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Watching War Made Us Immune

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“We don’t promise you a rose garden.”

No, in fact I wasn’t promised anything but honor.  No stipend.  No bonus.  Nothing but what I could earn.  And what was that coveted reward?  What did I go in expecting above all?  The worst conditions.  The worst treatment.  Downright neglect, belittling, abuse and humiliation.  It all came to a head.  A kick to the back of my legs that brought me to my knees.  A sharp barking elbow to my back tipping me over face first into the ground.  And finally, a heavy duty combat boot on my neck as I lay as low to the ground as I could get.  Stepping into my neck grinding my bloody nose and busted mouth into the hard yellow footprints like a spent cigarette.  PHYSICALLY AND METAPHORICALLY breaking me down.  Because

“We don’t reach the mountaintop from the mountaintop. We start at the bottom and climb up.  Blood is involved.”

I thought I had been swift enough running bases on loose red dirt warmed by the sun when I played softball until I didn’t move my “skinny ass” fast enough getting off a bus even when 40 other girls were in front of me blocking my exit.

I thought my footwork while juggling a soccer ball was pretty sick and kind of quick until I couldn’t even stand correctly with my feet on 2 bright yellow footprints painted on the concrete in front of a huge glass building in the middle of the night. When there are three screaming faces covering all angles of sight it is pretty hard to even SEE your feet.

I stood there in front of a phone with 4 other girls to my right and willed someone on the other line to answer. A familiar voice in the middle of this chaos like a symphony in the middle of a hot landing zone.  And when I heard it I had only a few seconds to tell my sister Perry that I had arrived safely and that I’d see her when it was all over.

The longer I got counted down from 10 seconds to 1 just to tie a knot in my boot string the worse I got at it. The DI wanted me to do it in under 10 seconds while she screamed directly into my ear but it had to be double knotted and it had to be a knot tied with the left side over the right.  She was speaking so quickly and yelling so loudly that it took me three times just to fully comprehend what she wanted me to do.

And then it was on to the next task.

We are isolated here.

We sat with our heads bowed all the way down between our legs as the bus drove us onto the base.  We don't know the geography of the base.  We don't know a way out....we don't know a way in.  

I haven’t even seen one living soul anywhere on this base that isn't in uniform. 

Somehow, that detail alone makes any recruit that steps foot on this training facility feel alienated and utterly alone. The feeling is gut deep.  Echoing off the walls in your body where your heart should be except it’s not there because the loneliness is hollowing. 

There is no TV. There is no music.  There is no news.  Time has stopped here and the short hour we have at the end of every training day to “square away” all of our personal matters gets shorter every night. 

Days pass it seems in the blink of an eye like a white hot tap of a lightening bolt touching the ground.  

I wait impatiently for word from home.  Word from anyone.  Any familiar face matching a name in the addressee section of an envelope.  A face that I can imagine in my mind as I read their words…nothing. 

After forming week (the first week of training) no one was receiving mail except for one recruit whose recruiter went above and beyond and got her family and friends the exact address in which she could be reached before she even shipped out.  She received small stacks of mail every night and as I watched her walk away quickly to her bunk with an excited smile on her face my spirits sunk even deeper than before.  Deeper still every night since.  As more and more recruits began receiving letters and not one was addressed to me, I decided to ask my bunk mate if she had received a letter.  She informed me that the letters would be delayed for everyone and not to worry.  She was nice enough not to go on and on about who wrote to her and how many letters she had received. 

I appreciated her for that. She was a tan skinned bespectacled girl with black curly hair and a soft nervous sounding voice.  Her last name is the only name I knew (Barahona) and I’m sure mine was the only one she knew as well.  I was thankful not only that she was kind and thoughtful but that she brought no added attention to our area of the squad bay by fucking up in any way.  Entering the 4th week when mail distribution time was over and I had still not received a letter from a soul in California or anywhere else for that matter, Barahona sounded concerned when asking, “Still nothing?”

My body language and facial expression I’m sure told the whole story a million times over. I shook my head in the negative and her look of pity nearly left me in tears.  Why was I so fucking starved for correspondence?

But now I know why.  I've NEVER been away from home.  Not for ANYTHING.  I never went away to camp for a summer.  I never went on an extended vacation with anyone other than my family members.  I've never been out of the state of California.  When I was 6 years old my mother left me at a daycare only ONCE while she worked and 8 hour shift and I was not only frozen by fear but outraged at my abandonment.  I sat under a table the entire time as other children ran and screamed in delight outside the confines of my little cave.

I was spoiled from the womb but not with material items....with love and attention.  Which is probably why it turned to shit when my mother found out I preferred the ladies over the pre pubescent male teen heart throb at school goosing random girls in the hall way and guffawing with his group of friends as if he had invented a more proficient way of shaking hands.  How could I back hand her after all that she had done for me??  I HAD NEVER BEEN COMPLETELY ISOLATED AND ALONE.  NEVER. 

Before I ramble off on a tangent I want to make sure I come back to the subject of my bunk mate Barahona.  Two days after her look of pity prickled the back of my throat with oncoming tears.....

I got a letter. 

I stood on line shoulder to shoulder with my platoon at parade rest and as my name was called my body's muscle memory was slow to react.  I had never had to run up to the middle of the quarter deck to receive mail before and my mind was scrambling to remember what the proper procedure was.  Yes, theres even a procedure to make sure you receive your mail in an orderly, proficient, military manner.  If there's a manual on how to wipe and scrub your ass proficiently, then of course the Marine Corps does mail time in four count facing movements and a pause for dismissal once you have your mail in hand.

When I returned to my rack and was allowed to look down at the name of the angel of mercy that had graced me with a ray of sunlight in this dingy barracks I was perplexed and nearly overwhelmed with emotion. 

Barahona had sent me a letter herself.

She had sat during her personal square away time after a long and stressful training day and when she was done writing letters home to her own family she sacrificed a few minutes for me.  Why?  We barely knew each other.  Barely had a chance so far to build the comraderie that we were told we would eventually find once we crossed the parade deck at graduation.  I had been around 70 other women for almost a month now and had never had a romantic feeling for a single one of them but I could've kissed Barahona in that moment as the tears filled my eyes.  She was more than kind, she was magnanimous and I loved her in that moment.  I paid no mind to the fact that she was a stranger to me.  I grabbed her hand as the tears rolled down my cheeks and thanked her profusely.  The smallest of gestures can make the grandest of impacts.

I know everyone back home said they would write and were so enthusiastic about it that it never seemed that I would ever have this problem once I began my training in this Carolinian hell hole.  The faces of my loved ones flashed through my brain and I had never felt so small, so alone and so lost in my life.  No comforting words.  No anecdotes of everyday life or jokes to help focus my mind on something else besides the grueling training schedule if only for a few minutes.  And even if the letter was short and to the point, it meant more to me than any 4 page letter that rambled on about really nothing just to create the illusion that what you are reading is actually as beefy as it appears.  Scrawled across rich college ruled paper as if a letter writing law stated that each letter to arrive at MCRD Parris Island was meant to have a word count minimum before it could be delivered.  Like a teenager bullshitting their way through a midterm paper to meet the word count requirement.  The few sentences from Barahona's black ball point pen spoke volumes and touched my heart.

I’ve always enjoyed quiet time alone. It gave me time in the past to organize my thoughts and ponder the great or mundane mysteries that my brain had not yet pieced together mostly about girls.  Almost always about girls.

Now not only is my mental state so fragile when lacking stimulating correspondence from another being outside the walls of this base, but now my thoughts are not even allowed a glimpse into the windows of my subconscious.  Now, there is only time to organize my thoughts as fast as it takes to be counted down from 10 to 1.

We are counted down in seconds to do everything. From dressing to bathing to eating and even for bathroom breaks.  And if bathroom time is a break then the Marine Corps deserves a world record for giving the shortest 10 second break in the world.  I threw all embarrassment to the wind the first day.  I had no choice.  I’ve had to accept that for the next 3 months I will be dropping trou, peeing and wiping all while a screaming DI hovers over me counting down from 10.  It all has to be under 10 seconds and seconds that are half shorter than a normal second because these women yelling in my face have never heard of putting the word “Mississippi” between anything even if it meant renaming the river between Mississippi and Louisiana.

And even if I was embarrassed the first time a strange yelling woman saw me with my pants down, it got even worse when I had to stand butt ass naked with about 70 other girls in an open room with showerheads lining the wall and wash each of my body parts as they were called out by another screaming DI as she ran through the showers fully dressed in a ridiculously flawless uniform without a single hair out of place.

Yes that first week of Marine Corps boot camp was difficult but when I watched 3 Drill instructors march out of a tiny room at the front of our squad bay (open barracks room) looking like 3 robotic bulldogs moving in sync so perfectly that it resembled a military line dance of precision, I knew that the most difficult times lie ahead.

Our Senior Instructor was the first drill instructor we met as a platoon. She stood almost 6 ft tall and was very thin and very soft spoken.  Her milky skin, freckled cheek bones, green eyes, dark hair and soft voice left me feeling calm.  I felt that if she was going to be like this for 3 months then the others had to be similar right?  As soon as I got lulled into a false sense of security, she quite literally unleashed her 3 bulldogs on us.

There is no better way to put it than BLUR. No time to think or decide or ponder or wonder or dream at night or during the day.  When I signed the contract for 4 years of military service, they meant every last second of those 4 years.  Every second, minute, hour and any tiny personal or impersonal moment in between.  I have never lived in a world where every action I took in a day from big to small could and would be timed expertly down into groups of minutes and seconds in order to manipulate the clock from the moment I open my eyes in the dark dawn hours of the morning to the second I close them laying on the top bunk of a set of bunk beds wearing sweats to keep warm through the night so I don’t have to waste extra time in the morning perfectly making my rack with 90 degree angles on each side of a 4 inch fold.  Four inch fold is to be eyeballed purposely.  Not only is it not practical or tactical to carry a ruler or measuring tape with you but you're meant to learn how to adapt and overcome.  You estimate the 4 inches and you fold you're sheets that way because 4 inches is the distance you will be holding your weapon safely as you march.  Every detail, every measurement and every last move we make is for a specific purpose.

“Hands and arms parallel to the deck when holding that fucking tray HEATH!”

“Parallel to the deck straight across your chest when saluting your pathetic excuse of a guidon flag! The same way you salute me when you’re holding your fucking M4 you pathetic maggot!” 

“You think we repeat this mundane fucking shit to you every fucking day for fun??”

It was a Mr. Miagi brainwash. Wax on wax off. Larning how to hold your weapon with military precision while marching derives from the proper placement of hands on your chow hall tray.

Wax on wax off. Left over right when you're lacing your boots or sitting on the ground for instruction is muscle memory for every military marching movement you will ever do.  Every single movement starts with the left foot.

Wax on wax off. Chest back, posture perfectly stoic, elbows tucked touching your sides as you walk, march, stand at attention is to

“Help keep you from getting that tanned California surfer ass from being shot off when you find a decent solitary object that will serve as your cover from your threat. Tuck your puny elbows in until they touch your puny body HEATH!  Are you deaf???  Your boyfriend will cry himself to sleep when he hears you lost an arm because you were too stupid to tuck your fucking elbows in!”

Wax on wax off. Hold your cup straight across your chest, back straight, bring the cup to your lips, only one hand above the table as you eat while the other stays resting on your knee. This will teach your arm muscles to memorize the feeling of

“The first count in a 7 count movement when you present an empty weapon to me. And it better be empty Heath.  If the chamber has a round…that round is going in your ass not mine!”

I have never had a chance to analyze how I feel about all of these brain washing techniques but as every day passes I see the muscle memory kicking in.

Two weeks have passed and as far as I can see the whole platoon is slowly falling into the very chaotic but very efficient routine. One of which is drinking an insane amount of water.  I’m an athlete and I know staying hydrated is extremely important but what one would think is normal is thrown out of the Marine Corps port hole and an extreme way of doing things steps right in to take the reins.

The first time we as a platoon, Platoon 4040, of Papa Company to be precise, were forced to drink a full canteen of water I was inches away from losing it. It is one thing to be mentally and physically tough.  When you combine elements like isolation, and high levels of constant stress and mind games that have you second guessing the simplest of actions it is downright terrifying if you get a chance to really think about how alone you truly are.  That the only people you can count on is yourself, your God and your platoon mates that are just as terrified and unsure as you are.  It doesn’t seem like it’s so bad when you aren’t in the middle of it but it’s like being in a prison of your own choosing and being too late to change it.  The only way to get out of the hell is to go through it and there is no easy short cut that exists except to avoid getting injured at all costs.  Injury only results in sick bay for a certain amount of weeks or even months and then you join another platoon to finish training.  Getting through it the first time is the fastest and most efficient way of doing it. 

So if you can imagine that hell, add the element of control in. Lack of control that is.  Lack of control of your own bodily functions….it begins to muddle the lines on the edges of your brain. 

Drinking an entire canteen of water is no sweat. There are certain things that a person hears about or witnesses another person doing and wonders if they could ever do that themselves and most of the time the answer is yes when your body and mind is pushed to the point of no return.  You will get through it.  Until that first night that I was told to drink a full canteen in under two minutes, I had come to believe that I was not only going to survive boot camp but I would come out of it feeling like I was the baddest motherfucker in the valley of death.  One canteen of water is all it took to make me begin to second guess just how bad of a motherfucker I really was.

Even the toughest mental motherfucker in the valley is meant to get broken down when training to become something that not just any “geek on the street” can claim.

A full canteen is only 32 ounces of water. For a normal person, that is 3 times as many ounces they should be drinking in 24 hours.  But as you probably already guessed, Marine Corps recruits are not normal.  Marine Corps recruits run all day, workout all day, exert ridiculous amounts of energy every single moment they are awake.  They are not bussed to their different training evolutions daily, they march there.  If plausible, depending on traffic on the base and time of day, they run there.  Then the training evolution unless it’s a class on Marine Corps history, will be an extreme form of PT, Marine Corps Martial arts (which includes pugil sticks by the way) a hike with a full pack, and getting smoked in between if you’re lucky only once.  If you’re even luckier, you avoid getting smoked.  So a canteen a day really only scratches the surface of how many canteens of water a recruit should be drinking per day. 

No problem though right? No problem since your body will undoubtedly be craving the water anyway.  And then comes the Marine Corps twist.  They don’t want you to learn it and remember it they want it to be something that is so engrained in your memory that something as simple as unscrewing the cap to your canteen will bring back a memory so vivid that you will not only drink as you have been told but your body will do it most times without your brain even having to make a conscious decision to TELL your fucking body to do it! 

And what does that understanding grant you?  Clarity.  Clarity through pain.  Because what you are preparing for is your eminent death.  What you are training for, especially after a vicious terror attack, is to destroy every last fucking enemy in sight until you are destroyed and if you survive then you do but surviving is NOT YOUR MISSION.  DESTROYING is your mission.  SPILLING BLOOD is your mission.  “Blood makes the grass grow.”  “Kill Kill Kill” and if you are not ready to kill at a moment’s notice then you won’t survive long enough to complete your mission.  It would have all been for nothing.  One of the most essential tools you need to stick around as long as you can in order to complete your mission is WATER.  Your body can not and will not function without WATER.  It’s simple.  Its truth.  Its life or death. 

This is how I came to learn my first lesson in the weakening of my ever expanding brain. If I can’t stand here and guzzle down 32 ounces of water in under two minutes after shoveling down an entire plate of food in under two minutes just 30 minutes ago…how will I ever survive one skirmish with the enemy?  Clarity.  Understanding and then CLARITY.

So I stood there convinced that I was going to explode one way or another. Through one end or the other.  I stood at attention with my canteen held out straight in front of me upside down to show that I had already finished it and I ground my teeth against the vomit that was ejaculating in its ridicule right at the back of my throat.  I dug the fingernails of my left hand at my side into the palm of my left hand.  I squeezed my ass cheeks and legs together as tight as I could without breaking my perfect attention stance and I took deep breaths.  I focused on that breathing.  I had to because around me was a valley of tears and grunts and across from me a girl had just dropped down into a squat, sobbing as urine darkened her digital woodland camouflage pants and began to pool around her on the floor.  Shit, that could’ve easily been me.

 I focused on my breathing as my bunk mate standing almost shoulder to shoulder with me projectile vomited what I assumed was a full days’ worth of food and water and was just glad that she didn’t get any on a passing DI for fear that they would smoke her until she passed out in the middle of the quarter deck after they made her clean and double clean and triple clean the mess she left on the deck.  Fuck that also could’ve been me although I’d take a piss or shit over puke any day.

I stood and did the only thing I could think of doing. I recited the preamble to the constitution in my head.  Something I had learned by putting it into a song in government class.  Then I began to switch to anything else I could think of.  The owl and the pussycat.  The poem I loved so much as a kid I would beg Perry to read it to me from a little golden book every night.  I’d recite those two the most.  I’ve recently began songs in my head and sometimes the pain is so great, the fear of failure so paralyzing that the sound of my own grunting pain drowns it out.  And then I get punished more for daring to make any noise at all.  One more pushup…..”The owl and the pussycat went to sea on a beautiful pea green boat”

One more 3 mile rotation to run….”They took some honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a 5 lb note.”

No opportunity to crowd the brain with the mundane.  Just the pain.  Just the pain.  The sacrifice.  The survival.  The understanding.  The clarity.  The focus.  If I make it to the next meal then I’m good.  If I can make it to another meal after that, then I’m solid.  Maybe one day…I’ll be golden.  But for now,

“We the people of the United States of America. In order to form a more perfect union.  Establish justice ensure domestic tranquility….”

Through another 6 mile hike with 50 pounds on my back at a grueling pace.

“You elegant fowl how charmingly sweet you sing. Oh, let us be married.  Too long we have tarried.  But what shall we do for a ring?”

Through a low crawl in the freezing mud when my fingers have gone so numb I can’t even feel the M4 on the backs of my hands that I’m so desperately trying to keep from getting muddy.

Another meal. Another canteen of water.  My stomach shrinking smaller.  Are you ready for the next evolution?

**********************************************************************************************************************************

Recruit Tobin Heath

Training day 21

Before today I thought that I was imagining things. I thought my mind had grown weak and I was being made to feel victimized.  Humiliated at every turn.  Trapped under a magnifying lens for all to see my undeniable flaws.  I felt like I was failing to understand the purpose of my training.  We were all meant to be kept in check.  Our egos were nonexistent.  Our striving for perfection so far in the future that it was a pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel. 

So why have I felt so singled out?  And by my senior drill instructor with her soft and towering presence.  Yea the one that barely speaks above a whisper.  She oozes calm and asserts power effortlessly.  I’ve come to learn that the reason I am intimidated so deeply by her is that she DOESN’T yell at me.  She DOESN’T get directly in my face.  She is quick and silent and sneaks up to my left or right ear when I least expect it leaving me grappling with yet another flaw she has somehow found that I would’ve never even noticed if she hadn’t pointed it out.  Some things so small that I question whether it’s there at all.  I’m convinced I’m hallucinating or she is because there is no way I even looked away from my instructor when another recruit got in trouble.  I know my eyes didn’t twitch.  My body didn’t react.  My mind was on my task and that alone.  Yet I hear my name called out and I know I am in trouble.  My name has become an alarm of dread for my ears.  The pre cursor to doom.  The fore warning for pain. 

“Recruit Heath!”

And then I hear nothing. I reply as I have been instructed and then my left ear is being filled with instruction from the most senior of my instructors.  From the instructor of the instructors.  I have leant my body and my heart and my mind and my soul and if there were more I could give I would but I have leant it all in the name of service to my country to train to become a skilled and hardened defender and killer and none of the humiliation or degradation or abuse has bothered me until now.

“How about you go and join recruit Pagan in her smoking exercises there Heath. I think you have learned all you need to learn from your instructor on facing movements for your first drill examination.”

Her voice was so calm yet filled to the brim with ridicule as if she wanted to burst out laughing right in my ear but she didn’t. The slightest bit of hesitation would be a mistake and even though my brain was a huge question mark I sprinted toward the instructor who was smoking Pagan and immediately fell in beside her doing pushups.

WHAT THE FUCK DID I DO WRONG?

What am I ever doing wrong when she comes speaking low in my ear to swab the floor again or separate my platoons clothing better so that they dry faster or that I put too much cheese on my salad in the chow hall or that my body being covered in sand flea bites is something I’m just going to have to deal with because it’s not serious enough for sick bay.

And she keeps the veil of perfection high up just under her eyes even as she negates after taking a second look. Even after she calls me back into her office to hand me some calamine lotion for the bites the veil still does not budge.  And I was brave to go in there asking her for a sick bay call at all.  I was at my wits end.  I was so covered in bites I couldn’t sleep.  The sleep deprivation made me want to scream and the itching added to my lunacy.

And all this time I had the answer to preventing these bites tucked neatly away in my footlocker.  Why would a Drill Instructor let me in on that secret?  Because sand fleas build character.  Sand fleas build discipline.  I had to learn to stand at attention perfectly still as sand fleas emerged at dawn from their warm little slumbers and SWARMED over my entire body not caring if I blew at them in an attempt to scare them off.  I could almost hear them cawing laughter like a swarm of black crows in the fall lining the power lines of a bussling city.  Adding their bussling conversations to the mix.  Laughing at my attempts to scare them off.  Sand fleas respected nothing and no one except the blood they were siphoning.  The world’s smallest zombies driven only by their impulse to feed and feed they did.  In the conch of your ears and the lids of your eyes and tip of your nose and the sensitive soft skin of your scalp beneath your hair.  And they not only bit but they crawled in endless circles first and once getting a bit of blood from one bite they didn’t walk a mile to even it out they moved a centimeter to the left or right and BIT DOWN AGAIN!  At the edge of madness is the closest description for this morning routine.  And if you were summoned to do pushups in the white sands of the sand pit….pray to god you don’t land directly on top of a sand flea nest.  What’s worse than madness?

 (I found out later that skin so soft is the only thing that will not only stop them but kill them)

What had I done wrong to earn the attention of the most vexing human being in my small universe? What I have I done to her personally for her to single me out this way?  I’m pretty tough and if I knew I was fucking up then I wouldn’t find anything wrong with getting reamed daily but today takes the fucking cake.  Told to get smoked for no reason at all.  For existing.  Up until today, everything I did while here had been for a reason and now that I have been called on to be smoked for no reason at all I feel my resolve breaking down.  Something isn’t right here.  Everything I believe in can’t be a farce.  So why can’t I get anything right with her?  Why can’t I do anything to her liking?  I am willing to give all but I am not willing to kiss ass just to be a favorite even if it means that she will leave me alone.

 

Training Day 22

Just had time to write this real quick so maybe later tonight I’ll write more detail but I was wrong about my senior drill instructor. I’m just glad I wasn’t losing my mind.

Training Day 22 cont.

Yesterday after being told to join my platoon mate to be smoked for no reason, we ended that training session and marched over to the Obstacle Course.

We were given the commant to sit for instruction. Our instructors explained that at the end of the week we would all be running through this obstacle course and we would not be passing phase 1 if we couldn't get through it.  Today we were going to watch our senior drill instructors run through it slowly so we could see how it’s SUPPOSED to be done.  They ridiculed us for being weak and stated that they were sure we wouldn’t be able to get through the whole course today so they were going to split our platoon 4040 and our sister platoon 4041 into two half’s of the course.  Our platoon would take the first half of the course and 4041 would take the end of it. 

I watched my senior slowly but effortlessly fly through each obstacle showing us the proper placement of hands on bars and feet on wood. After every obstacle we were supposed to land and grab two hands full of wood chips that the O course ground was made of and drop them before tackling the next obstacle.  Watching my senior whip the shit out of the senior from 4041 gave me a sense of pride even though I know she hates me. 

Soon we were up tackling the first part of the O course ourselves. I have to admit that even though this course looked hard it was one of the training evolutions I was looking forward to the most. 

The first few obstacles weren’t that difficult so our line wasn’t getting too backed up but then we arrived at the high bar. The high bar that even the senior drill instructor from 4041 struggled a bit to get over.  The four recruits in line in front of me just could NOT get their bodies over it.  No matter how horrible the jarring from the instructors got, not one of the recruits could get over.  They each tried multiple times before giving up and having to do 20 pushups before they were made to start from the beginning again.  The next 4 were called up.

“Can any of you sorry sacks of shit get over this bar or is it push and get the fuck out of my face for you 4 as well??”

Our loudest and meanest Drill Instructor yelled. I didn’t say anything or even look at her.  She sprinted at my face and barked so loud she spit in my eye.

“What in the fuck are you waiting for twig? Get the fuck over my bar!  Get the fuck over my bar now!  Now Heath!  You sorry excuse for a recruit!  Move your ass!”

That was the motivation I needed. I rappelled my body at the bar as hard as I could and was surprised that my jump was sufficient enough to land the bar right under my boobs (thank god…that would’ve been painful) and this made it very easy to push my weight up and swing my leg over the bar.  As I landed on the other side of the bar and grabbed wood it was way too quiet.  I turned around to witness my platoon mates staring at me slack jawed and a drill instructor that was way too hard and on another level of bad assery for any of her body parts to slack in any way remained silent regaurding me with suspicious squinting blue eyes.  I counted 5 seconds before Drill Instructor SSgt Henning gained her footing…

“Well, what the fuck are you staring at us for…continue to the next obstacle you little nasty!”

I almost laughed at that. Little nasty, in my opinion, was by far one of the funniest things they used in their dictionary of insults.  Something about it just struck my funny bone but I wouldn’t dare laugh now.  I was exhilarated.  I was on fire.  I got over the fucking bar motherfuckers.  What’s next? 

I kept tackling obstacles and kept getting scolded and told to move forward until I found myself mixed with platoon 4041 in the second half of the O course. It didn’t take long for Drill Instructor SSgt Scifo from 4041 to ask me what the fuck I was doing mixing with her platoon and that she didn’t want nastiness infecting her recruits.  She promptly told me to get the fuck out of her face and away from her platoon.  I turned to go and ran right into our Series commander. 

“Woah woah where are you going? The rest of the course is that way!”

“I-I-I….”

“I? Do we refer to ourselves as I here recruit….. (turns me around so she can see the name on the back of my green PT shirt)  Heath?  Are you a fucking individual now?”

I stood at attention and thought that at any moment now my life was going to become a living hell. I had referred to myself in the 1st person.  Something I had learned NOT to do since day one and the first time I am addressed by the upper echelon in the chain of command I lose my shit.

“No maam! This recruit was told to start again from the beginning.  This recruit was told she was poisoning platoon 4041 maam!”

“Is that right. Well, just wait right there.  I’m curious about something.”

I heard her call Scifo over and mumble a few things to her. All I could make out was, “Just let her pass.  I need to satisfy my curiosity.”

I paid this no mind. I couldn’t.  I was in the middle of shit and I somehow had to make it out on the other side clean.  Adapt and overcome.

She appeared again and told me to finish the course….if I could. I was concerned with only one obstacle on this course and it was the obstacle that ended it.  I was to climb a rope WITHOUT KNOTS all the way to a red line of tape at the top and climb all the way back down.  We had seen it done but hadn’t been able to practice the technique with set feet, stand and hold, start again.

I continued. When I reached the rope at the end of the course I was horrified to learn that not only was I the only one that made it there so far but MY senior drill instructor was standing next to the rope waiting and watching closely.  A barking Drill Instructor SSgt Desmaris stood at her side.  I began the preamble and started to scramble up the first part of the rope. 

My technique was sloppy and ugly and I almost fell as soon as I got on. As I went up slowly I noticed that my technique was improving and I began to speed up a little.  When I reached the top and touched the tape I completely blanked.  I knew I was supposed to do something before going down.

My mind was screaming. “I GOT UP!  I DID IT I DID IT I FUCKING DID IT AND NOW I CAN’T FUCKING REMEMBER WHAT’S NEXT!  QUICK WHAT’S NEXT YOU’RE FUCKING IT UP!”

Before I could remember I was being yelled at of course. SSgt Desmaris was informing me that I could stay standing on the rope and blend my skinny little idiotic body right in with it until revelee or I could state my platoon number, senior drill instructor's name and OORAH and make my way down.

Of course I yelled those 3 things so loud my throat ached and I came down hand under hand as I was taught. When I landed I stood at attention and SSgt Desmaris told me to get out of her face and run it all over again.  I ran off.

I ran the O course again and when I got to the end I was told to run it again. There were variations of this. 

“Get out of my fucking face! Run it until you pass out for all I care!”

“If I see your skinny little face again Heath I’m gonna shove it in the sand pit until sundown!”

“Again!”

So I ran the O Course again….and again…and again. I ran it that day a total of 10 times.  On my tenth time my forearms were on fire and so numb it was probably not a good idea for me to be so far up on the rope.

Half way up Senior Drill Instructor SSgt Portelli was….laughing. Yes…laughing.  I was simultaneously filled with dread and joy all at the same time.  SSgt Desmaris was asking me how many times I had run the O Course and she stated sarcastically that she was sure she had seen me more than once.

I sounded off that “This is this recruit’s tenth time running the Obstacle course maam!" I was only about half way up the rope on that tenth time when I felt a hand grab my right boot. 

“Get down here Heath. Get down.  That’s enough.”  Senior Drill Instructor SSgt Portelli was laughing between her words the whole time she was addressing me.  This could be very bad.  I’d never heard her laugh before.  I had never seen any drill instructor do anything that would humanize her or him since I had been here.  Even when there was a chance no one was even looking at them.  Of course I was looking but anyone other than myself.

No laughing, sneezing, eating, using of heads (bathrooms), sleeping, yawning, chewing gum, burping….did I already mention LAUGHING?

Nothing. And now this.

As I landed, I picked up wood and let it drop and then I stood at attention. SSgt Desmaris said that it looked like I had too much excess energy and that maybe she needed to smoke me until lights out that night.  She told me to get on my face and push until SHE got tired.  I obeyed.

After five 4 count pushups I felt a boot lightly tap me on my side and then I heard SSgt Portelli from above me

“Ha Ha, get up Heath. Let’s go.”

Confusion and terror.

I stood and followed my senior drill instructor as she instructed me. She motioned for me to walk beside her and I did.  Before she spoke I caught the eyes of several of my platoon mates and as terrified as their expressions were as they watched me walk the length of the O course with our senior drill instructor, I knew I probably looked ten times worse.

Before she spoke she chuckled again and shook her head.

“You know Heath, I’ve been a DI for a long time and in that time I have NEVER witnessed a recruit run this course TEN times. TEN.  Jesus kid.  It’s like you just fell out of the sky this morning and decided that this was the day you were actually gonna show up.”

I was confused. I didn’t know what she meant and I didn’t know if I was even allowed to speak so I just continued walking in silence.

“Look you’ve ran it enough today. Just go to the obstacles your platoon mates are having trouble with and try to help them until we are done with this training evolution.”

It wasn’t praise and it wasn’t an ass chewing. I was good with that.

And just now, as I lay here on my bed writing this entry, I have been made the guide. Senior Drill Instructor SSgt Portelli called me into her hut as we entered the squad bay after dinner and as I stood stalk still at attention even after she told me to stand at ease and speak freely, she told me this would be her last night with our platoon.  She had been promoted and could no longer fill the billet of our senior DI if the rank she was being promoted to would be higher than the Marine above her in the chain of command.  She could no longer be associated with our platoon or series at all.

Then she shocked me.  She said, "I'm sure you've noticed that I've been unusually hard on you Heath.  Harder than I've been on anyone else in the platoon.  Actually, I think I've only singled you out and almost completely ignored the rest of your platoon.  Hm, now I feel a little guilty about that Heath.  And why did I even have to do it?  Because you just WOULD NOT realize your potential.  You were hesitant and scared.  not scared of getting yelled at.  Nope.  Not scared of your Drill Instructors although maybe keep that fact to yourself.  You were just afraid of EXISTING.  Do you understand what I'm telling you Heath?"

"I want you to speak freely."

I have to admit that I was confused but SO much more intrigued.  This is what I was looking for.  I knew before she opened her mouth again that she would be someone I would always remember.

"You are a natural leader.  Humble and quiet but so strong.  The leader in the room does not always have to be the loudest person in the room.  The leader is assertive enough to get the point across.  There is no need for excess.  I could see your potential so clearly and I knew that you were holding back.  You were afraid to lead.  Almost as if you were afraid to shine.  I had to be hard on you Heath.  That's the only way I knew you'd wake up and it turns out that you did right in the nick of time."

Then she told me that the last thing she would do before she left was make me the guide. The leader of the platoon.  I was in charge of them all.  If something went right it was on me.  If something went wrong it was on me.  I could delegate responsibilities to my 4 squad leaders that she would also appoint and if I was able to remain the guide until graduation then I would be the honor graduate.

I had no idea what the fuck the honor graduate was.

She must’ve seen the look of confusion on my face and then she smiled. If I wasn’t already bewildered by her laughing I was totally blown away by her smile.  She was pretty.  My favorite kind of pretty.  The natural kind.

She said, “Look I’ve been with you all for a month now and I’ve been doing this long enough to know in that short time that you deserve to be the honor graduate. I singled you out for a reason Heath.  I know you had an internal battle with it for some time now.  I know it bothered you because if it didn’t then you wouldn’t care.  And I know you do.  You are all heart Heath.  The most heart I’ve ever seen.  I wish I had 100 just like you.  The honor graduate is the best of the best.  She averages in the top 3 in every training evolution that is scored.  PFT, Rifle qualifications, knowledge test.  You have to be the top of the class but you also have to exemplify the best qualities of the Marine Corps.  Integrity, Honor, Courage and commitment to the corps.  To your country.  You have to be the example Heath.  You have to lead them not with power but by EXAMPLE.  Leading by example is the only way a Marine should ever lead.  Don’t ever forget that.  And Integrity….Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  That goes for everything in this life.  If you lack integrity deep down, you can’t make up for it.  There are no gray areas.  It’s either right or wrong.  Its either life or death.  I’ll be watching all of you until graduation.  I expect to see you leading your platoon across that parade deck come December 21st Heath.  Don’t let me down.”

“I won’t maam….I mean…..this recruit….”

“Just shut up and get out of here Heath.” And she laughed again.  I walked out of there not only feeling numb but terrified. 

I don’t want to lead.  I don’t want that enormous responsibility.  I am flattered but now I have to lead a platoon of 70 scared and fairly weak minded girls.  How will I do that without letting her down?

There were 6 different guides that had been “hired” and “fired” since the beginning of boot camp for making the smallest of mistakes. How will I ever get through that without fucking it up and getting fired??

I can’t think of this now. I am so exhausted my eyes are closing already.  Until next time.

Chapter Text

December 28th

I watched her brow furrow and her mouth as she chewed her lip absent mindedly. She always told me she had never been much of a reader but she looked fairly interested in the pages she was currently reading.  Maybe she doesn’t even know she likes to read?  Or maybe, since she knows me so well and wasn’t there to experience what I went through it brings on a whole new meaning.

She turned another page and I knew she was nearing the end of the first entry. I paced back and forth a little anxious for her to finish.  I didn’t want the book to still be in her hands when the others arrived.  I walked over to the window and slightly pulled down a slit in the blinds.  No headlights approaching.  None in the driveway yet.

“What are you doing dude?” I turn around and Ashlyn is sitting on her bed with my journal closed in her lap waiting for my answer.

 ************************************************************************************************************

Tobin looked over at her friend and shook her head with a smile.

“Nothing man, just checking if someone was already pulling up. I didn’t really want someone walking in while you were still reading.”

“Uh huh.” Ashlyn replied as if in deep thought about something. 

“What?” Tobin inquired expecting an onslaught of detailed questions.

“Nah uh…did you grow an inch? I mean you look fit dude but you also look taller.  Are you growing on me?”

“Nah, it’s my posture. Chin up, shoulders back….” Tobin answered tipping her chin up until she was looking at the ceiling.  Ashlyn burst out laughing and Tobin soon joined in.

“Dude, don’t you have like a phobia of puke or something? That kid that used to puke on you in what…kinder?”

Tobin laughed even harder slapping her knee. “I didn’t expect that question Ash!  And yes!  I can’t fucking stand the sight or sound or smell of puke.  You know how hard it was for me to stand still as she tossed it all up next to me!!!!”

Ashlyn’s smile was half endearing, half grimace as she silently laughed until tears prickled her eyes.

“I bet if they found out you were losing it because of the puke they would’ve hazed you for that too huh?”

“Oh yea for sure. I barely held that one together.”

“So….you did it then huh?” Ashlyn asked eye brows raised waiting for a response.

“Did what?” Tobin asked sitting down on the bed next to her lanky friend.

“Fuck a porn star!”

“Well….not yet.” Tobin deadpanned holding the best non expression she could on her face for as long as she could and then laughed again.

“Did you get the honor graduate??!!” She bugled waving the journal around in her right hand.

“I don’t know dude. Guess you have to keep reading to find out.  ‘I’m not a reader’ my ass.  You looked like you were inhaling that passage!”

“That’s because it’s good. Has anyone told you that you should make this into a book?  Like your story while training?  I only read one entry and I’M hooked.  Can you imagine?  You’d make bank!”

“Well first of all no. No one has said that to me before but you’re the only person I’ve let read my personal journal so far.  I never kept one until boot anyway.  And second, if I write a book one day I’d do it to leave my mark, not to make bank.”

“Well whatever dude, tomato toe MA toe, same shit. Leave your green skid mark for all I care but this is good shit.  A page turner and you still haven’t answered my question.”

“Oh, did I make honor grad? Yea.  Still not sure how dude.  I never even knew what it was and once I did I never wanted it but I got it in the end.  Best 3 months of my life.  I’m not sure if it changed me but I do feel different.”

“WHAT??? Are you kidding me?”  Ashlyn yelled in exasperation.  She stood and motioned to Tobin,

“Stand up real quick.”

“Why dude? What do you want?”

“Just, come on get up!” Ashlyn insisted tugging the top of Tobin’s t-shirt at the shoulder.

Tobin stood bringing her arms out to her sides, “What?”

Ashlyn stepped forward and lifted Tobin’s t-shirt up high enough to reveal her entire abdomen. Tobin rolled her eyes.

“I knew it dude. Not that I ever checked you out before but I know we worked out in skins plenty of times and you had the beginning of a 4 pack then.  And it wasn’t even defined.  Look at this shit?”

Ashlyn exclaimed poking the first two defined abs nearest the top. Tobin hunched over covering up and laughing softly. 

“Quit dude.”

“Tobs seriously…that’s…what…one two…5….EIGHT?? That’s definitely an 8 pack!  How in the fuck did you develop these lower ab muscles?  Seriously teach me how!  Ali would fucking cum on the spot if my abs looked like that!”

Tobin managed to snatch her t-shirt from Ashlyn’s grip and pull it down to its proper placement.

“I thought she already did that Ash. Or is that all talk?”  Tobin sniped back grinning.

“No no we definitely have no problems in the bedroom but I mean damn…. It’s not fair! And you have a v line to seal the deal.  What, the pack wasn’t enough??”  Ashlyn shook her head in disbelief and envy.

“I guess God decided it wasn’t dude. What does it matter?  Anyone that goes through three months of that would come out looking like this.  It was weird though dude I gotta admit.  I never looked at myself in the mirror cuz the only one we had was tiny just so we could make sure our hair wasn’t out of place.  So the only way I knew my body was started to get really ripped is because I’d feel it in the shower as I washed my body parts.” 

“Damn dude, I’d touch my body for fun if it looked like that.”

“Ash, you know you do that anyway.”

“Yea you definitely changed man. You really did and its way more than your body that changed.  You’re confident.  The way you carry yourself and how you walk and talk.  All of it just says “confidence.”

Tobin paused and thought for a while before speaking. “It changed my point of view.  I found my voice.”

Tobin smiled remembering Christen’s pleading words and beautiful eyes.

“So, where is everyone by the way? Its Christmas break.  Why isn’t the whole squad in town?”

“Damn dude…kind of a long story. But I guess since my girl and her gang want to take FOUR HOURS to get ready before pre gaming I have time to tell you.”

Tobin found out that Hope, Carli, Alex, Christen and HAO had received their first call ups to the full National team.

When it came time for the friendly, only Hope and Carli made the roster so the rest were in town except for Christen.

Christen and Valerie were no longer in a relationship. Just as Tobin expected, Valerie had cheated repeatedly while she was in Germany and actually had Christen over in the same bed she slept in with another girl before Christen arrived.

Valerie would’ve probably continued to get away with it after Christen ended her visit if the girl Valerie cheated with hadn’t gone and told Christen herself. Valerie didn’t know that the girl she was cheating with had gone into her contacts on her phone and looked up Christen’s number.  As soon as Christen left, the girl sent her a series of text messages letting the Stanford soccer star in on Valerie’s little secret. 

Christen was heartbroken of course but instead of dwelling on it she called up her ex-boyfriend who she had to cut ties with when her relationship with Valerie got serious and told him she wanted to give their relationship another chance. Tobin was proud of her friend not exactly for calling her ex-boyfriend (she wasn’t sure if Christen really liked girls or just one girl) but for not turning back.  For being strong no matter how she still felt about Valerie.  Tobin knew from personal experience that it is anything but easy to let go of someone who happens to be your first love.

Christen was currently in Boston with said boyfriend.

Alex and Marta were also no longer an item although they remained good friends. Tobin knew that they would be.  Alex doesn’t necessarily burn bridges with her ex-girlfriends unless it’s an exigent circumstance.  Ashlyn didn’t know the story behind their break up because she didn’t care to ask and Alex didn’t seem to care about the break up either.  She was on to bigger and better things it seemed.  Like Nadia Nadim.  Oh Nadia.  They all knew who Nadia was. They’d played soccer long enough and Tobin had been around the soccer world long enough to know exactly who that was.

“At least she’s hot.” Tobin mused shrugging her shoulders and trying to get rid of the feeling beginning to burn deep in her gut.

“Yea hot and fucking crazy. Girl has Alex wrapped around her finger….or more like, trapped under her thumb.”

“Well, she must like it there Ash or she wouldn’t be there.” Tobin sighed rolling her eyes and waving her hand as if to say “more of the same more of the same, things will never change”

Hope and Kelley were still together but had run into a bit of a sticky spot recently. Ashlyn admitted that she probably would’ve never found that out if she hadn’t given the tiny freckled forward one too many tequila shots on Christmas Eve.  “She just kinda started blurting it out.”  Ashlyn said sadly.

“Dude, I’m glad you and Ali are holding it together cuz all this shit is putting me in a shitty mood. I just want to see something that is solid.  Something I can believe in besides myself.”

Just as Tobin finished her statement they heard a flurry of excited knocks on Ashlyn’s grandmother’s front door.

The two teenagers smiled wide at each other and both moved swiftly toward the front door.

Ali, Kelley, HAO, Sydney and Kristie all pummeled Tobin to the ground once Ashlyn opened the door. She had enough common sense to know that she better stand BEHIND the door as she opened it so she could avoid the avalanche of Ivy League women.

Tobin was laughing so hard she could barely breathe and they had to scramble off her faster than usual.

They all stood and impatiently waited their turn to give Tobin a fierce hug. Ali was able to grab her first and was talking a million miles a minute which meant that Tobin really only understood every other word.  As soon as she let go Ashlyn was able to keep Kelley from jumping on Tobin next just long enough to lift Tobin’s shirt again and show her girlfriend (and every other person with eyes in the room) the 8 pack that Tobin have developed in 3 months. 

Tobin was immediately seized by embarrassment as 6 pairs of eyes regarded her stone belly with awe stricken expressions.

“Uhhh…(clears throat) no one wants to fucking see that Ashlyn Harris!” Tobin said between clenched teeth and she once again yanked her t-shirt back down nervously and tried laughing it off.

Kelley broke the silence “Holy shit….you guys…she’s…I mean damn.”

“That’s what I said!” Ashlyn cried out flinging her hands in the air.

“I’m sorry Tobs, I don’t mean to make you blush but…well fuck…I have no words. That’s a fucking 8 pack right there.”  Kelley said slightly twanging the last few words of her sentence in a southern drawl.  She finally stepped forward and engulfed Tobin in a python like embrace. 

Tobin smiled in relief hoping that inspection hour was over and done with.

“Tobs, we missed you so much. You look so so different.  Like more than just your body.  You look….”

“Like a new woman.” HAO finished.  Tobin looked over the top of Kelley’s head at HAO and winked at her.

“Damn and she has the moves too. Watch out Heath I’m straight but that might just change if you keep winking at me like that.”

They all had a good laugh at HAOs joke.

“I told her I can tell the training gave her confidence. Confidence she should’ve always had.  I know Pinoe always tried to tell her but she never listened!”  Ashlyn told the group of friends as they all continued to take turns hugging their friend.

“Where is Pinoe anyway?” Tobin asked Ashlyn as Kristie, who was the last in line, finally let her go.

Ashlyn grinned knowingly at Tobin. “Oh she’s in town too.  She’s gonna meet us out at the bar.  She’s been doing REALLY good right guys?”

The group of girls all agreed with Ashlyn nodding their heads enthusiastically and replying with “MmHm”s “Oh yea”s and “yup”s.

“Uh ok. I know yall are hiding something from me.  Do I even want to know what it is?”  Tobin inquired laughing a little anxiously.

“Oh no its ok, you’ll find out soon enough. We will let you be surprised when you see her.”  Ashlyn replied as she led the group of friends to the kitchen to start making the drinks.

**********************************************************************

It was still fairly early when The group of women arrived at the bar and it wasn’t packed with college bar bait yet but it was steadily getting there.

Tobin had been roped in to drinking at least one shot and one drink at their pre-game and was way past her limit. She decided she could get one more drink but she would probably nurse that one drink all night.  Tonight was a night she wanted to remember after all and she had never been a big drinker.

After the group got their first round of drinks and found a decent table toward the back of the bar, Kelley and HAO grabbed a couple of cue sticks and started a game at the nearby billiards table. Tobin was in a happy and warm state of inebriation and was content with standing nearby with her drink in her hand and another in her pocket watching her two Irish friends argue over who was cheating and how.

She walked the few feet to their table and put her drink down.

“How’s it going champ?” Ashlyn asked looking away from her girlfriend for a while.

“It’s going good dude. I missed all of this.  Glad to be back.”  Tobin replied with a genuine smile.

“It’s good to have you back sexy!” Sydney replied laughing at how easy it was to get Tobin flustered.  She tapped Kristie on the arm and pointed at her tanned friend laughing something unintelligible that Tobin couldn’t quite catch.

“Yea I know she’s all rosy babe. Stop teasing her.  It’s too easy.”  Kristie replied laughing along with the others.

“Hey Tobs, look who just got here!” Ashlyn bellowed loud enough for Pinoe to hear her at the entrance of the bar.  Her pixie cut had grown into a thick mop and she grinned wide as she caught sight of her friends.  On her arm was none other than THE Heather Mitts.

Tobin could not wrap her mind around what she was seeing.

She felt her eyes almost pop out of their sockets as she turned her amazed expression toward Ashlyn.

Ashlyn couldn’t stop laughing long enough to muster up an explanation so she just shook her head and continued to laugh.

Pinoe left her high school sweet heart at the bar ordering their drinks as she ran full force toward Tobin.

Tobin only had time to react and not prevent the attack. She bent her knees, feet shoulder width apart and braced for the brutal impact of the 115 lb midfielder.

One of the many differences Tobin had noticed in her newly trained body was her increase in strength. There were times that she had even surprised herself.

Tobin caught her friend quite literally one armed as she began to spin her around. After one and half spins she finally brought her left arm in to help carry the weight and once the second turn was complete she set Pinoe down.

“I’ve already heard it so you don’t have to say it. I look different, or cut, or defined or buff or whatever.  Who cares?  I missed you dude.”

“Come on you can’t deprive me of commenting on your appearance!” Pinoe whined putting her arms out to the side.

“I can deprive you of anything since you decided to deprive me of the truth when you wrote me letters during the last 3 months!” Tobin quipped.

“Ok dude…you got me there but this is really new. Like only ….3 weeks new.”

“Yea and all the time before that when you hadn’t fucked her yet and were courting her.”

“Jesus Christ dude…” Pinoe whispered looking around for Heather afraid that she would hear their conversation.

“Keep it down…you know me well but you don’t have to advertise that shit.”

Tobin quirked an eyebrow and placed the back of her hand over Pinoe’s forehead.

“Are you feeling ok dude? You don’t sound like yourself.  Maybe you should go on bed rest.”  Tobin suggested.

Pinoe laughed. “I mean it dude.  Be cool.  I don’t want her thinking she’s like every other girl I just wanted to fuck.”

“I got you dude I’m just shocked you finally grew up.” Tobin replied smiling and hugging her friend again.

“Heather Mitts…damn…only YOU could pull something like that. That’s like a unicorn.”  Tobin stated seriously as she looked over to the bar with her friend and saw Heather walking toward them with a drink in each hand.

Heather arrived just as the two broke apart and without hesitation handed the drinks over to her girlfriend and took Tobin into her arms hugging her tightly to her chest.

“Wow Tobin, you look absolutely….”

“HOT right!” Kelley and HAO yelled from the nearby billiards table where they had just finished their game.

Heather regarded the two momentarily as she held Tobin at arm’s length.

“Well for lack of a better word, yes. And…shit….really solid.”  Heather reported squeezing the arm she held in her left hand.

“OMG I think I can just give up on trying not to get embarrassed because its unavoidable.” Tobin said covering her face with both hands.

After another stone belly reveal courtesy of Harris Inc., they all settled in to their drinks and games again. They toasted with another shot (Tobin excluded) and then Pinoe began a game with the winner of the previous billiards match which happened to be HAO, much to Kelley’s dismay.

Tobin watched as Kelley slowly made her way over to stand next to her and watch the next match. Tobin could tell her friend was a little tipsy by the way she swayed slightly at her side.

“Hi Kelley.” Tobin said softly looking at her friend’s sparkling eyes and soft smile. 

“Hey Tobs.” Kelley replied scrunching up the many freckles on her nose.  Tobin smiled again. 

“Wow, I’m still trying to get over the shock of the new you. Confidence looks really attractive on you Tobin.  I’m glad you found it because when Alex walks into this bar tonight with that shit fire on her arm, she’s gonna shit a solid gold brick when she realizes that you were way out of her league from the beginning.”

For some reason, this statement gave Tobin so much satisfaction and struck her as quick as a crack of a whip with comedic relief that she nearly snorted in her explosion of laughter.

Tobin’s brain notes: “It was funny but I think I’m drunk.  I better cool it.  Anything could happen tonight and I have to keep my brain sharp.”

Tobin felt like the biggest goof as she tried and failed to stifle her laughter when Kelley suddenly broke out in an impromptu river dance.

Tobin’s brain notes: “At least I’m not the only drunk one here.”

*****************************************************

A few minutes after Tobin stood laughing at her dancing freckled friend, her first love came barreling into her from behind without warning literally squeezing the air out of her lungs as she hugged her hard enough to crack her back.

“Shit…fuck Alex….I can’t breathe!” Tobin said as she loosened Alex’s grip around her midsection and took a step away from her.  The last thing Tobin wanted was to start trouble between any of Alex’s suitors and judging from the way Nadia was speed walking over with a deeply furrowed brow, Tobin knew it was too late.

Before Tobin or Alex could say anything Nadia came from behind, got a firm grip on her girlfriend’s arm and yanked her body effectively turning her around and leading her away. She whispered furiously into Alex’s ear and looked over her shoulder at Tobin as she spoke.

Tobin’s body reacted before her brain could suggest the better option and before she knew it she had closed the distance Nadia made between them and curled her hand around the vice grip that were Nadia’s fingers. She easily pried them off Alex’s arm and before she spoke, without even knowing it, she stood up straight and looked Nadia in the eye,

“You’re hurting her arm. If you don’t want her to speak to me then just say so.  No need to yank her like she’s your child.” 

Tobin realized that none of what she said had been pre-determined. None of the actions she had just taken were thought out at all.  And yet there was no stutter of words or hesitation of vowels.  There was no quiver in her voice or emotion that would compromise the importance of the message.  It wasn’t just the confidence winning out over all the warnings going off in her brain to not get involved, it was the assertiveness that her body had trained itself to remember after 3 months at MCRD.  Basic hand to hand.

Tobin could hear her own voice, loud enough to be heard over the music (juke, not DJ) but not loud enough to be considered argumentative. Assertive to the extreme but once again, not argumentative.  Professional but commanding.  Smooth, unafraid and confident.  Yet, she felt anger.  Anger so real that one tiny wrong move from the young woman she was looking at and she might eventually take her down.  She was quite literally shocked at her actions and the sound of her own voice.  Anger was burning white hot in her stomach and the backs of her eyes but not even a tiny hint of it could be heard or seen in her voice or demeanor.

As much as Tobin knew it would be satisfying to wield her newly acquired power, she resisted against it. She resisted valiantly.  It was not easy and her carotid artery was bouncing around high in her neck.  She let go of Nadia’s fingers by almost flinging them back in the face of their owner.  When she looked at Alex before walking away perhaps it was the look on HER face that satisfied her the most.

Tobin’s Brain Notes: “Now I’m golden. Give me my brick.”

Chapter Text

6yr glimpse into the future

 

“Here, I made something for you.”

“No you didn’t.”

“No I’m serious. It’s for you.  I know you have this secret obsession with hands.”

“But, well shit…….. no one has ever actually done anything like this for me.”

“Well I’m honored to be the first.”

“This is really amazing. I really love it.  Tell me what inspired this idea.”

“Well in this first cube, the hand is there just by itself. This cube represents the beginning of the story of this hand’s life.  It starts out alone and then meets a person for the first time in this second cube so you see…another hand now appears in the picture with it.  And this is the first time they meet so their fingertips are touching.  Then in the next cube they touch palms until finally in the last cube they link fingers together and become one.  The hand isn’t alone anymore.”

“Are these supposed to be our hands? Was the hand in the first cube yours?”

“Yes…and yes.”

“I know this sounds really fucking stupid and pathetic but I think I might cry right now seriously.”

“Oh baby, you don’t sound stupid or pathetic but you don’t have to cry. I guess you were really serious when you said no one has ever done this for you before, huh?”

“Ha Ha yea.”

“Come here…if I catch your tears then that means I can take them away.”

“You have such a beautiful way of looking at things. I really love how it looks inside your head.”

“Well, I must confess….I lied about the inspiration. The truth is that I’m just kind of in love with you and that’s what really inspired this piece.”

“I..I uh…wow...”

“Hey, its ok…don’t be scared. You don’t have to say it back.  That’s not why I confessed.  I just thought it was wrong not to tell the truth behind the inspiration and I knew as I sat in my studio and put this together that the truth was guiding my hands and it has been guiding my heart for the past few months already.”

“No its not that. I’m short of words because you blind sided me with this piece of art and then you take my breath away.  How am I supposed to express that I feel the same for you through my actions?  I don’t have a work of art to offer.”

“What you have underneath your clothes is a work of art. And if you offer that up to me now I think I’d get a pretty clear picture.”

“So that’s it? It’s that easy?  You just want me to strip?”

“No well…the way I see it…hold on…this is like my worst nightmare….trying to be really smooth and …..fuck I can never look sexy taking off these fucking things…..I can never just get them off easily! I swear the look on your face doesn’t make it any easier Tobin! Why do the clasps on these fucking garters have to be so….…oh baby you’re so sweet….thanks for helping…”

“Sweet Jesus….is that...do you always wear all that under your clothes??”

“so anyway, I figured that what I have underneath MY clothes is representative of that hand all by itself. And if you add what you have underneath your clothes, then maybe when they connect the same way the hands did…well I think they'd get along just as well as our hands did.  Or if you don’t agree with my theory thats cool too but I hope you make some kind of move soon Tobin because the longer you sit there with your mouth open the colder I get.”

“I…uh sssorry. Its not everyday I get to marvel at a woman who was exceedingly blessed by her own specific mitochondrial Eve gene."

“Yea well, I DID quite LITERALLY get it from my mama but I don’t want to talk about that right now. Right now I just want to step into your arms and I want you to keep my body warm just while I tell you that what you just said goes outside the lines of normal geekdom and I find it both adorable and so fucking hot.  And then, I want you to look at me…look me in the eyes….haha yes baby my eyes are up here…..yea, just like that….while you put this beautiful left hand inside this genetically blessed………

….FUCK….Tobin….”

“I’m sorry, what did you say? I didn’t really……hear…that last part.”

“Fuck baby…your clothes…off…take them off.”

“No, not now.  It's too late.  Look at me baby.”

“Oh my God…I’m already….I don’t believe….fuck Tobin.”

“Look at me…look at my eyes.”

“Mmmmok baby.”

“Open them. There you go.  God…you’re so beautiful.  I’m in love with you too.”

**************************************

“I swear I knew exactly what her face was going to look like when she realized it Tobs! What did I tell you??”

Tobin laughed shaking her head as she walked with Kelley at her side back to her table of friends.

“Yea you called it Kell.”

“And I’m sure Ashlyn already filled you in on how abusive Nadia is. Even if she hadn’t, I’m sure its obvious after you watched her grab Alex that way.”

“Abusive? Well, other than grabbing her that way…you mean she hits her?  She’s tiny…well I mean I guess that doesn’t matter but…God Alex is so stupid.  Why does she always do this??”

“Well as far as I know she doesn’t actually hit her but she IS aggressive with her which is still abuse.  And why does she choose to be with a controlling monster when she can have anyone she wants?  I hear it’s the curse of being ‘really really ridiculously good looking.’”

Tobin laughed at Kelley’s impersonation of Zoolanders Blue Steel look. They were discussing something very serious but there were so many times that Tobin realized when it came to Kelley or Pinoe she just couldn’t help laughing.  It was involuntary.

“So that usually means you’re either a narcissist, a coward or a quitter. I think Alex may fall into the category of more than one of those descriptive words.”

“No no, that’s total bs. Shes not the only attractive girl I know and definitely not the only girl I know that has issues.”

“Really? Really Tobin?  Is there another girl you can name that is an equivalent or better in the Zoolander attractive category?”

“YES! You’re making it more than what it is Kelley.  YOU!  You are VERY attractive.  So is your girlfriend.  I can start naming our group of friends and what exactly makes them just as attractive but you know that already.  My point is that I know everyone has self esteem issues.  She’s no different and she has other options that are way better but instead of that she chooses to be locked away and controlled.  It’s frustrating!  And I don’t even care anymore if it isn’t me as long as who ever she is with treats her right!”

“I get it Tobs. You’re right.”

“And furthermore, You said it yourself! She just CAN’T BE ALONE!  Why does she have to be with anyone at all?  Her problem is obviously low self esteem.  How will she ever learn to love herself if she can’t even take time alone to figure herself out?”

“Those are all very good points Tobin..hhmm…so you think I’m attractive?”

Tobin paused a minute looking over at her grinning friend. She noticed the gold flecks in Kelley’s (currently green) eyes and the soft curve of her pink lips over her gorgeous smile. 

Freckles on a woman happened to be another one of Tobin’s secret obsessions. She had never admitted this to anyone.  Not to Kelley or any other girl she had ever met who navigated a life considering their skin a blessing or a curse depending on their points of view.  But In the eyes of Tobin Heath, she regarded Kelley’s glowing skin with the same awe struck wonder she felt when she first set eyes on a canvas randomly and majestically smattered by Jackson Pollock.  A remarkable masterpiece.

As she sat thinking she realized that she had been staring for quite a while. The embarrassment was what she felt immediately but it was the least of her worries.  She had never really stopped and taken her friends features apart piece by piece like this.  In her subconscious she knew Kelley was attractive.  But with situations always being what they were (Tobin’s focus on Alex, Kelley and Hope’s focus on each other) she had never even thought of how it would be to just sit in wonder.  She felt uncomfortable.  And feeling uncomfortable was what then made her feel confused.

“Uh…yea of course I think you’re attractive you idiot. Like, insanely attractive.  I hate how that sounds out loud because you’re my friend and automatically friends tend to think you’re delivering lip service out of loyalty or nepitism.  This isn’t lip service.  Its true.  You have a mirror KO I know you use it thoroughly or you wouldn’t take 4 hours to get ready.  You are a natural beauty and that means that you’ll be just as gorgeous at the age of 50 as you are right now.”

Kelley had been laughing quietly even before Tobin answered her but by the time Tobin was done rambling nervously, she was just smiling softly and pensively. She never took her eyes off Tobin’s face.

(Tobin’s brain notes: Is she trying to figure out what I’m thinking? Fuck Hope would beat the shit out of me if she ever knew I was staring at Kelley like this for a fucking eternity.  I have a death wish or something.)

“Just for the record Tobin, I wasn’t the one taking long to get dressed. I was the one dressed and sitting on the couch watching tv while the OTHER attractive bitches got dressed.  And another thing…this is not an opinion, it’s a fact so I will state it as such, you my friend, are severely attractive.  I know that I’m being a little cryptic and its not exactly fair that I am not going to explain myself because you gave a bit of an explanation when you answered my question but just know that the only reason I don’t elaborate is because unlike you, I’m NOT single.  AND for some insane reason it makes me feel a little guilty to even think about all the ways you are attractive.  So I think it would be borderline inappropriate to actually tell you.”

Tobin watched Kelley’s expression change from playful to soft and endearing when she complimented her and that expression lingered throughout her explanation.

And just when Tobin thought her current situation couldn’t get any stranger, Kelley ended their small exchange by leaning over and kissing Tobin on the forehead before she left the table for the bathroom.

“So, you and Kelley having a little heart to heart there Tobin?”

Heather Mitts.

“Uhhh yea…sorry I have a whole different perspective on things now and I’m not going to ignore how awkward I feel that I almost called you coach.”

Heather burst out laughing and trying to swallow the sip she had just taken of her beer at the same time. Tobin was mildly concerned only because she knew that beer exiting the nostrils must feel like shit.

When Heather was able to gain her bearings she gave Tobin a hug.

“Thank you for that. Its so refreshing to finally get one of you to just be honest.  Your friend Megan has made this transition so awkward that its almost impossible to be normal adults around each other!”

“Well, forgive me …..Heather? Is that what you want us to call you?  I’d rather just say Mitts.  It feels more like something I would call you if we were OLD friends.”

“Sure Tobin, you can call me Mitts.”

“Well thanks for the permission.” Tobin laughed stretching her arms over her head to crack her back as she sat on her bar stool.

“You can sit if you want cuz I have a few questions to ask. Don’t worry, I won’t make it awkward.  I’ve just been gone for 3 months and your girlfriend neglected to fill me in on any of the details so now that responsibility is going to have to fall on you.”

“Are you sure I won’t be taking Kelley’s seat? I don’t want to interrupt whatever I saw going on as I walked over here.”  Heather inquired with a questioning look as she walked over to sit down.

Tobin’s stomach was doing an neverending somersault. (Tobin’s brain notes:  Yes Heath….you’re that fucking obvious.  You were checking her out and you’ve been caught!  You’re such an idiot!)

“Uhhh (laughing) I’m not sure what you mean but Kelley and I were discussing Alex. You know…Alex, my ex.”

“Ah, I see. So that’s why the expression on your faces looked so intense…and so….hmmm what’s the term Megan used the other day….heart eyes!  You two had heart eyes!  That’s what it was.”

Heather said slapping her hand on the small piece of bar as she sat in the seat Kelley had vacated.

(Tobin’s brain notes: Play it cool Heath.  Yes she said that we BOTH had heart eyes but file this shit away for later and concentrate on what’s in front of you.  Jesus Christ what is going on???)

“Watch it now, I don’t think its smart to adapt all of Megan’s vocabulary just yet. I mean this is the girl that screamed the word VAG in the middle of a varsity girls basketball game.”

They both laughed for a while at that memory and then fell silent for a beat.

“I guess out of all the questions that I have swirling around in my brain that are all pretty significant, the one I can’t seem to shake is…Where is your husband Mitts?”

Tobin could see that Heather was taken aback by the audacity of the question. Tobin also noticed as the night went on, that the more she let her new unleashed persona shine through, the more she was surprising herself and others.

“I…uh didn’t expect that question to be the first. Its usually….”

“How did it happen right? Well I know my friend.  So I don’t need to ask that.  She’s charming and infectious and beautiful.  She chipped away at you offering her friendship first but we all know that you were fighting feelings for her way before you two became ‘friends.’”

“Wow…well you’re spot on the only thing is that when we became friends I started feeling guilty and awkward which turned into confusion.”

(Tobin’s brain notes: Hmm that sounds familiar?)

“Mmhm.” Tobin replied nodding her head and waving her hand to tell Heather to continue.

“Long story short, I divorced him when I realized that the feelings I was having were real and that those feelings had always been there but I had overlooked them because I was just following the crowd at that age before I was married. Everyone around me was marrying their high school sweet heart or college boyfriends and having kids.  I had a long time boyfriend and just kind of followed the crowd and married him.”

“So you’re divorced and your son has visits with his father and you live separately and then….this. Your new relationship.  Well, I have to say Mitts, not every woman would step up and be as courageous as you were.  I’ve never seen something like this but I have spoken to girls my age whose actions are so affected by the social norm around them that it warps their mind into thinking that its impossible to truly be happy.  They think its impossible to go with what their heart is telling them.  I’m happy for you both.  And I know it may sound weird because youre like 5 or 6 years older than me, but I’m really proud of you.”

*******************************************************************************************************************************

It took another hour and a half of undressing Tobin with her eyes all while standing next to Nadia for Alex to finally make her way over and attempt to converse with her.

She tried first by walking up to the table of friends and beginning a conversation but Tobin wasn’t at the table. She was standing alone a little off to the side near the billiards table. 

She knew Alex had walked over but she wasn’t going to walk away from watching Ashlyn and Ali battle each other over a billiards game just so Alex could have her way. Tobin knew very well that Alex wanted her to walk over and make herself accessible.  But Tobin had decided before even landing in California after graduation that those days of chasing her tale over her first love were over.  It was the only way to protect herself from the pain.

The second attempt was not planned as far as Tobin could tell. She had gone to the bathroom and as she emerged she ran right into Alex.  Alex laughed nervously and apologized but instead of walking past Tobin into the bathroom she lingered looking at the ground nervously.

Tobin noticed Alex’s nervous behavior and felt sad for her. She began to feel like maybe she needed to intervene in some way but as soon as that thought entered her mind she shoved it out.

(Tobin’s brain notes: No Heath, No.  This is something you can’t do anything about.  Not because you don’t think she’s worth it but because the problem that needs to be solved is within herself and only she can change it.)

Tobin knew better but she could never deny her heart. And Tobin’s heart was still aching for Alex.  Maybe not in the same way it did before she had burned her hand on the hot fucking stove but it still ached.

Tobin nodded her head silently and turned to walk away before she made a mistake.

Alex finally made her way over just 30 minutes before closing time dragging along a disappointed looking Ashlyn Harris with her.

Tobin saw them approaching and was mildly confused.

“What are you two doing? Getting ready to line dance or something?”  Tobin joked looking from one face to the other.

“I guess I’ll explain since I know you’ve gone through enough tonight and it would sound really stupid coming out of your mouth.” Ashlyn whined as she looked over at Alex.  Alex remained silent.  Her eyes shifty and her bottom lip nervously clenched between her teeth.

“Alex is not allowed to speak to you one on one Tobin. What I mean is, Nadia will not allow her to speak to you one on one.  So I am here as a buffer only so that it seems like we are speaking all together in a group and then Nadia can’t say Alex broke her little rule.  Ok?  So don’t mind me.  I was just trying to leave early to fuck my gorgeous girlfriend until her legs went numb but I guess I can stick around for another 30 minutes.”  Ashlyn dead panned flapping her hand in Alex’s direction.

“Ok.” Tobin replied simply.

Ashlyn nearly broke her neck as she snapped her squinted gaze at her friend in disbelief.

“What the fuck do you mean…OK??? No, none of this shit is ok Tobin.  Alex has a problem and instead of getting rid of it she chooses to stay!  That’s not OK!”

“Look dude…I agree, but I’m sure every single time she hangs out with you guys or the subject of her girlfriend comes up every last one of you states the obvious to her. You all care about her so I know she’s heard this a million times already.  Nothing I say will change the situation nor will it make it better.  So why waste time?  It won’t change and no one can change it but Alex so what’s the point in spinning our wheels?”

Alex’s eyes found Tobin’s and the amount of pain reflecting back was almost too much for Tobin to handle. She looked away and took a deep breath. 

“How are you Alexandra? How is the national team coming?”

“Uhh good. Pretty good but it will be better when I make a roster.”

“Well that’s not too far off I’m sure.”

“Yea…well I hope so.”

“Lex you’re the best forward in our division. There’s no way you won’t make a roster soon.”

“Not that impressive with Christen and KO nipping at my heels.” Alex debated looking at Ashlyn and shaking her head.

“Well when you’re at the top you always have to compete to stay up there you know that. That’s what you were born to do.  Perform under pressure.”

“That’s what she said.” Alex said giggling a little bit.  Ashlyn and Tobin scrunched their faces up in disgust.

“Grose dude. Not funny.  We don’t want to hear about sexy times at casa de Nadim.”  Ashlyn said.

“Jesus Ash.” Tobin said swinging the palm of her right hand up and smacking it directly on to the middle of her own forehead.

“Please don’t start on that subject dude.” Tobin said giving Ashlyn a pointed look.

“Hey SHE brought it up!” Ashlyn argued.

“When are you going back Tobs.” Alex asked ignoring the complaining young woman at her side.

“In two days. Just back for a short leave and then I go into combat training to get ready for deployment.”

“ALREADY???” both women yelled in surprise.

“We are preparing but I haven’t received word on the date the first waves will be shipping out.”

“But…but…”

“But you haven’t even been in long enough for that yet right? I mean, I know you are hot shit dude but you can’t be 100% ready to go in NOW!”  Ashlyn reasoned, her voice climbing in volume.

Tobin noticed that a few people milling around started to notice the less than private conversation and didn’t want to continue to put on a show.

“Hey, can we move to a place that’s a little more private before we start talking about the heavy shit?” Tobin asked looking around at her surroundings and getting ansier by the minute.

“Let’s move to the table so you can explain to ALL OF US why the fuck you have to deploy so soon.” Ashlyn grumbled as if it was Tobin’s idea to deploy as soon as possible.

They all walked over to the table and Tobin went into her explanation.

“Look guys, Marines are first to fight. What does that mean?  That means we go first.  So we lay the ground work, we invade, we kick in the first doors, we settle in, we gain the initial ground, we make it stable and we keep it as stable as possible so the rest of the branches can come in.  How long does that usually take?  Six months.  Have I been in long enough to know what the fuck to do out there?  Yes.  That’s why our training is so difficult.  They prepare us for it all.  That’s why when the outside world catches a glimpse of our training they feel that at times its TOO brutal but for us it just makes sense.  Prepare, adapt and overcome.  I have, maybe a year before I get done with the rest of my training.  It depends on my unit and what their specialty is.  It might not be right away but it will happen and it will happen soon.  I have no control over this.  Its just the facts of military life.”

They all remained silent letting the information sink in but before anyone could comment any further the bouncers began to usher everyone out.

They all stood and gathered their things to begin making their way toward the exit. The look Alex was giving Tobin was full on panic.  Tobin had a feeling Alex wanted to say and do a million things but she was frozen because she knew that the consequences of her actions would bring a whole mess of trouble on herself. 

Tobin felt that if she didn’t go with her gut in this moment that she would probably regret it forever. So she stepped forward and took Alex into her arms.

She held her close and told her not to be afraid. She told her that if she was living in fear that not only does she need not fear a thing but being alone is definitely not one of those things and neither is Nadia Nadim.  She slung her arm loosly around Alex’s slender neck and began walking out of the bar with her.  They stuck close to their group of friends and just as they cleared the door of the exit, Tobin glanced around quickly to see if she could spot the tiny villain that had made Alex so nervous.

