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It’s painful for Christen to watch as her teammates gear up for the semifinal match. She joins them for film sessions and comes out to the last field practice, but seeing her teammates running through drills, scrimmaging, even just juggling the ball off to the side makes Christen unreasonably upset.  She should be out there with them. She could be if she wanted to, but Kelley’s right, she needs to lay low. That’s more important than the semis right now. 

 

The only consolation in all of this is that at the end of the day, after showers have been taken and gear put away, Christen gets to drive home with Tobin and share the evenings together. They stay up late into the night wrapped in each others arms, sharing a level of intimacy with each other that had seemed destined from the start. With all their insecurities and hesitations aside, they're finally able to fall into each other completely. It's effortless in the way they mold into one another, their spirits intertwining so easily. Every kiss, every touch, every shared story feels as if it had been there all along, just waiting to be unlocked. Even though she had been deemed broken physically, she had never felt so whole.

 

When game day finally arrives, Christen is lead up to the box seats to watch the game with a little more privacy. She carefully makes her way down several steps to the front seats and leans her crutches against the railing, her eyes scanning the field to pick out her teammates. 

 

She spots Kelley and Sonnett joking around animatedly as they pass back and forth, and Lindsey appears to be discussing tactics with one of the coaches near the bench. Her eyes inevitably fall to Tobin, who’s juggling off to the side by herself, her lips muttering something under her breath. As if she senses Christen’s gaze, her eyes lift up and easily find Christen. She offers a small wave, causing a grin to form on Christen’s lips as she waves back. They maintain eye contact for several moments until Tobin’s attention is pulled away by a distant whistle. She turns away slowly and jogs with her teammates back into the locker room and out of sight. 

 

Before Christen can feel too bad about being stuck up in the box instead of on the field, he phone vibrates in her pocket.

 

"Hi Mom." Christen says smiling into the phone.

 

"Hi sweatheart, how are you holding up?"

 

Christen sighs, taking a seat on the stadium chair. "Fine.I mean I'm sad I won't get to play, but it's ok."

 

"Wow, is this the same Christen who used to cry and throw fits when she got subbed out in middle school? You're taking this a lot better than I thought you would."

 

"Mom!" Christen accosts her.

 

Her mother chuckles heartily. "I'm just saying, for someone who would usually be inconsolable right now, you sound good--almost happy! What's gotten into you? What aren't you telling me?"

 

Christen smiles, thinking of the reason for her new found happiness. She can't help but bubble over. "You remember Tobin?"

 

"You're teammate? The one you're always going on about every time I call you? The name might ring a bell." Her mother responds playfully.

 

Christen laughs at how transparent she must have seemed. "Yeah, that's the one. We kind of-- well I guess we're kind of...more than teammates now."

 

There's a brief pause before her mother chimes in. "Well it's about time!"

 

"Mom!" Christen groans again.

 

"I'm just glad you're happy honey. She seems like a sweet girl."

 

Christen blushes bashfully, "She is"

 

The voice of the stadium announcer booms and fills the air as he starts to call out the line-ups for the teams.

 

"Hey Mom, I gotta go. The game's about to start, but I'll call you later, ok?." Christen says.

 

"Ok I'll let you go. I'm so proud of you sweat heart!"

 

"Thanks Mom, Love you."

 

"Love you too. And say hi to Tobin for me."

 

Christen rolls her eyes at her mother's teasing but smiles none the less. "Ok, Bye."

 

Christen hangs up, grinning ear to ear, shaking her head at her mother's uncanny ability to predict things in her life before Christen herself had even thought of them. Mother's intuition was an understatement. It's more like mother's clairvoyance.

 

As the players start coming out of the tunnel, Christen stands up to get a better view and cheer for her team, making sure to cheer a little louder when Tobin's name is announced. They'll need all the support they can get if they have any hope of coming out of this game on top. 

 

Just as predicted, the game is a defensive battle. Tobin pulls out every trick in her repertoire, but to no avail. The score remains tied at zero right to the very end. Then, during stoppage time, Tobin breaks down the line with the ball, dribbling into the penalty area with two defenders on her. In the congestion, Tobin releases a cross and the ball gets redirected by the hand of a Utah player. The referee immediately points to the spot and while the Utah players plead their case, Tobin takes the ball and sets it down on the spot, waiting for the whistle. With unshakable concentration, Tobin stares down the ball and when the whistle chirps, Tobin doesn’t hesitate and slots it home convincingly into the upper left corner.

 

The final whistle to signify the end of the game is drowned by the roar of the crowd and Christen jumps from her seat, arms straight up in the air as she chants along with the crowd. Everyone in the box is too busy celebrating to notice that Christen’s crutches remain an afterthought as they lean against the railing near her seat.

 

***

 

Down in the locker room, a cacophony of cheering and chanting fills Christen’s ears as she ducks below streams of water shooting through the air. It only takes a few moments for her to be in the locker room before she’s encircled into the arms of her teammates as they sing at the top of their lungs.

 

In the huddle, she catches the eyes of Tobin and watches as the woman’s smile becomes even brighter. Somehow among the sea of arms and bodies, Tobin’s hand finds it’s way over to Christen’s and squeezes it affectionately. Christen squeezes back, and they detach from the group to have a moment with each other.

 

“You did good kid.” Christen teases, wrapping her arms around Tobin in a tight embrace.

 

Tobin takes this compliment earnestly, and smiles back at Christen. “Thanks. Not the prettiest way to earn a game-winning goal, but I’ll take it.”

 

“Still proud.” Christen reiterates.

 

Tobin’s demeanor shifts and the confidence she previously exuded turns into a bashful nervousness. She looks around to see if anyone's listening to their exchange before speaking. “So...I was wondering if—maybe you’d wanna come back to my place and...celebrate or whatever.” Tobin says, eyes glued to the floor as her foot sweeps across the floor. 

