Chapter 1: down in the heart (prologue)
“Stupid Kelley, stupid test, stupid blind date,” Christen mutters as she pulls the tiny black dress that Kelley managed to stuff her in. She looks around the small restaurant trying to find said date. “Stupid friends.”
Several of the tables were filled, a couple by the window looking rather intimate and a family in a booth, eating and chatting amongst themselves. Two tables had just a singular person seated, one was already reading the menu, but the other one did not look like the person that Kelley had described.
Christen strides up to the hostess behind her podium, giving her the friendliest smile she can muster under her bad mood. “I have a reservation.”
Christen waits a moment as the hostess scans her list. She looks over her shoulder again hoping her stupid blind date shows up, but there was no one walking in or loitering in the front of the restaurant.
‘It looks like you’re the first one in your party,” the hostess informs her as she grabs a couple of menus, motioning for Christen to follow her.
Christen obediently follows the hostess, taking the time to examine the restaurant that Kelley deemed an appropriate place to set her friend up at. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but it was definitely a step up from an Olive Garden that her last date unfortunately took her to.
The place was right on the border of being cramped and cozy, the low hanging lights and the beige undertone of the booths definitely carefully leans it away from the cramped side.
The hostess seats her next to one of the single patrons that Christen had previously spotted, the menu was no longer hiding their face. Christen can see that she had a fairly beautiful face (or side face?), a sharp jawline and her light brown hair was pulled up into a low ponytail
Once the hostess left and her waiter came by to take her drink order, Christen was able to relax and lean back against the booth. She fiddles with the ring on her finger, taking it off, spinning it, and putting it on again, as she waits for her date.
She glances around the restaurant, her eyes having adjusted to the dim lights. She’s gotta hand it to Kelley, she really knows how to pick a good date restaurant. The restaurant was as un-intimidating as possible with such a relaxed vibe that Christen thought being there wasn’t so bad.
The voice startled her a bit and she turns to the woman to her right. Usually Christen doesn’t like talking to strangers, preferring to not to engage and pretend to not hear them (a dick move, she knows), but the earnest look that the woman is giving her had Christen smiling and nodding.
“Yeah my friend set us up,” Christen says. “She says I needed to get out and stop looking at animal dicks.”
The woman looks alarmed and taken aback, making Christen hurriedly explain that she’s an aspiring vet and was currently learning about the reproduction of common domesticated animals, pets and farm animals alike.
“That’s pretty cool dude!” The woman exclaims, really looking like she meant it and not just as something one would say.
She asks all the right questions keeping Christen talking animatedly and actually engaged in the conversation, something that Christen usually suffers at (not usually at fault of the other party but just because she was usually just so tired). Until the woman’s date appeared and had to apologize to Christen as she had to go.
Christen nods, waving off her concerns she can clearly see that her date was walking towards her, a handsome young man with a sharp jawline and brown almost black hair. Christen didn’t know why but for some reason, she didn’t really expect that to be her type. They would make a good couple, Christen muses.
She watches the woman and man idly at the corner of her eye while she waits for her date. She was a little early to the excursion so she didn’t fault him for not arriving shortly after she did. She tries not to look at her watch, knowing that it would make the perceived time slower.
She plays with the water, sipping it occasionally, but mostly keeping herself entertained as she waited.
At her third glance at her watch, she accidentally caught the woman’s worried eyes. She seemed to be having a good time with her date. They were well into their food. Christen looks away and down to her drink, her chest was tightening and she can feel her breathing getting shallow. She tightens her grip on the glass of her water to try and tamp down the anxiety climbing up her throat.
She should’ve known with her bad luck today that she was going to get stood up. It was like the universe conspired to ram her with the worst possible day. She glances at her watch and sees that it's about 15 minutes until the next hour. Even though every fiber of her tells her to just leave and have a good cry, she makes a deal with herself.
She’ll ride out the next 15 minutes.
Then she’ll call Kelley and chew her out for setting her up with a goddamn flake.
“Hey, you okay?”
She looks up startled for the second time that night. Christen must’ve been watching her straw make patterns in the water as she stirs for too long as she didn’t hear the woman next to her sit up and sidle up to the seat in front of her.
She glances at the previously occupied table to see the woman’s date was gone. Quick glance at the front and she sees said date passing in front of the glass window. He didn’t look sad nor angry.
A light touch to her hand that’s been gripping the glass of water brings her focus back to the woman in front of her.
“Are you okay?” She asks again, kind eyes boring into hers.
“I’m-” Christen pauses, the word fine at the tip of her tongue. She can still feel the anxiousness settling into her bones, the grip on the glass of the water and the way her right leg ache as she tenses as to not shake the table. If it was any other day she would’ve just shaken this off, but it wasn’t any other day.
She smiles at Christen, closed-lip, putting her hand on the top of the table, palm down. She recognizes the tactics. It’s usually the same one she uses to not scare an animal (look relax, do not smile with teeth, and make sure they can see your hands).
“Hey, screw the guy, huh?” she says as she slowly reaches forward and when it looked like Christen wasn’t pulling away, she puts a hand on top of Christen’s hand that had a death grip on her glass. “He’s a fucking jerk for standing you up.” The woman looks around the small shop and tugs on Christen’s hand. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.”
Christen raises an eyebrow at her, the rest of her tension melting away as she realized what was going on. “Are you really trying to pick me up after you’re date?”
Her grin grows wider. “You wish I was trying to pick you up.”
“You literally had a date a couple of minutes ago.”
“Dude, you just got stood up,” She points out, not unkindly more like stating the facts. “You need an ice cream and a strong drink.”
“I don’t even know your name,” Christen says, though by the way the waitstaff had been looking at her with pity in her eyes, she wanted to just go with this stranger (despite not knowing if she was an axe murderer or not).
She holds out her hand to Christen, patient and waiting, letting her have the option to back out or not. “Tobin Heath.”
Christen stares at it for a second, weighing her options. She really didn’t have anything to lose and if she dies, at least she dies in the hands of a pretty woman. She takes her hand, giving her a small smile letting Tobin tugs her out of the seat. “Christen Press.”
Chapter 2: down in the heart
Thank you for all the kudos and comments guys. I hope you guys like this chapter. :)
Christen locks her phone after seeing the text from Tobin. She holds up her joke sign as well as the bouquet of sour lollipops. She sees a surge of people emerging from the tunnel and she holds her sign higher so that at least Tobin can see it, if she can’t see her.
She spots Tobin immediately as if her eyes were just drawn to the lanky figure, a cap on her head with a pair of sunglasses covering her eyes. She can see the moment Tobin spots her sign as she falters in her step and a laugh slips passed her lips. She can practically hear Tobin’s laugh echoing in her head.
Christen elbows a man trying to step in front of her, basically hip checking him to prevent him from blocking her. She sees Tobin coming towards their direction and she steps more to her left to make sure no one can block her.
“Hey!” Christen says as she presents Tobin the sour lollipops bouquet.
Tobin takes it, pulling her into a quick hug. She takes the red lollipop from the bouquet, unwraps it, and sticks it in her mouth. “Thanks for the lollipops,” she says as she sucks on them, making her words almost indistinguishable.
“What about the sign? I worked hard on it!” Christen holds it up again for inspection.
Tobin reaches over and pulls it down, shaking her head in mock disappointment. “I saw that on the internet so no wins for the sign,” she says, “and you were that bored that you made that? I thought you had a thing?”
“Yeah cancelled. Didn’t feel like going,” Christen shrugs. “And it was a date.”
Tobin looks at her surprised. “Jericho actually got a second date?” She pretends to calculate something, her eyes looking up as she counts something on her finger. “That’s the first second date you’ve had since our date like five years ago.”
Christen hits her on the arm, rolling her eyes. “We never had a second date.”
“So you admit it was a date!”
“Only if you admit you were trying to pick me up.” Christen raises an eyebrow at her, waiting.
“I wasn’t picking you up!” Tobin insists as she follows Christen to her car. “You were sad so I just wanted to make you feel better!”
“Then it wasn’t a date,” Christen says as she pops her trunk. She reaches over as she grabs Tobin’s luggage that’s falling apart, grunting as she swings it and drops it in the trunk. “For it to be a date, we both had to agree it was a date. We were both on dates before that but we didn’t go on a date after your date and my no-show.”
“I’ll concede to that,” Tobin says as she takes her backpack off and puts it in the passenger seat. She motions for Christen to give her the keys to her car. “My turn.”
Christen holds the keys protectively to her chest, “I still want to drive the Bentley!”
“Fine,” Tobin groans as she slides into the car. She reaches in the glasses compartment for her aviators, slipping it on.
“How was it?” Christen asks as she drives out of the parking lot and heads towards the entrance for the 405.
“Good,” Tobin says as she takes her cap off and runs her fingers through her hair, getting rid of her hat hair. “I love shooting Christmas movies in July. Lets me get out of this heat.”
“Next time take me with you,” Christen says. “I swear to god it was more than 100 a couple of weeks ago.”
“Did you miss me, Press?”
“You wish,” Christen says, her voice light and teasing.
“Well I missed you,” Tobin admits as she sits back and relaxes for the first time in weeks.
A small silence permeates the car as Christen slowly brakes for the traffic in front of them. When she stopped, she looks over at Tobin, giving her a genuine smile that Tobin swears could light up the room. Tobin could almost see the reluctance as Christen whispers, “I missed you too.”
“So unfair!” Tobin complains as Christen pulls into their favorite restaurant that was near the airport, after complaining that she was famished. “I haven’t even seen him! Katie said it wasn’t a good time to visit!” She steps out before running over to the other side and pulling open the driver’s door for Christen.
Christen steps out of the car. She locks the door, checking it to make sure it was locked. A small habit her father instilled in her. “That’s because she likes me better than you.”
“Well Morena likes me better than you!”
Christen gasps, stopping in her tracks. Even with her glasses covering her eyes, Tobin can tell by her face that she was glaring at her at the offensive statement.
“You take that back!”
“Nope,” Tobin says as she holds the door open for her. She gestures for Christen to walk in front of her, not even withering under her gaze. “By the way, Kelley says she’s backing out of hosting game night tomorrow because her roommate called dibs on their apartment.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because your house is on the beach,” Tobin says, though Christen don’t get how that connects with anything.
“No, I am not hosting again after last time,” Christen says as they grab a seat by the window. “I had to buy a new fridge after Alex threw Kelley at it.”
Tobin cringes at the reminder. “We’ll do game night in the backyard,” she offers. “And no throwing things or people, I promise.”
Christen didn’t budge and Tobin pouts a bit, making her eyes bigger than they seem. If she can make them water, she would. When Christen sighs, Tobin fist pumps.
“Fine, but no going in the pool drunk,” Christen warns. “I’m locking it so don’t even try to scale the fence!”
“Deal!” Tobin says as she takes out her phone to text their group chat and let the others know game night was still on tomorrow night. “But I can’t promise that drunk Tobin will heed your warning.”
Christen’s eyes sharply meet Tobin’s, but before she can say anything, their favorite waitress bounds up to them, drinks already in hand, water for Christen and a large thai tea for Tobin (that usually they end up sharing). She places the menu in front of them before taking out her notebook and waiting.
Tobin hands her menu back to their waitress. She reaches over and plucks the menu from Christen’s fingers. She closes it and hands it to their waitress as well. “We’ll have our usual, Em.”
Emily hides her smile behind her notepad as she writes it down. They tend to come in at the end of the week, usually bickering about something already. She thought that they were cute. “Alright, coming right up.” She gives them one last smile before going back to the kitchen to place their order in. “Can’t wait to see The Flight’s Watch, Tobs!”
Tobin gives Emily a tight smile. One that Christen recognizes as her media smile that she flashes on the daily when she has to do red carpets and the press. She turns to Christen and asks. “Did the trailer drop already?”
“Yeah, a couple of days ago,” Christen pulls her sunglasses from her eyes, pushing it up to her hairline, letting it act as a headband. “I hear it has an Oscar buzz around it already.”
Tobin groans in lieu of an answer, she drops her head in her hands.
Christen looks at her sympathetically, patting her on the head. Tobin hates doing media and press, no matter how much she loves her job.
Tobin sits up. She plays with the straw of her drink, rolling it between her thumb. “That means more press junkets.”
Christen watches her for a second knowing that Tobin was feeling overworked. This really was the first time they’re seeing each other without Tobin having to fly in a couple of days to another country to film something or make an appearance somewhere.
Christen taps the side of her glass to get her attention. When Tobin’s eyes meet hers, she asks, “You wanna scream today?”
“Why, Press, are you propositioning me?” Tobin teases, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Christen rolls her eyes. “I meant the roof.”
“Tobin!” Christen chides, swatting her on the arm.
Christen sees her think about it for a second. She waits and when she gets her nod, she pats Tobin on the hand before she goes up to Emily to ask them to wrap up their food instead to go. She nods towards the car, silently telling her to go the car. She leaves a big tip for Emily, promising to actually eat in next time.
She puts her sunglasses on before exiting the small shop, her eyes drawn to Tobin’s tired, hunched figure staring aimlessly outside.
Christen sighs. They’ll have a long session on the roof.
The roof wasn’t the roof of their respective house or apartment. It wasn’t even a roof. It was a small cliffside, overlooking the Pacific Ocean that for some reason was completely free of residents or passing tourists. Probably because it was quite a drive away from civilization.
Either way they found it when they accidentally went off trail at one of their hiking trips (the hiking trip where Tobin insisted on going closer to the ocean as there was a rumored Dragonite) and since then it was a place where they can unwind without the hustle and bustle of noise and stress echoing in their brains.
Plus the waves crashing really loudly against the cliff makes a really good cover up for their screams.
It’s a place where they just scream obscenities at the world before chowing down on whatever food they bring. They were frequent visitors on the roof when Tobin still had trouble booking jobs.
Without traffic, it was probably 40 minutes away and with traffic, it was at last double that from where they live. It was also quite a walk from the only flat area that they can park their car in.
Christen lets Tobin sleep, knowing that even though the most you do in a plane is sit, she must be exhausted. She knows Tobin has probably been feeling stressed and fatigued with all the projects she’s had to shoot and promote, the demand for the new and upcoming star steadily rising. Even with the constant phone calls and FaceTimes filled with assurances, Tobin’s morale is low. And with her new movie getting considerable buzz because of their director, she knows it’s just going to get worse.
“Better?” Christen sits on the cliffside, her legs dangling over the side after watching Tobin scream for a solid three minutes (insert innuendo here that Christen can’t think of right now, but will).
Tobin nods as she sits across from Christen. She accepts the container of food from Christen. She clears her throat. “Better.”
They let the muted sounds of the waves down below fill the hushness between them as they ate. Occasionally, swiping things from each other’s plate, but content to just eat and savor the food.
“Oh!” Christen puts her take out box down as she takes her phone out from her pocket, maneuvering deftly.
Tobin’s raises an eyebrow at the device in her hand. “Press-”
“I know, rules are rules, no phones,” Christen finishes the same spiel that she usually say when Tobin tries to use her phone (“Just one more pokemon, ceep!”). “But trust me this is worth it.” She scrolls through her videos until she finds the correct one. She tosses it to Tobin, knowing this would help her. “Press play.”
“Ha, Press play,” Tobin laughs at the unintended pun.
“Shut up,” Christen says, rolling her eyes.
Tobin looks down at Christen’s phone, her eyes zeroing on the still image of a blurry brown couch that she doesn’t recognize. She presses play. The image of Christen cradling Tobin’s nephew on her lap, the phone held in front of them arms-length away makes her eyes shine and her lips pull up, making her face brighter.
“Alright, Cole, what do you wanna say to your Auntie Tobin?” Christen asks as she puts an arm around the chubby little boy to keep him on her lap.
“You’re the best actress,” Cole says and it was obvious that Christen had to coach him a couple of times through it. Christen whispers something in Cole’s ear. He nods and stares straight into the camera before putting his palm against his mouth and giving Tobin a flying kiss. “ Love you and miss you!”
Tobin replays the video a couple of more times each time. She looks down at the still image of her two most favorite people in the world. “I can’t believe the only time they were able to visit and I couldn’t even come.”
For a second, Christen thought she succeeded at making her feel worse, but the smile that Tobin sends her was worth the fact she had to drive almost two hours to see Tobin’s sister and nephews and the tackle hug that sends her reeling onto the ground that Tobin throws at her tells her otherwise.
Christen smiles, pressing a small kiss at her temple. “Anytime, Tobs.”
They were silent for a moment as Tobin maneuvers herself to lay on the ground with her head pillowed on Christen’s lap. Christen drops her hand at the crown of her head, scratching the scalp there.
Tobin moans at the action, her eyes closing as she leans more into Christen’s touch. “S’good,” Tobin mumbles as Christen continues her ministrations. Combined with the sound of crashing waves and the stillness all around her, Tobin swears she’s on another world.
“The Flight’s Watch trailer looks good,” Christen comments, trying to be as subtle as she can in coaxing Tobin into talking. “Did you have fun filming it?”
Christen already knows the answer to that, having visited the set in their month-long shoot. Every time she visited, Tobin seemed to be having fun with the cast and enjoying portraying a different character than she usually does.
“T’was good,” Tobin answers, her voice was thick and heavy, almost as if she was drifting off to sleep. “Fun.”
“I’m sure it’s going to be worth all of the nomination buzz,” Christen whispers, afraid that if her voice goes any higher, Tobin’s mood would plummet with it. Christen feels her breathing still. “Scared?”
Tobin stays quiet. She shifts again and says, “Becky says that it’s going to launch my career into the stratosphere or some bullshit.”
“Tobin, that’s great,” Christen says, trying to be as encouraging as she can. She can still remember the late nights where Tobin was so low because she hadn’t booked a role in months, but never even think about giving up as it was her dream. Those were long nights screaming on the roof.
“It won’t be the same anymore,” Tobin whispers.
“It’s going to change everything, but you’ll be an Oscar-nominated actress!” Christen enthuses. She shakes Tobin a little. Christen couldn’t keep the proudness out of her voice. “I’m so proud of you.”
Christen can see the tips of Tobin’s ears reddening at her praise. She tries to play it up even more, trying to help her come to terms with it. Christen holds up her hand like there was marquee in lights in front of her. “Starring Oscar-nominated Tobin Heath!”
“Oh god kill me now,” Tobin groans. “I’ll have to be introduced like that every single time.”
“And would that be so bad? When you’ve worked so hard to get it?”
“I guess not,” Tobin admits as she shifts onto her back to look at Christen. She squints, trying to look into her grey eyes that for some reason Tobin can’t fathom, always grounds her, makes her feel content and at peace.
Thinking that the sun is in her face, Christen leans forward even more to cover the sun and provide some shade as she whispers, “And if you think I’d let your new found fame get to your head you are sorely mistaken, Heath.”
Tobin smiles, her genuine face-splitting smile that reaches from cheek to cheek that Christen loves so much. “I’ll hold you to that, Press.”
“You’re late,” One of Christen’s best friends and her partner, Julie, teases as Christen walks through their clinic. She does a once-over on Christen, trying to figure out where her happy mood was coming from. “Date went well?” She wiggles her eyebrows suggestively.
“Oh I cancelled that,” Christen says as she goes behind the counter. She grabs one of the files that was in her box to look through for their next furry patient.
“Why would you cancel that? Dream and I worked really hard to make sure that you won’t have a lot of patients today so you can come in anytime you want,” Julie says as she puts down her file. Christen can practically see a little pout on her face. “And Jericho was a good guy. He practically ticks all of your boxes.”
“Tobin was coming in earlier so I picked her up from the airport,” Christen admits, feeling the small guilt that she had on cancelling on Jericho when she called him earlier, revisit and spread tenfold. “Sorry.”
Julie gets this look in her eye after she hears the explanation, but just as Christen was about to question her about it, the door opens that leads their exam rooms and the lobby opens and Rose, one of their veterinary technicians, lead a cute mutt through the door.
“I have a cuddly beast here,” Rose says as she goes to one of their exam rooms.
“That’s my cue,” Julie says as she grabs the folder and follows Rose to the other room.
She watches them leave, still confused about that reaction. She shrugs it off and goes to the room that Sofia had pointed at earlier where a Great Dane was waiting to be seen. “Hey you’re invited to game night tonight!” Christen calls to Julie.
Julie throws up a wave of her fingers as an acknowledgement that she had heard Christen.
“What about me, boss?” Rose asks, hopefully as she stands next to Christen.
“You’re still disinvited for goading Kelley into trying to steal my neighbor’s cat. She’s still traumatized.”
Rose looks genuinely contrite at that. “Oh I’m sorry. I thought she only got a couple of scratches.”
“I was talking about the cat,” Christen says.
“I’m kidding, Rose,” Christen says, giving her a small pat, giggling. “Of course you can come.”
“Thanks, boss!” Rose says as she goes towards the counter to assist a woman with a small poodle that just walked in.
Christen gives her a mock salute before entering the exam room to see to their next furry patient and their human.
“Hi Talula!” Christen crouches down and pets the brindle dog. “Hi Mr. Miller,” Christen greets as she walks inside, letting her mind be occupied with the work she has to do for the next couple of hours their clinic was open.
“You cheating asshole!” The words cut through the chatter, throwing the room into silence.
“I’m cheating?!” Tobin screams indignantly as she stands up, surprising the rest of the people in the room as she’s rarely one to yell. She points accusingly at Christen. “You’re the one who’s been swiping money from the bank, Press!”
“How dare you accuse me of such awful things, Tobin Heath!”
“Maybe Monopoly was a bad idea,” Julie says as she reaches over to tug Tobin down.
Tobin shakes her off, stepping even closer towards Christen. “Accuse you? You couldn’t even afford Marvin Gardens one round ago and now you’re buying Boardwalk?”
Christen, never one to back down from a fight, stands up her knees knocking against the board game, throwing some of the pieces off the table as she glares at her best friend. “That’s because I know how to budget. I don’t blow it all on houses and hotels like some people.”
“Okay,” Allie says as she reaches over and sweeps her hand over the board, collecting the pieces in her palm. “Game is over.”
“This is what we get for having a game night without Becky,” Kelley comments to no one in particular as she watches the two duke it out with amused eyes.
Rose had brought over Monopoly thinking it would be a good game for them to play and since Alex couldn’t make it as she was shooting on location, they figured that they were safe from raised voices and thrown objects.
They completely forgot the part where Christen and Tobin were also competitive as fuck (another reason why they usually team those two up instead of splitting them up).
“It’s my STRATEGY, Christen!” Tobin says her name like a sneer, rolling her eyes.
“It’s a dumb strategy, Tobin ,” Christen says, trying to put as much venom in her name as she can. “It’s called Monopoly not Construction.”
Their voices overlap as they raise above each other trying to throw as much insults as they can. Christen trying to scream louder than Tobin, her pride hurt at being accused of cheating. They don’t even notice that Julie had started ushering their friends away from the burning fight and into the living room.
“SHUT UP!” Tobin screams back after Christen had brought up that one time Tobin had hit her with a baseball after promising her she would aim at the correct spot. (She wasn’t wearing her contacts or her glasses, she couldn’t make up what the blurry shapes were!).
“NO! YOU SHUT UP!” Christen says, her face hot in anger as she breathes deeply through her nose. Her stance was still aggressive as she scowls at Tobin.
Tobin holds up her phone where a picture of Tobin’s manager was on the screen. “No, Press, my phone is ringing!” Tobin breathes out, trying to calm herself down, “Its Becky.”
“You didn’t invite Becky to game night?” Christen asks, a bit surprised and hurt. The change in mood had her mind reeling for a second. Christen loves Becky and vice versa. They even joke that if she wasn’t painfully straight, she would probably be dating Christen right now.
“She’s not even in the country right now,” Tobin says as her phone continues to ring.
“Answer it!” Christen says. When she makes no move to answer it, she reminds her, “You haven’t even audition for anything recently!”
That reminder helps Tobin calm herself down as she really shouldn’t be scared of a phone call from her manager at this time. Not after she’s just recently returned from completing a project.
Christen reaches over and presses on the green call button on the screen and puts the phone by Tobin’s ear. She gestures for Tobin to start talking. When Tobin finally starts functioning, Christen looks around, realizing for the first time that they were the only two people left in her backyard.
She walks towards her house, seeing the rest of their friends flitting around the living room, watching something. She wonders when they moved inside, probably trying to escape the war that was about to erupt.
She pushes the door open, drawing all eyes to her.
“Did you finally kill her?” Kelley asks as she sips wine from her glass.
“She’s on the phone,” Christen answers, ignoring Kelley’s comment.
She looks around at the gathered people in the room, a mishmash group of her and Tobin’s friends that became friends because of them, coworkers, well-known celebrities, each with a various of alcoholic drink in their hand. She raises an eyebrow at Rose’s hand, the only underage girl in the room.
“It’s apple cider,” Rose assures her.
Christen nods before she turns her attention to the television that was playing some kind of kid’s show. “What are we watching?”
“Tobin’s guest starring role on this Disney show,” Kelley informs her, looking like she was actually into the show.
The door opens again and Christen hears Tobin say, “Ew turn that off.” She can practically hear the cringe in her voice.
“We haven’t even see your beautiful acting yet,” Rose says.
Tobin mock glares at her. “You’re on thin ice Rose Lavelle.”
“As your publicist, I have to know the shit you’re up to,” Allie says. “As your friend, I just wanna make fun of you.”
“Are you going to drop something cheesy yet profound?” Dream asks as she refills her glass with more wine before propping herself on the couch next to Kelley.
“It’s not cheesy, it’s actually really good advice,” Tobin defends, though she does remember from the script that it was super cheesy and not really super profound.
As the others watch Tobin’s tv counterpart, Tobin-in-the-living-room sidles up next to Christen, bumping her shoulders with hers to get her attention.
Christen looks up a question in her eyes.
“I’ll tell you later,” Tobin whispers. Christen can see the excitement in her eyes, but she remains calm and collected. At least now she knows that it’s not bad news.
Christen nods before turning back to watching the Tobin on screen. They watch as Tobin’s character, Isabel, provided a guiding light to one of the many tween stars that Disney Channel was known for. When Tobin’s character, Taylor, drops her final “wisdom”, everyone in the room groans.
“Oh god that was so cringy,” Kelley says.
As the credits roll, Tobin asks the group. “Wait, so was the game over?”
The others looked at Tobin, incredulous.
“Uh yeah,” Julie says. “You and CP practically killed each other over Monopoly. I think it’s suffice to say that the game is over.”
“But I haven’t even won yet,” Tobin says, pouting.
“With your strategy, you were never gonna win,” Christen mutters.
Tobin’s eyes swing to Christen, glaring. If looks could kill, well Christen would’ve been maimed because Tobin would never want her death, no matter how annoying she is. “Excuse me? Not all of us were able to cheat, Press.”
Christen scoffs. She rolls her eyes, gearing for another fight. “ Again with the cheating?”
“Alright, no that’s enough,” Julie says, her voice firm, cutting through their argument before it can escalate.
“See? This is why we can’t have nice things,” Kelley murmurs to Rose.
“You still owe me a fridge.” Christen raises an eyebrow at Kelley.
She holds up her hands, defensively as she stands up. “On that note. It’s time for me to go.” She goes around the room and hugs everyone goodbye before offering a ride to Rose. “Alright, later, peeps!”