She located Nadim at the opposite side of the parking lot standing with another couple next to an SUV that Tobin recognized very well. Nadia was scanning the dispersing crowd searching for her missing girlfriend.

Tobin knew she had to act quickly. She grabbed Alex’s hand and yanked her a few steps to the right of the building and around the corner.  As she pulled Alex into her she allowed her emotions to finally set in.  The light pink shade of Alex’s cheek bones where Tobin always knew her arousal or embarrassment would spring up.  The crisp eccentric shade of blue in her eyes.  The flowing nature of her thick silky hair.

She used the momentum of Alex’s body and as she stumbled quickly towards her, Tobin wrapped her left hand lightly around the back of Alex’s neck and her right hand on her waist as she dove straight into her impossibly soft lips. This type of behavior from Tobin was so out of character from what Alex was accustomed to that her knees buckled beneath her for a few seconds as she attempted to gain her bearings.  Tobin was making bold moves.  She was TAKING what she wanted.  Alex’s moans were the tell tale sign that she might want Tobin in this moment more than she had ever wanted her before.  Even more than when they layed in bed together half naked in the past.  The one thing Alex always wished Tobin had was finally making its appearance and in this moment Alex would’ve done anything Tobin asked her to do.  Scratch that, commanded her to do.

But Tobin didn’t need or want any of that. She knew that she may not see Alex for at least another year or maybe even more and she was done holding back.

(Tobin’s brain notes: This is not right but if she wants me to do it then I won’t stop.  Its time for me to start really living whatever life I have left.  War zones don’t promise you another breath in the next minute much less another day)

They melted into the kiss together in perfect sync as if they had never stopped kissing at all. Tobin felt Alex wrap her fist into the front of her shirt and pull her body closer to her own effectly causing their bodies to slam together.

Alex gasped out loud and cut off the kiss to step back just enough to look at Tobin. Tobin was about to ask if Alex was ok when she saw her gorgeous electric blue eyes drop down to her middrift area and knew that she had felt what all of their friends had been talking about all night.

Tobin knew what was coming next and although she was alittle exasperated at the fact that her shirt was about to be pulled up AGAIN, she also couldn’t wait to see the look of shock and erotic wanting that she would no doubt witness when Alex finally put her hands on her.

Alex’s breathing was labored as she lifted Tobin’s shirt and pressed her warm palm to her stomach from just under her bra all the way down to the top of Tobin’s low dipping skinny jeans.

“Oh….fuck….Tobin…..” Alex groaned out.  Tobin noticed that her own breathing had began to quicken as she watched the look on Alex’s features.  She was able to hold up the façade of indifference just long enough to get out a rather sassy “Are you done?”  And then she let it break when Alex crashed their lips together once again.

Alex kept her hand in the same position and then Tobin felt her scraping her fingernails in the same fashion making red lines appear over every single abdominal muscle on Tobin’s stomach like a drug addicts' track marks. And Alex was instaneously addicted.  It was Tobin’s turn to lose her resolve and this time she was the one moaning into their heated kiss.

They continued this way for a few more minutes. Both of them thinking things about the other that would no doubt make them even more aroused if that was possible at this point and then Tobin abruptly stopped.

Her breathing was ragged and irregular and her eyes unfocused as she tried her hardest to regain her footing to form words in her brain.

“Ok…ok wait. As much as I would love to continue and do so much more I can’t.  YOU cant.  You have a girl out there waiting for you and from what I understand, she’s not gonna be too happy if she finds out you were here with me.”

“I…I…but…”

“Look Lex, all I’m saying is when she confronts you about it tonight, tell her I was drunk and just went over and grabbed you. Tell her that you had no choice but to walk out with me because if she didn’t at least see that, one of her friends did.  Just blame it on me.”

“Why are you doing this for me Tobin?”  Alex questioned finally letting go of the top of Tobin’s jeans where her hand had found a temporary resting place.

“Because I love you gorgeous. And one day you’ll finally see what you really are and you won’t need girls like Nadia Nadim.  And of course because you’re gonna score a goal for me during your first cap and if a reporter happens to ask you anything about how it felt or who you thought of you’re gonna tell them the truth.  That the woman you scored for is in the center of a giant sand box, thousands of miles away and you promised you would score one for her.”

Alex’s arousal had been replaced with sadness.  She clutched Tobin’s body to her tightly and wished she never had to let go.

**************************************************************************************************************************************************

The feeling of that embrace and that last heated make out session was what stood out the most on nights like this.  When Tobin lay on her green canvas cot unable to sleep because of the RPGs exploding in the night sky every 5 minutes or so.  The look on Alex's face and the soft touch of her lips felt aeons away when laying smack in the center of this hell hole.  Flak jacket, helmet and boots on just in case the RPG fell right on top of them. 

Tobin always felt that this was useless beyond compare.  (Fucking useless)  Tobin thought as another RPG was intercepted by a patriot missile sending its shrapnel into oblivion.

(Tobin's brain notes:  What the fuck good would a helmet and flak jacket do me if that fucking thing falls right on top of me)

Which is why on most nights, Tobin opted out of her tactical gear choosing comfort over protection.  This wasn't even their final destination.  They still had one more convoy that would take them further in and on a loop around Fallujah purposely taking the long way to avoid detection.  Then set up camp in a subdued location and assist the front line with counterintelligence.

Some nights she could hear some of the other women in her tent crying in their own cots.  Tobin understood why.  Everyone handled things of this magnitude in different ways.  There is no right or wrong way and Tobin never ridiculed or judged any other brother or sister in arms that chose to deal with it differently.  When life hangs in the balance every second of every day passes with the reaper looming over you just ahead of the long shadow your body makes as the 150 degree Iraqi sun tries to bore its rays right through you. 

Tobin had no clue why or how she dealt with things the way she did.  She figured that later on in life she would probably be paying for laughing and running around and getting pumped up to the max with adrenaline whenever a firefight or explosion went off.  Even when she was told to don her helmet and flak and brace for impact.  Even when the small arms fire was so close it whispered by her ear trying to share a secret with her about the accuracy of the shooter that sent it her way.

In fact, she was so out of control that she once was caught trying to catch the actual shock and awe initiative on a camcorder she had shanghaied from a girl in her unit.

She accidently slammed into a Master Sgt who was the size of Dwayne Johnson, as she was running full speed around the corner of a building with the camcorder in hand screaming, "REAL TV!" at the top of her voice competing with the sounds of the ground shaking explosions. 

Tobin knew in a normal scenario, she would've been formally disciplined if the bombs weren't falling every waking minute of everyday.  The Master Sgt had no choice but to just scold her and practically throw her into an underground bunker where the rest of her unit was huddled together praying that they would survive.

Tobin had embraced whatever the chaos came with because she wasn't going to allow anything to distract her from the importance of her presence there.  And that also meant embracing the behavior of someone that was living everyday like it was their last.  Because, it really could be her last.

"Hey...Heath.  I heard about you're run in with MSgt whatshisface." 

"Oh hey Tina...what's up?"  Tobin smiled wanly as she finished tying her boot lace.

"Oh don't give me that look, that dude is huge.  You know you got lucky he didn't write you up!"

"Hey, what do you mean that look?  What look are you talking about?  This is just what my face looks like!  Its the only face I got!" 

Tobin joked smiling again this time with an air of confidence that would suggest that she knew exactly what that look was doing to this girl that wasn't part of her unit but for some reason made it a point to visit Tobin's tent every day.

"Jesus....why do you have to be so fucking cute??"  The marine said lowering her voice and looking around the tent to make sure no one was listening in on their conversation.

Tobin knew she was the only one in the tent at the moment and also knew that since she was the only night shift person there, they wouldn't be back for a while.

"Watch it now....theres this stupid fucking policy that the military has called 'don't ask, don't tell' ...now I'm not saying I agree with it and I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news but you're kinda violating that right now.  Kinda seems like you're insuating that you find me attractive.  That's conduct unbecoming.  Can you imagine what would happen if I gave you exactly what you've been wanting and someone walked in and witnessed you riding my fingers and moaning my name?  We'd be in a lot of trouble Tina.  And I'd probably just finger you...I mean...BLAME you for everything."

"You better be glad you're hot and that you have a way with words that just made me so fucking wet or I would slap you so hard right now."

"Oh why cuz I called you out??"  Tobin inquired laughing and quirking one eyebrow.  "How spot on was I in guessing what you're fantasies have been?  Really, tell me?"

The girl currently about to fall victim to Tobin's newly brandished charm was a half white, half philipino Marine with a pretty smile and almond shaped eyes.  She had slowly inched her way into Tobin's life and eventually became close acquaintences and somewhat of friends over the span of a month and a half.  Tobin had finally realized what Pinoe was trying to tell her that day in the back hall so many years ago when her confidence was at her lowest.    

 

 

 

"If you got your head out of your ass you would see all the chicks that are always checking you out!  Dude you don't even know!  All you have to do is walk down the hall with your head up and that killer smile....."

 

Tobin really wasn't looking for this epiphany when it made itself known.  Her second week on deployment when they were staged in Kuwait she just somehow stumbled upon this knowledge as fast as she stumbled underground into an unoccupied bunker after being yanked in by an airforce Captain who was fresh out of a field shower.

Tobin had only known this captain for as long as she had been in country and they were forced to share a tent with 4 other women due to lack of space.  In a normal scenario, Officers and enlisted men and women are NOT housed together but this was exigent circumstances and Tobin had had a few long talks with the captain a few nights in a row. 

Tobin was very aware and more concerned with the 'don't ask don't tell' policy than she was about the eminent danger her surroundings posed on a daily basis.  It was so bad that when she found a woman attractive it made her nervous and fearful of the possibility that the woman might know what she's thinking.  This had been the case with countless women Tobin had observed since she hit the fleet Marine force and Air Force Captain Shawn Sibley was no different.  Her green eyes and exquisite bone structure had shocked Tobin when she first met her and she was sure she had definitely outed herself.

She spent 2 or 3 days losing sleep over it because she couldn't help blurting out that the Captain looked just like Kate Beckinsale.  Even though the compliment didn't seem to arouse any suspicion with the 26 yr old officer, Tobin was still mortified by her lack of self control and her word vomit.  The captain had merely smiled shyly and laughed a little before telling Tobin that she isn't the first person to tell her that.

In Tobin's still niave point of view, none of what she and the Captain were doing on those nights could be considered flirting or even laying ground work.  She felt that the captain was a little afraid and needed to vent so she listened and joked and offered advice and shared some of her own life.  Looking back on it now, it was pretty clear.  Just as clear as it is in this moment with Tina straddling her and slipping her tongue in her mouth. 

And after she's done making a girl forget about living like a dead soldier walking, for several consecutive rounds, if Tobin got her way, she always politely declined their offers for reciprocating and tried not to think about the damage she may be doing to herself.  They were kamikaze pilots cruising through a sky full of thick black smoke and exploding missiles everyday.  Crashing into each other and leaving scar tissue behind but they cared less and less about any amount of self destructive beahaviors they may be adapting everyday.  If they lay bleeding their short lives into that course, irritating, all encompassing sand in the next hour or the next minute or the next day at least they could say that in this moment they felt good.  In this moment they felt beautiful.  In this moment, this one person gave them a gift that made them forget that a place exists as fucked up as the war zone they were currently stuck in.  And maybe, just maybe they'll make it out of this and look back on it with a small smile and a shake of their head.

Tobin received care packages regularly which was about the only thing that DID make her break down into uncontrollable sobs.

Her friends always tried to send their gifts in one package as did her family.  Both groups of loved ones having letter writing parties and meeting places where they would take or drop off the special mometos or treats they wanted to send her.

Imagine a universe overflowing with so much sand that you can't even imagine that there is no body of water to meet it to make a shore that seperates it.  Imagine sand that is so fine that it is inhaled on a daily basis no matter how many layers of protective clothing a person equips themselves with during a sand storm.  Imagine having to gather the shit of over 200 individuals into one huge metal barrel and burning every last bit of it until it is ash.  And then imagine bullets that seem to turn corners or bombs that get so close that you know its only a matter of time before you land under one.

When your mind is constantly preoccupied with fighting for every minute of life in your body, perhaps the only thing that could break your resolve is a stuffed squirrel wearing a red snap back (from Kelley)  Or a green camouflaged bandana with 4 pairs of gold painted hand prints on one side of it (from her little cousins) Or a deflated game ball autographed by the national team (from Carli fucking Lloyd) Or a funny song hand written along with stupid hilarious hand drawn pictures of chickens and cows (no not from a child, from Pinoe) Or 2 official national team game day jerseys (from Hope and HAO) and even more when she received a left Nike Hypervenom boot...only the left boot from her blue eyed unicorn (Alex Morgan)  The one she no doubt scored her goal with during her first cap.  But Tobin would never find out because Alex never wrote her a letter and she would never send her anything else but that boot.  And just as Tobin's good friend LCpl Para commented on how nice it would've been if it were autographed, Tobin spotted the looping scrawal of the talented left footer just underneath the sole of the neon spattered boot and smiled.

"Its right there parita.  Look underneath."  Tobin squeaked out through tears that were already choking her.  And little did they know that by the time they made it out of the desert, if they did, the boot would easily be worth $800.  A few years from now, over a thousand because they had no clue that Alex was well on her way to becoming one of the best players that ever played the game.

Just like they had been trained for in boot camp, they were isolated in that sand box.  They were walled in by the conflict.  And her friends knew not to update her about Alex, knowing that it would just make the time pass slower.  The days become even more unbearable. 

Others were getting liquor sent to them in Listerine bottles to escape detection by customs which made for some very miserable hangovers when the only water available to drink was either warm, hot or scalding hot.

But even as all these elements came together, Tobin was still able to take on each day and each convoy and each and every bomb with a grain of salt until one more element was added to her load.  Until they made the very long and very dangerous convoy to where they would finally dig in and start the real offensive.  Until she began to realize that her life in the sand box was about to get worse and she might not be able to do a damned thing about it.  Until the day her unit set up shop in a dome tent command center and she met GySgt Chavez. 

 

Chapter Text

“Let’s see Cpl Tobin Heath. What were your proficiency and conduct marks in the past....  Wow, well I have to say I am shocked not only that you have managed to pick up two ranks since basic training but that you have pretty much maintained pro and con marks of an excellent average.  In boot camp they had you graduating with a 4.5 in both proficiency and conduct.  Were you the honor graduate?"

"................................."

"WERE YOU THE HONOR GRADUATE??”

“I heard you the first time you asked me. I’m sitting right across from you.”

“Then why the fuck aren’t you answering my questions?!”

“Because my pro and con marks from boot camp and whether or not I was the honor graduate are irrelevant at this point. You are not my rating supervisor so I’m here just for you to give me what you will be recommending to my actual rating supervisor.  I would appreciate it if you…”

“If I what! I don’t fucking care what you appreciate or don’t appreciate.  I’m asking you a fucking question and you will answer it or you can just sit there silently until your shift starts tomorrow.”

“Yes I was the fucking honor graduate! Perfect PFT score.  Perfect knowledge test.  High shooter.  Guidon bearer, Series and platoon honor graduate.  Ran the O’course in under 3 minutes.  That’s a new record!  Ran a 3 mile in under 18 minutes!  Is there anything else you’d like to know about my boot camp days!  Other than the fact that my pro and con marks are only 5 points from a perfect mark because my drill instructors told me they couldn’t give me a perfect although I deserved it because they had to give me something to work for!  And the one rating I got after boot camp was the same!  So what is your recommendation Gunny!?”

“See you wonder why I think you’re a worthless slug and you prove to be that so easily time and time again by disrespecting me and disobeying orders. But some day, somehow I’m going to end your short and illustrious marine corps career.  I’m going to catch you being the slug that you are and then I’m gonna get rid of you.  You will hear what my recommendation is when you talk to your gunny.  Now get the fuck out of my face and go do whatever it is you do in those tanks in the middle of the day.  And this time, use protection.  Wouldn’t want you catching something or worse, getting pregnant.”

****************************************************************************

“Lou, I hate him. I hate that he fucking exists.  I don’t want to even say out loud what I imagine doing sometimes.  What I wish I could do.”

Tobin confesses quietly and pensively to the young Army lieutenant Amanda Knox.  Her army unit had been an attachment to the intel Marine unit late in their deployment and she and Tobin had formed a strong friendship in only a few weeks time.

“Oh Tobs I wish there were something I could do. We all do.  We all hate him but not only am I not your lieutenant, I’m not even a Marine or I would fuck his world up.”

“I’m losing it Lou. I pulled roving duty during a sand storm the other day and just because I couldn’t see or hear his fucking stupid ass he claimed that I was in some “male marine’s tent” doing God knows what and that I was going to get dishonorably discharged for leaving my post when not properly relieved.”

“He fucking just made that stupid shit up on the spot??”

“No Lou…I think he actually believes that when I’m in this tank with all of you during the day that I’m letting all your soldiers gang bang me or something. He thinks I’m some kind of walking mattress.”

“Then he’s really making shit up just so he has an excuse to harass you because he obviously has no idea who you really are.” The  lieutenant says with a sad smile on her face.

“What does it matter anyway? No matter what I do he is always there making shit worse.  I’m trapped.  I feel like I’m suffocating and the more I think about it the more I want to …..”  Tobin looked around the inside of the tank.

“No one is listening to us right? Are there cameras or mics anywhere in this tank?”  Tobin asked looking around nervously.

The  lieutenant sighed, “Oh Tobin, he is really fucking with your head. No theres nothing in here.  Go ahead and tell me what you have been keeping inside for so long.  Its eating you alive.  You need to let it out or it will ruin you.”

“I want to shoot him Lou. I want to lock and load and shoot him.  I don’t want to kill him I just want to make him suffer and shut his fucking mouth and then I don’t ever want to see him again.  Please don’t tell anyone I said this.  Will you hold this in confidence because I don’t know how much longer I can hold on.”

“Of…of course Tobin. I won’t tell a soul.  You have my word.  Its your business.”  The lieutenant replied biting her lip with worry for her young friend.

“Lou…Amanda…please….don’t tell anyone. I could lose everything and because of HIM?  That’s exactly what he wants.  All I ever wanted was to serve and I could deal with all the bs but not with him on top of it all.”

“Tobin…I swear on the son that I love so much back home that this conversation stays between us.”

“Thanks Amanda. I have no one to talk to and no one who will help me.  He stalks me after hours.  He belittles me and plays mind tricks on me.  The other day he took a piece of classified material out of our inventory and hid it before I got there to relieve the guy from the prior shift.  I always take inventory first and he knows that.  He sat there watching me while I scrambled to find what was missing.  I was nearly in tears horrified that a piece of classified information had been compromised.  He asked what was wrong but I ignored him.  I’ve never been so afraid in my life.  The possibility of that piece of material falling into enemy hands was such a shocking possibility.  And then he starts laughing like a fucking hyena and holds the fucking classified file in front of my face!  I never wanted to get him in a choke hold as bad as I wanted to in that moment.  He’s done it to me again since then and tonight I have command center duty while he works.  I just want to be invisible.  Will you be at the meeting before shift today?”

The  lieutenant reached over and placed her hand comfortingly on the top of Tobin’s thigh. The young Cpl’s lithe body jumped at what was supposed to be soothing friendly contact.

“Oh my God Tobin I’m sorry. I didn’t know I was gonna scare you!”

Tobin cradled her head in her hands. She lifted her eyes to her friend as she wiped her sweaty palms on her own thighs.  The look in her eyes was panic and frustration and mania.

“I I…its ok Lou. Its not your fault.  That fucking bastard is making me so fucking paranoid.  I feel his fucking eyes on me all the time even when I can’t see him I feel like he’s spying on me somehow.  He hasn’t made a secret of doing that.  He knows all my moves and I’m still trying to figure out HOW!  And even though I have nothing to hide...I mean who the fuck wants some fucking asshole creeping on them??”

Tobin runs her hands through the flyaways that have sprung from her usually well maintained bun. Her hair had begun to fall out in the last few months of deployment and the closer she got to her ship date back to the states the worse it got.  She had no control over her thoughts anymore.  She had no control over her body.

“Look, just calm down ok. We have to go to this meeting and I don’t want any of us to be late just to give him something to punish you for.  Are you done with all the shit he made you burn?  How long did he make you burn it for?”

“2 weeks.” Tobin replied so quietly that the lieutenant could barely hear her. 

“It will be over soon and you won’t ever have to deal with him again. Stick it out with me little friend.  We can do this together.  I got your back.”

************************************************************************************

At the meeting the heads of every section of the command center gave their short briefing but for Tobin it may as well been in chinese. Her mind wasn’t there and neither was her body.  She kept visualizing the loading steps for her M4 rifle.  Ride the bolt forward on an empty chamber.  Insert magazine.  Lock and load.  From safe to fire.  Fire.  Ride the bolt forward….

Five minutes into the meeting, something across from Tobin’s line of sight caught her eyes and she focused on it.  Lieutenant Knox was waving her hand to get her attention.  Tobin focused but thought the better of it at the last second and looked away before the giant walking asshole to her left noticed she was looking at anything other than the ground.  It was too late.

“You two want to take the girl talk outside??” If Tobin weren’t frozen with rage and murderous intentions she would’ve looked exactly as shocked as everyone else in the command center looked as they turned to see what exactly was going on that was so important that the Gunny had interrupted a full bird colonel while he was addressing the unit.  Tobin froze in her seat.

The silence lasted for 10 seconds and then the colonel continued his brief.

After the meeting broke the gunny stood up and bellowed his orders out

“Meet me outside right now Cpl Heath. Make sure all the classified shit is locked up you fucking….”

“Excuse me! What is it…Gunnery Sergent Chavez?  I need to have a word outside with YOU right now!”

Tobin heard her angry friends voice and shot a pleading look at her but to no avail. She was going to let him have it and there was nothing no one was going to do to stop her.  Tobin knew she’d pay for this later and just sat in her spot and sighed heavily.

The gunny looked shocked and then dismissive.

“I don’t need to talk to any little girl. Please dismiss yourself from my command center.”  The gunny said indifferently not even looking at the lieutenant or acknowledging her.

The same Master Sergent that caught Tobin running her 'Real TV Op' with her platoon mates camera heard the exchange and stomped over to the intelligence part of the tent to intervene before the Army officer and Marine Corps Gunny ended up in a shouting match.  This wasn't the first time he had had to play referee and he was getting really sick of it.

“Gunny, I think you heard what she said. She may not be your lieutenant but she is still a lieutenant and you will respect her.  I don’t want to hear another word about it.  Now be a man and meet the woman outside!  Don’t make me have to tell you again!”

The veins on the gunny's forehead were bulging along with his eyes but he didn’t utter a word. He was outranked and embarrassed in front of half the unit.  He was not going to allow anyone to make him look bad.

Tobin never heard what the conversation was outside at least not when it went down. She heard her friend yelling out there and couldn’t make out their conversation but the satisfaction she felt was enough for the moment because her friend was really letting him have it.

****************************************************************************************************************************************

Tobin was made to stand outside in the middle of the worst sand storm they had experienced since they'd been in country.  She coughed up blood and sand for two weeks straight after that night.

 

One month later......

"So I'm here today to go over the pro and con marks I will be giving you.  I'm just a little confused Cpl..."

Gunny Masterson said as he looked down at Tobin's file scratching the back of his nearly bald head.

"Why did Gunny Chavez recommend such low marks?  Did he not look back at your history and go over the reasons he felt you deserved a below average rating??"  The gunny asked the young woman before him rather shocked not only at what he was seeing in the file but the state of deterioration of the Marine sitting before him.

"No Sir gunny.  He didn't tell me what he was recommending or why."  Tobin replied respectfully.

The gunny cleared his throat.

"Well, ...."  He licked his finger and paged through to the beginning of TObin's file.

"A perfect mark would be a five point oh on both proficiency and conduct.  I see that you were a 4.5 right out of basic training.  You were the honor graduate weren't you?"  The gunny asked slightly smiling at the skinny woman across from him.

"Yes sir I was.  My DIs told me they couldn't give me a perfect mark...."

"Because you needed something to work for.  Yes that's true.  They did right by you."  The gunny mused flipping a few more pages.

"And since you've transitioned into the Marine Corps fleet you have had two more marks of excellent.  A four point five and a four point four.  Two certificates of commendation and you picked up the rank of Cpl in your first month out here.  It all looks really good.  Hell Marine...you're shit hot.  And the two weeks you have worked for me in this shit heap you have been more than proficient and your conduct is impeccable.  I'm not sure what the gunny was thinking recommending these marks since he didn't write anything in the comments below to explain.  Look Heath, after your heroics during that convoy the other day...Sgt Acosta...well she says she owes you her life.  She told me as much as I'm sure she told you.  You're leaving here with no medal of recognition.  No purple heart...nothing but a certificate of commendation and picking up the next rank of Sgt in another week.  If it were up to me you'd leave here with a silver or bronze star.  I see no reason to give you anything but a 4 point 8.  So that's what I'm gonna give you Heath.  A four point eight.  Tobin, let me be quite honest with you.  Your heart is something to be commended.  A Marine can know all the knowledge and tactical maneuvers like the back of their hand.  They can kill a dozen men in under 10 minutes but without a heart like yours Marine, they might as well be an empty vessel.  You represent some of the best this corps has to offer.  I wish I had a hundred just like you.  You keep up the good work Cpl...I mean Sgt."  The gunny said standing proudly in front of his soon to be sgt and smiling.

Tobin stood at attention and thanked the gunny.  She about faced and marched out of his tent when she was dismissed.

 

********************************************************************************************************************************************************

 

One year later…..

“So you really mean it?? You’re finally coming home for good Tobs??”

“Yea Ash, and I’m just tired of all this running around.”

“Oh you mean with the military or all the military girls!” Ashlyn’s voice teased as Tobin loses signal a bit on her phone.

“I guess both you ass.” Tobin chuckles good naturedly.

“Well good luck with that buddy. Over here, you’ll either have to be single or someone’s side piece because there is not one decent woman that I know that is even good enough for you and actually single!”

Tobin sighed leaning back in the chair in her barracks room. She remained silent as she rubbed her eyes with one hand.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence dude. I needed that.  I’ve never been the type that needs more than one girl.  I’ve always just wanted one that I could love and commit to.  There has to be someone out there for me.”

“I’m sorry for saying that dude you’re right. I’m sure theres someone out there but this lesbian scene is full of superficial and narcissistic trim.  I want to make sure you know what to expect before you come back and settle with someone that is not good for you.  You deserve happiness after everything you’ve gone through.”  Ashlyn replied sincerity dripping through the small speaker area on Tobin’s phone.

Tobin took a deep breath and sighed as she blew it out.

“Thanks man. I know you always have my best interests in mind.”

“But hey, I’ll see you tomorrow right? Put that out of your mind and have fun with us tomorrow.  We can’t wait to see you.  It will only be a few of us since everyone has kind of scattered to the winds but you’re back for good so visits aren’t out of the question now.  You’re free Tobin.  Finally free.”

Tobin nodded her head not registering that her friend couldn’t see her.

“Finally free.” She agreed.

**********************************************************************************

The next day was full of taxi cab rides and check in procedures and monorails and airport terminals. The latter being the only one Tobin didn’t mind.  In fact, she loved airports and all their shops and eateries all targeted toward a market of take offs and landings and trips and adventures and the untapped mysteries each new place held like a pirate’s hidden treasure.  What she didn’t like about airport terminals?  The possibility of her family pulling a welcome home gathering at the bottom of the escalator.  It was one of her worst nightmares.  She hated to be looked at by strangers.  Hated to draw any kind of attention to herself and she hoped that her sisters were able to convince their mother to drop the idea. 

Nothing at the airport. NO ONE at the airport. 

“Better than all that bs attention. Fucking fake anyway.  Little do they know how much my mother really loathes what I am.  How she’d die of shame if I yelled out that I was gay in the middle of one of those stupid spectacles if she ever tried it.”

Ashlyn, Pinoe, Kritstie, Sydney and HAO sat with Tobin at a fairly unknown hipster bar in LA. Tobin sipped her fruity craft bear slowly and just committed it all to memory.  She sat and thanked God for the ice cold condensation on her beer bottle.  She inhaled the scent of her friends cologne and perfume mixed together.  She felt unthreatened and unalarmed with her back against the wall facing the door which she told her friends had to be arranged if she was going to go to any public place with them.  She marveled at the feel of her comfortable skinny jeans and button up that didn’t scrape her skin with its coarse thick material as all her digital fatigues always had.  Ashlyn was right.  She was finally free.

Tobin opened her eyes and saw her friends smiling at her.

“What?” She inquired smiling and shrugging her shoulders not knowing how long she had actually had her eyes closed.

They all laughed or shook their heads in reply.

“Nothing Tobin. Nothing.  We are just glad you’re back in one piece.  You were out there for so long, we were worried for you.”  Hao said.

“Yea well, just like Ash said, I’m finally free.” Tobin said with a smile.

“Hey karaoke is gonna start soon so I know you’re gonna get up there and sing with Pinoe right?” Ashlyn asked as she bumped her arm into Pinoe’s elbow trying to distract the blonde from her phone to no avail.

“Uh..no Ash you know I won’t do that but you can go with her. If she even wants to go.  Looks like she’d rather text Mitts on her phone.”  Tobin teased smiling and sticking a small piece of tongue between her teeth.

Ashlyn’s eyes widened as she looked over to Tobin and then her shocked expression switched over to Pinoe anticipating her reaction.

“What? What did I say?”  Tobin asked stupidly not able to take the hint and maybe shut her mouth long enough to try and read the situation.

“Heather and I are done Tobs. Haven’t one of these assholes at the table filled you in?  She told me she needed a break and didn’t tell me why.  So now that the cat is out of the bag, no I will not be singing  karaoke because I’m drinking and my voice is no good when I’m drinking and if it weren’t for Tobin being back I wouldn’t even have left my apartment.”

With that Pinoe stood abruptly scooting her chair out behind her and walking to the bathroom.

“Fuck. Real smooth Ashlyn.”  Sydney said between clenched teeth.

“Ash I don’t want to put this all on you but we did all discuss who was going to fill Tobin in on what was going on. Why didn’t you do that?”  Kristen asked keeping her voice calm to avoid sounding like she was scolding Ashlyn.

“I…I’m sorry guys. I had a lot on my mind.  Tobin is out of the fucking desert.  I was really distracted!”  Ashlyn replied bringing her hands out to the side with emphasis.

“What the fuck happened. I hadn’t even realized she didn’t look like herself.  Its my fault.  How could I be so insensitive??”  Tobin said clearly beating herself up for her unforeseen mistake.

“Its ok dude. It doesn’t matter if you had known or not.  Nothing can help or change how she’s taking it except for herself.”  HAO said sadly looking down at her beer bottle.

“And she didn’t give her a reason just one day out of the blue huh? Well I’m pretty sure yall smell bs because I know I do.  That bitch is cheating.  That’s why sometimes when they do this shit its best just to let go.  They do it for a reason and it usually ends up being the worst case scenario.”

“I agree.” Sydney tells Tobin.

“What’s different about Mitts though is that they were engaged Tobin. And then 2 months pass after the engagement and she ends it.  Pinoe has been inconsolable.  She failed to make the roster twice in a row and she’s just at her lowest overall right now.  She really needs us.”  Kristen says taking Sydney’s hand and brining it to her chest putting Sydney’s hand right over her heart.

“Jesus Christ dude. I”ve never seen her so serious about anything in my life.  I’ve never seen her like this!  Its scary.”  Tobin told Ashlyn rubbing her temples against an oncoming headache.

“I know man but all we can do is be here for her and she will come out of it. She can have anyone she wants and right now she just needs to be reminded of that.”  Ashlyn says smiling sadly and sighing as she spots Pinoe emerging from the bathroom and walking straight outside to the back patio.

"Before we go on with the rest of the night I need to know who else is not together anymore or whatever the status is with everyone else because I don't want this to happen again.  I know not everyone is here right now but if we plan to all meet at a location for a small reunion I'm gonna have to be up to date.  I have everyone's number but I just got back and I wanted to settle in before I tried contacting everyone one by one."  TObin said looking around at her friends looking for who ever was willing to fill her in.

"Well, Sydney and I are obviously still together and HAO here is a newly wed....5 months or somewhere around there right HAO?"  Kristie asked nudging her friend with her elbow.

"Uh yea...you're spot on.  5 months."  HAO replied smiling giddily.

"Wow..."  Tobin replied smiling sweetly at her friend.  "I missed so much...."  She said the emotion hitting her in a wave so overwhelming she bit her lip against the oncoming flood.

"Uh...Kelley and Hope....I mean let's just say they are done too.  I mean, they've been off and on but I just don't see them lasting much longer.  Hope slept with someone during one of their breaks and Kelley told me that she feels like Hope is just a different person now and maybe the new Hope needs someone different.  I don't think she can look at her the same anymore dude."

Tobin's heart broke inside her chest.  The emotion was getting to be too much and she felt the familiar feeling of asphyxiation.

"Can uh...I'm just gonna head outside for a bit and get some fresh air.  Can't fucking breathe in here.  But I will be back and we need to finish this conversation because I missed so much and I obviously need to be brought up to speed since there has been a few drastic developments."  Tobin blurted out as quickly as possible and then fled to the back patio where she took in a huge lungful of cool California night air.

"Hey there hero, what are you doing back here with all the broken hearted?  Are you lost?"  Pinoe slurred stumbling over to her friend.

"Pinoe....Fuck....how....?"

"Shots shots shots shots...shots shots!!  Pinoe yelled doing a little spin with her arm in the air.  A small crowd of guys and girls cheered her on from the other side of the patio.  Tobin regarded them warily and then looked back to her friend.

"Hey, come on and have a seat here next to me dude.  Let's just slow it down a little ok?  We got all night.  No need to get drunk so soon, ok?"  Tobin said trying to inject some levity into the current situation.

"Yea yea...you're right Tobs...we do have all fucking night.  I have...I have it all to my ....self....by myself....alone...."  Pinoe mused quietly swaying in her seat next to Tobin.  Tobin looked away unable to stare directly into her friends unfocused gaze for fear that she may begin crying.

Tobin quickly yanked her phone out from her back pocket and sent a quick text out to Ashlyn.

T:Get ur ass out here. Need ur help with P

A:Fuck omw

TObin stuffed her phone back into her pocket and turned back around with a huge sigh.  Pinoe had passed out sitting down with her head on the table top.

"At least she didn't projectile vomit on me."  Tobin mused to herself quietly as she gently swiped the blonde locks back away from Pinoe's forhead.

"I...I...love you...Tobs...."  Pinoe mumbled eyes still closed.  Tobin began to panic.  She did NOT want to break down crying on the back patio of this bar with a group of strangers regarding her with curious eyes. 

She began to feel anger forming in the center of her chest.  Anger at everything that had gone wrong.  At Mitts and Hope and at herself for being so far away for so long and missing so many things but mostly not being there for her friends.  Anger at the eyes of the strangers she felt burning holes in her back.  She closed her eyes and could see herself turning around and telling them to mind their fucking business.  Instead she took a deep breath and opened her eyes to look at her friend again.

"I love you too Pinoe...."  Tobin replied in a small shaky voice.  "I always have...I always will."  It was no use in fighting it now.  A tear escaped one of Tobin's eyes and just the feeling of it hot and thick on her cheek made her want to throw her beer bottle at the wall.  The anger was there consuming her.  It seemed to never go away these days.

 Tobin felt someone hovering behind her and quickly wiped her tears away.

"Its about time dude geez she already passed out."  Tobin said sniffing and chuckling trying to play off her sadness.

"Hey...uh...sorry I didn't mean to intrude...."  A velvety and rather scratchy voice sounded behind Tobin.  Tobin wheeled around a little too quickly and made the woman behind her jump a little in surprise.

"Holy shit...."  Tobin said out of breath.  Her heart was beating like a huge sucking base drum in the center of her chest.  She put her hand over her heart and regarded the woman across from her. 

The woman had short black hair that framed her face and her smile looked so familiar that TObin could swear she had either met her before or had known her all her life.

(Tobin's Brain notes:  Well that can't be right.  I know I've never seen her before.  I would've definitely rememebered... Jesus.)

"I am so sorry I startled you.  I tried my best not to sneak up on you but I guess it didn't work."  She said chuckling.

(Tobin's brain notes:  Ok so her voice is a little scratchy but just at the ends of some of her words.  Nothing like her.  Nothing like her thank God)

"Uh...no its ok.  It wouldn't have mattered how careful you were.  Its just me.  It's my fault."  Tobin explained still trying to catch her breath.

"Well you don't have to blame yourself Im clearly the one at fault here."  The woman insisted smiling again.

(Tobin's brain notes: Wow, how can I get her to keep smiling like that?)

"No, I just mean, I usually don't sit with my back to anyone to avoid circumstances such as these where a beautiful woman comes over and I embarrass the shit out of myself by jumping out of my skin."  Tobin explains honestly and then realizes how stupid it must sound to someone that doesn't know that she just says what she means and isn't trying to deliver a line.

"Heh....good...good..un...one...Tob"  Pinoe mumbles quietly and Tobin laughs nervously hoping that this nameless and painfully attractive woman didn't hear her drunk friend.

 "Well...uh thank you that's...sweet....um...sorry...I'm Rumer."  The woman says putting out her hand and chuckling nervously. 

Tobin allows her eyes to flit quickly around the woman's facial featues and body and notices a huge tattoo on her left arm that she can't quite make out yet being that its half covered by the small black leather jacket the woman is wearing.  She notices a nose ring as well but her skin is what strikes Tobin almost speechless.  It looks like porcelain and Tobin's mind flashes with an image of herself running her hands up and down her skin.  Tobin's tanned hands against this stranger's, Rumer's moon glowing skin looked like a painting of her broken, and rough killers hands clashing against a gorgeous white canvas. 

(Tobin's brain notes:  Stunning.)

"Uh...Tobin."  She stammers out taking Rumer's hand.  "Nice to meet you Rumer.  I will refrain from using all the shitty annoying puns I'm sure you've heard your whole life because I know how it feels to deal with that personally."  Tobin says smiling genuinely at the woman.

Rumer reluctantly lets go and looks down smiling again.

"Well, I appreciate that Tobin." She replies softly looking up at her from her down cast position.

Tobin can feel her heart beating fast and she knows full well that its not from the scare she just had.

"I just wanted to come over and see if your friend was ok and also to apologize.  Well...friend...or..... girlfriend?" Rumer inquired quirking an eyebrow at Tobin questioningly.

"Oh...no friend...just friend."  Rumer smiled again causing Tobin to smile back.  She couldn't help herself.

"Well, your friend came over and told us to drink shots with her and we had one round but I left for the bathroom and when I came back my friends had bought her a few more rounds and vice versa and I'm just sorry that it got this far.  My friends don't know when to quit but I could see that she was sad when she walked up and I feel really bad."

"Well, uhm...she's passed out and she will be ok and she's an adult so she makes her own decisions.  I'm just glad I got out here in time for her to pass out on the table like this instead of on this dirty floor."  Tobin replied looking over at her friend who sounded like she was now snoring.  Tobin chuckled a little and looked back at her new acquaintance.

(Tobin's brain notes:  God I don't know what to do in this situation.  I know how I'd get in her pants but how do I just get her number without sounding like a douche!!  Ugh I'm so not gonna be good at this.  And what am I thinking????  She has to be straight!)

"Hey TOBS!  SORRY DUDE!"  Ashlyn yells rather loudly as she runs outside the back door and onto this rather awkward scene.

(Ashlyn's brain notes:  Oh shit Ash think fast.  Think wing woman fast.  This girl is really sexy.  Tobin looks like she got hit by a train.  Redeem your fuck up for the night)

"Oh hey sorry.  I didn't mean to interrupt.  Hi I'm Tobin's friend Ashlyn...."

"Harris right?  Yes I know.  And your friend who has gracefully passed out over there is Megan Rapinoe."  Rumer says smiling softly looking from Tobin to Ashlyn.

(Tobin's brain notes:  Well that's all she wrote folks.  This girl knows soccer and probably already wants to bone Ashlyn or maybe even Pinoe if she wasn't passed out)

"Oh you're a soccer fan then?"  Ashlyn inquires but attempts to keep a neutral conversationally friendly tone.

Tobin thanks the heavens above that at least Ashlyn has the decency to refrain from using any extra charm or bringing out her big guns by smiling and blinding this gorgeous woman with her dimples.

"Well, no not really.  You two...and well your girlfriend Ashlyn...she is your girlfriend right?  Ali?"

At this Ashlyn DOES smile.  Tobin rolls her eyes and laughs. 

"Yes that's her girlfriend.  Look at the heart eyes she's getting when you just mention her name.  Ash and Ali have had it bad since we were kids."  Tobin muses smiling big and shaking her head.  They all chuckle a little.

"Well I just know that you play because you're all so big in the LGBTQ community but that's the extent of my knowledge of the sport."  Rumer stated honestly.

"Oh, ok that's cool.  Well you should really catch a game with Tobin here sometime.  Of course she has VIP access to whatever national team game she wants to go to and we always give her two tickets so you should really give it a chance.  You might just fall in love with the game." 

Ashlyn says cheekily and then quickly shakes Rumer's hand even though the young woman wasn't offering it and scampers off to the side to tend to Pinoe before Rumer can respond.

Tobin and Rumer look at each other again and just laugh.

"Sorry, she's kind of ADDish like that sometimes."  Tobin responds taking a few steps away from her bar stool so Ashlyn can sit down and look after Pinoe.

"Yea I can see that.  So you have VIP access huh?"  Rumer asks stepping closer to where Tobin is standing.  Tobin can't take her eyes off of this woman's skin.  Its mesmerizing.  Peeking from below her jacket above her tank top.  The glowing nature of it parading across her features as she speaks.  The small sliver of mid drift that peaks out just above the button of her jeans.  And of course her hands....Tobin's weakness for women's hands....

(Tobin's brain notes:  FUCK)

 She clears her throat nervously before replying. She and Ashlyn hadn't discussed NT games at all although she knew whatever Ashlyn said was true.  But the thought of possibly taking a date to one while watching an ex girlfriend play was a little too massive for her to process right now when she's trying to just go with it and be chill. 

"Uhh...yeah. Whatever I want when it comes to my friends I guess. I'm really lucky to have them." Tobin states smiling softly and inserting her cold shaky hands into the pockets of her jeans.

"You totally don't have to. Ash loves to invite people that have never experienced a live match before so that they can get some exposure to the beauty of the sport. You know, help grow the game." Tobin says looking over at her two friends. Ashlyn sipping her beer and Pinoe snoring away

"Well, when you put it that way it makes sense. You've actually succeeded in intriguing me. That could turn out to be a bigger problem than you think. I'd probably be asking you a million questions. Most people don't really like the idea of talking during a live sporting event." Rumer confessed biting her lip as if Tobin could refuse her.

Tobin felt the excitement buzzing in her chest. The idea of sharing what she loves with someone who is genuinely interested in learning about it was enough to make her jump at the opportunity. And then Rumer standing there with this alluring presence that was equal parts sex kitten and mysteriously shy she prayed that an NT friendly was coming up next week. Hell the next day!

"I'd actually love to be the one that shares that experience with you." Tobin replies eyes lighting up with excitement. "Questions and all."

(Tobins brain notes: stay cool Heath calm it down.  Fuck you just met this girl!)

 Rumer chuckles and smiles a little nervously.

"Ru!  Ru...Tobs...hero...she's f..f..free!"  Tobin and Rumer look over to the table where Pinoe is trying to get her point across.  Tobin begins to laugh a little and Ashlyn sets her beer down and whispers in Pinoe's ear something that Tobin assumes is supposed to soothe her.  Tobin was shocked that Pinoe was even able to form coherent words at all.

"Did she call you a hero and then say that you're free?  She's pretty lucid still huh?  She even remembered my name."  Rumer observed clearly amused at Tobin's idiotically inebriated friend.  Pinoe had calmed down and set her head back down on the table.  When she saw that Ashlyn had it under control she got an idea.

"Uh yes it seems like she did remember your name.  She said Ru though right?  Is that what your friends call you?" 

Tobin inquired genuinely interested.  She looked Rumer right in the eyes after every question or during any interaction.  She could never recall being this courageous before but over time she had been able to find some form of familiarization around women of all walks of life and she had grown accustomed to having a normal conversation without falling all over herself.  Of course there were exceptions.  There were certain women and certain circumstances always but she tried her best to stay on track at all times.  Like now when Rumer stood to her full height and looked right back into Tobin's eyes.  This was the first time Tobin noticed that she had done this out right and it sent a tingle up her spine.

(Tobin's brain notes:  Ok, lets play.  I never lose the stare game)

"Yea that's what my friends call me and most of my family.  At least my immediate family."

The stare contest continued.  It seemed neither woman wanted to give in.  Ashlyn had noticed the interaction from her seat and watched on in amusement. 

"I see.  In my opinion either variation is intriguing so if you want to ask me a million questions at a National team game about my very talented childhood friends then maybe I'll just have to ask you a few questions too.  About you."

Tobin had made a choice once she returned to her stomping grounds that not only was she going to try her hardest to stop the 'living for the moment' mentality with women but she needed to approach every new possibility completely different from how she had when she was still active duty military.  What did that mean?

1. She would still be confident but not aggressively taking what she wanted. 

2. She would NOT let sex be the unstoppable drive behind her intentions. 

3. She would have patience if she wanted something real.  If she didn't see potential she'd walk away.  She would NOT have sex with the girl and then walk away.

And if Tobin was sure about anything in her life at this very moment, it was that she wanted something real.  She didn't know if that was what was standing in front of her but now was not the time to get caught up over thinking things.  There was only time to act.  So instead of giving Rumer a cocky grin or biting her lip or suggestively looking down at Rumer's lips (which wasn't easy to refrain from doing) she dropped all of her walls and gave Rumer the most genuine smile she could muster.

Tobin noticed that not only did Rumer smile and break eye contact nervously but her flawless complexion tinted pink before she did so.

"I don't think I have a problem with that Tobin."  Rumer replied softly looking down at the ground for a few seconds and grinning like a school girl.

"Cool." Tobin replied feeling a flutter of butterflies tickle her throat.  "So...uhm Rumer?"  Tobin said dipping her head a little to catch the young womans down cast eyes.  Do you wanna come with me to the bar so I can order this idiot a pot of coffee...or four and I'll explain why she said I was free?"

Rumer had lifted her gaze and nodded her head as she said "Don't forget she called you a hero too.  I think I'd like to know about that as well."  Rumer replied biting her lip in anticipation of whatever response Tobin would give her.

(Tobin's brain notes: She's just biting her lip.  No big deal Heath.  Keep it together!)

Tobin cleared her dry throat.

"Well that's debatable but of course I'll let you in on that too.  Ash, you need another beer while I'm there?"

"Sure dude thanks.  Tell them to put it on my tab.  The coffee too.  Don't even try to pay for a thing.  This is your night."  Ashlyn said as she raised her beer bottle up toward her friend.

"Thanks buddy."  Tobin said smiling giddily on purpose just to give Ashlyn a laugh.

Tobin looked over at Rumer.  "What about you Rumer?  Can I buy you a drink?"

"No Tobin.  I'm ok.  One shot is enough for me for now.  I am not a heavy drinker and I actually want to be 100% coherent for our conversation."

"Ok but let me know if you change your mind....My lady..."  she said bowing her head a little and extending her arm out in front of her.  Ashlyn laughed behind her and threw a balled up bar napkin at her cheesiness.  Rumer laughed and walked slowly ahead of Tobin lingering a little so they could walk together.

They sat at the bar waiting for the coffee to brew and chatted back and forth.  The conversation never seemed to lull.  This was Tobin's favorite kind of communication.  The other party equally interested and interesting.

"So you complete two tours.  You pick up an E5 rank and then just discharge?  May I ask why?"

"Uh..sure but I have to give you the short answer because I want to fit in time to ask more questions about you."

"UUgghh...ok sure."  Rumer feigned irritation.  Tobin chuckled.

"I don't believe in the administration and if I don't believe in the reasoning behind what I'm doing then I don't think its smart to carry a weapon in a war zone.  I was 100% dedicated going in and jaded coming out.  Not to mention there were a lot of really fucked up...sorry...messed up things going on behind the scenes for me personally and I couldn't ignore it anymore.  But honestly, it really came down to don't ask don't tell.  I was living in fear watching my back around every corner.  That's no way to live."

"Look Tobin, I find you interesting and well I'm not going to try to deny that I'm insanely attracted to you but its because I can feel that you have been really genuine with me up until this point.  So don't filter yourself.  I know you have times when you have to be professional but like Megan said, your free right now and I want to get to know the unfiltered Tobin.  I mean I hope I can always talk to the unfiltered Tobin.  So just say fuck if you want to.  Its ok.  You don't have to apologize."  Rumer said looking Tobin in the eyes and touching her warm palm down on top of Tobin's hand that lay on the bar surface.

Tobin felt a jolt of heat shoot straight to her face and knew she was blushing.  The contact also resulted in shooting heat straight to her core which equally gave her pleasure and also made her irritated. 

(Tobin's brain notes:  Geez Tobin keep it in your pants she just patted your hand for a few seconds.  You'll never last acting this way!)

And then the dreaded imagination took hold as it had so many times in her past and a thought crossed her mind making it almost impossible NOT to blurt out a very inappropriate comment.

(Tobin's brain notes:  I wonder how she sounds when she's coming.  '...say FUCK if you want to?'  Is that what she would say once I start hitting the right spot?)

"Ok thanks."  Tobin replied voice rather shaky.  She cleared her throat and laughed a little.  She could not believe how worked up she was getting and this interaction was nothing compared to what she was used to.  She knew that just a few months ago before she boarded that plane home that she would've already had her fingers so deep between Rumer's legs that she might even forget what her hand looked like because she had never seen a woman with this much sex appeal and she knew that she probably wouldn't want her hand back for at least 6 hours.  The leash she was keeping on her libido coupled with the unmistakably strong chemistry and attraction emanating between the two women were making it more and more difficult for Tobin to hold back.

"That's uh...That's good to know and also refreshing that someone actually prefers to see the real me."  Tobin laughed again not believing her predicament.

She continued, "The Marine Corps made me into a big dumb animal with the objective to destroy and also talk like a sailor on weekend shore leave."  (Tobin's brain notes:  And fuck like one too)

This set Rumer off in a fit of laughter and Tobin busted up as well not only because of what she said out loud but what she was saying internally.

(Tobins brain notes:  Geez I thought her voice was an amazing sound.  That laugh....)

"I'm just getting to know you but I can tell that you are anything but dumb and I can tell just by the way you handled your friend out there that these hands..."  Rumer now grabbed both of Tobin's hands in her own. "Are capable of way more than just destruction." 

(Tobin's brain notes:  You have no...fucking...idea....is she doing this shit on purpose?  Or am I this much of a fucking horny animal that EVERYTHING is sounding like sexual innuendo??)

Tobin felt her hands lightly laying inside the soft warm hands of the woman sitting just a foot away from her.  She began to feel her pulse in her throat thudding slow and deliberate. 

The part of Tobin that wanted to know what Rumer's skin tasted and felt like on her lips wanted to lean over and just steal a kiss.  Brash, overly confident and aggressive.  Taking what she wanted.  But that was not the real Tobin anymore.  It never really was.  Confidence is one thing and thoughtless with a side of sexually driven blinders was quite different.  The real Tobin is what forced the old version to stop in its tracks and instead look down at the contrast of her tan skin against what she had began to refer to in her mind as moon kissed skin of the young woman across from her and marvel at the comfort.  The clashing of rough, calloused and battle worn against glowing, graceful perfection.  She closed her hands over Rumer's gently and then looked up at her.

"Thanks.  I hope you're right."  Tobin replied looking into the caring hazel eyes across from her.  The arrival of the fresh brewed coffee and Ashlyn's beer broke up their conversation and the linking of their hands came to an end as Tobin grabbed the styrofoam cup and pot of coffee and Rumer grabbed Ashlyn's beer.

When they arrived outside on the patio, the rest of Tobin's friends had finally made their way out and Rumer's friends had joined them to form a pretty sizable crowd around one small round patio table.  Tobin turned and smiled at Rumer.

"Hey!  Guys move we have a pot of hot coffee coming and we don't want to burn you!"  Rumer announced to her friends who seemed to be the only 6 standing while Tobin's friends sat and interacted.

They all parted to make a hole and Tobin was able to set the pot down without spilling it or burning herself.  "You think you could coax some of that into her dude?"  Tobin asked Ashlyn.

"Eh maybe but if not I think we might have to cut the evening short.  Sorry dude.  We can try again in a couple of weeks after the NT game I wanted you to go to.  You can bring Rumer along if she is still able to tolerate you by then.  Hold out for these two weeks at least Rumer, no matter how annoying she is.  Its worth a VIP experience." Ashlyn said laughing and roughly slapping Tobin on the back.

Tobin looked over at Rumer who was setting the beer down next to Ashlyn's empty bottle on the table.

"Uh yes of course I want to go...but in a couple of weeks....I have to check my schedule...."  Rumer trailed off clearly trying to remember if she had prior obligations without having to take her phone out and check.

"Its ok Rumer.  Like I said, don't feel obligated and besides, its in two weeks, we don't need to hash out the details now."  Tobin shrugged trying to seem non chalant all while fighting off that little seed of doubt that was trying to spring a bud deep in her heart.

"True but don't think you're getting away that easy.  I'll enjoy getting to know you until then.  By the time we go to the game well....you and I will be just like old friends."  Rumer said smiling widely.  Tobin grew confused and awkward hearing the word 'friend' but just went with it smiling and nodding (TObin's brain notes:  patience)

By the time they left the bar that night and exchanged numbers before parting, Tobin was thoroughly confused.  She thought she had read the situation pretty clearly and Rumer said herself that she was attracted to her.

(Tobin's brain notes: I never fucking told her I was so fucking attracted to her too.  FUCK she's probably just as confused as I am.  Of course she would fucking begin acting platonically friendly towards the end of the night.  God I fuck everything up.  The fucking struggle is real.)

Tobin decided that she would let some time pass before trying to send Rumer a text.  They hadn't got around to discussing jobs or careers so for all Tobin knew, Rumer worked grueling 10 or 12 hour shifts.  She let almost an entire week pass before sending Rumer a text.  After 6 different drafts she finally settled on a text to open up the dialogue.

 

"T:  Hi Rumer, Its Tobin from the bar the other night.  Anyway, just wanted to see if you were free for a coffee later today?

R:  Tobin?  Wow, I thought you had lost your phone...or my number somehow

"Fuck fuck fuck Heath how could you fuck this up so bad!"  Tobin scolded herself as she paced her childhood room trying to figure out what the hell she would say.  "Just be yourself Heath.  Be the less stupid version of yourself.

T:  Fuck Rumer....I'm sorry.  There's no excuse.  I'm just an idiot

R. no ur not. You're just nervous.  I am too.  So you're not alone.

T:  Ur pretty spot on about me but why are YOU nervous???

R:  Because I've never been attracted to a woman before.

"HOLY....SSSHHHHHIIIIIIIITTTTTT!"  Tobin bellowed immediately letting her body free fall onto her bed.  So many emotions were conflicting inside her chest.

T:  Wow, I don't know what to say except that I'm flattered....

R:  Well that made me smile.  Don't be nervous.  I want to know you and its that simple.  If you want to know me too then of course I want to have coffee with you later.  What time?

"Fuck Fuck Fuck...."

T:  How about at sundown around 730?  I can pick you up at 715?

R:  Sounds great.  See you then Tobin.

T:  Ok...see you

R:  Oh and Tobin?  Thanks for growing a pair and texting me.

Tobin read the last text and rolled over with her face in her pillow groaning and laughing not only at the text but her situation.

 

"I'm not sure how to take it Ashlyn!  I already fucked up when I waited too long to contact her!  I just got mixed signals there towards the end of the night!  FUCK!"  Tobin lamented into her phone as she paced back and forth at the furthest spot in her parents backyard.

Tobin had agreed to stay with her parents as she transitioned back into civilian life but wasn't planning on staying there long.  She left the military partly because she wanted to live a full life being exactly who she is and living under her parents roof again even as a grown ass woman wasn't ideal when it came to her mother's views of homosexuality.

"Dude...I need you to take a few deep breaths and calm down.  This is good dude.  This is a good thing.  Remember I told you that you wouldn't find any trim here that was worth your time?  You remember when I said that you needed all the luck you could get if you wanted something real?"

"Yes dude...yes I remember whats your point???  Get to it dude I only have a half hour before I have to shower and get ready!"

Ashlyn could imagine her lanky and toned friend running her hand nervously through her hair and pacing in a huge expanse of a backyard probably biting the shit out of her lip with worry and she just couldn't help laughing.

"You're not helping dude.  Not helping!  If you're just gonna laugh at me I gotta go!"

"NO!  No man I'm sorry.  Its just perfect for you and you don't see it yet and shes so damned sexy its ridiculous dude and I know if you had a dick you would've left with blue balls that night!  Its just really funny you gotta admit it!  She's perfect for you man because she is not in the lesbian scene.  This means she hasn't serial dated like 3 or 4 girls in the same circle or is dating someone you know personally.  It also means she isn't tainted with the stereotypes that come with women that have loved women for as long as we have.  She's untapped territory and you my friend....you're gonna tap her.  See what I mean now?"

"Very clever word choice there Ash.  As if it wasn't hard enough to keep it in my pants around her already/"  Tobin grumbled.  "Thanks dude.  I gotta go.  I'll let you know how it went."  Tobin hung up before she could waste anymore time on the phone.

 

************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The coffee shop was quiet and fairly dead which was perfect for having a conversation without raising your voice.  TObin mentally patted herself on the back.

She had dressed casually but had put on a little mascara and some chap stick to accentuate her dominantly attractive features.  Ripped jeans and for the first time since she'd been back she wore a baby blue snap back.

Rumer seemed to make a vintage, worn out rolling stones tshirt look (Tobin's brain notes:  Fucking delicious) also choosing to barely wear any makeup which was a stark contrast to her evening look the other night at the bar.  But all Tobin could think was that this situation might be way too much for her first after returning. 

This girl was just too damned much.  Her sex appeal was so  effortless that Tobin had to actively remind herself not to stare so hard.  At EVERY SINGLE FEATURE on Rumer's face or hands or neck line.  It got so bad mid coffee date that she resorted to counting to 3 and shifting her gaze somewhere different just to make sure she didn't stare too long.  The light in the coffee shop was not harsh but not dimmed either which gave Tobin a perfect view of the beauty in front of her in the glow of the setting California sun.

"Look Rumer, I just wanted to apologize again for waiting so long to contact you."  Tobin said fiddling with her fingers on the table in front of her and staring at her hands instead of chancing a look into those eyes again for fear that she would stutter.

"Don't worry about it.  Like I said, I understand since we are pretty much on the same page with how we were feeling.  I'm grateful for this moment we are having now so I'm not thinking of 'then.'  Ok?"  Rumer inquired reaching over to still Tobin's hand with one of her own so she could look up at her.

Tobin did look at her and she couldn't help trying to marvel at all her features at once.  She smiled softly and got a smile in return.  (Tobin's brain notes:  Ok, Slowly...one small smile is one small victory)

"Can I be honest with you without freaking you out?"  Tobin asked and immediately regretted it.  She had looked into Rumers eyes and felt so safe and before she knew it her mouth ran away with her emotions and now she was stuck either telling this gorgeous woman that she screwed a plethora of women before leaving the base she was stationed at for four years or making some other shit up that she hadn't told her yet.

"Of course you can.  I mean, I hope you have been honest so far."  Rumer said anticipation clouding the tone in her voice.

"No ...that's not what I meant.  Of course I've been honest but we didn't really have a lot of time to talk at the bar and there are just some things you don't know and I don't know either...about you."

"Ok, how's this....we each confess something to each other that the other doesn't know yet.  We can take turns.  To put you at ease I'll go first ok?"  Tobin nodded her head numbly not trusting her vocal chords to speak clearly at the moment.  Rumer hadn't moved her hand yet and Tobin had absentmindedly grabbed a hold of it and was caressing the back with the thumb of her left hand.

"I told you I've never been attracted to a woman before and that is true but let me elaborate.  I am around a lot of LGBTQ events because I have a lot of friends who are part of that community so I have had a lot of exposure to every type of lesbian there is from Ruby Rose types to types like your friend Ali Krieger and then types like Lea DeLaria.  I just want you to know that when I say that I have never been attracted to a woman I mean that even being around so many I still have never been attracted to a woman until I met you the other night.  I've never felt anything like it.  Sure I could've wrote it off as a crush but the chemistry I felt was too strong to ignore.  I haven't lived a sheltered life.  I know what the deal is and I know what I'm getting myself into but like I said before...I want to know you.  That's why I'm here.  I have no expectations.  I'm drawn to you and that's all I know."

With every well thought out sentence flowing from Rumer's pouty pink lips Tobin's resolve dissipated more and more.  She knew she was in trouble and also knew that there was no turning back now.  She felt like a warm puddle of goo on the floor at Rumers feet.  It took a lot for someone that is new to this to confess all that and Tobin knew that no matter how hard it was going to be for her to confess how careless she had been in the past she was going to do it.  (Tobin's brain notes:  Here goes nothing.  Later I'll tell the story about how I fucked this up.)

"I'm still a little confused about how I got so lucky but uhhm I won't question a miracle."  Tobin said smiling shyly over the table at Rumer and then shaking her head feeling stupid.

"So...my turn....uh...Rumer, you unsettle me...you unsettle me in the best way.  I talked to Ashlyn before coming home for good and I told her I wanted to find something real when I came back.  I told her that I was tired of living my life the way I had been.  Living like I was going to die any minute.  Because lets face it, I could've died at any moment out there.  I was careless and driven only by what my body craved in the moment and I was with a lot of different women...."  Tobin looked down at her feet tapping beneath her under the table afraid of the judgment or disgust she might see in Rumer's eyes.  Their hands were still linked and she felt no discontinuation or precursor to discontinuation of that link.  (Tobin's brain notes:  maybe its safe to look up?)

When Tobin looked Rumer in the eye she only saw intensity and warmth and intrigue.  She just slightly nodded her head and this gave Tobin the courage to continue.

"I..uh have only ever been INTIMATE with one person and it was for the wrong reasons.  I don't regret that one experience but I do regret all the ones that followed.  And all I know is that I'm done with that part of my life.  I realized I'm more than just a modified version of a vibrator....and..."

Rumer couldn't help herself when hearing the last part of Tobin's sentence and she began laughing silently as she grabbed onto Tobin's hand tighter to indicate that she didn't want her to let go.

"Oh I see how this is gonna go..."  Tobin said trying to suppress the grin and laughter stuck in her own throat.  "I pour my heart out and you laugh at me!"  Tobin said as she began laughing herself.

"No...no you ....just have such....a unique way of using....analogies....OMG you have to tell me what that means Tobin!"  Rumer said continuing with her silent bout of laughter and using her free hand to wipe the small tears from her eyes.

"A vibrator!  You don't know what a vibrator is???"  Tobin asked laughing now uncontrollably.

"Yes of course I do you fucking charmer!  I want to know how you can compare yourself to one!"  The couple laughed a little longer and slowly began to taper off smiling widely at each other and wiping away tears.

"I was like a vibrator because you receive pleasure from a vibrator for as long as the batteries last but you never have to return the favor.  That was me.  I gave and refused any kind of reciprocation because not only did I feel like I wasn't worth it but I also felt that it was too intimate to be shared with someone that only wanted one thing and that thing wasn't me."

Their laughter had only stopped for a total of 3 minutes by the time Tobin was done talking but the dead silence between the two made it seem like they hadn't laughed in a year.

"So, by now you know what you're worth?"  Rumer asked in a small emotional voice.  Tobin looked into her eyes and held her hand at this point because she felt like it was the only thing grounding her to earth in that moment. 

"Honestly, all I know is that I deserve more but I, like you have no expectations.  Having expectations is how I get hurt."  Tobin mused quietly.  The two stayed silent and looked into each other's eyes for what seemed like 5 whole minutes. 

When Tobin felt her left hand moving from the table she thought she was imagining it.  Until she realized that Rumer was pulling her hand up toward her face.  Her eyes never broke from Tobin's gaze as she pulled Tobin's fingers to her lips and kissed the tip of each one.

Tobin swallowed thickly feeling a pool of wetness leak out onto her boxer briefs.  (TObin's brain notes:  That easy)

"I can't make you realize your worth by telling you....I can only do that by showing you at whatever pace we feel is appropriate."  Rumer announced voice quivering subtely.

"That's uh...that might be a problem for me.  You might have to take the lead on that one."  Tobin admitted quietly biting her lip.

"Wh...What do you mean?"  They both seemed as if they had fallen in a vat of molasses.  Too afraid to make any sudden moves or speak any faster or louder than they had been.

"I mean, I'm attracted to you too.  And as good as I am with words I can't even begin to describe the intensity of that attraction."  Tobin said closing her eyes and taking a deep breath willing the arousal monster to go back into its cave.

"I really...really...want to know what you've thought of or fantasized about because its just in my nature but if I go down that path I know that we might sprint right into something that we should be taking at a walking pace."

Tobin couldn't believe how labored their breathing had become sitting in public only holding hands and that this minimal contact and conversation was enough to make her feel like she might explode.

Tobin nodded her head numbly to indicate that she agreed with what Rumer was saying.

"So...we take it slow....you take it easy on me and we have some fun getting to know one another.  Do we need to set ground rules Tobin?  I won't judge if you feel that you need to have limitations set."

Tobin smiled at this and laughed a little.  "Of course you won't judge but I'm sure I'll get teased about it now and then."  Tobin said grinning and shaking her head.

"Well if you get teased then I deserve to be teased also.  You have no idea how much I have to hold back either."  Rumer replies in a serious tone making Tobin shiver in her seat.

(Tobin's brain notes:  Wow....)

"Ok...well before you set the limitations I just wanted to say that I intended on kissing you if not today then soon so if that's a limitation let me know now so I can deal with the loss and try moving on."  Tobin said laughing and rubbing her eyes.

"Well Tobin, you're free and so am I so I can't deny you your first kiss as a free woman." 

 

Chapter Text

Tobin stood on the shore of the pacific, wet skin glistening against the sun watching Ashlyn and Kelley try to beat each other out in front of the next swell before it developed into a nice breaking wave.  She sighed and looked around for her beach towel not interested in getting anymore of the pacific ocean inside her board shorts.

Once she was set up she looked up just in time to see Ashlyn get shanked pretty vicously.  She winced at how hard her friend ate it. 

This was not the smartest move for Ashlyn or Kelley but no one could convince them to quit unless they decided to quit on their own.  That's why they had come alone.  No girlfriends or...potential girlfriends or anyone else that wasn't like minded when it came to the dangerous pacific ocean surf. 

She waited for Ashlyn to come up and just when she began to worry a little she saw her blonde head pop up on the nearest sand bar to the shore.  They would bring it in for the day.

"You know Dawn is gonna lose it if she sees any scrapes or burns on your skin right?"  Tobin said as Ashlyn strolled up next to her after flinging her board to the side with an exhausted flap of her arm and plopping down directly onto the sand.

They were technically still in camp on a rest day but since all of their family was in California they had the luxury of going off to do what they wanted on their day of rest which was intended for just that.... REST but of course they couldn't resist a chance to surf when they were all together for once.  It was so rare.

"Ugh dude, I wish you'd sit on a towel.  My jeep is beach ready but it still has red leather seats!"  Tobin lamented shaking her head at her salty friend. 

"You're ass is gonna look like two giant sugar cookies.  You know the ones that you're grandma makes with the cinnamon and sugar on them?"  Tobin teased laughing at the image in her head.  Ashlyn was out of breath and hadn't said a word but she laughed at that last quip from Tobin.

"Where's Kell?" 

"Eh....trying to catch...one more.  Did you notice I hacked her off on that last one?"  Ashlyn said proudly grinning and letting her back hit the sand along with her ass.

Tobin rolled her eyes.  "Yea I did.  I saw you bust your ass and get shanked hard too you idiot so don't quit your day job just yet!"  Tobin laughed and looked over at her friend trying to block her from pushing her playfully. 

"Shit, with Hope between the goal posts I might as well quit.  Her shoes are just too big to fill."  Ashlyn grumbled regrettably.

"Hey, maybe if you took it seriously and didn't punish your body on your rest day you'd get more caps!"  Tobin teased as only Tobin could.  Anyone else that attempted to tease Ashlyn about this topic would be taken to heart and probably end in an argument.

But she knew Ashlyn was right in a way.  She was always going to have to deal with Hope getting starts over her.  It wasn't that Ashlyn wasn't an excellent goal keeper.  She wouldn't even be considered an alternate if she weren't.  That alone should be something to be extremely proud of. 

Hope was one of the rare breed.  The legendary breed.  Along with the likes of Hamm and Akers and even Wambach.  Although Tobin could never hold her own between any two goal posts there was always something about the position that she admired and respected more than any of the others.  She could understand it the best when making parallels between the game of soccer and warfare.

When you have a group of 10 Marines and they all are expert shooters with seal training under their belt and numerous tours of duty, then you know that you have a force to be reckoned with.  But if they land in a hot LZ with zero intel on the enemy at all then you have a huge problem.  They can storm the beaches of Normandy, or coordinate an amphibious assault on the island of Peru but without a good intel briefing before deployment they'd be sun tanning on the beach waiting for the enemy to find them.

Hope Solo was the intelligence part of the team. 

Hope gave them all the information and support they needed.  With this valuable intel, they are able to freely and confidently go about the duties handed down to them and complete the mission.  With Hope standing as a barricade against the enemy, the seal team is secure in knowing that she has their back.  Even if they slip up or some unforeseen turn of events occurs, Hope is always ready with more intel for an alternate plan of attack. 

Hope would always be that unsung hero.  That silent and deadly factor that no one sees or appreciates much until the shit hits the fan and the only thing standing between your country and nuclear war is a 5 foot 9 intel briefing telling you that in order to prevent this attack you need to assemble this way or intercept at this moment to disarm or destroy. 

Hope was the final line of defense and her resolve was rock solid.

"Don't sweat it dude.  If the coach keeps putting all her eggs in one basket she's gonna regret it the day she needs to find a replacement and none of her other gks have enough experience to take over the spot.  That's on her, not on you or any other up and coming gk."

"Yea, I know you're right but it still doesn't feel good."  Ashlyn admitted.  "Stop worrying about what you can't change in this moment and focus on bettering yourself.  That's all you can do dude." Tobin advised.

They stayed quiet for a while watching Kelley take her last wave with more grace and balance than Ashlyn had.

Ashlyn thought of the many times she had gone over this same subject with Ali.  It was never easy when she was left off a roster.  So it made it even more difficult to ignore when Ali was so consistent and talented in her position that she had easily maintained and retained her spot on the national team's back line.  Even after making a comeback.  

Ashlyn knew her friend and her girlfriend were right in giving her the same advice but sometimes she just needed to hear it one more time for it to really hit home.

"And hey....don't think I didn't see you shamelessly milking that advantage you have on Kell without hesitation..... in the water.  Do that all you want but on the field we both know that your long ass legs don't mean a fucking thing compared to that 5 foot 5 freckle face.  She burns everyones ass on the pitch every damn time." 

Ashlyn nodded her head laughing at Tobin's words knowing that it was true pretty much since Kelley took her first steps onto the pitch.  Kelley just had an extra set of lungs.  At least that's how Carli described it every time someone asked about it. 

