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Learning Is Fun

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“Tobin, you have a call on line three,” is paged over the intercom. The company she works for doesn’t have a phone system with extension lines for the employees. Customers have to call the main number and ask for who they want to speak to.

Tobin hurriedly finishes chewing the piece of chocolate she was eating as an afternoon treat before reaching for her phone.

“Hi, this is Tobin,” she answers, swiveling her chair to the side to look out the window. She’s one of the few employees who has an office with a window to the front lawn of the building. She aches to be outside right now, it’s a glorious summer day. She wants to open her window, but they have the air conditioner on in the office. She hates air conditioning, even if it’s hot out.

“Yo, Tobin! It’s Kelley from Centennial School,” a cheery female voice greets her.

“Hey, Kelley, how’s it going? Ready for school to begin?” Tobin replies, a smile crossing her face. She hasn’t seen Kelley much this summer except for meeting up for a few Thorns matches at Providence Park. Kelley had been in and out of town most of her summer off from teaching at the elementary school and Tobin had been swamped trying to put together the catalog for the upcoming year. Over the few years she’s known Kelley, they’ve become good friends, playing pick up soccer, going to concerts and hanging out.

Tobin works for a company that supplies physical education, recreation and athletic equipment for schools and park districts and other youth organizations. Her job is to find new products, evaluate them and then work with the graphics department to get images and write the copy to layout the catalog. She pushes to get as much done before school starts because she also presents at schools and tradeshows, teaching the teachers how to use products and implement new physical education curriculum. She’s a busy woman.

“Well, that’s why I’m calling,” Kelley explains, “we finally got a new P.E. administrator and she’s all high on some new curriculum that she promises is easy to implement. She met the teacher who wrote it in Cali where she’s from. Ever hear of something called PERT?” she asks with uncertainty, her voice rising at the end of the sentence.

Tobin smiles, she’s heard of PERT, she knows the teacher who developed it. They’re pretty decent friends having met a few years ago at a tradeshow and still staying in touch. Tobin had helped her develop the marketing side of her program, even going out to visit, staying at her house with her and her wife, surfing and talking about how to make it a successful product.

“Yeah, I know it,” she says, glancing over to next year’s cover ideas, PERT being one of them, “it stands for Physical Education and Recreational Training,” she shares with her.

“Ah,” Kelley says, now understanding a little more.

“We actually sell it,” Tobin says, smiling wider, “and I can come in and do a presentation and if you guys buy it, I can do the two day training to put it in place,”

Kelley sighs heavily, “Oh, thank God,” she says dramatically, “she asked me to find out who sells it and I was a little worried,” she says, “but I knew if anyone would know, it would be you,”

Tobin chuckles, “Thanks Kel,”

“So, one of the things she wanted was to have someone come in and explain it to us, let us know how it worked,” Kelley states, “She doesn’t want to buy it if we don’t like it or think we’ll use it.”

“So, would you like me to come in and do a presentation?” Tobin asks, glancing at her large dry erase calendar.

“I want you to tell me something,” Kelley says seriously.

“What’s that?” Tobin questions, flicking her pen in her hand, rolling her eyes as she sees another email pop up in her inbox.

“Is this curriculum the real deal or is it shit?” Kelley asks, her voice low and hushed. “She seems really sold on it, but I don’t really know her that well, ya know? All I know is she’s from Cali, has two dogs and loves yoga and running,”

“Huh,” Tobin comments.

“I mean, she went to Stanford, so she’s in as far as I’m concerned,” Kelley chuckles, “but what’s your take on this PERT?”

“It’s the real deal,” Tobin says confidently, “I think you’ll love it,”

“Now, don’t say that because you’re selling it,” Kelley teases, “I know it costs a lot of money,”

“It does,” Tobin agrees, “but it’s worth every penny in my opinion,” Tobin goes on to share with her how she knows the creator and spent time getting trained to present and implement the curriculum over the past winter. She briefly explains how, in her opinion, this curriculum separates itself from the rest on the market.

“So, when can you come over?” Kelley asks, “Wait, let me check the Thorns schedule, if it’s a Friday we can meet and then get dinner and watch the match,” Most of Kelley’s coworkers liked soccer just as much as Kelley and Tobin did. They’ve gone as a group to matches for the last few seasons.

The two agree on next Friday, the Thorns are away so they plan to go to a bar to watch the match after. They chat for a few extra minutes, Kelley telling her how her summer went while she was in Georgia visiting family and sharing how she traveled to a few different conferences around the country. When Tobin gets off the phone, she gives herself a fist pump, stoked that she’s got a solid lead on this curriculum. She springs from her chair, intent to check in with her boss and let him know the exciting news.

 

On the following Thursday, Tobin texts Kelley asking if they’re still on for tomorrow’s meeting. When Kelley confirms, Tobin sends back a thumbs up and then heads back to her prep room to finish preparing for her presentation. She’s in the middle of packing of rolling bag with her projector and copies of the marketing sheets when she hears someone enter the room.

“Tobin,” a voice calls. It’s Allie, a coworker and one of her best friends. She works in sales, one of the company’s top sellers in nationwide accounts. Sometimes the two of them go on sales meetings together, Tobin to discuss curriculum and technical products and Allie to secure a quote or a purchase order on the spot. She’s smart, the tall blonde knows when to close a deal or come back for a follow up. She knows how district sales operate with bids, contracts and preferred vendors. Tobin doesn’t know how she does it, it would be too much for her.

Allie keeps telling her she’s a salesperson as well and Tobin just shrugs it off, saying she lets the products speak for themselves and is more interested in their customers finding exactly what they need. She hates to think she’d ever schmooze someone or push a product on them. It’s not her style, she’s much more laidback. Yet almost every month, she gets a bonus in her paycheck for commission on curriculum sales.

Tobin’s head pops up from behind a table, “Yo, Al, what’s up?”

“What are you doing tonight?” she questions, looking at her expectantly.

Tobin shrugs, standing up and leaning her hands against the table, “No plans tonight,” she says.

“Bati just told me he’s going out for Thirsty Thursday with the boys,” she replies. Bati is her husband, his real name is Jose, but nobody calls him that. “I was thinking of grilling some steaks,” she raises her eyebrows and plasters a hopeful look on her face.

Tobin smiles, “You mean, you were thinking of me grilling your steaks?”

“Uh huh,” Allie nods, smiling at her, “I think Alex and maybe Kling and Sonnett are coming too,”

Tobin rolls her eyes, “I can’t be out late,” she warns, “and I’m not drinking tonight. I’ve got a big presentation tomorrow,”

“That’s fine,” Allie grins back at her, “I’ve got something for you to chill with,”

“I’m riding my bike over,” Tobin states, “and I don’t chill until the weekend,” she says, “you missed it by one day.”

Allie frowns, then perks up, “We can chill Friday, before the match,”

“Remember I’m going out with Kelley and her friends right after the meeting,” Tobin reminds, “but if you want to meet up…” she shrugs.

Allie shake her head, “Alex wants to go to Toffee Club and I promised her we would,”

Tobin frowns, “Sorry,”

Allie shrugs, “No worries,” she says, “we’re still on for Saturday, right? I’m off tomorrow, remember for the long weekend,”

Tobin nods, “For sure,” she smiles, “I can’t wait,” It’s Labor Day Weekend and some staff are taking an additional day off to enjoy a four day holiday. Tobin has invited some of her coworkers over to her place on Saturday for an afternoon craft day. Tobin is the artsy one of the group, always pushing to find time to create something. She likes art. No, she loves art. She loves visiting museums in different cities, she loves getting turned on to create something. There is nothing better than seeing some piece she created and the mix of pride and satisfaction in knowing it was her hands that brought the piece to life.

Allie then glances around to be sure they were alone. She clears her throat, “Have you given any more thought to what we talked about?”

Tobin sighs, “Al, I really do not want to go on another blind date,” she confesses, “they’re so uncomfortable and awkward.”

Allie sighs, “Please?” she puts her hands together as if in prayer, giving Tobin a puppy dog look. Tobin shakes her head.

“I’m just not feeling it, Al,” Tobin says, fiddling with the zippered case for the projector she still needs to pack.

Allie looks her over, “Okay,” she relents with a sigh, “but I’m going to invite her out with us one night and you’ll be there,”

“Fine,” Tobin agrees, “as long as you don’t make it weird,”

Allie laughs, dramatically placing her hand on her chest, “I would never!”

Tobin laughs and shakes her head, both of them knowing how untrue that statement is. She squats down and packs her projector, satisfied she’s ready. All she has to do is grab her laptop and pack it and she’s good to go.

“Do you think Sinc will start tomorrow?” she asks Allie as she moves toward the door, Allie following.

“I saw on Twitter that Parsons said she had a full practice yesterday,” Allie informs her, “she should be ready to go.”

Christine Sinclair is the star forward for the Thorns and recently had picked up a knock in the previous match.

“I hate NC,” Tobin mutters, “I hate them with a passion,”

Allie laughs, “You could never hate anything,” she says, bumping her shoulder as they walk back into the office, “you strongly dislike. You’re a pussycat.”

Tobin chuckles, “Yeah, you’re right,”

 

 

The next morning Tobin carefully selects her outfit for the day. Since a department head will be in the meeting with the P.E. teachers, she should be a little more formal and businesslike in her apparel choice. But since she’s going out right after, she wants to be able to just slip on her Thorns shirt as well. She decides on her favorite black dress slacks with a crisp light grey button down. She pairs the outfit with her black Doc Martens, keeping it casual enough for her Thorns jersey later. She takes her Thorns hat as well to complete her outfit.

A quick curling iron session, some light makeup and she’s ready for her day. As she drives to work, she prepares herself mentally for her coworkers’ comments about her appearance. They usually barrage her with a mix of compliments and teasing when she comes to work wearing something other than jeans. After suffering through forty minutes of comments, jokes and pleading for her to model for them, Tobin’s friends settle down. The day is busy with the beginning of back to school approaching, so they’re all kept busy taking orders and answering customer questions on products. Tobin is hunkered down in her office, comparing the merits of Olympic weightlifting benches from a variety of companies.

“So, you’re meeting them to check out PERT?” Alex questions, arching an eyebrow at Tobin as they eat lunch in the upstairs cafeteria. Tobin nods as she chews her chicken, “Kelley said the new department head had heard of it and really wants them to check it out.”

“How come you haven’t met with Kelley’s team already?” Alex questions, tilting her head at her, “You know, right when we picked it up?”

“I did ask Kelley,” Tobin explains, “that was when the old head resigned and she said to wait until they got a new one,”

Alex nods in understanding, “Figured it was something like that,” she says, “you usually see her to check out all the new stuff,”

“I do,” Tobin acknowledges, “they’re a great group of teachers,”

“So, where are you watching the match tonight?” Alex changes the subject. She works in the accounting department. She’s the expert with numbers, something Tobin abhors. Tobin hates math and resents how much she has to use it daily. Alex, on the other hand, loves nothing more than having her books balance. She’s the one Tobin would turn in her business expense receipts and recap sheets to. Over the years, with careful nurturing and a lot of patience, Tobin was the prime example of having her shit together on business trips. Other employees would turn in incomplete reports with missing receipts and then face the wrath of Alex. Tobin, after experiencing that a few times, sat down with Alex and asked her to help her understand exactly what she needed and how would like to receive them. So, Tobin would make individual copies of each receipt and made sure her report was correct and balanced before handing it over to her. Through all of that, Alex has become one of her best friends as well.

“I’m not sure yet,” Tobin replies, balling up her napkin, “somewhere around the school, I would think,”

“Can I tell you I’m so excited for the craft project?” Alex grins at her, “Are you sure I can’t bring anything?”

Tobin thinks for a minute and then snaps her fingers, “Would you mind making your famous gauc? I have chips and salsa,”

“Sure, no problem,” Alex agrees happily.

Tobin stands up, moving to the sink to rinse out her Tupperware containing the remnants of her chicken dish. Alex packs her lunch bag up, standing to toss her napkins in the trash. She elbows Tobin, “Good luck,” she says, “not that you’ll need it,”

“Thanks,” Tobin grins at her, “it should be cool,”

“I’m just jealous that you get out of here early,” she complains with a frown.

“Well, it’s not like I’m not working,” Tobin points out.

“I know,” Alex sighs, “I need a vacation,”

“We’re doing the Seattle trip for the Thorns,” Tobin reminds her, “I booked the room already,”

Alex nods, “I know,” she says, “but I mean, like, a vacation,” she emphasizes the last word, “you know, toes in the sand,”

“Yeah,” Tobin says, “I can’t even think of that until after Thanksgiving after we go to print,” she scrunches up her face.

“Where are you going in December?” Alex asks as they exit the cafeteria, walking down the stairs.

“I have that Texas show the week after Thanksgiving,” Tobin states, “then I’m here for a couple of days and then ten days in Hawaii,” she smiles, looking forward to her time to relax and unwind.

“Nice,” Alex nods, “your family is coming here for Christmas, right?”

“Yep,” Tobin continues to smile, “it’s my first year of hosting,”

“You’ll do great,” Alex chuckles, “you have the host mentality,”

Tobin shrugs her shoulders, “What are you doing in December?”

“Not going to Hawaii,” she replies flatly, rolling her eyes, then shrugs, “I am going to California for a week with Servando,” she tries to say it casually, but Tobin can hear the excitement in her voice.

“That’s great!” Tobin encourages “So, you guys are really a thing now?” She knows they were seeing each other on and off but hadn’t really committed to being an actual couple.

Alex gives her a dazzling smile, “We are,” she says, “he’s going to meet my parents and I’m going to meet his when we’re in Cali,”

Tobin gives her a side hug before they enter the office, “I’m happy for ya, Al,” she says genuinely, she knows Alex really likes Servando. She’s met him a few times and thinks he’s perfect for her. “He’s a really good dude,”

“Thanks,” she replies, still smiling, her hand on the doorknob to the inner office hallway, “What about you? Anyone on your radar?”

Tobin shrugs, “Honestly, no,” she says, “I’ve been so busy, I just don’t think of it,” she replies truthfully. And she doesn’t for the most part, although there are nights when she’s lying in her bed, alone with her thoughts, she wonders. She wonders if she’ll ever meet someone and fall in love. Some nights, she aches for the closeness, for just someone to just fucking hug her, for that comfort and reassurance that she isn’t going to go through life all on her own.

“Huh,” is all Alex says and Tobin can see the gears turning in her mind, going through her mental Rolodex of names, trying to figure out a girl she knows that Tobin might like.
They part ways in the office, both returning to their desks. Tobin sits for a moment, thinking of their exchange. She does feel lonely sometimes. She keeps herself busy and most of the time that does the trick, surrounding herself with her friends or going off on her own and exploring new places she doesn’t think they’d be into. But sometimes, usually in the evenings, when she’s sitting on her couch watching TV, she thinks about how nice it would be to have someone there with her. Maybe they’d sit close to each other, their arms and legs touching, sharing a bowl of popcorn. Maybe they’d lose interest in whatever program is on and start kissing.

Tobin shakes her head, ridding herself of those thoughts, refocusing because she has a half an hour before she should leave to make it on time to her appointment. She shouldn’t be sitting at her desk feeling sorry for herself because she’s single.

 

 

“Yo, man, what’s up?” Kelley greets, gripping Tobin’s hand and pulling her for a bro hug, “You’re looking sharp,” she states when they separate, looking her up and down.

“Hey, Kel,” Tobin smiles, giving her a little shrug, “how’s it going?”

“Ah, back to school is always a drag,” Kelley says, wrinkling her nose and walking next to her as they head down the hallway to a conference room, “meetings after meetings after meetings,”

“Ick,” Tobin comments, then takes a deep breath, “well, I hope this one doesn’t put you to sleep,”

Kelley opens a door, “You? Never,” she grins, “if whatever you’re saying is boring, I just get distracted by how hot you are,” she chuckles, gesturing for Tobin to enter the room.
Kelley is one of the most outgoing people Tobin has ever met and she’s always been the type to flirt and make comments, it’s just her nature. Always quick with a joke or a smile, super friendly, hilariously funny and very kind. They get along well, having similar interests, playing pickup soccer and hanging out. Since she met her a few years, Tobin has been going out with Kelley and her friends or having Kelley meet up her and her friends more often. It’s a good mix.

She’s greeted by a chorus of her name being called from the those in the room. Tobin works her way around the room, saying hi to Julie Ertz, an athletic blond with a charming smile and kind eyes, Ashlyn Harris, a tattooed woman with a quick wit and deep thoughts and A.D. Franch, an even tempered woman with a gentle soul, except when she’s at a Thorns match, then all bets are off. On the opposite side of the table she greets second year teacher Rose Lavelle, a wisp of a woman who is quiet at first and then her wit comes out, Amy Rodriguez, who’s one of the nicest people Tobin’s ever met and who she sees at church on most Sundays, Heather O’Reilly, who’s just as into soccer as Tobin is and she sees at her weekly pick up games and Kyle Krieger, an outgoing, fun loving man who exudes kindness, the brother of her friend Ali who she works with at Portland P.E..
This group represents the seven schools in the district ranging from K-5th grade, middle school, junior high and the highs school. These are the teachers that Tobin generally sees at the regional and state conferences, presenting innovative activities to their peers. Many of them have received accolades such as Teacher of the Year on a state level.

Tobin sets her bag on the chair near the AV cart and notices a woman in the room approaching. She has her dark hair pulled up in a bun, she’s wearing a sharp suit with a skirt and her green eyes makes Tobin’s stomach flutter. She’s stunningly beautiful with a carmel skin tone and an alluring aura about her.

“Hi, I’m Christen Press,” she greets, her tone cheerful to match her smile, “I’m the new P.E. Department Head.” She extends her hand out to Tobin, who reaches for it to shake.

“Tobin Heath,” She greets, smiling at her, gazing into Christen's greenish eyes, “from Portland PE,” feeling a rush from her touch, her stomach doing a flip flop. This woman is absolutely gorgeous, she thinks.

“Thank you so much for coming out,” Christen says, realizing they’re still shaking hands and they release at the same time, a little embarrassed.

“You’re very welcome, I’m glad Kelley called me,” she replies, trying to keep her cool, “small world that you ran into Jesse and heard all about PERT,”

Christen nods as she beams at beams at her, “Yes, I met her at this tiny one-day conference,” she explains excitedly, “and I really think it’s a great curriculum!”

“I do too,” Tobin agrees, feeling her enthusiasm as she pulls out her projector and laptop, “give me a couple of minutes and I’ll set up and see if we can convince these guys as well,” she grins at her. Christen grins back, liking Tobin’s laid back style already. She can just sense from watching how she interacts with her teachers how easy going she is. She’s interested to learn how she seems to know them so well, it’s more like they’re friends than she’s just a salesperson they buy equipment from.

Christen sets her bag down on the floor and her briefcase on the table and pulls out her notebook. Her pen skitters off the table and as she bends to retrieve it, she hears Tobin say something. Next, she feels is her head colliding with something hard and she takes a step back, her hand gripping the table to keep her upright. “Ow!” she squeaks out.

“Urg!” she hears, looking up to see Tobin grimacing slightly as she hands her the pen.

The two make eye contact, both looking horrified. “I’m so sorry!” they exclaim in unison, both feeling the hot blush blooming on their faces. Their eyes lock on one another, each trying to read the other’s expression.

“Are you okay?” Kelley loudly asks, pulling them both from their little bubble. A quick look from them reveals the others are all staring at them with a mix of concern and amusement.

“Yes,” Christen answers quickly, sitting down in her seat and busying herself with opening her notebook.

“Yeah,” Tobin answers, “just hit my head, so you know it’s not serious,” she says in such a disarming and humorous way, Christen looks up and see the smile she’s giving her. She gives her a quick grin back, feeling embarrassed.

“Just give me a minute to make the room stop spinning and I’ll start,” Tobin chuckles, making everyone but Christen grin. She looks at her with new concern.

“Are you okay?” she whispers, her eyes large and full of concern.

“Yeah,” Tobin smiles whisper back with a smile, “I was joking, you alright?”

Christen nods, feeling relief. It’s on the tip of her tongue to ask Tobin how long she’s worked for Portland PE when Tobin turns to her and give her a grin.

“Ready?” she asks, raising her eyebrows expectantly.

“Sure,” Christen smiles, interested to hear what she has to say. Christen has done her research on this curriculum and she really thinks it would benefit the teachers and students in the P.E. classes. She wonders if Tobin is going to explain it well or just schmooze her way through it like a salesperson knowing she already has the sale. She had spent many hours going through the features of the software and details of how the curriculum offers so many opportunities for cross curricular activities.

“Okay, guys,” Tobin speaks, standing up and making her way to the front near the screen. She shuts off half the lights so the room is not completely dark, “if we can start, I’ll give you a little history of the creator of this curriculum.”

Tobin goes on to speak of the elementary teacher Jesse Widmark and how she developed the curriculum to fight against P.E. being subjectively graded rather than objectively. As she speaks, Christen glances around and sees that Tobin has everyone’s complete attention. As she talks about how the lessons are ones that they may already be familiar with, Christen clearly senses Tobin’s excitement as she explains how Jesse added an educational twist to each activity.

She clicks her remote and the screen shows a diagram of an activity and she ask if it looks familiar. Julie replies that she knows this game. Tobin’s smile grows wider as she switches the slide and explains the educational twist and Julie exclaims how awesome it is. Christen soon realizes that Tobin shows an activity for each grade level they teach and soon all of the teachers are leaning forward as she speaks.

Tobin goes through the assessment portion that features quizzes the students will do as they cool down and how the teachers will have a portion of objective grading to collect. Then she shows the self-grading sheets the students complete themselves to set their own goals and take ownership of learning the skills.

Christen is surprised to hear that now the curriculum has added a health section and how the software has been enhanced making it easier to use from an iPad. Tobin clearly knows more about this curriculum and how to navigate it than she does. It’s impressive and a little surprising. When Tobin completes her thorough presentation and asks them if they have questions, all eight teachers raise their hands and Tobin strides back near Christen to take her seat as she answers them one by one. She uses her laptop to show them how the operating system works with a group of imaginary students as she answers their questions, running through taking attendance, entering grades, scans of self-reflection and goal setting sheets and checklists for mastering levels of specific locomotor skills in each section.

When Ashlyn asks Tobin a question, Christen likes how Tobin listens and clarifies it so she understands what Ashlyn is asking her. She likes how she listens and addresses each question, answering them with complete confidence and sincerity. She’s unlike any salesperson Christen has ever met before. There’s no agenda, no hard sell, she’s just truly explaining what the material is and how it works.

“So, after you enter the grades in,” Tobin is saying, “the software creates the email and this bottom box is where you can add a personal note.” She circles the area on the screen with her cursor.

“That’s really cool,” Julie states, “do you how much time this saves us?”

Tobin smiles, “It’s a pretty cool feature,” she says, “I would think that having all of these quizzes and self-reflections would be an ideal tool for when you guys have parent teacher conferences too,”

“Oh, absolutely!” Heather exclaims, “Especially when the parents question their child’s grade! Just pull up their stuff and ask them what grade they should have earned!”

Tobin makes eye contact with everyone in the room before asking if there’s any more questions. They all shake their heads no. “Okay,” she says, leaning over to pull out a file folder. She opens it up and hands the first paper clipped stack to Christen, “If you wouldn’t mind taking one and passing it around,” she smiles at her, “This is an inventory list of the equipment needed,” she states, “what’s cool is that it’s almost everything I’d imagine you have already,” She hands out a few more, including a packet of sample activities for them to check out. “You might only need a few additional items, like extra scooters or more foam balls, but not too much more than that. I know the company I work for sells equipment,” she says, “but I like that with how restrictive budgets are, this one has pretty much all of the stuff you normally are using. There’s no proprietary components except
the actual curriculum,” she grins at them, “Don’t tell my boss I said that though,” she chuckles as they snicker.

Kelley stand up and clicks on the lights, “Thanks again for coming out Tobin,” she says, “this is super cool,”

The other echo her sentiment as they gather their belongings. “What do you say we meet back here in ten and then we’ll head out?” Kelley suggests.

Christen is placing her notebook in her bag when Tobin clears her throat. “Uh, Christen?” She looks up, “Yes?”

“I put this together for you,” Tobin hands her over a file, “there’s a CD-ROM in here with a statement of how this curriculum meets state standards, there’s another one showing what the expenditure unit is per student for this curriculum and some other stuff showing the merits of it and some studies showing the advantages of intentional learning and cross-curricular activities.”

“Oh, thank you,” Christen says gratefully, “this is wonderful,” she says as she takes the file, “I’m not sure I’ll need everything,” she smiles and leans in towards her, “my superintendent is a former P.E. teacher so I think we’ll be in good shape,”

“Great,” Tobin smiles, “included in the purchase price is a two-day training,” she informs her, “all of that info is in there as well,”

Christen sticks her hand out, “It was very nice meeting you and I think your presentation was wonderful,” she says sincerely, “Jesse would be proud of how well you speak of her product.”