 

Christen smiles sweetly at her. “You don’t want to go celebrate with the team? I think they’re expecting it since you practically won the game for them.” Christen questions.

 

Tobin looks up and shakes her head simply. “Nah, they can celebrate without me. I just want to go home with the girl I haven't been able to keep my mind off of all week.”

 

Christen tries to keep her cool demeanor, but Tobin’s making it difficult. “Ah, so this is why you won. So you could impress me with a game-winning goal and convince me to go home with you. Very clever.” Christen says coyly. 

 

“So, did it work?” Tobin asks.

Christen pretends to ponder this for several moments, but then smiles and nods. “I’d say so. Come on, let’s get out of here before they catch us.”

 

Tobin giggles, grabbing Christen’s hands as she sneaks them out to the parking lot and to Tobin’s car. As Christen’s buckling her seatbelt, Tobin leans over the console, grabbing Christen by the face and crashing their lips together. Tobin kisses her with such force, Christen wonders if her lips will bruise, but this thought is fleeting as she feels the passion radiating between them. 

 

Eventually, she has to come up for air, and they release each other, panting as they both try to catch their breath. 

 

“You better start that car or we won’t make it out of the parking lot.” Christen urges.

 

Tobin just laughs along and does as she’s told, making sure to step on the gas a little harder than she normally would.

 

When they get to the apartment, Tobin’s fingers fumbles with the keys as Christen stands behind her, tickling the skin of her hips and stomach beneath the hem of her shirt.

 

When Tobin finally manages to get the door open, the women immediately come together magnetically. Their arms tangle around one another like vines, wrapping tightly around the other. Their lips mold together, kissing ravenously, making up for all the time they’d lost by not giving into this earlier. They shuffle back toward the bedroom, giggling between kisses as they bump into Tobin’s new furnishings, remaining intertwined despite the inconvenience of it.

 

The rush of adrenaline from making it to the finals is nothing compared to what Christen is feeling now. The excitement she had felt in the locker room had carried over and been amplified tenfold as she’s backed up onto the bed with Tobin above her. 

 

“I hope this is what you had in mind when you invited me over.” Christen teases as she catches her breath.

 

“There are still a few things we haven’t gotten to yet.” Tobin teases back, attaching her lips to Christen’s neck. 

 

Christen exhales softly, feeling Tobin’s tongue swirl and lick along the sensitive skin of her neck. Her lips suck gently and she feels the sharp pressure of teeth biting down on her skin just enough to elicit a small moan. 

 

“You like that?” Tobin checks in.

 

All Christen can manage is a nod of the head, unable to form words with the tingling sensation running like electricity through her body.

 

Tobin takes this as a sign to continue and scoots them both back onto the bed. With Tobin fully straddling her, Christen wraps her arms around Tobin’s back, anchoring herself to the brunette and pulling her body closer, needing to feel the way she moves on top of her. Tobin’s hand finds its way beneath Christen’s shirt, running up and down her stomach and grazing the fabric of her bra. 

 

The touch isn’t enough for Christen, and she swiftly strips off her shirt and unhooks her bra, eager for Tobin to have full access to her chest. For the briefest of moments, Tobin freezes while she regards Christen’s bare body, but in Christen’s impatience, she grabs Tobin’s hand to guide it to her breast.

 

“Touch me, please.” Christen breaths out.

 

This snaps Tobin back and she quickly begins sweeping her fingertips across Christen’s peaking nipple. Christen throws her head back to take in the sensation of Tobin’s fingers rolling her taught bud between her fingertips, sending shots pleasure between her thighs. 

 

She writhes beneath Tobin, her hips grinding desperately against her thigh to relieve the growing tension. Again, displeased with her clothing, Christen pushes Tobin off briefly to discard her shorts and watches as Tobin takes this opportunity to discard a layer of clothes as well until she sits on her knees in her underwear. 

 

Christen watches as Tobin’s eyes scan along her body, her lip caught between her teeth, mesmerized by the woman beneath her. When Tobin’s eyes finally come back to meet Christen’s gaze, a smiles spread across both their lips. 

 

“You don’t know how much I’ve wanted this.” Tobin says, almost in disbelief.

 

Christen reaches up to grasp around Tobin’s neck, pulling her down into a heated kiss. She peppers kisses along her jawline until her lips find Tobin’s ear, tracing the rim of it slowly with her tongue. 

 

“Show me how much you wanted it.” 

 

It’s a demand that causes Tobin’s body to physically shudder with pleasure against Christen’s body, and an unmistakable groan of desire escapes Tobin’s lips. 

 

She wastes no time and quickly makes a trail of kisses down Christen’s stomach. While Christen would normally enjoy a little more build up, in this moment Christen can barely keep herself from pushing Tobin’s head down faster to where she needs her most. They’ve had months worth of foreplay, Christen needs release now.

 

Tobin’s hair tickles the inside of her thighs, but Christen barely has time to think of this before she’s thrown into a state of pure bliss. Tobin’s tongue glides slowly through her folds, licking up the wetness that had been building since the moment they left the stadium. 

 

“Fuck” Christen curses, grasping at Tobin’s hair and massaging her scalp as she circles her tongue around Christen’s pulsing clit. 

 

Christen tries to hold herself back, but her body overrides her will, and she keens into Tobin’s mouth. She can feel herself getting close and though part of her wants to prolong this feeling and bask in it just a bit longer, a more desperate part of her cries out for the release she’s been aching for for months now. 

 

Christen loses any semblance of control when she feels Tobin stick her tongue into her, and she releases a visceral moan of pleasure. 

 

“Fuck Tobin. I’m gonna come.”

 

Tobin’s tongue licks deeper with every thrust of her hips, and in an overwhelming state of pleasure, Christen comes unraveled in wave after wave of exquisite euphoria. 

 

With her mind swimming in a pool of post-orgasm bliss, she barely registers Tobin kiss her way back up Christen’s body to rest beside her with her arm draped across her stomach, tracing invisible shapes across her skin. 

