. She loves that Kelley and Christen know each other well enough now and get along well enough that they’re able to joke around with each other. The only other exchanges Kelley has ever had with Tobin’s dating life in the past have been in the few minutes in crowded, dimly lit bars before Tobin’s convinced the girl she’s targeted that night to slip away on their own.

 

She likes this new development.

 

“Whatever,” Kelley mumbles, setting down her golf club and picking up her beer instead, gulping down what little is left in her cup before she reaches for the pitcher for a refill. “We should have left Allie and Nima back at the stadium. They’re having too much fun beating up on us, it’s rude.” She hiccups a little at the end and leans against the table for support, a sure sign of how much she’s had to drink. She’s a bit of a lightweight and even the weak beer Emily bought her is enough to have her uneasy on her feet.

 

“I’ll make sure to give him a stern talking to later on,” Christen offers.

 

Good,” Kelley grins. “You guys are really cute,” she muses, drawing a blush from Tobin and a proud smirk from Christen. “And by you guys I obviously only mean Christen because Tobin’s the one who’s actually a fool.”

 

“Thanks, Kell. Love you too.” Tobin rolls her eyes and considers shoving Kelley’s shoulder, but she’s pretty sure it would cause her to lose her footing completely. Instead, she kisses Christen until Kelley groans in complaint.

 

“You guys are gross. I’m leaving,” Kelley says as she picks her golf club back up and goes to lean against Emily for support instead.

 

“You think they’ll let us slip out of here without too much trouble?” Christen asks, the words whispered into Tobin’s ear. It’s enough to send a shiver down her spine. “I want you.” That’s enough to send a shiver through her entire body.

 

Tobin’s chest feels warm as she pulls her head back so she can look at Christen more easily. “You sure?” She asks hesitantly. She wants nothing more than to ditch their friends and get on with the rest of their night, but she doesn’t want to rush things.

 

“Tobin,” Christen says firmly. “Take me home.”

Chapter Text

“Your hands are shaking,” Tobin says as they step into the elevator at her apartment complex and she pushes the button for the sixth floor. Christen tries to shove her hands in the pocket of Tobin’s LAFC sweatshirt that she stole from the back of Tobin’s car, but Tobin reaches out and takes one of them in her own before she can. “You look really pretty tonight,” she tells her softly, hoping it’ll work to ease some of her nerves as she runs a thumb across the inside of her palm.

 

It works. Christen offers up a small smile and Tobin sees some of the tension fall out of her shoulders. The rest of the short elevator ride is spent in comfortable silence. When they get to Tobin’s door, she lets go of Christen’s hand so she can unlock the door and then holds it open for Christen.

 

She knows how nervous Christen is, even if she says it’s only a little bit. Christen has a tendency to be mildly anxious pretty much all of the time unless she’s in the comfort of her own home, but it’s ramped up tonight and it’s no secret why. Tobin knows with Nata involved there has to be some level of planning with this sort of thing, but she wishes it could be more spontaneous. She thinks it would be easier for Christen if things just happened and she hadn’t been stressing over this for the past week. If things just came together naturally, Christen wouldn’t have time to second guess herself and let her nerves build up.

 

That’s not really an option, though, so Tobin tries to tell a joke to lighten the tension that’s coiled back up in Christen’s shoulders now that they’re actually standing in Tobin’s apartment.

 

“Are you staying for the weekend or are you moving in permanently?” Tobin nods at Christen’s giant suitcase with a wry grin as she throws her keys on the kitchen counter. Tobin doesn’t even use a bag that big when they go on long stretches of away games. She can’t even fathom what all Christen’s stashed in there for just two nights.

 

“It’s a lot, isn’t it?” Christen blushes a deep red, but Tobin can tell by her grin that she’s only mildly embarrassed. She’s well aware of how massive and unnecessary her suitcase is.

 

“Depends,” Tobin muses, sliding up in front of Christen and wrapping her arms loosely around her waist. “Did you stow Natanael away in there? I thought the whole point of this weekend was that he’d be with your parents.”

 

“Oh hush.” She smacks Tobin’s shoulder gently and does a poor job of trying to appear offended. “I just wanted to make sure I had everything I needed. It’s been a long time since I stayed at someone’s house like this. I just wanted to be comfortable.”

 

“All I want is for you to be comfortable.” She kisses her softly on the nose and then steps away into the kitchen. “You know I’m just teasing you,” she says as she pulls two glasses down from the cabinet and starts to fill them with water from the fridge. “I love that you’re so prepared, is there anything fun in there?”

 

Christen has moved behind Tobin without her realizing, so her response is whispered right against Tobin’s ear, sending shivers down her spine. “There might be a lingerie set or two I think you’d like.”

 

Tobin swallows hard before she turns back around. Christen’s smiling at her innocently as she takes one of the glasses from Tobin as Tobin asks, “think I’ll be able to see them this weekend?”

 

“If you’re patient, you might get to see one tonight.”

 

“Patient is my middle name.”

 

Christen giggles at how eager she is and moves into the living room as she says, “oh really? Here I was thinking the P stood for Powell.”

 

“Nope, it’s totally Patient,” Tobin insists.

 

Tobin watches as Christen walks over to the shelf that stands tall against the wall next to her TV. The bottom couple shelves are filled with disorganized stacks of paperback books with cracked spines and dog-eared pages. She knows the bookshelf in Christen’s own bedroom is immaculately alphabetized and Tobin would feel embarrassed by her lack of order, but Christen isn’t looking at the books.

 

She’s looking at the shelves above them, the ones filled with medals and trophies and framed pictures from her days at UNC and with the national team and from here in LA, even a couple artifacts from her brief time in Paris. Unlike her books, there’s a little more organization with these possessions, a sign of just how important they are to Tobin. There’s a whole shelf dedicated to each stage of her soccer career.

 

The one from UNC is the most crowded, a testament to how obsessed with taking pictures Lauren is and, of course, all the national titles they managed to win while they were there. Christen grins as her eyes land on a picture of Tobin, Lauren, Amy and Allie after one of their championship wins. They’re wearing t-shirts that are far too large, but declare them as national champs and hats with the NCAA logo. Amy’s got her arms wrapped tightly around the trophy (rightly as she’s the one who scored the game winning goal and the other two before that) and the other three are jokingly trying to steal it from her. They’re all sporting cheek splitting grins and red faces.

 

“You were cute in college,” Christen muses, but she isn’t looking for a response as her eyes move up to the next shelf, the one for club soccer.

 

There’s the picture Tobin took with the first girl she ever saw wearing her jersey and one of her with Amy and Lauren from draft day, scarves of black and gold draped proudly around their necks. There’s the gold medal from their league championship they won in her third season and the bronze medal from the following season’s Club World Cup. There’s a picture, one of her favorites ever, of Tobin and Kelley with Ryan sitting on their shoulders when he was just three, one of the game balls held proudly over his head. He’s got the biggest smile on his face and it makes Tobin grin every time she sees it, even three years later. There’s a picture of her with her team in Paris after they won the French league title with the medal draped over the frame. Tobin’s eyes don’t linger on it long, not wanting to pay attention to the girl she’s got her arms wrapped around in the picture, not wanting to pay those memories any visit. Not tonight.

 

Christen’s main focus is on the top shelf, though, the one dedicated to her time spent with the national team. It isn’t as easily seen since it’s the highest, and Tobin would be lying if she said that wasn’t strategic. As proud as she is of that part of her life, it’s hard to look at the pictures and medals and the two soccer balls from her first cap and first goal. The Olympic and World Cup medals are there, but not as many pictures. She stuffed those away in drawers after she left the team, not wanting to be reminded. There is one from the 2008 Olympics with Amy and Lauren still there. They've got their gold medals clenched between their teeth and tear stained cheeks as they grin for the camera. There's another from London, Heather on Tobin’s back holding up her medal while Tobin proudly displays a banner from their youth league in New Jersey just like they promised an old coach they'd do.

 

“What, no photos from your ESPN Body Issue?” Christen asks, the grin evident in her voice even though her back is to Tobin.

 

Tobin blushes furiously and asks, “how did you know about that?”

 

“You're the one that told me to Google you. I was quite impressed with what I found.” She turns around then, stifling her grin for Tobin’s sake, but there's a teasing glint in her eye she hasn't managed to get under control.

 

Tobin swallows hard, sets her glass down on the coffee table and take a step towards Christen, trying to muster up some semblance of confidence. “Yeah, you liked what you saw, huh?”

 

“Very much, I'd like to see it a little more up close and personal, though.”

 

“That might be able to be arranged.” Tobin kisses her, soft and chaste considering what it is they both know they're about to do here. “Do you want wine or something? I got a bottle of that red you like so much.”

 

Christen simply shakes her head in response and leans in for another kiss, a little deeper than the first now that she's the one in control.

 

“I have beer too, something a little stronger than what Kelley thinks is acceptable,” she says practically into Christen’s mouth.

 

She doesn't know what she's doing. She doesn't know why she keeps trying to come up with alternative things for them to do when Christen is making it so obvious by the way her hands are bunching in Tobin’s shirt what it is she wants to do. Suddenly, it's Tobin who's nervous and she doesn't know what to do with that.

 

“Tobin,” Christen says slowly, pulling away and waiting until Tobin reluctantly looks up and meets her eyes. “I’ve wanted to fuck you since the very first day we met. I don’t want anything to drink right now, I just want you.” Her voice is barely more than a whisper. It’s light and breathy and hits Tobin right where it hurts. A shiver shoots down her spine and her feet are moving towards her bedroom before her head is able to catch up with what’s happening.

 

It isn’t until she has Christen on her back in her bed that her mind finally catches up and she realizes where they are and what’s happening.

 

Her hands are pulling up on Christen’s hips, trying to get her as close as possible to herself. Her lips are on Christen’s neck, never staying in one place for long, tracing across her smooth skin aimlessly, wanting to taste every inch. She’s finally found a spot she’s content with, taking the warm skin between her teeth and rolling her tongue across it when Christen’s breathless whimper turns into something closer to a laugh and Tobin pulls away curiously.

 

“I’m sorry,” Christen rushes out. “I didn’t mean to laugh, I just…do you have glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling?”

 

Tobin looks up at the ceiling above her bed, which she doesn’t need to do because she already knows what’s there, but she takes the moment to breathe and formulate her answer. “You really want to talk about this now?” She asks, grinding her hips down just enough to remind Christen of where they are.

 

“I’m sorry, I just…I was not expecting that.”

 

“I like looking at stars,” Tobin says, quiet. She can feel a blush start to creep up the back of her neck, but luckily it’s dark and she has other reasons on which to blame the heat rising under her skin. “There are so many lights in the city that you can’t see the stars, so I got my own,” she explains.

 

Christen’s face softens and she surges up to kiss Tobin again, latching a hand onto the back of her neck and holding on tightly so she can’t go anywhere until Christen’s finished with her. “You’re so fucking cute,” she mumbles, hooking a leg behind Tobin’s thigh and flipping her over.

 

Tobin likes to be in control, but with the way Christen is grinding down against her hips and nipping at her jawline, Tobin finds she doesn’t mind laying back and letting Christen take the wheel for a little while. Her hands move slowly, pushing Tobin’s shirt up inch by inch until her fingers reach the edge of Tobin’s bra. She starts to sit up then, using her hands on Tobin’s ribs to pull her up with her until she’s seated comfortably in Tobin’s lap and she’s able to pull her shirt over her head. Christen takes the smallest of moments to admire all the exposed skin before she’s bringing her lips back to Tobin’s skin.

 

“You keep surprising me,” Christen mumbles against her shoulder and it takes Tobin a moment to remember what it is she’s referring to, the stars. Her hands, her lips, it’s all just so distracting and Tobin can’t really focus on anything except for the fire spreading slowly through her body.

 

“Good, I--ah…I wouldn’t want to reveal all my tricks too soon.”

 

“You better reveal some of them tonight.” She punctuates her words with a sharp bite against Tobin’s collarbone.

 

There’s nothing Tobin can say in response except groan.

 

Just like that night on the couch after their second date, Tobin’s hesitant. She wants this so much, and yet her hands are staying in relatively tame positions and wherever they move, they go slowly so that she doesn’t scare Christen by moving too fast.

 

One thing that’s different from that night, though, is that Christen’s patience isn’t quite as high.

 

“Tobin, you can touch me,” she huffs out, frustration evident in her tone. She only takes her mouth away from Tobin’s long enough to say the words and then her tongue is slipping back into Tobin’s mouth and she’s reaching for Tobin’s hands to move them herself.

 

Tobin wants to press pause for a moment, though, make sure what’s happening is really resonating with Christen so that she realizes how serious this is. She doesn’t think Christen’s oblivious by any stretch, but she doesn’t want her getting caught up in how good this feels and forget about what this all means. It’s been a long time since Christen’s been in this position and Tobin wants to make sure she’s well aware of all the lines they’re crossing. Sure, this was the plan all along for tonight, but Tobin wants Christen to know it’s okay to back out if she wants. She doesn’t want Christen to think because this was expected that Tobin will be upset or disappointed in her if it doesn’t happen.

 

Tobin leans back until Christen takes the hint that Tobin wants a break and she stops chasing her with her lips. Christen sits back up straight so Tobin can lean back in while still keeping some semblance of space between them.

 

Tobin takes the moment to appreciate just how gorgeous a thoroughly kissed Christen Press is.

 

Her hair is a mess from Tobin’s tangling fingers and her usually pink lips are red and wet. Tobin can still see the slight indentation of her bottom teeth on Christen’s lower lip. Her eyes are hooded, but Tobin can still see how dark they are and how wide her pupils have blown. Her chest is heaving with deep breaths, straining against the shirt Tobin is wishing she already had her out of. She’s just as beautiful as Tobin always imagined Christen would be in this situation; more so even, if she’s being honest.

 

“Are you sure?” Tobin asks her quietly once she’s caught her breath.

 

Christen does her the courtesy of pausing before she answers, giving the impression that she’s thinking about the answer like Tobin wants instead of just rushing out an answer and kissing her again. Her eyes give her away, though. They don’t move from Tobin’s lips for even a second and she knows Christen doesn’t need this break in action. She’s made up her mind and nothing is going to change that now.

 

She wants this.

 

“Completely,” Christen finally says with a kiss to Tobin’s forehead. “I appreciate you being so careful, but I promise you I’m sure. I wouldn’t lie to you about something like this.”

 

The answer is enough for Tobin, who reaches out and finally starts slipping Christen’s shirt over her head, taking the tank top with her so that they’re now both only in their bras from the waist up.

 

She isn’t prepared for what she finds beneath Christen’s shirt. She doesn’t think she ever could be.

 

Christen’s in a simple, black lace bra, the cups just barely doing their job of covering what they’re supposed to. The material is stretched and her breasts are almost slipping out, but not because the size of the garment is wrong. It’s completely intentional, Tobin can tell.

 

“Holy shit,” she gasps. “Are you trying to kill me?”

 

Christen’s smirking with confidence, but there’s a hesitance to it as she flushes in the most minute way from watching Tobin’s hungry eyes rove over her chest. “This isn’t even my nicest bra,” she notes.

 

Tobin swallows hard as she takes in that information. “If that’s the case, then it’s probably best if I just die now because I certainly won’t survive anything more than this.”

 

“Stay strong,” Christen says with a playful, almost mocking pat on Tobin’s shoulder. “I’ve got plans for you tonight that require you to be very alive.”

 

“I’ll do my best.”

 

Christen grins, but it falls away quickly once Tobin mouths at one of her breasts through the thin material of her bra. Even through the lace, Tobin can feel her nipple rise to attention under the lave of her tongue.

 

Christen’s voice is hypnotizing--the cadence of it, the pitch, the lilt--it all drives Tobin absolutely crazy and has since the very first time she heard it.

 

Her laugh is something Tobin would expect from a Disney princess. It's light and sparkling and even when it reaches that deep timbre when she's really laughing, there's still an air to it that leaves it sounding magical.

 

Her breaths, Tobin never knew something so simple could sound so damn good. She knows the difference between the pace of Christen’s sleepy breaths. She knows the way they rattle in her lungs when she calls after a workout. She knows the way they deepen and become longer when she’s working on her computer, interspersed with frustrated huffs when she can’t get something just right. Each one, in all forms, always hits Tobin right in the chest, grounding her with how familiar those sounds have become after such a short time.

 

Tobin’s familiar with all the sounds Christen makes and she loves them all in their own way, but the way Christen moans in response to Tobin’s tongue rolling over her nipple, that’s the sound that just about knocks her dead. It’s hypnotizing and magical and so damn good all at once and Tobin can’t stand it. It makes her try that much harder just so she can hear it again.

 

Like earlier when Tobin was being hesitant, though, Christen’s patience is still thin. While it’s clear she’s enjoying what’s being done to her, she needs more and she needs it now.

 

After Christen reaches around to unhook her bra, tired of waiting for Tobin to do it herself, Christen’s fingers knot in Tobin’s hair and she holds her mouth closer to her now bare breasts. Her breath is thin and strained in a way Tobin’s never heard from her before and she makes a careful mental note to catalog it away with all her other breaths.

 

Tobin’s trying her hardest. She goes slowly at first until she finds something Christen particularly likes and then she applies more pressure. Christen’s left nipple is more sensitive than her right, Tobin learns, and Tobin enjoys using that knowledge to tease demands out of Christen. She’ll mouth at every inch of skin around it, but never quite on it, nipping hard and soothing with her tongue. Tobin’s too dazed to time it, but she can’t go on for more than a minute before Christen’s pulling at her hair and directing her exactly where she wants her.

 

The little gasp she lets out both makes the teasing worth it and makes Tobin want to kick herself for ever denying that sound.

 

After another minute, Christen moves from Tobin’s lap and lays on her back, guiding Tobin on top of her. Usually, Tobin would be the one in the position of power in such a situation, but she's not fooled. Christen is still very much leading this. She puts Tobin’s hands where she wants them. She pulls on Tobin’s thigh until it's wedged between hers. She opens her mouth to invite Tobin’s tongue in. She's still taking the lead and Tobin is more than happy to follow along.

 

Once Christen’s got Tobin where she wants her, she reaches around to unhook Tobin’s bra.

 

That's when Christen’s freezes, breath halfway through her mouth as her eyes lock on Tobin’s bare chest.

 

“Fuck, you're gorgeous,” Christen breathes out, lips barely moving to form the words, frozen like the rest of her body.

 

Tobin stays quiet, let's Christen look, let's her process. Eventually, Christen raises a slow, trembling hand to brush two fingertips along the outside of Tobin’s breast. The little whine Tobin lets out isn't just for show, but it's enough to snap Christen out of her daze and flatten her hand so she's cupping Tobin’s breast fully.

 

Tobin lets out a downright vulgar groan at that, earning a proud smirk from Christen.

 

“I've barely done anything and you're already making those noises? I must be way better than I remember.” She kneads experimentally, fingers slow but firm, seeing just what other kinds of noises she can pull from Tobin.

 

“I've thought about this more times than I even know,” Tobin admits, too focused on what Christen’s doing to be embarrassed by her confession. “I've can't help it the real thing is so much better than my fanta--” The word dies on her lips as Christen’s fingers move to tweak a nipple.

 

“You've fantasized about me?”

 

Tobin hesitates, but then Christen tugs on her nipple again, demanding an answer out of her. “Y-yes,” Tobin blurts out. “So much.”

 

Christen leans up to whisper in Tobin’s ear, “I’ve thought about it too,” at the same time she moves her hand to her other breast and rolls a nipple between her thumb and forefinger.

 

Thinking about Christen is one thing. Thinking about Christen thinking about her is another entirely. She wants to know what went on in her head, what she thought about doing to Tobin, what she thought about Tobin doing to her…if she touched herself while thinking about it like Tobin has.

 

She can’t manage to form her thoughts into words, though, because Christen is reaching up to unbutton her jeans and the next thing Tobin knows, they’re both in only their underwear under the blankets and Christen’s got her on her back.

 

“This is fast,” Christen says suddenly, pulling her mouth away from Tobin’s breast and sitting back on Tobin’s thighs. “This is too fast, isn’t it? I should slow down?”

 

“No, no I’m okay.” Tobin sits up on her elbows and looks at Christen thoughtfully. “If it’s too fast for you we can slow down, though.”

 

Christen runs her hands through her hair and sucks in a breath. “I feel so ridiculous for getting nervous over this, like I’m losing my virginity all over again,” she complains, a wrinkle forming between her eyebrows.

 

“In that case,” Tobin starts, sitting up completely and wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist, “I’ll be gentle.”

 

“Don’t you dare,” Christen threatens.

 

“Is that your subtle way of telling me you like it a little rough?”

 

Christen doesn’t hesitate before dropping her voice down in pitch and whispering, “it wasn’t meant to be subtle.” She pulls her bottom lip in between her teeth and bites down hard, the skin around her teeth turning white.

 

God, her girl is so damn hot.

 

Fuck,” Tobin breathes, barely audible. “Good, uhm…good to know.”

 

Christen laughs and pushes Tobin’s shoulder so that she lays back down and Christen follows. “Don’t go passing out on me yet, I’m just getting started.” She proves her point by bringing her lips to Tobin’s neck, but only for a moment as she starts moving her way down Tobin’s chest.

 

Tobin tries to keep her eyes open, tries to watch as Christen’s open mouth moves painstakingly slow down her body. She tries to follow the path Christen’s tongue makes, but it all just feels so damn good that she can’t. Her eyes clench closed tightly and she pushes her head back into her pillow, trying to focus on her breathing.

 

Christen goes slowly, picking out random patches of skin to focus her time on before moving to another. She kisses and bites and sucks at Tobin’s skin so carefully it's like she's following a road map, weaving her way through the hills and valleys of Tobin’s abdominals.

 

She's made it to the sharp edge of one of Tobin’s hip bones, carefully staying away from the elastic band of her underwear, when suddenly her mouth is gone. Tobin opens her eyes and looks up to see Christen sitting up, pulling a black hair tie from her wrist and looping it around her dark curls. When she's finished, her hair is in one of the messiest buns Tobin’s ever seen, but it's away from her face so it's doing the job well enough.

 

“Three years and you still remember some of the tricks. You're not as out of practice as you think you are,” Tobin says, eyes tracing up and down Christen’s body above her.

 

The bright lights from the city six floors down offer just illumination through the window that Christen’s body looks like it's glowing. She looks like some kind of deity or something, stepping from the darkness and into the light in the most beautiful way. She's a naked deity, but still, this is a religion Tobin can definitely support. She'd bow down at Christen’s feet if she always looked at her the way she's looking at her right now--one corner of her mouth tugging up, eyes narrowed playfully until wrinkles form by the corners.

 

Yeah, Tobin would have absolutely no problem praying to Christen.

 

“I've been preparing,” Christen replies matter of factly, bringing a hand up to slowly trace two fingers from Tobin’s collarbone to her underwear, letting her finger curl under the elastic. “Constant vigilance and all that.”

 

Tobin shoots up at that, bringing her arms around Christen’s waist and looking up at her with wide eyes. “Did you really just make a Harry Potter reference while you're naked in my bed and about to put your hands down my underwear?” She asks in disbelief, waiting until Christen giggles and nods before she continues. “God, you're perfect.”

 

Tobin lays back, pulling Christen with her and kissing her hard as Christen’s hands continue to tug at her underwear. Once she's got them as far down as her arms can reach, Tobin kicks them the rest of the way down until they're tangled with her sheets.

 

Christen kisses Tobin’s lips firmly one more time and then starts to move back down between her legs, but Tobin stops her with a hand on the back of her neck, keeping her face close.

 

“Tobin, come on. I want to taste you,” Christen whines, so clearly annoyed at being waylaid from the task at hand.

 

The desperation in her voice almost makes Tobin simply let her go, but she stays strong. She's got something to say first. “J-just, uhm…” she swallows the lump in her throat and continues, “just go slow, okay? If you don't, I'm not going to make it and I'll probably come about two seconds after you touch me.”

 

“If you come that quickly, then I'll just have to keep going until you come again. I've been waiting a while for this, I'm taking my time.”

 

With one last kiss, Christen moves into position, the sheets on Tobin’s bed bunched up around her waist as she leans in to achieve her goal of tasting Tobin without any preamble save for the two fingers she uses to spread Tobin wide so she has room.

 

She lasts longer than two seconds, but she can't last any longer than two minutes, though it's not like she has any sense of time at the moment to be able to tell. Tobin’s typically vocal in bed, offering up instructions and voicing desires, but with Christen she doesn't need to be. Christen’s already reading her body like an expert, adding more pressure when she wants it, backing off when she needs it, sliding a finger--or two, or three--inside seconds before she's able to beg for it.

 

Christen’s fingers are far more skilled than they have any right to be. They're long and thin and know just what to do to work Tobin up until she's practically sobbing for more. Tobin knows she'd do anything Christen says if she says it with her hands. She's reaching something deep inside Tobin, curling her fingers in just the right way to pull strangled moans out of Tobin’s throat that Tobin doesn't even recognize.

 

Tobin knows she's dangerously close, can feel herself spiralling, and knows that it's only going to take the slightest change in motion to set her off now. Again though, Christen can already tell and the words, “I'm so close,” have just barely started to fall from Tobin’s lips when Christen pulls Tobin’s clit between her lips and rolls her tongue over it firmly.

 

Tobin’s body tenses and it's like the whole world freezes with her. She's suspended in time for a moment, aware of nothing except for the pleasant warmth that’s pooling low in her stomach. Her body’s waiting for a single spark, about to explode. She takes a small breath and then the matches are dropped, the world snaps back into focus and her whole body catches fire.

 

Her back arches, pushing her hips up against Christen’s mouth and making her orgasm that much more intense as the pressure is increased. “Fuck, Christen,” she moans out. “Oh my god…f-fuck.”

 

Her chest is heaving once her body finally stops jerking, her lungs screaming at her for oxygen. Her brain is screaming at her to take a breath, but she can't seem to remember how to do that right now. It isn't until Christen crawls up her body and whispers, “breathe,” in her ear that she finally remembers how to do that basic human function.

 

Christen starts to wipe her mouth on the back of her hand, but Tobin stops her with a hand on her wrist and pulls it out of the way so she can kiss Christen fully, taste herself on her lips. She must have been far more turned on than she realized, Christen’s lips and chin are drenched and sticky, but that only serves to make Tobin whine into Christen’s mouth and kiss her that much harder.

 

“How was that?” Christen asks when Tobin finally pulls away and she's able to actually wipe her mouth off this time.

 

“I think the scratches you've got on the back of your shoulders answer that question for me,” Tobin says between gasps. “In case you didn't already know, though, that was really, really good. I'm gonna need a minute before I return the favor.”

 

Christen laughs that breathtaking laugh of hers and folds herself into Tobin’s side, kissing her cheek in the process. “Sorry if I'm a little rusty. I'll get the hang of it soon enough, I'm sure.”

 

“If that was you a little rusty, then I don't want to know what you're like at full force because that'll surely kill me.”

 

These are the moments after sex she was never really a fan of. She doesn't like to call herself a love ‘em and leave ‘em type, but that's essentially how she used to be. She doesn't like to cuddle or have cute pillow talk after sex. Once she’s able to finally breathe again, she'll find an excuse to leave or kindly suggest that the other girl go home.

 

That's the absolute last thing she wants with Christen, though. She doesn't want her to ever leave. She wants to stay right here in this bed with Christen by her side for the rest of her life.

 

“Give me a minute and I promise I’ll return the favor,” Tobin says.

 

“You’re damn right you are,” Christen teases. They both go quiet as Tobin tries to catch her breath and Christen draws patterns across Tobin’s stomach. Christen’s the one to break it a few moments later. “So do those stars actually make any constellations or are they just random?”

 

“No one’s ever asked me that before,” Tobin says in disbelief. She leans in and kisses Christen’s cheek. She really shouldn’t be surprised. Christen is more thoughtful than anyone she’s ever been with before. Of course she would ask something like this. Tobin raises an arm and points out a series of larger stars to the left of the ceiling. “But yeah, it’s Ursa Major actually. The bigger ones make the big dipper and then those,” she moves her arm below the bowl of the dipper, “are the legs and the head is over to the right.” She lift Christen’s arm and closes her hand over Christen’s, aiming it right where the nose of the bear is supposed to be.

 

“This one’s the bear, right? Is that your favorite constellation?”

 

Tobin nods and says, “when I was a kid, we’d visit my dad’s family up in Maine for spring break and my dad would always bring his telescope along because the skies were so clear and we could actually see the stars really well unlike back at home. We’d spend hours on the dock behind my cousin’s house and he’d point out all the constellations to me. This was the first one I was able to find on my own.”

 

Christen’s quiet as she takes in Tobin’s story and then she leans back a little so she can actually look up at Tobin. “You don’t talk about your dad very much,” she says softly.

 

Tobin doesn’t take her eyes off the ceiling, eyes locked on the last star on the Big Dipper’s handle. “I don’t really want to talk about my dad while I’m naked,” she says eventually with a small, forced laugh. It’s only part of the reason and she’s pretty sure Christen picks up on this by the way she kisses Tobin’s shoulder and then curls in closer, but she’s gracious enough to not say anything.

 

“Speaking of being naked, I’m not entirely there yet,” Christen points out, letting the mood shift away from something Tobin clearly doesn’t want to talk about and back to the reason they’re here right now.

 

“We can’t have that, can we?”

 

“Definitely not.”

 

Tobin smirks and rolls over so she’s above Christen, held up by her knees and elbows. “Let’s see if we can do something about that, yeah?”

 

It’s easy to slip back into each other’s space, bodies fitting together perfectly when Christen wraps her legs around the back of Tobin’s thighs and pulls her down on top of her. Maybe it’s because they’re going slow enough or because they’ve had so many intense makeout sessions before tonight that they already know each other’s bodies well enough by now, but there’s none of the awkwardness that typically comes along with being with someone for the first time. Their teeth aren’t clacking, they aren’t knocking into each other with their limbs, they aren’t bumping heads. They simply work and Tobin’s never felt something so right in her entire life. She thinks she might feel more comfortable above Christen than she does with a soccer ball at her feet and that realization would be jolting if she weren’t so preoccupied with the task at hand.

 

Tobin busies herself with bringing her mouth back to Christen’s breasts as her hands move up and down svelte thighs, running her nails across the skin until Christen shivers. She’s enjoying all the sounds she’s getting out of Christen, but apparently she needs more.

 

“Babe, as much as I’m loving this, the teasing has got to stop. I’ve gotten myself off to the thought of you long enough, I need the real thing,” Christen gasps out as Tobin bites down gently on the underside of her breast.

 

“Fuck,” Tobin groans, lifting her head to look up at Christen. “You can’t just say things like that.”

 

“What are you going to do about it?” She asks as she bites on her lower lip, making Tobin’s entire body go weak. She brings up a hand to Tobin’s hair and tries to push her head gently down, making it clear what she wants, but Tobin has another idea.

 

She kisses Christen, hard, and moves her thigh from between Christen’s so she can’t rock up against it. She swallows Christen’s complaints with another kiss and then pulls away. “Show me what you would do if it were just you,” she says. “All those times you laid awake thinking of me and would touch yourself, show me what you did. Show me what you want.”

 

Christen groans at her words, fingers twisting tighter in Tobin’s hair. “Tobin, please. I need you to touch me,” she pleads, rocking her hips up and trying to find contact against Tobin’s thigh, but there’s none to be found.

 

Tobin drops her forehead against Christen’s collarbone, breathing in the familiar honey scent of her skin, muted by the thin, salty sheen of sweat on her skin. She seriously considers going against her plans and just giving Christen what she wants, but she stays strong. She knows what she’s doing.

 

“Trust me, okay?” Tobin kisses Christen’s chest and then lifts her head to kiss her lips for a moment. She drops her voice to a lower note and says, “just go with this, it will be good for you. I promise. Show me what you want,” she repeats.

 

Christen looks like she wants to protest again, but then decides she’s turned on enough, wants Tobin enough, that she’s willing to go along with what Tobin is telling her to do if it means she gets some sort of relief soon enough.

 

Slowly, Christen brings her hands between her legs. She spreads her fingers wide and drags her fingertips along her inner thighs down as far as they reach and then back up. Tobin watches between their bodies as the muscles in Christen’s legs jump and twitch in response to her gentle ministrations. She wants to know what that feels like under her own hands, and she swears she will, but she’s enjoying watching so much that she tells herself to hold off just a little longer.

 

Just when Tobin thinks she can’t take it anymore, is about to join in, one of Christen’s hands goes between her legs, fingers dipping in to stroke through herself. She’s teasing, going slowly and not actually making contact anywhere that matter. She’s just working herself up slowly, and Tobin as well.

 

Tobin kisses her, a bit softly considering what’s going on, but it grounds her, keeps her focus on the task at hand instead of knocking Christen’s hand away and doing this herself. They kiss for a few moments until there’s a hitch in Christen’s breath that Tobin knows wasn’t caused by her. She looks down between their bodies to see Christen pushing a finger inside of herself as deep as she can reach given the angle. She looks back up and watches Christen’s face as she fucks herself, starting to pick up the pace. This is something Tobin has been thinking about since their first date when Christen mentioned it, but the real thing is so much better.

 

Christen’s got her bottom lip trapped between her teeth, but there’s this small, blissed out smile that turns Tobin on as much as anything else Christen has done to her tonight. Knowing how much Christen is enjoying this, knowing she’s the one causing her own pleasure, has Tobin getting even wetter. She isn’t even the one getting fucked, but she needs more.

 

“Add another,” she instructs softly before lowering her mouth to Christen’s chest and taking a nipple between her teeth, flicking her tongue across it until Christen’s arching her chest up into Tobin’s mouth.

 

Christen does add another finger, but she also does one better. She brings up her other hand that had still been stroking along the inside of her thigh and starts running two fingers in slow, wide circles over her clit. She lets out a filthy moan at that and Tobin’s had about enough. She has to help.

 

Tobin lowers one hand between Christen’s legs and closes it over the back of Christen’s hand. She pulls Christen’s hand slowly until her fingers are almost all the way out, then she lays a finger between Christen’s and pushes inside again. It’s a tight fit, but Christen takes it easily, pushing her head back into the pillow and rocking her hips up to meet their joined hands, matching them stroke for stroke.

 

“Fuck,” Christen mutters. She doesn’t swear often, but when she does, it does things to Tobin that she can’t explain. Hearing such a pretty mouth say such dirty things messes with her mind and makes her warm all over. Hearing Christen swear while she’s in the midst of fucking her is another thing entirely.

 

“Is this good?” Tobin asks, wanting some type of verbal confirmation that she’s doing okay. The moans and physical reactions are one thing, but Tobin’s always been a fan of talking during sex, so she wouldn’t mind some spoken recognition that her actions are appreciated.

 

“So…so fucking good,” Christen responds, with a fluid nod, her head bobbing like she’s almost lost control of the muscles in her neck. “So good, please don’t stop. I’m so close.”

 

Without stopping the thrusts of their hands, Tobin tilts their palms in a way so that the heel of Christen’s hand is pressed right against her clit with every stroke. The new angle means their fingers can’t get as deep, but the way she curls them and the added pressure against her clit more than make up for it.

 

“Tobin, I--I” Christen’s voice is starting to crack, words are getting harder to form and the moans building in the back of her throat are becoming for hurried, one falling out with almost each shallow breath that leaves her lungs. “I…close, so…Tobin, I--”

 

With a sharp jerk of her hips, Christen shatters. Tobin can feel her tighten around their fingers, warm and wet. Her body tenses and then jerks fully, in time with their hands, which are still pushing into her. Tobin can feel Christen’s pulse point going haywire underneath her tongue as she runs it over Christen neck. She lets out a long, drawn out moan that Tobin feels deep in her bones, shaking the very foundation she’s built on until Tobin knows all it would take is a single touch to send her falling over the edge right along with Christen.

 

She isn’t finished her her yet, though.

 

Tobin finally pulls their hands away and inches her way down the bed until she’s between Christen’s legs. It isn’t until Tobin’s laying her hands on top of Christen’s thighs to spread her wide that Christen comes to enough to notice what’s going on.

 

“Tobin, I can’t y--” The rest of her protest is cut off as Tobin brings her tongue between her legs and she lets out a moan that certainly contradicts her words.

 

It doesn’t take very long. Christen’s still worked up from her first orgasm and she’s out of practice, but it’s enough for Tobin to fully get the taste of her and decide that she could go down on Christen forever if it meant she could always look up and see how absolutely gorgeous Christen is while she’s getting fucked.

 

A couple minutes later and Christen’s falling again, brought on by nothing by Tobin’s tongue and her own fingers toying with a nipple. Tobin could keep going, wants nothing more, but she can tell Christen needs a break, so she kisses her way up Christen’s body and presses a solid kiss to her lips before she rolls off her, giving Christen room to breathe.

 

“You know,” Christen eventually huffs out, breaths still quick and shallow. “You were the one complaining about this being so good it killed you, but I’m pretty sure I’m the one who’s dying.”

 

“Thank you…I think?” Tobin replies with a laugh, rolling so she’s on her side, propped up on and elbow and her head resting in her hand. “Are feeling okay?”

 

“I’ve literally never felt better.”

 

“Tell me more about how spectacular I am in bed. I’m thoroughly enjoying this.”

 

“Oh, shut up.” Christen lets out a breathless laugh and turns so she’s laying on her side facing Tobin, finally regaining some self control. “You’re the one who almost passed out when I made a Harry Potter reference.”

 

“And I stand by it. That was ridiculously hot.”

 

“You’re too easy,” Christen smirks. She looks up at Tobin with hooded eyes, long eyelashes slowly blinking as green eyes meet brown ones. She’s quiet for a moment, letting her breath settle even further and moving her hand to trace patterns over Tobin’s hip, barely covered by the sheet. “It’s so crazy,” she finally says, voice hardly above a whisper.

 

“What is?” Tobin asks, thoughtful.

 

“How familiar you feel,” Christen explains. “It’s like I’ve known you my whole life, like we met in a past life or something and since then I’ve just been trying to find you. I don’t know how you feel about past lives and all that, I know you’re Christian, but it’s really the only way I can think of to explain it. I feel like I’ve spent my whole life trying to find you and then I opened the door that day and…there you were, like I’d always hoped you would be some day. It’s like everything just clicked into place. Everything finally made since.”

 

“I get that,” Tobin tells her, reaching up to twist her fingers together with the hand Christen had been using to stroke along her hip. “It felt like fate or something, Amy getting tied up at work that day and me having to pick up the boys. It felt like God himself stepped in and steered me right there to your door. He knew I just had to meet you.”

 

“Remind me to thank Him.”

 

Tobin swallows hard, knowing how serious the words she wants to say next are. The whole conversation is serious, intense in a way Tobin hadn’t been expecting, but it’s one Tobin is happy to be having. This next bit is personal, though. It’s weighted, but Tobin’s ready for it.

 

“I thank Him for you every single day. For you and Nata,” she confesses, exposing a sincere side of her that she isn’t used to.

 

Christen surges forward and kissed her hard, teeth clashing a bit in her rush, but Tobin doesn’t mind. It’s messy and intense, but it’s exactly the kind of kiss the situation calls for. Their hands grasp for each other, desperate to find purchase and Tobin thinks that explains everything it is she feels when it comes to Christen. She’s just trying to find traction. Christen knocks her off her feet in the best way possible and this whole thing with her is just Tobin trying to right herself up again, relying on Christen--the very reason she’s knocked off her axis in the first place--to help her do so. Christen knocks her down and picks her back up in a relentless cycle that, while it scares the hell out of Tobin, liberates her from the place she’s boxed herself inside.

 

Tobin’s always stayed inside herself, wanting to never have to rely on anyone else except herself, but Christen tore apart all that. She encourages Tobin to lean on her, to let her in. It was hard at first for Tobin, letting someone she’s dating get so close to her, but it’s only ever felt natural. With Christen, she doesn’t know how else to be except for exactly who she is.