Tobin grins shyly, “Aw, thanks,” she says, shrugging a little, “it’s easy when you believe in something and just feel it’s going to make a positive impact with the kids,” she says honestly.

Christen beams at her, “It shows,” she says, “I’m sure I’ll see you later,”

“Bye,” Tobin says, unsure if she means tonight or some other time, “it was very nice meeting you and thank you for your time.”

She watches as Christen exits the room, then follows her path and shuts the door, figuring she would just change her shirt in here before the others return. She feels her head for the first time, grateful there’s no bump and unbuttons her shirt as she walks back to her bag, slipping the shirt off and folding it gently. She’s just pulling her jersey out when the door bursts open. She pops up to see to Christen looking at her with wide eyes.

“Sorry!”

“My bad!”

They are both blushing wildly as Tobin is completely flustered and feeling grateful she wore a decent bra and then she suddenly forgets how to put on a shirt, getting her head stuck in an armhole before she gets it on.

“Um,” Christen bites her lower lip, unable to stop looking at Tobin, “I left my other briefcase in here,”

“Oh,” Tobin breathes, “sorry,” she says, “I was just changing, I’m going with Kelley to eat and then watch the Thorns, hence the jersey and I thought I’d change in here real quick,” she’s speaking way too fast, embarrassed she’s been caught. It’s so unprofessional.

“Oh, I am too,” Christen says, her cheeks are pink and Tobin is positive hers are as well. “I’m sorry,” Christen apologizes, “I should have knocked since the door was closed,” she says.

“Yo, Tobes, you ready?” Kelley’s voice trails off as she sees the weird looks the two women have on their faces. She has her hands on the door frame, leaning in and watching them suspiciously.

Christen pivots towards her quickly, “Five minutes,” she says hurriedly, “I forgot my bag in here,” she rushes towards Tobin to retrieve it. “Have to change! Be right back!”

Kelley enters the room and watches curiously as Christen swiftly exits the room, her heels clicking loudly down the hall. She turns and arches an eyebrow at Tobin, looking her up and down, “Putting the moves on my boss, are we?”

Tobin raises her hands, shaking her head, “No way, man,” she says as Kelley laughs. She tilts her head at her.

“Dude, your jersey is on backwards,” Kelley cackles.

“Fuck!” Tobin mutters, pulling at her jersey as Kelley giggles.

 

 

Tobin and Christen offer to drive to the bar, Tobin because she would probably leave right after the match. Christen states she’ll need to leave to let out her dogs. The group splits off to follow them to their vehicles with Kelley calling shotgun as she skips along. Tobin finds herself at the opposite end of the table as Christen while they eat. She’s relieved because she’s still feeling embarrassed for getting caught changing in the conference room. The table is getting a little rowdy in the bar, Tobin chuckling as the teachers are making wild bets on the upcoming match. Her and Christen make eye contact a few times from their seats across the table, both smiling shyly.

The bar fills up as the after work and match crowd enters, making talking a chore to shout above the rising voices. Fortunately, the match starts and the first half diverts their attention for the next forty-five minutes, only turning to each other to cheer and slap hands when the Thorns score. After using the restroom during halftime, Tobin returns to the table and sees her seat is taken by Julie, who is talking to Kelley, so she heads towards the other side to chat with Heather. Christen is next to Heather with Kyle across from them, smiling at her as she approaches.

“What do you think of the match?” Tobin directs her question to Christen.

“It’s really good, the Thorns have a great defense and Sinclair is so on fire right now,” she replies. She notices how Tobin looks at her while she's speaking and then see her eyes glancing at her outfit. She changed into jeans and Thorns t-shirt, feeling it was casual and comfortable after being in heels and skirt all day. She left her hair in the bun, ruhing to change after stumbling in on Tobin changing her clothes.

“You follow soccer?” Tobin questions.

“Oh yeah,” Christen replies, nodding her head.

“She played for Stanford,” Heather informs her, “with Kelley,”

“Oh,” Tobin nods, “that’s cool,” smiles at her.

“Yeah,” Christen shrugs, “it’s nice to remember the good stuff now,” she says, “but it was super stressful back then,” she looks at Tobin, “Did you play?”

“Just high school,” Tobin replies, “I play pick up once a week,” she says, “if you ever want to kick it around, hit Kelley up, we meet up most Sundays,”

“Huh,” Christen nods, scrunching her face up adorably, “I’ll think about it,” she says, “I haven’t played for years,”

“Oh, there’s a ton of people who only play once in a while,” Heather informs, “and we play twenty minute shifts, so if your worried about running, it’s not a big deal,”

“Hey, Tobin, you want another beer?” Julie calls, holding up her empty bottle.

“Nah,” Tobin replies, “I’m gonna get a water, thanks,” she replies, looking over at Christen’s empty bottle, “would you like something?”

“I’ll take a water, please,” Christen replies, seeming to be slightly relieved that Tobin phrased her question that way. She didn’t want to turn down drinks, but she’s not a big drinker.

Tobin looks at Heather, but Heather lifts her full beer. “Kyle, you want a water?” she asks, knowing he doesn’t drink, giving him a head nod when he nods his head, “I’ll be right back,” Tobin says, taking a step and then putting her hand on Christen’s shoulder, “did you want a lemon or lime or anything in it?”

Christen’s face brightens, “A lemon would be great, thanks,” She feels her shoulder heat up from her touch. She thinks Tobin looks so casually cool in her jersey and the snapback backwards on her head. There’s just something about her.

“No problem,” Tobin smiles and walks to the bar. She returns a couple of minutes later, Christen eying how Tobin is carrying three glasses with her long fingers, setting the drinks down on the table in front of her.

“Thank you so much,” Christen says gratefully, stirring the lemon in her water before taking a sip.

Tobin passes Kyle his water and sits in Julie’s seat next to Christen when the second half begins. The whole group is out of their seats multiple times as the Thorns let loose with four unanswered goals and a complete domination of North Carolina Courage. Talk is limited to the game as they watch and they all let out cheers when the final whistle is blown.

“Victory shots!” Kelley yells, “Who’s in?” she looks around the table.

Most of the group nods but Tobin shakes her head, “I gotta pass,” she says, “I got that thing tomorrow,” she explains.

“Oh, yeah, your art thing,” Kelley nods knowingly.

“I’ve got to go and let out the dogs,” Christen quickly adds, taking advantage of the moment of silence.

“Wait, what art thing?” Ashlyn questions, looking at Tobin.

“Oh,” she replies, her hand going up to scratch at the back of her neck, “I do this craft lesson thing and my coworkers are coming over tomorrow,”

“You like, make shit?” Heather grins, looking at her expectantly.

“Yeah,” Tobin shrugs, “I’m teaching them how to do a fall painting tomorrow,”

“That’s cool,” Amy smiles, “do you do it a lot?”

Tobin shrugs again, “It’s like, seasonal,” she replies, “I’m doing another on the first Saturday in October, it’s a Halloween thing,” She sees how all the women at the table lean in as she speaks. “Uh, I can text Kelley if you guys want to come,” she says, “we usually do the craft, have drinks and then eat later,” she shrugs, “we just hang out and chill.”

“That would be so much fun Tobin,” Kyle exclaims, “can I come, please?”

Tobin smiles, “Sure,” she says, glancing at the table before settling her eyes on Christen, “any of you can,”

“That sounds great,” Kelley grins, looking at the table, “I’ll let you know who’s in,” she answers for the table.

“Okay,” Christen stands up and grabs her purse, “I’ve got to go,” she says, “this was so much fun,” she smiles at the table, “thank you so much for inviting me,”

Tobin and Christen both give their farewells and head out of the bar together. Once outside in the hot August air, Tobin bites her lower lip before speaking.

“It was nice to meet you, Christen,” she says, praying internally that she doesn’t bring up the shirt thing.

“Nice to meet you as well,” Christen smiles, “I’m sure I’ll be calling you soon,” she says, suddenly thinking that sounded like a pickup line, “for the curriculum,” she adds hastily, wanting to be clear. She has no clue if Tobin is gay and doesn’t want to seem like she’s hitting on her.

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, “that sounds cool,” she says, “I’m over there,” she lifts her arm to point across the lot.

“I’m this way,” Christen jerks her thumb over her shoulder.

“See ya,” Tobin says, giving her grin, “get home safe,”

“You too,” Christen smiles back, slowly turn to walk to her car. She walks, unlocking it as she approaches, thinking of how nice Tobin is. She can feel her face begin to flush as she thinks of walking in on Tobin with her shirt off. She was taken aback at how toned Tobin is, feeling completely flustered at how attractive she found her. She starts her car, looking over her shoulder and seeing a vehicle slowly pass before she backs out.

Tobin is whistling as she starts her car, eying her mirror as another vehicle passes her before pulling out to exit the lot. She follows the car in front of her, stopping when it stops to let someone out in the next aisle over. She watches as the car begins to move and lightly steps on the accelerator. She maybe moves a foot when she hears a loud crunch and her car rocks, jerking her in the driver’s seat. She looks in her side mirror and sees another car has backed into her. She lets out a huff of frustration and sees the car move back into the spot, so she edges her car over a little and stops it, turning the ignition off and getting out.

Tobin uses the flashlight on her phone to illuminate the back side of her car, wincing as she sees a dent just behind the back wheel well and a scrape of light paint. She sighs and instantly realizes it doesn’t look that bad. Her truck is old, but she loves it and she thinks she could pop it out and the paint would probably rub off.

“I’m so sorry!” A panicked voice says loudly, “I though you had passed already!”

Tobin looks up, her mouth dropping open to see it’s Christen.

Christen realizes it’s Tobin and her mouth opens as well, a horrified look on her face.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

“Oh my God!” Christen exclaims, her hands covering her face, “I’m so sorry!” she says, “I thought you passed!” she repeats. She drops her hands and Tobin can see the tears running down her face.

“Hey,” she says softly, “it’s okay,” she says, “no worries, it happens.”

“But I dented your car,” Christen cries.

Tobin scrunches her mouth up, hating to see her so upset. She looks at her truck and realizes, in the bigger picture of life, this is not a big deal.

“Hey, Chris,” she says quietly, calmly, unintentionally calling her that, “it’s okay, really,” she says, stepping closer to her. “Here,” she holds out her phone, “would you shine it on the spot?”

Wordlessly, Christen takes the phone and shines it on the dent with a slightly shaky hand. It’s just behind the wheel well, so Tobin places her hand up there, giving it a series of hits with her fist. The dent pops out. “See?” she turns and smiles at her, “No big deal,” she says quietly, “I bet this paint is gonna rub right off,” she says confidently, licking two fingers and pressing them together to rub at the paint. It comes off.

“See? It’s fine,” Tobin declares, “good as new,” she smiles at her. Christen looks miserable, her mascara running a little bit and she sniffles as she nods at her.
Tobin holds her hand as she takes her phone back from her slightly shaking one, “Let’s take a look at your car, huh?” she suggests gently, guiding her over to her car. She shines the light around on the back bumper and sees the paint smear of her truck. She rubs at it and it lifts off as well.

“No harm, no foul,” she says quietly, “it was an accident,”

Christen sniffs again and wipes at her eyes, “You must think I’m such an idiot,” she says wryly, “I can’t even pull out of a parking spot.”

“I don’t think that at all,” Tobin insists, “I think it was an accident and accidents happen and this one isn’t bad at all,”

Christen looks at her with large eyes, thinking Tobin is just being this nice because she wants to sell her the curriculum and actually thinks she’s a complete idiot. She straightens herself up and distracts herself for a moment by smoothing her shirt. She clears her throat, regaining her control over her emotions.

“Thank you for being so understanding, Tobin,” she says, almost professionally, “I appreciate it,”

Tobin smiles easily, “Chris, it’s really okay,” she says sincerely, “I’m glad it happened to me and not some stranger who might have hassled you,”

How could this women be kinder, Christen thinks, smiling back at her. “Thank you,” she says quietly.

“You okay to drive home?” Tobin asks, looking at her closely.

Christen nods, “Yeah, I’m okay,” she says. “Have fun doing your art thing tomorrow,” she says, “it sounds like fun.”

“You should come to the one in October,” Tobin invites her again, feeling a flutter in her stomach as she tries to sound casual, “with Kelley and the gals,” she adds, thinking it may persuade her.

“I think I might,” Christen grins at her.

“Okay, now you should go,” Tobin grins at her, “your dogs probably have their legs crossed,”

Christen slaps her forehead, “You’re right!” She exclaims, “I’ve got to get going,”

“Talk to you soon,” Tobin says, giving her wave.

“Good night, Tobin,” Christen says, stepping towards her car.

“’Night, Chris, ” Tobin says, giving her a head nod. She turns and enters her car.

As soon as Christen settles in her seat, she rests her head on the steering wheel, “You are such an idiot,” she mutters. She takes a deep breath and then sits up and starts her car, warily looking both directions as she pulls out. As she drives back to her apartment, she can’t stop thinking about how kind Tobin was to her. And how attractive she is. And how she really likes when she calls her Chris.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Soooo,” Allie drapes her arm around Tobin’s waist, leaning into her, a little tipsy from the sangria she’s been drinking all afternoon, “how was last night?”

Tobin shrugs “It was fine,” she says, looking at her a little confused, “the match was great, the Thorns crushed NC.”

Allie sighs heavily, shaking her head, “Tobin, Tobin, Tobin,” she says dramatically, “what are we going to do with you?”

“What do you mean?” Tobin asks, now tilting her head at her.

“Did you meet a nice lady?” Allie asks, looking hopeful.

Christen’s smile flashes in Tobin’s mind, yet she just shrugs, “Not really,” she says, “I was just hanging out and watching the game,” She’s not sure something would happen between her and Christen, although she really wants to get to know her.

Allie frowns and sighs heavily again, “You need to work on your game, Harry,” she says, calling her by her nickname.

“I think I need game first,” Tobin chuckles.

“Truth,” Allie says, then she straightens up and glances at the ceiling, “You should really consider selling your art,” she states.

Tobin smiles and shakes her head, “Ah, it’s just a hobby,” she demures.

“No, you should,” Alex states from behind them, her voice sincere.

Allie and Tobin turn their heads to look at her. “Al, you know it’s just something I like to do in my spare time,” Tobin says, “and do stuff like this with you guys,” she nods in the direction of the long table set up with paints and mini easels.

Lindsey is at the table with Servando and Bati putting the finishing touching on their canvasses. Abby is standing near the table with Shannon and Christie looking over what everyone painted. The four women work in the office, Lindsey and Shannon in Customer Service, Abby is the office manager and Christie works in Accounts Receivable and overlaps with Alex in Accounts Payable.

Tobin smiles as she looks, loving how everyone gathered enjoys each other’s company. Sure, there are differences at work, but they’ve all made solid friendships and that helps immensely during the crazy times at work. They can laugh and joke to relieve the stress. She checks her watch, nodding as she sees it’s time to get the food out for an early dinner.
She glances at her watch, “I’m gonna go in and get the food ready,” she says, glad to get out the conversation. Her friends mean well, but Tobin isn’t exactly interested in selling her art. It’s too personal to her, what she makes, she paints because she enjoys it and likes to look at it. She doesn’t know how she’d feel about selling her pieces and listening to strangers talk about if they like them or not.

“I’ll help,” Alex offers, turning to Allie, “why don’t you hang here,” she suggests to Allie.

“Yeah,” Allie giggles, “I’ll probably break something in the house right now,” she gives them a drunken cheesy smile.

“Sounds good,” Tobin grins at her, “maybe you can move some of the chairs so we can eat out here,” she suggests.

Tobin has a large out building on her property. She uses it as her studio as well as holding all of her normal garage type items. She owns an old two bedroom home on a decent sized lot and this building instead of a garage. Her yard holds colorful pots bursting with flowers and some scattered lawn furniture around a fire pit she built.

She never thought she’d like owning a home as much as she does. She enjoys cutting her grass and cleaning out leaves from her gutters and shoveling snow. She doesn’t enjoy when the air conditioner broke or when a power surge took out three of the sockets in her kitchen, but she knows it’s part of the deal.

Morgan Brian is in the kitchen pulling out a large tray of lasagna from the oven.

“Hey, thanks, Morgan,” Tobin says as her and Alex enter the kitchen.

“I have the garlic bread ready to go,” she replies, nodding to a tray on the counter.

“I got it,” Alex states, walking over and grabbing it and sliding the tray in the still hot oven. She sets the timer for fifteen minutes.

Tobin squats down and opens a cabinet to take the foil from it, standing it up and setting it in Morgan’s outstretched hand. Tobin then moves to the fridge to remove the large salad bowl, setting it on the counter and then retrieves an assortment of salad dressing bottles. She walks over a few steps to her pantry and looks around for a moment until she spies the large metal tray.

Alex takes it and sets it on the counter, placing the salad bowl and bottles on it.

Tobin grabs a handful of forks and holds her arm out for Alex to take them.

“Ooh, being fancy tonight,” Morgan teases, “using the real stuff,”

Tobin grins at her, “Nothing but the best for you guys,”

“What’s for dessert?” Alex questions as she leans against the counter, her arms crossed.

“Uh,” Tobin thinks for a minute, “Kriegs brought that ice cream cake thing she makes,”

“Yes!” Alex does a fist pump, “I’m only having one piece of lasagna then,”

“Me too,” Tobin nods, “that is so good,”

“Aw, you guys are too sweet,” Ali smiles as she enters the kitchen, “can I help with anything?”

“Are we using real plates and napkins too or just digging in with the forks?” Morgan chuckles.

“Oh, yeah,” Tobin spins and opens the cabinet behind her, handing plates to Ali who hands them to Morgan to stack on the tray. She hands a double handful of napkins at her as well.

“We still on for tomorrow?” Alex asks Tobin after Morgan takes the tray and her and Ali leave.

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, “what time should I be ready?”

“How about ten?” Alex shrugs, “We could eat lunch at one of the farms,”

“That sounds cool,” Tobin nods, “I’ll look it up tonight and see which one might have the most variety of food,”

“I definitely am buying a peach pie,” Alex states, “but you’ll have to split it with me or else I’ll eat the whole thing,”

“Let’s make a deal,” Tobin proposes, “we’ll split whatever we buy unless you think Servando will want to pig out on something,”

“What am I pigging out on?” Servando asks, an easy grin on his face as he enters the kitchen.

“Whatever Tobin and I buy from the farms we go to tomorrow,” Alex informs him, wiggling her eyebrows at him.

He frowns, “I hate that I’m on shift tomorrow,” he sighs, then gives Alex a puppy dog look, “will you bring me something at the firehouse?”

“Of course,” Alex smiles and gives him a peck of a kiss on his lips.

“Thank you!” He smiles, “I’ll be right back,” he looks at Tobin and points down the hall, “Bathroom?”

“Yeah, on the left,” Tobin nods. She looks at Alex, “He’s a super cool guy,”

She watches as a soft flush warms Alex’s face, her growing uncharacteristically shy, “Yeah, he is,”

Tobin extends her hand out and squeezes Alex’s shoulder, “I’m really happy for you,”

The timer dings and Tobin turns to find an oven mitt and pulls the garlic bread from the oven, setting it on top of the tray of the stove. “I have that wicker basket over there,” she nods to the corner of the counter, “if you wouldn’t mind putting a dish towel in it, that would be great.”

As Alex and Tobin are filling the basket with pieces of garlic bread, Servando enters the kitchen again, clapping his hands. “What can I do?” he asks.

“Would you take the lasagna out?” Tobin asks, handing him the oven mitts.

“Don’t forget a spatula,” he comments, lifting the pan and bringing it up to his face and taking a deep inhale, “This smells so good,” he smiles at them and then turns to leave the kitchen. Alex quickly opens the silverware drawer, grabbing a knife and pulling a spatula from the second drawer.

“Hang on, Serva,” she calls, “I’ll get the door,” she trots out of the kitchen.

Tobin smiles to herself, looking around, mentally reviewing if she forgot anything and then follows her.

 

XXXX

 

 

 

Tobin awakes to the sound of her alarm, making her groan as she rolls over. Without opening her eyes, she reaches out for her phone, pawing around on the nightstand, knocking her glasses from it before she feels it. She squints as she shuts it off, sighing as she lies there. She sets her phone on her chest and stretches her arms and legs, arching her back and letting out a loud yawn.

She thinks about yesterday. She smiles at how much fun they had. Showing her coworkers how to paint a fall scene was really cool. Everyone had a different idea of what they wanted to paint and it challenged Tobin to figure out quickly how to set them up for success. She smiles thinking of Allie’s lack of artistic talent, how Alex wanted her painting to be perfect, how Servando kept quietly encouraging Alex and keeping her from getting frustrated. Bati and his playful teasing of Allie. Morgan’s lack of ideas of what to paint. Ali Krieger from the graphics department and her amazing scarecrow. Crystal Dunn from purchasing and her beautiful tree. Boxy and Abby announcing they were here to just hang out and drink.

She was so pleased they loved the paintings they went home with last night. After their dinner, they hung out and had dessert, the group insisting on helping Tobin clean up the paint mess, putting the small tabletop easels in the locker against the wall, returning the paints to Rubbermaid bin she keeps them. Making sure the brushes were cleaned and then tossing the plastic tablecloth used to cover the work table.

Everyone was gone by seven, leaving Tobin feeling tired from being so focused while they painted. She started some laundry, playing some music and scanning the channels, looking for something to watch. Nothing was on, so she shut off the TV and decided to call her Mom and see what she was doing. They chatted as Tobin completed a couple of loads of clothes, talking about the upcoming holidays. Tobin wasn’t going home to be with the family for Thanksgiving.

Tobin always finds it interesting to talk to her Mom. They are close and her Mom is always sensible and down to earth, but since the whole family came into money, things had changed in her parents’ lives. Now they took more vacations, they went to a country club yet still attended pot luck dinners with their friends from church. They balanced wealth with a gratefulness and sensible way that Tobin hoped she was doing that half as well as they were.

She was coming into her busiest season at work, splitting her time editing the catalog of over five thousand products and leaving to work tradeshows starting in October. Sometimes she’d stay late or bring work home to be done, preferring to have her responsibilities completed before schedule so if anything came up, she would easily be able to handle it. When the final catalog was sent to over to Ali and her team in the third week of November, Tobin was mentally exhausted. The pressure was off, she’d handle the small crisis of products being discontinued at the last minute or being asked her opinion of the layout from Ali, but her focus would shift to the last few tradeshows in November and the beginning of December.

Her Thanksgiving was usually spent at one of her friends’ houses, a group of people who weren’t with family would get together. Sometimes she hung out with some friends from the Riveters, other times it was friends from work. Sometimes, she stayed home, made a nice meal for herself and vegged out eating and watching movies. Sometimes she went home, although most of her family took that time to vacation. It occurred to Tobin that she should suggest they all vacation together next year and see what her siblings and parents say. It could be really cool, she smiles to herself.

She was thinking maybe this year she’d stay home and begin decorating her house for Christmas, since her family was coming for the holiday. She wasn’t sure yet. She’d see how she felt. Sometimes, Tobin gets overwhelmed when she’s tired, or in loud spaces, or with too many people, it puts her on edge when she wasn’t feeling that great.

But today, today she’s looking forward to spending the day with Alex and checking out some farms and eating some good food at their harvest festivals. She flips her covers off, turning on her side and reaching down to gingerly search her floor for her glasses.

Her plan is to eat a light breakfast, go for a run, shower and get ready for her day.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen spent her Saturday trying to shake off her embarrassment in ramming Tobin Heath’s truck and finish unpacking her apartment. She had moved to Portland in the beginning of August after she had accepted the position, her boxes mostly packed in anticipation of relocating somewhere on the west coast. She wasn’t pleased with the state of California’s school system, as a department head of P.E. of the Manhattan Beach schools, she felt her hands were tied. There was no funding, budgets were being cut or frozen, grants weren’t being awarded and the last subject any administrator would give money to for a decent budget was physical education. It left her frustrated and disappointed, feeling like a failure to her staff of teachers being unable to champion the importance of treating P.E. like the rest of the school subjects. After three years of fighting the system, she needed a change and it was very apparent.

She spoke with her parents and sisters about her decision and resigned from her position at her end of the school year, intent on finding a new place in a state that respected the seriousness of P.E. and how it helped the students. She researched the neighboring states, wanting to stay on the west coast, and was pleased to find that Oregon was financially stable in their schools and their cost spent per student for P.E. was higher than what California schools were spending on the math and science. This was a state using their influx of cash from legalizing marijuana wisely.