 

“Wow.” Christen finally manages to get out between panting breaths.

 

“The reviews are in.” Tobin jokes dryly.

 

Christen peaks her eyes open and turns her head toward Tobin to offer an admonishing glare. “‘I’ll have a more eloquent response in a minute, I promise. I just need time to recover.” 

 

This seems to appease Tobin who laughs lightly at Christen’s state of ineptitude. 

 

She feels Tobin start to get up and immediately shoots her arm out to stop her, grabbing her by the wrist. “Where do you think you’re going?”

 

“I still haven’t showered from the game. I just want to rinse off real quick—“

 

Christen does her best to pull the woman back down onto the bed, cutting her off. “Oh no you don’t. We’re not done yet.”

 

Tobin holds herself up over Christen and leans down, kissing her sweetly. “Oh I know we’re not done.” She smirks. “I just don’t want to be all sweaty and gross our first time, you know? 

 

"What if I like you all sweaty and gross?" Christen teases

 

"We can work our way up to it.” Tobin offers.

 

Christen smile at this. “Ok, but I’m taking a shower with you. I don’t want to miss this.” She says, motioning up and down Tobin’s body with her finger.”

 

“Sounds good to me.” Tobin agrees.

 

They manage to get off the bed and into the shower, but by the time they both manage to get around to actually bathing themselves, the hot water had long since run out, and they giggle together as they rinse the shampoo from their hair and the soap from their goosebumped skin. 

 

They spend the rest of the evening in Tobin’s bed. Some time in the small hours before sunrise, they collapse in each other’s arms and drift into a deep dreamless sleep together, having already spent most of the night in a dream already. 

 

***

 

The next morning, Christen is jolted awake by a loud banging coming from the front door. Startled, it takes her several moments to remember why she hadn’t woken up in her own bed, and she quickly remembers whose sheets she’s currently occupying. She looks over to find Tobin less roused by the knocking as she rubs the sleep from her bleary eyes, causing Christen to chuckle lightly at how cute Tobin looks when she first wakes up. 

 

“Tobin, I think someone’s here. Should we go see who it is?” Christen asks. 

 

Although she had said “we” this was really a request for Tobin to get up and answer the door. It is her apartment after all. 

 

Tobin seems to pick up on this and in her groggy haze, she silently gets out of bed and searches the floor of her room for a T-shirt and shorts, throwing them on without even checking to see if they’re inside out. 

 

As Tobin leaves the room, Christen too collects her discarded shorts, pulling them on before giving up on finding her shirt that was stuffed within the tangled sheets at some point last night.

 

She searches through Tobin’s dresser and finds a shirt, bringing it to her nose and inhaling the unadulterated scent of Tobin before pulling it over her head. 

 

As she walks out of the room, she sees Tobin standing in the doorway, talking to a familiar voice.

 

“I knew it!” She hears Kelley shout.

 

Christen pauses, briefly contemplating whether she could slowly back away and try to convince Kelley she was a figment of her imagination later. Instead, Christen trudges over to stand with Tobin at the front doorway. 

 

“Hi Kel.” Christen says, having been caught.

 

Kelley just laughs. “Oh I so called it! Sonny and Linds owe me twenty bucks.”

 

“Hey, what the fuck! You were betting on us?” Tobin asks indignantly.

 

“Yeah, me Sonny and Linds.” Kelley answers like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “You should be thanking me for having so much faith in you Tobs! Sonny didn’t think it would happen til the season was over and Lindsey didn’t even think you’d get together at all. I mean, she tried to set you up with Alex. She’s such a cheater!” 

 

Tobin shakes her head and pinches the bridge of her nose in annoyance, exhaling audibly. “What the hell...” she mutters under her breath. “Ok, we’re definitely discussing this later and the many layers of how fucked up that is, but what are you doing here now? It’s—“ she glances at her phone “7:30 in the morning. You hate being up this early.”

 

“Well I wouldn’t be here if someone had slept in her own bed last night.” She looks at Christen pointedly. “You have a doctor’s appointment in an hour, remember?”

 

Christen slaps her hand to her forehead as she remembers this fact. “Oh my gosh, I forgot. I’m so sorry.” She turns to address Tobin. “Kel offered to go with me to the team doctor this morning for my ankle.”

 

Kelley interjects “And when you weren’t at your place, I figured I’d check here before filing a missing person’s report. Lo and behold.” 

 

“I’m sorry. Thanks for doing this.” Christen apologizes again.

 

“Hey, no skin off my back. I just won forty bucks.” Kelley pauses looking between the women. “So...I’ll give you a few minutes to get dressed and we can go. Ok? No funny business, we’re on a schedule.” She says, pointing between the two. “I’ll be in the car.”

 

“K, I’ll be right there.” Christen says, closing the door behind Kelley. 

 

Christen meets eyes with Tobin and before either of them can get out a word, they both burst into a fit of laughter, relieving any ounce of tension in the air. 

 

“Welp, cat’s out of the bag.” Tobin says as their laughter does down.

 

“Shoot, I kinda liked the whole, sneaking around thing. It was sexy.” Christen jokes.

 

Tobin laughs, pulling Christen in for a kiss before changing the subject. “You want me to go with you to the doctor?”

 

“Oh, no that’s ok. You should go back to sleep. You’re probably exhausted from last night.”

 

“You should be exhausted from last night too.” Tobin says, wiggling her eyebrows playfully.

 

Christen chuckles at this. “I am, trust me. I’m sore and I didn’t even play in the game last night. You’re probably dying.”

 

Tobin shrugs. “Nothing a full body massage can’t fix. Know anyone who can do that?”

 

Christen pretends to ponder this a moment “Hm, I do know of a great spa. It’s really close and I heard they’ll give you a happy ending if you pay extra.”

 

Tobin laughs at this reference and a genuine smile comes to rest on her face as they stand regrading each other in a silent moment of mutual adoration. 