Tobin always thought it was the funniest thing to see how envious Carli was of that.  But that's why her friends were at the level they were.  Their competitive nature was just always a step above your average overly competitive person.  Some people were born with natural talent and physical ability and others were born with the heart to get it done no matter what.  If you're lucky, you have both. 

Which brought someone else to mind.

"Hey dude, we never got done talking about the update on everyone the other night.  How's Alex?"  Tobin asked trying to sound natural but she knew her friend could see right through her.

Ashlyn stayed quiet for a while which made Tobin a little nervous.

"Hey Tobs, since you've been back have you been online at all or watched tv or picked up a magazine and actually paged through it?" 

"That is so far off the subject Ash.  Just answer my question."  Tobin said sighing and somehow knowing that Ashlyn was asking for a reason.  She leaned back holding herself up by putting the palms of her hands down on the towel behind her.  She tilted her head toward the sun and closed her eyes soaking it in.

"Its part of the answer.  Have you?"

She kept her eyes closed.  "No dude.  I prefer quiet corners with a cup of coffee and a book.  I don't think I'm ready to get back in to the mainstream yet.  Transitioning has been harder than I thought."  Tobin admitted softly.

"I asked because Alex is pretty much considered the new face of U.S. Women's Soccer."  Ashlyn said flatly pausing to see Tobin's reaction.

Tobin didn't quite know how to feel about that but she knew she didn't feel bad and she definitely was not surprised.

"So you mean endorsements?  Then I take it she's left Nadim behind by now right?"  Tobin stated knowing that someone in the spot light had to carry with them certain responsibilities.  Alex had never done what SHE wanted to do.  She had always followed what she thought everyone around her wanted from her.

"How did you guess that?  Yea, she's uh....she's kind of dating this dude now.  Its really weird.  I mean I guess those of us that have known her so long find it weird but well, she DID date dudes before right?"  Ashlyn questioned trying to reach that period of their lives in her mind to remember if she ever saw Alex date a guy.

"Uh...before Emily I think but I guess that can be considered null and void.  I mean none of us knew any better at that age." 

"Yea well, I've met the guy Tobs...he's actually...well he's probably the first decent person Alex has dated...since you."  Ashlyn said wishing that the soft way she delivered the news could make it less of a blow to her friend. 

Ashlyn had seen the way Tobin interacted with Rumer the other night and hearing her friend talk about this new woman in her life had Ashlyn convinced that what Tobin and Rumer have could be what she and Ali had.  BUT no one can really ever compare with your first love.  You may be able to find true love again but the first would always be, well, the first. 

The first to draw blood or crush skulls or make you realize how blind love can make you. 

Ashlyn couldn't even imagine trying to forget Ali if they ever broke up even if their situation was completely different from Tobin's.  The bond of a first love was hard to break or forget.  It was tough to compete with.  She wondered if Rumer even knew that the girl she's really in to at the moment used to date the star forward on their team that just happened to pose in this years body paint section of Sports Illustrated.

(Ashlyn's brain notes:  I hope this doesn't turn into a shit storm)

"Hey dude, I'm glad.  All this time all I ever wanted was for that dumbass to wake up and let someone worth while actually love her.  God she can be such a dumb bitch sometimes!"  Tobin complained laughing off the odd feeling in her chest. 

Maybe this was it.  Maybe this is what closure felt like.  Tobin had always regarded Alex as being her end game.  She had always thought of her with a feeling of "some day."  But maybe, just maybe that someday was never meant to be.  Maybe this is what it felt like to finally say goodbye.  Sure she might be saying it with tears in her eyes but they would be bittersweet tears.  Tears that ended one chapter so she could open the next one with clear eyes and an open heart.

"You know dude, I'll admit that I was scared for a long time."  Tobin admitted quietly and she hated the sound of her own voice.  A little shaky and uncertain.  She continued anyway.

"It's been 5 years and out there when you're lying awake at night listening to the bombs or the fire fights or trying to stay awake when you pull guard duty, you have a lot of time to think.  Its kind of like being in jail almost."

Tobin paused again letting the sinking feeling settle in her chest before continuing. 

"I was scared that she would find someone and marry them and cut off any chance we might have at a real honest relationship.  It took me a long time to let go of that fear even in the middle of all that when I wasn't even sure I would survive.  But I let it go.  I let that fear go because whats the point man?  What's the point in hoping and wishing and praying and being afraid of something that you can't stop no matter what you do?  I could never convince her to come back before...its no different now."

"For what its worth, I think there's a huge difference now but that difference has nothing to do with her.  The difference is in you.  That's the point.  She hasn't changed dude.  If anything, her life just got more complicated and that got thrown onto the baggage she already had.  She's the same person she was when we graduated.  She means well dude but she's toxic when it comes to you.  She doesn't know how to be a good partner.  You can't go into something thinking you can change someone or save them.  You knew it before you left.  You even told her.  She told me you did.  She has to save herself.  She has to love herself.  She can be on the cover of a thousand magazines but none of that matters if she doesn't see what the rest of the world sees.  Its self loathing dude.  You don't need that."

Tobin nodded her head silently.

"And you don't need games.  I love the girl to death dude but she's just not good in a relationship.  She's all about herself and about what looks good."

Tobin closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath and when she let it out the feeling hadn't gone away but it was more tolerable.  The choke setting on her collar felt like it had been lowered a notch and she was grateful for that at least.

"How long Ash?  How long has it been?"

"I think...like a year...maybe a little over a year?  And Tobin, the dude is like stupidly in love and blinded of course but he's good for her.  Of course since he doesn't mistreat her or control her or have her under lock and key, Alex just kind of always seems uninterested.  Its weird how some chicks are huh?  Its almost as if they want to be mistreated."

Tobin had witnessed this time and again with some of the most beautiful, talented and intelligent women she had ever met.  Maybe this is what Kelley meant by all of them having a curse.  Tobin sighed nodding her head in agreement with Ashlyn.

"And Kell?  How long has she had this thing with this cute girl Ann?  Do you even know?  You didn't even seem to be up to date with that the last time we spoke."  Tobin asked squinting her eyes against the sun to be able to see her friends face.

"Well, dude she beat you in the new relationship category but just barely I think by a couple of weeks."  Ashlyn said laughing.  "But she sure didn't beat you in the hot category.  I mean damn Tobs.  I'm sorry but I couldn't help noticing Rumers.....well I'm sure you know what I mean right?  I feel a little weird admitting that I checked out your girl...like once or twice."  They both laughed hard and Tobin shook her head at her friend.

"Shameless dude!  Shameless!  Its ok, I check Ali out all the time.  Its hard when they have the bodies that they do.  Besides, I'm not the only one checking out 1 of 4 players on the backline of the best defense in the game."  Tobin said shrugging her shoulders and still giggling a little. 

"I'm surprised Ali's ass doesn't hurt after every game since I'm sure millions of people have just spent two 45 minute halves gawking at it."  Tobin said between a fit of hard laughing.  She began to tear up.

Ashlyn sat up and attempted to pin Tobin down on her own beach towel to no avail.  "Nice try dude, I'm not as puny as I used to be.  You'd have to bring a lot more fire power than your two measly guns.  You better hope your arms recover from today's surf in time to suit up tomorrow dude."  Tobin replied cockily grinning and pushing Ashlyn off her.  Ashlyn smiled and laid back down in the imprint that her body had made in the sand.

Kelley always full of endless energy came bounding out of the water shaking cold droplettes of salt water on them both.

"HEY!"  Both women yelled shielding their faces from their friend's ocean spray.  Kelley giggled and plopped down on the end of TObin's beach towel.

"THANK YOU Kell.  Fuck, finally someone shows some respect for my leather interior!"  Tobin teases lightly smacking Ashlyn's arm with the back of her hand.

"Don't kid yourself prissy!"  Kelley said laughing and shaking her head.  "I'm ONLY sitting here because I hate the way the dry sand feels in my ass crack when I come straight out of the water."  Kelley admitted matter of factly.

This set both Tobin and Ashlyn off in a fit of laughter.

"Honestly!  This nasty bitch!  Look at her!  I don't know how she can stand it!"  Kelley observed pointing over at Ashlyn still seated in the dry sand next to Tobin.  Happy as a pig in shit.

"So drinks tonight right?  I mean maybe just one drink but it will be a toast because we are finally all in the same place and our Tobs is with us!"  Kelley yelled excitedly.  Tobin rolled her eyes and laughed.

"Well I can drink as much as I want....well...nevermind no I can't."  Tobin mumbled and trailed off quietly at the end of her sentence.  Ashlyn sat up and let out a loud guffaw at the way Tobin tried to play it off.

Kelley looked amused and confused.

"What am I missing?"  Kelley asked a laughing Ashlyn and then looked at Tobin waiting for one of them to answer her.

"WAIT!  Wait I want to tell her Tobs!  Please let me tell her! Ha!"

"Oh shut the fuck up dude.  Eat shit!"  Tobin said trying to sound serious but smiling stupidly all the while.

"Tobin here...can't drink too much because if she does there's more of a chance she won't be able to keep it in her PANTS!"  Ashlyn yelled laughing even harder.

Tobin couldn't help laughing herself looking over at her friend and shaking her head.  "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself.  I'm glad you're having a good time at my expense you asshole."

"Ok, well I kind of get it but I'm not getting the whole picture yet."  Kelley admits honestly but there was still a glint of amusement in her eyes.

"I'm bringing Rumer with me tonight and I'm trying really hard to behave myself.  We both are and I know if I drink too much I will have less control over my body."  Tobin admits begrungingly. 

"Ahh yes the Rumer I've been hearing so much about from everyone.  You got pics Tobs?"  Kelley asked wiggling her eyebrows playfully.  Tobin rolled her eyes and began reaching for her bag acting as if she hated to share her personal life with anyone when really she couldn't wait to take out the pics they took together in a photo booth at the movies two nights ago.

"Here's our photo strip from the other night."  Tobin said feeling the butterflies as she spotted the item in her small pack and handed it over to Kelley.

"Ugh so disgusting.  I think I might gag seeing all this.  You two are so cute together and its pretty damned clear that you're both smitten.  Fuck look at those lips!  Geez Tobs...she really is...well beautiful!  She kind of...hmm...she looks pixieish around the eyes.  I can't tell what color they are because its black and white but they're...hmm alluring and I love how she looks at you and her smile of course.  Her smile is gorgeous Tobs. I'm proud of you."

"Thanks Kell, its nice to get a mature opinion instead of hearing "severly fuckable" or "sex on a stick" or "sexy as fuck."

"Well not so fast..."  Kelley said laughing.  "Don't accuse me of being mature just yet!"

Ashlyn took this opportunity to inject her two cents.

"Kell, you have no idea.  You haven't even seen this girl in person.  Its like I don't know.  Its like her body is one of the hottest I've ever seen and her demeanor...she's like kind of shy but really sweet and funny and wicked smart too.  It all just adds up to well...I don't know...she's just fine as fuck! And Tobin wants to bone her so bad its like you can cut the tension with a knife!" Ashlyn said laughing.

"Fuck dude are you done talking shit?  I gotta get out of here and get in a very cold shower so I can go hang out with her.  Are you done sugar coating yourself?"  Tobin smiled at her friend.

"Wait wait...no I'm not done.  Kell, get this, this girl...Rumer...she's straight.  Tobin pulled a straight one."  Ashlyn said proudly smiling.

"Big deal dude, Ali WAS a straight one before she met you.  Ann was straight before me.  They are the best kind of girls.  Well at least in our experience."  Kelley said smiling sweetly.

"I agree!"  Tobin said snatching her photo strip away from Kelley and putting it back in her bag.

***********************************************************

 

"Mom I don't know what to think or feel! I'm around it all the time, I mean we both are with the guys and some of my girls too but it's so different when it's happening to me! Like I freaked out for a while at first. I really did."

"Which part freaked you out the most baby? Just that you were noticing this girl a little more than you've ever noticed any others?"

Rumer could see her mother sitting on her plush couch in the lavish home she grew up in with her Bluetooth in her ear knawing on her lip like she always did when she was in deep thought.

"MA I hope you're not knawing on your lip like I always tell you not to!" Rumer scolded her laying down on her own couch sighing deeply when her mother didn't answer her right away.

"Of course I'm not biting my lip Ru now stop avoiding my question."

"I freaked out because like I actually want to DO things to her mom. I'm doing WAY more than NOTICING her and I have no control over it!  I'm not just drawn to her.  I actually want to...well practically rip her clothes off...that's such a strange feeling for me.  I mean its a huge change!" Rumer couldn't hide the embarrassing feeling and at the same time the giddiness that came through in her voice.

Her mother knew her better than anyone in the world and she swore she could almost hear her thoughts at times.  Her friends had always told her that they envied the close relationship they shared. 

Rumer was grateful.  Others weren't so lucky. 

She knew that her mother could easily be like Tobin's mother and that thought settled in her stomach like a hard pit at the center of a peach.

She heard her mom laugh softly on the other line which caused her to laugh too.

"Don't laugh mom this is awkward enough as it is! I mean I didn't hesitate to pursue her when I felt the obvious pull and we both seem to be really into communicating so everything is up front which is just so god damNed refreshing!  I mean that just adds to the attraction and its stronger than I've ever felt.  I'm having a really hard time keeping my hands to myself and keeping my thoughts clean!"

She heard her mom laugh again a little harder this time and she knew they were thinking the same thing.

"Omg love I swear no woman could read any man's thoughts and you trying to figure Sam out was even worse! I swear I never heard him say more than two words the entire 2 years you were dating him! But he was sweet to you at least." 

Both women laughed remembering her very silent and very broody ex boyfriend that just frustrated her beyond her capacity for patience. 

"As far as the attraction goes...that IS really different.  I'm trying to remember a time that you came to me sounding like this in the past and the only thing I can come up with that comes close is your first love.  And that's because the way you sounded then was nothing compared to how you sound now on the intensity scale.  I told you to send me pics Ru!  Did you forget?"

"Ugh yes I did hold on."  Rumer immediately went into her picture folder on her phone and sent the picture she had labeled as her favorite of herself with Tobin. 

She smiled as she put the phone back on her ear and the butterflies commenced their languid swirling motion in the pit of her stomach again.  She could almost see the look on Tobin's face when she asked her to take a picture with her.  That look of mild panic and then having to kiss her softly to calm her nerves and tell her how beautiful she really was.  By this point her phone had already snapped a series of 4 pictures and Rumer was just hoping that one of them came out in focus and in frame.  And when she finally convinced Tobin to pose with her she had to also make sure that she caught her smile in full effect without Tobin looking off to the side of the frame out of embarrassment.  

She bit her lip and smiled again.

"Did you get it yet mom?"

"Yes hold on I'm downloading it.  But Ru, seriously send me at least one more!"  Rumer's mom said laughing.

Rumer quickly attached another picture from the 4 part series that her phone had captured on its burst mode.

"Ok I just sent you another."

"...wow Ru...she's really beautiful.  Her smile is amazing."  her mother mused. 

"And the way she looks at you...its like no one else exists in the world to her."  Rumer's mother was looking at every detail of the shots her daughter had sent her and was surprised when the look in Tobin's eyes on the second picture touched her as deeply as it did. 

Rumer had always been her baby.  It was an overwhelming but amazing feeling when she saw someone else look at Rumer very similar to the way she knows she looks at her.

Rumer knew that if her mother was going to discourage her in any way that she would've already done that.  Out right, not hinting or suggesting.  Instead all she heard since the beginning of their conversation was genuine curiousity, honesty and unconditional love.

"God mom, its not just how she looks...its like...I mean she's completely open with me.  I'm not sure I've ever met anyone like that besides you and dad of course but you know what I mean.  Its intoxicating.  Like I can't get enough of her.  I want to know everything!  And even though she is an open book I can still see that there is sadness hidden deep in her eyes.  Almost like a spark of fire that might just grow into a huge flame under the right circumstances.  Its ...unpredictable and I can see how it could be destructive...not toward me but ...toward herself.  I see all this and for some reason I still want to walk right into the fire with her.  If I could be let in to all that darkness I would let the flame take me too.  As long as she let me see every last part of her."

"....wow babe....when can I meet this girl?"

Rumer laughed and looked at the time on her rockabilly style wall clock.  "Mom come on.  It hasn't even been two full weeks.  Can I see where this goes for a while longer before I introduce her to my parents which by itself is a huge deal but totally shocking because of who you and dad are?"  Rumer reasoned dreading the thought of bringing Tobin around to meet BOTH of her parents. 

As far as she knew, neither Tobin or any of Tobin's friends knew who her parents were and subsequently what that meant when it came to her.

"That's another thing I wanted to ask you, how were you planning on telling her?  I mean, have you two even talked about your families?"

For the second time in the same conversation, Rumer felt the rock hard pit develop in her stomach.

"Yes but not specifically.  Just where we grew up and our siblings and the kind of people our parents are.  I told her you two were divorced when I was fairly young and have both had a few relationships since.  I also told her that you and I have an amazing relationship and of course Daddy and I do as well just not the same type of relationship."  Both women began to laugh knowing exactly what that meant.

"I'd actually love to hear what your father would say if you told him you were having a hard time keeping your hands off Tobin."  Rumer's mother said through a full throated laugh.

"Funny mother." Rumer dead panned.

"Look before I forget, I just wanted to give you my advice on this.  This is all new territory for you and if you two are being as open as you say you have been so far then you need to tell her as soon as possible.  But she also needs to tell you why she's so sad or why she seems so self destructive.  If you don't and she finds out on her own, you might ruin this before it can develop into something more than just a very strong physical attraction.  Don't mess it up babe.  She is gonna have to find out sooner or later.  It's better if it comes from you."

Rumer knew her mother was right and even though she was afraid she was also willing to offer up this information if it meant that she had a chance to fully know everything there was to know about Tobin.

"You're right mama.  I love you.  I gotta go.  She's supposed to come over and hang out and I have to get dressed."  Rumer hurredly explained sitting up and walking to the bedroom in her apartment.

"You're so cute when you're excited love."  Rumers mom replied giddy with excitement herself.  Rumer laughed and shook her head.  "Whatever ma, I'll call you later and let you know what happened."

 **********************************************************

"So, you're apartment has an excellent view."  Tobin mused staring unabashedly at Rumer's physique while she opened a bottle of wine in the kitchen.

Rumer turned around ready to explain how lucky she had been to snag the last apartment on the floor with that amazing view when she realized that Tobin was staring at HER.

Tobin laughed lightly, eyes sparkling, skin glowing as she walked over to help Rumer find a couple of wine glasses.

"Real cute Tobin.  Cheesy as all hell but cute.  Not sure if you could get away with that if you weren't so damn attractive!"  Rumer teased inhaling sharply and involuntarily as Tobin entered her personal space and connected their foreheads still smiling.

(Rumers brain notes:  God I hate how I have no control over how my body reacts to her!)

Rumer was biting her lip and something must have crossed her features because she heard Tobin softly asking if she was ok.

She opened her eyes and Tobin had backed up a few inches to study her features.  There was a slight concern etched in the small furrow of her brow and all Rumer wanted was for Tobin to get into her personal space again.

She nodded her head and pulled Tobin by the front of her button up slowly until their lips met softly like the fluffy soft collision of two pillows.  Tobin's hands immediately went to Rumer's hips strong and steady and confident.  The warmth emanating from the palms of Tobin's hands and the added contact of their chests caused Rumer to put the wine bottle on the counter top and slide both of her hands onto Tobin's neck and jawline.  This caused Tobin to moan into the kiss and grip Rumers hips tighter which in turn caused Rumer to moan as well.

Their tongues were never stiff or overly aggressive as they made their exploratory rounds and the slower their makeout sessions were the more worked up they became until they had to force themselves to pull apart before it got any further.  Today, as they stood standing in the kitchen area of Rumer's apartment things just felt more electrified.  TObin had never crossed the threshold of Rumer's apartment and this intimacy and isolation from any prying eyes was the most intoxicating factor in their situation.

An ache grew between Rumers legs that she wasn't sure she'd be able to ignore for much longer and even knowing this full well she didn't want to stop.  Tobin had abandoned all thought and had allowed her body to guide her.  In this moment they were both ready to give in.

And then Rumer heard the voice of her mother in her head.  The advice she had given about being open with Tobin and it grinded the operation to a halt.

"I'm sorry...I'm sorry I know I got carried away."  Tobin stated breath ragged with arousal.

Rumer stood across from her equally out of breath.

"NO no its ok Tobin.  We BOTH got carried away so I'm sorry too.  Look, I really want to talk to you about something so let me pour this and then we can sit and talk."  Tobin nodded her head and pecked Rumer lightly.

 

************************************************************

"We've talked a lot about our backgrounds and our past and our families but I can feel that there is something that you're holding in that is making you sad or angry or depressed.  Sometimes when I look into your eyes I feel like you're struggling to fight it back and also afraid that if it comes out it will change the way I feel for you but it won't.  I want in Tobin.  I know you aren't exactly hiding it from me because you have been so open with me but I also know that I might not know the right questions to ask.  What do you have hidden so deep that haunts you?"

Rumer's hands shook with both fear and anticipation.  She had no idea what dark corners still lay undiscovered in this woman sitting across from her.

Tobin looked down at her hands and noticed that they were balled into fists in her lap.  She slowly opened them and closed them again as she focused on her breathing.  She was terrified of this question.  Terrified even more because of the way Rumer's voice was almost pleading during her questioning.  She was terrified to look up.

"I'm a killer Rumer."  Tobin said simply and quietly still looking down at her hands.  Rumer bit her lip and remained quiet hoping that Tobin would continue talking.  She eventually did.

 

"If you really want to know just let me tell you everything in one go and when I'm done I'll look up at you so you know I'm done. 

You already know why I joined and why I chose to serve and why I had no problem doing what I had to do in defense of my country.  I knew that if the day came when I had to cross over and become a killer that I would take that step without hesitation not because I wanted to but because I loved my country more than I loved myself.  I still do.  You also know about the gunny I worked for and hated.  The gunny that harassed me and drove me insane until I fantasized about shooting him in the ass or the leg or the fucking face just to shut him the fuck up. 

Well, when it came time for us to begin the process to go home we were told we'd just have to do one last convoy.  This time the gunny volunteered to go with us.  He had never gone on one before and I know the only reason he went was so that the other staff NCOs would stop calling him a pussy.  So of course they stuck me with him in the back of an open Humvee with another female Sgt Acosta.  We all had been on numerous convoys during our tour but this asshole hadn't and right from the beginning he was already fucking up.  Throwing rocks at dogs we passed in villages.  Pointing his 9mil at hajis he saw that even dared to glance our way as we passed.  I wanted to shoot him then too.  Everytime I closed my eyes I could see myself doing it.  It scared me so bad that I tried keeping my eyes open for long periods of time but my eyes would get irritated and tear up.  He saw me wipe my eyes once and told me that that was the reason women belonged under a desk or in the kitchen and not in a uniform. 

So we come across one village we were driving through that had a small pack of starving children trying to get our attention.  Our convoy was slow but we never stopped.  We knew we couldn't stop.  The kids tried 4 vehicles in front of us and when they came to the back of our Humvee to ask us for food the gunny did what he had been doing the whole time.  He took out his 9 mil and pointed it at each little begging face until they cowered away one by one but the last kid was a little older and I remember that he had kept up with us the whole time.  He had never asked for anything or put his hands out to us in that universal sign for 'help me.'  Sgt Acosta had had enough of the gunny's bullshit and told him to fucking stop.  He kept his gun pointed at the kids face not at close range but close enough for the kid to know that he was pointing it at him.  He kept it on the kid and turned to tell the Sgt to mind her own fucking business and that's when it happened.  It...it was so...fast.  Maybe that's why I took so long to react.  I  might have been able to prevent it all but I was frozen. 

The kid put his left hand on the small tailgate of our vehicle and pulled himself on by placing one knee on the bed of the Humvee.  I felt my right thumb move on my M4 instinctively because its muscle memory and I knew without looking that I had taken it off safe but before I could engage and tell him to get off he was pulling an Ak47 up and over the side of the Humvee and onto his lap with his right hand.  He fired a shot and hit the Sgt in her left leg.  The gunny turned around and froze.  He just stood there with his fucking gun pointed at the kid but did nothing.  The fucking thing wasn't even loaded.  The kid had more balls than he did. 

I remember the flat black color of the kids eyes.  I remember his dirty hair and his torn clothes and his bare feet.  His bare feet were so dirty but they were bloody too.  I know he was probably drugged up.  He expressed no emotion.  No indication that he was even there. 

I remember hearing the Sgt.  I remember hearing her say, "Heath, please!  Get that motherfucker!  Get him!  Shoot him NOW!"  I don't even know how long she had been repeating that or even if she had tried to tell the gunny to take action too before she had tried to get through to me.  When my brain finally caught up with reality I realized that my sister...that my Sgt might die all because of this gunny I hated.  When I woke up and realized that, I raised my M4 to my shoulder and I exploded that kids brains all over myself.  All over the gunny.  All over the road.  The sound of his body like a speed bump under the 4ton truck in line behind us was the last thing I remember before waking up in my rack.  I never saw the gunny again. 

Some nights....I dream that it was his brains that I blew out.  That it was his brains exploding on my face and sometimes I wake up laughing...but mostly....I wake up screaming...or crying.  There are plenty of things I could tell you that would probably be the reason you see such darkness behind my eyes but I have a feeling that this is the primary reason that sadness is there.  The kid was young.  Couldn't have been more than 12 and I had to do what I had to do but I'm still human.  My heart still beats in my chest.  And if that motherfucker hadn't pointed his gun at those kids...well...it might have never happened."

Rumer couldn't help the tears that had begun flowing non stop ever since Tobin mentioned wanting to shoot one of her own. 

When Tobin looked up to indicate she was done talking Rumer wasn't prepared.  She had planned on Tobin pausing longer and she had wanted to compose herself before Tobin could see the state she was in but it was too late for that now.  All she could think of doing was reaching out and grabbing Tobin.  She grabbed her and clutched her tight to her body. 

And perhaps that was her greatest fear now.  That Tobin would think her tears indicated fear or pity but that couldn't be futher from the truth.  Rumer knew when she looked into Tobin's eyes as they raised up out of that dream like state and monotone voice that she was going to fall for her.  No matter what happened from that moment on, it was inevitable.  And the lack of control she had over herself, over her heart, scared the living shit out of her.

They lay there on the couch quietly after.  Rumer's mind had blanked.  She had been consumed by Tobin once more and sidetracked by her need to know it all, to know more to know everything about the woman that held her in her arms so gently and with such tenderness that it was almost impossible to believe that she could also be equally destructive and dangerous.  

She had listened to the far off and dazed quality of Tobin's voice as she recalled the day that changed her forever and she knew that Tobin had willingly destroyed a part of herself.  As so many that serve are willing to do.  Their capacity to be so loyal, so dedicated to a country that didn't always appreciate them was not only commendable but heroic and all because they would rather pay for what they did for the rest of their lives than jeopardize the process of defending a country that they love more than they love themselves.

Rumer lay with her ear on this womans large beating heart as she thought of these things and prayed that she could stay there for as long as she wanted.

Another hour passed before they both slowly came out of their emotional stupor and managed to straighten themselves out and get ready to meet up with Tobin's friends for their small reunion.

"If they weren't all gonna be there at the same time I probably would've stayed on your couch holding you until you told me to let go."  Tobin admitted softly as she fastened her seat belt and turned the key in her jeep's ignition.

"How long has it been since you've all been together?"  Rumer asked watching the way Tobin's chiseled jaw flexed and relaxed as she looked in her mirrors to reverse out of her parking spot. 

"Uh about 5 or 6 years." Tobin said checking her mirrors one last time before taking a lane into the flow of traffic. 

Rumer reached over grabbing Tobin's free hand and linking it together with her own.  She then put their joined hands high up on her warm thigh.

Tobin cleared her throat and laughed a little.  It made Rumer's heart jump in her chest at the beauty of that smile. 

"What's so funny?"  Rumer asked smiling.

Tobin continued to look forward and pay attention to the road but she was still smiling softly.  "Nothing...I uh...you don't even know what you do to me.  I'm convinced.  You have no idea.  Like I think about you almost all day.  Ok, I think about you all day."  Tobin admitted laughing to herself. 

Rumer's heart began beating so hard she could feel the sensation in her throat as if she could actually swallow it.

She gripped Tobin's hand a little tighter and caressed it with her thumb.

"I mean, you're so sexy ....like it almost like hurts me!  I know that sounds really stupid but...well Ash had the perfect way of describing it the other day.  She said that if I were a dude I would've had blue balls the first night we met." 

Tobin was laughing and shaking her head.  She put the jeep in park after pulling up to a red traffic light.  She looked over at Rumer.  There was a light blush high on her cheekbones and Tobin had to focus on her words or she would never finish explaining how she felt.

She brought Rumer's hand to her lips and kissed it gently. 

"That day in the coffee shop, when you kissed my fingertips...I mean we hadn't even been sitting there long and you had already made me ruin my underwear."  Tobin's voice was soft and timid but full of lust.

Rumer swallowed thickly.

Tobin looked to her left checking to see if the light had changed. It hadn't.

"I fantasize about how your skin would taste or how your body would feel against mine or how you'd sound saying my name when I'm giving your body what I know it craves."

Rumer blinked slowly trying to figure out if she was really hearing all of this.  It was the most deliciously erotic and romantically tender dirty talk she had ever heard.

In the past her boyfriends had never had the capacity to express themselves without using words like "fuck" or "pussy" or "suck my dick" and when they did try things like sexting it grossed her out and completely ruined her mood.

When Tobin began driving again they remained silent for a while until Tobin remembered something very important that she hadn't yet discussed with Rumer.  She was about to begin talking when Rumer interrupted her. 

"I...uh I can't even tell you how many times a day I think of your smile and your eyes and your voice.  And when we are together, which hasn't been often, I just can't get enough of you.  Its like I feel like if I don't inhale every aspect of you as much as possible while your right here that someone else might come along and steal a moment away from me.  Just one small moment.  Like I feel greedy.  Not in the way you might think.  Not like I want you all to myself.  No, just greedy in a way that wants every detail that makes you who you are burned into my memory.  Into my skin.  Into the strands of my hair.  Into...me.  Just anywhere I can have you until you fill me up.  Until you're so deep inside me that...God I don't know...until I can satisfy this emptiness I felt before I met you. Please understand.  This shit scares me.  The intensity of it scares me and the implication that lies behind that intensity is overwhelming because it hasn't been long.  You keep letting me in like this and you wont be able to get rid of me.  So if that's something you really don't think you can handle...dispose of me right now before it gets to be too much."  Rumers breathing was labored by the time she was finished speaking.  

She held Tobin's hand between the both of hers and waited just hoping that she hadn't crossed a line that she couldn't uncross anymore.

Tobin hadn't been able to look over at Rumer because the traffic had proved to be a little too active for her to do so safely. But as Rumer began confessing how she felt, Tobin had been looking for a parking lot to pull into and just as she finished speaking she finally managed to pull into one quickly and put the jeep into park. 

She unbuckled her seat belt with trembling hands and then leaned over the center console.  There were no moments of hesitation or pausing for reaction.  Tobin just pulled Rumer into her body frantically kissing her lips.  One of the limitations they had put on each other that day in the coffee shop had been to keep their hands above the neck line unless they were resting their hands on waist lines or hips.  But when Tobin began making her move she felt Rumers hands lightly clinging to the front of her shirt.  Tobin took Rumers hands and placed them under the bottom of her shirt as she swirled her tongue around the inside of Rumers warm delicious mouth.

The noise that emerged from the back of Rumers throat spurred Tobin on and she released the soft attack on Rumers lips to begin an assault on her neck.  This was the first time Tobin had crossed this boundary and when her lips finally touched the soft skin she had been drooling over and fantasizing about for two weeks she had to dig her fingers into Rumers hair just to prevent her hands from going any lower than they should be going. 

They remained this way moaning and fighting the urge to take it any further.  As much as they tortured each other toeing the edge of that very thin line they didn't want to stop.

Tobin lightly dragged her lips from Rumers neck to her ear and whispered raggedly, "don't ever tell me to dispose of you again."

She slowly pulled Rumer face to face with her and they connected foreheads.  Tobin concentrated on catching her breath and she closed her eyes waiting.  When she opened them Rumer was looking right back at her and they remained that way, out of breath for what seemed like a lifetime.

Tobin felt cool air on her stomach and saw Rumer glance down biting her lip.

"If you're thinking something, tell me whats on your mind." Tobin softly commanded.

"It's ....it's not easy to put it into words when I've never had sex with a woman." Rumer confessed looking off to the side avoiding Tobins intense eyes for a few seconds.

"I just...I know I want to feel your body on top of mine and right now I can't believe how unbelievably sexy your abs are. We have to stop before I climb out of this seat...."

"OK!" Tobin replied a little louder than she intended.

"Sorry, didn't mean to raise my voice. I just needed to stop you before we reached the point of no return."

***************************************************************************************************

When they finally arrived at the bar Tobin lingered in the drivers seat.

"Hey, I just wanted to discuss something with you before we go in there."

Rumer turned her body toward Tobin still holding her hand to make sure she had her full attention.

"The women you meet tonight...they're like my sisters and they were there for me during a very low point in my life."

Rumer listened intently and nodded her head urging Tobin to continue.

"I just want you to know that I have history with one of them that's pretty painful and very deep. She was my first love and it took me a long time to let go of the hope that I held on to that one day we'd be together again. But I DID let it go. I'm really into you Rumer and I am only interested in seeing where this goes with you and I only. I can't say that I don't love her anymore because I do and I always will but not in that way anymore. And I have to be honest, when you told me those things. ...when you told me how you felt on the drive over here I realized that for the first time I have someone that has matched not only my level of honesty when it's not easy to expose yourself but my level of intensity and affection. She never ....NEVER gave me that. I need you to know this before we go in there. I need you to know because it's the truth. And because, well Alex is just unpredictable."

 "Alex....Alex Morgan? I mean I assume she's on the team too right?"

It was more than odd hearing that name roll off Rumer's tongue. The tongue that Tobin had just had in her mouth...softly swirling against her own tongue. Tobin inhaled sharply and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end.

"Yea, that's her." She managed to get out.

"Well, she's like everywhere. It's hard NOT to know who Alex Morgan is."

Rumer looked over at Tobin and studied her body language for a while. "Hey, If this is too much for you....you can....I mean I didn't have to come. I know you said everyone was bringing a date for the most part but....you can drop me back home and...uh..."

Tobin started laughing a little, effectively confusing Rumer to no end.

"So I admit that it's not exactly ideal to put myself in a fairly awkward situation but I've kind of lived in a war zone for about 2 years so this situation....as nervous as I may seem to you...well..."

Tobin looked up at Rumer making sure she was making eye contact to emphasize her seriousness. 

"...I'm not scared of a fucking thing...NOTHING scares me now much less a rendezvous with all the ghosts of my past. No...I'm going in there. ...with YOU because I want to go in there with you. But if you feel like you might want to sit this one out then I can take you home. I'll be disappointed but I'll get over it. My point is that I'm gonna face this because I have to but it would be better if I could face it all while holding your hand."

Rumer looked away smirking a little bit and biting her lip.

"What?"  Tobin asked squinting her eyes a little.  Rumer chuckled and shook her head.  "Does that mean no?  You don't want to go in with me?"  Tobin asked honestly.

"NO...No that's not what I mean...I mean yes I'll go in with you."  Rumer laughed again.

"Ok...but why are you laughing?

 "Because...you're just so....fuck...you're so beautiful Tobin and you don't even know it." Rumer said voice getting caught up in her throat with emotion. "If you're ready I'm ready."

Walking in and seeing all her friends was more emotional than Tobin expected it to be.  With all the distractions that came with dating someone new and running into old flames, she completely forgot that she hand's seen Hope or Carli or even Christen in a lot longer than 6 years.  It was also awkward to no end when she didn't know the full story behind Hope and Kelley's break up.  Of course they had to remain professional if they wanted to play at the highest level but Tobin knew that there were probably still some situations that got really awkward really quickly. 

Still, even if she might be a little upset with Hope based off the little bit of information she knew she also missed her so damned much.  Tobin never let go of Rumer's hand as her friends engulfed her in hug after hug after hug.  She didn't let her hand go but she did introduce her to everyone that came up to say hi. 

Christen looked so mature and happy that Tobin was taken aback.  Christen could see it in her eyes but couldn't believe how different Tobin looked either.

"Holy shit Tobin Heath!  You grew into one sexy ass woman that must have panties dropping and phone numbers stuffed into her pockets left and right!" Christen yelled out laughing and jumping on TObin without warning.

Tobin laughed but was also dying to see Rumers reaction.  When she turned to look she wasn't surprised to see Rumer laughing and also observing Christen very closely.  Either because she was on the verge of recognizing her or just because Christen was absolutely stunning.

"Fuck Chris....I can't believe its been so long!"  Tobin said smiling wide and setting Christens lithe body down gently all with one arm.  And Tobin saw that Christen had completely missed that Tobin had someone by the hand until that moment.

"Oh shit...oh  my god I'm such a bitch I'm so sorry! Hi I'm Christen.  Tobin and I go back all the way to high school and well...fuck its been that long since I've seen her too right Tobs?  Since a little after graduation?"  Christen looked to Tobin for confirmation as she reached for Rumer's free hand warmly taking it in between both of hers.

"Yea...that's right.  Hey Chris...this ...."

"I'm Rumer."  Rumer interrupted smiling sweetly and gripping Christen's hand noticing the bright green tint of her eyes and the flush of her cheeks.

"Its really nice to meet you Rumer.  I'm glad you came.  I'm even more glad that Tobin has finally landed a real woman that I can tell is genuine.  You know how my mom taught me to recognize that Rumer?"

Christen asked conspiratorily.  "How?"  Rumer replied with genuine curiousity.

"The grip and warmth of their hand, the honesty in their eyes and if you can't see their eyes then they're not making eye contact and that's never good."  Christen said smiling again and looking over at Tobin.

"I mean fuck Tobin, she's gorgeous!"  Christen said almost bouncing with excitement.  Tobin laughed hard at the sight of her friend and the fact that she had cursed already 6 times in the past 5 minutes.

"Thanks Chris but I think you're embarrassing her a little.  Tone it down and stop saying 'FUCK.'  That's my word remember?"  Tobin asked reminding Christen of that conversation they had had in school so many years ago.

Christen shook her head and looked over at Rumer again.  "So hey, I'm gonna go back to my table and when my fiancé gets back from his business call out on the back patio I want you guys to come sit with us for a while so I can introduce you ok?"

They both nodded in agreement.  (Tobin's brain notes: Fiance?)

"Oh and Rumer?  If you already didn't know that Tobin is special I think you're gonna find out tonight.  There's nothing more revealing than the kind of friends you keep and how much they love you."

"I agree completely Christen but I already knew Tobin was special."  Rumer replied smiling and making Tobin's knees go weak.

"See, I told you she was a real woman Tobin."  Christen said looking over at her friend and patting her cheek lightly.  "Its about time you stopped dating losers." 

(Tobin's brain notes:  Laying it on pretty thick aren't we Press?  I get it don't worry.  I get it.)  Tobin smiled shaking her head at Christen.

They watched her walk off and then Ashlyn came over to show them the place they had saved for them to sit.  Tobin had let go of Rumers hand in order to wrap and arm around her waist instead and hold her as close to her body as she could while they walked to the table. 

Rumer loved how safe and lucky she felt walking next to Tobin.  She felt the love every single woman had for her just by looking in their eyes as they spoke to her.

"So hey...like I met well most of your friends and they all play together on the same team right?" 

Rumer asked running the arm closest to Tobin's body up her back tenderly and stroking the back of her lose straight hair.

Tobin's breath hitched at the simple caress but she was able to choke out a "Yea why?"

They had just arrived at the table but Rumer had Tobin's complete attention.

"I mean is it a requirement for them to be so damned attractive before they are even considered for a spot on the team?  I mean...holy shit...it looks like a team full of models!"  Rumer exclaimed smiling at Tobin causing Tobin to smile right back. 

Tobin was so mesmerized that she didn't even hear much of the question and was already leaning forward kissing the smile off Rumers face before she could even reply.

Tobin registered wolf whistles and cheers sounding around her but she kept her eyes closed and didn't stop until she heard Ashlyn's voice,

"Fuck dude now I know how you guys feel when me and Ali are tongue fucking each other around yall!"  Before Tobin could even react, Rumer was already breaking the kiss and bursting into laughter herself.

They sat at the table with Ashlyn, Ali, Sydney and Kristie and were just discussing what they wanted to drink when Ashlyn caught Tobin's eye.  She laughed a little and Tobin knew why she was laughing. 

She gave her a warning look and when she saw Ashlyn just wiggle her eyebrows and double down she looked over at Ali's sweet smiling face and interrupted the conversation she was having with Rumer about what a left back is responsible for on the pitch.

"I'm sorry ladies I don't mean to interrupt but Ali, can you get a leash on your girl please before she makes me embarrass her."  Tobin said looking over at Ashlyn's shocked face and smiling smugly.

"Oh Tobin you're gonna pay for that later dude.  Trust me.  You'll pay."  Ashlyn said shaking her head and laughing.

"I don't know what you're up to Ashlyn but if Tobin asks me to put you on a leash I know it must be bad."  Ali says giving Ashlyn a pointed look as the blonde puts her hands up in shock and defeat.

"Geez woman you believe her over me?"  Ashlyn asks Ali giving her a puppy dog look.

Rumer laughs as she watches the scene unfold and Tobin can't help the warm feeling it gives her to see Rumer just fit right in with her friends.

"As cute as your puppy dog look is Ash I have to say that I do believe my Tobs over you.  Now you know the rule already.  You fuck up tonight and you ..."

"Don't get any PUSSAAYYY!"  Pinoe yelled making her presence known at the head of the table with Kelley and another woman Tobin had only seen in pictures, holding Kelley's hand.

"Jesus Christ Rumer I swear its been like this all our lives together no matter what level we play at!"  Ali complains looking over at Rumer who is in stitches now.

"This one...well I take it back....these TWO...."  Ali motions to Ashlyn and Pinoe "...are always finding any excuse to say "pussy" or "vag" or whatever the dirty word is for that day."

Pinoe shrugs her shoulders "Eh you love us Kreigs!"

Kelley walks over to where Tobin is sitting at the edge of the horse shoe booth and gives her a side hug.  She speaks in her ear so Tobin can hear her clearly over all the noise Pinoe is making.

"I'll introduce you to Ann if you introduce me to Rumer but if we sit next to you will we have to witness you two fingering each other under the table?"

Tobin dropped her head to the table dramatically "Jesus Christ!....KO!"  Tobin lifts her head and looks over at Ali.  "You can add this tiny squirrels name to that dirty word club these two idiots founded."

Ali laughs, eyes sparkling.  "I don't even want to know what that squirrel was squeaking in your ear hunny!"

"No but seriously Tobs, scoot over because you're gonna need Ann and I as a buffer.  The swim suit model just walked in." 

Kelley said bringing her voice down an octave so no one could hear her but Tobin.

Tobin looked to Rumer on her left and motioned for her to scoot over.

"We don't need a lot of room beautiful.  We can just squish together.  The closer the better."  Tobin told Rumer as softly as she could but Ashlyn still heard her.

"BARF!  Ugh!  Kell You're right!  Total gag!"  Ashlyn yelled toward Kelley and they both laughed.  "Jesus Christ I can't catch a break!"  Tobin told Rumer.

"I think my cheeks are gonna be sore by the end of the night because they'll probably have me laughing and smiling like this all night right?"  Rumer replied.  Tobin nodded her head smiling.

When Tobin turned to introduce herself to Ann, she saw camera flashes near the entrance and knew that Alex was definitely there as Kelley had reported. 

She gave her heart a moment to react and realized that when surrounded with friends and Rumer by her side she didn't feel so nervous. 

And then Alex came into the clearing.  One of the dim lights of the surrounding tables illuminated her face and Tobin realized that Alex was looking straight at her.

Well, she had never been any good at subtlety.

Chapter Text

Tobin not only felt a little awkward at Alex's audacity she actually felt unbelievably annoyed. 

After all the history they shared which was almost 90% manipulation and head games and just plain stupidity, Alex Morgan just walks into the place, cameras flashing in her wake and goes straight in for a stare down. 

What did she want to achieve by it? Who knew? Tobin could barely get the simplest of answers from her about the simplest of things their whole lives.

The truth wasn't just going to tumble out of Alex's well moisturized glossy lips no more than a diamond fountain can sprout spontaneously from the center of a diamond mine like a fire hydrant on Hollywood Blvd in July.

Was she attractive? Ridiculously. Had time added grace and maturity to an already long list of superlatives held by her overall appearance?  That goes without saying.

Was she sparkling with a new heightened sense of confidence that fame has undoubtedly granted her?  Of course.  Any blind man could see that Alex Morgan was SOMEONE.  But Tobin knew who that SOMEONE really was.

A very talented, very beautiful, very empty runaway train.  It's no doubt an amazing sight to see.  No one at the controls, a sharp curb away from derailing.  Sparks trailing at each rail tie illuminating its beauty like the lights on a runway during fashion week.

Everyone would stop and stare at her.  Like any attraction it’s hard for the rubes to tear their eyes away.  Like traffic near a gruesome road accident.  Carrion for the buzzards.  But the rubes watch from solid ground.  They couldn't board that runaway train even if they wanted to and that's the point of staring from a safe distance.

It requires no commitment.  No threat of injury and no fear of consequences.  It is a visual attraction.  Emphasis on the visual. 

Tobin knew what every other soccer enthusiast knew and that was that Alex was an unstoppable force on the pitch.  She only needed to watch a highlight reel of #13s first Olympic performance to see her abilities and feet so quick that if you tried trailing them with your eyes they might make you sea sick.  A few YouTube videos is all you'd need to agree that Alex Morgan was an up and coming U.S. Soccer legend.

But for Tobin who knew soccer, Alex was just the girl preceded by Abby Wambach who was preceded by the legendary and pioneering efforts of Mia Hamm.  And although soccer buffs might find a need to argue this for hours on end, it was really only Hamm.  Mia Hamm was really the only true force to be reckoned with at the end of the day. 

And simply because of her ability to stay on point on the pitch and poised off the pitch in front of cameras that she clearly hated.  Because she not only paved the road for those that followed after but wrecked through brick walls, marched a thousand miles in an oversized hand me down men's soccer uniform all the way to the top of the world in cleats that were melted onto the soles of her feet from playing for so long on turf in 100 degree heat.

In the end it would always be the "Hamm Effect" that yanked the attention of a male dominated EVERYTHING.  Not by sticking her face in the camera (although she was very easy on the eyes) and refusing to budge.  NOT by ripping her shirt off after a game winning goal (to each his own, you won't hear any judgement from the center character of THIS story) But by sticking her golden right foot right where it hurts most and making it IMPOSSIBLE for the rubes to look away.

With humility and courage and pure unadulterated love of the beautiful game.

The woman walking toward their table had to bow down and thank the soccer Gods that Mia Hamm gave her that window to climb through with streets so smooth and laden with gold that she had the luxury to walk through on her legendary trajectory not on battle worn cleats but on stiletto heels. 

Hell, if the impeccably clean and wear free cleat Tobin still had in a glass case at home was any indication, she had no attachment to any uniform item at all much less the soles of her boots.  No.  The only heart this shallow creature ever had was lost long ago in a wasteland of despair FAR before Tobin even came into her narrow minded orbit.

And for the first time in her life, Tobin was finally seeing Alex for what she really was.  A breath taking stunner whose beauty ran no deeper than the epidermal lining of her body.  No deeper than it would take to get a 2nd degree burn.

Tobin felt the corners of her mouth lifting not with happiness but with clarity as lucid as the dreams she had some nights when she was so sure that there was brain matter all over her face.

Tobin felt a very hard pinch on the top of her thigh and snapped her head to the right.

"OW!"  Tobin yelped already laughing.  "What the fuck KO!"  Still laughing. 

"Does your new girl know about your old girl?"  Kelley asked quietly looking over Tobin at Rumer's surprisingly calm demeanor.  Surprising to Kelley anyway.  She felt that if she were in this situation she might not be this calm. 

"Yes you ass! All you had to do was ask!"  Tobin said still laughing and rubbing the top of her thigh.

She turned to look at Rumer with a huge smile on her face. 

"You have to meet Kelley.  She's such a shit and I'm probably gonna have a bruise high up on my thigh.  Just letting you know now...uh...like for future reference." 

At this both Rumer and Tobin began to laugh at the underlying meaning.

And this is when the star power arrived at the head of the table.

"Tobin Heath...you need to get out of that booth and give me a hug!  It's been too fucking long!"  She screamed with excitement. 

Tobin looked over smiling politely and then looked at Kelley.

Tobin was never going to tell Kelley to move.  She would find it rather hilarious if she didn't.  But Kelley was not on the end of the horse shoe.  Her date was.  And that date had no idea what she was sitting in the middle of at the moment. 

Kelley said nothing and instead looked to her right at her date who was already moving to stand up.

Before scooting out of the booth Kelley looked over at Tobin rolling her eyes.  This also made Tobin laugh.  She found this whole scenario funny.

She turned to look at her date and reached down under the table squeezing her thigh to get her attention.  But Rumer's attention was on no one else. 

Rumer's hitching breath, shy smile and slightly bowed head made Ashlyn look at the both of them suspiciously.  Before she could say anything akin to BARF! or GAG! or GROSE! Tobin spoke up.

"Come with me.  I want to introduce you."  Rumer smiled and nodded. 

They both made their way out and as soon as Tobin took Rumer's hand she was being pummeled again with her second stunning forward of the night.

Tobin staggered back a little not expecting this scene but never let go of Rumer's hand.

"I'm so glad you're back.  We were all really upset that you were out there.  And for so long!"  Alex said her excellent features cramping up in despair.

"It’s so good to see you Tobs."  She tried again probably wondering why Tobin hadn't said much of anything.  She noticed that Tobin hadn't even let go of the woman that she had clearly brought as her date. Alex had a strange feeling that she had seen this dark haired woman before.

"It's good to see you too Alex."  Tobin said politely smiling.  "I'm glad to be back."  She added.

Tobin looked over to Rumer and pulled her closer toward Alex to start the introduction but Alex beat her to it.

"It just hit me!"  Alex exclaimed, eyes lighting up as she looked over at the woman holding Tobin's hand. 

In the seconds it took for Alex to practically out Tobin's love interest, there was one huge rock that landed in the pit of Rumer's stomach as she realized that she was about to be outed and there was nothing she could do about it.  Worse, she hadn't had the opportunity to really talk to Tobin about the information that was about to be revealed and she hated herself for it.  Hated the unlucky turn of events that just might ruin all the trust she has managed to build in the short time she had been seeing Tobin.

"Tobin!  Holy shit you're dating Rumer Willis?"  Tobin was not only confused but her brain was drawing so many blanks that she couldn't even try playing off how strange this situation was. 

Not only did Alex already know Rumer's full name but she seemed excited at the sight of the girl she brought as her date in a way Tobin sees little girls excited as they wait to get their jersey's signed after soccer games.

"Uh...um...yea I was going to introduce you but I guess you two know each other?"  Tobin questioned looking over to Rumer confused as all hell.  Rumer just politely stepped forward and smiled as she shook Alex's hand. 

"It’s nice to meet you Alex."  And it was fortunate for Rumer that Tobin made the assumption she made and not the connection that is usually made when a person hears the last name of an actor that's pretty much considered Hollywood royalty. 

After all, the last name Willis is not exactly as identifying as SCHWARTZNEGGAR, STALONE or even PRESLEY although Elvis's one and only daughter would never be able to go this long without being recognized.  Just something about Lisa Marie's smokey eyes that made it impossible for Elvis to ever deny that he was that baby's daddy.

"Holy shit Tobs, she's so much hotter in person!"  Tobin's confusion was reaching new heights and the concerned look on Rumer's face wasn't helping to ease any of her doubts. 

But of course, Tobin had good friends for a reason.  And good friends always know which smoke signals they need to pay attention to.  No matter how subtle they are.

"Hey Tobin...come meet my fiancé!  Hey Lex!  You finally made it!  Had to make an entrance huh?" 

Christen said smiling beautifully as she put herself between Alex and the couple.  She gently pushed Tobin away indicating the direction of her table and followed after without another word.

Before Tobin could ask anything Rumer began to ramble quickly and nervously hoping to explain herself before they reached the table.

"Tobin, I'm sorry.  I meant to talk to you about this and I just never got the chance.  It’s not ever easy when I've had to do this in the past.  It’s so awkward which is probably the reason I'm still fucking single!"  She rambled on talking more to herself than to Tobin.

"Hey, hey, calm down.  Why are you so nervous?  Yea I'm confused as shit but I'm curious too.  Just tell me what the fuck just happened!"  Tobin said laughing. 

She was worried of course but more because of the way Rumer was acting about the whole exchange.

Before Rumer could answer, Tobin felt she had to reassure her. 

"Hey look at me...whatever it is I really don't care.  We can get passed it.  I mean...as long as you didn't fuck my ex.  That's something I'm not sure I'd be able to ignore."  Tobin said chuckling a little nervously with her "Anything is possible" philosophy ringing through her brain.

"Oh my God Tobin no.  It’s nothing like that!"  Rumer exclaimed rolling her eyes and smiling.

"There it goes!  There's the smile.  I'm glad its back."  Tobin said looking Rumer in the eyes as they arrived at the table.  Rumer grabbed Tobin by the waist and gently kissed her grateful that she had someone patient enough to just go with it and understanding enough to handle her very special circumstances.

"Well thanks!"  Tobin stated quietly when they broke their kiss as she chose to remain just a few inches away from Rumer's face.

"At the risk of sounding way too Ashlyn esque...you two are killing me with the PDA!  Ugh...BARF!  I mean cuz your cute and it’s so much that it makes it grose and uncomfortable for people to be around, you know since not everyone in the world walks around with hearts in their eyes like every single time they look at a certain person?"

"FUCK Press thanks for saving the day but shit!  I can't help but look at her like that!  I watch people watch her in a public place all the time and even THEY know why I look at her like that!  Yes she's easy on the eyes but she's an angel too."  Tobin admitted.

"Oh just shut the fuck up and meet my fiancé.  David this is my romantically challenged cheesy friend Tobin who for some reason was able to snag this beautiful lady Rumer, probably by using nothing but cheesy pick-up lines and a little bit of begging."  Christen joked as she introduced the handsome guy sitting alone at their smaller booth. 

Tobin was shaking her head and smiling when she stepped forward to shake his hand.

"Woah...that's a firm grip you got!"  David said shaking his hand a little after Tobin let go.

"Eh I get a lot of protein."   Tobin joked.  Rumer stepped forward to shake his hand next adding a nice to meet you as she had for everyone else she met that night.

"Hey I hope she's not as rough with you as she was shaking my hand.  Handling a woman requires some finesse."  David tried joking but Tobin could see a different look in his eyes as his line of sight moved below Rumer's throat.

When Tobin saw and heard the large slap Christen gave David's arm she wasn't sure if it was because she saw his wandering eyes or just because what he said was a dick move.

Either way it didn't matter because the sound was so loud it gave Tobin the satisfaction she needed.

"What the fuck would you know about finesse you dick!"  Christen said with bite.  David laughed and rubbed his arm as if she was joking but Tobin knew she wasn't.

"Well David, from what I hear, Tobin has enough finesse to be able to handle more women in her past than you've probably had your entire life.  And I know she definitely has enough finesse to handle me now that she's settled."  Rumer stated causing Christen to nod her head and laugh.

"Oh I know for a fact that Tobin has more finesse AND more game.  Well said Rumer."  Christen quipped picking up her hand so Rumer could high five her.  Rumer obliged slapping the waiting forwards hand and then asked them both to excuse her.

"Tobin, can you come outside with me?  We need to talk."

"Uh, sure.  Whatever you want."  Tobin said smiling and following Rumer out.

*************************************************************************************************************

"I talked to my mom about you Tobin."  Rumer said as soon as they were outside.  Tobin's eyebrows shot up in surprise.

She told Rumer to sit at a small table and then walked from one side of the patio to the other just to check her surroundings out of habit and to make sure she could safely exit with Rumer in tow if any kind of emergency went down.  Force of habit for the "Anything is possible" thinking person.

Once she sat with her eyes on the door she took Rumer's hand.

"I told you that I'm really close to my mom right?"  Tobin nodded.  "Well I had to talk to her about how I feel about you because it’s so different from my past interests."

"Ok...so...was there a problem?  I mean, from what you've told me your mom is amazing so I'm assuming she just listened and gave her advice like she would if you called her about a guy.  Am I right?"  Rumer smiled and nodded her head.

"I envy you Ru....I really do."  Tobin smiled sadly.  "God...call me that from now on.  I've been waiting for you to do it."  Rumer said smiling brilliantly.  Tobin laughed. 

"Ok but you could've just told me to call you that."

"Well, then it wouldn't be real would it?"  Rumer half questioned and half rhetorically questioned.  Tobin shrugged, "I guess not."  She mused.

"The reason I brought that up is because she told me I had to let you in on what the family trade is myself because if I didn't it might get messy the longer we dated."

"Hmm the family trade?  Are you in the mob?  Like a daughter or a mob wife?"  Tobin asked only half serious.  (anything is possible)

Rumer laughed and Tobin was relieved once again.

"No you ass...my parents are just like...actors."  Tobin furrowed her brows

"So kind of like small b rated movies and commercials or like ACTORS ACTORS?"  Tobin asked still not making the slightest connection.

"Uh..."  Rumer laughed again shaking her head.  "No I'm not sure they've done any commercials although I may be wrong.  Ugh...look...how much do you know about movies anyway?"  Rumer asked trying to take a different approach.

"Movies??"  Tobin's eyes lit up with excitement. 

(Rumer's brain notes:  Ok she definitely knows my parents she just doesn't know they’re my parents) 

"I'm an expert on movies my lady.  Like movie quotes and trivia and shit like that.  I love movies!"  Tobin said excitedly ready to discuss one of her favorite topics.

"Ok...so my mom was...hmm I'm trying to think of her biggest role...probably..."  Rumer began laughing hard.  "Oh My God I'm sorry Tobin.  I just realized what her biggest role was and it’s a little embarrassing to admit it although she's real proud of it."  Rumer stated shaking her head.

(Tobin's brain notes:  Holy shit are her parents porn stars or something?  Damn)

Tobin's lost look made Rumer decide to just drop the hammer.

"My mom was in a lot of movies but Striptease was probably her biggest role.  Well at least the role that got her the most attention.  And my dad has also been in a lot of movies but his most famous role is probably his die hard movies."

Tobin shot up out of her chair and rested both hands behind her head with shock and realization.

She began to pace a little.  "So your Dad is fucking Bruce Willis and your mom...Jesus Christ now I see it...of course you're Demi Moore's daughter....wow...Jesus Christ."  Tobin paced a little more and laughed. 

She paced a little more and shook her head making all the connections.

"Tell me what you're thinking Tobin."  Rumer said quietly almost too afraid to know the truth.

"I'm sorry Rumer, I'm not sure you want to know what I'm thinking...it’s not exactly clean."  Tobin admitted truthfully.  She had stopped pacing but was still standing with her hands behind her head looking up toward the night sky.

"Just tell me Tobin.  It doesn't matter."  Rumer said already preparing herself for the worst.

Tobin remained standing for a while longer trying to find the right words to describe her thoughts without disrespecting two people Rumer regarded so highly and for her were just her parents.  It was hard for Tobin to wrap her mind around.

Tobin sat and took a deep breath putting her hands on the table top.  She began to drum a beat with her fingers quietly as she thought some more.

"You're killing me here Tobin.  Just please say something!"

Tobin's eyes snapped up and for the first time Rumer saw a bit of anger flash in them.  She was a little shocked but she didn't back away.

"Oh, you don't get to rush me.  No way.  You kept this from me.  I'm not sure why.  I mean I don't know how it feels to be you but I have a feeling it can't be easy and I'm trying to work this shit out in my head but you don't get to rush me.  Don't do that please."  Tobin said in a tone that was unusually assertive than what Rumer was used to but she didn't blame her.

"I'm sorry Tobin.  I know I should've told you as soon as the subject came up.  And I'm sorry for trying to rush you now when you're trying to process all this.  If you need time and space to figure things out I understand."  Rumer's voice was small and defeated.

"The last thing I want is time and space Rumer.  But I do need your patience."  Tobin said looking at Rumer and waiting for her to lift her head and look at her.  When she did she saw hope flash in them.

"I'm sorry."  Rumer almost whispered.  Tobin reached across the table and took her hands. 

"You have really beautiful hands Ru.  It’s one of the first things I noticed when I met you.  Fingernails always naturally manicured.  Fingers don't have too much girth but they aren't gangly either.  Not too big and so so soft.  Feminine and just beautiful."  Tobin observed.

"Something else I noticed when I first met you was your skin....Jesus Christ...your skin...I mean I kept referring to it as moon kissed.  I swear that's what comes to mind when I look at your skin.  So I guess then that means I was looking at your body when I first met you."  Tobin shrugged as if she was admitting it and "so what."

Rumer laughed a little.  "Yea I was looking at your body but not the way that asshole inside was just looking at it."  Tobin stated confirming to Rumer that 'yes I did see that.'

Rumer rolled her eyes.  "The guys I was deployed with used to sit around with me for hours and all we would talk about is girls.  Fuck I would get dogged so bad for the way I talked." 

Tobin laughed as she remembered all their conversations.  "I don't see things like other people do.  I guess everyone is different but I think I fall into a WAY different category.  I find beauty in things that others don't really care about.  That's why I would get dogged."

"When I saw you I wasn't checking out the size of your breasts but the skin exposed near your throat and the shape of your clavicle bone connecting to your collar bone.  I noticed how gorgeously shaped your body is.  I wanted to just walk over and put my mouth on that.  On this...right here." 

Tobin said softly as she reached over and gently tapped her fingers onto Rumer's trap muscles and then dragged them slowly across her collar bone.  Rumer closed her eyes enjoying the feeling of being caressed and appreciated by someone that really SAW her.  Not as the daughter of two grotesquely famous actors but as herself.  As who she saw herself as individually. 

"I mean..you have the type of beauty that is classic.  Timeless.  Graceful."  Tobin continued.

"I also noticed the sliver of skin peeking out at me from your midriff area even though I know that probably wasn't intentional and a tattoo that I could only see a little bit of on that first night."

Rumer grew more and more mesmerized as she listened.

"When we went to the movies I actually watched you more than I did the screen.  I was watching your reactions and the way you tilt your head to the side slightly when you're trying to work something out.  It was really cute.  The way you squint your eyes a little.  I was noticing how you held my hand while watching too.  The way you were kind of just absentmindedly running your fingers up my wrist onto my forearm and back.  What's funny is that you were doing it but you probably weren't even completely conscious of it.  Your touch drives me crazy so of course I noticed it.  I noticed you.  Just you."

Tobin paused.

Rumer waited.

"So now that you told me everything do I see that you have your mother's smile and from what I see so far...her body..."  Tobin laughed like a giddy and horny school boy.  Rumer laughed and rolled her eyes.

"Of course I see it.  Do I see that you definitely have your father's eyes....of course.  I couldn't call myself a movie enthusiast or observant if I couldn't see those things.  But get this...YOU got me hooked Rumer.  You hooked me from day one.  You're touch and your sweet open honest conversation and your voice.  You have such a sexy and at the same time cute voice.  I mean you seriously are so fucking attractive it’s ridiculous.  But that's YOU.  Just you.  And none of that has anything to do with the two people who were smart enough to make you.  Although...I should send them a fucking fruit basket for doing such a damn fucking good job!" 

Tobin started laughing at this ready to dodge what she was sure was coming.  And when Rumer tried to playfully push her she absorbed the momentum by grabbing her arms and kissing her.

Tobin tried prolonging the kiss but she felt Rumer pulling back trying to cut it short.

Tobin pouted.

"No way.  If we start making out, out here we are never going back in so come on.  Let's go."  Tobin got up reluctantly and made a huge dramatic show of being dragged in against her will.

************************************************************

"THIS IS TO TOBIN!  OUR FRIEND AND OUR DEFENDER!  HERE'S TO YOUR FAITHFUL SERVICE!  WE ARE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL!" 

"You're girl is kind of cheesy and kind of a huge kid but you knew that already right?"  Tobin told Ann laughing and causing the quiet and shy girl to laugh as well.  She nodded her head in agreement and they both drank their beers together.

"Thanks Kell.  You're goofy."  Tobin said giving her friend a full hug to make up for the half hazard one they had to rush when they were getting in the booth. 

"Don't sweat it Tobito."  Kelley said tickling Tobin’s neck where her mouth was tucked due to the difference in height.

Tobin pulled back giggling and rubbing her neck.  "You're tickling me dude!"  They laughed and their dates watched.

"I gotta pee.  Ru I'm gonna head to the bathroom."

"Me too babe."  Kelley told Ann.

Not only did Tobin hear Kelley's pet name but so did Ashlyn AND Pinoe who were both milling around nearby and they all let her have it.

"ME TOO BABE...ME TOO BABE...ME TOO BABE! ME TOO....NO ME TOO....NO ME!....NO ME....ME TOO BABE!" 

All three of them said on a loop in falsetto voices until Ashlyn and Pinoe got into a back and forth taking turns insisting "NO.....ME!"  As they pointed to themselves.  Tobin was in stitches.  Kelley rolled her eyes.

"Let's go Tobs."  Kelley said.  "I swear it’s like we never grew up!"  Tobin laughed again trying to get Ashlyn and Pinoe to start chanting whatever Kelley had just said.

"WE NEVER GREW UP....GROW UP GUYS!  GROW UP! GROW UP!"  Rumer helped Kelley by pushing Tobin in the direction of the bathroom as Kelley pulled her by the back of her charcoal gray button up.

"Hey! Hey!  You're supposed to be on MY side!"  She told Rumer dramatically holding her neck and making noises like Kelley was pulling her by a hang man's noose instead of her shirt collar.

Once they were out of site Ann turned to Rumer and smiled.

"So you're new here too huh?  I'm really glad I'm not the only one here.  It’s a little intimidating...well for me it is I'm not sure if you feel the same."

Rumer smiled, "It can be intimidating if you let yourself be intimidated but they are just people like you and I."

Ann laughed.  "Do you own a mirror?  Leave your house in your pjs one day and walk to the nearest store.  Don't wash up or put on makeup or anything.  Go in and if the clerk is a dude, ask him if you can get a free tank of gas.  I hope you're writing this down Rumer because I want you to text me when you get your free gas so you can share that shit with me.  I can always use some extra gas!"  Ann said laughing.

Rumer found this small quiet girl pretty intriguing.  "I WILL text you when I try your experiment.  Just watch."  Rumer said laughing.  She was about to ask her how long she had been seeing Kelley and then the star power arrived on the scene. 

Ann looked star struck and Rumer just smiled.

"Rumer...Rumer Willis...Jesus Christ how did you and Tobin meet?  You have to tell me the whole story!"  Alex said completely ignoring Ann.

Rumer saw this and not only felt irritated but awkward as well.

She turned her body toward both women and looked over toward Ann to show that she wasn't going to just have a two way conversation even if Alex was blatantly ignoring the person that she was clearly speaking with before Alex interrupted.

"Well...first of all I don't know if you've met Ann yet Alex but she's here with Kelley."  Rumer said pulling Ann lightly by the sleeve of her blouse.

"Oh yes of course I know Ann.  We've met right?  A few weeks ago I think it was."  Ann just nodded silently.

(Rumer's brain notes:  Now I know why she feels intimidated.)

"Good to see you again Ann."  Alex said putting on the fakest smile Rumer has ever seen.

(Rumer's brain notes:  God she's so superficial.  Tobin this does not fit you at all.  No wonder it was so painful.)

"Tobin and I just met at this bar a couple of weeks ago actually.  It was really easy to talk to her and we just kind of hit it off right away."  Rumer explained simply.

"Oh really?  Hm that was pretty lucky for Tobin to run into you like that.  I never thought you'd even be hanging out in places like this.  As a matter of fact...I wasn't even aware that you dated women."  Alex stated tilting her head clearly waiting for an explanation.

The look on Ann's face made it clear that Rumer wasn't the only one sensing the tension beginning to rise.

"Yea well, I don't.  I mean I never have.  Tobin...well...she's just different for me.  She's the first I've ever felt this way for.  Isn't that what happened between you and Kelley?"  Rumer questioned Ann trying to even out the focus and also include Ann in the conversation. 

"Oh..um..mhm. We met in college but it didn't happen that quick.  It took a pretty long time but..."

Alex interrupted Ann before she could say anymore.

"Well you know, you have to be careful with that Rumer.  I mean, you're gorgeous and dating a woman for the first time can give you feelings you don't understand and those feelings can be pretty strong.  Believe me, I know.  It can get intense and well sometimes it can feel like you're falling in love and if you get Tobin thinking these kinds of things she just might get a little obsessive you know?"

Rumer couldn't believe what she was hearing.  How could this woman being who she was and having all that she had come here and talk about someone as sweet as Tobin who she's sure has done nothing wrong to her.

Rumer smiled sadly shaking her head.  Alex ignored that and continued talking. "I know from personal experience.  Tobin is a little clingy and a little psychotic."  Rumer had heard enough.

"Alex, I'm sorry I know we just met but I don't appreciate you talking about Tobin like this.  I know you two have history and I also know that when you hurt her you made a big mistake.  And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that she's just way too good for you." 

Rumer said smiling sadly at Alex.  She turned to a stunned and amused Ann and said "Hey Ann you wanna go wait for our girls at the table?"  Ann nodded her head smiling and they walked away together leaving a sputtering and shocked Alex Morgan behind.

As soon as they arrived at the table Rumer got an idea. She turned to see if Tobin and Kelley were on their way back yet and when she confirmed that they weren’t she turned back to look at Ann.

“Hey so, karaoke is starting and I’m gonna go sign up. If Tobin comes out while I’m up there just tell her you don’t know where I went ok?” Ann smiled and nodded.

*************************************************

There had been quite a long line in the bathroom and it took a while for Tobin and Kelley to emerge but when they did Tobin could see the table from where she stood and knew that Rumer was missing.

Kelley turned and looked at her, “where’s your girl? She left Ann all lonely.” Kelley said chuckling. “I swear poor Ann gets so intimidated. She’s so cute isn’t she Tobs?”

Tobin was a little distracted looking around for Rumer but she didn’t let the opportunity to tease Kelley slide.

“She’s so cute…she’s so cute…ha! Yes dude she’s cute!” Tobin proclaimed loudly on purpose so that Ann could hear her.

They arrived just as Tobin said the last sentence and both Ann and Kelley blushed and laughed. Tobin rolled her eyes.

“Hey Ann, where’s Rumer?” Tobin asked waiting for both Ann and Kelley to get situated in the booth before she took up the end spot.

“Oh um I don’t know. She just told me she’d be right back.” Ann said lying easily and shrugging her shoulders.

“Hm.” Tobin said quirking her mouth to the side. She looked over at the couple next to her and watched them interact for a while. She remembered what Ashlyn said about the length of time Ann and Kelley had been seeing each other and wondered about something.

“Hey…have you two boned yet?”

Not only did both Kelley and Ann look over at Tobin with their mouths agape but Ali also heard the question and apparently so did Ashlyn because she began to laugh. Seeing the look on Ali’s face Tobin knew she was going to get scolded.

“Tobin Powell Heath you don’t just ask a couple if they’ve boned yet! What’s wrong with you??”

Ashlyn couldn’t stop laughing and even though Ali kept a pretty strict tone in the beginning of her scolding she just couldn’t hold it together when she had to repeat the word “boned” so the whole last half of her sentence was sputtered through bouts of laughter.