She focused her efforts on Oregon, intent on finding somewhere that would be easy to travel back home when she wanted to visit. Portland was where her search began and ended. She did a few video interviews with Beaverton and different Portland districts, receiving offers from three districts. She was in the driver’s seat as she met with the administrators and found the district she liked the best. She accepted her position with an impressive salary and began to plan her move. Finding her apartment was a little tricky because she wanted to bring her dogs, but she found one that was near a dog park and signed the lease.

Currently, it’s Sunday morning and Christen is having her second cup of coffee, smiling as she looks around her new home. It’s comfy and she likes it. The dogs have somewhat adjusted to apartment living. She wants to take this weekend and explore the city a little and looks at her phone to decide what she wants to do. She sees a park with walking trails not too far away and decides to take the dogs and a book and hang out for a couple of hours before lunch. She leaves her couch and prepares for her day.

 

XXXX

 

 

Tobin is in the groove as her feet move in rhythm to the music she’s hearing from her earbuds. She’s jamming out to some classic rock, the stuff she grew up hearing her parent’s play. Her playlist is currently rocking her out to some Queen right now. She’s doing her run on her usual path in the park close to her house. It’s only a block away, in fact and it was a selling point to her. Her area is deeply wooded and you can hardly hear the traffic from the nearby streets surrounding the park.

She likes to run, she likes the endorphin rush she gets and it keeps her energized for hours after. Tobin likes sports, she loves soccer and enjoys playing once or twice a week. She usually bikes to work in the summers. In the winter she hits up the indoor climbing facilities to keep herself fit and entertained. Being surrounded by such natural beauty, she likes to hike and go camping. She’s happy doing most of these things alone, appreciating her friends and their company and also being just as content to do them alone.

She likes this park because along the trail, there’s little alcoves with benches to sit. Sometimes, if she’s reading a good book, she’ll come over here for a little while and lose herself in the pages, enjoying the sounds of nature around her as she reads about another world created by the author.

She’s on her seventh mile, just approaching the curve to take her back towards the entrance allowing her to complete eight miles by the time she gets home. She’s sweaty, her shirt clinging to her body as she runs and spies the monument on her left that tells her she’s in her homestretch. That when she kicks it high gear, liking to nearly sprint her finish.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen had walked the dogs for nearly an hour before finding a secluded spot with a bench to rest. The dogs happily comply when she walks into the grass, Khaleesi and Morena both sniffing around as she nears the bench. She slips the small pack from her back, looping the leashes on her wrist as she pops open the portable dog bowls and fills them with water. Both dogs drink greedily, splashing water from their bowls on the grass. Christen settles herself on the bench, pulling her book from the bag and opening it to find where she left off. The dogs settle down, lying in the grass near her feet, their leashes slack with the handles around loose Christen’s wrist.

It doesn’t take long for her to lose herself in her book, finding the biography of Billie Jean King so interesting. She likes to watch tennis and enjoys playing when she gets a chance. She hasn’t played in a while, finding it hard to get a partner. Sometimes she goes to the courts and hits the ball up against the wall, getting in a good workout. She likes to run as well and does a couple of times a week. She does yoga every morning, finding it grounds her to start her day feeling level and balanced. When she’s stressed out, she meditates, she’s only just started six months ago, finding the release of stress from it. As she walked along the path, she looked on with approval at the smooth pavement, thinking this would be a good place to run. She’d have to look at the trails posted on the sign in parking lot to find one that would work for her. She sips her water from the aluminum bottle, glances at the dogs, both of whom are lying in the grass. Morena is passed out on her side while Khaleesi has her head up, looking around at the trees. Christen goes back to her book, it’s just getting to the Battle of the Sexes part.

A few minutes later, Christen raises her water bottle to her lips, the dogs’ leashes casually looped on her wrist and as she drinking, there’s a sudden a forceful jerk, causing her water to spill on her face and run down her shirt as it leaves her hand. She looks and sees Khaleesi streaking towards the path after a rabbit.

“Khaleesi!” she shouts as she drops her book and stands, now seeing a runner come streaking past at a fast clip. “Khaleesi, heel!” she commands, her horror mounting as she watches her dog run straight into the woman, human and canine legs tangling.

The woman lets out a surprised “Oooofff!” as she collides with the dog mid-stride. Christen can only watch open mouthed as the two trip themselves up, the woman in the air for a few feet, then going down hard, a hand breaking her fall, making a painful noise when she connects with the ground, then she rolls violently across the pavement. Khaleesi yelps in surprise or pain, getting lifted in the air, falling back on the woman, before rolling off and coming to stop a couple of feet away.

“Morena, stay,” Christen commands, but the dog just watches, surveying the scene. Quickly she strides over to the unmoving woman, fearful for her injuries.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

 

She’s flying through the forest, not having seen anyone on bikes or other walkers, figuring most everyone is celebrating the holiday. She feels like she’s got the whole place to herself. She knows there’s a park bench coming up on her right, half hidden by the thick brush. She’s napped on that bench before. She concentrates on her form, making sure to extend her stride, keeping her arms close and pumping in time with her movements. She’s just passed the little opening for the bench when a flash of color darts out in front of her and then whamo.

It happens in slow motion. One minute, she’s cranking through her run, jamming with the music and then next, she’s flying through the air, landing painfully with her wrist extended, banging her head on the ground, a weight hitting her again and tumbling off as she slides, practically feeling her skin on the side of her knee tearing away from her body and then rolling a few times and coming to a stop on her side.

She’s panting, her left arm across her face cradling her right temple, her right arm curled to her chest. Her right knee is on fire with what she’s figures is an impressive scrape and she’s aware of the pain in her right wrist and a headache is coming on from hitting the pavement. She realizes she can hear herself breathing hard, a voice calling out a name and her earbuds are no longer with her. Her phone is still strapped to her left arm.

“Oh my God, are you okay?” a female voice calls out to her, it sounds close.

“Just gimme a second,” Tobin pants back. As she gets her breath back, she tentatively rolls each of her ankles, they feel okay. She stretches her legs, aside from the scrape they seem alright too. She slides onto her back, still breathing hard, slightly in shock from what just happened. She opens her eyes and sees the beautiful canopy of trees, blinking rapidly as the sun filters into her eyes. My sunglasses are gone, she realizes.

“I’m so sorry,” the voice says and it seems familiar to Tobin but she can’t place it just yet. She drops her hand from her face and lifts her head to see who is speaking.

“You?” she questions with confusion.

“No!” the female whispers, a horrified look on her face.

“Oh my God, Tobin are you okay?” Christen asks, “My dog saw a bunny and she darted out and ripped the leash from my hand. Are you alright?”

Tobin would laugh at how ridiculous this is, Christen’s dog taking her out, especially after Friday with the hitting of heads, the shirtless incident and then hitting her car. But she sees the tears welling in Christen’s eyes and the concern and fear on her face.

“Yeah, I think I’m alright,” Tobin answers slowly, “Is your dog okay?” she asks, remembering the yelps she heard.

“I’m more concerned about you at the moment,” Christen states, kneeling down and looking her over with a frown on her face. “Can you sit up? Did you hit you hit your head hard?”

Tobin wordlessly extends her left hand and Christen helps pull her up into a sitting position. Tobin carefully places her right arm on her lap, trying to make look casual. She senses how upset Christen is and Tobin’s own pride doesn’t want to show weakness in front of her. She gets the feeling from Friday night that Christen is super sensitive and the expression on her face is bordering into full on sobbing.

“Maybe we could sit on the bench?” Tobin asks, drawing up her knees as Christen takes her hand again and pulls her up.

“Are you dizzy?” she questions with concern.

“No,” Tobin replies as they slowly walk over to the bench, “I think I just grazed the pavement,”

“Here,” Christen offers Tobin her water bottle, “have something to drink, I might have a towel in here,” she says as she digs through her small bag. She produces an old dish towel, handing it her.

“Thanks,” Tobin says gratefully, taking a drink and wiping her sweaty face with the towel. She looks across the path, “Uh, Chris, is your dog okay?”

Christen turns her head over her shoulder, seeing Khaleesi lying on the other side of the path.

“I’m okay,” Tobin insists, “I’m just gonna sit a bit,” she says softly, “go check,”

The other dog nuzzles her, tail wagging and Tobin pets it as she watches Christen attempting to coax the tan dog to its feet without success. She finally does get the dog up only to discover the dog is not putting any weight on one of its paws.

Christen now looks inconsolable, her chin quivering as she looks between a bloody Tobin and her dog.

“Do you live close by?” Tobin asks quietly, “I mean, did you drive here?”

“I did,” Christen replies, “I parked in the main lot.”

“What are your dogs names?” Tobin asks as she pets the smaller of the two. The larger one stands near Christen, unsure of her yet.

“That’s Morena,” Christen indicates to the one who’s fur Tobin is stroking, “and this is Khaleesi,”

“Well, hi,” Tobin says, looking down at Morena and then leaning forward and extending a hand, “Hey, Khaleesi, you sure know how to tackle, girl,” she says easily, grinning at her. “What were you chasing, huh?” she asks, her voice low and calm, soothing the animals and the woman standing before her. Khaleesi leans her head towards Tobin’s hand, sniffing it and then giving it a lick. Tobin drops her hand and looks up at Christen.

“You’re bleeding,” Christen suddenly states mournfully, taking the towel from Tobin’s lap and gently pressing it on the side of her head.

“Is it scrape or a cut?” Tobin asks, looking up at her.

“A scrape,” she replies, “it’s kind of oozing,”

Tobin makes a face, “Oozing?” she chuckles. “Hey, so there’s a path just up ahead that goes directly back to the lot,” she informs her, “it’s super short, it’ll take like, less than ten minutes to get there,”

“Really?” Christen questions, her relief evident.

“Yeah,” Tobin says, gently touching Christen’s hand and lowering it from her head, “let’s get your stuff together and we can head out,”

“Okay,” Christen agrees, “wait,” she says, handing Tobin Khaleesi’s leash, “let me get your glasses,”

“Oh, thanks,” Tobin says, “um, I had earbuds too,”

“Okay, I’ll find them,” Christen nods and trots back to the path. Tobin scoots herself nearly off the bench, reaching her hand out again, Khaleesi licking it.

“You’re a good girl,” she says, then hissing and wincing as Morena nudges her right hand. Yeah, it’s probably broke, she realizes. She tries to make a fist and can’t thinking if it’s not broke, it’s sprained pretty badly. It’s beginning to swell and throb.

Christen returns, handing Tobin her sunglasses and earbuds. Tobin stands and puts the glasses on top of her head and buds in her pocket. “I can take Morena and carry your bag,” she offers, gathering the bag and sliding it on her left shoulder.

“Thank you,” Christen says gratefully, “are you sure you’re okay?” She tosses the water from the dog dishes and stuff them in the bag.

“Yeah, Chris,” Tobin nods, “I get taken out worse playing soccer,”

Christen’s eyebrow’s raise, “I thought it was just pick up,”

Tobin knows Kelley is trying to convince her to come out and play so she doesn’t want to scare her off, “I’m kidding,” she grins at her, “I’m okay, I promise,”

“Your wrist is swollen,” Christen notes as she slides her hands under Khaleesi’s belly and lifts the dog. They begin to walk to the path.

“I think I jammed it,” Tobin confesses, “I’ll ice it when I get home,”

“Can you drive?” Christen is worried how much of an inconvenience this has caused Tobin.

Tobin shakes her head, “I live like a block away,” she slides her hand in her pocket to make sure her house key is still there. It is.

“Oh,” Christen says as they walk, “I’m driving you home,”

They walk in silence for a minute or two, both of them distracted.

“So, you like tennis?” Tobin suddenly asks, remembering the cover of the book she slid into the bag.

Christen gives her a quick smile, “Yeah,” she says, “you play?”

Tobin nods, “Yeah, when I can find a partner,”

“We should play sometime,” Christen states, gaining some confidence. Her confidence in carrying her dog, however, is beginning to falter. She shifts her grip on her Khaleesi.

Now it’s Tobin turn to give her a smile, “Yeah, that’d be rad,” she lifts her left hand and points, “this is the way to go,”

This path isn’t as wide as the one they’re on, the trees casting shadows on the ground. “How long have you had the puppies?” Tobin asks to make conversation and get to know Christen a little more.

“Hum?” Christen asks, clearly distracted as she carries the dog in her arms.

“I was wondering how long you’ve had the dogs,” Tobin repeats, stopping when Morena stops to sniff something of interest. “Keep walking, we’ll catch up,” she says.

“Thanks,” Christen says, her voice a little clipped.

Before Tobin can even take a step with Morena, Christen is gently placing Khaleesi on the ground, shaking out her arms and frowning.

“Uh,” Tobin says as she walks a few paces towards her, “I can carry her if you want,” she offers. Yes, her wrist is killing her and it might even be broken, but she can’t bear to witness Christen being upset and defeated for another minute.

“Your wrist,” she looks at her arm, the frown deepening.

“It’ll be fine,” Tobin says, deciding then and there she would do it, if only to try and set Christen’s mind at ease. She slides the bag off her shoulder, shoving Morena’s leash and the bag at her. When she lifts up Khaleesi, she does so with her back to Christen, grimacing in pain as she lifts the dog. She slides her arm out under her back legs so she doesn’t have to grip her.

She makes a half turn, “Let’s go,” she says, setting off at a brisk pace, leading Christen down the path. Christen catches up with her, sending over concerned looks as they walk.
“There’s an emergency vet not too far from here,” Tobin says suddenly, “if you go out onto Burnside and make a left, it’s right in the strip mall by the Starbucks.”

“Thanks, I think we’ll head there,” Christen replies, “I was going to look one up on my phone when we got to the car,”

“My friend Allie took her dog there once and really was impressed,” Tobin replies, now really beginning to feel the pain in her wrist.

“Oh, great,” Christen says, shifting the backpack as they walk.

Tobin just nods as she speed walks, Christen struggling a little to keep up with her pace. She looks over again and sees how Tobin’s eyes are looking straight ahead, her jaw clenched with tension. That jawline, she considers, wow. She glances to see how she’s carrying Khaleesi, and it’s very obvious she’s not using her right hand, she has the dog resting higher up near her elbow. She looks back at her, now seeing the pain on her face.

Christen feels terrible, this is the fourth time she’s had an incident with Tobin, two of them causing damage. This time, she’s really hurt. I’m so embarrassed, she’ll never want to hang out with me again. She was just agreeing to play tennis to be nice, she thinks.

She tries to stop herself from spiraling and thinking how she’ll never make friends in this new city and she’ll forever be alone when Tobin looks over and sees how miserable she looks. She’s not feeling not much better, her wrist really hurts but she knows the parking lot is just around this next curve.

“So, um,” she begins, not really sure what she’s going to say, but she doesn’t want to just be quiet, “uh, what are your plans for the rest of the weekend?”

“Oh,” Christen shakes her head, “uh, not much,” she says, “I finally finished unpacking so it’s nice to feel settled,” she says.

Tobin nods, relieved to see the parking lot coming into view.

“I’m going to run ahead and get the car open for you,” Christen states and trots off with Morena.

Tobin eases the injured dog into the car, frowning when she yelps as she gets on the seat.

“Well, I’ll see ya around,” Tobin says, nodding her head.

“Tobin,” Christen states, her tone serious, “please get in the car,” she instructs, “I’m driving you home,”

Tobin bites her lower lip and nods, slowly sliding into the seat.

“I’m not even sure if I should leave you alone,” Christen continues as she starts the car, “do you have someone that can hang out with you?” She questions.

“Chris,” Tobin starts, “I’m fine, really,” she insists, “but yeah, my friend Alex is coming over in a little bit.”

“Okay, how do I get to your house,” Christen asks, her brain swirling with scenarios about Tobin and Khaleesi, the worrying over both of them nearly overwhelming her. She goes into action mode.

She does notice how Tobin lingers in her car in front of her house, but she unintentionally shuts it down by asking directions to the vet again. Tobin repeats them to her, getting the hint she wants to take care of her dog and exits the car.

Uncharacteristically, Christen drives off before Tobin even reaches her door, not seeing how Tobin’s shoulders slump, watching her drive away.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Tobin!” Alex yells, “What the hell happened to you? Are you okay?” Alex is in the living room where Tobin is on the couch, her feet up on the coffee table, an ice bag on her wrist.

“Hey,” Tobin responds sleepily, she had fallen asleep a few minutes ago.

“What happened?” Alex demands, crossing the space to stand next to her, “You look terrible! Did you get hit by a car?”

“Nah,” Tobin says, slowly retracting her legs from the coffee table, “I went on my run and got taken out by a dog,”

Alex’s eyebrows raise high on her forehead, “Did you get bit?”

“No,” Tobin answers, “I think I broke my wrist though,”

Alex eyes the ice bag, “We should go to an Urgent Care then,” she says, taking charge. “Why don’t you shower, you didn’t hit your head real hard, did you?”

“No, it’s just a scrape,” Tobin replies. “We can go to the farm after, okay?”

“If you feel up to it,” Alex nods, “I understand if you don’t.”

“Give me ten minutes,” Tobin says, pulling herself from the couch.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“So,” the nurse enters the small room, “here’s your brace and a sling, keep the brace on except to shower, sling on except to sleep. Try to keep it elevated on a pillow at night.” She helps Tobin put on the brace that keeps her wrist and thumb immobilized.

“Follow up with an ortho doc on Tuesday, your appointment is at ten in the morning, it’s on the paperwork,” she informs her, “you’re lucky it doesn’t look like you’ll need surgery,”

“That’s a relief,” Tobin murmurs.

“Oh, and here,” the nurse produces a slip of paper, “you have a prescription for Norco so take it as needed, only three a day,” The nurse turns to the small stack of papers on the counter of the room, “This is the follow up care and this CD has a copy of your X-rays.”

“Thank you,” Tobin says, sliding off the table, “am I free to go?” she grins at her.

The nurse smiles back, “Yes, and take care of that bump on your head,” she says, “and keep icing your wrist, the doctor won’t cast it if it’s still swollen when you go there.” Alex takes the papers from her.

“No running or doing anything stupid, right?” Alex clarifies, giving Tobin a look.

“Yes, no physical activity, relax until you see the ortho.” The nurse points her finger at Tobin.

“You bet,” Tobin grins, “thanks again,”

 

 

“You sure you want to go to the farm?” Alex asks again, she doesn’t want Tobin to overdo it.

“I do,” Tobin insists, “I’m starving,”

“Okay, but if you feel tired or if your wrist hurts, it’s okay to go,” Alex says, frowning, “I’m sorry that happened to you.”

“Yeah,” Tobin sighs, “so am I,”

Alex holds her gaze for a beat, feeling there’s more to it. “Was the dog’s owner cool about what happened?” She holds the door open for Tobin as they leave the clinic.

“Yeah,” Tobin shakes her head, “it’s a weird situation,”

“Well, we’ve got an hour drive,” Alex grins at her, “I’m all ears.”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

,

 

“I think I really like her, Al,” Tobin confesses, the pain pill the nurse had given her making her rather talkative as they walk through the food vendor area on the farm, “Oh, look!” she points animatedly, “Cheese fries!”

Alex laughs, “You are so high right now,” she says, shaking her head. “How about the pork belly with a sweet potato?”

“Oh, man, that sounds amazing,” Tobin nods, “what else do they have? We can split something,” Tobin grins at her, heading towards the vendor. Alex follows her, shaking her head again.

 

“So let me get this straight,” Alex says as they eat, sitting at a picnic table, “first you bumped heads, then she walked in on you changing your shirt and then she hit your car and finally her dog ran into you and broke your wrist.”

“Um hum,” Tobin nods as she chews.

“Hhhmmm,” Alex considers as she eats another bite of her potato, “and you had a fun time with her watching the match?”

“Yeah, well, we didn’t really get to talk or anything,” Tobin shrugs, “she just seems super cool, and like, super smart,” she says, exaggerating the words super, “but she just like, exudes this like, kindness, you know?” she looks at Alex who nods encouragingly, “And she just is so pretty but I don’t know if she’s into chicks, you know?”

“Well, she did suggest playing tennis,” Alex counters, pointing her fork at her.

Tobin rolls her eyes, “She just moved here, Al, she’s just looking to make new friends,”

“Maybe,” Alex nods, “but maybe there’s more. You said you thought she was checking you out when you didn’t have your shirt on,”

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Tobin frowns stabbing at the pork a few times before she gets it on her fork and then looking up at Alex, “maybe I’ll ask her out for coffee? But then the whole work thing might make it awkward,”

Alex’s shoulders slump, “I didn’t think of that,”

“I just don’t know what to do,” Tobin sighs, “I just know I like her,” she gives her a wide smile. She’s feeling the shot of pain medication from the nurse at the clinic.

“Well, just be her friend and maybe it will work itself out,” Alex suggests.

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, “maybe I’ll do that,” she looks at Alex, “Can we keep this between us until I figure it out?”

“Absolutely,” Alex nods.

Tobin looks over by the food vendors, “They have slices of pie,”

“Stay put, I’ll go get two,” Alex grins, “then we’re going to walk it off,”

 

XXXX

 

“Channing, I’m sure she thinks I’m sort of lunatic!” Christen exclaims into her phone to her sister.

Channing smiles back at her, “I’m sure she doesn’t,” she assures her, “so you had a couple of incidents,”

“Channing, I hit her car and probably broke her wrist today!”

“Okay,” Channing says, “take a deep breath, for one, and two, your dog probably broke her wrist. It’s not like you were the one that took her out.”

Christen just looks at her, she’s on the verge of tears, “I really like her,”

“Ah, and there it is,” Channing says triumphantly, “I knew you wouldn’t be so upset if there wasn’t something more to it,”

“Channing, she would never date me,” Christen says emphatically, “at this point, if I had her over for dinner, she’d be terrified she’d get food poisoning,”

Channing laughs, “Chrissy, you’re spiraling,” she says, “you’re an excellent cook,” she says absently, waving her hand at her, then her eyes get wide. Christen can tell an idea has entered her head.

“What are you thinking?” she asks her sister suspiciously.

“Well,” Channing draws out the word, “it would be a perfectly friendly thing to call her and check to see how she’s doing,” Christen leans back on her couch, considering the idea.
“I mean, you do feel responsible for getting hurt,” Channing continues, “and maybe you could invite yourself over for dinner tomorrow,” she suggests, “with only having one hand to use, she probably can’t cook very well right now,”

“Huh,” Christen tilts her head, running through the idea, “maybe bring up how much it sucks cooking for one person…”

“You get the idea,” Channing smiles at her, “and then you win her heart with Mom’s famous pot roast,”

“I don’t even know if she eats meat,” Christen murmurs, “I was at the other end of the table when we had dinner,” she frowns.

“Call her sometime later today,” Channing suggests, “that will give you time to make something she likes,”

Christen visibly brightens at the idea. “I could text Kelley to get her number,” she nods, thinking this would be a good peace offering.

“That’s the spirit!” Channing cheers.

“You don’t think it would be creepy to contact her?” Christen asks hesitantly, wanting to be sure she wouldn’t make Tobin feel uncomfortable. She doesn’t want to scare her away.

“Not at all,” Channing assures her, “if anything, she would think it was sweet of you to check on her, I’m sure,”

It’s quiet for a moment. “Maybe I’ll call her tonight,” Christen considers, thinking she’ll text Kelley after this.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Okay, I need to know why you want to call her,” Kelley demands, she called Christen after receiving her text.

“Um, I just…” Christen huffs, she doesn’t know Kelley all that well, but they work in the same school and if Christen is going to make any solid friends, she knows she needs to open up to them. “I think her wrist is broke and I feel responsible,” she rushes out to explain.

“Uh, what?” Kelley squeaks, “What the hell were you two doing? And how were you together?”

“I was at the park with my dogs and Khaleesi got away chasing a rabbit and Tobin was on the path running and Khalessi took her out,” she explains hurriedly.

“Holy shit!” Kelley exclaims, “You guys didn’t know each other would be there?” She laughs, “That’s hilarious!”

“No, it isn’t,” Christen replies and Kelley hears how upset she is, “and I feel so bad. Tobin was all scraped up and hit her head and her wrist was swollen, yet she was so nice just like when I was panicking when I hit her car,”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Kelley interrupts, “you hit her car?”

So, Christen explains the while thing. Including the walking in on Tobin without a shirt.

“She’s certainly got a hot bod,” Kelley remarks, she pauses for a moment, “She carried Khaleesi to the car?”

“Yes, and I saw how she couldn’t even grip her with her hand,” Christen replies and again Kelley can hear how distraught she sounds.

“Wait a second,” Kelley murmurs, the wheels turning, “Christen, are you into her? Do you like her?”

There’s a pause before Christen meekly replies, “Yes.”