“Yeah I think I’m going to head out too,” Dream says as she goes to the catch-all bowl that was by the entryway to fish for her keys. “See you guys on Monday!” She gives them a slight wave before
“Al? Staying or leaving?” Tobin asks as Christen starts picking up the used glasses and the open chips around their living room.
“Leaving. I have to help Kendall before he goes on Today tomorrow so that means early morning for me,” Allie groans. She pulls Christen into a quick hug before turning to Tobin. “Did Becky call you about Watch? You need to start promoting it on your social medias.”
Tobin nods at her instructions as Allie draws her into a hug. “Got it, boss.”
“Don’t kill each other now!” Allie calls to them as she leaves.
Christen continues to clean up their mess, putting the chosen board games away for the night even though they never got to it, barely getting out of Monopoly unscathed while Tobin goes to the kitchen to wash their used dishes. They worked around each other seamlessly, their years of friendship prominently on display as they tidied.
“So was that what the phone call about?” Christen asks as she closes the cabinet. She sits on one of the stools placed under the island as she waits for Tobin to finish.
“No,” Tobin says. She gives Christen a big smile. “Remember that role that I told you I was pinned for?”
Christen eyes widens as she slowly smiles. “You got it?”
“I got it!” Tobin throws up her hands, her excitement fully showing now.
“Oh my god!” Christen yells in excitement as she jumps off her stool and throws herself at Tobin, wrapping her arms around her neck. “Oh my god!”
Without missing a beat, Tobin wraps her arms around her waist, pulling her close.
Christen ignores her wet hands as they continue to hold each other, rocking each other side to side. “This is so exciting! I better be your date to the premiere!”
“Of course,” Tobin says. She continues to hold her, not caring that they were past what was considered a socially acceptable hug. “I wanna see you lose your mind over Chris Evans.”
Christen pulls away, hitting Tobin lightly on her arm. “Ass.”
“I’m kidding,” Tobin says. “You probably won’t even be able to speak let alone lose your mind.”
Christen rolls her eyes. “I rescind my proudness. I am no longer proud of you.”
“It left your mouth! You can’t take it back anymore!” Tobin says as she continues washing the dishes.
Christen sits back down, pulling her phone out to check for messages when there was none, she puts it away and leans her chin on her head. “I can’t believe you’re going to be Captain Marvel.”
Her mind immediately goes to the skin tight navy blue and red ensemble that Captain Marvel wears. She feels her mouth go dry at Tobin wearing said suit, but before she can fantasize about it more, she feels a wet, sudsy palm over her mouth.
“Shh! The Marvel snipers might hear you,” Tobin whispers, her tone was light and joking, surreptitiously looking around. “Ew, Press!” Tobin screams as she pulls it away from her mouth. Tobin runs her hand underneath the faucet, glaring at Christen. “You’re gross.”
“Stop putting your hand over my mouth,” Christen says, shrugging unashamedly at her actions. “But you know what this calls for?”
“Oh my god, are you serious?” Tobin asks, practically vibrating on the spots as she rocks on her toes.
“Yes!” Christen says as she runs to the freezer and opens it up. When she doesn’t see what she came for, she utters a confused, “Huh.” She thinks for a moment and remembers why it’s not there anymore.
“Aw man, you ate it?” Tobin asks as she stands behind Christen looking into the freezer herself. “I was gone 3 weeks and you went and ate our celebratory ice cream?”
“Sue me, I was having a bad day!” Christen defends as she takes a step back to close the door.
Tobin turns to her, recalling a recent particular conversation they had while she was up north. She says, sympathetically, “Cow ass?”
Christen sighs, defeatedly, remembering the memory. “Cow ass.”
Chapter 3: or hidden in the stars above
I'm so sorry this was a day late guys. This week was busier than usual. Hope you like this chapter.
Tobin feels off.
She doesn’t know why, but there was just something unsettling about either herself, the environment, or her day. But she can’t figure out what it is.
She sits on her counter, eating cereal and looking around the room, trying to see if anything was out of place or was changed. She looks down at her Lucky Charms, counting the ratio of cereal to dehydrated marshmallows (as usual too many cereal to marshmallows so nothing wrong there). She looks through the script that Becky had sent telling her to take a look at it.
Nothing was amiss yet everything felt like it was.
She looks through her phone, noting that there wasn’t any new messages nor missed phone calls. She sighs as she padded across the room, her hands filled with cereal before walking to the living room. She sits on her fluffy rug that Christen had purchased, claiming that the “open floor plan” with no designated rooms was giving her hives.
She turns on the TV, putting it on some random Adam Sandler movie as she eats, using it to fill her apartment with noise as she scrolls through her phone, going through her missed messages and voices and reads the script.
She really should take her phone off of Do Not Disturb at night in case of emergencies, but she gets really grumpy if she doesn’t get-
She swore that she just felt something furry brush her feet. She quickly runs up to the sofa abandoning her cereal on the coffee table and her script thrown to the ground as she looks around trying to find the source.
She jumps on the sofa, almost knocking herself off of it as her door opens and Christen steps inside. Almost immediately the feeling of being unsettled was gone when she looks over and meets Christen’s amused eyes.
“Uh…” Christen says as she sees Tobin standing on the couch. “Do I want to know?”
“Nope,” Tobin squeaks as she remains standing. She sees the drink carrier with two cups of coffee nestled in them as well as the brown paper bag that Christen was carrying. “Is that from-?”
“Yep your favorite,” Christen answers. “So, come on down and eat your food.” She motions with her head as she puts the items down on the coffee table.
Tobin looks around, her eyes darting around, trying to find the small creature. She hesitantly steps down, jumping when soft fur hits the sole of her foot. She was about to climb back up the sofa when she realized it was the damn fluffy rug. She heaves a sigh of relief when both feet touches the ground and nothing came skittering out from under any of the furniture.
She looks up to see Christen watching her with a raised eyebrow. “Seriously, what is going on with you?”
“Nothing!” Tobin bends down and picks up the script that she had chucked in the heat of the moment.
“Ooh is that the Captain Marvel script?” Christen asks as she sidles up to her.
Tobin shakes her head no. “It’s a script that Becky sent over. She said it’ll help widen my resume or some shit like that.”
“What genre is this?”
“Ew.” Christen says as she turns away and opens the bag. She rifles through it and hands Tobin a breakfast burrito. “That’s one movie of yours I’m not going to see.”
“Oh, c’mon, Press don’t you wanna feel the jump scare induced adrenaline?” Tobin asks, knowing full well that Christen hates scary movies. To this day, she says it because of the driveled plot but really it’s because no matter how bad the plot is, it still keeps her up at night, holding her phone in her hand like a lifeline.
“Yes let me waste an hour and a half of usually one of the wors- AH!” She shrieks as she jumps on the coffee table, her eyes wildly scouring the floor.
“What?” Tobin asks, already back on the sofa. “Did you see it?”
“You have a rat in here?” Christen hisses as she looks around again. She shivers, cringing as the rat skitters across the room again. “Tobs, that’s disgusting!”
“You’re a vet, shouldn’t you find all furry things cute?” Tobin asks. She didn’t know why she felt offended, especially since she knows how compared to other people’s apartment hers was pretty disgusting. “And why are you surprised? You lived here for a year with me!”
She keeps it clean, but there’s only so much she can do when she technically lives at the worst building on the street. Christen even joked at one point (partly serious) that she was pretty sure their landlord was a slum lord.
“First of all just because I’m a vet doesn’t mean I have to like rats,” Christen refutes, her voice just above a whisper. “Hamsters and guinea pigs, yes! No to rats!” She gestures around the room. “And second of all, I thought you would’ve moved out by now! It’s been 3 years! And you can afford to move out!”
Tobin squints, leaning close to her. “Why are you whispering?”
“Because I don’t want to disturb it!” She hisses.
“What are you guys doing?”
Their heads snap to the front door where Becky stands, head tilted to one side, watching them with puzzled eyes.
“There’s a rat,” Christen whispers.
Becky turns to Christen, raising an eyebrow at her and asks, “You’re a vet, aren’t you supposed to like furry things?”
“That’s what I said!” Tobin says.
Christen rolls her eyes. “If I was a human doctor, you guys wouldn’t be asking me if I like all people.”
“True,” Tobin concedes, lightly hopping on the couch. She nods down to Becky. “What’s up, Becks?”
Becky gestures for Tobin to come down. “I can’t talk to you while you’re standing on the couch.”
Tobin scans the room again before sitting on the couch sideways, her feet on the cushion beside her. “What’s up?”
“I’m just here to go over your schedule for the week,” Becky says as she sits next to Tobin. She glances up at Christen. “Chris, can you not stand on the coffee table?”
“But the rat,” she hisses.
“Just sit on the coffee table.” Becky tugs her down until she was sitting. She palms her face for a second, shaking her head at the two best friends. Tobin knows she loves them. But she can admit that she and Christen are a little odd sometimes. She takes out her tablet from her purse, pressing on the side button to unlock it. “Today is a pretty light day. Nothing for Watch , but finish the horror script. They want to know whether or not you want to part because they want to do a chemistry read by the end of the week.” She rattles off.
“That’s a no to the script,” Christen mutters under her breath.
Tobin turns to her and raises an eyebrow. Christen makes that face that Tobin knows so well. It’s her it’s-gross-please-make-it-go-away face, making Tobin laugh, shaking her head at her.
“So you have a press junket for Watch on Wednesday,” Becky says, ignoring her comment. “You’ll be paired up with Lindsey.”
“Sweet,” Tobin says, nodding her head.
Lindsey was an up and coming actress that was just thrown into the acting world. She had one of those rare audition stories where she didn’t mean to audition, but still got the part. They actually became really good friends while filming. And after wrapping almost a year ago, they’ve been constantly texting each other, about their upcoming projects or if Lindsay had any questions about the acting world. She’s really taken the youngin under wing.
“How long is the junket?”
“9 AM to 4PM with an hour lunch break,” Becky says as she scrolls through her phone. “Thursday, you’re flying out to do Today Show and Seth Meyers I think Allie might go with you to both.”
“No,” Tobin groans. She’s so awkward with talk shows, even though Christen tells her that her brand of awkwardness is the one that people actually like. “Why do they want me to do it? I’m not even the lead!”
“Megan hasn’t come back from her other project yet and the studio wants to market it already since there’s so much buzz around it,” Becky answers. She looks down at her tablet, where Tobin knows she has a list of talking points. “And the assistant thing.”
Tobin scoffs, their ongoing argument since Tobin was casted in Watch and started getting offered to read for parts. “I don’t need one!”
Becky sighs, patiently. “Not now anyway. When Watch hits the theaters and the nominations start coming in, your life is going to get more hectic. That’s in two months, Tobin.”
“I don’t want someone all up in my business!” Tobin protests. “Just tell me what I need to do for the week and I can do it.”
Becky pinches the bridge of her nose, a sure sign to Tobin that she was getting frustrated at this conversation. Tobin’s been resisting being assigned a PA ever since Becky brought it up at the beginning of the year. “Tobin…”
“Uh-oh,” Christen mutters, more to herself than anything, her eyes widening when she recognizes the tone. Not wanting to be where some kind of yelling might take place, she grabs her cup of coffee and her breakfast and goes to the kitchen to eat it in peace, sitting with her back to them (the only privacy she can offer them really with this open floor plan than she despises).
Becky’s phone pings and she glances down at it. Whatever message she sees, makes her gather her bag. “Look I know that it’s going to be a big change. But I need you to be okay with this,” she says calmly. She pats Tobin on her knee and waves at Christen at the counter. “See ya, Chris!”
Christen turns around at the sound of her name. “Bye, Becky, love you!” Christen calls around a mouthful of her wrap.
“Love you too!” She hears Becky call back as the door closes. She joins Tobin on the couch as she eats her breakfast. “Personal assistant?”
“Becky thinks it's a great idea to hire someone that I can boss around and basically be my slave-”
“Hey…” Christen says warningly.
“Sorry,” Tobin apologizes, sheepishly, rubbing the back of her neck. She sighs, her hand covering her face. “I hate this.” She flops against the side of the couch.
“Why don’t you want to hire an assistant?” Christen asks, still munching on her wrap.
“Because I feel bad, bossing someone around and telling them what to do-“ She stops when she sees Christen’s furrowed brows relax and her eyes settle with an amused expression. “What?”
“You have no problem bossing me around,” Christen points out. At the exasperated look that Tobin throws her, she shrugs. “Not the same, I admit.”
“I don’t want to turn into this demanding asshole,” Tobin admits, the reluctance was clear on her face and her voice. Admittedly, she’s thought about this when she was barely starting out. Almost jokingly she would say to Christen, ‘My people will call your people, darling!’. “And it just feels weird...it’s like my privacy is being invaded.”
Christen purses her lip as she nods. Tobin recognizes it as her about to drop something insightful or wisdom face. Between the two of them, with Christen’s looks and propensity to quote things, she was fit to be on Disney Channel, but being the actress, Tobin was the one who had a steady, guest-starring gig on one of their shows.
Tobin waits, but Christen makes no move to say what’s on her mind. A thing that’s usually not a problem for her. “Spit it out, Press,” she grumbles.
“It’s just-” She stops and Tobin can see the amusement in her eyes. She presses her hands against her lips again. “Tobin-” she turns to her, grabbing her best friend by the shoulders. Tobin squirms under her touch, feeling her warmth through the thin pajama top that she’s wearing. “You’re the least assholish person I know. You might be an ass sometimes, but you’re not an asshole and you won’t be an asshole, okay?”
Tobin sighs, conceding to her point. “Okay.”
“Alright,” Christen says as she grabs Tobin’s hand that was holding her burrito. “Now eat.”
Tobin obediently eats her breakfast burrito. The usually spicy and delicious food sits blandly on her tongue. Just the thought of letting someone run her life had her on edge.
“You know who I think you should hire to be your personal assistant?”
“Who?” Tobin asks as she swallows the bite. It gets stuck in her throat. She reaches over to the coffee table and drinks some of the iced coffee to dislodge it. She clears her throat.
“Emily,” Christen says.
For a moment, Tobin was confused. She knows a handfuls of Emily’s. Until a strawberry blonde waitress pops into her mind. It never really occurred to her that Sonnett would be a perfect fit to be her PA and not because of her organizational skills. But now that she thinks about it, really think about it. She realizes that that she really is a great option.
One of the reasons why they enjoyed dining at that particular restaurant (even though really to be honest the food is a step above mediocre, but not much more) was because of Sonnett. She was always happy (though that can be attributed to the fact that Christen and Tobin are very good tippers), respectful (though that can also be attributed to the fact that she works in a customer service type job), but the most important thing to Tobin was that she never gawked. Though she did tend to tease Tobin a lot.
She was goofy, but they can also tell that she took her job seriously.
“Yeah,” Christen says. The little crease between her eyebrows appear, a sure sign to Tobin that she was afraid that she might’ve overstepped her boundaries. “I mean she’s been talking about quitting the restaurant, but she’s scared of not being able to find work.”
“When did she tell you this?” Tobin asks, surprised. Even though they’ve known Sonnett for almost two years, their interactions were limited to the restaurant and almost always about food and Tobin’s movies.
“Those 3 weeks away that you were filming,” Christen answers. “We had-” she stops and Tobin can see her trying to find the right words in that expansive brain of hers. There was a fond smile on her face as she explains, “Little heart to hearts whenever I would go eat there. She’s a really nice girl.”
It was irrational, Tobin knows. The flash of jealousy that jolts through her heart was not unfamiliar, but unexpected. She shakes the feeling of, knowing that her best friend is the straightest straight to ever straight.
“You know that’s not a bad idea,” Tobin admits, nodding her head. “We should go there tomorrow.”
“No need,” Christen says as she takes her phone out of her pocket. “I have her number.”
The bitter burn of jealousy starts at the back of her heart again and she quickly puts it out before it roars out of control, giving Christen a thumbs up.
“FUDGE!” Christen screams as she stands up on the coffee table again, swatting at the tops of her foot, dropping her phone where the rat once again made itself known. “ Ewewewewew!” She glares at Tobin, wordlessly.
“Fine, I’ll find a new place.” Tobin sighs, defeated as she finishes her burrito.
“Sup, Son,” Tobin nods as she steps into the SUV. “You joining us today?”
Sonnett looks professional with her gray skirt and her button up (buttoned all the way up), sitting as straight as she can against the leather seat, looking a little green as she gives a Tobin a tight smile, nodding. “Becky says it’s better to throw me in the deep end.”
“You mean throw her into the cave of rabid wolves?” Tobin asks. Sonnett looks at her, alarmed making Tobin laugh at the fear written across her face.
“Don’t listen to her, Emily,” Becky says as she turns back from the front seat, giving her a warm smile to try and calm her down, one that reminds Tobin from a mother to her young. “You’ll do great as her PA.” She turns to Tobin, glaring. “Stop scaring her.”
Tobin leans forward as she drops her voice, trying to scare the kid. “You’re not scared. Right Son?” Tobin asks, partly to watch her squirm, but really she wants to know how the newest member of her team is doing.
Sonnett turns to Tobin and to her credit, the nauseated look on her face was gone and she was giving Tobin a wide grin, her eyes wide (and Tobin can’t tell if it’s from fear or genuine excitement). “Nope! I’m ready to do this thing.”
Tobin grins at her enthusiastic answer, patting her on the back, “Thata girl, Sonnett!”
When they get to the venue, Tobin follows Becky and Sonnett straight to the elevators where the studio has booked a couple of conference rooms to serve as their interview rooms. She lets Becky take the lead, watching as she trains Sonnett to anticipate her every need.
“Now, you’re lucky because Tobin isn’t very demanding,” Becky says, throwing Tobin a small smile. Tobin feels extremely proud of that fact. “Just have her water ready and make sure to listen to the interviewer’s questions. Sometimes they’ll try to slip a question about her private life in there and this idiot-” she jabs a thumb towards Tobin- “is too nice and will actually try to answer it.”
“Hey, you tell me to be nice to them!” Tobin defends as she looks through her missed text messages. There were a couple from her sisters and one from her brother, asking her how she was and when she can visit back east again. She makes a mental note to ask Becky and Sonnett what her schedule is going to be like in the upcoming month.
There was also a couple of text messages from Christen with an image attached to it. She opens it up to see a picture of a squirrel with a tuft of white fur on its head, an avocado cradled between it’s tiny paws, sitting at the edge of Christen’s white fence that borders her yard.
squirrel found an avocado; renaming them from Nut to Abogado
it is a squirrel lawyer
“-that is her Christen smile, it makes her look like a dork, but-,” Becky teases.
“Shut up, Becky!” Tobin grumbles, though she couldn’t, for the life of her, put the corners of her lips down as she replies to the text.
“She’s not even denying it.”
Sonnett eyes light up. She doesn’t know why but there was a feeling of dread that pools across Tobin’s stomach at that look.
“You should’ve seen them at the restaurant!” Sonnett says, excitement making her voice rise in pitch. “They were so cute! They’re always laughing and they can’t keep their eyes off each other and I swear I thought they were married the first time they came in and-”
Tobin was certain from the way she suddenly feels warm that her face was doing it’s best impression of a tomato. “And if you don’t want to be fired you’ll shut up now,” she says sharply.
Sonnett looks terrified for a moment, afraid that she crossed a line until she sees Tobin’s features soften. She relaxes. “You could, but Christen would never let you.”
“Oh! She got you there, Heath!” Becky says, holding her hand for a high-five for Sonnett.
Sonnett happily smacks her hand against Becky’s hand.
Despite that she was the subject of their teasing, she was glad to see that Sonnett lost the wide-eyed frightened look on her face and that she sits, relaxed, her body open as Becky continues to show her what to do and say, even giving her little index cards that had those things written on it for suggestions.
The door opens again and Lindsey walks in with her PA and manager. They barely had time to greet each other before the first journalist is escorted into the room.
For the next 7 hours or so, she and Lindsey tag team answering the same questions over and over again.
Tobin pats on the hood of the car as she walks towards her apartment. She tries not to let her feet drag after a grueling day of answering the same question in the span of 7-8 hours that she was there. She loves the filming part of being an actress, press on the other hand, she hates (there’s only one press she loves and she’s not talking about the media). She thinks her brain possibly caved in in the middle of it, but she can’t be sure.
She walks up to the third floor of her building, the grimy smell of standing water, mold, and various others that she’s learned to ignore by now seemed to be heightened. So much so that the thought of crashing at Christen’s place since she practically called dibs on one of her guest bedrooms sounds more and more appealing.
She didn’t notice it at first until she was about to slam the door. There was a white envelope, barely hanging on. She tears the envelope down from where it was loosely held by the flimsy tape. At first she thought it was an eviction notice until she sees that her neighbors also had the same foreboding envelope stuck to their doors.
She only sees three words condemned and weekend to know that by Monday she’ll need to have a place to stay or risk being homeless (really she wouldn’t be homeless. She has a fat enough bank account that she can probably live the rest of the year at a hotel and not worry about it).
She sighs as she goes to her bed and crouches, ignoring the way her knees groan. She reaches underneath the bed, blindly palming for her worn out suitcase that she really ought to replace, but the stupid in her loves it for the sentimental value. It was the only suitcase she had when she finally had to shoot on location in Paris of all places.
She starts throwing some clothes in it haphazardly with one hand while the other hand navigates through her phone screen. She taps on Christen’s contact information. She continues to sort through her clothes as she waits for her to answer.
“Aren’t we FaceTiming in an hour?”
“Wow, Press, no hello?” Tobin almost snarls, but quickly reins her tone in.
“ Hello, aren’t we FaceTiming in an hour?”
Tobin sits heavily on her bed as she plays with the clothing that she’s thrown in her suitcase. “My building was condemned. Can I stay with you for awhile?”
“You have a key to my place.” The implication that Tobin never even had to ask warmed Tobin’s heart like no other and even with the looming threat of not finding a place quick enough, she felt strangely relaxed and not at all anxious.
They fell into a domesticity shockingly fast (to Tobin at least; to other people, they weren’t surprised as they continually state to her when she states the opposite) once Tobin moves in. Their routines fit around each other’s lives seamlessly as if it was waiting for the other to join.
Since Christen had set hours that she needed to be for work, often times much earlier than when Tobin usually wakes up, she usually makes Tobin a small breakfast of coffee, cut up fruit, and some kind of protein (eggs or bacon). Even though by the time Christen leaves for work, Tobin was still asleep, tucked underneath the blankets like the lucky bastard she is.
They try to meet for lunch, but when they can’t, dinner ends up being Tobin’s responsibility. The first couple of times it was takeout, but after they both ended up getting food poisoning, Tobin started learning some easy recipes to make for dinner, usually some kind of pasta with a sauce (more often or not, it was mac and cheese).
After dinner and all of the dishes have been rinsed and put in the dishwasher, they curl up on the couch, finishing the red wine that they’ve opened for dinner watching some kind of series or movie on Netflix. They watch at least two episodes of Stranger Things before parting and heading up to their respective bedrooms.
It was subdued. It was quiet. It was domestic.
And Tobin loves it.
She cherishes every single part of their routine. To the notes that Christen leaves with her breakfast in the morning and to the phone calls she makes to Christen after a day of schmoozing with network execs or finishing a session of ADR, asking what she wants for dinner, their playful banter always had a way of grounding her and pulling her back from the more glamorous world of Hollywood. If her 21-year-old self could see her now, she would be disappointing at how boring and mundane her every day life is.
“Tell me I am the greatest!” Tobin yells as she pushes the doors open with a dramatic flair, holding a bag in her hand, pulling her suitcase behind her. She’s been out east since Thursday night.
“Eh, you’re alright,” Christen says from the spot on her couch, having already consumed almost a bottle of wine. She turns down the volume on the TV as Tobin plops down next to her, putting the bag on her lap. Christen turns it over, the unfamiliar scrawl of asian characters greet her and she lets out a little squeal. “That asian ring pop thing?”
“That ring pop thing,” Tobin confirms, tapping Christen on the knee. “I found it in this Asian market and tell me that I’m not the greatest!”
“You’re the greatest!” Christen says as she throws herself at Tobin giving her a hug. She opens one and puts it on her finger. And another. And two more until all of her fingers on her right hand had the candy ring on it. She looks up to see Tobin watching her. “What?” she asks almost defensively.
Tobin’s face softens as she breaks into a fond smile. “Nothing.”
Christen offers the bag to her. “Want some?”
Tobin grabs her hand and steals one of her ring pops and puts it on her own ring finger instead. “We’re such old people,” Tobin says as she settles her length next to Christen, their legs tangling together. “What are we watching?”
Christen pops the candy out of her mouth, glaring. “We’re not old!”
“It’s a saturday night and we’re eating ring pops and drinking some-” Tobin reaches over and takes a big sip of the unknown liquid in the mug. “Woah how much alcohol is in that hot cocoa?” Tobin sputters, not expecting it to be spiked.
“I’m having fun!” Christen giggles as she continues to lick the candy.
“How much have you had?” Tobin asks, realizing that she’s undeniably tipsy.
Christen shrugs as she sits up and grabs the drink from Tobin. She greedily drinks it, the chocolate masking the alcohol well enough.
Tobin’s brow furrows as she watches Christen. Her usually calm, composed, collected friend was chugging what had to be 90% alcohol and 10% hot cocoa, Tobin’s sure of that, like it was nothing. “What’s wrong?”
“Hmmm?” Christen hums distractedly, her eyes never leaving the screen.
“Something happened,” Tobin says, trying to draw her attention away from the screen. She looks finally looks at the movie she’s watching, dread setting in as she realizes it’s the sequel to Pocahontas. A sure sign that Christen was feeling off was her preference of watching bad Disney sequels. “Christen.” When Christen finally turns to her, she repeats her earlier question.
Christen meets her eyes. Tobin startles at the sadness that suddenly filmed over her eyes. Yup, Drunk Christen is here.
“Christen.” Her tone was alarmed and she calls her name again when a tear slips past her green eyes. Tobin reaches over and pulls her into her arms. “Christen,” she can feel herself slip into a panic as she holds Christen in her arms. She sucks at comforting that was more Christen’s thing than hers. “What’s going on? What happened?”
Christen continues to cry onto her shoulder, nudging her nose against her collarbone. Tobin ignores the feeling of her helplessness as she tries to coax it out of Drunk Christen.
Christen lifts her head from Tobin’s shoulder and cries out, “I’m going to end up alone,” before promptly dropping it back on it’s nook against her shoulder.
Instead of refuting her baseless concern, Tobin let’s her cry her concerns out. If she’s correct, Sober Christen the next day might not even remember this outburst. She rocks both of them, similar to how Christen rocked Tobin weeks ago to get rid of her own fears (and she doesn’t mean in an innuendo way).
“It would be so cool if someone proposed to me with a ring pop.”
Tobin’s eyebrows shoot up at her offhand comment, her hand faltering against Christen’s back. “Did someone propose to someone with a ring pop?”
Christen snickers, little snorts coming from her mouth until she’s full blown giggling. The image in her head must’ve been hilarious. “No, no one would propose to Lily with a ring pop.”
Christen’s sudden need to inhale alcohol and her grim outlook in her love life suddenly makes sense with the mention of her close in age, uptight, hoity-toity cousin. Tobin’s only met that girl once and she knows the only thing Lily cares about is beating Christen at everything. And usually Christen comes out on top, with managing to finish some type of post-baccalaureate studies, setting up and running her own clinic, and looking like a model. Lily probably ambushed Christen in the guise of dropping of the invitation and catching up.