“Sorry ma I’m just a big kid.” Tobin said picking her hands up as if to say “oh well deal with it.”

“Well?” Tobin said not letting it go. She looked over at the two women again and knew the answer just by how deep the blush was in Ann’s cheeks.

She looked over at Ashlyn and started laughing and nodding her head holding back from doing what she really wanted to do which was point at Ann and make fun of her. She didn’t want to embarrass the poor girl any more than she already was.

(Tobin’s brain notes: I’m really in to her. And she’s really in to me. It might not be too soon…hm its definitely longer than I’ve ever waited before. Fuck I’m such a horn dog Jesus.)

And then they all heard the karaoke host start to introduce the first karaoke song of the night. Tobin looked around again wondering where Rumer might have gone but when she heard the first note of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” from the Across the Universe soundtrack she stopped looking and stood up.

“Well I’ll…tell you something….

I think you’ll understand….”

Tobin could see the singer but felt like she was just too far and soon her feet had carried her as close to the stage as she could get without blocking the view of any of the small tables that were set up right in front of the stage.

The voice gave Tobin goosebumps. A mix between Billie Holiday and Lana Del Rey. Chilling… but with enough roughness around the edges to make it more haunting and tragic. Tobin’s heart beat slow and heavy in her chest.

As Rumer sang the next bar she looked straight at Tobin and never looked away again for the rest of the song.

Tobin didn’t know what to do with herself. She wanted to pick Rumer up and place her lightly over her shoulder and take her out of that bar right then and there.

She felt that the things she wanted to do to her couldn’t wait any longer. Not only had she never had that happen to her before but the voice that emerged out of Rumer’s vocal cords was so rich and unique that she couldn’t stand to hold back anymore. It touched her deeper than any gesture any girl had ever made for her before which meant that there wasn’t a lot to compare it with.

Tobin’s taste in music had always been based on the actual vocalist. From an early age she was always attracted more to the great vocals unlike her friends and her older sister who were always into catchy hooks and which music was ‘in’ at the time.

So the voice of Rumer Willis not only shocked her to her core but it quenched a thirst inside her that she didn’t even know she had. It was the perfect combination of her most favorite things a vocalist can have. Soul, pitch, emotion, identity. She knew that if she had to pick Rumer’s singing voice out of a crowd of singing voices that she’d be able to without a doubt. There were voices that could never be matched and always be identified and those were one of a kind.

Macy Gray, Adam Levine, Nelly Furtado, Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, Adele were only a few although Tobin did have problems distinguishing the last two from each other sometimes.

Rumer had achieved this and with none other than one of Tobin’s favorite variations of one of her favorite songs.

(Tobin’s brain notes: How could she know?)

Before Rumer could make her way off the stage Tobin ran over to where most of her friends were gathered watching the performance.

“Did you fucking know she could sing like that?” Pinoe asked as soon as Tobin got there.

“Fuck no dude…” Tobin paused for a long while with a dazed expression on her face.

“I’m totally fucked.” Pinoe laughed so hard, the beer she just sipped came spraying out of her mouth.

She looked around at her friend’s faces who all seemed amused at her state and then remembered what she had run over for.

“HEY! Hey…um it was good to see all of you but I better get out of here now before I really make yall uncomfortable. I’ll see yall at the match…love you!” She yelled as she ran off toward the stage to meet up with Rumer.

She heard them wailing and screaming with laughter behind her.

When she met up with Rumer she shook her head before she could say anything.

“I want to leave now and I want to wait until we get to your place to talk about what just happened. Is that cool with you?” Tobin asked quickly and watched as Rumer’s face lit up with a smile.

“Ok.” She agreed.

********************************************

Tobin was able to keep her composure pretty well on the drive to Rumer’s apartment but only because she forced herself to concentrate on her driving. There wasn’t much said between the two.

Tobin was thinking about various things she wanted to do. Rumer was clueless and was consumed by the conversation she had had with Alex.

What bothered Rumer had nothing to do with the fact that she believed Alex but the reasoning behind her words. What could Tobin have done to her to make her talk about her this way behind her back? If they were friends then a friend would never do that. She had never heard anything like that from any of Tobin’s other friends. She knew she was going to have to go over all this with Tobin soon but right now she was just interested in what Tobin had on her mind.

She was about to find out that what Tobin had on her mind was a little more physical than she was expecting.

***************************************

As Tobin stood waiting for Rumer to unlock her door she noticed her hands start to tremble. She told herself to cool it. Giving herself a mental pep talk and then wondering why she needed one in the first place.

(Tobin’s brain notes: Don’t put the pussy on a pedestal….don’t put the pussy on a pedestal….don’t…but it belongs there though…I can’t think of her that way because its different…and she’s never even been with a girl so I gotta be careful. I gotta listen even closer to what she might want. Probably more than I ever have with any other girl. And what if she still wants to wait? Well, then I leave with blue balls again. Right? Fuck it we can do that right? Fuck I sound like Gollum. MY PRECIOUS)

Tobin was laughing to herself and she was actually glad that the geek in her had bombarded her thoughts because laughing eased the tension just enough for her to refrain from just completely attacking Rumer right after she closed and locked her door.

“Tobin? Are you ok? You’ve been unusually quiet.” Rumer asked walking up to Tobin and putting her hand on her face.

Tobin closed her eyes relishing the feeling of Rumers warm soft hand.

“Mhmm, I’m fine. You’ve been real quiet too though. Are you ok?” Tobin asked opening her eyes.

“Yea…I’m fine. Hey, you can make yourself comfortable on the couch while I change if you want.”

“Yea sure. Thanks. Don’t take too long though cuz I might fall asleep.” She joked.

Rumer smiled, “Just give me a few minutes. It won’t be that long.”

“Cool.”

Tobin sat down on the couch and leaned her head back closing her eyes and relaxing her body. She wanted to get rid of all her tension.

She soon felt Rumer’s body dip the couch next to her and smelled the perfume still on her skin. She smiled softly just knowing that she was there.

“First of all, I didn’t know you had such an amazingly unique voice….you seriously gave me chills.” Tobin said all while keeping her eyes closed.

She heard Rumer laugh softly next to her. Having her eyes closed opened the rest of her senses to so many sensations. The warmth of Rumer’s body even though she was close to Tobin but not touching her. Rumer’s scent and the sound of the clock ticking and the refrigerator running endlessly.

“And that song…I love it. I mean, I love that version from the musical. It was beautiful. Girls don’t usually do things like this for me so thank you.”

The sound of Rumer’s voice was so near her ear when she said ' you're welcome' that she made Tobin wrench her eyes open and look to her left.

Rumer was wearing a lose fitting heather gray tshirt that dipped low onter her shoulders and was just long enough to cover whatever underwear she was wearing underneath and nothing else.

Tobin’s eyes quickly scanned Rumer’s body just long enough to register what she was wearing and then she looked into her eyes.

“I have to be up front with you right now and a lot of this is gonna sound really blunt so I’m asking for your forgiveness before I stick my foot in my mouth.”

They both laughed together a little and then Rumer reached down grabbing Tobin’s hand. Tobin watched taking time to gather her words.

“Your voice really touched me deep. Before I knew you were even up there about to sing, I was already having a conversation with myself up here.” Tobin said pointing to her head with her free hand.

“What I’m trying to say is that I had come half way to making a final decision and then when I stood there and watched you on stage singing a song for me…well that just kind of pushed me over the edge.”

Rumer bit her lip and nodded for Tobin to continue.

“I know you’ve never been with a woman before….” Tobin paused to let Rumer process what she was saying.

“And when we talked about the possibility of this leading to sex I told you that you had to be the one that set up limitations. I needed you to be the one controlling what happened and when it happened.”

Rumer nodded her head in agreement.

“I’m just bringing it up because if you’re ready…so am I. I know you might have some fears and doubts but you don’t have to feel that way. There are no expectations. There are no rules. Whatever you feel is what you go with and I will take care of you.”

She looked into Rumer’s eyes and saw hesitation but she also saw fire. She wondered which one of those would win in the end.

“I’m letting you know this because I want you Rumer. I want you in every way and it’s ok if you’re not ready right now. I can wait. I just want to make sure you know that from here on out all you have to do is show me you want me to cross that line…and I will.”

Tobin lifted Rumer’s hand and kissed it softly. She put it on her heart so Rumer could feel how fast her heart was beating. So that she could understand that even if she had been with other women before that this was different. That this was not just another night with a modified version of a vibrator.

The beat of her heart seemed to convey what Tobin was trying to explain without words. Rumer knew what she wanted but her hesitation hinged on exactly what Tobin thought it would hinge on. Overthinking and self-consciousness.

Rumer stood quietly and pulled Tobin up by their joined hands leading her to her bedroom.

Chapter Text

Intoxicate me now.

With your loving now.

I think I'm ready now

I think I'm ready now

 

Rumer

I took her hand in mine and pulled her along behind me as I walked toward the bedroom.  But I'm afraid.  Not of her and not of what will happen once I cross the line I'm just afraid of the intensity of my feelings and how it may lead to something serious so fast.  I ’m sure she knows it. I’m sure she’s afraid too. I would have never known if she hadn’t put my fingertips over her racing heart. I’ve never felt something so exciting and terrifying at the same time. She must have always been good at hiding what she was really feeling when she really wanted to hide. So far, I don’t think I’ve seen her do much thinking internally. Its all out in the open. Open heart, open communication…intoxicating. But if this was meant to happen at all I’m glad its her hand I’m holding now walking into my room. The only place I can feel any solice since I left home. Taking her into these four walls alone is enough to make me bristle with anticipation.

I don’t want to overthink anything. I know what I want and why should I deny myself that? The only thing that is screaming at me in the back of my mind even as hard as I fight to drown it out is what will come after? What will the morning bring with it other than the kiss of the sun on our faces through the slits of the blinds in the one window within these four walls?

  Will she go to bed with Gilda and wake up with me? Now that she knows the origin of my genetic profile…my mother as gorgeous as she was then and still is now…will she go to bed with an image of the newer model and wake up to a morning of clarity so massive that her affection and attraction will fade as fast as the flip of my light switch?

I feel the warmth of her hand and the look in her eyes and I feel safe. I feel more myself underneath her gaze than I may have ever felt in my life. Way more than when I take a glance in any mirror. She sees things in me that I don’t think anyone has ever seen. Myself included. My body craves her touch and as confident as she seems in her abilities for some reason makes me both aroused and reluctant to take the next step. How many has she treated in this manner? How many has she shared this experience with? Is it even fair that I count that against her? We all have a past and she doesn’t seem to need more than what she is currently pursuing. What is so different about this one experience than all the others she has had? Am I even special at all?

  But in the end, The problem lies within…when was the last time I allowed myself to just let go this easily? When was the last time I wanted someone this bad? That answer to that question is simple…never. And she’s not just anyone. Its like Im losing my virginity all over again. What differences will I encounter that might turn my world upside down? The way she kisses me alone is so different from what I’m used to its insane. I can’t kiss her at all without wanting her to put her lips all over my body. Without wanting her hand or her head or her tongue between my legs. That is NOT normal…is it? Not for me at least. My past has no history of an attraction this strong and if that is all it is then I guess I’ll find out sooner or later.

Mom was right, she looks at me like I’m the only female that has ever roamed the earth. If that’s an act then it’s a good one.

 

“This is gonna sound like another cheesy line but I promise it isn’t. You have a nice bed.” Tobin says standing shoulder to shoulder with her host. Rumer chuckles softly and leans her head gently on Tobin’s shoulder. They stand there silently for a while and Tobin uses this opportunity to take a look at her surroundings.

Rumer’s bed is surrounded by a frame lined with heavy drapes that are currently drawn and tied back revealing a California king bed. Tobin can see warm yellow glowing string lights lining the entire structure and they seem to have a flickering effect that Tobin assumes is supposed to resemble hundreds of tiny lit candles.  However for Tobin, they're reminiscent of tiny fireflies caught in a net.  Tobin smiles.

“I really like your style.” She admits softly. Rumer hums her thanks.

Tobin sees some black and white framed photos in one corner and asks if she may walk over and check them out.

Rumer kisses her on the cheek and tells her to go ahead. The pictures have been arranged in an art gallery format and when Tobin sees the first one her breath hitches in her throat so suddenly that she chokes a little and has to cough softly to both cover her embarrassment and clear her airway to breathe again.

 The pictures are some of the most beautiful she’s ever seen. She figures that even if she weren’t so smitten with Rumer that she would still find them stunning.

The first is of Rumer’s pregnant mother sitting in front of a bay window with the sun coming in highlighting her profile. As many magazine and internet photos she’s seen of Demi Moore she knows that none of those photographers had been able to capture this beauty before her now.

 “Its you isn’t it?” Tobin asks in a voice that doesn’t sound like her own. The mix of a dry whisper and a shaky unstable squeak. Tobin clears her throat again embarrassed. Rumer appears next to her humming in the affirmative.

“Jesus, you even look gorgeous in your mother and I can’t even see you.  I mean, the photo is in black and white and I can still tell that she's glowing.” Tobin says quietly, eyes glued to the picture and voice in the most far away awe struck quality that RUmer has ever heard. RUmer chuckles but inside her heart is melting quickly.

"Well, as far as I know, my mother would glow like that during all her pregnancies.  And its kinda hard to ignore how annoyingly gorgeous she is so I really don't think you can attribute that to me but thanks anyway sweetheart."

"Learn how to take a compliment Ru..."  Tobin replies, eyes still glued to the first photograph.  She wants to burn the details of these images into her brain.  On to her heart.

Rumer scoffs playfully shaking her head but lingers at Tobin's side as she continues to consider the art in front of her.

The next picture features Demi laying on her side in bed, a tiny Rumer lays opposite her. Rumer is naked except for a diaper and Demi is covered with a sheet but seems to be naked since her shoulders are bare. The two gaze at each other eternally. The look only a mother can share with her child. A mother than knows what unconditional love is and is not afraid to give it all. To sacrifice her life. To be the giver and enforcer and protector. Tobin is beginning to feel emotional and is getting so angry and annoyed with herself as she tells herself to "calm the fuck down."

 “How old…(clears throat yet again.) how old were you here? Like 4 weeks?” Tobin asks.

 “Three. The way my Dad tells it, I was calm laying on my side that way staring at my mom for almost 2 hours until I got hungry of course."

Rumer's small giggle sent goosebumps all the way up Tobins back and neck.  She found it odd that she could also feel her nipples harden as if it had dropped a few degrees in the last few seconds.  

"My dad took all of these by the way.”

 “Which explains why they are taking my breath away. A person doesn’t have to be a professional photographer to photograph the beautiful sites he loves most in the world...beautifully. And these are so fucking beautiful.” Tobin says taking a deep breath.

 There are two more and Tobin feels like she might not even want to look at them for fear of embarrassing herself but its so hard to look away now.

 The next is of a 5 or 6 year old Rumer sitting on a kitchen counter feeding her mother what looks to be some sort of cookie. Demi smiles, eyes crinkling slightly at the corners.  Her smile is half way subdued around a half full mouth.  Her body leans forward to prevent any possibility of her daughter falling. Rumer’s innocent and gorgeous pixie like features are lit up in an open mouthed smile so bright that Tobin has to smile too. It’s so contagious. Just a small moment in time and a click of a camera letting in just enough light through the lense as the shutter outlines an image that will forever be frozen in time. This one of unmatched, unchallenged love.

 “Jesus Christ. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

Tobin whispers as she looks from little pixie Rumer in the picture to the last picture that is the most recent.

Rumer finds this touching and also a little ironic. She has been so used to being both praised and ridiculed for the way she looks her entire life.

Too ugly to be a Moore. Too pretty to be a Willis. Body too perfect to be real. Face not attractive enough to match the perfect body. All opinions that she has heard growing up under the superficail lights of Hollywood.  Opinions that were given very bluntly and mostly without provocation.  And she’s amused simply because she rarely ever hears words that are similar to the words Tobin has used to describe her since the day they met from any other suiter she's ever allowed in her life before now.  The only praise that was ever memorable was usually given when she had her clothes off.

This is what society has given her to grapple with for as long as she lives and she can take on the rest of her life letting it kill her or letting it build her up. But it all comes down to this moment now as she stands here listening to this woman talk the way she talks and react the way she reacts about none other than a few candid photos captured by her father over the years.

Would someone who is about to use me actually be able to convincingly put up this act just to get me to give in?

 The last shot is of Rumer and Demi holding each other. Demi sitting and Rumer standing behind her. Her head lay over the top of her mother’s head slightly. Rumer’s arms around the top of her mother’s arms and Demi’s arms over the top of Rumors. They both look down and to the right out of the frame. Demi’s dark hair and RUmer’s blonde long hair contrasting as deliciously as a pair of white gloves holding a hand full of black diamonds. Demi’s eyes closed and Rumer’s eyes slitted open slightly.

"Long and blonde...."  Tobin comments still speaking as if she is in a dream.

"Yea...kind of got tired of the long hair.  The bs of having to spend so much time everyday messing with it."  

"Oh I get that part for sure."  Tobin agreed sounding a little more like herself and not like a narrator in a dream

 Tobin swallows thickly looking at the way their arms are around each other. Their hands overlapping and she realizes that Rumer has also inherited her mother’s hands. She focuses on how beautifully it looks. How they almost just meld together and connect so its difficult to assertain where one pair of arms and hands end and other begins.

"You have her hands too." Tobin commented quietly sighing and smiling. 

 "Tobin, why would Alex warn me about you? I didn't want to bring it up but it's really bothering me."

"He sprinkled me with pixie dust and told me to believe. .." But I just lost my happy thoughts.

"Wow....where did that come from?" Tobin tried to remain calm but confusion, anger and even If she didn't want to admit it...pain began to slowly mix together in her stomach.  She began to get that old familiar feeling of betrayal and she hated it.

Rumer must have seen the distress signal in Tobins eyes because she stepped forward right away and wrapped her arms securely around Tobins body.

"Thanks for the hug sweety but I think we need to talk. I need you to empty your question log now ok?" Tobin stated calmly. 

Rumer walked over to the bed and sat motioning for Tobin to do the same.  Once they both settled in Rumer began to speak.

"When you and Kelley went to the bathroom, Alex came up to Ann and I and started to ask a few questions.  Long story short, she ended up telling me to be careful with you.  That you were obsessive and clingy and ....and ....psychotic.  I really couldn't believe what I was hearing.  I mean, who talks about their friend that way?  I know I don't know the full history but it still baffles me that she would be that insensitive and just plain mean.  I have dealt with different types of bullies all my life and they all have one thing in common.  They are all jealous of one thing or another.  So my question is simple....is she jealous of you or me?"

Tobin took a deep breath to calm the anger and disbelief she felt.  All this time she thought that those words that have followed her around for most of her life like a small dark cloud tied to the soles of her feet like Peter Pans shadow, were shaped and fashioned by Marta at the time but she now knows that Alex probably also had a big part in it.  And why?  Tobin never did anything to merit any of this.  She never resorted to behavior that one usually associates with being obsessive or crazy or anything even close to any of those horrible descriptive words that she just can't seem to shake.  She refuses to allow the words of someone that was supposed to care about her and at least have her back to define her.  She is not the person they made her out to be.  She has never been that person and she isn't that person now.

"I'm not sure what the answer to that question is Rumer.  I guess if I ever talk to her again I'll ask her myself.  She'll probably just tell me she doesn't know why she did it or just apologize profusely because she thinks that something as simple as saying she's sorry will fix every fucked up thing she has ever done to me."

Tobin is so angry and outraged that the feeling of Rumer's warm breath on her skin as she leans into her body with her face buried in her neck burns slow like a long fuse on a stick of dynamite.

"I ended things with her when we were 16.  After two weeks I tried to ask her to come back but she was already dating someone else.  A girl that was a friend of mine and that she had obviously been dating already when she was still with me.  I was heartbroken but I told her to just be happy with this girl that could obviously give her things I couldn't and you already know why.  From that point on I rarely ever had contact with her.  I couldn't talk to her on the phone so that was out. I mean it really comes down to simple common sense which people never really seem to have. I mean, my lines of communication were cut so I'm not exactly sure how I could display such obsessive and clingy behavior if I couldnt see or speak to her."

Tobin shook her head remembering the fiasco that followed after the break up.

"There was really only one letter I wrote her and that was it.  Yes I loved her fiercly and now it makes me sick to my stomach but I NEVER crossed a line into any kind of innapropriate or obsessive behavior.  Behavior like that requires an avenue of at least the bare basics of communication.  It was a very hard time in my life and I was VERY depressed but there was more than one thing going on with me so all of that sadness and depression wasn't just about her.  One could say that the real psychotic behavior came from her and her girlfriend and friends at the time.  There's nothing like a narcissist huh?  Thinking that the entire universe revolves around them."

"Who knows how many people she's spun this lie to. I bet she even believes it by now.  The more time passes the more clearly I start to see what all my friends were trying to tell me all this time.  I couldn't see how bad of a person she really was.  Its so fucked up how she still continues to talk about me as if we never grew up and moved on.  As if I was the one that hurt her.  Everything she has ever told me has been a lie.  I'm not even sure if she ever loved me.  But if I hadn't been certain before about how spineless she really is then I'm very certain now."  

Rumer stayed silent for a few seconds making sure Tobin had nothing else to say on the matter.  She stayed with her head on Tobin's shoulder and had begun caressing the back of one of Tobin's hands as she was speaking.  She continued to do this as she began to speak.

"You didn't need to explain yourself at all nor did you need to defend yourself about something I didn't believe for a second.  But I let you talk because I felt that you may have needed to vent out all of your frustrations.  I know you may not feel 100% better but I hope you got some things off your chest."  Rumer informed Tobin.

Tobin said nothing in response.

"Um...why...why do you think it took you so long to get over her?  I mean, I know everyone is different when it comes to that but was there a particular reason why?  Was she...was she the first girl you...uh did you lose your virginity to her?"  Rumer finally got out. 

Her voice sounded unusually nervous to Tobin all of a sudden and she bit her lip feeling as if maybe someone was playing a trick on her and this girl really wasn't in to her at all.  How could she be?  She was so gorgeous and so adorable and so humble all at the same time. 

"No Ru.  I never had sex with her.  Came close once but never went through with it.  Unfortunately, the girl that I slept with first didn't really care about me either but I guess I can't really say she took my virginity.  No, it was the girl after her that did.  I never let the first one touch me so like I said, she really couldn't claim my virginity."  Tobin explained.

"If I'm being honest I'd have to say that it was the forbidden nature of our relationship.  Not that I wanted to be with her just to spite my mother. I needed to learn my lesson on my own but I was robbed of that so it kept that 'what if' factor alive. And of course the fact that Alex herself insisted that she believed with all her heart that we were meant to be.  That she and I would be together again someday.  Her words.  When you put that all together it was more than enough to get me hooked and keep me there for a good 3 or 4 years and it did."

"But I will say that now after I have told you my sob story I think its best that I just leave already before it gets any later."  Rumer couldn't believe what she was hearing and didn't know how to get Tobin to change her mind and stay without sounding desperate.  She held on as she reviewed the solutions in her head.

"Ok...well...if you're sure you want to go."  Rumer said timidly moving her head from Tobin's shoulder and looking her in the eyes.

"Of course I don't want to go!"  Tobin laughed.  "I just feel really stupid telling you what happened to me when I was a teenager and how I was manipulated.  I feel a little low on self esteem at the moment and just fucking embarrassed."  Tobin said biting her lip trying to gather her will power to walk out.

"Seriously babe, I'm not anyone to feel embarrassed around.  I really want you to feel as comfortable around me as you do around your friends.  I'm not a judgemental person and we have all been through our own version of your story."

Tobin sighed putting her arm around Rumer and bringing her even closer into her body.  The scent of Rumer's hair and the warmth of her body was causing the adrenaline to race through Tobin's veins.  She closed her eyes and decided to admit what she thought she would never admit.  Of course this would probably come with a price later on but in this moment Tobin had realized something defining.  Rumer was worth the risk.  Plain and simple.

"I guess I better just admit something to you now and get it over with."  Tobin stated quietly.  Rumer lifted her head to look at Tobin and at this close proximaty Tobin had the strongest urge to lean forward and suck Rumer's bottom lip right into her mouth.  She fought the urge but was just barely able to hold back.

"You just intimidate me."  Tobin smiled softly wishing that she could hide the blush she knew she could feel crawling up her neck and over her cheekbones.

Rumer was utterly confused.  How could she, someone that has zero experience with women in any way, be intimidating to someone that has so much experience.

"I'm confused as to why I would intimidate you Tobin.  I feel nothing but respect and awe and complete admiration for you. I want you to feel comfortable whenever you are around me.  I want you to feel cared for and confident enough to be the open hearted person that you've shown me you are already.  I want you to feel cared for because I truly care about you."

"I care about you too Ru."  Tobin admitted smiling at how her words just rhymed.  Tobin kissed Rumer softly.  The kiss was chaste and warm.

Rumer pulled back and looked down at Tobin's lips with a small sigh.  "Hey, If you feel like changing into some more comfortable clothes I can let you borrow some and you can hold me until morning.  It doesn't have to be anymore than that."  Tobin felt an ache between her legs and a fire in her stomach and her mouth watered with anticipation. 

In the past Tobin had always wondered why she could never imagine having sex with Alex.  Had it been that she was so immensely in love or intimidated due to inexperience or just ignorant for the same reason.  She could never figure it out until before she set out to Rumer's apartment earlier in the afternoon and realized the possibility that she might end up in bed with her that night.

And it all came down to this.  Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke and a theory is just a theory.  Because it was simple.  Tobin wasn't so awe struck by Alex that it set up road blocks to the part of her brain that sexualized everyday situations.  Tobin wasn't so deeply in love that her respect for Alex prevented these thoughts much in the same way.  BEcause if Tobin knew what real love making was at the time she would understand that sex is a natural part of a HEALTHY relationship.

The hard truth was that Tobin just didn't know any better.  She couldn't imagine it because she had never had sex at the time.  And after she had sex with other women it was still intimidating to imagine sex with someone she had so much history with.  It wouldn't be just another gratifying orgasm or a series of orgasms.  It would mean more because on Tobin's end, she truly loved Alex. 

And in this moment, looking at a woman as breathtaking as Rumer she knew she was intimidated but she not only saw herself having sex with Rumer, she was excited at the prospect of just holding her for the entire night as well. 

That is real.  That is truth.

Tobin borrowed a loose fitting tank top and opted to stay in her own boxers because she admitted to Rumer that she wasn't used to sleeping with clothes on and she might start to sweat in the middle of the night.  This made them both laugh nervously but there was no other comment uttered on the matter.  They both felt each others eyes scanning the others body but they let the feeling just burn their skin as they pulled the blankets back on the bed.

"Which side is your side?"  Tobin asked standing at the foot of the bed and turning her head to see exactly where the door to the room would be located once she laid down. 

"Well since you're standing there facing the bed, your right, my left."  Rumer replied.  Tobin breathed a sigh of relief.

"Is everything ok Tobin?  You can have that side if you want it.  I don't mind."

"No, its cool."  Tobin laughed a little with relief.  "Its perfect that way.  If I have my back to a door at any time I won't be able to sleep.  Its really weird.  No matter how tired I am it just stays in my head and my brain won't let me sleep.  Even if the door is locked and the front door is locked as well.  And with you in my arms it would double my natural need to always be on the defensive.  Side effect."  Tobin explained with a small shrug.

Rumer listened to how serious Tobin's voice was when she spoke about protecting her and she felt both safe and aroused.  She felt her center soaking thru here lace underwear and was shocked at how easy it had been for Tobin to get under her skin without even trying.  Rumer normally slept naked so the dampness gathering between her legs was going to be uncomfortable but right now she was just attempting to hold it together. 

They got comfortable in bed without a word.  They lay on their sides facing each other without a word.  Tobin began studying Rumer's features knowing she was being observed but couldn't stop even if she wanted to.  She reached out to run her fingers over the soft skin of Rumer's face.  Rumer closed her eyes and leaned into her touch.

Tobin took her time.  She hadn't had this opportunity before and she wanted to take full advantage.

She traced over Rumer's eyebrows and ran them down to her cheekbones and jawline.  She ran two fingers over Rumer's lips. Rumer's breath hitched as she felt Tobin's caloused fingertips slowly and softly tracing her lips.  She wanted to open her eyes and watch Tobin watching her but she fought the feeling and kept her eyes closed.  Her body began to buzz with excitement.

And then she felt TObin's lips on hers and couldn't help the moan that escaped her throat.  As Tobin received Rumer's exploring tongue in her mouth she moved her body closer instinctively and put an arm low around Rumer's waist.  She felt Rumer's warm skin and her lace panty line and nothing else.   

Tobin whimpered softly wondering if Rumer would stop her this time if things went too far.  They remained in this position making out slowly and began to build up their need for each other.  Their need for release.  Their need for intimacy.

Tobin fought hard to keep her hand in one spot and for the most part she did.  She had only strayed a little by running her hand around the back of Rumer's waist and back but still never went any further than that. 

She had to keep reminding herself that It was all in Rumer's hands.  That it had to be Rumer's decision to allow Tobin to cross the line into intimacy by either telling her or showing her she wanted to take it there.

So they continued.  And the more thay continued the louder and more desperate their moans became until Tobin's inner thighs were slick and slipping against each other as she squeezed them together to attempt to withhold from moving her body any closer to Rumer's . 

Rumer had long since put her hands high on Tobin's chest above her breast but just below her neck and now that the possibility of intimacy was almost too strong to ignore she had begun to run her fingertips down between TObin's breasts and onto her abs.  She caressed that expanse of skin over the tank top Tobin wore with fingers that grew more frantic and shaky with every pass she made.

Tobin was working with only her right hand since the other was trapped beneath her but she made the best of it.

And then Rumer abruptly stopped kissing her and she opened her dazed eyes to look at Tobin.  She stayed silent this way for a few seconds breathing hard.  Tobin mirrored her and tried to catch her breath as well.

And then Tobin felt Rumer grab her by the wrist and slowly lead her hand down undernearh the blankets and out of sight.  As she did this she never broke eye contact with Tobin and the closer she moved Tobin's hand to where she wanted it to go the more labored her breathing became. 

Tobin bit her lip against a loud moan.  Rumer had reached the destination she wanted touched and Tobin realized she had gently placed her fingertips against the warm wet and wanting area between her legs.

Tobin kept her fingertips there for a few seconds and then removed them.  Rumer's eyes snapped into focus as she searched Tobin's eyes for an explanation.

"Are you sure you want it beautiful?"  Tobin whispered.  It was all she could manage in the form of a voice.

Rumer nodded her head vigorously.

Tobin shook her head in response and Rumer growled playfully at the back of her throat.  Tobin smirked but was not at all trying to tease Rumer.

"I need to hear you say it.  I know you moved my hand but ....I still need to hear you say it."  Tobin tried again.  "I can't move forward with something that's so important to me and means so much without a verbal agreement at least."  Tobin explained.

"You sound...like a fucking...lawyer."  Rumer panted.  Tobin loved to hear her so aroused.

 "I want it Tobin.  I want you."  Rumer moaned out turning herself on even more at the sound of her own needy proclamation.

Tobin obliged and began softly probing the outside of Rumer's laced underwear.  She moaned when she felt how soaked it was.  Rumer was silent.  Her head thrown back exposing her neck to Tobin and she let out a moan when Tobin stroked the tip of her fingers along the entire expanse of her wet underwear.  Tobin continued with this motion but kept the same pace and Rumer continued to moan.  Rumer soon began to roll her hips as well in small circular motions. 

Tobin began to feel some indiciations of losing control of this situation.  The sound and sight and feel of this unbelievably sexy woman was beginning to make her lose focus.  She began to lose herself in the moment and consciously told herself to wake the fuck up.  Tobin blinked her eyes hard a few times and lightly shook her head to attempt to clear it. 

She could feel the movement of Rumer's body against hers.  Slow and sexy and aching and she wished she had stripped her lover down before starting.

Tobin watched her every move.  Her every facial expression.  She submitted to Rumer's needs and offered up her body to this experience. 

She felt Rumer's short nails digging in to the tops of her shoulders and relished in the delicious combination of the slight pain and over abundance of pleasure.

Tobin felt Rumer's divine body begin to shake with each stroke and she knew she would soon climax.  She felt that she could either continue with this ryhtm until Rumer came or she could stop now and give her the first climax of the night in a more efficient way.

Tobin suddenly withdrew her hand.  Rumer's breath sucked in sharply as she moaned in complaint. 

"Don't....Don't stop Tobin."  She whispered breathlessly.  Eyes frantic and unfocused.

Tobin nodded her head but quickly pulled the tank top up and over her head.  Rumers eyes widened a little and she stared at Tobin biting her lip as she raked her eyes over the toned upper body of her bedmate.  Tobin looked her in the eyes.  She moved her hands under the blankets and slightly lifted the bottom of Rumer's shirt pausing for permission.  Rumer got the idea and helped Tobin take off her top quickly.  She scrambled beneath the blankets as she pulled her own underwear down.  Tobin did the same.

Tobin didn't waste any time as she once again drew Rumer's body into her own and dipped her fingers inside the wet and warm outter layers of the exquisite moisture she had already felt subdued behind a thin layer of lace.  After lightly stroking a few times, Tobin brought her fingers up above the blankets and sucked them clean as a moaning Rumer watched.  Tobin had never tasted something so sweet and the reaction of her taste buds to this expansion of their palate sent Tobin's mouth watering and her body reeling with excitement.

TObin then took the top of the blankets and threw them back as far as she could.  She wanted to watch this beautiful experience unfold.  She wanted Rumer to watch herself being unfolded.

Tobin moved swiftly not wanting to ruin the moment and curled her left arm underneath rumer's neck and propped herself up with her left elbow.  She began to kiss Rumer again and this time she received a frantic but still soft tongue in her mouth.  They both moaned into the kiss and then TObin was rubbing her hand down the expanse of her lover's toned stomach.  As turned on as they both were, Tobin's movements were anything but rushed.

She ran her hand over the surface of Rumer's radiant skin and felt the thirst for exploration of this beautiful body being slowly quenched with every new expanse of skin she touched.  This soon became too much to handle with only one hand and Tobin withdrew her left arm from under Rumer's neck so she could cover Rumer's body with her own.

Their combined moans and heavy breaths served as the beginning of the soundtrack that would be playing on a loop for the rest of the night.

"You're so fucking perfect....I can't believe how fucking sexy you are."  TObin whispered near Rumer's ear causing her to moan once more.  Rumer wrapped her legs securely around Tobin's body and then ran her fingertips slowly up and down TObin's back and onto her ass.  She wasted no time in grabbing the firm muscles that she found there and Tobin wondered if Rumer had been wanting to grab her ass since the first day they met.  

Rumer opened her eyes to look at TObin wondering why she was laughing.  "What?"  Rumer asked smiling softly and beginning to laugh softly herself just at the giddy feeling of finally getting what she had been fantasizing about constantly for two weeks.

"You like that?  My ass?  Is that something you've been thinking about for a while?"  Tobin asked through a shit eating grin.  Rumer laughed a little harder and shook her head.  "I may have noticed your cute little ass from time to time you cocky asshole."  Rumer replied grabbing Tobin's ass firmly digging her nails into the skin lightly.

 TObin's head snapped back as she moaned.  She had never been so turned on in her life at just a simple touch.  She had never went from one extreme of laughing to a near spontaneous oragasm in just a few seconds.

Tobin held herself up with her elbows on either side of Rumer's head and aggressively sucked Rumer's lips into a kiss.

Rumer instinctively bucked her hips up slow and agonizing rubbing her wetness right at the center of TObin's lower abdominal muscles.  She was soon rubbing herself on the same spot over and over again effectively leaving a warm patch of exquisite lubrication behind. TObin leaned back just enough to watch Rumer's hips as they moved colliding slowly but hard against her skin.

Tobin had lifted herself up on her hands on either side of Rumors head as she watched Rumer fuck herself closer to her first climax.  But Tobin had never been a strict spectator when it came to sex.  This night was proving to be very difficult to handle when it came to wrenching her eyes away from her lover.

She looked up and saw that Rumer's eyes were closed. 

"Look at me."  Tobin whispered out of breath.  Rumer opened her hazy eyes and focused on Tobin.  Tobin leaned forward initiating a slow sweet kiss and then she was entering Rumer slowly with one finger.

She watched as Rumer's gorgeous features tensed in pleasure.  Her mouth slightly falling open and her eyes rolling back until they closed again.  The moan that emerged from Rumer's open mouth was low and long and erotic.

Rumer opened her eyes to look at TObin.  She bit her lip and leaned forward lightly taking Tobins bottom lip into her mouth.  Her hands remained planted firmly on TObin's ass and now that Tobin was fully inserted as deep as her left hand could venture with one finger she pulled down on Tobin's ass as she rolled her hips up to meet the motion and felt Tobin's hand effectively enter her again as Tobin positioned it just right to be able to have absolute control of her own hip jerking movements.

"Oh fuck..." Rumer whispered continuing the motion a little faster this time.  Tobin found the rhythm quickly and joined in by bucking her hips forward using the momentum of Rumer's movements to achieve maximum depth.  She quickly found Rumer's g spot while using a different angle and watched as her lover's intense and beautiful eyes shot open in shock and pleasure.

Rumer sucked in a sharp breath.  Tobin expected something akin to a small scream or a very loud moan to come tumbling out of Rumer's mouth but instead Rumer leaned forward and buried her head and mouth right into TObin's neck biting and sucking and moaning.

Tobin's fingers were not overly thick but they were more than long enough to achieve the right amount of pleasure to her lovers in the past.  But by this point with any other woman she had ever slept with, TObin would've already gone in two fingers deep.  Not only was Rumer more than sufficiently wet to take two but she was still so tightly wrapped around Tobin's finger that her body was practically spitting TObin's finger out everytime she drew back to come in for another stroke.  Tobin moaned when she felt the sucking effect that the taught skin was having on her finger and began to thrust down harder.  She kept the pace slow and her thrust deep. 

"Oh fuck you're so tight..."  Tobin moaned out feeling Rumer's hold around her waist tighten as she continued bucking up into a rhythm.

Rumer's moans became louder and her movements more frantic.  She kissed and licked Tobin's skin anywhere she could reach.  Her fingernails dug into TObin's ass and she ran her fingernails down her lower back.

Tobin held herself up slightly with her right hand so she could continue to buck down into Rumer and watch her face contract silently as she orgasmed.  She knew Rumer was close.  She had begun to shake again and TObin knew it was only a matter of time so she kept her pace slow, strokes deep.  She took her time and watched Rumer's reaction to every thrust.

Rumer opened her eyes and watched Tobin above her.  Her ab muscles and the definition in the arm she had between her legs.  Her trap muscles bulging as she bucked down harder into her open legs and the sight alone made her begin to contract around Tobin's finger.  She clutched onto Tobin's lower back as she came holding her breath for a few seconds and then letting out a loud moan as her back arched and she continued to ride it out.  Tobin continued her deep thrusts but very slowly now.  She could feel the small rough spot inside her lover as she pulled out and pushed in.  She passed over it and probed it more and more everytime.

"Oh my god..."  RUmer whispered as her legs trembled with the after effects of her orgasm.

Tobin stayed inside Rumer unmoving until she thought she had caught her breath enough to pull her finger out.  Once she did she moved the back of her fingers and laid them over Rumers entrance and sensitive clit.

Rumer cried out softly.  Her lower body jerked at Tobin's touch involuntarily.

"Fuck Tobin...I..."  But she couldn't speak.  She just smiled and bit her lip sighing in contentment.  Tobin chuckled a little still holding herself up.

"Do you...do you have something to do tomorrow?  Like any kind of prior arrangements?"  Tobin asked suddenly.  Rumer paused a second and then began laughing silently pulling her lovers body in to hug her.

Tobin slipped her right arm under Rumer's body and buried her face in her neck.

"Did you seriously just ask me that?  Did you ask me that for the reason I think you did because if you did...wow...I mean I don't think I've ever been in bed with someone that is as fucking cocky as you are."  Rumer continued to laugh as Tobin finally pulled her left hand out from between Rumers legs and sucked them clean. 

Rumer fell silent pretty quickly.  Tobin wasn't laughing at all.  Not even smiling.

"Fuck...how do you make me feel the way you do without even saying anything?  I can't believe how strong of an effect you have on me."  RUmer said her voice thick with emotion.  TObin said nothing.  She continued to watch RUmer.

"Are you ok?"  Rumer asked softly caressing her lovers cheek with the back of her hand.  Tobin nodded yes.

"You didn't answer my question."  Tobin said quietly.

Rumer giggled a little and shook her head.  "Are you always this focused in bed?  This one track minded and intense?  Don't you ever have any fun?"

"Ill answer your questions if you answer mine."  Tobin negotiated. 

"Ok, deal."  Rumer agreed.  "No I don't have any prior obligations tomorrow but I do call my mother on Saturday mornings to chat.  Not too early.  So I guess I have a phone date but you don't have to be gone or anything for that.  If that's why you're asking."  She began running her hands up and down TObin's back as she remained between her legs.

"Well no that wasn't really why I was asking but we did just kind of rush into that first round and I wanted to really take my time with you.  I mean, I really didn't even get to enjoy giving you any type of foreplay or anything.  I kind of wanted to memorize the outline of your body....and I just don't want to be rushed or have any kind of time limit.  I'd hate to keep you from any plans you might have already had.  I mean, I'm in bed with an amazing woman.  I may not want to see the light of day for a pretty long while." 

Tobin reasoned looking down between them and momentarily taking one of Rumer's plump pink nipples in her mouth and letting it pop back out from between her lips.  Rumer laughed again and lightly pulled Tobin's hair.

"Fuck Tobin you didn't need foreplay to warm me up.  Your tongue in my mouth is enough to do that."  Rumer informed her seriously.  Tobin bit her lip thinking.

"Are you gonna answer the other questions I asked?"  Rumer probed.  "Uh...yea sure.  Um, if you think I'm not having fun laying here between your legs then you must be crazy."  Tobin said smiling wryly.

"Well you rarely smile.  It looks like you're not having any fun.  You're so intense.  I mean I love the intensity.  I'm intense too and in the middle of things...like....fuck Tobin...you're so sexy.  I'm still trying to figure out the spell you have on me."  Rumer admitted smiling like a school girl.  Tobin chuckled softly.

"NO! No don't you laugh now.  Fuck you are so god damned cocky!  How is it that you can be that way in bed! You haven't answered me!"  Tobin's laugh tapered off a little but she still smiled.

"Ok well first of all, I was intense back there in the middle of things and after because I have to concentrate to a certain extent.  I have to make a conscious effort to focus.  You are seriously the hottest and most graceful and most beautiful woman I have ever been in bed with.  If I don't focus I become a spectator and nothing ruins the mood quicker than the operation coming to a complete hault because I was caught spectating."  Tobin can see the disbelief at first in Rumer's eyes then the shyness as she buries her face in her neck.

"And I'm gonna answer your other question with a question.  Its the only way I know how to describe it.  When you are up there singing a song, what makes you confident enough to stand in front of a room full of strangers and belt out a song usually performed on broadway by professional broadway actors?  Well other than the fact that you have probably been in a broadway musical right?"  Tobin giggles shaking her head.  Rumer nods smiling and biting her lip.

"Ok so let me ask you this way.  I know it might not have happened right away so what got you used to performing on broadway in front of sold out crowds every night?  Are you confident in your abilities as a broadway performer?"

"I think I'm more confident just singing.  An acoustic set.  Small and intimiate with the people I love to vibe with or off each other."

"Ok I can definitely see that.  And when you are up there singing in that environment you're not only comfortable in your own skin but you're having a great time.  I mean you're happy because let's face it, you sound fucking good and you know it.  For whatever reason you just know it.  Viable people have complimented you.  Professionals have worked with you.  For the most part you don't even get nervous performing anymore so you just enjoy it fully, right?"

"More or less...yea."  Rumer replies looking at Tobin above her and caressing her face and arms now.

"Sorry just one more question.  Would you say that this particular talent is one you would brag about if you were a bragging person?  At least to invite people to your shows or even go on tour?"

Rumer leaned forward kissing Tobin spontaneously.  Tobin sighed into the kiss.

Rumer nods her head yes.  Tobin smiles.

"That's how I can be that fucking cocky.  You feel comfortable on stage because you're confident in your singing abilities in that environment.  I feel comfortable naked with you in bed laying between your legs right now.  I know I'm good.  I know I'm good not because of my past but because I care.  I listen.  I watch.  I experience. I am here in this moment and no where else.  You're voice and your body and your kiss and the sounds you make.  The way you were so wet and tight around my finger when you came.  You came hard.  You can't fake that.  The craving that I'm satisfying for you.  My focus may be shaken because of you but I stay on top of things and if I get a little shaky I make up for it.  My goal is for you to spend this night with me and never be able to forget me after no matter what happens.  This is important to me.  You're important to me.  You're my first and last priority."

"And I don't have a problem asking you if you were satisfied.  I don't have a problem asking you how I was.  Like I said, you can't fake an orgasm if I felt your body clenching around me."

"Fuck Tobin you seriously make my body do the craziest things."

"So?"  Tobin asks raising her eye brows.

"I don't think I can answer with you giving me that cocky ass fucking look!"  Rumer nearly yells.  She laughs and smacks TObin's ass with a stinging crack.  Tobin laughs but winces against the sting.

"That's gonna leave a hand mark."  Tobin says laughing.

Rumer hides her face in Tobins neck and breaths in deeply sighing.

"I haven't been with a lot of people Tobin but I've been with a few and the way I felt with you just blew me away.  I've never been in bed with someone that knew exactly what my body needed.  I've actually never felt an orgasm that intense and no one has hit the spots you were hitting.  I mean I didn't even know those spots were there!  And I don't think I'll have a problem wanting to go multiple rounds with you.  That's how good you just fucked me you cocky little shit."  Rumer says while still hidden in TObin's neck.  Tobin shrugs.

"See?  That's how."  Tobin starts to laugh and her body begins to shake.  Rumer can't help but laugh along with her.  Tobin lays her head down on Rumors chest still laughing and she kisses the long hair on her lovers head softly feeling it whisper against her skin.

"I meant what I said.  I am seriously shocked at how fucking gorgeous you are.  You take my breath away."  Rumer holds Tobin's head to her chest lightly and smiles biting her lip as she looks to the ceiling.

I never expected to feel like this...what the fuck is going on with me!

Tobin kisses Rumer's chest and tells her she has to use the bathroom.  Rumer reluctantly unwraps her legs from around her waist with the cutest pout that Tobin just has to kiss until it dissapears.

She walks naked to the bathroom unashamed, ass slightly bouncing and muscles slightly rippling. Rumer watches mouth agape and shocks herself with the desire to watch alone.  She rolls her eyes and lays back smiling like an idiot and staring at the ceiling again.

When Tobin emerges she walks back much in the same manner except she catches Rumer staring and stops midway to bed. She freezes in place as if she’s been caught doing something unsavory. Rumer laughs.  Tobin smiles.  Rumer can’t help but rake her eyes over Tobin’s body all the way to the bed.  She gets under the blankets with Rumer and immediately takes up the big spoon position. 

Rumer reaches her arm back behind Tobin’s neck and playfully pulls her hair. Tobin dramatically inhales sharply.  She lightly pinches Rumers skin near her ribs and instead of making her squirm or laugh she hears her inhale sharply as well. Tobin lightly rakes the few nails she has on her last two fingers of her right hand over the expanse of Rumers ribs.  Its not as effective as a full set of nails but its enough to get the desired effect.

Rumer arches her back slightly causing her rather prominent ass to grind into the middle of Tobin’s slightly open legs. They simultaneously feel a shocking lightning bolt to their core as Rumer feels the slickness of Tobin’s sex on her ass and Tobin gets a crotch full of a very famously beautiful backside.  Tobin moans out a “fuck” and Rumer bites her lip and begins to breath heavily.

Here we go again. This is how easy it is for her to fucking turn me on. 

Tobin slightly lifts the blanket to inspect Rumer’s ass in detail. As surprising as one might find it, Tobin hadn’t even thought to look or even notice what was on Rumer’s back this whole time nor really what was below her throat.  So when she lifts the blanket and witnesses what is leaning up against her center, she feels the heat creep up from between her legs and onto her skin.

Rumer can’t see what Tobin is doing but she hears Tobin’s voice full of arousal and a very uncharacteristic mewling moan as she whispers out a “Oh fffuuuccckkk...your ass is fucking delicious.....how is that even possible??”

Rumer is out of breath and beginning to become more and more aroused but she Is still able to smugly ask,

“Are you ok back there? You want me to turn around?”  Payback 

Tobin kisses her ear from behind causing her to moan softly. “You can turn around if you want me to take this…”

Tobin bucks her hips forward into Rumers ass hearing the wetness smack against her skin and gasping as the sensation makes her dizzy with arousal. Then she finishes her sentence

“Off your ass.” She hears Rumer moan a “Fuck” softly and feels her put her hands on Tobin’s kness and start to grind her ass back again. 

“No. Don’t stop.  I want to feel you.”  Rumer commands softly her voice full of want.

Tobin continued to buck her hips forward holding Rumer’s hips from behind to get the full impact. Both women are moaning and panting by the 3rd thrust.  Tobin is shocked not only at herself and how much this is turning her on but also how much Rumer seems to be enjoying it. 

Tobin digs her fingers into Rumers hips and this causes her to snap her head back and moan.

Tobin sits up quickly and gets on her knees letting the blankets fall from her naked body.

Rumer is a little surprised and then Tobin is grabbing her hips and picking her ass up so she’s bent over in front of her on all fours. Tobin’s strength and control turn Rumer into soft putty in her hands. 

Tobin leans forward gently touching her center to Rumer’s ass and her tirso against her back. She leans in to whisper in her ear.

“I swear I almost came on your ass right now.” Tobin whispers breath shaking. A “FUCK” tumbles from Rumers lips and she sits up on her knees spreading her legs wide enough for Tobin to put her right knee between her legs and the other outside her left leg.  As the two women both kneel touching back to front and vise versa, Tobin runs her hands from Rumers knees all the way up the sides of her thighs and ribs giving her goosebumps.

Tobin kisses the back of Rumer’s neck and then sucks it lightly causing her to whimper. Rumer reaches back again and puts her hand on the back of Tobin’s head encouraging her to continue what she’s doing.  Tobin goes on this way for a while but then she puts her hands back on Rumer’s hips and slowly grinds her center into her ass again.  Rumer moans loudly and wimpers popping her hips backward to feel it again.  This convinces Tobin even more to make her next move.

“You want me back here? You want me to make you come from back here?  Your ass makes me so fucking wet.  I want to feel it between my legs.  You want that?”  Rumer is nodding her head vigorously before Tobin even finishes her question.

“What was that? I didn’t hear you baby.”  Tobin says softly kissing Rumer’s neck again. 

“Fuck Tobin…fuck me. I want it.  Make me come.  Fuck me from behind.”  Her voice is frantic and Tobin loves the power but also loves how much pleasure she’s giving her.

She motions for Rumer to spread her legs a little more and she inserts a finger into her from behind witout warning.

Rumer does cry out this time and immediately goes down on all fours.  Tobin bends over picking her torso up tenderly with one arm as she enters her again.  Rumer is moaning and grinding back into Tobin’s hand and without meaning to, into her center as well.

They remain this way for a while. Tobin fingering Rumer from behind and kissing and sucking the back of her neck.  Rumer moaning and reaching behind to pull Tobin’s ass into her body harder and faster.

Tobin reaches down with the arm that’s holding Rumer and begins running her fingertips over Rumer’s errect nipples. They both start to moan louder and move faster.  Tobin can’t believe how turned on she is.  This time when Rumer goes down on all fours Tobin lets her keeping her finger inside her tight entrance and thrusting in and out along with her hips in rhythm as she reaches around and rubs her clit.

Tobin can see Rumer’s beautiful hands gripping the blankets tight in front of her as she cries out louder with every thrust. Tobin in turn now has better access and her legs are open wider so Rumers ass is grinding back right into her clit with every backwards pop of her hips.  She thrusts forward grinding into Rumers ass as well.

Rumer snaps her head back moaning and Tobin is so turned on she is frantically fingering Rumer and rubbing her clit. Her control is dwindling fast and she wants them to come together.

Tobin let's her head fall back as she continues bucking her hips into Rumer's ass and rubbing her clit in rhythm. Tobin feels herself nearing her orgasm. 

 She looks down feeling a difference in how her lover is moving and she notices how Rumer is moving her hips in large circular motions arching her back up and down rythmatically. 

Tobin comes hard with that image burned into her memory bank. She moves her body forward and flush with Rumer's and when she feels Tobin's erect nipples on her back she comes explosively crying out expletives. 

Tobin lays down on her back taking Rumer into her arms. They lay there in silence catching their breath.  Rumer's naked body half way on top of Tobins.  Their bodies are covered in a light sheen of sweat and the delicious satisfaction they feel in their bodies has rendered them speechless until...

"I've never done that with anyone."  Tobin admits softly.  Rumer's eyes shoot open and she lifts her head to look at TObin.  "You've never done what sweetheart?"

"I've never done that from that position.  Never done that with a girl like that from behind and sure as shit never came that hard, like ever." Tobin admitted honestly.

"You're really serious aren't you?  How the fuck is that possible?  You seriously had me fooled with how well you handled my body and my orgasm as if you had done it a million times."

"Nope.  Never have."

"Fuck...TObin seriously...you're gonna drive me crazy."  They fell asleep for the first time that night but their night full of orgasms was far from over.

Tobin could never quite tamp down her magnetic attraction to the beauty she currently held in her arms.

Chapter Text

She slowly rouses from a deep sleep and the first thing she registers is that she somehow fell asleep on something very soft and warm. It must be some form of a pillow because she can feel a mattress beneath the rest of her body.  Its dark and the blankets are over her head so she can't see much of anything.  And then she hears a familiar voice and it all comes back to her like a shot to the head.  The bullet loaded tight with the memories of a night that never really ended. 

Tobin would describe her night with Rumer as more of a slow burning loop of achingly delicious ecstacy only differing in the avenues they took to reach their climax or rolled from one right into another that at times grew even more intense than the one before it rearing the end of the line up like a cleanup batter.

She hears her lovers voice above her and tries to figure out who she might be talking to. Her voice is small and just above a whisper.  She seems to be on the phone with someone and then Tobin remembers that there was a Saturday morning ritual that she was probably interfering with right now.  The conversation Rumer is having above the cocoon of blankets Tobin is encased in at the moment is enough to confirm her assumptions.  The only mystery she hasn’t solved is what she is currently using as a pillow.

“No…Mom STOP…you’re gonna make me laugh and I don’t want to wake her up! Mom…NO!  We seriously just went to bed like 2 hours ago or something!  YES!”

Tobin is a little confused as to why Rumer would be concerned about waking her up if she laughs. She finally decides to crack her eyes open a little and realizes that her mouth is just above the area between Rumers open legs where a panty line would be if Rumer were wearing any.  She realizes that after having her last taste of Rumer during their last round, she must have just lifted her head enough to lay on her flat silky soft stomach and passed out. 

She begins to imagine how awkward this must feel for Rumer and she suddenly wants to laugh so hard its in her throat and she’s trying everything just to hold back.  But it only takes a little more conversation from her young lover to push her over the edge.

“Mom…OMG I am NOT talking to you about this while she’s literally asleep on top of me! NO!  Well maybe we WERE too exhausted to move …no we were just tired and we fell asleep in whatever position we happened to land in when we fell into bed.” 

(Tobin’s brain notes: OMG Ru you are such a horrible liar.  You couldn’t come up with something better at least just to save you from the embarrassment for now??)

She feels Rumer’s stomach shake slightly beneath her cheek and she realizes that she’s trying her best not to laugh as well.

“Mom…you’re making me cry over here. My stomach hurts from laughing and trying to hold it in.  You are so bad!  Ok so what then?  Maybe my legs WERE too freakin numb to move ok?  Are you satisfied now??”  Rumer is speaking as harshly as she can under the circumstances and its all just too much.

Tobin turns and burries her face in Rumers stomach as she finally loses it and starts to laugh hard. She feels Rumers body begin to squirm beneath her and she hears Rumer laughing along with her.

“NO! BABE NO PLEASE!  YOU’RE TICKLING ME STOP!”  She is barely able to squeak out as she tries catching her breath between laughs.

Tobin immediately stops and lifts her head. She feels the blankets weight bearing down on her as they tent above her head.  Rumer attempts to catch her breath.

“OMG I can’t deal with you two!”  She complains into the phone.

She lifts the blanket just to peek down at Tobin and finds her smiling right back at her.  She bites her lip feeling her heart stutter in her chest and then drops the blankets again so she can concentrate on ending the very awkward conversation she’s having once and for all.

“Ok Mom yes. I already told you I’d call you when we can all have lunch or something.  Ugh Mom really?  Are you done?  I mean it!  I gotta go!  She’s awake and I want to make breakfast I’m starving!  Yes congratulations you finally succeeded in making me wake her up!  Ok I’ll talk to you soon.  No I love you to infinity.  Ok bye mama.”

Rumer sighs letting her arm fall to her side along with her iphone and then she’s finally pulling the blankets back to reveal Tobin’s bed head and dazzling smile. She smiles and chuckles as the butterflies tickle her stomach.

“Hi sleepy head. Was your pillow comfortable?”  She asks voice laced thick with affection.  Tobin chuckles and looks down at Rumer’s belly button and femininely defined abs.

“Seriously you let me fall asleep down here after I…after we…”

Tobin can’t quite finish her train of thought because she’s looking up at Rumer’s brilliant smile and her hair is slightly disheveled and she’s so radiant in the morning that has followed a night in which she got almost no sleep. 

Tobin is getting that breathless feeling and she can still taste Rumer on her tongue.  Its energizing and maddening and intoxicating all at the same time and Tobin wishes she could wake up to this every morning.

Tobin gets distracted mometarily when she sees Rumer’s supple round breasts framing her face and wants to laugh and just say “fuck” at the same time. She’s not sure if she will ever get used to how attractive this woman is.

“So what you mean is, I let you pass out down there after you tongue fucked me until my legs went numb? I don’t think I had much of a choice!  We kind of just passed out and lucky me I got to wake up with this between my legs!”  Rumer exclaims laughing and causing Tobin to laugh right along with her.

“Well since you asked, yes you are a very comfortable pillow.” Tobin says laying her head back down in the same position she had it before and sighing.

“Nuh uh. No way…come here.  I have something for you.” 

Tobin’s head pops up and she sees that Rumer is curling a finger towards her in a “come hither” motion. She’s mesmerized and is about to begin her ascent but rememebers something.

“Oh wait…just a second I forgot something.” Tobin says quickly and then moves her head a little lower so she’s eye to eye with Rumer’s most intimate of bodily organs.

Rumer watches in anticipation and already feels a laugh in her throat without even knowing exactly what Tobin is about to do.

“Hey, I gotta go now but I’ll be back ok? Don’t miss me too much.  You taste fucking amazing by the way.  And you’re the sweetest and tightest little girl I’ve ever met.  Ok, I’ll see you soon.”  She leans forward and kisses just above Rumer’s clit that still appears to be slightly swollen from the last orgasm she had.  From all the orgasms she had.

Rumer laughs hard biting her lip and pulling Tobin up her body. She grips the top of her shoulders and slides her hands under her arms as Tobin moves up to meet her face to face. 

On the way up she starts becoming breathless as well as she witnesses Tobin dragging her lips and nose along her skin humming in satisfaction with her eyes closed as she inhales the scent of her skin. A small smile is dancing on her lips as she does this and Rumer has never felt so warm and so beautiful in her life.

“Good morning gorgeous.” Tobin greeted kissing Rumer softly through a smile she just can't seem to get rid of.  Their bodies were bed warm and soft against each other in the still flickering lights surrounding Rumer’s bed.

Rumer gently stroked the hair out of Tobin’s face and closed her eyes sighing and connecting her forehead with Tobin’s.

“Mmm good morning. You’re body feels so good on mine I think maybe we should just order food for the rest of the day.”  Rumer suggested eyes still closed.  Tobin laughed.

“I’d still have to get up to answer the door. I’m sorry I interrupted mother daughter time this morning by the way.”

Rumer opened her eyes and Tobin backed up a few inches to look at her. Rumer laughed shaking her head.

“Ugh…my mom is so bad. And its ok.  I actually talked to her for a little while before we woke you up.  She understands.”

Tobin smiled sadly but ignored the sadness in her heart.

"So, you said you had something for me?"  Tobin inquired quirking an eyebrow.

Rumer laughs "Well I was just going to kiss you which I've already done but it seems like you already gave your first kiss of the day away to a southern belle."  Tobin takes a second to register what Rumer means and then she's laughing hard and burying her face in Rumer's neck.

"A southern belle??  OMG where do you come up with this shit?" 

Tobin asked almost screaming with laughter.  Rumer laughs as well but is more interested in watching the way Tobin's smile and eyebrows and body language all seem to tell the same story.  Tobin is happy.  Rumer is glad because she's happy too.

“Hey…So I know I’m inexperienced and everything but I make up for that with determination and my desire to please you. Just so you know.  I don’t mind being taught by someone that more than knows what they're doing.”  Rumer says looking down at Tobin’s breasts and naked torso with a mischevious grin.

Tobin couldn’t help laughing at the look she was getting from Rumer. “Ok I’ll keep that in mind but just know, I was more than satisfied last night.”  Rumer looked in to Tobin’s eyes to try to find any kind of deception.  She found none.

“How…like what do you mean?”

“Well let me explain it this way. I have never been with a woman in bed that has turned me on that much.  Not like you did last night.  There’s this quality your beauty posseses and its on a whole other level.  You had me creaming my pants before we ever got close to a bed.  The way you speak and touch me and look at me and carry yourself.  You’re fucking gorgeous.  It shouldn’t be hard to believe.  And the fact that you already turn me on so much outside the bedroom is the reason I was so satisfied once we actually got in bed together.  If you need me to be more specific, I mean that I came last night more that once.  Its just the effect you have on me.  Most of the time I’m not able to get off at all so trust me I'm was more than satisfied.”

“Hey, I um…I want to tell you how I feel right now but it’s a little scary. Can we maybe like talk a little about stuff we don’t know about each other yet so its easier to just get it out?”  Rumer asked.  Under the blankets Tobin could feel Rumer’s legs tighten slightly around her low on her waist and the unmistakable moisture of her warm center leaving its mark once more.

“Sure…whatever you want. Um, what do you not know about me yet…..I’m a drummer…well I used to drum and I love it but don’t have a set yet.”  Rumer smirked a little nodding her head.

“More?” Rumer nodded again.

“Uh…ok I get it a little deeper right?” Tobin laughed suggestively.  Rumer rolled her eyes.

Tobin kissed her lips once…twice and then stopped before it could turn into another sexual release instead of confession hour.

“I may be a huge fucking pussy when it comes to emotion sometimes and I may have a pretty soft center but its more because I’m angry about so many things I can’t change.  And whenever that happens I usually end up crying out of frustration.  That’s why sometimes I will cry during a national anthem or when I hear a choir of kids singing on Veterans day.  I know what that sacrifice looks like and smells like and feels like.  My uncle was a Marine that died in Vietnam when he was only 20.  His blood paid for my freedom.  He and his friends and his brothers and my brothers now too and my sisters as well.  When I spent my time in the desert I learned that you will never know how to really LIVE until you’ve almost died.  I've pretty much always known that.  And because I chose to feel and open myself up and be brave enough to say what I mean and mean what I say, people called me psycho and ridiculed me and abused me and tried to beat it out of me but I can only be what I am at the end of the day.  And as deeply as I can love I can hate as well.  As protective in nature as I can get I can be destructive as well.  Withholding your love or the truth or your deepest feelings is for pussys.  Yes I may get hurt and continue to get hurt but at least I can say that I lived and that I loved and that I was authentic…” 

Tobin had begun to bunch up the sheets and blankets around Rumer’s body the longer she spoke.  Her anger was simmering deep down in her stomach. She had long since hidden her face in Rumer’s neck to conceal the angry scowl on her face but she felt tears stinging her eyes as well.

And all the while Rumer held her close and caressed her hair and her back and kissed her head and her forehead. She knew by the tone of Tobin’s voice and the rigidness of her body between her legs that Tobin had dredged up memories that had left layer after layer of scar tissue.  This not only made Rumer feel deeply cut for her but angry at people like Alex for making this amazing woman think for one second that she was ridiculous or weak or lacking in substance.

“Come here baby.” Rumer said softly.  She gently led Tobin’s lips to hers and kissed her slowly and softly.  When she pulled back she looked at Tobin for a long time.

“I'm scared Tobin. The way I feel right now is something I’ve never felt before.  I don’t want to get hurt and I don’t want to hurt you either.  But I know that I can’t leave you alone now and it scares me because I know if this doesn’t work it could cut me deeply.  But I am going for it anyway and its because of you.  Whatever you’ve heard throughout your life is wrong.  Its small and ugly and shallow and weak.  They are weak.  You are not.  I don’t ever want you to feel like you have to hide who you really are with me because you’re afraid I will look at you and see something other than the sexy and strong and funny and beautiful woman that you really are.  Don’t hide from me ever baby.  I always want to see you.  And I won’t ever hide from you.”

***************************************************

“Hey Hey! Tobs and Ru! Ru and Tobs!  Glad to see yall!  Hey, I have to warm up but I'm gonna see you after the match right? I better!”  Ashlyn said running back over with Hope to continue warming up.

There was an option to sit in the sky box for the game and then there was an option for them to both have an ultimate fan experience. Tobin didn’t care which they did either way so Rumer chose the more intimate approach and Tobin was starting to like the decision.

“So they’re the first to come out for warmups all the time?” Rumer asked the first of many questions she’d be asking Tobin from that point on.  When they were on the tour with the rest of the ultimate fan group, the us. Soccer tour director was the one getting all the questions.

“I guess so babe.” Tobin said shrugging her shoulders.  “Guess that’s one you can ask Ash after the game.”  Tobin offered kissing the side of Rumer’s head and smiling.  Tobin held Rumer around the waist as they watched the keepers warm up from behind the goal.

“So, the other keeper is the one that starts and her name is Hope Solo right? The one I met the other night?”  Tobin nodded her head “Mmhm.  She’s a fucking beast.  You’ll see soon enough.”

“And …” Rumer looked around to make sure no one was close enough to hear their conversation.

“you said she used to date Kelley right?” Tobin nodded again.

“Wow. Now that I imagine them together I can see how cute of a couple they must have been.  Actually, they mustve been a gorgeous couple.”  Rumer mused quietly.

Tobin chuckled a little bit and nodded her head. “Yes they were and they were annoying too.  When I think of them not being together anymore it makes me sad sometimes.  Not just because I care about both of them deeply but also because I grew up looking to them as an example of true love.  I knew it was possible to be with the love of my life and actually have a functioning relationship because they were together and in love for so long and it worked and it was beautiful.  So I guess it was a heartbreaker for all of us who grew up together.”  Tobin reasoned.

“Hmm, I think I can understand that.” Rumer stated pensively. 

The announcer came on the speaker system and began to announce the entrance of the rest of the team. Tobin smiled and looked toward the opening near the entrance tunnel waiting for the first of the field players to come on to the field.  Rumer turned and looked with her.  The crowd was thunderous as they chanted their USA and Believe chants.  Rumer looked around at all the excited faces and smiled.  This was really a huge deal and she had no idea that these friendlies even existed until now.

Tobin turned to her and smiled. She pointed toward the entrance.

“That’s where they should be coming out from.” Rumer nodded her head and smiled.

Then they all began to walk out together not any particular order or line or pattern. She saw some familiar faces and then some unfamiliar ones.  She didn’t distract them by waving or calling them over because she respected their game day rituals.  The last of the team made their way out and then the staff and coaches. 

No Alex. 

Tobin was actually relieved although she had no idea why Alex wouldn’t be out there with the rest.  Maybe she was still doing media.  Tobin realized what she was thinking about and was immediately angry with herself for thinking of Alex at all even if her thoughts were clean.

“I thought you said Alex was on the team?” Rumer asked as if reading Tobin’s internal dialog. 

“She is. I’m not sure why she hasn’t taken the field but its probably because she’s doing press.”  Tobin explained.

There was a flurry of commotion at the entrance of the tunnel just as Tobin was done speaking and she pointed over to the entrance and squeezed Rumer’s waist a little in answer to her question. She knew it would be Alex who was soon going to emerge out of the tunnel.  Watching people run along the bleachers to catch a glimpse was enough confirmation for Tobin.

Then Alex DID emerge along with Pinoe. They were both suited up with their warm up track jackets but they also had on track pants.  Tobin knew that Pinoe just hadn’t made the final roster but had been called into camp.  She had no idea why Alex wasn’t suiting up nor why her usually game ready pony tail and pre wrap weren’t in sight.

“Oh…shit I think she might be injured.” Tobin informed Rumer.  “that’s probably why she isn’t suiting up and she won’t play.  Her and Pinoe will just ride the bench for the whole game.” 

Tobin was actually relieved that she wasn’t going to have to deal with watching Alex on the pitch. That would’ve probably brought back some really painful memories.

After warmups they were led to their field seats which ended up being right at midfield for Rumer and Tobin and they got situated. Tobin immediately looked around to see who was sitting nearby and where the nearest exit was.  She looked down the single line of chairs at the sideline and checked to see if any of the fans looked like they had already had too much to drink.  More often than not, drunk people had tended to cause problems in Tobin’s past experience so she always made sure to at least know where they were located so she could do her best to avoid them completely.  The seats to their left were empty and 2 little girls sat to their right.  Tobin figured that the people to her left just hadn’t arrived yet. 

“Are you excited?” Tobin asked Rumer.  She nodded her head smiling.

“Me too. This is my first NT game.  I love this team.”  Tobin smiled.

Rumer leaned over and kissed her. They kissed for a short while and when they separated they both looked onto the field where the teams were walking out already.  They stood with the rest of the fans and then Tobin saw two guys when Nike Soccer tshirts sit down to her left.  She noticed right away that not only did they have two large beer cups each but they seemed to already be a little drunk and one of them was literally GAWKING at Rumer.

“Great.” Tobin said but not loud enough for Rumer to catch it.  Tobin was just glad that she was sitting between the guys and Rumer.

The national anthem began and everyone faced right. Tobin heard the two guys behind her talking and giggling to each other about how amazing Rumer’s ass was.  Tobin’s blood began to boil but she talked herself down.  These were things she would always have to deal with dating a girl as attractive as Rumer and she was going to have to choose her battles.  She pulled Rumer backwards and into her body wrapping her arms around her and crossing her arm on top of Rumer’s using her heart to put her hand on as she sang the rest of the national anthem.  Rumer was grinning and singing along with her. 

(Tobin’s brain notes: I can’t stop them from staring or even talking but I can momentarily take away the eye candy.)

They sat as the game was about to start and Tobin saw that as Lloyd ran onto the pitch she looked over at her and pointed at her smiling. Tobin pointed back.  Then she stood up and yelled

“I want a 40 yard sniper shot goal Captain!” Tobin’s voice was booming and easily heard from her seat.

Carli beemed and laughed shaking her head.

“I got you!” She yelled back. 

Tobin sat laughing. “What in the hell does that mean babe?”  Rumer asked smiling and looking from the field back to Tobin as the match officially began.

“Oh I just told her I wanted her to score a goal for me.” Tobin explained.

“Ohhh, ok. Cool!”

Rumer reached over and held Tobin’s hand. Tobin smiled and pecked her on the lips.  Tobin could hear more commentary from the drunk tweedle dee and tweedle dum to her left but ignored it again.