 

Christen smiles and places another kiss on Tobin’s cheek before detaching from her to go get her things together. “Seriously, you should stay and rest. I’ll call you once we’re done. It shouldn’t be too long. Maybe I can bring back some donuts and coffee or something.”

 

“I like the sound of that.” Tobin says, watching Christen put her hair up into a ponytail and collect her phone, keys, and wallet. 

 

They walk back through the apartment, stopping at the front door one more time. “I had a really great time with you last night.” Christen says, her demeanor more bashful now.

 

“I had a really great time last night too.” Tobin replies softly.

 

They share another kiss, but before it can get out of hand, they hear the impatient horn of Kelley’s car outside, and break apart.

 

“I’ll call you in a bit.” Christen reiterates before stepping out of the apartment. 

 

“Ok. Good luck!” Tobin smiles before shutting the door and latching it behind Christen. 

 

Christen bounds over to the car and hops in. As she buckled her seatbelt she can feel Kelley’s eyes on her but she makes no move to meet her gaze.

 

“Sooo....” Kelley draws out.

 

Christen doesn’t say anything, but the irresistible smile that tugs at her cheeks give her away.

 

Kelley just laughs at this. “Aw, my little Pressy got some last night! I’m so proud.”

 

“Shut up...” Christen whines.

 

“So? How was it? Is Tobin into any weird shit?” 

 

“Just drive Kelley!” Christen demands

 

***

 

At the doctor’s office, Christen’s not surprised when she receives a clean bill of health and the ok to start working her way back into training. The doctor remarks on her speedy recovery, noting that she must have been extremely diligent in her treatment. Christen simply agrees and tries to act as befuddled as the doctor is while Kelley sits in the corner of the office, taking it all in. As they’re finishing up, she receives doctor’s orders to start PT with the trainer so he can help get Christen back into training again. She obliges, and as they walk through the parking lot to Kelley’s car, Kelley turns to Christen.

 

“You know this still means you need to take it easy right?”


Christen nods. “I know.”

 

“I just don’t want you getting your hopes up that you’ll play in the game ok? They’ll want to be careful with you.”

 

Christen nods again, more despairingly this time. “I know.”

 

“Maybe you can come on as a super sub and score the game winning goal.” Kelley offers in consolation.

 

Christen shrugs. “Yeah, maybe.”

 

***

 

It’s the second half of the final game and while the team had managed to come out ahead at halftime, North Carolina scored within the first two minutes of the second half, bringing LA’s momentum to a grinding halt. 

 

Now, Christen watches from the bench as her team does everything they can to keep it even. They absorb wave after wave of attack and when they finally manage to get possession, they send desperate balls into the attacking half, hoping that a forward will get on the end of it and make a miracle happen. 

 

Christen’s nails are bitten down to stumps as she watches the game clock tick on. She prays that it doesn’t end in penalty kicks. 

 

With fifteen minutes left in the game, the coach tells Christen to start warming up on the sideline and that she’d be coming in as striker the next stoppage of play. Christen nods in understanding and does her best to focus herself and calm her nerves, repeating the platitude Tobin always tells her “excited, not anxious”.

 

When the whistle blows for a throw in, Christen rushes over to the fourth official and strips off her warm up jacket, waiting impatiently to rush onto the field as her teammate jogs over to sub out. With a quick slap of hands, she sprints out to her position, relaying marching orders from the coach as she takes her place. 

Just like the rest of the second half, LA doesn’t get much of the ball, and the few touches Christen does manage to get end up going nowhere. 

 

After being stripped again near the top of the eighteen, she lets out a frustrated groan, knowing that she’s running out of time. She looks over and spots Tobin. She can tell Tobin’s running out of gas. Her jersey is drenched in sweat and the flyaways of her ponytail refuse to stick to her head. Despite this, Tobin offers her a smile and musters the energy to encourage Christen not to give up. 

Christen takes a deep breath and watches her team from midfield as they work tirelessly to keep the ball out of the back of the net. Then, off a clearance from the goalkeeper, Christen watches as the ball shoots straight toward her down the center of the field. She runs onto it, wrestling with a defender to stay on the ball. She takes a long touch to put some space between them, knowing she’s faster and has fresher legs. As she pulls away from one defender, she sees another closing in on her as she makes it into the eighteen. She fakes like she’s going endline, but instead cuts back to the middle, shaking both defenders, opening up a clear shot on goal. She swings her leg with as much power as she can, letting her muscles remember every hour spent practicing this movement. As she makes contact with the ball, all she can hear is the pounding of her heartbeat in her ears and the long exhale from her lungs, silently willing the ball to go where it needs to. 

 

It goes silent for just a moment. 

 

The next sound she hears is a roar of deafening cheers and her name ringing in her ears as her teammates surround her in celebration. In the chaos of it all, Tobin finds her and wraps her into the tightest hug she’s ever experienced. 

 

“I knew you could do it.” She yells over the cheering of her teammates.

 

They set back up on the center circle, but it’s just a formality as the referee blows her whistle signaling the end of the game soon after the ball is put in play. The rest of the team and staff storm the field, surrounding Christen again in celebration, knowing they couldn’t have won without her.

 

When they make it into the locker room, it’s covered in plastic, and a vat of champagne and beer bottles sits in the center of the room to be sprayed on each other. As expected, most of the alcohol ends up covering the walls and soaked into their jerseys, so the team decides to go out to a bar to properly celebrate their victory. 

Once at the bar, Christen is offered shot after shot for her winning goal, which she gladly shares with Tobin who won’t leave her side. 

 

“Have I told you how great you are.” Tobin slurs into Christen’s ear as they sit in a booth together to take a breather from the dance floor. 

 

“You might have once or twice.” Christen teases. 

 

Although she had drank about twice as much as Tobin, Christen remains pleasantly tipsy while she watches Tobin slip into a state of drunkenness as the night goes on. 