 

Tobin’s never felt that with anyone else before.

 

Christen pulls away and whispers against Tobin’s lips, “I think I’ve spent my whole life missing you. I don’t want to miss you anymore.”

 

“You don’t have to. I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere,” Tobin promises.

 

Christen’s hand moves up from it’s place on Tobin’s ribs and her fingers trace across Tobin’s cheek. She uses her index finger to trace a path from the back of Tobin’s jaw to her chin, up her cheek, across her forehead, down her nose, ending with a soft outline of Tobin’s lips.

 

“You’re so fucking pretty,” she muses, blushing in a way that makes Tobin think she didn’t mean to say that out loud.

 

“I like you a lot, Chris,” she blurts out before she can think better of it. She needs Christen to know. She’s not about to bring up with whole ‘pre-love’ conversation she had with Allie yet, but she can do at least this much.

 

“I like you a lot too.” Christen kisses the tip of her nose, her lips, her chin, and then she tucks her face against Tobin’s neck and whispers, “I like you so much.”

 

“That better not be all I’m getting out of you tonight,” she says when she hears Christen let out a small yawn. “Especially after that speech, I’m not finished with you yet.”

 

“Don’t forget I haven’t been with anyone in three years,” she points out. “My stamina is pretty low.”

 

“Could’ve fooled me,” Tobin smirks, earning her a gentle punch against her shoulder.

 

“I’m good to go again so long as you’re cool with doing most of the work.”

 

“I’m so okay with that.”

 

Christen kisses her once more and then moves so she’s on her back again and reaches for Tobin. “Come here,” she purrs, pulling at Tobin until she’s got a thigh on either side of her head and is lowering herself down onto Christen’s waiting mouth.

 

Yeah, Tobin’s definitely okay with this.

Chapter Text

“Tobin, are you awake?”

 

Christen’s soft voice cuts through the quiet darkness that’s settled around Tobin’s room now that the light from the window has dulled and the rest of the city has gone to bed.

 

Tobin is awake, but she’s trying really hard not to be. Once they were finally able to keep their hands to themselves, Tobin had settled next to Christen with her head on her stomach and they’d started to drift off, their breaths deepening and slowing.

 

Tobin had thought Christen was already asleep, and after the game and three rounds of sex, Tobin was exhausted and eager to join her. Apparently though, Christen isn’t asleep quite yet.

 

“No,” Tobin mumbles, the word getting lost in the blankets bunched around Christen’s waist. “I’m asleep, you should join me. It’s nice here.”

 

“Tobin,” Christen whines and it sounds like she’s biting on her bottom lip. “Can I ask you something?”

 

Tobin sighs, tucks her leg closer next to Christen’s, and says, “can it wait until morning? I’m so tired.”

 

The breath Christen takes in makes it seem like she’s about to protest, but then she sighs and brings a hand up to play with Tobin’s hair, something she knows lulls her to sleep. “Yeah, it can wait ‘til morning,” she says reluctantly. “After your game and everything I’m sure you’re exhausted. I’m sorry, let’s just go to bed.”

 

Tobin hears the disappointment in her voice and a disappointed Christen is something Tobin isn’t strong enough to resist. She groans, knowing it’s going to be a little while longer before she actually gets to sleep, and sits up on her elbow. She runs a hands slowly over her face, trying to wipe away her pressing desire for sleep.

 

“What’s up, honey?”

 

“Nothing, don’t worry about it. You’re right, it can wait until morning. Just go back to sleep.”

 

Christen closes her eyes and tries to make it seem like she’s taking her own advice, but there’s a crease in between her eyebrows that Tobin knows isn’t going away until she gets whatever is bothering her off her mind.

 

“Chris, it’s okay. I’m awake, I promise. Tell me what’s going on,” she coaxes, poking at Christen’s cheek until she grins and finally opens her eyes. “What do you want to ask me?”

 

Christen chews on her lip before she hesitantly says, “it’s about God.”

 

Tobin’s the one with a crease between her eyebrows now as she looks at Christen with a confused expression, wondering why this is something that’s keeping Christen up right now. They’ve talked briefly about religion before, enough for Christen to know she’s Christian and takes her faith very seriously while Christen is somewhat spiritual, but doesn’t really identify with any religion and considers herself agnostic if anything.

 

For some, the conflict of faith might be a point of contention in a relationship, but it doesn’t bother Tobin. So long as Christen respects Tobin’s religion, it doesn’t bother her what her beliefs are, which is why they’ve never talked about it outside of that initial conversation. Christen knows that Tobin goes to church almost every Sunday. Tobin knows that Christen only goes to mass on Christmas and even then it’s only to please her Catholic grandmother.

 

Differing belief systems could spell a recipe for disaster, but it hasn’t ever bothered Tobin when it comes to Christen and it hasn’t seemed to bother Christen either. Until now at least. Tobin is curious what’s going on in Christen’s head and she nods carefully before she responds.

 

“All right, what’s it about?”

 

Christen blows a slow stream of air through her lips and says, “I guess I’m just wondering what makes you so sure? Like, what is it that makes you believe so passionately? I told you my grandma is Catholic, but the rest of my family isn’t so it’s something I’ve always wanted to understand, but she gets offended when I ask about it.” Her words are hesitant, like she’s worried she’s going to say something to upset Tobin.

 

Tobin tilts her head down to kiss Christen’s shoulder softly. “You know it doesn’t bother me if you ask about my faith, right? If you want to know something, I don’t want you to be afraid to ask. It’s something I’d love to share with you, but it’s also not something I’m going to force on you.”

 

“I know it can be a sensitive topic for some people so I don’t want to say anything that offends you. I don’t want to upset you.”

 

“You won’t,” Tobin promises, sealing it with a kiss to her lips this time before she gives Christen her answer. “Aside from soccer, God is the only other thing I’ve ever been 100% sure about,” she starts, settling Christen with a thoughtful look to let her know she’s being sincere. “Even when I question Him, even when I’m pushed towards not believing, I’ll see or hear something and I’ll feel Him and I’m reminded to keep my faith and keep trusting in Him.”

 

Christen’s quiet as she takes this in, nodding slowly. Her hand finds Tobin’s and she twists the ring Tobin wears on her right hand before she asks, “what kinds of things remind you?”

 

“All kinds of things, honestly. Everything that’s good. He’s the sun rising out over the water, just as it’s creeping over the horizon and making everything glow golden. He’s the perfect wave, curling just how I want it and catching the light so the water looks like glass. He’s in the crowd when they cheer after I score a goal. He’s in my nephew’s voice, Ryan’s laugh, Luke’s smile, Tyler’s eyes. He’s in you.”

 

Me?” Christen asks with wide eyes like she doesn’t quite believe what Tobin’s telling her. “How could you possibly see God in me when I don’t even necessarily believe in Him?

 

“That doesn’t matter. You’re the best reminder I’ve ever had,” Tobin admits. “You’re like…the ultimate confirmation that all my faith, all my belief in Him is worth it. All those times I questioned myself and pushed through because I believed He had His plan for me and I just needed to let it happen, it all made sense when I met you.”

 

“I’m your plan?” Christen asks with a grin that lights up the dark room, teeth and eyes gleaming up at Tobin.

 

“You’re my plan,” Tobin confirms with a nod. “It’s like God steered me right towards you and said, ‘this one, this is the girl I made for you. This is the girl that will make you happy.’ He certainly wasn’t wrong.”

 

Christen kisses her softly, sweetly. She takes her time, appreciating each of Tobin’s lips before she pulls away, smiling wide. “You sure do know how to make a girl weak in the knees.”

 

“Then I guess it’s a good this we’re lying down,” Tobin quips.

 

Christen lets out a giggle and smacks Tobin’s shoulder softly. “Oh, hush.” She kisses Tobin again, but with a little more intensity this time, more intent. “Can I ask you something else?” She asks when she pulls away.

 

“You don’t have to ask permission to ask me a question. You aren’t going to offend me.”

 

“Was it hard for you, realizing you were gay and still being religious?”

 

Tobin rolls over and stares up at the ceiling, wanting a moment to herself to collect her thoughts before she answers. She keeps her hand in Christen’s, stroking her thumb across Christen’s palm to keep the line of contact, but she’s quiet while she thinks.

 

She looks at all the plastic stars above her and thinks of all the nights she spent looking at the real ones. Most nights in Maine with her dad, he'd head in long before she would. She'd stay out on the dock and connect the dots on as many constellations as she could see. She'd make up stories for them as a method of distraction for whatever she had going on in her life at the time. Somewhere along the way, she'd always figure out whatever was worrying her.

 

The plastic stars are only the next best thing, but they work almost as well.

 

This isn't a story she shares with a lot of people, but it's one she wants to share with Christen, no matter how difficult it may be to show such a vulnerable side of herself.

 

“It’s the hardest thing I've ever done,” Tobin says finally, just as Christen opens her mouth, surely to tell Tobin to just forget about it, she doesn't have to say anything. “There were times when I wanted to change who I was. There were times when I loved who I was and wanted to give up religion for supposedly betraying me. There were times when I wanted both. It took me a long while to realize I didn't need to change or give up my faith. It was okay for me to be who I am and still love God and know that He will still love me back.

 

“Lauren and Amy helped a lot with that. They helped me see I wasn't wrong for loving girls, that I could be both gay and religious. They helped me realize that Christianity and homophobia weren't always synonymous, that there were still good people who would love me just like God still did. I honestly don't think it would've been as easy for me as it was without them. And that's saying a lot because it was still really hard for me.”

 

“I'm really glad you had them,” Christen tells her. “I would hate to think of you going through that alone.”

 

“My family was really supportive too, don't get me wrong. It wasn't like Amy and Lauren were the first people to ever accept me for who I was, but they were the first ones to never even hesitate. They took it in stride and never looked back. It was hard for my family at first, my mom especially. She never told me I was wrong and she always made sure I knew she loved me, but I know there were times in the beginning where she wished I was straight. She just didn't want things to be hard for me, you know? She didn't understand, but she did her best. She just knew that not everyone was going to be as accepting and she was terrified of me getting bullied and harassed.”

 

“Is she still like that?”

 

“Not at all. She hung a rainbow flag on her front porch four years ago and immediately made friends with the gay couple when they moved in down the street so they’d feel welcome. She's like, totally embraced the ally role now.” Tobin laughs as she remembers the picture her mom sent her from a Pride parade last year that Asher and Greg took her to. She'd had on a neck full of rainbow beads and was posing with a drag queen dressed as Lady Gaga. It's one of Tobin’s favorite pictures ever. “She asks about you all the time too.”

 

“You've told her about me?” Christen grins, rolling over so she's the one propped up above Tobin now. “What did you say?”

 

“Of course I told her about you. She's so thrilled I'm actually dating someone for real that she grilled me for two hours after I told her.”

 

“What did you tell her?” Christen asks again, clearly not wanting Tobin to get out of this.

 

Tobin rolls her eyes and considers being sarcastic and making up a bunch of fake terrible qualities, but decides against it. They're having a sweet moment and she doesn't want to ruin it.

 

“I told her you were beautiful, I sent her a picture of us to prove it and she asked for one of just you instead because she wanted the full effect,” she chuckles, remembering the way her mom had gushed over how good they looked together. “I told her all about Nata and she said he reminds her of me when I was little. I told her how smart you are and that you’d definitely be able to beat Katie in Trivial Pursuit so she'll stop bragging about being the family champion. I told her you're the kindest, most selfless person I've ever met and that I don't know what I ever did with my life before I met you.”

 

“You're such a charmer, Tobin Heath.” She leans in for a quick kiss and then rests her chin on Tobin’s chest, smiling up at her.

 

“I've got to be when I'm dating someone as beautiful as you. It's the only way to try and level the playing field.”

 

“Oh stop it,” Christen huffs.

 

“What was it like coming out to your parents?” Tobin asks.

 

“As good as it can be, I guess,” Christen says with a shrug. “They were a little confused at first when I told them the ‘friend’ I brought home for Thanksgiving my freshman year at Stanford was actually my girlfriend. I’d only ever dated guys before so it was definitely a surprise, but they accepted it easily enough. I think the hardest thing for them was understanding I still liked guys, but I also liked girls. So many people think it needs to be one or the other. Growing up, they always encouraged my sisters and me to be ourselves and embrace our defining qualities, so it was no different when they found out I was bisexual. Even if they didn’t understand it just yet, they still wanted to make sure I knew it was okay and not feel ashamed about it.”

 

“They seem really great,” Tobin says with a smile, happy the whole process went so well for her.

 

“They are. I’m really lucky to have them.” With a quick kiss to Tobin’s cheek, she rolls off her and starts to stand up from the bed, but Tobin reaches out quickly and grabs her hand, not wanting her to leave. Before Tobin’s able to say as much, Christen turns and says, “I'm just going to the bathroom, I'll be right back.”

 

“Wait,” Tobin says when she spots dark coloration on Christen’s back that she hasn't noticed before. “Is this a tattoo?” She slides over closer, brushing her fingers over the mark, feeling how the ink is still slightly raised. It's dark in the room, but there's just enough shadowed light that Tobin can make out the shape of an island that Tobin assumes is Puerto Rico with a small red heart near the bottom coast. There’s a date underneath and below that is something that honestly just looks like a messy squiggle. “What's it for? I didn't even notice it earlier.”

 

“Yeah, well you were a little distracted earlier,” Christen laughs, turning her body so her back is facing the window and Tobin can see a little better. “The heart is for the city where Nata was born and then it’s the date I signed Nata’s adoption papers.”

 

Tobin presses her finger against the little heart and then traces her finger over the numbers. They're in a crisp, clean font that makes Tobin think Christen literally had the stencil made right from the adoption papers. “What's this mark beneath it?” Tobin asks as she drags her finger down to the crooked line that looks more like a wobbly ‘Z’ than anything.

 

Tobin can hear the smile in Christen’s voice as she speaks. “Nata was jealous I got to sign the papers and he didn't, especially since he'd just started to learn to write and wanted to show me. The lawyer made up a fake paper we both got to sign so he'd feel included and that's how he signed it.”

 

“This is supposed to be his name?” Tobin asks with a small laugh, letting herself memorize the feel of the ink underneath her fingertip.

 

“He was barely three and he'd just started to learn how to write,” Christen explains. “I know it looks like a ‘Z,’ but it's his version of an ‘N.’ It was all he'd learned so far without the dotted lines to help him.”

 

“I wish I could've known him when he was that young. I'll bet he was ridiculously cute.”

 

“He was ridiculously cute,” Christen says, turning so she's facing Tobin. “He was also ridiculously difficult. He struggled a lot adjusting to being here. He hated learning English. He'd already learned a lot in Puerto Rico, but he didn't like to practice it. He was almost impossible to bring anywhere in public because he nearly had panic attacks in big crowds. He was defiant and didn’t like to follow rules. He had the toughest time in school and he wouldn't socialize with any of his classmates. I almost had to hold him back a grade. Honestly, up until about a year ago, I seriously doubted if me adopting him was the best thing for him. He just had such an awful time adjusting.”

 

Tobin never knew all this about Nata. She's heard before about how difficult it can be for adopted kids to adapt into their new homes, especially ones who were adopted from another country. Tobin graduated highschool with a girl adopted from Russia who had to be held back a couple years in elementary school because her grades suffered so much. By the time she got to middle school, you'd never know there was anything different about her except for the fact she was two years older and taller than everyone else until others started to hit their growth spurts.

 

Tobin should've assumed Nata had his struggles as well, but she's never really had a reason to. Sure, she's seen a couple tantrums and she's seen him be defiant, but she's seen worse from Ryan. She just assumed that was Nata being a typical kid, but maybe that's not exactly the case.

 

“What happened a year ago to help him?” Tobin asks.

 

Christen’s smile goes wide. Her eyes are proud as she brings a hand up to run through Tobin’s hair and says, “I picked him up from school one day and he asked if his best friend could come over to play that weekend. I was so confused because he didn't have any friends at all, let alone a best friend. He wouldn't even talk to any other kids unless his teachers made him during group work. But then this little boy with blond hair and big brown eyes walks up and introduces himself as Nata’s best friend.”

 

“Ryan,” Tobin says with a matching grin.

 

“Ryan,” Christen nods. “He said since they were best friends, it meant they had to hang out on the weekends because that's what best friends did. I'd never seen Nata smile like he did when Ryan called him his best friend. Amy probably thought I was crazy when she walked over and saw I was nearly in tears, but we scheduled a playdate and they've been attached at the hip since.”

 

“I never knew that before,” Tobin tells her. She knew they became friends in kindergarten, but she didn't know Ryan was Nata’s first friend. Ryan is a social butterfly and has always made friends with as many of his classmates as he could. Tobin just never realized how important that friendship might be for one of those kids.

 

“Ryan’s been such a blessing. He really helped Nata come out of his shell. He never would've joined the soccer team without him or started doing karate. He's made so many friends just because Ryan decided to sit next to him during story time one day and share his animal crackers.”

 

“Wow, Ryan doesn't even share his animal crackers with me,” Tobin says in proud disbelief. “He always just tells me to get my own. Nata must be pretty important to him.”

 

“Ryan’s a really great kid. I'm happy Nata found him and I'm happy their friendship led me to you.” Christen leans down to kiss Tobin, but it doesn't last nearly as long as Tobin would've liked. “Sorry to ruin this nice moment, but I really do have to pee.”

 

Tobin laughs against Christen’s shoulder before kissing her softly and then pushing her away. “Go,” Tobin dismisses, rolling back over to her preferred side of the bed. “I'll just be here trying to get to sleep after being so rudely woken up by you.”

 

“Oh whatever,” Christen scoffs as she rises from the bed.

 

Tobin rolls onto her side and pulls the covers up around her chin, suddenly cold now that she doesn't have Christen’s warmth next to her. She closes her eyes, telling herself it's just for a moment and once Christen gets back she's going to try to go for another round, suddenly wide awake.

 

But the next thing Tobin knows, she's drifting soundly to sleep, just barely aware of Christen sliding back into bed behind her, wrapping an arm over her waist and kissing her shoulder softly.

xxx

“You know you talk in your sleep?”

 

Those are the first words Tobin hears when she wakes up the next morning. Christen whispers the words right in her ear, breath tickling the sensitive skin. Tobin relishes the feeling.

 

“Shut up,” Tobin grumbles in her sleepy voice, nestling deeper under the covers. She clears her throat and tries again. “I do not.”

 

“You totally do,” Christen giggles. “Not enough that I can actually tell what you're saying, unfortunately. I'm sure it's just declarations about how beautiful and great in bed I am. I'd expect nothing less.”

 

Tobin grins, finally waking up enough to roll over and face Christen with her goofy, lopsided smirk. “You're pretty high on yourself, huh?”

 

“I'm high on you.”

 

“Honey, that was so bad. You're not a very good flirt in the morning,” Tobin laughs, cringing only slightly.

 

“Maybe not, but there are other things I'm good at in the morning.” There's a hand brushing along Tobin’s inner thigh before Christen has even finished her sentence.

 

Tobin groans, but she's conscious enough to clench her thighs together and pull away from Christen’s wandering hand. “Hold that thought, we should probably brush our teeth first. If your morning breath is anything as bad as your morning flirting, we have a problem.”

 

“I'll have you know, I brushed my teeth thirty minutes ago,” Christen scoffs. “Hurry up or else I'll get things started on my own.”

 

“After last night, you should know that's not a very effective threat. I would love to see that again.”

 

“Go brush your teeth,” Christen quips, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s cheek and pushing her out of bed.

 

In the bathroom, Tobin takes a moment to look herself over in the bathroom. Her hair is a mess and she knows it'll be terrible to brush out, but she can't be bothered to do it just yet. She brushes her fingers across the bluing bruises she knows Christen’s mouth left behind, ignores the ones she knows are leftover from the game. There are bite marks across her collarbones, the outlines perfect and red.

 

She almost looks like she was attacked, but Tobin can't help but grin. She can still feel Christen’s mouth on her skin, can still feel the way her fingers pull at her hair. The reminders will never measure up to the real thing, but damn are the memories fun to think about.

 

The thoughts only last a moment though when she remembers what's waiting for her in her bed. She reaches for her toothbrush and cleans her teeth as quickly as she can.

 

She's got more important things to focus her time on.

xxx

“Where are you going?” Tobin asks through the haze of her post-sex nap. It’s still early, but they’ve already been busy enough this morning for Tobin to need to rest in order to recharge. She rolls over on her back and watches as Christen rises from the bed and walks over to Tobin’s dresser.

 

“Can I borrow a shirt? I left my suitcase in the living room,” Christen says, hands fluttering over the handles on the drawers, clearly not wanting to open anything without permission.

 

“No, I want you naked,” Tobin grumbles, sitting up and letting the sheets fall from around her shoulders. She’s hoping the sight of her naked will coax Christen back into bed, but the raised eyebrow Christen gives her tells her she knows exactly what’s going on and she isn’t falling for it.

 

“Yes, but do you want the whole sixth floor of the building next to you to see me naked too? Those floor-to-ceiling windows in your living room are no joke and I want coffee.”

 

“You do know I’ve got blinds on those windows, right?”

 

“Yes, but you didn’t lower them last night. Your plan involves me walking over to lower them while I’m nude. Is that really what you want?”

 

Just the thought of anyone else seeing Christen naked makes jealousy flare within Tobin’s chest. She doesn’t want anyone else to have that luxury but her. “Fine,” she relents, though not happily. “Second drawer.” She leans back against the pillows and watches the curve of Christen’s back and the way her muscles move underneath the newly discovered ink as she pulls open the drawer.

 

“Uh, Tobin,” Christen says slowly as she turns around, a red and blue item of clothing hanging from her finger. “Why do you have a Spiderman onesie?” Her voice is laced with amusement and Tobin knows she’s going to be teased about this for a long, long time.

 

“I uhm…” Tobin isn’t really sure if there’s any good answer to this, so instead of making up a reasonable lie, she decides to just go with the truth, even if it is a little bit embarrassing. “Ryan’s got a Batman one and we wear them when we have sleepovers,” she admits. “They were totally his idea,” she adds in a rush, not wanting Christen to get entirely the wrong idea.

 

“That’s seriously adorable. Maybe I should wear this to get coffee.”

 

“No way, that covers far too much skin for my liking.” Tobin sits up onto her knees and moves herself towards the end of the bed so she can pull Christen towards her. She kisses her slowly, hoping that if she isn’t too obvious with her intentions up front, she’ll be able to lure Christen back into bed.

 

She isn’t so lucky, though, and after a moment, Christen leans back. “I can’t get coffee if you don’t let me go,” Christen points out.

 

“I don’t want coffee. I want to fuck you again.” Now that she’s able to do such things to Christen and knows how Christen sounds when she does such things to her, she never wants to do anything else.

 

There’s a slight hesitation that flashes across Christen’s eyes as the dirty words make her reconsider her plan, but she holds strong and steps back from Tobin’s grasp, just out of reach. “Exactly, and I’m going to need energy and a little wake up call in order for that to happen.” She walks back to the dresser and puts the onesie back and picks up a blue Nike shirt instead, one that’s just long enough to reach her thighs until she can get to her bag in the living room.

 

“I’ve already given you two wake up calls,” Tobin tells her as she gets up from the bed to get her own shirt and shorts from her dresser.

 

“Which is why I need energy. Three years, remember?”

 

“You know, after last night and this morning, that isn’t really a good excuse anymore. You’ve proven otherwise that those three years haven’t hindered you as much as you think they have.” Tobin doesn’t miss the slight look of disappointment that passes over Christen’s face as she pulls the shirt over her head and hides her body from Christen’s view.

 

“I guess I’ve had enough practice on myself to keep up.” The words are a challenge, aimed at working Tobin up just enough to frustrate her. It works.

 

Tobin groans and reaches for Christen who skips just out of reach and heads towards the bedroom door. “You can’t just say these things and then expect me to let you leave,” Tobin complains, following after Christen.

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

Tobin thinks Christen might be the death of her one day.

 

Their morning is relatively quiet after that. Tobin makes coffee and starts on brunch while Christen gets dressed. She puts on a pair of leggings, which Tobin promptly tells her aren’t fair because of how good her legs look, but she keeps Tobin’s shirt on.

 

Tobin makes sure to tell her repeatedly how beautiful she looks.

 

Once they’re settled on Tobin’s couch with plates of cinnamon waffles and scrambled eggs with a La Liga match playing quietly on the TV, Christen runs her foot along the back of Tobin’s calf and it all just feels so domestic and perfect that Tobin can’t help but smile.

 

“What are you thinking about?” Christen asks when she notices her expression.

 

“Just how happy I am,” Tobin tells her, ramping up her smile now that she knows she’s being watched. “How happy you make me. This is really nice.”

 

Tobin wants to cringe at how sappy and lame she sounds, the old Tobin would never say anything like that and would laugh at anyone who would, but Christen doesn’t seem to mind. She just smiles and leans across the short distance between them to press her lips against Tobin’s smile. She tastes like cinnamon and orange juice and honestly, it should be a weird combination, but Tobin loves it.

 

“You make me happy too,” Christen says when she pulls away. After shooting a wink in Tobin’s direction, she goes back to her breakfast and turns to watch the game, still trying to learn and understand it all without having to ask Tobin questions every other play.

 

Once they’re finished eating, Tobin leans back against the couch and has Christen’s legs in her lap as Tobin flips through the channels after the game ends. They both know they should get up and shower, find something to do today maybe, but for right now they’re both perfectly content to lounge around and be lazy.

 

They’re halfway through some 80s movie that Tobin’s never seen and Christen insisted upon when Christen reaches for the remote on the coffee table and presses pause. She turns back towards Tobin and there’s an emotion on her face Tobin can’t quite decipher. She looks almost nervous, but Tobin doesn’t know why she’d have any reason to be. Tobin doesn’t say anything, she can tell Christen’s working through something in her head, so she stays quiet until she figures it out, drumming her fingers across Christen’s calves all the while.

 

“Tobin, there’s something I want to talk to you about,” she finally says. “There’s something I’ve got to tell you.”

 

Her tone reminds Tobin of the night of their first date when she was driving Christen home and she talked about how if Tobin was dating her, she had to know that Nata was involved as well. That night Tobin would describe her as serious, but not worried. She had something she needed to say, but she didn’t seem concerned that it would be an issue for Tobin. Now though, she seems scared.

 

“Okay,” Tobin says quietly, adjusting so she’s facing Christen more headon. “Tell me what’s wrong.” This is such a change of pace from the rest of the weekend that Tobin’s worried she missed something and wonders where she went wrong, if there should have been a sign that something was bothering Christen and she just didn’t see it.

 

Christen shakes her head and says, “nothing’s wrong, it’s not like that,” but she doesn’t seem any less tense. “It’s not really a big deal, I guess, but it’s just something about me that I want you to know. Maybe this isn’t the most appropriate time for a conversation like this, but I didn’t know when else to do it and considering I’ve now bared literally everything else about myself to you, this part should be easy.”

 

“Okay…” Tobin still isn’t sure at all where Christen is going with this, but she’s trying to be supportive and open, anything to make this easier for Christen than it is. Her mind is urging her to let it run wild with all the possibilities of what she could say, but Tobin does her best to rein it in. “Just tell me what’s going on, honey. It’ll be okay,” she assures her.

 

“This isn’t something I want you to worry about,” she rushes out, her words tumbling over each other. “Because it really isn’t a huge deal or whatever and I’ve been handling it for years now, so I’ve got a pretty good control on it and I--”

 

“Chris, slow down,” Tobin cuts in. She didn’t want to be rude and interrupt when clearly Christen is dealing with something big, but Tobin was worried if she didn’t, Christen’s nervous rant would never end. “Just take a deep breath and tell me, okay?”

 

Christen bypasses the deep breath part of the suggestion, but she does finally tell Tobin what’s bothering her.

 

“I have depression,” she blurts out. She swallows hard and then continues before Tobin can say anything. “It started my sophomore year of college, at least that’s when I was officially diagnosed. I think I had a couple episodes in high school, but that one was bad enough that I knew I needed to get help and I’ve been dealing with it on and off since then. I went back on antidepressants about a month before I met you and I’m still on them and I go to therapy once every other week, so things are good. I really don’t want this to freak you out or anything, but I really wanted you to know.”

 

Tobin honestly hadn’t been expecting that, but there’s a part of her that isn’t really surprised. She knew Christen had several OCD tendencies and that she dealt with anxiety, but she’s had the suspicion for a few weeks that there was something else going on as well, she just never wanted to mention it. She figured if Christen was dealing with something, then she’d bring it up, which is what she’s doing now. She wants to pull her closer, hold her or something so she will relax, but with the exception of her legs, Christen seems content to keep some space between them so Tobin respects that.

 

“Why would that freak me out?” Tobin asks softly, changing the drumming pattern of her fingers on Christen’s legs to slow, smooth strokes. Even her legs are tense and she holds herself stiff, bracing herself for something to go wrong.

 

“Because I’m ‘crazy,’” Christen says with a self deprecating laugh.

 

“Stop it, no you aren’t,” Tobin chastises. She leans forward and brings a hand from Christen’s leg to her cheek, trying to relax her in any way she can and also let her know how sincere she’s being. “I don’t want you to say that again, okay? You aren’t crazy and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. I had no idea you were dealing with this.”

 

“I’ve gotten really good at covering it up and the medicine really helps, too,” Christen tells her, leaning her face against Tobin’s hand and enjoying the comfort it provides. “Some days I can’t rein it in, though, and that’s why I wanted to tell you about this. If it ever seems like I’m ignoring you and I get kind of distant, I’m not doing it on purpose. I’m just not having a good day. I tend to close myself off when it gets bad and I don’t want you to take it personally if that happens.”

 

Tobin hates that Christen has to deal with this. She’s so kind and selfless and good, that it doesn’t seem fair she has to cope with something so difficult. Tobin wants nothing but everything good in the world for Christen and she wishes there were something she could do to take this away from her, but she knows she can’t. She does want to help in any way she can, though.

 

“Do you think maybe you could let me know when you feel that happening? Even if you’re just feeling it a little bit? I want to be able to help you if you’ll let me. I’ll do whatever.”

 

“That’s the thing, though. Sometimes it’s just--” She cuts herself off abruptly, snapping her mouth closed and shaking her head. “Never mind, it’s not important.”

 

“Sweetheart, anything about this is important.”

 

“It’s about an ex,” Christen tells her, quiet. “I didn’t really think that was something you wanted to hear about.”

 

Tobin swallows hard. She doesn’t like thinking about Christen with anyone else. It’s not just a jealousy thing. She’s worried the more Christen thinks about her exes, the more she’ll realize Tobin doesn’t measure up. She’s got basically zero relationship experience and she’s worried all the time she’s failing this. Comparing her to any of Christen’s exes definitely doesn’t help.

 

If it’s got to deal with her depression, though--if it’s something that could help Tobin help Christen with this--then Tobin unfortunately wants to hear about it. She begrudgingly tells Christen as much, through nearly gritted teeth.

 

Christen takes her time thinking over if she really wants to bring this up, but eventually she gives in with a sigh. “With Alex, the hardest thing for her to realize was that there wasn’t really anything she could do to help me. She was always trying to get me out of the apartment and go to the beach or visit an animal shelter to try and cheer me up. It took her a while to understand none of that was ever going to help and that the only thing she could do to help me was to just do nothing. When I get like that, I don’t want to go out and be around people or even animals. I just want to stay in bed in the dark and maybe watch movies.”

 

Tobin doesn’t like hearing Alex’s name come from Christen’s mouth, but she’s grateful for the information so she looks past it. Anything that will help her with Christen is useful to her.

 

“So, just do nothing? That’s what you’re saying?” Tobin asks.

 

“Pretty much,” Christen says with a small laugh. “Just understand that sometimes I’m going to want to be with you through it and sometimes I’m going to want my space, but it’s nothing personal. I hate feeling like a burden so I probably won’t ask you for anything and I don’t like people having to take care of me, but just knowing you’re there is really all I need from you, even if you aren’t physically there.”

 

“I’d do whatever you needed me to,” Tobin assures her. “I just want to help you in any way I can, even if that just means joining you in bed all day.”

 

“You already do help me, babe. I’m happier with you than I’ve been in a long time. I haven’t had an off day since I met you.” Her face pales as she realizes what her words mean and the position she’s just put Tobin in because of them. “Oh god, I shouldn’t have said that. I just put so much pressure on you to be with me, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that, I swear. Please don’t feel obligated to stay with me or anything because of that.”

 

“Christen, relax, it’s okay.” She uses a thumb to rub away the worried crease that’s formed between Christen’s eyebrows. “You didn’t freak me out and I don’t feel obligated. I’m with you because there’s nothing else I’d rather do, not because I think I have to because of this. I love knowing I make you happy. That’s literally all I ever want to do.”

 

“Well, mission accomplished.” The crease returns between Christen’s eyebrows, but this time it’s because of the wide smile that stretches across her face as she leans in to kiss Tobin before she scooches closer until she’s nearly in her lap.

 

“Thank you for telling me about this,” Tobin says, pressing a kiss to Christen’s temple. “I’m glad you trust me enough.”

 

“Of course, I like telling you things about myself, even the messy bits. I feel like I don’t have to hide anything from you and I love that. I also wanted you to know so that if I ever started acting weird, it isn’t because of you. I just can’t help it.”

 

“You’re weird all the time,” Tobin teases.

 

“Says the girl who owns a Spiderman onesie and actually wears it,” Christen counters, devilish smirk on her face.

 

Tobin rolls her eyes and mutters, “touché.” She kisses a line across Christen’s jaw before she pulls away again and says, “seriously, thank you, though. It really means a lot to me to learn this.”

 

“You’re welcome,” Christen says. “I know maybe this isn’t exactly the best time for this after we’ve just spent all night and morning and having sex, and then right after breakfast, but I really wanted you to know. Sorry that mental health isn’t exactly sexy.”

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Learning about what’s going on inside that beautiful head of yours is very sexy. I love your brain, even if it is a little chemically imbalanced.”

 

Christen’s eyes spark at the words ‘love,’ but she quickly tampers her excitement, clearly knowing they’re getting ahead of themselves. Instead of mentioning the word, she kisses Tobin soundly and then tucks her head underneath her chin and reaches for the remote, playing the movie again.

 

Tobin lets the movie play for a couple minutes before a thought crosses her mind. “Does Nata know about this?” She asks.

 

“He doesn’t know specifics, but he knows I get sad sometimes and he’s really good about it. I’ve always tried so hard to not let my illness affect my ability to be a mother and while it’s really, really difficult sometimes, he’s great with me despite how young he is and not understanding it all yet. He always suggests we wrap ourselves up in blankets and watch movies in my bed. Then he’ll ask to borrow my phone and look up pictures of different dogs and we’ll rate them on cuteness. He makes it seem like it’s his idea, but I know he’s doing it for me.”

 

“He’s such a good kid,” Tobin says. She feels like she’s said that so many times to Christen, but it never seems like enough. He’s so kind and thoughtful and so much like Christen that it’s staggering sometimes and Tobin always wants to make sure Christen knows just how highly she thinks of her son. She knows moms love hearing good things like that about their kids and Tobin loves doting on Nata, so they both win.

 

“Yeah he is,” Christen beams, proud. “He’s the best. I love him more than anything.”

 

Tobin wants to say she loves him too, because honestly she thinks she does. It’s not in the way that she loves Ryan or in the way she’s falling in love with Christen or in the way she knows she’ll really love him one day down the line, but she does love him and wants nothing but the best for him. She doesn’t want to tell Christen that yet, though. She doesn’t want to admit she loves her son before she can admit she loves her. It’s a different kind of love, but it’s the principle of that matter.

 

She’ll tell Christen when she’s ready to say it and when Christen’s ready to hear it.

 

Christen seems to be picking up on the mental war raging within Tobin’s head, so she jumps to change the subject and take some of the unneeded pressure off.

 

“Thank you for this weekend.”

 

“This weekend’s not even halfway over,” Tobin points out and an excited flutter rushes through her body.

 

She’s still got all day, all night and then all day tomorrow to spend with Christen, just the two of them, and she can’t wait to make the most of all that time. She knows she’s going to get spoiled at how easy this weekend is once Nata gets back and they have to plan their schedule around him again, but she doesn’t mind. As much as she’s enjoying her alone time with Christen, she misses the kid, honestly, and she’s already hoping that she’ll get to stop by Christen’s after her parents drop him off tomorrow evening.

 

“I know, but still. Thank you. I appreciate how great you’ve been through all this.”

 

“You mean how great I was in bed? The multiple orgasms were pretty impressive, I must admit.”

 

“You’re so full of yourself,” Christen says as she rolls her eyes. “Seriously, though. Thank you for being so patient with me.”

 

“Of course, Chris. I’m happy this all went so well. I was so worried I was going to mess something up for you.”

 

“You didn’t mess anything up,” Christen says. She tilts her head up and whispers the next words right in Tobin’s ear. “Well, except for maybe my ability to ever have anything but dirty thoughts about you ever again.”

 

Tobin’s blood turns warm and she wraps an arm tighter around Christen’s waist. “Well, as long as you tell me what all these dirty thoughts are, then my mission was very well accomplished. I’d call this weekend a success.”

 

“You said these blinds close, right?” Christen asks as she pushes herself away from a pouting Tobin and towards one of the windows.

 

“Y-yeah, why?” Tobin’s skin feels hot and prickly and she has a feeling she knows exactly where this is going to go, but she’s still excited. Even after last night and this morning, her hands are itching to be on Christen again. Tobin doesn’t think there will ever come a day where she doesn’t want that, especially not anytime soon at least.

 

“Because if I’m going to go down on you, I’d rather not have an audience,” she says as she lowers down one of the blinds. Her voice drops to a lower, smoother pitch as she adds, “Unless you’re into that sort of thing, then I’m sure an arrangement could be made.”

 

Yeah, definitely not anytime soon.

xxx

Eventually, they actually leave the apartment. Christen wants Tobin to walk her through a typical day for her when she’s got training. She even puts on some of Tobin’s training gear and picks out an old pair of Tobin’s cleats, determined to learn a thing or two on the training field.

 

First, Tobin takes her to the small cafe a few blocks from the stadium. Usually she gets a protein smoothie and breakfast sandwhich before morning training sessions, but today they just get coffee and continue on their way to the stadium.

 

Christen laughs when Tobin tells her to stretch and get ready to run, but Tobin reminds her that she wanted to see what Tobin goes through on a normal day and running is par for the course. Christen’s in shape and she goes on runs by herself frequently, but she knows she isn’t nearly as in shape as Tobin. She goes along with it, though, keeping pace with Tobin the whole way and even racing her at the end.

 

Christen wins, but once she’s twirling around and doing her victory dance, Tobin doesn’t mind at all.

 

After their warm up, Tobin challenges her to a shoot out. Considering there isn’t a goal keeper, Tobin figures it should be easy enough, but she forgot just how bad Christen is at sports. Despite standing at the top of the box, only about half of Christen’s shots actually make it in the goal.

 

On her first kick, she misses the ball entirely and if it weren’t for Tobin stepping forward to catch her, she would’ve fallen on her ass. Her next try she actually manages to strike the ball, but it’s a weak kick and it doesn’t make it past the six yard line. Christen isn’t discouraged. Her next is so strong it goes sailing over the crossbar. She keeps trying until eventually, her fourth ball smacks the back of the net and she jumps into her victory dance again.

 

After a half hour or so, more of Christen’s shots are actually making it into the back of the net than going over top or wide, so Tobin decides to challenge her further, this time to 1v1. Tobin goes easy on her for a few minutes until Christen complains and demands she take this seriously.

 

This time, Christen actually does fall on her ass, but she’s laughing the whole time, and then she gets right back up and tries again. Only once does she manage to beat Tobin’s challenge, strip away the ball and kick it right into the bottom corner. Tobin doesn’t tell her that she faked tripping so that it could happen, but something about the way Christen kisses her after another dorky victory dance tells Tobin she already knows.

