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you feel like second nature (i got you memorized)

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Tobin doesn't remember the first time she ever meets Christen, which makes sense considering she's only 14 months old and Christen is half that. Based on the countless pictures and stories from their parents though, she almost feels as if she can remember it all on her own.

Their mothers are bridesmaids in a mutual friend’s wedding, so Tobin and Christen are both taken along for the festivities. They're so young, they spend a majority of the time with their dads, hiding out in the back of the church so they can make a quick escape if they start to get too fussy.

They don't, though.

They spend the whole time playing quietly in their matching, toddler versions of their mom’s bridesmaids dresses, much to the amazement of their dads.

They're both great babies by any standard, but they don't do well staying quiet or sitting still for prolonged periods of time. Together though, they're perfectly content entertaining each other, even through the lengthy Catholic mass ceremony. They just quietly babble to each other the entire time, almost as if they're telling each other secrets they don't want anyone else in the church to overhear.

Aside from the bride and groom, Tobin and Christen are the biggest hit at the reception. They're only around for a little over an hour before their dads take them back to the hotel for their bedtimes, but in that time they're passed around so everyone can gush over their adorable matching dresses. But no matter who has them, they're twisting and turning in their arms, trying to look around and find one another, already distraught over being separated from their new friend. Their parents quickly realize they're now a package deal and show them off to everyone as a pair.

Once they're back at the hotel and getting ready for sleep, they're both absolutely inconsolable. The two usually perfect babies, especially when it comes time for sleep, are crying and screaming, refusing to calm down no matter what their dads do.

Eventually, Tobin's dad gets the bright idea to bring her down to Christen's parents’ room to see if being around Christen will help Tobin get to sleep.

Both dads are shocked by how instantly it works. The moment Tobin's dad steps into the room, the babies instantly begin to calm down, their cries and screams subsiding to whimpers and by the time Tobin is placed next to Christen in her crib, they're both silent with sleepy smiles on their faces.

Within a matter of minutes, they're both fast asleep, curled up next to each other. The picture Christen's dad snapped of them holding hands while they slept soundly side by side foreshadows what all is to come in the future for them, but they didn't know it then.

At the time, it was just a cute picture of two sleeping babies. No one knew then it would be the start of something so much more.

xxx

Tobin's earliest memory is, by no coincidence, with Christen.

After that wedding when they were babies, their parents made a point to schedule a playdate at least once a week. Without debate, the day the two got to see each other was the day both babies were the best behaved. They calmed each other down in a way their parents could never explain, but were eternally grateful for.

Tobin is just two weeks shy of her fifth birthday in her earliest memory. Christen isn't yet 4 and a half years old, so she isn't able to recall the moment on her own, but thanks to the video recording that captured the entire thing, she feels like she can.

It's at another wedding, a mutual friend of their dads this time. They’re both appointed as flower girls-slash-ring bearers since the bride's nephew isn't yet able to walk.

Again, they're decked out in matching dresses similar to the ones the bridesmaids are wearing. They have flower crowns that match the petals in the baskets they carry. Each one has a wedding band tied to their baskets with a ribbon and they're grinning proudly as they walk down the aisle, throwing petals as they go.

Tobin scatters all her flower petals before they're even halfway down the aisle, she never was very good at being patient, so Christen scoops some of hers over into Tobin's basket. Tobin is much more careful with her petals this time, conserving them so that her last handful is scattered right at the altar.

As instructed, Christen pulls the ring from her loosely tied ribbon and hands it to the best man to hold onto until the groom needs it. Tobin has a little difficulty pulling her ring off, but once she does, she hesitates before handing it to the maid of honor.

She doesn't remember exactly what motivated her, but she remembers the only thing she wanted to do when she finally freed the ring. She turned to see Christen smiling at her and suddenly she didn't want to give the ring over to the waiting hand of the maid of honor. Instead, she set her now empty basket by her feet and got down on one knee, exactly as her parents had told her was supposed to happen when you ask someone to marry you.

She held the ring out to Christen and confidently asked, “will you marry me?” in a crystal clear tone.

Tobin remembers cameras flashing and everyone in attendance smiling and laughing and cooing over how cute the moment was, but what she remembers most is the way Christen grinned down at her and nodded her head quickly, like she couldn't say ‘yes’ fast enough.

She slipped the ring onto Christen's thumb and then got to her feet, throwing her arms in the air in celebration. The whole church was clapping for them and Tobin basked in the moment, not because of the attention, but because of the way Christen was still smiling at her as she joined her hand with Tobin's and raised it in the air as well.

It only lasted a moment longer, Christen eventually took the ring off and handed it to the maid of honor and then the two girls went and took their place in the front row next to their parents. Christen's hand didn't leave Tobin's for the entire ceremony.

That night, as Tobin's parents were driving home, Tobin chirped up from the backseat. “Daddy, how did you know when you wanted to marry Mommy?”

Her parents shared a loving smile and then her dad said, “I knew I loved her more than I loved anyone else, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. She makes me happier than anything else ever could and I never wanted to let go of that.”

Tobin was quiet for a moment, the gears in her head turning wildly. Until finally, she settled upon a realization. Suddenly, her motivation for what she did with the ring at the wedding made complete and total sense.

“I'm going to marry Christen one day,” she announced proudly.

Her parents chuckled, clearly not believing her although Tobin didn't realize it at the time. When her parents retell the story, they admit they never thought it could happen. They believed there was no way Tobin could know in that moment who she was going to marry two decades from then.

But for Tobin, there wasn't a single doubt in her mind.

She was going to marry Christen one day.

She just knew it.

xxx

When Tobin is 14 years old, Christen invites Tobin to her cousin’s wedding. Her sisters are bridesmaids, her dad is an usher and her mom is helping her sister with final preparations for her niece’s big day, and Christen would be left all on her own, so she uses the excuse to invite Tobin. It's not like she actually needs an excuse, the two are attached at the hip, but Christen uses it to her advantage anyway.

Tobin has been looking forward to it for weeks. She loves weddings and she loves getting to hang out with Christen even more. This is an ideal circumstance for her.

Well…it should be at least.

The morning of the wedding, Tobin is filled with a sense of dread and it's all her fault.

It's her fault because two days ago, Tobin kissed Christen and since then, Christen has been acting as if it never even happened. She's been carrying on like everything is completely normal, like Tobin didn't just put her heart on the line by kissing her.

It was Tobin’s first kiss, at least her first real one. She doesn’t count the quick kisses done on dares at birthday parties or tucked away under the bleachers at high school football games. As far as she knows, it was Christen’s first real kiss too. The ones they’ve had before were just part of a game with boys, and one girl, that don’t mean anything to her beyond friendship.

With Christen though, it means absolutely everything.

At least she thought it did.

Tobin doesn't know how to act around Christen now. She’s never been anything other than completely comfortable than when she was with Christen, but now she's totally uneasy. She's forced herself to act as normal as possible the last couple days, but they've been at school surrounded by other friends so there was always a buffer. At the wedding though, with Christen's family distracted with their various roles, they're all by themselves and Tobin is terrified about how that will go.

Tobin wants to talk about it. Well, she doesn't want to. She wants to stand in a corner and jam her fingers in her ears and hum as loudly as she can to pretend this ever even happened. She wants to go back to how things were two days ago when she wasn't so worried about being near her best friend. She doesn't want to talk about it, she'd be happy to avoid it forever, but she knows they need to talk about it.

Tobin is pretty sure she's in love with Christen, pretty sure she's been in love with her since the beginning. She's young and dumb though. What does she know about love?

When her mom comes in to make sure she's awake, Tobin considers burying herself under the covers and pretending to be sick, but she doesn't. It would break Christen's heart if she bailed. Even if Tobin were actually sick, she would power through it because no matter what she’s feeling. No matter what's going on in her head, she could never bring herself to disappoint Christen like that, especially not intentionally.

So she makes herself get out of bed. She makes herself shower and blow dry her hair. She makes herself put on her peach colored dress. She makes herself sit as still as possible while her mom puts a minimal amount of blush and eyeshadow on her, the most amount of makeup Tobin allows herself to wear. She makes herself eat enough food so her stomach doesn't rumble until the reception, but not enough that her already churning stomach will get even more upset. She makes herself climb into the backseat next to Christen when her family pulls up. She makes herself take the earbud Christen offers and sits back in the seat like everything is totally normal, listening to the same song she and Christen have been listening to for a week straight.

She makes herself believe this is fine.

***

Christen's beautiful.

Tobin's thought that for as long as she can remember, even before she thought it in a more complex way she does now. But today, she's wearing a light blue dress and her curly hair is pulled back with a headband and Tobin just about loses her breath when Christen twirls around in the back of the church, showing Tobin how the bottom of her dress billows out as she twirls.

Christen's beautiful and Tobin knows there's absolutely nothing she can do to stop the things she's feeling for her.

“Don't you think so?” Christen asks when she finally stops twirling, grinning at Tobin with red cheeks and untamed hair that worked its way out of her headband during her twirls.

“Think what?” Tobin asks, dumbfounded, completely having missed the question.

“Don't you think it's cool how my dress poofs out like that?”

Tobin blinks a few times and shakes her head, bringing herself fully back to the moment. “Oh, yeah. It's so cool,” she agrees.

“See if your dress does it,” Christen instructs, making a twirling motion with one finger.

“Oh, I don't think it will. Mine isn't flowy like yours.” She looks down at her dress, it's a little longer and a little tighter to her legs.

“Just try,” Christen urges with a small giggle that renders Tobin hopeless. She always did get so amused by the smallest things and Tobin always found it so cute.

Tobin does what's asked of her and spins around a few times. Just as she suspected, her dress doesn't billow out like Christen's, but it's okay because Christen is still smiling at her.

“Mine does it enough for the both of us,” Christen tells her. Then she takes Tobin's hand and pulls her towards the row where they're supposed to sit next to her parents.

Tobin's sure her palm is warm and sweaty, but Christen doesn't seem to mind. Just as always, she holds her hand through the entire ceremony and Tobin tries as hard as she can to ignore the way her stomach flutters.

***

By the time the reception rolls around, Tobin has almost convinced herself she really is sick. Her stomach is in knots, her heart is beating a little too quickly and her skin is flushed and prickly. She isn't exactly sure what's wrong with her, but she does know she wants to go home. The fact that Christen is out dancing with all her cousins, totally fine while Tobin is so miserable, just makes Tobin want to leave even more.

As soon as the song playing ends, Christen finds her way back to her family's table and plops down in the seat next to Tobin. Her face is flushed and she's all sweaty and breathing hard from dancing so much. Tobin still thinks she's the most beautiful girl she's ever seen.

“You have to come dance with me,” Christen says before reaching for her glass of water and downing it.

“Maybe later,” Tobin says, trying to brush her off without hurting her feelings.

“Oh come on, it's so fun. Tyler helped pick the DJ, so they're playing the best music.”

“Maybe later,” Tobin repeats.

Christen tilts her head at Tobin and studies her for a moment. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah,” Tobin rushes out, too quick to be believable. She hadn't been prepared to answer that question, especially not from Christen.

Christen narrows her eyes, clearly not fooled. “Are you sure? You've been acting weird the last couple days. Everyone at school kept asking me what was wrong with you.”

That strikes a chord with Tobin. She thought she had been doing a good enough job with hiding her feelings that no one knew anything was going on. Apparently she's wrong. Her heart starts racing even faster, worried someone is going to catch onto what Tobin is feeling before she's even really caught up to it herself.

What if someone tells Christen she likes her?

What if Christen laughs about it?

What if she's grossed out by it?

What if the reason she's acting like everything is fine is because Tobin's kiss meant nothing to her and she just wants to ignore it like nothing ever happened?

Tobin thinks she might really be sick.

“I said I'm fine!” Tobin says way too loudly, luckily the song playing drowns her out so she doesn't catch the attention of anyone else. “Why can't you just leave me alone?”

Christen’s eyes go wide and she jerks back, recoiling away from Tobin's words. Her bottom lip trembles and Tobin wants to kick herself for upsetting her like this. Instead, Tobin jumps up from the tables and runs out of the reception hall.

Her sandals slap against the linoleum floor of the hall in time with her racing heartbeat until she pushes her way out a side door and sucks in a breath of crisp, early spring afternoon air. She feels like she can't breathe despite the fresh air. She puts her arms up above her head to try and open up her lungs more. It helps a little, but barely.

She hates the way she reacted, Christen didn't deserve that.

Actually, you know what? No. The only reason Tobin is even acting like this is because Christen is acting like nothing happened, like Tobin didn't kiss her. If Christen would've just addressed the issue, Tobin wouldn't be so distraught over this.

She feels guilty blaming Christen, but it gives her the slightest bit of relief so she clings to it.

Several minutes of pacing through cool grass later, Tobin is finally just managing to get her breathing under control when she hears the door open. She knows without even turning around that it's Christen.

“There you are,” Christen whispers with a sigh of relief once she spots Tobin. “I've been looking for you everywhere.”

The door clicks shut softly behind her and Tobin can hear her quiet footsteps approaching, but she doesn't turn around. She doesn't want to face Christen right now. She's too confused, too embarrassed, too guilty for that.

“Are you just going to stand there not saying anything?” Tobin asks after a minute of silence. She assumed Christen came out here to talk, but she’s just been standing quietly behind her, not saying a word.

“I don’t know,” Christen says, Tobin can practically hear the sarcastic shrug. “Last time I said something, you freaked out. I’m not sure what’s safe to say to avoid an explosion.”

Tobin sighs and hangs her head. She still can’t turn around to face Christen, but there’s at least something else she can do. “I’m sorry,” she tells Christen. “I shouldn’t have done that, it wasn’t fair.”

“Thank you for apologizing,” is all Christen says.

There’s another few moments of silence before Tobin hears Christen step towards her. Once Christen is standing right in front of her, she forces herself to look up. Christen is looking her up and down, sizing her up to try and figure out what is going on. Her eyes linger on Tobin’s until Tobin feels like crawling out of her skin and she has to force herself to look away.

“What was all that about?” Christen finally asks.

“What do you mean?”

“Tobin, come on,” Christen scoffs. “Stop acting like I’m an idiot. I know something has been going on with you the past few days. You’ve been weird and out of it. If I did something, just tell me. I don’t know how to fix this if I don’t know what’s going on.”

“Seriously?” It’s Tobin’s turn to scoff now. “You seriously don’t know what’s going on? You don’t know what I could possibly be upset about?”

“If I knew, then I wouldn’t be asking!”

Christen’s frustration is apparent, finally reaching its breaking point. She’s usually so calm and composed. Tobin knows the truth behind her cool exterior, the pressure she puts on herself even when it’s unwarranted. Christen doesn’t let her anger show. She keeps it safely and secretly tucked away in the corners of her mind until she’s able to deal with it, usually on her own, but sometimes she’ll let Tobin help.

Christen doesn’t yell and she definitely doesn’t yell at Tobin.

Tobin’s angry too, though. She’s angry Christen is acting like nothing has happened. She’s angry she has to actually explain this to Christen. She’s angry she has feelings for her at all when clearly nothing good is going to come of them.

“I can’t believe I actually have to explain this to you.” Tobin’s stubborn. She doesn’t want to have to admit what’s bothering her. She doesn’t want to do Christen the courtesy of just explaining this and making the whole situation a hell of a lot easier. She doesn’t want to talk about this at all because she’s worried if she does Christen won’t feel the same and she’ll lose her.

“Well sorry I can’t read your mind,” Christen huffs. She crosses her arms and narrows her eyes at Tobin. “Look, if you want to keep acting weird, then fine. But you don’t have to be a jerk to me about it. You’re my best friend and I just want to know what’s going on with you. Sorry for caring.”

She waits another couple seconds to see if Tobin is going to speak up, but once it’s clear she isn’t, she shakes her head and slinks away. The frustration that had been holding her shoulders back fades and they fall in defeat as she brushes past Tobin and back to the reception hall.

“Wait!” Tobin exclaims. She didn’t mean to actually say anything, didn’t mean to stop Christen from leaving. But now that she has, she knows she needs to actually figure out what she wants to say.

She turns around slowly in order to buy herself as much time as possible to go over what she wants to say. There are so many things she could say. She could lie, make up some dumb reason for why she’s been weird. She could apologize for being weird and promise she’ll stop without actually explaining anything, hope Christen would let her get away with that even though she already knows she wouldn’t.

Or.

She could tell the truth.

It’s that last one that makes the words stick in her throat when she opens her mouth. She swallows hard and takes another step closer to Christen, not wanting to have to talk so loudly to be heard over the distance between them. She can barely bring herself to talk about this at all, she knows the words will barely be above a whisper.

“I kissed you,” she finally manages to say.

Tobin can’t force herself to look at Christen, but she can feel those gray-green eyes she loves so much studying her. They practically burn a hole into the top of her head until Christen finally speaks up.

“I know you did. What does that have to do with anything, though?”

Tobin’s head snaps up. She really thought as soon as she brought up the kiss, Christen would realize that’s why Tobin has been acting so strange, but she still doesn’t seem to get it.

“It has everything to do with this. It’s why I’ve been acting weird,” Tobin says.

“Why would you kissing me cause you to act weird?”

Christen’s eyes are wide and innocent. She truly has no idea what is going on. If Tobin weren’t so distressed right now, she would want to kiss her again because of how cute she looks. Well, actually she does want to kiss her again, despite whatever she’s feeling. She always wants to kiss Christen.

“Because you acted like nothing happened afterwards. You just carried on like everything was perfectly normal,” Tobin explains.

“Because everything is perfectly normal.” Christen shakes her head, still not understanding why this is such a big deal. “You kissing me doesn’t change anything.”