 

When a teammate comes around with another two shots for Christen and Tobin, Christen quickly takes both of them before Tobin can snatch one up and possibly make herself sick. 

 

“I’m like, really drunk. Aren’t you?” Tobin slurs again.

 

Christen chuckles at how handsy Tobin has become beneath the table. “Yeah I’m getting there.”

 

“Pfft. You are not! And you had waaaay more than me.” Tobin lets out a hiccup. “Maybe your liver has super healing powers too.” She laughs boisterously at her own joke.

 

Christen, however, doesn’t find it funny and she feels a sense of panic overcome her. Her stomach drops and she quickly looks for the exit to escape the anxiety brough on by Tobin's flippant, yet accurate, comment. “Um, Tobs—Maybe we should get you home. I think we’ve had enough fun tonight.”

 

Tobin closes her eyes and leans onto Christen’s shoulder. “Mmmm that sounds nice. Are you gonna stay with me and take care of me?”

 

Christen smiles weakly, still trying to cover the waver of nerves in her voice. “Sure. If that’s what you want.”

 

Tobin nods her droopy head against Christen’s shoulder. 

 

Christen kisses the top of her head and scoots them out of the booth, making sure to keep Tobin upright as they walk through the bar, hoping the woman won't remember this in the morning. 

 

She finds Kelley dancing closely with Sonnett and pulls her away by the arm. “I’m taking her home but I need to talk to you later.” She says, leaning into Kelley.

 

Kelley gives her a confused look, picking up on the distress in Christen’s voice. “Everything ok?”

 

“I don’t know. I’ll call you tomorrow.” She looks over Kelley’s shoulder at Sonnett who’s still dancing freely behind them. “Don’t worry about it tonight. Have fun with her.” Christen offers a wink, not wanting to ruin Kelley’s night due to her own paranoia.

 

Kelley gives her a knowing smile and turns her attention back to Sonnett. 

 

Christen gets a ride for them and has the uber drop them off in front of Tobin’s building. The whole ride home, Christen battles with herself, trying to calm the nagging anxiety in her chest. It was just a stupid comment. She's drunk. She doesn't mean anything by it. She would have told me by now if she knew anything.

 

Christen helps Tobin with the keys, and unlocks the door for both of them, leading her into the bedroom and plopping her down on the bed.

 

As she’s pulling Tobin’s shoes off at the end of the bed, Tobin sits up. “Are you mad at me?” She asks out of the blue.

 

Christen furrows her brow and looks up at Tobin, confused by this question. “What? No, why do you say that?”

 

“I dunno. You’ve just been really quiet since we left the bar.” Tobin explains.

 

“Oh— sorry I didn’t mean to be. I guess I’ve just kinda been thinking about stuff.” Christen offers vaguely. It’s not entirely untrue. 

 

“What have you been thinking about?” Tobin pushes further.

 

Christen wants to tell her the truth, about why she’s been so lost in thought since Tobin’s comment, but now isn’t the time to explain it all. It may never be the time. 

 

Instead, Christen deflects, pulling off her own pants and putting on a clean shirt, tossing one to Tobin as well. “I don’t know. It’s just kinda sinking in that the season’s over. I hadn’t really given much thought about how to spend the off season.”

 

Tobin sits up, watching Christen mill about the room. "Are you sure that's all?" She asks skeptically. 

 

She's surprisingly perceptive given her current drunken stupor, and it may be what spurs Christen to ask the question that had really been plaguing her tonight. She takes a deep breath to calm her nerves and sits next to Tobin on the bed. "No, I guess that's not all I've been thinking about..."

 

"Wassamatter?" Tobin slurs, leaning into Christen.

 

Christen looks down, taking a moment to collect her thoughts. "I don't want this to come off wrong, or like I'm accusing you of anything..."

 

"Ok?" Tobin says, her interest piqued.

 

Christen takes another calming breath. "Ok--So, I just want to makes sure...I want to always be honest with each other. I feel like that's important. And I want you to feel like you can tell me whatever you want, because I'd never judge you for anything, just like I know you’d never judge me..." She grits her teeth, grimacing, hoping she hadn't offended the woman.

 

Tobin doesn't look offended though. Instead, her face falls and she clenches her jaw in a hard swallow.

 

Watching this sudden shift in mood, Christen questions it. “Tobin, you ok?”

 

Tobin’s face continues to drop and contorts into a grimace as her emotions continue to become more intense. She squeezes her eyes shut, and a hiccup to hold back tears gets caught in her throat.

 

“Tobs?....” Christen asks weakly, perplexed by this response.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m—I...” but Tobin can’t get out any other words as she sits up, her body is racked with sobs, convulsing and gasping for breath. 

 

“Tobin? Breath, just...take a deep breath. What's going on? I don’t know what you’re saying.” Christen runs her hand across Tobin’s slumped back, trying to calm the woman so she can decipher her sudden shift.

 

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done it. I didn’t know—I thought they just wanted information...” Tobin tries to get out

 

Christen’s stomach drops.

 

“Who? Who wants information?” Christen asks more desperately, knowing where her questioning will lead her, but powerless to stop it. 

 

“The government—the Alt Law investigators. They wanted you. They wanted me to follow you around and tell them about you and your abilities, but I couldn’t—not when I realized how much I love you.”

 

Christen’s mouth hangs open as Tobin’s confessions poor from her mouth. Overwhelmed, she tries to sift through each bombshell.

 

“You...you’re my tracker?” Christen asks, devastated. “And you told them about me—about how I...my...”

 

“Your mutation? Yeah.” Tobin reveals with a defeated exhale.

 

“So you knew about me the whole time? That’s why you’ve been...fuck...seducing me the past 6 months!” Christen’s anger starts to boil over as she comes to understand the depth of Tobin’s betrayal, realizing the paranoia she'd felt the past few months were rooted in something real. 

 

“No! It wasn’t like that!” Tobin raises her voice to defend herself.

 

“Then what was it like?!” Christen challenges back at equal volume.