 

Eventually it gets hot enough and Christen gets winded enough that she flops down on the grass and refuses to go on. Tobin takes mercy on her and suggests they go back to her place to shower and figure something out for dinner.

 

They shower together and it manages to be intimate without being overly sexual. Tobin’s got a nice shower, but it’s not that big and Christen rules out shower sex immediately based off past experiences that Tobin certainly does not question her on, not wanting to imagine Christen having shower sex with anyone else. It’s nice, though. They help wash each other’s hair and scrub each other’s back. Sure, there’s some pretty intense making out, but other than that Tobin is able to keep her hands to herself and focus on getting cleaned up.

 

While they’re waiting for their chinese food to be delivered--Christen claimed it was only fair she got to pick since Tobin was so mean to her while playing soccer--Tobin goes to put on some music while she lets Christen alphabetize her bookshelf like she’s been itching to do since the night before. Tobin is scrolling through her different playlists when she lands on one that’s been very present lately. She’s honestly a little embarrassed to look at some of the times played number on some of them with how often she’s had the playlist on repeat.

 

“I want to play a song for you,” Tobin blurts out before she can talk herself out of it.

 

“Good, that’s what I told you to do,” Christen teases from her spot on the floor, sipping from her wine glass while she rearranges the books, most of which Tobin hasn’t touched for years.

 

“Yeah, but this is an important song,” Tobin mumbles, hoping Christen can’t tell how embarrassed she is. “I want you to listen to it and pay attention to the lyrics.”

 

That catches Christen’s attention. Her head jerks up and her eyes narrow as her lips curl up into a suspicious smirk. “Tobin Heath, did you make me a mix tape?”

 

“What? Pft, no,” Tobin denies immediately, feeling the tips of her ears start to burn red. “Why would you think that? I would never do something so lame…but I might have made a playlist of songs on my phone that make me think of you.” She rushes the last words out, hoping that maybe Christen won’t be able to hear them, but she’s not so lucky.

 

Christen pushes herself up from the floor and crosses the room to where Tobin is standing by the kitchen counter, iPhone in hand as she fiddles with the volume control on her wireless speaker. She sets her wine glass on the counter and wraps her arms around Tobin’s waist, face painted with a wide grin. “You did make me a mix,” she beams. “Babe, that’s so nerdy.”

 

“I’m not good with talking about feelings, okay? Music is an easier way to express myself,” she explains. “If you don’t want to hear it…”

 

“Don’t even joke about that,” Christen scolds. “Of course I want to hear it. I’m sorry for teasing you. So what’s this song? Let’s hear it.”

 

Tobin takes a deep breath, finger hovering over the song for a moment, and then she finally presses play and the opening electric guitar notes of Milo Greene’s “Afraid of Everything” start filtering through the apartment.

 

“Dance with me,” Christen says, pulling Tobin back into the open area between the couch and the counter.

 

“This isn’t really a slow dance kind of song,” Tobin claims, though she isn’t refusing since she’s wrapping her arms around Christen’s shoulders and swaying with her.

 

“Too bad, this is happening. Now shh…I’m trying to listen to the lyrics.”

 

Oh, I know I can’t decide
Anything at all for fright
I could barely breathe at the sound of your voice
I could never run that fast
I could never see how you called this a choice
When you left me none

 

I, I’m afraid of everything
I’m afraid of everything
I’m not afraid of you

 

“That line is kind of a lie,” Tobin says quietly, not wanting to drown out the music too much. “I actually am afraid of you.”

 

Christen looks at Tobin curiously, eyebrows knitting together in confusion. “You’re afraid of me? Why?”

 

“You’re ridiculously gorgeous and you’re so smart and confident and I guess it’s just a little intimidating,” Tobin says. “Really though, I don’t think it’s necessarily you that I’m afraid of. I think it’s more so that I’m afraid of the way you make me feel. It’s new and while it’s exciting, it’s also scary.”

 

Christen smiles softly at this, eyes dancing across Tobin’s blushed face. “How is it exactly that I make you feel?”

 

Tobin was hoping Christen wouldn’t ask her that. She doesn’t know how to put it into words. Sure, she was able to talk about her feelings for Christen last night, but Christen had initiated it and besides, it’s easier to talk in the dark. Tobin didn’t have to look right into Christen’s green eyes and watch her smile at her lovingly while she talked. She does her best to power through, though, wanting Christen to know how much she means to her.

 

“I feel like…I feel…safe, I guess? Comfortable? I don’t know, I guess it’s just always felt temporary with everyone else, but this doesn’t feel that way and it’s nice. I just really like you and I’m really happy. If I were Ryan, I’d say that I like you more than I like Batman. I don’t know,” Tobin huffs out, followed by a frustrated sigh. “I feel like I’m not making any sense. I’m not good with words.”

 

“You’re better than you think,” Christen chokes out, voice thick with emotion. She kisses her quickly, before her eyes are able to betray her and let tears fall. “I really like you,” she mumbles against Tobin’s lips and kisses her again. Once she’s in control of her emotions again, she pulls away with a smile that’s just the slightest bit shaky, but Tobin pretends not to notice. “So what other songs are on this playlist?”

 

“Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.””

 

“Shut up!” Christen smacks her shoulder, but she’s laughing underneath her mock annoyance. “You’re such a jerk,” she grumbles.

 

“You know I’m just kidding,” Tobin insists. “Let’s see…uh, “Slow Show” by The National.”

 

“I’ve never heard of that song or that band.”

 

“I’m so disappointed,” Tobin sighs. “Uhm, “pink skies,” obviously. “Speechless” by Glades.”

 

“Haven’t heard of that one either.”

 

“What about “Let Me Touch Your Fire” by Arizona?”

 

“Nope, but it sounds kinky,” she smirks. “I like it already.”

 

“You really have to expand your music interests past Tracy Chapman,” Tobin teases.

 

Tobin can tell her Christen’s about to lecture her about how all she ever needs is Tracy Chapman when “I Know a Place” by MUNA starts playing and Christen’s eyes light up in recognition.

 

“Ooo! I actually know this one!” She exclaims proudly. “I love this song!” She starts jumping around, dancing happily in a way that mirrors her victory dances from earlier. She only gives Tobin five seconds of standing still before she pulls her towards her and coaxes her into dancing along.

 

They’re dancing around Tobin’s apartment and singing along loudly. They’re laughing and smiling and honestly, Tobin doesn’t think she’s ever been happier in her entire life.

Chapter Text

[Christen <3: 3:23 PM]
Do you mind if I post this on
insta to wish you good luck
for the game?

 

[Christen <3: 3:23 PM]
New Attachment:
training.mov

 

The text comes through as Tobin is waiting on the bus for the rest of her teammates outside their hotel to go to the field. They’s in Kansas City and even though she’s only been away from Christen for two days, her heart aches. Every text she gets from Christen, her heart flutters in the most wonderful way.

 

Tobin’s counting down the minutes until she’s back in LA.

 

Tobin’s grinning as she watches the video. It’s from the day Christen trained with her three weeks ago, the day after their first night together. Christen had insisted Tobin record her taking free kicks from outside the 18 yard box with one of the plastic dummies standing in the way, determined to actually make one on camera. She swore she was going to pull off the free kick Tobin made a few weeks ago that Nata had raved about all night. It took her three tries to angle it past the dummy and into the goal and even then, the ball hit the post and was lucky enough to bounce back in, but it didn’t matter to Christen how she made the goal, just that she had. She turned around towards Tobin with the camera, arms splayed out wide like airplane wings with the tip of her tongue sticking out between her teeth as her lips curled into a wide grin. Tobin can be heard in the background cheering her on. She’d been so proud.

 

The video makes Tobin’s heart ache just as much as it makes her smile.

 

She watches it four times until she’s sure her heart’s about to burst.

[Tobin: 3:26 PM]
Of course you can :)

[Tobin: 3:26 PM]
Why wouldn’t you be able to
post it?

[Christen <3: 3:28 PM]
Well my account isn’t private
so if I tag you in it all your
fans will be able to see..I
didn’t know if that’s something
you’d be comfortable with..I
wasn’t sure how open you
wanted to be about your
personal life..

 

Honestly, it’s not something Tobin’s ever really thought about before. She so rarely posts anything on social media that it’s not like anything she did post would be super revealing or anything because there would never be any follow up.

 

Her twitter feed is pretty much just a sporadic series of bible verses, tweets about game days and commentary on Arsenal or Barcelona games.

 

Her instagram is a sparse collection of pictures of the beach, a training field, sunsets, her family, Ryan, her teammates or a highlighted phrase is her worn bible.

 

She’s never been very big into social media. She’s always preferred to live in the moment and not be distracted by screens. Whenever she does post something, it’s because she’s had a really good day and wants to share it or she’s bored at an airport. She’s never had to think twice about anything she’s posted, except for maybe an occasional passive aggressive tweet after a loss where the ref was particularly stingy with fouls. She’s never had a Christen to post about or be concerned with posting about.

 

As she thinks about it, she realizes she would like to keep that part of her life private, but not to the point she’s hiding it completely. She thinks a picture every now and then with some vague caption might not be so bad. They don’t have to explicitly saying anything. They can just share their happiness through a thin veil and her fans can think whatever they like. She never reads comments anyway.

[Tobin: 3:30 PM]
Post it :) I wanna be the
first one to like it

[Christen <3: 3:31 PM]
Act fast then or else Allie
might beat you to it..I think
she’s got notifications on for
when I post because it’s
ridiculous how quickly she
likes everything..

[Tobin: 3:34 PM]
Yeah I think she might be more
obsessed with you than I am

[Tobin: 3:35 PM]
I miss you :(

[Christen <3: 3:37 PM]
I miss you too baby..Score me
a goal and then come home
to me..

xxx

8,395 views
allie_long_, laurenholiday12 and 6,549 others like this
christenpress Good luck to @tobinheath in your game
tonight! Hopefully your aim is a little better than mine...
#morelikealotbetter #ineverclaimedtobeathletic
View all 27 comments
kelleyohara What no good luck message for me? I’m
playing tonight too ya know
nimajd you literally claim to be athletic all the time. are
you finally admitting that’s a lie?

xxx

Tobin does score the goal Christen asked for, but it’s on the final kick of the game and they’re already down by two, so it’s more a consolation prize than anything. It was a hard fought match with fair officiating, so there’s really nothing for Tobin to be too upset over. Kansas City’s defense was solid and Barnie snuffed out any ball that came remotely near her. LA controlled the midfield and most of the possession, but an insane free kick from Yael in the first half and a low, driven shot from Mandy in the second sealed their win.

 

Tobin makes sure to complain to Becky and Barnie about just how frustrating that was when she congratulates them after the final whistle blows.

 

After the game, a bunch of their teammates go out with some Kansas City players, but Kelley, Mallory and Tobin decide to have a quiet night. They head over to Sydney’s house to watch Dom’s game in Vancouver that she recorded during theirs. Tobin falls asleep twenty minutes into the game with baby Cassius passed out on her chest. When she wakes up hours later with the house dark and a blanket draped over her now baby-less chest, she’s got a three hour old message from Christen that makes her grin as she falls back asleep.

 

[Christen <3: 11:03 PM]
Kelley sent me a picture of you
and Cash..I’ve got to admit, I’m
very jealous he gets to cuddle
you and I don’t.. :( Sweet
dreams beautiful.. <3

xxx

When Tobin gets home the next evening, exhausted from the flight and still kinda bummed about the loss in Kansas City, all she wants to do is fall asleep for as long as she can, but Christen and Nata apparently have other plans.

 

As soon as she unlocks her apartment door, the solid mass of a six year old boy crashes into her and wraps his arms around her lower back.

 

“Tobin, you’re back!” Nata exclaims, squeezing her tighter. “I missed you!”

 

Tobin hugs him back as best she can, hindered by the bag thrown over her shoulder. “I missed you too, dude. What are you guys doing here?”

 

“Momma said we could surprise you.”

 

Tobin looks up and sees Christen standing in the kitchen, wearing an apron and holding a whisk in her hand. She smiles thoughtfully at Tobin as she says, “I thought maybe you’d like a little cheering up after the game.”

 

“You thought right.” Tobin shoots Christen a wink and then looks back down at Nata. “I bet that you can’t carry my bag back to my room all by yourself. If you win, then you get to be Messi on FIFA.”

 

“Okay!” Nata practically jerks the strap out of Tobin’s hand in his excitement. He ends up having to drag it down the hall, but he’s got his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth showing how determined he is to win the bet.

 

“You’ve got my kid doing manual labor?” Christen teases with a kinked eyebrow.

 

“Totally,” Tobin replies. “But just so I have a chance to do this.” She glances down the hallway for a moment to make sure Nata isn’t in the line of sight, and then she leans in and kisses Christen softly. It’s quick, neither of them wanting Nata to catch them, but it’s exactly what Tobin needs. She leaves her eyes closed as long as she can afterwards, savoring the moment. “I really needed that,” she whispers.

 

“Sorry about the game,” Christen says, putting down the whisk and reaching for Tobin’s hand, squeezing it for a moment. “For what it’s worth, you played really well. That offsides call on you in the first half was a little iffy if you ask me. If they hadn’t called it, I’m sure you would’ve had another goal.”

 

“Amy told me the exact same thing. Looks like you finally learned what offsides means,” Tobin says proudly.

 

“Or maybe I’ve understood it for weeks, I just think it’s ridiculously cute how frustrated you get when you try to explain it to me for the hundredth time.” Christen winks and Tobin knows she’s been duped.

 

Tobin’s about to complain when Nata runs back in, cheeks red from exertion. “I did it! I get to be Messi now! You can be the shark man!”

 

“Go ahead and turn on my Xbox and I’ll be there in just a second,” Tobin tells him.

 

“Shark man?” Christen asks.

 

“Yeah, one of the guys has bitten other players like three times.”

 

“What kind of violence are you exposing my kid to?” Christen teases. “Go play your game, dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes.” She checks to make sure Nata’s focus is on the TV and then she kisses Tobin’s cheek and pulls away with a grin before she turns back to the brownie batter she’s mixing.

 

Tobin reaches in lightning quick and steals a scoop of batter with a finger, just barely dodging Christen’s hand as she tries to smack her away. She licks the batter off her finger slowly, smirking at the way Christen’s eyes go dark before she turns around and leaves her hanging, ignoring the frustrated groan Christen lets out with a satisfied grin.

xxx

“I don’t think I could eat another bite,” Tobin complains, stretching back and sinking even deeper into the couch.

 

“I told you not to eat that fourth brownie,” Christen chides from the other end of the couch. Nata is asleep between them with his head in Christen’s lap and his feet in Tobin’s. They’d watched the LAFC men’s team take on Portland after dinner and Nata had barely made it to halftime before he’d fallen asleep.

 

Tobin watches as an LA player gets stripped of the ball at midfield and swears under her breath as she feels Christen’s fingers reaching over to scratch at the back of her neck.

 

“So, I’ve got to be honest about something,” Christen says. She waits until Tobin manages to pull her eyes away from the screen and actually look at her before she continues. “Tonight wasn’t just about trying to cheer you up after the game. I may have been trying to butter you up.”

 

Tobin tilts her head curiously. “Trying to butter me up for what?”

 

Christen pushes a long breath through her teeth and swallows before she explains. “Okay, so Friday at lunch with my mom, Tyler may have let it slip--well, she didn’t really let it slip, it’s not like it’s a secret or anything--but she kinda told our mom that she’s met you and my mom got super jealous and got upset thinking I was keeping you from her and I explained that I was doing no such thing, we just haven’t been together that long is all--”

 

“Chris, slow down,” Tobin interrupts. The rambling is cute, but she’s getting a little anxious wondering what this is all about.

 

Christen takes a deep breath and then continues. “Basically, my mom wants you to come over for dinner Wednesday night to meet my parents.”

 

Tobin’s stomach twists at the suggestion. She’s never met the parents of anyone she’s dated before. She’s never had any reason to. The last parents of anyone she met were Mallory’s after a game one night and they’d hugged her tightly and thanked her for looking after their daughter, which Mallory had whined out a complaint about and pulled them away before they could embarrass her any further.

 

Tobin doesn’t know what to say. She doesn’t want to be rude and say no. Christen’s mom invited her and would likely be upset if she said no. That’s not a very good impression to make. At the same time, though, she doesn’t really know if she wants to say yes. This seems like such a big step and the commitment this entails makes Tobin queasy. It’s not that she isn’t committed to Christen, because she is, but this is a pretty big deal and she doesn’t know if she’s ready for that yet.

 

“So you, uhm…she wants…I-I mean it’s like, parents…wow.” She cringes at how flustered she sounds, but honestly she isn’t capable of much more at the moment.

 

Christen speaks up again once the tense silence has stretched on a little too long. “Please don’t feel like you have to say yes, because you don’t. This is really just a tentative plan because I told my mom I wasn’t sure if this was something we were ready for. We’ve only been together for almost two months and I don’t want to rush into something like this. I don’t want to freak you out or anything. So you can totally say no and I won’t be upset at all, I promise. I’m not just saying that to make you feel better about not wanting to do this, I’m serious. I don’t even want to really do this, so I won’t care if you don’t. In fact, I’ll actually be pretty happy if you don’t because then I’ll get out of it too and then--”

 

“You’re rambling again,” Tobin smirks, knowing if she doesn’t stop her, she could probably go on for hours.

 

“Sorry,” she says with a shy laugh. “I just want you to know that it really is okay if you say no. It’s kinda soon for this, I know. I don’t want you to feel pressured by this or think that I’ll be upset with you if you don’t want to go. My mom won’t be either. I love the woman to death and she can be a little overbearing when it comes to my dating life, but she’s very understanding and she’d get if this isn’t something we’re ready for. She wouldn’t hold it against you or anything. She just wanted me to at least ask because she’s been dying to meet you.”

 

“She wants to meet me?” Tobin asks with a surprised scoff. It isn’t something they’ve ever talked about, so she wasn’t really expecting it.

 

“Of course she does,” she grins. “She’s probably going to act like Allie does with me, honestly. She gets so excited whenever I talk about you and I had to argue with her for thirty minutes a couple weeks ago why it wasn’t acceptable for her to go back to the beginning of your instagram feed and like every single picture.”

 

“Wow,” Tobin muses. She isn’t thrilled about the whole idea, but knowing that Christen’s mom is so looking forward to meeting her changes things. The knots in her stomach untangle as she thinks about it. Christen’s only ever had great things to say about her parents, so really, Tobin doesn’t have any reason to be afraid of meeting them. Sure, it’s a little daunting, but they seem like warm and welcoming people, so she should be fine.

 

“Okay,” she says without really meaning to.

 

“Okay?” Christen asks. “Do you mean like, you’re okay with meeting them or you’ll think about it and get back to me?”

 

“Okay as in let’s do it. Thursday is my day off, so we won’t have to worry about driving out to Palos Verde and staying late.”

 

“Wait, you’re serious? You really want to do this? You aren’t scared or anything?

 

“Honey, I am terrified,” she says with a nervous laugh. “But your mom seems great and if she wants to meet me so badly she wants to instagram stalk me, then we better give the woman what she wants.”

 

“You’re sure? Because we can wait a few more weeks if you want,” Christen offers.

 

“Yes, I’m sure. Dinner with your parents on Wednesday sounds great. Will your sisters be there?”

 

“I’ll make sure they are. They’ll be a great buffer so my mom doesn’t ask you too many invasive questions. Plus, Tyler’s been wanting to get to know you more and since we haven’t been able to work out a lunch with her yet, this will be perfect.”

 

“Let’s meet your parents,” Tobin says, swallowing any remaining nerves and putting on her best smile.

xxx

“Wow,” Lauren coos, dragging out the word. “Meeting the parents? That’s a big step.”

 

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Tobin denies, though she does a poor job of it. She knows how big a deal it is, she just doesn’t like to think about it because it makes her nervous. She hates being nervous. “I’m sure you weren’t worried when Jrue met your parents for the first time.”

 

“Seriously?” Lauren asks with a raised eyebrow. The incredulous expression should be thrown off on account of the baby sleeping against her chest, but for some reason it just makes Tobin even more uncomfortable. “You really think I wasn’t nervous bringing my black, three years younger boyfriend home to meet my white, Christian, midwest family? Really?” She rolls her eyes and says, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. My parents had never been prejudiced before, but with that midwest mentality, sometimes it’s a little different when it’s a black guy dating your only daughter instead of just cashing your checks at the bank.”

 

“Yeah, but it turned out totally fine. Your parents love Jrue.”

 

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t still look like my mom was about to have a heart attack when I walked through the door over fall break with Jrue on my arm. They got over the shock quickly, which was great, and they fell for his charm just like everyone else does, but the whole act of bringing him home was still scary. It’s okay to be nervous,” she tells Tobin with a knowing look, refusing to let her off the hook and believe her when she denies being scared.

 

Tobin closes her eyes and lets her head fall with a thud onto the back of Amy’s couch, wishing Luke would fall asleep faster so that Amy could come and save her. Of course, there’s also a pretty good chance she’d team up with Lauren and make this even worse for her, but the slim hope of a savior is enough for her to take that risk.

 

She’s over at Amy and Adam’s for Tuesday night dinner and she finally convinced herself bringing up dinner with Christen’s parents was a good idea.

 

Kelley wasn’t much help considering she’d met Emily’s parents plenty of times before they started dating so they’d loved her even before Emily realized she did.

 

Allie was so excited about Tobin taking the next step that Tobin couldn’t half understand Allie’s tale about meeting Bati’s parents for the first time, but she gathered that it at least went well.

 

Lauren and Amy were the obvious next choices to go to for advice, but Tobin finds herself wishing she’d gone to the basement to watch baseball with Adam and Jrue (no matter how much she detests the sport) and asked them for help instead. They would’ve given her straight, clear cut answers and then went back to watching the game. They wouldn’t have gushed over it and gotten Tobin even more worried than before.

 

“I just want them to like me,” Tobin says so quietly Lauren has to ask her to repeat herself.

 

“That’s not something you need to worry about. Trust me,” Lauren insists.

 

“How can you be so sure?”

 

“Because, babe, they’re going to take one look at the way you make their daughter and grandson smile and they’re going to be just as smitten with you as Christen and Nata are.”

 

“Who’s going to be smitten with Tobin?” Amy asks as she walks down the stairs, baby monitor in hand and looking more relieved than Tobin has ever seen her.

 

Tobin doesn’t get a chance to answer before Lauren’s doing it for her. “Christen is taking Tobin home for dinner with her parents tomorrow evening.”

 

Amy stops dead in her tracks in front of the couch and looks back and forth between Lauren and Tobin, asking, “wait, seriously? You’re meeting her family so soon?”

 

“It’s been two months,” Tobin tells them, refusing to let them make an even bigger deal out of this than she already thinks it is. She went to them for help because she thought they would ease her worries, not increase them five fold.

 

“I was with Adam for like nine months before I brought him home,” Amy says.

 

“Yeah, and you brought him home with a ring on your finger and a wedding date already picked out,” Lauren interjects. “You guys are like an anomaly for all relationships. You can’t compare yourselves to others.”

 

Amy scowls at Lauren as she sits down next to Tobin and says, “just because we were a little unconventional doesn’t mean I don’t know what it’s like to be afraid to meet the parents.”

 

“I’m not afraid,” Tobin insists, but her friends both just roll their eyes and move on.

 

“Don’t stress yourself out over this, seriously,” Amy says. “If she wants you to go home with her so soon, then that’s a good thing. It means she’s comfortable and secure enough with you that she doesn’t think it’ll strain things between you, and it means she’s happy enough with you that she wants to share that with her family.”

 

Tobin hadn’t thought of it like that. She’d only focused on the fact that this was happening because Christen’s mom wanted it to, not because Christen was okay with it enough to even bring it up in the first place. If she’d been vehemently against it, she never even would have broached the subject and she would have shut her mother down as soon as she asked. But she didn’t. She let her mom talk her into extending the invitation and she agreed with Tobin that they were ready for this. Christen wants to share her with her family, and that thought alone is enough to unravel the snakes coiled tight in her gut.

 

This is why she came to her friends for advice.

 

“I guess you’re right about that,” Tobin acquiesces. “I’ve just never met anyone’s parents before and I want to make a good impression. I mean, what do I do? What do I say? What do I wear?”

 

“Just be yourself,” Lauren suggests like it’s the most profound advice in the world. “Don’t actively try to impress them or try to be someone you think they want you to be because you’re a terrible actor and would just make things awful.”

 

“And wear that navy dress with the black cardigan you wore to church two weeks ago,” Amy chimes in. “It’s tasteful for the occasion, but not too dressy. Plus, you know how good you look in it so that will help give you a confidence boost.”

 

Tobin does a mental run through of her closet and knows she’ll have to wash it tonight and bribe Kelley at practice tomorrow to come over and iron it for her. She knows Amy is right. If she feels good about the way she looks, then it’ll make her feel better about the situation in general. Lauren’s right too. The person she is for real is enough for Christen and Nata to like her, so that should be good enough for Christen’s parents too. Christen’s smart. She wouldn’t be dating just anyone and she certainly wouldn’t let someone around her son that she didn’t trust. Tobin’s sure Christen’s parents know this about their daughter as well.

 

She’ll just have to hope she’s able to charm them like she has Christen.

xxx

Tobin’s standing on the curb outside her apartment bouncing her foot up and down so hard she’s worried about bruising her heel from the force she’s putting on it. The moment Christen’s car pulls up, though, Tobin’s foot instantly stills. She can barely even see Christen due to the glare from the sun on the windshield, but just knowing she’s close eases her mind.

 

“Wow, you look beautiful,” Christen says when Tobin opens the door and slides into the passenger seat.

 

“Yeah, Tobin. You look pretty!” Nata adds from the backseat.

 

“Thank you, buddy. I like your shirt, you look very handsome,” Tobin tells Nata, reaching back to tug on the bottom hem of his green button up shirt that he’s untucked (probably just moments after Christen had him tuck it in). She turns back to Christen and says, “you look nice too.” She does her best to keep her eyes off Christen’s bare legs that are visible below the hem of her black dress for Nata’s sake, but just barely.

 

“Thanks,” Christen grins. Her eyes lock on Tobin’s lips for a moment, but then she quickly looks away, clearing her throat and putting her hands back on the steering wheel. “You ready to go?”

 

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

 

Christen looks in the rearview mirror to make sure Nata’s distracted by something outside the window before she places her hand over on Tobin’s knee and squeezes gently for a moment. She shoots her a reassuring smile and then she’s turning on her blinker and pulling out into traffic.

 

“We can still get out of this,” Christen suggests softly. “We can go to dinner just the three of us and ditch this plan all together.”

 

“As tempting as that is,” Tobin teases, “I’m okay with this, really. I’m looking forward to it even.”

 

Christen shoots Tobin a sidelong glance and says, “you should know now that you’re a terrible liar. That knowledge might do you well in the future if you ever try to lie to me about something big.” She’s got a bright grin on her face and Tobin knows she’s trying to lighten the mood and make Tobin smile.

 

Tobin relents and gives her the best smile she can manage. Thankfully, even though Nata hasn’t picked up on the tension at all, he breaks it.

 

“Mama, can you turn up the music?” He asks, sounding rather impatient that Christen hasn’t already done so.

 

Christen does what her son wants and soon there’s a Latin guitar riff floating through the car and Nata starts singing along with the words in Spanish, wriggling around and doing his best to dance in the limited confines of his booster seat.

 

“Shakira?” Tobin asks with a teasing grin. “Seriously?”

 

“Don’t look at me. This is Nata’s playlist,” Christen insists, even though the slight sway in her shoulders tells Tobin that she enjoys the music as well. “Shakira is his favorite.”

 

“Nu-uh, Mama,” Nata says from the backseat. “Ricky Martin is my favorite. He’s from Puerto Rico like me!”

 

“Oh right, I’m sorry, sunshine. Ricky Martin is his favorite, my mistake,” she smiles. “Shakira is second, right?”

 

“Yup!” Nata agrees happily before he goes back to singing along to the music.

 

Tobin looks back at Nata for a moment, grinning at how happy he is in the moment. He’s so carefree and full of life that Tobin can’t help but let her smile grow wider as she watches him. She’s known him for such a short period of time, but she’s so grateful to have such a lively kid in her life. It’s so hard to be upset around him, he’s so much like Ryan in that way. She suspects that’s why the two boys get along so well and why Tobin enjoys his company so much.

 

She starts humming along to the music even though she only knows one out of every three words and she’s brought back into moment a second after when she feels Christen’s hand curling around her own. Christen brings her hand up to her lips and kisses the back softly, leaving a faint imprint of lipstick behind.

 

“Thank you,” Christen whispers.

 

“For what?”

 

“Just for being you. I quite like who you are, you know?”

 

“Good to know, because the feeling is mutual.”

 

Moments ago, Nata spoke up and broke the tension between Christen and Tobin. Now though, he speaks and brings the tension with his words.

 

“Mama, Tobin es tu novia?”

 

It’s been over ten years since Tobin’s had a Spanish class, but she knows exactly what those words mean and suddenly her throat feels so tight she can barely swallow. She feels the panic wash over her and doesn’t know what to say, so she looks to Christen for help and is surprised by what she finds.

 

Christen doesn’t seem concerned at all. She appears to be cool and collected and not taken aback by the sudden question at all. Her words are even calmer than her exterior appears to be when she responds to her son.

 

¿Qué te hace pensar eso, mi sol?

 

Tobin’s less familiar with the meaning of those words, but she gets the gist from Christen’s tone.

 

“No lo sé,” Nata sighs, suddenly seeming bored by the conversation and wishing he could go back to singing. “She’s around a lot,” he says after a moment. “She makes you laugh and smile a lot too. Ryan said girlfriends are supposed to make you laugh and smile.”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes, unsurprised that Nata heard this from Ryan because it sounds like such a Ryan thing to say. “Ryan told you that, huh? What are boyfriends supposed to do?” She knows she’s getting distracted from the current topic of conversation, but she’s curious to know what all Ryan is filling Nata’s head with.

 

“Boyfriends are supposed to make the girlfriend happy,” Nata says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Or they’re supposed to make the other boyfriend too,” he adds after a moment of thought, not even realizing how important the meaning behind those words is to Tobin. Christen has obviously raised her son to be as open minded and accepting as she is, but it’s nice to see that even though he’s so young, he still understands what it all means.

 

“How would you feel if Tobin were my girlfriend?” Christen asks, bringing the conversation back to its original point. “Would you be okay with that, sweetheart?”

 

Nata shrugs, not seeming to understand the big deal. “That would be cool. I like Tobin. She makes you smile, so I guess she’d be a good girlfriend.”

 

“I’m happy you feel that way, because she is,” Christen says, reaching for Tobin’s hand again, holding it on the center console so Nata can see, though he doesn’t pay their linked hands much mind, really. “She’s my girlfriend, I mean. That’s okay with you? You don’t mind if she hangs out at our house and we go over to hers some more too?”

 

“Yeah, that sounds fun.” Nata is clearly already bored with the conversation, so he asks, “can you turn this song up some more?” Christen turns the knob on the radio and then Nata goes back to singing and dancing like the conversation they just had never even happened.

 

“That was easy,” Tobin says with a sigh of relief. She’d been so worried just a moment ago, but the cool sense of ease floods through her chest and she’s able to lean back into her seat and relax. “Are you okay?” She asks softly.

 

“I’m happy,” Christen says, her voice cracking on the last syllable.

 

Tobin looks over to see that Christen’s eyes look wet and suddenly understands just how important that simple conversation was to her. She hasn’t dated anyone since she adopted Nata and Tobin never really took the time what it would mean to her for Nata to accept the person she finally dates so easily.

 

Tobin squeezes her hand a little harder.

 

“Good,” Tobin says, hoping a small joke will help make Christen smile. “Because according to the boys, that’s what I’m supposed to do, so mission accomplished.”

 

Christen smiles, just like Tobin hoped she would.

xxx

“Your hand is shaking,” Christen whispers as they walk up the front walk to her parents house. She reaches out to take Tobin’s hand and says, “you look really pretty tonight.”

 

Tobin grins at the callback to their first night together three weeks ago. She considers teasing her for stealing her material, but she decides to let it slide. The moment means too much to her to make a joke out of it. “Well, when I’m trying to compete with you, I’ve got to try pretty hard to look good.”

 

“If you want to look good, you don’t even have to wear anything,” she whispers, dropping her voice down in pitch, the one she knows gets to Tobin and makes her squirm.

 

Tobin knows Nata’s too far away to hear considering he’s already run all the way to the front door and is knocking frantically, but she still glances up to make sure. Such innocent ears don’t need to be hearing his mom say things like that.

 

“I don’t think your parents would be too impressed if I showed up to meet them naked.”

 

“No, but I would. I might’ve even taken you upstairs to my childhood bedroom and shown you just how impressed I was.”

 

Tobin has to actively stop herself from groaning, swallowing hard instead to keep down her desire. “You’re not nice,” Tobin musters out, the best insult she can handle at the moment.

 

“That’s the first complaint I’ve heard from you about it,” Christen adds, just as they make it to the front stoop and her mom swings the door open.

 

“Abuela!” Nata shouts when he sees her, throwing himself forward and jumping up into her arms.

 

“Hi, my sweet boy!” Christen’s mom gushes as she holds him tightly. “I’ve missed you so much.” She puts him back down, but keeps his hands held in hers, grinning down at him like most people are apt to do when they’re looking at Nata.

 

“You just saw me two days ago,” Nata tells her.

 

“Yes, and that’s two days too long.” She kisses his cheek and then straightens back up. “Go find your abuelo, he’s got something to show you.”

 

“Okay!” Nata exclaims as he dodges past his grandma and heads into the house.

 

The moment Nata’s gone, Tobin wishes he would come back, instantly nervous all over again. Christen’s mom does a good job of easing the nerves somewhat as she smiles brightly at Tobin and reaches out her hands to take hers just like she held Nata’s a moment ago.

 

Her hands are soft and strong as they squeeze Tobin’s and she says, “Tobin, it is so nice to meet you. We’ve heard such great things.” She’s absolutely beaming, giving Tobin no doubt that she truly has heard nothing but good things about her, not that she expected Christen to say anything bad, but the confirmation is nice.

 

“It’s nice to meet you too, Mrs. Press. Christen had talked so highly of you,” Tobin says, plastering on her most charming smile, the one Christen says is unfair for her to use when she’s annoyed with her because it dissolves all her bad feelings immediately.

 

“Please, call me Stacy,” she insists, squeezing Tobin’s hands once more before she lets them go. She hugs Christen quickly and kisses her on the cheek, then she steps out of the doorway so they have room to step in the house.

 

“She’s serious about that one,” Christen says in a mock whisper. “Calling her Mrs. Press makes her feel old.”

 

Tobin laughs along with Christen and her mom and she starts to realize that this truly isn’t going to be so bad after all.

xxx

The night goes better than Tobin ever could have imagined it would.

 

Christen’s parents are wonderful and kind, much like Christen herself. Tobin learns that Christen has her father’s smile and her mother’s eyes and those two qualities alone make her feel at such ease around them. Stacy and Cody are warm and inviting and they do their best all night to include Tobin in whatever conversation is going on, even if she isn’t always in on the inside joke.

 

Stacy only gets invasive once when she grills Tobin about her family for a couple minutes before Will comes to her rescue and starts in on a story about Myla trying to bring home a frog from the park in her pants pocket the other day. Tobin shoots him an appreciative smile, and he just nods in understanding, having been on the receiving end of Stacy’s line of questioning not too long ago.

 

The rest of the night goes off without a hitch. Christen’s younger sister, Channing, is great too. Tobin’s starting to think there isn’t a single bad member of the Press family because all the ones she’s met have been ridiculously nice.

 

What Tobin enjoys most about the night is learning the dynamic of the three sisters. Channing is quiet, using her words wisely and saving them for when she has something important to say. Tyler pretty much says whatever comes to her mind. She’s loud and assertive with her words, but not in a rude way. She’s just got important things to say and she wants to make sure she’s heard. Christen is a nice mix of the two. She saves her words for when they’re needed, but when she does speak, she likes to make sure people are listening.

 

Channing is reserved.

 

Tyler is outgoing.

 

Christen is the perfect blend of the two that matches up with Tobin so seamlessly.

 

Tobin enjoys herself more than she thought she possibly could have and when the night comes to a close, she’s looking forward to the next time she gets to spend time with this family. One of the few things Tobin dislikes about LA is how far away she is from all her family on the east coast. Spending time with Lauren and Amy’s family is great and gives her her fix when she needs it, but there’s something special about hanging out with Christen’s that makes her feel closer to home than she ever has while living in California.

 

The only real snag of the night is when Tobin goes to get her cardigan and Christen’s car keys from the foyer and she notices a bunch of pictures on the wide table by the stairs. Christen had warned her mom countless times over not pulling out the photo albums, so Tobin takes her chance to try and find a baby picture of Christen while she has it. She’s not so lucky to find a baby picture, but she does find several pictures of a younger Christen that are good enough for now.

 

There’s one from what Tobin assumes is Christen’s high school graduation, surrounded by a large group of friends in matching neat white clothes and colorful leis. She picks Nima out of the group and she makes a mental note to tease him for his ridiculously shaggy hairstyle the next time she sees him.

 

There’s another of Christen and her sisters that can’t be more than a few years old, all dressed in matching Christmas onesies with garish green tinsel draped over their shoulders.

 

The next one Tobin’s eyes land on makes her stomach twist uncomfortably. Christen is smiling in her black college graduation gown with the red honor stoles. That’s not what makes her eyes linger on the picture longer than they probably should. What does is the fact that Christen’s got her arms wrapped tightly around a ridiculously beautiful girl with tanned skin and bright blue eyes.

 

Tobin knows right away that it’s Alex even though Christen has never said anything about what she looks like. There’s just something about the way they’re holding each other that makes Tobin realize.

 

She forces herself to look away from the picture, knowing it’ll only upset her even more the longer she looks at it. Looking to another picture doesn’t do much to help,
though, considering Alex is in that one too.

 

This one hurts more, though. This time, Christen and Alex still have their arms around each other, but Christen is kissing her cheek. They’re surrounded by all of Christen’s family and Alex seems so comfortable with them that Tobin suddenly feels like maybe tonight didn’t go as well as it should have. Tobin was smiling tonight, but was her smile anywhere near as big as Alex’s is in this picture?

 

Tobin isn’t so sure.

 

She isn’t able to linger on that thought too long, though, because suddenly Christen is there kissing her on the cheek and twisting around so she can kiss her lips, lingering longer than she has all night.

 

“Find anything embarrassing?” Christen says with a laugh as she looks down at the pictures. Tobin can pinpoint the moment Christen realizes exactly which pictures have caught Tobin’s eye by the way she sucks in a breath and digs her fingers into Tobin’s hip a little tighter. “I guess embarrassing isn’t the right word for it. I told my mom to get rid of those, it’s been years,” Christen sighs, reaching out to turn Tobin towards her, forcing her to stop looking at the pictures.

 

“So that’s Alex?” Tobin asks abruptly, unable to hide just how uncomfortable she is.

 

Christen hesitates and Tobin wonders if maybe Christen is trying to come up with a way to talk herself out of this, but then she sighs and relents to answer Tobin’s question the way Tobin wants her to.

 

“Yeah,” she says shyly. “That’s Alex.”

 

“She’s pretty,” Tobin says, at a loss for what else she could possibly say.

 

“You’re prettier,” Christen responds without hesitation, even though Tobin finds that hard to believe, but Christen seems to believe what she’s saying. “Please don’t worry about this, I promise you don’t need to. My mom hoards pictures. There’s one in the bonus room upstairs of me and my first ever boyfriend from middle school. It’s not even a good picture. It’s out of focus and crooked, but my mom refuses to get rid of it because she’s so attached to literally all memories.”