“No, no one would,” Tobin agrees as she moves her hand from Christen’s back to the crown of her head, stroking her hair there, trying to cajole Christen into lifting her head so that she can talk to her. When she finally does, Tobin gives her an encouraging smile, taking her hand in hers. “Hey.”
Christen sniffs, trying to stop her snot from coming out. “Hi.”
“You’re not going to end up alone, Christen,” Tobin says as she strokes the skin between her thumb and forefinger.
“I’m not?” Christen asks, the slight pout in her lips visibly prominent. Even with glassy eyes, Tobin can see the trepidation and doubt swimming in them.
Tobin stifles a laugh. Drunk Christen was always adorable. “You’re not because-” She leans towards the coffee table and swipes a ring pop. She unwraps it quickly and slides on the floor, getting down on one knee. She probably won’t even remember this in the morning. “-no matter what I will be with you.” She grabs a finger free from candy and slides the green ring pop on. “And if you can’t find someone, I’ll marry you.”
Tobin anticipated more crying, since Drunk Christen is very emotional, but what she didn’t see coming was Christen laughing, the sadness that dimmed her eyes earlier was gone, but was back with its usual sparkle (albeit still a little glazed). “Pics or it didn’t happen,” she teases.
Tobin laughs as she grabs Christen’s phone, snapping a photo of her fingers and uploading it to Christen’s instastory with the caption Took Beyonce’s advice. She makes a mental note to tell Christen to erase it later. “There, happy?”
Christen grabs her phone from her and right at the corner of the photo she puts Tobin’s handle, giggling. “My mom’s gonna freak.”
Tobin laughs at Christen, amused. She nods towards the stairs as she stands up. She holds out her hand to Christen. “You wanna head to bed?”
She looks at Tobin’s hand and blinks up at Tobin,owlishly. “Are we gonna consummate our engagement?”
“Christen!” Tobin chokes out a laugh.
“I’m joking,” Christen says, airily, waving her hand at Tobin as she takes Tobin’s hand. “Take me to my bed, my fiancee.”
“Hey drunky,” Tobin greets as she wanders into the kitchen and sees Christen sitting, hunched over one of the stools, eating some oatmeal. She heads to the fridge and rifles through it, trying to find something to eat. She settles on some yoghurt and grabs a banana on the way to the island.. “Head doing okay?”
Christen gives her a one-fingered wave. “Why were my sheets so sticky?”
“Oh it was probably all those Ring Pops,” Tobin says as she takes a seat next to her. “You wouldn’t let me take them off. You said you were going to finish them.”
“Ew,” Christen says as a memory vaguely plays in her head of her and the ring pops. “Damn it I wasted all of them.”
“Well, not all of them,” Tobin says.
A smile lifts Christen’s lips as she looks over at her best friend. “That’s right! You proposed to me!” She leans against Tobin, bumping her shoulders with hers. “Does that mean I get half of your millions.”
Tobin laughs, shaking her head. “What millions?” She gestures to the banana that she was eating. She tilts it towards Christen. “You can have half of this banana.”
“Sold!” Christen says as she takes a bite out of it, straight from Tobin’s hand.
“By the way, can you erase that instastory I posted on your account?” Tobin asks.
“You posted a picture of it online?” Christen asks.
“You wanted proof of our engagement.” Tobin defends. “Not a big deal. I put it on yours not mine.”
“My phone is dead,” she gestures vaguely to her room. “It’s upstairs.” She points at the living room. “I think you left yours somewhere there. I’ll just log in on yours.”
“Thanks,” Tobin says as she hears the doorbell ring.
“I’ll get it!” Christen says following Tobin to the living room.
She does a quick check on the living room’s surfaces, her eyes sweeping until she sees her phone light up with a text underneath the coffee table. She grabs it and unlocks it, her eyes widening at how many missed notifications she’s missed.
“Oh fuck,” Tobin says as she unlocks it so she can read them. She barely opened the first message when she hears Christen greeting Becky, Sonnett, and Allie. Her heart was hammering against her chest as she realizes her mistake.
Tobin looks up and meets Becky’s blue eyes; they didn’t look livid, but they didn’t look pleased either.
“We need to talk.”
“No!” Even the volume of her outburst startles not only the people gathered around Christen’s living room, but herself as well, rarely ever having to yell at the people she considers her team. She glares at every member of her team.
Oh, here comes the nose-bridge pinching and for a second, Tobin was going to back down but this was important.
She feels Christen tug at her arm to get her to sit back down, but she remains standing glaring at Allie, Becky, and Sonnett. Christen insteads lays her palm on Tobin’s arm, trying to calm her trembling.
“We are not going to be pretending to be engaged! It wasn’t real! It was supposed to be funny!” Tobin argues. She’s trying to keep her yelling to a minimum, but it seems like unless she yells they’re not going to listen to her.
Christen continues to rub a soothing motion up and down her arm, trying to get her to calm down.
“Tobin,” Becky says, calm, but sharply, trying to cut through Tobin’s infuriated tone. “I know this isn’t ideal but you guys fucked up by posting it on social media even if it wasn’t real. A major part of your fanbase are in the LGBTQ community, if you say this isn’t what it was, there going to see this stunt as disrespectful and worse they could see it as you pulling a joke in their expense. Your role as Captain Marvel can be at stake here Tobin, your nomination...I’m sure Christen-”
“I won’t let you guys play with Christen’s life!” Tobin says, the anger in her voice was muted, but it was still there.
“You are!” Tobin interrupts. Her words come out unbidden, tumbling out of her mind. “We’re going to say my best friend and I are engaged and this will open up a can of worms about my sexuality and Christen’s-”
“I know you’re worried about coming out,” Becky says, softly. “But you’re not going to get backlash from that. People are more accepting now.”
“I don’t care about the coming out part,” Tobin says. “Confirming it won’t do much for my career, I know that. I’m worried about Christen and her life.”
Christen interrupts, glaring at Tobin. “Stop talking about me like I’m not here.” She turns to Becky, Sonnett, and Allie. “Can you give us a moment?” She gestures to the patio with her head. She waits until the three shut the door behind them before turning back to Tobin.
Christen tugs on Tobin’s arm again until they were facing each other. She places her hands on Tobin’s knees, rubbing them. “You need to calm down and let them do their job.”
“Their fucking job is to do what I tell them to,” Tobin gripes as she looks across the glass door and glares at the three that was huddled on their different devices, trying to extinguish the fire that Christen and Tobin mistakenly created. “WHU-”
Her brown eyes meet angry green eyes, rarely directed at her that it shocks Tobin for a second as Christen holds her cheeks between her two fingers, squishing her cheeks, roughly. She forgets how striking Christen’s eyes are (and really how hot she looks when she’s angry, but that’s neither here nor there).
“Their job is to protect you and your career and they are,” Christen says, her tone was harsh, trying to get it through Tobin’s anger. “So stop being an ass and let them do it.” She lets go of her cheeks and crosses her arms over her chest.
“Ow,” Tobin complains rubbing her cheeks.
Christen rolls her eyes. “Big baby.”
“I don’t want you to be caught in the middle of this,” Tobin’s voice was faint and soft as she whispers her fear, her eyes staying downcast as she furiously glares at the imperceptible patterns on Christen’s sofa but Christen heard it clear as day. “It’s one thing to have my privacy to be invaded because I signed up for this. It’s another for yours because you didn’t.”
Christen’s eyes close as she takes a deep breath. When she opens them again, she grabs Tobin’s face with her hands, a little more softly this time, drawing her brown eyes to hers, giving it a light caress. “I’m an adult Tobin. I can handle myself, okay? If this what we need to do in order to make sure you're career isn't damaged then I’m all in for this.”
“Yep,” Christen says as she gives Tobin’s cheek a light tap. “All in. Besides I do need a date for my cousin’s wedding. She keeps bragging that she’s dating a doctor. Wait until she hears I’m dating Captain Marvel.”
Even though Tobin knows it’s just pretend, the way those words roll of Christen’s tongue with that tone makes a home in Tobin’s heart.
“So we’re really doing this, huh?” Tobin asks, the apprehension was still present, the unknown causing a seizing in her chest.
“We’re really doing this.” Christen affirms, knowing that Tobin needed her to hear the words that she was okay with this.
Tobin ignores the little spot in the corner of her heart, screaming that this was a bad idea.
Chapter 4: aim your arrow at the sky
So this chapter was supposed to go a lot differently. This isn't where I was planning it to go to, but it was where the characters took me. I'm so sorry that it was late. Unfortunately, I fell ill and just started to come back from it. Sorry for all the grammar mistakes. Feel free to tell me where there might be a hanging sentence that I missed.
Christen never realized how pervasive American celebrity culture was. She was always a bit removed from it, not because she wanted to be, but because time never really allowed her to be. At first it was because her studies didn’t really allow her to but then her friendship with Tobin just reached heights she never thought it would after their first meeting, so now she actively stays away from it (Tobin’s advice; one of the many that was actually useful).
She never realized it until she walks into her clinic after the unfortunate social media blunder and she felt that pervasiveness. Dream, JJ, and her techs threw confetti at her, screaming their congratulations, even the couple of clients they had in the room, clapped their hands in celebration. One even comes up and says that they’re a beautiful couple, despite the fact that she never told them who she was marrying. It felt like an extra set of eyes were trained on her.
Then the comments started that Christen had completely confounded with confusion (and a slight bit of annoyance).
“Oh we totally had a bet going that you guys were together!” Rose had said to her after cornering her between patients, asking to see the ring. “We thought you guys were going to tell us you were dating first not that you guys were engaged!” At the look of shock on her face, Rose holds up her hands, palms up as if telling her to calm down. “It’s okay. It’s your life. It’s none of our business. You guys are just so cute!”
She admits that she’s very private when it comes to her love life, not really when it comes to her life. She has no problem inviting her techs over to her house. They’ve been to their game nights.
“I knew from the moment you guys invited me to your game nights that you guys were soulmates!” Sofia gushes. “Can I see your ring?” When Sofia sees no ring, she dismisses the lack of one on her finger. “Oh you probably don’t want the fluffies getting to it.”
Alright apparently joint game nights were a sure way to show that we were in a relationship. Never mind the fact that they all take turns hosting it.
The only ones that thought there was something up was Dream and Julie. Given how long they’ve known each other, since vet school, they were a bit miffed (and insulted) that Christen had never said that they were dating, especially since they just tried setting her up almost a month ago with a man.
“We’re happy for you-” Julie says as they sat around the small conference room, eating their lunch.
“We are-” Dream echoes as she eats her salad, the particularly forceful stab with her lettuce had Christen cringing.
Christen nods as she pulls her eyes away from their lettuce and focuses back on her friends/co-workers.
“But we didn’t even know you guys were dating!” Julie continues.
Neither did we.
A look of contemplation settles on Dream’s face. “It does make sense why you won’t go out with Jericho again.”
“And why you picked her up instead of going on that date!” Julie continues.
“I wish you would’ve told us though,” Dream pouts.
“But we’re happy for you!” Julie insists, giving her a bright smile.
For some reason, their repeated assurances didn’t help ease Christen’s guilt for the fast development of her non-existent relationship with Tobin.
She ended that day in a confused daze. The comments echoing in her brain as she leaves the office, a tiny, steady pulse that had her questioning every single interaction she ever had with her best friend. Were they that couple-y?
“Okay so I know we agreed no scary movies, but-” Tobin stops as she stares at the figure of her best friends, eyes unfocused, but staring straight ahead as Christen enters the room. It bothered Tobin.. “Dude, you okay?”
Christen shakes her head as she refocuses. Her brain had been on auto-pilot that she didn’t even realize she arrived at her house. “What were you saying about scary movies?”
“Nothing,” Tobin says as she reaches over and grasps Christen’s elbow, trying to make her focus again. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Christen says as she turns, shaking Tobin’s hand off her elbow. She puts her bag away in the hallway closet. “Scary movies? I thought we agreed-”
“No we don’t have to watch that today,” Tobin says as she tries to catch Christen’s eyes. “Are you okay?”
Christen’s face contorts in annoyance at the repeated question. “ God would you please stop asking me that?” She stomps off up the stairs to her room, visibly irritated, leaving Tobin confused and disoriented at her change in attitude.
(Christen later comes down and curls up next to Tobin to watch the stupid zombie movie, tucking her head under Tobin’s chin, and giving her an apology for the way she acted.)
Christen managed to forget about the weird comments until the next day she arrives from work and sees Alex (fresh from a shoot in Canada) and Kelley sitting in her living room, watching TV, Tobin meets her at the door as usual. She didn’t really think any of it as the duo comes over enough at least once a week for free food or just to watch some movies that seeing them on her couch wasn’t an unfamiliar sight. But the way Tobin helps her out of her coat with harried movements and her words falling out almost without control, an apology being whispered to her ear, repeatedly had her realizing that it was because of their engagement .
She rightfully feels as if she was ambushed as Alex and Kelley shoots out of their seats, clamoring to her, their hands shooting to her hands, squealing as they try to look at her left hand.
Alex head swings to Tobin so sharply that she has flashbacks from watching The Exorcist, “You didn’t give her a ring?!”
“It was a ring pop,” Tobin defends. She points at Christen akin to a child tattle tailing. “She ate it!”
“A ring pop?”
“She better get a real ring, Tobin Heath,” Alex warns as she pats Christen’s empty left hand. “Don’t take your shoes off Chris, Kelley and I are gonna take you two lovebirds out for dinner since we didn’t even know you were dating! We wanna hear the whole thing!”
“Neither did we,” Christen hears Tobin mumbles as she looks down at the ground, her hands in her pockets. If Christen’s heart wasn’t about to pop out of her chest at the sudden intrusion, she would’ve commented on how similarly she reacted when Julie and Dream brought up their lack of relationship. A quick glance at Kelley and Alex’s face indicate that they didn’t hear the comment.
Tobin meets Christen’s eyes, the panic swimming in Tobin’s eyes must be reflected in hers as well. She really regrets Tobin’s incessant questions as to how they were going to tell their friends and family not in the know of how their relationship came to be and her replies of shutting her up by shuffling against her and falling asleep. (She can’t help it that the summer months are the prime months for dogs getting sick with all kinds of things).
“Get a move on, lovebirds!” Kelley says as she puts her coat on and slaps Tobin and Christen on the ass as she passes.
“Don’t,” Christen hisses as she locks up and falls in step with Tobin.
“I told you we should’ve gotten our story straight!” Tobin whispers, bumping her shoulders, almost angrily.
“I know!” Christen says, the panic in her voice was evident with the rising of her tone. “We’ll figure it out.”
They didn’t figure it out.
They managed to sputter and stutter through a story about animals and ring pops and zoos that was coherent enough that Alex and Kelley were awe-ing and cooing at the right places.
Christen sat rigidly next to Tobin, her hand in Tobin’s, squeezing the life out of them. She can barely feel the motion of Tobin’s thumb against her hand as Tobin recounts how she proposed, sticking as close to what actually what happened to lessen their whole guilt about the lying as well keep the details they have to remember to a minimum (minus the whole part where Christen was feeling she was going to end up a spinster with 30 cats).
“That’s so cute!” Alex gushes as she spots their waitress, her hands full with their food.
She sighs in relief when their waitress starts putting their food in front of them, hoping this would act as a deterrant. At least until they finish eating it. She was about to twirl her pasta onto her fork when she notices Alex, face in her hand, scrutinizing her. She slowly puts her fork and spoon down, unsure why she was getting heavily studied. Just as she was about to ask if Alex wanted her to ask something, she sees a balled up tissue getting launched from Kelley right onto Tobin’s brow, making her almost choke on her food.
Tobin puts her fork down, glaring at Kelley. “You couldn’t have just called for my name like a normal person?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Kelley asks, she stands up, gesturing with her head to the bathroom. “Come to the bathroom with me?”
“I thought we outgrew that,” Tobin complains.
Kelley’s eyes narrow at Tobin. “Bathroom. Now.”
The abruptness of her tone made Christen raise her eyebrows. When Tobin stands up, Christen’s hand shoots out in reflex, not wanting Tobin to leave her alone with the now quiet Alex.
“Uh, Chris?” Tobin asks as she shakes their entwined hands. “You gotta let me go.”
Christen clears her throat. “Right,” she says as she squeezes her hand once before she lets go. She watches them helplessly, her heart throwing itself against her ribs as she realizes that she’s in the mercy of one Alex Morgan. “How-” she stops herself. Her voice coming out as higher than she intended. She clears her throat again, picking up her fork. “Um, nice weather, we’re having, huh, Al?”
Alex doesn’t answer her poor attempt at a conversation, head still down as she stabs at her corn dish, a little harder than she expects.
“We’ve known each other long enough that I consider you one of my good friends,” Alex says, her words catching Christen off guard.
She states it but there was something in her tone that had Christen assuring her with much vigor than she would have. “We are!”
Alex looks up, putting her fork down as she stares straight into Christen’s eyes. The intensity swimming in her blue eyes had Christen scared as to where the conversation was heading. “Then why are you lying to me?”
Christen’s fork clatters against the plate. “What?”
“Chris,” Alex says, leaning forward. “You and Tobin aren’t engaged.”
“W-w-what-we-no-Tobin,” she stutters out weakly pointing vaguely at the directions of the bathroom.
Alex raises an eyebrow at her, “Wanna try that again?”
She sighs as she fingers the napkin before saying resolutely, “No, we’re not. How did you figure it out?” Christen can feel the panic bubbling. If Alex can figure it out, she must be so bad at acting like she could be someone that Tobin wants. “Is it that easy to spot that we’re faking it?”
Alex shakes her head. “It’s nothing like that. It’s just we’ve been friends for awhile. And-” she stops and Christen can tell she’s trying to word something correctly. She shake her head as if clearing it. “But yeah. I just know you guys that well.”
“So I was right then?” Alex hedges. “You guys aren’t engaged?”
Christen shakes her head no, since there was no use in lying anymore. “It was supposed to be a joke, but I guess some fans of Tobin follow my instagram and with the Captain Marvel announcement, it blew up.”
“So, Allie knows?”
“Yeah it was their idea to play it up,” Christen explains.
Alex nods, seeming to try to analyze the information. “Yeah, it’ll be better for Tobin’s stock if she announces an engagement and the confirmation of her sexuality.” Her comments weren’t really directed at Christen. Just providing insight in the game that she and Tobin knew how to play really well. “And let me guess just until awards season is over?”
“Yeah,” Christen confirms, eyes wide as she stares at Alex in amazement, still stiff in her seat.
She almost forgets that Alex was raised in the limelight as America’s Sweetheart since she was a child actor and later transitioning into more mature roles (though the poster she had of Alex when she was the star of a Disney Channel show plastered against the wall of her childhood bedroom would beg to differ). This was a game that she knew how to play and she played it well. She remembers how her friendship with Tobin (when being gay was still a controversial thing) caused almost an uproar, stating that her image was tainted, but she and her team managed to turn it around. Despite being younger, she really helped Tobin navigating the shark-infested waters of Hollywood.
“Makes sense,” Alex says as she sits back down. She picks up her fork again and continues eating. “How’s your pasta? Are you still vegetarian?”
Christen blinks at Alex as the conversation veered again. It was really giving her a whiplash. She takes a deep breath as she picks up her fork trying to loosen up, she didn’t notice how stiff her muscles had been since the conversation began. “Uh not on weekends.”
Alex laughs as she looks up. She giggles at Christen’s almost frozen frame. “Relax, the hard part is over.”
“Is it?” Christen asks as she eats.
“Spit it out, Morgan.”
“Don’t hurt her.”
Christen’s fork freezes in the air, raising an eyebrow at Alex. “She’s my best friend. I’m not gonna hurt her.”
Alex smiles at her, but it wasn’t a happy smile. There was a hint of bittersweet and pity in it. Whatever it was had Christen’s stomach rolling. “Maybe not intentionally.”
“So what are we talking about?” Kelley asks as she and Tobin sits back down into their chairs.
Christen looks at Kelley, trying to find a hint of what happened in the bathroom. Kelley raises her eyebrows at Christen, challenging her to ask. Christen averts her eyes.
Alex raises an eyebrow at Tobin, not so subtly meeting her eyes. “So merks?” Alex asks as she takes a sip of her water.
Tobin chokes as she tries to quickly swallow her drink. Her eyes swing to Christen, hissing. “You told her?!”
“Like you didn’t tell Kelley!” Christen shoots back, gesturing to her.
All eyes turn to Kelley for confirmation. “Only cause I wouldn’t stop asking!” She admits. “And it’s like you guys don’t know Alex and I at all!”
“You can trust us,” Alex says softly. Her blue eyes had widened and Christen swears that it might be filled with tears or it was just a trick of the light.
Tobin turns to Christen, raising an eyebrow. She shrugs, giving her a slight smile. “Easier to not hide in front of our best friends?”
Christen sighs. “True.”
“Yeah,” Kelley agrees and the words that come out of her mouth shoves the comments her coworkers made back into Christen’s mind. “It should be easy for you guys to act like a couple. You act like you’re in love all the-”
“KELLEY!” Alex yells, though not loud enough for others to overhear.
“What? It’s so obvious! I mean- OW!”
Alex sighs as she slaps Kelley on her cheek, getting her to shut up. “Usually when someone yells your name like that, they want you to shut up.”
“I was just explaining-”
Alex crooks her head towards Christen. An action not missed by her.
“Right…” Kelley says as she picks up her food and start eating.
They ate the rest of their meal with Alex and Tobin taking over the conversation, talking about their current projects and schedule. Usually Christen would chime in, but Kelley’s nonsense babbles and Alex’s cryptic words couple that with the comments her coworkers made had her so confused and not about the situation.
“ Wow you’re engaged! Or was that a joke?” Christen reads from her phone, making her voice accurately higher pitched and nasally and adding the right touch of sarcasm that Tobin immediately knows who she’s trying to mock. She scoffs throwing it on the blanket that Tobin is laying on before stabbing the ice cream between her legs. “God I hate her.” She stabs it harder and grabs the chunk with her fork. “Is it so hard to believe that we’re actually dating?”
Tobin shrugs from her spot on the blanket, scraping her pint of ice cream. “Uh probably because you’re you -” she gestures at Christen with her spoon and then to herself, “-and I’m me .”
“What does that even mean?” Christen asks, utterly confused. “Switch?” Christen asks as she holds out her coffee ice cream.
“No,” Tobin says curling herself around the ice cream, protectively. “That’s the gross coffee.”
Christen kicks at her leg. “You’re the one that chose this flavor!”
Tobin didn’t uncurl herself around the small tub, ignoring Christen’s weak assault.
“C’mon, Tobin!” Christen swings her leg back again and keeps on kicking her, softly. “Heath!”
“Fine!” Tobin concedes as she holds up the pistachio flavor. They trade their ice cream pints, Tobin grumbling about the nasty coffee. “Why do you get so bothered with Lily?”
“Because!” Christen yells and if she was standing up, she would’ve stomped her foot like a 5-year-old. She breathes in calmly. “She’s just so-” she raises her hand, forming it into a fist before squealing angrily. “What she think she’s the only one who can land someone hot?”
Tobin sits up, raising her eyebrows slightly. “You think I’m hot?”
“Not the point I was making,” Christen says, dismissing the slip of the tongue comment, ignoring her reddening cheeks.
“Or maybe it’s because you know I’m a-” Tobin lets it hang in the air, watching Christen’s face for her implicit statement.
“I have no idea what you’re saying.” Christen squints at Tobin, confused. “You’re a what? Person? Human? Celebrity?”
Tobin shakes her head. “Never mind.”
Christen shakes her head. “Whatever it is. Bitch just won’t shut up.” Her phone chimes again and Christen groans as she looks at the message. “Ugh now she wants a double wedding . Kill me now.”
Tobin cringes, presumably at the thought. “As your fake fiancee, I say no to the double wedding.”
“Ew, she just dropped your celebrity status, Tobs,” Christen says as she reads the text. “I’m going to mute her thread.” She fiddles with her phone for a second before dropping it again. “We’re still on for dinner with my parents tomorrow right? We gotta tell them as soon as possible before my mom starts bragging to her book club that you and I are engaged.”
Tobin nods as she spoons some more ice cream into her mouth. “Yeah. I just have to a couple of meetings to attend tomorrow.”
They agreed to keep their real engagement status (i.e. the fact that they’re not) to a need-to-know basis, keeping it to just Tobin’s team, Christen’s parents, and Tobin’s mom. Not even their siblings or their best friends will be informed, keeping it small so they can figure out the leak if it happens. Tomorrow they have a dinner with Christen’s parents and they’re having a skype session with Tobin’s mom sometime during the day to clarify things before Tobin goes to the east coast for some sound stage work and a guest spot on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to confirm their engagement and promote her latest project.
The thought of actually confirming their engagement despite it being fake had the palms of her hands sweating and her brain on high-alert. It was as if that little action might make it more real than she wants.
“The ducks are having a counsel,” Tobin says, nodding towards the edge of the pond.
Christen sits up from the bench, head swiveling to where Tobin nodded. “Huh,” Christen says, watching the odd duck formation. “What do you think they’re talking about?”
“Not complicated relationship shit that’s for sure,” Tobin says. She looks up at Christen, tapping her the outside of her thigh. “You think we’re crazy for doing this?”
“Of course,” Christen says. “But it won’t be for long? What did Becky say? Just until award season dies down right?”
Tobin nods. “Yep.” She sits up, leaning against the bench. She reaches over Christen’s backpack and pulls out her sketchbook and the small watercolor palette that she brought. “Oh by the way, I have your first duty as my faker.”
Christen slides down from the bench to the blanket, sitting next to Tobin. She lays her head on Tobin’s shoulder content to watch Tobin draw and paint. “Ooh what is it?”
“Party for the studio,” Tobin says as she starts sketching, her pencil drawing rough marks on the paper. She reaches over to Christen’s bag and pulls out another pencil. “Wanna draw with me?”
“I’m good,” she says, head still on Tobin’s shoulder, but her eyes were now roaming the fairly small park that sat at the edge of their neighborhood. “Is it for Watch?”
“Nope,” Tobin says. “Just your good ol’ schoomizing party.” She keeps on sketching, not really caring as to what she’s drawing or if she’s drawing anything, letting her heart and mind figure out what she’s doing.
“Oh god,” Christen groans. “You hate those parties.”
“I do,” Tobin says. She turns to Christen, raising her eyebrows. “And you’re great at those parties.”
“You make it sound like I’m a prostitute,” Christen bemoans, making Tobin choke and drop her pencil as she laughs.
“Oh my god, Press,” Tobin laughs harder, hand gripping her sketchbook tighter so it doesn’t accidentally fall as her body wants to bow at her laughter. “I just mean you know how to work the room!”
Christen raises an eyebrow at her choice of words. “That’s not any better, Heath.”
“Oh god, I know,” Tobin says. She shakes her head, amused as she continues. “Whatever, as my fake fiance you have to attend with me. It’s on Saturday night the weekend I come back.”
Christen makes a face. “Oh you see I’m already booked up that night.”
“Oh please, I know your schedule,” Tobin says. She closes her eyes before reciting the words that Christen always says to get out of things, “Saturdays are for-”
“-watching my shows-”
“-catching up on your shows-”
“-in my bed-”
Christen gasps, pushing at Tobin. “I don’t do it naked!”
Tobin wiggles her eyebrows suggestively, emphasizing her words so that Christen has no doubt as to what she means. “Then how do you do it if not naked?”
Christen rolls her eyes, lightly shoving her. “Ass.”