“Oh my God!” Kelley exclaims loudly, “Why didn’t I think of this?” she says, “You two would be perfect- I can totally see it!”

“Kelley-” Christen starts but is cut off.

“Okay, here’s what you should do,” Kelley continues animatedly, “You have to ask her out, I’m positive Tobin has no clue if you’re gay, she hasn’t asked me and never would. She’s super shy about relationships, she hasn’t been in one for a couple of years,”

“Huh,” Christen remarks, realizing Kelley is actually helping her. “I’m listening,”

“I think her last girlfriend took a job in another state and they tried to do long distance, but it just didn’t work out. So, she threw herself into her job and other hobbies and she hardly ever does the bar scene.” Kelley informs her, “But, Christen, she’s a really good person, like one of the best I know.”

“Thanks, Kel,” Christen replies, “I know you wouldn’t steer me towards someone who is a disaster,”

“Well, not intentionally,” Kelley laughs, “I’ll send you her contact info,”

“Thanks,” Christen says gratefully.

“Hey, how’s your dog?” Kelley asks, suddenly remembering that part of the story.

“Oh, she’s got a small fracture in her lower leg,” Christen states, “and some bruising on her ribs on one side,”

“Oh, poor puppy,” Kelley says heartfully, “is she okay?”

“She’s pathetic,” Christen chuckles, “she’s whiny and being needy, so I’m giving her a lot of extra attention.”

“The poor baby,” she says. “Christen,” she says, growing serious, “you let me know how’s it’s going between you guys, okay? Anything I can do to help you out, I’ll do. Tobin is good people and I think the two of you would be awesome together.”

“Thanks, Kel, I appreciate it,” Christen says, “do you think we could just keep this between ourselves until I know what’s going on?” She really doesn’t want the rest of the group to find out she was trying to date Tobin. Not until something happens, if it does.

“Of course,” Kelley agrees, “my lips are sealed.”

"Thank you," Christen says with relief.

"Oh, and Christen?" Kelley asks, her tone snarky, "Just don't poison her or anything, okay?"

"Goodbye, Kelley!"

 

XXXX

 

 

“You call me if you need anything,” Alex says as she hugs Tobin, “I mean it,”

“I will, Al,” Tobin says, “you or Allie,” she nods at her when they part, “Thanks,” she gives her a slightly lopsided grin, “today was fun,”

Alex grins back, “Most of it was,” she says, frowning as she looks at Tobin’s wrist, “you’re sure you’ll be okay on your own?”

“I will,” Tobin assures her, “I’m going to take a nap and then eat and then veg out on the couch,”

“Okay,” Alex nods, satisfied with her answer, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,”

“Alright,” Tobin says as they walk to the door, “see ya,”

Tobin yawns and shuffles over to the kitchen, noting the time. She shakes out another pain pill, it’s only her second one today and she’ll take one more before bed tonight. She swallows it down and looks longingly at her couch. She kicks off her sandals, leaving them near the counter and walks over to the couch, she removes her phone and wallet from her pockets and sets them on the side table before adjusting the pillow and grabbing the second one from the other end of the couch. She lies down, placing the second pillow on her side and resting her braced arm on it. She’s out in minutes.

 

XXXX

 

Christen is holding her phone in her hand, biting her lower lip as she contemplates calling Tobin. She wants to do this. She figures it’s after dinner time, so it would be fine. It’s really just the friendly thing to do, for her to show her concern for Tobin’s wellbeing. They’ve gone out socially once, so it would be appropriate. She’s pumping herself up internally. She nods to herself and takes a deep breath and presses the newly added contact in her phone.

“Hello?” a low, raspy, sleep filled voice answers.

“Hi, Tobin?” Christen asks, unsure if it’s her.

“Yeah?” Christen hopes it’s Tobin because this voice is really turning her on.

“Um, hi, it’s Christen,” she replies hurriedly, “I got your number from Kelley and I was just calling to see how you’re doing?”

“Oh, hey,” the voice perks up and Christen can now recognize it as Tobin’s, “yeah, I’m alright,” she says, “how’s Khaleesi?”

Christen smiles at her thoughtfulness, “She’s doing okay,” she replies, “she has some bruised ribs and a small fracture in her leg, so she’s casted and limping around.”

“Aw,” Tobin says, clucking her tongue, “poor sweetheart,”

“How are you?” Christen asks pointedly.

“Uh, my wrist is fractured,” Tobin replies quietly, “two bones, I see the ortho Tuesday, but the nurse didn’t think it needed surgery,”

“Oh no,” Christen frowns, “I’m so sorry,”

“Chris,” Tobin says, her voice still edged with sleep, “it wasn’t your fault, come on now,”

“I know, but I just feel terrible,” Christen says, “I know it was an accident,”

Maybe it’s because she’s still pretty sleepy or maybe it’s the pain pill talking, but Tobin suddenly bravely puts herself out there, "Well, what would make you feel better?”

“Well,” Christen says slowly, amazed that Tobin handed her this opportunity on a platter, “I think if I bring you a meal that would help,”

“Yeah?” Tobin smiles to herself.

“Yeah,” Christen smiles into the phone, “do you eat meat? Like, if I made a pot roast?”

“Oh my gosh, I haven’t had pot roast in forever,” Tobin says enthusiastically, “that would be amazing,”

“Then it’s settled,” Christen says simply, “what day would work for you?”

Tobin is quiet for a moment, “Would tomorrow be alright? I mean if you don’t have plans?” Tobin asks quietly, her voice full of uncertainty, she just wants to see Christen again.

Christen laughs and it makes Tobin feel a flutter in her chest, “I don’t have plans,” she says, “would it be easier if I came over to your house? I imagine you aren’t driving right now,”

“Oh, yeah,” Tobin realizes, “I didn’t even think if that,” she says, “you want to hang out and maybe watch a movie or something? The puppies are more than welcome, I have an enclosed yard.”

“Are you sure?” Christen wants to know.

“Yeah,” Tobin assures her, “I figure you’d want to keep an eye on Khaleesi, so if you brought them, you could relax,”

“Oh, that’s really considerate, Tobin,” Christen says quietly, “I really appreciate it,”

“Well, the dogs are part of the deal,” Tobin says simply. “Oh! I have two kinds of pie for dessert!”

“Two?”

“Yeah, my friend Alex and I went out to a farm for a fest today,” Tobin states, “they’re homemade from the orchards,”

“Tobin, you went to a fest today?” Christen questions, her maternal instincts kicking into gear, “Didn’t your wrist hurt? Aren’t you supposed to take it easy?”

“Well, I’m feeling it now,” she admits, “but whatever they gave me at the clinic,” she chuckles, “I was feeling no pain,”

“Well, how about a relaxing afternoon and an early dinner,” Christen proposes, “I don’t want to be out late on a work night and you should take it easy,”

“That sounds great,” Tobin happily agrees, “come over any time,” she says, “I’ll text you my address,”

“Great,” Christen agrees, "um, do you want to do lunch, too?" she asks, "I could come over kind of early so you don't have to worry about eating tomorrow," she offers, not wanting to be pushy, but really wanting to help her. The idea of being with her more than just for dinner is also a factor in her asking.

"Ah, yeah," Tobin replies, yawning, "I really haven't thought how making meals would be," she admits, "being one handed is kind of hard,"

“Then, I’ll be over around noon with a little something for lunch,” Christen says, “and I’ll bring my crockpot with the pot roast,” She doesn’t want to let Tobin know she already has her address courtesy of Kelley.

“Perfect,” Tobin says, “I have plenty of stuff to drink and dessert,”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Christen grins, feeling great about how easy this went.

“I can’t wait,” Tobin says sincerely, “it’ll be really nice to hang out with you,”

 

XXXX

 

Christen smiles when her phone goes off, seeing the text message from Tobin with her address and a smiley emoji. She sends back a thumbs up and begins to ponder what she should wear tomorrow. She decides to go with something comfy, some nice sweats and a top and a sweatshirt in case it gets cool. She remembers what Kelley said about Tobin being a little shy and gets inspired and pulls her rainbow Nike Equality shirt out, hoping that would give Tobin a clue to her sexuality.

After making her decision on her outfit, Christen heads to her kitchen to make sure she has the ingredients she needs for the meals she intends to make. She decides to make the soup tonight, feeling it always tastes better reheated the next day. When she can leave it to simmer on the stove, Christen gathers her dog bag, making sure she packs up food, bowls, treats and plastic bags for poop. She folds one of the blankets the dogs like to lay on, wanting them to have a place they feel comfortable to hang out. Satisfied she has everything prepared except for making the pot roast in the morning, Christen relaxes in front of the TV, checking on the soup every once in a while. She figures she’ll stop and pick up a nice salad on the way tomorrow.

A few hours later and Christen is heading to bed, having taken care of the soup, taste testing it and nodding with a smile. It’s good. She’s just completed her evening ritual before bed, washing her face and brushing her teeth when her phone goes off. A Facetime call.

She trots into her bedroom, picking it up and smiling as she answers Channing’s call.

“Hi!” she says excitedly, throwing back her comforter a little to slide into bed. She moves carefully since both dogs are on the bed. Khaleesi can get up easily but Christen helps her down so she doesn’t hurt herself.

“You’re pretty smiley,” Channing grins at her, “how’s it going?”

“You’ll never believe how easy it went!” Christen says excitedly, a rush of giddiness flowing through her.

“I take it you talked to Tobin,” Channing chuckles, watching as Christen nods quickly with a big smile on her face and her eyes shining with happiness, “tell me everything,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Tobin does a quick once over to her place, she’s a neat person to begin with, but she wants to make sure her house is clean before Christen came over for the first time. Her wrist is hurting, but she wants to wait and take her final pain pill for the day before she goes to sleep. About an hour later, she feels confident her place is up to her level and decides to have a quick snack before going to bed. She chooses an apple, munching on it as she flicks through the channels on her TV.

Her phone goes off, the ring tone indicating it’s Alex.

“Yo,” she answers with her mouth full.

“Ew, what are you eating?” Alex asks.

Tobin swallows, “An apple,” she says, “what’s up?”

“I was just checking in and seeing how you were feeling,” Alex replies.

“Ah, alright,” Tobin answers, “it hurts, not gonna lie. I hate that the pain pills are the only thing that work for it right now,”

“Well silly,” Alex chides her, “that’s why you have them, so take them properly.”

“I am,” Tobin defends herself, “I just don’t like to rely on them,”

“Well, hopefully you won’t have to soon,” Alex suggests, “hey, are you coming in to work on Tuesday?”

“I don’t think so,” Tobin states, “I think I’ll take the whole day off, I’m in a good place right now, it won’t set me back too much.”

“You going to Uber to the doctor?” Alex wants to make sure Tobin is making good choices. Sometimes her friend can be a little impulsive.

“Yeah,” Tobin says, “I’m not even thinking of driving for a while,”

“I can pick you up on Wednesday, it’s no problem,” Alex offers.

“That would be great,” Tobin replies, “thanks, the coffee is on me,”

“Perfect!” Alex laughs, “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Well, uh,” Tobin pauses, “actually, Christen is coming over tomorrow.”

“Well how did you swing that?” Alex asks, clearly surprised at this.

“She called me,” Tobin says and Alex can hear the happiness in her voice.

“So, she is into you,” Alex chuckles again, “and you were so worried.”

“I’m not a hundred percent certain, but there’s definitely something,” Tobin states.

“She cooking for you?”

“Yeah,”

“Tobin,” she says, her tone growing serious, “are you sure you want to eat anything she makes? I mean, with the track record the two of you have…”

“Al,” Tobin scolds her, “come on now,” she says, “let’s not put something like that out in the universe,”

Alex chuckles, “I mean, I’m just saying, it just seems like food poisoning would be the next logical progression,"

Tobin sighs at her, “Yeah, I know,” she says, “and you’re right, you know? On paper this could be a disaster.”

“I haven’t met her and I know nothing about her,” Alex states, “but I think in this universe, she’s probably an excellent cook and you won’t get food poisoning from her. You’re due for some good mojo.”

Tobin laughs, “I could use a break, so I’ll believe that,”

“Tobin, she’s into you,” Alex says triumphantly, “you have to know that any woman that is willing to cook for you is looking for something,”

“Maybe,” Tobin says hesitantly, “I don’t want to completely get my hopes up just yet.”

“Okay,” Alex sighs, “I’ll let you be cautious,” she says, “but if I hear that Christen had to practically sit in your lap and kiss you to make you realize she likes you, I’m going to give you such a hard time!”

“Al, I’m not going to tell you if we kiss,” Tobin states, “and I’m certainly not telling you how it happens if it does,”

“Fine,” Alex agrees too quickly, “I’ll just ask Christen when I meet her,”

“You wouldn’t!” Tobin gasps.

“Don’t test me,” Alex warns, “I want all the dirt.”

Tobin sighs, “Al,” she whines.

“All the dirt,” Alex repeats with a teasing warning. “I’ll talk to you later, Tiger. Good luck!”

Tobin looks at her phone, Alex had hung up. She shakes her head and tosses her phone down next to her on the couch and finishes her apple.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Shit!” Tobin hisses, unable to button her jeans with one hand. She sighs and runs her left hand through her hair, “Guess it’s sweats,” she mumbles, aggravated that it took her so long to get them on as she does a goofy hip shake and pulling her jeans down with her left hand. She inspects her choices and decides on a pair of basic black sweats with a narrow leg. She finds her favorite slides and slips her bare feet in them, frowning as she passes her mirror, seeing her hair down and brushed, but not really styled. She has her glasses on because she just felt lazy and achy and is realizing the second day after her mishap, she’s much more uncomfortable.

Her knee is definitely bruised under the scrape, her shoulder is giving her a vague ache and her wrist just hurts. She keeps forgetting she has a scrape on her head near her temple, unintentionally running her brush over it and hissing in pain.

It’s cool outside and overcast, unusual for August, but she’ll take it. The house is stuffy, so Tobin opens a few windows and her interior door and lets the air come in through her screen door. She loves her screen door, she knows it sounds stupid to say it, but she does. She loves her house. It’s an old bungalow, one story with a basement, built in the forties, back when craftsmanship was taken seriously. The house has character, Tobin feels as if it has its’ own life force, you can feel it.

It’s the warm feeling she gets when she enters it after a long day, it’s the smell that occurs through the screens on her windows when it rains, that slightly metallic, but earthy smell. It’s the creaks on the hardwood floors and the solidness of her front door. It’s the natural wood finish of her floors and trim and cabinets that grounds her, how it brings nature into her home and how she paired it with natural leather and cloth fabrics in earth tones throughout the rooms. She loves her house.

It’s how she chose this house over the veritable mansions she could afford with the inheritance she received from her grandfather after his passing. How she liked to live simply, despite her wealth. Allie and Alex are the only ones outside of family who know that Tobin has money. Like, serious money. Alex knows because Tobin went to her to get educated about money. Allie knows because she was by her side when her Grandfather became ill. Money isn’t something Tobin talks about very often, it’s not something she lets define her. She likes to earn her money and work for her goals. Her Grandfather had left her the money to chase her dreams and in the last two years, Tobin has used some to take a couple of nice vacations and yeah, maybe she’s a little overly generous with birthday and wedding and Christmas gifts, but she only purchases items that are meaningful to the recipients.

Anyway, she doesn’t like to talk about her money.

She also loves her couch, collapsing onto it, kicking off her slides and putting her feet up on the coffee table, pulling a pillow up against her side to rest her braced wrist. She swears she’s just going to rest her eyes for just a moment as she closes them and then she drifts off.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen slowly pulls into the driveway of Tobin’s house, the dogs wagging their tails discovering they have reached a new destination. She decides to carry in the crockpot first, waiting to get a sense of the interior before bringing her dogs in.

She looks at the building, a soft smile comes to her face at the straight lines and low hedges, the colorful burst of flowers and natural grasses flowing with the breeze. It’s not a huge house, it’s one story and Christen can see windows peeking out from behind the flowers indicating a basement. The driveway slopes up setting the building on high ground with a few trees in the large front yard and looking up the drive, she can see a large outbuilding. It’s made of wood, looking like a barn.

She moves to the passenger side of her car, removing her purse, the dog’s bag and the still warm crockpot from the floor. She has one of those padded thermal zippered cases so it won’t burn her as she carries it to the front door. She sees the interior door is open through the screen, so she steps close, both of her hands holding the crockpot and glances in.
She sees Tobin passed out on the couch, legs up on the coffee table. She grimaces, not wanting to disturb her but she doesn’t know what else to do.

“Knock, knock,” she calls out rather softly, not wanting to startle the sleeping woman, taking a step back and keeping her eyes on Tobin, watching as she turns her head and opens her eyes.

“Oh, hey,” she says, issuing a muffled groan as she leaves the couch, padding to the door, “Hi,” she greets sleepily, opening the screen door wide for Christen to pass through.

“Hi,” Christen greets back, angling her body to pass her. They’re fronts brush briefly and the contact gives both of them a shiver.

“Where are the puppies?” Tobin questions, blinking behind her glasses, she’s not quite awake yet and Christen can tell.

“Oh, they’re in the car,” Christen explains, “I thought I’d bring this in first,” lifting the crockpot and the bags hanging off her arm a little higher.

“Oh,” Tobin looks at her, “uh, kitchen is this way,” she says, “I’d offer to take something, but it looks complicated,”

“Oh, it’s fine,” Christen assures her, “can I put this on the counter?” Tobin nods and leads her to the kitchen.

“Yeah, over here,” Tobin gestures to the counter on the other side of the fridge, “this one has an outlet,” she explains.

“Perfect,” Christen grins, setting it down.

“You can put your other stuff on the table,” Tobin says, “it’s fine there,”

Christen nods and places the bag and purse down, turning back to the crockpot, “I just want to put this back on, if you don’t mind,”

“No, that’s fine,” Tobin says, taking a step back, “whatever you want to do,” she looks at her shyly, “this is very nice of you, I really appreciate it,” She takes off her glasses and rubs her eyes.

Christen glances at her as she unzips the thermal bag, giving her a soft smile and a half shrug, “It’s nice not to cook for just myself, you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” Tobin says wistfully, then she puts her hand in front of her mouth as she yawns, “Sorry,” she apologizes, “the pain pill makes me a little sleepy,”

“Well go relax,” Christen suggests, walking towards the door, “I’ve got another load of stuff and then I’ll bring in the dogs,”

“I’ll man the door,” Tobin offers, trailing behind her, “it’s cool,”

Christen enters the house laden with a few grocery bags, setting them on the kitchen table and then returning for the dogs who were waiting patiently. Tobin watches as the animals sniff along the driveway, checking the area as they’re lead by Christen to the door.

“Hi puppies,” Tobin greets, smiling when she sees their tails wagging. She elbows the door open, flattening herself against the door jamb to let the dogs and Christen pass and then follows them in. Khaleesi comes right up to her, licking her hand and nuzzling her leg. She limps around Tobin with her brightly wrapped right lower leg, bumping against Tobin’s her legs as Morena takes her turn.

“Girls,” Christen calls, “easy,”

Both dogs seem to take a step back, moving slowly near Tobin who is quietly talking to them as she goes down on one knee, giggling as they lick her face. Christen can’t stop smiling as she hears Tobin asking Khaleesi how her leg is and if she’s sore, as if she’s a human. She loves it.

Tobin straightens up, smiling shyly at Christen, “I like dogs,” she mumbles, then she licks her lips, “Uh, can I get you something to drink?”

“Are you hungry?” Christen asks, “I brought lunch,”

“Yeah, sure,” Tobin smiles, stepping away from the door, “let’s get started,”

Christen grins and follows Tobin, bringing a bag to the counter.

 

 

“Oh, this soup is so awesome, Chris,” Tobin moans before taking another spoonful, “you’re an awesome cook,” They had already eaten the salad that Christen had brought while the soup was warming up on the stove. Just a couple of spoonfuls of this homemade soup and Tobin has eliminated any thoughts of possible food poisoning that was lurking in the back of her head thanks to Alex.

“Thanks” Christen blushes at the compliment, shyly smiling at her. Tobin smiles brightly at back at her, taking a piece of buttered bread, “I love bread,” she murmurs, taking a bite.

“I do too,” Christen agrees, “but my hips don’t,”

“Your hips are fine, Chris,” Tobin answers offhandedly, suddenly realizing what she’s just said, swallowing audibly.

Christen shoots her a flirty look, “Yeah, you think so?” She’s amused at the panicked look on Tobin’s face.

Christen watches as the look disappears and becomes and thoughtful as Tobin looks at her, “I do,” she says softly.

“You been checking out my hips?” She grins at her, her eyes twinkling playfully.

Tobin sits back in her seat, biting her lower lip, evaluating her, “Maybe,” she says, her face still reflecting the thoughtfulness, as if she’s carefully guarding her replies, measuring them in her head before she speaks.

“Yeah?” Christen pushes, “You like what you see?” She sees Tobin glancing down to look at her shirt and how things click in her head just by Tobin’s expression. She’s noticed the pride colors and it that seems to have shifted something in her.

“I do,” Tobin replies with a little more confidence, a slight smile forming on her face.

“Good,” Christen states, turning her attention back to her soup.

“Good?” Tobin questions, raising her eyebrows.

“Uh huh,” Christen says, closed mouthed.

Tobin just looks at her, trying to read her expression. She gives up after a few seconds, picking up her spoon and continuing to eat, wondering what that all was about. It was obvious Christen was flirting with her, but then she just left her hanging there.

“You know,” Christen suddenly speaks, “bread certainly doesn’t affect your hips at all,” she states, giving Tobin a somewhat flirty look, “or your abs,” She’s referencing when she saw Tobin with her shirt off.

“Yeah?” Tobin questions.

“Oh yeah,” Christen nods and grins at her.

Tobin’s not dense, even if her brain is a little clouded by the lingering pain pill in her system. “You….you like me?” she asks awkwardly, internally cringing at how middle school that sounded.

Christen’s smile nearly blinds Tobin and her musical laugh makes her heart speed up.

“I do,” she says simply, “I like you a lot, Tobin,”

Tobin just looks at her with a cheesy grin on her face, “I like you, too,” she says, “a lot.”

“You know,” Christen begins to eat again, feeling like she’s flying, “I don’t just run my car into anyone,”

Tobin’s eyes nearly pop out of her head, “You did that on purpose?” she gasps.

Christen laughs hard, “No, I swear, I didn’t,” she giggles, “I just thought it was funny to say,” she snickers.

“You got me,” she says, smiling at her, “I didn’t expect you to say that,” she laughs.

“So,” Christen says, her confidence at an all time high, “you’re single?”

Tobin nods, “Yeah,” she says, “you?”

Christen smiles as she nods.

“You wanna go out on a date sometime?” Tobin asks, feeling a bit more of confidence flowing in herself. Again, as soon as it comes out, she thinks it's the Norco that's speaking for her.

“How about we call this our first date?” Christen counters, “Food, maybe a movie, this is total date material.”

“Uh, okay,” Tobin agrees, a smile forming, “cool with me,”

They rinse the soup bowls together, shyly smiling at each other and Christen insists on putting the remaining soup in one of Tobin’s Tupperware containers to have for tomorrow.

“You want to hang outside for a bit?” Tobin offers, wondering what they should do now that this is a date. She feels like there are now expectations or something that she to meet.

“We could,” Christen agrees, “as long as Morena doesn’t get Khaleesi all hyper,” She opens the bag she brought to pull out the dog dishes.

“Ooh!” Tobin exclaims, “I’ve got a mat for them,” she says, squatting down to a bottom cabinet and standing up triumphantly with a smile. She points over to the wall near the hallway, “I usually put it there,” she says, “my friend Allie has dogs that come over,” She walks over and lays the mat down.

“You have friends named Alex and Allie?” Christen asks, “Doesn’t that get confusing?”

“Yeah,” Tobin laughs, “and I have another friend named Ali and we all work together,” she says, “it does make for some confusion sometimes,” She thinks for a moment, “She’s Kyle Krieger’s sister,”

“Oh, what a small world! ” Christen nods, “It has to, I would imagine,” Christen chuckles as she fills a bowl with water and sets it on the mat. She straightens up and looks around, “Tobin, your house is so nice,” she says genuinely, “it has such a homey feel,”

“Thanks,” Tobin smiles, “when I first saw it, I was smitten,” she shares, “I had to have it, there was just something about it,”

Christen smiles at her response, what an interesting thing to say about a house. Smitten. But she gets it, she thinks it feels like when she visits her grandparents’ house. You can tell it's a home as soon as you walk in. “It shows,” she says.

Tobin just smiles, “Ready?” she asks and Christen reaches for a leash in her bag, clipping it to Khaleesi.

“I don’t want her run around,” she explains.

“We can take it slow and let her check it out,” Tobin offers, leading her to the back door in the kitchen.