 

“You seem happy there.”

 

Christen sighs, clearly wishing Tobin would just let this go, but then she says honestly, “I was.” Then she kisses Tobin solidly and follows it up with, “but I’m happier now. I promise you. Please just let this go. This has been such a good night, I don’t want to ruin it.”

 

“Okay,” Tobin relents, even though she obviously doesn’t actually want to let it go. “Let’s go say bye to your parents. I’m sure Nata is getting sleepy.”

 

“I’m pretty sure he’s passed out against Will’s side with a death grip on that Ironman toy my dad got him.” She kisses Tobin again, lingering longer than she usually would, but clearly feeling like she needs to considering the events that just transpired. “Come on, let’s get home.”

xxx

Tobin lets the Alex conversation go long enough for them to tell everyone goodbye and then to get down the road far enough for Nata to fall asleep with his head leaning against the window.

 

“You and Alex seemed super close,” Tobin says, though she knows she shouldn’t.

 

Christen groans and reaches out to turn the volume on the radio down. “Tobin, please don’t do this right now. I don’t want to talk about Alex. Tonight was a nice night with you and my family and I just want to focus on that. I wouldn’t want to think about Alex right now.”

 

“I’m just saying you guys seemed super close is all.” Tobin doesn’t know why she keeps pressing the issue when Christen couldn’t make it anymore clear that she doesn’t want this to happen right now. Tobin just can’t help it. She’s curious and she’s jealous and she wants to suss out the situation further.

 

“Yeah, well we were together for five years, Tobin,” Christen snaps. “We were obviously very close. Is that what you want to hear? You want me to tell you all the dirty details? You want to hear about how we first met? Our first date? What we did for our five year anniversary? Is that what you want?”

 

Tobin sees the way Christen’s hands tighten on the steering wheel, but for some reason, that just makes her want to keep asking questions. She’s stupid for it, she knows, but she can’t find it in her to stop.

 

Lauren would say she’s trying to hit her self destruct button.

 

Tobin would deny it, but secretly know she’s probably right.

 

She can’t stop, though. She needs an answer to this question or it’s just going to keep nagging at her until she combusts. “How close were you?” Tobin asks, trying to ignore the way Christen’s jaw clenches.

 

“I don’t understand what you’re asking.” Her voice is strained and exasperated. Tobin wishes she could just get over this and respect Christen’s wishes to leave it alone, but she can’t.

 

She just can’t.

 

“I mean, you guys weren’t engaged or anything were you?” There’s an uncomfortable length of silence that passes before Christen brings a hand to pinch at the bridge of her nose, but she still doesn’t answer Tobin’s question. “Were you?” Tobin presses further, becoming more and more uncomfortable the longer Christen stays silent.

 

“Dammit Tobin, I told you I didn’t want to talk about this tonight.” Her words are quiet, defeated by Tobin’s persistence.

 

“So that’s a yes?”

 

Tobin thinks she’s going to be sick.

 

“I was planning on proposing when I got back from Puerto Rico,” Christen says with a sigh, finally giving in and just telling Tobin what she wants to hear even though she obviously doesn’t want to. “I would’ve done it before, but she ended up getting food poisoning and my plans just fell through. It’s something we’d talked about for a long time and we were both ready.”

 

Tobin doesn’t know how she feels about this confession. Honestly, it isn’t that surprising. Like Christen said, they were together for five years. It shouldn’t be that far out to imagine them being engaged.

 

For Tobin, though, she can’t even imagine being with someone that long or being engaged to someone, so it’s a little more shocking for her. That kind of commitment scares the hell out of her, while Christen is talking about it so calmly.

 

Tobin swallows hard and asks, “then you met Nata?”

 

“Yeah, then I met Nata,” Christen confirms. “I took it as a sign, you know? Alex getting sick.” Her words are much more calm now, she doesn’t sound so bitter about Tobin not letting this go. “If we had already been engaged, I honestly don’t know if I’d have Nata today. I hate even thinking about that, but I think that type of commitment with Alex would’ve changed things. Sure, we were pretty much unofficially engaged already at that point, but there wasn’t a ring on her finger. The deal wasn’t sealed just yet and I could still get out of it. Her getting sick and me having to postpone the proposal was the universe’s way of telling me Nata was a part of my long term plan, but Alex wasn’t. I truly believe that.”

 

“Wow,” Tobin whispers, honestly not knowing what else to say that this point. She hadn’t expected Christen to unload all that on her.

 

It makes sense, Christen’s line of thinking. They had a talk weeks ago about how they both thought that the other one was a part of their plan, so clearly Christen believes in fate and the universe setting the path for everyone. Tobin just doesn’t like to think of others being a part of Christen’s plan, even if it was only for a short time. It’s ridiculous, she knows. She’s had people involved in her life before, even one that she could’ve loved, so it’s only fair that Christen’s had those people too. Tobin’s still learning how to be in a relationship, though, so she just hopes Christen will be patient with her through it.

 

“Tobin,” Christen says quietly, bringing her back into the moment and out of her head. She reaches over for Tobin’s hand and pulls it into her lap, tracing her thumb along the inside of Tobin’s wrist. The simple touches ground Tobin in a way she didn’t know she needed. “Please don’t stress about this, okay?” She continues. “It’s been three years. We’ve both moved on, I’m with you now and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. You don’t need to worry about anything else that happened before you.”

 

“I know,” Tobin assures her, twisting her hand so she can link her fingers with Christen’s. “I’m not worried, I guess I just didn’t realize you two were so serious.”

 

“Well, when you’ve been with someone for five years, marriage is kind of the obvious next step for a lot of people.”

 

“I can’t imagine ever wanting to marry someone.”

 

It isn’t until the words have left her mouth that Tobin realizes just how awful they sound. Christen’s hand goes slack in hers like she wants to pull away but doesn’t want to make this any bigger than it already is. Her jaw is tight and in the faint light from the dashboard, Tobin can see the way she swallows slowly, trying to keep down whatever snap reaction words it is she wanted to say.

 

Tobin tries to backtrack as soon as she’s remembers how to speak. “Chris, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that, I just--”

 

“It’s okay,” Christen interrupts in a rush, stopping Tobin from talking herself into a deeper hole than she’s already in. “It’s okay, I know what you meant.” She takes a moment to clear her throat and then says, “let’s just not talk about this anymore, okay?”

 

“Deal. I’m sorry for forcing the topic in the first place,” Tobin apologizes, wishing she would’ve just learned to keep her mouth shut earlier. This is a conversation they were bound to have at some point, but she knows she should have waited until Christen was ready for it. She shouldn’t have backed her into a corner about it.

 

Christen decides to change the topic, not so much ignoring Tobin’s apology as she is just avoiding discussing the issue anymore. “Overall, tonight wasn’t so bad, right?”

 

Tobin shakes her head, surprised at herself how vehemently she does so. “No, it really wasn't. It was actually really good.”

 

“Yeah?” Christen asks with a proud grin, obviously glad that Tobin enjoyed her time so much when it could've gone so differently.

 

“Yeah, your family is really cool. I really liked your parents.”

 

“They absolutely adored you,” Christen beams, tightening her grip on Tobin’s hand.

 

“Your dad seems really cool,” Tobin says without really thinking it through beforehand. She just feels this indescribable need to make sure Christen knows just how lucky she is to have the dad that she does. “He's just like, a real dad, you know? Like, when you're a little kid and think about how a dad should be, he's what you imagine.”

 

Christen nods slowly, understanding what Tobin is saying, but not getting why she has this fixation. “Yeah, I get that. He's the best and I really love him a lot. We're all lucky to have him.”

 

It's in the few seconds of silence that follow Christen’s words that Tobin finally realizes just why she's so hung up on this in the first place. When she remembers, she doesn't feel guilty about it, not like she used to. She just feels sad.

 

This isn't really something she feels like talking about tonight, but she figures if she made Christen talk about something she didn't want to, then this is the least Tobin can do, settle the score in a way even though it's not a competition.

 

Tobin swallows hard, steeling herself to have this conversation, and then she says in the smallest voice she thinks she's ever heard from herself, “I used to think my dad was like that.”

 

“Used to?” Christen asks in a way that let's Tobin knows she's curious, but doesn't want to pry in case Tobin isn't ready to share all the information yet.

 

Tobin pauses, taking a moment to choose her next words carefully. Eventually, she says, “there's a reason I haven't really talked to you about him. Like, at all.”

 

“You don't have to say anything about him,” Christen rushes, giving Tobin an out if she wants it. “It's okay, I'm sorry for bringing it up the other week. I shouldn't have done that. This isn't any of my business.” There's a slight edge to her voice, just enough that Tobin knows she's still a little bitter about Tobin making her talk about Alex, but that she isn't going to force her to do the same.

 

Tobin feels guilty, which is why she continues on her current train of thought. “No, no, it's okay,” she assures Christen, adding in a squeeze of her hand for good measure. “It's just…it's not like I haven't talked about him with you on purpose. I just don't really think about it I guess, if that makes sense. The thing you have to understand about my dad is it's not like we have a bad relationship necessarily, but we also don't have a great one. It's kind of hard to explain. We used to be best friends when I was younger. We'd go to soccer games all the time and once I went to UNC we'd talk on the phone almost every day. We were really close and I felt like I could always count on him. Then…”

 

She gets choke up without even realizing it. Usually she can feel the emotions building, climbing up to rest at the back of her throat and tasting of bile or sitting just behind her eyes and making them sting more and more with every word. She doesn't want to cry. She's spent more than enough time crying over her dad and she swore to herself years ago that she'd never let that happen again. She certainly doesn't want to cry in front of Christen, but she feels like that's where this is almost definitely headed.

 

Still, she wants to tell her. And it's not just because she told her about Alex, she realizes. She wants to tell Christen because she wants her to know. She's been quick to share all the shiny, proud details with Christen, but now she wants her to know the dirty ones too, no matter how much it hurts.

 

“Tobin, you don’t have to tell me about this,” Christen says warily, easily picking up on how much this is affecting Tobin and not wanting to pressure her. Tobin wishes she could have been as graceful with her.

 

“I want to,” Tobin insists. “I just need a moment to think of how I want to say this. It’s a lot.”

 

“Take as long as you need.” Christen pulls up her hand to her mouth and kisses it softly. When she brings their joined hands back to her lap, she plays with the ring on Tobin’s finger, staying quiet until Tobin’s ready to talk.

 

It takes her a while, but eventually Tobin says, “I was in my sophomore year at UNC, leaving practice one afternoon when I saw I had eleven missed calls from my brother and three from each of my sisters. I’d stayed long after practice to work on my free kicks and I was suddenly so angry at myself for not just leaving with everyone else and being there to answer my phone when it rang. I go so freaked out, I thought someone had died or something. I found out later my oldest sister had called practically all my friends trying to find me too, but Lauren and Amy were the only ones who knew and by the time they found me, I’d already figured out what happened.

 

“I called back my brother first and he was practically hysterical. He was going on and on about something, but I couldn’t make sense of anything. It was totally incoherent nonsense. He was talking so quickly and his words were so jumbled that the only thing I could make out was him saying ‘how could he do this,’ over and over. It was several minutes before I was finally able to get him to calm down enough to tell me what had happened.

 

“He told me he came home from school that day to find our mom sobbing in the kitchen. She was an absolute mess and he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He just held her and let her cry and tried to tell her it was okay while inside he was freaking out because he didn’t know what was happening or what to do. Then, he saw a crumbled up piece of paper under the kitchen table and he picked it up. It was a letter from our dad saying he was leaving our mom. He already had a house a few towns over and he took as much of his stuff with him as he could that morning while our mom was at work. He was just gone. Just like that.

 

“It was a complete shock. None of us ever had any reason to believe anything was wrong with our parents and we found out our mom didn’t either. They were happy, we all were. I can count on one hand the number of times I saw my parents fighting growing up. They were always laughing and having fun together and while they weren’t overly affectionate in front of us, they always loved making us cringe when they kissed. There was no reason to think there was anything wrong between them, but dad was done. He said that our mom hadn’t done anything wrong and neither had we, but he was done. He just decided one day he didn’t love her anymore, he wasn’t happy and he wanted out, so he left.

 

“A couple months later, he was dating someone else. He hadn’t even moved all of his things out of our house yet. He proposed a year later literally the day after the divorce was finalized. He just moved on so easily. He up and left out of the blue one day, destroyed all of us, and started a family with someone else. He walked away scot free and left us all broken in his wake. None of us understood and he never made much of an effort to help us understand. I don’t think he could have even if he wanted to. He was done and nothing was going to change that, so the way he saw it there was no point in dwelling on it. He’s happy now, so I guess that’s the one positive thing that came out of it all, but he messed us all up in order to get there.

 

“Over the years, I guess I’ve gotten over it, but I don’t think I ever will completely. I thought so highly of my dad and all it took was one decision for him to ruin that. I was never able to look at him the same way again. Jeffrey only ever speaks to him at Christmas and even then it's maybe only a few words. Things are better between us, as good as they can be, I guess, but we'll never be close like we were before. We only talk maybe once a month and a lot of that is because, as bad as it sounds, I don't really think about him that often. Like with my mom, I think about her all the time--I wonder how she is and want to know if she's having a good day. I don't go a day without texting my mom at least once. It's not like that with my dad. I can go weeks without thinking of him once. I feel awful for saying that, but I can't help it. He distanced himself and because of that, he just doesn't cross my mind very often.”

 

Christen doesn't say anything for a while. Whether that's because she's waiting to make sure Tobin’s finished speaking or she's still digesting it all, Tobin doesn't know. But eventually, she kisses Tobin’s hand again and holds it tightly against her chest as she says, “Tobin, I'm so sorry. I had no idea all that happened. I hate you had to go through that.” She almost sounds like she might start crying, but there's an edge that makes Tobin think it's more out of anger than sadness.

 

“It's okay. I'm over it, really. I'm not trying to appear cool or anything by saying that, I really mean it,” Tobin assures her. “It's been long enough now that it's whatever at this point. I just wanted you to know it's not like I haven't told you about him because I didn't want to or because I don't trust you enough to share that part of my life with you. It's just it hadn't even crossed my mind to tell you.”

 

“I get that, you don't have to explain. I hate so much that he did that to you.” Tobin can tell she's seething. Both her grip on the steering wheel and Tobin’s hand tighten for a moment before she takes a deep, slow breath and suddenly the tension is gone. “Can I ask you something?”

 

“Christen,” Tobin chides softly, though her voice is still playful. “I told you that you don't need my permission to ask me anything.”

 

“I know, but this might upset you, so I wanted to make sure.”

 

“You can ask me anything, what's up?”

 

“Do you think maybe…” Her voice is shaking, so she swallows and tries again. “I guess do you think maybe the reason you haven't had a long term relationship ever is because you don't want what happened with your parents to happen with you?”

 

Tobin waits before she answers, not because she needs to think of a response, but because she wants to make sure her response is actually true. She doesn't like to make excuses and this sure feels like one. “Probably,” she eventually says. “Though I don't like using that as an excuse.”

 

“I don't think it's an excuse. It's a real reason, Tobin.”

 

“I know, but I don't like blaming my actions on another person. I don’t like saying I've got ‘daddy issues’ or whatever. I feel so lame and cliche saying that. I'm an adult. I'm capable of being mature and making my own decisions. I shouldn't place blame for my own emotional shortcomings on something that happened almost ten years ago. But at the core of it, the whole situation really screwed me up. I mean, you have to understand that I idolized my dad when I was younger. I thought he could do no wrong and then he betrayed all that. It was the first time in my life my trust had really been violated on such a large scale and it was horrible. I never wanted to feel like that again, so I guess I tried to put myself in situations where that couldn't happen. I'm so afraid I'll end up like him and hurt someone I love or someone I love will hurt me, so I try to avoid anything remotely like love so that can't happen.” Tobin leans across the console and nudges Christen’s cheek with her nose until she feels her grin. “I didn't really have a choice when it came to you, though.” She kisses a line across her cheek until she can reach the corner of her mouth, then she leans back in her seat with a content sigh.

 

“Is that why your feelings for me scare you so much?” Christen hesitates, but then adds, “and why you made that comment about marriage earlier?”

 

Tobin twists so she's facing Christen even though Christen can't face her and asks, “it really bothered you I said that, didn't it?”

 

“I mean, obviously I'm not talking about us getting engaged or anything anytime soon, that's crazy,” she prefaces. “But that is what I eventually want my life to be. I want to get married and maybe adopt a couple more kids. I think you should know that's a goal of mine down the line even if it isn't yours.”

 

It's Tobin’s turn to play with the ring on Christen’s finger as she sifts through her next words. “I don't think I've ever let myself have that dream because I never wanted to get my hopes up, but I think I might like that one day. I’ve loved getting to live so close to Amy and watching Ryan grow up. I missed out of that with my nephew in Jersey. I think I'd like to have that for myself one day.”

 

Christen’s grin is the only response Tobin needs to that.

 

“Back to your question, though,” Tobin says, veering back on course. “Yeah, I think so. I've never let myself get in this deep before and while I was super scared at the beginning, this has all been so easy with you so far and I've been so focused on enjoying every moment with you that I haven't had time to think about how scary it all is. Yeah, the risk of putting myself out there with you was scary, but I think it's scarier for me to think about what would happen if I let you go and didn't get to be with you. I there just thinking about not having you in my life. Marriage still freaks me out, obviously, but like you said, it's not like either of this is talking about that right now. I like how we are now and that's what matters.”

 

“I like where we are too,” Christen smiles. She pulls up to a red light and takes the opportunity to turn in her seat and bring a hand up to Tobin’s cheek. “I'm not going anywhere, okay? I'm in this and I need to make sure you know that. I'm here with you and I have absolutely no plans on leaving.”

 

Tobin considers making a quip, but decides the situation is too serious for this. It's not the time for a light hearted joke to deflect her emotions. “I know, neither do I.” she nods. She thinks for a moment before saying her next words, not knowing if Christen will be okay with it, but she decides to try anyway. “You don't have to drop me off at my place.”

 

Christen’s eyes scrunch up in confusion as the light turns green and she starts to drive again. “What, why?”

 

“Because I want to go home with you.”

 

“Tobin,” Christen laments. “I would love that, honestly, but I'm not ready for that yet. Telling Nata we’re together got us a step closer to that, but I'm just not there now.”

 

“No, I know, it's not for that reason. I don't want to stay the night or anything, I’ll get a Lyft or something. I just want to steal you away on the back porch for a couple minutes after you put Natanael to bed. I haven’t gotten to properly kiss you all night and I think I might die if I don’t get to, especially when you look so damn good in that dress.” Tobin slips her hand out on Christen’s and presses her palm flat against the inside of her thigh, pressing in her fingertips in just the right way to suck in a breath and send her a cautionary glare.

 

The slight whimper she lets out tells Tobin she’s already made up her mind, but the way she hesitates means she wants Tobin to think she’s putting up some sort of a fight. “You promise you won’t try to stay?” She asks.

 

“I swear. Kissing you for a few minutes is all I need.”

xxx

Tobin gets her few minutes of kissing, but Christen decides to take things several steps further.

 

Once they get back to the house, Christen can’t get Nata to wake up enough to walk up to the house, so Tobin carries him. He’s snoring softly against Tobin’s shoulder and Christen’s got a hand on the small of Tobin’s back as they walk up the stairs to Nata’s room and it all just feels so domestic that Tobin’s heart feels like it’s about to burst with how happy she is.

 

She can’t explain the feeling she gets knowing she fits so perfectly into this little family. Christen and Nata work so well together, love each other so deeply, but Tobin likes to think she matches with them well, like a three person puzzle and Tobin’s the piece that finishes the pictures. It’s terrifying, thinking about how serious that is and what it means for Tobin long term, but she’s looking forward to figuring it all out.

 

After laying Nata down under the covers that Christen pulls back, Tobin steps back from the whole ‘tucking in’ process. It’s more of a job typically reserved for a parent and Tobin doesn’t want to overstep her boundaries. She watches with a smile on her face as Christen speaks to Nata softly, something she can’t pick up, and then kisses him on the forehead before she gets back up to her feet and leaves the room with Tobin.

 

When they get to the kitchen, Tobin starts to head to the door leading to the porch, but Christen apparently has other ideas. She pulls her back towards the laundry room, the site of one of their previous rendezvous while Nata was at the park with Amy and Ryan, and a safe enough distance from a sleeping Nata to appease Christen.

 

Tobin barely gets the door closed before Christen is lifting her by the hips and setting her up on the counter, fitting perfectly between Tobin’s thighs as she holds her closely and gets to work.

 

Tobin keeps her promise, though, and she doesn’t stay the night, but she does leave with a few new bruises on her inner thighs and feeling higher on life than she has in a long time.

Chapter Text

“Are we even allowed to be here?” Tobin asks in a hushed whisper, leaning as flat as she can against the brick wall as if that’s going to make her invisible.

 

“Of course we are, I’ve got keys.” Christen proves this fact by holding them up in front of Tobin’s face and jingling them.

 

“Yeah, and I’ve got keys to the LAFC training facilities, but technically I’m not supposed to be there without permission.”

 

Christen just rolls her eyes and unlocks the door in front of them, ignoring Tobin’s concerns. “This is fine, I swear. I’m partial owner of the magazine. I’m allowed to come here whenever I want.”

 

“I’m just saying if I get arrested, then you’re taking the fall with my coaches.”

 

“I promise to protect you when we totally don’t get arrested.” Christen seals her words with a kiss and then pushes open the door, waving her hand forward so that Tobin can step inside.

 

“Oh, hell no. I’m not going in first. If we’re breaking and entering, then you’re taking the lead. This is all your idea.”

 

“You’re such a baby,” Christen groans as she pushes past Tobin and walks into the building.

 

After another moment’s hesitation, Tobin sighs and follows after her. She sticks as close to the wall as she can, still thinking that she’s liable to get caught, so she might as well try to hide.

 

Tobin’s never liked doing things she wasn’t supposed to. She never felt the rush. Even as a little kid, she always did her chores on time and did whatever her parents asked of her. As she got older, she was always home by curfew and she never snuck out of the house. Breaking the rules has never been appealing for Tobin, so even if Christen promises this isn’t breaking the rules, she still wants to be sure.

 

When Christen had told her there was somewhere she wanted to take her after dinner, Tobin hadn’t known what to expect, but she’d do pretty much anything Christen wanted, so she went along with it. If she’d known they were going to be sneaking into her office after hours, then she might have been a little more reluctant to agree.

 

There are dim lights on along the hall, giving them just enough light to see. Christen doesn’t bother flipping on any of the other switches they pass, which strikes Tobin as odd, so she asks why.

 

“Because, what I want to show you will look best in the dark, trust me,” is Christen’s only answer.

 

“What is it you need to show me?”

 

“You’ll see in a minute.” Christen pushes open the door to a wide, open area with lots of desks and she clicks her tongue at something she sees. “Huh, I guess we aren’t the only ones here.” She doesn’t seem too bothered by someone else’s presence, however, because she walks right into the office, motioning for Tobin to follow along after her.

 

“You’re lucky you’re so hot,” Tobin grumbles as she follows.

 

They’re in a wide room filled with probably about twenty desks all behind individual cubicles. It doesn’t feel like a stuffy, boring office place, though. The cubicles are low so the employees can see everyone around them and there are bright colors all over the place, framed pictures of scenic views and even a colorful Spongebob pinata hanging above one desk that Tobin instantly assumes is Nima’s for some reason. When she squints to make out the nameplate, her suspicions are confirmed. She makes a note to question him about it next time she sees him.

 

It looks like an enjoyable place to work. It seems laidback and modern. She knows how much Christen enjoys working from home so she can be with Nata, but she has to assume she loves coming in to work here as well.

 

“Hey, what are you doing here so late? You’re usually long gone by now,” Christen says to a slender brunette girl who’s hunched over at her desk, typing away on a laptop as scenic pictures of a savannah landscape flip by on a wide monitor next to it.

 

“Is that your way of saying I’ve got a poor work ethic, boss?” Jokes the girl as she spins around in her seat.

 

Tobin would be lying if she said this girl wasn’t beautiful. She’s not Christen’s level of beautiful, but still. Her light brown eyes are bright and her smile is even brighter. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows and high cheekbones just make her even more attractive. Between Christen, Nima and now this girl, Tobin’s starting to think being gorgeous is a requirement for the job.

 

“Oh hush, you know you’re one of the best writers here.” Christen leans against the cubicle surrounding the girl’s desk and motions Tobin closer. “Sofia, this is Tobin. Babe, this is Sofia, the ridiculously talented writer who’s gunning to steal my job one day.”

 

“Oh, whatever. This place would be nothing without you, I don’t want your job. I could, however, see myself being your boss,” Sofia teases as she reaches out a hand towards Tobin. “It’s nice to meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you. Literally so much. She once said your name 26 times within a span of 5 minutes. I counted.”

 

“Okayyyy, that’s enough,” Christen cuts in before Sofia can say anything else. “What are you working on?”

 

“I just wanted to get this Botswana article mostly finished tonight so I can leave early tomorrow since Matt and Nima get back.”

 

“Her boyfriend Matt is a photographer for the magazine,” Christen explains to Tobin. “He’s been in Russia with Nima the past three weeks.”

 

“That’s pretty cool you guys get to work together,” Tobin says, joining into the conversation. “Do you guys work on assignments together too?”

 

“Most of the time, yeah,” Sofia replies. “We both have the same kind of vision when it comes to work, so he’s great about capturing pictures that explain what I write on a deeper level than just matching a picture to a description. He really gets to the heart of the story. He’s got a great eye, so sometimes Nima will drag him away on his adventures.”

 

“Nima gets lonely sometimes, he just doesn’t like to admit it, so he’ll steal Matt away under the guise that it’s ‘guy time,’ but we all know the truth,” Christen teases. “I was just going to show Tobin something in the gallery, we shouldn’t be too long.”

 

“Take as long as you guys want, I’ve got another hour or so here. You guys won’t be in the way.” Sofia sits back down at her desk as Christen takes Tobin’s hand and starts to pull her away. “Oh, but if you guys like, decide to have sex or something back there, could you try to keep it down? I don’t have my headphones with me.” Sofia’s grin is downright devilish as she sees Christen’s cheeks flush red.

 

“You’re lucky I don’t have the power to fire you,” Christen grumbles. “That definitely won’t be happening and we’re leaving now before you decide to keep being a jerk.”

 

“Love you too, Chris,” Sofia quips, winking at Tobin before she leans back down in front of her computer and starts typing away.

 

“She seems nice,” Tobin says after they’ve stepped into another hallway and Sofia can’t hear them.

 

“She’s one of the nicest people I know. Except tonight apparently,” Christen responds with an embarrassed groan. She stops in front of a door that’s labeled ‘gallery’ and turns to Tobin with an excited grin that she’s just barely suppressing. “Okay, close your eyes.”

 

Tobin tilts her head skeptically and says, “is this the part where you kill me?”

 

“Yes, but I still need you to close your eyes. Trust me, this is going to be really cool.”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes before she closes them. “Make sure to tell my mom I loved her, okay?”

 

“You’re ridiculous, now come on.”

 

Tobin hears the sound of the door swinging open and then Christen leads her forward into a room that most certainly doesn’t have the lights turned on judging by the way Tobin’s eyelids go dark. There are a few clicks that must be Christen switching on and off different lights and each one sends a quick flash of light across Tobin’s eyes.

 

“Come on, which one is it?” Christen asks with a frustrated sigh. She literally gasps out, “aha!” when she finally finds the right one, and then she’s closing the door behind them and pulling Tobin further into the room.

 

Once Christen is satisfied with where they’re standing, she puts her hands on either of Tobin’s hips and tilts her just a little to the left. Her hands remain in place as she leans forward and rests her chin against Tobin’s shoulder, breath tickling her ear.

 

“Okay, so what I’m about to show you is from one of my very first assignments with the magazine. It was the first time I was able to travel alone with just a photographer and a guide, without a senior writer tagging along to pretty much babysit me,” Christen whispers right against Tobin’s ear. “We were in Finland checking out all these little small towns outside of the traditional touristy stuff, but our flight ended up getting delayed so we had to push everything back a day. We stayed the night in this tiny little town just outside Tampere and in the morning we were going to actually get started. I was so nervous by the time we got to the hotel that I could barely sleep. It wasn’t just a jetlag thing either. I was so anxious I was going to do something wrong and the article was going to suck that I just paced my room for like an hour before I finally felt so claustrophobic and I just had to get out of there.

 

“So I got dressed and went outside to take a walk. Just before I stepped out the hotel door, I felt this need to grab the little digital camera I brought along for personal pictures. I don’t know why. It was the middle of the night, it’s not like there would be anything to take pictures of, but I just knew I needed to bring it. Nima always tells me you get the best shots when you’re not looking for them, so maybe that’s what it was. I don’t know,” she sighs as she finishes her rambling and then gets back on topic. “Anyway, it was freezing outside and not just because I’m from California and not used to the cold. It was awful, but the sting felt so good in my lungs for some reason. It hurt, but it was just enough to distract me from all the thoughts rushing through my head. It wasn’t a big town or anything, but the street was lined with mounds of snow and the streetlights reflected off it so perfectly that I was almost fooled into thinking it was the middle of the day and not midnight. It was so quiet. I could hear the way my boots crunched the ice underneath my feet with every single step and there was music coming from somewhere far away, just barely audible. I didn’t really know where I was going, but I just followed my footsteps down main street until I felt the urge to turn down one of the sidewalks.

 

“I ended up finding my way onto this path through the forest behind the town. It was so dark under the trees I could hardly see where I was going, but I just knew I needed to keep going. I don’t know what it was, but I felt this pull to keep walking forward, so I did. Eventually, the trees started to thin out and the moon started lighting up the way more and more. I was so concerned with watching my feet to make sure I didn’t trip, I didn’t look up until I made it to this ridge and the path ended. When I finally looked up, my breath was sucked out of my lungs and I actually had tears in my eyes. I’d never seen something so beautiful in my entire life. I looked up and suddenly all my worries, all my fears about the trip, they just faded away.

 

“I sat down on the frozen ground and just stared up at the sky until the tears stopped falling and I could finally breathe normally again. I don’t know how to explain it, but I’d never felt so at peace in my entire life. I’d been meditating for a few years at that point, but in that moment, sitting there in the dirt staring up at the sky, I’d never felt calmness like that. I felt like despite all the bad things going on the in world, despite the fact I was nervous about the assignment and what my future would be, I knew that everything would be okay. I knew that no matter what, things were going to work out for the best and I was going to be okay. I feel that same sort of calmness when I’m with you. When I opened the door that day and saw you, I felt like I could finally breathe again. I didn’t even know I’d been holding my breath.” Christen kisses Tobin’s neck softly, nudges her jaw with her nose, and then whispers, “open your eyes.”

 

Tobin does and when she finally sees what it was Christen wanted to show her, she loses her breath just like Christen described happened to her on that night. The longer she looks, the more her eyes sting, and suddenly she feels tears welling in the corners.

 

They’re standing in a large room that’s almost entirely dark aside from the two bright lights angled at a section of the wall they’re standing in front of. Hanging on the wall, illuminated by the lights, is a large, framed photograph of what Tobin knows is the sky Christen saw that very night.

 

There are more stars in the sky than Tobin’s ever seen, even more than when she was in Maine looking up at the sky through her dad’s telescope. She can hardly see the black of the sky due to all the little pinpoints of light. There are streaks of blue and green and pink cutting through the darkness. Tobin knows it isn’t enough to be the northern lights, but it’s just as beautiful. The moon is barely visible at the top of the picture and as Tobin keeps looking at it, she can swear the streaks of color start moving in gentle waves, the stars flashing and dancing right along with them.

 

“I’ve never seen something like this before,” Tobin breathes out, words only audible because of how closely Christen is leaning in.

 

“Neither have I.” Christen kisses the side of Tobin’s neck to punctuate her words. Tobin knows she isn’t talking about the picture. “So I was looking at this the other day and I noticed something.” She raises an arm from around Tobin and points at the picture. “There are the legs. There’s the head. There’s the big dipper.”

 

“Ursa Major,” Tobin grins. “My favorite.”

 

“It’s probably more just a coincidence than anything. I was in Finland and it’s a northern hemisphere constellation so of course it’s going to be in the picture, but you know how I feel about fate. I think that night, that feeling I got sitting there looking up at the stars, it was a little preview of what was to come for me. It was a preview of you.”

 

Damn, that was smooth,” Tobin teases.

 

“Shut up,” Christen teases, nipping at Tobin’s ear lobe in retaliation. “I’m not trying to feed you a line or anything, I’m being serious.”

 

“I know you are,” Tobin sighs. She spins in Christen’s arms, rests her forehead against hers and says again, “I know.”

 

The kiss that follows is soft, gentle. It feels so goddamn natural at this point that Tobin doesn’t even have to think about it. She just leans in and her body takes care of the rest. Her lips take Christen’s bottom one between her own. Her hand move to frame Christen’s face. Her body moves in gentle waves against Christen, as if Christen is the moon and she’s got no choice but to respond to her gravitational pull and crash into her.

 

It’s all so easy.

 

Tobin’s hands are just finding their way underneath the hem of Christen’s shirt when suddenly, Christen pulls away and takes two giant steps back, putting as much distance between the two of them as she can.

 

“I should get you back home.”

 

No,” Tobin groans. “Let’s just go back to what we were doing before.”

 

Christen lets Tobin take her in her arms again, but she leans her upper body back so that Tobin’s lips end up chasing aimlessly. “You’ve got an early flight in the morning and I’ve got to pick up Nata from Amy’s. There’s no time.”

 

“There’s always time. Ten minutes. That’s all I need.”

 

“Yeah, well it’s not all I need. I like to take my time with you,” Christen coos in that sultry voice that is just so not fair. “We’ll just have to wait until you get back.”

 

“That’s four days away,” Tobin whines.

 

“Then you better make sure to keep your phone on you while you’re gone. I might send you some pictures to help you pass the time.” She kisses Tobin as a consolation prize, but it’s almost as bad of a tease as her words. “Let’s get you home,” she says when she pulls away, walking towards the door before Tobin can stop her.

 

“Tease,” Tobin complains, but she follows after her anyway.

xxx

Tobin’s always hated losing.

 

She’s not obnoxiously competitive or anything, she doesn’t let it drive her crazy, but losing has always made her miserable. Whether it was a fair loss, a dirty one or an absolute rout, it’s never mattered.

 

She hates losing.

 

Losing to a team that hasn’t won a game all season, a game that should’ve easily been won, that’s something Tobin especially hates.

 

Philadelphia’s defense, which has been broken and battered all season, held strong the entire game. Nothing got through or even came close to getting through. LA only had one shot on target and it was off a shotty free kick from Kelley that slowly dipped towards the goal and was easily caught by the keeper, completely harmless. The game was sure to end in a 0-0 draw, but then Philly managed to get a corner in the dying seconds of the game. Poor man marking by a rookie defender and a lucky deflection resulted in Philly scoring their first goal in five games and their first win of the season. They were still celebrating the victory as the ref blew the whistle and called the game.

 

The locker room was somber afterwards. They were still in a prime position in the standings to comfortably make the playoffs, but it was a game they all knew they should’ve won. They couldn’t connect passes, they couldn’t maintain possession for any kind of spell and each clearance they made was shaky at best. Players started cramping by the 60th minute and they were slow to get up from even the softest of tackles.

 

They were all exhausted and their upcoming bye week couldn’t be coming at a better enough time.

 

When Tobin goes to sleep that night, all she can think about is how badly she wants to be held by Christen right now. She hates that it’ll be another 15 hours at least until that happens.

 

She thinks she hates that more than losing.

xxx

15 hours ends up being closer to 23 thanks to thunderstorms in St. Louis before their connecting flight. When she texts Christen to cancel their dinner plans because of the delay, the frowning selfie she gets in return breaks her heart. She misses her so much it's physically painful and all she wants is to be with her right now.

 

By the time they finally manage to get on the plane back home, it's nearing 9:00 PM when they finally land and once they get their bags and take a bus back to the stadium to get their cars, it's after 10:00. Tobin just wants to go home and pass out in her bed, forget about the game and the exhausting travel day and sleep until their light recovery training session in the morning.

 

She intends to go home, but it isn't until she pulls up in front of Christen’s house that she realizes she was even driving there. She didn't even think about it, not consciously at least. Christen’s house is in the opposite direction of her apartment, but turning left instead of right out of the parking lot hadn't even registered. She'd just followed the route in her head, or maybe more so her heart, and the next thing she knew, she was putting her car in park along the curb.

 

The light in Christen’s room is still on. It doesn't necessarily mean she’s still awake, though. She falls asleep reading all the time and won't get around to turning the light off until she wakes up in the middle of the night.

 

Tobin considers just heading home, forgetting she even drove over here and just meeting Christen for lunch tomorrow instead like they planned, but much like her drive over here, she picks up her phone and starts calling Christen without really meaning to.

 

Christen answers on the second ring and her voice is soft as she says, “hi, baby. How are you? Did you get back okay?”

 

“Yeah, we got back to the stadium about thirty minutes ago,” Tobin replies. “Are you still up?”

 

“Duh, I'm on the phone with you,” Christen teases before adding more seriously, “yeah, I was just up reading, though. That piece Sofia was working on the other night is really beautiful. Did you get back to your apartment yet?

 

“No, I didn't go back home.”

 

“Oh?” Christen asks curiously. Tobin can picture her so clearly in that moment, probably laying down the article and capping her purple pen (purple because red is too abrasive according to her). She'd push her glasses up on her head and pull her knees to her chest as she asks, “well where did you go?”

 

“I'm uh,” Tobin hesitates, wondering if she should just tell her she went to Kelley’s or something instead. With Nata home, she doesn't know how happy Christen would be with a surprise visit. It's not that she wouldn't want her there, it's just that, even though Nata’s asleep, she likes to know when Tobin is dropping by. Things have become more open between the three of them, but holding Christen’s hand while out at dinner with Nata and showing up unexpected late at night while he's home are two different things entirely. Ultimately, though, Tobin decides she really needs to see Christen tonight, even if it's just for a moment. She's too sad and she's missed her too damn much to wait until tomorrow. “I'm parked outside your house, actually,” she finally says.

 

“You are not,” Christen says in disbelief. Tobin sees her shadow jump up from the bed and cross the room go pull back the curtains. When she sees Christen’s grin, she's so glad she unknowingly decided to come here tonight. It was just what she needed. “What are you doing here?” She asks softly, resting her forehead against the window and still smiling down at Tobin in her car.

 

“I missed you so much and I just really wanted to see you. Can I come if for a few minutes? I'm just still upset by the loss and I'd really love it if I could kiss your pretty face for a minute.”

 

“Such a charmer,” Christen teases. “Yeah, all right. Come meet me downstairs and I'll let you in.”

 

Tobin’s out of her car and standing by the front door in record time. The idea of actually holding Christen in her arms right now makes her feet move faster than she did the entire game last night. She wants her so badly.

 

Christen flips on the porch light before Tobin hears the lock turning. When the door finally opens, Christen’s face is lit up more by her smile than it is the porch light. Tobin’s never seen something so beautiful in her entire life.

 

Christen takes her by the hand and pulls her into the house, wrapping her arms around her shoulders tightly and tucking her head against her neck as she kicks the door closed. “I'm sorry about the game,” she mumbles against her neck. “I know how badly you wanted to win this one.”

 

“It's okay,” Tobin shrugs. “I feel so much better now that I'm with you. I missed you so damn much.”

 

For the third time tonight, Tobin finds herself in a situation she didn't really mean to happen. Christen’s got her on her back on the couch with Tobin’s legs wrapped around her back, pulling her as tightly against her as she can. It isn't until Christen lets out the breathiest of moans as she rocks her hips against Tobin’s that she pulls a way as if she's been shocked.