Tobin feels her heart break. She’s listened to her sisters cry over boys. She’s heard all the sad love songs. She’s seen more movies than she cares to. She knows all about heartbreak, but she never imagined it would feel quite this bad.

She can feel the tears start to well up in her eyes and she silently curses herself for not being able to keep it together. She doesn’t want Christen to see her falling apart.

Christen doesn’t feel the same way and there’s nothing Tobin can do to change that. She’s usually not bothered by things she has no control over, but she can’t help it with this. It just hurts so much.

She turns away from Christen, wishing over and over again that this wasn’t actually happening. She’s so stupid. Why did she think kissing her was a good idea in the first place? She can’t just do that. They should have talked first, figured out if it was something Christen even wanted. It would have hurt a hell of a lot less if Tobin had figured out Christen didn’t have feelings for her before she kissed her instead of now.

“Whoa, hey,” Christen says softly, rushing to stand in front of Tobin. She puts one hand on Tobin’s shoulder and the other comes up to cup one of Tobin’s cheeks. “I’m sorry, I should have said that differently. I didn’t mean it like that.”

“It’s fine,” Tobin sniffles. She swallows hard to try and erase her tears, but it doesn’t help. They just keep falling and falling. “You don’t like me, it’s fine. I should have never kissed you, I’m sorry.”

“You’re right, I don’t like you,” Christen says. “I love you.”

It takes a moment for the words to register with Tobin, but once they finally do, she jerks her head up to look at Christen. Her eyes dance all over Christen’s face, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

When she doesn’t find her answer, she tries again. “What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

Christen smiles gently, then she brings her other hand up to the other side of Tobin’s face. She uses her thumbs to push away as many tears as she can before leaning in slowly.

Their last kiss had been rushed. Tobin had been so overcome with her feelings and Christen had looked so goddamn pretty she couldn’t stop herself. She leaned in quickly and pressed her lips to Christen’s for the slightest moment and then pulled away like she’d been shocked.

This kiss is completely different.

It only lasts a moment, but somehow it’s so slow it feels like it lasts forever. Christen presses her lips to Tobin’s firmly, like she means it so there’s absolutely not confusion as to what she’s trying to do. When Tobin kissed Christen, her thoughts were running a mile a minute and everything was so loud. When Christen kisses Tobin, everything goes quiet in Tobin’s head. Everything suddenly snaps into focus and despite Christen only touching her with her lips on hers and her hands on her cheeks, she feels Christen everywhere.

When Christen pulls away, she’s still smiling, but it’s even brighter now.

“I said I love you,” Christen says as if that should clarify everything.

“Really?” Tobin chokes out. She can’t handle more than word right now, but it’s enough.

“Yes, really.” Christen laughs a little, like she’s amazed it isn’t already totally obvious.

“But you said me kissing you didn’t change anything.”

“I meant that in a good way,” Christen says. She steps forward until her body is pressed tightly against Tobin’s. “I meant that just because we kissed, it didn’t suddenly mean everything had to change between us. You’re still my best friend. You’re still my favorite person in the whole world. Kissing may add something extra, but it doesn’t change anything. We’ve basically been engaged since we were five, so I didn’t feel like girlfriends was too much of a stretch.”

“You want to be my girlfriend?” Tobin asks. Her brain is still trying to play catch up and all this contact between them isn't making it easy to think right now.

“More than anything,” Christen grins.

“I can't believe this is happening,” Tobin mutters. She didn't really mean to say it, but it gets her another kiss from Christen so she's okay with the mild embarrassment at voicing a private thought.

“Really?” Christen asks, tilting her head and cocking an eyebrow to tease Tobin. “Because you've always felt utterly inevitable to me.”

Tobin blushes. Hard. She leans forward and buries her face in Christen neck to try and hide it. She wraps her arms around Christen's waist and hugs her and Tobin doesn't think she's ever felt so full of emotions.

Christen loves her.

Christen wants to be her girlfriend.

Christen loves her and wants to be her girlfriend.

“Did you seriously just use one of Miss Shelby’s vocab words on me?” Tobin teases against the warm skin of Christen's neck, feeling the vibrations of Christen's laugh against her lips.

“Shut up, I was trying to be romantic,” Christen scolds teasingly.

“You were.” Tobin presses a soft kiss to Christen's shoulder and then pulls away. “We don't have to go back in yet do we?” She grins, hoping Christen understands exactly what she's asking.

Christen just shakes her head and leans forward. She kisses Tobin soundly, letting her know she understands completely.

xxx

When Tobin is 18, and Christen just three weeks shy of her 18th birthday, their former babysitter from when they were kids, Amelia, gets married.

They were a little surprised to receive the invitations considering they haven't spoken to her since she came to one of their soccer games last season and they all went out to dinner afterwards to catch up. Neither of them is able to turn down a wedding invitation though, so Tobin goes over to Christen's that morning to get ready and then they make the drive up to the Hamptons by themselves, finally convincing their parents they were responsible enough to make the trip on their own.

It really wasn't so much the “responsible” part their parents were worried about, but rather the sharing a hotel room part. Sure, their daughters have been such close friends for forever that there really aren't any reservations when letting them spend time together alone, but now that they're dating, their parents feel a responsibility to try and tamper those situations.

They give in, though. They're both seniors (Tobin, of course, started a year late because on her first day of kindergarten she had an anxiety attack at the thought of starting school without Christen and her parents realized it just wasn't an option). Tobin is already 18 and Christen nearly is. They'll be going to college in the fall. They're about to be given more responsibility than they've ever had. What's one night sharing a hotel room?

Christen drives. Christen always drives. Tobin hates driving, but Christen really loves it, so it works out well between them. Tobin always teases Christen that the only reason she loves it so much is because she loves being in control, but Christen always dismisses her (even though she knows it's completely true).

They have a system whenever they drive anywhere. Tobin plays DJ, queuing up a playlist she handcrafted the night before. The first couple songs are always energetic and have them singing along and dancing in their seats. After that, the songs slow down and become softer. Christen always teases Tobin and calls it her napping playlist because she always falls asleep in the car, but Tobin denies it every time. And then every time she proves Christen right by drifting off to the gentle indie songs that make up the rest of the playlist.

When they get to the hotel that the wedding guests all reside in, Tobin is well rested and Christen is itching for some company after driving for two hours herself while Tobin napped. They head up to their room to finish getting ready so they can join the rest of the guests at a mixer in the hotel ballroom.

They change into their dresses and put the finishing touches on their hair and makeup easily, comfortably. Christen handing Tobin the straighter at the exact moment she needs it before she can even ask. Tobin passing over the lint roller before half the question even leaves Christen's lips. Sharing the mirror in the bathroom, moving out of the way right when one needs to lean in, almost like a practiced routine. It was like this before they even started dating, but now it's just amplified.

Tobin is ready first. Tobin's always ready first. She sits on the edge of the bathtub, and watches Christen finish getting ready. There's no part of Christen that Tobin hasn't seen a hundred times by now, but she's still so fascinated with her. The curve of her hips, the slope of her neck, the gentle movements of her hands, Tobin loves every single detail about her.

She can't ever imagine being without her.

Unfortunately though, that may be their reality soon.

Christen has a full ride to Stanford on an athletic scholarship to play soccer. Tobin is good at soccer, but she isn't Stanford good. Tobin's grades are good, but again, they aren't Stanford good. She applied anyway, just to take the chance, but they both know even if she gets in, there's a very slim chance of her actually going there.

Tobin has her heart set on going to school in Portland. She and her sisters took a trip all around the Pacific Northwest last summer and the moment she stepped foot in Portland, she fell in love. She doesn't want to play soccer, maybe on a rec league, but not through the school. She enjoys it, but it was always just more of a hobby and then it was a way to stay fit and spend more time with Christen. It's not a career she wants to pursue like Christen.

It scares Tobin, thinking about going to schools so far away. At least they'll be on the same coast, in the same time zone, but she doesn't know how to be herself when she's so far away from her most important part.

She knows that's not healthy, to be so dependent on each other, and deep down she knows they'll be okay being apart, but it's still so scary. She's worried of losing her completely.

But what she's most worried about, is wondering if she ever really knew herself at all. She doesn't remember a time in her life when she wasn't constantly by Christen's side. Who even is she if she isn't with her?

Tobin's afraid of finding out.

But she's also afraid of losing Christen.

Christen is better than her in all ways. She's prettier. She's smarter. She's better at soccer. She's kinder. She's an all around better person and Tobin worries about not being good enough for her. She's confident in herself, loves who she is and is comfortable in her own skin, but at the end of the day, she believes Christen is better than anyone else in the world and she's afraid to fail her.

“Where'd you go?” Christen asks, her voice cracking through the thoughts running rampant in Tobin's brain.

She shakes her head a couple times and then smiles at Christen. “Just thinking about how beautiful you are,” she says, as smoothly as possible.

Christen smiles, but her eyes linger on Tobin for a moment too long and make Tobin think she doesn't actually believe her, but she lets it go. “Thank you,” she says, a slight blush in her cheeks even though Tobin tells her that at least three times a day. “Could you go get my shoes? I'm just about ready.”

“Yeah, of course.” Tobin tries not to appear too eager at the opportunity to get out of the small bathroom for a minute to clear her head. On her way past Christen she kisses her temple, enjoying the way she leans into her for a moment.

When she gets back to the bathroom, Christen is perched up on the counter, legs swinging. “Put them on for me?” She asks with a sweet smile, batting her eyelashes.

This is something she likes to do occasionally, ask Tobin to do simple tasks for her that she could easily do herself. She doesn't do it to take advantage of Tobin, more so just to be a smart ass and press her luck to see how far Tobin will go for her. Tobin doesn't mind, she'd do absolutely anything for her without complaint anyway, so she always plays along with Christen's little game. Besides, she knows how to bend the rules of this game in her favor.

She kneels down and puts on the heels, adjusting the straps to the right tightness. When she’s finished, she decides to up the stakes a little. She kisses up Christen's leg, pushing the hem of her dress up a little so she can kiss the inside of her knee before she stands up completely and then steps just out of Christen's grasp.

“Ready to go?” Tobin asks with an innocent grin, like she didn't just try to get Christen worked up. She walks out of the bathroom with a bounce in her step that wasn't there before and laughs at the way Christen groans in frustration.

“You're so mean to me,” Christen complains.

“I love you too,” is all Tobin says in response.

xxx

Tobin thought it was a little weird when they received their invitations, not just because they were actually invited, but more so that someone thought it was a good idea to get married in New England in December. As she stands in the hotel ballroom though, with its floor to ceiling windows that show off the falling snow and white, twinkling lights that are strung all across the ceiling, Tobin thinks it's the best idea ever.

The wedding was perfect. Amelia looked beautiful in her wedding gown and her fiance, now husband, Quentin, looked so handsome, even when he was crying over how beautiful Amelia looked. Tobin and Christen have never met Quentin, but they certainly approve based on how obviously he is in love with Amelia and how happy he makes her.

At the reception, Christen is a complete hit. She charms everyone effortlessly, just as she always does. All she needs to do is flash a smile and bat her eyelashes once or twice and everyone melts at her feet. Tobin can't even be jealous because she sympathizes so deeply with everyone. Christen has had her wrapped around her finger since she was a child and she's only become more and more tightly wound as the years have gone on.

Tobin and Christen are sitting at their table, taking a break from dancing with the flower girls, when suddenly two glasses of champagne are set on the table in front of each of them.

“If your parents find out, you guys didn't get these from me.”

They turn around to see Amelia, smiling brightly in her wedding dress, cheeks flushed from her own champagne and exhaustion from mingling with all her guests. “One glass won't hurt, though.” She winks and then leans down to pull them both into a hug. “Thank you guys so much for coming!”

“Thanks for inviting us!” Christen exclaims once Amelia pulls away. “You're seriously the most beautiful bride ever.”

“Yeah, thank you. It's been fun, it's all so beautiful,” Tobin adds, trying not to be too awkward and let on to the idea that she has no idea why they're even here.

Apparently she doesn't do a very good job because Amelia pulls up a chair from a nearby table and settles in. She takes one of each of their hands and holds them in her lap.

“I'm sure you guys are wondering why you're here,” Amelia starts. She smirks as both girls start to flounder and cover their tracks. “Guys, it's okay. I know it's a little random, we were never really that close once I moved away to school. I know it's out of the blue, but I really wanted you guys here because none of this would be happening without you guys.”

Tobin tilts her head in confusion and Christen voice her thoughts exactly. “What do you mean?”

Neither of them had met Quentin before tonight and aside from that dinner last year, they hadn't spoken to Amelia in years apart from the random Facebook message on birthdays. How could they have possibly played any part in this wedding?

“So I didn't tell you guys this, but when I came home last year, it's because I was running away from Quentin. He had just proposed to me a couple days earlier and I was freaking out because I wasn't ready. The commitment scared me and honestly, I wasn't too sure I even believed in happily ever afters and all that nonsense,” she admits. Before she continues, she smiles brightly at each of them. “But then I got dinner with you guys. And you were so happy and in love, and honestly the way you guys look at each other made me realize I was crazy for freaking out about the proposal. Seeing how in love you two are with each other convinced me that happily ever afters are totally possible. I always rolled my eyes when your parents would joke about you two ending up together, but I'm so happy to admit I was wrong. I know that dinner didn't seem like much, but I drove straight home to Quentin right after and told him I did want to marry him. That wouldn't have happened without you two.”

“We aren't that special,” Christen denies with a shake of her head and a shy smile. “I'm sure you guys would have figured it out.”

“I promise, we wouldn't have,” Amelia confirms. “I was ready to leave him for good. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I never planned on going back to him. But after that dinner, I knew I had no other choice. I realized I love him more than anything and it was worth taking that leap and aiming for forever with him. I truly hope you guys realize how special you are, not just to me, but to each other too.”

“She’s the most special thing in the world.” Tobin doesn't even realize she's talking until the words have already left her mouth.

All the worries and doubts she's had the past couple months about going away to school and losing Christen have finally caught up to her. She needs to make sure Christen knows how much she means to her. She can't lose her. She isn't going to let a little distance drive them apart.

Tobin chances a look over at Christen and feels her throat tighten as soon as she does. Christen has always been the more emotional of the two, crying so easily at movies, letting her anger flare up more during games, writing Tobin sappy love letters and leaving then in her locker just because she feels like it. So it's no surprise to Tobin to see Christen holding back tears at such a simple line.

Seeing the emotion in Christen's eyes, Tobin is having a pretty hard time holding her own tears back. She loves this girl more than anything in the world and she fears she'll never be able to show her properly, so any time Christen is able to get a glimpse, Tobin wants to enjoy it.

“You guys are seriously the sweetest,” Amelia says after a moment.

Tobin has no idea how long they were smiling at each other, but it was long enough Tobin has to wipe away a couple tears that managed to fall in that time.

“Oh stop,” Christen says with a watery laugh, pulling her eyes away from Tobin finally. “You're the one who just got married. We should be gushing over you, not the other way around.”

“Well too bad, it's my wedding and what I say goes,” Amelia insists. “Seriously though, you guys mean a lot to me and I'm so happy you guys could be here.”

“We're happy to be here,” Tobin says.

“Okay, well I have so many more guests I need to say hello to before I can run away with my husband, so I will talk to you guys later.” Amelia leans in and hugs them both again. After she stands up and pushes her chair back to the proper table, she turns around one last time and grins at them. “Keep making the rest of us believe in true love. You're doing us all a service.”

And with that, Amelia breezes away like she didn't just stir up all these emotions between them and then leave them alone to figure out what to do with them.

Tobin is suddenly incredibly shy. She's nervous to even look over at Christen, but luckily Christen knows her better than anyone else and figures it out on her own.

Christen takes Tobin's hand and squeezes it tightly. “Come here, I want to show you something.”

She pulls them both up from their seats and towards the doors to leave the ballroom. Tobin follows without any hesitation. She'd follow Christen absolutely anywhere, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that she doesn't even ask her where they're going first.

They exit the ballroom and Christen leads them down a hall in the opposite direction they'd take to get to their room. Tobin isn't sure where they're going, but she squeezes Christen's hand and follows until Christen pushes open a door close to the end of the hall. There's a sign on the door that says “DO NOT ENTER,” which makes Tobin hesitate for the first time since Christen took her hand.

“Wait, we shouldn't be going in here.” Tobin stops in her tracks and pulls Christen back away from the door. She cringed at how loudly it closes and cranes her neck around to see if any of the hotel staff is coming to reprimand them.

“It's okay, I just want to show you something for a second. It's so late, hardly anyone is here. No one will catch us, I promise.” Christen adds in a sweet smile to assure Tobin and then pulls her along again, slipping them into the room quickly and letting the door shut as quietly as possible.

The first thing Tobin notices is how freezing this room is, but she quickly forgets when she notices where they are.

It's a small room, but the walls and ceiling are all completely made of glass, explaining why it's so cold. There's snow covering the ceiling and built up in drifts about a foot up the side of the glass walls, making the small room eerily quiet. Despite the cold, with Christen's hand in hers and her breaths puffing out in little clouds of steam against Tobin's cheek, she actually feels warm and finds the silence peaceful.

“Isn't it amazing?” Christen asks softly, like she's afraid if she speaks too loudly she'll shatter the perfect moment they've found themselves in.

“Yeah, it's pretty wonderful,” Tobin tells her, pulling her eyes away from the falling snow outside to look at Christen.

Christen’s eyes are wide and bright, reflecting all the white snow and making them seem light gray instead of the mellow green Tobin knows they are. She leans in and kisses Christen's forehead for a long moment, smiling when she pulls away.

“It freaked you out a little didn't it, what Amelia said?” Christen asks.

Tobin knows she can't lie to Christen, not about this, so she doesn't even try. “It didn't freak me out so much as it made me realize how afraid I am of losing you. And that makes me afraid for different reasons realizing I don't know what I would ever do if I lost you.”