In the 23rd minute Carli got her sniper shot goal slotting it into the upper right corner so fast that the goal keeper from France looked lost. Carli fist pumped in mid air and then ran over to where Tobin and Rumer sat. She grabbed Tobin by the neck to hug her quickly and then she was off getting ready for the next play. 

Tobin looked over at Rumer and noticed a small pout on her face through a small smirk. "She's so cute." Rumer said putting her hand over her heart.

Tobin shook her head laughing. "Oh yea she's a huge teddy bear. Just don't cross her or fuck with her friends!"

Throughout the first half she heard a variation of offensive and foul language from the drunk guys about almost every single player on the team. Mostly having to do with how they would fuck them if they could and how hot their varying body parts were.  By the time the ref blew the whistle on a 1-0 score for half time, Tobin was barely keeping it together.

Tobin didn't need to get up for anything but she knew that she needed to leave her seat for a while to calm herself down.  Rumer held her hand and they walked up the stadium steps together to the bathrooms. 

"Are you having a good time Ru?"

"Of course I am but I need you to stop letting those fucking assholes bother you.  They're drunk and stupid and not worth your time ok?" Tobin looked over at Rumer shocked.

"You're an open book baby.  I can see exactly what bothers you and what turns you on and what makes you happy.  Its one of my favorite things about you."

Tobin shook her head in disbelief.  "Wow."  She laughed.  Rumer just smiled at her.

"Promise me you'll try your best to ignore them?  What you need to remember is that they will talk for hours about what they wish they had but they don't have it.  They don't have me.  You do.  And they don't have your friends either.  They're beneath them.  They're just stupid ok?"

Tobin nodded her head dumbfounded.

"Say you promise to at least try your best not to let them get to you."  Rumer repeated.

"I promise."  Rumer smiled and kissed her.

"Thank you baby.  Now lets go watch the rest of the match."

The second half started and the two guys had refilled their cups.  Tobin noticed and began rubbing her temples in frustration. 

Press had replaced Abby in the second half and the drunk idiots immediately began talking now about her ass.  The switching of goals caused the players that were on the opposite end of the field in the first half to now be right in front of where Tobin and Rumer were sitting.  THis meant that Kelley was also in the mix as the two men continued their rape culture based discussions. 

Tobin was doing ok letting it go over her head but then she heard them say something that she couldn't ignore and was potentially dangerous if they were stupid enough to attempt it.

"Hey dude, have you seen the security on the field.  They're a fucking joke.  Fat asses.  I bet I could run out there and grab Press's or O'Hara's ass and be able to run off the field before those dicks even caught me!"  The guy closest to Tobin said.

Tobin immediately began to look around to see where the nearest security guards were.  Tobin saw them posted on each corner of the field but not anywhere near midfield.  She began to feel sick with rage.  She kept trying to calm herself down telling herself they would never try it.  They are just drunk and its the alcohol talking.

But before Tobin could relax and get used to that idea, the idiot actually jumped over the barricade and ran straight for the nearest player which happened to be O'Hara.  Tobin noticed that Kelley was fully concentrated on the match as she should be and had no idea the guy was going straight for her. 

Tobin waited only a second to see if a security guard would get to him in time.  She knew when she saw that they were just waking up to a security breech after the guy had already ran a fair distance that they weren't going to be able to get to him. 

TObin knew Kelley wouldn't hear her warning over the crowd.  She knew no one else on the field could warn her because they were too far.  Without even hesitating to think any longer, Tobin stood and flew over the barricade almost as if it were a hurdle.  She landed and hit the ground running.  She knew that she could catch up but that wasn't the problem. 

THe biggest problem was that Tobin was going to have to decided how to tackle the guy out from behind without taking Kelley out as well.  She estimated how close he would be to her by the time she was able to catch up and she knew that it would be very close.  Too close for TObin's liking but she couldn't stop to readjust anymore.  She was going to have to think on the fly.

Sure enough just as she caught up with the guy he was only about 4 long strides away from reaching Kelley.  More than close enough for his flying body to take her out.  Tobin acted without thinking and hoped that her idea would work.  Kelley had a quick reaction time so Tobin knew that was a point in her plus column.

"KO!  Heads up on your LEFT! LEFT!"  Tobin repeated the last word of her instruction and was thankful that Kelley knew exactly what to do even if she didn't know what was going on.  She quickly and smoothly slid to her right safely out of the way of danger. 

The drunk frat boy that Tobin was about to take down had to out weigh her by at least 80 pounds.  This was also something Tobin had already factored in.  She aimed for just below his waist line and right before she threw her body at him he shocked her and made a sharp left turn to run back off the field. 

Tobin had fired all her adrenaline up into her veins and felt her body reacting to it.  He ran toward an exit to the stadium seats and Tobin knew he was going to try to get away.

 She knew she would reach him before he got to the concrete structure that was the base of the seats and he was about to hit it at full speed.  She'd probably walk away from this with a minor concussion as well but she couldn't think about that now.  She couldn't let this idiot get away.

As they reached the exit to the stadium seats above them, the guy launched his body at the small metal gate and climbed over it clumsily.  Tobin actually thought it was pretty good for a drunk guy running that long at full speed but then he fell to his knees as soon as he made it over.  Tobin was out of breath but she laughed as she saw this.  She jumped up onto the gate herself and as soon as she was over it she kicked him down from behind by taking his knees out before he could get up and run. 

She attempted to catch her breath as she walked over and put a knee on his back.

"Don't move you fucking douche."  She was so out of breath that she could barely be understood but the guy was hurt and bleeding and wasn't going to move anymore.  The people in the seats around Tobin were applauding her and she looked around waving her hand for them to stop.  She stood up to let air into her lungs once she was sure the guy wouldn't move.  She finally saw an out of breath security guard approaching.  A lady in a seat to her left offered her a bottle of water.  She took it with thanks and gulped down half of it before the guard even got to her.

The guy lay face first on the ground groaning and rolling around.  Blood was gushing out of his nose.  He was mumbling things at Tobin but she ignored him.

After he was taken away she walked back to her seat as the applause followed her.  She shook her head and waved it off ducking her head down as she walked along. She felt more and more unsafe as random people began to pat her on the back as she walked by.  She was confused as to why she felt this way about people that were clearly just trying to give her props but she didn't dwell on it when she saw RUmer waiting for her at the bottom of the steps.

She smiled at her.  Rumer looked a little worried and Tobin just shook her head at her.

"Its ok.  Everything is cool.  They got him out of here."  She told her as she wrapped an arm around her to walk them back to their seats.

"I don't care about that asshole I was just worried about you.  Are you ok?"  Rumer asked genuinely concerned.

Tobin laughed remembering how funny the guy looked falling off the metal gate.  "Yea I'm fine.  The guy is fucking stupid.  This is gonna be a night he will remember for a long time.  I think he broke his nose.

"Oh fuck...yea he'll definitely remember tonight for a long time."  They both laughed.

*****************************************************************************************

It was well after midnight by the time the match was over and Tobin gave the police her statement.  They had to forgo the usual post game autograph session that is included with the ultimate fan experience but niether of them really cared once they were done with everything.  They were just glad to be leaving in one piece.  Tobin had never been so grateful that Rumer insisted on driving her range rover to the stadium as she was now.  She was physically and emotionally drained.  She sat in the passenger seat with her eyes closed trying to decompress but the adrenaline was still there egging her on.  Rumer took her time putting their U.S. Soccer bags in the back seat before she got in the driver seat to allow Tobin to relax for a while longer.

She got in the driver seat and made sure the doors were locked.  She then pulled a windshield sun visor out from the back seat floor board and began putting it up. Tobin hadn't seen her use this earlier in the day which would've made more sense.

Tobin had her eyes closed but she heard the crackling of the visor and opened her eyes to see what Rumer was doing.  She was more than a little confused.  There was no one in the huge parking lot and definitely no sun after midnight.  She had no idea what Rumer was doing.

"Baby...there's no sun right now."  Tobin said laughing lazily.  Rumer finished quickly and then literally attacked Tobin in the passenger seat. 

Rumer ran her tongue up Tobin's neck and into her ear moaning softly making Tobin sit up and wrench her eyes open.  Rumer's left hand was already at the button of Tobin's jeans frantically unbuttoning it and making quick work of the zipper as well.  Tobin sat up and rather aggressively grabbed Rumer from behind her neck to slam their mouths together.  Rumer whimpered and Tobin sucked her tongue into her mouth.

Tobin reached frantically for Rumer's button and zipper as well. She quickly wrenched her jeans and her underwear down together as far as she could without breaking their kiss.  And then she felt Rumer's hand in her boxers.  She broke the kiss in shock and sat back letting go of Rumer's clothes momentarily. 

"Oh fuck baby....fuck."  Tobin said vulnerability tinging her every word.  Rumer moaned loudly when she felt how slick Tobin was already and she aggressively yanked down her own pants and underwear the rest of the way with her free hand.  Pulling her hand out of Tobin's pants momentarily, she pulled her tshirt over her head and then straddled Tobin in the passenger seat. 

Tobin was so distracted she didn't even think about the possibility of someone looking in at them. She stuttered in her movements and tried pausing to get Rumer's attention. 

"Wait...wait baby....the windows." Tobin panted against Rumer's mouth.

She answered her between kisses. "Blacked out limo tint. Can't see in." 

Tobin was able to let go of her concerns and focus again when Rumer suddenly pulled her face up so she could look her in the eyes.

"Tobin, I've been soaking wet since I watched you hurdle over a huge barricade earlier today. I need you.  Fuck me...now."

"FUCK..." Tobin whispered, breath hitching in her throat.

She relinquished whatever control she usually takes into the bedroom with her that is supposed to prevent her from being too rough.  She reached for Rumer's body  and grabbed Rumer's ass aggressively with her right hand pulling her down hard as she literally rammed her left finger inside Rumer's sopping wet entrance. 

Rumer screamed out in shock and pleasure so massive she had to pause to let the dizziness pass. Tobin waited patiently stilling any movement until Rumer opened her eyes.

Tobin was a little concerned and felt like a huge asshole while she watched Rumer's expression.  She felt like she might have crossed a line.  She cared about Rumer and didn't want to hurt her.  But she remained silent and decided to wait it out.  Maybe this was exactly what Rumer wanted.

Tobin's chest was heaving with pent up desire but she looked into Rumer's eyes and asked if she was ok.

Rumer nodded yes but Tobin wanted to make sure. She kissed her softly still not moving. 

"Did I hurt you?" She asked her.

Rumer bit her lip shaking her head no.

Tobin was so turned on and frantic that she didn't know where to begin so before she could decide, Rumer put her hand down her boxers again as she sat above her and they both moaned together as Rumer ran her soft fingertips down through Tobin's soaking wet folds. 

Tobin was shaking against her fingers already and Rumer hadn't really had a chance to even move them yet.  Tobin had removed her hand from between Rumer's legs for the moment and had moved both of her hands around to Rumer's ass.   She began to kiss her tilting her head up to reach her mouth.  Her brain finally kicked in and she took off her own tshirt.  Rumer helped with her free hand and then Tobin unclipped Rumer's bra.

Tobin immediately inserted her finger back into Rumer's entrance gently this time and guided her hips all the way down with her free hand until her ass touched her lap. 

They had both disconnected their lips to breath and now they both sat up.  Rumer moaning with her head thrown back and Tobin moaning through a mouth full of Rumer's right breast.  She sucked it rolling her tongue back and forth over her nipple as she kept guiding Rumer's hips down onto her hand.  Tobin felt her body shaking against Rumer's fingers and she in turn curled her finger inside her lovers body.

Rumer began to ride Tobin's hand harder and faster.  She moaned loudly and pinned Tobin's head to its position sucking on her nipple with her free hand.  Her right breast was free of Tobin's mouth so it bounced deliciously with every downward slam of Rumer's hips.  Rumer's hand slid up and down over TObin's clit causing her hips to buck up involuntarily.  TObin couldn't believe how good Rumer's fingers felt on her clit.  She felt an orgasm already close and her movements inside Rumer and everywhere else became more aggressive and more frantic.

"Fuck Tobin....you know how to fuck me just right...you feel so fucking good" 

Tobin was overwhelmed with emotion as she watched Rumer move above her.  She bit her lip and whispered a "fuck" under her breath.

TObin loved the sound of Rumers voice heavy with want and sexual desire as she practically screamed her encouragement.  She momentarily let go of the nipple she had in her mouth and moved over to the left one.  When she took it in to her mouth she lightly raked her teeth over the hard bud and Rumer cried out in ecstacy. 

TObin felt her begin to contract around her finger and then her own orgasm blind sided her making her hips move upward involuntarily in a repeated jerking and shaky motion. 

She cried out softly bucking against the fingers slipping over her clit and she shivered.  She took Rumer's hand out of her pants just so she could enjoy her orgasm using both hands for balance.

Rumer looked down at TObin and began kissing her frantically holding onto her shoulders and slamming down on to her hand.  Her naked body was illuminated only by the digital clock on the Range Rover's dash board but it was enough for Tobin to see how stunning she was.  Her skin luminous and her body quivering as she climbed closer and closer to her climax.  She threw her head back as she came.  Tobin moved her free hand to one nipple and sucked on the other.  Rumers eyes opened suddenely and she bit her lip hard before crying out.

"Oh Tobin!  Fuck!"  She slammed down two more times and then her movements stuttered a little.  She slowed down and rode it out still moving up and down slowly and rolling her hips in circles.  TObin watched her movements and couldn't believe how sexy Rumer was.  She was so turned on she wanted to fuck her in this spacious Range Rover for the rest of the night which she knew she couldn't do.  Tobin moved her hand back to Rumer's hip and caressed her beautiful ass while she came down from her high.

"Fuck..."  Rumer said softly slithering her tongue into Tobin's mouth and fully sitting down on her lap with Tobin's finger still inside her.

"I want you..."  Rumer began as she looked down at Tobin and lightly massaged the back of her head with both hands.

"To add another finger and let me fuck myself raw.  You don't need to move, I just want you to watch what you do to me.  I love your fucking hands.  I want to be wrapped tight around your fingers while I rub your fucking delicious clit...."  Rumer paused and sucked the fingers she had put down Tobin's boxers earlier. 

Tobin moaned as she watched her.

"Until you are shaking and coming again.  I'm not going to pull my fingers out until you do.  I want to make you come because you deserve it.  Because I watched you take someone out today when no one else would step up and you almost made me come in my pants.  I want you to come for me baby and then I'll let you have your way with me for as long as you want."  Rumer moved her hips up just enough for Tobin to add another finger. 

Rumer was wetter than TObin had ever felt her on their first night together but she was still pretty sure it was not going to be easy to fit two fingers inside her.  She was just that tight. 

But she decided to just try and go with what Rumer wanted so she added a finger and guided Rumer down on top of them.  Rumer slid down and was only able to take a little bit.  She cried out in pleasure and bit her lip then she tried again.  She made it half way the second time and Tobin felt her pulsing around her fingers. 

Tobin decided to take control if she couldn't take her all the way on her third try.

 Tobin didn't wait to see if she could. She bucked her hips up causing Rumer to take on the full length of her index and middle fingers. She was still and quiet but Tobin knew there was an explosion brewing. She felt Rumer's nails almost breaking skin high on her back. Rumer sat there for another few seconds and then slowly began to rotate her hips down hard into Tobin's lap.

Tobin moaned watching the erotic scene unfolding in front of her.  She felt her own hips jerk up again involuntarily before she could even register that Rumer had put her hand back in her boxers while she was thoroughly distracted. 

Tobin had never been able to come twice so close together and she's was the only one that could make HERSELF come twice at all but she knew that would change when she felt herself dripping against Rumer's fingers and the aching heat that was already creeping back in.

 Rumer began to slowly lift her hips and bring them back down.  She hummed out a low moan in the back of her throat and the shape of her slender waist melting into the slight curve of her hips every time she came down was making Tobin feel hypnotized.  She could not rip her eyes away.  The longer she stared the more paralyzed she became.  

Rumer's abdominal muscles were contracting and relaxing every time she moved and when Tobin's eyes trailed them all the way up she was road blocked by her perfectly soft breasts bouncing lightly and sometimes chopping down sharply every time Rumer slammed her hips down again and again.  And then there was the mouth watering lips slightly open letting out harsh breaths or moans or expletives.  Rumer's eyes went from squeezed shut to an open dazed expression.  Tobin could stare at this scene all day long.

"Fuck baby....you're so fucking hot....you like how I feel inside you?"  Tobin asked breathlessly getting more and more turned on and feeling like she couldn't just sit and watch anymore.  Rumer looked down at her and bit her lip as she nodded her head.  TObin kept her eyes on RUmers as she ran her tongue across each nipple a few times.  She didn't suck them or kiss them but flicked them roughly with her tongue watching how it began to cause Rumer to moan louder and slam down harder.  Of course this was having a massive effect on Rumer and she was feeling a more intense ache between her legs as she accustomed her body to a wider girth.

Rumer cried out softly seeming to be out of words for the moment.  She had lost concentration and hadn't moved the hand she hand down TObin's pants much since she began to inch fruther toward an orgasm but then Tobin ran her short fingernails from Rumers ass all the way up her back and bit down on her chest near her clavicle bone.  Rumer cried out and either accidently or very purposely slid her finger into Tobin's entrance creating shallow penetration.  Tobin's eyes shot open in shock and she cried out before bucking her hips up into Rumer's hand once again.  This set them both off and they began to move frantically.  Tobin bucked her hips up and Rumer slammed hers down in rhythm.  Rumers fingers kept entering Tobin's entrance every time Tobin moved her hips.  TObin curled her fingers only slightly inside Rumer rubbing perfectly against her g spot.  Both women were moaning loudly and freely now as they climbed toward a deliciously intense orgasm.  TObin was scratching and licking and sucking while Rumer was pulling hair or digging her nails into skin or sucking on TObin's tongue as they kissed sloppily.

Tobin came first calling Rumer's name in the final throes which is something she's never done before.  It should've felt strange but all TObin could feel was complete and utter aching satisfaction and euphoria.

Rumer let out a series of moans and subdued screams apparently still not able to find her words thanks to the intensity of the girth inside her soft warm walls.  When TObin knew she was still riding the after effects of the orgasm she sat up a little taking her nipple softly into her mouth and sucking on it while she moved her hand into a differnt angle and this time began inserting her fingers into Rumer herself.  Tobin saw the look in her lovers eyes and knew that she was about to have another orgasm and she was not only shocked but out of energy to try to control herself in any way any longer.  

Rumer threw her head back allowing TObin to take control of her body and she grew silent when the orgasm hit her only to scream out Tobin's name once just as she was tipped over the edge.  When Rumer brought her head back down resting her forehead on TObin's, two large warm tears fell from her eyes and landed on TObin's cheeks.

She buried her face into TObin's neck too weak to say or do anything but try hiding the immense emotion her body was evidently not equipped to handle before today.

Chapter Text

I see his empty eyes and feel like maybe he isn't going to do it this time.  Maybe he'll just run away with the rest of the kids.  Maybe he really isn't on any kind of drug.  Maybe when I go to blow his brains out this time my mag will be empty and then he'll kill us all.  Would that be so bad?  Would it be so bad for him to waste me?  I mean, after all I wasted him...in another life. 

But he's just staring at me and the convoy is stopping and I know we are gonna die but I look down at his hands and he has nothing in them.  He lifts his hand up to me and waves me over.  He wants me to follow.  He wants to trap me. He wants to lure me to my death.  I'm having trouble resisting. I feel my feet carrying me along his path.  I am trying to stop but I can't.  I can't speak or scream.  If I can't wake up he will kill me. 

He looks like he wants to tell me something.  Show me something.  He turns to look at me and his head starts to fall apart.  Its falling in bloody pieces of brain and skull onto his shoulders and the ground. He tells me to take a ride with him on the river stix and he will take me home.  He tells me they're waiting for me.  He tells me my mom was right about everything.  We will all meet in hell.  Don't forget the ice...

 

Tobin shoots up in bed a scream stuck in her throat.  She rolls over so quick that she spills over the side landing on the floor barking both of her knees.  She doesn't feel anything.  All she knows is the threat.  And the threat is real.  She rips through her duffle frantically.  She can hear someone trying to speak to her but she drowns them out.  She needs to take care of the threat first.  Everyone else can fucking wait. 

She grabs her 40 cal at the bottom of the bag and pulls back the slide hard.  The gun is heavy in her grasp and familiar and cool against her hot skin.  She's on one knee leaning against the side of the bed and she knows the threat waits for her around the corner.  She tries to catch her breath so she doesn't give her position away by breathing too hard.  Her 40 cal is pointed at the ground in front of her leading knee and her finger goes to the trigger...then a lamp turns on.

"Tobin! Tobin?  Baby?  Oh my God!  Tobin....please....please put the gun down baby.  Put it down.  Why are you holding a gun in the middle of the night?  Everything is ok.  Put it down."  Rumer's voice and face are the picture of paralyzing terror. 

Tobin is registering the fact that Rumer is trying to talk her down and that she is in Rumer's apartment but she can't shake the feeling that there is someone in the room with them and she doesn't want to let her guard down.  The thought alone gives her a chill up her spine and she shivers.

The possibility that someone is there hidden in a corner...has been there all along just watching them sleep or fuck or binge watch a show on Netflix makes Tobin want to scream with rage and punch holes through walls tearing them down until she finds what that threat is.

“NO!” She yells looking over at Rumer.

Rumer isn’t sure what is scaring her the most. The gun, Tobin’s loud angry voice or the look in Tobin’s eyes.  A look she has never seen nor thought she’d ever see in the set of eyes she loves to gaze into.  They are no longer warm and open and soft and loving swimming in swirling pots of the sweetest honey.  They are dark and crazed and dangerous. 

Rumer is silent. She looks at Tobin like she’s never seen her before and this look is what snaps Tobin out of her dream like trance.  The expression of the woman that she’s fallen in love with breaks her heart.

She stands slowly and lowers the gun. She holds it in her right hand to look at it. Flat matte black and heavy, etched with the Marine Corps emblem.  Its her gun for sure but she has no recollection of putting it in her duffle after stopping by her parents house.  She has no recollection of even grabbing it now or how she came to be standing half naked at the foot of Rumers bed.

Tobin feels empty as she ejects the magazine letting it fall to the carpeted floor with a small thump. She reaches for the slide and pulls it back to eject the bullet in the chamber and the loud noise of the slide riding forward makes Rumer physically jump in place.

Tobin turns and carefully places the gun on the corner of the bed. She can’t get the image of Rumers terrified face out of her head and by the time she looks up at her there are tears in her eyes.

Rumer slowly walks over to Tobin pulling her face into her chest.  Her tears fall hot and thick on her cheeks as she caresses the soft hair on TObin's head.

(Tobin’s brain notes: I’m lucky to even have this girl and now she is finally seeing what she is going to have to deal with if she stays with me.) 

The more Tobin thought of the possibility of Rumer running the more she wanted to start walling herself off as fast as possible. Rumer has just admitted to her that she loves her and that she wants her to meet her parents and now she’s looking at her like she doesn’t even know her anymore.  Tobin’s body becomes rigid and she gently pulls Rumer’s hands off her. 

Rumer wipes her face quickly but the pain and concern and confusion reflected in her eyes is unmistakable.

“I’m just gonna get out of here ok? I don’t want to be your burden.  Don’t worry.  It’s not your fault.  I just can’t stand to see that look on your face.  You should’nt have to be afraid of the person who is suppose to protect you.”  Tobin says quietly.  She turns and begins putting on the tshirt she threw on the floor a few hours ago.  Rumer walks over to her and wraps her arms around her body from behind.

“Baby please stop. Please stay with me.  Keep me safe.”  Rumer says quietly.  She feels the sadness for her love so deep she is barely holding it together.

“I can’t keep you safe. Can’t you see that?  I’m fucked up Rumer. I’m the dangerous one here.  I’m the monster.”  Tobin states in an empty far away voice. 

Rumer can't hold back anymore and the sobs wrack her body silently.

Tobin turns and looks at the damage she is already doing and she hates herself for it.

She shakes her head and continues to put her clothes back on.

When she finds her shoes, Rumer finds her voice.

“Tobin Heath…I fucking said to STAY WITH ME! You can feel sorry for yourself or you can get your fucking ass in my bed and hold me until morning because I can tell you now that nothing and no one is going to be able to make me feel the way I feel when I’m with you.  So stop with the fucking bullshit stubbornness and get in my fucking bed.  I fucking need you.  I need to be in your arms.  And if you walk away now you will not only break me, you will leave me exposed and unprotected.”

Rumer knew she was taking a chance by talking to Tobin this way but she felt that there was no other way to get through to her.

“Feel sorry for myself huh…” Tobin chuckles darkly.  Rumer bites her lip and hopes she can still talk her way out of this.

“I’m feeling really sorry for myself right now. Is there anything else you want to say to me?  Is there any other insults you want to add in before I tell you that you’re efforts are pointless?  That your words can’t hurt me?  You saw the reason last night.  You saw her fucking reaction didn’t you?  I'm a grown ass woman and she still does that.  Want to know why?  Want to have a little sleep over and talk about our feelings?”  Tobin spits out angrily.  Rumer can feel that this situation is getting out of control.

Rumer’s eye sight is blurred with tears as she nods her head at Tobin.

“Why are you nodding at me??? What does that even mean? What the fuck are you doing with me Rumer???  You can have any body you fucking want!  Why are you with someone that is so fucked up!  Someone that feels sorry for themselves!”

And there it was. It already came to bite her in the ass.  She knew it might and now here it is and she doesn’t know if she has any more tricks up her sleeve that might work.

“My fucking bitch of a mother hates what I am. She doesn’t see you and I and see just another couple.  She's disgusted and embarrassed of me.  We can’t all have mother’s as perfect as yours Ru.  Sorry to burst your fucking bubble but the world is fucked up and its full of hate and anger and murder and rape.  My mother is just a small detail in my life.  The blood I have on my hands is another.”  Tobin states.  Her voice getting quiet real fast.

Rumer walks over to her cautiously but doesn’t touch her.

“What do you want to know Ru?”

“Everything.”

“Everything huh? You think you want to know everything?  Don’t you see how fucked up I am?  How could you want to know?  Why can’t we just pretend like I’m the person that you wish I was and then we can go on living as if everything is cool even if it isn’t??” 

Tobin says looking at Rumer eyes blazing as her voice raises in volume.  She hates to see the fear in Rumers eyes but maybe if she scares her bad enough then she won’t have to deal with possibly hurting her in the future.  She won’t have to be afraid of getting hurt by Rumer either.

Tobin thinks she’s winning but Rumer sees right through her.

“I don’t fucking wish you were anything other than what you are right now. Even as you tell me these things that hurt me.  Even as you sit there putting on your shit and threatening to leave me.  Even as I realize that the more I see the more I want you and theres no turning back now.  Even as fucking scared as I AM TOBIN!!  I fucking want you!  I want every fucking dirty and selfish and dark fucking detail that makes you who you are because I’m fucking in love with you!  Don’t you get that!  Because we are two matching dark souls!  Two black fucking hearts with scar tissue binding us together.  And you can sit there and talk shit and try to build walls to keep me out.  I’m fucking scared!  I told you I was fucking scared but I’m scared of losing you!  I’m NOT scared OF you, you fucking gorgeous asshole!”  Rumer roars.

Tobin remains quiet but she already knows she lost this battle.  She knows that her head will put up a valiant fight but her heart will always win out.  And her heart belongs to Rumer.

There is silence in the room for a while longer and Tobin just stares down at her shoes between her socked feet.

“I’ve fallen in love with you over the span of 4 months and there has not been one day that I would change. Not one detail about you that I’ve learned that I would wish away.  We all have things that we carry with us Tobin.  We all have our weaknesses.  I don’t mind letting you be one of mine but I’m not gonna let you walk away from us because you’re scared.  That’s a stupid reason.  We are both scared you idiot.”  Rumer says quietly.

Tobin looks up at her and glares at her lightly. Rumer sees this tiny white flag and her heart almost breaks because she knows she got through to her and she also knows how close she just came to losing her.

“I’m sorry…for freaking you out.” Tobin says in a small voice avoiding eye contact to hide the shame.

“You scared me because I was in a deep sleep and I was yanked out of it in the middle of the night in the middle of a dark room and didn't know what was going on. You didn’t scare me anymore than that.”  Rumer admits.  Tobin looks up at her from her seated position on the edge of the bed. She reaches for her and guides her onto her lap. Rumer immediately puts her arms around Tobin's neck and tucks her face in kissing Tobin lightly on the neck.

"Look if you're insisting on staying with me you need to stop coddling me. Just facts ok? What scared you besides waking up suddenly in the dark knowing some shit might be going down?  You can't tell me that was the only thing that scared you.  Don't hold back.  I could see it in your eyes." Tobin insists in a nurturing tone trying to coax Rumer out of the cave she ran into when she saw the animalistic nature of Tobin hiding just beneath the surface.

"The gun. Guns freak me out baby." Rumer admits softly muffled by Tobin's neck.

"I'm gonna tell you something that freaked me out too. I don't remember putting my piece in my duffle. I don't remember loading it and standing either. There's a lot of shit I don't remember sometimes. Important shit. I love you in a way that has me second guessing my decisions.  Its serious.  And the last time I went all in I had my heart dragged through the mud for about 5 years.  I don't want you to have to waste your time with someone like me. I'm obviously fucked up in the head baby. You deserve better."

Tobin can feel Rumer's tears on her neck and she is scared that this is the end but she would rather sacrifice her happiness than tie Rumer down to a life of misery waking up like this every other night or worse if her condition worsens.

"I deserve happiness baby.  And you are my happiness.  Nothing is ever supposed to be perfect.  I've always kind of walked through life like the dark stormy cloud that hovers over people.  I loved myself that way and still do.  You have this deeper shade of black that lies within and I'm not going to walk away from that.  I want to embrace it because its a part of you now no matter what drugs they may give you to take or how many therapy sessions you go to.  Its a part of you for good and I am telling you now that I want all of you.  You're worth it Tobin."

Tobin is becoming overwhelmed with emotion.  She is not used to being on this side of a statement that conveyed a promise of such pure unconditional love.  Not even her own mother could claim she loved her this way and even if she did it would be a lie.

Tobin gently pulled Rumer's chin out from her neck to look in her eyes.  "If you're not already as crazy as I am, you're well on you're way."  Tobin said looking in Rumer's eyes and then kissing her lips slowly.

"I don't have to be crazy to love you.  Anyone that doesn't is crazy for NOT loving you."  Tobin felt her eyes filling with tears and quickly went to wipe them away as they fell onto her cheeks but Rumer stilled her hand and wiped them for her.

“Are you sure you want me to meet your parents?”  Tobin asked.

“Of course I do. Now stop asking and come lay with me.  I’m craving your touch.”

“You said hold you not fuck you.” Tobin says and Rumer stops in her tracks as she begins to laugh.

“You’re such an asshole Tobin. Shut up and come hold me already.”  Rumer says shaking her head.

Tobin stands but catches Rumer by the hand and pulls her back.

“I meant it when I said sorry. I’m sorry for raising my voice at you and cursing at you and being a fucking asshole.”

“You’re forgiven.” Rumer says sincerely.  “Come on.”  She leads Tobin to her bed.

************************************************

“So she makes you this bad ass artwork, tells you she’s in love with you and then tells you to basically fuck yourself because she’s not going anywhere?” Ashlyn asks.

Tobin nods her head saying "yup" as she rubs her eyes. She got an hours worth of sleep the night before after she laid back down in bed with Rumer.  The feeling of being unsafe never left her and she laid awake holding Rumer on top of her.

“Jesus dude…when are you gonna marry her?”

Tobin laughs and stretches. “Dude I have to meet the parents first.  Talk about asshole clenching shit.”

“No problem dude. I can go with you.  I can clear my schedule and be your wing man.  You know people like me more anyway.  I’ll be your buffer dude.  We got this.”

Tobin laughs again lazily. "I wish you could come dude but its my first time meeting them and I don’t have an excuse for bringing my plus one bro.”

Ashlyn laughs. “I like that dude!”

“Hey, and I can’t marry her. The perfect ones always say yes and then fuck you over twice and twist the knife at the same time.”

“You CAN NOT compare Rumer to Mitts dude. In fact, if you ever do that shit again I’m telling Rumer.”

I'm telling Rumer.  I'm telling Rumer!” Tobin says in a sing song falsetto voice and laughs.  “But seriously dude.  I think if I ever see that bitch again I’m gonna punch her in the vag.”

“Shit, I’d punch her in the vag too but she might lose the kid and its not the kids fault she’s a whore.”

“Fuck…how did Pinoe sound on the phone when she told you?”

“She actually sounded ok. She’s probably pulling all these girls just like she used to do pre fucking Mitts dude.  You know she pulls them like bees to honey.”

“Yup yup that’s true.” Tobin says sighing.  "I’m gonna try to get a couple of hours of rest dude or I’m gonna be bobbing for cock at the fucking Willis dinner table tonight.”

She hears Ashlyn laughing hard on the other end of the line and smiles as she stretches yet again.

"So gross dude but funny as shit."  "Yea Yea I know.  I'll let you know how it goes if I don't get executed at dinner.  Yipee kai ye motherfucker."  Ashlyn laughs until Tobin hangs up on her and collapses in bed.

************************************************************************

"Hey baby did I wake you up?"

As Tobin rolled over to look at the time, the panic began to rise in her chest and Rumer knew it immediately when she didn't hear her answer right away.

"Baby its ok!  Its real early!"

Tobin saw the time on the digital clock near her bed as soon as Rumer was done reassuring her.  She collapsed back on to her bed taking a deep sigh of relief.

"Fuck baby you scared the shit out of me."  TObin said a little breathlessly.

Rumer couldn't help laughing on the other line.  "I'm so sorry baby!"  Tobin's heart was still hammering in her chest but she couldn't help smiling at the sound of Rumer's laugh.  It was so cute and unbelievably sexy she felt equal parts giddy and turned on.

"If you're that sorry then I don't know why you're fucking laughing you dingle berry."  Tobin said not able to hide the sound of the smile in her voice and the raspiness from the lack of sleep.

Rumer laughed a little harder.  "I was just calling you because its been about 5 hours and I miss you already.  I have to go to the farmers market to get a couple of things before dinner.  You wanna come?  I can drop by and pick you up in about 30 minutes?" 

"Uh sure gorgeous but you might have to wait a while longer for me to apply my special airbrushing effect.  I have to fool your parents into thinking I'm actually more charming and attractive than I really am."

"Oh please.  Why paint the peacock?"  Rumer replied.

Tobin was ready by the time Rumer arrived outside her family home and she ran out before Rumer could even turn off the range rover.

"I don't want a repeat of the other day baby."  Tobin said as she sat in the passenger seat buckling her seat belt.  Rumer sighed and nodded her head.  Tobin leaned over and smiled into a chaste kiss.  "I missed you too love."

They arrived at the farmer's market at a local pier right before sunset and Tobin couldn't take her eyes off the way Rumer's skin was glowing perfectly in the twilight hour.

"Hey...Ru...so tonight, to your parents...what am I?  You're buddy, or friend or ..."

"Girlfriend."  Rumer interrupted turning around to face Tobin.  Tobin felt the heat rise to her face so fast she had to laugh just to be able to contain how happy she felt just hearing that word.

"You're girlfriend?  Are you sure?" 

Rumer smiled and rolled her eyes.  "Unless you don't want to be.  I mean I know how popular you are with the ladies.  I wouldn't wanna cramp your style.  Must've had to tell all of them something by now though huh?  I'm sure it hasn't been easy explaining all the marks I leave on your body."  Rumer playfully said, her voice dropping an octave. 

Rumer began tugging playfully on the front of Tobin's button up remembering an incident a couple of nights before when she ruined Tobin's favorite button up by ripping it off her body.  Not only did all the buttons go flying every which way but in her haste and wild arousal, Rumer had also managed to leave a huge diagonal scratch across Tobin's abs.

Tobin put her hand on Rumer's hip guiding her body in closer to her own.  She connected their foreheads.

"Is that why you're so intent on biting and scratching and sucking hard enough to leave marks and scars?  All this time I thought I was turning you on that much that you just couldn't help yourself."  Tobin said smiling wide and looking down at Rumer's lips.  "Now I find out it was only to mark your territory."  Tobin said making little tsk sounds in mock disappointment.

"Would it be wrong if I said both?"  Rumer said against Tobin's lips, both women smiling into a kiss.

"No you wouldn't be wrong saying either.  I am your territory and our sex is pretty hot so...."

"Fuck I made a mistake bringing that shit up.  Now I'm never gonna hear the end of it until your in the hot seat with my dad."  Rumer rolled her eyes.

"Ok you just made me clench my ass cheeks bringing your dad up."  Rumer buried her face in Tobins shoulder laughing hard.  Tobin just shook her head and held her close.  

"But seriously baby, there is no one else.  Just for the record.  You have been the only woman I have had in any way since the first day we met.  I want you to be that woman for me for as long as I can trick you into thinking I'm good enough to deserve you.  I mean I have my work cut out for me but I think I've been doing a pretty decent job of tricking you.  I honestly can't even explain what I feel for you.  Its too intense for words.  Too pure and beautiful for any explaination.  Half the time I'm just walking through life in a fucking love induced haze thinking of you and dreaming of you and staring at you.  I swear it's kind of dangerous for someone like me.  I usually rely on being very observant wherever I go and now its like you distract me so completely that I can't take my eyes off of you.  I don't even know that there are other people around when we are out in public together."

Rumer still had her face hidden in TObin's shoulder but she had wrapped her arms around her neck while TObin was explaining herself and had tightened her embrace so much that Tobin could feel her heart beating against her body.  

She heard Rumer sniffle a little bit but she still remained attached to TObin in a vice like death grip.

"Please...please...just...don't leave me baby.  Ok?  I don't want what happened the other day to happen again.  I don't want to know what my life would feel like without you."

Tobin heard the near desperation in Rumers voice and her heart siezed and clenched in her chest.

"Baby, you don't have to be so afraid really.  The only way I would ever leave is if you told me to.  I'm too deep now.  So I hope you're ready for the long haul with a pretty dark twisted soul because you can't get rid of me now."

They had long since lost their place in line but they weren't concerned about it at all.  They just stood there in each others arms and felt that they could easily stay there in that moment of realization forever.  They both had experienced cruelty at the hands of people that claimed to love them.  They had both experienced the sting of bullies terrorizing them when they were at their weakest and now they were not only stronger coming out of it but untstoppable as they joined forces.

Tobin turned and kissed Rumer's neck over and over again.  She felt that along with her constant awe of Rumer's jarring beauty, she would also never get accustomed to how strong the sexual pull was.  It was something she had never experienced in her life even after having had countless women to derive a comparison from.  The simple feel of Rumer's body melded into hers in a simple embrace was starting to make Tobin feel intoxicated.  The smell of Rumer's soft hair tickling the side of her face.  The divine solidity and curve of her body practically thrumming against Tobin's.  The scent and luminous quality of her skin on Tobin's lips.  The beating of her heart fast and wild against her.  The deep connection they now shared and had developed quickly between them had Tobin convinced that what she had with Rumer was just fate and she had no qualms with letting fate take full control of her future.

Tobin wordlessly took control knowing that if one of them didn't they would probably never make it to dinner on time.  She wrapped her arms tight and securely around Rumer's slender waist and led her backwards slowly into the line they had abandoned.

(Tobin's brain notes:  We can stay just like this standing in line.  No need to let go.)  

Tobin smiled at her internal dialogue realizing the deeper meaning behind her subconscious reasoning.

(Tobin's brain notes:  No need to EVER let go.)

They finally made it to the front and paid for the jar of fresh wildflower honey that Demi uses in her herbal tea.  They joined hands and made their way to sit at a small table for a while so Rumer could call her mother and make sure she didn't need anything else before they took off. 

Tobin surveyed the rather large crowd milling around going from one table to another like the bees that gathered the honey for her girlfriends mother.  Tobin smiled to herself thinking of that word.

She noticed a young guy at a pottery stand pouring water into a clay bowl for his service dog.  She smiled at the English bull dog and laughed when she saw him slobbering a huge kiss onto his owners face.  She just had to pet him.  She picked up Rumer's hand to her lips and kissed it to get her attention.  She looked over with her phone on her ear and raised her eyebrows in a questioning expression.  Tobin quietly told her she'd be back so she wouldn't interrupt her conversation.  Rumer nodded and smiled watching Tobin walk away.

The dog's name was Chesty and his owner was a Marine who served in Afganistan.  Tobin lingered a while letting Chesty lick her hand and giving his belly a good rubbing while she spoke with his owner.  She shook the young veteran's hand and gave him a Semper Fi as she walked back toward the area where Rumer was supposed to be sitting.  Rumer had left the table but Tobin found her right away in the crowd.  Her figure and presence like a beacon to Tobin's senses.

Rumer was surverying the goods at a table with a woman who was selling some type of organic botanicals.  As Tobin made her way over she saw a middle aged man standing off to the side behind Rumer with his phone in his hand.  He seemed to be really engrossed in whatever was on his phone screen because she saw that he was almost bouncing from foot to foot and chuckling a little.  Tobin felt uneasy and odd as she saw his behavior and couldn't put her finger on exactly why until she got close enough to see what was on his screen.  She wasn't even trying to snoop but the guy wasn't doing a good job of being discreet at all. 

Tobin's stomach flipped and she felt anger so strong surge unto her chest that she was barely able to keep from charging the guy and taking him down right then and there instead of trying to solve the problem in a diplomatic way.

Since her back to back deployments, Tobin began noticing several differences in how she not only handled sticky situations but just any situation.  Her anger was intensified and set off randomly to the point of serious aggression and dangerous actions.  THings that normally would just annoy her before were becoming almost intolerable and the things that were previously intolerable were usually forcefully dealt with as soon as humanly possible.  Tobin's anger fuse was set off like a quick draw duel in the old west and Tobin had not fully realized that things were getting past the point of her control.  PTSD is a sneaky thief in the night.  It slithers in undetected and starts off slow and small until it has its hooks deep inside the skin of its prey and when they least expect it, their sanity is being ripped out by this dark and voracious entity.  Sometimes the explosion creates an unforgiveable amount of damage.  If the victim is lucky, the first few explosions are small enough to get away with unscathed and it will usually wake them up to the seriousness of a very real condition.  It will give them a chance to get help before its too late.  For others that are not so lucky it either results in someone serisouly injured at their hands or even suicide.  Twenty 2 suicides a day to be exact.

Tobin was at the stage of realization that was not totally unaware of the changes but not completely awake to its danger either.  But what she did know was that something had changed drastically after her first deployment and since then she had been having trouble managing but she usually was able to be very assertive and remain professional just as she always had. 

However, as she approached this man now, a tiny fiber that lie far back in the only clear thinking part of her brain that was left in this moment, knew that she was not going to be able to control her tone or her actions when she approached this particular stranger.  His actions were just too vile.  Too grotesque and too personally degrading to herself, the woman she loved and every single woman who ever walked the earth.  Everything Tobin cared about was regarded in this manner and maybe that was part of the chemical changes her brain had underwent as well.  Either way, all Tobin could see in this moment was red and this was inevitable and unstoppable.

Right before Tobin grabbed a bunch of the man's shirt by the sleeve she saw him maximize the still frame he had snapped of Rumer's ass.  Tobin grabbed his sleeve with her left hand and spun him around hard hearing a ripping sound.  Once she could fully face him she grabbed the phone with her right hand and held it up out of his reach.

"So now a girl can't even shop without men like you objectifying them and disrespecting them? Why are taking pictures of women's bodies without their consent!"  Tobin growled.  The people nearest her began to turn and slow down to watch the spectacle.  The man sputtered in shock and tried reaching for his phone.  Tobin stepped back a little and held it up and away from his grasp again.

"I'm not surprised that you don't have an answer to my question you fucking disgusting pig.  So I'm gonna go in your phone and get rid of all the images and or videos you've taken of my girlfriend without her knowledge or consent.  As a matter of fact, I'm gonna wipe your phone memory clean just to be safe." Tobin felt out of breath as her rage consumed her inch by inch.

By now Rumer was aware of what was going on and Tobin saw her approach them but she kept a safe distance.

"I wasn't taking pictures of anyone!"  The man yelled in an outraged shrill voice.  He looked around at all the bystanders that had stopped for the show and Tobin could see that he was embarrassed and angry at Tobin for catching him in the act.

"You're lucky I don't arrest you for harrasment and stalking.  You're getting off pretty easy here unless you want me to smash your fucking piece of shit phone and then your fucking face!" 

Tobin yelled walking right into the man's chest causing him to back up more out of shock than anything else. 

This is when Rumer stepped in and put a gentle and steady hand on Tobin's bicep.  "Let it go baby.  Its ok.  Erase whatever you want and then give it back to him.  Let's get out of here."  Rumer suggested in a calming tone of voice.  Tobin was so angry that her fists were shaking at her sides. 

By now a small group of people had gathered.  The man looked around again and began to look panicked now as well.

Tobin picked the phone up in her shaking hands and found the photo icon as fast as her shaking fingers would allow.

"Hey you fucking bitch you can't just..."  The man attempted to grab for the phone again and Tobin quickly lifted her left forearm in the air blocking him and causing him to stumble back a few steps. 

She had meant to make contact with the meaty portion of the man's arm but nothing ever really happens the way you want it when you're having an altercation.  She knew she had made bone on bone contact when the man clutched at his arm right away.  Tobin felt nothing.  Her rage and her adreline were pumping so high that she was lucky she was even able to speak.

"You try reaching for this phone again and you're gonna be a lot more embarrassed than you are right now trust me." Tobin seethed.

Tobin began to concentrate on the phone again and noticed that the man had taken a video of Rumer and then taken a still shot of the video.  She felt the bile rise in her throat and she swallowed hard to keep it down.

Once she erased it all she held it out above her knee and forcefully rocketed her bent leg into the rather large cellular device cracking the glass face and breaking it in two on the muscular portion of her leg just above her knee cap.  Tobin had no idea the phone would actually break but there it was in her hand bent into a peak like a teepee only held together by the aluminium and platinum and whatever other precious metals they use in the smart phone making process now.

She huffed a little in amusement and then threw the phone down at the guys feet.  The guy was shocked when Tobin just stood there waiting to see what he would do.

She wanted him to try to hit her. She wanted him to threaten her. She wanted him to give her a reason. Before any of that could happen, Rumer walked over and kissed her on the cheek. Tobins heart stuttered in her chest and she lost almost all her bite and anger. 

"You're so lucky she is an angel.  She just saved your face you fucking disgusting piece of shit.  And pick up your trash off the ground, bitch.  You shouldn't litter. It's ecologically unsound."

Tobin grated out from behind her clenched teeth.

They began walking off and Tobin heard the coward start yelling at her from behind them.  She laughed to herself at the similaritites between all the cowards she had ever encountered in her life.  They wait until you walk off or there is someone holding you back or just some preventative object in the way to find their voice and it was usually always said to your back. 

"You owe me a knew phone you fucking crazy bitch!"

Tobin ignored him shaking her head. But when he spoke again she heard him closer.

"Hey, you're gonna pay for that bitch. You're not going anywhere till I call the cops!"

Tobin realized that this bastard was not only disgusting but really stupid as well.  He was actually trailing them.  Tobin began to feel the paranoia seep in along with the anger that was already present and the added element of the woman she loved at her side was something that hiked it all up into dangerous levels at the snap of a smart phone.

Tobin looked over and Rumer and noticed a look on her face that suggested she was aware of how bad this could get.  Tobin felt that for Rumer's sake she would do her best to diffuse this situation with as little altercation as possible.

"Hey, if you don't want anyone looking at her then how about you chain her to the fucking basement or something you dyke.  Because no one would hesitate to look  at that piece of ass trust me.  What's the matter?  You intimidated by real men?  Afraid she's gonna leave you for some real dick?"  

Tobin felt a hesitant stutter in Rumer's body and her graceful gate in her attempt to walk away from conflict with Tobin.  She knew Rumer wanted to engage as much as she did but what Rumer had that TObin didn't was a trigger safety.  Switching from safe to fire always took a second for her to think about her actions which always prevented anything from getting out of control.  Tobin had never bothered with safeties on her guns before and she didn't have one now.

She turned and quickly walked the 3 paces of space between herself and this very seriously mistaken soul.  The man was at least a foot taller than Tobin and about average weight.  What made his situation even more unfortunate than it already was was that he picked at Tobin for the exact reasons he shouldn't have.  Not only was he willing and ready to hit a woman but he already had his hands up ready for her when she turned around.  At least, he THOUGHT he was ready.  Tobin had not only been trained to kill with her bare hands but to also preventitavely fight as a woman that would always either be outnumbered or outweighed.  

As she approached she saw that he was nodding his head and smiling.  He had his hands up but tried kicking Tobin first as she approached him at a slight angle.  She used the momentum of his leg and pushed it out of the way hard in the same direction he was kicking while stepping to the side just enough to avoid his foot.  He spun off balance a little and Tobin picked the right moment to just push him to the ground.  His equalibrium was off and it wasn't hard for him to fall to his knees.  Tobin heard some bystanders laughing and others sucking in a breath of awe or disbelief.

The professional Tobin had taken over again for the sake of her girlfriend and it was all business now.

"Now sir, I suggest you stay down there now and just cool off before you think of trying to strike me again.  Assault on a federal officer is a serious federal offense not to mention..."  Tobin squat down a little and lowered her voice as well.

"....you'd look even sillier if you tried once more and just ended up on your knees again...I mean unless you're used to being on your knees.  EH, to each his own.  You have a nice day though.  Don't forget to pick up your trash off the ground."  Tobin said in the best cheery voice she could muster and then walked over to Rumer leading her out of the market as she watched their backs the whole way.

 ******************************************************************************************************

"Tobin, I'm so glad we are finally getting to meet you.  I thought you were trying to avoid us for a while there."  Demi is laughing and so is Tobin and of course Rumer is laughing as well but Bruce is still pretty quiet and its making Tobin nervous.

For the first time Tobin is really worried about what someone is going to think of her even though she won't be able to change anyone's mind if they want to dislike her.

"I'm sorry maam...uh mrs..."  TObin laughs and shakes her head.  Rumer chuckles watching Tobin stumble all over herself.  She knows Tobin has nothing to be concerned about but its still the most adorable thing to see how flustered she is getting.

"Nope, Demi and Bruce remember?"

"She can't help it mom.  Its programmed in her brain.  She calls every person sir or maam that she is meeting for the first time."  Rumer explains looking over to her mom and reaching over and covering Tobin's hand with her own on the table top to try to calm her down.

Rumer throws her mother a giddy smile as the older woman looks at their joined hands with a matching smile.

(Tobin's brain notes:  This is too fucking much)

"I've been pretty busy with work so I'm sorry."  Tobin finally says.  Demi waves her off smiling.  "It's ok, I'm just joking with you anyway Tobin."

"So, Tobin...what exactly does that name mean?  Its interesting."  Bruce asks evenly still not breaking the clear surface of emotion that might be compromised through expression.  Tobin gulps.

"Uh well I was named after my great grandmothers last name actually sir.  It means "Goodness of God" in Hebrew."  Bruce nods pensively and Tobin feels Rumer grip her hand warmly.  Bruce doesn't correct Tobin when she calls him sir.

Demi turns her head to look at him.  Tobin and Rumer can't see her expression but Rumer knows she's probably giving him a look he knows well.  Demi turns to look at her daughter and the girl that captured her heart and rolls her eyes but she is still smiling. 

Tobin can't help smiling right back at her.  She knows the infectious nature of that smile just runs in the family.

"And RUmer told us you served in the Marines."  Bruce commented quietly. 

Tobin nods slowly.  "Yes sir.  Its only been a few months since I've been out."

"Oh yes that's right.  Thank you so much for your service Tobin.  I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart."  Demi says sincerely looking right into Tobin's eyes and reaching over to squeeze Tobin and Rumers joined hands.

(Tobin's brain notes:  Here goes that awkward response that I never can quite get just right.  God help me)

"Uh...you don't need to thank me.  It was my duty and I served with honor.  But I am grateful that you would think of thanking me at all."

(Tobin's brain notes:  Not the best but ok.)

"So you were initiated then..."  Bruce inquires seriously.

Tobin looks at Rumer shocked by the question.  Rumer looks lost as well and Tobin hears Demi sighing on her side of the table.

"You don't have to talk about anything you don't feel comfortable talking about Tobin."  Demi says from her side of the table.  Tobin looks over at her.

"Uh its not really that.  I just didn't think anyone wanted to hear about it.  I really don't want to be freaking anybody out."  TObin replies sincerely looking over at Rumer.

"Whatever you want babe.  Its ok."  Rumer tells her squeezing her hand a little to reassure her.

"Ok, well then yes I was initiated but I'm not sure which one you're referring to sir.  The blood stripe initiation or the deployment one."  For the first time Tobin saw that she had caught Bruce off gaurd and for some reason she took it as a small victory.  His eyebrows furrowed just so in slight confusion.

Tobin began her explaination.

"A blood stripe initiation occurs when a Marine picks up the rank of E4.  A corporal.  I know you have probably all seen a Marine in dress blues and they all have a red stripe lining the outsides of their pant legs.  That is a blood stripe and only an E4 and above can wear it.  There's an official blood striping ceremony for show and then theres an unofficial one after hours that every Marine knows is really the official one.  A group of Marines from your unit line up in a column facing each other and they kick you on the outside of your leg where the stripe will go as you walk by.  You have to make it to the end of the line or you're not really considered a Non comissioned officer or NCO.  If they are your close buddies they will kick you hard but they will do it up here..."  Tobin stood a little and pat the side of her thigh.

"In the meaty muscular part of your leg.  It will hurt and leave a mark for weeks but they know it won't cause any permanent damage.  If they don't know you too well or they hate you, they will go for the outside of your knees right where your leg bends.  I only had one of those and it was enough.  My right knee usually gives me a huge problem when the weather changes or my workouts get too tough."  Tobin admits laughing a little.

"And the other initiation is for your first deployment and it can be anything they cook up really.  Of course its done in country.  In whatever crap hole country you're in at the time.  Mine was a small branding.  I think I got off easy."  Tobin laid her right forearm on the table top and pointed at a perfectly round circular scar.

"It looks like they put a cigarette out on you baby."  Rumer said with a concerned voice and a furrowed brow.  Tobin looked at her and smiled.

"Don't worry, it really didn't hurt much and it wasn't a cigarette.  It was my Marine Corps graduation ring.  They torched the surface with a lighter and put it on my skin until a layer of skin came off with it.  If you look close enough you can see the imprint of the Marine Corps emblem right in the middle.  It's tiny."  Tobin said fingering the center of the circle lightly.  Rumer ran a fingertip over it too and then kissed TObin on the cheek.  This caused a high pink blush to shoot into Tobin's cheeks.

Demi saw this and laughed.  "Oh you two got it bad."  She says shaking her head and laughing some more.

"So if you have already been discharged, what do you do for a living?"  Bruce steam rolls through to the next question.

"Jesus Dad can we give it a rest for a tiny bit?"  Rumer says laughing a little and shaking her head.  Bruce shrugs his shoulders slightly.  Tobin feels like she just needs to stand her ground as best she can not to stand up to him but to show him that she is not afraid and that Rumer is worth the effort.

"I'm a federal agent specialing in illegal narcotics.  I don't really advertise that to many people that are not in my close circle of friends."

"No no of course not.  Gotta be smart about that.  Being a narc is not exactly popular especially in this shit town right Dem?"  Bruce says and finally cracks a tiny smile.  Demi laughs and shakes her head.

"He's right."  She says dramatically rolling her eyes.  Both Rumer and Tobin laugh at this.

They have dinner and afterwards Bruce goes into the living room.  Demi starts a pot of coffee and tea in the kitchen so Rumer and Tobin sit at the table waiting for her to finish so they could all sit in the living room together.

"What?"  Rumer asks when she catches Tobin staring at her.  "Nothing...you're just gorgeous.  I'm so in love with you."  Tobin says smiling softly.  Rumer smiles and feels butterflies in her stomach.  She can't help leaning forward and planting a chaste kiss on Tobin's lips.  Before Tobin can even scold her they hear Demi behind them as she enters the room. 

"Cool it Ru.  You're Dad would blame Tobin and we both know you are the initiator."  Rumer laughs and inhales sharply in mock offense.  Tobin laughs.  Demi asks Tobin if she would like a cup of coffee.  Tobin accepts and thanks her.  Then they hear Bruce calling in the living room.

"Hey Tobin!  Come in here for a second and talk to me!  Leave the riff raff in the kitchen!"  Tobin looks over at Rumer like a deer in the headlights.  Rumer feels bad but she can't help laughing hard at Tobin's terrified expression.

Demi laughs incredulously. "Hey!  Who are you calling riff raff??"  She yells over her shoulder.  

"She'll be there in a second just wait!"  Demi calls out.  She walks over to the table where the two women are seated next to each other.  She hugs Tobin from behind and hums a little.  Tobin can't help smiling shyly a blush rising to her cheeks yet again.  Rumer laughs even harder.

"Don't be scared.  He really likes you.  Trust me I know he does he just wants to give you the treatment he would give any guy that was in your position.  I mean, Rumer is worth undergoing a tiny bit of a hard time right?"  Demi asks laughing a little.

By now she has stood up and is looking at Tobin's expression waiting for a reply.

"Rumer is worth undergoing a lot more than just a little bit of a hard time.  She's worth undergoing a 3rd World War."  Demi smiles and looks over at Rumer.

"Oh she's good."  Rumer laughs and shakes her head.  "Oh you have no idea mom."  Tobin nearly spits her coffee out and starts to cough.  Demi's raises her eyebrows and a small smirk graces her slightly agape mouth.

"Oh really?"  Demi asks sarcastically looking at her daughter who happens to be speechless for the moment.

Rumer sputters a little and when she's finally able to speak she shakes her head laughing hard. "That is NOT what I meant!  Jesus Christ!"  Both Demi and Tobin are laughing hard now and Tobin is glad to have a tension reliever before she has to go walk into the lions den.

"Go ahead babe.  Its gonna be ok.  He's not gonna kill you."  Rumer says as she wipes tears from her eyes from laughing so hard.  Tobin laughs good naturedly but her throat is dry and her palms clammy.

She walks into the spacious living room and sees Bruce sitting on the couch.  He looks over at her and motions for her to sit on the couch with him.  Tobin obliges clearing her throat.

Tobin not only respects that he wants to seperate her for a serious talk about his daughter but that he also cuts right through the bullshit and gets to the important matters.

"My daughter is special to me Tobin.  I see how she looks at you and I can tell she's happy.  That makes me happy too.  But as soon as I don't see that happiness anymore, I'm gonna blame you.  Understand?"  Tobin nods her head silently.

"Its not easy raising children in this kind of spotlight and shallow shit show.  She has been royally fucked with and hurt by so many people including those she has dated in the past."  Tobin sees the genuine concern on Bruce's face and completely understands his protective nature.

"Sir, I don't pretend to know how it would be to grow up in the environment that your daughter had to.  I can't imagine the kind of problems she's had to deal with.  Part of the reason I was drawn to her is because I can see the strength that she developed to endure it all and how kind she still is even after all of it.  I know that isn't easy to achieve.  I know these are just words but right now that's all I can offer you until I've been around long enough to show you.  I love your daughter deeply and now that she has me I am never letting another person fuck with her in any way.  Those days are over sir.  Acient history."  Tobin holds eye contact with him and doesn't break it.  She is serious and sincere and she knows Bruce can see it when he nods slightly and then reaches over to shake her hand.  Tobin takes it and her hand feels like its being gripped by a bear.  Bruce smiles at her crookedly.

"I like you kid.  I want you to be the permanent one.  Don't fuck it up ok?"  Tobin smiles brilliantly and nods her head.

***************************************************************************************

"He called you kid baby?"  TObin laughs nodding her head.  "why do you ask that?"  Rumer bites her lip and smiles.

"He calls us that all the time.  His kids."  Rumer sighs pulling Tobin's body down on the bed with hers.

Tobin smiles at Rumer as they lay on top of the sheets across from each other.

"When you say you love me, do you mean the kind of love that only comes around once in a while and sticks around until beauty is long gone?"  Rumer asks Tobin suddenly.  Tobin finds the way Rumer asked the question to be endearing but also kryptic enough to account for the possibility of getting an answer that she hopes she doesn't get.

Tobin smiles and reaches over to run the back of her hand lightly over Rumers cheek bone.

"I mean the kind of love that only comes around once in a LIFETIME Rumer.  I am taking a huge risk by speaking this way because I've always overshot my attempts at being sincere but for the first time I feel that even this dialogue doesnt' meet the requirements to fully describe my feelings.  I love the way you look at me and handle me gently when you know I need a gently touch.  I know you will do that for me as well when I'm old and my knees are all fucked up and I'm complaining to you about the pain."  Both women laugh at the image.

"I love how you take no shit from me or anyone else because you don't need me to be your hero.  You are your own hero.  And even when I do come to your rescue or at least try to you still make me feel valiant and wanted and needed."  Tobin wraps a warm hand around Rumers waist and scoots her body closer to Rumers and kissing her lightly before laying back again to look at her.

"I know you will do that as well when we are old and I'm chasing off bugs or bumps in the night probably hobbling on a fucking walker just to get there.  I know even then you'll find a way to make me feel like I'm your knight in shining armor."  Rumer laughs even harder at this image.

"I look at you and see my future.  My life with you.  A marriage with you....children with you.  I can see that in your eyes and I'm not afraid of the pain I may end up with if you wake up one day and realize you've been tricked all along and you really aren't in love with me.  You're worth the risk."

Rumer tears up again and Tobin holds her until they both fall asleep.  Tobin's phone is lighting up in her duffle with missed calls and text messages but she's in another world. 

Tobin has reached a place where the real world can't touch her at the moment.  If you leave a message from the real world be sure to leave it at the beep.  If this is a message that is going to change her life forever then you really shouldn't be leaving it on a message at all.  But you will do it anyway.  Because there will never be a right time to tell Tobin that her childhood friend has just killed herself.  No, that news will be just as massively painful in a voicemail or text as it would be if she found it written on a sheet of wide ruled paper, rolled up into a bottle, floating on the foam of the pacific.

Which is exactly what Tobin dreams of that night.  That she is that sheet of paper trying to break through the glass to swim home.  The sheet of paper she still has in her box of letters from Iraq.  The sheet of paper with a song written on it that made her laugh until she cried when she needed it most.  Just as her friend always had.

 

Chapter Text

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
And time's forever frozen, still

 

 

 

“Mmph…you’re a morning person and I’m just starting to realize that…right now…after all this time.”

Rumer mumbles into Tobin’s neck, her voice heavy and slurred by sleep. Tobin smiles brilliantly but says nothing. 

 

Ash: Dude please call me as soon as you turn your phone on.  Please.

Ash:  I've been trying to reach you all night.  WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU?? 

Ash: Tobin please.  This is serious. please

Ash:  please Tobs

 

She’d been staring at the ceiling for the past hour planning her day with the woman who is currently latched on to her body. She’d struggled with the conflicting urges to wake her or let her sleep.  Anxious to hear the cute and sexy lilt of her voice that she already missed and content to remain in the position she was in for the rest of the day. 

Theres nothing quite like waking up with a naked gorgeous woman tangled up with your body. And of course when it was a woman as breathtaking as Rumer it just made it that much tougher to want to move at all when you were in the very fortunate position of being her body pillow.

The light whisper of her breath against her neck and the smell of her skin permanently embedded in her pores now. There was not one corner of Rumer’s body that Tobin had not either touched or caressed or kissed or tasted.  It had been the best exploratory adventure she had ever embarked on and she never got tired of repeating her trip.

 

1 Missed Call:  Pin head

10 Missed Calls:  Ash

18 Missed Calls:  Kells

8  Missed Calls:  Mom

 

“Guess this means you’ll be the one making breakfast and checking on our kids…” Rumer almost whispered sighing in contentment.

Tobin laughed at this. Not only because she found it funny that Rumer was already dealing out chores for the forseeable future but because the thought of a domesticated future with her at all made her feel so moronically giddy that she could almost hear herself making that stupid fucking noise that girls make when they hear or see something cute.  That stupid “aww” ing noise that Tobin hated so much.

“Well gorgeous, I won’t mind making you breakfast at all as long as the kids stay asleep in their own beds and you repay ME with breakfast too.”

Rumer nuzzles her nose even closer into her chest now and Tobin can feel her smiling against her skin.

 

11 Missed Calls:  Ash

1 Missed Call:  Solo

1 Missed Call:  The Lloyd

1 Missed Call:  Lemew

1 Missed Call:  Unknown

 

“Let me guess, you have completely gone off subject and we are now talking about me giving you ‘breakfast in bed’ which is really code for you eating your fill of what you love between my legs.”

“You know me SO WELL!” Tobin replied chuckling. 

She encircled Rumer’s body by bringing her other arm around her and pulling her in even tighter to her body. She hears Rumer hum her approval and smiles at that too.

Tobin always had a habit of letting her thoughts run away with her until before she knew it she would be thinking of something totally opposite than what she started thinking of originally.

“Hey so, I was thinking of how good your parents still looked together. Kind of like this unspoken familiarity and respect and still so much love.  Then I tried imagining how it was for you growing up.  Your cruel and crushing experiences happened outside the comforts of your own home and family.  Mine happened inside what should’ve been my safe haven with the one person that should’ve always been there waiting with unconditional love.”  Tobin swallowed back the sudden lump in her throat.

 

Kells:  Tobin please...we need you.  please answer SOMEONE!

Kells:  It seems like ur phones dead...please call us T please

 

Rumer kissed her chest softly and whispered, “I’m sorry baby…I truly am. My mom actually knows about all of that.  Which is probably why she couldn’t help hugging you last night.  Her heart breaks for you.” 

“Well your mom is…unbelievably kind.  With you and in general it seems.  I’ve always had this thing where I kind of like…I don’t know it sounds stupid but I collect mothers.  I have one of my own but its always felt more like a conditional type of love with her.  Whereas, all of my friends mothers know exactly who I am and they love me for that and that alone.  Maybe it doesn’t count the same way but I don’t care.  It makes me forget I ever had a sweet 16 coming out party with my mom locking me back in the closet out of embarrassment.”

“I envy you and my friends. But at least I have my small collection of mothers and that counts for something.  Kelley’s mom is one of my favorites and so is Hope’s cute little grandma.  I have a few of those too.  Oh they are even more enthusiastic about Heath!”  Tobin laughed in her attempt at bragging about something so out of the ordinary.  It made Rumer’s heart so warm to hear this kind of cockiness.  It was the cutest thing to hear her girl brag about old ladies loving her so much.

“Well I’m sure that’s the case with my mom as well already. She was the one texting me last night gushing about you.”

 

Solo:  Tobin you need to answer ur fucking phone or get your skinny ass to Ashlyn's grandmas

Solo:  We are done fucking around.  ANSWER!  Something is seriously wrong right now.

Solo:  ANSWER YOUR FUCKING PHONE!  DON'T WATCH TV, DON'T TURN ON THE RADIO, DON'T CHECK YOUR FUCKING TWITTER FEED...ANSWER!

Solo:  ANSWER YOUR PHONE!!!! FUCK!

 

"Oh yea?  And what exactly did your mom have to say about me?"  Tobin asked cockily

 

The Lloyd:  Tobin, I hope whatever you're doing keeps you sheltered for as long as you can be. 

The Lloyd:  Must be nice to live in a bubble

The Lloyd:  Tobin Heath WTF!! F U C K!!!!!

 


"So you can keep me
Inside the pocket of your ripped jeans
Holding me close until our eyes meet
You won't ever be alone, wait for me to come home"

 

 

Rumer rolled her eyes and groaned.  "Ugh nevermind she didn't say shit!"

"Oh you're such a hater!  You can't NOT tell me now!"

"Her words were as follows but not in any particular order:  gorgeous, intense, respectful, fearless...you know just words like that."

"I don't believe you.  You're messing with me.  Let me see your phone!  She really said I was fearless?  Why fearless?  And gorgeous? Geez...."

"Well those two are obvious considering what you did for a living and what you do now for a living but she meant fearless with my Dad.  I don't think they have ever seen someone look him in the eye and tell him they love me.  That seriously shocked my Dad and that's not easy to do."

"Eye contact?  Really?  You mean that the losers before me couldn't even look him in the eye?  I mean don't get me wrong, I shit my pants which is why I had two extra pair with me but still. I mean, eye contact is always a must but its so basic!"

Tobin mused thoughtfully and quietly.

Rumer chuckled but began to lay feather light kisses from Tobin's collar bone to her neck.  The goosebumps that erupted on Tobin's skin made Rumer smile knowingly.  Tobin moaned low in her throat and closed her eyes.

"Hey, you're doing an amazing job of distracting me but I want to see the text messages before I elect to believe what you said."

Rumer shook her head and buried her face in Tobin's neck chuckling.

 "Oh Fuck ...wait a minute...damn my phone is probably dead."  Tobin realized that she had left her phone in her duffle all night without plugging it in to be charged. She was so bad at charging her phone. It was never really at 100% 

"And I have to go in to work for a couple of hours too.  Just to finish up some paperwork and then I'm all yours for the rest of the day baby."

Rumer pouted against Tobin's lips.  Tobin's stomach flipped as she kissed it off her face.  "I promise just a few hours ok?"

 

****************************************************************************

 

 

When I'm away, I will remember how you kissed me
Under the lamppost back on Sixth street
Hearing you whisper through the phone

Wait for me to come home

 

 

The moments before the defining moments.  The moments of pure ignorance before your life will change forever.  Two women in love waking up to the feeling of a warm body against them.  Waking up....existing....breathing.....living.  These little hours.  These fleeting minutes.  These little known miracles.  This division from reality.

Our central character had wandered through her morning making PLANS.  Had laid in bed with a sleeping woman by her side and MADE PLANS.  How small and foolish we are.  We mortal, tortured, wretched fools.  We use words like tomorrow, next week, in a few months, give it a year, 10 more minutes, 10 more seconds. 

How wasteful.  How easy we take for granted, how easy we throw away these tic marks on life's path.  A small conversation.  A sweet hello.  A 10 minute phone call.  A full hearted hug.  How foolish we mortals are.

How monumental our everyday occurances truly are.  How wasteful, how audacious are we to presume to have a future.  To have another day.  Another hour.  Another MINUTE! 

Tobin's uncle knew this.  His minutes were spent waiting for the end.  Giving his every last scrap of food away to starving Vietnamese children.  His life expectancy almost as short as a fly's and why be wasteful?  Why let the food go uneaten or get trashed?  Those who don't value life or freedom or love or others don't understand.  When will you stop surviving this life?  When you will start LIVING?

Routinely wake up, get dressed, do your job, come home again and put it on repeat. 

Our central character had learned how to live like she was about to die at any moment.  But she hadn't factored in the other half.  She hadn't fathomed that a part of her would die with the bullet that entered flesh to exit after the life it ended had already expired.  The speed of the bullet.  The speed of the life's end.

There are many things you can do with time.  You can mark it and keep it and count it and set it but you CAN NOT manipulate it.  No slowing or speeding or stopping or restarting.  The main clock was not marked on a face but by HIS hand and no mortal has say over that.

**************************************************************************************

"Fuck man, I had a late night last night and I gotta charge my phone.  I don't want to be here but fuck if I don't you know the shit will never get done.  Can't very well trust you to finish writing my case for me.  You can barely spell your name."  Tobin joked with her colleague Pablo. 

Pablo was also a Marine Corps veteran and Tobin was grateful to have that bond with someone she worked so closely with.  Pablo laughed rubbing his eyes and yawning.  Seems like he had a late night of his own.