 

“You should, uh…y-you should go,” Christen chokes out, struggling to catch her breath.

 

“What if I didn't?” Tobin doesn't mean to voice the thought aloud, but she can't help it. The thought of leaving Christen right now makes her so inexplicably sad she can't stand it.

 

“Tobin,” Christen says, her voice warning mildly. “You know Nata’s here.”

 

“Yeah, but he's passed out in his own room. He'll never know I'm here,” she reasons. “I just don't really want to be away from you right now.”

 

Christen reaches back to untangle Tobin’s legs from around her and sits up. She's still sitting in between Tobin’s legs, but there's a distance between them Tobin hates.

 

“Please don't guilt me into this,” Christen sighs, running a hand through her hair to show her slight frustration.

 

Tobin feels like an ass. She wishes she could've just kept her mouth shut and left like Christen wanted her to. “I'm sorry,” she tells Christen as she sits up. She rests a hand softly against her cheek and continues, “that's not what I'm trying to do, honestly. I'm really sorry, I'll just go.”

 

Tobin rises from the couch, but before she's able to collect her jacket Christen pulled off from the floor, Christen is tugging her hand and bringing her back down to the couch.

 

“Wait, don't go just yet. It's not that I don't want you to be here, I do, it's just…” Christen sighs as she trails off, clearly not knowing how to finish that sentence.

 

Tobin waits a moment until she's sure she isn't going to be interrupting Christen and then she says, “look, I get why you don't want me to stay the night, I do, but I'm not talking about reading him a bedtime story or asking him if it's cool if I have a sleepover with his mom. He'll never even know I'm here. I just want to sleep next to you tonight and then I'll leave before he's up in the morning. I understand why you’re holding out on this, but you don’t need to. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. This isn’t just some fling for me. If you need more time, I’m okay with that. But if you’re waiting to make sure that I don’t leave you, then I can promise you that’s not happening.”

 

Christen’s face softens at that. “I know you aren’t,” she whispers, her words soft. She brings a hand to Tobin’s cheek and holds her with such great care Tobin feels like she’s made of glass. The kiss that follows is just as gentle, but it’s no less satisfying. It’s exactly what the situation calls for. When she pulls away, Christen says, “I really don't think I'm going to feel comfortable having sex when I know he's sleeping right across the hall. That night two weeks ago was just an exception.”

 

“I'm not talking about having sex with him here. I just want to lay next to you with your arms around me tonight and wake up next to your droopy eyes and ridiculous bedhead.”

 

“Hey, my bedhead is not that bad,” Christen complains in self defense.

 

“Honey, it’s terrible, but that’s okay because it’s also adorable. I promise to be on my best behavior. Maybe we’ll make out a little dirtily, but that’s it.”

 

“I’m not sure if dirtily is a real word,” Christen challenges.

 

Tobin watches as Christen wracks her brain to figure out if it’s proper grammar, relishing in how cute her little grammar nerd is, and then says, “well it is now. If you really don’t want me to stay, then that’s okay. I won’t. I get it and I won’t be mad about it, I swear. I’ve just really missed you, you know?”

 

Christen melts at those words. She runs a thumb across Tobin’s lips, staring right at them as she asks, “you swear you’ll behave yourself?”

 

“Chris, I’m currently wearing ratty granny panties that I wear for travel days and I smell like mothballs from the elderly group of tourists on the plane with us. I’ll even put in my retainer for good measure, so even if I can’t behave myself, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble pushing me away if I try to go too far.”

 

“Granny panties and a retainer, huh? You sure do know how to make a girl swoon,” Christen teases, finally pulling away and meeting Tobin’s eyes. Tobin will never get over how beautiful her eyes are.

 

“They’re a size too big, have multiple holes and are this hideous shade of green, but they’re comfortable so they’re perfect for long hours on planes.”

 

“Well now that you’ve talked them up so much, I just have to see them.” She gives Tobin her most infectious smile and Tobin’s never been happier to be sitting down. She’d never be able to stay on her feet with Christen looking at her like that.

 

It takes Tobin a couple tries and she has to swallow twice before she’s actually able to say, “if you let me stay, I’ll show you. I’ll even drool a little with my retainer in for good measure.”

 

“Okay,” Christen relents with a sigh, even though it’s clear by the way she says it she already made up her mind a while ago. “But you have to be quiet until we’re in my room because I don’t want him waking up and I’m so serious about the no sex thing, all right? I’m not ready for that.”

 

After Tobin promises profusely, Christen kisses her one last time and rises from the couch, pulling Tobin along after her.

 

Upstairs, Tobin learns that mundane tasks she’s used to doing on her own, ones she does every night that are habitual after thirty years, are so much more enjoyable when she does them with someone else. Specifically, when she does them with Christen.

 

Christen knocks her elbow into Tobin as they brush their teeth side by side in Christen’s bathroom and makes dumb faces in the mirror until Tobin is laughing so hard she has to spit her toothpaste out in the sink quickly before it goes all over the mirror.

 

She splashes water on her as they wash their faces. Then, after she’s promised to stop, she leans over and kisses Tobin’s neck until she’s entirely lost her focus and they end up making out with Christen pressed against the counter for a few minutes until they can get back on track.

 

She teases Tobin for her underwear while they’re changing for bed and then curls her fingers under the elastic and pulls her close to kiss her so deeply Tobin sees stars.

 

One of the things Tobin’s ever understood about relationships before is the idea of having someone around all the time. Sure, Tobin likes company and she likes knowing someone’s there when she needs them, but she’s always been content to be on her own. So long as she can depend on herself, depending on someone else always took a backseat. She was always worried the more time she spent with another person, the more chances they’d have to realize they didn’t actually like her or she’d have to become annoyed with them.

 

It’s not like that, though, not with Christen. There’s nowhere else Tobin could ever imagine wanting to be more than by Christen’s side. Even when they’re together but Christen is in the kitchen working on an article and Tobin’s in the living room watching game tape, just the knowledge that someone is closeby makes Tobin calm in a way she never could have expected.

 

It’s different with her friends. Lauren and Amy ease her mind and make her feel safe, but it’s more of a familiarity thing. She’s known them so long that she can’t imagine
ever not knowing them. With Christen, she felt that ease immediately and it’s never faded. Kelley and Allie make her feel like she can be herself and never be judged, but even still there are moments where she’s hesitant to share things. It’s not because she doesn’t feel comfortable with or thinks she can’t trust them. It’s just that she isn’t comfortable enough with herself to share those parts. But with Christen, she’s never had that kind of doubt.

 

It’s all just so goddamned easy with her that sometimes Tobin feels like it’s too good to be true, but then Christen will smile at her or she’ll say something so sweet and Tobin knows everything is going to be okay.

 

When they get into bed that night, Tobin’s reminded again how well they fit next to each other. They don’t even have to try. Whether she’s holding Christen or Christen’s holding her like she is tonight, they just roll into each other and they work. There’s no awkward tangling of limbs or knocking of heads.

 

After such a tough couple of days, nothing feels better than Christen’s arms around her and her breath against the back of her neck.

 

Tobin doesn’t even have to try to make good on her promise of no sex. She passes out almost as soon as her head hits the pillow, ruling out any chance of that happening.

xxx

Tobin doesn’t think she’ll ever get used to waking up next to Christen.

 

She’s naturally a soft person--gentle, quiet and kind--but in the mornings when she’s still asleep, eyelids fluttering as she dreams, lips parted slightly as she breathes slowly, Tobin’s never seen something quite so serene. There’s not a single thing about her that isn’t beautiful, but this might be one of Tobin’s favorite looks on her. She’s so peaceful and she’s in the one place where Tobin knows no one can ever hurt her. She’s safe and comfortable and so beautiful and…

 

“Holy shit,” Tobin whispers as a thought creeps into the back of her mind.

 

She thinks she might be in love with her.

 

She really might love Christen.

 

The realization is startling. She doesn’t even know if it’s true, she’s never been in love. Sure, she came close that one time in France, but she left before she could ever figure out how she really felt. Sure, she loves people, her family, her friends. Sure, she loves God and her faith with a sort of devotion she can’t ever imagine having for anything else in quite the same way. But she’s never been in love. She wouldn’t even know where to begin with that.

 

Rather than lay around and think about how beautiful Christen is with the early morning sun streaming in through the windows and lighting up her face in the most perfect way, she rolls out of bed as quietly as she can. She knows if she lays there any longer thinking about the realization she’s just had, she’ll talk herself out of it and that’s the last thing she wants to do.

 

The tiles in the kitchen are cool under her feet as she walks towards Christen’s Keurig sitting on the counter. She knows her way around the kitchen at this point and opens the drawer to her left to find Christen’s favorite k-cups and starts the coffee maker.

 

As she leans back against the counter and listens to the water being drawn up into the machine, she’s struck by how familiar it all feels. She hasn’t ever stayed the night here before, that’s been reserved for apartment, but it feels natural. She doesn’t feel like a stranger here. She’s comfortable. She’s happy. She’s at peace.

 

She’s so lost in her own head thinking about what she thinks she might have maybe realized this morning that she doesn’t even notice the soft patter of feet on the stairs.

 

“Morning, Tobin,” Nata says in a sleepy voice, rubbing at his eyes as he walks into the kitchen and moves to lean against Tobin’s side, clearly not happy about being awake so early.

 

“Oh…uh, g-good morning, Nata.” She wraps an arm around him cautiously, not sure what to do. It’s barely 7:00 AM. She didn’t expect him to be awake yet, so she figured she’d be safe to come down and get coffee before sneaking out. Apparently not, though. ‘Go get Christen, let her figure this out,’ Tobin thinks to herself, knowing this isn’t really her place.

 

Nata has other ideas, apparently. “I’m hungry,” he mumbles, moving out of her grasp to pull himself up onto one of the stools by the kitchen counter.

 

“Okay, uhm…do you--do you want me to make you something?” She asks, thinking the best course of action is to just go along with what Nata wants, not do anything to make him think this is weird. If she acts like this is normal, then he’ll think it’s normal.

 

Right?

 

Nata nods sleepily from his spot at the counter and asks, “can you make me eggs, please?”

 

“Eggs?” Tobin scoffs, “come on, dude. Eggs are so boring. Think bigger,” she suggests.

 

Her tilts his head curiously and thinks for a moment before he tries again. “Blueberry pancakes?”

 

“You can do even better than that.”

 

Nata’s whole face lights up as he finally comes up with what he thinks will satisfy Tobin. “Chocolate chip pancakes!”

 

“Now we’re talking, dude!” Tobin reaches out for a high five and then tousles his hair until he’s grinning and pushes her away playfully. “Let’s see if I can find where your mom keeps everything.”

 

Nata turns out to be a good help in the kitchen. Granted, all they need to do is stir the pancake mix together with water and then add in some chocolate chips, but he’s good at finding the exact mixing spoon Tobin needs and filling up the measuring cup with the perfect amount of water. He giggles conspiratorially as he adds in twice as many chocolate chips as Tobin told him to, but Tobin just grins and lets him get away with it.

 

They’re having so much fun cooking together, that Tobin completely forgets about the fact that Christen is still upstairs sleeping, completely unaware to what’s going on downstairs. It isn’t until she and Nata are posted up at the kitchen table, plates piled high with pancakes drowned in syrup, that she remembers she probably should’ve woken up Christen to approve all this. It’s too late, though, because Tobin hears her walking down the stairs and into the kitchen.

 

Christen’s eyes are narrowed at first as she takes in the sight in front of her, but she smiles when Nata notices her and turns around with a smile. “Mira, Mamá!” He says happily. “Tobin made me chocolate chip pancakes!”

 

“I can see that buddy. Are they good?”

 

“So good,” he manages to say around the mouthful of pancake he stuffs in his mouth. He stabs at another bite and holds it up towards Christen. “Try some.”

 

Tobin knows Christen’s already had her pancakes before, and that she prefers them with significantly less syrup and far too much peanut butter, but she’s a good sport about it. She smiles wide as she chews her bite and nods in Nata’s direction. “Oh wow, those are really good,” she tells him as if it’s the first time she’s ever had them. “Gracias, sunshine.” She looks over at Tobin now and Tobin can’t quite figure out what the emotion behind her eyes is. “Tobin, can I talk to you for a minute?”

 

Tobin nods as she rises from her seat. She sends a smile in Nata’s direction so he doesn’t sense anything is wrong, but he’s distracted by his food so he doesn’t even notice. Tobin walks into the foyer and turns around to see Christen settling her with a stern look, her arms crossed.

 

“Okay, I know what you’re going to say, but let me explain,” Tobin rushes out before Christen can get a word in.

 

“Tobin,” she sighs. “I didn’t want him knowing you were here.”

 

“I know, I know. I’m sorry,” she starts. “I didn’t plan this, Chris, I swear. I just came down to make you some coffee, then I was going to go right back up and get my stuff and get ready to leave after that. I guess in hindsight I shouldn’t have done that, but it was so early I didn’t think he’d be up for a couple more hours, so I figured it was safe. He came down and asked me to make him breakfast and I didn’t know what to do. I panicked and so I just agreed, I’m sorry. I should’ve come up and asked you what to do, but I didn’t want him to think anything was wrong.”

 

Christen sighs loudly and shakes her head as she says, “it’s okay, it’s not your fault. I should’ve warned you about him getting up so early. He’s been having so much trouble sleeping through the night lately. I clearly didn’t think this through at all, I’m so stupid.” She brings her hands up to hide her face and groans, clearly disappointed in herself.

 

“Hey, don’t say that,” Tobin says softly, pulling Christen closer by two hands on her hips. “You’re not stupid at all. We both probably could’ve planned this a little better. I just shouldn’t have come over last night. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have pressured you to let me stay.”

 

“Stop it, I liked having you here.”

 

“Yeah, but you didn’t want him knowing I was here and now I’m making him breakfast.”

 

“Did he ask why you were here? Did he seem weird at all about it?” She asks frantically, worry creeping back into her voice.

 

“No, not at all,” she assures her. “He just walked down, gave me a hug, said good morning and then asked me to make him breakfast. He seemed totally cool about it all.”

 

“Okay, good. That’s good, right?”

 

“That’s good,” Tobin nods. “It’s really good, babe.”

 

“So what do we do now?”

 

“I made extra pancakes, so right now I say we go eat breakfast, maybe watch a couple cartoons because Nata asked me to and then I’ll go home and get ready for training and everything will be totally fine.”

 

“Okay,” Christen smiles. “I can do that.” She leans up and kisses Tobin quickly, then takes her by the hand and pulls her back towards the kitchen.

 

As Tobin watches her go, all she can think about is the realization she had this morning and how the way Nata smiles at the both of them as they walk back in the kitchen only confirms it.

xxx

The rest of the morning is just about as perfect as it could get. After breakfast, they lounge around on the couch watching Tom & Jerry (Tobin once said it was her favorite and now Nata insists it’s his as well). Christen has her legs propped up in Tobin’s lap and Nata is leaning into Tobin’s other side.

 

Tobin doesn’t know the last time she felt so happy.

 

When it comes time to leave, she’s absolutely dreading it. She waits until the last possible minute, to the point she’ll have to head straight to the practice field with no time to go home beforehand.

 

“All right, buddy,” Tobin says solemnly after the fifth episode. “I’ve got to head to training now.”

 

Nata tries not to pout, but his sad eyes give way to just how upset he is that Tobin has to leave. “Okay,” he says, his voice thick with regret, wishing Tobin could stay just a little while longer. “Will you come back soon?”

 

Tobin looks over to Christen before she answers, but Christen ends up speaking before Tobin gets the chance. “How about Tobin comes over later this evening and we’ll all have dinner together, yeah?”

 

That does just the trick to cheer Nata up. “Okay! Maybe if there’s time, you can teach me that step over trick you did in the game the other night? That was so cool. The girl defending you fell down.” He mimes an explosion, sound effects and all, to show just how hard the defender apparently fell.

 

Tobin promises him with a smile that she will definitely teach him and then they’re all getting up from the couch so Tobin can leave.

 

“How about you go upstairs to make your bed and brush your teeth while I walk Tobin to the door, okay, mi sol?” Christen asks Nata.

 

“She doesn’t know where the door is?” He asks curiously, pointing over his shoulder to emphasize that it’s literally right there.

 

“I’m really bad with directions,” Tobin teases him, which only makes his eyebrows scrunch in confusion even more, totally missing the sarcasm. “If it weren’t for the ball on the field, I’d have no idea where to run during games.”

 

His narrowed eyes tell Tobin that he still has no idea what’s going on, but he does what his mom asked of him and heads upstairs to make his bed after he hugs Tobin tightly.

 

“I’ve just got to get my bag from upstairs and then I’ll head out,” Tobin tells Christen as she tries to follow Nata up the stairs, but Christen stops her with a hand on her shoulder, guiding her back in front of her.

 

“Just leave it,” Christen says.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, if you’re going to be staying here tonight too, then you’ll need clothes, so you might as well just keep the ones you already have here in my room. There’s no sense in unpacking your bag just to fill it up with the same things later.”

 

“Wait, I’m staying here tonight?” Tobin’s pretty sure she knows exactly what’s going on by the way Christen’s grinning, but she needs verbal confirmation to be sure.

 

“If you want to,” Christen nods. “This was really nice, having you here and spending a lazy morning with the two of you. I think I underestimated just how much I would enjoy it. I’m kicking myself for being so silly and not letting you stay before now. I should’ve known he wouldn’t mind you being here at all. He adores you.”

 

“Yeah, well I kind of adore him too.” Tobin blushes at the admission, but Christen only smiles even wider.

 

“I can kind of tell,” Christen beams.

 

Tobin kisses her, soft and sweet, without even checking to see if Nata has started to come back downstairs yet. Based on the way Christen pulls her back in after she tries to pull away, Tobin’s pretty sure she wouldn’t mind even if he did catch them.

 

“This was really nice,” Christen says when she finally pulls away.

 

“It was, wasn’t it? I’m sorry again about him catching me. I seriously did not mean for that to happen.”

 

“It’s okay, you have nothing to be sorry for,” Christen insists. “I’m happy everything happened the way it did. I realized I had no reason to be worried. I like having you here with us.”

 

“Good, because I like being here.” Tobin tries to kiss her again, but Christen puts a hand on her shoulder to keep her at bay.

 

“Don’t you have training?” Christen asks with a kinked eyebrow.

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Her next attempt at another kiss fails as well, but that doesn’t stop her from trying. “Fine,” she groans when she finally accepts no more kissing is going to be happening tonight. “I’ll see you tonight?”

 

“I’ll call you later,” Christen promises. “I like you a lot,” she says with a grin as she twists the doorknob and hold it open for Tobin.

 

Tobin aches to tell her how she really feels, but she doesn’t have the courage for that yet, so instead she settles for repeating Christen’s words back to her. “I like you a lot. Bye, honey.”

 

Christen gives in and kisses her once more as she’s walking out the door, car keys swinging on her index finger and she smiles dumbly on her way to her car.

 

Tobin thinks about the way she felt waking up next to Christen on the entire drive to practice. She can’t believe she gets to wake up to that again tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Tobin’s only ever been truly, deep down to her core afraid once in her life and that was when she saw her phone after practice the day her dad left and was sure someone in her family had died. The fear she felt then was inexplicable. She knew in the pit of her stomach that her life was about to change and there was nothing she could do about it. Of course, no one had actually died, but she wasn’t wrong about her life changing.

 

She’s felt fear before, obviously.

 

She used to be afraid of the dark as a kid and refused to sleep without a green Tinker Bell nightlight her dad bought her until she was almost twelve. On a flight to Asia for a youth tournament when she was seventeen, one of the tires blew out on the landing and the plane fishtailed for the longest ten seconds of her life before the pilots managed to get it under control. When she was twenty, just three days after she’d gotten back from the Beijing Olympics, she and Amy had gotten in a car accident that flipped them over a guardrail. Amy came away with just a fractured arm and Tobin a couple bruised ribs and a small gash on her forehead, but she’d been so sure while the car was airborne that they were both going to die.

 

The fear of death and the fear of having to continue living with an earth shattering change of events are two different things entirely. Most people don’t want to die, of course, but once you’re dead, that’s it. It’s done. All the fear is gone. Getting a phone call and knowing your life is about to change, knowing that there’s nothing you can do to stop it and the only choice you have is to figure out how to find a way through it. That’s the real fear.

 

It’s the exact type of fear she feels when she answers Christen’s call just as she pulls up to her apartment after training and hears how frantic her voice is.

 

“Tobin!” Christen shouts as soon as she hears Tobin’s oblivious greeting. “Oh thank god you answered.” Her voice is shaking and breathless, her words stumbling out so quickly they fall over each other, the next almost starting before the last is even finished.

 

“Christen, talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.”

 

Part of her wishes she never even answered the phone, could have lived in her happy little world, oblivious to whatever has happened a little while longer. Christen sounds so afraid, Tobin’s sure she’s about to tell her something awful. She’s been acting off the last couple of days, so she wonders if it has something to do with that. Tobin doesn’t want to know. She just prays it doesn’t have anything to do with Nata.

 

“Oh my god, I’m freaking out. I don’t know what to do. It all just happened so fast and I couldn’t stop him and I--”

 

Fuck, it does have to do with Nata.

 

“Chris!” Tobin interrupts, knowing Christen will probably hyperventilate if she doesn’t breathe. “Babe, slow down and take a deep breath for me, okay? Tell me what’s going on, I can’t understand a thing you’re saying.”

 

Tobin hears her inhale for a couple long seconds and then exhale twice as long. In the quiet in between her breaths she can hear Nata crying and Tobin’s pretty sure her heart stops.

 

“Nata fell down the stairs on the back porch and I think he broke his leg, I don’t know,” Christen explains, slower this time.

 

“Oh, thank God,” Tobin rushes out grateful her fear was unwarranted and it isn’t anything too serious. She corrects herself once she realizes how bad that sounds. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean I’m happy he broke his leg, I was just freaking out. I was sure it was something so much worse.”

 

Christen blows right by Tobin’s comments. “He’s crying and freaking out. I can barely touch him without him losing it, though. I’m trying to pick him up and get him in the car to go to the hospital, but he won’t let me. I don’t know what to do. I wouldn’t called my dad, but you’re so much closer.”

 

Tobin lets out a sigh of relief and then says, “I’m glad you called me. Let me talk to him and try to calm him down.” There are the sounds of fumbling around and then Tobin hears Nata whimper her name and sniffle through his tears. “Hey, buddy. Can you take a deep breath for me? Just like your mom did?” He listens, though the breath is much shakier than Christen’s. “Good. That’s really good, dude.”

 

“It really hurts, Tobin,” Nata cries, barely getting the words out before he’s wracked with another sob.

 

Tobin’s heart breaks to hear the pain in his voice. She can only imagine how upset Christen must be, no wonder she was freaking out when Tobin answered the phone.

 

“I know it does, buddy,” she tells him. “I’m so sorry it hurts, but you’ve got to let your mom pick you up and get you to the car, okay? She needs to take you to the hospital so a doctor can look at your leg.” She restarts her car then, knowing there’s no way she can sit at home while she knows Christen and Nata are at the hospital.

 

“I want you to take me,” Nata whines, more sobs shaking his breaths.

 

Tobin wishes more than anything she could be there to hold him right now. “I’m in my car and I’m going to meet you at the hospital, all right? The sooner you get there, the better. It would take too long if you guys had to wait for me to get to your house and then go to the hospital, okay? Let your Mama get you into the car and then I’ll be at the hospital when you guys get there, I promise. Do you think you can do that for me?”

 

“I think so,” he sniffles.

 

“Good, buddy. That’s good, I know you’re tough enough to handle this. I’ll see you soon,” she promises. “Let me talk to your mom now, okay? I’ll tell her about out plan.”

 

“How did you do that?” Christen asks once she’s back on the phone. “I can’t believe you calmed him down enough to talk, he’s just been wailing for the last five minutes.”

 

“Listen, I’m in the car now and I’m headed to Washington General, okay?” Tobin says. She feels bad for ignoring Christen’s question, even if it was rhetorical, but she knows the sooner Christen gets Nata to the hospital, the better. “Do you think you can get him in the car and meet me there? I don’t want you to have to wait for me to get to your house.”

 

“Okay, yeah. I’ll get him.”

 

“Are you sure? I can come to your house if you need help,” Tobin suggests, cutting off a car and ignoring the angry honks she gets in return. She’s focused on getting to the hospital as soon as she can and that’s all that matters.

 

“No, it’s okay. I can get him, I’ll be fine. We’ll meet you at the hospital.”

 

“Okay, I’ll let you go. Call if you need me, I’ll see you soon.”

 

As soon as Tobin hangs up the phone, she dials in another number, one she hasn’t called in four years.

 

“Hey, Dr. Kim. It’s Tobin Heath,” she says once the person on the other line answers. “I’ve got a huge favor to ask from you.”

xxx

The relief that floods Christen’s face when she steps into the ER, hot on the heels of a nurse pushing Nata in a wheelchair, makes Tobin feel more needed and appreciated than she has in a long time.

 

“Tobin!” Nata exclaims in his teary voice as soon as he sees her. He tries to push himself up out of the wheelchair, forgetting a moment about his leg, but then he winces and plops back down in his seat and waits for Tobin to walk over to him.

 

“Hi, sweetheart,” Tobin says softly, running a hand through his dark hair that’s become so much longer since the first time she met him. She pushes his shaggy locks away from his tear stained face and rests a hand gently on his palm. “How are you feeling?”

 

“It really hurts,” he whines.

 

Tobin can tell from the way he clenches his teeth that he’s holding in just how badly it really does hurt. All she wants to do is help him. “I know,” she tells him. “I’m going to get you some help, okay?” She smiles softly at him and then rises to her feet. “I can take him from here, thanks,” Tobin tells the nurse, stepping behind the wheelchair.

 

“It’s so good to see you,” Christen says, her voice exhausted, after the nurse has walked away.

 

“I’m glad you called me.” Tobin wraps her up in a quick hug, kissing the side of her head before she pulls away. “Come on, follow me.”

 

“Wait, don’t I need to fill out paperwork and wait in line or something?” Christen asks in confusion.

 

“Don’t worry about right now. I took care of it,” Tobin dismisses, pushing Nata’s wheelchair down a long hallway to an exam room. Christen clearly has no idea what’s going on, but she follows along anyway, at a loss for what else to do.

 

When they get towards the end of the hall, Tobin stops and pushes open the door. In the room, there’s a doctor that looks more like he should be on Grey’s Anatomy than in an actual hospital doing actual doctor things. He’s got high cheekbones, biceps stretching the short sleeves of his deep purple scrub top and thick, wavy black hair that would put McDreamy to shame.

 

He pops up from his chair where he was swiping through something on his iPad when he sees them enter the room. “Ah, you must be Nata,” he says, stepping over to kneel in front of the wheelchair. “I’m Dr. Kim, but you can call me Danny.” He holds out his hand for Nata to shake, smiling brightly at him. “And you must be Christen,” he says as he stands and offers his hand to Christen.

 

“Yes, it’s nice to meet you, Dr. Kim.” Christen’s still confused, almost seems a little dazed.

 

“Please, call me Danny,” he smiles.

 

“Danny is the orthopedic surgeon that works with the team. He operated on my ankle a few years ago,” Tobin explains, wanting to get Christen up to speed.

 

Christen’s eyes go wide as she gasps out, “you think he needs surgery?”

 

“No!” Tobin rushes out. “No, no, no, definitely not. I just wanted the best doctor possible to take care of Nata and Danny is the orthopedic surgical attending so he’s the only one I trusted to do that.” Christen’s eyes soften at the information as they flicker between Nata and Tobin for a few moments before she just smiles gently. “No offense you your residents, I’m sure they’re great,” Tobin says to Danny, who just laughs.

 

“No offense taken. My daughter is such a big fan of yours she’d never speak to me again if I told her Tobin Heath asked for a favor and I said no.” He kneels down in front of Nata again and says in a steady voice that inspires absolute trust, “I know it probably hurts a lot right now, but I’m going to give you some medicine to help with that, then we’ll get some x-rays to check out your leg. Sound good?”

 

Nata nods and reaches back for his mom’s hand, gripping it tightly. Christen’s other hand finds Tobin’s and holds on so tightly Tobin thinks Nata might not be the only one with a broken bone, but she doesn’t even feel the pain.

 

She lets Christen hold on as tightly as she needs without any complaint.

xxx

Once Nata isn’t in as much pain anymore, he’s quite the cooperative patient. He asks Danny endless questions, wanting to know how everything works. It’s nearly impossible to get him to stay still while he’s getting his leg x-rayed, but once he sees the scans he’s so fascinated that he tries to convince Danny to x-ray his entire body so he can see everything.

 

The only real snag is when it comes time to put his cast on. He insists that he will only let them put on a gold cast so that he matches LAFC’s colors, but they don’t have gold. Black would be the logical next option because it still fits the team’s theme, but that’s not good enough for him. He wants gold or nothing.

 

He’s nearly in tears over it and Christen is about three seconds from crying herself out of frustration, but Tobin manages to quell the situation. She convinces him to get a simple white cast and then she can draw on it for him. It’s like flipping a switch how quickly he goes from being upset to being thrilled. Christen can hardly believe it, her sigh of relief echoing in Tobin’s ear as she leans her forehead against Tobin’s temple.

 

It isn’t until they’re about to leave that Christen realizes she still hasn’t filled out any paperwork. She tries to flag down a nurse to figure out what she needs to do, but Tobin stops her, insisting she’s already taken care of everything and she doesn’t need to worry about it right now.

 

Tobin can’t explain the look Christen gives her then. It’s a bit gracious, a bit appreciative, a bit confused and a bit of something like realization that Tobin doesn’t really understand, but it’s gone before she can ask. Christen kisses her softly on the cheek and then turns to thank Danny for all his help.

 

When they get back to Christen’s house, Nata is fast asleep in the back seat, exhausted from the day and drowsy from the pain meds. Tobin scoops him up in her arms and carries him inside, laying him gently in Christen’s bed as she pulls back the sheets. It takes a bit of convincing, but Tobin is finally able to get Christen to take a nap too. Tobin insists that setting up the guest room downstairs for Nata and making his favorite chicken noodle soup to cheer him up can wait until later. Eventually, Christen is too tired to fight her and after kissing Tobin, she lays down next to Nata and is asleep within seconds.

 

Tobin considers going home to get some clothes, knowing she’s going to want to stay over for the next couple nights to help Christen out with Nata, but she decides that can wait until later. There are some things she wants to do first so that Christen doesn’t have to worry about them later. Cooking is definitely not her thing, especially if it’s a special recipe that she’s sure she would screw up, but there are other things she can do to help.

 

Setting up the guest room downstairs comes first. The bed is bigger than Nata’s so he can’t have his sheets, but she does get the Ironman comforter from his bed and lays it across the one downstairs so he’ll have that at least, even if it is a little too small. She brings down all the Harry Potter books (not that he can read them very well on his own yet) and stacks them on the nightstand. She moves his Xbox down and hooks it up on top of the dresser, moving the TV until it’s at the perfect angle to be seen from the bed. She brings down his pillows and trades them out for the ones already on the bed. She isn’t sure what all clothes she should bring down, so she gets a little of everything and puts them in the dresser, matching up the drawers as closely as she can to his dresser upstairs.

 

After the room is as set up as best she can think to get it, she brings down his things from the bathroom upstairs--his toothbrush, his shampoo, his favorite bright red towels. She even switches out the light green shower curtain downstairs with his ocean coast view one from upstairs. (It takes her an embarrassingly long amount of time to perform this simple task because she misaligns the curtain and shower liner three times before she gets the hooks to match up perfectly.)

 

Then, she starts straightening up around the house. It’s not like the house needs to be cleaned, but she’s had to deal with a broken ankle before, so she knows how annoying it can be to maneuver around the house on crutches. She organizes the shoes by the front door and moves one of the tables in the hallway a few inches so there’s more room. She pulls the coffee table away from the couch a bit and adjusts the recliner so there’s more room between it and the wall for Nata to get through.

 

Once she’s made the downstairs just about as crutch-friendly as she can manage, she finishes folding the clothes in the laundry basket sitting on the kitchen table. Based on the way some of the clothes are strewn on the floor, Christen must have dropped what she was doing the moment she heard Nata fall. After folding the last shirt, an LAFC one that Christen stole from her, she checks the washer and dryer to make sure there isn’t anything else that needs to be done.

 

Once she’s sure she’s done all she can, she sits down on the couch, only meaning to stay for long enough to check her phone, but she underestimated how tired she is and ends up falling asleep moments later, halfway through reading an email about travel plans for the game next weekend.

 

She isn’t sure how long she was asleep for, but a little while later she’s woken up by a soft thudding sound coming from the stairs. She jumps up immediately, sure there’s something wrong, and walks out to the foyer to investigate. What she finds brings a soft chuckle to her lips.

 

“Dude, what are you doing?” Tobin asks as Nata carefully slides down the stairs on his butt with his broken leg held outwards, holding onto the railing to make sure he doesn’t slide down too many too quickly.

 

“I didn’t want to wake up Mama,” he explains in a sheepish voice like he’s just gotten caught doing something he shouldn’t.

 

“Here, let me help,” Tobin offers.

 

She wraps an arm under his shoulders and lets him hop down the rest of the stairs on his non-casted leg. She hands him his crutches once he gets to the bottom. He shakily makes his way over to the couch, still getting used to the crutches, and plops down with a sigh.

 

“How are you feeling?” Tobin asks, putting one of the couch pillows on the coffee table and helping Nata prop up his leg.

 

“I won’t get to play soccer anymore this summer,” Nata says in place of a traditional answer, but it’s an answer Tobin understands completely.

 

“I’m sorry, Nata. I know how upsetting that is. It was during the offseason when I hurt my leg, but I was still upset I wasn’t able to train for almost two months.”

 

“You broke your leg?”

 

“Close,” Tobin answers, reaching for the TV remote from the coffee table. “I broke my ankle a few years ago. It was awful.”

 

Nata is quiet for a few moments while Tobin flips through the channels and tries to find a soccer game or movie worth watching. Once she’s settled on Tangled, which she knows is one of Nata’s favorites, he finally speaks up.

 

“So you broke your ankle and you were still really good at soccer afterwards?”

 

“Of course,” Tobin tells him. “Are you worried you won’t be good anymore?”

 

“I don’t know,” he says with a shrug that says he’s definitely worried.

 

“You’ll be fine, buddy. I promise. Once your legs heals you’ll be back out on the field like nothing ever happened.”

 

That answer seems to appease Nata. He leans into Tobin’s side and scratches at the top of his cast as they settle in to watch the movie and wait for Christen to get up.

xxx

“What’s going on down here?” Christen asks as she comes down the stairs to find balled up socks scattered all over the living room floor. Nata is laying on the couch with his leg propped up, but Tobin is halfway behind the entertainment center. When she hears Christen’s voice, she pops back out, nearly smacking her head on the TV in the process, a blue striped sock in her hand.

 

“Mama, look! Tobin is teaching me to play sock ball!” Nata emphasizes his words by tossing a sock towards a laundry basket on the other side of the room where it bounces off the wall behind it and then into the basket. There are a few socks that actually managed to get inside, but mostly they’re littered around the floor in front.

 

“I can see that,” Christen hums as she walks over to the couch. She tries to smile, but it just comes off as a grimace as she expresses her concern for her son. “How are you feeling, sunshine?” She asks as she kneels by the couch and brushes hair out of Nata’s face.

 

“I’m okay,” Nata dismisses as he tries to move past Christen so he can take another shot. “Look what Tobin did to my cast! Isn’t it so cool?” He asks as if he suddenly remembers the drawings are even there.

 

Though the plaster is white, barely an inch of it isn’t colored now as it’s split up into three sections of drawings. At the bottom, a blue ocean wraps around Nata’s foot, complete with fish and other sea creatures swimming below the surface. At his ankle where the water ends, there are a few shadows of people surfing in front of a pink and orange sunset. Above that, there’s the basilisk from Harry Potter curling around his calf with the Deathly Hallows symbol, a dragon, Harry’s glasses and scar, a golden snitch and a wand scattered around it. At the top, there’s a stretch of green grass with a soccer field and a tiny dark haired boy in a black and gold jersey kicking a ball towards a goal.

 

“Wow,” Christen gasps. “I had no idea you could draw like this,” she says, turning to face Tobin who’s now made her way over to join the others.

 

“It’s nothing,” Tobin shrugs, though she knows it’s much more than that. “I used to draw a lot more in high school, but I’m more into painting now.”

 

“Nothing? Are you kidding? He’s never going to want to get this cast taken off now.”

 

“Yeah-huh, Mama. I have to get it off so I can play soccer.” Nata’s tone suggests he’s offended she could ever forget that.

 

“Soccer isn’t really that important though, is it?” Christen teases. Nata’s eyes go wide like he can’t believe she would ever say such a thing. “Don’t worry, I’m just messing with you.” She leans in and kisses his forehead before standing up. “Does your leg hurt at all? I can get you some medicine if it does.”

 

“I’m okay,” Nata replies, ducking around his mom so he can throw another sock, clearly more concerned with the game than he is his leg at the moment.

 

“Okay, well let me know if it starts hurting. I’ll be in the kitchen making you some soup, all right?” The only response she gets is a quick nod before Nata gives his full focus to sinking his next shot. Christen takes Tobin by the hand and pulls her towards the kitchen.

 

“Don’t worry about the socks, I’ll clean them all up. It’s just something I used to play when my ankle was broken so I didn’t get bored. I thought it might cheer him up,” Tobin says.

 

“Clearly it did, he barely even acknowledged me when I told him I was making his favorite soup.” Christen stops in her tracks when she notices the laundry folded on the table. “Did you do that?”

 

“Yeah, I tried to stay busy while you guys were napping so you wouldn’t have so much to worry about.”

 

Christen turns around with a soft smile on her face. “What else did you do?”

 

Tobin blushes like she’s been caught doing something she shouldn’t. “I may have set up the guest room and bathroom for him, but I’m sure there’s more you’ll want to do. I moved some things around so it would be easier for him to get around with his crutches. I cleaned a little, but honestly you keep this place so immaculate there really wasn’t much to do.”

 

“Tobin, you didn’t have to do all that.”

 

“I know, but I wanted to. You’ve had a crazy day and I figured the less you had to worry about when you woke up, the better.”

 

Christen tilts her head down to kiss Tobin, holding her tightly against her with two strong arms wrapped around her shoulders. “You’re amazing,” Christen whispers.

 

“You know, I’ve actually thought that for years now, but it’s great to finally get recognized for it,” Tobin grins, sarcasm dripping from her voice.

 

Christen rolls her eyes and playfully pushes her away while she mumbles, “you’re ridiculous.” She moves behind the kitchen counter and says, “you got a lot done, how long was I asleep for?”

 

“Like four hours, I think?”

 

There’s a flash of panic that crosses over Christen’s face. “Four hours? Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I haven’t napped like that since…well, since a really long time.” She’s quiet for a moment until the panic finally subsides from her face. She shakes her head and just like that, she’s back in the moment, smiling softly at Tobin. “You didn’t have to stay here that long, I’m sure you’ve got other things to be doing.”

 

“Honey, don’t worry about it. I’m happy to be here, okay?”

 

Christen curls her fingers in Tobin’s direction until she walks towards her so Christen can wrap her arms around her waist. “You’re too good to me, Tobin Heath.”

 

“I wish I could be better, Christen Press.”

 

“Stop trying to one up me!” Christen laughs, smacking Tobin’s arm. “I’m trying to express my gratitude and you’re being a flirt like usual.”

 

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it.” Tobin winks and kisses Christen’s forehead before she pulls away. “What can I do? You know I suck at cooking anything other than breakfast, but I want to help.”

 

“You’ve done enough. You can head home if you need to, I didn’t mean for you to be here all day.”

 

“I’d like to stay if that’s cool.”