“You aren't going to lose me.” Christen's eyes are serious, not a trace of doubt anywhere in them.

Tobin sighs, knowing she would have to tell Christen this sooner or later. She'd never be able to hide it.

“I got early acceptance to the University of Portland,” she admits.

Christen’s eyes go wide and so does her smile. “Babe, what? That's amazing! When did you find out?”

“Almost two weeks ago.”

Christen tilts her head curiously. “Why didn't you tell me?”

“I didn't tell anyone. I was scared.”

“Of what?”

Tobin’s eyes go to her shoes, she can’t look at Christen as she says this. She can’t. “How much I want this. I want to go so badly, but I'm afraid of what it means for us. I don't know what will happen to us when we're living 11 hours away from each other for four years. I'm afraid to find out.” Tobin's voice is shaking and she hates it, but she doesn't know how to stop it.

“Tobin, look at me,” Christen says gently, her voice a little louder than it's been since they stepped into the room.

Tobin is a little reluctant, but she finally does what Christen asked. When she does, Christen leans in slowly and kisses her for a moment. When she pulls away, she smiles at Tobin and nudges her cheek with her nose, trying to coax a smile out of Tobin too. She gets one, a small one, but it's enough for her to continue.

“Do you trust me?”

Tobin doesn't hesitate for a moment before she answers. “Of course I do, more than anyone.”

“Then please believe me when I say we're going to be okay. There will be some growing pains, sure. It'll be hard and we'll probably wonder more than a few times if it's worth it. There will be some adjustments we'll have to make and a lot of conversations we'll need to have. But at the end of the day, I know that I love you and I want what is best for you. So if that means you living 11 hours from me for four years, then okay. I'll do absolutely everything I can to make it work because I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you're the person I'm meant to spend the rest of my life with. I've always known that. There's never been another option for me. So we'll make it work, okay? We'll find a way to make it work.”

Tobin closes her eyes, willing away the tears that are springing up. She knows Christen is right. As young as they are, she knows exactly what Christen knows. They're meant to be together and nothing is going to get in the way of that, not even this. As scared as she is, deep down she knows they'll be okay. No matter what happens over the next four years, Christen is who she's going to spend the rest of her life with. They'll be okay. She knows they will be.

“I love you,” Tobin tells her, barely giving her a chance to say it back before she's pressing their lips together. It lasts for a few long moments, Tobin trying to convey everything she knows her words won't be eloquent enough to say. When she pulls away, she's a little out of breath and a shiver runs through her body. As good of a kiss it was though, Tobin knows that's not the cause of the shiver. “It's so fucking cold in here, can we please go back inside?”

“I'll do you one better,” Christen mumbles against Tobin's neck, tracing her lips across the thin, sensitive skin. “Let's ditch the reception and go upstairs. I can definitely find a few ways to warm you up.”

This time, it's Tobin who takes Christen's hand and leads the way.

Just like Tobin, Christen follows along effortlessly.

xxx

For the second time in her life, Tobin is dreading being at a wedding with Christen.

She just finished her freshman year at the University of Portland a week ago and she's staying in the city over the summer for an internship with a physical therapist that teaches practicals at the school. It's a huge opportunity and she jumped at the chance to not leave Portland. She loves this city with all her heart and besides, she doesn't have anything left in LA for her since her dad's job transferred him to Seattle.

And since Christen broke up with her.

Officially, they ended it mutually, but Tobin just went through the motions because she could tell Christen wanted her to. It made sense, everything Christen was saying. Tobin knew it made sense, but she couldn't bring herself to actually initiate the breakup, so Christen had to do it.

It felt a little unavoidable, really. It wasn't because of the distance. It wasn't because of their busy schedules that severely limited their time for communication. It wasn't even because Tobin went though a bout of depression (that she hid from Christen) shortly after the school year started as she struggled with the transition from living at home to being on her own, 11 hours away.

No, it wasn't because of any of that.

It was because of them.

It was because they didn't know how to be their own person outside of their relationship. It was because they were truly separated for the first time since they were babies and they were forced to do some self reflecting. It was because once they took the time to really think about it, Tobin had no fucking clue what it meant to even be a person if she wasn't a person with Christen.

Tobin knew just three weeks into fall semester that she and Christen would break up. That realization is what triggered her depression, on top of the fact she failed her first college exam and was struggling to make friends because she didn't know how to talk about anything aside from Christen.

She held on, though. She was scared to figure out who she was outside of her relationship, but she was even more afraid to figure out who she was without her relationship.

They kept pushing through, but after an argument the day after Halloween about Christen missing a scheduled phone call she promised she would make, they didn't talk for 10 whole days. After that, they talked a little more, but just barely. When they both went home for Thanksgiving, they tried to act like things were normal. They hung out, they spent time with each other's families, they did what they were supposed to.

Except Christen would barely touch Tobin.

She would flinch at something as simple as their hands brushing as they walked side-by-side. When she kissed Tobin, she was barely there. The one time they tried to have sex, she was reluctant and they only made it a few minutes before Tobin put things to a stop. Christen wasn't into it and she wasn't going to let it happen just because Christen felt like it should.

They didn't talk for two days after that.

On the day of Tobin's flight back to Portland, Christen showed up at 3am, rapping on the window of Tobin's first floor bedroom window like she's done a thousand times before. This time though, she wasn't climbing through the window so they could make out for a couple hours before she had to sneak back into her bed before their parents woke up. This time, she was sullen and determined.

They ended things quickly, Christen couldn't have been over for more than 10 minutes. They agreed they needed to end things, that they were making each other miserable and their school work and social lives at school were suffering because of it. They weren't happy the way they used to be. They needed to go their separate ways and learn how to be their own person before they could ever be with someone else.

Tobin hated it. She wanted so desperately to figure out a way to make this work, to figure out what they needed to be better without breaking up. She didn't say anything, though. She knew she was in no place to ask that of Christen. She couldn't even be honest with her about her depression. How could she ask Christen to make sacrifices for them to stay together if they didn't even know each other like they used to.

Before Christen left, she kissed Tobin. It was more sincere than any kiss they'd shared all week. Tobin held onto her with desperate hands, hoping she could convey everything she was feeling in the moment.

Christen kissed her for awhile and something about it made Tobin hopeful. She couldn't quite pinpoint what exactly it was in the moment, still can't even now, but something about it told her they weren't done. They might be going their separate ways now, but they were going to find their way back to each other. She knew in her bones she was meant to be with Christen and this didn't change that fact.

Aside from a moment of weakness when they ran into each other at a party over winter break and Christen ended up taking Tobin home with her only for Tobin to be gone by the time Christen woke up, they haven't spoken to each other once since they broke up. Tobin had to turn her phone off all day on Christen's birthday to stop herself from reaching out.

But now their soccer coach from high school is getting married and all their former teammates were invited, so they're treating it as a mini reunion. Tobin tried desperately to make it work for her internship to start early so she wouldn't need to leave Portland, but the physical therapist she's shadowing is on vacation that same week.

Tobin's conscious wouldn't let her skip out on the wedding without a legitimate excuse, so that's how she finds herself sitting at a table surrounded by her former high school teammates, across from Christen and her date, Kelley.

Kelley is a year older than them. She's on the soccer team, she and Christen making up the best soccer duo Stanford has ever seen. She's in the sorority Christen just rushed in to. She's a genius, just like Christen. And to top it all off, she's gorgeous.

Christen and Kelley are very touchy feely, constantly placing their hands on each shoulders or forearms or sometimes even thighs. It's that last one that makes Tobin want to throw up.

She knew this was a possibility, Christen dating someone else. They broke up. Christen is free to date whoever she wants. Tobin is too, but the thought makes her so sick she can't stand it. The thought of ever touching another person the way she touched Christen--of another person touching her--nearly gives her a panic attack.

The thought of another person touching Christen though, that makes the edges of her vision blur with an anger and jealousy she's never felt before. Seeing another person touch her…well Tobin can't even put into words how that makes her feel.

She would never cause a scene. She would never embarrass Christen, or herself, like that. She would also never bring any attention on herself at someone's wedding, let alone the wedding of someone who was such a positive influence in her life.

So she bites her tongue. She puts all her effort into focusing on literally anyone else aside from Christen and Kelley.

She manages.

xxx

At least she thinks she manages.

After the reception, one of their friends invites the whole team over to her house to keep the party going. Tobin doesn't plan on going until she hears Christen and Kelley agree to go. She isn't about to go be sad and lonely at home while knowing Christen and Kelley are happy and laughing and totally fine. She isn't going to let them think she’s jealous. She's going to pretend to be just as happy as them.

She isn't sure how to be happy when Christen hasn't spoken a single fucking word to her all night, but she's going to pretend.

She only gets an hour to pretend.

She doesn't remember who suggested they play Never Have I Ever--probably Cailine, she's always trying to stir up drama. The first several questions are all harmless. Everyone is laughing and having a good time. But then, Cailine--of course it's Cailine--asks the question that leads to Tobin seeing red.

“Never have I ever fucked a teammate,” Cailine drunkenly giggles, already way more intoxicated than the rest of the group because her question is the first thing she hasn't done.

Tobin takes a small sip, having dated Christen, of course. Just as she's pulling her cup away from her mouth, she sees Christen and Kelley share a knowing grin, burst out laughing, and then finish off their drinks.

Tobin doesn't really remember exactly what happens after that. She gets so angry at them making light of the fact they're clearly together right in front of her that she forgets how to breathe for a minute. The edges of her vision to red and suddenly she's pushing herself up off the floor and out of the room.

She caught a ride with someone to the wedding, so she can't drive herself home and she's too drunk to anyway. So instead she walks. It's about a three mile walk, but she doesn't remember a second of it. She keeps replaying the last good day she remembers with Christen over and over in her head.

Christen had a bye week in mid-September, so she skipped classes on Friday and came up to visit Tobin in Portland for a long weekend. Tobin showed her all around her favorite parts of the city, eating at the best restaurants and taking Christen to the best little known bookstores and shops.

On Saturday they drove to the coast and spent the day walking the beach and stopping at every little stop that interested them along the drive back, finding the most obscure stores and attractions that only Oregon could have.

Tobin's favorite part of the weekend though, aside from the endless hours spent tangled up in Christen's hotel room bedsheets, was on Sunday morning.

Christen had a flight later in the afternoon and she wanted to spend a lazy morning in bed with Tobin and get brunch before she had to leave. As tempting as that was, Tobin had something special planned that she insisted they do.

On the entire walk towards Tobin's surprise destination, Christen tried to guess what it was, but she never came close.

When they finally got to where they're going, Christen shot Tobin a curious look when she realized where they were. “Why are we at the Timbers stadium?”

“I told you there's something I wanted to show you,” Tobin said.

“Yeah, but you've already shown me the stadium like three times.”

“I've shown you the outside.” She checked her watch and then tugged on Christen's hand, leading them towards the entrance of the stadium.

When they got to the main gate, a tall, lanky guys with a mop of tangled blonde hair was standing by the open gate. He was probably about their age and he grinned when he saw them approaching.

“Yo Jake, what's up?” Tobin asked the guy, reaching out a hand to smack his in greeting. “This is Christen, my girlfriend. Christen, this is Jake. We have Biology together.”

“More like Hellology. Pearson is a dictator, I'd be failing if it weren't for Tobin.” He reached out a hand to shake Christen's. “It's really nice to meet you, Tobin talks about you all the time. Like she literally won't shut up. I'd probably do better on a test about you than I have on any biology exam.”

“Oh, shut up,” Tobin complained. She punched Jake's shoulder and pushed him away playfully. “You'd still fail because you suck at tests.”

Christen smiled at the interaction, but there was still a look of confusion etched in her features. Tobin knew she still wasn't sure what they were doing here.

“You're sure it's cool we're here?” Tobin asked, making sure one last time her big surprise wasn't going to fall through.

“Yeah, dude. I cleared it with my boss, I promise. It's totally cool,” Jake insisted. “Come on,” he said with a wave of his hand and walked into the stadium.

Tobin pulled on Christen's hand and started to follow Jake. Christen was still confused, evident by the way she hesitated to follow Tobin immediately, but then Tobin turned and shot her a reassuring smile and Christen gave in.

“Practice for the youth team got moved up an hour, so unfortunately i can only give you guys like 15 minutes, but feel free to use the full time,” Jake told them. He unlocked another gate, behind which Tobin could see the bright green of the turf field, and pushed it open for them. “You can get to the field directly from these stairs. Feel free to check everything out, I'll just chill back here and read. I'll let you know when it's time to go.”

“Seriously, thank you so much for this.” Tobin clapped her hand down on his shoulder and gave it a firm squeeze. “I'm so letting you borrow my flashcards for this.”

Tobin lead Christen down the stadium stairs and grinned when she heard the sharp breath Christen sucked in at the scene stretched out in from of her. Whenever they watched Timbers games, Christen always commented on how beautiful she thought their stadium was and how much fun it would be to go to a game.

Unlike with Tobin, soccer is Christen's life. She lives and breathes the game. Tobin knows to check the schedule of all of Christen's favorite teams before making any plans because she knows Christen will say no if she schedules something during a game. She's the first one at practice and the last one to leave, every single day, without fail. There are very few times when she isn't talking or thinking about the game, going over mistakes she made and ways to improve her play. It's something Tobin has always teased her about, her obsession with the game, but it's also one if the things she loves most about her.

Christen has been able to play in and go to games at some pretty cool stadiums, but Tobin could tell by the way her hand started to shake in hers that she'd never seen anything like this before.

Christen was so I'm awe, her head on a swivel as she took in the entire scene, she didn't process where they were until she looked down and realised they were standing directly in the middle of the field.

“Tobin, this is crazy.” Christen gasped.

“Did you know Portland is looking into adding a women's team?” Tobin asked.

“I might have seen something about that,” Christen said nonchalantly. Tobin knew Christen was more than up to date with every single rumor floating around about the domestic women's league. She had aspirations to play professionally and Tobin knew teams would be fighting for her. “We could stay in Portland after graduation maybe.”

“We could.” Tobin smiled, trying not to appear too excited at the idea of living with Christen in Portland forever. She loves this city and she'd jump at the chance to stay here, but she loves Christen more and if she'll go wherever Christen gets drafted. “That's not the exact reason I brought you here though.”

Tobin reached out and pushed on Christen's hips until she was standing directly in the middle of the field. She then backed up until she was out of the center circle and it was just Christen standing alone, eyes still wide as she tried to commit every single detail to memory. Tobin grinned at her awestruck expression, trying to take every detail of Christen's face and commit it to memory.

“I know you've been discouraged this season even though I don't think you need to be. You're always hardest on yourself though, so I understand feeling like you haven't accomplished what you expected to. I know you've been doubting if your dream of playing professionally is even feasible, but honey, I promise you it is. You can do this.” Tobin sighed and shook her head, a sad, but understanding, smile on her face. “I know the past couple months have been hard for us, but I just wanted to remind you why you're doing this. Your dream is to play on this stage, in stadiums like this. That's all I want for you.”

Christen held out her hand and wiggled her fingers until Tobin took the hint and joined her in the center circle again. She wrapped her arms around Tobin's waist and pulled her into a slow, methodical kiss that left Tobin's knees feeling weak. When she pulled away, she sighed against Tobin's lips.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “I love you so much and I miss you even more. I still want to go after this dream with everything I have in me and it means the absolute world to know you don't just believe in me, but you're dreaming this dream right along with me. I can never thank you enough for that.”

“You don't have to thank me. It's an honor and a privilege to be able to be by your side on this journey. I wouldn't have it any other way.”

They kissed for another minute or so and then Tobin found a ball that Jake set out for them behind on of the goals. They played 1v1 for the rest of their time, Christen of course kicking Tobin's ass. By the time Jake called down for them to leave, Tobin was panting and tugging at her sweat soaked shirt while Christen's forehead was barely glistening from how little effort she needed to put in to beat Tobin.

Christen took Tobin's hand and lead them back up the stadium stairs to the gate Jake originally let them in. They talked to Jake a little more, but Christen kept tugging on Tobin's hand until she got the hint and excused them from the conversation.

Once they got back to the hotel room, Christen kissed Tobin harder than she had all weekend. She had Tobin on her back on the mattress and out of her clothes before Tobin could barely blink. They only had forty minutes before they needed to leave for the airport and Christen made sure to take advantage of every single second.

Some nights, when Tobin closes her eyes hard enough, she can almost remember the exact way her heart felt in that moment--convinced everything would be absolutely okay between them.

Tonight though, she can't remember it at all.

The only thing she can remember right now is the way Christen and Kelley shared a knowing laugh and smiled as they downed their drinks.

Tobin isn't drunk enough for this. Or maybe she's too drunk, she doesn't even know. All she knows is her chest aches and she doesn't know how to make it stop.

Once she's finally home, she sits on the floor in the middle of her room. She can't lay on her bed, the place she and Christen made love for the first time, when she's feeling like this. She can't sit on the loveseat by the door, the place she and Christen had sex more than a few times before the bed was just too far away. She can't even sit at her desk because she's reminded of the time Christen fucked her against it.

So she sits on the floor. She pulls her knees to her chest and holds them tightly in place with her arms. She rests her head on her knees and closes them as tightly as possible, trying her damndest to hold onto that last good day they had together and tries with all her might to not think about all the good days Christen has with Kelley now.

She doesn't know how long she sits there, but eventually she hears a sharp tapping sound and jerks her head up. She knows exactly what that sound is. She heard it almost every Friday and Saturday night during high school, sometimes even weeknights.

Christen.

She looks to her left and sees Christen standing outside her window, knuckles still pressed against the glass in case she needs to knock again. She's wearing a sad smile on her mouth and a determined look in her eyes.