She resumes her earlier position, but this time she leans her back against Tobin’s arm, her knees pulled up to her chest, feet flat on the ground. She grabs her book from the bench that she was on earlier, turning to the page that she left on earlier. She was content to let the almost silent scratching of Tobin’s pencil against the grain of the paper and the quiet rustle of leaves serve as the music to let her focus on the book, the itch to fill it with conversation was gone.
But then again their relationship has always been defined by the pauses and the silences, even from the beginning of their relationship. They never felt the need to fill it with unnecessary words, if none sufficed.
She focuses on the story that she’s reading, letting herself be drowned into the world of fantasy and monsters until Tobin’s gasp brings her up the surface again. She looks over to see Tobin excitedly pointing at the pond.
“Use your words, Tobs,” Christen teases before she looks to where she’s pointing. The counsel of duck were now in disarray as they chase another duck. “Oh wow.”
“The duck counsel is shunning a duck!”
“To the shallows, duck!” Christen says in an uncanny impersonation of Donald Duck that had Tobin rolling on the ground.
Christen was meditating. The stress of work and the engagement (even though it’s only been a day) had her mind struggling and running rampant.
At least that’s what she’s trying to do as she sits in front of her fluffy rug but the constant buzzing of her neighbor’s lawn mower was eating into what is supposed to be an empty mind. After about five minutes of sitting there, the sound digging into her ears preventing herself from focusing, she gives up.
She stands up and stretches instead, hoping that at least her stretches will help her body feel good, if her mind can’t. She lifts her arms above her head, an ungodly noise coming out of her mouth that she couldn’t stop. She hears Tobin’s footsteps stops and she turns around to see her with an indistinguishable look on her face, phone in her hand.
“And as you can hear, Christen is here,” Tobin says, flipping the camera of her phone as she points it straight at Christen. “Say hi to my mom, Press.”
Christen blushes as she glares at Tobin before her face lights up as she waves. “Hi, Cindy!”
“ Hi sweetheart, good stretch? ” She hears Cindy call to her, an unmistakable teasing lilt to her voice.
She steps behind Tobin so that she can talk to her face to face. “Yeah. Trying to meditate, but our neighbor is mowing.”
“ Ah, the dreaded neighbor.”
Tobin reaches out behind her and tugs her towards the couch. “We need to talk to you about something, mom.”
“Does it have something to do with your pending nuptials, my dears?”
The knowing look painted on her face had Christen’s stomach rolling like it did during their dinner with Alex and Kelley.
Tobin looks at her mother, sheepishly rubbing the back of her neck. “Yeah about that…”
“Tobin, I had to hear your engagement from Mrs. Polaski from church,” Cindy scolds lightly. “You know how embarrassing that is? Not knowing what’s going in my daughter’s life! OH! But I’m so happy for you! I hope to be your first call when you guys set a date-”
“Yeah no wedding date will be set,” Tobin interrupts.
Tobin nudges Christen.
Christen glares at Tobin.
Christen's stern eyes never leaves Tobin as she answers.“Yeah, Cindy, we’re not engaged. It was supposed to be a joke, but a lot of people took it seriously but we’re not engaged.”
“So no wedding?”
Tobin turns to Christen again. Her eyes pleading with her to break the news to her mom as if saying to her, You break my mom’s heart. Christen groans.
“No,” Christen says. “But Becky and Allie thought this might damage her career if I come out and say that it was a joke. So Tobin and I are going to pretend that we’re engaged for awhile.”
Hearing it coming out of her mouth made it sounds more ridiculous than when it came out of Becky’s much more professional polished mouth.
“Oh? It’s all pretend?” The disappointment in her voice had Christen a little bit perplexed (not as much after hearing the comments from Alex and her coworkers).
“Yeah mom,” Tobin confirms.
The silence that follows Tobin’s confirmation worried Christen for a second that Tobin’s mother would yell or cry at the news that her youngest daughter isn’t actually going to get married. She stands up and gestures to Tobin that she was going to go to the kitchen to make some food, not wanting to be around for the fall out.
Christen picks up her pace to put some distance between the conversation and herself. She busies herself by making a simple grilled cheese sandwich with some fruit, not wanting to think about how they had to have the same conversation with her parents in a couple of hours.
“I feel like the scum of the Earth!” Tobin moans as she throws herself on the stool.
“Here, Scum of the Earth, have some grilled cheese,” Christen slides the plate towards her. “Remember we still have to talk to my parents.”
“Oh my god,” Tobin moans as she takes a bite of her sandwich. Though she still feels guilty, the delicious sandwich eases it a bit. “Cody’s going to hate me!”
The conversation with Christen’s parents went about the same. There was elation when they brought up the engagement. Then it just went downhill from them as they all went on an emotional roller coaster journey that Christen hopes they’ll never do again in the near future (but with their current situation, probably not the last). In the end, though neither set of parents were happy with what their children decided, their support was unwavering and they agreed to play along (though their lives are already so intertwined that playing along would be the easiest thing they do).
“Do you feel guilty? I feel guilty,” Christen murmurs as she helps Tobin pack for her latest trip to the east coast. She grabs a set of underwear in Tobin’s drawer, counting it before she hands it to Tobin. “I feel so guilty.”
Tobin shrugs as she just stuffs it in her suitcase haphazardly. “They’re okay with it.”
“We’re lying to the world.” Christen closes the drawer before opening the one beneath it. She looks through the shirts, trying to find Tobin’s favorite cotton shirts. She hands it to Tobin before closing that drawer.
Tobin accepts it, a smile on her face as she realizes the shirts Christen had purposely picked out. She throws it in with the rest of her pile. “And whose fault is that?”
Christen turns around an incredulous look on her face. She grabs Tobin’s socks and throws it at her, missing badly. “I never told you to propose to me!”
“Well your drunk self was very sad okay? I was just trying to make you smile!” Tobin defends as she grabs the socks that managed to miss her. “Your aim is atrocious.”
“Your face is atrocious,” Christen retorts as she moves to her closet. Tobin’s small admittance had her chest warming and her stomach rolling, but not in the same way it did when she was talking to Alex. Must be heartburn. “Do you need any dresses or formal things?”
Tobin thinks for a second, trying to think back to the itinerary that Emily had sent her yesterday. “Nope. And if anything I’ll just rent some,” she says. She wiggles her eyebrows. “And that’s not what you said yesterday.”
Christen can feel her face burn at the mention of her off-hand comment yesterday. She hoped that Tobin had forgotten it. “What?”
Tobin laughs. “Oh, please your face is red! You so remember!”
Christen shakes her head, laughing as well. “Shut up!”
“You think I’m hot!” Tobin teases as she stands up, almost stalking over to Christen.
“You are not hot!” Christen says, her eyes dart from one side to the other, trying to find a way around Tobin. But before she could book it, a pair of arms grab her by the waist and pulls against her warm body.
“That’s not what you said,” Tobin singsongs as she starts to tickle Christen, knowing all her tickle spots.
“STOP!” Christen screams between her laughter as she tries to get away from Tobin. Her legs kicking against Tobin’s.
“Not until you say the magic words.” Tobin’s hands attacks her sides relentlessly until Christen’s knees buckles and she’s leaning against Tobin, making Tobin laugh and collapse as well.
“You’re evil, Heath,” Christen huffs, trying to catch her breath as she lay on top of Tobin’s form. Tobin’s laughter tickles her ear, making Christen very aware that her front was pressed up against Christen’s back. The way her heart kick starts at the feeling of Tobin’s warm body against her, muddles her mind and puts her in a daze of confusion at the assault of feelings that flush her body.
She lays there for a second, trying to match her breathing with Tobin’s steady breaths. When she feels Tobin’s arms against her stomach, her breath stutters, catching in her throat at the small hum that she feels.
She wiggles from Tobin’s semi-embrace, putting her hand on the ground and pushing herself up, almost stiffly. “Let’s keep packing,” Christen says, her voice lower and much more gravely than she intended. She steps away, hoping that the distance would help her brain unmuddle itself. She clears her throat. “Your flight is in like three hours.”
She turns back to her closet, ignoring the pinprick she feels on her skin from what’s probably Tobin’s unwavering stare. She hears Tobin groan as she stands up, presumably walking to the bed as she hears it creak under her weight as she sits.
“I can’t believe Sonnett booked me a red-eye,” Tobin groans as she continues to organize her stuff with Christen’s help.
“You suck at waking up in the morning,” Christen says. “I told her it was better if you leave at a red-eye and just sleep the day away because for some goddamn reason you can’t sleep on a plane and so that you can be awake for Jimmy Kimmel .”
“Okay when you put it that way it makes sense,” Tobin admits, reluctantly. “Can you hand me my charger?”
Christen goes to her desk and crawls underneath it, unplugging her laptop’s and phone charger. She deposits it on Tobin’s bed before heading to her bathroom. She pulls down the things she need, the small methodical task providing enough time away from Tobin that her heart was finally back to its normal pace and she was sure that burning in her cheeks were gone. Just for good measure, she splashes some water on her face.
“Cooling down because you were thinking of my hot bod?” Tobin teases as she slides in behind Christen.
Christen rolls her eyes at Tobin. “Shut up.”
Tobin just nudges her as she grabs the packed toiletries. “I just got a text from Sonnett, car is about to get here,” Tobin says as she slips back into her room.
“Is it just Emily with you?” Christen asks as she watches Tobin zips her suitcase up. She doesn’t know why, but there was a tiny, small voice in her heart that’s mutely screaming for Tobin not to leave. She always hates saying goodbye to Tobin, but she can usually shake this feeling off, but for some unknown reason to her this incessant voice was just screaming, drowning out everything else in her head.
Tobin’s phone chimes with a text and Christen’s heart drops as she realizes that it must be Emily waiting outside. Tobin does her phone-keys-wallet dance before she goes over to Christen and drops a brief kiss on her forehead.
It was short, but Christen leans into the kiss, her eyes closing as she feels Tobin’s hand on her ebow steadying her, trying to get rid of this foreboding feeling that seems to nestle in her heart, making a new home.
Tobin pulls back, her brows drawn into a furrow as her eyes sweep her face. “What’s up?”
“Nothing,” Christen says softly, shaking her head, giving Tobin a smile.
Though it looked like that made it worse as Tobin’s eyes soften. “Chris, I’ll be back,” Tobin assures her.
“You better,” Christen says trying to make her voice as light as possible to assuage Tobin. “I’m your fiancée,” she teases. “You have to come back to me.”
Tobin watches her for a second as if waiting for her to break. She must’ve found what she was looking for as she drops another kiss on Christen’s forehead before grabbing her bag. “I’ll see you on Monday, Chris!”
Christen was used to this.
She swears she is. At least she was.
Tobin often travels for work that she’s used to the goodbyes and the FaceTimes at weird hours and the continuous flow of text between the two of them throughout the day.
It was fine at first when Tobin’s career was taking off and she was no longer free at all hours of the time to entertain Christen or bring her lunch. (Not that she was free all the time, in between her acting stints, Tobin often volunteered at an animal shelter, walking the dogs there or taking odd jobs here and there to supplement her boredom or income. At one point, Tobin ran her clinic’s mobile grooming station). Christen understood that she needed the traveling, unfortunately, was part of her career.
Now she finds it unbearable. She doesn’t understand why. Kelley, who’s she’s known since her undergrad years constantly travel whether for work or just for fun and Nima, her best friend (apart from Tobin) since high school, has been out of the country for almost six months yet she has no qualms about that. But with Tobin, she feels this longing for her company every time she's not home and she wasn’t there to greet her.
The three week filming that she did almost a month ago wasn’t even that long compared to the other filming that Tobin has done had her crawling up the walls to see Tobin. The FaceTimes at weird hours, the continuous flow of texts between them, and the just because calls didn’t do anything to dampen her anxiousness at seeing Tobin.
It’s only Wednesday of this week-long trip and Christen can already feel the anxiousness and neediness creeping up on her. She sighs as she stretches her neck, the stiffness of it adding to her already fragile emotional state.
“You look like you need a break,” JJ says as she sidles up next to her. “You wanna take your lunch now? You’ve been distracted all morning.”
Christen glances at the clock right above the little window. “Uh, no it’s fine. I don’t need a break. I just couldn’t sleep last night.”
Julie gives her a sympathetic smile. “You and Tobin fighting?”
“No!” Julie’s smile got a bit more sympathetic, leading Christen to clarify. “Tobin left last night for the east coast. She has some work thing to do.”
“Oh shit,” Julie says as she goes over to their computer. She asks Sam to pull up their calendar.
Confused, Christen follows her and stands behind them as she scans it.
“We didn’t have it down that Tobin was leaving last night,” Julie says as she looks at the correct date.
“Why would you have that down on our calendar?”
Christen sees Sam slowly roll away in her wheely chair.
Julie bursts. “Okay! So we noticed that whenever Tobin had to leave, you would be distracted for the rest of the day. Like super distracted,” Julie explains, pleading with Christen to understand. She reaches over and rubs her arm, hoping to soothe her, though there was nothing to soothe. Christen wasn’t mad, just curious. “So we asked Becky to send us the dates when she was flying out and back so that we can give you lighter loads on those days.”
Christen remains quiet, her mind was replaying memories over and over again in her head of her relationship with Tobin.
“Please don’t be mad. We know it’s a breach of privacy,” Julie says. “But we didn’t know what to do. You get a little moody when she’s not here.” She shrugs. “I mean who wouldn’t when the love of their life isn’t by their side, right?”
Christen gives her a smile to show that she’s not mad, just a little confused. “How long have you guys been doing this?”
Julie eyes strays to the side as she tries to remember. “About 3-4 years ago? I think you guys were living together then.”
“I want you to be honest to me Julie,” Christen states.
“I am being honest!”
Christen waves her hand “No, not about that!”
“Did you think Tobin and I were dating when we met up again?” Christen asks, referring to when she found out Julie moved down back down to Southern California as well after graduating from Davis.
Julie thinks for a second before nodding. “Everyone did! I mean it was so obvious that you guys were so in love with each other. You guys are like magnets when together. We had an office bet on when you guys would slip up and we found you know-” she clicks her tongue and does some motion with her hand, making Christen know exactly what she means- “in the office,” she says before dropping her voice to a whisper. “Because we thought Tobin was a kinky-”
“Okay!” Christen interrupts, the images hurling itself across her retinas at the thought of Tobin and kinky was jarring to her.
“Sorry, Chris,” Julie apologizes.
“But you guys set me up with Jericho,” Christen points out.
“Well this was mostly to confirm whether or not you were dating each other,” Julie admits. “You went to the first date so we thought you and Tobin weren’t dating, but I guess we were wrong.”
“But that was only a month ago,” Christen says. “So for almost five years, you thought Tobin and I were in a romantic relationship?”
Julie nods. “Christen, we asked you how you met and you said we were on a date.”
“Not with each other!” Christen says. “We were on different dates.”
“Huh,” Julie says, thoughtfully. “You really should’ve clarified what you meant when you said that.”
“So you said everyone thought this?” Christen asks, trying to keep her voice as steady as possible despite the fact that her heart and mind are in turmoil, warring with each other.
“Yeah, just about,” Julie confirms.
Christen can feel her heart racing and she doesn’t know why it feels like there’s something that she’s missing. Her phone rings and sees Tobin’s name flashing on her screen. Involuntarily, her face brightens up and a smile lifts her lips.
“It’s Tobin isn’t it?” Julie asks with a grin of her own. “You got your Tobin smile on.”
Christen consciously pulls her lips down, making Julie laugh. She didn’t even know she had one.
“That’s not how it works Chris!”
Christen’s eyes slip to her phone once again as Tobin’s picture and name continue to flash. “Uh, Jules, actually is it okay if I take off early?”
Julie looks at her that sympathetic smile back on her face. “Of course, Chris. It’s pretty light anyway. I’m sure Dream and I can manage.”
“Thanks, babe,” Christen says as she pulls her into a hug before she goes to their shared office to grab her purse and car keys. Just as she pulls out of their parking lot, she calls the one person she knows will be able to help her sort what’s going on in her head since the usual person she usually calls won’t be able to help her with this.
Christen stands on the beach, squishing the sand between her toes as she watches Kelley slot into a barrel, thanking her overthinking brain that she had some shorts and flip flops to slip into that was just in the back of her trunk.
She puts her flip flops and the bag of food down on the ground before sitting next to them, waiting until Kelley was finished. She didn't mind. She was the one encroaching on Kelly’s practice time.
She takes her phone out as she waits. There were two notifications, the earlier missed call from Tobin and a text message from Tobin saying that she’s heading to set. Christen sends a quick reply, apologizing that she couldn’t answer her call and telling her to call her whenever she had the time.
“That the food?” Kelley asks, nodding at the bag as she puts her board down on the ground.
“Yep,” Christen says as she holds it up to Kelley.
“Yes!” Kelley grabs the food and almost rips the bag in half as she plops down next to Christen. “So what’s up, dude?” She takes a bite of her burger, moaning at the taste. “So good.”
Christen cringes. “Yours and Tobin’s diet are atrocious.”
“Meat is not just a weekend thing, Chris,” Kelley says, shaking the hamburger in her directions.
“That’s what she said,” Christen quips making Kelley snort and laugh.
“God, you sound like Tobin,” Kelley scoffs, laughing. She gives Christen the bag back so she can eat the fries. “So what did you wanna talk about?”
“Back then when you set me up on that blind date why was it with a guy when I told you I was feeling confused?” Christen asks. It’s been bothering her since then. They had a conversation, maybe two weeks before where Christen had poured her heart out to Kelley after she snapped at her.
Kelley startles at her question, confused as to why of all days she was bringing this up after so many years. “Are you talking about the blind date when you met Tobin?”
“It wasn’t with a guy,” Kelley says as she eats the food.
“Yes it was,” Christen says.
“No, it wasn’t,” Kelley insists. “I never told you that I set you up with a guy!” She finishes the burger before turning to Christen as she recounts what she remembers. “I wouldn’t set you up with a guy after you told me you were confused about your sexuality, Chris. I wanted you to be comfortable in your own skin. I wanted you to know yourself. But you were so scared of being anything but straight Christen,” Kelley’s voice was imploring her to understand the circumstances back then.
Christen’s hands play with the sands, squeezing it between her hands, rolling it, using it as a device to keep her thoughts in order and straight (or not so straight). She does remember the stressful time during vet school where she was frazzled by everything. She was stressed, confused, and the fact that she was having a crush on one of her lab partners was not helping. She remember compartmentalizing a lot. She remembered putting her sexuality in a little box until she dealt with it later (much later in life).
Kelley’s voice pulls her out of her head as she continues. “So I thought if you went with a date with a girl you wouldn’t be so scared of your own sexuality.”
“I distinctly remember you saying that you’re gonna love this dude,” Christen says.
“ Dude, ” Kelley scoffs as if proving her points. “Dude is a gender neutral term, Christen. And I emphasized person in our texts!”
“So who were you going to set me up with?”
Kelley smiles, an almost wistful smile as she meets Christen’s eyes. “It wasn’t an accident that there were two blind dates in that restaurant.”
“Who did you set me up with?” Christen asks again.
“Tobin,” Kelley says, her eyes alight with mirth as if realizing just where exactly was this conversation was heading. “I set you up with Tobin.”
The confirmation shouldn’t have surprised Christen. It really shouldn’t have. Kelley was a schemer through and through, but she wouldn’t have purposely set Christen up with a flake.
“But Tobin’s date-”
Kelley starts laughing, leaning against Christen. Christen looks at her friend amused as Kelley tries to stop herself. “Okay that that was my fault,” she giggles. “So...uh...I was trying to set Alex and Servando up, the same time I was trying to set you and Tobin up. The texts got mixed up. That’s why Servando was there. His date was supposed to be the next night with Alex. I was busy that night and didn't get too my phone until after the date already happened.”
“But you didn’t tell us it was all a misunderstanding,” Christen says. “And makes sense why Tobin ended their date so early.”
“And you guys managed to find your way to each other anyway,” Kelley says, shrugging.
“Oh please, Press,” Kelley says, shaking her head at her friend’s poor acting skills. She nudges her arm. “Even back then when you came home from your not date with Tobin, I knew that something special happened. I haven’t seen you relaxed in months and this one date you came back and you were honest-to-God floating. It was disgusting. At first I thought Tobin was that good, but then-” Kelley plays with the loose string on Christen’s shorts. “It’s like you buried everything. You never talked about your sexuality again like something in that trip changed you and I don’t know what it was.”
“You never asked,” Christen shrugs.
“Because you wouldn’t have answered me,” Kelley says. “Or if you did, it would be half-truths.” It wasn’t an accusation. Just an observation of how Christen used to be. “Tobin changed you, Christen. It’s like she unlocked this whole other person that I never could. And not going to lie, I was jealous.” Kelley smiles at her reassuring her that it was not the jealous she was thinking of. “We’ve been friends for almost 4 years at that point you weren’t even comfortable enough to cuddle with me, but with Tobin it was like you were a whole different person.” She laughs to herself, making Christen’s head tilt at her friend’s mannerism. “Then I realized why. You were so into her you didn’t even realize it.”
Christen can feel her whole body flush. “I wasn't,” she argues weakly. Though now looking back, her and Tobin’s friendship was unusual from the start with just how quickly Christen settled into it, with how comfortable she felt with Tobin.
“You were,” Kelley says, tapping her on the thigh. “You were so into her. It was so painful to watch at times because you were so fucking awkward.”
“You were!” Kelley says. Her voice was teasing and light as she nudges her shoulder with Christen’s. “I just didn’t realize that it would take you five fucking years to get your head out of your ass to realize you’re in love with her.”
The words that she spoke had Christen feeling light and finally it seemed like her brain caught up with her heart and the shift that she felt earlier made sense. Why she feels this intense longing of just curling up with Tobin on the couch or even the contentedness when she's gone because she knows that she'll be back. When she'd rather rush back for a quiet night in than go out with Dream to the nearest bar or club to destress because to her all she needed was Tobin's presence to calm her down. Or why she would do to make sure Tobin's happiness was met. The overly enthused comments about how perfect their relationship was from her coworkers and friends that have known her and Tobin for years, Alex’s cryptic words, the lack of surprise from both sets of parents when they heard about the nuptials, but rather a quick acceptance of their engagement.
I'm in love with my best friend.
Chapter 5: be careful my darling, be careful of what it takes
No amount of apologies will be enough that I didn't update sooner, but I'll try anyway. I'm sorry things got hectic and lost a bit of inspiration, but hopefully I'm back now. Thank you for those that stuck with me and I would like to dedicate this chapter to my friend, Hami. You guys don't know how much she's encouraged me and helped me moved forward. So if you guys wanna thank anyone, thank her. Once again I'm sorry this took too long and hope this extra long chapter (at least to my usual) makes up for it.
“I hear a congratulations are in order,” Ellen says.
Tobin stiffens in her chair. This is it. She tries to unstiffen, trying to mask how her stomach was turning itself inside out. Once it’s said, it cannot be unsaid. She was surprised it had taken them this long to actually acknowledge it after their stupid blunder. But she didn’t want to just do it, she wanted to make sure it was handled correctly.
They’ve covered the usual topics, the upcoming movie, the tv show she currently stars in, and now they’re there to cover one of the reasons Becky got her booked on the Ellen Show. She put on her usual, charming self when doing press.
Tobin nods, her hands on her knees. She rubs it. “Yeah, I am engaged.”
“Well I was actually talking about the way you beat Tony backstage in HORSE,” Ellen says, motioning to her bandleader. “But good to know you’re engaged as well.”
“So, uh, you’re engaged?”
“To a woman,” Ellen says. She gives Tobin a slight nod, a warm smile on her face, as if encouraging her.
“Yeah,” Tobin says, almost nonchalantly. There was still a quiver in her voice, no matter how much she wanted to sound sure of it. She almost look bashful as she says the next part. “To my best friend.”
Ellen smiles widely at her. “Oh that’s the best kind,” she says. “The best kind. So what’s her name?”
She can already feel her smile even before she says her name. “Christen.”
“Beautiful name,” Ellen says before she reaches over to the side of her chair. She pulls out a light blue paper bag, tissue paper sticking up from the opening. “I have a present for you and your beautiful fiancee.”
“Oh thank you,” Tobin says as she opens them. She takes out a set of two pajamas with Ellen’s face stamped all over it. Tobin almost falls over laughing.
“Nothing says love like pajamas with another woman’s face all over it,” Ellen jokes and Tobin guffaws.
“Thank you,” Tobin says, the earlier nervous energy she emitted was gone (probably because the interview was almost over but she’ll also give credit to the way Ellen made her feel at ease.)
The screen turns black as Christen locks her phone. She puts it down on the table, giving Tobin a look. “You’re so fucking awkward sometimes.”
“Why did you even make me watch that?” Tobin whines. “Literally that was just an hour ago. I remember how I looked like.” She shuddered. “Or felt like. Becky said I did okay.”
“Because it was cute!” Christen says. “That smile when you said my name was A plus acting.” Christen praises, nodding her head as she grabs a piece of a free bread. “Why they pay you the big bucks.”
Tobin feels that heavy lead in her chest again at Christen’s words. She can feel her mood worsening at that. No matter how much she pretends, she knows Christen will never like her like that .
She thinks it was all an act.
“Here you go,” Their server comes and lays out the food in front of them. She lays out some napkins on the table. “Enjoy, ladies!”
Tobin didn’t breathe as she gobbles the food up in front of her, practically inhaling the food of her, continually shoving it in her mouth. She wanted to change the subject away from the interview and into something else. Anything else. She can feel Christen’s wide eyes gawking at her.
“It’s like they didn’t feed you or something,” Christen mutters as she starts eating her sushi while keeping an eye on Tobin to make sure she doesn’t choke. “Slow down, Tobin! You’ll get the hiccoughs!”
Tobin stops to glare at Christen, swallowing the current piece of fish that she just crammed down her throat. “Don’t curse me with that.”
“You’re doing it to yourself!” Christen says as she dips the corner of her salmon nigiri into the soy sauce. Christen scoffs when Tobin continues to eat at that hurried, got-starved pace that Christen couldn’t quite understand. “Slow down!”
A girl, probably around middle-school aged, sidles up to their table and Tobin immediately spots the phone and napkin in her hand. Behind the girl, she sees two or three more that Tobin profusely hopes are her friends. She really wasn’t in the mood to take more than two or three photos. Tobin gives her a tight-lipped smile, trying to make sure her face doesn’t look as surly as she had been glaring at Christen.
“Hi!” The girl gives them a wide smile as she awkwardly waves at them. “I was wondering if we could get a picture?” She gestures at her friends a few steps away and just for that, Tobin’s smile grew bigger.
“Yeah for sure,” Tobin says as she turns to Christen. “Chris, if you don’t mind?”
“Not at all,” Christen says as she holds out her hand for the girl’s phone.
Tobin takes a couple of minutes signing photographs for the three teens and taking selfies with them, managing to make them laugh and relaxed. She takes a couple of minutes with each girls, asking them questions about their lives, making them feel special.
They even got a picture with Christen. Which was a little weird, Christen had to admit.
“You’re always so good with the kiddos,” Christen comments as they watch the three teenage girls go back to one of their parents, clutching their napkins, and giggling.
Tobin shrugs. “It’s-” Tobin stops. She feels that dreaded feeling at the pit of her chest, closing in on her stomach.