 

“I love you! I love you and I couldn’t do it anymore!” Tobin breaks down into sobbing once more, hot tears flowing from her eyes.

 

Christen watches as Tobin cries fits of tears. She’s conflicted. Should she comfort the woman she's come to care so deeply for? Is she even the same woman? Or did Christen fall in love with an act? 

 

Do I love Tobin ?

 

She takes a deep breath and releases it slowly, gathering her wits before she addresses Tobin. 

 

“Tobin? Tell me what happened. If you love me, I need to know everything.” She says more gently, knowing anger won't solve anything at this point.

 

Tobin’s tears lessen as she collects herself, taking Christen’s words to heart. She nods her head, steadying her breathing before she begins. 

 

“Before the season started, I made a deal with the Alt Law department that they would make an exception for me to play in tier three even though my genetics weren’t really up to par with where they should be for the league. But I had to do something for them in return.”

 

“I had seen you play in college, so I knew who you were immediately when they told me that they wanted me to track you. I thought it was harmless. They wanted your fitness stats and GPI; they didn’t ask for anything they couldn’t get from the coaches or staff.”

 

“Then when they put me on the same team as you, they started asking for more—They wanted me to purposely put you in danger to see what would happen to you. I couldn’t do it. I started making excuses or purposely fucking shit up because...I was falling for you.”

 

Their eyes meet and Christen gives Tobin the smallest nod of encouragement to continue, needing to hear the full story. Tobin takes a deep breath and keeps going.

 

“They tried to pull me off your case when they saw me getting too close to you, but I convinced them not to. That's why I started dating Alex.. to try and throw them off and convince them I wasn’t in love with you. But then she left and I didn’t have anything to distract me from you anymore...”

 

“That night you sprained your ankle, I should have reported it when I caught you walking around on it like it was nothing, but when I went to call the agent , I couldn’t--I couldn't do it. It was that night that made me realize my soccer career was nothing compared to what I wanted with you. The money they were throwing at me to keep me quiet was worthless if I didn’t have you."

 

The tears stream down Tobin's cheeks as she sobs, reaching out for Christen's hands. "I love you, and I know you have every reason to hate me, but please--” She can't finish her thought as her sobs rack through her chest, trapping the words in her throat.

 

Christen sits quietly a moment, taking in Tobin’s confession. She has so many thoughts and questions swirling in her head, it takes her a minute to put them all in order. 

 

“So you were my tracker..."

 

Tobin nods silently

 

"What are they going to do with all the information you gave them?"

 

Tobin shrugs. "I don't know. I didn't give them anything worthwhile, I promise" She pleads, trying to offer any kind of consolation. 

 

"And you’re not contacting them anymore?” Christen clarifies tentatively. 

 

Tobin nods, sniffling and wiping away the tears to regain enough composure to answer. “Yeah. I haven’t talked to them in three weeks.. I don’t know what’s going to happen when they find out why.”

 

“You don’t think they’d put you in jail or anything, right?” Christen asks incredulously. 

 

Tobin shrugs sadly dropping her head. “I don’t know. None of this is really legal. They could probably do anything they wanted to me at this point.”

 

Sensing Tobin's vulnerability, she scoots into Tobin wordlessly, wrapping her up in her arms. “It’ll be ok. We’ll be ok. I love you—we’ll be ok.”

 

Tobin perks up at this, tilting her head to meet Christen’s eyes. 

 

“You love me?” She questions sheepishly 

 

Christen grins at Tobin’s endearing question, nodding her head. “Yeah...I don't know why, but I do.” She answers earnestly.

 

Tobin chuckles, wiping the tears from her eyes. “That’s so rad.” She says as they both let out a laugh of relief. 

 

Through the tears and sniffling noses, they share a kiss, completely vulnerable with everything laid out on the table. It’s a bond—a promise that they are in this together, no matter the outcome. 

 

“What do we do now?” Christen asks once they release from each other.

 

Tobin shrugs and lets out a yawn. “I dunno. Can we sleep on it and figure it out in the morning when the room isn’t spinning so much?” 

 

Christen almost forgot about the amount of alcohol undoubtedly coursing through Tobin’s system right now, and is impressed with how sober she seemed as she poured out her soul to Christen moments ago. 

 

She leans over to kiss Tobin on the temple and settles in next to her. “Sure. We figured out enough for tonight.”

 

Tobin lets out a groan and quickly falls asleep. Christen, on the other hand, lies awake most of the night, unable to benefit from the effects of alcohol to put her into an artificial slumber. She drifts in and out, and sometime as the sun starts coming up, Christen’s eyes finally fall closed from pure exhaustion. 

 

***

 

When Christen’s awoken the next morning by frantic banging on the front door, she looks over to find that Tobin is already out of bed, throwing a shirt on over her bare torso. 

 

“Yeah I’m coming! Jesus...” Tobin yells from her spot near the dresser.

 

When she notices Christen sitting up on the bed, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, her scowl softens and she comes over to the edge of the bed, leaning in to kiss Christen awake. 

 

“Morning beautiful.” She says, her tone soft now.

 

“Hi.” Christen responds in a small whine.

 

“I’ll be right back, ok? I just need to tell whoever’s at the door to fuck off. Don’t move.” Tobin says grabbing her head with a wince as her hangover undoubtedly starts to set in.

 

She disappears out of the room and Christen does her best to try and get comfortable again, but curiosity gets the best of her when Tobin doesn’t come back after a few minutes. She slips out of bed and into a shirt and shorts, treading lightly out of the room to see where Tobin had disappeared to. 

 

When she gets to the living room, she sees Tobin sitting on the couch next to Kelley, both hunched over the computer screen on Kelley’s lap.

 

“Kel, you’ve gotta stop waking us up like this.” Christen jokes.

 

This catches both women’s attention as they turn to face Christen. She immediately recognizes that neither of them are smiling. In fact, they both look a little scared.