 

“I call this my reflecting pool,” Tobin states as the two stand before a small pond with a small stream of water leaving from one side and circling around letting the water move, a three foot waterfall that splashes down on rocks into the water. Natural grasses are to the sides of the waterfall, the blades spreading wide against the rocks. There’s ferns and wildflowers surrounding the side edges and on one side is covered swing on a small patio with another patio on the other side with two cushioned chairs and small table. “I love water,” Tobin confesses, “and the sound of water is soothing, so I did some research and built this,”

“You made this?” Christen asks, her eyes large as she looks at Tobin and then shifts her gaze back to the water, “This is wonderful,” she breathes out, her mouth slightly open as she looks at all of the rocks and little details of painted ceramic pots mixed in with bursts of color planted on them and funky metal sculptures.

“I like to come out here and think,” Tobin shares, “clears my head,”

“I can imagine how soothing it would be,” Christen nods, “Khaleesi seems to like it,” she chuckles, looking down at the dog who is now lying on her side near the edge of the rocks bordering the water. They both turn their heads at the same to look for Morena, sniffing around one of the trees and then wandering around.

“Is she going to be okay?” Tobin asks with concern, “Did she need surgery?”

“It was a closed fractured,” Christen informs her, “no surgery, no tendon damage, she was lucky.”

“That’s good,” Tobin nods, her relief evident, "I think we both were,"

“How about you?” Christen asks, “you look a little pale, are you okay?”

“I’m definitely feeling it more today,” Tobin admits, “but I’m good, I’ll see the ortho doc tomorrow and once I get a cast I’m sure I’ll feeling better.”

Christen frowns, “That stinks,” she sighs, “I hope it goes well,” she says, “will you text me tomorrow and let me know?”

Tobin smiles a little, liking that she’s concerned, “Sure,” she says, “want to sit for a bit?” she questions, gesturing to the chairs. They move to them, Christen dropping the leash as Khaleesi doesn’t seem interested in doing anything other than lying in the grass.

Christen sits down in the chair to Tobin’s left, giving her a grin, “So tell me all about you, Tobin Heath,” she says with a smile.

Tobin grins back at her, “I will if you will,” arching an eyebrow at her.

Christen shrugs and crosses her legs, “Sure,” she says, leaning back in the comfortable chair, “what do you want to know?”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

“And then she said she’d get us in the VIP section. So of course, we bet her she couldn’t. She took the bet, strutted over to the bouncer and came back in like, two minutes, telling us to come on and we got in, with a free first bottle!” Tobin is laughing hard, shaking her head. Christen is nearly doubled over, laughing hard.

“That totally seems like something Kelley could pull off!” Christen laughs, wiping at her eyes, “And then you guys saw the concert for free too?”

“Yeah, we didn’t even have tickets,” Tobin shakes her head, “I think she told the guy we played for Thorns or something,”

“Oh, that’s precious,” Christen chuckles, recovering from their outburst.

“Hey, would you like something to drink?” Tobin offers, standing up, “I’ve got a fridge in the barn,”

“Yeah, after that, I need a drink,” Christen agrees, “Khaleesi, come on, girl,” she calls to her.

Morena joins them on the walk to the barn, Tobin opening the side door to let Christen enter first.

 

“Woah,” Christen marvels when Tobin hits the lights, “this is incredible,” she murmurs, looking around at the art studio slash garage.

“Oh, thanks,” Tobin says shyly, handing Christen a water bottle.

“This is a wonderful space,” Christen continues as she looks around, glancing up at the ceiling and letting her mouth fall open as she studies the canvases. She looks at Tobin, “You painted these?” she points to the ceiling.

“Yeah,” Tobin says, feeling a little self-conscious. Christen smiles at her and then looks up again, “Beautiful,” she murmurs. She steps closer to Tobin, running her fingers on her bicep, “You’re very talented,” she says softly, “have you always enjoyed painting?”

Tobin looks at her, looking thoughtful, “Yeah, I have,” she replies, “I once thought I’d go to college and study art,” she says, “but then I got a job at Portland P.E. right out of high school and those plans were put on hold,”

“Huh,” Christen remarks, she didn’t know Tobin didn’t go to college. That wasn’t covered in their earlier conversation.

“I wanted to prove to my family I could make it on my own without their help,” Tobin explains, “and I ended up getting really lucky and moving up at Portland P.E. pretty fast. I started as an order taker, moved into sales and then marketing. A few years ago, I began doing presentations and working on the catalog and things just grew. I like it, every day is something different.”

“Tobin, the day you came in to do your PERT presentation, I wanted to ask you where you had taught P.E., you’re so knowledgeable about the curriculum and how to adapt it,” Christen says. She’s pretty shocked because she thought for certain that Tobin had some sort of degree in education.

Tobin gives her a bashful smile, “I listen and learn,” she replies, “and read about stuff and I have friends like Kelley, who are great about listening to my questions and helping me sort stuff out.”

“Seriously, I really thought you taught,” Christen says, clearly impressed, “I could totally picture you in a class with second graders,” she smiles at her.

“Thanks,” Tobin says, certain she’s blushing, “that’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve gotten,”

“Surely you’ve heard it before,” Christen says, lowering her hand to find Tobin’s fingers and interlock them.

Tobin looks down at their joined hands and then up at her, looking at her intently, “Maybe,” she says, her voice low and just above a whisper, “maybe it means more because it’s coming from you,” she says, taking a step closer to her.

Seeing how Tobin is looking at her, wearing those glasses and looking so hot, Christen steps close, raising her free hand to caress her jaw. They both lean in at the same time, brushing their lips together. Christen steps even closer, loosening her grip on Tobin’s hand to slide it up her back, pressing them closer. She feels Tobin’s hand on her hip, squeezing it when Christen glides her tongue over Tobin’s lips, seeking entrance to her mouth. They both moan softly as their tongues twist, the sensations overwhelming them.
They’re both slightly winded when they break free, Christen smiling as she watches Tobin slowly open her eyes and smile back at her. Christen caresses Tobin’s jaw, “I liked that,” she says quietly.

“So did I,” Tobin agrees, looking into her eyes, “I liked it a lot,”

“Wanna do it again?” Christen tilts her head, still smiling at her.

“Oh yeah,” Tobin nods, her hand moving from Christen’s hip to her lower back, pressing her against her chest as she leans in.

Christen feels how Tobin increases the intensity, she feels that stirring in her lower belly, exciting her. She’s getting so turned on right now and they’re just kissing, Tobin isn’t even moving. It occurs to her that Tobin only can use one hand and it’s on her lower back right now. She moves her hands to circle Tobin’s waist, dipping down and grabbing her butt and gently squeezing her ass. Tobin moans softly in her mouth and suddenly Christen becomes the aggressor, kissing her passionately.

She steps into Tobin, forcing her to take a step back, moaning as Christen brings a hand up gently pull the hair in the back of Tobin’s head, exposing her neck. Her lips leave Tobin’s, now trailing down on her cheek, then her jaw and finally finding her neck, nipping at it and then sucking over it.

She can hear Tobin’s breathing, feel how her chest falls and rises. It excites her. When she hears Tobin let out a shaky breath, she comes to her senses. She pulls her head back, looking at her. Tobin’s eyes are shut, her mouth open, unsteady breaths coming from it. Christen caresses her jaw again, smiling as Tobin opens her eyes.

“I got a little carried away,” Christen says guiltily, “sorry,”

Tobin swallows before she speaks, “It’s okay,” she says, giving her a smile, “you’re a pretty amazing kisser,”

Christen wiggles her eyebrows playfully at her, “So are you, Tiger,” she pats Tobin’s backside and steps back. Morena begins to bark in the yard and they both look toward the side door. “I should check on them,” Christen quietly says, her reluctance evident, moving to the door.

 

Christen has Khaleesi by the leash once more, Morena was teasing her to play and Christen didn’t want her running around.

“We can go in, if you want,” Tobin offers, “let the dogs nap,”

“Maybe we should,” Christen nods, “I don’t want her to hurt herself,”

“That’s cool,” Tobin agrees, leading them back to the house. Christen is taking the leash off Khaleesi and notices Tobin reaching in a cabinet to and pulling out a bottle of Tylenol.

“Are you in pain?” She questions suddenly. Tobin looks over quickly, as if she’s been caught doing something she shouldn’t, guilt on her face.

“Uh, yeah,” she admits quietly, “a little,”

Christen eyes her for a moment, “You have pain pills, no?”

Tobin’s shoulders slump, “I do,” she sighs, “but they make me sleepy for a while and I don’t want to zone out,”

“Well, I could go,” Christen offers, “I don’t want you in pain just for my sake,”

“No,” Tobin shakes her head, “I’d like you to stay,” she says, frowning, “we haven’t had dinner yet,”

“Well,” Christen thinks for a minute, “how about you take a pill, I get to pick a movie and if you fall asleep, no big deal,” She steps over to the crockpot, lifting the lid and shooting Tobin an expectant look, “You have a big spoon?”

Wordlessly Tobin hands over a large spoon and Christen stirs the roast and vegetables. Christen sets the spoon on a paper towel, puts the lid back on and then turns to lean against the counter, staring at her.

“Well?” she questions, arching an eyebrow.

“I have Netflix or whatever you want to rent from Amazon Prime,” she replies, then she gives her a soft smile, “and that roast smells amazing,”

Christen smiles at her, “Go take your pill,” she instructs, gesturing her away, “and I’ll think about what I want to watch,”

Tobin doesn’t move, she just stands there and looks at her, her head slightly tilted, “Thank you,” she says simply, “for being so understanding,”

Christen runs her hand along Tobin’s arm, “It’s fine,” she smiles at her, “this is part of our getting to know each other, right? You have a broken wrist and that’s not going away for a while, so let’s just deal with it.”

Tobin nods, feeling unusually comfortable with Christen. She would never agree to basically napping while on a date with someone, especially someone she doesn’t know very well, however, there was something about Christen’s demeanor that puts her at ease.

And that’s how they found themselves snuggled under a light blanket with the dogs on the end of the couch, watching a documentary about a group searching for the lost wreckage of some ship in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t take long for Tobin to close her eyes, listening to a raspy voiced female that sounds sort of like Alex speaking about how this is her first expedition with a new crew and how she likes how they operate as a team.

Christen feels how Tobin shifts against her and looks over to see her head back on the couch, mouth slightly open. She smiles and reaches for her hand under the covers, taking a hold of it and continues to watch the show. She almost giggles when she hears Tobin make the cutest noise in response. She continues to watch the show, her thumb gently rubbing the top of Tobin’s hand.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Come again?” Christen questions, not understanding Tobin’s response.
Tobin answers back with a string of low mumbles and Christen can make no sense of it. She sees Tobin’s eyes are still closed so she leans over, placing a knee on the couch cushion and kisses the corner of her mouth. She smiles into the kiss when she feels Tobin turning her head and responding and pulls back just when Tobin is really getting into it.

Her eyes flutter open, “Hey,” she says, a sleepy grin on her face, “don’t stop now,”

Christen chuckles as she leans back, “I’ve been trying to wake you up for the last five minutes,”

Tobin yawns, removes her glasses and rubs her face with her left hand, “Sorry,” she says, sniffing, “I was out, huh?”

“Just a little,” Christen smiles down at her.

Tobin yawns again, then sniffs, “It smells so good in here,”

“The roast is ready,” Christen informs her, “are you hungry?”

Tobin’s stomach rumbles before she can reply and they both chuckle, “Yeah, I am,” she says sheepishly.

Christen feeds the dogs and Tobin uses the bathroom, washing her face and brushing her teeth to wake herself up a little more. They sit down at the kitchen table, Christen already having found everything to set the table. Tobin protests weakly and Christen just states that she’s spoiling her so just let her do this. It takes her one second to see Tobin looking down at the meat and then her knife and she realizes Tobin can’t cut food one handed. She leans over and grabs her plate out from under her, swiftly cutting the meat and vegies into bite sizes.

“Uh, thanks,” Tobin says, her cheeks a cute shade of pink, “I didn’t think about it until…”

“No problem,” Christen smiles at her, making a mental note to cut up the leftovers she’ll give to her later.

“This is so good,” Tobin hums as she eats, “thank you so much for doing this,”

“You’re welcome,” she smiles at her, “I haven’t made it in a while,” Christen admits, “it turned out pretty good,”

“It’s awesome,” Tobin smiles at her, “you’re a great cook, Chris.”

They have a discussion of meals they love but hardly make since it’s difficult cooking for just themselves and giddily agree to have dinner at least twice during the work week each cooking for the other. After that, it seems like a line has been crossed, just by them simply agreeing to cook for another, it feels like a shift has occurred wordlessly between them.
Christen allows Tobin to dry the silverware, watching her attempt to try a dish and seeing how clumsy it looks and how she really can’t grip anything with her right hand. Tobin does get to slice the pie, cutting thin wedges of the apple pie and the peach cobbler, reasoning they both would want a taste of each one. She puts on a pot of coffee, asking if decaf is okay, Christening readily agreeing.

They eat at the table, Tobin pouting because she can’t eat while sitting on the couch, she can’t hold the plate with her braced wrist. Her fingers aren’t moving well and even though she’s been pretty good about icing it, it still hurts to move her fingers. Christen is sympathetic, feeling badly for her, knowing she’ll be running into more inconveniences as they pop up in her daily life.

“Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help make it easier for you,” she insists with a genuineness that makes Tobin smile shyly.

“I will,” she promises, and she thinks she really will. She’s not used to having someone she can be super vulnerable with, sure, there’s Allie and Alex, but this is different. Christen is different. Christen is someone Tobin wants to share these things with. She wants Christen to share her troubles with her.

“Okay,” Christen says warmly, giving Tobin that soft smile that makes her heart flutter a little. She stands up and takes Tobin’s plate that only has a few crumbs on it and her fork, taking a few steps to the kitchen and quickly washing them and putting them in the rack.

Christen comes back to the table, standing behind Tobin and rubbing her shoulders, “You feeling good?” she asks solicitously.

“Yeah, I am, right now,” Tobin looks up to give her a smile.

Christen leans down, her head next to Tobin’s, “Wanna go make out on the couch for a little bit before I go?”

Tobin turns her head to look at her, smiling wide, “Sure,” she says and puckers her lips. Christen grants her a quick kiss and a squeeze of shoulders and lightly slaps her left one as she moves to the couch. Tobin follows and sits down, Christen snuggling in beside her.

Things begin to get heated when Christen straddles Tobin’s lap, using both of her hands to hold Tobin’s face in place as she kisses her. She’s grinding on Tobin’s lap feeling how Tobin’s left hand guides her movements.

Tobin pulls back, breathing hard, “Chris,” she says, “Chris, we gotta stop,”

Christen nods, reluctantly sliding her hands from Tobin’s face, “You’re right,” she says, breathing just as hard, “I’m sorry,”

“No, no, no,” Tobin says earnestly, “I’m in this too,” she says looking up at her, “I just think we should slow down a little,” she says, swallowing hard, hoping she understands.

“We should take it slow,” Christen agrees, “I don’t want to rush this with you,” she says, “I want to do this right,”

“Me too,” Tobin agrees, “I want that too,”

“I want to learn all about you,” Christen confesses, “I know this is fast, but I want to know your thoughts on everything, I don’t want to just get physical before I know more about what’s in your head and your heart.”

Tobin gives her a smile, “Learning is fun,” she states, “I want to know about you, too,” she says, moving her hand up to caress her back, “I mean, I want to have sex with you, don’t get me wrong,” she chuckles, “but I want to be your friend first, I want us to really know each other because I think it will mean more to us when it happens.”

Christen leans back on Tobin’s lap, looking at her seriously. “I like that plan,” she smiles, “I think it’s too soon to jump into something physical,” she states, “and I’m not a hookup kind of woman and I suspect neither are you,”

“I’m not,” Tobin nods her head.

“So, let’s get to know each other, make out a bit and see where this goes, huh?” Christen proposes.

Tobin gives her a wink, “Sounds good to me,” she puckers her lips and poorly attempts at wiggling her eyebrows at her, making Christen laugh as she leans in to kiss her again.

 

 

“I’ll text you after the doctor,” Tobin reminds her, “do you even get a chance to look at your phone when you’re working?” The dogs have been leashed, Christen’s bags are packed in the car already and she’s lingering by the door.

Christen nods, “Oh yeah,” she says, “I always have it,” she shrugs, “in case something happens during a class,”

“Ah,” Tobin nods, “I get that,”

“Yeah,” Christen says, leaning in to hug her, “have a good night,”

“You too,” Tobin says as Christen leaves her embrace, exiting the house, “text me you got home safe,” she calls from the open door.

Christen looks over her shoulder as she walks, “I will!” she grins at her.

Tobin stays in the doorway, watching her get the dogs settled and drive away.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“That’s a bright orange,” Alex assesses Tobin’s cast.

“Yep,” Tobin grins, “I figured it would help remind me it’s there,” she chuckles.

“Well, people will sure see you coming,” Alex retorts with a snort. It’s the next day and Alex has come over for dinner after work, the two are waiting for Allie to join them. Alex looks over at Tobin, seeing her just sitting there with a smile on her face. “I take it yesterday went well?” she questions.

Tobin turns, her smile widening to fill her face, “It was great,” she says, shaking her head, “Christen is something else, Al,”

They hear Allie arrive, she’s talking to her dogs as she comes to the front door, letting herself in. “Hey!” she greets, holding two bags of food, “Woah, Tobin, that cast is orange!”

“Yeah, I know,” Tobin chuckles, “I have the feeling I’ll be hearing that a lot,” She leans forward from her position on the couch to pet the dogs. Alex and Tobin follow Allie to the kitchen, Allie spying the dog mat out on the floor by the hallway.

“Have some furry guests?” she questions, looking at Tobin inquisitively.

“Uh, yeah,” Tobin nods, “I did as a matter of fact.” She glances over and sees Alex with a big grin on her face. Allie sees it too.

“What’s going on here?” Allie questions, looking between the two, now even more suspicious because Tobin can’t wipe the goofy grin off her face.

“Tobin’s got a hottie,” Alex announces in a sing song voice.

“What?” Allie nearly screeches, “Tobin! When did this happen?”

“It all started on Friday,” Tobin explains, “I’ll tell you all about it.”

 

As the trio eat their meal, Tobin tells the story from start to finish about her and Christen, making Allie swear she won’t bring up the shirtless thing or the hitting the car thing when she finally meets Christen. She explains how embarrassed Christen still is of those things happening and the dog thing as well. Allie vows she would be on her best behavior and then asks for the juicy details.

“Watching the Thorns match was not a date, Allie,” Tobin says exasperatedly, “we weren’t even near each other the whole time,” Allie is trying to convince Tobin that since her and Christen had two dates, she should be able to meet her soon.

“Okay, fine,” Allie frowns, “do you at least have a photo of her?”

“No, I don’t,” Tobin admits, “I told you, this is like, super new,”

Allie nods, frowning at her, “Alright,” she says, “but I want to meet her.”

“Come on Allie,” Alex interjects, “let Tobin figure things out with Christen before pushing the whole meet the friends on her.”

Allie lifts her hands in surrender, “Okay,” she says, “I’m just excited for you,”

“And I thank you,” Tobin says, “just, like, give me some time, okay?”

“I promise,” Allie states, holding her fingers up, “scout’s honor,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Tobin, you have a call on line four,” Ali’s voice comes across the intercom.

Tobin swallows her coffee, the one she bought when her and Alex stopped to get this morning on their way in to work.

“Hello, this is Tobin,” she greets, her eyes pouring over the images on her screen.

“Hi, Tobin,” a voice says and Tobin smiles, recognizing it, “it’s Christen,”

“Hey, you,” Tobin coos, looking towards her open office door, praying nobody is just outside it lingering by the printer.

“How are you today?” Christen asks, her voice quiet.

“I’m good and yourself?”

“Good,” Christen replies, “listen, I spoke with my superintendent and she says to go ahead and get a quote for the curriculum, can you help me with that?”

“Sure,” Tobin agrees, “I can get one over to you right after lunch, is that okay?”

“That would be wonderful,” Christen says gratefully, “can we plan the training as well?”

“Yeah, let’s go over what dates we both have open,” Tobin suggests. Christen agrees and they spend the next ten minutes figuring out the in service days Christen has available for training dates that coincide with Tobin’s schedule.

They set a date, Tobin confirms the software and the incidental curriculum accessories are in stock and she can deliver them to her as soon as she gets an official signed purchase order from her distract. They work out the details of users needed for the licensing agreement and estimate the time the district I.T. people can upload the software.

Tobin is taking notes in her trusty notebook, scribbling down the numbers and dates and all of the details. She taps her pen against the paper, thinking if she forgot anything but it sees they’ve got it all covered.

“Are you going to be okay to do the training?” Christen asks with concern, “Because of your wrist?”

“Oh yeah,” Tobin says, a smile on her face, a warmth building her chest from her concern, “I should be good, it’s not too physical on my part anyway,” she says, “Allie will probably come with me and help set up the activities. I’m training her so she can do sessions like I do,”

“Oh, okay,” Christen says, “listen, I’ve got to run, I’ll call you later, alright?”

“Yeah,” Tobin grins into her phone, “I’ll get that quote over to right after I eat,”

“Sounds good, thank you,” Christen says warmly.

They sign off and Tobin goes back to selecting her images she wants Ali to use for a particular product. She emails them over to her, closing out her screen and leaving her desk to make her way to the cafeteria. Alex is already up there and Allie as well.

“Do you need to stop at the store tonight?” Alex asks when she sees Tobin enter the room.

“Oh, I’m good, thanks,” Tobin replies, “I ordered online and they’re coming tonight between five and seven,” she explains.

“Okay,” Alex smiles, “what are you doing tonight?”

Tobin shrugs, “Just taking it easy,” she replies, turning to look at Allie, “Hey, are you free August twenty first and second for a training?”

Allie scrunches up her face as she thinks, “Yeah, I’ll doublecheck but I don’t think I have anything planned,”

“Cool,” Tobin grins, “wanna help me do a quote after this?”

“For PERT?” Allie questions.

“Uh huh,” Tobin nods.

“Absolutely,” she grins.

They eat their lunch, Allie helps Tobin, Tobin gets the email with the quote sent off and receives a reply from Christen acknowledging she received it. Tobin focuses on writing the descriptions for new fitness equipment that’s being added to the catalog, feeling happy she got more of it completed than she expected. When she leaves for the day, her wrist is an uncomfortable ache.

After Alex drops her off, Tobin immediately takes a pain pill, having forgot to bring any Tylenol with her to work. She searches her cabinet and finds a new bottle and chucks it into her backpack. The she hits the couch, pulling a pillow on her side, not evening turning on the TV, just enjoying the silence as she drifts off.

She wakes hearing the loud idling of delivery truck as the driver unloads her order from the grocery store. Tobin meets the woman at the door, allowing her to enter and set the bags in the kitchen table. She signs off for the delivery and sees her out. She’s unpacking the bags, nodding at the ingredients she’ll use for dinner tomorrow with Christen. Nothing else is looking appealing to her right now. Her phone rings as she’s unpacking the last bag, she’s distracted, thinking she’ll order something and she swipes to answer the call, setting it on speaker.

“Hello?” she answers.

“Hi, Tobin, it’s Christen,” she hears.

“Hey, Chris,” Tobin greets, “how’s it going?”

“It’s good,” she replies, “I was wondering,” she says, “I know I’m coming over for dinner tomorrow,” she says, her voice sounding uncertain, “I just was thinking about eating and I have nothing in the house, do you want to get something with me?”

Tobin laughs, “Oh my goodness,” she says, “I’m unloading my groceries and nothing looks edible,” she says, “I was going to order out,”

“How about a little company? I’ll pick you up? Burgers?” Christen offers, knowing Tobin isn’t driving.

“Mmmm, that sounds perfect,” Tobin says, “I just don’t feel like cooking anything tonight,” she admits.

“Me either,” Christen agrees, “but I thought this was a better than choice than a bowl of ice cream,”

Tobin chuckles, “I’ve done that,” she says, a smile on her face, “I can be ready in a few minutes,”

“Great, I’ll see you,” Christen says and they end the call.

Tobin gets the groceries put away and then changes into a t-shirt, putting a snapback on to help tame her hair. She meant to ask Alex to put it in a ponytail this morning but had forgotten. As she is adjusting the sling, she hears Christen at the door.

“It’s open!” Tobin calls, leaving her bedroom and meeting her in the hallway entrance. “Hi,” she greets, smiling at her.

“Hey, you,” Christen says, wrapping her arms around her and kissing her. “How was the rest of your day?”

“Pretty good,” Tobin nods, kissing her softly, “I was on a roll, got a lot done,”

“That’s good,” Christen says, kissing her back.