Her eyes meet Christen’s as she tries hold her breath, knowing that once she releases it, then she might as well accept defeat. The knowing glimmer behind Christen’s eyes made her want to keep it in even more just to spite her.
“I told you!”
“Shu- hic -up!”
Tobin scrolls through her phone, taking note of every “cure” they have of the hiccups.
“Is one of them listening to their best friend?” Christen quips from the driver’s seat.
Tobin looks up quick enough to glare at her, but realizing Christen couldn’t really see her, she continues to search through her phone. “No but one of them is to dump asshole friends.”
Christen guffaws. Her laugh startling Tobin and making her smile. Rarely does Christen laugh like that. “You will never dump me, Tobin Heath.”
“No, but I can try,” Tobin teases.
“Really, I’d like to see you do it…”
Tobin looks up from her phone when she hears Christen’s voice trail off. She sees Christen park next to a white sedan. She looks at the house on either side of them, making sure Christen actually parked in the correct driveway.
Christen turns to her, brows furrowed, lips pursed. “You invited someone over without telling me?”
“No!” Tobin denies, ending her vehemence with a hiccough. “I don’t know whose car is that.”
Christen stares at her doubtfully, her eyes searching for something in Tobin’s face. “Alright I believe you,” Christen says. “But we never really talked about overnight guests or if you wanna go out with someone…”
Tobin throws her an incredulous look. “Really, Chris? You wanna talk about that right now? In a car?” She gestures around them.
“Look, let’s just get this out of the way,” Christen says.
Tobin looks around for a second as if the conversation between them would be overheard by anyone listening in the bushes.
“No one is around, Heath,” Christen says, rolling her eyes.
“Are you dating someone?” Her words come out sharply with a biting edge to them that she didn’t mean to show. She held her breath afraid that she might’ve crossed a line with the way her accusation came out of her mouth.
Christen leans back, as if struck, her eyes wide.
The small second of silence felt longer than Tobin anticipated. She releases her breath when Christen finally responds, almost in relief.
The smile that makes it way to Tobin’s face was short lived at the words that come out of her mouth.
“And it’s not like I can date anyone. I’m engaged to you remember?” Christen reminds her.
Tobin looks down at her lap, fingers digging into her jeans. The guilt that she’s stowed at the back of her mind saunters back into the forefront when she realizes how much Christen is sacrificing when she agreed to this charade. She knows that between the two of them, the sacrifice is really with Christen since Tobin loves this stupid charade.
Tobin feels a sharp slap against her face. She swears she can feel her heartbeat in her cheek as she holds her hand against it. “What the hell, Christen?”
“You’re spiraling,” Christen shrugs.
“A simple word would’ve been enough!” Tobin complains as she rubs her cheek. She pulls the visor down and slides the little cover for the mirror. She angles her face side to side, trying to check to make sure her face was fine. “I think it’s swollen…”
Christen reaches over and moves her hand away from her face. She palms her cheek, soothing it slightly. “Don’t be so dramatic. I barely hit you!”
“Look,” Christen interrupts, her palm continues its ministrations. As if that’s a way to reassure Tobin. “I told you a billion times. I’m fine with this arrangement.”
“No, stop,” Christen cuts her off sharply. “When have I agreed to something if I’m not okay with it?”
“Dude that’s like the hallmark of your personality!” Tobin argues.
“Or do I need to remind you that time that time you literally broke out in hives because you ate something that had sesame seeds in it?”
“Fine, I don’t usually speak up-”
“- but that was different!” Christen argues. “Especially because it has something to do with your life and your career. I would never jeopardize all that you’ve worked for. Besides that was a long time ago. We were barely friends then!”
“So you’ll tell me when things change?”
It was only a second. A slight hesitation on Christen’s part that had Tobin wondering if she was actually voicing the truth when she nods. She feels the guilt in the back of her mind, creeping again as she realizes that Christen is lying for her benefit. She gazes at Christen’s face for a moment, trying to find her tick.
Christen’s ticks were subtle when she was lying. It wasn’t the clench of her jaw nor a twitch of her eyes that gives her away. It was the tip of her nose, reddening, making her look like a human version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Right now her nose was blinding her like crazy.
Tobin narrows her eyes at Christen. “What’s his name?”
“The guy that you’re in love with.”
“Whu-wha-“ Christen sputters, letting out an incredulous laugh, seeming to wait for a punchline. When that didn’t come she shakes her head, laying a hand on top of Tobin’s shoulder, caressing it. “Tobin,” she says, almost cops, trying to placate her. “I’m fine with this, okay?”
“Okay,” Tobin sighs, knowing that she won’t say anything until the absolutely ready. Tobin unbuckles her seatbelt and grabs Christen’s purse off the floor. She turns to open the door, but the face staring back at her made her squeal and grab Christen by the bicep. “C-pubs!”
Christen turns to where Tobin was looking and jumps in her seat as well, cursing as she saw who it was. Her head swivels again to Tobin. “What the fuck is she doing here?”
“Dude, she’s your psycho cousin,” Tobin points out. She raises her hand, about to wave. “Here let me-”
Christen reaches over to wrestle Tobin’s hand back down. “No!”
“Oh look I have another hand,” Tobin says as she uses her left hand to put the window down. “Hey, Lils, what are you doing here?”
Lily looks straight at Christen, ignoring Tobin completely, giving her what Christen had dubbed her psycho smile. “You didn’t answer my text.”
“The text that you sent me over a month ago?”
“Yeah,” Lily says nonchalantly, seeming to ignore the way Christen had emphasized the amount of time that passed. There was a beat of silence as Christen continues to look at Lily like there was something wrong with her.
“What the hell…” Tobin mutters under her breath, still staring at Lily wide-eyed.
“Can you give us a minute?” Christen asks as she gestures for Tobin to roll up her window again. She turns on the radio, cranking it up to the highest volume. She grabs Tobin by the neck, pulling her face closer to hers. “Uh,” Christen stutters when she realizes how close they were.
Tobin smirks at her, raising an eyebrow. “You’re gonna give me a kiss, Press?”
It was the weirdest thing to Tobin. Their relationship has always been like this. Tobin likes to tease her, flirt with her relentlessly and Christen stammers her way through it with the roll of her eye and a dismissive wave. There was a line, Tobin knew the line and she toe’d it well, never going over it in order to keep Christen comfortable.
But instead of the usual dismissive wave, Tobin sees Christen’s eyes drop to her lips and her tongue comes out wetting her lips.
Tobin follows the motion of her tongue, the customary responses her body usually makes (her heart basically trying to rip its way through her chest Alien style, her pulse humming like it’s going to take off, her stomach basically back-flipping, and her head becoming fuzzy).
It would be so easy to lean in and close the distance between them.
Her hand curls around the curve of the seat to keep herself from reaching out and touching her. Tobin clears her throat, raising her head a bit to clear the haze that’s fogging her mind courtesy of one Christen Press.
She forces her eyes to look around, hoping that helps her mind. Is that- Tobin squints, trying to make sure that she’s seeing things. She turns back to Christen, ignoring the way Christen was looking at her as if she was one push away from grabbing her and kissing her senseless. “Okay, I know I’m blind without my glasses, but please tell me that is not a set of suitcases next to her.”
That seems to snap Christen out of her haze as her head turns to see what Tobin is talking about. “Oh my god,” Christen whispers as she sees what Tobin is pointing out. “Nonononono no !”
Tobin grabs her by the shoulder. “Get a grip, Press! Don’t let her into your mind!”
“She’s gonna torture us, Tobs!”
“Just tell her to go to a hotel!” Tobin suggests, grabbing her phone, ready to call up her go-to place. “I’ll even pay for it!”
“And have her trash us to my family?” Christen gasps. She sighs, wanting to hit something. She settles for the car honk, scaring the living daylights out of Lily. She smiles as she sees her jump and scowl. “Damn it. She always does this.”
“What about she sleeps in the first floor guest room?” Tobin suggests, hoping that with a floor between them then maybe she has less reasons to bother the two of them.
“That’s great and all, but let me remind you that you’re currently living there,” Christen says, the sarcasm was heavy in her tone, a sure sign that Christen was spiraling into her panic mode. All they need now is her hands flailing until Tobin had to pin them at her sides.
“So? I’ll just move into your room,” Tobin says as if it was the most obvious answer. “I mean we have to sell this thing anyway and wouldn’t it be weird that we’re staying in different rooms?”
“Good point,” Christen acknowledges, her eyes going back to Lily, glaring. She turns back to Tobin, clapping her hands, the panic in her eyes were gone. “Okay. You’re gonna distract Lily while I move your stuff to my room.”
“Not taking any.”
“Why do I have to distract your cousin?”
“Because this was your genius idea in the first place so you get the pleasure of her company,” Christen says. “And I don’t want you messing up my closet.”
“Don’t worry I won’t look for your vibrator.” She winks at Christen before laughing at the glare that Christen throws her. Her glare continues to cut through Tobin until Tobin sighs and holds out her hand in defeat for the keys.
Christen slams it on her palm before she steps out of the car. She leans back inside, giving Tobin a quick kiss on the lips. She closes the door and waves at a stricken Tobin. “Have fun sweetie!”
Tobin sits frozen in the passenger seat, the keys clutched in her hand as she stares at Christen with wide eyes. Christen looks at her worried for a second before subtly gesturing to Lily on the porch who’s been watching them with too interested eyes.
Right. Put on a show.
Tobin slides into the driver’s seat as she lets Christen talk to Lily, presumably about the plan. She adjusts the seats and mirrors, trying to calm her racing heart from that simple quick kiss. It completely slipped her mind that with a fake relationship comes actual interactions. Interactions that would probably kill her if she wasn’t so careful.
I’m so fucking screwed.
The passenger door opens and Lily slides into the car, chirping a peppy, “Hi!”
“Hi,” Tobin mutters as she carefully maneuvers her car out of the driveway. Christen continues to stand on her porch, waving them off, that smug grin back in place. Tobin glares at her darkly before flipping her off.
She sees Christen’s hand fly to her heart, hearing the gasp hat Christen surely emitted, loud and clear in her head, making Tobin laugh out loud as she drives away.
“You guys are so cute!” Lily’s voice cut through the happy daze like a cold shower, reminding her what she was in store for the next hour at least.
“You so owe me,” Tobin hisses as she steps behind Christen and grabs a carrot slice from the cutting board. She perches herself on the counter next to Christen’s station.
“Excuse me, fiancee?” Christen raises an eyebrow at her, raising her left 4th finger at her.
“I feel like you’re never going to let this go,” Tobin says as she watches Christen start pulling drawers open as she puts the carrot aside. Tobin reaches to her left and grabs the meat tenderizer and hands it to her
Christen accepts the instrument. “Nope!” She bangs on the meat once. Tobin cringes at how loud it is. “Gonna milk this thing for all it’s worth!”
Lily pops her head in, giving them a small wave. “Hey Annemarie, can you, maybe, just a bit, tone it down a bit?” She gestures to her head, the smile stick in place. That annoying smile that Christen wants to cleave right off her face. “I have this headache after the traveling, and the waiting for you guys to come back-”
“-I didn’t even know you were here,” Christen mumbles under her breath, slamming it down again.
“-and spending time with your fiance…”
Christen raises an eyebrow at Tobin.
Tobin holds up her hands, palms up, shrugging. I didn’t do anything!
Christen nods, the same sardonic smile mirroring on her face. “Sure thing, Lils.”
“Thank you!” Lily disappears again and they hear her door close again.
“ Fuck off!” She hits the meat harder and louder than the last time.
“Annemarie?” Tobin raises an eyebrow at her, the laughter in her tone was unmistakable as to what it was.
“Shut up,” Christen mutters, her eyes cutting to the door of the guest room, glaring darkly at it. She glances at the clock. “Don’t you have work?”
Tobin brings her phone up to her face checking the clock. When she realizes she was passed her call time, she shoots up from her seat. She grabs another sliver of carrot from Christen’s board as she passes by narrowly avoiding Christen’s hand. “Can you drop off some of whatever you’re making?”
Tobin just gives her this big smile as she runs upstairs to now their room so she can grab her stuff before heading out.
It shouldn’t be a big deal really. She’s been living with Christen officially now for almost three months (unofficially for as long as she’s had her house, so much so that the first floor guest room has always been her room) and she’s managed to confine most of her stuff in her bedroom.
So it really shouldn’t have been a big deal. She tells her heavily thumping heart as she spots her stuff.
It’s not a big deal.
It’s not a big deal
Because it’s not real.
The first award she’s gotten, the Razzie Award for her first blockbuster hit but critically panned movie, sits next to a picture of Christen and Tobin at Christen’s commencement.
(it’s not real)
Her favorite quilt that Kelley gave to her was slung over Christen’s favorite reading chair that was tucked in the corner of her bedroom.
(it’s not real)
One of the night stands beside the bed already had her iPad, her 3DS in its heinous rainbow colored pouch that she’s grown to love, and her backpack propped up against it.
(it’s not real)
It was jarring. Not in that way that turns your world upside down, but in that way that it rights everything in your world. It makes you see the world a little clearer. Right now, she wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing. She grabs her backpack and goes back downstairs, shelving the feelings that courses through her for later.
“See you later, C-pubs!” Tobin calls as she exits the house. She spots Sonnett waiting next to her. Her own car parked at the street in front of Christen’s house. Tobin takes the coffee that Sonnett was holding out for her. “Hey, so I have a favor to ask.”
Sonnett narrows her eyes at Tobin. “This isn’t like that time you asked me to cancel Christen’s cable subscription, right?”
“Will I get fired if I say no?”
“No!” Tobin says, affronted. “I’ll give you a $500 bonus for the day.”
“Deal,” Sonnett agrees, easily. “What is it?”
Tobin digs in her backpack, pulling her wallet out. She takes out her credit card and gives it to Sonnett. “Christen’s cousin is visiting. They hate each other.”
“Yeah, so I need you to run interference,” Tobin explains. “Whatever Christen wants, she gets. Any expenses you have today, use the credit card-”
“You’re getting me hot and bothered with all the money talk, Miss Heath,” Sonnett teases, fanning herself with the card.
“You know you would make a great actress,” Tobin comments at her perfectly mimicked southern accent.
“Nope,” Sonnett says. “That’s because of my Southern upbringing. I’m all about screenplays and sometimes scripts.”
Tobin eyes widen in surprise (she shouldn’t be. Almost everyone in LA is or was involved in the business). “You write screenplays?”
Sonnett nods. “Yeah! It even ended up on the 2016 Black List at one point.” She sighs heavily. “But, alas, no one wanted to produce it.” She tilts her head, confused for a second. She looks a bit shy suddenly. She shrugs as if trying to downplay it. “But everybody is writing a screenplay these days, right?”
Her phone chimes at her, a reminder she set before telling her to get a move on. “We will come back to your dreams later.”
Sonnett sighs, shaking her head. “Isn’t that what they always say?”
Tobin snorts, shaking her head at her assistant’s antics. “Just make sure Christen is happy.”
“You’re really taking this fiancee thing to heart,” Sonnett comments as she twirls the credit card in her hands.
“It’s Christen,” Tobin says as if that was enough of an explanation. She pushes Sonnett towards the front door, urging her. “Go inside.”
Sonnett salutes her before she turns and walks up the path leading to the front door of the house. Tobin didn’t look back to see Christen’s reaction. In any other circumstance, Christen would send Sonnett away, but with Lily in the house she knows Christen wouldn’t mind the company.
As she drives to set, her phone keeps vibrating with notifications, interrupting her music far too many times than she likes. When she finally pulls up to the gate for the studio, she takes a quick glance at the stream of texts to see Christen having a conversation with herself ending with a Thank you .
Satisfied, Tobin sends a quick reply with nothing more than a You’re Welcome. She heads to her trailer first to drop off her stuff before heading to hair and makeup.
“A couple of more minutes and you would’ve been late,” Ashlyn says as Tobin slides into the chair. She moves Tobin’s hair out of the way, getting ready to put the makeup on her. “I hear congratulations are in order.”
Tobin freezes and her eyes meet at Ashlyn’s through the mirror, confused.
Ashlyn mirrors her confusion. “You got engaged?” She stops and leans down so she was equal height with Tobin. “Dude you announced it on Ellen.”
Tobin blinks before nodding jerkily. “Oh right! Sorry things are a bit hectic at the house.” She motions to her head. “Things are slipping out.”
“Trouble in paradise?” Ashlyn works on her face, glancing at the reference pictures stuck at the top of huge mirror in front of them.
Tobin shakes her head no, settling into her seat for makeup-and-hair therapy. “Christen’s cousin is in town and they...don’t exactly get along.”
A look of understanding crosses Ashlyn’s face. “I’m sure they’ll be fine.”
“I left Sonnett with them.”
“Well then we know they won’t kill each other,” Ashlyn says after a moment. She pushes on Tobin’s shoulder to get her to sit down some more. “Let’s get you looking like you’ve been beaten and mauled, shall we?”
Tobin cringes as Ashlyn starts putting some of the fake blood goo in her hair.
About an hour and a half-later, Tobin emerges from the make-up later looking like she got into a bar fight and barely won. The perfect look for her character in her last days.
She walks unto the set, holding her sides in one hand and her water bottle in another.
“Look who finally shows up,” Her co-star, Mal, quips teasingly from her chair when she spots Tobin walking towards them.
“Family emergency,” Tobin says putting her things on her chair. “Ready to do this thing?”
Mal looks at her, eyes wet, lips in a pout. “No.”
Tobin smiles putting an arm around her young co-star. “Too bad.”
“I still can’t believe they’re killing you off,” Mal says, sniffing, trying to hold back tears.
“It’s time.” Tobin shrugs. She’s had some time to ruminate on whether or not she was going to continue with the show. Unlike her co-stars who found out last week on their table read. Her character had been stagnant for awhile and, frankly, she’s gotten bored of it. While in negotiations, she had a talk with the showrunners and they all agreed that her character was ready to go, having serve all of the purpose that she was initially written for. She was ready to move on. “Save those tears, Mal.”
Mal just glares at her.
“Guys, ready?” Their director for the week, Miles, calls.
Mal and Tobin give a thumbs up, going to their first mark.
They go through rehearsal, Tobin carefully remembering where her marks were. Even years into the business, she sometimes miss a couple of her marks. She has the tendency to roam, especially when the scene was intense. Luckily for this scene, she was mostly limping around so she only had a handful of marks. Mal mostly had to carry the scene through.
As they set up for the next scene, Tobin decides to go back to her trailer since she wasn’t needed until the actual death scene, which was a little bit after Shirley and Mal’s scene and that could take anywhere between an hour or two.
She opens her phone, seeing if she had any missed calls or texts from Christen or Sonnett. She didn’t know whether to be relieved that there were no glaring badge numbers over any of her messaging apps.
She didn’t even realize that there was another person near her until she bumped into them. She was too deep into her head. “Hey, Shirls.”
Tobin got close to her co-star, seeing as they always had to be in contact with each other because of their characters. Close enough that they even started dating. Running lines turned to running something more. It was Tobin’s first time dating a fellow actor and the ensuing rumor mill that it generated was enough to scare her not to do it again. Even for that brief time they were dating, roles suddenly dried up (but this was almost five years ago, how times have changed). Their breakup was mutual (it had to be with the way they treated each other).
“I saw your last take,” Shirley said, nodding towards the soundstage that she was just in, giving Tobin a small smile. “Phenomenal, as usual.”
Tobin feels her cheeks heat up, her hand coming up to scratch the nape of her neck, her heart feeling heavier than before. She truly would miss Shirley. She’s taught her things she never realized could be learned. “Thank you.”
Shirley looks like she wants to say something. Her eyes flashing with an unknown emotion behind them. Something catches her eyes over Tobin’s shoulder. “I’ll leave you two alone.”
Tobin looks over her shoulder to see Christen and Emily waiting by her trailer door, looking at her. Christen was glaring daggers at Shirley and Emily looked none-the-wiser at the death glare Christen was sending her. It looked like they’ve just arrived as Emily was in the process of unlocking it, the door slightly ajar. Christen was holding a bag. Tobin can guess what it is.
“Hey,” Tobin says as she walks to them. Christen was still glaring at Shirley’s retreating form.
“What is she doing here?” Christen asks, she tries to keep the malice out of her tone as Shirley was never outwardly rude to her. She’s always been nice, but just how their relationship was at the end, it left a sour taste in her mouth. But there was always at least two tales in a relationship.
“She’s guest starring,” Tobin says, amused by her reaction to Shirley. She shouldn’t be really. Christen was there for all things that went down during that particular relationship. She’s not really Shirley’s biggest fan by the end there. Tobin tugs on the bag that she was holding, thinking it was best to just change the subject. “What did you bring me?”
Christen’s glaring eyes shifts. She looks confused for a second before looking at the bag. “Oh, food! I know it’s your last day and all so I wanted to bring you some comfort.”
Tobin raises an eyebrow at Christen. She makes a point of taking her phone out and looking at the time. “It’s 1 AM…”
Christen sighs as she admits, gesturing to Emily inside the room. “We needed a break from Lily.”
“Biatch is psycho!” Emily yells from inside of the room. “She wouldn’t go to sleep!”
“There it is!”
“Shut up,” Christen says as she tugs the bag back to her and breezes past her into her room.
Tobin laughs and follows her in. She sits on the sofa as Christen unloads the food that she’s brought her. She looks around the trailer, realizing she had to start stripping it. She didn’t bring much, some pictures of her nieces and nephew, and Christen attached to the vanity, a poster of some dog that she was sure she swiped from Christen’s office (the brand of a popular dog food at the corner of it confirms it), and a change of clothes when she needs them and she never changed the original furniture. It was still the standard pull out couch that they have, generic IKEA black dresser and a TV on top of it.
“What did you guys bring?” Tobin asks as she sits on the floor as Christen places a bowl in front of her.
“Just what I was making earlier,” Christen says as they all dig in. “How was filming?”
Tobin holds up a hand as she swallows. “Good. We haven’t filmed the death scene yet.”
“Has Mal started crying yet?” Sonnett asks from the sofa just as the door opens and Mal walks in, slips of paper in her hand.
“I haven’t!” Mal says as she plops down next to Sonnett.
“Lies!” Tobin says. “We had to do a small scene and it wasn’t even the death scene yet-”
“It was still a sad scene!” Mal defends, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at Tobin, looking like the petulant teenager that she is. She turns to Christen instead, holding her hand out, giving her the brightest smile (Christen was stunned at the sudden change of her mood). “I’m Mal. You must be Christen.”
Christen nods, taking her hand, shaking it. “That I am.” Christen gestures to the food. “Help yourself.”
Mal’s eyes brightens as she reaches for one of the bowls. “I’m sooo hungry,” she moans as she spoons some of the zucchini pasta in her mouth. “Crafty hasn’t gotten any good actual food yet. It’s all snacks.”
“Rain said he’s gonna go get pizza,” Tobin says. “Did you tell them your order?”
Mal turns to Christen, laying on the charm. “But this is better.”
“Kiss-ass,” Sonnett coughs into her mouth. Mal turns to her and sticks her tongue out.
Christen raises an eyebrow at her. “Are you saying my zucchini pasta isn’t better than pizza?”
“Would you disinvite me from your game night if I say no?” Emily asks, jokingly.
“Of course-” Tobin says.
“-not,” Christen finishes.
Tobin looks up at her, blinking. “You’re undermining me,” she says matter-of-factly.
“It’s just game night,” Christen says. “Besides she won’t win.”
Tobin nods, agreeing with her assessment. “You’re right.”
“Why do I feel like I’ve just been mom’d?” Sonnett comments from the side.
“Because you have,” Mal says.
“That feels weird,” Sonnett comments, frowning. She rubs her stomach as if that concept just upset it.
“You’re weird,” Tobin says, throwing a wad of napkin at Sonnett.
“You know I completely see Christen as the disciplinarian,” Sonnett says, picking up the napkin and throwing it back at Tobin which initiates it into a throwing match.
At her comment, Tobin’s and Christen’s eyes meet. She can see a mix of amusement and guilt swimming them at the mention of their relationship past this facade that they’ve concocted. She reaches over and squeezes her hand, trying to alleviate any negative feelings she might’ve felt.
Mal snorts. “That’s because you haven’t spent that much time with Tobin. She wouldn’t even let me drink.”
“You were underage!” Tobin throws it back to Sonnett, this time with more force.
“By an hour!” Mal reminds her, indignant. Clearly that particular memory was still sore for both parties, mostly Mal’s. “Tobin you turn 21 when you the clock hits midnight not the actual time you were born.”
“Well that’s stupid,” Tobin harrumphs as she catches the wad of napkin.
“You had a full-on rager when you turned 18,” Christen reminds her.
“Hypocrite!” Mal cries, pointing at Tobin.
“I don’t like this being ganged up on,” Tobin says, crossing her arms over her chest as she stares at the three of them.
Sonnett bats her eyes at Tobin. “You know I’m always on your side, boss.”
“That’s because I sign your paychecks,” Tobin says.
“Well, technically Becky does.”
“Whatever,” Tobin says, throwing her hands up. “Let me just eat my damn meal in peace.”
Mal turns to Christen and asks, “How come you never visit our set before?”
“Because of weird-ass child actors like you,” Tobin snarks. “You wcreep her out.”
“Hey!” Mal cries, offended, but the light in her eyes tell Tobin she wasn’t really. Her attention shifts back to Christen waiting for her answer.
Christen shrugs. “I’ve just been busy with work.”
“What do you do?” Mal asks, her whole body leaning towards Christen, genuinely curious. Usually, people around her were in the industry, whether they were above or below the line.
“I’m a vet,” Christen says, slowly, unsure as to what her reaction was going to be.
Tobin doesn’t blame her. Some Hollywood friends that Christen had met were usually pretentious with these kinds of things (that’s how Tobin knows to cut them off from her life. She doesn't need them as much as she wants Christen in her life).
Mal’s eyes widen and she starts asking questions about what Christen does. Her daily operations, favorite animals, favorite patients, and any stories that she can remember, both cute and horror.
She excuses herself to go to the bathroom, though she doesn’t know if any of the parties in the room heard her. Mal and Christen busy talking while Sonnett naps on the couch. She must be exhausted after herding Christen and Lily. Tobin makes a mental note of doubling the promised amount. Anybody that can survive Lily deserves more than she promised.
She goes back to the room, smiling as she hears Christen and Mal laughing over one of Christen’s stories. The smile was wiped from her face when she hears her name.
“-and then she sits there, literally juggling two kittens to make sure she doesn’t get scratched but also to keep them on the exam table,” Christen says in between her laughter.
“That sounds so cute though!” Mal says. “Do you have any pictures?”
Christen’s eyes brighten as she takes her phone out. “Dude, I have a lot of pictures from the time she was working as my vet tech.”
“I thought the ganging up on me thing was done?” Tobin complains as she sits next to Christen on the only couch in the room. She lays her head on her shoulder, pouting. Sonnett has moved to the lone chair, curled up, still asleep. Mal was on the floor in front of Christen sitting criss-cross applesauce.
“It is,” Christen assures her. She was about to card her hand through her hair when she notices that Tobin was still in full hair and makeup. “Do you still have more scenes to film?”
Mal and Tobin both nod. “Shirley and Cameron are filming their scenes right now.” Tobin says as Mal groans.
“After this I think I have to go with second unit on location,” Mal says, head hitting the couch behind her, her arm flopping over her eyes. “Then I’ll be off for three days.” She closes her eyes as if imaging it. “Three glorious days.”