"Looks like you were up late too.  What were you doing, peeping through my girl's window watching us sleep naked together?"  Tobin joked once more.  Jokes...what a luxury.

Pablo laughed harder this time.  "You two sleep naked even if you didn't just fuck?"  Pablo asks suddenly, pensively as if trying to gain a mental picture.  This time it was Tobin's turn to laugh hard. 

"Maybe, maybe not.  That's none of your fucking business Capone."  Tobin replied snickering and shaking her head.

"Hey you can use my charger.  Its already plugged in.  It'd be a miracle if you could find yours at all.  Swear your organizational skills suck!"  Pablo teases shaking his head.

Tobin laughs shaking her head as well but says nothing as she turns on her phone and watches it overflow with so many missed messages and calls and voice mails that Tobin has to sit to absorb the impact of what this probably means.

"Fuck Killer...what the fuck is going on?"  Pablo comments as he watches this uncanny occurance unfold in front of his eyes.

And Tobin feels her heart drop at the sight.  The mass amount.  The names of the senders.  The names of the callers.  The name of the deceased that she does not yet know is deceased.

Tobin can't speak.  She feels like a weight is on her chest and she can almost hear her heart shattering.  This is NOT GOOD.

"TOBIN....panita...call your family.  Call your girl...call someone now bro.  Do you need me to call for you? I can.  Just tell me who to call." 

Pablo says frantically.  Tobin is numb.  She looks at her friend but doesn't seem him.  She's planted to her office chair.  She attempts to speak and can't.  She clears her throat and tries again and still nothing.  She begins to rock back and forth unknowingly.  She's able to put Pablo's hand over the top of her phone and whisper "Call.  mom.  MY mom."

Pablo picks up the phone quickly and finds the contact.  "Mrs. Heath?  No no this is Pablo, Tobin's co worker.  She's fine Mrs, Heath.  She just turned her phone on now.  It died.  Yes maam.  She's right here and she doesn't know what's going on.  She's freaking out maam.  I called for her.  She can barely speak.  Speaker?  Are you sure that's a good idea?  Ok...well ok maam."  Pablo taps the screen over the speaker phone icon.

"Ok maam, you're on speaker now."  Pablo says.

"Pablo...are you the only one there with TObin?"

"Yes maam."

"And is she sitting?"

"FUck...."  Pablo whispers.  He reaches over to hold Tobin's hand.  Tobin stops rocking and jumps startled.  "Sorry Bro...its just me.....I'm here for you man."

"She's sitting Mrs. Heath.  I got her."  Pablo reassures bracing for impact.

Tobin's mother sounds clear, not effected and no indication of a recent crying bout in her voice.  TObin has a few seconds to realize what that means and then her assumptions are coming true.  Its not family.

"Tobin...your friend Megan has passed away.  Tobin...she uh...she killed herself last night.  We all tried to call you.  We tried all night.  She's gone Tobin.  I'm so sorry." 

Tobin reaches over with a trembling hand and hangs up the phone. 

She shakes off Pablo's hand.  She can't be touched.  She feels like a danger.  She feels like a weapon.  She feels like destroying her phone for bringing her the news.  She wants to destroy every bone in each of her hands for plugging her phone in to charge at all.  She wants to stab her eardrums to try and UN hear the suffocating reality.  To ignore the truth.  Ignore the cold, ugly, desolate, dark, absolute truth. 

Her friend is dead. 

Pinoe is dead. 

Megan is done.

Megan's smile enters Tobin's mind clear and bright and blinding.  She hears her laugh and her voice and she stands straight up with force flinging the chair out from behind her.  She snatches her belongings and runs to her jeep and turns it on.  She's not completely out of the parking lot before it begins.  The suffocating weight that had momentarily silenced her vocal chords has lifted and the grief hits her like a cold wave of pacific ocean water.  She slams on the breaks and screams.  Tears spring out in her eyes and her scream is choked off into sobs.  She inhales a giant lung full of air and puts the jeep into park.  She screams again.  She screams with her body and voice and lungs and abdominal muscles.  She screams louder than she has ever screamed in her life.  She screams loud enough to make her own ears feel muffled afterwards.  To ring for hours.  The scream so desperate so raw, so rattling she doesn't recognize the voice.  She feels like it must not be her screaming after all except her throat is on fire and she can't breathe so it must be her. 

Megan's face enters her mind and she starts punching anything she can reach.  She screams and punches.  She punches and she screams.  She wants to hurt herself.  Wants to turn her fists on her own face.  Wants to feel something other than this blinding, searing hot burning in her throat, in her chest, in her mentally sick brain.  With every new punch of her knuckles she screams out the word "NO"  She does this for so long that she looks down at her hands and notices dark purple bruising already springing up.  The sight of it satisfies her but doesn't serve its purpose.  Her knuckles don't hurt.  Nothing hurts.  Nothing feels good, Nothing feels like nothing and she feels nothing but the pain.  But the dark cloak of rage and sadness and what will be years of depression and spontaneous episodes of grief and anger.

Tobin screams and cries all the way to Ashlyn's grandmother's house.  She doesn't look at her phone.  She doesn't look at much of anything.  Even the road.  Even the man trying to drive a golf cart in the bike lane.  Her eyes are so blurred out with tears its a miracle she doesn't crash.  The man is signaling his intentions to make a turn.  Tobin doesn't understand what he's indicating but even if she did theres not much she could do to even really see the man.  She comes a few feet away from hitting him with her jeep and it scares her out of her stupor for a moment.  She slams on her breaks and puts the jeep in park. She feels so bad for this old man that had the unfortunate luck to be driving a golf cart near her during this time of unrelenting grief.  She jumps out of the jeep quickly and wipes at her eyes furiously to make sure the old man is ok. 

The look on his face indicates that he is extremely pissed off and Tobin is able to croak out a choked "I'm so so sorry sir.  I didn't understand what you were trying to tell me."  The old man must see something on Tobin's face because his features immediately soften and he waves her off with an "Its ok."  Tobin turns to leave and he yells out a, "take care of yourself young lady."  Tobin turns a little to look at the man and then he's getting in his golf cart and driving off.

Tobin makes it to the front of the house but hears commotion around the side past the path they take down to the beach.  Tobin's tears are still falling but she makes no noise.

The first face she sees when she comes through the clearing is flushed and full of freckles.  The grief hit her like a punch to her gut.  Is this what she looked like?  The tears stopped and Tobin could only think of comforting.  Could only think of protecting.  Kelley began bawling as soon as she saw Tobin.  Her sobs choking her.  Her knees giving out under her. 

Tobin caught her as soon as she began to sink to the ground.  Taking her small solid body in her arms.  The rock hardness of her muscles yielding to the paralyzing loss, the paralyzing mournful turn of events.  Tobin walls off her emotions.  She has no choice.  She feels the anxiety building and if she doesn't lock it in her safe she will shatter what is broken in her arms right now.  There is no chance for Tobin to consider her own heart.

Because Kelley is wailing softly.  She's pleading for Tobin to tell her that its not true.  To tell her that this day isn't real.  To tell her that Megan isn't really gone.  She wants Tobin to explain herself.  She wants someone to blame.  She curses her and pounds on her chest and Tobin turns her face into stone.  Tobin turns her body into rock.  Tobin walls herself off.  She whispers her apologies.  She kisses Kelley's head.  She lets Kelley take out her grief on her.  She lets her use her body just like she let her body be used by all those women that never loved her before. 

But Kelley DOES loves her.  Kelley loves her and Tobin knows it.  Kelley loves her like she loves Megan.  Like she LOVED Megan.  Tobin feels her heart breaking at this thought but the wall she built holds off the avalanche.  The wall is stronger than the avalanche.  And Tobin would stand here in the sand forever if it meant that Kelley could get out all the grief that was choking her.

Tobin saw familiar faces in the distance but they remained distant.  They banded together around a fire and pounded drink after drink.  Tobin held Kelley.  Both kneeling in the sand now.  Tobin held her to her chest almost like a small child.  She held her until her wails turned into sobs and her sobs into sniffles.  They sat there quiet for what seemed like forever.

"You remember that stupid hacky sack Kell?  She never wanted to put that fucking thing down.  She had to crank her arm to get it right."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"If someone said three years from now you'd be long gone.  I'd stand up and punch them out cuz they're all wrong.  They knew better, still you said forever and ever...who knew."

 

"Yea...and then it ended up falling in one of the toilets in the locker room and she just stopped fucking with hacky sacks all together because she was convinced she couldn't break in another one as good as the one she had to throw away."

They both chuckled a little.

"Tobin?"  Kelley's voice was so small and fragile that Tobin's heart plummeted even lower into the depths of her stomach.

"Yea?"  Tobin replied voice shaking.

"This is all we have left now isn't it?  Just a bunch of 'remember whens' and unanswered questions." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I'll keep you locked in my head, until we meet again." 

 

Tobin clutched Kelley to her tightly without answering.  She knew if she opened her mouth to speak that a groan might come out or a whimper or a loud miserable cry so she just sat there and she clutched her friend fiercely as if the universe might dare take another piece of her heart.  Take another friend.  The only freckled piece of heart she had. 

Tobin always believed in quality and not quantity when it came to friends.  She had a few very fierce and loving ones that she knew were loyal to the core because she too was loyal to them.  And then there were acquaintances that she was polite to but didn't care much one way or another if they were trustworthy enough to take the time to befriend. 

And then there were those who used to be friends and showed her exactly who they were when the perverbial shit really hit that perverbial fan.  Perhaps those were the friends that hurt her most and that hurt was what she remembered when she saw them.  And again and again over the years did her best to avoid them.  And some like Alex who had perhaps hurt her deeper than anyone else could and continued to do so throughout the years as if making Tobin pay a penance that she never racked up to begin with.

"I'm not ready for that Tobin.  I'm not ready to accept that there is a world without Megan Rapinoe's laugh and smile."

Tobin bit her lip and soothed her friend.  "I know tiny one.  I know."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Who knew..."

 

"I keep feeling like anytime now..."

"You're gonna wake up?  I know love me too.  This is too real.  Too much."

"Did she call you?  She called a few of us.  She sent Rachel a text.  She told her...she...loved her Tobs...WHY WOULD SHE DO THIS??"  Tobin softly stroked Kelley's hair and kissed her forehead once more as her friend began to sob softly into the front of her shirt once more. 

"We are gonna get through this together tiny one.  We can do it together just like we always have ok?"

Kelley's head moved where it lay on her chest in an affirmative nod.

"Come on.  I need to get hammered.  You guys started before me and I need to catch up.  I need my family."

"I love you Tobs." 

Tobin's heart clenched in her chest.  She figured this would be the first of many "I love yous" she'd be hearing from her friends but this was the first and it was just more intimate than the rest.  Because Kelley understood something that the rest didn't. 

She understood how it felt to be hurt by a person that she trusted with her life.  She knew how it felt to have her heart crushed, burned to ash and then buried.  She knew how it was to spend a life time loving the same woman.  A woman that she not only loved but had become an essential part of.  A woman she had shared her EVERY first experience with and supported and protected and planned and believed in to have her gradually slip through her fingers over time.  And to have had to endure it all while the most important and memorable things she always dreamed of as a kid were happening in her life.  To have the one that she thought was her truest example of love slip away in front of her eyes and within the span of a few months meet, become engaged and marry a man she barely knew.  Kelley knew. 

She knew how Tobin felt when Alex broke her heart, shit on it and then continued to manipulate it directly and indirectly even after it was obvious that Tobin had moved on and was happy.  All while acting like she didn't really give a shit about Tobin at all and in turn making Tobin seem like this love sick and crazed individual that was just obsessed with her.  All while explaining to anyone that would listen that Tobin was clingy and unstable and physchotic.  Making Tobin doubt every last moment she ever had with her.  Making Tobin doubt herself and her memory and all the things she knew really happened that were now being either diminished to a bunch of unimportant weeks during the span of one summer or just down right denied.  Kelley KNEW.

Kelley also knew how Megan must have felt.  To have fallen for an older woman.  A woman that had authority over not only her but every single person she was friends with and was still friends with.  A woman that took advantage of that position. A woman that was not only an authority figure but desired by so many others and to have this woman choose her.  Only her out of all others.  To bond and create a strong connection over these few bullet points that would unknowingly warp any young person's mind for the rest of their lives. To have this huge secret that only they two and a few others knew about.  To have fallen deeply and have her feelings reciprocated.  For the woman to make a huge show of divorcing a man that she would've divorced eventually on her own creating the illusion that it was all done for what they had established and participated in behind his back.  Creating the illusion that she chose her and not her husband.  That she chose a life with her and not her husband.  To have created an illusion that what they had was real and strong and undeniable and an awakening and then have it all yanked away as soon as she was about to bite that carrot that had been danlged in front of her for so long.  She knew how Megan must have felt when she found out that the woman who had scarred and changed her forever when she preyed on her as a student and player was now pregnant once more with ANOTHER man's child. 

She knew how Megan must have felt to have HER relationship gradually slip through her fingers as well and then to have it all end up in this colossal lie that in turn also made her doubt her self worth for the first time in her life.  And to have it all go down around the same time that the U.S. Soccer Federation and the U.S. Soccer coach decided that Megan was no longer needed on the national team and that her contract would not be renewed.  Kelley KNEW.

So this "I love you"  Cut Tobin deep.  It was intimate and all knowing and understanding.  This proclaimation of love was their identity.  Their way of communicating just how devastated they felt without any more than 3 words.  Because words were not enough.  Tears were not enough.  Not even the raw and irritated and swollen state of Tobin's throat from screaming her lungs to ash was enough to match the deep and vacant hole they all felt and no doubt ....would always feel. 

And death in this manner would always fall in this category.  It would always fester.  It would never rest.  It would never stop questioning or plaguing or nagging or nailing your eyelids open against your forehead in the dead of night.  This grief was not meant to be felt alone.  And so these young women would sit and they would grieve and they would laugh and then they would cry.  They would stumble around drunk and curse the heavens they would chunk glass bottles angrily into the fire because they were lost.  They were all together in this loss.  They were all vacant.

"I love you Kells...so much." 

By the time Tobin had gone around embracing and consoling her friends (some longer than others) she had slammed three beers. It was out of character for Tobin and when she sat on a log next to Kelley she already felt the numbness in her lips and the swimming quality of her thoughts.  She briefly thought about the consequences of drinking heavily during this time but none of them seemed pressing enough to avoid drinking all together.  She needed that numbness.  She needed that helter skelter view of her world right now because for Tobin, it was the only thing that made sense when nothing made sense.

Tobin's thoughts were consumed with nothing other than her friend.  A friend she shared something different with.  Something that to her knowledge no other around the circle before her now had shared with her.  And suddenly she heard Megan's voice so clear in her ear that she swore she was sitting in the spot next to her on the log that wasn't already occupied by Kelley. 

"Wow."

Tobin squeezed her eyes shut tight and her breaths came in deep and quick and she began to panic.  She knew with all her heart that if she turned to look she would see her friend.  Just as she had seen the two dead boys when she was 15.  Standing huge and hulking in the door way of her bedroom paralyzing her with fear. 

Tobin kept her eyes shut and softly began saying "No, no, no, no...." quietly to herself.  Her hand came up to her face and a fist formed but Tobin just laid it near her temple and continued to breathe deep.  The tears began to stream down her cheeks and she felt Kelley's arm wrapping around her. Trying to comfort her.  But unlike the moment they shared earlier, this sudden mind trick was something that Kelley not only had never been around but that she probably wouldn't understand and Tobin felt more alone than she had ever felt in her life.

And then she felt arms close around her from behind and a smell of this person's body so familiar and so comforting that she felt her flood gates begin to open and she stood quickly, taking the person by the hand and walking quickly away from the fire.  She knew if her friends witnessed her break down that she would cause them all to break down and she just could not have that happen.  They had all been through enough already. 

Tobin walked to the back of her Jeep and then buried her face in Rumer's neck.  She didn't know how she knew or how she got there but she didn't care.  She had never been so happy and so devastated all at once a day in her life and the feeling might have been more conflicting than any other she had experienced.

And Tobin let go.  She let go of it all.  Her knees gave out under her.  Her sobs were loud and guttural causing further irritation to the voice that she would probably end up losing soon.  She gripped on to her girlfriend and repeated the one thing she still did not want to believe.  The one thing she just couldn't wrap her mind around because her mind was not big enough to cover that spread. 

"She's GGGOOOONNNNEEEE!  I can't believe she's gone!  She's can't be....she can't....please....please...." 

Tobin's pleas were so heart wrenching....so pitiful that Rumer began to sob softly as well.  She felt that the situation was getting out of hand.  She felt that if she didn't give her love more privacy to grieve that she would have a group of women all reaching their breaking point like this together and that was not a good scenario.

She bent her knees a little and lifted Tobin's body up easily.  She walked further away from the group of friends surrounding the fire on the beach toward her own vehicle.  There she would allow her girlfriend to mourn her loss in a way that would leave her drained and docile.  Empty but calm.  Not ok but functioning. 

Because peace was a luxury they were all going to have to try to find everyday for the next week just to be able to carry out basic human functions. 

Basic human functions under the influence of alcohol and grief.

 

Chapter Text

Tobin Heath greeted her adolescence from behind a curtain of shame and pretense. From her clothing all the way down to her choice of shoes.  Her makeup and her preference for snap backs or perfectly broken in ball caps were all strictly conformed and controlled by the person who actually paid for such things. 

Her father worked hard to afford Tobin all she needed to succeed in life and sometimes now when he talks to her about what changes she should make in her employment provided health care or her 401K she actually feels guilty. 

Mr. Heath compares her success with his entire professional working life always reminding her how great it is for her to have such a good paying job with benefits.  Mr. Heath means to praise and compliment Tobin when comparing these things but Tobin can’t help but feel like she doesn’t deserve it.  He worked his fingers to the bone and everything she had growing up even if it wasn’t her choice to wear or purchase was thanks to his hard work.  His troubled back and calloused hands put her through the most important times of her life.  And she was grateful to him for it.  But she loathed her mother for her part in the façade.  Mr. Heath just wanted her happiness and Mrs. Heath was worried about her own. 

The first time Rumer saw a picture of Tobin in high school her breath was literally taken from her lungs.  She tried to cover it up after the fact but Tobin noticed because she notices everything about her girlfriend. 

“Yea, I may have been stunning at 17 Ru, but that WASN’T me. That was fake.  Inside I was a completely different person. I would’ve rather worn a snap back with a tux to prom not that dress that was more a fucking bikini than formal wear. My whole fucking high school experience was a fucking lie.”

“Hey, hey hey…just because this picture shocked the fucking breath right out of me does NOT mean I don’t find you fucking unbelievably attractive right now. You're one of those people that can pull off any look.  Like you wake up in the middle of the night just to use the bathroom and my favorite thing to do is watch you come back to bed.  If you’re not naked you have on a tee and your hair is messy and your boxers are low on your hips and your lips are always so damned pink but kind of dry too and your skin just glows and you’re working a look in the middle of the night and you’re not even trying.  Which is probably why we rarely get back to sleep right away once we are both awake.”

But Tobin knows what she was then and what she is now and her confidence as a grown woman would’ve never even had a glimmer of a chance if it hadn’t been for her friends.

Carli Lloyd didn’t do fake. She married a man she dated since before even Hope and Kelley began dating.  She doesn’t wear makeup on game days.  She is now the best soccer player in the world and hasn’t posed nude for any magazine nor will she ever.  She plays hard, she works hard, and she lives hard.  She cares about no one’s opinion but those who matter most to her and that includes her small circle of friends but just barely.  It also includes her trainer and her now husband.  Carli has never changed.  Carli is Tobin’s North Star.

Hope Solo is probably so close to Carli because she was casted from the same mold except she’s messier. She’s emotional.  She’s explosive on and off the field.  She punches people squarely in the face if she feels she needs to.  She’s blunt and speaks her mind much like her friend Carli but she doesn’t seem to think before she does this.  Not that Carli has much of a filter herself…but Carli doesn’t need a filter.  Carli plays chess.  There is the right time to say something and there is a wrong time.  Carli knows the difference.  Hope doesn’t care.  Tobin understands both stances and respects them both as well.  Hope stands right under the 6 foot mark but her steely determination and strength earns her that extra inch easily.  She’s gutsy and intimidating and just plain phenomenal.  Her work ethic mirrors Carli’s.  They are relentless.  They are legendary.  Hope is solid and consistent and reliable.  Hope is Tobin’s rock.

Kelley O’Hara is witty and insanely intelligent. She’s equally quick with a joke or an argument about the effects of global warming or a slide tackle to save Hope’s ass in the last fleeting minutes of a well fought match.  She’s daring and fun and energetic but so kind hearted that Tobin is convinced that her freckles must represent the number of times she has done something selfless for another person.  She’s gorgeous but seems to have never quite figured that out.  She too never wears makeup on game day and where she draws the line at clearing out her nose of mucus in the middle of a match right in front of the camera like Ms. Lloyd, she isn’t afraid of a bloody nose or a black eye if it comes down to it.  She’s had players try to punch her out right and puff their chests up to her face in the middle of a match because they just could not shake her and her tackles were vicious.  Kelley makes no apologies on the pitch.  Kelley is Tobin’s angel.

Ashlyn has always been steady and loyal. Tobin has spent hours laughing with Ashlyn about anything really.  It seems Ashlyn came make any daily activity or observation into something that Tobin can endlessly laugh about.  It could be an impersonation of Adam Sandler’s Water Boy voice or a story about her teacup puppy that is now like her baby and one of her weaknesses even though she always hated the idea of a small dog in comparison to a big burly one. Ali Krieger has been Ashlyn's weakness for half her life now.  And where Ashlyn might fall short in maturity or sense in general, Ali picks it up and completes the circle with a steady and firm hand on the wheel.  This ying and yang is Tobin’s favorite.  She loved Hope and Kelley together but together they never seemed to notice another person therefore they could never connect with one as a couple.  Separately maybe but not as a couple.  Too focused on each other.  Too out of it to care.  For Tobin, Ali and Ashlyn were both her therapy and her peace.

Sydney and Kristie can’t truly be considered as two separate entities in Tobin’s eyes. Anytime she considers her two friends she can never separate one from the other.  Together is how they work best which is why it is still that way and Tobin hopes it will never change.  If they are funny as two separate women then they are insanely hilarious together.  Affectionate and adorable and then the next moment Tobin is choking on her drink or food or on a laugh that she can’t seem to control because they not only complement each other in love but in their comedic timing.  They are fearless lovers with PDA but not overly inappropriate where they have people feeling uncomfortable.  This was always something Tobin wished she could have as an adolescent and still wants now.  She has found it with Rumer but would’ve never had an example if it hadn’t been for her two friends.  Sydney and Kristie are Tobin’s Hope for her future and the future of all LGBTQ people.

Even as painful as Tobin’s history has been with Alexandra Morgan she can’t ignore the early influence she had on her view of life.

Tobin above all had always admired Alex’s audacity.  Her carefree and “I don’t give a fuck” attitude.  Maybe it was because she could never imagine herself acting in such a manner or maybe it was because Tobin had mistaken it for courage.  Because Tobin knows now that it was anything but courage. 

It was quite the opposite. 

It was cowardice. 

Acting out for attention. Being brash and boisterous to turn heads but Alex never understood that she didn’t need to do any of that to turn heads.  Her talent on the ball BROKE NECKS.  Her looks did the rest.  Her looks kept luring new fans to the game that would’ve never even bothered looking if it hadn’t been for her. 

Tobin is disgusted when she listens to the guys in the workplace talk about the team not knowing that she grew up with these women and views them as her sisters and in Alex’s case it makes her feel even more awkward since they shared something much more intimate than what she shared with the rest of the group.

She could argue and get worked up but what’s the point?  They know the girth of Alex Morgan’s massive thigh muscles and wonder if she could crush a watermelon between them but have no clue how many international goals she has scored nor how many gold medals she has.  They know the color of the bikini that was painted on her body fr Sports Illustrated but don’t even know what number she wears on her jersey or the significance of that number. 

So Tobin ignores them because being a successful woman at the top is a double edged sword.  She wants them to watch the games.  She encourages them to buy tickets to a match because

“I’ve been to one and Alex is way better looking in person.” 

Because for Tobin, pretending to go along with their way of thinking is what gets them to the match and then they won’t be able to ignore the massive talent that the United States has been blessed with in U.S. Women’s Soccer. 

Tobin feels like the early influence that Alex had on her was the only influence she can be grateful for. Tobin feels like she doesn’t even know who Alex is anymore.  People change even though Tobin heard that the person you are at 6 is the person you will be for the rest of your life. 

Tobin feels that fame is a tricky animal.  And fame for a person always seeking approval from everyone is like a sinkhole or quicksand.  The old Alex, the Alex that Tobin met in that first year of playing soccer is the Alex she can thank.  That’s the Alex she can hug and hold at arm’s length and say “Thanks for always being my fearless troublemaker.”

And of course Lauren was Tobin's best friend.  Lauren was never judgmental.  She was patient and supportive and considerate.  Her position on the pitch with the national team proved to be a metaphor for her character.  She was the solid strong core of the team and the formation would crumble without her reliability and steadfastness.  There was not one thing that Lauren didn't know about Tobin Heath.  There was not one thing that Tobin didn't know about Lauren Cheney soon to be Holiday.  Tobin talked to Ashlyn and had let her in on most of her life story but Lauren was Tobin's go to.  The first one to know about her coming out.  The first one to know about her first love.  The first one to know about Tobin piercing her left nipple in between deployments and then taking it out immediately because unfortunately she lost most of the feeling in that nipple once that huge needle was rammed through it.  Lauren knows Tobin's heart.  Lauren's soul communes with Tobin's soul.  Lauren is Tobin's person.

And what do all of Tobin’s friends have as a common denominator? Well that’s simple, they were all brave.  They all lived exactly the way they wanted to and were all unapologetic for who they were and Tobin loved them for it.  Tobin sat and watched and interacted and wished she had the freedom to just be herself.  She wished she could just let go. 

It took Tobin a long time to get to where she is today but perhaps out of all her friends, Megan Rapinoe was the one she could most thank for that.

Megan Rapinoe was Tobin’s hype man. A friend at times when Tobin felt that there was not one soul on God’s green earth that understood not only who she was but what she was going through. Megan cut RIGHT THROUGH THE BULLSHIT.  She not only led by example but she tried teaching Tobin the importance of that example.  Yes she was loud and yes she commanded the attention of the room but she was also articulate and philosophical in the quirkiest of ways.  Above all she always encouraged Tobin to let go of the weight of low self worth that was anchoring her to the earth.

Tobin owes so much to Megan it’s too massive to think about now because Tobin never got around to telling her just how much she wanted to be like her.

How she wanted just a quarter of her confidence. 

Just a dash of her charm. 

Just a smidgen of her daring moves and her witty nature. 

Tobin never told her that she always felt that if she had even a tiny bit of any of those things she could conquer the world. 

She never got to tell Megan that when she thought of her over the years it was always a smile that she associated her with.  Not just the giant, beautiful, beaming smile she always seemed to have on her face but the smiles she always brought to the faces around her. 

Tobin never got to tell Megan that the courage she had to be exactly who she was with a mother just as strict and narrow minded as Tobin’s was something she always admired and held up in the highest regard. 

She held her in her heart. 

It encouraged her and gave her hope. 

She never told Megan that she was her hero.

And now she never could.

And that regret is what would open Tobin’s eyes.

That regret was so painful that Tobin would try to avoid any circumatance in which she might regret a chance she didnt take to tell those around her how she felt.

Because this regret would never quite stop its frenzied feeding on her subconscious.  That regret is what would change Tobin’s perspective.  And just as war had immunized Tobin's psyche to the sight and smell of death, her perspective would now change again.

***********************************************

“She was everything I ever wanted to be. I think she was that for a lot of us.  Shit, for millions of people she never knew she touched.  But for us, her courage, her charisma, I always thought if I had just a little bit of what she had I’d finally be able to be proud of who I was.”

Christen continued running her finger in the sand as she sighed softly and sniffled involuntarily.

The tell-tale signs of a person who has been crying steadily for quite a long time. The stutter of breath or a sniffle.  Every word spoken either congealed with congestion or raw with the efforts it takes to endlessly weep. A hard silent bout of laughter holding down a hard silent but of weeping just under the surface.

They were all witnessing these symptoms.

“The love we have for Pinoe is something that can never be explained to someone that didn’t grow up with her. Not just off the pitch but on it.  The passion that carried over.  The family we made through a sport. She was our sister and confidante and ….”

“For some of us a lover….” Tobin interjected suddenly. 

If Tobin were looking at Christen she may have laughed at her reaction. Her widened green glassy eyes and the snap of her head toward Tobin. 

“When?” Christen half whispered and half spoke.  Her shock silencing the alluring tone of her voice.

“Before I even left for basic. Right after graduation.”  Tobin continued looking into the setting sun on the ocean’s surface.

“Like many things I did at the time…” Tobin paused and took her time gathering her words.  She hoped she was choosing the correct ones to explain her state of mind at the time.

“Well I was living like I was already dead. I mean, I was a naive virgin…knew nothing about what real love making was…damn…”  Tobin shook her head and sighed.  She turned to look at Christen.

The sight was breath taking. Tobin took one look and rolled her eyes smiling shyly with her down cast gaze turning to their shoes in the sand.  Her beat up gray canvas chucks and Christen’s light blue Toms.

The pink tint of the setting sun had kissed the surface of Christen’s skin turning it into liquid gold. Her eyes were oozing the same hypnotizing sparkle they always had when they were walking the back halls of their high school so many years ago. 

The seizing feeling in Tobin’s chest made her feel a little uncomfortable but it was so out of her control she knew that anyone with eyes would be affected by it.

The years had matured Christen in a way Tobin couldn’t quite put her finger on. The graceful contours of her bone structure.  The fullness and perfect shape of her lips.  The thickness of her eyelashes hovering over the careful and kind eyes of the 23 year old version of the heart throb prom queen Tobin had marveled at 10 years prior.

It should have been no surprise to Tobin that Christen had only grown more exquisite in the new solid and toned form of an elite athletic body and yet she WAS surprised.

It seemed that the Press genes had managed to take that knew direction of extreme fitness, carefully measured diet and endless hours in a meditative state and run with it all the way into the endzone. 

Christen was the perfect combination of strength and grace and beauty and Tobin immediately thought of how shocked Rumer had been when she realized that all of her friends played on the same team and they were all this gorgeous. 

Tobin smiled and snickered quietly, gaze still down cast.

“What?” Christen inquired exasperated at the unknown reason for Tobin's sudden discovery of humor.

“God I swear sometimes…you women…the way you look…it’s almost too much to be considered attractive. Kinda like the pearl?  You know?  The pearl that dude finds in the sea and it’s so huge and grotesque that no one really wants to believe it’s real?”

“Tobin are you seriously comparing women to Kino’s pearl in the Steinbeck novella? I love your metaphors honey but that one is a little far-fetched and it’s devastatingly flawed.”

Tobin shook her head in disagreement but she still smiled. “I don’t agree.  How so?”  She challenged.

“Well, the pearl represents greed and the people trying to buy it from Kino know it’s real they are just trying to screw him. And the most compelling argument?  The pearl is an evil omen that Kino is warned about but he never heeds that warning so it…..fuck….never mind, I guess it really does fit as a metaphor for SOME women.”

Tobin and Christen begin to laugh really hard now. They feel the tears of grief comingling with the tears of their laughter and Tobin knows she has to stop before she begins to bawl again.

She wipes at her eyes and sighs loudly still smiling and shaking her head.

"Like I said....the pearl....But seriously Chris, do you like... stare at yourself in the mirror clothed and then naked and try to decide which version looks more grotesquely fucking attractive?”

Tobin can barely get the end of her sentence out before she’s off again into another silent bout of laughter and Christen joins her until they’ve both crossed a line and they have to embrace each other to handle the massive emotion that overcomes them.

They sob silently into each other’s shoulders holding on to each other so tight they can barely breathe. Their bodies heave and shake and seize in tandem.  It’s a horrible morbid dance that they never knew they’d be sharing but are also glad they at least have each other because taking on this dance stag would be disastrous. 

Tobin’s t shirt is getting soaked quickly with Christen’s tears and Christen’s hoodie is still damp from whoever she hugged before Tobin but neither of them care. 

They don’t speak. There is no need for words.  Broken heart speaks to broken heart and they cling on to the only solid and constant thing they have.  Love and friendship and understanding and loss.

When they finally part they sit down on a log near the bonfire but not in front of it.  Theyre sniffling and wiping their faces but they don’t discuss their outbursts. They continue conversing as if this was their new norm because it actually was.

“Anyway, it was so long ago. I knew I’d end up deployed and as many times as I almost died out there, I was right to go out of my way to make sure I experienced that with someone that actually cared about me.  Loved me too.  Even if it wasn’t the way Rumer loves me.”

They were quiet for a beat and then Christen spoke up.

“Wow, so at the risk of sounding down right perverted…..”

“Oh you mean, in the spirit and honor of our perverted friend Pinoe right?”

Christen laughs a little and nods her head biting her bottom lip and furrowing her brow trying to hold back an avalanche of emotion again.

“How was it?” Christen asks in a shaky watery voice mixed in with a bit of a chuckle at the end.

Tobin begins to laugh even before she can get the answer out. She manages to speak but just so.

“It was….horrible….”

Both women are laughing again. Christen hunches over clutching at her stomach.  Tobin follows much in the same manner but clutches her chest instead.

When they rise back into upright positions they are trying to catch their breath and wiping their tears at the same time.

“We…we had no idea what we were doing! I was too rough because the girl I'd been with before Pinoe liked it that way.  And Pinoe’s nails were too damned long to touch me without making my sheets look like I’d been sliced by Jack the Ripper.  I didn’t want her to go down on me because I was afraid and I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing down there at the time either so we fumbled through it and….” 

Tobin paused and her laughing expression slowly slid into a serious and dazed expression. Christen reached out and took her hand.  Tobin let her hand be taken and responded by threading her fingers between Christens.

“It wasnt about the orgasms or lack there of....It was how beautiful she made me feel.  I've never quite felt that way again. Completely exposed under the very sharp eye of someone that knew me and loved me for who I was all the way down to my core.  She looked at me like if she was standing in an art museum considering a piece of art for hours and not naked in bed with one of her friends.  She looked at me that way and treated me that way and told me how unbelievably beautiful and gorgeous and sexy she thought I was.  I guess I hadn’t even really realized that I've never felt quite like that again until now.  But it’s true.  She did all of that because she meant it. She knew I was a done deal because I bluntly told her about my idea before we even got in bed together.  I had already given her the keys to the cookie jar and yet still she was just open and honest and real."

Tobin paused and was silent for a few seconds. She took a deep breath and sighed.

"It was the best ......foreplay I’ve ever had…”

This set Tobin off again and soon enough Tobin and Christen had sunk to the sand embracing each other tightly as they both sobbed out their grief and anger and confusion and outrage.

Tobin had taken to holding Christen between her legs as she leaned up against the log they were sitting on before. Christen tucked into Tobin’s body in a fetal position. It was quiet and comfortable and Tobin thought that maybe in another circumstance this situation would feel awkward but it didn't.  It just feels warm and Tobin feels comforted at the warmth and the soft thrum of Christen’s lean body. 

Christen lifts her head to look at Tobin.

“I would’ve never guessed that you two…I mean if you hadn’t told me I would’ve never known.”

“Well I think only Ash and Pinoe knew. Only because Ash dropped her off and picked her up.” 

Tobin said rolling her eyes and laughing a little.  Christen shook her head slightly.  Christen was biting her lip and smiling a little but her brow was furrowed in concern or grief or agony.  Tobin didn’t know which.

She had a brain note rambling around din her brain and before she knew it she was vocalizing it.

“This…”

Tobin reached out and gently ran her fingertips over Christen’s brow and under her chin to point at her lip. Then she ran her thumb under Christen’s eyes just in time to catch a fresh crop of tears. 

“…is one of the most beautiful contradictions I’ve ever seen. I’d say oxymoron but it’s too ‘moronic’ of a word to describe something so attractive.”

Christen laughed and her cheeks colored a light tint of pink.

“What do you mean contradiction?” The green eyed beauty inquired in a watery gravelly voice.

“Hmm, well you’re smiling a little which means you’re imagining my memory and its sweet but the crease in your brow indicates bitter. Your lip between your teeth and the tears probably means you’re sad but also that you’re imagining us in bed together which is kind of funny and sweet and sad all at the same time.  You’re just beautiful Chris.  It’s hard for you to make something look bad.”

“I think I’m in love with your mouth.” Christen blurts out and then her eyes widen slightly at her own indiscretion.

“Well, I think that’s the first time a woman has told me that WITHOUT feeling the wrath of my tongue between their legs.”

Christen hides her face in Tobin’s neck as the tanned Marine laughs cockily.

“Oh God, Tobin I take that back.”

“No you can’t. Poetic speech is just the language of the creative mind and old soul but I’m also a dirty mind so you must take the bad with the good.  It’s worth it for the times that I’m actually lucid.”

“I’m sure it is stud.” Christen states ensconced into Tobin’s neck again.  “Hey...so, I’ve been meaning to ask you…have you and Alex had any kind of communication?  From what I understand she’s pretty much single for the first time in a long time.  I mean, poor Serv is still on standby but Alex is doing what she wants.  And I mean that in every aspect of the word.  What she wants, who she wants, when she wants."

“I get it Chris. Gross, no judgement really but I didn’t need the extra visual to go along with the knowledge.  No I haven’t really had any kind of profound conversationwith her other than the usual.  I haven’t even sought her out. There’s no interest there or I would.”

"Do you ever wonder? You know, if you two were really meant to be?  I mean even if you feel a connection because she understands how you feel.  You both lost someone.  It’s been years and we all hate being together for this reason but even Hope and Kelley are feeling sparks.”

Tobin’s eyes grew wide in shock and she reared her head back a little to look into Christen’s eyes and check if she was joking. It appeared that Christen was NOT.

“WHAT??” Tobin blurted out louder than she intended. 

“What the FUCK? Are you serious?  I mean, Kell and Ann aren’t together anymore but Hope is….Hope is fucking MARRIED Chris…MARRIED!  You can’t just pretend that isn’t true for a few weeks to fuck away your grief!  Jesus Christ!  What are they fucking thinking?” 

Tobin questioned more rhetorically than actually seeking an answer but Christen Press had one anyway.  She always seemed to have an answer.

“Hey hey they’re both adults Tobs. It may not be the best idea but it’s their business and yes it could get messy but we are their friends and our job is to standby and help pick up the mess when they decide they are done getting messy.”

“But Chris…”

“No Tobin.” Christen turned and looked at her friend in the eyes sternly and Tobin heard in her mind “objection overruled.”

“We love each other deeply. And that means that our loyalty and love comes with sacrifice.  We don’t have to like it but we love them so we will be there for them and support them in this difficult time just as they are supporting us.  We don’t all mourn the same way.  They need each other right now and they know what they are getting themselves into.  It’s a conscious choice.”

“Do they know though?” Tobin asked getting more and more working up by the minute. 

Tobin hadn’t really stopped to analyze why this was bothering her so much other than the obvious facts. Tobin had never really been one to judge anyone especially two people she held in such high regard and loved so much.  She had been the biggest O’Solo fan ever and normally this news would make her shake her head and smile, not face palm in irritated disbelief.

“Do they really know? Because I don’t think I can take seeing Kelley broken.  I didn’t see what it did to her the first time but holding her while she sobbed a few days ago felt like repeatedly stabbing myself in the heart with a spoon Christen.  It hurt.  Bad.”  Tobin said recalling the feeling of Kelley’s small shaking body in her arms.

“I can’t stop Kelley from the pain this loss has caused but this I can do. This I can prevent.”  Tobin declared her voice dropping low into a dangerous and threatening tone.

“Tobin…wait…wait look at me.  Please calm down.  You’re entire purpose has always been to defend and protect.  But you can’t protect her from this love.  You can’t change what happened.  I wish you could but you can’t.  You can’t undo what Pinoe did Tobin!"

Christen seemed to have even shocked herself when this statement emerged from her mouth.  They both stared at each other not knowing what to say. It felt as if two giant hands had reached in to their chests and began squeezing their hearts slowly and mercilessly like a nervous patient squeezing a stress ball during a therapy session. 

They could barely breathe and silent tears began falling down both of their cheeks but they didn't comfrt each other. They just stared at the grief on each others faces.

"And...."  Christen tried to say more but her attempt failed.  

Tobin responded by burying her face in the front of Christen's hoody. Christen tried again.

" you....you can’t prevent Kelley or Hope from hurting each other.  So you do the next best thing ok?” Christen's voice was raw and gravelly but soft and she tried to comfort herself and her friend.

By this point Tobin had begun sobbing again.

“We can both do the next best thing. I won’t leave you alone to clean the mess ok?  I will help you clean it up and any other mess we might find along the way.  I got you.” 

Christen whispered as her own tears began to fall at a faster pace and she held Tobin close to her broken heart.

They fell silent and listened to the waves crashing onto the shore. High tide had come and gone and the fire had been recently built back up to it usual height sending flecks and flurries of sparks into the night sky.

“Hey…” Christen croaked out. 

“How did you feel the last time you saw Alex when she was with Nadim? Tell me how you felt honestly.”

Tobin sighed and her breath hitched against a stutter in her throat.

“Chris, stop trying to shrink me. We all know you’re smarter.  No need to prove it with the dumbest jock in the bunch.”

“Hush Tobin. I mean it.  Tell me.  Answer me.”

“I felt….like Nadim went to work and punched her time card.” Tobin huffed in defeat.

“Huh?”

Christen retorted already smiling and holding back a small chuckle that threatened to bubble up in her throat.  The way Tobin metaphorically sorted out her feelings was always one of Christen’s favorite Tobin idiosyncrasies.

“Nadim would go to work, punch her time card and lock her personal belongings in her locker. Her valuables like car keys, jewelry, phone etc.  She’d come back periodically during the work day and check on her things.  Make sure her items hadn’t been tampered with and then she’d lock them up again and go back to work.  Alex was one of those items.  She was locked in that locker and that’s how Nadim preferred her.  I knew that Alex would never escape that locker unless someone came around to steal her or Nadim traded her in for a newer model.  Just like you trade in your car keys to get a new set when you upgrade.  Alex was a possession and it was so clear to me.  I felt frustrated and defeated and somewhere between then and the subsequent 5 to 7 years that followed I wasn’t over her.  Buts thats over now and my girlfriend is my future. I can finally be in the same space with Alex without getting goosebumps or sweaty palms or chattery teeth…”

“Chattery teeth?” Christen questioned confused and clearly amused much to Tobin’s distaste.

“Yes I know it’s weird but she made my teeth chatter like I was cold when I wasn’t.”

Christen giggled a little. Tobin shook her head.  “Jesus Chris.”

“I’m sorry Tobin, I’m sorry. It’s just so cute. I’ve never heard of that!”  Christen reasoned and encircled Tobin’s waist in her arms to make up for the joke at Tobin’s expense.

Tobin laid her arms on top of Christens in a peace offering of sorts.

“Well, I’m an odd duck in case you haven’t noticed.”

“I said cute not odd!” Christen cried still laughing a little.

“Anyway, I think 7 years is more than long enough to wonder about ‘what ifs.’ Besides, she’s not trustworthy nor is she what I’m looking for in a woman.  I’m not wasting time on a space holder.  I need a woman that isn’t embarrassed to be with me.  I need someone with integrity and kindness and consideration.  Most of all patience.  I’m not blinded by her fucking beauty anymore.  I found what I need in Rumer.  And I guess once she saw that she told Rumer I’m a clingy psycho as soon as she was able to get her alone that night we all hung out.  I think that pretty much eliminates her from being a contender.”

“Oh my God Tobin…she didn’t!” Christen said hunching a little to find Tobin's eyes.

“That fucking jealous bitch! I can’t fucking believe she would do something like that!  I mean…who fucking does that!”  Christen was exasperated and outraged.

Tobin just sighed and moved to sit next to Christen in the sand with her back against the log. She closed her aching eyes and rubbed them gently not wanting to irritate them anymore than they already were.

"Apparently, Alexandra Morgan does that.  And when I think back to all the times I haven't been able to explain why someone I've never met doesn't like me in one way or another I know who I can thank for that.  I mean, who knows how long she's been saying that Chris." 

Tobin said still leaning back and keeping her eyes closed to try and relieve some of the irritation that was causing her discomfort.  She was emotionally and physically drained.

"A lesser woman would either believe her or wonder if it’s true.  What did Rumer say?"

Tobin smiled to herself remembering the unbelievably understanding nature of her girlfriend. Still hiding from her friends expressions and the beach behind her closed eyelids.

 "She was wondering who Alex was jealous of.  Me or her."

"Tell her both." 

Christen replied.  Tobin sensed a thoughtfulness to her words.  She imagined Christen's eyes focused and far off figuring it out as she spoke.

"It's obvious Tobin.  Tell Rumer that Alex is jealous of the relationship you both have.  She's jealous of each of you for different reasons."

Tobin took a deep breath and her body shuddered as she exhaled.  She faced her friend and slowly opened her eyes almost testing their sensitivity.  They watered slightly but overall Tobin felt it was ok to leave them open for a while.

"Irritated huh?"  Christen asked knowingly.  Tobin nodded her head.

"I really don't care anymore Chris.  About what she said then and what she would say now.  It’s all insignificant.  She fucked up and I don't trust her.  I don't wish her any ill will but I definitely don't reminisce and wonder what we could've been anymore.  The only thing that bothers me is that I'm only seeing it now for the first time.  Our whole existence has been a fuck up on her part and I am just now waking up.  I mean I could see it but I couldn't REALLY see it.  Know what I mean?"

"Mhm, yup."  Christen replied quietly.

"I was actually blinding myself.  Yea she was great at manipulation but I was the one in my own way." Tobin grabbed Christen's hand and looked right into her eyes.

"People show us EXACTLY who they are.  It’s up to us to see it.  The bad....and the good." 

"I agree love.  And whatever she thought she was going to accomplish didn't work anyway.  You and Rumer..."

Tobin looked away embarrassed already preparing for some relentless teasing from her friend.  She was smiling and shaking her head when Christen started chuckling.

"Well...do YOU take turns looking at each other clothed and unclothed and try to decide which one of you is the hottest?" 

Tobin's snickering turned into a loud barking laugh and Christen's chuckle into a hard laugh as well as she imagined the scene.

"We don't have time for that asshole.  For two reasons.  It’s an undisputed fact that Rumer is obviously the hottest out of the two of us so that would just be a waste of time."

"Obviously..."  Christen agreed through a large shit eating grin.  Tobin lightly shoved Christen's shoulder.

"And the second reason is obvious too.  If we are naked together then we are fucking.  No exceptions.  No time to compete."  It was Tobin's turn to attempt to dodge the slaps on her arm.

After Tobin took her two or three slaps like a real woman, they both grew silent again but Tobin was still smiling.

"All jokes aside Tobin, you and Rumer are a beautiful couple and she's unbelievably sweet.  One question though.  I know this is so uncharacteristic of me but I just have to ask...."

"I haven't seen Striptease Christen.  But Rumer has her mother's body.  I don't know that because I've seen them both naked or anything..." 

Tobin had to pause because they were both laughing again.

"I just know because her mother AND father have said so.  I mean they HAVE watched her grow and her mother has seen her naked as an adult and hey...I'm not arguing with Mama Demi.  Let's just say...." 

Tobin looked around to make sure no one else was lurking nearby that could eavesdrop on their conversation.  She wasn't exactly proud of a part of what she was about to say and she didn't think it was anyone else's business to know the intimate details of her sex life.

"...I've been with a lot of women....I know it sounds bad and it is.  I was such a slut for a while there.  But that's in my past.  My point is that I've been with a lot of beautiful women.  Even some that were freelance models and other's that were actresses trying to catch their big breaks.  Not ONE of them compares to how fucking perfect and delicious Rumer is.  She's just...I mean...exquisite."

Christen smiled big biting her tongue between her teeth and shaking her head.  She laughed a little and blushed.  "I bet."  She sighed. 

************************************************************

"Dude, how are you holding up?  Don't feed me shit either Ash.  Pinoe....she was your partner in crime.  Your best friend..."  Tobin trailed off quietly suddenly overwhelmed with emotion again.

"I'm still in shock.  I...it’s like she’s not gone.  I think my mind hasn't accepted it but when it does I'm not sure what's gonna happen."

"Well I'm glad you have Ali.  I know you're both going through it but she understands you and that's what you need."

Ashlyn at up from her hunched position raising her arms above her head and resting her hands on top of her snap back taking a deep breath

"Last night I was lying in bed on my stomach just kind of in a daze and Ali got in bed with me.  She kinda like straddled my back and started kissing my neck and lifting my t-shirt up like from under my body and shit..."

Tobin bowed her head and began to laugh a little.  She really didn't want to hear about her friends going at it.  She was about to stop Ashlyn from continuing but the blonde cut her off before she could.

"...I said, 'Alex, I'm sorry but I'm not really in the mood' which you have to know I've probably never said to her.  And I mean...we've been together for almost 10 years now." 

Tobin was full out laughing now and hard.  Her delirium was at high tide and there was nothing she could do but stand on the sand bar and wait for the tide to pull back.

She sat up wiping her eyes and looked over at her friend.  Ashlyn wasn't smiling or laughing.

"She told me she wasn't sitting on me for that.  She said she wanted to massage the tension out of my neck and back muscles."

"Jesus Christ dude....she's too good for you."  Tobin said poking fun at her friend.

"Well you're right but you really don't have room to talk dude.  Ms. 'I like to be held like a baby by Demi Moore's mini me.'" 

Ashlyn said regarding the way Rumer had held Tobin cradled in her arms next to the fire the first night they were all together.  After Tobin had calmed down enough to sit without losing her mind again, they had rejoined the group of friends by the fire and Rumer had held her much like Tobin had held Christen.  In a fetal position with Tobin’s face tucked into her neck.

Tobin spewed out the mouthful of beer she had just sipped laughing loudly and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand as she shook her head.

"Ok, you got me there dude.  Touché.  So then what?  What did you tell her?" 

 "Huh?  Oh...what do you think I said?  I told her to proceed."  Ashlyn said with a shrug of her shoulders.

"Fuck...Ash....what the fuck are we doing here?  This shouldn't be happening.  It’s a fucking nightmare."  Tobin said bringing her sky high energy level plummeting down underground within seconds.

Ashlyn sighed and rubbed her irritated blood shot eyes with a lot more vigor than Tobin had dared to when she did the same thing.

"I don't know man...I don't know anything.  Alex says she's mad at Pinoe.  Not my Alex...yours."

"Nope...not mine dude.  She hasn't been mine for a long time.  Probably never was."

"You know what I mean.  Can we leave the bs out of this conversation for a second?" 

Ashlyn's voice had crossed over into a testy tone and Tobin gritted her teeth against the argument on the tip of her tongue.  Her friend knew nothing about the sabotage attempt by Alex the last time they were all together.  She needed to stop being selfish and put her history with her ex-girlfriend aside for now.

"Well, I'm not mad at her.  It’s easy to be mad.  We are all mad but we just don't know where to put the anger.  I'm not putting it on my friend.  She lost her lifelong dream job and her hope for the future all in one go.  This kind of thing is just like any other condition.  People don't see it like that but it’s true.  And Mitts...well Pinoe was never gonna be the same whether it worked out or not.  She ruined her." Tobin said throwing her empty beer bottle between her feet.

"She ruined it for all of us too dude.  When we see her now it should be cool.  I mean she's cool and she's young and it should be cool to see her or run into her.  But I was there through it all dude and I can't even look her in the eye now.  I finally get it."

 Tobin is bewildered.  "You were the only one that knew?" Ashlyn nodded her head in affirmation.

"The secret is what made it all more exciting for them I guess. It was forbidden and unique.  Pinoe was hooked from day one and you know she was never serious about a girl until Mitts came along.  Mitts was neglected by her husband at the time and the attention Pinoe gave her was pretty addicting from what I saw.  She told me because well she told me everything and she knew she could trust me with the secret."

"Yea of course dude."  Tobin agreed bobbing her head slightly.

Ashlyn sighed and cracked open anther bottle of beer then passed one to Tobin. Tobin followed suit. They took a few large gulps and then sat quietly.

"You know, she kept Pinoe happy with special treatment and I reaped those benefits too because I was always with her and also because I helped cover their tracks.  It was all less fishy because I was around too so it didn't look odd to anyone who might notice something was off.  I mean all those times we skipped and left campus...dude we should've been doing detention at least but expulsion too and we never had to even worry about it. Those are all consequences a kid would be facing if they chose to do those things."

"You know I'm just now realizing how yall never really got into trouble. I mean she would make you both run if you were late and sometimes longer than usual cuz Pinoe would never seem to know when to shut her mouth but I bet even that was a game for them.  I can see how it would add to the excitement.  Under everyone's nose and all."

"I mean, don't get it wrong dude.  They weren't in a relationship then.  It was all just kind of there right under the surface but they knew what it was. They just hadn't done anything yet.  Both afraid to make the first move I guess."

"Wow..." Tobin mused realizing what was going on right under her nose and she had no idea.

"And I never had a problem with it then.  I mean how did you react ....how did you all react when you first found out?  Like it was crazy but cool like kinda funny.  I mean you hear about shit like this happening to other people but not people you actually know and of course Mitts isn't just any woman. I'll never forget the first time Pinoe saw her in the gym."

Tobin laughed and shook her head knowing this story well but allowing her friend to tell it again because it was so bittersweet.  Encompassing the passion and determination that her friend always seemed to possess when tackling the things she wanted most.  Never, never, never give up.  At this thought Tobin's throat seized painfully when a large lump pitted itself in her wind pipe.  She fought against it as her friend continued recounting the tale.

"We were sitting in the bleachers after school before practice started and Mitts walked in with a clip board preoccupied with talking to the assistant coach.  Pinoe saw her and just stared.  She was actually quiet for once.  She was in the middle of telling me a story about some shit and she just stopped and stared. Before I could say anything she said, 'Dude, let's shoot around.'  I rolled my eyes knowing exactly what she was doing.  Pulling the old 'look at me!' trick and also coming up with an excuse to get a closer look."

Tobin laughed and nodded her head. She wiped her tears and closed her eyes and could see her fiends shooting the basketball and messing around in their high school gym so vividly.

Ashlyn continued her narration. "She was her usual loud self while we shot around, cracking jokes and pulling these globe trotter moves that I just stood back and laughed at.  She didn't introduce herself or even make a point to make sure Mitts knew she was checking her out.  No that came later but she was hooked and the second she saw her I knew she wouldn't stop unless she had her or Mitts told her no.  Just the Pinoe way dude.  You know."

Tobin was quietly crying and said nothing as she thought this over.

Ashlyn continued. "Anyway, all that sneaking around got Ali suspicious sooner or later and when it came time to tell her she was pissed for a whole new reason.  She hated the situation from the get go. I just didn't see the big deal. I mean Pinoe was my best friend and I had her back no matter what."

“None of us did dude. Seems like Ali was the only one that had her head on straight…well not exactly straight but you know what I mean.”

 Ashlyn let out a small smile at that dig from Tobin. She finished her beer and handed Tobin a fresh bottle. She opened another for herself and she and Tobin took a few sips.

 “Alex was always the one that had her wits about her man. More than any of us ever did. She always made me see reason but it wasn’t easy having a conflict when it came to my best friend. Alex knew I’d always have Pinoe’s back no matter what and after letting Pinoe and of course Mitts know exactly how she felt she dropped it. She supported the relationship because she loved Pinoe but she never liked it.”

 “Fuck…” Tobin sighed softly. Then she thought of Ali and how she had always been so reliable and loyal and kind but also the type that would eat no shit. She smiled a little to herself.

 “I bet Ali let them know what she thought.” She said laughing a little and swiping at her eyes for the hundreth time that night. The edges of her eye lashes still wet with tears, sparkled like facets of jewels against the glowing roar of the bon fire.

 Ashlyn chuckled softly as well but said nothing. She tipped her bottle up and finished the beer that she had just opened 2 minutes ago. Tobin raised her eyebrows a little but said nothing.

 Ashlyn chunked the bottle to the side with the rest. She had developed her own little growing pile where she sat.

 Tobin looked down at the dark glass glinting against the flickering light of the bonfire.  Every glass bottle represented what they all felt when they were not in each others presence.  Empty and lonely and misunderstood. The fear of being alone with their thoughts and letting the truth in for more than a minute was just another glass bottle on the pile.  Devoid of their bubbly, bitter spirit they were discards in search of a new meaning.  A new purpose that would never present itself.  Tobin and her friends would meander through the rest of the week this way.  Like an empty beer bottle walking in circles trying to find a purpose AFTER the life altering event that left them empty.

 “You know dude, I’m not sure who’s buying the beer but its smarter to buy cans. It’s a bitch to recycle glass and its not even allowed on the beach is it?”

 Ashlyn’s small laugh was watery and congested. She sniffed. “Damn Tobin the green police. Well why don’t you go buy the next few packs and you can buy us some cans. See we are just weary ignorant wasteful souls. You gotta teach us.”

“Shut up asshole.” Tobin grumbled and chuckled good naturedly.

“Seriously though dude, go buy us some cans. We have like three more days of this mess before the wake and after the three or four that we’ve been coming out here already, its been nothing but glass bottles. I think my grandma already filled like three barrels with glass bottles.”

Tobin winced and as she began walking away she thought of how she could talk to Grandma Harris to take all that glass off her hands and turn it in to a glass recycling facility she always used. But then Ashlyn called her back.

“What’s up dude?” Tobin said waiting intently for Ashlyn to gather her words.

“She might’ve been the glue that held us together but that doesn’t mean that ends here. We are all together now. These are the worst circumstances to be in when reuniting with friends but here we are. You asked what we’re doing here? To find and make peace. To hold on to what’s left and what Kell said may be right but that’s how she never really…”

“Dies?” Tobin offered up in a cracked voice.

There were some words some of her friends weren’t going to be able to say and that's just another way she felt she could help them and be there for them. Putting words to the madness. Forming an explanation for the chaos. Using syllabals and consonants and verbage to at least bring a certain level of peace to their minds.

Ashlyn cleared her throat, looked down and nodded numbly.

“She can’t ever be gone if we have all these memories and we have each other and we REMEMBER how she LIVED together. Not how it ended. I mean that’s what it is right? That’s what its all about in the end right? Life?”

Ashlyn asked looking up at her friend almost pleading for her to agree. Tobin nodded and bit her lip against an oncoming avalanche. They were getting hearder to fight off.

“Legacy.” Tobin choked out.

“That’s her legacy and what a hell of a legacy she left huh?” Tobin replied in a soft quivering voice. She cleared her throat forcefully and wiped her eyes.

“Go get the booze dude. You gotta make it before midnight or they won’t sell it to you.” Ashlyn said.  She had slipped back to her downcast gaze and monotone voice.

Tobin turned and ran. When she passed by the fire she heard Kelley yell her name. She didn’t stop running but she yelled she ran by.

"Gotta beat last call at the gas station!  If you wanna come you gotta catch me!"  She knew Kelley would have no problem catching her.  When she got behind the wheel Kelley was already opening the passenger door but not to get in.

"Ms Willis told me to let you know that we are riding in the Rover cuz she's driving and I CALL SHOT GUN!"  Kelley blurted out and laughed maniacally as she slammed the door and scampered off toward Rumer's Range Rover.

Tobin sighed loudly and rolled her eyes as she made her way over to her girlfriends luxury SUV.  Rumer had arrived at the driver's side door and looked over smiling and shaking her head at Tobin.

"We're never going to make it on time with you pouting and sulking baby."

"Yea yea."  Tobin grumbled.  Rumer stole a kiss just as Tobin reached the back door on the driver side.  This made the pout disappear just as the beautiful actress' kisses usually did but Tobin still continued sulking more for attention than anything else.

"I can't believe I'm riding in the back seat of my own girlfriends Rover."  Tobin complained once she was in and Rumer began driving.

"I'm the DD babe, you knew that."  Rumer said smiling and shaking her head catching Tobin's eye in the rear view mirror.

"Yea Tobs besides, I'm sure you're used to that back seat anyway.  I know you and Rumer must take full advantage of all that space back there.  I know I would."  Kelley said laughing at how flustered and red Rumer was getting. 

Before Tobin could stop herself she started vocalizing her current brain notes.  Her filter was never any good once alcohol was brought into the equation.

"Well with all those fucking endorsements Hope is getting you should tell her to buy one and you two should test the shit out."  Kelley's eyes were wide and her mouth slightly agape when she snapped her head toward the back seat to look at Tobin.  Before she could ask anything Tobin continued to deliver another bomb.

"Besides smart ass, we don't bother with the back seat.  Your seat has more than enough room." 

Tobin heard both Rumer and Kelley simultaneously inhale sharply and Rumer rammed her foot down on the brake as she pulled into a parking spot at the gas station.  Before either of them could turn their sputtering into coherent words, Tobin jumped out and ran inside.

She made it just before the cut off time and when she emerged with a few packs of canned beer she noticed that the passenger seat was now free and Kelley had already buckled herself into the leather bound back seat.

"Oh what happened tiny one?  Riding in front gets you car sick?"

"Yea....some kind of sick."  Kelley grumbled and Tobin laughed hard.  Rumer shook her head and slapped Tobin's arm.  When Tobin couldn't stop laughing she lightly pushed her shoulder and then she couldn't help smiling and covering her smile in spite of herself.

"You're such an ass baby."  She said softly as she drove off back to the beach.

 *****************************************************************************************

 A safe arms length away from her teenage dream girl, she walked and watched her own bare feet disturbing the undisturbed wet sand ahead of their path. The pair of footprints so prominent in the dying light of the setting sun.  Soon the tide would roll up with its bits of sand and seaweed and driftwood teeming with microscopic sea life and erase the evidence of those footprints as if they never even existed.  Beside and near and in the Pacific Ocean EVERYTHING was microscopic.  And life was swept away in the breaking of the waves.  The Pacific has no memory. 

"I just kind of wanted a few minutes with you alone to take a little walk because we haven't had much time to really talk. I hope that's ok with your girlfriend." 

Alex's tone of voice was sincere until she brought Rumer into the conversation.  Tobin noticed that her sincerity melted into jeering and teasing.  Tobin clenched her jaw and tried to remember what she and Ashlyn had discussed.  Make peace...for Pinoe.

"Rumer has nothing to worry about so of course it’s cool with her." 

Tobin stated simply.  She clasped her hands behind her back and watched the ground in front of her making sure her path was clear before she took each step.  The sun was setting on another day on the beach and soon it would be difficult to see objects in her way. 

She felt none of the nervous energy she used to feel around this gorgeous teenage beauty turned gloriously gorgeous woman.  All she felt was a building anger that she was barely keeping under the lid she had clamped down once Alex asked if she could take a walk with her.

"I can tell...it’s just that we have history and it seems like every one of my exes had a problem with you but I guess that's my fault too.  Guess I could never really convince them that there was nothing that they had to worry about."

"Well, I’d imagine it’s a little hard to swallow for them when you talk about me like I am some kind of psycho that couldn't leave you alone. I don’t blame them for having a problem with me." 

Tobin tried to reign in her sarcastic tone as much as possible.  They needed to talk this out but the last thing she wanted was it to turn into an all-out shouting match.  Not on Alex’s part.  Tobin never thought Alex cared enough to actually shout about anything when it came to her.  But SHE herself felt like exploding.  And that's what grief does to you doesn't it?  It amplifies every emotion and resurfaces scar tissue and makes every single comment and circumstance and action and intangible into something so thick that you can actually grab it and squash it in the palm of your hand like a ball of play dough.

“So I take it Rumer had a talk with you last time we all got together.” Tobin’s anger was at high tide and just when she thought she was about to lose her cool Alex throws her for a loop.

Her tone of voice was remorseful. Regretful even.

Tobin was shocked when she turned to look at her. Alex’s slightly swollen and blood shot eyes were on the ground at her feet just as Tobin’s had been before she decided to see if she could read the bullshit on her old flame’s face. But Tobin knew that this is how Alex always hooked her, by appealing to Tobin’s forgiving and trusting nature. So even though Alex’s tone was believable, Tobin steeled herself and got back to the point. The center of her distrust. The truth and the purpose of this whole conversation. Make peace with Alex. Attempt to forgive her no matter how hard that may be.

“Yes she told me what you said. We talk about everything. There are no secrets between us. Alex, I’m not sure I can say that I see you as a friend anymore. I was distancing myself from you this whole week because I feel like I can’t trust you. It’s just too much. Too many examples of you just blatantly fucking me over and for what? Because you could? I’ve NEVER done anything to hurt you or anyone you care about even if you think that is debatable. Why would you do that Alex? Why would you tell my girlfriend something like that?” Tobin’s voice had reached a slightly higher decibel level but just barely. Overall she was able to hold back the worst of her anger.

Alex cleared her throat and sighed still looking down. “Can we sit?”

Tobin stopped and looked around for somewhere to sit and saw nothing nearby. Tobin turned and looked behind them but their friends and their bonfire was already almost half a mile behind them. As usual, they had managed to walk much further than it seemed they had walked. Tobin had figured this out growing up near the Pacific. She wasn’t sure if it was the water or the calming nature of the sound of the waves that seemed to erase the awareness of a person walking on the shore. A small walk always put you further than what you set out to walk in the first place.

“There’s nowhere to sit Alex.” Tobin said tiredly not wanting to know exactly what Alex had up her sleeve.

“I know that Tobin. I want to sit near the water since the sun is going down. I want to show you something.”

Alex began walking closer to the water. Tobin hesitated not wanting to get near the water at all in the state she was in. Alcohol in her system and fully clothed. She growled low in her throat and sighed loudly as she followed Alex.

“I’m only agreeing to sit with you because I’m expecting you to give me an answer to my question.” Tobin announced as soon as she got close enough for Alex to hear her.

Alex nodded. “Fair enough.”

Tobin sat just far enough to avoid getting wet but close enough to Alex to be able to hear what she was saying. Alex was the only one of the group that had shown up in a swim suit.

Carli and Hope had made a sarcastic remark about the “SI Model” having to show up in a bikini everyday but it didn’t deter the SI model from actually wearing those bikinis no matter how many pairs of eyes rolled when she showed up.

“Have you ever seen plankton Tobin?”

“What??” Tobin said rather loudly. “I told you I was here to get an answer to my question!” Tobin replied outraged.

Alex turned around to really get a good look at Tobin for the first time. Their eyes met and Tobin felt nothing but pain. Not pain at their shared past but the same pain she had felt when looking in every pair of eyes she had looked in in the past week. The understanding of pain that always seemed to get caught in Tobin’s throat every time she saw it.

Tobin’s throat clicked as she tried to swallow the painful lump that had rammed itself down her throat. Alex’s eyes began to fill with tears and Tobin’s as well soon after. Tobin became even angrier that she was going to show weakness in front of this woman that had hurt her so much. She wanted to remain closed off but it seemed like that wasn’t going to happen.

“Humor me ok Tobin? I know you don’t owe me anything but just….this once….please just listen ok?”

Tobin ripped her eyes away and unceremoniously plopped down in the sand.  "Just this once?  That's funny.  As if I have never listened to what you had to say a day in your life."

"That's....that's not how I meant....you know what nevermind.  This was a mistake.  I'm sorry I bothered you Tobin."  Tobin reached out and closed her hand gently around Alex's wrist as she walked by her.  Tobin locked her wet eyes with the blue wet eyes above her.

"Shut up you ass.  Just come back and show me what you were gonna show me.  I feel like I'm behind giving you all the shit I owe you.  That's all.  You fucked with me for so long I have to double up my opportunities to be a little bit of a jerk to you when I get a chance even if it does make me feel even angrier at you for making me act like a jerk in the first place.  I'm not usually so...jerky."  Tobin said letting go of Alex's wrist.

Alex laughed softly.  "Puns are still terrible...heart is still big." 

"Yea well, I'm surprised you even know THAT."  Tobin said sighing and waving her hand in a motion to indicate she was ready for Alex to proceed with whatever she wanted to show her. 

Alex sat close enough to the water so that the waves could wash on to her body.

“Plankton glows in the water at night. Pinoe and I used to always look for them when I came paddle boarding and Kell and Ash would surf and Pinoe would just sit on the beach and drink. We always looked for plankton together. It was our thing. Most people don’t know they glow green at night and they get on your skin if you get in the water and you can see them glow even on your skin.”

Tobin looked into the waves and sighed. She imagined the gatherings her friends used to have when she was deployed or even before then when she wasn’t allowed to hang out because she wasn’t allowed out of her house to hang out with friends.

“Plankton…no. I didn’t know that Alex.” Tobin said trying to sound as indifferent and aloof as she possibly could but it just wasn’t her style. She had spent half her life having to be fake and now she could never go back. She could only be real now and real was what shone through no matter how hard she tried.

“The only plankton I know lives in a chum bucket next door to a sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea.”

A few beats passed before Alex burst out laughing and wiping her eyes. Tobin held off for as long as she could but soon she was laughing lightly as well. When their laughs tapered off Alex finally answered Tobin’s question exactly how Tobin thought she would.

“I’m so sorry I did what I did Tobin. I don’t even know why I did it.”

Tobin huffed and shook her head laughing a little.

“I knew you’d say that. I mean, I called it almost all the way down to how you would say it. Like almost verbatim!”

“I’m sorry Tobin. I truly am. I’ve done a lot of stupid shit in my life and all the things I did to hurt you were some of the worst.”

“Look Alex, I’m here trying to forgive you and make peace because I can’t have this conflict anymore. Despite everything, I love you. I mean I hate you…but I love you too. I always will. Not in the way you made it seem to Rumer. Not in a way that I still think you and I have a chance. I just love you. Like the best friend I made when I was only 13 and didn’t even know it was possible for two girls to be in a relationship. I wouldn’t want you harmed or sad or taken advantage of. I just want you to be happy. When I think about it, that’s what I’ve always wanted. Your happiness.”

Alex got up from her positon on the wet sand and crashed her body onto Tobin’s giving her a fierce hug.

“Fuck Alex, I know you’re gonna run with this pun but you’re getting me fucking wet you asshole! I mean in case you didn’t notice I’m wearing actual clothes! You could’ve at least warned me or told me to take off my button up. I have an undershirt you know!” Tobin lamented.

Alex didn’t take the pun and run with it because she was too busy laughing and holding on to Tobin’s neck like a vice grip.

“Shut up…I love you asshole. And you don’t have to forgive me now but I hope you can one day. I did a lot of stupid shit and I know it’s asking a lot but I really want your forgiveness.”

“I’ll work on it Alex. I’ll work on it. I love you too even if you suck bigfoot donkey dick.”

“Why do I want to gag and laugh at the same time?”

“Oh you haven’t heard that this is the new effect I have on women? Ask Ru. She always fights off nausea and laughs when we are together.” Tobin quips finally linking one arm around Alex’s wet waist and squeezing lightly for a few seconds and then letting go.

Alex lets go as well and takes her place on the shore once more determined to show Tobin what plankton looked like.

“You know what will always make me think of Pinoe besides this plankton?” Alex asks Tobin.

“That pink color on the water when the sun is setting. Pinoe was always on the beach with us even if she didn’t really get in a lot. That is something she pointed out to me one day and since then I can’t ever see a sunset without thinking of her even if she’s not on the beach with me. And now she’ll never be on the beach with me again.”

“Jesus fucking Christ Al…” Tobin said dropping her head into her hands and sobbing quietly.

“I know…I know.” Alex whimpered.