In between kisses, Tobin asks her how her day was.

“Good, you should see a purchase order tomorrow,” she informs her.

“Sweet,” Tobin says, “I’ll deliver you the software if you want,”

“I want,” Christen grins into the kiss, “any chance to see you,”

“Me too,” Tobin agrees as she rubs Christen’s back, “you know what I see us doing?” Tobin questions, her voice low and sexy, exciting Christen.

“What’s that?” she questions quietly, kissing her neck lightly.

“Going to TILT on Evervett and getting a bacon cheeseburger with some tilted house fries.” She says, unable to suppress her lips from curling up in the corners.

Christen looks at her, narrowing her eyes and giving her a steely gaze. She’s a second away from pulling out of the hug and putting her hands on her hips.

Tobin chuckles, “I take it you had another idea,” she says, looking at her impishly.

Christen steps back, lightly slapping her shoulder, unable to stop from smiling at her, “It’s not nice to tease,” she says, shaking her head, “I’m going to make you pay for that,” she says, her hand finding Tobin’s and grabbing it, “Come on,” she sighs, leading her towards the door, “let’s go,”

Tobin laughs as they head out.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

“Christen, are you paying attention?” Kelley whispers in her ear, Christen flinching.

“Huh? What? Yes,” she whispers defensively, “I’m paying attention,” she shoots her a look, then sees Kelley’s amused expression.

They’re in one of the school’s classrooms, forty teachers gathered and sitting at desks with their iPads, following Tobin’s instructions on how to navigate the new software. Tobin is currently walking around the room, finishing up and answering questions as the teachers are altering the attendance application to suit their needs on how they assemble their students for each class. This is the second day of training and Tobin’s final afternoon lecture session.

“I’d say you were concentrating more on the instructor than the lesson,” Kelley observes with an impish grin making Christen roll her eyes.

“Hush,” She growls back at her as Tobin approaches their aisle. They’re sitting in the back row.

“How’s it going?” Tobin asks genially, looking between the two.

“I think Christen is going to need some one on one training bro,” Kelley states, delighting herself in watching the two blush.

“Oh, um, sure,” Tobin tries to recover, her face feeling hot.

“Don’t listen to her,” Christen states evenly, giving Kelley a warning look, “especially since I haven’t confirmed what school or grade she’s teaching this year,” she threatens.

Kelley doesn’t stop smiling, she simply purses her lips together, moves her fingers as if she’s zipping it up and locking it with a key.

“That’s better,” Christen nods, then turns to Tobin, “Is it going okay for you?”

“Oh yeah,” Tobin grins, her shoulders no longer tense, glancing at Kelley, “I think everyone will be in a good place after this,”

Kelley nods, winking at her.

Tobin shakes her head at Kelley, rolling her eyes at her before she raps lightly on Christen’s desk and moves back through the rows, stopping to answer questions.

It’s been nearly three weeks since Tobin’s injury and she’s feels fine. Her wrist doesn’t ache like it had, her fingers aren’t able to grasp anything heavy yet, but she can grip light objects and button her jeans. The scrape on her temple is gone, leaving a light scar that Christen likes to gently kiss, her knee is healed.

 

Christen is standing to the side of the gym, watching as half the group is playing one of the activities. She’s been tasked with grading the skill projections, her eyes focused on those wearing red pinnies.

“It’s a good curriculum, huh?” a voice says from her left. She turns to see Allie, Tobin’s coworker who has come to assist with the training.

“Yes, it is,” she replies, giving her a smile, “it’s so easy to adopt, I can’t believe it,”

Allie nods as she smiles back at her. “It’s been really nice to see Tobin so happy lately,” she says, quietly, “I think you’re a big reason for that,”

Christen’s eyes widen, not wanting to discuss her love life in this professional setting.

Allie just gives her a disarming smile, “We should all hang out sometime,” she says, “I heard you have two dogs,” she looks at her expectantly, grinning when Christen mutely nods.

“Have you found the dog beaches yet?” she asks.

“Dog beaches?” Christen utters. “No,”

“Oh, we have to go then,” Allie nods authoritatively, “I’m sure your dogs will love it,”

“Uh, sure,” Christen agrees, “that would fun,”

“Cool,” Allie grins at her, then glances out, “Duty calls,” she says, stepping away, “I’ll set it up with Tobin, okay?”

Christen nods, “Sounds good,” she says, grateful Allie didn’t use the opportunity to grill her about the two of them, especially when there’s so many other ears around. Tobin glances over at the two, Allie giving her a little wave and Christen giving her a quick smile.

 

It’s not until the training is over that Tobin has the time to talk to Christen. Allie is in the gym packing up the equipment they brought to play with while she’s back in the auditorium, packing her presentation items. As soon as Christen released the teachers after Tobin’s final gym session, they had scattered to leave for the day, relishing one more final afternoon of freedom before school starts.

“You’re very impressive,” Christen says, walking up to her on the stage, “not only did you train everyone on the software and teach them some new ideas and a new way to think about intentional teaching,” she says, daring to place her hand lightly on Tobin’s forearm, “you had everyone laughing and having fun,”

“I like fun,” Tobin grins at her, “if it’s fun, they won’t fall asleep on me,”

Christen rolls her eyes, “You had everyone into it,” she says, looking at her fondly, “they wanted to learn.”

Tobin smiles widely at her, “Well, like I said before,” she says, “learning is fun,”

“You made it fun,” Christen insists, looking at her intently.

“Thanks,” Tobin says, shrugging a little, uncomfortable with the compliments. She shakes her head, “I could have done without Kelley telling everyone Khaleesi broke my wrist though,” she chuckles.

“I was so embarrassed!” Christen rolls her eyes, “Luckily it was just our little group, not the whole district!”

“Are you really going to make Kelley disinfect all of the equipment?” Tobin asks, her eyes filled with humor.

Christen nods, “I’ll get it all set up,” she confirms, “and make her do a lot of it, but I’ll help her,” she smiles, then shakes her head. “She’s something else.”

Tobin chuckles, “That she is,” she agrees.

“We still on for tonight?”

Tobin looks up quickly, “Oh, for sure!” she nods, “Your place,” she says, “what’s for dinner?”

“A surprise,” Christen teases, “I know you’ll like it,”

“I’ve liked everything you’ve cooked so far,” Tobin says, zipping up her case.

“You have to go back to the office?”

“Yeah,” Tobin nods as they walk out of the theater, “I have a company vehicle,” she says, “and Allie.”

“Well,” Christen says, looking around the empty hallway and pushing Tobin into an empty doorway, “I’ll say see you later here,” she says, pressing herself against her and kissing her. She pulls back and straightens Tobin’s collar on her polo shirt, “Don’t be too long,”

“I won’t,” Tobin smiles as they resume walking to the gym. They enter together and see Allie zipping up one of the two rolling equipment bags they brought with for the training.

“Hey,” Allie greets, standing up and grabbing her water bottle and taking a drink, “we all set?”

“I think so,” Tobin nods.

“Thank you so much for coming out these two days Allie,” Christen says warmly, “you and Tobin work so well together,”

Allie smiles, “Thanks,” she says, “I love doing this stuff, it’s so much fun,”

“I’ll talk to Tobin about the dog beach,” Christen offers, turning to Tobin, “Allie suggested we meet up with her,”

Tobin’s face brightens, “Oh yeah,” she says, “I totally forgot about that,” she nods, “it’s a beach along the river,” she says to Christen.

“I’ll pack towels,” Christen smiles.

“Okay, we got to go,” Allie says, “I want to get back and go home,” she picks up the bags and begins rolling them towards the door.

“I’ll see you later,” Tobin says, slowly following Allie.

“Okay,” Christen says, “bye Allie,”

“Bye!” Allie calls and bumps the door open with her butt.

“See you in a little bit,” Tobin says, glancing around the empty gym and then leaning over and giving her a peck on the lips.

“Bye,” Christen smiles.

 

XXXX

 

The month of September passes quickly, the two falling into a routine. Dinners at each other’s houses twice a week, weekends spent together. They meet up with each other’s friends, Tobin knowing almost of all of Christen’s, being they were teachers. Tonight the two are at their weekly soccer match.

“So,” Kelley plops down next to Christen, “how’s it going?” she asks as she begins to untie her cleats. They’re at the park having just finished playing. Tobin is off to the side, juggling the ball and doing tricks, lost in her own world.

“It’s going good,” Christen smiles, “I’m so happy I didn’t look like a fool out there,”

“Aw, Pressy, you never would!” Kelley exclaims, “You killed it tonight! Three goals? Come on!”

“Aw, Tobin made me look good,” she demures, “her crosses were so on target,”

“She’s really a great player,” she nods, lifting her water bottle, “she should join a different league,” she shakes her head, “she’s the best player in ours,”

“She’s something else,” Christen admires, watching as Tobin plays around as if the ball is on a string to her foot.

“I know she plays pickup on Thursdays, but I don’t know where, she’s only mentioned it a few times.”

“Yeah, she said it’s with some guys,” Christen nods, “a mixed group, there’s only a couple of women,”

"Oh, it's probably the masters league," Kelley nods, "she doesn't like to talk about it,"

"Why's that?" Christen inquires, her brow furrowed with curiosity.

"Because you have to try out to join and we're more of a rec league, it's more intense,"

"Oh," Christen nods as she stuffs her cleats in her bag, "she is really good,"

"Oh, yeah," Kelley agrees. "Come on,” Kelley slaps her shin, “Yo, Tobin! It’s time for beers!”

 

XXXXX

 

 

It’s a Friday night and tomorrow most of the groups were meeting at Tobin’s for her fall craft day. Christen was going to help Tobin prepare for the day. Since so many people were coming, Tobin was planning to order a bunch of pizzas to keep it easy. Tobin made breakfast for dinner as a change of pace for them tonight.

“Wait, so you’re going to the conference in Seattle in two weeks?” Tobin asks, looking up from her dinner plate.

“I am, are you?” Christen asks.

“Uh huh,” Tobin smiles, “uh, would you be free for dinner one night?”

Christen nods, “Yes, I don’t have any dinner plans made yet,” she says, then she arches an eyebrow at her, “Date night in Seattle?”

Tobin smiles wide, “Date night,” she nods. “Have you been to Seattle before?”

“No, I haven’t,” Christen admits, “I’ve always wanted to.”

“Are you coming home on Friday night?”

“Yes,” Christen nods, “the district will only pay for my room on Thursday night.”

“Want to extend your stay?” Tobin asks casually, “Maybe come back with me on Sunday?”

Christen considers it, “I’d have to ask Kelley if she’d be okay watching the dogs for a couple of extra days.”

“Will you do it?” Tobin questions, “I could book a room for us,”

Christen smiles, “I’d like that,” she says, “I’ll text her when we finish eating,”

Tobin smiles back, “Seattle is really cool,” she says, “there’s so much to do there,”

“I’m actually driving up with a few other teachers,” Christen frowns, “are you driving there?”

“I am,” Tobin grins, “I’ll take one of the company mini-vans up,”

“Well, that works out,” Christen nods approvingly.

They continue to eat in silence, both of their minds buzzing with the implications of them sharing a hotel would mean. Since that first kiss, they’ve made out almost every time they’ve been together. The first day of the two day training weeks ago was torture for both of them. Tobin was distracted by the tight yoga pants Christen wore. Christen didn’t fare much better, Tobin in warmups and a polo shirt jogging around a gym with her shoulder muscles rippling under the fabric was doing things to her. Her calves. How sometimes Tobin would move a certain way, usually when she was leaning over to look at a teacher’s iPad, her shirt would expose her slender neck, revealing that spot at the base of it where Christen would like to suck on, remembering how Tobin would moan at the contact. Many nights, each of the would lie in their beds in their separate homes, a hand under their covers, touching themselves while imagining the other person in their minds.

They’ve kept contact above the waist, under the shirt was allowed, but over the bra. Both were serious on becoming good friends who kissed, both wanting to build a strong foundation based off of their compatibility before introducing the physical component to their relationship. It was coming though. Oh boy, it was coming. This last week they’ve struggled, coming close to crossing the line, but where one might be more aggressive, the other would pull them back down.

The hunger for each other was real. The longing looks. The lingering touches. It was all building to an outburst of passion. It was looking as if Seattle would be where it happens and they both know it but won’t comment on it.

“Are Shay and Kass coming with Allie tomorrow?” Christen suddenly breaks the silence.

“Uh, I think so,” Tobin shrugs, “she usually brings them, they love to hang out in the yard.” She looks at her, “You’re bringing the puppies, right?”

Christen smiles and nods. “You know,” she sets her fork down and leans her elbows on the table, “I really like that you enjoy my dogs so much,” she confesses, running a hand through her hair, “some people aren’t like that, you know.”

Tobin leans back in her chair as she listens, her brow creased, “Well,” she leans forward, mimicking Christen’s position, “you’re a package deal,” she states, her tone surprised, as if she can’t believe everyone wouldn’t like the dogs, “where you go, they go,”

Christen just smiles wider, picking up her fork, “I find it sexy,” she admits, “how you act with them, how you babied Khaleesi when she had her cast,”

“They’re your babies, Chris,” Tobin states, “of course I’m going to love them,”

Christen looks up quickly at the use of the L word, but Tobin’s head is down as she concentrates on finishing her meal.

Christen considers her words as she finishes her meal, thinking, Tobin loves my dogs, does it mean she loves me as well, she wonders. It should be too early for love, she considers, for either one of us, she dismisses. It’s just a phrase. Although I could easily see myself falling for her. She lets it go, realizing the two of them are only just beginning this relationship and she shouldn’t be analyzing every little thing Tobin says.

They finish up their meal and do the dishes together, Christen listening as Tobin tells her a story about how Sonnett had a disastrous blind date that scarred her for life.

“So, I think I know someone she should meet,” Christen nods at Tobin, “you know her too.”

“Who?” Tobin questions, shoving the handle of a spoon under her cast and scratching her forearm. It’s due to come off on Monday and she can’t wait, it’s been driving her crazy.

“Kelley,” Christen states with a dangerous grin on her face, her eyes full of excitement.

“Kelley,” Tobin repeats, thinking about it, “huh.”

“Not a good idea?” Christen questions, gently grabbing Tobin’s hand and stilling her movements with the spoon, “Stop, you’ll break the skin,”

Tobin nods and pulls the spoon handle out, tossing it in the sink.

“Kelley and Emily,” Tobin contemplates, picking up a bag from Blick. She had stopped to buy some paints on her way home from work.

“What do you think?” Christen asks, feeling in her gut that fireworks would happen the two women. She looks over her shoulder as she leads Tobin to the door. The dogs get up and beeline to the door to get outside.

“Isn’t there some theory about chaos colliding with chaos creates stability?” Tobin grins at her, “I think they’d get along pretty well,” she says, “I’m not sure Sonnett would be willing to get set up though, not right now,”

“What about if we make place cards and have them sit next to each other?” Christen proposes.

“Huh,” Tobin considers, “that might work,” she says, “and I could explain it away as not wanting each group to stick together. It wouldn’t be suspicious,”

“That’s a great idea,” Christen agrees.

“Well, if we’re going to do that,” Tobin says, passing Christen who’s holding the barn door open for her, “then we’re definitely putting another two together.”

Tobin walks over and unlocks the big doors and pushes one open to let in light and a breeze. She walks over to the table and sets the bag down.

“Who is that?” Christen asks, trying to make a match in her head.

“I think Ali would totally fall for Ashlyn,” Tobin says, “Ash is her type and I happen to know neither one of them is seeing anyone right now,”

As soon as she says it, Christen can picture it. “Okay, well, how would we make this work?” Christen is wondering how to have them be together and not have it seem obvious it’s a set up.

“Well,” Tobin shrugs, “we’ll just make the place cards for everyone and let the chips fall,”

They chat as they set up the mini easels on the tables, Tobin showing Christen what a work station should look like so she could help set them up.

Tobin sits and writes out the names for the seating arrangements, then they mock up where to put everyone.

“What’s the extra tables for?” Christen asks, looking over to see two tables without any painting items on it.

“Oh, some people come to just hang out,” Tobin replies, “so this way, they don’t feel pressured if they don’t want to paint,”

“Oh, that’s cool,” Christen nods.

“Plus, I put snacks on them too,” Tobin grins.

They work for another hour, Tobin assigning small tasks for Christen to complete to help with the set up. When Tobin is satisfied she’s good for the next the day, they close up the barn. They play with the dogs in the yard as night falls, leaving them in the yard to hang out while they go in the house. It doesn’t take long for them to end up on the couch, making out. Christen is on Tobin’s lap with both of her hands under Tobin’s shirt, gripping her breasts. Tobin had one hand up Christen’s shirt, the other on her butt. Both are breathing heavy as they kiss passionately.

As Christen feels herself growing wet in between her legs, she pulls back, knowing she’s driving Tobin just as crazy with desire. She sits back on her lap, resting her head against Tobin’s chest, withdrawing her hands and holding one of Tobin’s.

“You’re too good at that,” Tobin breathes out, licking her lips, “so good,”

“You are too,” Christen says, wanting her to know she’s feeling the same way. They stay in this position for a couple of minutes before Christen reluctantly slides off her lap. “I should head home,” she says apologetically.

“Yeah,” Tobin says, opening her eyes and giving her a soft smile, “I’ll see you tomorrow though,”

“I can’t wait,” Christen smiles back, “it’s going to be so much fun,”

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen can’t help but notice how Tobin discourages anyone’s offer to pay for their canvas or paints, shrugging it off and just saying she got a great deal at the art shop and not to worry about it. She’s finished her own painting, going with a happy cute ghost saying “Boo!” and is satisfied it is recognizable as such. She’s impressed how Tobin explained the process, breaking down the basics and how she had a slideshow running on one of the walls of different Halloween ideas for inspiration.

She sheds her painting apron, letting it hang on the back of her chair, standing up and walking to the fridge in the barn to retrieve a beer. She opens it and takes a long pull from the bottle, her eyes glancing around her surroundings. The barn from the outside gives the impression of being old, yet the interior is anything but that. The wood floor on this side is old and worn but in wonderful shape, the pavement where Tobin’s truck would be normally parked in smooth and almost new. Laying a wood floor in here wouldn’t be cheap, she figures, this side of the barn is probably almost six or seven hundred square feet. The worktables are all on wheels, they have an electrical outlet on each one, they remind Christen of the tables in her science classes at Stanford. Even the fridge in the garage has a water dispenser. Heaters are mounted to the rafter beams along with a couple of overhead fans, spinning lazily to circulate the air.

She glances over and sees Tobin leaning down to listen to Kyle asking a question, how her hand gestures at the canvas and she makes Kyle laugh. How she squeezes his shoulder and moves down to Alex, checking in with her, giving her a thumbs up and laughing at something Alex says. She’s truly a people person, Christen thinks, slowly walking back to the table where the snacks are, making herself a small plate of chips and salsa.

“You finished?” Tobin is right beside her, grinning at her.

“I am,” Christen smiles at her, “I have a cute ghost,”

Tobin looks over to her spot at the table, her eyes looking at her canvas. She turns back to her, “Really cute,” she grins at her.

“I thought I’d hang it on my front door,” Christen explains, “I’m not sure if they trick or treat in my building,”

“Aw, that’s a neat idea,” Tobin grins.

“So, what do you think?” Christen asks as she steps closer to her.

Tobin looks at her for a moment, “About what?”

Christen cocks her head over towards the table that Ashlyn, Ali, Kelley and Emily are seated at.

“Oh,” Tobin nods, getting it now. “I think we did our job and let’s just see what happens,”

Christen scrunches her mouth up as she considers that, “That would probably be the best thing to do,” she agrees slowly. She looks and sees Tobin looking at her with some amusement. “What?” she questions.

“You like playing Cupid, don’t you?” Tobin asks, her grin growing wider. She’s kept her voice low so nobody else would know what they’re talking about.

Christen blushes, “Maybe,” she admits.

Tobin taps her chin with two fingers, her eyes looking up at the ceiling as she dramatically considers this. “You are a sucker for a love story, aren’t you,” she says when she finally drops her hand and looks at her.

Christen sees those warm brown eyes peering at her full of affection and amusement. “It gets me every damn time,” she says seriously, looking back at her, seeing how Tobin’s eyes change and her demeanor grows serious.

Tobin swallows, bites her lower lip in a quick motion and takes a deep breath before speaking, “I’ll remember that,” she says sincerely.

“I believe you,” Christen replies, just as softly and seriously as Tobin spoke. They hold eye contact, both of them recognizing how vulnerable they’ve just been to each other.

“Hey, what’s going on over here?” HAO questions loudly, slapping Tobin on the back and making both her and Christen flinch. She eyes them, “Is everything okay?” she asks softly, slightly alarmed.

“I’m having a pizza dilemma,” Tobin confesses, coming up with the perfect excuse and she smiles at Christen seeing her relief.

“Oh, dude, well, get some paper,” HAO insists, “you can’t do this stuff in your head,” she insists, taking Tobin by the arm. As she’s being led away, Tobin glances over at Christen, sending her wink. Christen smiles and takes another long drink of beer and decides to check in with Ash and Kelley and see how things are going at their table.

Before she heads over, see looks and sees the four could all use a beer, so she detours to the fridge, pulling bottles out and heading over to the table.

“Hello, ladies,” she greets, offering them the beers.

“Hey, Christen, how’s it going?” Kelley asks as she opens her beer, “Thanks for this,” she says, holding it high for a moment and then chugging it.

“Going good,” Christen replies, eying her painting, “Kel, that’s pretty cool,” she compliments. Kelley had painted a carved pumpkin on a bale of hay. She hands off the other beers to the table.

“Thanks,” she grins up at her from her seat, “look at Emily’s,” she points to the easel next to hers.

“Oh, wow!” she quietly exclaims, “that is awesome,” she grins at the woman.

“Yeah, isn’t it?” Kelley nods at her, grinning from ear to ear.

“Aw, thanks,” Emily says shyly, which is uncharacteristic of her, just from the little Christen knows of her. She sees she’s blushing, so she diverts her attention over to Ashlyn and Ali.

She chats with them, noting how Ashlyn keeps glancing over Ali as they talk, seeing a bit of a dreamy look in her eyes. Satisfied that her and Tobin’s plan seems to be working, she casually asks them their pizza preferences and then excuses herself.

She glances over and finds Tobin still with HAO mulling over pizza choices. As she makes her way towards the two, Christen stops by each table, asking about their pizza choices
She places her hand on Tobin’s back, smiling at her when she looks up. “How’s it going here, Pizza Queen?”

Tobin rolls her eyes as she shakes her head, HAO bursting out in laughter.

“You’d think she never ordered pizzas before!” HAO chuckles, “What type do you like, Press?”

“May I see your list?” Christen asks, ignoring HAO’s question and skimming the neat printed pizza types. “Okay,” she says, handing it back, “Order all large, one veggie, one cheese, three sausage and peperoni and one garbage.”

Tobin’s eyes grow wide as she speaks with such authority. HAO just raises her eyebrows as she looks at her, nods her head and takes a step back. “I see you’ve got it handled,” she smiles slyly at her and walks to the fridge to get a beer.

“How did you?” Tobin starts and then shakes her head, “Thank you,” she says, “Would you please repeat it?” she asks, her pencil poised to adjust her list.

 

 

“Oh, this feels good,” Tobin sighs as she drops down on her couch, putting her feet up on the coffee table. The guests have all left, the barn is cleaned and now it’s just the two of them. Khaleesi and Morena are both lying on their blanket, worn out from playing all day with Shay and Kass.

“Feet hurt?” Christen queries, perching herself on the end of the couch.

“Oh, so much,” Tobin whines, “I really shouldn’t have worn sandals the whole day,”

Christen slides back on the couch, patting her lap, “Put your feet up,” she instructs. Tobin slowly slides her feet from the coffee table over to her lap. Christen begins to massage her arches.

“Oh Chris,” Tobin whines, “my feet are gross,” she protests.

“I’ll wash my hands after,” Christen states and begins to work on one of her feet with both hands.

“Oh,” Tobin moans, “that feels great,” she says, “thanks so much,”

“You were very busy,” Christen states, “you only sat down to eat,”

“Did you have fun?” Tobin asks, adjusting the pillow behind her head so she can easily her.

“It was a lot of fun,” Christen smiles at her, continuing to work on her feet, “I went to one of those paint nights with my friends back in LA and this was so much better.”

“I’m glad you had a good time,” Tobin says sincerely.

Christen yawns as she switches feet, her fingers gently massaging her heel.

“It’s pretty late,” Tobin comments, “would you like to stay the night?”