“Well I’ll be off forever after our scene,” Tobin says.
“Don’t taunt me,” Mal says, glaring at Tobin. “At least there’s only one episode left for this season to film. We won’t be without you for long.”
“Until next season,” Tobin points out.
“Do you wanna keep me miserable or what, Heath?” Mal asks, snipingly.
Before Tobin can answer the door knocks and their 2nd AD sticks her head in. “We’re ready for you ladies.” She spots Christen and she goes in, giving Christen a warm smile. “Hi! You must be Christen?” She points at herself. “I’m Caroline.”
Christen nods, standing up, making Tobin whine. “Nice to meet you.”
She turns to Tobin, raising her eyebrows. “Now I know why you never bring her on set.”
Tobin puts an arm around Christen and brings her to her side, almost curling around her. “Hey get your own,” she says, glaring at her.
Caroline laughs before she bids them goodbye. “Nice to meet you, Christen. Be on set in 10, ladies!”
Mal groans. “No rest for the wicked.”
“Don’t forget your sides!” Tobin calls after her, gesturing to the pieces of paper on the coffee table.
“Thanks!” Mal says as she grabs them. She pockets them before turning to Christen. She gives her a hug, startling Christen a bit. “Bye Christen. See you on Thursday.” She leaves the trailer, eyes on her sides as she tries to memorize them as quickly as possible. They’ve gotten a final revision on their last scene from the writers, which sucked, but it was her job to be ready for them.
“She’s coming to game night?” Tobin asks. She turns to Christen, almost taking a step back when she realizes how close they were.
Christen looks up at her, then down to her mouth, blinking, mouth agape. Tobin can feel the little puffs of breath against her lips, red was creeping up on her cheeks.
Tobin doesn’t know why, but that simple reaction amuses her. “Chris?”
Christen blinks fast as if clearing her mind. “What?”
“Mal is coming to game night?” Tobin says slowly emphasizing each word to tease her.
“Uh yeah,” Christen says. She looks contrite for a second, probably because Tobin loves to keep her work and private life separate. “You don’t mind, right?”
Tobin shakes her head no. “Mal’s one of the good ones.”
There was a knock on the door and Mal pops her head in again. She gives them a smile, gesturing with her head. “Ready to go, Tobs?”
“Yeah,” Tobin says stepping forward, but Mal just shakes her head. “What?”
Mal rolls her eyes at Tobin. She motions to Christen, still standing there, though her eyes look far away.
Tobin turns to Christen, widening her eyes, asking as silently as possible if it was okay with what she was supposed to do. When she sees that Christen wasn’t saying no, she swoops in and presses a kiss to her lips. It was supposed to be a peck, quick and light, closed-mouth, almost effortless, like they’ve done this every single day of their life.
Then she felt Christen kissing her back and her eyes widen, relaxing into the kiss more. She hears Christen moan and she swears it was the best thing she’s ever heard, save for her giggles. When she was about to deepen the kiss, she feels Christen pull away so suddenly that she stands there stock still for a second.
She turns to Mal and then to Christen.
“See you later?” Christen asks, giving her a smile as if reassuring her. Reassuring her for what? Tobin wasn’t sure.
“Yeah,” Tobin says, her mind was still stuck with the kiss. The feel of Christen’s lips like that against her and her sounds echoing in her ear. She was pretty sure her brain short-circuited.
“Let’s go!” Mal says, waving goodbye to Christen while she drags Tobin to one of the golf carts parked.
She swears she can hear Sonnett say, “You’re so screwed.”
For the next four hours or so, Tobin gets lost in her role as Cadence, the badass, older sister of Alethia, Mal’s character, fighting imaginary evil doers. She pushes the kiss out of her mind as much as she can (that glorious, sublime, marvelous, heated, toe-curling and any other positive synonym that can be fit in here kiss. God she really needs to get laid if a kiss gets her worked up like that).
“And cut! Print it! ” Their director calls from the video village.
Tobin sighs in relief, immediately standing up from the uncomfortable floor. She turns to Mal giving her a small, soft smile. “Mal…”
“No!” Mal says, the pout was back, her eyes still misty after their emotional goodbye scene.
She holds her arms open for the younger girl. She truly did become like a younger sister to her. Even though, like Alex, Mal has been in the industry much longer than she has, she’s taken an older sister role, not unlike how their characters dynamics are. “It’s not like we won’t see each other.”
“You better come back for the wrap party,” Mal threatens, poking Tobin in her stomach.
Tobin jumps away, swatting her hands away from her proximity. “I will! Wouldn’t miss that for the world.”
“Guys!” The booming voice of their director cuts through the chatter that fell among the various crew. She holds out her arm to the direction of Tobin. “It is my great pleasure to announce that that’s a series wrap for Ms. Tobin Heath as Cadence.”
The wolf-whistles and applause from the cast and crew had the unexpected tears that she thought she wasn’t going to shed today, springing to her eyes. She holds her fist tighter against her thigh as she bows to them, eating it up. She truly love these people that became her second family. She goes to each crew member, shaking their hands, and thanking them before she finally gets to their director.
Miles might be their director for the week, but she’s been a regular since their very first season. In fact, she directed Tobin’s first scene as Cadence. It made her last scene so much more special, knowing that she was their director for the week.
“Always a pleasure,” Miles says as she draws her into a hug, rocking them. “I hope I get to work with you again, Tobs.”
“Me too, My,” Tobin says, squeezing her.
“Good luck with everything, Tobin,” Miles says as she steps back, offering her hand for a handshake. “Can’t wait to see Captain Marvel.”
“Good luck,” Tobin says, gripping her hand tight.
After she says goodbye to everyone, she walks to her trailer. Her heart felt heavy and light at the same time. One of those feelings that she really adored. It was usually a sign of new things to come. The lot provides a good space for her to reminiscence. It was literally where she got that big break that everyone talks about. It was a place where she learned how her job really worked, both the good sides of it and the bad sides of it.
She can still pinpoint the soundstage that they used where they filmed countless scenes of just her and Mal in their character’s bedrooms that became her second home (well third counting Christen’s guest room) as well as the place to nap when she needed to catch a quick one. They used one of the smaller soundstages (this is of course relatively speaking as the smallest one was still massive) in the lot until they had to be moved as the 3rd season was much more heavy with new indoor locations. That feeling of never ending as they go into the morning for night shoots (their 4th season was full of that). The day blending onto the next. Across the lot she can see parts of The Jungle, a flora-heavy location that the actors all dreaded working in, peaking out. She can almost feel the itchiness she got, her legs getting scratched as they run through it, countless of times until they got the perfect take. Thankfully, they didn’t film much scenes there.
She goes back to her trailer, ready to get out of this place. She opens the door, surprised to see Christen on the futon, a blanket wrapped around her. The sight warms her heart, spreading throughout her body. She kneels on the floor next to Christen’s head, watching her for a moment. She doesn’t know when in their friendship did home start associating with Christen, but it felt like that feeling has always been there when she sees her.
She strokes her hair, trying to rouse her from sleep. “Chris,” she whispers. “Christen.”
Christen whines and turns over, burying her face against the pillow. “Fuck off.”
Tobin gasps. “Christen Press, you kiss your mother with that mouth?”
“I kissed you with that mouth,” Christen mumbles sleepily.
Tobin’s hand freezes on her back, guffawing. “You did.” She pats her trying to get her to move. “C’mon, I’m done with my scenes.”
Christen sighs and sits up, stretching, a sliver of skin showing that Tobin, for the life of her, couldn’t tear her eyes away from. “That took longer than I expected.”
“They had a last set of rewrites,” Tobin explains as she turns away,(and damn if she didn't have to physically move her head with her hand in order to turn away) not wanting to make Christen uncomfortable with her blatant staring. “I thought you left with Sonnett?”
Christen shakes her head as she rises from the couch, groaning. “No, I wanted to make sure you were okay,” she says. She rubs her palms against her eyes trying to get rid of the sleep that wants to pull her back under. She stops and looks at Tobin, perusing her face. She reaches over and places her palm against her cheek, rubbing the apple of it with her thumb. “Sad?”
Tobin closes her eyes and leans into it. She stays there for a second, letting Christen’s offered comfort help her. Her eyes open and she meets Christen’s worried ones. She turns her head and kisses her palm before standing up and looking around the now stripped trailer (Sonnett had taken her boxes when she left earlier) , feeling that nostalgic weight in her heart grow tighter.. She holds out her hand, tugging Christen up when she takes it. “Yeah let’s get out of here.”
Tobin’s eyes fly open, her good sleep being cut short when she felt like she was being watched. She looks around the room, the blanket clutched against her chest. Her eyes land on Christen sitting right next to her, her back against the wall as she sips her coffee. She squints at her, sitting up and holding out her hand.
Christen obliges and passes her the mug. “Why did you sleep on the floor?”
“Is Lily still here?”
Christen nods. “Yeah.” She looks pointedly at her makeshift bed, silently asking.
Tobin holds up one finger as she takes a big gulp of Christen’s coffee before handing it back to her. “We didn’t really talk about what our boundaries are or if there are any rules.”
“Yeah like PDA and stuff, kissing. You know what usually happens when people are in a relationship?”
Christen nods slowly. “Right.”
“So I’m assuming you’re okay with kisses because yesterday you gave me a kiss.” A kiss that Tobin is still trying to actively not think about. She bunches her shirt in her fist to stop her hand from unconsciously going up to her lips, remembering the feel of Christen’s against hers. Damn it.
Christen nods. “Yeah I mean we need to sell this thing.” She puts down her phone and stares at Tobin. “Kissing is only in public. I don’t want things to get more…”
Tobin waits for her to finish her sentence, but when she didn’t, she nods. She didn't know what she was agreeing to exactly, but anything to make Christen comfortable with the situation. “Me touching you,” Tobin says.
Christen chokes on her coffee and stares at Tobin wide-eyed.
“Like holding your hand and stuff,” Tobin clarifies. “In public.”
“Fine with that too,” Christen says. She motions to the bed. “And we can share a bed while Lily is here, okay? No more sleeping on the floor.”
Tobin smiles and nods. “Good because I’ve got a crick in my neck from the floor.”
Christen arches an eyebrow at her. “We’ve shared beds before, Heath.”
Tobin shrugs. “I didn’t want to make you feel weird.”
Christen rolls her eyes, but didn’t comment further. She picks up her phone, her eyes scanning it. “Okay, we talked about that...and that…and that…” she mumbles to herself and Tobin finally figures out.
“You have a list?” The corner of her lips was quirking into a smile and she tries so hard to keep them down, but the moment Christen’s eyes met hers, she couldn’t help it.
“Shut up,” Christen mumbles, her cheeks reddening. She was still looking at her phone fiddling with it.
Christen looks up, confused. “What about it?”
“We have to promise we’re putting our friendship first,” Tobin says. She turns her body to Christen, putting her hands on Christen's knees, leaning forward. She hopes she’s conveying how serious she is. It sounds unhealthy, but their friendship is her lifeline. “If this thing goes sideways, I don’t want to lose you.” Tobin holds out her pinky. “Promise?”
Christen, without hesitation, hooks their pinky together. “Friendship comes first.”
“Friendship comes first,” Tobin echoes before entwining their hands a bit. She always marvel at how their hands fit perfectly together. She plays with her fingers before fully engulfing it and tugging her up. “Let’s go get breakfast.”
“Oh I got us some from that trashy place you like,” Christen says, letting Tobin help her up.
“Just because it doesn’t have vegan options doesn’t mean it’s not good,” Tobin defends. She looks at Christen, her excitement was palpable, but she doesn’t know why. “What’s the occasion?”
Christen shrugs. “You were sobbing like a baby because you were done with your show.”
Tobin looks up at her, eyes shining. “Aw are you being nice to me?”
“Yes because you need it,” Christen says. “You’re gonna have to deal with rejections all over again.”
Tobin groans as she realizes what she said was true. “Don’t remind me. Let me enjoy my off days.”
Christen laughs as she tugs Tobin downstairs. Tobin’s eyes zeroes in on the present next to the food. She turns to Christen, eyes wide with excitement.
“You got me a present?” Tobin asks as she rushes to the brightly wrapped box. She tugs it open, the lid almost flying out of her hands. She takes the tissue paper out, throwing them over her shoulder. At the bottom of the box sat a blue GameBoy Micro still new in its box with a set of games next to it. She can already see the Mario Kart title as well as the colorful cartridges that Pokemon comes in. “You got me a GameBoy?” She whispers in awe.
“Yeah to commemorate the successful ending of your first series regular,” Christen says. “And I know you’ve been wanting to go into RetroGaming.”
Her heart thuds louder in her ears as she hears Christen’s words. She mentioned it in passing, almost nonchalantly exactly once. It was almost three months ago when they went to an antique store. They both had look of horrors on their faces when they saw a Nintendo 64 in the antique store. She mentioned how much fun she had with her GameBoy Advance when they were younger and how she wanted to recreate that childhood feeling of excitement at getting immersed in a game as they walked through the store. She didn’t even realize Christen had internalize it as not a second later, her attention had shifted to this neat looking bread box.
As usual, Christen has proved her wrong. She didn’t think it was even possible to feel even more for a person. She grips the box tighter in her hands to curb the urge of reaching out and taking Christen into her arms to kiss her. It shocks her for a second that the feelings that she desperately tries to forget are resurfacing like crazy.
She clears her throat. Emotion thick in her voice as she chokes out, “Thanks, Christen.” She looks up at Christen, eyes wet.
“So you like it?”
“I love it,” Tobin assures her as she opens the box to take it out.
They were so caught up with Tobin’s new toy, they didn’t even hear the door open until Sonnett comes in, carrying something against her chest. “Hey, party people.”
Tobin turns to Christen, looking aghast and betrayed. “You gave her a key?”
“I’ll ignore your tone, boss,” Sonnett says as she hands Tobin some stacks of papers. “Spec scripts from the Black List. Becky said you like to read them.”
“Oh yes. I’ve been looking forward to reading these,” Tobin says as she puts them on the chair next to her. She rifles through each script, seeing that Sonnett had actually numbered them according to rank. She picks one up and flipping through it.
“You hungry, Son?” Christen asks as she gestures to their breakfast. “We got food from where you used to work.”
Sonnett looks queasy as she looks down at the food as if the look alone would make her throw up. “I’m good. Ali and Ash are coming by.”
“For what?” Tobin asks as she digs into the omelette, moaning at the deliciousness, some kind of sauce drips down the side of her mouth.
Christen scrunches her nose as she looks at Tobin, disgusted. “Gross.”
“To dress you for the party.”
Both Christen and Tobin stop, identical looks of confusion on their faces as they look at Sonnett. Tobin wanted to groan, the kissing ass never seems to end. She was really looking forward to sleeping at a good time tonight. Her schedule was already messed up because the last two weeks of night shoots.
Christen laughs at Tobin’s face. “Sucks for you.”
Sonnett looks at Christen confused. “What are you laughing at? You’re her plus one.”
Christen’s laughter stops and Tobin laughs, harder than Christen ever did. “Damn it,” Christen curses, making Tobin laugh harder. Christen glares at her as she throws a piece of mango at her. “Do you even know what studio it’s for?”
Tobin squints, trying to remember it. “Is it...Marvel?” Tobin says, slowly, turning to Sonnett for confirmation.
Sonnett sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose. Tobin couldn’t help but smile. It was just like Becky. “Yes.” She says. “Party is at 8, but Ali and Ash are going to be here at 3. Please take a shower before they get here.”
“Got it, boss,” Tobin says, saluting her. “Is that it?”
Sonnet nods. “Yep. I think Becky is coming with you guys to the party.”
Tobin sighs in relief. “Thank god. I don’t think I would even know who to schmooze up at these parties. How long do we have to be there?”
“You guys can leave after dinner is finished serving,” Sonnett says. “I think that’s what Becky said. You have to ask her.” She nods her head as if assuring herself that she’s done everything that she can. “Okay I delivered everything. Do you need me to do anything around the house.”
“Can you hang out-” Tobin begins, motioning to the guest room.
Sonnett shakes her head. “Not even a million dollars will get me to hangout with her. Bye!”
Tobin looks at Christen and shrugs, “Worth a try.”
“Dress or suit?” Ali asks as she searches through the rack of clothes they had brought.
Tobin stands to the side. Ashlyn was already working on Christen. It took her less to choose a dress than it did Tobin.
“Uh,” Tobin stammers.
“You still haven’t chosen one?” She hears Christen gripe behind her.
“Not all of us have to…” Her words die in her throat as she sees Christen walking towards her, a vision in her gold dress.
You’d have to be blind to not see how gorgeous Christen is, even when she’s in her scrubs, covered in some of the weirdest shit (both literally and figuratively).
She can't stop staring.
“Wow,” Tobin chokes out. Then her brain blanks and she blurts out, “Nice.”
“Nice?” Ashlyn says as she joins Ali and Tobin in the living room. “She looks fucking phenomenal!” She fluffs Christen’s hair. “If I do say so myself. She was already beautiful, but I just made her more of a goddess.”
“Sorry,” Tobin says, her hands felt clammy all of a sudden. She wipes her hands on her shirt, trying to steady her heart. “You look beautiful.” She holds her arm out to Christen.
Christen smiles at her and steps into her space.
Tobin puts her hand on the small of her back and she let out a breath like she was struggling when she encounters bare skin. “Fuck.” She leans back and her eyes widen when all she saw was an expanse of bare skin. The back of the dress was completely backless. “Uh…”
“I look nice right?” Christen asks, blinking up at her shyly as if Tobin was going to insult her.
“Yeah,” Tobin says without any hesitation. “Dude, you look fucking gorgeous.”
“It’s not too much right?” Christen asks, worriedly. Her hand awkwardly reaches for her back as if there was an itch there. “Ash said it was okay.”
“Definitely not,” Tobin assures her. She takes Christen’s hand, squeezing it. “You’re a knock-out, CP.”
Christen sighs, her shoulder relaxing. “Okay.”
“Now that you’ve seen your beautiful fiancee,” Ali says, grabbing Tobin by the arm. “How about we look for something that will knock her off her feet.”
Tobin gives Christen a smile and a thumbs up. Relax , she mouths to her. When she sees Christen relax even further.
“Oh my dog,” Christen breathes she sees other Marvel stars start to arrive.
Tobin stops and looks at her. “Did you say oh my dog?”
“Yeah, a non-denominational way to express your awe,” Christen informs her distractedly as she sees all the Marvel stars milling about. She usually wasn’t affected by celebrities, thanks in part to Tobin and Alex, but just seeing Captain America and Spider-Man in the same room. It was a little bit surreal.
“There’s Joe,” Becky points among the crowd. Tobin nods even though she can’t see who she’s pointing to. “You might wanna talk to him by the end of this night.”
Tobin turns to her right to see her directors, Anna and Ryan, walking towards them, though Anna was dragging Ryan more than actually walking with him. She puts her hand on the small of Christen’s back, ignoring the way Christen seem to suck in a breath at the contact. She was probably just surprised at it.
“Anna!” Tobin greets, letting herself be pulled into a hug first by Anna then by Ryan. She turns to Becky and Christen. “You’ve met Becky, but you haven’t met my best-” she stops and corrects herself, “my fiancee, Christen.”
Christen waves at them. “Hi. Nice to meet you.”
Anna smiles as she reaches forward to give her a hug. “You might not be in my movie, Christen, but welcome to the Marvel family. I’m sorry we have to take Tobin for a couple of months of shooting,” she says.
“Eh, I’m getting sick of her anyway,” Christen jokes back. “You can take her.”
“I am hurt, my love,” Tobin says, the pet name slipping past her lips far too easily, making both Christen and Tobin pause, the smile leaving her face for a millisecond before it was back on.
Ryan notices the slight pause. “I know we have no right to speak of it because you guys have much it harder than us, but it’s hard isn’t it?” His hand goes to the small of his wife’s back.
“Having your relationship actually out and exposed,” Anna says at the look of confusion both women were wearing.
Tobin’s eyes widen. Her heart was beating against her chest so loud and so hard, she swears the whole room can hear it. Did someone else figure out what’s going on.
“Not knowing if it’s okay to do certain things,” Anna says, oblivious to the panic attack that Tobin had going on. “But you guys look like a strong couple. You were friends first right?”
Tobin relaxes minutely. “Right,” she breathes.
“You guys will be fine,” Anna says, reassuringly, patting Tobin on the arm. “Don’t let this place eat you up,” she says before a voice takes her attention.
“I see my Marvel family is busy conniving.”
“Gemma,” Tobin greets her, stepping forward, allowing herself to be hugged and kissed on the cheek by the Brit. They’ve met a couple of times for wardrobe and makeup fittings, each time their friendship growing. “Good to see you.”
“Good to see you, darling,” Gemma steps forward, giving Tobin a kiss on the cheek as well as Anna and giving Ryan a hug. She turns to Christen, “I don’t think we’ve met?”
“Uh, no,” Christen stammers, her hand hovering in the air. Christen continues to stare at Gemma with wide eyes, unmoving.
Tobin can feel the anxiety and the panic come off her in droves. She feels Christen's hand getting clammy in hers.
She doesn’t blame Christen for getting starstruck. Gemma was an absolute stunner with her soft voice and kind eyes, she can absolutely make you feel like she’s the only one in the room. Though it was a little weird to see Christen so obviously taken by a girl. If she’s being honest, she feels a little bit of jealousy at the pit of her stomach, wishing that Christen would look at her like that.
Christen remains silent, her eyes were still on Gemma as Gemma stands before her, waiting for her to give her name, or say something at least.
Tobin looks at her amused before turning to Gemma. “Great job, Gem. You rendered my fiancee useless.”
Gemma looks at Christen, worried and confused, who seemed to still be frozen. She turns to Tobin. “Is she alright?”
Tobin nods. “Just has a case of starstruck.”
Anna and Ryan starts talking, changing the subject to offer Christen a little reprieve. Though Tobin wasn’t sure that Christen even noticed as she’s still quiet, cheeks red. They inform them about the meetings that they’re going to have with the studios and when the final script will be finalized.
“Yeah I know you guys have had your fittings-”
“I liked you in Humans!” Christen blurts out, practically yelling it, halting multiple conversations around them.
All heads close to them swivel to her and Christen’s face turns darker, her eyes shifting to the ground. Tobin would’ve been laughing if Christen, usually so poised and dignified Christen, didn’t look so mortified.
“Oh my god,” Christen mutters to herself before she gives an awkward smile and walks away, presumably somewhere she can hide.
Tobin can still see her muttering to herself. She coughs, covering her laugh. “I’m just gonna go check on her.”
“Okay, tell her that that wasn’t the worse encounter I’ve had. Alright?” Gemma asks, amusement clear in her eyes.
Tobin nods assuring her that she’s going to relay the message to her flustered best friend before she bids her soon to be coworkers goodbye. It was refreshing to see Christen all ruffled (and a lot funny). The few guys that she’s dated have never really gotten a reaction like that out of her.
She looked at every booth and table, in every restroom as well as any little alcove or room that Christen might flee in.
Becky catches her by the arm. “Hey, did you-”
“I will in a bit,” Tobin says, shaking her hand off her arm. She goes back to walking to her original route before Becky tried wrangling her. “Gotta find Christen!”
“Outside!” Becky calls to her as she was walking away, pointing to the wall of doors that lead to the balcony that Tobin didn’t even realize was open to the party.
“Thanks!” Tobin shouts over her shoulder as she heads towards the wall of glass doors. She smiles in thanks at the doorman that opens it for her. Tobin easily spots her at the corner of the balcony away from the other guests (though even if it wasn’t for the golden dress, Tobin was sure her eyes would just be drawn to her).
She takes her coat off her shoulders as she approaches Christen. She carefully drapes it over Christen's shoulder. Their eyes meet as she carefully settles it. “Having a gay panic?”
She glares at Tobin. “Not funny.” Christen reaches up and tugs Tobin’s coat closer around her shoulders. She buries her face in the lapels of it, embarrassed. “God that was the worst conversation I’ve ever had.”
“I mean it wasn’t much of a conversation,” Tobin says, not being able to keep the amusement out of her voice. She leans against the railing of the balcony to look at Christen’s face.
“I practically yelled in her face, Tobs.”
“You were fine,” Tobin says, waving off her concern. She puts an arm around her shoulder, tugging Christen against her side. “You’d be thrilled to know that Gemma said that wasn’t the worst interaction she’s ever had.”
Christen groans as she shifts slightly, her nose brushing against her cheek. “I can’t go back in there.”
Tobin laughs. “You’re being dramatic.” She rubs her arms trying to warm her up, but she just feels Christen tense so she stops rubbing her arms, confused. “Everyone gets tongue tied sometimes.”
“Except you,” Christen says. “You literally just go up to any girl and strike a conversation, literally how we got into that date.”
Tobin looks down at her, eyes wide, mouth open. “Hey, you admit that it was a date!”
Christen stiffens again and Tobin was afraid she was going to pull away. When she feels Christen lean against her, letting her support most of her weight, Tobin relaxes as well. “I mean we did do date-like activities.”
“Finally you listen to me,” Tobin says, almost victoriously. She sways them slightly, almost unconsciously in time with the light music playing through the outdoor speakers and Christen’s humming. They stayed like that for awhile, their pseudo dance.
“Can I try something?” Christen whispers, almost afraid to disrupt the little bubble they were in.
“Sure.” Tobin shrugs, completely prepared and willing for whatever Christen wanted to do.
Christen looks up at her green eyes were darker than usual almost bordering onto gray. She turns around in Tobin's arms, careful to not lose eye contact. Her eyes shifted from Tobin’s eyes to Tobin’s lips. She leans towards her. Tobin swears the closer she gets, her heart beats faster until she was a hair’s breadth away and her heart was racing.
Christen’s lips presses against hers and her heart stops before it was beating in triple time. Their lips move against each other. Tobin was careful, letting Christen lead as she didn’t want to startle her.
When her tongue sweeps across her lips, Tobin was startled that she pulls away slightly, knees buckling. But Christen didn’t let the pause stop the kiss. Instead her lips chase Tobin’s until they were firmly pressed against hers again. She lets the kiss slowly taper until their breaths were mingling in the minute space, foreheads pressed against each other. Christen sighs into her mouth as if she was relieving a burden as their eyes open.
Tobin and Christen’s eyes met and she can see unnamed emotions swimming in them.
Well she wasn’t prepared for that .
You’re going to get hurt Tobin
Kelley’s words have been echoing in her head, a whisper she can’t shake off since this whole facade began as she sits against the headboard, knees pulled up to her chest.
She knew what could happen when this social media blunder happened. She knew there was a chance that the feeling she long buried would resurface. She’s learned to keep it in, curb it in, and she’s really taken Elsa’s words to heart when it came to Christen.
Christen was right though. Her “first date” with Christen, she really thought of it as a date. At that point, though she hadn’t come out to her parents. She had come out to Alex in a slightly drunk, mostly sober confession. Alex had talked about how her friend, Kelley, might know some girls and even though Tobin had insisted that she was fine not dating, Alex was having none of it.
But then Servando had shown up and Tobin was thoroughly confused. All she got from Kelley was that they had black hair and that was it. Not even their name which in hindsight was a dumb thing to not ask for. (That was the last time she allowed Alex or Kelley to set her up on dates). It’s not until she and Servando had been half way done with their meal and Christen’s date hasn’t shown up that she realized that Christen might be her date. She tells Servando this as they were eating their free food.