“You know, I haven’t been able to ask how you’ve been. If you’re ok. I thought you and Ash would be the ones taking it the hardest but I’m not so sure anymore.”

“It’s not a competition Alex. We all grieve differently. That sounds so ignorant.”  Tobin said in a shaky voice. She had decided to just let the snot and tears go.  She was tired of wiping her face and nose.

“That’s not how I meant it Tobin I’m sorry. I have a really fucked up way of trying to communicate. This is all new to me. I’m not used to really talking about anything like this that’s so heavy…or deep. I just meant to ask how you and Ash are doing. Like really doing. I can’t seem to get a straight answer out of her so I was hoping you’d let me in on that.”

“I can’t read Ash’s mind Alex but she’s in shock and I guess I am too in a lot of ways although I haven’t been able to keep from breaking down at certain times. I hate feeling like I’m explaining my coping mechanisms to you as if I’m supposed to be grieving a certain way.” Tobin said shaking her head and starting to regret ever taking a walk with Alex.

“No, you don’t have to explain anything Tobin. Not to me or anyone else.” Alex declared.

Tobin said nothing in response. There was nothing to say.

“Tomorrow, tomorrow we have to face this for real. Are you ready because I’m not sure I can do it? I told you a long time ago that I hate funerals. That hasn’t changed.”

“Well just think of it this way. It will be hard for all of us. And this is about Pinoe so you have to do it for her. Besides, I’m working on a piece to read and I think it’s worth it for you to hear it.”

“Oh well if you have a speech then I have to go. I can’t miss that.” Tobin looked at Alex in the eyes for a second trying to decipher if this was one of many facetious moments between she and her ex. It seemed sincere.

“I’ll do my best to live up to everyone’s expectations.”

Chapter Text

“To…Tobin…baby…please just.... I need a break baby…please…”

Tobin’s eyes widened and snapped into focus.

“Baby…I’m so sorry…I’m sorry. Did I hurt you???”  Tobin was panicked and sick with the possibility that she might’ve hurt or even violated Rumer.

“No sshhhh…its ok. Nothing like that.  We’ve just been going at it for…well I don’t know how long and I just think that maybe we should try to get some rest before tomorrow?  If you’re speaking you need your rest baby.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just…I I…I don’t know.”

“I know it’s ok.”

Rumer was still out of breath and her speech almost slurred.   Her body was slick and boneless under Tobin’s and their sweat mixed with intimate bodily fluids had made not a small wet spot but a body sized wet spot on Rumer’s sheets.  Rumer made a mental note to at least move over onto a drier area of her mattress before they passed out.  Tomorrow was going to have to be a laundry day.

“You’re trying to distract yourself but you don’t have to. You can talk to me.  I’m here for you.”

“I know…I know that and you’ve been amazing. I mean, even with my friends.  Don’t think they haven’t talked to me about how you’ve comforted them too.  I just…I feel lost when I’m not with them now.  Like I’m alone even though I’m not.  They are the only ones that know how it feels to lose someone like Pinoe and …..all the questions that I need answers to.  Like…I NEED ANSWERS.  It’s not something that I can let go.  I don’t know where it ends Rumer.  Will it ever end?”

Rumer saw the panic in Tobin’s eyes and felt the rigid cold nature of her body which should still be warm…hot even.  After they had exerted themselves for so long but not now. The enormous weight of loss had reinserted itself back in between the two of them where Rumer could never connect with Tobin.  Only someone who understood the immense emptiness that this loss had created could bring her back to square one if only for a while.  Rumer knew she had to get in front of this or Tobin might end up having a panic attack.

Throughout the week long drinking and grieving binge, Rumer had managed to save the phone numbers of most of Tobin’s friends. The closest friends that she knew could get through to Tobin.  Right now she knew she had to speed dial one of them and she had to do it quick.

“Baby its ok. You’re right, I don’t fully understand.  I never will but I love you and I’m not going anywhere.” 

She reached over to the night stand the best she could without moving from under the tanned lanky body on top of her.  She grabbed her phone, activated her #3 speed dial option and waited anxiously for the voice on the other end to fill her with hope.  It didn’t take long.

“Tobin…babe…there’s someone on the phone for you.”

Rumer tried to keep her voice even but it wasn’t easy when she felt Tobin’s tears running down the side of her ribs where Tobin lay quietly crying.  There wasn’t a response for a while.  Not even movement.

“Tobin. Baby please take the phone.”  Rumer pleaded.

Tobin raised her arm and took the phone without moving from her position.

The only word that Tobin uttered was a “Hello” and then her body was seizing violently as she sobbed into her girlfriend’s abdomen.

Rumer knew she needed to let this happen. It was going to get really bad before it got better but the length of time between the breaths Tobin took were getting longer and longer until she herself felt like she might have a panic attack.

She began to softly run her fingers through Tobin’s hair praying that this episode would be over soon. She was so scared that Tobin would slip into an in between place of darkness and never be able to come out again.  In less than 8 hours they would be at a U.S. Soccer sanctioned memorial and then a family wake and Tobin had actually prepared a speech but in this condition she wasn’t sure Tobin could even function properly let alone speak in front of a crowd of over a hundred people.

“Lau…Lauren….sh..sh..she’s n never gonna come back Lauren! She’s ne ne….”  Tobin sat up abruptly and began to bunch up the sheets around her.  She couldn't speak anymore.  She knew she had to scream again.  Had to release the demons twisting her soul and her heart but she was no longer in her jeep alone.  She wasn't in an air tight room where no one could hear what was clawing its way up through her esophagus and out into the world.  She knew all these things but still couldn't stop herself from exploding.  She had locked up her feelings for a whole week now and she just couldn't do it anymore.  She scrambled off the bed and stood in the middle of the room.  Lauren was trying to calm her down but she heard nothing.  Felt nothing.  She dropped the phone, bunched her fists up at her side, inhaled a lung full of air and screamed. 

Her naked body shook with the effort as she dropped to her knees.  Rumer went to her side and Tobin stood quickly and backed away from her.  Every single word she spoke was bellowed out at the loudest capacity her vocal chords could take.

"NO! NO!  SHE WAS HERE!  SHE WAS RIGHT THERE JUST A FEW MILES AWAY AND NOW MILES DON'T EXIST!  HER HEART BEAT DOESN'T EXIST!  AND I CAN'T...I...I CAN'T SAVE HER!  WE CAN'T HELP HER ANYMORE!  SHE'S FUCKING GONE!  23 FUCKING YEARS!  GONE! GONE!  IN SECONDS!  LIKE SHE'S RIGHT AT MY FINGERTIPS....THAT CLOSE AND THEN NOTHING!  NOTHING! NOTHING!  DON'T YOU GET IT!  AND WE THINK ANSWERS WILL HELP! NOTHING....NOTHING...WILL HELP!  SHE'S FUCKING GGGGOOONNNNNEEEEE!  FUCK!  FUCK!" 

Tobin began punching the floor.  Rumer ran to her again knowing that she might be pushed away or Tobin might create distance again but that didn't happen.  When Rumer lightly placed her hands on Tobin’s forearms to try getting her to stop, Tobin moved her fists to her head and just left them there.  She held her head in her fists tight as if she was trying to hold in her brains.  Rumer didn't know but Tobin was fighting off the urge to slam her own fists down onto her own head repeatedly.  Her brain was the culprit.  It sent its brainwaves to her heart and her body and told them to be in excruciating pain.  Her brain...her brain.  Her brain was the culprit and her fists needed to shut her brain down but the soft touch of Rumer's warm hands and the smell of her skin and hair were the only elements keeping Tobin from giving herself a concussion.  Because even in this state, Tobin didn't want to scare Rumer.

Tobin began struggling to breathe again. Her eyes fixed on a point in front of her as she tried and failed to breathe correctly.  Rumer knew what this meant.

“Baby…babe…come here its ok….just please try to breathe ok….please breathe….” Rumer quickly got up and held Tobin’s back against her chest as she took big slow breaths in and out.

“Try to breathe with me baby…just try ok…on three we are gonna take a breath in and then let it out…” Rumer was on the edge of panic herself.  She knew she had to remain calm if she wanted Tobin to make it out of this without a hospital visit.  She knew that would just upset Tobin even more.

“That’s right baby…slow it down…slow….let’s try again…I’m right here. I’m right here Tobin.  I won’t leave.  On three again ok?  One…Two…Three….breathe….good.  You’re gonna be ok love.  I promise.”  Rumer looked for the phone and picked it up noticing that Lauren hadn’t hung up yet.

(Rumer’s brain notes: Of course she wouldn’t hang up.  She told me she would always answer and she would never leave us hanging.  So of course she’d still be on the line.)

“Rumer? You're doing the right thing but put me on speaker so I can help.  I feel like I made it worse.”

“NO…no…you…”

“No time to argue gorgeous. Our girl needs us.  Just put me on speaker.  You can try to convince me otherwise another time.” 

Rumer listened without hesitation and soon they were both soothing Tobin until her breathing was back to normal although the tears hadn’t stopped.  Rumer was able to eventually coax Tobin back into bed.

Lauren remained on speaker and talked to the both of them as if she was sitting on the bed with them.

“Tobin…you never even told me how the meeting with Rumer’s parents went. You better not have told anyone else yet.  I’m always the first to know everything.”  Lauren said.

Tobin lay with Rumer in her arms and said nothing for a while. She had narrowly avoided a full on panic attack.  She was now dealing with the after effects of not only that but the exhaustion from her and Rumer's sexual activities.  Her emotional and physical exhaustion was catching up with her.  The last thing she wanted to do was talk but she made an effort for both her best friend and girlfriend.

“yea…uh…it was cool. Rumer’s mom is really sweet and of course drop dead gorgeous in person.”  Tobin managed to croak out in a small broken voice.  They both heard Lauren laugh and Rumer smiled into Tobin’s neck where she hid her devastated expression.

“I bet she is.” Lauren replied.  “Did you already tell Rumer what your favorite Demi Moore movie is?  It’s NOT Striptease Rumer.”  Lauren said laughing loudly.

Rumer raised her voice a little so she could be heard. “Bullshit…everyone’s favorite Demi Moore movie is Striptease!”  Rumer said chuckling a little.  “Hell, MY favorite Demi Moore movie is Striptease!”

Rumer and Lauren both laughed at this.

“Nope…not mine and certainly not Jrue’s…well at least that’s what he tells me!”

Rumer began laughing again and her heart melted and rejoiced all at the same time when she heard Tobin laughing softly as well.  She couldn’t help the tears that began to flood her eyes as she still hid in Tobin’s neck.

“What’s Jrue’s favorite Demi movie? Please don’t say it’s the same as mine cuz then I'll know he’s lying!”  Tobin said.  Her voice still raw and small.  Rumer envied Lauren for the advantage of being on the phone where they couldn’t see her crying.

“Excuse me…Jrue does NOT lie to me Tobin!”

“That’s right Jrue does not lie to his wife, Tobin. How you doing buddy?  I miss you.  Forget Lauren, when are you and I gonna have another Bro date?”

“As soon as you get a Demi Moore movie marathon set up and we ditch our ladies.” Tobin said smiling. 

They both heard Jrue and Lauren laughing. Rumer had never felt so relieved in her entire life.

"So I want to know which Demi Moore movie Dat Boy Jrue likes best.  It’s not easy to pick a favorite baby.  Trust me.  This is coming from someone that has seen all your mother's films.  All of them except for Striptease."

"What??  You're kidding me right?"  Rumer exclaimed sitting up and wiping her eyes quickly to look at Tobin.

"No, its true Rumer.  Your girlfriend was never allowed to watch Rated R movies while living at home before joining the military and I guess she never felt compelled to watch it after she was finally let off the leash her mother had her on."  Lauren answered.

"Wow...well then we really DO have to have a movie marathon.  The four of us.  So we can show Tobin what she missed."

"What for?  My favorite is A Few Good Men.  I can tell you from personal experience that your mom makes the navy whites look good.  You can't handle the truth!'"  Tobin quipped looking up at her still naked girlfriend to get an eye full before

Rumer buried her nose in her neck as her body shook with laughter.  All four of them were laughing.

"Well, dat Boy Jrue's favorite is Ghost believe it or not.  My man is sensitive."  Lauren said. Tobin could hear the smile in her voice.

"I'm Henry the 8th I am.  Henry the 8th I am I am."  Tobin laughed and sang.

"Second verse same as the first!"  Lauren sang on the other line.

"And Lauren?  I know her favorite...do you Jruesome?"

"Of course, its House Bunny." 

When Tobin began laughing silently Rumer knew it would be ok.  It may get real bad again but they would get through it.  She didn't have to worry anymore about taking on this enormous challenge alone.  Tobin had some amazing friends.

They were both laughing in Rumer's apartment and Lauren and Jrue were laughing in their hotel suite probably pissing off the people in the rooms next to them for being so loud so late at night.

"Funny thing about that movie is that I'd seen it before and definitely remembered Ru but didn't make the connection when I was face to face with her."  Tobin said laughing to herself.

"What she means is that she remembers how good my rack looked while I ran for the first time without my brace in the movie and didn't recognize my face because she was too busy drooling over the rack."  Rumer said shrugging her shoulders and causing Lauren to laugh so hard she snorted and then caused Tobin to begin gasping loudly for breath because she couldn't stop laughing.

"That ....is....so not true."  Tobin said between her laughter and tears.

Are you kidding me?  Rumer is hot Tobs...I noticed that too although maybe not the same way you did.  Girl you need to find a runway near you and get paid to walk it ALL DAY LONG!  OMG I would if I looked like you."  Lauren told Rumer causing her to blush.

"You look perfect."  They heard Jrue mumble quietly.

"Ugh...don't start. You two seriously gross me out!"  Tobin said making a disgusted face.

"Hey Tobs....you're gonna speak in front of hundreds of people tomorrow....you think you can keep it PG 13 for the rest of the night so you and your gorgeous girlfriend can get the rest you need?"  Lauren teased.

"You've just suggested that she find a runway near her Lauren...do you think it’s easy keeping my hands off her?"  Tobin felt Rumer smiling against her neck.  She knew that if she promised to keep it PG13 she wouldn't be able to keep that promise if Rumer didn't remove her lips from her neck.

"Yes...but still you'd like for her to be able to WALK beside you and hold your hand for the foreseeable future right?"  Tobin and Rumer both laughed at this. 

"Goodnight L.  I love you.  I'll see you tomorrow.  I love you ok?"

"I love you too Tobin.  See you tomorrow."

******************************************************************************************

 

"Hello, my name is Tobin Heath and I grew up playing sports with Megan Rapinoe."  Tobin looked up and made eye contact with Rumer.  Her girlfriend's black conservative dress made her skin pop even more than usual and it wasn't hard to spot her in a crowd of hundreds.  Rumer nodded her head in reassurance.  Tobin continued.

"Well what I mean is that I grew up being able to play a little of everything that Pinoe played just good enough to make the team and then I watched Pinoe play the sport the right way."  Tobin said smiling a little to herself and letting the small ball of nerves disappear with the sound of the audience chuckling in a low rolling rumble.

"I've sat and listened to whoever spoke before me and I realized that I'm not the only one that noticed how warm and inviting Megan's smile was.  It’s hard to forget.  I mean, when Megan DIDN'T smile it was more of a news story because I can't remember a time when Megan wasn't joking or messing around or getting in trouble."

The audience laughed again and Tobin chuckled.

"And I've also sat and listened and observed my friends over this past week.  She meant something different to all of us as I'm sure I can say for every person in the audience today.  Even if you just met her once.  And that's what it is right?  In your life, along the way there are hundreds and thousands of people that you touch or effect or inspire and in Megan's case even millions.  She influenced so many in ways she never even knew.  It causes a ripple effect.  I listened to my friends this week and to some of them, Megan was the pink tint on the surface of the Pacific Ocean when the sun is setting."

Tobin paused and looked up.  She found Alex's eyes in the crowd and registered that there were tears just starting to form there.  She continued.

"For others she was the memories of endless laughter and the promise of peace among a group of friends that haven't always been harmonious.  It’s not easy to be an elite athlete living with 23 or 24 other women for so long.  Just ask the great Abby Wambach or the even greater Hope Solo."  The crowd laughed and applauded when Tobin looked over to her group of friends all sitting together and smiling good naturedly for the cameras.

Tobin cleared her throat and allowed herself a small smile.  She fixed her white gloves and tugged her white dress hat a little lower on her brow.

"And these women were all either playing on my team or against my team throughout my entire adolescence.  They challenged me and lifted me up and encouraged me and taught me lessons directly and indirectly but none one of them...not one of them taught me quite as much as Megan Rapinoe did.  She made me smile and also scolded me for NOT smiling enough.  I mean, even before I was a Marine..."  Tobin touched the black shiny brim of her hat.

"I didn't smile much.  It drove my mother crazy.  I've always been the type of person that was a little too serious about life.  Too worried about things that average teenagers worry about and some things that some teenagers don't even think to worry about.  Is there lipstick on my teeth?  Did she just hit on me?  God I wish my crush liked me back."  The crowd chuckled again.

"Megan never seemed to sweat these things.  She didn't just grab life, she seized it."  Tobin said gritting her teeth and lightly slamming her fist down on the podium.

"Megan told me once that I was going to regret all the time I wasted being so sad and letting people get to me or worrying about a girl that I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with."  Tobin smiled sadly and looked down at her feet.  She felt a lump in her throat but she swallowed it down determined not to cry.

"And as I stand here before you today I can say that the only thing I regret is not having more time with Megan. And  taking so many moments in my life big or small for granted. You would think that after being so close to death for so long after 2 deployments and a dangerous career that I would've learned that on my own but not quite. It's unfortunate that something like this had to happen before some of us realized how short life really is. How a perfect or imperfect moment that passes in a few seconds could be your last. We live on borrowed time and Megan could not have been clearer about the advice she gave me when we were still just kids!"

"She told me to hold my head high and walk down the halls of the school and just smile.  She told me that if I smiled just a little more than I normally did that I would see a whole new world that I hadn't even been able to see before.  She wanted me to get out of my own way because she cared about me.  And eventually I did.  She joked with me before I left about things we both knew I was afraid of.  One of them was never coming back alive.  She spun it in a funny way just as she always did and that helped me breathe easier.  It reminded me that even if I was going into a war zone that I could still make the most of every moment I had left and I did.  She loved me....she loved all of us."  Tobin looked over to her friends and decided that she couldn't do that anymore.  All of her friends...even Hope and Carli, were in tears.

"And we love her too.  I haven't felt right for this past week unless I was with my friends because no one else can understand how it feels to grow up as one of Megan Rapinoes close friends.  She was loyal and kind and so so funny.  She had nick names for us that were pretty harsh but she was an equal opportunity offender."  The crowd roared with laughter.  Tobin could sense an undertone of understanding in that explosion of laughter.

"Megan would write me songs and send them in letters while I was deployed.  I'd laugh for so long that I'd forget there was even a conflict going on around me.  She drew little chickens and cows on the paper along with her song.  I would've never made it out of there alive if it wasn't for her letters and the letters and packages from the rest of my friends and family.  It reminded me what I was fighting for.  Most of the packages and letters I received were from long standing members of your U.S. Women's National Soccer team.  They are ranked #1 in the world but they still managed to find time to send me care packages and have letter writing parties.  There are no words to express my gratitude to them and of course to Megan."

Tobin let her hand drop to her side and bunched her fist up.  The audience gave a pretty long and loud round of applause.  Tobin was grateful for the time to pause and gather her bearings for the next part.  As the applause died down Tobin took a deep breath and looked up.  She hadn't realized that there were unshed tears and when she felt them fall she wiped them quickly with an irritated air to her actions.  She continued.

"I never told Megan how much I wished I could be more like her.  How much she influenced me.  How her courage stayed with me through some of the hardest and happiest times in my life.  She was my hero."

Tobin paused and heard a few sniffles.  She felt the lump in her throat get bigger but she fought against it and cleared her throat.

"Kelley O'Hara...."  Tobin looked up and put both gloved hands back on the podium.

"told me one day during this past week that she wasn't sure she was ready to face a world without Megan Rapinoe.  She was afraid that we only had "Remember Whens" left and she wasn't ready for that.  Well none of us are tiny one."  Tobin said looking up and locking her sad watery eyes with Kelley against her better judgement. 

Kelley bit her lip.  Her eyes were wet and blood shot and her cheeks were tear stained.  Her freckles were drowned out by her pallid complexion.  She looked like she was trying to hold back an army of thousands behind one small door.

"We aren't ready to lose Megan but we can be sure to carry on her legacy.  Her courage and her laughter and her larger than life personality.  Her kindness and loyalty and love.  And we do this by remembering her.  We remember her as she was.  Always quick with a joke or a funny dance or a fashion show in Sydney Leroux's dresses."  Tobin had already registered that there were people in the crowd that were all out crying by now but the audience still laughed at this last comment.

"And that's how she will live on.  We all carry a small torch with our own memories.  We come together and those torches become a huge bonfire.  A light as bright as Megan's smile.  We all have our own reasons we loved Megan.  Reasons we still love her now.  And as long as we commune and remember how remarkable she was and remember what she means to us and remember why she was our hero....she will still be with us.  We don't have to live in a world without Megan Rapinoe, Kell, she's still here.  Kell, Car, Hope, Abby, Alex, Ali, Ash, Syd, Chris, Kristie, Lauren, HAO...ladies and gentlemen.....She’s....she's right here."  Tobin said, her voice cracking as she pointed at her heart causing her mounted metals that were pinned there to clang softly against one another.

"And there's not much anyone or anything can do to erase the memory of anything once it’s in your heart.  Let's carry her in our hearts."

*************************************************************************************

Two weeks after the funeral

"I didn't think it would be this hard to say goodbye to you even though I know you'll be back in a week.  I hate that I'm gonna miss your first couple of shows."

Rumer was urgently packing the last bit of necessities she would need for the first few venues on her tour schedule.  This would be her first foray into touring and she was nervous but more than anything she was also feeling the sinking feeling of leaving Tobin for the first time since they started dating.

"Oh baby, its ok.  I know you'll make a show as soon as you can.  I'm already missing you though.  I hate how hard this part is too.  Fuck I already miss your lips."  Rumer said softly kissing Tobin and lightly running her tongue across Tobin’s bottom lip.

Tobin hummed in approval but didn't react to Rumer's tongue like she normally would.  She didn't want to make her girlfriend late and herself as well since she was expected back at work today.

Rumer pouted slightly when they parted and Tobin brought her body in to her for a tight hug.  Her chest was aching and she tried to ignore it as best she could.  She would have to deal with her first day back and work and her first time away from her plus one all in one go.  It wouldn't be easy but she had already made plans to stay in someone's company at all times for as long as she possibly could.  It was the only way she knew how to prevent certain thoughts from entering her mind.

She reached into the pocket of her jacket and took out a wooden box.  Rumer had momentarily closed her eyes as she tried to mentally check off her list to make sure she packed everything.  She held on to Tobin and inhaled the scent of her body as she did this.

"Hey so, I have something for you and you totally don't have to feel obligated to wear it or anything but I thought maybe while you're away you would feel it or see it and think of me."  Tobin murmured into the embrace.  Rumer pulled back to look at Tobin’s face and Tobin brought the box up into her line of sight.  Rumer bit her lip and looked at the box and then looked into Tobin’s eyes.

"You haven't even opened it yet and I get the feeling you’re a little scared.  Are you?"  Rumer shook her head no but Tobin could tell that the hold her teeth had on her lip was seconds away from drawing blood.

"You don't have to be afraid and you don't have to keep that fact from me either."  Tobin said lightly rubbing Rumer's bottom lip to attempt to loosen the bite.

"Open it."  Tobin urged softly.

Rumer did as she was told and opened the box to find a white gold ring with a black heart shaped diamond in the center surrounded by intricate leaf patterns.  The oxidation creating a black outline to cause the pattern to really pop.  Rumer inhaled sharply and looked up into Tobin's eyes.

"It was originally a red sapphire heart but I had them replace it with a black diamond.  I just felt it was more your style.  It was hand crafted."  Tobin explained shrugging her shoulders a little.  "Do you like it?  You don't have to say yes.  I don't think I'm very good at picking out jewelry.  I've never bought a girl a ring before so I hope I did ok."  Tobin rambled nervously. 

A small sinking feeling of panic began to settle in her chest at the idea of Rumer not liking the ring or thinking the gift was too much too soon although it had already been 8 months.  It wasn't an engagement ring after all.

Rumer didn't speak but gently took the ring out of the box and put it on her ring finger.  She put her hand up in front of her in order to admire the ring on her hand.  Tobin moved to hold her from behind and looked along with her.  Tobin had not purchased the ring so that Rumer could wear it on her ring finger but the sight of it there gave her a feeling of twisted excitement and also fear in her stomach.  The feeling was confusing for Tobin but she didn't over think it in this moment.  She set aside her feelings and focused on being 100% present in this moment and this moment alone.  Rumer turned in her arms and attacked her lips.  After a few seconds of making out Rumer stopped abruptly and rested her forehead against Tobin's.

"I love it Tobin.  I won't ever take it off.  I love it.  I love you."  She kissed Tobin once more. "How did you know what I liked?  Like how did you know exactly what to get me?"  Rumer asked her eyes sparkling as she continued to gaze excitedly at her new ring.

Tobin observed her feeling her heart melt in her chest.  She shrugged her shoulders and smiled.  "I don't know.  I just went with my gut I guess."  The two women embraced once again and Tobin could feel her own heart still thudding in her chest from the left over adrenaline that was still lingering from the nerve wracking moment she gave her girl a ring for the first time in her life.

"I love it Tobin.  I can't stop looking at it!  I love how it feels to belong to you.  This ring does remind me of you baby.  It reminds me of how lucky I am to belong to you."  Tobin bit her lip and hugged Rumer again wishing she never had to let her go.

"Get out of here babe before this gets harder and you miss your flight.  You're moms gonna be pissed if you're late to pick her up too." Tobin murmured into Rumer's shoulder.

She walked Rumer to her rover and kissed her one last time before watching her drive away.  The further the vehicle got the lower Tobin's heart sank in her chest until she felt completely hollow.  She immediately jumped in her jeep and headed to work blasting old music (90s and below) to avoid jogging any sad memories.

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"How was work today Tobs?  First day back right?"  Kelley asked shutting her eyes tight and scrunching her freckled nose as she applied sunscreen. 

Tobin couldn't help smirking at how adorable her friend always looked in her black wet suit.  Her height and small frame making her look like a baby in a onesie.  Her hair was up in a messy bun and her fly aways were swirling around her small face in the soft breeze. 

Tobin hadn't realized she was staring with a goofy grin spread across her face until Kelley was scolding her because she knew exactly why she was grinning and staring but Tobin would never admit that the funny aspect wasn't the only reason she was in a far off state of pondering.  Tobin wasn't even really sure herself why she could never put her finger on the alluring effect Kelley seemed to be having on her as of late.

Tobin laughed it off and shook her head.  "I'm sorry tiny one it’s just cute.  You know why.  Oh and before we get in, you sure you want to do this today?  I was just in there wetting my arms and legs and the undertow is really fucking strong today.  Like almost sucking the skin and muscles right off my calves."  Tobin warned looking over at her small friend. 

Her warning was sincere but she knew it was going to fall on deaf ears.  There wasn't much that could keep Kelley out of the water.

"When you're done taking digs at my height you can join me in the water.  I don't want to see you paddle out until you wipe that smug look off your face Heath." 

Kelley's tone was serious enough but she still wore an amusing smile as she grabbed her board, attached the Velcro to her ankle and entered the water to begin paddling out. 

Tobin sat with a small huff and decided to watch Kelley for a couple of waves.  Something about how Kelley managed to find a rhythm with the ocean so quickly always made Tobin feel at ease.  As if the universe would knock itself off its axis if she ever wiped out.  Once she paddled out to join her she answered her question.

"Work was whatever by the way.  It was work.  Backed up paperwork and stupid sympathetic faces.  Even had some of the female agents giving me the pity fuck look.  Geez, it’s fucking stupid."  Tobin said sitting up on her board and dragging her fingertips on the surface of the water as she turned her face up toward the sun and closed her eyes.  Kelley remained quiet taking in the information.

"I wonder what Rumer would think of that part?"  Kelley mused more to herself than to Tobin.  "Does she ever get jealous?"  Tobin considered this question seriously.  She had never even thought of that possibility.

"I don't think so.  But we aren't stupid.  I know what I have and she knows what she has and this is the first time we are apart.  I see how people look at her Kell so I know she gets offers like that and probably worse but at the end of the day I know I'm the one she wants inside her.  Her words not mine."  Tobin said trying to dodge Kelley's small but impossibly strong arm and failing.  She fell off her board into the water.  When she popped back up again, Kelley was already riding another wave. 

"Of course."  Tobin said to herself rolling her eyes.

An hour later they sat side by side on the shore with towels around their bodies quietly taking in the sound of the waves crashing softly onto the shore and pulling out again.  They both had the same things on their mind but there was no need to discuss it.  Being together was enough.  It had only been a few weeks since the funeral and the pain was still fresh but as long as any of them were together they felt comforted.  Safe.

"Hope left last week.  I always knew she would too.  I'm also not stupid Tobs.  I knew what I was doing even if you thought I didn't."  Kelley said looking over at her friend.

"Fucking Christen.  That's the last time I ever discuss something with her."  Tobin said shaking her head a little.  "I just didn't want you to get hurt tiny one.  I mean, it really pissed me off that she would do that after all the fucking shit that happened between the two of you.  I'm sorry if I overstepped...I love you and I couldn't take any of you getting hurt any more than you were already hurting."  Tobin admitted honestly.

"There has always been that side of you that I don't think I will ever get used to.  Not in a bad way Tobin.  Like I mean, that protective nature you have...it’s pretty amazing.  I can see how you pull so many good looking women."  Kelley said with a teasing smile plastered on her lips.

"For the record, my whoring days are over so that's in the past and those women only wanted to sleep with me.  I finally tricked one into staying so can we keep my loser tendencies a secret?"  Tobin said pushing Kelley's hand away when the freckled woman began to poke her in the ribs

"Tobin, you have never and will never be a loser.  You have been fucked over and told this pretty much you're whole life but that makes those people losers, not you.  I love you Tobin.  You have a beautiful heart." 

Tobin couldn't understand why her breath caught in her throat at these words.  Maybe it was because she had never heard Kelley speak in this tone or use such loving descriptive words toward anyone except Hope.

Or maybe it was the emotional weight that was always there now whenever she was around any of her friends.  She knew it was always so thick when any of them were together because they could all still feel Megan there.  So close they could almost touch her.  It was agonizing and bittersweet and tragic.

Tobin looked over at Kelley and tried to find a hint of a teasing look in her eyes but all she found was the intensity that matched the tone in her voice when she spoke.

"Thanks Kell...I guess I should know that but hearing you say it makes it hit home."  Tobin replied quietly.

Kelley smiled softly and grabbed Tobin’s hand.

"Now I have one very important question to ask you and then I'm gonna give you some advice that I really need you to take ok?"  Tobin furrowed her eyebrows in confusion but nodded her head.

"Alex invited you to the beach tonight for that meteor shower....did you already discuss this with Rumer?  I don't mean ask permission because I know Rumer isn't controlling.  I mean did you just let her know what was going on?"

"Of course I did.  She knows I've been hanging out with all of you since the funeral.  She knows why and she supports whatever I feel is going to help me cope." 

"Ok, now let me give you some advice.  When you meet Alex tonight, leave your mind at home.  I'm not telling you to cheat Tobin nor do I think you would ever do that I just want to share the valuable lesson I learned when I let Hope back in.  If you don't allow yourself to let go of the past and open yourself up to possibilities then you might end up wasting your time with the wrong person.  I'm not saying that Alex is the right person or Rumer is the right person.  Honestly I love Rumer.  We all do.  She's so sweet and she's gorgeous and she treats you so good as far as I can tell.  But Tobin, this is about you.  Not Rumer and not Alex and not any other girl that might come along in the future.  All I'm saying is that you feel tonight and stop thinking.  Pinoe always told you to stop thinking so much didn't she?  Well I think she told you to stop being a pussy but you knew what she meant.  We had to learn these life lessons the hard way.  You don't owe Alex anything.  You owe it to yourself to live your life to the extreme.  Exhaust all possibilities.  That's the fastest way to the truth.  Just go with your gut and take action.  Trust me, you will know right away if what you are choosing is right.  Your heart will tell you.  Listen.  You wasted so much time wondering and now is the time to stop wondering and start living.  Just keep an open mind in general.  If Rumer is your endgame you'll be 100% certain very soon if you don't already know by now."  Kelley still held Tobin’s hand and she gave it a reassuring squeeze before letting go.

"You and I Tobin...you and I had the very unfortunate or fortunate depending on how you look at it, opportunity to have Hope Solo and Alex Morgan as our first loves.  It’s not easy when your first love is one of the most beautiful creatures to ever walk the earth and you make the mistake of comparing every woman after that to them.  Truth is, it doesn't matter how gorgeous they are now or how gorgeous they were then.  They are just gorgeous women that happened to be fortunate enough to have US as girlfriends at one point in their lives.  Don't ever forget that Tobin.  Don't ever again let any woman make you feel like you are anything less than amazing."

Tobin swallowed against a pit in her throat.  The conversation sounded so much like the conversations she used to have with Pinoe.  She forcefully pushed her tears aside to ask a question she really wanted to know the answer to.

"What did your heart tell you about Hope?"  Tobin asked fighting to keep her voice steady and studying Kelley's features.  She never diverted her attention from the expression on Kelley's face.

"That she's not the person I thought she was.  That she's a beautiful person but not the right person.  For me at least.  I was in love with her once but now it’s just familiarity and love.  The same love I feel for a best friend.  Of course the sex was good but how could it not be?  We know each other so well." 

Kelley said smiling softly and laughing a little embarrassed to admit that out loud.  A pink tint rose to her cheeks and Tobin wondered if Kelley was embarrassed because she, Tobin, was the one Kelley was admitting this realization to or if she just hadn't admitted it even to herself yet.

Tobin laughed a little.  "Well of course that's a given but I take it that you didn't feel the intensity that you felt before when you were head over heels for her huh?" 

Kelley shook her head in the negative before she even responded vocally.  "Nope, not even a little.  Just a good old fashioned urge to have sex with an annoyingly attractive woman."  This caused Tobin to begin laughing so hard she couldn't breathe.  Her favorite kind of laughter.

 

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"You finally came!  Hurry up!  It’s about to start!"  Alex screamed with excitement yanking Tobin's arm along with her.  Tobin noticed once again that Alex was of course in a bikini and she rolled her eyes as she allowed herself to be led to wherever Alex had set up her blanket.

"Jesus Alex it’s fucking freezing out here!  Put some fucking clothes on before you catch pneumonia!"  Tobin said shivering herself.  She took off her heavier outer Obey jacket and put it around Alex's shoulders.

"Always the gentleman Tobin.  You never change."  Alex said pulling the jacket a little tighter around her body.

"Whatever.  You're crazy."  Tobin said trying to remain aloof but the words Kelley told her earlier in the day were bouncing around in her head.  She put it all out of her mind.  Her past and her present and she allowed herself to be in this moment and this moment alone.

In true Alex Morgan fashion, she put her head on Tobin's shoulder as soon as they made themselves comfortable on the blanket under the stars.  Tobin let her but made no move to put her arm around her.

"How did we lose touch for so long Tobin?"  Alex suddenly asked after almost 20 minutes of silence.

"Well, other than my deployments and your National team obligations and soccer superstar status?  I don't really know.  I guess we just grew apart.  Time and life does that sometimes I guess."  Tobin said softly.

"I've told you I love you right?  I want to be sure that you know that because I do.  I always have.  I want to make sure you all know that because I've never been good at talking about my feelings.  But you know that already huh."  Alex said quietly not moving from her position on Tobin’s shoulder.

"Yup, that I DO know.  You suck at communication and other things but you love me.  Or at least you think you do but I think you are just scared.  You're scared to lose.  You're scared to lose someone close again.  We all are I guess but you've always been afraid to be alone Alex.  Losing Pinoe is just a fucked up reminder of that possibility to you and you're not in control of it.  You just can't have control of that so it scares you even more."

"I guess you're right.  I mean its common sense but maybe you can also see right through me.  It’s like we've known each other for so long but we really don't KNOW each other.  That's sad.  That's how long it’s been since we have just hung out."

"Well we all reunited again and maybe it was because we were meant to be close again.  Even if the reasoning to mend old friendships really fucking blows."  Tobin mused taking a deep breath and exhaling against the heavy weight that pressed down on her chest.

"Can I talk to you about something?"  Alex asked rather quietly and Tobin could hear the fear and apprehensive nature of her voice.  She was scared.  What could she possibly want to talk about that was making her so afraid?

"Sure Alex.  I'll always be here for you.  You can talk to me about anything.  You should know that already."  Tobin said finally making a move to wrap her arm low around Alex's slender waist and pulling her body closer to her own in an attempt to reassure her old flame.  She opened her senses and her mind and her heart to feel and then waited for Alex to speak.

"I've been single for a while but before that I was with this guy Servando.  Do you know about him?"  Tobin knew of this Servando but had never officially met him.

"Uh, I guess I do know of him Alex but I don't really know who he is.  And of course I've never met him."

"Well, he and I are still dating I guess.  It’s like an on and off thing.  It’s not easy to have a relationship when we are both traveling so much with our own teams.  You know how that goes."

"Yup...well I can imagine it’s not easy."  Tobin replied and then remained quiet waiting for Alex to continue.

"If you felt happy with someone and you felt that maybe they might be the one would you consider following them to wherever they decided to settle down?  I mean, let’s just say that Rumer played on a club team and decided she wanted to make that city her home, would you follow her there and move in with her?"

Tobin began to understand what Alex was getting at but she gathered her thoughts to humor Alex and answer her hypothetical question.

"I gave Rumer a ring before she left on tour and she's been gone less than 24 hours and it really fucking sucks when she's not around.  And that's because we've only been dating for a few months."  Tobin stated trying to find a way to convey exactly what she meant so she could make her point clear to Alex.

"Of course it wasn't an engagement ring or anything but definitely something that signifies a promise that I intend for our relationship to end up there one day.  My point is that when you feel that pull towards someone and everything is telling you its right you have to take a chance or you'll never know.  You will go your whole life wondering what could've been if you would've just given the relationship a chance.  You're afraid to get hurt or be unhappy with him and then be stuck in a situation that you can't get out of because now you've moved your whole life for him but that's the thing.  There is not any situation that we find ourselves in in our lives that can't be changed or adjusted or renewed.  It’s all in your head.  It’s not a matter of if you can, it’s if you are willing to take a chance.  Take a chance Alex.  If he treats you right and makes you happy take a chance.  If it doesn't work then it doesn't and you move on.  It’s not as complicated as people make it.  Everything that entails a breakup is only difficult because of the emotion but when it’s cut and dry it’s very simple.  Don't use the excuse of being stuck.  Make a move for yourself for once in your life.  Be brave.  There’s no way around it.  No matter who you are dating you have to make a move and be clear and be bold or it will never go anywhere.  Grow a pair Alex."  Tobin said chuckling softly.  Alex was unusually quiet but Tobin just let her statement sink in and patiently waited for Alex to respond.

"I love you Tobin."  Alex said softly.  She lifted her head off of Tobin's shoulder and looked at her.

Tobin looked right back.  "I love you too Alex."  She replied evenly.  She looked Alex directly in the eyes challenging her.  Trying to coax out any kind of hidden agenda she may have.  She could feel the distrust there strong and unyielding and she allowed it to linger and slither and seep into her heart.  If that's what opening her heart was going to accomplish then she had to listen to her heart.  And right now her heart was telling her that she needed to be careful.  She needed to guard herself.  She needed to hold back and demand that the trust be earned.

"No...don't say that.  Don't tell me you love me just to respond to my 'I love you.'"  Alex scolded.  Tobin rolled her eyes.  "Ok, then I take it back."  Tobin said wryly smiling.

"You're so cute Tobin.  You know that?  Really cute."  Alex responded suddenly going so far off subject that Tobin began to feel as if maybe she misheard her.

"Huh?"  Tobin asked wanting to confirm what she thought she heard.

"You heard me you ass.  I said you're cute."  Tobin began thinking of Kelley again.  Her words were never too far from her mind it seemed and she just went with whatever her heart conjured up as soon as it materialized in her subconscious.  Subconscious was as close as she would allow herself to get to the act of thinking in this situation.  She was determined to get to the truth tonight.  After almost 10 years of history, Tobin was about to say something she thought she would never hear herself say to this particular person.

"I'm not one of your one night stands Alex.  You can't bat those pretty blues at me and get me to swoon.  I'm not the same little naïve girl I used to be.  I know all your tricks and they don't work on me anymore."  Tobin said rolling her eyes and shaking her head.  She was slightly amused and her statement was said with an air of confidence so genuine that it knocked Alex back onto her heals.  In this moment the meteor shower began to fill the night sky with a spectacular firework show shooting brilliant bits of breathtaking diamonds showering over the earth.  Tobin smiled wide and her eyes sparkled with excitement.  She heard Alex mumble something disheartingly but she didn't catch it.

"What did you say Lex?  Sorry I was a little distracted by the fucking awesome light show."  Tobin said her face lighting up with laughter and giddy excitement.

"I said that I wasn't giving you a line.  I meant it."  Alex stated obviously bothered by Tobin's indifference.

"Oh sure honey, I know you meant it.  All the girls you tell that line to believe you too they just react differently.  They open their legs and swoon.  That's the point.  I know you're not lying to me.  I'm not gorgeous but I'm not ugly either so no need to reassure me.  Like I said, I'm not that naive little girl anymore."

"You don't trust a word I say do you?"

"Uh once again missing the point Lex and also missing the light show."  Tobin said looking down at Alex momentarily and then setting her upturned wide eyed gaze on the sky again.

"No I'm serious Tobin.  You don't trust me do you?"  Alex asked this time grabbing Tobin's bicep to attempt to get her attention.

"Uh honestly?  Not really.  I mean you can’t really blame me.  You act like you didn't live through the last 10 years.  I mean of course you weren't on my end of the situation all this time so to you it must have seemed like it wasn't a big deal.  In a way I want to say I don't blame you but then again, if you can't be blamed I'm not sure who else can be."  Tobin said shrugging her shoulders and sighing in resignation as she looked away from the sky and back down to the 23 year old version of her first love figuring that she should just give up on watching the breathtaking display.

"Ok I deserve that Tobin and I wish I could tell you what was going through my head when I hurt you all those times but I can't.  What I can say is that I have a huge problem that no one really knows about and it’s no excuse because it’s just weakness but it’s probably the reason I can't explain my behavior.  What I can say is that I'm sorry and I'm not sure if we can ever be close again but I'm willing to try to gain your trust again."

Tobin sighed and looked Alex in the eye.  She noticed how Alex couldn't hold her gaze and she knew that whatever secrets she held were causing her to feel ashamed and she suddenly felt exhausted by this pointless dance.  Had she really been dancing this way for 10 years?  She knew love was blind but this is ridiculous.  She saw all the signs of nervousness and even deception she had already learned to detect after being on the job for 2 years.

"What's going on with you Alex?  Talk to me."  Tobin said.  She wanted to concentrate on being a good friend but a part of her was so angry that after all this time of getting fucked over by Alex that now she had a secret that she was going to try to blame the whole ordeal on.  Tobin couldn't understand why she was thinking this way all of a sudden.  It was cold and callous and she began to feel angry at the thought that Alex was causing her to turn into someone she couldn't recognize.  She swallowed down the sudden rage and cleared her head.  She opened her heart once more and concentrated on being the considerate and caring friend that she was to any other friend that hadn't ripped her hear out on numerous occasions.

"I...I um...I have a problem with alcohol Tobin.  I'm an alcoholic.  Pretty much since we were kids.  Every single thing that has happened between you and I that has caused you pain I can barely remember.  The other night when I talked to Rumer....well Kelley was fucking pissed at me.  Ann told her what I said but I really don't remember it at all.  Even back in school when I did the most fucked up things and hurt you...I was always drunk.  I can't even remember a time I was sober except maybe for graduation and maybe national team games."

Tobin was in shock.  Not only with this new bit of information and Alex's ability to hide this problem for so long but also because it was so easy for her to blame all the pain she has caused her on being under the influence of alcohol.

"Forgive me for sounding indifferent Alex but you yourself have told me on numerous occasions that the truth comes out when your drunk so this is the last time I will ask you this....WHY in the FUCK did you say and do the things you did to me?  I NEVER did anything to hurt you from the first day we met until now although you deserved it.  So Why Alex!  Tell me why you feel that your drunk self repeatedly hurt me?  What do you think you are feeling in your heart of hearts!"  Tobin gritted out nearly growling in an attempt to keep her voice even.  The last thing she wanted to do was show Alex how much she had hurt her then and how much it still affected her now.

"I DON'T KNOW TOBIN!"  Alex cried flailing her hands out frustrated at the repeated question from this girl from her past.  Tobin remained quiet staring at Alex giving her an opportunity to say anything else.  When she didn't Tobin just slowly nodded her head.

"Ok Alex.  I accept your apology but I don't trust you.  I'll always be here for you.  I'll always answer the phone if you call.  I'll always be your friend and help you kick this habit if you need my help.  I will do these things because I care about you and I don't want anything to happen to you.  But you have to want to stop too.  You have to want it because I can help but I can't do it for you.  Give Servando a chance Alex.  For the first time I think you finally have someone that truly cares for you.  Don't walk away from that because you're scared."  Tobin said with finality.  She reached over and embraced Alex and a feeling of emotion so strong jolted her body that she could swear one of the meteors had touched down between their bodies.  A feeling of understanding.  It was a feeling of a chapter closing.  It was a feeling of peace.

"Not for the first time."  Alex mumbled into Tobin's neck and she returned the hug.

"What does that mean?"  Tobin asked.

"He isn't the first person I've dated that had truly cared about me.  You cared about me too."  Tobin sighed. 

"Yup...and I still do.  I'll always care Alex.  You don't deserve that but it’s there anyway."

Chapter Text

"Did you ever get the idea she did it all on purpose?  Well....for a purpose at least?  Know what I mean?" 

Lauren asked her best friend as she sat in the living room of the home she shared with Jrue and sipped on a glass of wine.  Tobin was unusually quite on the other line.  Lauren could almost see her best friend either pacing or picking at her nails.

Tobin fiddled with her fingers and began picking the cuticles from her finger nails distractedly.  Her best friend really knew her way too well.

"Well?  Did you ever think that she invited you out there and talked to you about doubts she was having about her future with this guy because maybe she wanted you to do something about that doubt?  Maybe clear her confusion by stepping up and claiming her once and for all?  Maybe that was her way of giving the idea of you and her one last chance by throwing out the bait and seeing if you would take it?"

Tobin flicked a small piece of skin from her finger and sat up taking a huge breath and huffing it out annoyed.

"Not really no.  We're talking about Alex here CHen.  Since when has she ever been the type to set up a overwhelmingly cheesy situation just to try to ease her way back in somewhere that she thinks she might not be welcome anymore?  Alex has never had to work for a thing in her life when it comes to women or men for that matter.  There's no reason to start now."  Tobin replied rolling her eyes and crossing her arms.

"AND furthermore, I have REPEATEDLY put my heart on the line for her over the years.  Over and over and over again Lauren.  I have given Alex every opportunity to claim me in the past and she was too much of a coward to do it.  The fact of the matter is that if she really wanted me...if she really really really wanted to see if this was meant to be she wouldn't be throwing bait out, she would just say what she felt and what she wanted but she still didn't did she?  You know why?  Because even after seeing what she could lose....after losing Pinoe....which opened all of our eyes she still would choose to try to lure me in instead of just throwing out her pride and proclaiming what she wants.  I refuse to slow down for Alex to catch up anymore.  I don't care how much history we have.  History is exactly that because its in the past.  With you and Jrue, the history was amazing and it gave you two the perfect opportunity to grow together.  You're history built a solid foundation but....Alex and I?  Our foundation was NEVER solid or steady.  I'm in love with someone Lauren.  Why does any of this even matter???"  Tobin's voice was shaking with anger and emotion as she stood pacing and clenching her fists at her sides.

Lauren lifted her hands in the air surrendering as if Tobin could see her.

"You did the right thing honey.  After all this time you finally built a wall and kept her out instead of allowing her in just to hurt you again and again.  Just remember that the wall needs to come down for the rest of us.  The people that would never hurt you and love you unconditionally.  I'm sorry for even pushing this but I needed to do that as your friend.  I needed to make sure you knew what your priorities are and that you are worth way more than the way she has always treated you.  You don't belong with someone that does not put you first." 

Tobin closed her eyes sighing and nodding then replying with a barely audible "Ok."

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Tobin lay on her side in bed with her girlfriend admiring the contours of her cheekbones and fullness of her lips.  She never got tired of staring at her lover and the more she stared the more amazing she found her.  Tobin had always loved being behind a camera.  Even at times wishing that when the shutter went off that the machinery would capture exactly HOW she perceived her target.  The emotion and intensity and unique way she viewed the world is how she wished the lense would capture the images.  Of course this was impossible so she found ways to get creative so that the images would be as close to how she perceived them as possible. 

Right now as she leaned over to grab her phone off the night stand moving as little as possible so as to not wake her girlfriend up, she was hoping that the intimacy and fluttery feeling in her stomach would be revealed in the shots she was about to take. 

She quickly and quietly set up the camera on her phone to the selfie setting and set a 3 second timer off after she lined up what was going to be in the frame.  As she started the count down she leaned forward and kissed Rumer's cheekbone softly as she closed her eyes and inhaled the scent of her skin.  She heard the shutter go off and apparently so did Rumer since her eyes fluttered open.  Tobin smirked guiltily knowing she had probably been caught. 

Rumer closed her eyes again but smiled softly before speaking.  "What'er you doing goof ball?  I don't trust that look you're giving me.  I hope you aren't conducting a photo shoot while I look like this.  This is the worst side of my face and in the worst lighting."  Tobin let Rumer speak as she checked how the image came out. 

Tobin literally had the breath clear out of her lungs so fast she coughed hard before she began trying to breathe again.  The image had a strange glowing quality that Tobin could only attribute to the soft sunlight flowing in through the window but it gave it a natural filter that Tobin felt complimented the deep and heavy intimacy that was captured in the simple act of a small kiss from one lover to another.

"Holy shit."  Tobin whispered.

"Mmm...I don't even want to see it.  Its just gonna make me pick apart all the millions of things I can't stand about the way I look."  Rumer mumbled and began stretching her arms deliciously above her head as she groaned in pleasure.

"Baby...I seriously don't think I've ever taken a better looking pic and that's cuz I'm in it and I don't ever like pics of myself."

Rumer smiled softly shaking her head and running her hands down Tobin's bed warm back beneath the sheets.

"I'm sending it to your mom."  Tobin said brining up a text with Demi's contact.  Rumer's eyes widened in alarm.  She reached to try and grab the phone out of Tobin's hand but Tobin yanked her arm away as far as she could laughing hard.

"Since when are you so shy about informing your mom on the intimate details of your relationship with me!"  Tobin squealed still laughing at how adamant Rumer seemed about preventing TObin from sending the picture.

"Telling her you make me curl my toes in bed and actually sending her proof of us naked in bed together are two totally different things TObin...TObin Heath you better not send that picture!"

"Baby.....baby...wait listen for a second!"  Tobin said still laughing maniacally.  "I would never send your mom an inappropriate pic!  You can only see the tops of our bare shoulders baby!  Its beautiful I promise!  Fuck don't you trust me!  She's always bugging you about sending her more pics.  Hell I want to set up a photo shoot just to take pics of you myself!"  Tobin said relaxing a little at Rumer's apparent decision to relax herself.

"You want to see it before I send it?"  Tobin asked leaning forward and burying her face into Rumer's deliciously soft warm skin.  She ran soft fluttery kisses up Rumer's neck and waited for her reply. 

"No its ok love.  I trust you.  Just send it."

"You really don't like seeing pics of yourself do you babe?  I thought I was bad."

"Mmm, well you don't how it feels to be as self conscious as I am Tobin.  I grew up developing the worst complexes possible getting the worst critisizm through the worst ugly duckling years of my life.  Its not easy to come out of that without having at least a few dozen complications."

TObin bit her lip watching her girlfriend's expressions and mouth form words that threw tiny daggers into TObin's heart.  She said nothing but listened intently.  She remained quiet even after Rumer was finished explaining her childhood to her and sent the picture to Rumer's mother as quick as she could wanting to get back to what she loved doing the most.  Holding her girlfriend in the early morning hours of the day.

She included a small message with the picture before she sent it.

"Your daughter is absolutely breathtaking"

******************************************************************************************

"Is this really necessary Tobin?  I know you love doing this but...I just...I don't know.  I am not a model just because I've posed in photo shoots before."

"I'm sorry, are you trying to tell me that you don't want to let your girl take pics of you but you'll take half naked pics for a stranger?"  Tobin questioned.

Tobin waited for a response while she fiddled with the camera settings that she was still trying to completely understand.  When she realized the pause before the response had gone on a little too long she looked up to find Rumer giving her a very heated expression. 

Tobin felt her stomach drop deep and quick into the pit of her stomach with such force she was suddenly nauseous.

She had never seen Rumer's facial features, so soft, so graceful, drop into such an aggressive and angry scowl.  She knew she crossed some kind of line and before the reasoning was even known her shoulders sunk as her body curled into itself in a submissive body language so easily readable that even the smallest child could understand it. 

Tobin had already apologized without even opening her mouth. 

And although neither Tobin or Rumer knew it in this moment, this was a line that was about to be crossed.  A line that not only made Rumer more vulnerable because she was about to reveal just how bad her complexities were...how deep that had really cut her and how deep they still ran but Tobin was also becoming even more vulnerable by showing her how no matter what would happen in the future she was a fool for her.  A blind, shameless, apologetic, prideless fool. 

"So that's what this is?  You're no different from any of the others are you?  Want to claim your prize and document it for the whole world to see.  How the "But her Face" looks half naked with your marks all over her after you spent the night claiming your territory?  If you wanted me for that Tobin you could've let me in on it a long fucking time ago!" 

Tobin's heart seized in her chest and a lump formed in her throat.  She couldn't quite understand what she was feeling.  There were so  many emotions trying to scramble for the top and take over that she was overwhelmed.  She couldn't speak for a few agonizingly long seconds.

She stared at Rumer in disbelief.  She had no idea what would come out of her girlfriends mouth before she spoke but never in a million years did she think it would be something as emotionally raw and heartbreaking and painful as that. 

Tobin scrambled to find the right words.  The words that would not only difuse but soothe and reassure and even renew the feeling that she was sure she had given Rumer before that one sentence left her mouth and ruined it all.

"I..I...It's...that's so not what I meant."  Tobin's voice was shaky but loud enough to be heard and the adrenaline and fear that had made its way into her senses was the only thing keeping her functional because she felt like she was talking a ghost into staying a little longer.  Begging without getting on her knees.  Pleading with out whining.  Already counting herself a loser even before she knew for sure if she was going to lose.

Rumer seethed quietly, her body language and expression unchanged.

"Do I want to document you?  Of course I do."  Tobin's voice was a little more even.  A little more sure and a little more courageous.  Words had always come easy to her and right now she was praying that they would get her out of this sand pit.

"And I don't even fucking care what you're wearing while I do it.  You can wear what you want or not wear anything.  I can't paint worth a shit and I can never sketch anything as complex or exquisite as you are so the only thing I can think of doing is getting behind the lense of a camera and hoping that it captures what I see.  What I am so in love with.  What I spend hours of my time looking at and dreaming of and worshipping.  You are my muse Rumer.  I want to document you because I want art on my walls in my new home and I'd prefer that art to be something that inspires me and brightens my mood and takes my breath away.  And what's more, I can't think of any other way to capture these moments with you that are a gift to me.  These small moments, these fleeting minutes...they go so fucking fast...I want time to stop when I'm with you and the only way I can do that is with a camera." 

Tobin's voice was thick with emotion and her breath hitched at the end of her proclamation.  She realized that she had not only exposed how afraid she was to love Rumer with everything she had but also how afraid she still was at the doubt that nagged at her consciousness day and night.  That her time with Rumer was measured and wasn't meant to last. Happy endings weren't a common thing for Tobin after all.  Why would it be any different this time?

Rumer's expression had slipped into neutriality and Tobin was not familiar with that type of expression.  Rumer remained silent.  Tobin grew more anxious by the second.

"And if I just freaked you out by admitting how crazy I am about you then I'm truly fucked but I was never any good at hiding my emotions." 

Tobin said quietly setting the camera down on Rumer's marble topped sink.  She was only a few feet away from the woman but it felt more like miles.  How she wished she could reach across and take Rumer into her arms before she disappeared, slipped through her fingers, evaporated into thin air... but she fought the urge with everything she had.  She wanted Rumer to stay because she chose to, not because she felt pity. 

Tobin's self esteem had made its exit by the time she finished her last sentence and she immediately began to self sooth to get ready for the inevitable blow that was sure to come.

"I'm sorry, we don't even have to do this at all.  YOU don't have to do this."  Tobin said with finality, taking her camera and exiting the bathroom.  She decided to sit on the bed in Rumer's bed room and give her girlfriend some space.

Rumer remained in the bathroom gathering her thoughts and her bearings.  She felt bad and uneasy and sad.  She knew that her behavior towards Tobin was uncalled for however the amount of uneasiness she felt about Tobin's idea to set up an actual makeshift photo shoot with her as the center point of the theme was unavoidable and relentless.  Before she could exit the bathroom to talk things out with her girlfriend her phone began to ring in her hand.  It was her mother.

"Hi mama."  Rumer answered, voice slightly cracked and raspy with emotion.

"Rumer...oh God my love...that picture Tobin sent me..."  Rumer heard the emotion in her mother's voice and squinted her eyes in slight confusion.

"Mom...are you crying?"  She inquired a bit taken aback.  There was no answer for a few seconds and Rumer could hear her mother chuckle and sniffle slightly on the other line.

"I'm sorry baby...yes I am crying just a little....I have never seen anyone look at you and handle you and treat you the way Tobin does.  That picture was a testament to how much she values you.  I could see it plain as day in that picture.  Is she there with you?  I, uh I didn't text her back yet I just...I kind of wanted to talk to you about this first."

Leave it to her mother to call and inquire about the one thing Rumer had just allowed her self to question for the first time since she met Tobin.  She'd heard that MOther's intuition was among the most natural and strongest forces of nature but this was ridiculous.  In the moment she saw the look in TObin's eyes when she proclaimed her love intensly and exposed her brutally honest heart she had asked her self that inevitable question she had always had to ask in the past when dating her exes.  Where was this going?  She had never once since first telling Tobin she was in love with her even doubted that her love was real but was this love fleeting or everlasting?  Was it worth a lifetime of struggling with mental illness not only on TObin's end but on her own end?  Was she ready to help TObin through her own demons while trying to fight off her own?  Was she even capable of that?

"I know you love her honey but if its not something you think is going to last forever you have to say it now because Tobin doesn't deserve to be hurt at all and the longer you hang on to her the harder its going to get and the deeper the cut is going to be.  I see how you look at her Rue but do you know the difference between infatuation and love?  Tobin is ready NOW baby.  She is ready to put a ring on your finger and love you in sickness and in health.  Her job is dangerous and taxing and time consuming.  Your children will be so gorgeous but again Tobin is ready for that NOW Rumer...like in a year or two at the most.  I know I am speaking for her on a lot of this and you should talk to her about the specifics but even if the time slightly differs its still true.  Rumer Willis are you ready to be her wife and put her before your singing career and tours and acting and even maybe set that aside for a while to pursue a domesticated life maybe to never pick it back up again?  I love TObin.  If I could choose someone to be my daughter in law forever right now I wouldn't hesitate to choose her and that's why I'm asking you all these questions.  I care about her.  She deserves happiness just as much as you do.  Talk to her Rumer.  Don't let these questions poison your mind.  She will support you but you have to be sure you two are on the right page before someone gets hurt."  Rumer had learned long ago to allow her mother to get all her thoughts out in one go before she responded. 

"I was just asking myself where this was going before you called me.  You're a witch mother."  Rumer deadpanned her voice filled with emotional exhaustion and anxiety.  When she woke up with the warm feeling she had that morning she never dreamed that the warmth would soon be replaced with the cold feeling that always came with doubt.

"I'm gonna go talk to her Mom.  I'll let her know you're a fan of her work." 

"No its ok.  I'll text her myself.  Just please keep an open mind and be honest with yourself as much as you're being honest with her or you'll lose yourself in those feelings of lust and infatuation.  I can see something in you when you look at her.  She's very infectious Rumer.  I'm not surprised that you can't get enough of her but sometimes that fades if true love isn't at the base of it all."

Rumer sighed and rubbed her closed eyelids with her hand.  "I know mom.  I'll talk to you later.  I love you." 

Rumer sat on the toilet seat and rubbed her temples as she gathered her thoughts in preparation for the conversation she was going to have to have with Tobin sooner or later.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

It was very subtle and very slow.  

Tobin never saw it coming. 

She always thought that slow and easy would be the death of her choice but looking back on it now she's not so sure.

She's not sure if she chose not to see or if she genuinely did not notice the small differences in moods and tone of voice and missed calls and text messages.  The odd distant behavior.  When it came to lack of intimacy, Tobin had to start accepting the cold feeling descending on her.  Intimacy had never been a problem between them.  Tobin began adding it all up like sums on a calculator and once it had reached that point it was too late.  And the familiar weight of sadness began its frenzied feeding on Tobin's heart and sanity and self worth.

Old familiar feeling.  Old familiar story.  Old familiar ending.

"Why don't you wear your ring anymore?"  Tobin asked when she noticed her girlfriend wasn't wearing the ring she had specifically personalized for her twice in row. 

She had noticed the absence of the ring on her girlfriends social media accounts way before she decided to start checking for it when she spent time with her but Rumer didn't need to know any of that. 

Tobin was already hating the sound of her own voice as she questioned Rumer.  Whining about the lack of time spent together or suspicious distant behavior on the part of her girlfriend was causing Tobin to feel physically sick of herself and the situation.  She feared the answer to any question she asked and it had become uncomfortable in a way that she never thought she'd feel around a girl that used to look at her in a way that caused Tobin to feel as if she was on top of the world.  Now she was lucky if she had her full attention for a full hour when she was with her. 

"I don't want to scratch it Tobin.  Traveling is rough and I've scratched it more than once just rushing from place to place." 

One thing Tobin hated was to walk in circles around the truth.  To gather evidence until the truth was so clear but still making rotation after rotation only because someone wasn't willing to admit the hard truth.

"Hey so I know you know the gist of my past especially with Alex but what you don't know is that she and I were each other's first love but that came with pain and heartbreak that I had to learn about the hard way...taking the very very very long way around just to get to the hard truth.  And a couple of things I refuse to do now as a grown woman is not to be afraid of the truth right under the surface and also not to stand around waiting for someone to decide they want to stop talking in circles.  So Rumer, tell me what is REALLY going on.  I deserve to know.  And you deserve to be free if that's what you want."  

Tobin's voice had dwindled down to a whisper toward the end of her statement and though she absolutely loathed the fact that she was already defeated she could do nothing about how much this was already hurting her.

"I love you Tobin Heath."  Rumer stated immediately without hesitation but when she turned to look at her girlfriend, Tobin already knew what the look on her face meant.

Rumer was crying.  Huge, silent, gorgeous tears.

Tobin's brain notes:  Geez...classic Demi tears.  They even look magnificently flawless when they cry.  These Willis Moore women really are something else.  I'm gonna miss them.

The stinging began at the back of Tobin's eyes and the lump in her throat so huge she could barely breathe.  She had to sit on the nearest couch to prepare herself for what her soon to be ex girlfriend was about to tell her without completely breaking down right on the spot.

Rumer noticed the paling of TObin's cheeks, the glassy unfocused nature of her honey brown eyes.  THe shock and dazed expression.  She rushed to her and knelt on the floor in front of the tanned woman.

"NO, no baby please...don't...don't be sad...I...you see it has nothing to do with you."  Rumer stated...PLEADED.

The first tears had just began to fall from Tobin's eyes when she began to laugh.  Rumer looked at her slightly confused but was soon brought up to speed.

"That's what this is?  That's what you're gonna give me?  'Its not you its me?'  Oh wow Rue, I thought I deserved better than that.  Like the truth for instance."  Tobin stated growing more exasperated and feeling even more embarassed and stupid by the second.

"You know, I'm not exacty sure how I thought I was ever even at your level.  I mean, who am I anyway?  I'm just a blue collar working stiff that has a hard on for her country and fucking PTSD.  It was pretty arrogant of me to think I was enough."  Tobin scolds herself standing suddenely and gathering her belongings.

"This isn't you Tobin.  THis is not you baby.  This is not the woman I met a year ago.  Please just sit and talk it out with me."

"Maybe this Tobin has had her fucking heart ripped out one too many times and the last straw was throw on the camel's back not too long ago...."  

Tobin suddenely couldn't speak.  She felt a huge gust of wind enter her lungs in the form of a deep and very painful sob.  How did a deep sob find its way into her lungs and interrupt her speech steeling the breath right from her? Tobin had no idea but when she thought about what was about to leave her mouth she understood perfectly.  

Of course she did.  

"when my best friend...stuck the fucking barrel....of of a GUN IN HER M MOUTH!"  Tobin was on the edge of hysteria now screaming and crying pathetically.

Rumer stood, her eyes softening and her tears coming down harder like a monsoon rain in the middle of Vietnam.  

The troops would have no dry socks tonight.  No way to write home on wet paper Marines.  Smoke em if you got em, if you can light em.

The graceful hollywood child slowly walked over to her girlfriend meaning to soothe and talk her down.

Tobin read the situation though.  She read it faster than her girlfriend could be prepared for.  THe tanned brunette clenched her jaw and took a huge breath swallowing hard and wiping her tears with the back of her hands so aggressively she felt her knuckles dig into her eyes sockets.

"No, no.  This is has nothing to do with Pinoe.  She's just a reminder to me not to go another day leaving important things unsaid.  And the last thing I need is to waste your time pinning you down to an idea of happiness you no longer need or want.  I'm...I'm sorry I even mentioned my friend....just forget I ever ....e...ever said her name j just now.  Just lay it on me Rumer.  The truth.  This is not 'pity Tobin' time.  You know how I feel about you and you know what you have to say to make me turn around....turn around and just...leave you alone."  

Tobin's voice cracked and she closed her eyes fighting the pain again.  

Tobin's brain notes:  "How did I get here?  How did I get here?  How did I get here?"

She would get the truth now and she wasn't going to allow the kind hearted woman across from her to get distracted willingly from the hard, gut wrenching truth any longer.

"I...I don't know what to say.  I think we are just on different wave lengths right now.  We are going in different directions in our lives.  You are dependable and solid and settled Tobin.  You need someone that wants that same kind of life.  I don't know where my career is going to take me next and it will be anything but a steady and stable type of lifestyle.  I want you to be happy and you deserve a woman that can give you everything and find time for you."

"None of what you are saying is something that can't be worked out.  You know that Rumer.  So, try again.  YOu have one more strike.  Connect this time.  Just tell me already."  

Tobin stated looking down at her own feet. 

The young battle worn and weary federal agent kept wondering how someone that had whispered 'I am so in love with yous' into her mouth as she came apart in her arms when they made love, (sometimes with tears glistening in her eyes, sometimes not) could be standing above her now getting ready to ask her for a take back. 

Getting ready to confess that those feelings were the fleeting kind after all just as Tobin had always feared.

"I'm not ready for...for anything serious right now Tobin.  I'm not ready for forever.  I can't give you what you deserve."

"You can't, you won't and you don't want to."  Tobin gritted out throw a barely open wind pipe.

"Don't Tobin.  Don't put words in my mouth."  Rumer pleaded walking closer to Tobin and placing a hand hesitantly on the lanky woman's forearm.

Tobin reared back in shock pulling her arm away from Rumer and standing to take a few steps away from her as well.

"The words...all of them...that got me here were not forced out of your mouth.  Those words were yours and yours alone.  You needed no provocation to tell me you saw a future with me.  That you saw us married with children.  That you loved the idea of being my wife.  I never mentioned ANY of those scenarios but you, for some reason felt that you had to mention them to me and make me believe you felt that way about me."

"I'm so s ssorry Tobin...I..." The tears were continuous and the shaky voice pitiful when it fell from full trembling lips. 

Tobin lifted her hand to silence Rumer, closing her eyes to the sight of the tears that both angered and pained her.

Tobin swallowed hard before speaking again.  Keeping the tears at bay but only just.

"Words...words are dangerous." Tobin heard the sound of her own voice, even, strong, confident...the exact opposite of what she felt inside.  When she was satisfied and sure she could continue to pull off the act, she went on with what she wanted to say.

"Speaking in infatuation is just as dangerous as speaking in anger.  The only difference is that anger speaks to wound and infatuation speaks to paint a pretty picture.  That picture you painted was pretty amazing Ru...."  Tobin's sad smile quirked her full lips just slightly as she looked at the ground at Rumer's feet.  She still couldn't look at her.

"Meeting your parents, getting close to your mom, spending every waking moment with you up until you began to tour....it was all great.  Life altering even.  I mean...Jesus Christ..."

Tobin actually chuckled this time, running a hand through her hair carelessly.

"I was pretty stupid...I...I was actually shopping for engagement....no...no you know what...just...thanks for your time.  Take care of yourself ok?"  

Tobin was barely breathing.  Barely aware of what she was doing as she walked out of RUmer's apartment for the last time.  

She registered a faint gasp as she was confessing her plan to propose but any reason that Rumer's reaction to that information should matter to Tobin in this moment was a bigger joke than Tobin's blind belief in true love with someone she had only been dating for about 9 months.

Tobin recognized the movement of her body and understood that she was moving away from the painful situation.  She could've been walking or crawling or skipping or running and it would not have mattered at all.  Moving AWAY was all she cared about and at this moment, floating just inches above the ground is what the movement felt like.

Tobin registered laying down somewhere and couldn't remember how she even got there but was grateful for a place to rest her head and close her eyes against the raw sting of agony and lamentation.

 

**************************************************

 

"Tobin, buddy its been a little over a year...you could stop feeling sorry for yourself and at least get laid.  There's no shame in that."  Ashlyn coaxed softly as she rubbed her friend's shoulder.

They sat at a local sports bar watching whatever happened to be on the flat screens around the place.  Tobin letting her eyes flit from screen to screen not really taking any of it in.  The beer she had ordered an hour ago was warm and sweating on the surface of the bar.

"Hey Mira, can I get a whiskey instead of this?  On the rocks."  Tobin addressed the bar tender with a soft smile. 

"Tobin, you know, you can at least look at me like I'm actually here with you.  I know I'm not talking about your favorite subject but you could at least talk to your friend.  How much shit have we been through together?"  Ashlyn prodded hoping to drag some dialogue out of her lanky sallow looking friend.

"You know...."  Tobin stated pensively as she took the thick bottomed glass with whiskey off the bar top and swirled it around in the palm of her hand.

"I wouldn't have fallen apart any more or any less if she would've just told me the truth.  If she would've let me know that she had fucked her guitarist.  I think it would've been a lot easier for me in those first couple a months."  Tobin opined taking a huge swig from the glass almost finishing the serving in one go.

"Geez skinny ass, might as well order shots.  She can chill em for you ya know."  Ashlyn informed her friend, exhaling loudly.