Tobin gives her a curious look, but she doesn't move from her spot on the floor. After a few moments of them just staring at each other, Christen realizes she's going to need to coax Tobin.

“Can I come in please?” She asks just loud enough to be heard by Tobin, but not loud enough to be heard by her parents upstairs. “Please, Tobs?”

Tobin takes a deep breath, the desperate plea of her nickname feeling like a punch right to her gut. She closes her eyes for a moment and then crawls the few feet to the window. She kneels, sitting back on her calves so she's at Christen's eye level.

“Why?” She asks.

“We should talk.”

“I don't have anything to say.”

Tobin can hear Christen's sigh as she shakes her head.

“Then you don't have to say anything. Just listen to me, please?”

Tobin doesn't want to let her in, knows she shouldn't especially given her fragile emotional state right now. Christen has a girlfriend and Tobin is still heartbroken and they're both well past tipsy. That combination could be deadly for them and Tobin doesn't think she wants to find out how this will end up.

But she's always been so utterly and completely weak for Christen.

She sits up on her knees and reaches out to unlock her window, pushing it up just enough so Christen can get a good enough grip to push it up the rest of the way. She goes and sits on the edge if her bed while Christen climbs in the window with ease and closes it again as softly as possible.

Christen hesitates for a moment once she's in the room. She starts to move towards the bed before remembering maybe she shouldn't. She starts to move towards the loveseat before realizing how close that would put them to each other, just over a foot away. Tobin can see her swallow hard before she steps backwards to Tobin's desk and sits in the chair. She wheels a little bit closer, just enough that her face is bathed in the moonlight coming in through the window and Tobin damn near chokes as the air is sucked from her lungs at how beautiful Christen looks.

“Why are you here?” Tobin asks, surprising herself at her ability to form words so well in this moment.

“You were upset. I wanted to make sure you were okay,” Christen explains.

Tobin just scoffs.

“Can you tell me what set you off?” Christen tries again. “You've been so quiet all night, but it seemed like you were finally starting to enjoy yourself. Then you jumped up out of nowhere and ran away. I don't understand.”

“I can't believe you're actually asking me to explain this to you.” Tobin shakes her head in disbelief.

“Well I am,” Christen snaps out. Her face softens after that and her voice turns smooth and slow as she asks, “did I do something?”

“Where's Kelley?” Tobin asks, completely avoiding the question.

“Madison dropped her off at my house before she dropped me off here. What does she have to do with anything?”

“I'm just surprised you two were able to take your hands off each other long enough to actually part ways.”

Christen jerks back as if Tobin's words smacked her across the face. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Her eyes dance across Tobin's face, searching for the answer Tobin isn't going to give her. “Wait, is that what this is about? Are you jealous of her or something?”

Tobin considers denying it, but then she remembers she's a terrible liar and she's an even worse liar when it comes to Christen.

“Of course I'm fucking jealous!” She all but shouts, jumping up from her spot on the bed. “It's the first time we've seen in each in five months and you're rubbing your new girlfriend in my face. How could I not be jealous about that?”

Christen stays seated, her face calm but confused. “Tobin, what are you talking about? Kelley isn't my girlfriend.”

Tobin scoffs out her anger and shakes her head. “Oh come on, don't expect me to actually believe that. You guys were all over each other all night. I'm glad to know I was so easy for you to get over. Meanwhile, I'm over here having a fucking anxiety attack when a girl at school so much as joked about kissing me.”

“I'm not with Kelley!” Christen jumps up, the force of her movements sending the chair rolling backwards. “Tobin, I promise I'm--wait,” Christen's wild eyes calm in an instant, concern washing over all her features. “Wait, since when do you have anxiety attacks?” She asks thoughtfully.

Tobin's cursing herself for bringing that up. She doesn't want to have this conversation with her, not now. Her emotions are already exposed and worn down, adding this on top of it might just break her.

“It doesn't matter,” she whispers.

“It does matter.” Christen takes a step closer, her entire body now bathed in the moonlight coming in through the window. She's absolutely radiant.

Tobin can't breathe.

“Tobs,” she says the nickname with such an airy plead the word is barely even there.

It's enough to get Tobin talking.

“Since I was…since I--” It's hard for her mouth to form the words, but she takes a slow, deep breath just like her therapist taught her and continues. “Since I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression,” she admits. The moment Christen's face starts to change as she processes the information, Tobin rushes out her next statement. “I'm dealing with it though, I'm fine. I'm seeing a therapist, I'm journaling now, I'm taking medicine. I'm dealing with it.”

Christen tilts her head. “When did this happen?”

“It doesn't matter,” Tobin repeats.

“Stop saying that!” Christen snaps. She closes her eyes and takes a deep. When she continues, her voice is softer. “Tobin, I'm just trying to have a conversation with you. Please talk to me.”

Tobin swallows hard. She's desperately missed talking to Christen. Going from talking to someone every single day for her entire life to completely ending all lines communication has been heartbreaking. Now that she's presented with a chance to talk to Christen again, she's closing up. She doesn't want to talk about this.

She knows she's going to, though. Whatever has happened between them recently, Christen is still the most important person in her life and it's been killing her to not be able to talk about this with her.

“I'd been struggling ever since school started, but I didn't go to a therapist until early October,” she confesses.

The gears visibly turn in Christen’s head for a moment before she says, with the softest voice Tobin has ever heard from her, “but Tobin, we were together then. Why didn't you say anything to me?”

“I could feel us splintering,” Tobin admits. “I didn't want my illness to be the reason you stayed with me. We were already breaking before any of this happened and I didn't want you to feel obligated.”

“Tobs,” Christen pleads, taking another step closer and reaching for her hand.

“Don't,” Tobin says, jerking backwards until her legs hit the edge of her bed. “I also didn't want you looking at me the way you are right now. I can't handle that.”

Christen takes the smallest of steps forward, wanting to be closer, but still respecting Tobin's desire for space. She's finally out of the moonlight, which helps Tobin's ability to breathe. Unfortunately, it makes her gray eyes nearly glow in the darkness and they see right down to Tobin’s soul.

“How do you think I'm looking at you?” She asks.

Tobin shakes her head and crosses her arms across her chest in a desperate attempt to hold herself together. “Like I'm weak,” she says. “Like you feel sorry for me and pity me because I'm sick. I don't need that from you. I get it from literally every other person in my life who knows about it, I don't need it from you too.”

“Tobin, that's not how I'm looking at you,” Christen insists. “I'm sorry this is happening to you, but I don't feel sorry for you. And I certainly don't think you're weak. I'm looking at you like I'm proud of you for taking the necessary steps to better yourself. I'm looking at you like you're incredibly strong for shouldering so much of this yourself. I'm looking at you like I wish you would've told me, but I understand completely why you didn't.”

Tobin closes her eyes hard. She can feel the tears prickling behind her lids, trying to force their way out, but she refuses to let them.

“I'm fine,” Tobin says, her eyes still closed tightly.

“I know you are.”

Tobin opens her eyes then. She lets them move across Christen's entire face and doesn't find a single hint of doubt. Christen believes in Tobin just as strongly as she always has. This doesn't change that in anyway.

They stare at each other for a few more moments before Kelley says again, “I'm not with Kelley. I'm not.”

“You don't have to lie to make me feel better.”

“I'm not lying,” Christen sighs, clearly a little exasperated at being doubted so much. “Tobin, I promise you I'm not.”

“You guys were all over each other all night,” Tobin insists, unwilling to give this up. She still isn't convinced Christen isn't lying just for her benefit and while she feels guilty doubting her, she can't help it.

“That's just Kelley, she's like that with everyone and it's kind of infectious. Within an hour at the reception, she was the same way with half our team.”

“Okay, but who brings a friend who doesn't know anyone else there as a plus one to a wedding? How did you even get a plus one? No one on the team did.”

“Tyler was supposed to come because she was on the team too, but she got called into work at the last minute and had to skip it. She didn't want me to go alone, so she told me to ask Kelley,” Christen explains.

Tobin shakes her head. This all makes so much sense. She was so sure they were together. She was so angry about it. But now she's learning she completely misjudged everything and her resolve is wearing thin. It's getting harder and harder to not step out and take Christen in her arms like she knows she shouldn't, but wants to so desperately.

She gives it one last try to prove her now false point. “Then what was that look you guys shared before taking a drink for sleeping with a teammate? You both smiled and laughed before. Something was up with that, I know it.”

Christen sighs, clearly wishing Tobin would just let this go, but she answers anyway. “There was this senior on our team at Stanford that Kelley has been trying to hook up with for the last two years, but she always told Kelley not until after the graduated because they were teammates. The night before she graduated, Kelley managed to finally get her way, so therefore they were technically still teammates. It's just this inside thing between us. That's why Kelley took a drank. I drank because of you, just like you drank because of me.”

Tobin closes her eyes, willing herself to stay strong and stay where she is. Christen broke up with her, if anything is going to happen, Christen needs to be the first one to make a move.

However, when Tobin opens her eyes again, she's two steps closer than when she closed them and the air gets sucked from her lungs. She doesn't know if she stepped closer or if Christen did, but suddenly they're barely a foot apart and Tobin can't keep her breathing steady.

“I miss you,” Christen whispers, her breath just barely wisping across Tobin's face.

“Don't,” Tobin chokes out. Those are the words she wants to hear more than anything, but she can't bear to hear them if they're for naught. “I can't hear you say that if you don't mean it. I can't hear you say that if you're just going to leave right after. I can't hear you say that if you're going to go back to not speaking to me tomorrow. I can't…I jus--I can't, Chris.”

Christen takes the smallest step forward and she's so close now Tobin actually has to tilt her head back a bit so she can look at her without going cross eyed.

“I miss you,” she repeats. “And I do mean it, and I don't want to leave right after, and I don't want to go back to not speaking to you. I miss you and I want you back in my life.”

Tobin closes her eyes to steady herself. She wants nothing more than to just lean those few inches forward and press her lips to Christen's. She doesn't know if she could handle that though, or even if Christen wants it.

“I can't be just your friend. I can't have you halfway. Maybe that's selfish of me, but I just can't,” Tobin says, keeping her eyes closed.

“I'm not talking about being just your friend.”

Tobin opens her eyes at that. Those are the exact words she wanted to hear from Christen and now that she has, she doesn't know what to do with them.

“But you broke up with me,” Tobin says. She knows they said it was mutual when it happened, but Christen initiated it. Maybe it was for the best for both of them, but it was Christen's doing. Whatever Tobin agreed to that night, she knows Christen sees it the same way.

“I know,” Christen smiles sadly, her lips in a tight line. “I did that because I needed to figure out who I was outside of us. I had no idea who I was on my own. I've done that, though. I've learned that I really enjoy playing chess and I'm actually pretty good at playing the piano. I got a tattoo. I bought a bike and ride like 15 miles a day. I'm happier with myself now than I was before.”

“Yeah I get what you mean,” Tobin says. “Turns out I'm really good at painting. I also bought a longboard and just ride everywhere now.”

“See,” Christen smiles and, very slowly, reaches her hands out to rest on Tobin's hips. Her hands are high enough to not be presumptuous, but low enough to convey exactly what the gesture is supposed to. “It broke my heart ending things with you, but I think we both really needed it. I've learned so much about myself and grown so much. It's a process I'm still working on, but I'm at the point where I don't need to be on my own anymore. I want to go through the rest of this with you by my side, exactly where you should always be.”

“Y-you don't have to say that just because I'm upset.”

“Tobin,” Christen says seriously, waiting until Tobin meets her eyes to continue. “This isn't what that is. I wouldn't lie about my feelings just because you're having a bad night, you know that. You're the love of my life, Tobin. The only love of my life. I've known since the very beginning that you are who I'm supposed to end up with. We needed a little space, but we're past that now.”

Tobin shakes her head, drops her eyes to her shoes to avoid looking at Christen. It doesn't help because she's just reminded of the tight, sparkly black dress Christen is wearing and how her tan, toned legs are completely on display. It distracts her a little though, so she takes it.

“It messed me up so much when we broke up. I can't go through this again. If you aren't sure, if you're hesitating at all, then please just--”

Christen cuts her off with a kiss.

It's a quick kiss, barely two seconds, but those two seconds are enough to make Tobin's entire world start turning again. In those two seconds, everything snaps back into focus and Tobin can see clearly for the first time since the last time she and Christen were standing in this room.

The moment Christen pulls away, Tobin's hands find Christen's face instantly, pulling her close again until their lips barely brush.

“I love you,” Tobin says. “I love you and I've missed you and I can't do this without you any more. So please, if you're going to do this, please just promise me it's for real. If this is just some quick fix because you're feeling nostalgic and need to get it out of your system so you can finally get over me, then please just go. Don't do this to me.”

“Tobin,” Christen smiles, just the slightest upwards tick of the corner of her mouth. She brings one hand up from Tobin's hip to rest on the side of her neck, thumb tracing along her jaw. “There's no such thing as getting over you,” she continues. “That was never what this time apart was about. I never wanted to figure out a way to be without you. I was just trying to figure out how to be with you and still be myself. I know how to do that now. I'm ready to make things right between us. I mean this.”

Tobin's eyes move over every inch of Christen's face, taking in every single detail she memorized years and years ago; every single detail she's missed desperately the past six months.

She means this.

She means this.

This time, it's Tobin who leans in first. She kisses Christen and it lasts a hell of a lot longer than two seconds. She moves a hand to Christen's waist and pulls her in as closely as possible. The moment Christen's stomach is pressed against hers, she sucks in a breath. Her lungs burn like she hasn't been breathing for the past six months, but it feels so damn good she can't do anything but kiss Christen harder.

Christen’s hands are in Tobin's hair, gently working it out of the loose braid she had it in at the wedding. Once it's all free, she tangles her fingers in the light brown waves, holding Tobin's face close, though it isn't necessary because she isn't planning on going anywhere any time soon.

Tobin is the one who needs air first, but she refuses to pull away so that's left up to Christen. Her lips instantly go to Tobin's neck, not straying very far.

“Can I stay tonight?” Christen whispers against the thin skin of Tobins throat.

The vibrations mixed with the words themselves make Tobin's spine thrum with excitement. It hasn't felt this good to kiss Christen since her trip to Portland and Tobin is savoring every single moment of it.

The thought of Christen staying with her tonight, of feeling her skin against hers and waking up next to her, Tobin feels so lightheaded she thinks she might pass out. Christen holds her up with a strong arm moving around her waist, though.

Tears sting at her eyes, a mixture of the misery of the past few months and the joy of finally getting back to this place. Her laugh is watery and her smile shaky as she says, “only if you show me that tattoo you were telling me about.”

Christen pulls away from Tobin’s neck and leans back to meet her eyes. She has an equally shaky smile as she reaches up to wipe away Tobin's tears from her cheek. The tears don't concern her, she understands them completely and even has a few to match.

“You'll have to take off my dress for that,” Christen says.

She’s trying to be as charming as possible and usually the nearly falling tears would counteract that, but Tobin doesn't even notice them. She's too concerned with how brightly Christen’s eyes are shining and how warm she feels everywhere Christen is touching her. She's pretty sure all it would take is a spark and she would totally burst into flames. She would be totally okay with that if it means feeling this damn good holding Christen in her arms again.

Christen bites her bottom lip and Tobin swallows hard, suddenly finding her composure again. “I'll see what I can do about that,” she says smoothly.

Her hand comes up to the zipper on the side of Christen’s dress. Despite the obvious implication that this is exactly what Christen wants to happen, Tobin still waits until she nods in agreement before she deftly slides the zipper down to the bottom of her hip.

As Christen helps pull her dress down over her hips, Tobin's light head and shaky knees finally catch up with her. She manages to take a half step backwards before she falls back on the edge of her bed.

Her eyes move every single inch of Christen’s nearly naked body. The strapless bra and lacy underwear she's wearing cover very little and Tobin is pretty sure she might pass out from all the smooth, dark skin suddenly on display.

Christen is completely aware of the effect she's having. She reaches out with both hands and places them gently on Tobin's shoulders to steady her. “Breathe, baby,” she reminds her in a whisper. The corner of her mouth ticks up slightly, clearly proud of herself for rendering Tobin so powerless, but she doesn't gloat.

With one last squeeze to Tobin's shoulders, she pulls her hands away and moves them behind her back to unhook her bra. Tobin thinks it's downright rude to knock her right back down the second she's finally managing to compose herself, but then she notices Christen is pushing her left breast up slightly and once the black ink underneath is revealed, she understands.

Tobin leans in, placing a hand on Christen’s bare hip to pull her closer for a better look. She recognizes the words immediately as Christen’s own handwriting, the large, loopy letters curling along her skin. She brings up her other hand and runs her finger tips slowly over the letters.

“Amor vincit omnia,” Tobin whispers. She can tell it's in Latin, but she doesn't know the meaning. She glances up to Christen and raises an eyebrow in question.

“Love conquers all,” Christen says softly. She swallows so hard Tobin can hear it and then she adds, “even when we were apart, I never gave up on us. I needed the space, but you were always the one I'm meant to end up with. For me, there's no one else, Tobin. I've known since the very first moment I can remember that you were made for me, and I was made for you. The love I feel for you is infinite. I'm sorry I hurt you, but in order to love you the way you deserve, I needed to be able to love myself first and now I do. So now, I want to spend the rest of my life loving you in all the ways I possibly can.”

Tobin doesn't know what to say. She's never been the eloquent one between the two, but she can usually stutter out something to explain how she feels. She's emotionally exhausted after the night she's had though and is at a complete loss for words.

She doesn't know what to say.

So she shows Christen instead.

She pulls Christen closer by the backs of her thighs until she takes the hint and straddles Tobin on the edge of the bed. Having Christen in her lap again, feeling her bare breasts against her chest, tasting her tongue in her mouth, well Tobin is pretty damn sure she's never felt this happy in her entire life.