“Oh Tobin,” Servando says, face palming, laughing. “Yeah, dude I think that is your date.”
“Damn it, Kelley,” Tobin hisses. She looks apologetically at Servando. “You don’t mind?” She tilts her head towards Christen, who’s been stirring her glass of water with her straw for at least ten minutes now. She’s been sitting there for more than an hour.
“Nah dude, you’re good,” Servando says. “Besides Kelley is paying for this anyway. I’ll take it to go.”
Tobin sighs in relief. “Thanks, dude.”
Servando smiles. “Go get her.”
Their date had been awesome, at least Tobin had thought so. She had to come up quick plan as she had accidentally stood her up. They had a whisper of a laugh throughout the night, they were giddy, excited and they had fun Tobin genuinely thought that by the end of the night, that there was going to be a second date. She did get a call from Christen, asking if she wanted to hang out.
She thought of that as a second date.
They went to the route of a much more traditional date; a movie, a dinner, and a stroll with deserts in their hand. It was much more laid back and chill than their first one. There was no running from the waves lapping at their feet or security. It was sweet and quiet but it was still as fun.
She thought it was going well. They were having fun, at least she thought so.
It became increasingly clear though that Christen maybe wasn’t into girls? All their interactions were strictly friendly, platonic, maybe they were a little touchy, but mostly to help her walk or not lose her balance.
Now she was confused.
Granted, she was playing the fiancee, but the way she was with Tobin tonight (and really the way she’s been with her since she’s gotten back from the east coast). The kiss that they shared on the balcony at the end of the night. The kiss that’s been swimming in Tobin’s mind since they got back.
But they were outside when they shared that kiss. She must’ve seen something, a camera, paparazzi pointed their way. Tobin can’t see any other reason why Christen would initiate a kiss like that.
Tobin groans, rubbing her face with her palm. She was one kiss away from sending Kelley a You were right text.
She looks over to Christen’s side of the bed. She loves watching Christen sleep. She looked untroubled and unguarded. Christen was snug and tucked underneath the blanket, her back rising and falling softly as she sleeps so peacefully. Unaware of the turmoil that was shaking Tobin’s mind just a mere distance away from her.
Chapter 6: fears, away they did run
very very short compared to the other one...sorry for the long wait guys
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The first time Christen wakes up, she jolts, almost as if her body was bringing her back to the brink.
She blinks up at the darkened ceiling. She couldn’t figure out what time it was. Though by the darkness and stillness of the room, she can tell that they’re in the dead of the night.
There was something unsettling growing in her chest that she couldn’t name.
She turns over, wanting to look at Tobin, unsure why just the image of her, sleeping peacefully calms her down.
She lays on her side, her hand underneath her cheek as her gaze settles on Tobin. Her eyes trace the slope of Tobin’s nose, the apples of her cheek (wanting desperately to reach up and pinch them). She can see Tobin’s eyes moving underneath her lids, dreaming. A crinkle, that was usually at the outside corners of her eyes when she smiles, were now between her brow as if the dream that she was having was such a problem.
Christen reaches up and smooths it. She sees Tobin relax immediately, the corners of her lips lifting into a smile. Oddly reminds her of a baby for some reason.
“Christen,” Tobin breathes in her sleep and Christen freezes afraid that she had woken her up.
She watches Tobin for a moment. The crinkle returns. There was an annoyed sigh coming from Tobin before she yells, “Stop fucking taking the salt!”
Christen’s laughter bursts out of her and her hand flies to her mouth, shushing herself.
Tobin sits up, startled. “Whu-huh-Chris?” She looks down at the now silent Christen. She squints at her. “Are you okay? Why are you awake?”
Christen nods, reaching up to her shoulder to pull her back down. “‘M fine. Go back to sleep.”
Tobin looks around, still confused at the dim room as if she wasn’t really quiet there. She allows herself to be pulled back into the bed.
Christen smiles, combing her hands through Tobin's hair, knowing it'll help her go back to sleep quicker and fuss less. She feels Tobin almost sink into her touch, her hands coming up to bunch the blanket around her neck, her head turning to Christen's direction.
Tobin slowly blinks up at her, eyes half-lidded, but there was awe in them. "You have magic fingers," she slurs, her eyes closing almost as if Christen's ministrations were too much to handle.
Christen laughs under her breath, finding it cute as she continues to make sure she really does go to sleep. When she feels her breathing even and her body seems to relax and sink into the bed, Christen stops.
Christen takes a deep, shuddering breath, her hands covering her face. "Damn it," she whispers into the dark of the night. She lays back down, her body falling harder on the bed than she meant to. Her finger comes up to Tobin's face, stroking the side of it.
There was this overwhelming urge to tell her, but she tamped it down, wanting her first time to tell her to be actually awake, conscious, and actually respond. She leans over and brushes the small hairs on her face. She places a small kiss on her temple before she snuggles back onto her side of the bed.
The second time she wakes up, she wasn’t sure if it was because of the hot California sun filtering in or the feeling of warmth that was already residing in her chest because of the kiss yesterday, but, there was a warmth that Christen feels all over her body as she lays on her bed, refusing to let the new day win.
Her eyes flutter on its own accord as her fingers trace her bottom lip. The feeling of Tobin's lips against her still lingers making the butterflies in her stomach flutter harder than before.
"Shut up , Christen," She groans, running her palm over her face. One kiss and she was absolutely ruined. She turns over in her bed, burying her face in Tobin's pillow. Even alone, she had the overwhelming urge to hide her face wanting to scream out the giddiness she was feeling.
She sits up with the pillow, looking around the room, realizing that Tobin was no longer there.
Her heart sinks, the nagging voice in her head was back in full force. Not only was she fucked, but she fucked up.
She stills for a second trying to hear if there were any sounds coming from either the ensuite master or any noises from the house.
Tobin wasn't particularly quiet when she was getting ready.
She grabs the hoodie that was hanging over the end of the bed, throwing it on. Ignoring the gnawing feeling that something was amiss, her mind immediately goes to food, she pads down to the kitchen to make something.
The small noises she hears from the kitchen momentarily chasing that small feeling away until she sees it was Lily making food, not exactly the person she wanted to see.
"Good morning," Lily greets as Christen sits onto one of the chairs by the breakfast bar.
Christen blinks as Lily slides a plate of pancakes and fruit in front of her. She was a little unsettled at Lily’s sudden kindness. "Um…thanks."
Lily smiles as she grabs her plate and sits next to Christen. "No problem."
Christen lifts the pancake with her knife, looking underneath it, wondering if her cousin would actually try to poison her.
"I didn't poison it," Lily says, rolling her eyes. "Honestly, Annemarie."
"I didn't think you did," Christen defends cutting a piece of her pancake and eating it, almost pointedly.
Christen eats the food in small bites, looking around the room to see if she can see any traces of Tobin having been there. She feels the bite of pancake sticking in her throat when she sees none. "What time did you wake up?"
Lily thinks for a second as she takes a sip of her orange juice. "7 or 8?" She nods once as if confirming it with herself. "Wait no it was definitely at 7. Tobin had a flight at 9 right? And I saw her just as she was leaving."
"Right." Her voice feels hollow in her ear, almost as if it was ringing in her head. The hurried urge to call Tobin made her almost shovel the pancakes in her mouth. Enough so that Lily slides a glass of water her way to not choke.
"Thanks," she manages to gasp out as she chugs the water down. "I’ll talk to you later, Lil!" she shouts over her shoulder before she darts back upstairs where her phone was charging.
She sits on the bed, pulling up Tobin's info. She taps on it before waiting patiently on the bed, her legs crisscrossing over each other before she untangles them and does it again. Her legs keep moving over each other as she listens to the phone ring once, twice, before it goes to voicemail.
She tries again, hoping that this time Tobin will answer. This time it doesn’t even ring. It goes straight to voicemail.
It's not the first time Tobin hasn't picked up her call. With how busy they usually are phone tag is very common between them. But that prickly feeling that seems to be sitting on her chest says otherwise.
I’ll give it a couple of days.
That was what she told herself as she drives to her sister’s place with Lily in the passenger seat, talking about her...wedding (at least that’s what Christen thinks). She wanted to pay attention, she did, but her mind was otherwise occupied with driving and the fact that she just had her first kiss with a woman who has now disappeared off the face of the earth.
It’s been a couple of days and it was still silent on Tobin’s end. The excitement and giddiness she felt with the kiss just further confirmed what she was feeling was now this mass of black hole eating her alive. The fact that Tobin hasn’t called her back wasn’t helping.
“And then- Oh we’re here,” Lily comments as Christen pulls into their driveway.
Christen blinks, her hands still resting on the steering wheel, not realizing that her brain had auto-piloted her to Tyler’s place. She parks the car, glad that she can share Lily’s presence and enthusiasm with someone else. Even if they had some sort of peace this morning, being cooped up in the house with her without Tobin as a buffer is making her go crazy.
“Hey guys,” Tyler greets, her eyes were shining. Christen can see the stifled laugh on her lips as they come up the steps of her house. She draws Lily into a hug, patting her on the back, ever the diplomat. “Nice to see you, Lily.”
“It’s been awhile hasn’t it?” Lily says.
Tyler hugs Christen next, leaning a bit to whisper in her ear. “Hang in there, buddy.”
Christen rolls her eyes, pushing her sister forward into her house. “Where’s your hubby?”
“Basketball, I think,” Tyler says as she leads them to the patio where the food was. “I ordered a bit of everything since I didn’t know what you guys wanted.”
“That sounds good actually,” Christen says, her stomach grumbling as the scent of the food hits her as they walk out into the patio, reminding her that the last thing she kinda ate was a quarter of a granola bar before having to do an emergency surgery on a dog with a foreign body obstruction.
She groans when she sees the spread of food, her hunger hitting her harder.
“Has Tobin not been feeding you?” Tyler jokes, seeing her sister’s face.
Christen feels a twinge of irritation at the mention of Tobin. “Not everything I do is Tobin related.”
Tyler looks up from scooping some chow mein on her plate at Christen’s sudden annoyed tone. It was an unfamiliar tone when Tobin was usually mentioned. She raises an eyebrow at her sister. “You okay?”
“Why does everyone always have to bring up Tobin? Not everything I do is attached to her.”
Tyler exchanges a look with Lily, who just shrugs. “Maybe because she’s your fiancee?”
The annoyance triples at the mention of their farce. It was fun at first, joking around being married, but now the remainder of that is just pressing on her chest. Right. “Whatever. Let’s not talk about her today.”
“Okay…” Tyler says, confused. “Hey, you wanna go shopping after this?”
Christen nods, knowing that although her sister will never question her sudden annoyance at the mention of one of her best friends, she appreciates the effort of her trying to distract her.
“How did court go today?” Christen asks.
Tyler allows the subject to be changed, not wanting Christen to get riled up again. Christen was grateful, letting her sister’s otherwise boring adventure in court entertain her, immersing herself in it, enough to get her mind off the fact that the last time she and Tobin didn’t talk this long was when they fought over something petty, not wanting to have to say sorry first. It wasn’t as significant as potentially changing their whole relationship.
The hectic day at the clinic didn’t allow Christen’s mind to wander so much, which she was very grateful for. She thought Tobin’s unexplained disappearance but at this point she was has accepted that wherever Tobin was, she needed her space. She was past worrying and she was now accepting it.
At least that’s what she told herself.
And she keeps telling herself. Almost a little mantra to keep herself sane.
Until Christen walks into her house, ears immediately perking when she hears some noises and movement from the kitchen. She can feel her heart quicken, thrumming even faster at the thought that Tobin was there. Her mind was already swimming with the things she wants to talk about. The last week of ruminating on it had helped her come to conclusions as to what she wanted going forward.
How do I even bring it up? Hey, you know that kiss? I wanna do more of that. Can we do more of that?
When she spots Lily's black hair drawn up into a ponytail instead of Tobin's dark brown hair, she feels a rush of disappointment enough that Lily commented on it as soon as she sees her face.
"Yikes," Lily comments. "Sorry to disappoint you."
Christen shakes her head as if that will erase both the disappointment on her face and the one that she's feeling. "No sorry for that." She gestures to the oven, now just realizing that it's on, making the kitchen considerably warner. "You making dinner?"
"Yeah," Lily nods. Her eyes trail to the top of Christen's head, something that Christen realizes is a trait of all the women in her family when they start to become a tad more open and a lot more sentimental. "Look I know, I just kind of barged in here-"
Lily smiles at that rolling her eyes. "But I really wanna thank you and Tobin for welcoming me like this without questions."
Christen feels that guilt again, something that she managed to tamp down when it was just her and Tobin, but always seemed to make an appearance whenever their fake engagement was brought up. "You're family," she says simply (she didn't want to tell her that was the only reason she didn't put her in a hotel).
"Yeah and that's probably the only reason you didn't kick me out," Lily says. When Christen didn't refute it, she laughs. "Yeah I know I can be a bit much."
"Yeah," Christen admits. "Don't get me wrong though. You never told me why you came here so out of the blue. Especially since you're in the middle of planning your wedding."
Lily sighs, her eyes closing and Christen can feel the sudden waves of aggravation from her. “It’s my mom and Henry’s mom.”
“Do they not get along?” Christen asks.
“That’s the problem,” Lily says. “They get along too well and I just feel like I’m getting backed into a corner every single decision I make when they don’t like it.” She sighs deeply almost as if she was carrying the world’s burdens on her shoulders. “So I just flew to the farthest place I know I can even though I know we don’t get along as well as we did when we were kids.”
Christen smiles, patting her cousin on the back. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m glad you came here. Even though it was a little weird.”
Lily clears her throat as she turns back to the oven. She pulls the cover back slightly to see whatever it was she was cooking. “But no worries.” Lily stands back up, turning back to Christen, smiling as she says something that Christen was waiting to hear all these weeks. “I’m going back on Friday because Henry is going crazy with both of our mothers and I know you and Tobin have been dying to be alone.”
At the mention of Tobin, Christen’s heart clenches at the mere thought of messing everything up, enough that Tobin isn’t picking up any of her calls or responding to her texts.
“Hey,” Lily says softly at the sight of her cousin’s fallen face. “Whatever problem you guys have, I know you’ll work it out.”
“Just watching you guys interact and being around you,” Lily says. She smiles as if she can see the memories playing in her head. “It’s like you guys know each other down to a look. It’s really kind of creepy, but I guess that’s just what happens if you guys have been together for as long as you have.”
“Oh,” Christen says, unsure of how to respond to that simple observation.
“So don’t stress too much,” Lily assures her. “Whatever it is your thinking of is probably worse than what is actually happening.
“Thanks, Lils,” Christen says, hoping her tone was showing some kind of sincerity. The words with the tone feel so unfamiliar to her tongue.
“Now, c'mon, let’s eat,” Lily says. “I made your favorite.”
“Got everything?” Christen asks as she watches Lily carefully go down the stairs, slightly hopping, slightly walking, her large suitcase by her side.
“Yep,” Lily huffs as she goes down one step at a time as to not accidentally trip. “Thanks for taking me to the airport. You know you didn’t have to. I could’ve uber-ed there.”
Christen shrugs. “Eh, it’s not like I have anything better to do.” She helps her with her carry on, stuffing everything in the trunk of her car.
The drive to the airport was quiet with Lily mostly on her phone, presumably talking to Henry about finally going back home. She pulls into a spot, thankful that Lily opted for a smaller airport rather than the well-known ones.
“Bye, Chris,” Lily says.
“Bye,” Christen mutters, letting herself be hugged by her cousin. The first hug they’ve had since they grew out of their braces and uncontrollable hair phase. She doesn’t know why she feels teary as she watches Lily go through the doors.
She stands there for a moment until she can no longer see her cousin before taking her phone out and looking up the directions on how to get back to her house. She stops when she hears it.
It’s been so long since she heard her voice.
Okay, well a week.
But a week of silence that made it seem so much longer than it actually was.
She looks around, head on a swivel as she tries to pinpoint if it was actually Tobin or if it was a figment that her mind had made up at the desperation of missing her.
She spots her a couple of spots down, head was thrown back in laughter as she talks to two women that Christen couldn’t recognize, standing by, what looked like Kelley’s SUV, their luggage on the floor. It looked like they were in the process of packing it.
There was a moment of elation and relief at seeing Tobin okay and healthy. Her fists clench against her side as she feels the anger that she’s been harboring surface at the sound of Tobin’s laughter/
One of the women turns around to grab one of the suitcases and their eyes meet. (She felt a small, tiny, not enough to overcome the anger, relief at seeing it was Kelley).
Kelley waves at her, almost flailing. She sees her slap Tobin on the back to get her attention before pointing at her.
Christen freezes in her spot. There was this overwhelming urge to flee, to get away from Tobin before she does something she knows she’s going to regret, but when she sees Tobin’s face light up at spotting her, unaware of the anger that had fermented in her (like some bad kimchi) and had now reached its tipping point.
She sees Tobin say something to the other woman and Kelley before she was grabbing her stuff, and bounding over to Christen, looking every bit the Golden Retriever that she used to tease her with, her hair flopping over her eyes and a smile that was threatening to break her face. That sight alone should’ve warmed her heart. Instead of the irritation and anger that
“Hey, Chris!” Tobin greets, dropping her stuff and immediately drawing her in her arms. She rocks them for a second, unbothered by Christen’s stiffness. “I didn’t know you were coming to get me. No lollipop bouquet this time?” she jokes.
The joke rubs Christen the wrong way. “I wasn’t,” Christen managed to mutter through her clenched teeth. “Lily.”
Tobin perks up at that. “Oh, she’s finally gone?” She seems to be looking at something over Christen’s shoulder before lacing their fingers together, tugging Christen closer to her. She wraps an arm around her neck as if shielding her.
She leans down, her scent immediately enveloping Christen. What was once something she sought out, it made her anger spike even further. She wanted to step back but she feels paralyzed as she feels Tobin’s breath against her ear.
“Paparazzi,” Tobin whispers before she places a kiss on the crown of Christen’s head.
“Fuck you,” Christen mutters. She wasn’t sure if Tobin heard it, but she, fists still clenched, her nails digging against the soft flesh there. She unlocks the car, opening the door with such force that she was sure if there was a car next to them that she would’ve dented it.
She doesn’t wait for Tobin to be safely in the car before she was pulling out of her parking spot, tires almost squealing at how violently it was, ignoring Tobin’s confused questions being thrown at her.
She was frustrated.
She felt dejected at first, but now she was just frustrated.
Actually, she was beyond frustration, but since there are no other words that are between frustration and anger and annoyance. She's settling with high key frustration. She thought she had accepted it that Tobin had wanted space, but actually seeing her, the anger came through first.
She doesn't know why it pricks at her so much that Tobin didn't tell her that she was going to be gone. Tobin was an adult. Tobin does not have to report to her where she's going to go or what she's going to do because they were just friends. Just like how she doesn't tell Kelley, or even her sisters, everywhere she goes nor does she check in with them.
She shouldn't even entertain the thought, really. Sometimes there's just a high chance of a coincidence happening. But with the kiss that they shared a couple of nights ago and the fact that Tobin wasn't there the next day like some cliché'd morning after from a bad romantic comedy had her dumb brain making connections that shouldn't even be made.
She can feel her eyes stinging as they start filling with tears as the frustration mounts. She wants to stomp her feet, akin to what she used to do when she was a kid and was close to throwing a tantrum or something to release this damn emotion, but since she was driving that was not exactly something that was possible.
She can’t even wipe at her eyes, not wanting to show her that she was getting to her. She blinks faster trying to keep it in, her hands clenching tighter against the steering wheel.
“Woah,” she hears Tobin mutter from the seat next to her. “Are you crying?”
Her hand tightens on the steering wheel as she turns to Tobin, letting her glare through unshed tears answer.
Tobin’s eyes widen in panic, her hand reaching out to touch Christen, to at least provide some comfort, much like how she used to and is used to giving her.
Christen yanks away from her in response as if trying to get away from her.
Tobin’s hand hovers over the center console, confused at her reaction. “Chris?”
She clenches the steering wheel, almost to the point of white-knuckling. “Don’t touch me.”
She can feel Tobin’s worried gaze cutting through her, but she refuses to tear her eyes away from the road. Partly because of safety; she already can’t see with her tears. And because she was so angry, not at Tobin (well maybe just a little bit at Tobin for disappearing, but now that she was here, safe and breathing, there a little relief mixed in that confusing soup of feelings), but at herself for disregarding the rules that they put in place for this stupid farce to not get messy.
tell me what you think!
Chapter 7: like ships in the night, trying to find the light
Hey guys it's been a hot minute, huh?
Thank you for all the comments last chapter guys. I really appreciate all those that took the time to read and comment.
I hope you guys enjoy this new chapter :)
Tobin hauls her suitcase down the stairs, trying to be as quiet as possible, not wanting to wake up the other occupants of the house. With one last quiet grunt, she swings her heavy luggage, almost throwing it as she reaches the last step. She sighs as she leaves the suitcase by the door before going to Christen’s little desk just by the kitchen and swiping a sticky note and a pen. She scribbles a quick note, reminding her of the upcoming trip that’s been in months in the making as well.
Her pen hovers over as she tries to think of whether or not she should mention the kiss that they shared and if a talk is in order when she gets back.
I shouldn’t. She bites her lower lip, pen making a beat against the countertop.
She sighs as she drops it opting not to mention it, knowing Christen would just obsess over it until she gets back. She sticks the note on Christen’s favorite cereal that she swears doesn’t just taste like someone put a slab of hay in her mouth, knowing that’s the first thing she goes for every morning, especially on a weekend. (“It’s a sad life when you call your breakfast for horses your favorite breakfast,” Tobin had teased her. Christen had shoved a spoonful of her breakfast in her mouth in retaliation, making her choke and gasp for air until Christen had called her drama queen).
She hears the pitter-patter of someone coming down the stairs, making her heart thunder louder in her chest at the possibility of Christen.
“Good morning, Tobin.”
Tobin feels the relief when she hears the voice that’s decidedly not Christen. “Hey, Lily.”
She gestures to the front door where her suitcase was waiting. “You going somewhere?”
Tobin nods. “Yeah going on a surfing trip with a couple of my friends.”
Lily nods. “Cool,” she says. “Christen isn’t coming?”
“Not this time,” Tobin says, recalling her words when she planned it a couple of months ago.
(“Yes, finally!” Christen had joked, throwing her hands up in mock celebration. “A full week of not worrying about your ass.”
Tobin presses a palm over her chest, looking mildly touched. “You worry about me?”
“Of course,” Christen states. “Who else is going to get me ice cream at midnight?” Christen laughs when she got a face full of her fluffy pillow.)
Her phone pings and she looks down to see a notification from Kelley telling her that they were outside “Bye, Lily!”
She hears a muffled Bye! As she closes the door. She carefully puts her suitcase amongst the other two girls’ and her surfboard on top of the SUV, making sure it was properly secured.
“Hey,” she greets as she hops in the SUV. She can feel her excitement rising, finally being able to take an actual break after working her ass off.
Kelley looks behind her, hand poised on her phone ready to press play. “Ready to get fucked up this weekend, Tobs?”
Tobin claps loudly as she sits astride her surfboard, watching Kelley go for one, yelling words of encouragement that Kelley probably didn’t need. They’ve been out in the ocean for a better part of the day, really getting the most out of their trip.
She feels her phone vibrate against her thigh. She carefully pulls it out. She doesn’t need to sacrifice another phone to the ocean. She sees Christen’s name on it and swipes to answer.
Well at least tries to swipe. The stupid phone won’t register her touch. She presses on it harder, trying to get to swipe. A small but particularly hard wave hits her board and she feels her phone slip out of her hand.
“NO!” Tobin’s hand tries to follow the phone but to no avail. It falls under the wave. She sighs. “Another sacrifice to the fishes.”
She sighs, making a mental note in her brain to get a new phone and to email Christen when she gets back to her hotel room.
Now sitting next to an obviously fuming and crying Christen in a speeding car, Tobin realized she had never emailed Christen nor contacted her the whole week, completely immersing herself in the vacation. Immersion was a bad trait they both have, in too deep with everything that they fail to notice what’s going on around them.
“Maybe you should pull over,” Tobin suggests, her tone as gentle as possible when she sees Christen try to swipe at her eyes. Christen speeds up in response and Tobin’s fingers tighten against the seat and her feet braces harder against the floor. “Or maybe not.”
Tobin can’t tear her eyes away from her, even if she was pissed and looks like she wanted to kill Tobin from what little words she had uttered darkly almost 15 minutes ago. Maybe she should’ve stayed in Kelley’s car instead.
They pull up into Christen’s driveway. Without any words to her, Christen leaves her in the car, slamming the car door so hard that Tobin audibly takes a gasp. Tobin scrambles to get out. She hears the lock engage just as she was about to get her suitcase.
She looks forlornly at her backpack and her suitcase before she steels herself to follow Christen into her house. She was surprised to see the door was closed. She thought that in Christen’s haste she would’ve left it open. She tries the knob but finds it locked. Hoping that she just turned it wrong. She tries again, but it was still locked. She takes her keys out and tries it. There was a split second that she thought that Christen changed the locks but when the door unlocks, she sighs in relief.
The best part of trips was always coming home and feeling the warmth that the stale air had created in your home. Finally curling up in the familiarity of your own bed after sleeping in the overly comfy hotel beds.
Now with the unexpectedly cold welcome from Christen, Tobin wasn’t so sure about the coming home part. She cautiously pushes it open, afraid to see what she would see inside.
She didn’t know she was expecting. Maybe some upturned pillows, ripped papers everywhere, maybe some smashed mirrors, broken furniture. Anything that would indicate Christen’s current state of mind. But it looked the same as the day she left with everything in its correct place, nothing out of place except now Lily’s wasn’t there. Nothing out of place, but the cold tension that Christen’s wake had left.
She should be fazed at the harsh welcome. It’s not every day she gets cussed out by her best friend. At least not with so much hatred and annoyance in her voice. She tries to remember the things she did before she left. Other than the kiss they’ve shared that Christen had initiated.
Tobin sighs, her hand scrubbing over her face as she hopes that it wasn’t the kiss, but with that being the only thing that happened in the last week or so. She tries not to jump conclusions as things are bound to be wrong when she does that, but her mind can’t help but go there. She felt like she had to apologize, but had no idea what for.
She goes to Christen’s room first. She wiggles the doorknob, this time not surprised that it was locked. She knocks once and waits, hoping that she’ll answer the door. When there was still no response, she does it again.
She hears a thump and she steps back in shock, realizing that Christen had thrown something at the door. Her fingers clench into a fist against her thigh as she tries to contain her annoyance at Christen’s refusal to talk.
She walks away before she does something she’ll regret and goes downstairs to maybe unpack her stuff. She groans when she realizes that her stuff was still locked in Christen’s car. A quick check at the keys hanging on the hook and she sees that Christen’s keys weren't there.
She kicks the last steps in frustration. “Fuck!” she hops on one foot, grabbing her toe before she sits on the steps, her head hanging, fingers picking at the edge of her t-shirt as she replays everything that happened between the thing and now.
The kiss was at the forefront of her mind, practically burning at the back of her eyelids. Her small vacation allowed her to push it aside for the time being but now being back at Christen’s house, her scent and presence taking over not only her mind. Now that she was back there was nothing stopping her mind from recalling every glorious detail. Christen’s lips, her taste, the feeling of her hands on her hips was, the way her forehead pressed against hers after, their breathing almost in sync, fingers tightening at the base of her hips as if afraid to let go.