"Nah, I like it better this way.  Gives me the illusion that I'm really not hurt by all this.  And what makes you think I haven't been laid?  Getting laid is easy.  Too easy.  But all it does is make shit worse for me.  Makes me feel...."  Tobin sighed and closed her eyes looking for the right descriptive word behind the darkness of her eyelids.  She opened them and focused on the colorful liquor bottles lining the bar wall.

"Hollow."  She concluded.

Ashlyn's heart sank.  Her throat was dry as she attempted to swallow thickly and her jaw tightened like sinews of metal cords pulled taught.

Tobin continued, "I'm really glad you've never had to go through this feeling Ash.  I think I'd take just about any other pain in the world other than this...and of course...well you know...."

Ashlyn bit her lip quietly looking down at a spot on the bar top that had begun to wear down after thousands of hands and glasses and cleaning rags had swiped it down to the base layer.

The now short haired brunette nodded her head quietly and bit her lip.  She sighed softly once more and verbally agreed,

"Yes little buddy, I know all too well what you mean.  I think we'd both take scores of women fucking us over if it meant we could have that fucking clown back."  Ashlyn said tittering uncontrollably toward the end of her sentence.  Tobin began to laugh as well. 

This type of laugh would always feel sweet but the bitterness would set in and the smiles would never reach their eyes.

"So uh, how about we have a bro night..."  Ashlyn began.

"Aren't we already having one?  I'm sure that's what you told your soon to be wife before you left your place right?"  Tobin mused finishing off the last of her whiskey and setting the glass down with a soft thud.

"Yes, but I mean a real bro night.  Like calling up Kel, maybe even bringing some of the teams new crop and dragging them to twin peaks and maybe even a strip club to end the night.  You know, rite of passage."

"Come ON Ashlyn, you know that is out of the question.  Most, if not all of your new crop is underage and unless someone else won the last world cup, you and Kel won't be able to go anywhere without being recognized.  You don't have the best judgement when it comes to these things Ms wet tshirt contest judge.  I am the voice of reason and the voice of reason has spoken."  Tobin stated grinning and shaking her head at her ill fated friend.

"Well let's do SOMETHING.  I can't stand sitting here with you being all sad and shit.  Tobin you are young and hot and a stud...I shouldn't have to remind you of these things!  You can pull any girl you want."

"For once in my life Ashlyn Harris, will you just drop the whole hooking me up with a girl role you've always taken and leave it alone?  I want to be alone!  Being alone guarantees that I don't have to hear someone bitch about my pets or my style of dress or the way I keep my place.  I don't answer to anyone and I don't have to worry about another girl fucking me over.  Its the perfect scenerio for me.  I've never felt more stress free and I don't need tits in my face to enjoy myself. OR copious amounts of alcohol for that matter.  As a matter of fact I'm actually done drinking for the night.  One whiskey does enough for me.  I'm good Ash.  We can go somewhere else but I'm your friend and friends don't let friends ruin thousands of children's hope's and dreams when there are pics of their heroes with their faces between a stripper's tits splattered all over social media."  Tobin reasons full out laughing now.

Ashlyn rolls her eyes but chuckles anyway. 

They end up at Tobin's place and Kelley, Sonnett, JJ, Sam and Christen end up meeting them there.  The first thing Tobin does is start a fire in the large clay pot belly stove on her back porch.  The bachelorette lifestyle Tobin has reverted to always guarantees a few things.  The fridge is always full of beer and the liquor cabinet of liquor.  TObin's freezer is full of chicken and even fish that she caught herself.  And almost the entire 2200 sq ft expanse of her two story home is mapped out with maze like floating shelving along every wall for her two cats to peruse their way around the house to their little hearts content.

"Tobs, the fat one missed me!"  Kelley screeches gleefully as she smothers one of two of Tobin's cats.

"Her name is Pepper Potts Kel and you're freaking her the fuck out!"  Tobin bursts out laughing at the tiny squeaks emerging from the large Maine Coons mouth.  The cat is rigid and her eyes are bulging as the freckled woman begins rubbing her face in the soft curly down on her stomach.

"You don't have to smother her Kel, how many times do I gotta tell you!  She loves you for some fucking reason.  All you gotta do is sit and call her to you.  She'll sit right in your lap."

"Lies, all fucking lies!"  Ashlyn chimes in.  "She's a cat Tobs, no cat would ever do that shit."

By now, Sonnett, JJ and Sam had joined Kelley all simultaneously cooing at the large fluff ball.

"And Kelley always said you hated cats Tobin.  Apparently she was wrong."  Christen smirked demurely from her position on Tobin's couch watching the group of women around the cat.

Kelley didn't argue but she smiled softly looking from Tobin to Christen and shaking her head knowingly.

"Pepper Potts is a dog.  And Piper is my room mate.  I don't have any cats in this house."  Tobin quips matter of factly.  Ashlyn laughs shaking her head.

"Tobs is delusional.  Its a fucking cat dude!  Clearly.  Still don't believe that fat thing will do any of that.  Actually go to Kel when she calls it."  Kelley shoots Ashlyn a murderous scowl. 

"She's not a thing Ash!  She's a sweety!  And I happen to love that there is more of her to love!  Besides, Maine Coons ARE the dogs of the cat world so she really IS the dog in the house....right Tobs?"  Kelley said laying kisses all over the cats nose and mouth. 

This had all the other women, except Tobin, groaning loudly in disgust.

Tobin just looked on with amusement and pride humming a yes to back up her freckled friends Maine Coon facts.

"Kel, put her down and go sit on my bed in the room.  We're gonna convince everyone."

"How the hell is she so close to Kel anyway!  She didn't want to come near any of the rest of us!  I tried everything!"  JJ lamented pouting adorably.

"Because Kel practically LIVES here!"  Ashlyn answered lifting a hand at the freckled woman in exasperation.

"Seriously Tobin has lived here for a little more than a year and Kel has spent half that time, if not more, here with her.  She should just move in!"  Ashlyn laughs shaking her head and looking over at Christen for acknowledgement.

"I agree."  Christen said nodding her and looking over at the pair smirking mysteriously. 

Tobin could see something in that smirk she couldn't quite figure out but it was gone as soon as it appeared and besides, Kelley was waiting in her bedroom.

"The rest of you can come but seriously, you can't make ANY NOISE.  P Potts is easily freaked out with anyone she doesn't know."

The group of women all agree.  Ashlyn rolls her eyes and Christen flaps her hand but they follow the crowd anyway to witness Tobin's cat dog.

"Ok Kel, call her just like before.  Pat your lap and tell her to go to you."

"She's hiding in your closet Tobin.  She ran there squeaking the whole way as soon as I put her down.  I'm pretty sure she's not gonna come out until all the noise in the house goes away like always."  Kelley mutters pouting and slumping her shoulders.

Tobin smiles softly at her friends expression.  She hears Christen and Ashlyn snickering quietly and she shoots them a look silently forming the words 'be quiet' before she turns back to Kelley.

The lanky tanned woman makes her way over to sit at her desk in the corner of the room a few feet away from where Kelley is sitting on her bed.

"Turn the bed lights on Kel.  And just call her.  Loud enough for her to hear you."

Kelley huffs, still pouting but she does as she's told.  The warm yellow string lights on Tobin's bed come to life shedding a soft glow over the headboard and California king bed.  The pallets Tobin had acquired to build her own box spring and head board gave her room a rustic log cabin feel and the lights only enhanced the look.  Tobin had taken to building quite a few things when she bought the house.  She found that working with her hands was very therapeutic.

Kelley straightened her back sitting up and began calling the cat.

"P Pooootttttsssss!  Come ere beee beeee!  Come here my loooovvvvveeee!" 

Tobin smiles and laughs silently as she observes her small friend unashamedly calling the cat in a soft baby voice.  She continues to stare at Kelley as the woman uses different variations of her cat call.

Tobin begins to phase out deep in thought as she begins to remember a similar incident the other day when Kelley was calling P Potts and both cats showed up thinking she was going to give them treats. 

She can still see the huge excited smile lighting up Kelley's face and her eyes widening with a gorgeous sparkle when the two began acting desperate and cute hoping it would win them what they came for.

Tobin's day dream is cut short when Ashlyn nudges her.

"The damn cat is in Kelley's lap Tobin.  Geez, wake up!"  Ashlyn teases rolling her eyes and once again looking at Christen who gives her a knowing look.

Once more Tobin is confused at that unspoken exchange.  She is about to question it but is interrupted by Kelley.

"Tobssss....she fucking loves me!"  Kelley bites her lip as she smiles over at her friend.  Her green eyes sparkle and soften as she pets the purring furr ball.

"I told you, you don't have to smother her for her to love you Kels.  Trust me, I would know."

                                          ***

An hour later the women were sitting out on the back deck sipping on their choice of drink.  Christen and Kelley both with a mug of tea and the rest with bottles of water.

Ashlyn looked over at Tobin and noticed her friend was deep in thought again.

"Whats on your mind Tobs?" Ashlyn inquired softly nudging her friend with her elbow for what seemed like the hundreth time that night.

Tobin was slow to turn and look at her old friend but when she did her eyes were shining.

"Just weird how things turn out sometimes ya know?"

 Ashlyn nodded keeping her eyes on her friend and meticulously observing the changes in the expressions on her tanned face.

"When we were kids I wouldve bet everything I loved in the world that Kel and Hope would always be together.  Married with kids and the whole enchilada.  And now...."  Tobin shook her head.

Ashlyn only saw a nostalgic awe and disbelief on her friends face.

"Yup, Hope is head over heals in love with her shit bird husband and Kel is an international goal scoring machine and a permanent fixture on the NT."  The tattooed brunette added as they both observed Kelley and Emily talking and laughing quietly in the only corner of Tobin's back porch. 

Kelley was using a Pusheen mug so big it nearly covered her entire face when she drank from it.  Tobin had purchased it for her one day when she was out shopping for a few frames to display some of her photography on her walls.  She immediately thought of Kelley and added it to her basket right away.

Pusheen had become an icon that Kelley absolutely adored since she fell in love with Pepper Potts.  The freckled woman said the cartoon cat reminded her of the fluff ball that loved to climb on top of her and curl up in the middle of the night when she stayed the night at Tobin's.

If Tobin and Kelley ended up sleeping in the same bed, which happened more often than not, Pepper Potts was downright delirious with adoration.  The cat would become overwhelmed at the fact that her two favorite people in the world were so close together at the same time and she was the lucky cat that got to lay in between them or across both of their bodies or splitting her body between both of their pillows.

This behavior always resulted in a good hard laugh from both women and of course they'd shower her in kisses and love.

"She's good for Kelley.  She's a good kid.  Talented as hell too.  Kinda have to be huh?  Can't make the team with annoyingly gorgeous looks alone."  Tobin joked chuckling softly.

Ashlyn laughed and shook her head furrowing her brow in confusion. 

"Sonny?  That is SO not a thing Tobs.  Kelley has taken her under her wing sure but that's all that is.  And Sonny suffers from a little hero worship but it does not go beyond that.  I mean, Kel spends so much time here....do yall ever spend any of that actually talking about what is going on in your lives?  If they were a thing, she would've told you already." 

Ashlyn reasoned as she looked over at the two women once again and shook her head in dismissal.

"I don't know Ash...looks like you might be wrong.  I see the way they look at each other.  I'll just be glad when Kel finds someone that treats her like she deserves to be treated." 

Tobin quietly admits sighing softly and sipping on a bottle of water.

"Love is weird Tobs.  People blow it up to shit that is unrealistic way too much.  Yea I've been whipped for Ali from the get go but over time all those initial feelings aren't what is important anymore.  I wake up and see the real her every morning and she is anything but perfect.  Hair all messy and drool down the side of her face.  Plus, she's grumpy as fuck when she hasn't had her coffee.  I mean down right fucking rude to me dude!" 

Both women laugh at this.  Tobin regards her friend with a look of pure amusement and a little bit of surprise.

"Don't be so shocked.  She's sweet as fuck to all of you but I'm the lucky one that gets to see it ALL.  And that's what I mean.  You have always had the wrong idea about being in love man."

"Yea, I know you're right.  Which is probably why my ex cheated on me with a dude that just mistreated her.  I made her uncomfortable man.  And I know the exact moment I fucked it up.  The moment that I made her feel like she was always going to have to look photo shoot ready for me because I idolized her beauty and I didn't try hard enough to make her understand that it was about way more than that."

"JEEEEE ZZZUUUUSSSS!  Tobin Powell fucking HEATH!  Will you quit blaming yourself for dumb shit already!  The fucking woman cheated because she made that decision to cheat on her own!  SHE had issues none of us understood!  I get it!  But quit making excuses for her!  You deserve a real woman too Tobs!  You think any of those lame ass people out there you view as contenders are as real as you are?  No!  There is nothing out there but fucking pussy ass fake motherfuckers that are too scared to live unapologetically!  Now for the love of God, wake up and realize what you deserve before its too late!"

"Was it really necessary to say that many curse words in your otherwise very truthful and very eloquent statement Ashlyn Harris?  I mean, what does Jesus even have to do with any of that anyway?"  Christen scolded causing the whole group of women to laugh.

 

                                              ***

A few hours later, Tobin's guests began to trickle out little by little until only Ashlyn, Kelly and Sonny were left.

"Is Kel Bell crashing here again?  Is that even a question anymore?"  Ashlyn asked Tobin as she gathered her coat to leave.

Kelley and Sonny were picking up cups and bottles and liquor glasses on the back porch even though they had been scolded for doing so numerous times.

Tobin shrugged her shoulders at the question and glanced through the window at the two women.

"She knows my home is her home whenever she needs it.  You know she hates going home to an empty place.  Plus, she makes up for being messy by cooking or baking sometimes.  OH...."  Ashlyn watched as Tobin's eyes lit up as she remembered something else about Kelley.

 "....AND she constantly has me rolling dude, I mean....I swear I've never laughed so hard and so fucking MUCH!  She dances around looking really fucking stupid in her underwear....actually, in MY underwear!"  Tobin burst out laughing, slapping her knee at the image that popped in her head. 

Ashlyn began to laugh along with Tobin while still regarding her friend closely.

"Bitch can't use her own shit man!  Constantly stealing my boxers and my favorite hoodies and snap backs too!  You'd think that shit would be annoying but its so fucking goofy and funny it never gets old!  She makes up songs and sings them to Piper and Pepper Potts and she gets so into it man.  Might even be funnier at making up songs than fucking peen dude."  Tobin continues to laugh loudly as she recounts all the funny things her friend gets up to while in her house.  Tears begin to form at the corners of her light brown eyes.

Ashlyn notices.  Ashlyn sees everything.

"And of course you know we have an ongoing fucking scare contest.  I'm up right now but she's so much better at it than I am..."  Tobin pauses looking around for the tiny freckled woman.  She wipes her tears with the back of her hand as she does so and sniffles quietly still giggling.

"...don't even tell her I said that.  I'll never hear the end of it."  Tobin tells Ashlyn in a low voice so that no one can over hear her.

Ashlyn has a look of pure amusement and shock on her face as she remains quiet just taking in her friends demeanor.

Ashlyn's brain notes:  "I can't wait to get home and tell Ali that these two idiots are so fucking into each other they may not even fucking know it!"

"Its weird how much laughter can really heal a person you know?"  Tobin suddenly comments breaking the small silence that had settled between the two friends.

Ashlyn's smile was bright and her hazel eyes sparkling when Tobin met her eager gaze.

"Yes that is weird buddy.  Its unusual but unusual is so so so SO much better than what you perceive to be perfect.  Just remember that.  And remember what I said earlier too.  You're a real fucking badass.  A bitch that is 100% allergic to fake bullshit.  That is a GOOD THING Tobin.  Fuck what anyone else thinks.  You care about REAL SHIT.  You believe and have faith and fight with fucking courage.  You're a loyal and....FIERCE friend buddy.  That intimidates the fuck out of people and when they talk shit they only do it because you make them feel small....that is their problem, not yours."  Ashlyn looks into her friends eyes with an intensity that she hopes will get through.

Tobin nods silently in acknowledgment but says nothing in response.

"See you soon Tobs.  Tell Kel I said me lo pelo!"  Ashlyn yelled out as she walked away.

Tobin rolled her eyes at the only Spanish phrase her friend knew how to pronounce.  She was almost a hundred percent sure that Ashlyn had NO idea what it actually meant.

"Tobin, it was really nice to meet you.  Nice digs too.  Give the dog a kiss for me ok?"  Emily said as she walked out the front door and across the porch waving at Tobin and Kelley who stood just inside.

"I will give P Potts that kiss for you Sonny.  Plenty of them!"  Kelley bellowed at her young friend as she waved back. 

Tobin just smiled and rolled her eyes.

"Good to meet you too Emily!"  She called back before the girl slipped out of sight.

Tobin felt arms encircle her from behind and a warm body cover her from the center of her back on down.  She closed her eyes blissfully at the warmth and couldn't help letting a small contended moan escape her mouth.

"She's right you know."  Kelley said quietly.  Her voice muffled by the fabric of Tobin's pullover as she buried her small face in Tobin's back.

Tobin smiled goofily at the tickle of breath and the pointy sensation on her skin that she knew came from Kelley's adorable freckled nose.

The ex midfielder felt a warmth flutter in her heart before she inquired.

"Who is right?  About what?"

Tobin reached down drapping her hands over Kelley's arms and running her finger tips over them a few times.

"Ashlyn...she's right about you being all that you are and deserving the world.  I'm sure that's not exactly how she said it but that's more or less what she meant."  Kelley stated.

They were silent for a few seconds.

Then Tobin gently grabbed Kelley's arms and pulled them off her.  She turned to find Kelley with the most adorable pout she had ever seen.

Tobin reached forward and took the small woman in a hug.

"Didn't want you to let go, just wanted to face you."  She felt Kelley nod into her chest.

"You deserve the same things little one.  You know that right?"  Tobin asked leading Kelley's head up so she could meet her eyes.

Tobin lightly caressed Kelley's eyebrows with her thumbs as she cradled her face.

TObin's brain notes:  "So many freckles....so....many.....so....cute."

"I guess...maybe...I don't know."  Kelley answered looking directly into Tobin's eyes.  Tobin sighed and shook her head.

"But you DO know....you have to."  Tobin said suddenly sounding like she might be talking about a little more than the subject of what they deserved.

Kelley's eyes squinted slightly as she tried to decipher whether that statement meant more than what it was meant to mean. 

She saw Tobin's cheek bones turn a gorgeous cotton candy pink and before she could stop herself she looked down to Tobin's lips.

Kelley's brain notes:  "What just fucking happened!  I DID NOT just look at my friends lips like that!  What the fuck am I doing?"

Tobin bit her lip and continued to look into Kelley's, now light green, eyes.

The quiet moment was charged with something neither woman could understand.

Then Tobin slowly lowered her gaze until she got an eyeful of Kelley's soft pink lips and the galaxy of freckles surrounding them. 

Tobin felt Kelley jerk softly in her arms as the breath in small woman's lungs hitched....

 

 

Chapter Text

"Tobin! Dude calm down! Its Kelley! Its not some strange girl that is going to be a bitch and ghost you or something. Just relax!" Ashlyn pleaded.

She sat in a booth across from Tobin with a cup of coffee in front of her waiting for it to cool down.

"That's the point Ash! Its Kelley! This is insane! Like we almost kissed and it just came out of left field! I don't even know how we got there and this is something so fucking different! I thought when I felt something for Alex it was like Kansas and Oz but this is like Alice in Wonderland. Like some upside down cock eyed type of shit!"

"Like youre on acid Tobin. Lewis Carroll was on acid. No need to use the word 'cock' when there's a totally acceptable and more accurate I might add, analogy." Ashlyn offered visibly cringing.

Tobin would've found this statement and her friend visbily fighting her gag reflex extremely hilarious on any other day but this wasnt any other day. Today, Tobin's brain only had room for the natural force of nature that had just recently side swiped her.

A 5 foot 5 force of nature with gorgeous green eyes, a killer body and a mind melting smile.

"EXACTLY!" Tobin exclaimed causing people in near by tables to glance her way.

The lanky brunette grabbed the bill of her snap back and adjusted it but otherwise gave no notice.

"Like I'm on acid and now it won't leave my system! Like I've seen the gorgeous...gorgeous flip side of my friend and I can't unsee it anymore....I'm...I'm trapped in wonderland Ashlyn." Tobin softly concluded once more retreating into a dazed introspective state.

Ashlyn rolled her eyes from across the booth and threw a sugar packet that smacked Tobin right on the nose.

"Ok you extra ass dramatic ho...." Ashlyn scoffed. "Don't make me turn a hose on you." She threatened.

Tobin blinked her eyes once dazedly but otherwise did nothing about the sugar packet.

"But Ash....I've known her for so long and now I can't stop looking at her like....well like I'm sure 90% of the population does when they see her on those huge underarmour ads at Dick's in her fucking sports bra...looking so fucking...stunning and glowing and just..... delicious...."

Tobin trailed off getting a far off kind of look once again. This was a recently developed habit Tobin had developed when ever she spoke of Kelley.

That ever elusive, high energy, freckled Irish woman that seemed to be commanding her attention almost 99 percent of the time. It was a yo yo effect. A few moments of lucidity and well thought out conclusions and then suddenly she was slipping back into "wonderland" as she had so eloquently concluded.

Ashlyn found these whip lash type flip flops both entertaining and nerve wracking. Right now, she was amused and she sat snickering in her seat across from Tobin.

She snapped out of it after a few seconds and looked over at Ashlyn. "Quit you asshole...I can't fucking control it!"

Ashlyn all out laughed this time and shook her head.

"Dude! Dude I get it! If anyone is gonna understand its gonna be me! I'm the only one that knows how it feels to have a best friend that you love so damned much and you wake up one morning realizing she's the love of your life. That its more than loving someone, its falling for someone and you're not even sure how long you've been in love." Ashlyn paused to reflect on her life up until this moment. How absolutely blessed she was to have found Ali.

Tobin watched her friend without interrupting her thoughts. She knew what she must be thinking about and she was very happy for her friend. She also wished she could find a love like the one she saw shining in her friends eyes now.

TObin waited patiently and when Ashlyn woke from her love induced stupor she began to speak again as if she had never timed out.

"Dude, you fell for Alex pretty much..."

"The first time I laid eyes on her." Tobin finished.

"Exactly. But you had no idea who she was. So now you're freaking out because what you're feeling is backwards. You know Kelley so well. You love Kelley. She loves you. You know all her worst and best qualities. She can't and probably wouldn't even care to hide the truth from you and that's beautiful. You two have already formed a deep bond and you both love each other for real, tangible reasons. Not just for the aesthetically pleasing ones. And now you realize that there is more." Ashlyn mused quietly almost as if the idea was leaving her awestruck as well.

There really is nothing quite like being witness to this growing phenomenon between two people that she loves dearly and more importantly, two people that deserve only the best things in life.

"Yea...more." Tobin quietly agreed.

"And its more like 100 percent."

"Huh?" Tobin asked squinting her eyes.

"The percentage of people looking at Kell in those underarmour ads....its 100 percent bud, not 90. I know you don't want to think of that but its true." Ashlyn said matter of factly while laughing.

Tobin started to laugh genuinely for the first time since they sat in their favorite booth at their favorite coffee shop that day.

"I agree, I agree I just, don't want to imagine it." Tobin tittered slapping the table.

Ashlyn barked laughter. "She glows man. Its effortless. She's got that special something...she's definitely a beauty." Ashlyn admitted smiling softly at her friend in total understanding of the new feelings she was dealing with.

Tobin's cheek bones blushed prettily as she thought of Kelley's smile and freckles and eyes. She groaned and covered her face accepting just how fucked she was.

"ANYWAY, as I was saying....trust me dude, it wasn't out of left field." Ashlyn informed her friend rolling right along with her previous laughing fit.

"Huh? What do you mean by that?" Tobin asked clearly confused.

Ashlyn began laughing even harder at her friends obliviousness.

"Ali and I have had a bet going for a while already to see how long it would take for you two to figure it out." Ashlyn wheezed and then sniffed, wiping her tears.

"Fuck man...how long? I'm so afraid to hear the answer to that but I have to know."

Tobin asked covering her face with both hands again as if that would block out all the potential pain she is afraid of inflicting and being the subject of.

"Hmm..." Ashlyn said as she grabbed her phone to look at her calendar.

"Well it was the last time the bitch Jill called Ali in to camp...so...about....1, 2, 4, 6....6 months ago? Yea 6 months."

"Fuck...and for six months we've been practically playing house and I was just floating on air like that fucking Forrest Gump feather..." Tobin quietly mused more to herself than Ashlyn.

Tobin was looking down at her hands so was not privy to the rolling of Ashlyn's eyes.

"Want me to play you the fucking theme song? You seem to be in need of fucking theme music and Forrest Gump seems perfect for you." Ashlyn joked smiling big enough to split her face.

"Whatever douche...continue with your story. What did your WAY better half say?"

Ashlyn giggled a little but all together ignored Tobin's comment in favor of telling the best part of her story.

"So anyway, my gorgeous wife to be tells me one morning at camp breakfast that Kell had a strip of photo booth pics of the two of you as a book mark. They were room mates for that camp so you know how Ali is always the best at getting everyone on the team to participate in fucking 'girl talk'." Ashlyn made air quotes with her fingers and Tobin chuckled nodding her head because of course she knew.

"Well, before Kell comes over to sit down at our table she tells me real quick that on game day she took the strip of pics out of whatever book she was reading and put it in her locker as part of her pre game ritual. She said there was one shot where the two of you were...."

"Staring into each others eyes." Tobin finished the sentence for her friend once again.

"Dude! If you already know what the fuck are you asking me for?? Quit interrupting me!" Ashlyn whined and then sipped her coffee.

Tobin rubbed her eyes and then waved her hand for Ashlyn to continue.

"SO she tells me that she told Kell that the pics were cute and then Kell got huge heart eyes when she talked about where you guys were when yall took them and shit. Honestly man, if Ali hadn't pointed it out I would've never even thought to look out for indicators. But now I see it all the time. But that's my woman though Tobs...intuitive and gorgeous and perfect." Ashlyn gushes. Tobin rolls her eyes good naturedly.

"Can we focus Mrs Harris-Krieger?" says Tobin snapping her fingers impatiently.

"Krieger-Harris. Get it right. Anyway, my intuitive goddess of a fiancé also told me something else that I thought you might find...hmm well I guess interesting. I think its funny especially since Kelley took care of it. Ali didn't want me to say anything but I think you can take it. She had the best of intentions you know. She's just concerned about you cuz she loves you man. What can I say? I'm still a little jealous about that." Ashlyn shrugs and Tobin scoffs flapping the back of her hand at her friend.

"Says the woman that managed to get her shit together and find someone as incredible as Alexandra Krieger and tie her down by her ring finger." Tobin scoffs. "Well are you going to continue baiting me or are you gonna just rip off that wax strip all in one go?" Tobin inquired raising her eyebrows slightly.

Ashlyn laughed a little. "Well I don't think this wax strip is worthy of a KELLY CLARKSON! But its still interesting." Tobin laughs hard at this as well. Ashlyn really knew how to get her laughing.

"She said that on that second game in Colorado when Kell put up her pics that Alex happened to be walking by and saw them. She said she didn't hear much of the conversation once Alex walked over to Kelley's locker to talk to her but it seemed friendly. She was curious so she got as close to them as she could without making it obvious. She heard Alex tell Kelley that 'She better take care of her girl.'" Tobin's jaw went slack and her eyes widened slightly.

"She's still doing stupid shit like that then huh?" whispered a shocked Tobin.

Ashlyn nodded her head but laughed.

"Don't worry. Kell put her in her fucking place. Kell told her 'Tobin isn't yours. Tobin isn't a possession. And whatever happens to be going on with Tobin and I or Tobin and anyone else is none of your business.'" Ashlyn guffawed when she was done repeating what her fiancé had told her.

Tobin laughed along with her but was still seething with quiet anger.

Tobin absolutely hated what Alex had become or really what she may have already been at the age of 12 or 13 when they first met. God knows plenty of people have done some absolutely abhorrent things in the name of love.

Things like blinding themselves to avoid the truth.

"Look....Tobs....Kelley is special. She's still the most amazing little thing she was when you first met her back in the day. She's just a real woman now. The best kind. They don't make them like her and Ali anymore so just don't overthink it. I see you freaking out and you don't need to. Just go with it. Don't change anything just be you. Has she been acting weird since it happened?"

"No...not at all. Its like I imagined it. That's another thing! What if I did? What if I imagined that we almost kissed and she doesn't even see it that way?" Tobin lamented.

"I'm sure that's not the case dude but hey don't worry about it. We have camp in a couple of weeks and I'll try to get her to talk so I can kind of test the waters for you ok?" Ashlyn offered sympathizing with how bad her friend was freaking out.

"As long as you don't make it obvious man. I don't need that."

"I'm not a fucking amatuer Tobin." Ashlyn replied rolling her eyes.

***

Tobin sat on her couch watching another episode of Dexter while Kelley lay sideways on her lap.

This was a typical activity for the two on a Friday night except that Tobin had had to repeatedly wipe her sweaty hands and take deeps breaths subtly so as not to call attention to herself. That was definitely something that was not typical at all.

The last thing she wanted was for Kelley to notice her acting even the slightest bit different. Her greatest fear was to ruin the friendship by making it weird or doing something unforgiveable.

"Tobs..." Kelley quietly inquired.

"Yea...uh...what's up?" Tobin asked looking down at the small body on her lap trying her best to fight off the urge to run her hand through Kelley's hair.

Kelley didn't allow her to fight off that urge for much longer.

She blindly felt around with the hand that wasn't trapped under her body and found Tobin's hand placing it in her hair.

Tobin cursed in her head and began caressing Kelley's hair like she knew she liked it. Kelley softly hummed in approval.

"You got everything set and ready to go for the bachelorette slash, surfin' safari slash vacay with your besties?" Kelley asked in a sleepy soft voice.

She remained in the same position on her side but had now closed her eyes to enjoy the feeling of Tobin's hand in her hair.

Ashlyn and Kelley had planned a trip to Costa Rica where they would be meeting up with a friend of Kelley's that she met on the set of an under amour photo shoot.

None other than the gorgeous professional surfer Brianna Cope.

The whole premise of the trip began with the invite from Cope because she knew all the best places in Costa Rica to surf that only the locals knew about. So of course, Tobin didn't like the idea of tagging along at all. In fact, she absolutely HATED it.

Tobin wasn't too keen on the idea of showing up anywhere uninvited and she knew she'd feel unbelievably uncomfortable for inserting herself into the trio of friends for this trip.

But when Ashlyn told Tobin that she was also making it a bachelorette trip instead of letting Kell throw her a huge bachelorette party, Tobin had to give in.

Now she was dealing with these....feelings and she was going to have two whole weeks away from civilization with one of the most beautiful women she had ever met clad in nothing but a skimpy bikini probably for the entire duration of the trip. She was in for a torturous torturous two weeks.

And although Tobin was not willing to admit it out loud, the main reason she didn't want to go to Costa Rica was because she didn't want to witness the gorgeous surfer flirting with Kelley.

She had already had to white knuckle her way through a seemingly endless loop of this behavior when Kelley introduced she and Brianna during a shoot that Kelley had practically begged Tobin to attend with her.

She IMMEDIATELY regretted ever getting out of bed that day and absolutely loathed the fact that she ever agreed to attend the insipid photo shoot.

If Tobin didn't know Kelley so well it would've almost felt like she had brought her along on purpose. But then, that was just Tobin's past experience with jealous, manipulative and just plain mean women talking.

Although Cope was always the instigator of said flirting, Kelley never failed to rise to the bait and flirt right back.

But of course she did.

In fact, part of the reason Tobin was so confused is because Kelley flirted so much...well with everyone.

Tobin's brain notes: But who is she currently playing house with? Who's lap is she laying on? Who's bed is she sleeping in tonight?

"What the fuck ever." Tobin mumbled to herself.

"Huh?" Kelley asked turning on her back to look at Tobin.

Tobin's hand froze mid caress.

"Nothing!" Tobin replied rather too quickly.

Kelley just smiled that brilliant smile up at her.

"I uh...yea...I have 4 weeks off actually. I haven't taken vacation days since...well I don't know when so it will be a nice long break from work."

"HELL YEA!" Kelley exclaimed throwing her arms in the air like superman.

"Plenty of free time for you to spend with yours truly and ride killer fucking waves!" Kelley's smile was so infectious that Tobin couldn't help reciprocating.

Kelley turned on her side once more and played the episode again. Tobin once again began caressing Kelley's gorgeous, thick, kind of auburn (in the evenings)...kind of strawberry blondish (in the sun) hair once again.

A comfortable silence blanketed the two friends as the muted flashing from the flat screen flickered against their faces and the space around them.

Tobin spaced out as she thought about the inner conflict at hand.

There was nothing she hated more than to have to stand by and watch the person she has feelings for, flirt with someone else. Especially someone that Tobin perceived as being as unattainable as Kelley. And when that flirting happened to be coming from someone as painfully attractive as Brianna Cope well, Tobin would pretty much be entering a 'fuck my life' zone as soon as they met up with the surfer.

But she couldn't avoid this trip now and she would have to suck it up.

Tobin's brain notes: Story of my fucking life.

The silence didn't last very long when Kelley began doing what she did almost every single night she stayed with Tobin.

She began begging to be carried to the bedroom.

"Come on plleaassseee? I'm still really tender from my workout today Tobs...I'm in pain!" Kelley said pouting adorably.

Tobin felt her stomach roll with a swarm of butterflies when ever Kelley pouted at her.

It was completely unfair actually.

She wasn't surprised at all that this small woman had crumbled Hope Solo's heart of stone. No one could resist that adorbale pout and gorgeous smile and those magnificent freckles.

Tobin rolled her eyes and Kelley started to giggle on her lap knowing that she had convinced her.

"Well you have to sit up first. I'm not picking you up from the position you're in now. I'm your friend not your slave." Tobin grumped.

Kelley laughed again and Tobin broke out in goosebumps.

Tobin's brain notes: Jesus get a hold of yourself will you?

Kelley slowly sat up using nothing but her insane core strength forming a very vivid image in Tobin's head of how it would have looked if Kelley hadn't opted to wear a tank top today.

One of the side effects of having friends that play professional sports is that they tend to be very comfortable naked or half naked out of a locker room as much as they are around each other inside one.

Kelley fit into this category like a little round freckled peg in a little round hole.

And Kelley was not only the least modest of the group, she also had NO concept of anyone's personal space.

California nights always require a light jacket but on this night the temperature had dropped a few degrees lower than usual.

As a result, Kelley had decided to forgo her usual UA sports bra and play up joggers of which she had a parcel, for a UA tank top and standard length sweats.

Tobin was grateful that she didn't have to bite through her fist just to hold back the overwhelming urge to scrape her dull nails down the contracting abdominal muscles on Kelley's freckled stomach.

"Come here. You're doing all the work too. Drape your tiny self over my shoulder." Tobin grabbed for Kelley around her waist and something about the way she gripped her fingers around her oblique muscles caused the quirky futbalista to squirm and laugh.

"There's no way you're ticklish!" Tobin laughed as she felt a shiver go up her own spine at the feeling of Kelley's warm body between her greedy hands.

She pulled Kelley backwards onto her lap and then tried fighting through the frantic movement so she could attempt to throw Kelley over her shoulder while she still sat on the couch.

Kelley frantically thrashed laughing so hard that sometimes she went silent between huge lung fulls of breath. The more Tobin touched her the more it tickled.

Amid the scuffle and thrashing, Kelley gained the upper hand and managed to pin Tobin's wrists to the back of the couch as she straddled her lap.

They both abruptly stopped laughing, talking and just moving all together.

They stared at each other trying to catch their breath but losing it all the same because of the sudden intimate position they found themsleves in.

This time, when Kelley leaned in, Tobin knew there could be no mistaking it for anything else but an intentional attempt at a kiss.

THe Georgia peach sat only slightly above Tobin and she closed her eyes when she descended forward finally touching her lips tentatively to Tobin's lips.

Tobin couldn't contain the explosion that obliterated her chest the moment their lips touched. A moan made its way out from deep in her throat and she had no time to feel embarassed about it when she heard a small whimper from Kelley in response.

Kelley let go of her prey in favor of lovingly cupping both sides of Tobin's face as she deepened the kiss, softly swiping her tongue over Tobin's for the very first time.

Kelley couldn't stop her body from bucking forward or her throat from whimpering.

Tobin began panting rapidly through her nose as she gave in completely, frantically even which only encouraged Kelley to continue and further deepen the kiss.

Tobin's heart was a runaway jackhammer in her chest.

Kelley's lips were warm and soft and they explored her make out partners lips and mouth with hunger and desperation as if she'd been waiting her entire life to kiss Tobin fucking Heath.

Tobin was grateful she was sitting because her knees were so weak that she felt as if she had taken six shots of whiskey in a matter of seconds.

Tobin's stomach began to heat up like a fireball rising to her chest.

This kiss, this embrace, this moment felt like coming home and kissing the tarmac after a deployment.

Tobin had always felt out of control and dangerous and seconds away from losing what she had just acquired whenever she kissed any other woman that turned into anything of significance in her life.

Chalk it up to being a huge gay mess and useless around pretty women and call it a day.

But of course this changed the game.

Tobin's brain notes: Leave it to Kelley to fuck me up like this.

There was just no comparison.

Kelley was soft and responsive and vulnerable.

She was exposing herself in this moment just for Tobin and as her brain fired with this realization, a whimper sounded into Kelley's warm wet mouth.

Tobin's brain notes: Fuck if Kelley isn't the best fucking kisser I have ever fucking made out with!!

Tobin placed her hands on Kelley's waist and the shock of that steady and strong grip caused Kelley to groan and lean further into the body she was currently bracketting between her insanely strong thighs.

Kelley's body was now in full contact with Tobin's.

She slung her arm around the back of her necking partner's neck and then they changed angles now deeply delving their tongues into each other's mouths.

Tobin abandoned the simple gripping of Kelley's waist to wrap her arms around her lower back lifting her body and smashing it deliciously into her own so the meeting at Kelley's thighs sat flush with her lower abdomen.

Both women moaned at the aching heat and erotic sensation. They embraced as they lost themselves in the kiss and then Kelley was disconnecting herself from Tobin and cursing quietly.

Tobin immediately disengaged from the hold she had on Kelley's waist and began apologizing.

"I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry...."

Kelley reached out with a trembling hand cupping Tobins jawline.

"SHhhhh, its ok Tobs. I don't....I don't regret that at all. I just....wow...I got kind of lost there. You're....Christ, I imagined that kiss for so long and you exceeded my expectations...like in excess of fuck tons of amounts."

Kelley admitted blushing and smiling softly. Tobin froze not saying or doing anything. What does one say to that anyway?

Tobin's brain notes: I mean...really? How can she be so fucking perfect even when she speaks gibberish that doesn't make a lick of sense? I am fucked!

"We should uh...we should get to bed. I'll meet you in the bedroom ok?" Kelley offered in a quiet shy voice that Tobin swore she was hearing for the very first time.

Tobin's brain notes: Its like losing my virginity over and over again with this one.

Tobin nodded her head numbly and Kelley dismounted padding softly in her socked feet to Tobin's master bedroom.

Tobin took a second on the couch to gather her bearings and prepare herself for what might happen once she joined Kelley in bed.

They had kept the same sleeping arrangements from the first night Kelley slept over and Tobin knew there was no way she's be able to convince Kelley to change the routine now and sleep in one of Tobin's guest bedrooms.

Even if she told her she could take the room Tobin kept all of her Star Wars collectibles in that no one was allowed to even walk through unattended and that Tobin always kept under lock and key.

This type of uncertainty was exactly the type of thing Ashlyn warned Tobin NOT to do. She advised her to go with it.

And if she began to try to outswim this very strong and very natural current, Tobin would drown.

Kelley would probably start internalizing all the weird behavior and maybe even avoid staying over in the future.

"Definitely don't want that to fucking happen." Tobin mumbled to herself as she finally rose to her feet with a huge sigh.

She made her way to the ensuite bathroom to wash up before bed and noticed that Kelley was already under the sheets and her body was still.

Tobin hoped that this meant that Kelley had already drifted off to sleep. Sometimes the small freckled defender was so exhausted that sleep came immediately.

Tobin took her time washing her face and brushing her teeth and changing into some boxers and a tank top as pajamas.

When she opened the bathroom door, the light bathed the little lump on the bed in warm light.

She stood in the door way waiting to see if Kelley would move under the sheets. When Kelley still didn't move she made her way to the bed.

She slipped under the covers and lay stiffly beside Kelley taking a deep shaky breath to calm her nerves. She closed her eyes and prayed for sleep to come.

Then she felt Kelley stir and move over to bury her face in her neck.

This behavior was also very common. However, even before this new development and the recent realization of romantic feelings, Tobin frequently noticed how the act still managed to cover her entire body in gooseflesh.

No matter how many times it happened or how common it was, the feeling of Kelley's gorgeous lips resting right against her pulse point and the tip of her nose softly tapping out a morse code message into the overly sensitive skin on her neck, the act still resulted in literally electrifying the surface of Tobin's skin.

Tobin waited for Kelley to do what she normally did next and Kelley didn't disappoint. She put her arm over the top of Tobin's body.

And then something happened that WAS NOT part of the regularly scheduled programing.

Tobin froze as she felt Kelley's warm, soft lips kiss her jumping pulse point.

Tobin squirmed slightly and moaned out a desperate breathy,

"Kelley...fuck..."

Those words and the way Tobin moaned them out seemed to break a dam that Kelley had been trying to reinforce for over 6 months.

She began lightly sucking on Tobin's neck and before she knew it she had moved and climbed on top of Tobin draping her upper body over her friends trembling torso and promptly straddling her hips.

Tobin could only rest her hands on Kelley's hips again and give in to the gorgeous woman on top of her.

They began to kiss once more.

Kelley supported her weight by holding herself up with her hands on either side of Tobin's head. When need for more touching became unbearable, Kelley began bucking her hips roughly over the top of Tobin's clothed but throbbing sex.

Every time Kelley's hips thrust her aching clit down onto Tobin's body, they both gasped out almost choking on their arousal.

Throughout the night, they continued to heatedly make out in intervals until they felt they couldn't breathe anymore. They would part to catch their breath and once one of them did, it would begin again.

Both women were uncomfortably wet and more than ready to give in but some unspoken awareness, some unspoken mutual understanding, held them back.

Kelley eventually fell asleep completely on top of Tobin's body with her face buried in Tobin's neck. Lips on her pulse point so that when Tobin woke in the middle of the night to empty her badder, Kelley's warm lips caused wave after wave of goosebumps to appear and disappear all over her body.

This only made Tobin need to pee even more and also filled her heart with a warmth that she was deathly afraid to explore.

As she used the bathroom, Tobin thought over the recent events. The feeling of waking up to Kelley in her arms was always intoxicating but now that they had fallen asleep in the haze of a very heated makeout session it was a feeling way deeper than intoxication.

Tobin felt the arousal between her legs and the aching state of her clit was unbearable.

***

"Hey did Tobin tell you she was coming to Costa with us for sure?" Ashlyn asked Kelley at breakfast the first morning of camp.

Kelley looked up at Ashlyn from her phone which she had been texting on all through breakfast. Her expression was one of mild shock and then a gorgeous dusting of cotton candy pink began to appear high on her cheekbones.

Ashlyn read the symptoms right away and barely held back a loud guffaw.

"Kell...why are you blushing?" Ashlyn asked.

Kelley's green eyes widened slightly as she began to stutter.

"I...I uh...I'm not b blushing. I I was just o on the phone and didn't even hear what you asked me." She rambled out.

Ashlyn was so amused she had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing out right.

"I asked you if Tobin confirmed whether she was going to come to Costa with us. Who are you texting anyway that has you so distracted?" Ashlyn slyly asked.

"N NO one. I'm just checking my social media. It was backed up." Kelley answered quickly.

"Uh huh...sure you are." Ashlyn said.

 

Ashy: Did u diddle our innocent lil frecks?

Ashy: AND DON'T LIE TO ME TOBITO

Tobs: WTF! NO!

Ashy: U say it like she doesn't make ur pannies wet

Tobs: STFU! Where is this coming from??

Ashy: She just went catatonic at the sound of ur name dude

Tobs: JC IDK ASK HER?

 

Tobs: Ash says ur acting weird beautiful...why?

Tobs: Ur kinda raising suspicion

Kell Bell: I'm NOT acting weird...

Kell Bell: Ok...I mightve had the weird look all over my face for a few sex

Kell Bell: FUCK I meant SECS! Like u know seconds?? (blushing emoji)

Tobs: (emoji laughing hysterically) Aww poor baby! Why did u get the weird look tho?

Tobs: Was it something i said? (worried emoji)

Kell Bell: NO No way she just made me feel like she knew what I was texting cuz she asked about u as soon as I sent u THAT text

Tobs: heh? what text?

Kelley's brain notes: Jesus Christ Tobin...as fucking irresistable as you are you sure didn't acquire a lick of sense when it comes to this shit. Oblivious much?

Kell Bell: THE text...the one that nearly lead to some borderline sexting

Tobs: Oh fuck...sorry bear

Kelley's stomach erupted at the sight of that nickname. It came about one day as they sat cuddling on the couch and Kelley was so tightly wrapped around Tobin's lithe body that she told her that she reminded her of a koala bear. From that day on, Tobin began calling her bear for short and Kelley was absolutely incapable of keeping her cool when ever she heard Tobin say it.

Kell Bell: Not ur fault. I should've waited 2tell u in person that ur mouth makes me wet when we make out.

Tobs: JC u had to repeat it? My partner at work is asking why I'm blushing now.

Kell Bell: Pay backs a bitch!

Tobs: Ur exact words were that I MAKE YOU WET when I kiss u, not my mouth.

Kell Bell: Same shit

Tobs: Bear, r we gna get in2 this?

Kell Bell: Its the same shit!

TObs: FINE! I guess we really r gna debate this. So if u wouldve said my mouth made u wet then that just means I kiss good which anyone could accomplish when kissing u. But u originally said that I AM the one that gets u wet when I kiss u...that falls on me as a whole person not just my mouth

Kell Bell: JC...r u done? Cuz I miss u& I'd rather talk about that.

Tobs: I adore the way u can never admit defeat. Its endearing

Kell Bell: Whatever...

Tobs: I miss u2 bear. How could I not when I can actually breathe now that ur body isn't wrapped tight around my lungs

Kell Bell: Funny, u nvr tell me 2stop tho so IDK why ur complaining

Tobs: Oh no...not complaining at all...trust

Kell Bell: Ur such an ass.

Tobs: an ass that you miss

Kell Bell: Yea

Kell Bell: Tobs...what r we doing?

Tobs: IDK bear but whatever it is it doesn't feel wrong2 me

Kell Bell: It doesn't feel wrong to me either. Not in the least bit

Tobs: We should wait2 talk about why when we see each other again

Kell Bell: Ok...talk soon. Gotta start the training day

Tobs: Ok...be good

***

 

Camp went without a hitch and when Kelley was put in the line up for a double header against Canada she began feeling something that was rather terrifying.

She missed Tobin.

And not in a normal way one misses a friend when they haven't seen them in a while. She missed Tobin's lips and smile and laugh. She missed the way she felt in Tobin's arms. She missed Tobin's easy, laid back often lazy presence as if they both existed in some sort of pleasant haze when ever they were together.

A haze of laughter and giddiness and breath taking sunrises on the beach.

It was alarming.

She kept these things to herself and pondered them in her heart. She was afraid of crossing a line and potentially ruining a friendship she cherishes so much but in reality...

Kelley's brain notes: I've pretty much shit the bed on that account already. If this is gonna ruin us then the ruination began the second I decided to just go for it and kiss her. All in all, I'd do it again in a heart beat. I can't turn back anymore so no use crying over shitty bed sheets.

She is pondering these things in her heart on game day number one when little Rose Lavell sidles up beside her and begins tapping her foot nervously.

"What's up baby Rose?" Kelley asks once the rookie has successfully tapped her way into Kelley's subconscious breaking her train of thought.

"Nothin...just a little nervous. Canada is usually brutal no? What did you guys do to them geez!" The baby of the team asks in exasperation.

Kelley can't help laughing at her. "It wasn't even us. It was the ref in the 2011 World Cup. You have to know the history if you're on this team right?" Kelley asks trying to save her self from having to re tell the whole story.

"Well yea I know about the call but the way they hate you guys I can't help but think there's more to the story."

Kelley saw an opportunity for a life lesson and she took a few seconds to think over what she was going to say before she began to speak.

"There is a LITTLE more to the story but not anything that will explain the grudge completely."

"So...you're not gonna tell me...is that what you're trying to get at?" Rose asked raising her eyebrows in question.

Kelley laughed a little. "No I'm going to tell you but I want you to remember something before I do. If you play for this team, probably the most important thing you should always remember throughout your career is that every single team that you play is going to want to crush you. They will want to knock you down a peg or knock you down off the top. Don't fear that. OWN it baby Rose. Own it and give it right back to them. Make them understand that you may be a rookie and you may not be as ginormous as Lindsey Horan or Sam Mewis but you won't tolerate being pushed around either. And when you manage to sweep their feet right from under them stand up and look them in the eye. Stand tall. I guarantee you they will never forget that you are not a push over." Kelley emphasizes smiling wide and slapping the rookie's back while looking over at her to make sure she is fully committed to the conversation.

She is.

Rose laughs but is entranced by Kelley. She is listening with rapt interest.

"The call was stupid in a world cup semi final. It would've been stupid between any two teams but especially with a team that never failed to make it to a world cup final. I won't try to deny that but there were other things working behind the scenes that no one knew about except for those who were on the pitch that day....." Kelley begins to recount the anecdote about that fateful semifinal in 2011.

 

In case you missed U.S. Soccer WNT s tweet

@ussoccer_wnt @kelleymohara delivering a pre game life lesson to baby @roselavelle Play with heart! #USAvsCAN #1N1T

 

Tobs: I got (heart eyes emoji) seeing that pic w/u &the baby pregame.

Tobs: Seriously, ur adorable

Kell Bell: Really?

Tobs: Really...&other stuff

Kell Bell: Other stuff? Do tell

Tobs: Quit fishing 4compliments

Kell Bell: Ugh ur horrible. U better be ready4 the waves when I C U again. DO NOT wait until the last second2 pack either Tobin Heath!

Tobs: Yes mother

 

Private Number: Tobin? I hope its ok that I'm texting, its Demi. I need your help.

Tobs: Demi?

Private Number: yes Rumer's mother

TObs: Is everything ok?

Private Number: Not really, can I call you?

Tobs: of course

Tobs: Bear, I got a call coming in. I'll text u later. Amazing game gorgeous

Kell Bell: Ok, ttyl

 

"Tobin?"

The voice coming through the phone sounded absolutely wrecked. Rough with fatigue and nasal from crying. Tobin found a place to sit so she could try to calm down.

"Yes maam, are you ok?" Tobin answered softly. The concern in her voice was unmistakable.

"Just because its been more than a year since we've spoken doesn't mean you can forget about calling me Demi." The woman on the other end sadly teased.

"Ok...maam um Demi. Tell me how I can help you."

"I know this might be a long shot but have you spoken with Ru lately? Like even through social media?"

Tobin paused closing her eyes. She concentrated on trying to get her heart rate down.

"No, I haven't heard anything from her at all. Don't even follow her on any social media accounts...I kind of avoid memories of her altogether to be completely honest. I couldn't really...like....deal with seeing anything that was happening with her without...well I...just No, I haven't spoken with her. What's going on? Is she ok?" Tobin finally got out. Her chest began to fill with dread and panic.

"That's just it Tobin I don't know if she's ok. I haven't heard from her in a week and no one has seen her. Not her sisters or best friends or even her...her partner."

"Its ok to say boyfriend or girlfriend." Tobin offered suddenly feeling a pain in her chest so sharp she had to take a deep breath.

"I know I can Tobin but it hurts me to say that to you probably just as much as it hurts you to hear it." Demi said, voice shaking with silent tears.

"Its ok. Really. Has she been doing ok? Have you checked in all her favorite places?" Tobin asked trying to help and feeling helpless all at the same time.

Yes...I, we have but nothing yet. She...she hasn't been doing so good and I was already worried about her but she's never just disappeared. I think...I think she's been doing drugs...hard drugs and she might have developed a very serious problem."

"Jesus Christ Demi I'm so sorry. I sincerely mean that."

"I know you do Tobin. You don't have to tell me. You're the best thing that she's had in a long time and Bruce and I are still upset that she did what she did to you."

"Don't be...it...its not her fault. Its no one's fault. I was ready and she wasn't and no one is at fault here."

"Maybe not my love but that still doesn't change the fact that you are both still hurting over the break up."

Tobin covered the phone and angrily fought off the tears that wanted to form. She cleared her throat several times and then went back to talking.

"If you hear anything, can you please just keep me informed. I'm worried about her and I have to at least know that she's ok. Please don't tell her you even spoke to me. I just want to be sure she's still in one piece." Tobin pleaded.

"Of course I'll keep you in the loop sweet heart. Please, take care of yourself Tobin."

"You too. I hope to hear from you soon with good news."

Tobin hung up and lay on her couch in silence looking blankly up at the ceiling.

 

***

 

Another week passed after Tobin spoke with Demi on the phone and she was now preparing for her surfing trip with the girls.

Over the past week she had looked up the latest posts on all 3 of Rumer's social media accounts which didn't indicate anything significant at all.

She tried to keep from searching too far back in Rumer's history but her concern got the better of her and what she found was nothing short of awful.

 

Twitter post from 3 weeks ago:

"Starting off my morning with a few of these beats a cup of coffee anyday."

{image of liquor in a shot glass}

Facebook post from 3 weeks ago:

"Fuck it fuck it fuck it I don't care.

Line it up, take it down, forget

you're not around"

Tweet from 2 weeks ago:

"I didn't want her.

I didn't want him.

I don't want myself.

I don't want to...."

 

The more Tobin searched the more devastated she became and then she remembered the last exchange she had with Rumer and sobered up quickly.

It wasn't even a face to face conversation. They had tried to remain friends and would send each other the occasional text message or even occasionally call one another.

One day Tobin was cracking jokes on a text and Rumer just blew up on her out of no where. Tobin isn't one to trust text messages. Things always get lost in translation so she called her.

When Rumer answered she was clearly frustrated and upset.

"What did I say? I was just joking about that episode of Bob's Burgers we watched that one time."

"I know! I know what you were doing I can read! I'm not an idiot!"

"Is there any particular reason you're being like this with me? I don't think its warranted. If you don't want to talk all you gotta do is tell me that. Or just tell me never to contact you again or whatever. You don't have to treat me like shit."

"I'm seeing someone Tobin."

"Um, ok."

"I've been fucking him for a while. Even when we were still together. I never wanted to be serious with you. Just....just leave me alone."

"I will...um...I just...I mean can I just ask you how long? How long had you been seeing him...."

"I was FUCKING him Tobin. I AM fucking him so stop watering it down just so your warped mind can take it!"

"Wow...I uh...ok"

"Yea wow. My parents don't decide who I end up with Tobin. You think you're special just because they liked you? You're ridic...."

"That's enough! If you want me to leave you alone then I will. You don't need...there's no need to shit on me too...bye Rumer."

 

The painful words Tobin heard through her bluetooth headset that day devastated her for months and months after she touched her trembling fingertip to the red decal on the surface of her smart phone to end the call.

The confusion and pain and anger filled her lungs until she couldn't breathe and then she felt as if she might explode if she didn't find an outlet to get her aggression out.

She had only asked how long in order to know if she was at risk of contracting anything since she and Rumer had stopped having sex almost completely there at the end.

The last night they had been together was such an off-putting memory for Tobin because she had never felt like she literally just FUCKED a woman before especially one she loved. But that night Rumer had been cold and had used Tobin for an orgasm. There was no other way of putting it. Tobin had never felt so low in her life but still she put it out of her mind.

And when she heard those stabbing words through her phone that day she charged through the fog of pain because her health may be at stake and for no other reason but that.

But she couldn't even keep trying to get the information after Rumer escalated her hateful words. So she got tested and cleared the very next day. The HIV test took longer but also came back negative.

She was grateful that the pain didn't have to be coupled with life changing news as well.

But for so many night after, she would lay in bed sobbing and wondering what she ever did to fuck her relationship up so completely that her ex was willing to say and do anything just to be rid of her for good.

Tobin had had to endure one of the worst breakups she had ever experienced and as many strides as she had made since to put it behind her, she had to admit that even now she still stops and wonders where she went wrong.

She still wonders what's wrong with her, what she is lacking and how she possibly managed to turn off that intensity and love that Rumer once had for her.

What had she done to cause such a tone of disgust to flow from the mouth that used to only shower her with praise and love and admiration?

And of course, once she begins thinking about all of this, she can't help remembering how it all came to a head one night.

The night she began to wonder if her reasons for staying alive were even good enough.

When she wondered if there was anything left in the entire universe that was actually pure. When she wondered if there was anything left that would give her a purpose or reason to continue to inhale and exhale oxygen.

In the end, instead of loading her gun, or base jumping from a bridge without a parachute, or going for a swim in a river while still strapped to the driver's seat of her jeep, safety first...she just broke her hand.

Literally.

She punched and punched and punched through her own drywall until her right hand gave way to her rage and devastation and pain.

Her closest friends that she worked with knew the truth. The chaplain had actually spent the night in Tobin's guest bedroom after a peer support member gave him a call.

And because of these true friends, Tobin was able to come out of that near death experience with her broken hand and a slap on the wrist for getting involved in a 'bar fight' that was elaborately concocted on her behalf.

Tobins brain notes: At least I didn't die. I didn't become one of my 22 brothers and sisters that achieve success when performing that act everyday. I'm still here. No way I want to walk back into that death trap again.

And with this thought confirming her rock solid resolve, Tobin gave up trying to figure out where her ex had disappeared to and finished packing.

In 4 days she'd be on a plane to Costa Rica with her best friend and her bear and nothing else was more important than that.

***

The next day Tobin met Ashlyn and Kelley at their favorite café for breakfast and the fluttering of her heart at the sight of Kelley's brilliant smile was enough to power an orbit to the moon.

Ashlyn was amused and disgusted at the same time even though neither of them had informed her that they had made out every time they had seen each other and and had fallen asleep half naked together everyday since that first night Kelley took a chance and ended their 6 month long dance around each other.

"I hope you two disgusting creeps are packed and ready for this trip because if you're not its gonna be a challenge getting you to concentrate on that at this point." Ashlyn scoffed out throwing sugar packets at both of them.

The two women looked on with dopey grins on their faces completely missing the comment from their friend.

"Jesus Christ thank GOD Brianna will be there so I won't have to suffer this fucking bull shit alone." Ashlyn grumbled to herself.

Kelley reached over touching her fingertips to one of Tobin's spinner rings with a dreamy smile on her face.

After a few seconds of fiddling and spinning it she finally acknowledged Ashlyn.

"Were you asking me something about the trip?" questioned Kelley seriously.

Ashlyn stared at her trying to figure out if she really hadn't heard anything she had been saying since they arrived.

"Nothing...whatever. You two better have your orders ready. I'm starving." Ashlyn warned.

"You're always hungry dude." Tobin joked looking over at Ashlyn with a lazy smile and chuckling sluggishly as if she had taken two huge hits on a bong right before walking into the coffee establishment.

"This coming from the hollow legged surfer girl that once put away half an economy sized box of hot pockets in one sitting." Ashlyn deadpanned setting Kelley off into a deep rolling laugh that had Tobin rubbing her forearms furiously to get rid of the goosebumps as fast as she could.

In this moment all of their phones pinged but only Ashlyn picked hers up.

Tobin and Kelley didn't bother. They knew if it was important that Ashlyn would tell them.

Turns out, it really was important. A little more than that even.

"Uh...Tobs...." Ashlyn began breathing deep and then cleared her throat.

"Mhm." Tobin answered distractedly.

"Uh, I got a twitter notification that Rumer is in the hospital." Both women snapped their heads to look at Ashlyn.

"Wh...what?" Tobin almost whispered. Her eyes wide in panic.

"Dude...she uh...she's alive but it says here that she's suffering from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Says she's in stable condition." Ashlyn replied with a sad sorrowful expression.

"Tobin...honey...you should go to the hospital. If not for her do it for her parents. They love you so much." Kelley advised her sympathetically caressing the hand she had reached out to hold as soon as Ashlyn began to read.

Tobin looked like she was already at the hospital because she definitely wasn't sitting in a café with her two friends.

She was a million miles away in a small dark room that held all her most horrible nightmarish fears behind a huge padlock.

"Tobin!" Ashlyn yelled giving her friend a rather aggressive slap on the back to get her attention.

"Wh what Ashlyn!" She replied angrily. "Fuck are you trying to slap my fucking spine into my rib cage?" She exclaimed.

Ashlyn ignored her rant in order to talk some sense into her.

"Kell just told you to go to the fucking hospital in LA. I know she was an asshole to you in the end man but you have to do this my friend. There's no way around it."

Tobin chuckled darkly and shook her head.

"Like hell I do. I don't HAVE to do a fucking thing. She accidently over dosed and once its out of her system she'll be released from the hospital and that's that." Tobin said shrugging her shoulders and rubbing her hands together twice like she was cleaning loose sand off them.

"There's no need for me to show my face. She doesn't want me to show my face ever. There's no way I'm getting sucked back into that world."

"What world honey?" Kelley asked suddenely feeling a very strong urge to cry and holding it back with all the strength she could muster.

"A world that revolved around Rumer Willis and no one else. Where she was the sun, moon and stars and I was a mere mortal that was lucky just to stand in her shadow." Tobin said nonchalantly.

Ashlyn felt hollow when she looked into her friends lifeless eyes. Kelley felt an immense sorrow and fear.

"Dude, you remember when you reached out to her after the break up? You thought that being an adult and having a friendship with her was important. Even after she was such a bitch to you?" Ashlyn suddenly asked.

"Yea...so?" Tobin scoffed crossing her arms attempting to protect her vital organs from this very painful and very dangerous conversation.

"Why did you do that? Do you remember what you told me?" Ashlyn asked patiently waiting even though she knew there was a chance that Tobin would shut the conversation down and not allow her to make her point.

"What the fuck does it matter Ashlyn??" Exasperated and clearly angry with the direction of the conversation, Tobin's voice grew slightly shrill with frustration.

"It matters buddy come on! You told me you couldn't turn your back on her because you knew her cruelty was a cry for help. Even if she didn't want any kind of relationship with you. You were gonna be a real woman and make a decent attempt at a friendship."

"You're point Ashlyn? Are you gonna get to it any time soon?" Tobin bit.

"Well if this aint a cry for help I don't know what is man. You need to go man. For her parents and for closure. She's troubled Tobin and she needs a level headed friend." Ashlyn reasoned.

"She has friends bud. Now lets plan the morning of our flight because I don't want to be late to the airport." Tobin said picking up her croissant and taking a huge bite.

Kelley and Ashlyn gave each other a wary and knowing look and did what Tobin asked.

***

Except for a 30 minute delay during their connecting flight in Houston, their flight to Costa Rica from LAX was successful and Tobin found that she actually enjoyed it.

How could she not. With Kelley on her arm or holding her hand unashamed of what Ashlyn might think. Almost as if she was proud to be seen in public with Tobin.

Seeing Ashlyn's behavior got her wondering about something.

"Ugh God Bless Texas for that Starbucks at our gate and that huge, interesting, air port we were stuck in. It actually made the experience pleasant instead of shitty. That hat has got to go though Tobs." Kelley said playfully flicking the bill of the H town snapback Tobin had just purchased.

Tobin huffed and pulled the bill down adjusting it just the way she likes it.

"You're the one that told me I looked hot in it bear." Tobin chided shaking her head.

"So that's why you bought it? Something about it saying 'H Town' and being rare was just some bullshit you came up with! Tobin...you don't need a new snapback to turn me on baby. You do that effortlessly." Kelley flirted the teasing heavy in her tone of voice but her eyes said something else.

Her clear green eyes said that she meant every word of her taunt and she might be feeling just as crazy about Tobin as Tobin was crazy about her.

"Did you tell Ashlyn?" Tobin questioned suddenely throwing Kelley off guard.

The few seconds of confusion that flit across Kelley's features disappeared as quickly as it appeared and then she was smiling softly again.

"Did I tell Ashlyn what?"

She asked coyly, smiling with a tiny piece of her tongue caught between her perfectly straight white teeth.

"That we've been....doing...things."

Tobin teased back looking at Kelley's gorgeous smile and mirroring it with her own smile in return.

She felt the grip of Kelley's hand in her own get tighter.

"And what THINGS...would you be talking about baby?"

Kelley asked beeming and lighting up when she heard Tobin's breath hitch just slightly at the sound of the pet name she absolutely loved to hear from Kelley's mouth.

"Oh you know....things..."

Tobin said before rushing in and stealing the breath right from Kelley's lungs as she passionately thrust her tongue into Kelley's mouth aggressively and then lightly bit her lip as she retreated from the kiss.

Tobin smirked, clearly pleased with herself as she surveyed the results of the effect that she was having on Kelley.

Kelley took Tobin's breath away and Tobin stole that breath right back with a quick, dirty kiss.

"Holy fuck that mouth of yours in gonna be the death of me." Kelley blurted out before she could think about how that would sound.

Tobin watched the horrified look slowly take form on Kelley's face when she realized how her comment must have sounded.

Before she could retract the statement, Tobin was replying.

"Oh you have NO FUCKING idea. You're just scratching the surface my little honey bear."

Tobin said chuckling at the visible shiver that ran its way down Kelley's body.

"I did talk to Ash about it by the way." Kelley said completely glossing over the obvious sexually suggestive comment Tobin had just made.

"I wanted for you and I to enjoy the trip without having to hide anything and also without feeling like we're being judged."

"You mean, Ashlyn promised you she wouldn't judge? That's a little hard to believe bear." Tobin admitted laughing a little.

"I agree but teasing and judging are two different things. Besides, Ash is an amatuer at teasing compared with the rest of our friends." Kelley reasoned.

"True." Tobin agreed sighing happily and moving the arm rest that seperating her seat from Kelley's so they could get more comfortable.

The connecting flight had been a little thin and they had the entire aisle to themselves with Ashlyn two rows behind them.

Kelley settled into Tobin's open embrace immediately curling her legs up and laying as horizontally as the extra seat would allow.

Tobin kissed the top of her head and felt so content and complete that she actually found herself internally fighting off the feeling of giddiness. It confused her but she pushed the confusion away as well.

"Have you heard from Demi?" Kelley quietly asked.

Tobin's huff was sharp with irritation. Kelley could read her like a book and already knew she didn't want to broach that subject but she remained silent waiting for a reply.

"No. I told her to keep me in the loop and she didn't so like I said before, its nothing I need to be concerned about. She's fine and she's got such a fucking loving family that she won't need anything else. Certainly doesn't need an ex girlfriend showing up like the fucking ghost of Christmas past." Tobin grumped bitterly.

"I'm sorry I brought it up baby. I'm just worried about you and I want you to know that our friendship comes first and as a friend I can see that it is eating at you. You're worried and we, as your friends, don't blame you for being concerned. You have such a kind heart, you've always had such a kind heart and I'd hate for you to ignore what your heart is telling you in order to prove something to yourself or simply to deny the fact that you care for her. Tobin, I know you care for her and that's ok. Its more than ok. Its real...its why...its why you are so amazing and why you shouldn't change for anything or anyone."

"What is this Kelley? What are you trying to do? Push me away? Are you trying to tell me something about this...this...whatever it is we are doing? Are you trying to put a stop to it?" Tobin asked, her voice quivering slightly.

She held on to Kelley's body tight so the woman couldn't get up to look at her face.

The feeling in her chest was constricting around her heart. She hadn't realized how deep she was already falling for Kelley until the first glimmer of doubt began to flicker across her brain.

She could barely breathe.

"Tobin...To...stop it. Please let me up. I want...Jesus Christ you're fucking strong for a lanky little fucker." Kelley humphed into Tobin's chest where she lay stuck under Tobin's strong embrace.

Tobin held on waiting silently for an answer.

After a few beats, Kelley gave up trying to lift her head off of Tobin's warm, slightly quaking chest and instead of using her arms to try to push away from her, Kelley relaxed as she wrapped both of her arms around Tobin's waist.

"Tobin, this is about you. This has nothing to do with us. What ever us is. We haven't defined it and its not because I don't want to. I just feel like we both needed to analyze what we are feeling and talk it over when we were both ready to. I thought this trip was the perfect time to do that. And I didn't intend on holding anything back. Which is why I'm here, in your arms, trying to make you understand that even if it hurts me, I will let you go if that's what it takes. Because I love you Tobin. You and the girls are my family away from my family. I can't stand in the way of whatever might still be there regaurding your ex. I think I don't have a right or a say or any kind of stake to claim. I need you to get closure or exhaust all possibilities and then when you have and you still have little old bear on your mind, then you can come back to me. Either way...Tobin...I will ALWAYS be here for you. Arms, heart and ears open. Always."

"So is that a no? You're NOT trying to push me away?" Tobin asked finally relaxing her arms so Kelley could lift her head.

Kelley looked into glassy, fear stricken eyes and her heart ached in her chest so profoundly that the only thing she could think of to keep from crying was to surge forward and capture Tobin's lips.

So that's exactly what she did.

Once they kissed for a few seconds, slowly, lovingly and deliberately feeling every movement and sensation, they separated slowly and then connected foreheads quietly.

Their eyes closed and their hearts beating rapidly, they enjoyed a few seconds of silence.

"I am not now nor will I EVER try to or want to push you away from me you lanky goof ball. I will always want you in my life. No matter what happens, you will never lose me." Kelley vowed and then sealed the vow with a small chaste peck.

 

*****

 

When the three friends finally made their final descent into San Jose they were exhausted and ready for a nice long hot bath followed by whatever pampering was available in the hotel they booked.

At the front desk checking into the hotel Ashlyn felt it was absolutely necessary to finally spring the full blown teasing treatment on her two friends.

She had waited long enough.

"So, since it would make no sense for us all to get a room to ourselves I have taken it upon myself to change our accomidations in order to avoid hearing or seeing anything that would scar me for life....you two are sharing a room and I will be across the hall so we are not sharing a wall because I mean...fuck all that know what I mean? Like I just be begging to hear something. And trust me I don't want to know which one of you is the loudest or who is the top and who is the bottom so..."

"OK! Enough Harris!" Kelley finally interrupted taking pity on poor red faced Tobin and apprently everyone in the vicinity since Ashlyn made sure to speak loud enough to be heard in a 5 mile radius.

"Give me the fucking keys and go call your fiance before you get in trouble for making her wait." The reminder that Ali was indeed waiting for her to call seemed to dawn on Ashlyn's smug face and she rushed off to the elevators.

Kelley and Tobin laughed at her retreating figure.

Tobin cleared her throat and rubbed the back of her neck nervously. The mention of them having sex getting her both excited and scared. She had thought of having sex with Kelley almost constantly the moment they had their first make out session but she definitely was in no hurry to rush into it.

Kelley was so special and important to her that she wanted to be sure it was the right thing before they finally crossed that line. Even after Kelley reasured her, Tobin didn't want to rush into anything that might ruin their friendship.

"Hey, I hope you're ready to have the best fucking vacation you've ever had because that's what's in store for you starting now!" Kelley exclaimed smiling and making Tobin's heart flutter in her rib cage.

Kelley grabbed Tobin's hand with one hand and the front of her t shirt with the other pulling her toward her lips and kissing her soundly.

When Kelley pulled back Tobin's eyes were still closed and the lanky woman swayed slightly on her feet.

Kelley giggled and pulled her along to the elevators with an excited hop in her step.