 

“Chris, come here. You need to hear this.” Tobin says, patting the empty space next to her on the couch.

 

“What’s going on?” Christen asks as she makes her way to the spot in the couch.

 

“Before you freak out, just know that I have a plan. We’re gonna be fine ok?” Tobin says gently.

 

“Tobin, what’s going on?” Christen asks, distressed now. 

 

Kelley chimes in. “I’ve been keeping an eye on that agent you told me about when you found that card in Tobin’s drawer. Emails, texts, stuff like that.”

 

Christen gives her a confused look. “Kel...how...”

 

Kelley cuts her off. “I may have a background in cyber security. I had to pay the bills somehow when I was still in the development league.”

 

“So you hacked his phone and email?” Christen clarifies.

 

“Yes, that’s not the point.” Kelley confirms. “The point is, this Dean Wallace guy was getting suspicious when you stopped reporting to him,” she looks to Tobin, “so he started reaching out to other people for info and guess who he found?”

 

“Michael...” Christen says definitively.

 

“Uh huh. I guess they offered him something better than the threat of getting murdered by me, and he told them everything he knew about you.”

 

Kelley starts to click through the computer screen. “And now, from what I can tell from these emails he’s been sending out, Wallace is getting everything ready to pick you up. They’re coming for you Press. Tonight.”

 

Fuck

 

She looks to Tobin, scared and stammering as she tries to put together a coherent thought. “What do I do?”

 

Tobin grabs her hand, rubbing it gently in her own. “You’re gonna be fine. I promise nothing’s gonna happen. No one’s gonna hurt you.”

 

She kisses Christen’s cheek, but Christen remains frozen, still trying to recover from shock.

 

Tobin begins again. “We’re getting out of here. I still have some friends in Europe who will let us stay with them until we can find our own place. We’ll lay low for a few months. It’ll be fine. They can’t get us once we’re there. It’s out of their jurisdiction.”

 

Christen nods, slowly digesting this information. “What about my family? I just have to leave them? Will I get to see them again?” 

 

Tobin looks at her, eyes full of sadness. “I don’t know. They want your genetic code pretty bad. Who knows how long they’re willing to wait for you.”

 

Kelley interjects. “But I’m going to be keeping an eye on it, and as soon as chatter dies down about you, we’re getting you back here.” 

 

“How?” Christen asks simply.

 

“I know a guy who can hook you up with forged passports, birth certificates, social security cards, you name it. You’ll be a whole new you when you come back.” Kelley states, still focused intently on the computer screen. 

 

Christen ponders what Kelley must have done in her past life to have all these skills and connections, but pushes the thought to the side so she can fully understand what’s going on presently. 

 

She looks over to Tobin, a spark of hope in her chest. “Do you think this’ll work?” 

 

Tobin shrugs “It has to.”

 

They spend the rest of the morning booking flights and packing up their essentials while Tobin calls her acquaintances in another time zone, explaining their situation in vague, broken French. While Christen shoves clothing haphazardly into her suitcase, she thinks of her parents. When will she be able to see them next, or even talk to them? How will they know she’s ok? That she’s safe? These questions go unanswered and she tries her best not to let the panic take over.

 

She pops her head back into the living room. “Do I have time to call my mom real quick?” 

 

Kelley looks at her despairingly. “Chris, I’m not sure that’s a good idea...”

 

Tobin cuts her off. “Go ahead. I’ll finish packing up our stuff.”

 

Christen watches as Kelley gives Tobin a challenging look, but they come to a silent agreement that they can spare ten minutes. Christen excuses herself to the back patio and closes the glass door behind her to give herself a little privacy. 

 

The line rings only once before her mother’s voice sings through on the other end. “Honey! I’m so glad you called! I wanted to call you last night to tell you how great you played, but your dad insisted that you were probably too busy celebrating with the team. How are you?”

 

“I’m fine mom. How are things over there?” Christen asks, trying to match her mother’s enthusiasm.

 

“Oh, you know us, boring as ever. Watching you play last night was the most fun we’ve had in weeks. We’re so proud of you honey.”

 

Christen’s eyes prickle with tears at the earnestness I her mother’s voice, wondering if that tv image will be the last they’ll ever see of their daughter. 

 

“I was actually calling cus I have something I needed to tell you.” Christen explains, fighting back tears. “Tobin and I are going to Europe for a little while. We’re taking a little break together. I just didn’t want you to worry if you can’t get a hold of me.”

 

“Oh, that sounds fantastic! I wish your dad would take me on a romantic European vacation.”

 

“Yeah... I’m not sure when we’ll be back, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m safe. We’ll be safe.” Christen tries her hardest to mask the distress in her voice, but it’s unsuccessful.

 

The line is quiet for a few moments before her mother starts in again, her tone nostalgic and soft. “I’ve always known how special you are Christen. Even when you were little. You were always so resilient. Every time you got knocked down, you always bounced right back up. You’ve always been so tough. You never got hurt, never got sick, you were our miracle baby.”

 

Christen listens, wondering in the back of her mind if her mom knows what’s going on. Wondering if her motherly instincts had tapped her on the shoulder this morning to tell her something wasn’t quite right with her daughter. 

 

Her mom continues. “I’ve always known you were special Christen. I figured someone else would find out how special you are eventually. When are they coming for you?”

 

That’s when the understanding dawns on her. “How—how do you.. ?” Christen tries to get the words out as she struggles to wrap her mind around it all.

 

“Oh honey. I’m a biogenetic engineer for goodness sakes. I had you figured you out pretty quick.” She laughs lightly into the phone. “Normal people don’t recover from a shattered femur in ten days. Not even the healthiest alt. You’re one tough cookie.”

 

Christen scowls, trying to piece together this information. “But...If you knew all this, about my—mutation—why’d you let me tryout for the alt league? You knew they might find out about me because of it...God, they did find out about me because of it! Why didn’t you tell me any of this stuff?!” Christen questions aggressively, starting to feel resentful that her mom had kept this from her all these years.