She thought they were okay. She was no different, maybe a little quieter, a little more in her head as they were driving back. Tobin just thought she was tired of having to be around people. So she wrapped an arm around her shoulders and let her sleep on the way home.
Tobin stands up, brushing any dirt from her pants. She grabs her keys and decides to get out of the house for a while, the silence and tension in the air were smothering her, crowding her already crowded mind and clawing at her chest. She didn’t know where she was going, but she knows that if she stays any longer, she’s going to go crazy.
Even though she knew that it would be crowded with families, couples, and students looking to blow off some steam, she decides to go to the nearest outdoor plaza. Usually, it’s one of the places they try to avoid like the plague, preferring nature, but now she needs to clear her mind and nothing like screaming kids to block your thoughts and replace it with screams of your own in your head.
Not looking for anything in particular, but actively trying not to think of what’s waiting for her at home, she wanders from store to store, letting her feet mindlessly. She was surprised to find herself standing in the middle of an aroma store. She looks around, confused. Really the only time she usually goes into this store was with Christen.
She goes to one wall, carefully looking over the scents that lined the wall. She grabs one from the wall, inspecting the bottle carefully before bringing it to her nose. She pulls back sharply at the scent that hits her.
It was one of Christen’s favorite scents that she used to mask their old, decrepit apartment so heavily with to try to get rid of the wet moldy and moth-y smell that lingered. She hasn’t smelled it in a while, seeing as they haven’t lived together and now they don’t have to hold their breath.
But even though the scent wasn’t any better than the moldy smell, it still reminded her of the good times they shared living in that apartment.
She looks down at the bottle seeing the unfamiliar letters. She turns the bottle over in the palm of her hand, over and over again, pondering whether or not it was pathetic of her to buy it.
She groans as she walks to the cash register, berating herself for her own patheticness. She pays for it, asking the cashier to wrap it. If anything it could work as a small olive branch to whatever she did, though right now she hopes that it wasn’t that.
The cashier, a pimply teenager with a 2012 Justin Bieber haircut, gives Tobin a big smile, his eyes wide in awe. “Dude you’re Cadence! You looked legit double-wielding that sword!”
Tobin smiles, the small compliment lifting her mood a bit. “Thanks, uh-” she glances at the nametag, trying to read it. “...Shaun.”
He looks confused at Tobin. “Oh! My name is Josh.”
Tobin stares at him for a second before laughing out loud, startling both her and Josh. It wasn’t particularly funny, but that gloomy atmosphere was weighing her down so much that this particular little confession brightens her day a little bit.
He bags up her purchase and pushes it towards Tobin. “Have a nice day!”
Tobin waves at him as she leaves, the bag swinging lightly, her steps much lighter than before. Nothing like getting recognized by a fan to boost her ego just a little bit. She usually tries not to let it get to her head, but just this once she basks in it.
Her eyes widen when she checks the time. Surprised that it’s been more than 2 hours since she left Christen’s place. The sharp but brief vibration of her phone cuts not only through her thoughts but through her chest. She feels her heart simultaneously drop and thump harder at the same time when she sees the name attached to the text. She didn’t know it was possible for a text to elicit such a response, but then again anything with Christen was usually two-fold. But she’s only been experiencing one fold with Christen. Their friendship has become so strong and so harmonious that it was so rare for them to fight let alone have this roller coaster of feelings.
She almost forgot how it felt like.
That brief fight they had flashes through her mind for a second. It was brief but it was life-changing. It definitely changed their relationship for the better though. At least she thought it had.
She opens the text from Sonnett. She was confused at first at the links that were attached to the message until she remembered that she had Sonnett look up some houses or apartments that she can rent. She put the search on hold when she started living with Christen, but she didn’t want any good deals to pass so she had Sonnett constantly track it.
She stares at the link, her finger pressing against it, unwilling to release it. She bites her lip and groans as she stuffs the phone back in her back pocket without looking at the link, deciding to go back to Christen’s place first to talk to her.
She pulls up in front of Christen’s house, her palms sweaty enough that she feels like the steering wheel have been slipping through her fingertips as she drove. She sits there for a second, wiping her palms across her jeans to make sure they weren’t wet as well as to try to calm herself down.
She tries to rehearse what she’s going to say or at least what she wanted to say but seeing as she has no idea why Christen suddenly stares at her like she does when someone brings up politics, her repertoire consisted of You kissed me.
She takes a deep breath and grips the steering wheel tighter before releasing her breath and her hold. With jaws clenched and tightly gripping her I’m sorry present, she confidently marches to the front door. Her steps falter when one thought crosses her mind.
She could’ve changed the locks.
She twists the knob and sighs in relief when it turns.
It was quiet when she enters the house; that wouldn’t have been the weird part. She was usually the first one home. The weird part was that her suitcase was leaning against the door of what used to be her room downstairs.
So she did go home.
She didn’t know whether to be relieved that she could take a shower and change into comfortable clothes or that Christen’s officially kicking her out of her room now. She opts for the former, wanting to forget it for a while and at least relax a bit. She drags her suitcase into the room, the suitcase feeling weirdly heavier than usual.
After her shower, she grabs her Switch and perches herself on the loveseat that had the front door in her line of sight. She can’t miss Christen and Christen can’t miss her. She hunkers down and starts playing the multiple games installed in her system, starting with Mario Kart.
The weird cuckoo clock that Tobin’s sister had given Christen had crowed twice already when Tobin realizes that Christen would not be walking through those doors today. Frustrated and dejected, she powers her console down and walks back to her room. Later on, through the haziness of sleep, she hears the door open and shut. Her mind begs her body to try and stop Christen, but eventually, she falls under again.
Her hands were gripping the controllers of her console a little harder than necessary, her tongue sticking out at the corner of her clenched teeth as she maneuvers the small car to chase after the soccer ball three times its size around the screen trying to outscore her opponent when she hears movement from the front door.
Tobin immediately turns the console off and shoves it at the side of the couch out of sheer panic and anxiety. She stands up abruptly, accidentally hitting her knee on the coffee table that was just inches away from the couch. She cradles her knee as she hops around, hissing under her breath, person momentarily forgotten.
“Are you pretending to be a rabbit or what?”
Tobin stops and lets her knee drop, hissing again when the impact gave her knee a slight sting. She turns around to see Allie.
Allie nods to the half-shoved Switch console and Tobin’s bent knee. “How long have you been sitting there?”
Tobin sighs as she hops backwards back into the couch. “I was waiting for Christen.”
Allie sits across from her, eyebrows drawn together in confusion. “Why don’t you just call her?” The silence from Tobin confuses Allie even more until she a small realization hits her. “Are you guys fighting?”
Tobin nods, leaning back on her chair. She covers her face in frustration, almost clawing at it. “I don’t know what I did!” She admits as she straightens up again, almost like a spring. “I came back from my surf trip and I made her cry.”
“What did you say to her?” Allie immediately asks.
Tobin looks defensive as she sits on her haunches, looking more like the rabbit she was previously impersonating. “Nothing! I said hi and it looked like she wanted to tear me into pieces!” She groans and hits the pillow before taking a deep breath and turning back to Allie. “Why are you here?”
“Game night is on Friday so I’m here to grab some board games,” Allie says. “I don’t have time anytime soon.”
Tobin frowns, confused at how Allie managed to get in the house. “How did you get a key to our house?”
“I stopped by the clinic,” Allie replies as she goes to the cabinet underneath the tv and starts pulling out their various board games. “Which one would drive Alex and Kelley up the wall?”
“Is Becky going to be there?”
“No,” Allie says as she looks through their board games, trying to figure out the best game that would give them the best entertainment value. “She’s busy.”
“Pandemic,” Tobin easily answers. “Becky banned that game because instead of working together, Alex and Kelley managed to play against each other and kill everyone.”
Allie nods. “Noted.” Allie continues to look through the games while Tobin continues to brood on the couch at the disappointment that it was not Christen that walked through the door.
Christen was definitely avoiding her.
Tobin leans back, her lips pursing and her fingers digging at the side of her thigh at the uneasy revelation. She can see the damn kiss at the corner of her mind again. Her mind taunting her that Christen regrets her actions that night. She shakes her head as if that would erase the conclusions that her mind was suddenly jumping to.
Allie stands in front of her. Allie puts a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. She takes a step back when she realizes that there were tears in Tobin’s eyes. “Harry…?”
Tobin blinks up at her, the tears that spring to her eyes surprise her as well. “I think I messed up.”
Allie sits on the coffee table in front of Tobin, looking as sympathetically as she can. “What happened?”
Tobin sighs. “Something happened between me and Christen. I think she’s avoiding me.”
“Maybe she’s just busy,” Allie says. “They looked super busy when I dropped by the clinic to pick up the key today.”
A flower of hope blooms in her chest, even though she knows Ockham’s razor applies here. “You think?”
“Yeah!” Allie says as she jumps a bit. Tobin can tell that she was just trying to make her feel better. “I bet you she’ll probably be at game night. And you’ll see that you had nothing to worry about.”
Game nights were one of the highlights of Tobin’s week (or every couple of weeks). It was a way to let out her frustrations by beating her friends mercilessly in board games that she gets banned for a couple of rounds and have her fill of socializing for the week before she and Christen go back to their hermit ways.
And it would’ve been if not for the fact that Christen hasn’t said a word to her since that tense car ride that Tobin never want to repeat again (the sight of Christen’s frustrated tear-stained face still haunts her nightmares). She sees the back of her head in the morning as she sits on the counter in between sips of her coffee and slipping between dreamland and consciousness. She hears the soft slam of the door when she’s snuggled under her blankets, dazed and getting tangled in her blanket as she rushes to her door in the evening. By the time she’s aware of what she’s doing, she hears Christen’s bedroom door close and she leans against the door, confused by her body’s reaction and dejected that she couldn’t catch her again.
Instead of feeling the sweet excitement of owning her friends over board games, the dread trickles down her spine wetly, giving her the chills and tying her stomach in knots. When she pulls up to Allie’s house, she sees several cars were already parked in the street. She didn’t see Christen’s red truck anywhere. She parks behind Kelley’s jeep and checks the cars up and down Allie’s street again to make sure. No sign of Christen’s truck.
She feels her heart drop to her stomach at that. She was nervous to see her. She was so caught up in her head, trying to figure out what to say to Christen when she manages to corner her (if she manages to) that the alternative of her not showing up didn’t even cross her mind.
She could’ve ridden with JJ or Dream or even Emily. The part of her mind that still held out for hope (or her foolish side) points out.
As she follows the rocky steps that leads her through Allie’s yard, her nerves multiply. She uses her keys to calm her nerves, twirling it between her fingers like a pseudo-fidget spinner. She takes a deep breath when she reaches the door, fully clutching the keys now.
Before she can even knock, the door opens and Mal stands there with a Spongebob party hat on, a cup in one of her hands.
“You’re here!” Mal says throwing her arms up in celebration. She turns to the scattered group behind her. “Tobin’s here!” She hears a yell of excitement (most likely Alex) and a shout of booing (most likely Kelley) somewhere in the house. Mal immediately takes note of the lack of someone’s presence next to Tobin. “Christen not with you?”
Tobin’s eyes immediately takes note of the people in the room. She can see Allie, Alex, and Emily’s backs huddled in the kitchen, presumably mixing drinks. Kelley, Rose, Sam, and Lindsey were around the coffee table, a pile of discarded Uno cards in the middle. Their faces looked way too serious for just a game of Uno. The veterinarians of the clinic was nowhere in sight.
“She’s not here?” Tobin asks. Mal shakes her head, frowning. She nods at Rose. “Rose, where’s your boss?”
Rose shrugs. “She wasn’t in the clinic today. She might’ve been out in the field.” She turns to Sam. “You were there later than I was. Did anyone else come in besides Dr. Ertz?”
Sam shakes her head. “They were all out in the field today. We got a lot of house calls for Dr. Press today.”
Tobin nods. She can feel her anxiety ease for a moment. She wasn’t ignoring her. At least for today. The other past days were still up in the air (she’s leaning towards yes at this point, she just refuses to admit it). She settles next to Rose, her body heavily leaning against the couch.
Emily enters the room, a tray of drinks in her hands. She spots Tobin, waves at her. “Hey Tobin!”
Tobin nods back. “Boss.”
Emily looks around the room, confusion evident on her face. “Where’s Christen?”
Tobin feels a gripping ache in her chest at the mention of an absent Christen not beside her. She doesn’t realize how much Christen permeates every inch of her life, from their shared friends, to their daily dinners, their hang-outs during the weekends, or holidays where they manage to inexplicably visit both sets of families, despite not even being in the same ends of the country.
Every inch of her life, her mind, her heart has been occupied with Christe. She thought she was over it. She thought she’d hacked off that part of her heart and grew new feelings for Christen. Platonic-sisterly feelings. She’s just buried it and she didn’t even bury it well. She buried it in loose, shallow sloppy soil that was apparently easily dug up by one damn kiss.
She jumps when she feels something cold against her arm. She looks down to see the neck of a cold bottle against her arm.
“Did you see Pinoe naked?” Emily asks sympathetically as she holds out the beer to her.
Tobin leans back, taken aback at the weird question. She shouldn’t be. Emily’s mind was somewhere she didn’t want to be in. She takes the offered beer. “What?”
“You look like you just saw something you really regretted,” Emily says. “So Pinoe naked?”
“No!” Tobin says as she takes a swig out of it. “I’m just contemplating things.”
“No time for contemplating.” Kelley throws a game piece at her. Tobin manages to snatch it out of the air before it pokes her in the eye. “Your turn.”
“What are we even playing?” Tobin looks down at the red plastic gingerbread man then to the board game that they managed to set up without Tobin noticing. “Candyland?”
“Apparently the kids have never played it so we’re gonna do teams,” Alex says. She pushes the deck of cards for Tobin to draw from. “You go first.”
Tobin frowns down at the piece. She puts it on the corner of the board that had start on it. “I don’t want to play.”
“You have to,” Kelley says. “Christen texted me. She’s coming and she’s on your team.”
“Christen’s coming?” Her breath stutters, her voice coming out almost like a wisp, her heart began to thunder in her chest. She swears that Emily and Rose, who were sitting on either of her side, can see her heart, almost ripping out of her shirt. The trickle of nervousness and dread comes back.
Kelley nods, not seeing the small distress that her friend was in. “Yep. She texted me an hour ago saying she was going to be super late.”
“Oh,” Tobin says. She feels the panic rising in her chest and up her throat, getting lodged there, paralyzing her. She feels the urge to flee, but she tampers it down and she draws the cards, trying to keep her mind on the game. She wishes they were playing a much more mind intensive game than Candyland.
The kids, unsurprisingly, got into it, almost throwing hands and accusing each other of cheating when one team (Lindsey and Rose) happen to get the more favorable card. Kelley was in the middle of trying to calm Emily when they hear the door open and Christen comes in carrying three boxes of pizza and a box of wings from their favorite wing place.
“Food!” Rose throws her cards down at the sight of food, immediately snatching the boxes of pizza from Christen’s hands.
The others followed suit, but Tobin feels glued to her seat as she looks up at Christen. Christen’s tear-stained red face stabs into her mind, getting stuck there, like a skipping CD. Tobin tries to erase it and focus on the Christen in front of her now.
She didn’t look pissed anymore, but she looked out of there as well. She was tired that much obvious. She was subdued, eyes dull, hair haphazardly thrown up. But what was more alarming was the amount of blood caked in her scrubs, around her knees, the cuffs of her wrist.
“Dude,” Kelley whispers, echoing what others are thinking as they stared at Christen, wide-eyed, different eyes trained on different trails of blood.
Christen subconsciously touches the wisps of her hair, refusing to meet their eyes. “Do I look that horrible?”
Tobin immediately jumps up from her seat, gently grabbing Christen by the arm, her other hand going to the small of her back. “You wanna change?” She whispers.
Christen shakes her arm off and turns to now the still wide-eyed group. “I’m fine thanks.” She turns to Allie. “Hey, Allie, do you have anything I can borrow?”
Allie briefly glances at Tobin then turns back to Christen. “Yeah, anything in the closet is fine.”
Christen stares at Alex before nodding towards. “Al, can you come with me?”
Alex looks at Tobin, warily, almost asking for permission.
“Alex.” The sharpness of Christen’s voice left no arguments from the younger girl and she follows the vet.
Tobin was still frozen as she stares helplessly at Christen’s retreating form. Alex mouths an apology to her as she follows Christen to Allie’s room, leaving the room with this thick suffocating tension that they had no idea what to do with. Their eyes were bouncing between Tobin and the space that Christen and Alex had previously occupied, waiting for Tobin’s reaction.
Tobin purses her lips, ignoring the way her eyes were watering. grabs the bottle of beer that she was drinking, and walks out to Allie’s backyard, not sparing a glance to the others that were waiting for a reaction. When she gets there, she lets her frustration out one of the beach balls, kicking hard into the pool before doing the same to every single beach ball.
She hears the door open and she looks over her shoulder to see Kelley, brows knitted in concern, arms crossed over her chest. She turns back to the pool, sipping her beer and trying to tamp the urge to break it in frustration.
The ache in her chest was growing larger, almost an encompassing feeling. They were like little pinpricks all over her heart, they were small but together they stung more than she ever thought was possible.
Kelley stands next to her, nudging her. “Are you coming back in?”
“Uh, yeah,” Tobin says clearing her throat. She gestures to the drink in her hand. “Yeah just give me a second.”
Kelley nods patting her on the back. “Sure thing, bud.” She gives her a sympathetic smile. “Take all the time you need.”
Tobin chugs the bottle of beer. Though she wasn’t inclined to get back in there to see Christen. She also didn’t want to disappoint her friends and she was here to relax.
And dammit, she was going to relax.
Even if she can’t forget her feelings, she’ll ignore them just to have a good time.
One of the stupid memes that Sonnet likes to send to her in lieu of actual words her pops into her mind as she sits across from Christen. She honestly felt so attacked as she watches Christen basically sabotage their team, enough so that they were losing and even though the game had just started. She already knew that they were losing and they were losing badly.
She didn’t even realize her grip on her leg was getting tighter until Rose passes her some cards and she had to use her hand. There were some deep grooves on her thigh, marring her usually tanned skin. She grabs the small blanket draped over the couch and covers her thighs.
“Alright, that’s it!” Alex says, slamming down her set of cards on the board, making the pieces and cards laid out jump slightly into the air. Allie and Kelley slowly inch away from her, calmly knowing her emotions might translate to flailing arms. The younger ones just stare at her, fear in their eyes at the sudden outburst. “I just want ONE day where we can let loose and play some goddamn board games.”
She stares pointedly at Christen and Tobin. “I know that you guys had a falling out recently, but it’s not fun when you-” she points at Christen, “-are basically trying to drive your team off the cliff and you-” she turns to Tobin. “-and you’re not even fighting back!” She gestures to the rest of the group. “Get up!” She slaps Tobin on the back, trying to get her to move. “Tobs, up!” She grabs Christen by the arm and tugs her to the side where there was enough room for both of them. “Apology time! Kelley! Put a song on!”
Tobin groans, knowing what’s about to happen. “No,” she says, stepping back, but Alex’s hand on her back prevented her from doing so. “Alex…” she warns.
Ignoring Tobin’s warning, Alex grabs Christen by the arm and places her in front of Tobin. “You guys are being childish, so I’ll treat you guys like kids.”
That’s when Tobin hears the soft music playing from Allie’s sound system. She turns to look over at Kelley who just gives her a thumbs up. She groans again, her hand coming up to her face, scrubbing against it.
“Hands, please,” Alex says. Alex’s eyes narrows when the two didn’t make a move towards each other. “Hands or the shirt is coming out.”
Tobin holds her hands out for Christen to take. Tobin can see all the will-power it takes Christen to take her hands. She hears Alex sigh in relief at their forced cooperation. One step closer to making up in her eyes.
“Are you making them dance?” Tobin hears Emily ask as Tobin and Christen started dancing a waltz-like type of dance (well kind-of, it was more of a weird stepping towards each other and stepping back).
She tones out their friends’ explanation as to why a slow dance was the most effective way of making two people talk to each other.
They’ve probably been dancing for close to 30 seconds in dead silence. Tobin can feel the curious eyes of the younger ones on them and Alex’s glare cutting through their glares at each other.
Despite the fact that they haven’t spoken to each other in well over two weeks, they were still in sync, managing to twirl each other without tripping or getting the other caught and all in time with the music.
Tobin, at first, refuses to look at Christen. Her eyes fixed at a point just above her shoulder to avoid getting lost into her hazel eyes. But there was only so much Tobin can focus on before having to look at Christen again, though she wants to it was very unwillingly.
She drags her eyes away from her surroundings and into Christen’s hazel eyes. She wanted to scoff at the first thought that came into her mind when their eyes meet. Her eyes were still as enthralling as they usually are. This wasn’t some cliched Lifetime movie.
Her eyes weren’t as bright as they usually were. There were bags under her eyes, they weren’t big but they were noticeable now that they were no space between them. Her skin was pale almost sickly, just shows how much she’s been working lately. Tobin feels guilty that she wasn’t there to help her get through it like she usually is. Though she looked every bit as beautiful as Tobin remembers.
She sighs, her hand creeping up Christen’s side and landing on her cheek. When Christen doesn’t pull away from her touch, her thumb rubs the soft skin of her cheek. She counts it as a victory when Christen didn’t pull away but leans into her touch. “I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry.”
Christen blinks up at her, eyes confused, a little angry. “You don’t know what you did?”
She couldn’t keep the frustration out of her voice even though she had to tell herself to keep calm. “How am I supposed to know if you won’t talk to me.” Tobin twirls her and she can see Christen’s expression change as she brought her back into her arms. “If you regretted it, you could just say so. I’m not gonna get mad, you know?” Lie. “It’s okay.” Lie.
She can see the gears of Christen’s brain working, probably trying to think of a way to let her down easy, which at this point was unnecessary since she already gave her an out. Christen’s lips part as she exhales as if holding her breath. There was that was in the little words that she whispered had Tobin’s heartbreaking. “You’re the one that left.”
Left? Tobin wanted to groan and shake her. “Dude, did you look at our shared calendar?”
Christen’s eyes dart down to Tobin’s neck, her hand unconsciously playing with the collar of Tobin’s. “No…”
“Christen, you knew about the trip,” Tobin reminds her. “You were there with Kelley and I when we were talking about it right before the party.”
Christen tries to remember it, but the haze of her anger, annoyance, and the concoction of emotions that were swirling in her head from the past week made it hard. Her hazel eyes keep blinking, almost owlishly as she processes it. (Tobin finds it completely adorable despite the slight annoyance she felt). “Uh…”
Christen sighs, her head dropping. “I forgot,” she admits.
“Christeeeen,” Tobin mutters, punctuating it with a sigh. She shakes her head both in slight frustration and amusement that this whole treatment that she’s gotten from her best friend was because of a misunderstanding. She knew she should’ve said goodbye before she left that morning.
“But that still doesn’t change the fact that you didn’t answer my calls or my texts!” Christen argues, aggressively jabbing the space between her shoulder and chest. “I called you that first night and texted you.”
“I lost my phone,” Tobin explains. “I haven’t gotten a new one so any texts that you sent have been lost to the cloud.” She gestures to the ceiling. “I’m sorry for that, but I wouldn’t have purposely ignored you, Christen.” Especially not after what happened the night before. She lets the words hang, hoping Christen understands.
Christen was silent as Tobin continues to sway them. Tobin remains quiet, letting Christen ruminate and process. She knows an apology is coming and she doesn’t want to rush her.
When she looks up at Tobin, her eyes were glassy, her insecurities reflecting back at her. Her lip trembles. “I’m sorry.”
Tobin sighs in relief and she draws her into her arms. “Let’s not do this again.”
“Let’s not talk about that fight again,” Tobin cringes.
“It was a stupid fight back then too,” Christen muses. She laughs. “God it was stupid.”
“Yeah, let’s not hash it out again.”
Christen giggles and nods, tucking her head into Tobin’s neck. Tobin turns her head, her nose gently brushing the tops of her hair. She takes a deep breath, her scent grounding her. It amazed her that she didn’t know she missed something as simple as her scent.
Tobin moves her hands from her waist to her arms, rubbing it gently. “We’re good?”
“We’re good,” Christen says, nodding.
Tobin drops a kiss on the crown of her head before pull away, her heart feeling lighter for the first time in the past two weeks now that they've reconciled. She looks around the living room, confused to find that it was just her and Christen in the room with the song still playing softly in the background.
“Guys?!” Christen calls, looking around as well, noticing that they were alone.
“Kitchen! We’re eating ice cream!”
Tobin holds her hand out for Christen. When Christen takes it, intertwining their fingers, Tobin couldn’t stop the grin forming on her face at that. Call her clingy but she truly missed Christen’s touch and just being around her in general.
When they enter the kitchen, all eyes were immediately drawn to their linked hands and Tobin swears she could feel a collective sigh of relief ripple among their friends.
“Alright now we can go back to killing each other over board games since I’m pretty sure you guys won’t kill each other for real now,” Kelley says as they shoo them back into the other room.
Tobin pouts as she grabs a couple of shirts from her drawer and hands it over to Christen. “I don’t wanna go.”
“Well you have to be an adult and actually do this,” Christen says as she moves shirts around to make sure Tobin has enough shirts. She bites her lips as she counts the shirts. “Do you think this is enough shirts? If you do laundry-” she stops and raises an eyebrow at Tobin.
“Yeah, I’m not.”
“Yeah, you’re not.”
Tobin moves to her bathroom to pack her toiletries. She sweeps them off the counter and packs them into her toiletry bag before handing it over to Christen. She groans as she lays on the bed, face first. “This is unfair.”
Christen looks up from her counting, confused. “You were literally jumping in excitement getting this role, Tobs.”
Tobin rolls over, eyes up at the ceiling, pouting. “We just started talking again. And I don’t want to leave you.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Christen says as she zips up the suitcase before joining Tobin on the bed. “And maybe this is for the best. We just need some space.”
“I’ve had enough space.” Tobin props her head on her hand as she looks down at Christen. “I don’t know about you but those five weeks were absolute torture.”
“Calm down, it was two weeks, three at the most,” Christen says.
“Well it felt like an eternity,” Tobin complains. She scoots a bit and props herself on her hand so she can look down on Christen. Christen tilts her head up, a small smile on her face as she watches her, her hazel eyes bright as she watches her. Christen’s gaze always makes her feel like she’s the most precious thing in her world.
Tobin’s eyes slowly roam her face, taking in the reds of the apple of her cheeks, the laugh lines around her eyes, the brightness of her eyes. She didn’t know that her hand had come up to caress the softness of her cheek until her thumb was already brushing against it. She tries to commit them to memory, knowing that the only time she’ll see it again is if they FaceTime’d and even then she knows it’s not going to be enough.
She sees Christen’s eyes quickly glance at her lips then up to her eyes, holding her gaze, her lips parting in a soft sigh. Tobin unconsciously inches closer to her. So close that she can feel the soft puffs of her breath against her neck.
“We need to talk about this,” Tobin murmurs, a breadth’s away from Christen, her thumb rubbing her cheek before surging forward and captures her lips with hers.
Christen's hands grip Tobin’s t-shirt, pulling her closer. “I know,” Christen breathes before slotting their lips again.