“Hum,” Christen contemplates, then yawns again, “I will,”

Tobin yawns as well. It is late, almost one o’clock. The group had meshed really well once again, cleaning up and pushing the tables to one side, Sonnett commandeering the sound dock and putting on dance music. Around eleven a few people began to trickle out, thanking Tobin for a wonderful time, laughing about something hilarious that had happened as they left. A smaller group ended the evening around Tobin’s firepit, the evening having just enough of a chill in September to give to justify it.

They sit for a few minutes, Christen now absently rubbing Tobin’s shins as they recap the afternoon and evening.

“So, I definitely think Ashlyn and Ali hit it off tonight,” Christen declares, seeing Tobin nod in agreement.

“There was certainly something happening between them,” she says, yawning, “I think Kelley doesn’t know what to think of Sonnett,”

“How do you mean?” Christen asks curiously.

“She was pretty quiet tonight,” Tobin states, “she was not the ringleader of shenanigans like she usually is,”

“I noticed that as well,” Christen nods, “I didn’t want to ask her though,”

“Yeah,” Tobin says, slowing sliding her feet from Christen’s lap, “it’ll be interesting if she asks me about Emily,” she says and yawns again.

“You ready for bed?” Christen asks.

“I’m beat,” Tobin says tiredly, “I can get you some clothes and a toothbrush,” she says as she groans and stands up, “do you need anything else? Contact stuff? Do you wear contacts?”

“I do,” Christen says, standing up as well, “I might have a case in my purse,” she says. She looks over to the dogs, “Girls, outside?” she asks.

Morena lifts her head, tail wagging as she gets up, Khaleesi following much more slowly.

“They’re so sleepy,” Tobin smiles at Christen.

“Not used to being outside and playing all day,” Christen says, “I’ll be back in a minute, okay?” she nods to her.

Tobin goes to her room, tiredly flicking on the lights and ambling over to her dresser. She doesn’t know what Christen prefers to sleep in, so she selects a pair of shorts, sweats, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt for her. She’ll ask her if she wants socks. She heads to her bathroom, using the toilet and then washing her hands and face, quickly doing her nightly routine.

She’s just slipping her sleep shirt on to finish changing when she hears the kitchen door shut and lock and Christen quietly speaking to the dogs. She leaves her room to find her handing each dog a treat.

“I put some clothes on my bed,” Tobin announces a little shyly, “I wasn’t sure what you like to wear to bed, so just use whatever,” she says, “you can use my bathroom if you want, I left a washcloth and my face wash to use if you want,” she adds.

“Thanks,” she says, “I don’t want this to be awkward,” she states, looking at her, “but I want to sleep with you, okay? Just sleep.”

The corners of Tobin’s mouth curl into the cutest smile, “Okay,” she agrees, “the puppies too?”

“They can stay out here on their blanket,” Christen shakes her head.

Tobin tilts her head, “Do they normally sleep with you?”

Christen nods her head.

“Then they can sleep with us,” she offers, “they’re in a strange house too, don’t want them to be nervous,”

“I don’t think dogs get nervous from things that go bump in the night,” Christen smiles at her.

“Well, I’d be a bad hostess if they did,” Tobin says simply, “come on girls,” she calls to them, Morena coming right up to her and nuzzling her leg, “do you want to have a slumber party?” Tobin asks the dog, Morena’s butt shaking as she wags her tail back and forth. Tobin looks up at Christen, giving her a cheesy smile, “I think I won this round,”

Christen shakes her head, calling to Khaleesi as they follow Tobin to the bedroom. Once in the room, Christen gathers the clothing and walks into the bathroom, smiling when she finds a contact case, solution, a folded face towel, face wash, toothpaste and a toothbrush on the counter. She sets the clothes down and starts her nightly routine. When she exits the bathroom wearing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, she witnesses Tobin giving belly rubs to both dogs on the bed.

“Now you’re just spoiling them,” she complains good naturedly, walking to the edge of the bed. “Where should I put these?” she questions, holding up the sweats and sweatshirt.

“Oh, on the chair is fine,” Tobin replies as continues to stroke the dogs’ fur. Christen sets the clothing down turning and standing at the foot of the bed.

“What side do you prefer?” she asks Tobin quietly.

“Left,” she answers, scooting over and standing up to pull back the comforter. Christen nods and walks over to the right side of the bed. It’s awkward for a moment when the two get in the bed together, both lying on their backs in the darkness after Tobin shut the lights off.

“This is silly,” Tobin murmurs, shifting to her side, “come on over,” she coos, “I won’t bite,”

Christen lets out a nervous giggle, but she moves over on her side to face her. They feel the dogs moving around the foot of the bed, finding spots to lie down.

Tobin sweetly kisses her sweetly, cupping her face with her hand. “I really want to kiss you silly,” she says in a near whisper, “but I’m so tired,”

Christen reaches up to hold Tobin’s wrist, “It’s okay, sweetie,” she says just as quietly, “will you hold me?” she asks.

“Of course,” Tobin replies cheerfully. They shift a little and get comfortable, Christen pulling her pillow over closer to the middle and snuggling up against Tobin. She feels Tobin’s warm arm wrap around her waist, her hand gently rubbing her belly. Christen reaches to hold her hand, bringing it closer to her chest.

They both sigh deeply and quietly say good night. Sleep comes quick for them.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

Since that night ten days ago, Christen and Tobin have grown even closer. Their makeout sessions have now included some hands under the bra action and last a bit longer. Without speaking about it, both are definitely planning on the Seattle trip to finally seal the deal.

They’ve continued their routine, dining at each other’s homes, playing soccer once a week together, Tobin playing pick up on Thursday nights, discussing menus for the week on Sunday nights and recipes to try. They’ve become a bit domestic, enjoying the quiet time together spent reading on the swing in the yard, sitting on the couch or at the kitchen table catching up on work, napping together and taking the dogs for walks or to the dog beach. They still dress up for their Friday or Saturday night dates or going out with their friends, wanting to impress each other and each time the night ends with them struggling not to shed their clothes in a fit of passion.

Seattle can’t come soon enough.

Christen has joined the group to play soccer a few times, enjoying being able to hit the ball around and play again. Their friends have stopped teasing them about how cute they are, although they still get comments, just not bombarded like before. Both were happy to hear Ali and Ashlyn gushing about their dates, while Emily and Kelley are still doing a slightly strange little dance between themselves. It involves lots of flirting and teasing, yet both aren’t willing to commit to an actual date yet that they know of. They both try to be casual about the group getting together and checking who would be there.

It’s slightly comical, but Tobin and Christen are just about the only ones who aren’t pushing them together. They both feel that each woman has been hurt in the past and are still eying another up, using their flirting and teasing to cover up their fear of being hurt again, unwilling to risk hurt feelings just yet. So, they’ve kind of double dated, in a weird casual way, Tobin and Emily just happening to get coffee the same place Christen and Kelley are, or browsing through Powell’s bookstore and running into them there. After it happened for the third time, with Christen’s precision timing and planning, Tobin discovers the hints that Kelley is giving her for when it was okay for her and Christen to awkwardly excuse themselves and wander off from the two.

When she explained it to Christen, she just smiled, nodding her head and promising to watch for it and see if she could recognize it as well. Once she did, things got less awkward.
It’s been raining on and off today, the skies filled with angry clouds and the air hot. Christen is cooking dinner at Tobin’s house while Tobin is in her laundry room changing a load of clothes. Most nights when it’s Christen’s turn to cook, she comes to Tobin’s house, citing that she likes her kitchen better than the one in her apartment and her backyard to let the dogs roam. Tobin happily agrees, loving having her over.

“Tobin!” Christen yells, holding her phone in her hand, turning the flame to low under the skillet, “Tobin!”

“Yeah?” Tobin replies from the laundry room, alarmed when she hears the fear in Christen’s voice. “What’s wrong?” she calls as she trots down the hallway.

Christen is looking at her phone.

“Chris, what’s wrong?” Tobin repeats, worry in her voice.

She looks up, “We’re in a tornado watch!” she exclaims, her eyes wide and fearful.

“Okay,” Tobin nods.

“Tobin, what do we do?” Christen asks, “Where do we go?”

“Chris, it’s fine,” she assures her, “we just have to stay aware of the weather,”

“But there’s a tornado coming!” She says loudly, looking at her frantically.

“Chris,” Tobin starts.

“Tobin, I don’t know what to do!” She yells.

Tobin nods, approaching her, reaching out to hug her but she flinches away. “Not now, Tobin!” she says harshly, “I should get the dogs, I should go home,”

“Chris, wait a second,” Tobin says, it’s slowly dawning on her that maybe Christen has never experienced weather like this, not growing up in California. “The safest thing to do is stay here,” she says evenly, “we need to just be aware of the weather,” she explains patiently, “a watch means that the conditions are good for a tornado to occur. Unless it changes to a warning, we just need to be mindful of the skies.”

“You’re positive?” Christen asks, wiping away a tear.

“Yes,” Tobin says softly, “we’ll be fine,”

“I’m sorry,” Christen sniffs, walking to her and hugging her hard, “I’m scared,” She feels Tobin hold her tight, rocking slightly, “I understand,” she says sweetly, kissing the side of her head, “please don’t be scared,”

“I didn’t know you get tornados here,” Christen sniffs, resting her head against Tobin’s chest.

“We don’t get them a lot,” Tobin states, “but it can happen sometimes,” she pulls back to see her face, “I’m going to turn on the Weather Channel, we’ll keep it on until this passes,” she nods at her, releasing her when Christen nods with her.

“Sorry, I lost it,” Christen apologizes, “I didn’t mean to yell at to you,”

“You were scared,” Tobin says understandingly, “I didn’t know,”

Christen kisses her softly, “Thanks for being so great,”

Tobin smiles and nods at her, “Is dinner close?”

“We’re going to eat?” she questions, surprised.

“Yeah, we’ll watch the TV, it’s okay,” Tobin says reassuringly, “oh, I know, come on.” She grabs her hand and leads her to the door to the basement. “Here’s where we should go if the weather gets bad,” she explains, opening the door and flicking on the light.

She leads Christen down into the unfinished basement. Christen looks around, noting the treadmill, squat rack, weight bench located in a corner. Dumbbell racks and plate racks line the wall. A mirror is affixed to the wall behind it. The rest of the area is clean, cement walls with drop lights illuminating the area. There’s an older table and chairs in the corner, a workbench up against the wall with a light over it. Christen likes how neat and organized everything is down here.

Tobin leads her around the stairs and stops before a door. “This is my safe room for weather,” she explains, opening the door, “this is where we take shelter,” she clicks on a light, steps in and gestures for Christen to follow. The room is small, maybe fitting five people, the walls made of cinderblock, two lows of shelves on the bottom of each one lined with carefully marked boxes of Christmas decorations. A few foldup chairs are stacked leaning against the back wall. She spies a case of water on the shelf, a few boxes, a full backpack, a first aid kit, flashlights and what she thinks is a toolbox.

“If you’re ever here while I’m not and the weather makes you nervous, you come down here, okay?” Tobin looks at her, rubbing Christen’s upper arm.

“Okay,” Christen nods shyly, “I’m going to finish making dinner, it’s almost ready,” she says. She feels a little foolish for her reaction, but honestly, she couldn’t control the fear and panic that coursed through her. Then she realizes the comment about being here when Tobin isn’t and she feels a little pang in her chest at the idea of being here and having dinner ready for her when she walks through the door from work.

“Okay,” Tobin says as they exit, breaking Christen from her reverie. Tobin clicks off the light and leaves the door open. They trot up the stairs, Tobin switching on the TV and finding the weather station, watching the radar for a minute and then leaving the kitchen to go to the yard. She looks up at the sky and throws a tennis ball around for Morena to fetch and bring back to her.

The sky is still threatening, but it’s not raining and the winds are calm. She enters the house just as Christen is pulling out the plates.

“Dinner ready?” Tobin questions, bumping her shoulder as she uses the sink to wash her hands.

“Yep,” Christen nods, glancing outside, still uneasy about the weather.

“Thanks for cooking,” Tobin says, leaning in and kissing her softly. Christen smiles at her, “You’re welcome,”

“What can I do?” she asks.

“Um, make the plates?” Christen asks, “I’ll get drinks, you want water or?”

“Uh, I’ll have milk, please,” Tobin replies, lifting a plate and looking over what Christen has made for them to eat. “This looks great, babe,” Tobin comments as she begins to plate the meals.

Christen smiles at her, studying her as she works. Amused at how her tongue pokes out as she slowly lifts the chicken breast, being careful not to spill the juices.

“You called me babe,” Christen grins at her.

Tobin smiles, “That’s ‘cause you are a babe,” she says cheekily, giving her an exaggerated wink. “Go sit, I’ll bring this to you,” she says.

They watch the weather report as they eat, Christen growing a bit nervous as she sees the storm front coming in. The amount of red and yellow on the radar makes her tense up.
“You didn’t get much storms where you lived, huh?” Tobin speaks before taking another bite of her meal.

“No,” Christen says quietly, “I mean, we had rains and winds and stuff but not…tornadoes.”

“It’s very unusual for it to happen here,” Tobin says reassuringly, laying a hand on Christen’s knee and squeezing it gently, “a lot of things have to fall in place for it to happen,”

“Were you ever in one?” Christen questions.

“Ah, not really,” Tobin says, “I was super young when one came through Portland, I think I was like five or something,”

“Do you remember it?” Christen asks, intrigued.

Tobin frowns, “I remember being scared,” she says, “I remember my Mom having toys in the basement we could play with,” she scrunches up her mouth, “I think it’s one of the reasons I made sure any house I bought had a basement,”

“Huh,” Christen comments, “it stuck with you?”

Tobin looks over at her, shrugging, “Maybe? Like, it was just a storm, we didn’t see a thing, we could hear the wind, but it was like a really bad storm.” She pauses a moment, “What about you?”

Christen shakes her head, “Just the high winds and thunderstorms,” she says.

“Well,” Tobin smiles reassuringly at her, “we’ll be fine,” she says with all the confidence she can muster, wanting Christen to feel at ease.

They hang out on the couch for a little bit, eventually getting up and doing the dishes. Tobin goes back to her laundry, while Christen scans the channels on TV. Thunder is beginning to rumble, although it hasn’t started to rain yet.

Tobin and Christen’s phones go off, a weather alert appearing on their screens. Christen picks up her phone, her eyes widening.

“Tobin!” she yells, “We’re in a tornado warning!”

“Okay, we need to go to the basement,” Tobin says calmly, “Get your shoes on.”

Tobin spreads open the front drapes, “Woah,” she utters upon seeing the greenish sky.

A loud crack of thunder makes both of them jump and the sound for rain pelting the roof and windows can be heard.

“The dogs!” Christen cries, launching off the couch and running to the kitchen door. “Morena! Khaleesi! Come!”

A heavy rain begins to fall, lightning flaring in the sky, thunder rolling ominously. Morena bolts for the door, running full speed from the far corner of the yard to the door and into the house, her legs skittering and sliding on the floor. The rain is coming down in sheets. The winds are picking up and the temperature has dropped. The sky is tinted a weird greenish color which is alarming.

“Khaleesi!” Christen yells. Tobin brushes past her, “I’ll get her,” she says, running into the yard, calling for her. She finds her huddled under the swing near the pond, slightly shaking.

“Come on, girl,” Tobin says softly, getting on her knees and gently pulling her out. The dog is scared, whimpering in fear. Swiftly Tobin picks her up and carries her as she trots to the house, rain pelting her and the animal.

“Basement,” she orders, ushering them to the door. “I’ll be just a second,” Tobin says, stripping her shirt off, running to her room and throwing on another shirt and grabbing her backpack and Christen’s purse, pausing to think if she should grab anything else. She runs to the kitchen, grabbing two bowls for the dogs. She trots to the front door, seeing how the sky has turned an even deeper shade of green. The rain stops and the air grows still, making Tobin feel scared. She grabs the dog leashes and runs for the basement.

“Tobin!” Christen yells from downstairs.

“Coming!” she yells back as the sound of the tornado siren fills the air.

“Tobin!” Christen screams, her fear so evident that Tobin nearly slips in her haste to get down the stairs.

“Come on,” Tobin instructs, speed walking to the corner of the basement and ushering them in. She shuts the door behind herself, breathing a little heavy. She drops her backpack and Christen’s purse on the floor, while Christen is kneeling on the floor, wiping Morena’s paws. Khaleesi is whimpering and Tobin strokes her head, “It’s okay, girl,” she coos.

Tobin slicks back her wet hair, looks around the finds the radio, fiddling with it until the sound of voices fills the little room. It’s KEX 1190 on, listing neighborhoods that should be on the lookout for the approaching weather. The male voice is excitedly explaining a funnel cloud has been spotted in the southwest section of the city. Tobin’s eyes widen when he mentions the area around the Japanese Gardens should take shelter immediately. She latches the door and looks over to Christen and sees she’s visibly upset, tears streaking down her face. Tobin lowers herself to the floor, beckoning her closer. She wraps her arms her, holding her tightly. “We’ll be okay,” she says, “we’re safe down here.” Both dogs attempt to sit on their laps.

They both look up when they hear a loud boom that shakes the house, Christen emitting a cry. The lights go out and the small room is plunged into darkness. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” Tobin assures as she lets her hand run along the lower shelf, her fingers surrounding one of the flashlights she keeps in here. She clicks it on, shining it around to locate the small lantern she has in here. “A transformer must have blown,” she comments. “Chris,” she says, nudging her, Christen lifting her head up, “can you grab that lantern next to you?”
Christen turns, not leaving Tobin’s side, to pick up the lantern. She flinches with another clap of thunder that shakes the house. Tobin turns on the lantern, setting it on the low shelf to illuminate the area. She brings her hand around Christen, rubbing her back. Khaleesi settles on her side, whimpering and lying half on Tobin’s leg. Morena is in Christen’s lap.

They can hear the rain pelting the basement windows, coming in gusts, each one stronger than the next.

Then they both hear it change into a rumble above them, then glass shattering and a loud thump that shakes the house, making them both scream. The rumble turns into a deafening roar, making Christen turn and bury her head into Tobin’s chest, gripping her shoulder painfully tight. She feels Tobin’s hand on her head, pulling her close to her chest. The flashlights and other items on the shelves bounce around, they can hear the cracking of tree branches and the screeching sound of bending metal.

“Tobin!” Christen cries in terror. It truly sounds like a fast moving train is speeding past them outside.

“It’s okay! We’re okay!” Tobin exclaims over the noise, trying to reassure her, but she can hear her own panic in her voice. Tobin is terrified but she needs to be calm for Christen right now. She holds her tight, worriedly looking up the ceiling of the room as if she’s waiting for it to be pulled off any minute. She clamps her eyes shut as the sounds get louder, dropping her head to nuzzle against Christen’s.

Christen holds her tight, feeling how Tobin’s breathing is speeding up, how tense she is as she holds her. How her grip is tight on her, it’s so tight, it’s near painful. She can hear Tobin speaking, catching bits and pieces of what she figures out is a prayer. She hears her name being said and the thought of Tobin praying for her settles her. A strange calmness comes over her, she’s still terrified, yet she’s not panicked now. She realizes they have to sit and wait it out, wincing as she hears a thump and more glass shattering.

The roar, that she thought must have lasted twenty minutes, is lessening, getting quieter and then a loud clap of thunder makes her jolt up, her head smacking against Tobin’s so hard, she hears it thump against the wall. Tobin makes a strangled noise, flinching from the impact.

Christen pulls away from her, “Oh my gosh, are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Tobin says, lifting her hand and rubbing the back of her head, “I’m good,” she pants, swallowing hard.

“Is it over?” she questions.

“I think it is,” Tobin says, her voice shaky, moving slowly to retrieve the radio that had fallen on the ground. She tunes it in back to the station, then shifts her hips and pulls her phone out. With a shaky hand, she pulls up her weather app, grateful she still has internet access.

“Here’s the radar,” she turns the phone so Christen can see. “It’s passed,” Tobin states. “There’s still some rain coming,” she says and then pauses, “We should go check and see if I have a house left.”

There’s something in Tobin’s somber tone that sobers Christen’s thoughts. Here she was terrified for her and Tobin, for her dogs, and now that it has passed, the realization of the damage left behind leaves her reeling. The thought of how Tobin had told her she was smitten with her house and now the possibility that it could be destroyed tears at her heart.
Slowly they get up, Tobin grabbing the flashlight and the crow bar, apprehensively taking the few steps to the door. She unlatches the door, turns the knob and slowly opens it, flashing the light around. Light is filtering through the few windows, the reflection of glass on the cement floor. They both look to see a tree branch coming through one of the small windows.

Tobin turns to her, “Maybe we should keep the dogs in here until we see how it is?” she questions. “There might be glass all over,”

“Good idea,” Christen says, “it’s okay girls,” she says before shutting the door behind them. She shines her flashlight around, walking behind Tobin who is moving slowly, dragging her feet as if she’s dreading going up the stairs. Christen reaches out and places her hand on Tobin’s back, wanting to touch her in hopes it helps reassure her.

The door to the upstairs is shut, leaving them to walk up in the darkness, their flashlights leading the way. Tobin cautiously turns the knob, then pushes it open. She takes another step up to poke her head in the hallway before walking up the remaining couple of stairs and looks around. She moves down the hallway to her bedroom, shining the light on the walls and ceiling, checking out the bathroom for damage. Nothing. They move without speaking to the guest room, then the hallway bathroom, approaching the kitchen.

The kitchen’s backdoor has blown open, the screen door hanging on by one hinge. The metal screen door itself is twisted and dented. There’s rainwater and leaves and small branches on the floor, but the windows are intact. A bushy tree branch is filling half of the living room having broken through where the large window once was. Glass litters the floor mixed with leaves and wetness reflects from the beams of the flashlights.

“Oh my God,” Tobin utters and Christen feels her stomach drop.

It’s only five thirty, but the sky is still dark and overcast.

Tobin let’s out a shaky breath and Christen slips her arm around her waist. Tobin’s mouth is open as she stares at the tree in her living room. She runs a hand over her face, holding her chin as she as looks with disbelief at the tree. Then she shakes her head and clears her throat.

“I need to check outside and then on the neighbors,” Tobin informs her. “I’m going to put some jeans on and change my shoes,” she says, “you want to bring the puppies up and put them my room or something?”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Christen nods.

They walk back towards the hallway, “If you want to change clothes, please just help yourself, okay?”

“Okay,” Christen nods, kissing her a quick kiss.

Once they’ve changed their clothes and have the dogs safely in Tobin’s room, Christen follows Tobin out the back door. Thankfully, the barn is standing, Tobin’s roof is fine. The trees in the backyard are fine, a few branches down but nothing major. The gutter on the front of house is torn down, most likely pulled down from the huge tree that was across the street that had fallen into her front yard and driveway. It blocks the road, nearly taking out Christen’s car and just missing going through Tobin’s roof and taking out the corner of her house by a couple of feet.

Christen is taking photos with her phone, knowing Tobin isn’t thinking of it, her focus on checking if everything is in good order. Once they’ve established that her house needs to have the tree branch removed from the front window and driveway, her screen door removed and the basement window replaced, Tobin tells her she needs to make sure her neighbors are okay.

They go back into the house for Tobin to pick up the flashlight and crowbar and leave again. Christen tells her she’ll start cleaning up inside and not to worry.

 

Before she enters the house, Christen takes photos of the yard, it’s littered with branches and leaves cover the grass. She takes photos of the living room and kitchen, thinking Tobin may need them for insurance purposes. Then she sets to cleaning up as best she can. She can hear shouting as she carefully sweeps the kitchen floor. She pokes her head out the front door, seeing Tobin gesturing and giving a thumbs up to someone out of her view. She sees other people milling around, looking shell shocked, wearing the same expression on their faces that Tobin hasn’t lost yet.

Her phone is vibrating in her pocket so she takes it out, seeing multiple texts and missed calls. She texts Kelley back, letting her know they’re okay but Tobin’s house was hit, sending a photo of the tree in the living room.

Once she gets the kitchen cleaned, she stands in the living room, deciding on how to attack it. She pushes the sofa and wing chairs back near the kitchen, then sweeps the glass, the small branches and leaves up, dumping it in the garbage. She remembers that Tobin has a low shelving unit under the large window, so she moves the coffee table out of the way, pushing it to the side. She finds a bag of rags in Tobin’s laundry area, bringing it out to the kitchen and using the few to wipe down her leather couch. Then she slowly pulls the shelving unit out from under the tree. She sees how the branch is resting on the windowsill, so she carefully pulls the unit out, making sure to take off the little items Tobin has on it. It’s mostly candles and keepsakes from her travels. She spreads a couple of towels on the coffee table and sets the broken items on it, wanting to show Tobin so she could decide to throw them away or keep them.