 

Another knowing chuckle comes from her mother “When have you ever done something because I told you not to, hm? You’re just like your dad. If I tell you not to do something, you just want to do it even more. And I knew how happy it would make you. You’re a smart woman, I knew you’d land on your feet.” 

 

Christen can’t deny her mother’s poignant observation. She wants to ask a million more questions to help fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle, but there isn’t time for that now.

 

Her mother continues after a brief pause. “So you’ll be with Tobin?”

 

Christen hums in affirmation. 

 

“And I’m guessing she knows about all this.” Christen mother asks.

 

Christen hums again into the phone, not wanting to get into the details of Tobin's involvement.

 

Her mother lets out a deep sigh. “Ok. Stay as long as you need to ok? Until it’s safe. I need my baby back in one piece.”

 

Christen nods against the phone, tears starting to wet the glass screen. “Ok, I will mom.”

 

“Hey, maybe I can convince your dad to take me on that romantic European vacation after all. We can come visit you if we have time to pencil you in after our tours of Tuscan vineyards.” She teases lightly.

 

Christen lets out a relieved laugh. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

 

“It’ll be ok sweety. We love you and we’ll be right here if you need anything.”

 

The tears stream freely down her cheeks now as she fights to get out words through her clenched throat. “Love you mom”

 

“I love you too sweetheart. Be safe.”

 

The line goes dead and Christen crumples to the ground, bringing her knees to her chest as she gasps for air between sobs. She never thought when she opened her eyes this morning that so much could happen in the matter of hours. She allows herself several minutes to dry her tears and compose herself, compartmentalizing these feelings to be dealt with at another time. She has too much to get done to worry about this now.

 

When she steps back into the living room, Kelley looks at her watch, closes her laptop, and rises from the couch. “Ok you two. Time to go to the airport. You wanna do one last sweep before we go?”

 

Christen looks over at Tobin and a silent agreement passes between them. They grasp each other’s hands and walk slowly into the bedroom one last time. 

 

The bed is still unmade and messy, and the closet is half empty with plastic hangers swinging back and forth on the wooden dowel. It’s quiet and smells faintly of the candle they’d lit several nights before. Christen looks around, taking it all in.

 

“It’s just a room. We’ll make our home again somewhere else. I promise.” Tobin whispers softly in her ear.

 

Tears begin to wet Christen’s eyes again. “What if we never come back?” Her voice trembles at the thought.

 

“We will. We probably won’t come back here exactly, but I know we’ll make it back eventually.” She comes to stand behind Christen, wrapping her up protectively in her arms and kisses her temple. “And we have each other. That’s the most important part, for me anyway.” 

 

The faintest of smiles graces Christen’s lips and she spins in Tobin’s arms to face her, their eyes meeting in this intimate moment. “It’s important to me too. I love you.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

Christen can taste the salt as their lips come together and she can’t tell whose tears are whose when she takes Tobin’s face between her hands. She holds them there, savoring this final kiss they’ll share in the place that started it all. The loss of innocence weighs heavy against her chest, but knowing that Tobin will be there every step of the way gives her strength and carries her out the door and into the car as she says a silent goodbye to the place where her life fully blossomed. 

 

The car ride is somber and quiet. Kelley doesn’t say anything when Tobin climbs into the back seat with Christen, knowing she needs the comfort more than Kelley needs a copilot. Christen does her best to steady her breaths, counting the seconds to inhale and exhale, but this doesn’t slow her heartbeat or the thoughts racing through her mind as her eyes fix aimlessly out the window. 

 

When they arrive at the airport, Kelley parks on the curb and helps them unload their suitcases. In any other circumstance, she probably would have made a sarcastic joke about how light they packed, but now was not the time. 

 

Standing on the curb, Tobin wraps her arms around Kelley first. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to thank you for this.” 

 

“Don’t worry about it. Just stay safe over there. Eat lots of bread, drink lots of wine. No one will ever suspect you’re professional soccer players if you get fat.” Kelley says, offering some levity to the somber moment.

 

Tobin laughs lightly and releases her. “I will. I’ll email you once we get situated.”

 

Kelley nods. “Ok dude.” She turns her attention to Christen and brings her in for a crushing hug. “Press” she whines. “What are we gonna do without you next season?”

 

“I’ll just have to cheer extra loud for you from across the ocean.” Christen plays along.

 

Kelley releases her, but keeps her grip on Christen’s shoulders, holding her at arms length, looking more serious now. “I seriously don’t know if I would have made it without you this year. I’m gonna miss you, both of you.”

 

“Kel...” Christen’s eyes start to water all over again.

 

“Just look after each other ok? We’ll get you back here before you know it. I need you guys too much to leave you over there.” Kelley reassures her. 

 

“Come with us.” Christen suggests half-heartedly.

 

Kelley just shakes her head. “Nah. I’ve finally got my own reasons for staying.”

 

“Emily?” Christen guesses in a teasing tone.

 

Kelley smiles and looks away bashfully. “What? You guys don’t get to have all the fun.” She says smugly.

 

Christen chuckles at this, and pulls Kelley in for a final hug. “I’ll miss you too. Thanks for everything.”

 

“Don’t mention it. You’ll be back before you know it.” Kelley says as she releases Christen once more. 

 

The security guard gestures for them to wrap it up and move along, spurring Kelley to jump into the car and start it back up. She rolls down the windows to shout one final farewell to the two women before she drives off into the sea of cars. 

 

Once Kelley is out of sight, Tobin and Christen step into the airport with their bags in tow.

 

Tobin turns toward Christen as they stand among the swarms of people going this way and that. “You ready?”

 

Christen shakes her head, starting to feel overwhelmed by the weight of it all. “I don’t know.”

 

Tobin smiles adoringly at her. She leans in, offering her a reassuring kiss on the lips. “Remember: excited, not anxious.”