She holds Christen as close to her as possible, hands skating up and down the impossibly smooth skin of her back, pulling her closer and closer. She kisses her like she's spent the last five months imagining all the ways she wants to kiss her, which is exactly what she's done.

This all just feels too good, too surreal. She pulls a hand away from Christen for the quickest of moments, just long enough that she can drop a hand to her own thigh and pinch herself. She needs to prove to herself this isn't pretend. The past five months, she’s woken up more times than she cares to admit from dreams so lifelike she spent the next hour crying, devastated at the realization it was all just a dream.

This though, this is real. This is actually happening. Christen’s hands are really on her. Christen’s hips are really rocking down into her own. Her hands are really on the backs of Christen’s thighs, running higher and higher until she hears Christen sigh into her mouth.

“You're wearing too many clothes,” Christen says against her lips.

She gives her one last kiss and then she’s standing up from the bed and pulling Tobin with her. Once she's on her feet again, Christen feels around the top or her dress until she feels the zipper in the back. She pulls it down in one somewhat shaky motion, her nervous hands trembling as she pushes the dress down over Tobin’s hips.

Tobin reaches back and takes Christen’s hands between her own. “Hey, it's okay,” she says gently. She brings Christen’s hands around her waist and up to her mouth and places a soft kiss on each one. “It's okay, it's just us. We've been here a thousand times before. We know what we're doing, it's okay. Just breathe for me.”

Tobin takes a deep breath for Christen to copy and she smiles when she finally does. They breathe together a couple more times until Christen’s hands still and then it's like a flip switches. Christen’s eyes grow even darker and she pushes Tobin back down onto the bed.

Christen reaches out and pulls down Tobin's underwear before she can scoot too far up the bed. She then rids herself of her own underwear and joins Tobin.

Tobin groans when Christen’s body makes contact with hers. Her skin is already heated and itching with anticipation, but the moment Christen lays against her, she feels like she’s on fire and every single nerve ending is exposed.

Christen doesn't spend a ton of time working Tobin up, clearly lacking the patience required for such a lengthy task. A hand drops between her legs mere minutes after they've laid down, but Tobin isn't complaining one bit. She understands the need, the aching desire to touch Christen again that's so strong she's pretty sure it might split her into a hundred pieces. If Christen hadn't made the first move, she would have only a few seconds later.

It's quick, the first time.

Tobin was already dancing around the edge just because of the emotional toll this night has brought on. A couple fingers between her legs for a couple minutes and she's toppling over the precipice, fingernails digging into Christen’s bicep.

It's slower, the second time.

Christen kisses her way down Tobin's body, her lips brushing over every single inch of exposed skin. She works her up until she's squirming underneath her and Christen finally takes pity on her. She brings her mouth to the juncture of Tobin's thighs and brings her the sweet relief she was looking for.

Tobin lasts longer the second time, but barely. She holds on as long as she can, but Christen memorized all the secrets of her body years ago and knows how to bend her to her will. Tobin has to throw a hand over her mouth as she comes the second time, worried about being heard upstairs, but unable to keep her cries down.

Once she comes back down to earth, Tobin wants Christen so badly she can't even wait to roll her over. She lowers a hand between their bodies and let's Christen control her own pleasure, using the thigh Christen is straddling to press against her hand and offer as much pressure as she can.

When Christen comes, Tobin swallows the moans and kisses her senseless until Christen collapses against her chest. They're both breathing so heavily, Tobin is pretty sure they're going to suck up all the oxygen in the room, but she doesn't care. She's holding Christen in her arms again and she can taste herself on her tongue from Christen’s lips. Her eyes sting and her muscles are sore and her heart aches, but she hasn't been this happy in months.

“I love you,” Christen says, the first words to break the silence that's settled between them, save for their heavy breathing. “I love you so much and I've missed you even more.”

“You don't have to miss me anymore,” Tobin tells her. “But I love you too, beautiful. More than anything.”

“I really hope Kelley covers for me with my parents in the morning.” Christen moves off Tobin, but she keeps her head on her shoulder and wraps the blankets higher around herself, making it clear she isn't going anywhere else tonight, just as Tobin wanted.

“I really hope my mom doesn't try to wake me up for an early morning bike ride,” Tobin says.

“Please, your mom loves me so much she'll be so thrilled we’re back together, she won't even care I stayed the night without permission.”

“Yeah, you have a fair point there. Same probably goes for your parents when they wake up and find out you didn't come home.”

“What are you talking about?” Christen pulls back so she can look up and meet Tobin's eyes. “I am home,” she says, like she can't believe Tobin doesn't already know that.

Tobin just smiles and leans in to kiss her, confirming her agreement.

xxx

“Don’t tell Tyler, but this is like the most uncomfortable dress ever.”

Christen grumbles from her place in front of the mirror as Tobin helps zip her into her bridesmaid dress. Christen’s older sister, Tyler, is getting married today and she's co-maid of honor along with her younger sister, Channing.

Tobin is hanging out in the hotel room suite while all the other bridesmaids and Tyler get ready because even though she isn't technically a bridesmaid (Tyler wanted to include her, but seven bridesmaids is already too many), she’s been a part of the family since she could walk. And aside from that, Tobin and Christen are attached at the hip so if Christen is somewhere, Tobin is too.

It's been two years since they got back together and they're better than they ever were before. They're happy and thriving despite the distance that helped facilitate their break up. They visit each other whenever possible and always make sure to enjoy every spare moment they're able to be together, but they also don't force the issue.

If Tobin technically has a free weekend, but knows she has a difficult test coming up, she'll choose to stay in Portland and study instead, capping her days off with FaceTime dinner and a movie on Netflix. (Christen’s movie stream is always a couple seconds ahead of Tobin's and she's pretty sure she clicks play earlier on purpose, but watching Christen’s reactions to a movie is always more enjoyable than the actual movie so she never complains.)

They make sure to communicate more, even about the tough stuff. They still have arguments and disagreements, as is to be expected from any couple, but they talk openly about those instances when they're both ready and they always make it through. Christen has even skyped in for a couple of Tobin's therapy sessions, just as a way to check in and make sure they're both on the same page in order to ensure they're healthy and thriving the way they both want.

As cliché as it is, they love each other more and more every day, but they both also know it's a choice to stay together and make things worse even when times are a little tough, but it's a choice they've never, ever regretted.

As Tobin latches the little hook at the top of Christen's zipper, she leans forward to speak quietly in her ear so no one else can overhear them. “Don’t worry, babe. In a couple hours I will more than happily get you out of this dress.”

“As enticing as that offer is, I honestly might not make it a few hours. I could quite possibly beat you to it and take this thing off myself,” Christen says.

“As long as you let me watch, I'm cool with that.”

“You're ridiculous.” Christen rolls her eyes, but she's smiling as she does so. She cranes her neck back and kisses Tobin on the cheek before she steps away from the mirror to find her shoes.

Tobin takes the moment to let her eyes trail all over Christen's body. They've been to more weddings than she can count at this point and she's seen Christen in a dress so frequently there's really nothing special about it at this point, but for some reason, there's something about seeing Christen in a dress and a wedding that makes her heart race.

It's like Christen glows in these situations. Or maybe it's not Christen, but instead Tobin having Wedding Goggles on that just make everything look so much brighter and more beautiful. Maybe it's a combination of the two. Either way, Tobin can't bring herself to pull her eyes away from Christen until she's called out for it.

“Stop ogling over my sister. This is my wedding, I'm supposed to be the center of attention,” Tyler complains from in front of the vanity where she's getting the final touches on her makeup.

Tobin knows she's just teasing. Tyler hates having so much attention on her and she can't wait to just be married and have this day over with, but the words still cause Tobin to blush.

“Don't worry, I think you look beautiful too,” Tobin tells her once she recovers.

“Yeah, you better.” Tyler looks up until she meets Tobin's eyes in the mirror and asks, “so how long before our roles are going to be reversed and I'm at your wedding instead?”

The questions earns them a chorus of wolf whistles and teasing remarks that make Tobin blush so hard the heat in her cheeks is causing her to break a sweat. Luckily for her, Christen is much more composed and comes to her rescue.

“Let's just worry about one wedding at a time, shall we?”

There's a few groans at the lack of an answer, but they all laugh it off and move on, much to Tobin's relief.

“Thank you,” Tobin says when Christen slides up beside her and slips an arm around her waist.

“No worries, they're just jealous I'm with the hottest girl in this entire place.” Christen kisses her cheek and then says quietly in her ear, “for the record though, I'd marry you in a heartbeat.”

Tobin feels herself start to panic, but before she can stutter out even a syllable, the wedding planner steps into the room and tells them they have five minutes before go time.

Tobin takes that as her cue to leave and find her seat. She kisses Christen quickly on the mouth and tries to ignore the way Christen’s looks wounded at how willingly Tobin avoided her marriage comment.

Tobin swallows down everything she's feeling to worry about at a later time and instead makes her way out of the room, determined to worry about that at another time and instead focuses on Tyler's big day.

***

The wedding is beautiful.

Tyler is the most perfect bride and her fiance, now husband, is absolutely handsome. They both cry as she walks down the aisle and their weepy smiles don't leave their faces through the entire ceremony. They're perfectly in love and make it clear to everyone in attendance.

Tobin and Christen don't really get much alone time during the reception, which Tobin is grateful. They eat and drink and dance and laugh, but all in the company of other people, so Tobin is able to avoid Christen asking her any questions she's too nervous to answer.

The only alone time they get is when Christen is so tipsy she drags Tobin into the bathroom and pins her up against her the counter. Tobin doesn't even notice the way the edge of the granite digs into her hips because she's too distracted by the way Christen is kissing her, which is honestly downright filthy. Tobin rolls with it though because she would be out of her mind not to.

When Christen finally pulls away, absolutely breathless and lips a wreck, she opens her mouth like she's about to say something, but then she closes it just as quickly. Instead of using words, she just moves to stand in front of the mirror and wets a paper towel so she can fix her smudged makeup while Tobin catches her breath. She uses another paper towel to fix up Tobin’s lips and then she sighs, “I love you,” and with a quick kiss to her lips, she exits the bathroom and leaves Tobin standing there, confused as all hell about what just happened.

***

“Did I freak you out?”

It isn't until they're back at Christen's apartment, changed and ready for bed, that she asks what she's been wanting to ask all night.

Earlier in the day, Tobin had been thrilled Tyler's wedding had been in the Bay Area because it meant they got to stay at Christen's apartment and with her roommates out of town for the summer, they'd have the whole place to themselves.

Now though, she’s dreading there's no place to escape this conversation.

She takes a deep breath and turns towards Christen. “Why would you have freaked me out?”

Christen puts her hands on her hips and narrows her eyes. “Please don't play dumb right now, I'm being serious.”

Tobin sighs and sits down on her side of the bed. She crosses her legs and leans forward on her elbows, giving Christen her full attention. “No, you didn't freak me out,” she says honestly.

“Then why did you act so weird when I told you I wanted to marry you? I didn't think marriage was really that unrealistic of a possibility for us.”

Tobin doesn't miss the way Christen's voice breaks and she curses herself for letting it get this bad. She should've just reassured Christen right in that moment instead of letting it affect her the way it did.

“It's not unrealistic for us,” Tobin rushes out. “Of course it's not. You have to know that, Chris.”

“Then why did you act so weird?”

“Because I bought a ring!”

Tobin's mouth snaps shut the second the words leave her mouth. She hadn't meant to say that. She didn't want to say it. She didn't want to lie either, but she definitely didn't want this to get out just yet. She racks her brain for a possible way to get herself out of this, but Christen finds her voice first.

“You what?” She falls onto her knees on the bed. Christen hates to sit down during any sort of discussion, but she's lost the ability to stand for this. She walks on her knees until she's just a couple feet from Tobin before she sits back on her calves.

“You weren't supposed to know that yet,” Tobin says, still wanting to get out of this.

“Maybe not, but I do now so tell me what you're talking about,” she edges even closer to Tobin and then adds, “please.”

Tobin finally looks up to meet Christen's eyes and finds her looking so earnest, she has no choice but to tell her the truth.

She lets out a quick sigh and says, “I bought a ring. I have it hidden in my suitcase and I acted weird when you made the comment about getting married because I was worried you found it.”

“Why do you have a ring?” Christen asks with a smirk, playing nonchalant and being as cute about it as possible.

“Because I want to marry you, obviously,” Tobin replies in a smartass tone. “I wasn't planning on giving it to you until after we graduated because that was always the plan. So I just got a little scared when I thought maybe you had found it and spoiled the surprise.”

“If you aren't planning to propose until after graduation, then why do you have it in your suitcase?”

“I couldn't bear to leave it in Portland while I came down here, even if it was just for a couple weeks. I was too nervous someone would break in and steal it or the apartment would burn down.”

“You realize the possibility of that happening is very, very unlikely, right?” Christen teases with a grin.

“I wasn't taking any chances.”

Christen leans forward, nearly closing the distance between them all on her own until Tobin takes a hint and meets her lips. Christen's tongue still tastes faintly of champagne and Tobin is still so off balance from their kiss in the bathroom that the bottoms of her feet start to tingle when Christen's tongue rolls over Tobin's bottom lip.

“Can I see it?” Christen asks against Tobin's lips, kissing her again until Tobin figures out her answer.

“What? No!” Tobin laughs into Christen's mouth. “You already ruined the surprise about there being a ring at all. I don't want you to see it until it's actually on your finger.”

Christen pulls away suddenly and settles Tobin with a look that both steals her breath away and settles her in a way she's never known. She knows exactly what the next words out of her mouth are going to be before she even says them.

“I'm not trying to ruin the surprise again. I'm asking you to show me so I can put it on my finger.”

Tobin sucks in a sharp breathe. Is this actually happening? She's sure she must have heard Christen wrong, sure she's either dreaming or is just imagining Christen saying what she wishes she would say.

But then Christen smiles.

She smiles and then nods her head slightly like she can read Tobin's mind and knows how much she's doubting this. The combination of the gestures is so encouraging, Tobin can’t fight her own smile from teasing her lips.

“You're serious?”

“So serious,” Christen says, sealing it with a kiss. “I've known I was going to marry you since as long as I can remember, but now I want to make sure every other person I ever meet knows it too. We can still wait until after graduation to actually get married, but I don't want to waste another second not being engaged to you.”

Tobin's heart feels like it's damn near about to beat out of her chest. It's been so long since Christen was able to to have that effect on her with only her words (at least words that weren't sexual, because honestly this girl has a ridiculously filthy mouth on her that's nearly caused Tobin heart attacks before.) She always hears all these cliché things about lovers making your heart race, and sure that was true in the very beginning, but now she more often than not sets her heart at ease. Christen is her home and her safe harbor, and while of course she still excites her, she calms her down in a way no other person or thing will ever be able to.

But now, her heart is beating so loudly she's sure it's audible for Christen, but when she sees the way Christen's hand shakes slightly as she brings it up to Tobin's face, she knows she has the exact same affliction.

“You know, if you wanted to be engaged to me so badly, you could've just proposed yourself,” Tobin teases, trying to buy herself some time for her heart rate to slow because she's pretty sure it's reaching a near dangerous pace.

“I would, but your ring is tucked safely away at home back in LA.”

“Wait, you have a ring too?” Tobin always imagined she would be the one to propose, not Christen. Sure, she knew it was a possibility, but Christen tends to always let her take the lead and set their pace. Even if she's been ready for something long before Tobin figures it out, she waits until she's ready.

“I wanted to wait until you were ready,” Christen says, practically reading her mind like no one else can. “Will you please show me the ring?”

Christen smiles at her so sweetly Tobin can't possibly say no. She leans back in and kisses her for a few moments before she groans, “fine,” in a fake complaint and then slides off the bed.

She digs around her suitcase for a few moments before she feels the soft velvet of the ring box. She takes a deep breath to steady herself and then wraps her fingers around the small box and pulls it out of the corner of her bag.

“It isn't much and I promise I'm going to buy you a much better one once we're older,” Tobin says as a disclaimer.

“Stop it, I'm sure it's perfect.” Christen is now sitting on the edge on her bed, knees bouncing and practically jumping up and down in her seat.

“Do I have to do the whole getting down on one knee thing?” Tobin asks as she comes to a stop in front of Christen.

“Of course you do! You're proposing to me,” she says with a glittering laugh.

“Yeah but this isn't exactly a conventional proposal and not at all what I was planning so I just wanted to check.”

“Wait, what is it you were planning?” Christen asks, raising an eyebrow in intrigue.

“It doesn't matter,” Tobin says, shy. “It won't happen now anyway.”

Christen narrows her eyes. She reaches out and tilts Tobin's chin up with two light fingertips so she has to look at her. She settles Tobin with a curious look and doesn't even have to say a word before Tobin gives in and tells her.

“Ugh, fine,” she groans. “I was going to take you back to the church where Marlene and Thomas got married, back where it all started for us. It's where we first met and obviously neither of us remember it, so I wanted to go back there and form a new memory. The pastor there now is friends with mine from home, so he was going to lend me the keys one night and there were going to be all these candles lit and I had this speech I was going to give…I don't know. It sounds dumb.”

“Stop it,” Christen whispers, leaning in to kiss her softly. “It’s not stupid, that sounds perfect. It's where we began one chapter of our lives together, it would've been where we started the next too. I would've loved that.”

Tobin blushes. She's gotten so much better talking about her emotions, but it still makes her nervous sometimes, like in the really big moments such as this. She loves letting Christen know how she feels, but she's always been the gesture type--not the words type.

“Did you already have your speech planned?”

“What?” Tobin heard exactly what Christen asks, she just needs to play dumb for a minute to buy her time to formulate her answer.