 

Christen looks at Tobin curiously, her head cocked to one side just like she did at the hospital earlier when she realized Tobin had taken care of the paper work and made sure the best doctor possible was taking care of Nata, but the expression fades quickly and is replaced with a bright smile. “Of course you can stay, but I don't want you helping anymore, you've done enough.”

 

“I think I might go shower if that's cool. I didn't get the chance to after practice.”

 

Christen glares at her and says in a teasing voice, “that's so not fair suggesting a shower when you know I can't join you.”

 

Tobin kisses her pouting lips and pulls away with a grin. “I mean, you technically could. It's not like Nata can get back upstairs to catch us.”

 

Christen just rolls her eyes and pushes Tobin away. “Go shower, I'll have food ready when you're finished. You've got some clothes in my second dresser drawer.”

 

“You gave me a dresser drawer?” Tobin asks, grinning at how domestic that is. She's never shared a drawer with anyone other than Lauren when they shared an apartment with Amy in college, but that was just because Lauren’s dresser wasn't big enough and Tobin didn't nearly fill her own.

 

“No, I gave you a third of a drawer. You know there's no way I'd ever be able to consolidate all my clothes enough to give you a full drawer.” Christen grins sheepishly, having been teased by Tobin countless times over how many clothes she has.

 

“Well, it's the thought that counts I guess,” Tobin says as she kisses Christen’s cheek. “Try not to get too distracted thinking of me all naked and wet and soapy up in the shower, all alone,” she whispers in her ear before jumping away to avoid being smacked by the dish towel Christen grabs off the counter.

 

“You're so mean,” Christen groans, pouting hard.

xxx

Despite his nap, Nata starts to drift off soon after they eat dinner. He’s curled into Tobin’s side with his leg propped up in Christen’s lap as Tangled plays for the third time that night when he starts snoring softly. However, it isn’t until the third time Christen suggests she take him to bed that he’s too gone to protest.

 

Tobin turns off the TV and opens the door to Nata’s temporary room, pulling back the sheets so Christen can lay him down. Christen is tedious as she fluffs a pillow and angles it perfectly under his leg. She leaves her old phone on the bedside table, the one with only hers and her parents’ numbers in it and no internet access that she lets him have on the weekends he’s away because he says he can’t sleep without hearing Christen tell him ‘goodnight.’ Christen tells him it’s there and to call if he needs her, but he’s already too deep in sleep to acknowledge her.

 

After they both kiss him goodnight on the forehead and Tobin closes the door softly, Christen takes her by the hand and pulls her up towards her room. Once there, she wraps her arms around her tightly and tucks her head under her chin.

 

“Has anyone ever told you you’re great in a crisis?” Christen asks.

 

“My mom said I was great at cheering up my brother after his hamster died when he was eight, but other than that, no,” Tobin says.

 

Christen scoffs out a laugh and pulls back so she can look at Tobin. “Well, you should know that you are. Seriously, I don’t even know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t been here with me today. You’re so good with him.”

 

“He’s a good kid,” Tobin shrugs. “He makes it easy for me.”

 

“Tobin, I’m serious,” Christen insists, her voice dropping in pitch and becoming steady as she emphasizes her point. “He’s never gotten along so easily with someone so quickly; not even me. He was so good with me in Puerto Rico, but he barely spoke to me the first two weeks after I brought him home and it took him a month before he’d even make eye contact with my parents. Not with you, though. He’s warmed up to you so easily and it really means a lot to me how good you are with him.”

 

“He’s important to me,” Tobin tells her. “And it’s not just because he’s your kid and if I want to date you I want him to like me. He’s a really cool kid. He’s smart and he’s polite. You’ve done such a good job raising him and I really enjoy hanging out with him.”

 

“It’s not just with him, though. You’re really good with me too. You took care of everything at the hospital and you called in your own doctor and everything. I was an absolute mess and you were so good at calming me down.”

 

“I just want to do anything I can to be good enough for you,” Tobin says, her voice shy.

 

“Is that what you think, that you aren’t good enough for me?” Christen brings a hand up to rest against Tobin’s neck, her thumb reaching up to rub at Tobin’s clenched jaw until it starts to relax under her touch.

 

“I don’t know,” Tobin shrugs, her eyes focused on a loose thread on Christen’s shirt so she doesn’t need to look at her eyes. “You’re just so good and I’m…I don’t know.”

 

“You’re what? You’re not good? Tobin, just because you slept around before me and haven’t ever had a long term relationship, that doesn’t mean you aren’t good. Your dating life has nothing to do with your worth as a person. You’re so much better than you think and it breaks my heart to know you don’t realize how truly special you are.”

 

Tobin swallows hard. She closes her eyes to try and keep back her tears. She’s never had someone try so hard to convince her of her worth. People have spoken highly of her before, but they’ve never taken the time to make sure she believes what they say. With Christen, though, it’s more important that Tobin understands what she’s saying that it is what her actual words are.

 

Tobin wants to tell her she loves her, the words are right there on the tip of her tongue, but she can’t get them to pass her lips. “Thank you,” she says instead, hoping Christen understands what it is she’s really saying based on the tear that manages to find its way past her eyelid.

 

She must get it because she reaches up to wipe the tear away with a thumb and then kisses the same spot. “You don’t have to thank me, but you’re welcome,” Christen says gently.

 

Tobin sniffles and blinks a couple times to rid herself of any more tears, then she swallows hard to steel herself for what she’s about to say, something she probably should’ve told Christen about awhile ago. “While on the topic of my dating life, though, you should know while I haven’t technically been in a relationship before, there kind of was someone I was involved with for a while. I don’t know why I’ve never told you about this before, it’s not like it’s something I think about often, but I guess I just figured you should know.”

 

“The blonde from France?”

 

Tobin’s eyes jerk up from Christen’s shoulder to meet her eyes. “Wait, you know about that? How?”

 

“Tobin, you don’t talk about relationships like a person who’s never been in one. You talk about them like someone who’s been hurt by one.”

 

“Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

 

Christen shrugs, showing she isn’t too fazed by the situation. “I figured if it was something that needed to be talked about then you would bring it up.”

 

“How did you know it was Laure?”

 

Christen bristles a little at hearing her name, but she doesn’t let it stop her from answering. “I didn’t for sure. I saw the picture in your apartment and just assumed. Do you want to talk about her?”

 

“There really isn’t a lot to say. We started hooking up when I played in France. We were close for the few months I was there, but once the season ended, so did we. That’s really all there is.”

 

“What if you had stayed another season? Do you think you guys would have become something more than just a fling?” Christen’s tone suggests she isn’t just asking because she’s curious or jealous and wants to know for selfish reasons. It’s almost like she’s asking because she thinks talking about it will be good for Tobin and so she’s encouraging her to open up.

 

“They offered me a contract for another season, actually, but I turned them down. Kelley thinks it’s because I was too afraid to get any closer to Laure.”

 

“And what do you think?” Christen asks.

 

“I think she’s right,” Tobin admits for the first time ever. “Things with my dad kind of messed up relationships for me and it was so soon after everything with the national team that I was in a vulnerable place. I guarded my heart more than I really needed to. I know if I’d stayed another season she would’ve gotten through to me and I wasn’t ready for that yet.”

 

“And are you ready for it now? With me?”

 

“I’m still here aren’t I?” Tobin smirks.

 

“Yes, yes you are.”

xxx

They get ready for bed slowly, both still tired from the day despite their naps. They brush their teeth side-by-side and then Tobin gets into bed and scrolls through her phone while Christen washes her face and changes into shorts instead of her sweatpants.

 

When she comes out of the bathroom, Christen drops her sweatpants onto a pile of clothes at the end of her bed instead of the laundry basket Tobin knows she has in her closet. It isn’t the first time the uncharacteristic behavior has caught Tobin’s attention, she’s noticed it a couple times over the past couple weeks, but she hasn’t said anything yet. Tonight, though, Tobin decides to bring it up.

 

“Hey babe,” Tobin says as she turns off her phone screen and setting it on the nightstand. “Are you feeling okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Christen says, dragging out the word to show her confusion. “I’m fine. Why would you think I wasn’t?”

 

“You’ve just seemed a little off lately. You get tired more easily and you seem a little distant, I guess? Plus, I think you’re starting a depression pile, so I just wanted to check.”

 

“A what?” Christen asks with a confused laugh.

 

“A depression pile, I read about them. I think there’s a technical term for it, but I can’t really remember what it is. But basically, it’s like when you don’t have the energy to put clothes and other things away so you just kind of pile them all together like you’re doing at the end of the bed,” Tobin explains.

 

Christen goes quiet as she looks at the pile in question. She picks up the pair of sweatpants she just dropped there and folds them quickly, but then she drops them right back. “I hadn’t even noticed,” she says with a defeated sigh, like she’s been trying to deny how she feels and it’s finally all caught up to her. “I guess maybe I have been feeling a little weird lately.” She moves to sit next to Tobin on the bed, but then she stops mid-step. “Wait, you read it?”

 

“Yeah, my uh…my brother-in-law’s best friend is a nurse practitioner and he recommended a really helpful book for me to read. I don’t really know a lot about depression and I wanted to educate myself so I can help you whenever you need it. I just wanted to be more aware in case the time came that it would be useful.”

 

“You read a book on depression for me?” Christen asks in disbelief, finally sitting down on the bed and scooting closer to Tobin so she can take her hands, holding them up against her heart.

 

“Of course. I told you, I just want to be as good for you as I can be.” Tobin’s blushing despite how hard she’s trying not to.

 

She doesn’t even know what made her call Aaron to ask for book recommendations. She still had his number leftover from wedding planning, but she hasn’t used it in years. A few days after Christen told her about her depression, though, she just picked up the phone and called.

 

It hadn’t been an easy book to read, it made her stomach churn thinking about Christen having to go through any of that. Christen hasn’t told her any of the dirty details of what her episodes are like for her, but if the one in college was bad enough she needed to ask for help, then Tobin can only imagine. All she wants to do is protect Christen and keep her safe from anything that could possibly hurt her, but she can’t fight this off. She’s powerless against it and she hates it. That’s why she wanted to understand it as best she could, in hopes that it would somehow help her with Christen should the time come.

 

The way she’s been acting lately, she feels like it could be coming soon.

 

“No one’s ever read a book like that for me before. I mean, my parents read a few articles online after I was diagnosed, but nothing like this.” Christen leans in slowly, taking one of her hands away from Tobin’s so she can hold her face lightly, nudging her forward so she can kiss her. It starts out soft, but turns intense after a few as Christen tries to get as close to Tobin as possible. She’s a little breathless when she pulls away and says, “there’s something I want to show you.”

 

Christen pushes herself away from Tobin and off the bed. She opens up the bottom drawer of her nightstand and pulls out a book that has an absurd amount of brightly colored sticky notes marking certain pages. Even with the book closed, Tobin can see the highlighter stains on the edge of the pages. The spine is cracked and the front cover can’t even stay closed because of the way it’s curled open. Christen hands the book to Tobin and her throat tightens once she’s able to read the cover.

 

“Soccer for Dummies?” Tobin says with a small, grateful laugh. She thumbs through the pages and sees Christen’s familiar, impeccable handwriting along the margins in a variety of different colors of ink. The one that catches her eye as she skims through the pages is a section that’s breaking down the different positions. Above the paragraph describing a left winger, Christen has written Tobin’s name with several hearts all around it. Tobin feels like her heart is about to beat its way out of her throat. “You read all this?” She asks in disbelief, amazed at the dedication Christen has clearly shown to try and understand the sport Tobin loves so much.

 

“Cover-to-cover like three times,” Christen confirms with a nod.

 

“So our second date was a total scam, then?”

 

“Oh no, I really had no idea what was happening that night. I didn’t read the book until a couple nights after that, actually, but I bought it awhile before that.” Christen’s smile turns sheepish as she realizes what she just said, her eyes moving down from Tobin’s to land on the book.

 

“When did you get it?” Tobin asks with a cocked eyebrow, curious at the confession and more importantly, Christen’s reaction to it. “We’d only known each other for a few weeks at that point.”

 

Christen lets out a drawn out sigh, almost as if she’s trying to buy herself more time to come up with an out, but eventually, she gives in and says, “I’ll tell you, but you have to promise not to tease me about it.”

 

“Why would I tease you?”

 

“Just promise me you won’t,” Christen insists.

 

“Okay, okay,” Tobin relents, the anticipation nearly killing her at this point. “I promise I won’t tease you over it.”

 

“I bought it the day after we met,” Christen confesses. “I was walking through the bookstore and I just so happened to find myself in the sports section as I was trying to find the travel section. For some reason, I looked over at this one shelf and this bright yellow book was staring right at me. I walked past it at first, telling myself I had no business buying it, but something made me go back before I left and added it to my basket. I told myself I was buying it because of Nata, but that’s just because I didn’t want to admit it was for you. By the time I got home, I’d worked myself up so much I felt like a stalker for buying it. I mean, just because I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about you didn’t mean you even gave me a second thought. You’re a big time soccer player and ridiculously hot. Why would you waste your time on me?”

 

“You thought I wasn’t interested?” Tobin scoffs. “I tripped over my own feet and my words like a dozen times within the span of the ten minutes we were around each other. I fell hard on sight.”

 

“Well, you may not have noticed, but like 80% of my time is spent doubting myself.”

 

“Now that you mention it, I had noticed,” Tobin says sarcastically. “Which brings me back to my original point. Are you sure you’re okay? I’ve been worried about you for a few days, honestly, but I figured I wouldn’t say anything until you asked for help.”

 

“Honestly? I haven’t been feeling the greatest lately,” Christen admits. She flinches when Tobin’s hand reaches out for hers, but then she turns her hand over so she can hold Tobin’s. “It comes it waves. I spend a lot of the time trying to convince myself I’m fine and so I don’t realize it when I’m not.”

 

“I don’t want you doing that, okay? If something feels off, even if it’s just a little bit, I want to know as long as you feel comfortable enough telling me. I don’t want you to feel like you’re bothering or inconveniencing me or anything like that because you aren’t. If you need help, I want to be here. I loved being able to help you out today, knowing that you depend on me. Even if you just need help around the house or getting Nata out of your hair for a few hours or even just lying in bed and binge watching Netflix all day. Whatever I can do to make it better, I want to do it.”

 

“Thank you,” Christen whispers, kissing Tobin’s forehead. She gets that same look on her face from earlier, like she’s got something inside that’s eating away at her, wanting to find a way out. This time, though, Christen doesn’t try to quell it. She takes a deep breath and then says, “Tobin, I want to tell you something, but I don’t want to freak you out.”

 

Tobin swallows, not sure where Christen’s going with this, but wanting to be as dependable as she just told Christen she could be. “You won’t freak me out,” she says as confidently as she can manage.

 

Christen’s grip on Tobin’s hand tightens. “You say that, but I just need to make sure, okay? I don’t want to mess things up.”

 

“Chris, I’m okay. You won’t mess anything up,” Tobin assures her. “Just tell me what’s going on.”

 

Christen sucks in a deep breath and holds it for a moment, like she knows as soon as she lets it out, everything will change. After a few agonizingly slow seconds, she barely parts her lips to let out the breath and then she says, “Tobin, I love you.”

 

The pause after that feels even longer than the one before it even though Tobin’s pretty sure it’s only a second or two. Tobin’s never heard those words from anyone other than family members or friends or the fans that scream it at her after games.

 

None of them have ever meant it like this, though.

 

None of them have ever said the words quietly and in a rush like if they don’t get it out now, they never will.

 

None of them have ever let their eyes dance across Tobin’s face, looking for any sort of sign that they just messed things up forever.

 

None of them have ever tightened their grip on her hand like it will keep her present in the moment and not let her mind run wild like it’s trying so desperately to.

 

None of them have ever smiled softly like Christen does now and followed up their confession with, “I don’t want you to think you have to say it back. I don’t need you to. I know it’s a big deal for you, so please don’t feel pressured to say it until you’re ready. I’m not going to start saying it every day or anything, either, I just needed to do it once for now. I wanted you to know. I needed you to know, but not just for me. I feel like it isn’t something you hear enough and I wanted you to know just how important you are to me. I was pretty sure I felt this way before today, but today just confirmed it for me. You handled everything so well and you never wavered once.” Christen pauses long enough for a look of panic to settle across her face. “Oh shit, I totally just ruined everything, didn’t I?”

 

“No, no, no,” Tobin rushes out, bringing her other hand to rest on Christen’s knee so she can’t move away. “Nothing’s wrong, I just…I think I know how I feel, but like you said it’s a big deal for me, and I’m sure for you too, so I just want to be completely sure before I say it. Is that okay?”

 

“Of course it’s okay!” Christen says with a bit too much enthusiasm, clearly thrilled she didn’t royally screw anything up and by the fact that Tobin all but said she loves her back. “I want you to wait until you’re ready. Totally no pressure at all, I promise.”

 

“Would it be totally cliche for me to say ‘thank you’ right now?” Tobin asks with a laugh, feeling downright giddy at the moment and not knowing what else to say.

 

“Not if you keep grinning at me like that when you say it,” Christen smirks.

 

Tobin hadn’t even realized how hard she’s been smiling, but suddenly her cheeks are aching and she can’t seem to remember how to control her muscles to make it stop. If anything, the realization only makes her smile wider. She leans in and presses that smile against Christen’s lips, pushing forward until she’s on top of Christen, her legs laying comfortably between Christen’s.

 

“Thank you,” Tobin says, a quick kiss after both words. “Family love, friend love, that’s one thing, but this feels really, really nice.”

 

Like the flip of a switch, Christen’s eyes turn dark and her grip on Tobin’s ribs tightens, pulling her upper body down against hers. “Show me how nice it feels,” she says in a voice so low and raspy that Tobin can feel it in her gut.

 

“What about Nata?” She asks in a whisper.

 

In all the times that Tobin has stayed over in the past month, they’ve never once had sex with him in the house. They’ve come close a few times, but they’ve always pressed the brakes before they could cross any lines.

 

Based on the way Christen’s looking at her, though, she’s already cut out the brakes before they’ve even pressed ‘go.’

 

“Like you said, it’s not like he can make it back up the stairs.”

 

That seems to be the only explanation Christen plans on offering as she surges up to meet Tobin’s lips and suddenly Tobin is powerless to stop things.

 

Tobin comes with Christen’s hand between her legs and her lips whispering ‘I love you’ right against her ear.

 

She swears she sees stars burst to life on Christen’s ceiling.

xxx

The next day, Tobin stops by her apartment after training to shower and grab some clothes before she heads back over to Christen’s, but when she steps through the front door, she sees Christen is already there waiting for her.

 

“Hey, what are you doing here?” She asks before she’s able to take in the way Christen’s standing. Her arms are crossed over her chest, her eyes are narrowed and something about the way she’s furiously tapping her foot scares Tobin. She’s clearly on the defense about something and Tobin has no idea what. “Honey, what’s wrong?

 

“What the hell did you do?” Christen asks through gritted teeth.

 

Tobin has no idea what she’s talking about, but she does know that she clearly fucked up.

 

Badly.

Chapter Text

Tobin slowly drops her training bag from her shoulder to the floor, tilting her head to the side and squinting at Christen as she tries to catch up to whatever’s going on. “I'm gonna need a little more context because I have no idea what this is about,” Tobin says eventually.

She tries to run through a list in her head of all the things she could've done to piss Christen off, but she's at a complete loss. The only thing she can think of is when she moved stuff around at the house to help Nata get around. Maybe she messed with Christen’s system or something, but she told Christen about that and she was appreciative.

She's completely out of ideas.

Christen narrows her eyes like she's annoyed Tobin doesn't even realize what's such a big deal. “You paid entirely for Nata’s medical bill by claiming to be his parent,” she scoffs out. “I called today to figure out how much I needed to pay and they told me it was paid in full by his mom. Why the hell would you do that? This isn't your place.”

Well. Fuck.

Tobin raises her hands up, palms out to show Christen she isn't looking for a fight even though that's clearly what Christen came here for. “Okay, I know this seems like, super controlling or out of line or whatever, but I promise I was going to tell you about this. I just--”

“When were you planning on telling me, Tobin?” Christen interrupts, starting to raise her voice. “After you paid for Nata’s karate lessons? Or hey, maybe you could go ahead and pay for his school too while you're at it. You can just tell them you’re his mom and it should be totally fine, right?”

Tobin bristles at the accusation that Christen thinks Tobin would ever try to do something like that. She's got her reasons for what she did, if Christen would just give her a second to explain, but she would never try to intervene so much in their lives as to try and do that.

“Chris, I wouldn't do that, come on. I was only--”

“No, you come on!” Christen interrupts yet again, nearly shouting now. “What were you thinking? Why the hell would you assume it would be okay for you to do this?”

“If you would stop interrupting me for two fucking seconds maybe I'd be able to explain!” Tobin nearly shouts, frustrated at the situation and not being able to defend herself.

“Please don't raise your voice at me.”

“You raised your voice at me!” Tobin runs a hand through her hair in frustration, wishing she would've just told Christen what she did from the beginning instead of waiting for the dust to settle after yesterday. She takes a deep breath to make herself calm down, knowing this could get so much worse if she let’s herself get angry. “Can we please just sit down and talk about this?” She asks, as calmly as she can manage.

“What, so you can placate me and try to act like this isn't a big deal because you're Tobin Heath, the famous soccer player and you've got all this money lying around for you to just blow, so of course it's not big deal to pay for some measly medical bill? A couple thousand is just a drop in the bucket for you, right?”

“What the fuck?” Tobin’s jaw drops. She's never seen Christen so pissed off before. She didn't even know Christen could get so angry. More than the shock of the sudden emotions, though, she's pissed that Christen would ever say such a thing about her. Sure she has money, but she's always been sure to make a conscious effort not to let that get to her head and or start thinking she's better than anyone because of it. She hates those kind of people. “Are you kidding me right now? Where is this coming from?”

“It's coming from the fact you just spent thousands of dollars on my son without telling me or even asking if it was okay! You can't just buy people off, Tobin and you don’t get to pretend that Nata is your son!”

She's trying her best to stay calm, she really is, but her hands are shaking and she feels like she's filled with gasoline and one wrong word from Christen is going to make her explode.

“That's not at all what I was trying to do,” Tobin explains, her voice as steady and composed as she can manage. “I would never try to buy you, or anyone else for that matter, off and honestly I'm a little hurt you would even suggest that. And I wasn’t trying to pretend Nata is my son. My intention was--”

“I know what your intention was! You wanted to help out the poor, defenseless single mother who of course can't take care of her son on her own. So you had to step in and handle things all on your own and look like the hero to everyone so you can pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you did this great thing. Well guess what, Tobin? You fucked up. This isn't your place. I don't need you and I definitely don't need your help!”

Tobin flinches at that last line. One of the things she’s loved about being with Christen is feeling like she’s needed. Obviously Christen can take care of herself too, Tobin knows that and she respects her so much for that, but she’s liked being depended on. Knowing Christen trusted her enough to call her first after Nata broke his leg meant so much to her. But now to have that thrown back in her face? Tobin can’t stay calm anymore. She can tell by the way Christen turns suddenly small that she regrets what she said, but Tobin doesn't give her the chance to take it back. Not yet.

“You have no idea what you’re talking about!” Tobin shouts. “Sure, maybe I over stepped, and I’m sorry for that but I wasn’t trying to keep anything from you. You had a stressful day and I was just trying to make things as easy for you as possible for as long as I could. I was going to tell you at dinner tonight about it and also tell you that I’ve already talked to my sister and she helped me work out a payment plan since I knew you would want to pay me back completely.”

“Okay but--”

“But nothing! I wasn’t trying to look like a hero! I was just trying to take away some of the burden for a day or two until you felt better. You were so scared yesterday and money was the last thing you should’ve been worrying about. Dr. Kim doesn’t exactly come cheap and the only reason he was Nata’s doctor is because I wanted him to be so I didn’t want you to have to see that ridiculous bill the day after you were so upset. So yeah, I said Nata was mine so they would let me pay and fill out the paperwork so you wouldn’t have to worry about it, but Christen you know me better than to think it was anything more than that. I was just trying to help but apparently that was my mistake for thinking you needed me at all. My bad.”

“Tobin…” Christen sighs. “It’s just that--”

“And another thing,” Tobin interrupts, giving Christen a taste of her own medicine. “I can’t believe you would ever suggest I think you’re some defenseless single mother who can’t take care of herself and her son. I really thought you knew me better than that, but apparently not.”

“Tobin, I didn’t mean it like that. I--”

“I know exactly what you meant!” Tobin snaps. “You think I’m manipulative and have a hero complex and that I don’t respect you enough to let you take care of your own kid. You think I’m controlling and you’ve made it very clear you don’t need me.”

“That’s not true,” Christen pleads. She tries to cross the distance between them, clearly regretting what she said in the heat of the moment, but Tobin takes a quick step away from her. “Tobin,” she says, her voice soft and unsteady.

“I’d like you to leave.”

Christen’s face fall and her voice cracks as she asks, “what?”

“Chris, I’m pissed off right now and I don’t want to say something to you that I can’t take back. You should know a thing or two about that, right?” Her voice is acidic and the words burn her tongue on the way out but she can’t hold them in.

“Tobin, I’m worried if I leave then I won’t be able to fix this and that scares me.”

It’s the first tear that starts to fall from Christen’s eyes that almost makes Tobin’s resolve fade and take Christen in her arms and forgive her for everything she said.

Almost.

She does, however, take a step closer and kiss Christen on the forehead quickly. “We’ll be okay, I promise,” Tobin tells her even though she doesn’t necessarily believe it right now. Later, she’ll mean what she’s saying, but right now she just wants time to be angry and calm down. “I just need some time, okay?”

“I’m sorry,” Christen whines, biting her bottom lip to stop it from trembling.

“I know,” is all Tobin says before she steps back away from Christen and opens the front door, not really giving Christen any option but to leave. “I’ll call you when I’m ready to talk, okay?”

She’s reluctant, but eventually she nods and walks towards the open door. She hesitates before she actually walks across the threshold and then surges forward to kiss Tobin on the lips, just for a moment, before she pulls away and walks down the hallway without turning back.

Tobin waits until she sees Christen get on the elevator before she slams her door closed and swears loudly.

That’s the first time they’ve really fought. Sure, they’ve had a couple small arguments over dumb things like Christen refusing to turn the subtitles on when Tobin asks her to because she finds them distracting or Tobin accidentally breaking one of Christen’s flower pots with a stray soccer ball after Christen asked her repeatedly to be careful.

But they’ve never fought like this. They’ve never yelled at each other. They’ve never let themselves say things simply for the sake of hurting each other and trying to get the upperhand in the conversation.

Tobin wants to chase after Christen and take everything back, she even goes so far as to open her front door again, but she stops herself before she can step out into the hall. She needs to cool off; they both do.

She tells herself she’ll call Christen when she’s ready to talk.

She just wishes she knew when that will be.

xxx

They don't talk at all for two days. No good morning texts. No ‘thinking of you’ snaps. No calls before bed to catch up on their days.

Nothing.

Tobin can't remember a time she felt so awful. She doesn't know what she used to do before Christen was in her life. Since the very first day Christen texted her, they haven't gone a single day without talking. Even if it's just a couple of texts throughout a busy day, they're constantly in communication.

She doesn't talk about it with Kelley, but she knows her friend can sense something is off. She's more persistent than usual about trying to get her to hang out after practice, but luckily Tobin is able to find a way out of it.

When Lauren and Amy show up at her door the evening after the fight with a bottle of wine and entire series of The OC on DVD--something they haven't watched since college--Tobin knows it's Kelley’s doing. She invites them in, not that she really has a choice with them, but she doesn't talk about Christen. They try to bring it up, but she slips away from answering every time, changing the subject as smoothly as possible until they learn to just leave it alone.

The nights are the worst. During the day she's able to distract herself with prolonged training sessions or surfing until she’s the last one in the water. At night, though, she can't escape it. She's gotten so used to sleeping next to Christen that the left side of her bed feels cold and empty. She'll stare up at the plastic stars on her ceiling until they start to blur together and then she'll force her eyes closed until eventually she falls asleep. In the mornings, she'll roll over and feel her stomach drop when she stretches her arm across the bed and doesn't meet the warmth of Christen’s back.

She's miserable.

She runs until her legs barely move and she practices her shooting until her muscles carry out the motions without her even having to tell them to.

She almost texts Christen once.

She's settling down for bed on the second night and her heart hurts so badly she doesn't even care about the things Christen said to her or the things she said back. She just wants to hold her. So she picks up her phone and clicks on her thread with Christen only to see the little ellipses in the bottom corner that tells her Christen is in the midst of texting her. She closes out if the message as soon as she can and throws her phone across the bed, hating that she got caught.

She never picks up her phone again that night.

And whatever text Christen was planning on sending never comes through.

xxx

It's mid-morning on the third day when her phone finally buzzes and it's from Christen. She doesn't read the message right away, just sees Christen’s name with the pink heart emoji after it and watches as the screen fades to black again.

She isn't sure what the text says. She isn't sure what she even wants it to say, but after a full two minutes of staring at the phone letting her mind run wild with all the possibilities, it vibrates again in quick succession with two more messages and Tobin’s reaching for the phone before the second vibration is even over.

[Christen <3: 10:12 AM]
Can we call a truce for today?

[Christen <3: 10:14 AM]
Please

[Christen <3: 10:14 AM]
I really need you today

Tobin’s up off the couch, slipping on shoes and grabbing her car keys before she can even finish typing out a response. Whatever is going on between them, Christen’s clearly upset over something and Tobin isn't going to let her stubbornness prevent her from being a good girlfriend right now.

[Tobin: 10:15 AM]
I'm on my way

xxx

When Tobin gets to Christen’s house, the first weird thing she notices is that the door’s locked. Christen lives in just about the quietest, most boring neighborhood possible so unless she's going to bed or isn't home, the door is never locked.

The second weird thing she notices once she's let herself inside with the spare key Christen gave her is the mess. It's not really much of a mess but considering Christen’s usual cleanliness standards, it's a disaster. There's an open bag of chips and three empty Gatorade bottles scattered on the coffee table in the living room. Nata’s got two changes of dirty clothes rumpled and tossed behind the couch on the way to the kitchen. The blinds are closed, making the place seem so much darker than it really is and the familiar vacuum treads from Christen’s daily vacuuming sessions are missing from the carpet.

Nata lifts his head up from the couch when he hears Tobin come in and he grins when he sees her, but it's subdued compared to his usual greetings. “Hey, Tobin,” he says in a sleepy voice.

“Dude, did you sleep on the couch?”

“Yeah,” she says, almost sheepish. “Mama is having a sad day so I wanted to be close to the stairs when she came down.”

“Has she not been downstairs yet this morning?”

“She came down this morning and made me some cereal and put on some cartoons. She just went back upstairs a little bit ago.”

Something must really be wrong for Christen to be acting like this. Tobin feels so guilty, like it's her fault for this whole stupid fight that's made Christen so upset she can barely even get out if bed. If she would've just told Christen about paying the bill the day it happened then she wouldn't even need to be cleaning up this stupid mess she made.

“I’ll go check on her,” Tobin says as starts for the stairs. Just before she goes up though, she stops and looks back at Nata. “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”

Nata doesn’t even hesitate before he says, “I just want Mama to feel better.”

Tobin nods and starts up the stairs before Nata can see the tears that spring to her eyes at the sincerity of his words.

She knocks on Christen’s door gently and pushes it open a second later after not hearing a response. The room is as dark as she's ever seen it and Christen is sitting on the floor with her back against the foot of her bed, her knees pulled to her chest and head buried in her hands.

“Sweetheart,” Tobin says softly, walking towards her. She lowers herself onto the floor. Christen flinches when their shoulders brush, but then she turns and buries her face in Tobin’s neck. Her breaths fall in short, uneven bursts on Tobin’s skin like she's on the verge of tears. “Honey, what's wrong?” She asks, stroking Christen’s hair until her fingers catch on a knot and she decides rubbing her back is better.

“It's not a good day,” Christen mumbles, her voice so quiet Tobin can barely make the words out. She snakes an arm across Tobin’s stomach and holds on tight, like she’s afraid if she lets go she’ll just drift away.

“What do you need me to do, Chris?” Tobin asks without hesitation. If Christen wanted to talk about how she was feeling right now, then she would have. She’s obviously not in a good place and Tobin knows enough about her to know what’s going on right now. The depression that Tobin was worried about creeping up on her the past few days has finally reared its ugly head and Christen’s helpless against it.

Tobin wants to feel guilty, she wants to blame herself for making things even worse for Christen, but that’s selfish. She knows now isn’t the time to feel those things. Right now, she just needs to take care of Christen and help her in any way that she can.

“Can you take Nata for the day?” Christen asks, gasping afterwards like it’s taking everything in her to be able to speak. “I feel like such an awful mom asking, but I just…I can’t today Tobin, I can’t.”

“Hey, hey, stop it,” Tobin says. She reaches up and brushes Christen’s messy hair out of her face, brushing a thumb across her cheek. “You are not a bad mom, okay? You admitting that you can’t take care of him today makes you the best mom because you’re putting him first. Of course I’ll take him.”

“I hate inconveniencing you.”

“You’re not. I’m happy to help you however I can, but are you going to be okay here on your own?”

“I’ll be fine,” Christen insists, pressing the softest of kisses to Tobin’s skin. “You taking care of him today will really help me be able to take care of myself.”

“Of course,” Tobin whispers. “Chris, I’m so sorry about the other day.”

“Stop it, this isn’t your fault, I promise. This was always going to happen. That’s the thing about depression, you can’t really stop it once it decides to show up. The medicine can only do so much, you know?” Christen tries to give a sarcastic smile, but it’s shaky and falls from her lips after just a moment. “We’ll talk about it later, okay?”

“Okay,” Tobin agrees. “Have you eaten anything today?”

Christen’s reluctant to answer, like she doesn't want Tobin to know how bad it is, but the way she shakes her head tells Tobin it's been way longer than she's going to admit since the last time she did eat.

“If I make you some eggs or something will you eat them before I leave, please?”

Christen almost rolls her eyes, showing how much she hates being taken care of, but then she nods. “Yeah, okay,” she mumbles.

“And when’s the last time you took your meds?”

“Tobin,” Christen whines, moving away so there's a bit of space between them. “I'm fine, okay? Just take care of Nata today, please. That's all I need from you.”

Tobin knows if she keeps pushing the subject she's risking another fight about her overstepping her bounds, but this is important, so it's worth the risk.

“Christen, babe, you are so clearly not fine right now,” Tobin says, blunt. “But that's okay. It's perfectly all right to not be fine 100% of the time, but when you're not, I need you to be honest with me and know that it's okay to ask for help. I get if you're embarrassed or whatever, but you don't need to be with me. I just want to make sure you're okay before I leave, so please just let me do that.”

Christen’s voice is small when she says, “I took them yesterday.”

“But not today?”

Christen shakes her head and then lays it on Tobin’s shoulder, breathing a deep sigh of relief at the feeling of Tobin’s skin on hers again.

“I'll go downstairs and make you some breakfast and set your pills out. How about you change your clothes and then I'll bring everything up? Sound good?”

Christen nods, letting the slow hand she moves across Tobin’s stomach be all the answer Tobin needs. They sit that way--quiet, still--for a couple more moments before Tobin kisses Christen’s head and then moves to stand up.

“I'll be right back, okay pretty girl?” She smiles softly at Christen, pushing hair out of her face so she can see those bright green eyes she loves so much.

“I don't feel very pretty right now,” Christen mumbles.

“You're beautiful right now,” Tobin insists. “You always are.” Tobin kisses her lips quickly and then leaves the room, closing the door gently so Christen can change.

Tobin makes her way downstairs and the first thing she notices is that Nata’s not on the couch. She barely has a second to wonder where he is before there's the clattering sound of something falling from the kitchen and Tobin rushes in, sure he's just fallen over his crutches. Nata’s not the one on the floor, but his crutches are still to blame. He's standing in front of the medicine cabinet, one of his crutches stretched up to the high shelf where Christen keeps all the medicine. Nata’s tongue is poking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration as he tries to nudge a little orange bottle off the shelf. He's almost got it when the crutch slips and several more bottles fall than he intended, just barely missing him on the way down.

“Hey Natanael, let me get those.” Tobin steps into the kitchen and kneels down to pick up all the bottles that have fallen. “Does your leg hurt? Do you need something for the pain?” Tobin asks, assuming that's what he was trying to get and didn't want to be a bother by asking. He takes after his mother so much.

“It's not for me,” Nata says. “Mama didn't take her medicine this morning and she always does. I was trying to get it for her, but it's too high.” He starts to lift up a crutch again, but Tobin reaches out a hand to stop it.

Tobin swallows the lump in her throat that forms as she sees the determined look on Nata’s face. He's so young, but he's so aware of what Christen is going through. Maybe he doesn't understand it, but he knows enough to sense when things aren't right and wants to do all he can to help. Honestly, Tobin has a hard time believing he's only six years old.

“Careful, let me get it.” Her throat is tight, but she manages to force the words out as she reaches up to get the two little orange bottles she knows are Christen’s from seeing her take them so many mornings. She sets them on the counter and then turns to Nata, leaning down a little so she's more level with him. “How would you like hanging out with me today? You can come to training with me and then maybe we’ll go see a movie or something. How does that sound?”

There's a flicker of excitement on his face, but then his eyes narrow a little as he realizes Christen won't be joining them. “What about Mama?”

“She's going to stay here and hang out. I think it'll be good for her to just relax a little bit, don't you think?” She’s trying to phrase it in the best way possible without it sounding like Christen wants to be alone without him. Nata doesn't seem too worried because after a moment he smiles a little and nods.

“Mama will like that. She likes her quiet time by herself.”

“Exactly, it'll be good for her. How about you go change while I make her some breakfast, okay? Let me know if you need any help.” She straightens back up and starts putting the bottles of medicine that Nata knocked down back on the shelf.

Nata starts to crutch away to his room, but then he turns around with a smile on his face like he just thought of the best idea. “You should make Mama scrambled eggs with cheese and ham. That's her favorite.”

Tobin grins, deciding not to tell Nata that's exactly what she was planning on cooking and letting him think the idea was all his own, charmed again by how in tune he is with his mom. “That's a great idea, dude. I think she'll love those.”

xxx

Nata only ends up needing help once with his clothes, when he can't finagle his broken leg into the leg of his shorts, the cast somehow getting caught on the drawstring every time he tries. Tobin has to reason with him for a solid two minutes that he should definitely brush his hair before they leave because despite what he thinks, his messy, tangled hair doesn't actually make him look like a cool rockstar.

Tobin is helping him get a backpack together of a few things he might need when Christen comes downstairs. Not only is she changed into fresh clothes, but her hair is brushed and up in a bun, showing off her face which is still a little red and damp from being washed. She still looks worn down and exhausted, but she looks more like herself than she did fifteen minutes ago.

“Mama!” Nata hobbles over to her, forgetting his crutches and just hopping on his intact leg. He wraps his arms around her waist and presses his face against her stomach. “I told Tobin to make your favorite eggs for breakfast,” he tells her once he pulls away from the embrace and looks up at her with wide eyes.

“Is that what smells so good?” Christen asks, her lips curling up into the best resemblance of a smile Tobin has seen all morning.

They all make their way into the kitchen and Christen pretends not to notice the way Tobin and Nata both watch her intently as she swallows her pills with some orange juice and then takes a couple bites of her eggs.

“Guys, I'm okay. I promise,” Christen insists after taking another sip of orange juice. “You guys go have fun. I'll be fine.”

Nata looks a little wary, but he walks over and hugs Christen when she holds her arms out and then he heads to the front door like he's trying to give them their privacy while Tobin says goodbye. Yeah, there's no way that kid is actually just six.

Tobin steps up to the barstool Christen is sitting in and stands between her legs, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist. “You sure you're going to be okay on your own today? I could get Amy to take Nata and I'll stay here. Or I could call your mom or one of your sisters.”