Christen raises an eyebrow, reading right through her, but she repeats her question anyway. She asks it slowly, giving Tobin just a few extra seconds. She's used to having to coax information out of Tobin, so she does it as patiently as always.

“Uhm…I mean kind of,” Tobin admits. “At least parts of it. I was planning for at least another year before this happened, but I wanted it to be perfect so I got a jumpstart.”

“Will you tell me the parts you already have planned?” Christen flashes her long eyelashes and smiles so damn sweetly Tobin is wondering why she ever planned on waiting a whole year for this.

Tobin rubs at the back of her neck, nervous and a little embarrassed, but determined to make Christen happy and tell her what she wants to know.

“I uhm…I was going to start with something like,” she puffs out a quick breath before she continues. “Christen, you are the only love I've ever known. You are the only thing I've ever truly wanted in my entire life. The thought of not being with you used to terrify me because I didn't know who I would be. I didn't know if I could survive being without you. Now I know I can. I know I'd eventually be okay being without you, but I know I don't want to be. I know you are the person I want to spend every one of my days with until the last one. I know you're the one who brings out the best in me in absolutely all ways.

“And because I know all this, I'm not going to ask you to marry me. I'm not going to ask you to spend the rest of your life with me, because at this point we'd be fooling ourselves if we said that's not where this is going anyway. So instead, I'm going to tell you I promise to love you endlessly and fight every single day to prove I'm the one you're meant to be with. I promise to listen to you and compromise with you and support you in everything you do, even if I don't agree with it. I promise to admit when I'm wrong and forgive you when you are. I promise to cherish you with my whole life. So Christen Annemarie Press,” Tobin reaches out and puts the ring on Christen's finger. “I would very much like to marry you.”

Tobin wraps her fingers tightly with Christen’s, looks her right in the eye and says, “marry me.”

True to her word, she doesn’t ask. She tells her. She doesn’t say it in a way that makes it seem like she’s forcing Christen into anything, they both know she isn’t. She has a choice in this. But they also both know there’s only one answer Christen would ever give her to this anyway, so there’s no point in even asking.

Christen pulls her hands away from Tobin’s and brings them to her face, tilting her head up slightly until their lips are just inches away. “I would very much like to marry you too, my love.”

She pulls Tobin up into a kiss and then leans back and pulls her onto the bed on top of her. She wraps her legs around her waist and holds her tightly, refusing to let her go.

“I can’t believe we’re engaged,” she says against Tobin’s lips. She kisses her quickly again and then tilts her head back in laughter. “I mean, like I completely agree about the whole…this really being the only option for us thing. I never expected this to go any differently. But now that we’re actually engaged, I just feel so different.”

“I think that’s normal after such a big step.” Tobin tilts her head down and kisses her neck, a poor attempt at trying to hide her giant smile. “We’re engaged,” Tobin laughs, pulling her head back so she can look at Christen again.

“I can’t wait to spend forever with you.”

“Who said anything about forever?” Tobin twists her eyebrows in confusion. “I was thinking we could be married for maybe a few years and then go our separate ways. That’s cool with you, right?”

“Don’t even joke about that,” Christen warns, smacking her shoulder. “Don’t you dare.”

Tobin smiles and leans in to kiss Christen. “Don’t you worry, you’re stuck with me forever. How does that sound?”

“Absolutely perfect.”

xxx

Christen’s first season as a professional soccer player was about as miserable as it could possibly be.

At least on the field.

Off, it was about as perfect as she could have hoped it would be.

She got drafted 27th overall to the Portland Thorns. Tobin graduated nearly at the top of her undergraduate class and got into the physical therapy program at the same school. They get a small apartment just a few minutes from the stadium and they adopt a fluffy orange cat and name him Weasley. Tobin still swears she hates cats, but she adores Weasley and frequently joins him for his cat naps in the afternoon.

Christen loves her teammates and Tobin even makes friends with many of them, a fellow rookie named Allie in particular who quickly becomes one of Tobin’s best friends. Allie stays on their pull out couch so frequently, Christen jokes she should pay them rent.

They have a cafe a few blocks down they have breakfast at almost every morning before Christen heads off to training and Tobin heads to classes. There’s a Chinese restaurant near the stadium that knows their order by heart and always gives Christen extra fortune cookies when she picks up dinner at least once a week. Tobin likes to swing by a little gift shop on her walk home from school randomly and pick up Christen’s favorite flowers or chocolate when she feels particularly sappy.

They have their routines and traditions already, but they still enjoy breaking out of those and exploring new parts of town or stores and restaurants they’ve never been too.

They love their city and they love that their city loves them back.

Things turned out just about as great as they possibly could for them.

Except that Christen’s team only wins two games all season.

They have a great group of players, but their coach forces them into awkward formations and plays them out of position more times than in, so their product on the field is far less than favorable. Their coach says he’s challenging them to be better, more complete players, but none of them really buy it and that lack of faith in him leads to a lack of points in the standings.

They suffer through a long, draining season picking up a couple points here and there whenever they can manage a draw or a win, but never feeling satisfied. When their coach is fired the morning after their last game of the season, a 4-0 loss to Kelley’s New York Sky Blue, no one is surprised and everyone is relieved.

She ends the season with more questions than she had at the start of the season, but she finds peace in the fact she knows she left every ounce of effort she had on the field. The season was far from as successful as she hoped it would be, but she's proud of herself for fighting her hardest every second she was given and so she at least a leaves with her dignity in tact, even if her ego is a little bruised.

She finds comfort in the fact Tobin's semester ends the week before her season does, meaning they have six whole weeks to themselves to do practically anything they want until Tobin's next session starts up.

The only problem is, they're on a budget. Christen makes enough money to get them by and Tobin's internship has started paying her minimum wage and she takes on tutoring sessions for underclassmen whenever she has the time for extra cash, so they're able to live relatively comfortably, but only within their Portland bubble. Which basically means only anything within reasonable driving distance is in the question for off season adventures.

They end up road tripping along the coast with Allie and her boyfriend, Bati. They head north through Washington to Vancouver, stopping anywhere that seems interesting along the way.

Some nights they camp out in tents.

Some nights, when it's too cold, they stretch out in the back of the tent, pressed nearly too tightly against each other in the cramped, but it keeps them warm.

Some nights, when they can't stand the crowded van, the lukewarm campsite showers or the hard ground under their tent, they stop in cheap motels for a night or two, exploring the small towns they stop in.

There's nothing extra special about the entire trip, nothing particularly extravagant, but the nearly four weeks they all spend in that van trekking through the Pacific Northwest are some of the best times of their entire lives, they all agree. When Tobin and Christen step back through the door to their apartment in Portland, Tobin actually cries a little, heartbroken it's all over and maybe a little homesick for that old van.

Christen's tight hug brings her comfort and the reminder of the wedding they have to go to this weekend cheers her up enough she’s able to smile while Christen wipes away her tears.

One of the team’s physical therapists, Jayson, is getting married this weekend and invited the entire team and staff. Tobin has only met him once and Christen, thankfully, has had very little interaction with him the last year, but they’re always thrilled about a wedding so they’ve been looking forward to it since Christen brought home the invite.

They spend the next three days stretched out on the couch, relaxing from their travels and cuddling with Weasley. They aren’t sure who missed who more, so they’re all grateful he’s so incredibly snuggly upon their return.

The van felt like a new sort of home the past few weeks, but Tobin couldn’t be happier to truly be back home with her little family.

***

As far as weddings go, this is by far the most unconventional Tobin has ever been to.

She absolutely loves it.

Jayson, his fiance Nathan, and all their groomsmen and groomswomen are dressed with suspenders, vests and mismatched color bow ties. During the wedding pictures, the groomsmen and -women wear various animal masks, which Tobin doesn’t really understand, but they all get super into it during the mini photoshoot so she digs it.

The wedding itself and the reception take place in an old barn with planks painted a variety of neon colors. Mason jars are absolutely everywhere, filled with flowers, candles, alcohol and candies, and old fashioned lights are strung up around the barn giving the place a warm glow.

The band that plays is an odd mix of folk and rap that definitely shouldn’t sound good, but somehow does. Aside from the other players, Tobin doesn’t know anyone else there, but she dances along with everyone she comes across and she has a great time.

As the reception starts to wind down, Tobin finds herself sitting by herself at their table, watching Christen, Allie, Bati and some of the other Thorns players still dancing.

Tobin can’t keep her eyes off Christen. That’s really no different from any other time, but it’s always heightened at weddings. There’s just something about her, so happy and carefree, that Tobin can’t help but get lost in her own mind while watching Christen. She’s thought endlessly about their own wedding for years, but now that they’re at a wedding and Christen has a ring on her finger, the thoughts run absolutely rampant.

She can see Christen now, in an elegant white dress and a setting much more simple than this. She’ll be smiling so big it’ll be a shock to Tobin’s spine every time she sees it, but she won’t be able to look away. No one will. All their family and friends will be absolutely captivated by her and for the first time in her life, Tobin will almost believe everyone else understands just how incredible Christen is the same way she does.

Almost.

“What are you thinking about, babe?”

Tobin shakes her head and blinks a few times, bringing herself back to the moment as Christen sits down in her lap and wraps her an arm behind her shoulders. She uses her other hand to reach out for her champagne glass and takes a sip before turning back to Tobin with a smile, awaiting an answer to her question.

“Just about how this would be a really cool place to have our wedding.”

Christen smirks and sips her champagne again. “I’m totally loving this wedding, but we are not getting married here. I think both our moms would faint if we showed them this place. Besides, I thought you wanted to get married in a church?”

“I do, but this could be fun too.”

Christen chuckled and leaned in to brush her nose against Tobin’s. “Maybe we can look into this as a reception venue.”

“Hmm, that’s a good plan. Can you see Gran Fran Press dancing in a rainbow barn? It would be amazing.”

Christen laughs again. “Yeah, and I can see Jeff dancing right alongside her. Remember those two at Thanksgiving last year? They were crazy enough then, they’re going to be an absolutely wild combo at a wedding.”

“I can’t wait to marry you,” Tobin says.

Christen presses her forehead against Tobin’s and smiles. “Marry me right now,” she tells her.

Tobin scoffs a laugh. “I don’t think Jayson would like it very much if we staged up his wedding to have one of our own. And I know our parents wouldn’t like it if we got married without inviting them.”

“Then we won’t tell anyone. This will be just for us. No one else has to know.”

Tobin raises an eyebrow. “How are we supposed to get married without anyone else knowing? At least one other person has to know. We need someone to marry us after all.”

“No we don’t,” Christen grins. “We’ll marry ourselves.”

Before Tobin can even ask what she’s talking about, she turns and reaches for two of the mason jars on their table that have little blue candles inside them. She unties the twine that’s tied around the tops of the jars fashioned into bows and then turns back to Tobin with them hanging from her fingers.

“Tobin Heath, I love you with all my heart. I promise to love you in sickness and health, richer or poorer and all that jazz.”

“All that jazz? Did you suddenly become fifty?”

“Stop it!” Christen laughs. “I’m trying to be romantic.”

“Okay, okay. I’m listening, go on.”

“Let's just forget the traditional vows. Tell me what you want to vow, I’ll make a note. She reaches across the table for her phone and pulls up the Notes app.

“You’ve been watching way too much Grey’s Anatomy with Allie. Is this your version of a post-it note?”

“I don’t have a pen, so I’m making due with what I have. We can write them down later.”

Tobin gasps. “Wait, you mean to tell me my absolute nerd of a fiance doesn’t have a pen? How could you? I’ve never been so disappointed,” she teases.

“You’re making this so much harder than it needs to be!” Christen laughs, shoving at Tobin’s shoulder. “You’re the one who said you couldn’t wait to marry me. I’m just trying my best to make that happen as soon as possible. Now do you want to marry me or not?”

Tobin smiles, choosing to stop being so silly and go along with what Christen’s doing. “Of course I want to marry you. It’s the only thing I want.”

“Okay then,” Christen’s smile is smug, proud of herself for convincing Tobin to just listen to her. “Tell me what you want our vows to be.”

She thinks about it for a moment and then says, “I vow to always be honest with you about what I’m feeling, even if I know it’s something you won’t like.”

Christen takes a moment to type out the words. She looks back up at Tobin when she’s done. “I vow to never go to bed angry, even if I’m really, really tired. We will always talk things out.” She types out her vow and then waits for Tobin to say the next.

“I promise to never say you had a good even game if you didn’t.” Tobin grins, proud of herself for making a joke about the massive fight they’d had earlier in the season when Tobin had don’t that exact same thing after an absolutely terrible performance on the field by Christen.

“See, you’re joking about it, but that’s actually a really important one and I’m going to hold you to it. It’s in our wedding vows now, so you better never go back on it.” She types the words quickly before Tobin can take them back. “I vow to always do my best to be patient with you when you forget things I ask you to do because I know you don’t forget on purpose.”

“I’ve been getting better about that,” Tobin points out. She appreciates Christen making it a part of their vows though, because she knows she’ll never be great at remembering. “I vow to try my best to let you in when I’m having bad days, even though I don’t like it when you see that side of me.”

Christen kisses her for that one. Tobin’s anxiety and depression is something she’s worked incredibly hard to combat, but of course it’s something that will never go away completely. Christen has always been amazing through it, but Tobin knows she gets frustrated when she keeps it from her. It’s hard for Christen not to take it personally, but she does her best to be there in any way she can, any way Tobin let's her.

“I vow to love you endlessly every single day for the rest of our lives. This I vow to you.”

“This I vow to you.”

Christen types out her full name and then hands her phone to Tobin to do the same. Once she's finished, Tobin saves the note and then leans in to kiss Christen, but she pulls back.

“One more thing before that.”

She takes one of the pieces of twine she pulled off the jar earlier and wraps it around Tobin's wrist twice. She ties it in a double knot and then hands Tobin the second piece and holds of her wrist.

Tobin ties the twine around Christen's wrist and then looks up at her hopefully. “Now?” She asks.

Christen answers her question by leaning in and pressing her lips to hers firmly. She pulls away after several seconds with a smile.

“We're married!” Christen gushes with a glittering smile.

“Just like that?”

“Just like that babe. We’ll still do the church wedding with all our friends and family, but as far as I’m concerned you’re my wife now and that’s all that matters.”

“It’s it weird you just got like twice as hot to me now that you’re my wife?” Tobin asks with a crooked smirk.

Christen bites her lower lip. “Why don’t you take your hot wife home and show her just how hot you think she is?”

“You don’t have to ask me twice.”

Tobin stands up from the chair, pushing Christen off her lap but holding onto her waist until she’s standing on her own. They gather up their things and says their goodbyes quickly. They don’t want to be rude and run off without saying anything, but the longer it takes them to get out of the barn, the more the anticipation builds and Tobin just about can’t stand it.

By the time they’re finally stumbling through their front door, they barely manage to get to their bedroom before Tobin is having her way with Christen.

She sticks to her word and shows her wife just how hot she thinks she is.

xxx

“Christen is going to kill me if this goes any other way than exactly how you’re hoping it goes.”

“How could it not go how I’m hoping it will? I’ve thought of everything.”

“Okay, but what if--”

“No more ‘what ifs.’ You’ve thrown every ‘what if’ possible at me the last ten minutes. This is happening and it’s going to be fine.”

Kelley has been trying to convince Tobin this is a terrible idea ever since Tobin asked her to get Christen’s mom and sisters out of the room for a couple minutes so they could have a quiet moment alone before the wedding. She knows they’re not supposed to see each other. She knows it’s bad luck (Kelley’s there to remind her if she forgets). But she just needs to see Christen.

Her fiance.

Well, technically her wife ever since they got married on their own last year.

They’re still the only two that know about their Grey’s Anatomy-inspired, iPhone note wedding vows. They haven’t wanted to share that detail with anyone. To them, they’re as married as they’ll ever be. This ceremony is just for their family and friends, and to get it in legal writing, but they’ve considered themselves married for the seven months. This is just a formality at this point.

The word ‘wife’ still gives Tobin butterflies. She loves calling Christen that, mostly in private but sometimes in public because people just think she’s being preemptive and not literal. To be able to call her ‘wife’ in public after today and know everyone will know it’s true gives her a rush like she can’t imagine.

Which is exactly why she needs to see Christen right now.

These are the last few minutes of them just being married for themselves and she wants to spend at least a couple with Christen. They went through the motions and stayed in different places last night, sticking to tradition like their families insisted. Tobin played along, but she missed her desperately.

She just wants to see her for a few minutes before they get up in front of everyone and recite vows they’re already memorized.

Kelley groans one last time and then leads her through the back hallway of the church to the opposite side where Christen is getting read. Tobin’s heart beats faster with each step she takes. She isn't sure why she’s so nervous, but she can’t help it. She wipes sweat off her palms onto the robe she’s in, knowing how annoyed Christen will be that she isn’t in her dress yet, but needing this one moment before she hits play again on the wedding process.

When they get outside Christen’s door, Kelley turns to her with a look that Tobin reads right away, so she answers her question before she can even ask it.

“Yes, Kelley. I’m sure I want to do this. Don’t worry, I’ll take full responsibility for this. Christen won’t be mad at you.”

“You better be right about that,” she warns, still stressing over her involvement in this stunt. “Turn around.

Tobin does as she says and Kelley reaches up to tie an extra tie of Jeff’s around her eyes as loosely as she can, careful not to mess up her hair. Once Kelley’s done, she knocks on the door and waits until Christen tells her to come in, then she takes Tobin’s hand and puts it on the doorknob so she knows where to go.

“You have five minutes before I’m coming back in and dragging you away if I must,” Kelley says before she heads back down the hall.

Tobin takes a deep breath and opens the door slowly.

“Don’t freak out, but it’s me,” she says cautiously.