“No no, I'm okay, really. I just need a little quiet time to myself.” Christen's arms reach up to snake behind Tobin’s neck and she pulls her down for a kiss, her lips tasting like oranges. “By taking care of Nata you're taking care of me because you're giving me the space to take care of myself.”

“You'll call me if you need anything?”

“Of course. You guys go have fun.” Christen kisses her once more and then reaches down to lift her fork and take another bite of food like she's trying to prove to Tobin just how fine she’ll be.

Tobin is still a little reluctant to leave, but she knows she needs to trust that Christen knows what's best and will be okay. She needs to respect the choice she's makes and not try to push her luck. She already knows how that turned out last time she tried to help and she'd really rather avoid another fight.

So instead of arguing that she should stay, she squeezes Christen’s knee gently and then she picks up Nata’s bag off the floor and heads toward her car.

xxx

“Okay, so I've got to go to training for a couple hours, but you'll get to hang out on the sidelines and maybe help out a little too. Sound cool?” Tobin asks Nata on the way to the stadium. He's sitting in the backseat with his leg propped up on the center console with one if Tobin’s many sweatshirts she never cleans out of her car.

“I get to help?” Nata asks with wide eyes.

“Yeah, dude. My coach loves having help. I think you might even get your own whistle and everything.”

“Whoa,” Nata gasps. His face looks shocked, like Tobin just told him he won the lottery or something, which by his standards she probably did.

“Then after that, how about we see what movies are playing and maybe get some pizza or something?”

“That sounds cool,” Nata says, though he sounds a little less enthusiastic than he did just moments ago. “Is Mama gonna be okay?” He asks, changing the pace of the conversation significantly.

“Yeah, she'll be just fine, I promise. She just needs a little rest and she'll be better.” Tobin knows she's maybe downplaying it, but she doesn't really know what else to say. Nata has dealt with Christen’s depression before. She hasn't. A child is more qualified to care for Christen than she is. She knows it's what Nata needs to hear, though.

“Can we bring her flowers home? She really likes flowers.”

“Of course we can,” Tobin grins, flattered at how sweet he is. Christen has done such a great job raising him and Tobin is reminded of that every day. “What kind do you think?” Tobin knows exactly what kind she'd get, but she wants to hear what he has to say.

“Sunflowers,” Nata says without even taking a moment to think. “Those are her favorites.”

Tobin grins. That's the exact same thing she was going to say. “Sunflowers sound perfect. She's going to love them.”

“Can we get her a puppy too?”

Tobin stifles a small laugh. “I think she might get a little mad if we bring home a puppy without asking.”

“Yeah,” Nata sighs. “You're probably right.” He sounds sad, like he was so excited and thought he had a great idea and then realized it wasn't as good as he thought. Tobin hates making him feel so discouraged.

“But how about this,” she says suddenly, the words spilling out before she's really even planned them. “After lunch, we’ll head to the dog park and ask the owners if we can take pictures with the dogs and then you can show those to your mom.”

“Yeah!” Nata shouts excitedly. “She loves pictures of dogs. And pictures of me.” He goes quiet for a moment before he adds, “and pictures of you too,” almost as an afterthought.

That gets Tobin’s attention. She looks up in the rearview mirror to try and get a read on Nata’s face but he's looking out the window so it doesn't help. “She likes pictures of me?” She asks curiously.

“Oh yeah, she's got lots of pictures of you on her phone. She always smiles at them. She said it's because you're important to her.”

Tobin feels a little guilty for continuing to question Nata behind Christen’s back, but she hopes it's harmless enough that it's okay.

“She really said that?”

“Uh-huh,” Nata nods, not understanding the importance of the situation.

“You know,” Tobin says slowly, hoping she isn't overstepping. “Your Mama is really important to me too. And so are you, buddy.”

“Cool,” Nata grins, finally turning from the window and meeting Tobin’s eyes in the mirror. “You're important to me too.”

Tobin doesn't know how to explain the way she feels in that moment. She feels so loved and appreciated and she knows Nata isn't even aware of it. He isn't trying to flatter her, but he is. Christen telling her she didn't need her the other day had really struck a nerve with her even though she knew it wasn't true. To hear Nata say she's important to him and Christen just confirms everything Tobin has been trying to reassure herself of.

“Thank you, Nata. That really means a lot to me.” She waits a moment before asking her next question, not wanting to offend him. “Do you know what important means?”

Nata is quiet for a moment and his eyebrows scrunch up as he thinks about it. It's amazing how similar the expression is to the one Christen makes when she's deep in thought as well. They don't have any blood relation, but yet his mannerisms mirror Christen’s so much Tobin would never know the difference. It's a testament to how observant Nata is, especially when it comes to Christen.

“It means you care about someone a lot,” he finally says. “And you want to share all your snacks with them like when Ryan shared his animal crackers with me. I’d share all my snacks with Mama and you too.” He's smiling as he says this, but then a moment later his face turns serious. “Except my goldfish. You guys have to get your own goldfish because those are my favorite snack.”

Tobin grins at his sincerity, almost wanting to pull over so she can hug him and let him know just how much that means to him. Instead, she reaches her hand back and waits until he reaches out and takes her hand in his. She squeezes gently and smiles as she says, “fair enough. We’ll buy our own goldfish.”

Nata squeezes her hand back and then he drops it, reaching down to scratch at the top of his cast, something he's done increasingly more since he got it. Tobin knows from personal experience it'll only get worse.

“So you really think I'll get my own whistle?” Nata asks suddenly, clearly having his priorities in order and reminding Tobin once again that despite his maturity, he's still a little kid at heart.

xxx

“That. Was. Awesome!” Nata exclaims as Tobin approaches the golf cart he's sitting on. The team’s trainer offered to let Nata hang out on the golf cart with him since it's not like he can walk anywhere easily on his own. He even got to drive the golf cart s little, but Tobin and Nata both agree that little detail isn't important to tell Christen.

Tobin reaches out and tugs at the corner of his shirt, a black LAFC polo with “coach” stitched over the logo in gold letters. It's five sizes too big for him, but he couldn't care less. “Yeah, you had fun?” She asks.

“Totally! You guys were moving so fast! And those shots were all so good! Mallory is so so good. She was spinning around everybody. That was so cool.” He has a dopey grin on his face as he talks, showing Tobin he's still a little dazed.

“Mallory, huh?” Tobin asks with a worked eyebrow. “Do you have a new favorite?”

“No way!” Nata days quickly, looking annoyed Tobin would even like about something like that. “You're always my favorite.”

“Thanks, dude.” Tobin grins as she reaches for his crutches on the back of the golf cart and helps him down. “So Kelley went to get us a pizza and then she's heading back here.”

“Why is she coming back here? I thought practice was over.”

“It is, but I've got something planned for us to do while we eat. But first, we need to get you suited up so when your leg is better you can come join us at practice for real.”

Nata looks over at her curiously, but only for a moment so he can keep his eyes on the ground in front of him so he doesn't trip over his crutches. “What do you mean suited up? I thought that's what this shirt was for.”

“If you thought the shirt was cool then just you wait.”

A few minutes later Nata finds out that Tobin is completely right. He nearly falls her his crutches from trying to jump up and down excitedly when she tells him that the equipment manager, Jason, is going to personalize an LAFC jersey just for Nata.

Nata’s grin nearly breaks his cheeks when Jason holds up the jersey with “Press” printed on the back. He picks out the number 23 because that's his mom’s favorite number since his birthday is on August 23rd and Christen adopted him on October 23rd. He even gets his own shorts with 23 on them as well as a training jacket. Nata can't believe he actually gets to keep it all and despite the humid temperatures, he refuses to take the jacket off as they walk across the parking lot to the main office.

“What are we doing?” Nata asks as Tobin holds the door open for him. Tobin can see the look of relief on his face as the air conditioning hits him and he wipes at the sweat on his forehead, barely zipping open the jacket despite how hot he must be.

“Just hang on a minute, you’ll see,” Tobin grins, knowing he’s going to be excited about what’s next.

Tobin introduces him to the few people they pass as they make their way through the building. They all smile and greet him like they already know him. Apparently Tobin talks about him to people way more than she realizes.

When they get to the room they’re headed to, Tobin pushes open the door and reveals Kelley, who’s messing with a laptop set up at the back of the room. She’s mumbling under her breath and is about to start cursing until she looks up and realizes Nata is there.

“Hey dude!” Kelley says, nodding towards Tobin and then the laptop, telling her to figure it out because clearly she’s had enough. “Nice jacket, I love it.” Kelley tugs at the matching one she has tied around her waist. “Did you get a jersey too?”

“Yeah, look!” Nata finally unzips the jacket and throws it on a chair next to him, clearly relieved for an opportunity to take it off without it seeming like it was too hot for him to handle. “It has my name on the back and everything.”

“Whaaaaaat? That’s sick, dude. Let me see.” She spins him around and reads that back of the jersey. “That’s so cool. You’d fit right in on the team. I like the number, is it your favorite?”

“No, it’s Mama’s. It’s the day of my birthday.”

“Oh sweet, when’s your birthday?”

“August 23rd!”

“Wow that’s soon,” Kelley says, her eyes darting up to Tobin’s like she’s wondering if she knew it was coming up and what she’s planning to do about it. Kelley breaks eyes contact as quickly as she made it and looks back at Nata. “Are you hungry?” He nods up and down quickly. “Sweet, that’s my kind of kid. Let me show you what we’ve got.” She points over at the table against the wall. “Cheese pizza for you. Veggie pizza for Tobin and me so we’re at least being somewhat healthy. And there may be a some mozzarella sticks in that box over there.”

“Those are my favorite!”

“Yeah, that’s what Tobin said,” Kelley grins.

“Why are we eating in here?” Nata looks around the room, taking in the rows of chairs and giant screen where they watch game tape.

“Because we aren’t just eating here,” Tobin says, finally stepping away from the laptop. “I thought we might watch a movie on the big screen too.” Tobin aims the remote at the laptop and presses play and watches as Nata’s eyes light up as he sees what movie they’re watching.

“Ironman! No way, this is so cool!” Nata crutches his way over to the very front row and plops down right in front of the screen, food forgotten in favor of getting the best seat even though there’s only three people and the room is so small all the seats are good.

Tobin and Kelley get their food and put together a plate for Nata too. Tobin flips the lights off and then settles into the seat next to Kelley a few rows back from where Nata is sprawled across the front row with his leg propped up in a chair.

They eat quietly. Well, Tobin and Kelley do. Nata gasps every time anything remotely intense happens like he hasn't seen the movie a thousand times. It isn't until Kelley has thrown their plates away and sat back down next to Tobin that she says anything.

“You know this is a really cool thing you did for him,” Kelley whispers.

“It's not that big of a deal,” Tobin shrugs. “It's just a movie.”

“Yeah, but it's his favorite movie. On a gigantic screen. After he got to hang out at training with us and got his own personalized jersey. You've only ever done this sort of thing for Ryan before. Not even Cole gets to do this when he visits.”

“Cole is three. This wouldn't mean as much to him,” Tobin dismisses, trying not to admit this is as big as it is.

“That's not the point. I know you are Christen are fighting or whatever and you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, that's fine, but you can't deny the fact that despite your fight you're still taking care of her kid when she needs you. That means something, dude.”

Tobin looks up into the front row and makes sure Nata is too engrossed in the movie to be paying any attention to them and then whispers under her breath, “I paid his medical bill the other day.”

“You what?” Kelley gasps, far too loudly, but Nata doesn't even turn around. “Wait, like you paid all of it? Why did they let you do that?”

Tobin sighs before she says, “I told them I was his mom.”

What?!”

This time they do catch Nata’s attention but luckily some big action scene is happening and he just looks at Kelley with a big grin and says, “it's so awesome right?” And then he turns back around like nothing happened.

“Dude, will you shut the hell up?” Tobin asks through gritted teeth. “He doesn't know about any of this. I'm pretty sure he doesn't even know we're fighting.”

“Please, with as intuitive as that kid is? He probably knew you guys were going to fight before it even happened,” Kelley scoffs, rolling her eyes as hard as she can. “Why did you pay the bill though?”

“Well for starters I asked Danny to look at him and--”

“Hold up, you asked the best orthopedic surgeon on the west coast to examine a kid with a broken leg?”

Tobin blushes, realizing how ridiculous that sounds when said that way. She did what she needed to though and she's sticking with it. “I was really worried, okay? I just wanted Nata to get the best care possible and Danny owed me a favor so I asked him to come down. I wouldn't have freaked out if he said he didn't have the time or anything like that, but luckily he had a slow day and he was happy to help. He's the only one I trusted to see Nata.”

“Dude, you are so fucking whipped,” Kelley smirks.

“I seem to remember you driving five hours to get Emily her favorite chicken noodle soup from Miss Claudette’s in San Jose one time when she was sick instead of just getting it from somewhere local,” Tobin counters, hoping it'll get Kelley to lay off the teasing.

“Yeah and I'd do it again if I needed to. Giving her that soup was the first time I'd seen her smile in two days and the first time she'd eaten in almost three. I'm not saying being whipped is a bad thing. Honestly, it's pretty great when the other person has it just as bad. And it's even better when the person’s kid is just as obsessed with you.” Kelley elbows Tobin in the ribs to help drive home her point.

“He's not obsessed with me,” Tobin scoffs.

“Come on, Tobin. We both know you're way more than just a pretty face,” Kelley teases. She tries to pinch Tobin’s cheek, but she smacks her hand away before she's successful. “Look, all I'm saying is you guys have a really good thing going, okay? Even if you're fighting right now, you guys are really good together, all three of you are. So if you did something to make her mad, then fix it. Don't ruin this thing over a medical bill.”

“I'm not trying to ruin it,” Tobin grumbles, turning petulant.

“Sure you're not. Just like you didn't try and ruin things with Laure.”

“What the fuck?” Tobin gasps, almost loud enough for Nata to hear but he doesn't pay them any mind. “Why would you bring her up? This has literally nothing to do with her.”

“I'm just saying that with Laure you spent the entire time with one foot out the door, just waiting for enough of a reason to cut ties and run. The moment they offered you a contract extension you left so fast there was a Tobin shaped hole in Laure’s front door. Don't spend so much time waiting for the other shoe to drop or else you're going to be the one dropping it.”

“I literally dropped thousands of dollars on him two days ago. I help tuck him into bed. I make them breakfast in the morning. What part of that makes it seem like I have one foot out the door?” Tobin rolls her eyes, still annoyed that Kelley brought up Laure in the first place and even more annoyed that she would try to imply she was waiting for a reason to ruin things with Christen. She's used to Lauren saying she self destructs but she doesn't need Kelley whispering in her ear too.

“No part of it at all. I was just checking to make sure you aren't doing something stupid as you're so prone to do.” Kelley clicks her tongue and pulls her leg away just in time before Tobin can smack her knee. “So have you told her you're madly in love with her yet?”

Tobin wants to be annoyed, ants to roll her eyes and avoid the question, but she knows Kelley well enough to know it's just best to go along with her and be done with it.

“No, I haven't told her yet,” Tobin sighs. “But she did tell me,” she adds at the end, quick and in hopes Kelley won't actually hear her.

“Shut the fuck up,” Kelley gasps. “She legit told you she loved you. Like not just that she loved when you do certain things or she loved something about you? She legit just said that she loved you?”

“Yes, she legit said she loved me. She said she was in love with me.” Tobin can't fight the grin that spreads across her face as she tells Kelley this. Hearing it from Christen is one thing, a very big thing obviously, but being able to tell someone else makes Tobin happy in a way she can't explain.

She's never had something like this that she really wanted to share with other people before. Sure, winning gold medals and trophies is amazing, but she's never got to tell people about those things. Everyone worth yelling already knows. This is the first time she's had information that's her own that not everyone else in her life knows. This is the first time she has something she wants to share with others.

It's a feeling she doesn't think she'll ever get over.

“Holy shit, dude. That's really amazing, I'm happy for you,” Kelley smiles, wrapping an arm around Tobin’s shoulders and squeezing tightly. “You didn't tell her back, though?”

Tobin shakes her head. “I don't think I'm ready yet. It's a big deal, you know?”

“Yeah, I know. But Tobin, by paying for Nata’s bill and doing all this I'm pretty sure she already knows. And she did the hard part by telling you first, saying it back is way easier.”

“I'm gonna tell her, I am. It just wasn't the right time.”

“There's no such thing as the right time. There's only the time you're given at any moment. What you do with it is up to you. You're responsible for making it the right moment.” Kelley shrugs afterwards, like she didn't just say something so profound.

“Shit dude,” Tobin laughs. “That was really like, deep.”

“I know. It's totally out of character, right?” Kelley grins with the tip of her tongue sticking out between her teeth. “You really should tell her though. Whether she already knows it or not, it's something she wants to actually hear.”

“I know,” Tobin nods. “I'm going to tell her. Soon.”

Something explodes in the movie just then and Nata goes wild over how awesome it is and suddenly all the heavy stuff is past them and both Tobin and Kelley focus back on the screen, but Tobin can't stop thinking about what Kelley said.

“Soon,” she thinks, making a promise to herself.

xxx

“Mama! Te extrañe!” Nata shouts as soon as they step through the front door later that evening. Christen is vacuuming in the living room and barely notices them until Nata nearly barrels into her, dropping his crutches so he can wrap his arms around her.

Christen switches off the vacuum quickly and then hugs Nata back. “Hola, mi sol,” Christen says softly, kissing the top of his head. “How was your day?”

“It was so awesome!” Nata exclaims, pulling away from Christen and unzipping his jacket. “I got a real life LAFC jacket.” He pulls his arms out of the sleeves and hands it to Christen, then he pulls at the when of his jersey, displaying the number on the front. “And look, I got a jersey and shorts too!”

“Wow, sweetheart. I love it.” Her enthusiasm is much less forced than it would've been this morning, but it still isn't natural. Tobin can tell Christen has to physically make an effort. Christen traces her fingers over the number 23 on the front. “Who's number 23 on the team?”

“23 is you, Mama. Mira!” He spins as gracefully as he can, hindered by his crutches. He shows Christen the back of the jersey and her face genuinely lights up.

“Oh wow, Nata. This is really cool, I love it.” She kisses the top of his head and then stand up again. “How about you go get yourself ready to shower okay? I'll be back in a minute to wrap your leg and help, okay?”

Nata nods and starts to head back to him room, but then he stops and looks up at Christen curiously. “Mama, como te sientes?”

Christen smiles softly and steps forward to hold Nata’s chin. “Estoy bien, mi sol. Okay? No te preocupes.” She kisses his forehead and that seems to be enough to convince him. He nods and then continues back to his room.

Tobin clears her throat softly, both to remind Christen she's still here and to shoe how uncomfortable she is. She's never felt uncomfortable in this house, or with Christen in general, and she hates it. She wants to hold Christen and tell her everything is going to be okay, but she doesn't know if that's her place to do that right now.

Christen needed her help today, but she seems to be doing better now so maybe she doesn't anymore. Maybe she's just waiting for Tobin to take the hint and leave so she doesn't have to ask herself.

Tobin doesn't want to leave though. She wants to stay right here and not just because she's still worried about Christen and wants to make sure she's really okay. She feels safe and at peace here. She feels like she's home.

“You didn't have to worry about cleaning and everything. I was planning on doing that when we got back,” Tobin says, her voice thinning because of nerves until she clears her throat.

“It's okay, I like cleaning. It helps me relax,” Christen shrugs.

Tobin hates the idea of having to have small talk with Christen. She doesn't think they've ever really done that in the entire time they've known each other. She doesn't know what else to say though, so she's honestly about to talk about how hot it was today when luckily Christen speaks up again.

“Thank you for taking him today,” Christen says slowly. She reaches down and unplug the vacuum cleaner from the wall, carefully wrapping it up around the hooks on the vacuum.

“It's no big deal,” Tobin shrugs, taking another careful step into the living room. “I really had a lot of fun with him.”

“It's a big deal to me though, Tobin.” Christen stands back up and wraps her arms over her chest, matching Tobin’s one step closer and raising her two more. “It really means a lot to me that you still showed up today when I needed you even though we're fighting. And it means even more that you didn't let what's going on between us affect your relationship with him.”

“Of course I still showed up. I always want to be here if you need me.” She takes another step, closing the distance between them to only a couple of feet now. “And I would never let something like that get in the way of me and Nata, I promise.”

“I know you wouldn't and I really appreciate that,” she says with a tight smile.

An awkward, tension filled silence falls over them then. Tobin doesn't know what to say and judging by the near helpless look on Christen's face, she doesn't either. Tobin wants to close the distance between them so she can hold her and kiss her tell her how awful these past two days have been without her.

She doesn't know if now is a good time for that though. Christen is dealing with enough on her own that she doesn't need Tobin making this any harder for her and Tobin also doesn't want to be selfish and make this about herself.

“How are you?” Tobin asks in lieu of everything else she wants to say.

Christen already looks better than she did this morning. She's clearly showered and is wearing the black stretchy shorts and a loose fitting tank top that she always wears when doing yoga so she's definitely been able relax. The house is back to its normal cleanliness so all around it seems like Christen is feeling much better. Tobin wants to hear it from Christen though.

“I'm okay,” she says, repeating what she told Nata earlier just in English this time. “Thank you for giving me today, really. I hated asking, but I really just needed a little time to myself.”

“You don't have to explain. I'm just happy I was able to help you out somehow.”

“Good,” Christen says quietly, a shy smile on her face. She takes a shallow breath and then adds, “because despite what I might say when I'm angry, I really do need you Tobin. Nata and I both need you.”

There's a brief moment’s pause where they both just stare at each other, trying to figure out what to say next. Tobin can actually feel the breath getting pulled out of her lungs with each millisecond that passes until she's sure she'll never breathe again. But then it's like a spark of electricity jolts them at the exact same moment. They meet in the middle, falling into each other's arms, apologies falling from their lips.

“I'm sorry I paid Nata’s bill without telling you about it,” Tobin rushes out against Christen’s neck, needing to be the first to apologize since it was her actions that started this whole ordeal in the first place.

“I'm so sorry I freaked out without giving you the chance to explain.” Christen’s words are pressed into Tobin’s shoulder, followed by a string of kisses that end at the base of her throat.

“You don't have to apologize for that,” Tobin says. “Of course you would get mad over what I did. It was way out of line and I--”

“Tobin, please stop talking,” Christen blurts out, leaning forward and pressing her lips to Tobin’s before she has the chance to say another word. It's a soft kiss, only lasting for a couple seconds before Christen pulls away with a sigh saying, “you have no idea how much I needed that after today.”

Tobin grins and leans back in, bringing her hands down to the small of Christen’s back and pulling her as close to her as possible. Tobin gets a little bit lost in the kiss, lost in the way Christen’s lips move against hers, lost in the way Christen’s hands come up to tangle in her hair, lost in the way sighs fall from Christen’s lips.

They've gone longer than this without kissing before, when Tobin is away on extended road trips. But during those times not a day passed where they didn't talk. Kissing Christen after the past three days is like coming up for air after she's nearly been drowned. Sure, she kissed her this morning, but that was more of a comfort thing. She wanted to be there for Christen however she knew how.

This kiss though? This kiss feels like coming home.

And it wouldn't truly be home without Nata too, which he makes perfectly clear when he shouts from his room, interrupting this perfect moment and somehow making it better, completing it in a way.

“Mama! I'm ready to shower!”

Christen pulls away with a breathless laugh, resting her forehead against Tobin’s, her eyes still closed. “I should probably go take care of that.”

“Yeah, he wore that jacket even though it was almost 90 degrees out so he's probably really gross. A shower is definitely in order.”

Christen kisses Tobin quickly like she just can't get enough and pulls away with a grin. “Is it okay if I ask you to stay tonight? You've already done so much today.”

“You couldn't get rid of me even if you wanted to.”

“That's the last thing I'd ever want.” With a kiss to the cheek and a wink, Christen heads off to Nata’s room.

Yeah, it's the last thing Tobin would ever want too.

xxx

Nata has a much easier time showering than Tobin expected. When she broke her ankle it was the end of the world trying to shower. The cast made things awkward enough, but then wrapping her leg in plastic with too tight tape to keep the seal made things even worse. She doesn’t even remember how many times she almost fell (and a few times she did fall) while showering. She’s a little embarrassed to admit her personal hygiene habits weren’t the best during those eight weeks.

Nata has no trouble though.

Christen wraps his leg like a pro and he’s able to manage his leg easily into the shower with only a little bit of help from Christen. Once he’s in the shower though, he tells her to leave, wanting his privacy, and that he’ll call if he needs help.

Tobin’s glad Nata doesn’t need much help because that means she and Christen can spend the time making out in the laundry room, Christen perched on the edge of the dryer. They’re close enough to hear Nata if he shouts, but far enough away that they’ll be able to hear when he’s finished so he doesn’t catch them.

Honestly, it’s a little slower than Tobin expected. It’s like they’re taking their time to remember the feel and taste of each other’s mouths. With all the pent up energy of missing each other for the past two days, three really considering they spent the whole day apart, Tobin expected this to be a little frantic, but it’s not. It’s gentle and easy and so fucking soft Tobin half expects some cheesy Ed Sheeran song to be playing in the background while a camera slowly circles them like in some romantic movie.

It’s perfect.

Once Nata is finished in the shower he gets ready for bed, exhaustion from the day finally catching up to him. He remembers just as Christen and Tobin are leaving the room that they forgot to show Christen all the pictures they took with dogs at the dog park. Christen can tell how tired he is though so she tells him he can show her in the morning and he more than easily accepts that, closing his eyes before Christen can even turn off the light.

Once they get back upstairs, Christen tells Tobin she wants to do a little more yoga before going to bed so Tobin takes a shower to give her space. Tobin takes her time showering, making it last as long as she can so that Christen can have as much time as she needs, but Tobin has never been very good at taking long showers so when she steps back into the room, Christen is still on her yoga mat. Her eyes are closed with her hands resting on her eyes, clearly meditating as she warms down. She’s breathing deeply and she looks peaceful, but Tobin can still see the crease in her forehead that isn’t usually there so she knows she’s still having a tough time.

Tobin gets dressed as quietly as she can, not wanting to disturb Christen’s meditating, but she doesn’t have to worry about that because Christen quietly says her name and then pats the mat right in front of her, wanting Tobin to join her.

She’s a little hesitant, wondering what’s going on, but Tobin does as Christen wants and sits down on the purple mat in front of Christen, their knees pressed up against each other.

“I want to explain why I got so worked up when I found out you paid the bill,” Christen tells her.

“Christen, you don’t have to, okay? Not right now at least. You’re dealing with a lot and I don’t want you to feel like you need to explain anything to me. I’m here to help you feel better, I don’t need you to try and make me feel better,” Tobin says.

“But explaining this will make me feel better,” Christen counters.

Tobin sighs, knowing Christen’s got her there. If Christen wants to explain this right now, then she’s going to let her. Tobin nods to let Christen know it’s okay to continue.

Christen reaches out and takes one of Tobin’s hands, holding it in her lap with one hand and using two fingers from the other hand to trace along the inside of Tobin’s wrist. She takes a deep breath and then starts.

“When I first told people I was going to adopt Nata, some people weren’t exactly thrilled about it, some of my conservative family members and a couple people at the magazine. They didn’t think a single mother raising a son was the best idea. ‘A boy needs a father,’ they all told me. They didn’t think I’d be able to take care of him and raise him the way he needed to be and thought it would be better if I waited until I was married. Once I brought him home, it all made me really defensive about taking care of him. I wouldn’t let my parents or sisters buy anything for him unless it was for his birthday or Christmas. I mean if they took him out to dinner without me, I’d give them money for him and insist that they use it. I was so determined to prove that I could provide for my son on my own and I didn’t need anyone else’s help.

“So hearing that you paid for Nata’s bill and that you’d claimed to be his mother in order to do so just really triggered something in me. I got irrationally angry and charged over to your house immediately without even allowing myself time to process it. I attacked you over it and I shouldn’t have, I’m sorry. I know you were just trying to help me, but it brought up all these old memories and just really upset me. I really appreciate you doing it, I just wish you would have said something first.”

Tobin waits a moment to be sure Christen is finished before she responds. “You’re right, I should have told you beforehand. Honestly though, I didn’t even think about how it might upset you. At the time I was just trying to make things as easy for you as possible so I just did it. My sister is an account so I called her while you were napping after we got back from the hospital and worked out a payment plan because I knew you would want to pay me back. I should’ve just told you then, but I didn’t want you to have to worry about it. I guess I just handled it all wrong.”

“It’s okay,” Christen says, squeezing her hand to make sure Tobin knows she means it. “I know you didn’t mean to upset me. I really do appreciate you doing that, but you’re right. I’m going to pay you back literally every penny.”

“I would expect nothing less,” Tobin grins. “Are we okay?”

Tobin’s pretty sure she knows what the answer to that question is, but it’s the slight off chance that the answer is ‘no’ that makes Tobin’s throat go dry. Christen’s quick to ease her worries though.

“Of course we’re okay.” She leans forward and kisses her softly. “I promise we’re okay.”

“Good,” Tobin sighs with a dopey smile on her face. “Can we please go to bed now? I’m exhausted and I’ve hated sleeping alone the past couple nights.”

“Oh my god it’s been the worst,” Christen groans, letting Tobin know she’s been just as distressed over all this as Tobin had been.

“Please let’s never do that again.”

“Deal,” Christen replies, then she seals it with a kiss.

Chapter Text

“If you embarrass me, I swear I'll--”

 

“You'll what, Tobin? Cole threatens to run away every time I tell him he can't have another lollipop and he's yet to actually do it. Your threats mean nothing to me.” Her oldest sister, Katie, laughs and shoves her shoulder playfully, letting her know she isn't nearly as intimidating as she was hoping.

 

“Whatever,” Tobin grumbles, feeling like she's eight years old again and Katie just took the last red popsicle, claiming seniority as always and Tobin knew there wasn't a thing she could do about it. “Denying your kid candy is a totally valid reason to want to run away, though. Just saying.”

 

Katie rolls her eyes and smiles at Tobin like only an older sister can. “Yeah, I knew you would say something like that.”

 

“Seriously, though, just please don't embarrass me.”

 

I’m not the one you need to worry about. Mom, Perry and I are just thrilled you're actually bringing a girl home that we're going to be on our best behavior so she doesn't come to her senses and run away. Jeff on the other hand? He's totally going to do his best to make you look like a fool. He’s still bitter about you nutmegging him repeatedly in that pickup game with that soccer girl he was dating in high school.” Katie grins and looks down at her phone to check the time again, a picture of Cole with a carbon copy of her smile holding his new brother looks back at her.

 

They're at the airport waiting for Christen’s flight to get in. Since Katie had her son two weeks ago, she's barely had the opportunity to leave the house so she jumped at the chance to go with Tobin, though Tobin is pretty sure she just wanted to be the first to meet her.

 

Tobin has already been in New Jersey for a couple days, getting into town the day after their game in Boston on Wednesday. They have a game against Sky Blue tomorrow and then a bye week so Tobin is sticking around town for a few days and asked Christen to join her so she could meet her family.

 

It had been a spur of the moment decision, inviting Christen along. They'd been lying in Christen’s bed two days before Tobin had to leave for Boston and as she'd been drifting off to sleep she was thinking about how she didn't want to be away from Christen for so long. Things are much better after their fight and Christen is feeling more like her usual self again, but part of Tobin feels like some things are still left unsaid. She's almost afraid that leaving will cause the tension to come back.

 

She doesn't want to ask Christen to come home with her for just that reason, though. It's selfish and unfair. The more she thinks about it though, she really would like for her to meet her family.

 

She calls her mom at least twice a week and every single time her mom asks when she's going to bring Christen home to meet everyone. If it weren't for the fact both of her sisters were late in their pregnancies, they both would have been on a plane to California to meet her weeks ago. Tobin wants to bring her home, she really does, she's just never done something like that before.

 

She watched her older sisters bring the guys they were dating home all the time and it never really seemed like a big deal. Then again, they were both in and out if relationships since they were old enough to know what it meant. Not that that's a bad thing, it just became common practice for them to bring a guy home and so they stopped freaking out over it.

 

Christen is Tobin’s first real relationship, so this is a big deal for her. It's a big deal that she wants to share with her family though. She wants them to be a part of this and to see how happy she is.

 

So she asked.

 

Christen accepted immediately, almost as if she's been waiting for Tobin to ask.

 

She probably has.

 

There are obviously some details to iron out before it can actually happen though, the biggest being Nata. They both would love for him to come along of course, Tobin knows her family would love to meet him, but they all know traveling across the country with a broken leg isn't the best idea.

 

They decide to have him stay in California with her parents. Nima insists on taking him a few days, which Nata is of course thrilled about. He's a little disappointed to be left behind, but he accepts it. He even tells Christen he wants her to have some time with Tobin alone because he knows it will be good for her. He literally says that, “it will be good for you.”

 

Seriously, how is this kid only six?

 

Plane tickets are bought, bags are packed and a hotel room is booked a few minutes away from Tobin’s mom’s house.

 

Tobin's mom was a little upset they wouldn't be staying with her, but they've never taken a trip together before and Tobin insisted it would be nice for them to have their own space.

 

What Tobin didn't tell her mom, of course, was that she refused to have sex with Christen knowing her mom was right down the hall. And she's far from well behaved enough to not take advantage of the privacy away from Nata to control herself around Christen for that long.

 

Tobin compromises by saying she'll stay at the house instead of the team hotel until Christen gets there and that they'll spend as much time at her house as they can. It's not what her mom wants, but it's enough that she backs off on the issue.

 

“Were you nervous when you brought Jack home for the first time?” Tobin asks her sister, balling her hands into fists in an attempt to stop them from shaking. Judging by the way Katie’s eyes dart down to her hands, she isn’t as sly as she thinks.

 

“Honey, I was terrified when I brought him home,” Katie admits. She reaches out and takes one of Tobin’s hands loosely in hers before she continues. “He was the only one I was ever nervous about. The guys I dated in high school and the couple in college before I met Jack, I was never really nervous about them and I used to think it was because I was confident enough in the relationship that I knew I didn’t need to be worried. Once I got nervous about bringing Jack home though, I realized the reason I was never nervous before was because it wasn’t worth it. Deep down I knew I wouldn’t be with those guys forever so there was no sense in being worried or caring if mom liked them or not. I knew they wouldn’t stick around. With Jack, though, I knew he was for real. I knew he wasn’t going anywhere and I got nervous about no one else recognizing that. I was nervous because it meant so much to me that my family liked him. I got nervous because I cared. It’s a good thing you’re nervous about this, I promise.” Katie smiles softly and then she turns away from Tobin as if she didn’t just drop all this wisdom on her.

 

Tobin takes her sister’s words to heart. She’d never thought about it quite like that before. She never thought the nerves could be a good sign.

 

“I love her,” Tobin says unplanned, her mouth speaking the words before her head was able to tell it to, her heart seizing control before she's able to think better of it.

 

She's never said those words aloud before. She admitted to Kelley she loved her, but she didn't actually say those three all important words.

 

She's laid awake at night trying to convince herself to say them, stared at herself in the mirror and tried to force herself to, but it hasn't worked. The words get caught in the back of her through until she nearly feels like she's choking if she tries too hard.

 

Now though, standing in the middle of a crowded airport with her sister’s arm linked through hers, they fall from her lips with an ease she's never known.

 

For a moment, she almost thinks she's just imagined it, but then her sister's arm tightens around hers and Katie’s other hand comes up to grip at her bicep as she literally squeals.

 

“Oh my god!” She practically shouts, drawing the attention of several people around them, causing Tobin to blush furiously. Seeing her embarrassment, Katie reins in her volume for her next words, but Tobin can tell how hard it is for her. “Are you serious right now? Did you really just say that or is the lack of sleep from raising a newborn making me delusional?”

 

“Yes, I actually said it,” Tobin mumbles, scratching at the back of her neck with the hand that isn't currently in Katie’s death grip.

 

“Oh my god,” Katie says again in shock. “I didn't realize you guys had exchanged ‘I love you’s’ yet.”

 

“We haven't. I mean not really.”

 

“What do you mean? You haven't told her how you feel yet?”

 

“No,” Tobin admits. “I haven't worked myself up to it yet, it's a big deal for me.”

 

“Of course it is, sweetheart.” Katie’s grip loosens to one that's much more gentle. There's sincerity in her words as she says, “you're the most empathetic, caring person I know. You love every person you ever meet, but I know romantic love has always been something that you've struggled with. I'm not going to pretend like I don't know why that is. I know this is hard, but I'm really proud of you, okay? The way you talk about her, I can tell how important she is to you, so even if you haven't told her yet, I'm sure she already knows. Just tell her when you're ready.”

 

Tobin blinks several times in quick succession and stares at a crack in one of the tiles by her foot so she doesn't actually have to look at her sister. She's never been big on talking about emotions, especially in person. Texting has always been a preferred method of communication for her because she doesn't have to give away too much of herself. The cracks and inflection in her voice, the watery eyes, the shaking hands--no one can see that through text. No one can know any more than what she's willing to tell them.

 

As uncomfortable as she may be talking to Katie, it isn't a conversation she wants to steer away from. She wants to talk about this with her, even if it means she has to grit her teeth and force the words out.

 

“She told me she loves me,” Tobin says, the accompanying pride that comes with that fact makes her puff her chest out a little. Christen is easily the most beautiful girl she's ever seen. She's brilliant and funny and a kick ass mother. She could have anyone, but yet Tobin is the one she loves. That's something no one can ever take away from her.

 

“What? When? Tell me everything!” Katie gushes, spinning so she's standing in front of Tobin now so there are less places for her to avert her gaze.

 

Tobin feels the slightest chill cross over her skin, like there's a shift in energy and the electricity in the air pricks at her, begging her to take notice. Tobin turns to her left and sees why. Christen is coming down the stairs, a World Now duffle bag and Ironman backpack that she must have stolen from Nata thrown over her shoulders.

 

“We’ll talk later,” Tobin mutters in her sister’s vague direction, eyes locked on Christen who grins when she finds Tobin in the crowd. Her hair is loose around her shoulders, a curly, tangled mess that Tobin wants to run her fingers through. She's wearing one of Tobin’s button ups that she's been missing for weeks, but she can't even be upset about it because Christen looks better in it than Tobin could ever hope to manage.

 

Katie mutters something, Tobin thinks it’s about how she doesn’t understand how Tobin landed someone as gorgeous as Christen, but Tobin isn’t even paying attention. It’s been four days since she’s seen Christen and it’s been way too long. The only thing she wants to focus on is the way Christen’s eyes light up and the way her footsteps increase ever so lightly when she sees Tobin so she can get to her as quickly as she can.

 

Tobin steps away from Katie, who understands what’s going on and stays where she is, giving them a moment to reunite. Tobin meets Christen a few feet away from her sister and wraps her arms around her tightly, burying her face against her neck and breathing in the scent that she's come to identify as home. She can't even be bothered to identify the specific blend of smells anymore.

 

It's Christen.

 

It's happiness.

 

It's home.

 

“I've missed you so much,” Tobin says, words muffled by Christen’s skin, the vibrations causing a chill to run through Christen's body.

 

“It's only been four days,” Christen says, followed by a laugh. “But I've missed you too.”

 

Tobin steals a quick kiss, not wanting to do too much in such a public place despite no one paying her any attention so far. They aren't public, but they also aren't outwardly trying to hide anything. That doesn't mean she wants to blow everything up by being caught kissing her girlfriend in public.

 

“Any time away from you is too much. I hate it.”

 

“Then it's a good thing I'm not going anywhere.”

 

Tobin reaches out to take Christen's duffle bag, letting her keep her backpack after Christen insists she can handle it on her own.

 

“Are you ready for this?” Tobin asks.

 

“Are you kidding? Moms love me. I'm so ready for this. I think the better question is are you ready?”