“Tobin, you can’t be here!” Christen exclaims. Tobin hears shuffling around the room and she adds, “you’re not supposed to see me before the ceremony.”

“We already had a ceremony. This is just us renewing our vows,” Tobin points out.

“That is so not the point right now. We agreed to do this the traditional way and this was definitely not a part of that.”

“I can’t see anything, it’s okay,” Tobin explains as she steps further into the room, closing the door behind her.

The shuffling she hears in the room finally stops and there’s a quiet moment before Christen asks, “who’s tie is that?” She huffs loudly and then adds, “why aren’t you in your dress? You have to be ready to go in less than twenty minutes for pictures with your family.”

“I know, I know. I just needed to see you for a minute.”

“You couldn’t have waited to see me in less than an hour?”

Tobin can hear the amusement in her voice and it makes her grin. “No, babe. This couldn’t wait. I needed to see you right now.”

“You aren’t seeing me at all,” Christen points out.

Tobin rolls her eyes before she remembers Christen can’t see the gesture and then says, “hush, you know what I mean.”

She reaches her hand out blindly, trying to follow the sound of Christen’s breathing. It only takes a moment before Christen’s hand finds hers, leading her towards her. Tobin brings her other hand out to Christen’s side so she can trace her fingertips down her dress--she thinks it’s lace, soft and elegant. She knows Christen looks beautiful without even seeing her.

“What’s going on, sweetheart?” Christen asks her softly.

Tobin brings Christen’s hand to her mouth and kisses the back of it softly, tasting the almond butter lotion on her skin, then she kisses Christen’s engagement ring, then she kisses her wrist and the twist of twine that’s there. It’s not the same twine, it got gross and started to fray after a few weeks. They bought a couple rolls of it and now they replace it once a month on the anniversary of their vows. The original ones are lying in a shadow box with the vows they exchanged, handwritten and signed by the both of them.

“Will you pray with me?” Tobin finally asks her. “I know it’s never really been your thing, but--”

Christen cuts her off with a kiss, quick and gentle so neither of their lipstick gets messed up. “Of course I will.” She takes Tobin’s hand off her ribs and holds that one just as carefully as she’s holding the other. “Do you want me to say something or…?”

“You can say it to yourself. It’s just something I really wanted to do with you. I was sitting down to do it by myself when I realized it didn’t feel good enough. I needed you to do this with me.”

She can’t really explain it, she just knows that when she closed her eyes and bowed her head back in her room, she couldn’t feel God with her the way she wanted. She’s in a church. That should be more than sufficient for a quick prayer before the biggest day of her life.

But it just wasn’t and she knew exactly why.

Tobin’s never felt closer to God than when she’s with Christen. Christen has always loved her blind faith in her religion, her absolute devotion to something she herself doesn’t even understand sometimes. Christen always makes her belief in God easier. When she questions it, when she doubts is, Christen is always there to remind her of her beliefs, even if she doesn’t really believe in the same thing.

She looks at Christen and knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that He’s the reason for them being together. He brought her into herself life nearly twenty three years ago in this exact same church when they were just babies. She never could’ve imagined what they would become, but she know God always knew. He created this nearly perfect, beautiful person so that she could bless the world He created and He decided to bless Tobin as well by sharing His most wonderful work with her.

Christen makes her faith so much stronger, which is why she wants to be with her for this, right where it all started for them.

Christen kisses her softly again, longer this time, and then she rests her forehead against Tobin’s and they pray, hands clasped tightly and their breathing in sync.

Tobin thanks God for Christen, as she has every single other day of her life, even the days they spent apart. She thanks Him for the air in her lungs. She thanks Him for her family. She thanks Him for her friends and all her other loved ones, and she thanks Him for allowing them to be here on such an important day.

She asks Him to help this day go smoothly, for Allie to not get so drunk she spouts off every embarrassing story she had about Tobin at the reception (which she has far too many of considering they’ve barely known each other a year), especially not in front of her mother. She asks Him to continue to bless her union with Christen, just as He has for the last seven months. She asks Him to bring their families together in perfect, beautiful harmony.

Lastly, she thanks Him for always loving her unconditionally, for being there for her when it feels like no one else is, for helping her make sense of her life even when everything’s blurred.

She whispers, “amen,” when she’s finished, but doesn’t pull away just yet, waiting for Christen to signal she’s finished as well.

It takes a few more quiet moments. Tobin listens to Christen’s breathing as she finishes her prayers, listens to the soft way she’s mumbling her words to herself, unintelligible to everyone but her.

After a few seconds, she says, “amen,” with a sigh and then pulls away from Tobin, but she doesn’t drop her hands.

“I really wish I could see you right now,” Tobin laments, wanting nothing more than to take the tie off from around her eyes. She still thinks this is a little silly. Christen is already her wife, there’s nothing to hide, no bad luck to receive for keeping her out of sight. But it’s something Christen wanted to do, so she goes along with it despite not agreeing.

“Blindfolds have always worked well for us in the past. Who’s to say this one isn’t too?” Christen asks suggestively.

“Chris, we’re in a church,” Tobin whispers, feeling the heat that rises to her face as she thinks back on such dirty thoughts that are certainly not appropriate for where they’re currently standing.

“Whoops, sorry,” Christen laughs in a way that says she’s more amused with Tobin’s reaction than she is sorry. “You really have to get out of here now. I need to finish getting ready and you don’t even have your dress on.”

“I was thinking I might just wear this robe. It’s white and super comfy. It’ll be okay, right?”

“As much as I’m sure Allie would love to claim she’s your wedding dress designer since she’s the one who bought you this robe, I was promised seeing you in your dress would knock me out and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Tobin smiles and relents. “Okay, fine. I’ll put on my real dress just for you.”

“Thank you for agreeing to wear your wedding dress on our wedding day,” Christen teases. “Seriously, go get ready now, though. It may be our second wedding, but the sooner you’re in your dress, the sooner we get married again and the sooner I get you out of your dress.” She doesn’t even let Tobin protest before she adds, “I know, I know. We’re in a church. If you want me to stop making inappropriate comments in God’s house, then you’ll do as I tell you.”

“Fine,” Tobin grumbles. “Kiss me one more time first.”

Christen laughs and if Tobin knows anything about the woman--which she knows practically everything there is to know--she’s shaking her head right now, but she does as Tobin requested. She kisses her slowly, with a little less regard for their makeup than she had the first two times they kissed. Tobin knows Perri is going to be angry at her for smearing her lipstick, but Tobin doesn’t care right now. This is her last kiss with Christen as her secret wife and she sure it’s going to only go halfway.

When Tobin runs her tongue along Christen’s bottom lip, though, Christen puts a stop to it.

“Tobin, we’re in a church,” she scolds teasingly. She brings up a thub to, probably, wipe her own lipstick off Tobin’s upper lip. “Now get out of here. There’s plenty more of this in store for you after the ceremony.”

“I can’t wait to marry you again,” Tobin sighs.

“Prove it,” Christen challenges. “Go get ready.”

“Fine, but only because you know how competitive I am and that was definitely a challenge.”

Tobin leans in to kiss Christen’s forehead, going slowly since she can’t see anything and doesn’t want to bash her nose against Christen’s face moments before their wedding. She kisses her softing and thanks her for praying with her, for giving her such a special moment on such an important day.

“Don’t thank me,” Christen says quietly. “You know I love when you ask me to pray with you and be a part of something so important to you.”

They’re prayed together before, but only a handful of times excluding family dinners.

They prayed before Tobin got her appendix taken out when she was seventeen because Christen was so nervous over it and Tobin thought it might calm her. They prayed when Christen’s grandma got sick and Christen was an absolute mess of worry. They prayed before Christen got on her flight to her very first national team camp three months ago and was so worried about blowing such an important chance.

Really, all the times they’re prayed before have been for Christen’s benefit, but this is something for Tobin and she loves Christen so much for doing this with her. She’s so thankful for her and she wants to make sure Christen realizes this.

“I know, but thank you. Seriously, Christen. I love you so much for this,” she tells her.

“You’re welcome,” Christen says quietly. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Now get out of here. I don’t want to see you again until we’re getting remarried.”

“I haven’t seen you at all,” Tobin points out. She does what Christen wants, though. She squeezes her hands and then turns to walk towards the door before she realizes she doesn’t really know where it is. “Uh, babe? Could you lead me to the door?” She asks sheepishly.

Christen laughs and places her hand on the small of Tobin’s back, leading her further to the left than Tobin had been going. She hears the door open and Kelley’s exasperated voice from down the hall.

Finally,” she says, voice getting closer as she speaks. “Tyler was about ready to kill me if I didn’t let her back into the room to finish Christen’s hair. You ready to go, Tobin?”

“Yeah,” Tobin grins in what she assumes is Kelley’s direction. “I’m ready to do this thing.”

“Me too, my love. Me too.” Christen kisses Tobin’s cheek and then she’s gone, the door latching into place behind her.

Kelley takes the tie off her head as gently as she put it on and smiles at her widely as she squints at the lights in the hallway that are so much brighter than she remembers.

“All right, let’s get you back to your room. Tyler wasn’t the only one threatening bodily harm. Katie is a lot feistier than she seems,” Kelley laughs.

They turn and walk back towards her room. Just before Tobin steps back in, she turns towards Kelley, needing to ask her one more thing.

“Does Christen look as beautiful in her dress as I think she does?”

Kelley looks like she’s about to start crying as her eyes turn glassy. She smiles at Tobin and brings a hand to her face, running a thumb against her cheek as she says, “she look so much better than you could ever imagine. Make sure you hold onto your dad when he walks you down the aisle. You’re going to need the support when you see her.”

Tobin grins at the thought.

“Let’s do this,” Tobin says, more ready for this than she’s been for anything else since the last time she and Christen got married.

She’s been to more weddings than she can even remember, nearly every single one of them with Christen. She’s loves every single one of them, even the ones there was really anything all that special about. She just loves the whole premise of them. She loves the idea of two people standing before all the most important people in their lives and declaring their love for everyone to hear, making promises in front of so many people that can then hold them accountable for their words.

She’s always loved weddings.

She loves her first wedding most of all. It was so simple and yet so important. It was just her and Christen having a quiet moment, but what they promised each other is something she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life. That wedding was exactly the type they needed even though they never knew it.

This wedding is important too, but for different reasons. The first wedding was for them, this one is for their loved ones. It’s for them too, of course, but ironically they aren’t the main focus--at least not for Tobin and Christen. This wedding is a way to thank every single person who has ever had any sort of influence on their lives together. It’s a way to show how much they appreciate their support and their love. It’s a way to show them that their faith in their relationship is completely warranted and will continue to be for the rest of their lives.

This wedding isn’t for her, and that’s exactly the way she wants it to be.

As her sisters help her finish getting ready, paying such careful attention to every single detail to make sure everything is perfect, she feels how much they love her and how much she loves them in return.

As Jeff takes her hand and leads her down the hall to the little garden area at the back of the church where they’re taking pictures, she feels by the gentle, yet firm grip he has on her hand how much pride he feels in this moment. The tears he forces back when she thanks him and tells her she loves him just reaffirm what she already knows.

As her parents wrap their arms around her from either side and fail miserably at keeping themselves together as Tobin tells them how much they mean to her, she knows exactly why she’s doing this. She would have been perfectly happy with her private wedding with Christen, it’s all she ever needs. But she knows her parents need this and she’s overcome with joy knowing she’s able to give this to them, even if it is a little redundant.

Tobin has been to a lot of weddings in her life, but this is her favorite one yet.

Well, second favorite.

xxx

Tobin never really imagined herself as a mother.

She thought about it, of course. Seeing her sisters and friends have children kept that thought in her mind, but she never really could picture herself in their position.

It's something she knew would happen when she was ready, but she didn't know when she would be ready. She just knew she couldn't see it yet.

She and Christen talked about it a lot, all their lives really. First when they were young and they were talking about each having their own baby. Then when they were older and the imaginary babies became theirs. They knew it was something they wanted for their life together, they just had a lot of things they wanted to do first.

Then three years after their wedding, they were volunteering at a children's hospital for a Portland Soccer event (Tobin was now a physical trainer for the Portland Timbers) and they met Carson.

Carson was nearly one year old and she'd essentially lived in the hospital three fourths of her life. She was abandoned just hours after she was born, parental rights signed away. Tobin likes to say that's the best thing her birth parents ever did for her.

When she was just two days old, doctors discovered she had a heart defect. She was in and out of the operating room and NICU since then. The couple weeks she was able to leave the hospital, she spent with the family of one of her doctors, who was certified to foster in Oregon. Dr. Nelson and her husband have four kids of their own, so they can keep Carson, but she wanted her to have a good home to live in until she was adopted and she especially wanted to be able to keep an eye on her since she was so familiar with her condition.

Tobin was the first one to meet Carson and she was absolutely blown away by how much she looked like a little mini Christen. She has Christen's dark skin, light green eyes and thick, curly black hair that's barely contained by the headband she's wearing. She's connected to a mess of wires, recovering from her latest surgery, but she still smiles so big when she sees Tobin she shows off the few teeth she's already started to grow.

Tobin's taken aback by the overwhelming sense of urgency she feels towards the child, the absolute desire she has to take care of this baby she doesn't even yet know. She doesn't just want to take care of Carson. She needs to.

She spends a few minutes entertaining the little girl with a variety of silly faces and strange noises she learned to make for her nephews. She's in the middle of impersonating an elephant when one of the nurses comes in and asks if she wants to hold Carson, assuring Tobin she's more than stable and it's okay to disconnect her from the monitors for a little while.

The nurse places Carson in her arms and Tobin instantly feels her stomach drop. She's always said only part of her heart actually resides in her chest, the rest of it is with Christen. But the moment she holds Carson in her arms, she swears she's holding her heart in her hands. She knows it will never belong to her for the rest of her life. It now belongs to the beautiful little girl with the biggest smile she's ever seen.

Christen finds her a few minutes later, rocking the little girl in a chair and singing her nursery rhymes. Tobin can tell by the look on Christen's face when she looks at Carson she knows exactly what's going on, and even better, she feels it too.

Dr. Nelson comes by to check in and spends the next thirty minutes talking to them about Carson, explaining what she's allowed to about her condition and her progress. She assures them she's doing wonderfully and after one more surgery to clean up some of the scar tissue from all her previous surgeries so that it doesn't cause problems later on in life, she'll be healthy enough to find a forever home.

She stays much longer than she has time to, but Dr. Nelson gives them the contact information for the social worker assigned to Carson's case and her own personal number too.

The next five months are miserable.

There are so many forms to fill out and red tape to cut through. Dr. Carson does her best to keep them in the loop, even when she shouldn’t. Tobin and Christen are grateful Carson gets to stay with Dr. Nelson during the adoption process. They’re allowed to visit once a week and they take full advantage.

Carson takes to them just as quickly as they take to her. She’s a generally very happy baby despite what all she’s gone through thus far in her life, but she’s happiest around Tobin and Christen. She laughs easier and cuddles in close to them whenever they hold her.

They fall in love with her instantly even though they try to tell themselves not to. In their hearts they believe she’s meant to be their daughter, but they know there’s more at play than just their hearts. They worry endlessly about this not working out, but they do their best to keep their spirits high.

When Carson has her final surgery, Tobin and Christen are absolute wrecks.

They’re allowed to be in the waiting room during the procedure. Tobin doesn’t sit in her seat the entire time, choosing instead to pace around the room or up and down the hallway. In the rare moments she’s able to stay still for more than a few seconds, she just stares out the window. Christen tries to keep herself busy by attempting to teach herself how to knit. She’s pretty sure she’s just making a complete mess of knots she’ll never be able to untangle, but it helps give her something else to focus on. Or at least attempt to focus on.

It’s while they’re sitting by Carson’s bedside in the NICU when their social worker comes by to tell them the adoption has been finalized. As if Carson knew what was happening, she wakes up at that exact moment with a bright smile on her face.

When Carson gets discharged from the hospital for what the doctors are hopeful is her last time, she gets to leave with her new moms.

***

Five years later, Carson looks more like Christen than she ever has. Her skin is a little darker and her eyes a little lighter, but her hair is just as curly and her smile is just as bright. Both Christen and Carson have had Tobin wrapped around their fingers since the day she first saw them, and Tobin wouldn't have it any other way.

Tobin is definitely the fun parent. Not that Christen isn't fun, because she is, it's just that she's always the one who has to lay down the law when Carson gets a little too wild.

And Carson always gets wild.

So wild, in fact, Tobin has taken to calling her Hurricane Carson, which always leads to the little girl spinning around in circles as fast as she can and making whooshing noises until she falls over in a heap of giggles, dizzy from doing her best impression of a storm.

She's a ball of energy and has an astounding ability to destroy a perfectly clean room in a matter of seconds, something that both amazes and frustrates Christen, who is usually the one cleaning up after her while Tobin is keeping her distracted with her next project.

Now that Carson is older, Christen has started to enforce the rules a little more strictly.

If Carson makes a mess, she needs to be the one to clean it up before moving on to her next mess. Dinner doesn't happen until Hurricane Carson has straightened up the path of destruction behind her. And most importantly, absolutely no basketball is allowed to be played on the hoop outside until Carson has put all her other toys back in their proper place.

That last one usually leads to Carson clutching Tobin's leg and crying, begging her to convince Mama to let her go play. Carson loves basketball, is very good at it and not just for her age, so anything that keeps her from playing is a major inconvenience for her and is absolutely unacceptable. More than once, Christen has caught Tobin cleaning up Carson’s messes instead, so she can go out and play sooner.

It drives Christen mad how whipped Tobin is for their daughter, but she's equally whipped for her and plus she's just so damn cute with Carson, that Christen's anger never lasts too long. Tobin supports her parenting decisions when they're most important, and she's gotten better about disciplining Carson when necessary, so she quickly forgives Tobin for her indiscretions in staying firm with Carson.