 

Tobin shrugs and then looks over her shoulder at her sister, who's currently bouncing from one foot to the other, clearly trying to rein in her excitement and not rush forward towards the two women. She laughs at how anxious Katie is and then turns back to Christen.

 

“As ready as I'll ever be I guess.”

xxx

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

 

Christen saunters over, a little tipsy from the wine Tobin’s sisters insisted she drink for them since they couldn’t, and sits on the arm of the couch next to Tobin. She leans over her shoulder to look at Perry’s son, Matthew, who is passed out in Tobin’s arms. Christen reaches a hand forward to lay over Tobin’s where it’s resting on the baby’s stomach. Their hands rise and fall together as he breathes and Tobin looks up to see a wide, dazed smile stretching across Christen’s face.

 

“What are you thinking about?” Tobin asks.

 

“Nothing,” Christen says. “Just that you look really good holding a baby.”

 

“Yeah, you already said that,” Tobin smiles. “What are you really thinking about?”

 

Christen’s eyes turn dreamy and though she’s looking at Tobin, she definitely isn’t seeing her. She’s lost in some fantasy, her words a little slurred as she says, “just about how I really like seeing you hold a baby and it’s something I’d like to see more of one day.”

 

Tobin knows the only reason she has the nerve to say what she does next is because Christen still looks like she’s in another headspace and isn’t giving Tobin her full attention. “I haven’t even worked up the nerve to tell you that four letter word yet and you’re already thinking about babies?”

 

Christen’s grin turns up even more, showing that even though she isn’t totally in the moment, she definitely heard the question. “I think about a lot of things involving you and our future, Tobin Heath.” She kisses the side of her head and then starts to slide onto the couch until Tobin takes the hint and moves over for her. “But don’t worry, I’m very patient. In fact, it’s my middle name.”

 

“Hey, you can’t just steal my line like that,” Tobin complains, remembering their first night together.

 

“That’s a very common phrase.”

 

“Yeah, but we have a history with it involving that particular word and you totally just stole it.”

 

“You’re cute when you’re annoyed.”

 

“Yeah and you’re cute when you’re drunk.” Tobin rolls her eyes and decides to let Christen have this one. “He’s seriously so cute isn’t he?”

 

“He’s very cute,” Christen agrees. “Not as cute as Nata of course, but still very cute.”

 

“Don’t tell my sister, but I totally agree with you.”

 

“You think my son is cuter than your nephew?” Christen tilts her head, like she’s trying to figure out a question Tobin didn’t know she asked her.

 

“Yeah,” Tobin says, dragging out the word, still trying to figure out why that’s such a big deal. “That’s why I said not to tell Perry about it.”

 

Christen kisses her on the mouth this time. It takes Tobin by surprise so much that their teeth clash before Tobin is able to adjust. Christen’s lips taste like white wine and the butter pecan ice cream Katie bought for dessert.

 

Someone lets out a low whistle, Tobin’s pretty sure it’s Jeff, and she starts to pull away. Christen isn’t finished though. She brings a hand up to the back of Tobin’s neck and holds her there for another couple seconds before she finally moves back.

 

“Sorry,” Christen says, her breath nearly gone even though the kiss couldn’t have been more than maybe eight seconds. “I just really needed to do that.”

 

“You can do that anytime you want.” Tobin thought she was against PDA, but if it involves Christen kissing her like that? Then she’s changing her mind. She's totally for it.

 

Christen grins and places a kiss on Tobin's nose. At least it's supposed to be on her nose. Tipsy Christen has seriously impaired depth perception so it ends up more on her eye than anything, but Tobin still appreciates how gentle she is.

 

Tobin has never had someone be so soft with her before. She never knew how much she needs that sometimes. Christen knows when Tobin wants her to not be so delicate, to let Tobin prove how durable she actually is. But she also knows when it's a softer touch Tobin needs, even if Tobin hasn't realized it herself yet.

 

Tobin has never liked being taken care of, she doesn't like feeling weak. But Christen knows how to care for her in a way that doesn't make her feel fragile. Tobin doesn't know how she does it--how she knows exactly when she needs it--but she loves her for it.

 

Now if only she could just tell her that.

 

“I'm going to play Assassin's Creed with Jeff,” Christen says suddenly as she hops off the couch.

 

“You hate video games.”

 

“I'm bonding.” Christen winks her crooked blink at her and then heads into the kitchen to find Jeff and challenge him to a game.

 

Tobin is still watching Christen follow Jeff down the hall to the bonus room when Perry plops down on the couch on the opposite side that Christen was just a minute ago.

 

“You’re lucky I like her or I'd be super offended you thought it was okay to make out in front of my innocent, newborn son,” Perry says.

 

“We weren't making out,” Tobin insists.

 

“Oh whatever. Two more seconds and we would've had to come pull you apart.” Perry reaches out and tugs at the edge of the blanket wrapped around her son, smoothing out a crease in the fabric. “I'm sure you're already well aware, but she's really great, you know? You did good kid.”

 

“I've known that since the day I met her, but it really means a lot to know you guys think so too.”

 

“Katie says you're in love,” Perry says in a light, sing-song tone.

 

“She wasn't supposed to say anything.”

 

“She didn't have to!” Perry laughs. “It's totally obvious to everyone. I brought it up and Katie just confirmed what we all already knew.”

 

“You guys never could keep any of my secrets from each other,” Tobin complains.

 

“Oh hush, don't get all dramatic. It's really great, Tobin. You always were the best one out of all of us, so it's really nice to see you so happy. We aren't making fun of you, we're just really proud and we want to talk about it.”

 

“I am not the best one.”

 

“Yes you are.” Perry’s tone tells Tobin not to even bother arguing because there's no way she would win. Ever. “You have the biggest heart out of anyone I’ve ever met and you’re so incredibly loyal. I could go on and on, but the pregnancy hormones are still screwing with me and I don’t want to start crying.”

 

“You’re such a sap you’d still be crying even if you didn’t just have a baby.” Tobin knows she’d start crying too, so of course she deflects with sarcasm. It’s what she does best. She loves her sisters, but two emotional conversations with them in the same day is too much.

 

“Shut up.” Perry rolls her eyes. “I hate to do this to you because you do look super cute together, but I need to get Matthew fed and keep him awake for a little bit or else he’ll never sleep tonight.”

 

“Oh gosh, thank you so much. I didn’t want to say anything because I love spending time with him, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never regain feeling in my left arm.”

 

“Wait until you have one of your own and don’t have a choice about holding them. You forget quickly what it’s like to not having tingling arms.”

 

Tobin doesn’t get a chance to think about what her sister said before she’s reaching over and taking her son as gently as she can from Tobin’s arms. Perry makes soothing noises as Matthew starts to get fussy, but he calms easily in his mother’s arms.

 

Perry heads towards their mom’s room to breastfeed her son and Tobin heads in the opposite direction towards the kitchen. She considers going to see how Christen and Jeff are getting along, but she figures giving them space to bond is a good idea.

 

Katie, Jack, their three-year-old son, Cole, and their newborn son, Jacob, have all left already, and Perry’s husband Tom as well because he has to work early in the morning. That means only Tobin’s mom is in the kitchen, scrubbing away at the dishes from dinner.

 

It's a little daunting. She hasn't been alone with her mother since Christen got here this morning and while she's pretty sure her mom adores Christen just like the rest of her family, she's nervous about talking to her about it.

 

What if she actually hated her and was just being polite?

 

What if she thinks Christen isn't good enough for her? (Which would be dumb.)

 

What if she thinks Tobin isn't good enough for Christen? (Which is totally correct.)

 

Not that she thinks it would make much of a difference at this point--Tobin always does what she feels is right in her heart no matter what anyone says--but she would still like her mother’s approval about this.

 

“Do you need any help?” Tobin asks.

 

Tobin’s mom turns around with a smile and moves a step over so there's room for Tobin at the sink. “Sure, sweetheart. I'd love help.”

 

Tobin walks over and grabs a clean rag to start drying the dishes as her mom finishes washing them. It was the task she was always assigned when she was younger after three broken plates because her hands always slipped on the wet dishes. While she may be great with her feet, she's more than a little clumsy with her hands.

 

They're quiet for a few moments until Tobin is able to catch up with the drying. It's her mom who breaks the silence.

 

“So do you want to talk about her or do you want to put it off as long as possible?” She's smiling softly as she asks, teasing instead of making fun of her proclivity to not want to talk about serious matters. Her mom has always known her so well.

 

“I guess it depends what you have to say about her.” She tries her best not to sound shy, but she doesn't know how good she is at it. Judging by the fact that her mom puts down her rag, dries her hands off and take Tobin’s hands in hers, she wasn't as good at hiding it as she hoped.

 

“Tobin, she's absolutely wonderful,” her mom says. “Listening to you talk about her on the phone is one thing, but seeing the two of you together? Tobin I've never seen you happier in your whole life, and I was there to see you win a gold medal. Twice.” She brings a hand up to cup the side of her face while she says, “can I let you on on a little secret?”

 

“Yeah, of course,” Tobin grins. Her mom had always been closer to her sisters, they all just understand each other better. So she's always jumped at the chance to have a special moment with her, something that's just theirs.

 

“When Katie brought Jack home for the first time, I knew immediately he was the man she was going to marry. I knew in my heart that God put him into her life to be her husband. It took a couple times being around Tom before I felt that feeling, I think because he and Perry had such a whirlwind romance I was a little caught off guard, but I still felt it with him too.” She whispers the next words, making sure they're just for the two of them. “I got that exact same feeling when I met Christen.”

 

Tobin feels the heat rise to her cheeks, but it isn't out of embarrassment. It's a rush of excitement at realizing the feeling she's had all along finally has a meaning, and she isn't the only one who feels it. She and Christen have talked about it before, being fated or destined or whatever to be in each other's lives, but Tobin always knew it was more.

 

They aren't just meant to be a chapter in each other's lives.

 

They're supposed to be the entire second half.

 

For Tobin there are now two measures of time, before Christen and during Christen. There's no such thing as after Christen because that's a time that won't ever come to pass. She's in it for the rest of her life with Christen.

 

She's felt it since the moment they met, though she was too afraid to admit it. Now that she knows her mom feels it too though, she can no longer deny it.

 

“I don't know how to do this, mom,” Tobin says. She hasn't really said that since the beginning, figuring she would just learn as she goes. And she has for the most part, but sometimes she still feels overwhelmed, anxious she's doing everything wrong.

 

“That's okay,” her mom says. “From what I can tell, you're doing a pretty good job despite that. And for the record, I thought I knew what I was doing with your father, and look how that all turned out.”

 

“None of that was your fault.” Tobin knows her mom unfairly blamed herself for a while. That's always been her biggest grievance with her dad. She doesn't care what he did to her, but it's how he screwed over her mom so badly she thought it was her fault and that's something Tobin can never forgive.

 

“I know. I just mean that sometimes knowing what you're doing isn't all it's cracked up to be. You figure stuff out as it comes. There are a lot of things you can't ever really know until the time comes, so try not to get too hung up on knowing everything ahead of time. You've always been my wild child, following her heart before her head. It's never led you wrong so far.”

 

“I don't know about that. I've made some pretty dumb decisions through the years.”

 

“But you're still here right? You're healthy and happy and in a really good place? All those supposedly dumb decisions have led you here, so were they really that dumb to begin with?”

 

“Well when you put it like that, I guess not.” Tobin’s smile is tight and she swallows hard, willing herself not to cry. She's felt too many emotions today and she's honestly exhausted, but she's so grateful for the reassurance from her mom and sisters that whatever it is she's doing, she's doing it right.

 

“You're going to be okay, my love. I know it.”

 

Tobin's mom squeezes her arms gently before she drops her hands and goes back to the dishes, knowing Tobin has hit her limit right now and needs a break.

 

She always did know Tobin better than anyone.

xxx

“I think your brother has a crush on me,” Christen tells Tobin when they step through the door to their hotel room. They only stopped by long enough after the airport to drop off Christen's bags before they went to Tobin’s mom’s for the rest of the day. Tobin didn't think much of it at the time, but now she's grateful they did because she's practically carrying Christen’s full weight as she leans against her side, exhausted from the flight and still a little tipsy from the wine Katie and Perry gave her.

 

“I think my entire family has a crush on you,” Tobin says. “I don't blame them at all. They've got great taste.”

 

“You have a good point. I'm a total catch.” She flops back on the bed and stretches her arms above her head, causing Tobin’s button up she's wearing to ride up and expose part of her stomach.

 

“You're even better than that,” Tobin says, her eyes stuck to the revealed skin and wishing Christen were a little more sober right now so she wouldn't feel like she was taking advantage of her if she were to do the things she wants to her right now.

 

“Come here,” Christen says, her voice low.

 

Tobin abides her wishes and crawls onto the bed next to her. Christen apparently wants to be even closer though because she rolls over on top of Tobin and kisses her soundly.

 

“I had a lot of fun today,” Christen tells her before leaning down to tuck her head under Tobin's chin, already preparing for sleep. “I really like your family. Not as much as I like you of course, but pretty close.”

 

“I'm glad you think so. I was really worried about this trip.”

 

Christen lifts her head and looks up at Tobin as she says, “I know you were. I was too.”

 

“What were you nervous about?”

 

“Tobin, you aren't just some temporary thing to me. I plan on being with you for a very, very long time so long as you'll have me. Getting your family's approval was really important to me.” Christen's eyes look as clear as they were before she had her first glass of wine. She's totally present in the moment when she says this and Tobin doesn't doubt a single word.

 

“I plan on you being with you for a long time too,” Tobin says.

 

Christen grins and kisses the end of Tobin’s chin. “Just a long time? Because I said a very, very long time and I feel like we should establish a time frame here so we're both on the same page. “

 

“Fine, a very, very, very, very, very long time,” Tobin says, punctuating each ‘very’ with a kiss to Christen's nose or cheeks.

 

“Wait, five very’s? That's a lot. I don't know if I'm ready for that kind of commitment.”

 

“Well too bad, because you're stuck with me.”

 

Christen sighs and shrugs her shoulders. “I guess I can figure out a way to work with that.”

 

“Not to ruin the moment, but I'm really fucking exhausted and I just want you to scratch my back until I fall asleep right now,” Tobin pouts.

 

“We haven't seen each other in four days and sleeping is all you want to do?” Christen asks, eyebrow raised.

 

“You know my rule, no sex before game days.”

 

Christen groans and rolls off Tobin, knowing it's no use arguing, but that doesn't mean she can't still complain a little. “That's a stupid rule.”

 

“Sorry, babe.” Tobin pats Christen’s thigh as she gets up from the bed to change her clothes. “You’re lucky Coach is even letting me stay here with you tonight instead of the team hotel.”

 

“A lot of good that's doing,” Christen grumbles.

 

Tobin grins as she pulls her shirt off and reaches for an old UNC one out of her suitcase. “I can go back there if you'd rather. It's just down the street.”

 

“Don't you dare!” Christen shoots up, planning on complaining more, and then she gets a glimpse of shirtless, braless Tobin and her breath catches in her throat. “Now that's just not fair. How can you expect me to not want to fuck you when you look like that?”

 

“You can want me all you want,” Tobin says, pulling her shirt over her head. “It's just not going to do you any good tonight.”

 

Christen narrows her eyes, clearly taking that as a challenge. “Fine then.” She rises from the bed and goes to her suitcase to grab a change of clothes. “I'll just go get myself off in the shower since you're not going to help me.”

 

Tobin’s smirk she had from frustrating Christen falls flat on the floor at that statement.

 

“Wait, what?” Tobin blinks as she watches Christen walk towards the bathroom in slow motion, her mind not able to catch up with what her eyes are seeing.

 

Christen tucks her clothes under one arm and starts slowly unbuttoning Tobin’s button up as she backs up towards the bathroom. “You had your chance,” she says. “Have fun trying to sleep while you think of all the things I'm doing to myself in here.”

 

“W-wait,” Tobin says, desperate to involve herself in this, her cardinal rule be damned. “On second thought, maybe I can help you out. I just won't get anything in return. That isn't technically breaking my rule.”

 

“No way, I'm not risking it. Night, Tobin.” She gives her a small wave and then steps into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Tobin is about to try to join her when she hears the lock slide into place.

 

“Fuck,” Tobin mumbles, both completely turned on and totally frustrated at how easily it is for Christen to screw with her

 

She knows there's no use in fighting it, she's not going to go grovel by the bathroom door and she knows she would regret it tomorrow if she did when her energy levels aren't what she needs them to be.

 

She concedes the battle with a sigh, even though she knows she already lost before it even really began. Tobin finishes changing, trying to block out the sound of the shower running and the thoughts of what Christen is doing.

 

As she stretches out in bed and closes her eyes, she finds herself hopeful that Christen was just messing with her and she isn't actually going to do anything except for shower.

 

But then she hears Christen moan.

 

It's definitely a little exaggerated, but not because it's fake. Tobin knows it's real. Christen is just trying to make Tobin even more jealous and frustrated than she already is.

 

“Oh my god,” Tobin groans, pulling the sides of the pillow she's laying on up so they cover her ears and then flipping over so her back is to the bathroom.

 

Even when she messes with her like this, Tobin still loves Christen more than anything.

 

Now if only she knew that, maybe she wouldn't mess with her so much.

xxx

LAFC loses 0-6 to Sky Blue on a first half hat trick from Heather O’Reilly and a goal from each rookie in the second half that rubs the salt in the wound a little deeper.

 

Tobin has never lost by 6 goals. The worst loss she ever suffered was by three a few seasons ago and at least in that one they scored two of their own so it wasn't quite as bad as being shutout.

 

She's beaten a few weaker teams when she was on the national team by larger margins, but that was almost expected. LA is barely out of a playoff spot in the West and Sky Blue are one spot off the bottom of the table in the East.

 

It's the fourth loss is a row and the worst in club history and Tobin is so far past angry after the game that she just feels heavy with how sad she is. She and Christen are supposed to go to dinner with her family, but all she wants to do is curl up in bed with Christen and sleep away this terrible game.

 

Coach Foudy doesn't give them much of a post game pep talk or even a scolding for that matter. She's just as frustrated and exhausted as they are and doesn't have the energy to yell at them right now. Tobin knows they aren't off the hook though. Next practice they'll be ran into the ground, but for right now she's giving them a break.

 

After they're dismissed and told they have off until Thursday, Tobin goes over to the section she knows her family is in. She signs for a few fans that she sees have LAFC gear, but she just doesn't feel up to it tonight and stops after a couple minutes.

 

Christen is the first to lean across the guardrail and wrap her up in a hug. She doesn't say anything, knows that after a loss there isn't anything Tobin can hear to make it better. She just holds her tightly for a moment and places a discrete kiss to her neck before she pulls away.

 

Her mom hugs her next and then she and her siblings start talking to her, but Tobin doesn't really register what they're saying. She hears herself answer, but it's muffled and she doesn't really know what she's saying. She doesn't understand any of it until Katie leans across the railing and whispers in her ear.

 

“Dad's here.”

 

Tobin’s not surprised, her dad sent her a text this morning saying he would be here. She'd responded hours later with only a thumbs up emoji. She knew she would have to see him, she was just hoping it would be under better circumstances than fresh off such an embarrassing defeat.

 

Tobin looks over in the direction Katie nods and sees her dad standing up the the bleachers a few sections away. He has a black LA scarf wrapped around his neck and his hands shoved in his pockets as he looks around awkwardly, clearly feeling out of place.

 

“You should go talk to him,” her mom says, drawing her attention away from her dad.

 

She doesn't want to, but she knows she needs to. She hasn't seen him in person since Christmas and she probably won't see him until that time again if she doesn't go over now. She's not thrilled about it, but she grits her teeth and nods.

 

“Get out of here, Tobin. You know your family would rather talk to me anyway,” Kelley says, coming up behind Tobin and squeezing her hand quickly for a moment. She must have seen her dad too.

 

Kelley quickly distracts Christen and Tobin's family, drawing the attention away from what they all know Tobin is about to do. No one is thrilled about it. Kelley must be just as exhausted as she is, but she's perked up enough to lay on the charm and help ease some of the tension. Tobin makes a mental not to take her out to dinner when they get back to LA to thank her.

 

Tobin gives Christen a tight smile and then heads down the fence a few sections. When her dad sees her approaching he comes down the steps and waits by the fence. To prolong her time as much as possible she signs a few autographs and takes a couple pictures, but she knows she can't avoid him forever.

 

“Hey, Tobin,” her dad says when she finally makes it to him.

 

His hands are still shoved in his pockets, he makes no efforts to hug her. He always waits for her to initiate, so she does. It's a quick, loose hug without a lot of emotion behind it, but it's a typical one for them.

 

“You played great,” he says.

 

Tobin scoffs and asks, “were you watching the right game? We lost.”

 

“Yeah, but you were working your ass off. Your team just wasn't helping you. You still looked really good out there, you should be proud of that.”

 

“Thanks dad,” she says. She knows she may agree with him later when she's watching game tape, but right now she doesn't want to admit to that. “How's Debbie?”

 

He immediately drops eye contact. He clears his throat and talking to his shoes when he says, “she uh…we aren't together anymore, so I don't really know how she is.”

 

Tobin feels her eyes start to widen before she stops herself. She hadn't been expecting that. Granted the only time she was ever around her dad's wife was once a year at Christmas, and even then she was only cordial to her at best, but they seemed perfectly happy. He'd left her mom for Debbie so there had to be something pretty special about her considering how great her mom is, but Tobin never really saw it. She wonders why her siblings never said anything. Maybe they don't know.

 

“Oh, well I uhm…I'm sorry,” she says because it's the polite thing to do. She isn't sure if she really means it.

 

“It's okay. Some things just aren't meant to be, you know?”

 

Tobin nods, but she doesn't respond. She can feel someone’s gaze on her and she knows it's Christen. She doesn't want to look over at her right now, doesn't want her dad's attention drawn over there which might cause him to ask questions. He doesn't know they're together and having that conversation with her dad isn't something she really wants to do tonight. Or ever.

 

She can't help it though. She's so drawn to Christen that she can't stop herself from looking over and locking eyes with her. Christen gives her a smile when she catches Tobin's return gaze, but Tobin knows she was scowling before that. Christen blows her a kiss which finally makes Tobin smile and then she turns back to whatever Kelley is going on about.

 

“Who's that?” Her dad asks, because of course he can't just understand she doesn't want him to know.

 

“She's my girlfriend,” Tobin says, knowing it's easier to just tell him so this can be over sooner. She doesn't realize until after she's said it that it might sting a little for her dad considering he's separated from his wife, but he wanted an answer and she gave it to him.

 

“Oh wow,” her dad says, clearly surprised. He knows Tobin has never had a girlfriend before. He was always the most supportive right after she came out to her family, but he knew her tendency to just keep things casual. “That's really great, Tobin. I'm happy for you.”

 

It's incredible, really, how quickly an awkward silence falls on them considering they're standing around dozens of excited fans screaming for their favorite player. In their little bubble though, it's eerily quiet.

 

Tobin breaks it when she can't stand it anymore.

 

“We were actually all gonna go to dinner afterwards, so I should probably go get changed and meet back up with them.”

 

“Yeah of course,” he says, looking almost relieved to get out of the situation. “You guys have fun. And good luck the rest of the season. You guys can make playoffs, I know it.”

 

“Thanks, dad.” She gives him a smile and then starts to walk away before they try to awkwardly decide if another uncomfortable hug is in order. It isn't.

 

She briefly stops by to tell her family she's going to go get changed and will meet them in the parking lot later. Christen gives her an odd look before Tobin walks away, but she doesn't think she has the energy to ask why right now and based on the way Christen’s face changes so quickly once she realizes, she doesn't want to talk about it either.

 

Back in the locker room, she takes a shower, but it's only long enough to wash the sweat and grass away. The embarrassment and disappointment lingers.

 

Once she's changed and has said goodbye to the teammates that are still around, she heads off in search of her family. She's just spotted them when someone calls her name from behind. She turns around and sees Heather, and despite feeling so low, she can't help but smile at the sight of her longtime friend.

 

“Sorry about the game, buddy,” Heather says as she hugs Tobin tightly.

 

“You can't be that sorry, what with the hat trick and all,” Tobin jokes.

 

Heather grins and throws an arm over Tobin’s shoulders as they start walking towards Tobin's family again. “Yeah, you've got me there. I'm not that sorry,” she teases. “Now introduce me to this girl of yours, I need to see if she's as hot as her pictures.”

 

“So much hotter.”

 

Tobin appreciates how easy it is to fall back into such a familiar rhythm with Heather. They don't get to see each other nearly enough and she never realizes how much she misses that until they're reunited again.

 

Christen and Heather get along perfectly of course, and Tobin's mom has always loved Heather so they're all smiling around and joking in no time. They must stand around catching up for about 15 minutes until Jeff complains about being hungry and they say their goodbyes.

 

“Bye, Tobs,” Heather says as she hugs Tobin. “I really hope to see you again soon, kid.”

 

“Yeah, you too,” Tobin says. “I'll make sure to let you know next time I come back.’

 

Heather smiles at her and something about it seems off, but then again she's always been a little weird, so Tobin brushes it aside.

 

She just wants to salvage what she can of the night with her family and not worry about anything else right now.

xxx

“Can I ask you something?” Christen says quietly once they get back to the hotel after dinner.

 

Tobin’s sitting on the edge of their bed, leaning over to untie her shoe, but she stops when she hears Christen’s words. “Is everything okay?” She asks cautiously, picking up on the worry in Christen's tone.

 

Christen chews the corner of her lip for a moment before she responds. “I don't know, honestly. Maybe I'm just reading too much into this but…” she pauses, starts to shake her head as if to say ‘never mind,’ but then she blurts out her question before she can truly talk herself out of it. “Why didn't you introduce me to your dad?”

 

Tobin had been starting to stand so she could get clothes from her suitcase, but when Christen asks her question she falls back onto the bed with a heavy sigh. She tries to explain but Christen cuts her off before she can.

 

“I know things are bad between you guys, with him and your whole family really. I mean he sat three whole sections away from everyone else just so they wouldn't have to interact. I know it's a tricky situation, I just…I don't know, maybe I just had unrealistic expectations.”

 

“This might sound bad,” Tobin starts, bracing herself to have this conversation. She really doesn't like talking about her relationship with her dad. “But honestly, it didn't even cross my mind to introduce you to him tonight. I promise that has nothing to do with you, though. Or I guess maybe it does, but not in a negative way. You're just…you're like the best thing I have going on in my life right now. You and Nata are two of the best parts of my world and my dad…well honestly, he's one of the worst. He's my dad and I love him, but we just do better at a distance. Talking to him tonight wasn't something I was looking forward to. But with you, you're just so good and I didn't want to mix those two parts of my life I guess. I wanted you to be just mine for a little longer. I'm already sharing you with the rest of my family this week, I didn't want to have to share you with him too.” Tobin’s fingers dig into her knee as she uses the slight ache she has there as a distraction, trying to massage away the irritation. “I'm sorry,” she whispers. “I should have talked to you about this before.”

 

“You don't have to apologize about this,” Christen says, slowly crossing the room so she can sit down next to Tobin, leaving just a couple inches of space between them so Tobin can still have her distance if she wants it for this conversation.

 

She doesn’t.

 

Tobin turns so one of her knees is pressed up against Christen’s thigh and she lifts the other to lay in Christen’s lap, letting her take over the massage duties for her knee. Tobin leans in, brushing the hair that has started to come loose from Christen’s bun back behind her ear. Christen leans her face into the touch, kissing her palm before she continues.

 

“I know this is hard for you. I’m not upset you didn’t introduce me, I promise I’m not. I guess I just wish you would talk to me a little more about him. I wish you knew it was okay to, that you can trust me with all this.”

 

“Chris, that is not what this is about at all. I trust you more than maybe anyone,” Tobin admits, taking a moment to wonder when she realized she felt that way before she moves on. “It’s like I said, I just don’t want to mix those two parts of my life yet…but I know I need to.”

 

“You don’t have to do anything you aren’t ready for, baby.”

 

“Yeah but I don't think this will ever be something I'm totally ready for. I think I just need to rip off the band-aid and do it.”

 

“If that's what you want to do, then I do too.”

 

“I'll text him,” Tobin says, the words nearly sticking in her throat. “I’ll see if he can meet us one night before we leave.”

 

“That sounds nice.”

 

“I don't think ‘nice’ is the exact word I would use for it,” Tobin scoffs dryly.

 

She makes herself pull her phone out of her back pocket and send the text before she can stop herself. The last text before the one he told her he was coming to the game today is from over three weeks ago. He'd told her she played well against Dallas. She didn't respond until the following afternoon and all she'd said was “thanks.”

 

She types out the message with heavy thumbs, forcing herself even though she doesn't completely want to do this. She can feel Christen's eyes on her, watching intently. She doesn't want to look up and see the concern that’s surely there. Once the message is sent, she powers down her phone and tosses it onto the chair across from the bed.

 

“Tonight kind of sucked. Can it just be the three of us until we go to sleep?” Tobin asks with a sigh, leaning forward to rest her chin on Christen’s shoulder and kiss the side of her head?

 

“Three of us?” Tobin doesn't even need to look at her to know the way her eyebrows are creased together. “Is there something you're not telling me?”

 

Tobin grins, considering being a smart ass but honestly she's just too damn tired right now. “Can we FaceTime Nata? I miss that kid so bad.”

 

Christen pulls away a little so she can run her hand gently over Tobin’s tired face, pushing some of the perpetually loose hair from her ponytail behind her ear. “You really mean that don't you?”

 

“Of course I do,” Tobin says. “I meant it when I said you guys are two of the best parts of my life and I didn't just mean that because you two are a package deal. He's important to me on his own too.”

 

“I really love you for that, you know?” There's a hint of something like hope in Christen's words, like she's just waiting for Tobin to say those three words back to her. Hell, she probably is.

 

Tobin wants to, wants it more than anything, but something stops her. It's not that she doesn't, but when she does finally tell her she wants to make sure it means everything it possibly can to Christen. It may sound stupid waiting for that perfect moment, but it's what she wants. It's a big deal and it deserves a big moment.

 

“I know you do. Thank you for that,” Tobin says instead.

 

Christen doesn't look disappointed, she's more understanding than that. She maybe looks a little impatient, but definitely not disappointed. She kisses Tobin softly and then scoots back up the bed to pull out her phone and then FaceTimes Nata.

 

Tobin curls up next to Christen, sharing the same pillow because they can never be too close. Suddenly Nata’s smiling face is filling the screen and Tobin's cheeks hurt from smiling back, but she wouldn't change the thing.

 

The terrible loss, talking to her dad--all the bad thoughts fade away in that moment and she becomes happier than she's been since the last time the three of them were together.

 

Tobin loves her little family.

xxx

Christen going to church with Tobin and her family the following morning isn’t something she expected to happen or even planned. Tobin’s mom brought it up the night before, but a decision wasn’t made. Christen isn’t religious and Tobin didn’t know how she would feel about attending church. She didn’t want Christen to feel obligated to go just because her mom invited her. It’s a part of her life she would love to share more with Christen, but she doesn’t want to overstep into territory Christen may be uncomfortable with.

 

She obviously isn’t uncomfortable with it though, considering she’s the one that rolls over on Sunday morning with a sleepy smile on her face and asks if they can go. Tobin happily agrees and her mom is thrilled when she calls and asks if she can come pick them up on her way.

 

Once Tobin is sitting in the pew, her fingers tangled with Christen’s between them, looking over at Christen as she nods along slowly as she listens intently to everything the pastor says, Tobin wonders if she's ever felt closer to Christen.

 

Her faith has always been such an important part of her life. Faith, family and soccer. That's what Tobin’s world revolves around. Christen has become her family and she's integrated herself into soccer, now she's integrating herself into her faith and Tobin is overwhelmed with how much she loves her.

 

The pastor talks about keeping faith, even when it seems like there's no reason to. He says that it's easy to believe and trust in God when things are going well, but when it gets hard--when God is needed the most--that’s when it's most important to have faith. When everything else is encouraging doubt, faith is the only thing that keeps them in track.

 

“When our faith is blindest, is the only time we can truly see,” he says.

 

It resonates with Tobin. Sometimes at church, she understand what the pastor says, but she doesn't always personally identify with it. This though, she feels it on the deepest level. She's been in that spot so many times, wondering what the point of it all is.

 

But at the end of the day, her faith is the only thing that's ever truly been there for her every single time she needed it. People aren’t perfect--family and friends, they fall short sometimes and aren't there when she needs them. Soccer betrayed her in one of the worst ways possible and led her into the darkest moment of her life.

 

But God? He's always been there for her. Every time. Maybe not when she wanted Him to be, but when she's needed Him, which is really the only time it ever truly matters.

 

Tobin's almost amazed at how seamlessly Christen fits into this part of her life. Even if she doesn't believe everything she's hearing, she listens respectfully and with a focus Tobin doesn't know if she's ever had herself.

 

When it comes to singing hymns, she leans in close to Tobin and reads the words, her soft voice warm against Tobin’s cheek.

 

When the Sunday school teacher invites the younger children up to the front to read a passage from the children's bible--the same one Tobin still has on her bookshelf back in LA--Cole pulls Christen up to the front with him instead of his mom like usual.

 

After the service, she mingles with old family friends just as well as she always does, charming everyone easily. She drops Tobin’s hand once they're around other people, unsure of what the boundaries are here, but Tobin links their fingers again and squeezes gently, assuring her it's okay. This church being as accepting as it is helped her through her coming out process and now that she's on the other side, she wants to be able to be proud of Christen. Maybe even show her off a little considering the way she wraps her arm around Christen's waist when her high school history teacher’s grandson gets a little too hopeful the longer he talks to Christen.

 

Tobin's mom invites them out to lunch with some friends, but Tobin politely declined, wanting to take Christen to one of her favorite cafes she always used to go to when she wanted some quiet time to herself. She's never shared the place with anyone else before, but she wants to with Christen.

 

Once they're tucked away in the back corner, coffee cups warming their hands and orders placed, Christen brings up the service.

 

“Thank you for bringing me with you,” Christen says.

 

“Of course, thank you for wanting to go. It really meant a lot to me,” Tobin says, raising her cup to her lips for a small sip before realizing it’s still too hot.

 

“It meant a lot to me too,” Christen says. She reaches out for a sugar packet and crinkles one of the corners between her fingers. When she speaks again, she’s talking to the pink paper. “How come you’ve never asked me to go to church with you before? Like back home in LA, I know you go every almost every Sunday unless you have a game.”

 

“I don’t know if I’ve ever really given it much thought,” Tobin confesses, cringing when she realizes how bad that sounded. “I didn’t mean it like that, I just meant I didn’t think it was something you would be interested in, so I never thought to ask.”

 

“If it’s interesting to you, then it’s interesting to me.”

 

Tobin smiles, knowing Christen means that wholeheartedly. “I just never wanted you to feel like I was trying to push my beliefs on you. I don’t care that we don’t have the same faith, but I never wanted it to seem like I was trying to convert you or anything.”

 

“I would never think that. And just because I maybe don’t believe it, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy hearing about it. I love learning about the things that mean so much to you. Why do you think I read a book on soccer three times?”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes, knowing Christen is right. “Okay, okay, I get it. Next time I go to church back in LA, I’ll make sure you bring you along.”

 

“That’s all I ask.” Christen smirks like she just won an argument that didn’t even happen. She’s so damn cute Tobin can’t even bother to be annoyed by the slight superiority.

 

“What did you think of the sermon? Did you get anything out of it?” Tobin asks. It meant a lot to her and made her reminiscent of their first night together, so she’s curious if Christen took it the same way.

 

Judging by the way Christen bites her bottom lip and looks up at Tobin with darkened eyes, she’s remembering more than just their conversation that night. After a quick, poorly executed wink at Tobin, Christen controls her expression and focuses on answering Tobin’s question.

 

“I really liked what Pastor Queen said about being able to see the best when your faith is blindest,” Christen says, making Tobin smiles proudly since that’s the line she loved so much as well. “That’s one of the things that’s always challenged me about religion, how someone can constantly put so much trust in God and believe that everything will always work out. That’s always been so hard for me to wrap my head around, which is why I asked you about it that night. I don’t know if this will make sense, but I understood what you were saying that night, I just didn’t get it.”

 

“No that makes complete sense. Like, you understood what I was telling you, it just didn’t completely click until you heard it this morning.”

 

“Exactly. Maybe it was the way he phrased it or just hearing it a second time, but I can totally see why your faith is so important to you and why it’s so unwavering. I think it’s really beautiful, honestly.”

 

“Thank you,” Tobin says. She reaches across the table and takes Christen’s hand in hers. “I really, really appreciate you coming with me today. It was a great idea and I’m glad you encouraged it.”

 

Christen just smiles, pulling Tobin’s hand up to her mouth so she can kiss the smooth ridges of her knuckles, letting the gesture say everything she doesn’t need to. “You know what else was a great idea?”

 

“What?”

 

“Those blueberry banana pancakes I ordered.”

 

Tobin looks over her shoulder to see their server approaching the table with way too much food since she foolishly let Christen convince her that ordering that extra side of bacon was a great idea. Then again, the way Christen smiles as she gets caught stealing a piece from Tobin’s plate makes the enormous cheat meal totally worth it.

Chapter Text

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“You're the best, you know that?”

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Yeah of course. Race you to shore?”

 

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

 

It still doesn’t help.

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“You're the best one.”

 

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

 

“There's no better make out music.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“‘Stick Witchu’ is a good song!”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Do you blame me?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“That's all I ask.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tobin can't deny that wish.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“But I want to.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Christen just smiles and blows her a kiss.

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“In Jersey?” Tobin asks.

 

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

 

“This has been a really good trip.”

 

“This has been a perfect trip.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

“I don’t know,” she answers honestly.

 

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

She isn’t just talking about tonight.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Yeah? You’re ready?”

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“A little over four months,” she says.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Wh-who’s Nata?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

This is going to be a long night.

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Yeah, yeah I really do.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

She knows she has two choices though.

 

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

 

Or.

 

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

 

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

 

So she lets it go.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“I'd really love that, Tobin.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“What did you say?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“What did he say back?”

 

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

 

“What did you tell him?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Why are you sorry?”

 

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

 

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

 

“What do you mean?”

 

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

 

“But tonight he did?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

She looks terrified.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“I love you, Christen.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Nope, you still missed it.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Good, because I love you too, dude.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Tonight ended up being a really good night.”

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“You said it, not me.”

 

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

 

“Name one,” Tobin challenges.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“I really like them all.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“How did you know?”

 

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

 

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

 

“More than Alex, you mean?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“What do you mean?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“What's that?”

 

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

 

“Wait, what?”

 

“Seriously, let's go.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Chapter Text

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Yeah, I'm okay,” Tobin shrugs.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Three hours and forty minutes, actually.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Do you guys talk about me?”

 

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

 

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

 

“Not happening.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Fine,” she grumbles.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“You know I like being dirty.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

xxx

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Should it have been?

 

Did Tobin just miss the signs?

 

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

 

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

 

Wow.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

But what if they weren’t?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Christen’s right.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So what?

 

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

 

And Tobin is completely okay with that.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Why are you here so much?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Are you Nata’s mom too?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Ryan, please. I didn’t, I just--”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

It breaks Tobin’s heart.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tobin knows she’s fucked up.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“I fucked this all up,” Tobin cries.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“You don’t have to do that.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Eventually, Tobin can’t take the silence.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“No, they’re cleaning up dinner.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

It works.

 

“You got it, buddy.”

 

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

 

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

 

“Hi,” Christen whispers.

 

“How much of that did you hear?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Chapter Text

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tobin misses that rushed, excited voice right now.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“To Sky Blue,” Mateo says.

 

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

 

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

 

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

 

“You’re damn right it’s a surprise!”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Always.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Only once in her life has Tobin ever felt so betrayed. Only last time, Juli