That's why when Tobin comes home from work one day to find their living room a disaster and Christen asks her to make Carson clean up, Christen knows it won't actually be happening any time soon.

Carson is standing at the furthest end of the room, in front of the big bay window. Light is streaming in through the window and lighting up her face perfectly, until she's all but glowing and Tobin feels her heart skip a beat at how much she loves that little girl.

Practically every single stuffed animal Carson owns is sitting on the floor in neat rows, three on each side of a makeshift aisle that stretches from the front door to where Carson is standing. There are flowers from the flowerbeds outside scattered around the aisle (and more than a little dirt accompanying them, which makes Christen's eyes go wide when she points it out to Tobin).

“I've been asking her to clean up for twenty minutes so she's ready for dinner when you get home and she won't listen to me. She kept insisting you had to see first,” Christen complains as she kisses Tobin on the cheek to welcome her home.

“Carson, what's going on here sweetie?” Tobin asks as she takes her jacket off and kicks off her shoes to put on the rack by the front door.

“I'm getting married!” The little girl exclaims, twirling around until her neon blue tutu billows up around her waist.

Tobin grins at the memory of Christen doing the exact same thing when they were kids. Carson looks just as beautiful and just as carefree as Christen did all those years ago.

Once she finally slows down, Tobin notices the excessive amount of plastic bead bracelets and necklaces she has on. The whole look is completed by the sparkly tiara she's wearing, crooked on top of her tangled mess of curls.

“Wow, you're getting married?” Tobin asks as she walks into the room, rolling up the sleeves of her shirt. “And you weren't going to invite me?”

“Of course I was, Mommy! Dat's why I told Mama I couldn't clean up yet. You hafta be here to give me away.” Carson twirls around again, tumbling against the couch after spinning one too many times.

Tobin kneels down once she gets to the end of the makeshift aisle. She places her hands on Carson’s shoulders to steady her and laughs along with her as she giggles. “And just who is it you’re going to marry?”

Carson scrunches her eyebrows up as if she’s realizing she hadn’t thought that far in advance. It seems she was a little too busy planning her wedding to actually think about who she will marry. She thinks about it for a moment and then her face lights up. “Well, one day I wanna marry a boy in my class named Rodrigo, but Rigo isn’t here right. I can marry Mama though!”

“But Mama is already married to me. You can’t marry two people,” Tobin explains.

Carson sighs, frustrated she can’t seem to figure this out. But again, after a moment of thought her eyes go bright and she exclaims, “I know! You can marry Mama! I can give you bof away.”

Tobin looks over her shoulder and grins at Christen who’s been watching them from the doorway. “Yeah, we could do that. I definitely wouldn't mind marrying you a third time.”

Carson looks mildly confused at the mention of a third wedding, but she moves on quickly to figure out this change of plans. She takes off her tiara and gives it to Christen. She tries to convince Tobin to wear her tutu, but once she realizes it won’t fit, she pulls a blanket from the back of the couch and tells Tobin to tie it around her own neck like a cape. She divides up her beaded necklaces and bracelets as evenly as possible and then instructs her moms to stand in the front room at the end of the aisle.

She walks Christen down the aisle first, humming “Here Comes the Bride” incredibly out of tune, but she’s skipping as she does so. Tobin does her best to pay attention to every single detail and commit it all to memory, never wanting to forget this moment.

Once Christen is standing at Carson’s makeshift altar, Carson walks back down to take Tobin’s hand and follow the same path. Tobin takes a twist on their trip down the aisle. Instead of skipping like Carson and Christen did, Tobin decides to dance. She twirls Carson around and dips her twice, enjoying the way her daughter giggles at her antics.

It takes several seconds for Carson to contain herself, but eventually she does and then she begins her ceremony.

“Today we are here to marry my Mama and Mommy. They are the most pretty and most nicest people in all the whole wide world. I love them more than anyting, even basketball.”

Tobin gasps in fake shock. “What? More than basketball? There's no way!”

“Yuh-huh there is! You can't intarupt your wedding Mommy, it's rude.”

Christen chuckles and bites her tongue to keep from busting out loud in laughter. “Yeah babe, it's so rude.”

“You can't interrupt eifer, Mama!”

Tobin sticks her tongue out at Christen to mock her for getting scolded as well, but then they both pull themselves back together so Carson can continue.

“Mama and Mommy, can I have your rings?”

They each do as she says and take off their wedding rings, handing them over to her. Once she has them both, the reaches her hands across her body and hands Christen’s ring to Tobin and vice-versa.

“Mama, do you love Mommy and wanna have her as your wife forever?”

“I do,” Christen says with a big smile.

“You may give her the ring,” Carson says.

Christen reaches out for Tobin’s hand and brings it up to her mouth to kiss lightly before she lowers it again. She then places the ring on her finger slowly, grinning when it slides into place.

“Now Mommy, do you love Mama and wanna have her as your wife forever?”

“I do. Forever and ever,” Tobin says.

“You may give her the ring.”

Christen holds out her hand and wiggles her fingers in front of Tobin with a hopeful smile on her face. Tobin leans down and kisses her hand, then takes it in her own and slips the ring on her finger, remembering how she felt when she did that for the very first time.

She was so nervous and damn near terrified the night she asked Christen to marry her. In the back of her mind, she already knew the outcome and she knew there was truly no reason to be afraid--Christen had literally asked her to ask her, but she just couldn’t shake the fear Christen would say no.

Looking back now, they laugh about it, but it had made so much sense to her at the time. What a fool she was.

“Now you may kiss the bride!” Carson exclaims, throwing her hands above her head in celebration.

Tobin leans in and kisses Christen softly, grinning when Christen brings a hand up to the back of her neck and holds her there a few extra seconds. When Tobin pulls away, her cheeks hurt from smiling so much.

“Eww that was too much kissing,” Carson complains with a giggle.

“It’s our wedding, we’re supposed to kiss,” Tobin explains in their defense.

“Oh yeah? That was too much? Well what about this?” Christen reaches down to pick up Carson and wraps her arms around her tightly so she can’t escape. She then proceeds to kiss her repeatedly all over her face, laughing when Tobin joins in.

At first Carson tries to push them away, but then she just laughs until she’s really had enough. “Okay, okay, okay. Too much kissing! Too much kissing!”

They each kiss her one more time, a loud smacking kiss on either of her cheeks and then she’s squirming around so much Christen finally agrees to let her down. Once she’s back on her own two feet, Carson spins around in celebration again, showing off the way her tutu billows out again. She convinces both her moms to spin around with her until they’re all so dizzy they sprawl out on the floor and laugh until their stomachs hurt.

“Not to be a downer, but dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes and I want this room cleaned up before then or else no basketball before bed,” Christen warns.

Carson groans, but then she sits up and does as her Mama asks of her, picking up her toys and stuffed animals now that the ceremony is over.

“I suppose you’re going to try and help her?” Christen whispers to Tobin, turning her head to look at her.

Tobin blushes slightly at getting caught, but she knows Christen would never truly be mad at her for being wrapped around their daughter’s finger. “I mean probably, just look how cute she is when she’s pouting.”

Christen rolls over until she’s lying right next to Tobin and is able to reach a hand up and run her fingers down the side of Tobin’s neck until she shivers. “You could do that, or…” she smirks and lowers her voice to hardly even a breathy whisper as she continues, “or you could come into the kitchen with me and make out until the oven timer goes off.”

Tobin grins. “Turns out the kid is on her own for once,” she replies. She reaches for Christen’s hand and pulls her to her feet, leading the way into the kitchen and laughing as they go.

Part of Tobin feels bad for not helping Carson cleanup since they took part in her playtime, but she’s helped her enough Tobin knows it will be good for her to clean the mess herself. Plus, Tobin is more than looking forward to a little alone time with her wife, so she’s able to justify it.

Tobin and Christen have a wedding to celebrate after all.

xxx

Tobin has been to many weddings in her life.

She’s been to ones she can’t remember. She’s been to ones she almost wishes she could forget. She’s been to ones that have changed her whole life. She’s been to ones that have had no real lasting memory with her. She’s been to ones for loved ones. She’s been to ones for people she barely knows. She’s been to three of her own.

She’s been to more weddings than she can recall, but this one. This one is one she will never forget.

She still remembers when Carson was just a little baby barely a year old. She remembers the tubes and wires connected to her body and the fear that this child, so so small, might not make it.

In that first moment, she never could have imagined the events of her life that would unfold upon having met that little girl.

But now, she’s standing in Carson’s dressing room, watching as her bridesmaids help put the finishing touches on her makeup and make the slightest of adjustments to her white dress until it’s perfectly in place.

She’s about to walk down the aisle with Christen and give their daughter away to a kind and charming man named Rigo, the boy Carson said she wanted to marry when they were just five years old.

She can still remember that day, Carson spinning around in a plastic tiara and blue tutu. She can hardly believe that adorable little girl is the same beautiful woman standing before her right now.

Tobin can’t quite figure out how they got here.

“You doing okay, honey?” Christen asks as she wraps an arm around Tobin’s waist and leans in to kiss her cheek.

Tobin smiles and leans into her wife. They’ve been married longer than they haven’t at this point in there lives, twenty-eight years to be exact and yet Tobin sometimes still can’t believe she’s really married to Christen.

Christen stopped playing soccer when Carson turned ten. She was thirty-five and her body was more than ready to give it up by that point, but her heart just wouldn’t let her walk away. Now she’s head coach for the Portland Timbers and Tobin is teaching at Portland University for their Physical Therapy program and is one of the technical coordinators for the Thorns youth system.

They've thought about moving away from Portland, but they just can't find a way to really leave, despite Carson and Rigo living in Seattle. Carson plays for the Seattle Storm and Rigo is involved in multiple non profits in and around the Seattle area targeted at helping immigrant families find jobs, housing and transition overall into such a new culture. Once Tobin and Christen are finally able to walk away from Portland they’ll likely move closer to Carson so they can be nearby their grandchildren, but they just aren’t ready yet.

“I’m okay,” Tobin says. “Just processing a lot.”

“You’ve had nearly four years to process this. They’ve been engaged forever,” Christen points out. She leans her head on Tobin’s shoulder and looks over at their daughter.

“I know that, but it’s one thing to imagine it happening one day and another for it to actually happen. She’s our little girl. I don’t care how old she gets, she’ll always be our little girl.”

“Carson getting married won’t change that.”

“I know,” Tobin sighs. “Things will just be different. She won’t turn to us when she needs help now. She’ll have Rigo to take care of her.”

“You love Rigo,” Christen says.

“I know I do. He’s exactly the kind of guy I always wanted for her since she was just a baby. It’s just hard knowing she won’t need me anymore.”

“Honey, look at me.” Christen reaches up and tilts Tobin’s face towards hers when Tobin is stubborn and won’t listen to her. “She will always need you. She will always be your little girl and she will always need us to help take care of her. You still need your mom to help you sometimes, right? It’ll be exactly the same. I know it will be different and I know it’s a lot, but Carson getting married doesn’t change the fact that she absolutely adores you. I know it’s hard, but it will be okay.”

Tobin closes her eyes for a moment and then looks back at Christen. She’s still just as beautiful as she’s always been. In the past year or so she’s started to get slight wrinkles around her eyes and her hair is just starting to lighten. She’s still in very good shape, but not like she was when she was playing professionally. Her stomach is softer, her hips rounder and her face a little fuller, and Tobin loves her more than she ever has.

She’s been her partner for the entire fifty years Tobin has been alive and nothing will ever change that.

Tobin is glad she has Christen with her for this today. She needs someone’s hand to hold and shoulder to lean on. She closes her eyes again and leans her forehead on Christen’s shoulder for a moment, kissing the soft skin there before she pulls back again.

“I know, you’re right. You always are. It’s just a lot,” Tobin says.

“I know, but we’ll get through it. We always do.”

They just smile at each other for a moment and let it sink in until Carson interrupts them.

“Mom, Mama,” she calls to them. She holds out her arms, palms up and shrugs her shoulders slightly as her friends step away to give her room. “What do you guys think?” She spins around twice, showing off all angles of her dress.

“You look absolutely beautiful,” Christen says, her hand placed over her heart like she can’t believe she can still feel it beating in her chest when she swears it’s standing right before her in the shape of her daughter.

It’s the exact same way Tobin feels.

Tobin swallows hard and tries to hold back her tears, but she can’t. She blinks away as many as she can, but she isn’t able to stop some from falling.

“Oh mom, I told you not to cry,” Carson chokes out, clearly trying to keep her own tears to herself. Her maid of honor hands her a tissue quickly from the stash in the pocket of her dress. She dabs at her own eyes as she steps closer.

“I know, but I also told you I would try my best. I guess my best isn’t good enough.” Tobin chokes out a watery laugh and pulls a tissue from her own stash, thanking Christen for making sure she used waterproof mascara this morning.

“Your best is always good enough,” Carson says. She throws away the tissue and then reaches both hands out to take one of Christen’s and one of Tobin’s. “I love you both so much.”

“We love you too,” Tobin tells her. “More than you’ll ever know, sweetheart.”

“Cars, they’re ready for you out here,” one of the ushers says as he knocks on the door and pokes his head inside. “Whoa,” he says when his eyes land on Carson. “Rigo is going to lose him mind when he sees you.” He grins and then steps back out of the room to go find his place.

“You guys ready?” Carson asks them, squeezing their hands.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be ready,” Tobin admits.

“Don’t worry,” Carson says. “You’ll always be my Mommy.” She grins and then leans in and kisses Tobin’s cheek and then does the same to Christen’s.

“Are you sure you want to do this? I mean yeah, Rigo is cool and all, but we could totally just runaway right now and you could come and live with me and Mama forever. We could definitely make you happy.”

Christen and Carson both laugh at her joke, but Tobin isn’t 100% sure she’s actually joking.

Carson pretends to think about it for a moment. “Hmm…as enticing as that offer is, I really, really love Rigo and I want to marry him.”

“It was worth a shot, I guess,” Tobin sighs. “If you’re ready, then I’ll find a way to be.”

“I’m ready, mom. I love him and I want to be with him. I’m so ready.”

“Then let's do this thing.”

***

Tobin has always loved weddings, but watching her little girl grow up to become a woman and have a wedding of her own, that just about breaks Tobin’s heart and puts it back together at the same time.

Rodrigo cries when he sees Carson walking down the aisle between both her moms. Not just a little crying either. He actually has to cover his face with his hands for a few moments until he’s able to pull himself together. He stumbles over his words throughout the entire ceremony either because he can’t hold back his tears or because he looks at Carson and gets so distracted by how beautiful she is, he can’t remember what he was going to say next.

Carson cries as well, but she’s much more graceful about it, dabbing them away gently and finding away to continue to speak through the emotion building in her throat.

Tobin cries, of course, but it helps having Christen next to her, holding her hand tightly in order to ground her. She looks back and forth between Carson and Christen throughout the entire ceremony, a little unable to believe this is her wife.

She can’t believe this gorgeous woman sitting next to her is truly her wife. She can’t believe she’s lucky enough to call the incredibly kind and beautiful woman standing up at the altar her daughter. She can’t believe the two most thoughtful and compassionate people she knows are the two more important people in her entire life.

She’s had wonderful such a wonderful life and it’s all because of Christen and Carson. She wouldn’t have anything or be anything if it weren’t for the two of them. She knows Christen is right and that Carson will always need her, but truly it’s Tobin who needs the both of them.

She knows this doesn’t mean she’s losing Carson, but she knows she’s right in thinking this will change things.

But that’s okay.

Carson will always be her daughter and she will always be her Mom. Nothing will ever change that, especially not this.

After Carson and Rigo kiss and are officially pronounced husband and wife, the first thing Carson does is turn her head so she can look right at Tobin and Christen. “I love you,” she mouths, smiling through her happy tears.

“I love you too,” Tobin says back, holding on to Christen as tightly as she can. She kisses her cheek and then says, “And I love you too.”

“Oh thank god, I was worried there for a little bit maybe you didn’t,” Christen teases, leaning over to kiss Tobin’s mouth. “Now that our little girl is married, what do you want to do for the rest of forever?”

“As long as I spend it next to you, I’m game for anything.”

Christen smiles. “It’s a good thing you say that, because I got offered a job coaching in the Premier league. They want me for next season,” she tells Tobin.

“What?” Tobin gasps. “Why wouldn’t you tell me about that?”

“I just got the call yesterday. I didn’t want to distract you from today. You’ve had enough going on in that pretty head of yours, you didn’t need to worry about this just yet. I don’t even know if I’m going to accept the job.”

“Chris, that’s an amazing opportunity. Of course you’re accepting the job.”

Christen grins up at her, cheeks straining with the obvious excitement she’s feeling over the situation. It’s clear it was killing her to hide this from Tobin. “In that case, how do you feel about moving to London?”

“Like I said, as long as I’m next to you, I’ll go anywhere you lead.”

“To London and forever after that.”

“To London,” Tobin agrees, before she pulls Christen in and wraps her up in her arms.

A lifetime with Christen is all Tobin wants. In LA, in Portland, in London, it doesn’t matter to her where. All she wants is to be next to her. It will be hard being away from Carson for a few years, but she knows she’ll be well taken care of by Rigo and besides, she’s been talking lately about going to play in Europe, so maybe they’ll find their way over there soon.

Just as Tobin and Christen started their life together all those years ago, Carson and Rigo are about to start theirs. As hard as that is for Tobin to cope with, she knows they’re about to start on the journey of a lifetime. As long as they’re going through it together, Tobin knows Carson will be well loved and supported in all the ways Tobin has always wanted for her.

Tobin has always loved weddings, but she loves this one most of all.