The tree is wet from the rain and every time Christen brushes against it, it sends new drops of water down onto the old hard wood floor. She frowns, not wanting the floor to get ruined. She snaps her fingers as an idea comes to mind, trotting back down the stairs into the basement to retrieve Tobin’s backpack and her purse. She fishes her keys out and heads outside to her car.

The size of the tree lying horizontally across Tobin’s front lawn is amazing. Christen’s eyes follow the trunk to across the street to where the trunk has lifted the ground up around it by at least ten feet. At its base, the tree is about three or four feet in diameter. There are two more large trees blocking the road, a few neighbors standing near one talking. Christen inspects her car, shaking her head in disbelief to find it perfectly fine except for the leaves covering it. She retrieves two old blankets from the trunk, using them for the dogs. She trots back into the house, using the rags to wipe up the living room floor and spreading the blankets out beneath the tree.

Satisfied she’s done all she can in the house, she checks on the dogs, glad to find them napping in the dark bedroom. She opens the drapes to let some light in before leaving to find Tobin. She quickly finds her in the barn, Tobin had rolled open the large doors to let light in. She’s standing by a table pouring gas into a chainsaw.

“Sweetie?” Christen calls as she enters the barn.

“Hey,” Tobin turns to see her, “you okay?”

“Yes,” Christen says as she comes closer, “are your neighbors okay?” she asks fearfully.

Tobin nods her head, “Gary next door,” she jerks her thumb to the left, “he’s got a tree on his roof, but that’s the worst of it, except for some broken windows.”

“Everyone is okay?” she questions, stepping in to wrap an arm around Tobin’s waist. She needs to feel her. Tobin must sense it because she places an arm around her as well, “Everyone is fine. Rattled, but fine.”

Christen assesses her, Tobin is pale and her hand that’s resting on the chainsaw is slightly shaking. Christen envelops her in a hug, holding her as she lightly rubs her back. “Are you okay?” she asks gently, seeing how Tobin looks completely overwhelmed.

“I, ye-,” Tobin pauses, “I don’t know,” she answers truthfully, “I’m just so grateful nobody is hurt,” she says, “there’s so much to do, I don’t know where to start,”

“We should probably start with removing the tree from the living room,” Christen says gently, “do you think you have something to cover the window?”

“I have some tarps, maybe some plywood in here,” Tobin replies, looking around the barn.

“Do you have those scissor things to trim tree branches?” she asks her.

Tobin nods, “Yeah, I do,” she says distractedly, her mind spinning.

“I thought I’d start trimming the tree inside to make it easier to get out,” Christen offers.

“That would be great, thanks,” Tobin says, “Are you sure you want to stick around? I understand if you want to go home,”

“Tobin,” she states, “I’m not leaving until we have this place cleaned up,” she says sternly, leaving no room for argument.

“Okay,” Tobin nods, leaning close and kissing her, “thank you.”

“So, what should we do with the wood?” Christen questions, wanting to have a game plan.

Tobin scrunches up her mouth, furrowing her forehead as she thinks, “Maybe bring it back here in the yard to burn it?”

“Do you have a wagon or something to transport it?”

Tobin smiles, “I do,” she says, “thanks for thinking of it,” she says, running a hand through her hair, “my mind is going in a million directions right now,”

Christen rubs Tobin’s back, “I know,” she says, “so, I should cut the branches one size, right?”

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, “I’ll cut the big stuff into pieces we can roll away or carry,” she looks out at the driveway, “that tree is huge.”

“We’ll get it, honey,” Christen encourages, “but you need your wrist brace,” she reminds her, “I’ll go get it,”

“Thanks,” Tobin says and turns her attention back to preparing her chainsaw.

When Christen returns, Tobin has gloves and safety glasses laid out for her. Two different trimmers are on the table and Tobin is drinking from a water bottle, offering it to her. Christen takes a drink and nods at her.

In the house, they work together clipping branches with the hand trimmers, making small stacks to carry out to the flat trolley Tobin pulled along and left on the driveway up against the house. If you turn sideways, you can make it through the branches covering the drive.

“Okay,” Tobin says, from outside the front window, “here’s what I’m thinking,” she stands closer to the broken window, “If you hold onto the branch in here,” she looks at Christen, “I’ll cut it about two feet from window and then we can slide it out,”

Christen looks over the branch, then nods at her, “Works for me,”

“Okay,” Tobin says, “just yell and I’ll stop if something happens,” She exits the house and soon the roar of her chainsaw joins the other ones being used nearby. They get the branch out onto the lawn without incident, high fiving each other through the opening left by the offensive tree.

“Should we try to cover the window in case more rain comes?” Christen questions.

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, “I think I have some plywood big enough in the barn.”

“Tobin!” a voice calls out. It’s Alex jogging up with Servando, Allie, Bati and HAO. Servando and Bati have a chainsaws and gas cans and Allie and HAO are carrying branch trimmers.

“Hey,” Tobin says, looking perplexed, “what’s going on?”

“Are you guys okay?” Allie asks with wide eyes, glancing at the massive tree.

“Yeah, we were lucky,” Tobin replies as Alex rushes to her, hugging her tightly.

“We’re here to help,” HAO states, “put us to work.”

“Put us to work, too!” Emily yells as she comes out, Kelley and Ashlyn in tow. The last two are carrying chainsaws and gas cans.

Tobin is nearly overcome with emotion as she looks at her friends, “Guys,” she says, her voice cracking. Christen rubs her back, “Okay, this tree is going into the backyard.” Christen states, “These branches on the wagon get stacked up by the firepit. Cut everything the same size, thin stuff, about four feet.” She organizes them quickly and efficiently, giving Tobin time to compose herself.

Tobin, Servando, Ashlyn and HAO wrangle the plywood over to a table, carefully measuring the window and boarding it up. HAO and Ashlyn then get to work on the basement window while Tobin grabs her chainsaw and begins to work in the driveway. Servando and Bati concentrate on cutting the part of the trunk that’s blocking the road. Tobin’s
neighbor, Mr. Farmer, comes out to help them. Once they get the tree cut up, they abandon the pieces, leaving them in the street, going to Gary’s house to help him get the tree off his house before it gets dark.

Christen carefully moves her car, making a three point turn in the wide driveway and backing it up close to the barn. It made it easier to bring the wood into the yard and she thinks she’ll use her headlights to light up the area when it gets dark.

After bringing another load into the yard, she takes a minute to look around, seeing everyone focused on helping out. She can hear the guys next door talking about how to cover the hole in Gary’s roof, one of them asking Tobin if she has a tarp. Tobin sets her saw down, trotting up the driveway, giving Christen a high five as she passes her. Christen pulls the flat cart down the driveway to load up another bundle. She joins Alex and Emily, talking about the storm as they pile the branches on the cart. Neither of the two were affected like this. Christen learns that a large portion of the Japanese Garden was struck by an actual tornado, although they don’t know for sure how badly. Allie and HAO are carrying the larger logs together to the yard, forming a neat stack a few yards behind the firepit in the back of the yard. Ashlyn is cutting the logs down to smaller, manageable sizes for them to move.

Dusk has fallen and a light drizzle has come with it. The low hum of an engine is heard and Tobin is jogging from the back of the house to the barn, suddenly flicking on the outdoor lights. She disappears into the barn, exiting with two light stands over to Gary’s house, returning to run an extension cord over and light up the front of his house and roof.

“You have a generator?” Christen questions as Tobin stands next to her, drinking another bottle of water. She’s sweaty from her exertions, her t-shirt sticking to her body, the humidity is awful after the storm. Tobin nods as she drinks, nearly chugging the entire bottle. She takes a deep breath when she lowers the bottle.

“You doing okay?” Christen looks at her intently.

“Yeah,” Tobin says, “what’s that?” she looks to her left, seeing flashing lights reflecting off the trees. They walk down the driveway a little to see fire trucks pulling up. The first truck stops by the final tree blocking the road, bright lights suddenly shining like daylight on the street and houses.

“I’ll be right back.” Tobin says, walking down the driveway and towards the trucks. Christen walks up the drive and jumps back in clearing the branches with Emily and Alex. HAO passes her holding a chainsaw, looking tired.

“Hey, guys,” Christen calls out, “let’s take a break and get some water,”

Everyone meanders into the barn, getting water and sitting down in the chairs scattered around. Servando and Bati return, feeling triumphant that they got the roof covered. They all watch as Tobin is walking and talking with one of the firemen, using her hands as she speaks to him. They walk past the house and out of their view. Everyone is talking quietly, just resting before making one last push to get the driveway completely cleared. Conversation stops as they see Ali and Julie coming up the driveway with bags in hands.

“Is everyone alright?” Julie asks loudly, her eyes looking around with wide eyes.

“Yeah, we’re okay,” Christen says as she stands up, giving her a loose hug. She’s feels sweaty and gross.

“We brought popsicles!” Ali proclaims, holding up her bag.

“Did you two come together?” Ashlyn questions, looking between the two, they’ve only met a few times.

“Oh, no,” Julie states as she sets her bag down and pulls out the popsicles she brought, passing the box around, “I saw the texts when I got out of class,” she explains, mentioning the text thread Kelley created corralling everyone to come and help out Tobin.

“Same,” Ali nods, offering a popsicle to Ashlyn who smiles at her as she selects one.

The group is animatedly telling the two women about what they’ve done, showing them the stacks of cut wood in Tobin’s backyard and how they helped Gary out. Tobin comes walking up the drive, greeting Ali and Julie, thanking them for stopping by. She gratefully takes a popsicle, chomping on it as she explains the fire department is going to get the cut up logs out of the street and clear the other ones as well. They’ll also take the ones that are at the end of Tobin’s driveway and take care of it for her.

She tells them how the Chief told her that some houses on the other side of the Japanese Gardens got hit worse and there were some injuries, but thankfully, no fatalities. She looks around, clearly shaken, saying how lucky they were.

“So, thank you guys,” Tobin says heartfully, wiping at her eyes, “I really appreciate you coming out so much,” she says, nodding her head as she looks solemnly at them, “it really means a lot,”

Ashlyn stands up, walking to her and putting an arm around her shoulders, “Bro, you’re always there for us,” she says, “just paying it forward like you do,”

“Thanks, Ash,” Tobin says giving her a hug, then turning to everyone, “we’ll set a date and I’m having you all over for dinner one night soon, okay?”

After their break, they make one last push as the drizzle changes into a light rain and get the driveway cleared and get the lights and cords put away as a light rain comes down. Once they deemed the area cleared as best as possible, the group leaves, all still somber from participating in the aftermath of the vicious storm. Christen lets the dogs out to run around the yard, having made sure there was no glass on the sidewalks. Tobin closes up the barn and her and Christen walk hand in hand to the house.

Both of them feel so gross and sweaty they take showers, Tobin in hers and Christen in the hall bathroom. The house feels comfortably cool with the power on, the air conditioner running quietly. Christen knows she’s tired as she lets the dogs in for the night, wiping their paws with a rag. Tobin was on the couch, texting her family that she had a little damage but was lucky.

Tobin comes into the kitchen a minute later, going to the fridge to get the milk.

“You want some?” she asks her. Christen shakes her head, “I’m okay,”

Tobin sets the milk on the counter and gets a glass. Christen watches as Tobin’s hand shakes as she pours the milk. She puts the carton down, a sob escaping her lips as she grips the counter tightly.

“Oh, honey,” Christen says, engulfing her in a hug.

“I was so scared,” Tobin confesses, “it was so loud,”

“I know, I know,” Christen says holding her tight.

“And I didn’t want you to see how terrified I was,” she continues, “because you were so frightened,”

“It’s okay,” Christen assures her, “it was scary,”

“I wanted to keep you safe,” Tobin cries, “but there’s no way to do that,”

“Tobin,” Christen soothes, “it was a tornado,” she says, “it was scary and we took shelter like you said we should and we’re fine.” She steps back to look at her.

Tobin holds her by her shoulders, looking at her with wide eyes, “Chris, don’t you see?” she questions, “I was so scared something would happen to you,” she cries, her eyes wide and her cheeks tear soaked, “Chris, I you mean so much to me,” she continues, “I don’t want to lose you,” It's on the tip of her tongue to tell her she loves her, but she can't. She doesn't think it's the right time. It almost slipped out when the storm was raging and they were huddled in the basement.

Christen pulls her in, holding her as she sobs, “I’m here, I’m here,” she says in her ear, “and I’m not going anywhere,”

“I was so scared,” Tobin cries.

“So was I,” Christen admits, “but you kept me calm, I knew I was safe with you and whatever happened you would do everything you could to keep us safe.”

They stay there in the kitchen for a couple of minutes, Tobin slowly calming down, reaching for a napkin and blowing her nose. She takes off her glasses, wiping her eyes.

“Drink your milk and let’s go to bed,” Christen suggests, laying her hand on Tobin’s jaw, looking up at her.

“You’re staying the night?” Tobin questions, Christen has never stayed the night during the work week.

She nods and gives her a small smile, looking at her with concern, “You look so tired,” she says, “are you working tomorrow?”

“No, I think I’ll call in,” Tobin replies quietly, “I need to call the insurance company and stuff and call around for the windows.” In her head, she’s thinking about the sticks scattered through the yard and on her front lawn that still need to be picked up. She lifts her glass and takes a sip of milk. She winces and rubs the back of her head.

“What’s wrong?” Christen asks.

“I have a headache,” Tobin replies, “and I think I have a bump on my head,”

Christen suddenly remembers how their heads collided in the basement, “Let me check,” she says, moving behind her, separating her hair to look. There’s a bump, no blood, but definitely a small goose egg on the back of her head.

“Oh, honey,” Christen says, feeling awful, “do you want some ice?”

“I just want to take some Tylenol and go to bed,” Tobin replies rather miserably, looking at her with tired eyes.

“Okay,” Christen agrees, figuring she wasn’t concussed, she didn’t have any symptoms that would believe her to think she had a serious injury.

Tobin swallows down three pills with the last of her milk and they head to the bedroom, the dogs following them. Christen holds her and kisses her temple. She feels Tobin slowly relax, the tension leaving her body as exhaustion takes over, her head on Christen’s chest.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

Tobin is putting the finishing touches on her booth in the convention center of the Sheraton Grande Hotel in Seattle, having spent the last two hours assembling the Portland P. E. pop up display and tossing a bunch of foam balls on a ball rack. She placed their current catalog on her small table with her business cards and a flyer promoting the session she was presenting on Friday. Scattered on the table are a variety of cool touchy-feely items such as super soft footballs and squeeze balls and oversized soft hockey pucks. She had blown up a fitness ball, so she had something to sit on when it was slow in the exhibit hall.

Under the table was a mesh bag filled with foam balls and a bag with wheels that she could roll to the banquet sized room she would give her presentation in. The bag contained the items she would use to teach how to play unique games and activities from the PERT curriculum she was promoting. The P.E. teachers and administrators in Washington haven’t seen this curriculum before so she was excited to get feedback from them. These games and activities would insert educational components into them, so the kids were solving math problems or identifying bones and muscles as they master grade related physical education skills. They would be using team building skills, communication, cooperation, critical thinking and social skills while participating in her session.

Tobin has presented at this convention before and she was gradually attracting larger crowds in her sessions. Word of mouth was spreading from the teachers who had attended her prior sessions and she was steadily gaining a following in Washington in general, Seattle in particular.

Once she is satisfied her booth is set for this evening’s grand opening, she heads out, stopping along the way to say hello to the various vendors she knows from working with them on her catalog. She leaves the exhibit hall and takes the elevator up the fourteenth floor to her room to relax for a while. She isn’t sure when she would see Christen, she is driving up with Amy and Ashlyn after school and probably would make it for the end of the grand opening if they don’t get hung up in traffic.

Once in her hotel room, Tobin kicks off her gym shoes and stretches out on the bed. She puts her hands behind her head, thinking back over the last few weeks. Since the tornado, her and Christen have grown even closer, if that is even possible. Tobin’s insurance guy was terrific, coming out the next day to survey the damage, accepting the quote from the window company Tobin had come out and she got a check before they had installed the windows and repaired her gutters. He even added a landscaping allowance for the deep grooves in her lawn the tree trunk and branches had left. Tobin was going to have a company come out and work on that when she got back from this trip. Alex had recommended the company she used for her landscaping.

It wasn’t the money thing that Tobin was impressed with, it was the service and compassion that Martin, the insurance guy had given. He went through the house looking for possible unseen damage, went on the roof to inspect it, checked her attic, made sure her windows weren't rattled loose and if the foundation had cracks. He was very thorough, and Tobin appreciated it. She loves her old house and certainly doesn’t want an issue she was unaware of to become a major problem if left ignored. Christen was amazing, being there to listen as Tobin rambled on about the inspection and the window company. The two had opened up more to one another after experiencing this serious event together, both needing to talk about their feelings through it all.
Next weekend was the planned dinner for everyone who had come over to help. Tobin had decided to have it catered, using one of her favorite restaurants to come out and cook in her outdoor kitchen and servers would present the meal. They would set up a bar service and everything. Christen didn’t know about that part. Tobin had just told her she was having it catered and wanted to keep it a surprise. Her and Christen shopped together for nice linen tablecloths for her tables, together they figured out how Tobin could use lengths of material in the barn to block her tools and workbenches and make the area look cool and special. She knew she was going over the top with it and spending a pretty penny on it, but she didn’t care. She figured she'd have more events and use the stuff again. She wants to give her friends a special memory of her gratitude and have a wonderful time. She wants to spoil them with elegance in a casual setting, something neat and memorable to show them her appreciation. This was the side of being wealthy that Tobin actually enjoyed, being able to provide awesome experiences for her friends.

She smiles as she thinks about this weekend. She had gotten a Wow Suite from the W hotel in town for her and Christen, one of their poshest rooms on a high floor with both a city and water view. She likes the W hotels, she likes the long clean lines, the funky furniture and swanky vibe the hotel gave. Plus, the beds are amazing. She actually bought her mattress from the W website, having stayed there before and liking it so much, she bought it. Her bedding is from there as well.

She knew Chris would be upset at the thought of Tobin spending recklessly on the hotel room and would want to pay for half of it. Tobin feels she is ready to discuss her wealth with her. Tobin had a serious conversation with Alex about it two days ago, talking late into the night. Alex reassured her it wouldn’t change their relationship, Christen knows Tobin’s heart. Tobin feels good about it.

Her and Christen had agreed to bring a dressy outfit for Saturday night, both stating they would be tired on Friday night from the over stimulation of the convention. Tobin usually passed out on the last night of a convention, but she knew she would be excited to have Christen there. They thought they’d go out somewhere nearby for dinner and keep it to an early night, wanting to explore the city on Saturday.

Her thoughts are interrupted by her phone. Tobin grabs it, looking to see Alex calling.

“Yo,” she greets.

“How’s it going? Finish set up?” Alex asks.

“Yeah, just chilling for a bit before the Grand Opening,” Tobin replies.

“Great!” Alex says, her voice excited, “I’ve got news!” She says conspiratorially.

“What’s that?” Tobin asks, closing her eyes.

“Well, you know how you asked everyone for dinner?” Alex asks hurriedly, not waiting for her to reply, “I’ve got it on good authority that Ashlyn asked Ali if she wanted to go with her and Ali said yes!”

Tobin’s eyes pop open, “Really? That’s so cool!”

“Isn’t it?” Alex says, almost squealing, “And it gets even better!”

“Hit me,” Tobin says, smiling at how excited she is.

“Emily told me Kelley asked her if she wanted come with her,” Alex says dramatically, “and Emily said yes as well!”

“Awesome!” Tobin cheers, “I was hoping they’d get together,”

“Me too,” Alex says, “they’ve been dancing around for a bit, I know they’ve gone out a few times, but this is super cool.”

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, happy her friends are hopefully beginning to feel the same emotions she is of finding someone special.

“I hope it’s not too cold that night,” Tobin says, praying they don’t get rain.

“It’ll be fine no matter what happens,” Alex assures her. She has a feeling that Tobin is going all out for this because she’s been so quiet about the details. She won’t bust her for it, knowing the joy Tobin gets from spoiling her friends.

“So, are your weekend plans set?” she asks.

“Yes!” Tobin answers quickly, “Casual dinner on Friday, maybe stop for a drink. We’ll both be tired from the convention, I’m presenting that day and then working in the booth, you know what it’s like. Then taking down everything, it’s tiring.”

“I think it’s sometimes more mentally tiring than physical,” Alex states, having worked a couple of shows in Portland.

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, “and Chris will get to go to some sessions, but she mostly will be in meetings,” she explains, “and those are probably mind numbing,”

“Ew!” Alex snorts, “Especially if it’s all day,”

“Yeah,” Tobin says, “so low key Friday night, then lazy morning, browse around Pike’s Market, eat lunch somewhere by there, then Chihuly’s Garden and see the Space Needle, maybe hit the Pop Culture Museum, then get ready for dinner.”

“Where are you going?” Alex asks.

“I got reservations at The Pink Door,” Tobin explains. Tobin had been there once before a few years ago and enjoyed a fabulous Italian dinner with a burlesque performance after. It was kind of wild, but Tobin thought Chris would be into it and it would prime the pump for the rest of the night. Just risqué and sexual enough without being crass, making them both a little horny.

“Uh huh,” Alex says, drawing out her reply, “and where are you staying?”

“The W,” Tobin answers, a smirk on her face, knowing Alex is going to say something.

“So, is this the Tobin Heath Seduction Plan?” Alex teases and Tobin laughs, knowing she was going to nail her on this.

“Yes, you are correct,” she chuckles.

Alex is taken aback from the swift reply. She was expecting Tobin to refute the claim, to argue that they were just hanging out. Not that she was trying to bed Christen.

“What are you wearing out Saturday night?” she questions, wondering what Tobin’s wardrobe choice would be. Tobin could wear anything and look fantastic. A dress or a suit, it wouldn’t matter. She’s hot no matter what she wears.

“I brought a dress and that outfit I wore to Tom’s wedding,” Tom was a coworker of theirs and had gotten married a few weeks before Tobin met Christen.

“Wear the wedding outfit,” Alex says immediately, “did you bring a tie?”

“Yeah,” Tobin says. The outfit consists of dark brown dress slacks, with a couple shades lighter tan fitted shirt and a vest that matched her pants. She brought the matching jacket as well feeling the weather would turn cool in the evening. Plus Christen may grow cold, so she would offer it to her.

“Tobin, wear the tie, I swear, Christen will go nuts for you,” Alex says, “Don’t you remember how many women hit on you at the wedding? You look hot in that outfit, she’ll melt.”

“You think so?” Tobin asks with some uncertainty in her voice. The outfit is a little different for her, but Tobin likes it because it’s comfortable.

“Oh yeah, no doubt,” Alex states with authority. What Tobin doesn’t know is that Alex and Christen had talked for a bit at Tobin’s house, the night of the paint party. Their conversation led to dress shopping and Alex had shown Christen photos from the wedding. She was innocently showing her photos of her dress and one of them was a photo of her and Tobin in that outfit.

Christen casually asked her to send her that photo under the guise of wanting to have it for Alex’s dress when she went shopping. Alex caught her a little later practically drooling over the image and when she passed by her, seeing she had swiped to enlarge Tobin and was studying her. The look in her eyes and expression on her face was pure lust.

“Oh, and Tobin? If it’s nice out, roll up the sleeves,” Alex suggests.

Their conversation shifts to Alex talking about her and Servando and how they’re going away for the weekend out to Bend. Alex admits she really likes him and thinks maybe she is falling in love. They talk about feelings and Tobin admits she’s feeling deeply for Christen as well. Then Alex asks Tobin what time the opening starts, and Tobin realizes she needs to get ready and they cut their conversation short.

Tobin hurriedly slips into her dress slacks, decides to wear her gym shoes and Portland P.E. polo shirt. She brushes her teeth and hair and applies some light makeup before declaring herself ready. She grabs her exhibitor badge and her backpack, making sure she has her keycard before leaving the room.

 

It’s busy in the exhibit hall, Tobin greeting some familiar faces and keeping her eyes out for the sight Christen. She’s disappointed she doesn’t see her, but then there’s a rush of people and she’s handing out flyers for her presentation. The two hours go by quickly and Tobin checks her phone, smiling when she sees a text from Chris informing her that they have just arrived and are in the bar having some drinks and food and wanting to see if she would join them.

Tobin texts back that she’s on her way and walks a little faster. She doesn’t stop back at her room and dump her backpack, she goes straight for the bar, looking around the interior until she sees Christen sitting with Amy and Ashlyn.

“Hey guys,” Tobin greets as she nears the table.

“Hey, Tobin,” Amy smiles, “how was the grand opening?”

“Good,” Tobin nods, “how was the drive up?”

“Sit,” Christen gestures to the empty chair next to her, smiling up at her.

Tobin smiles, stepping to sit in the chair as Ashlyn speaks.

“The drive was awful,” she shakes her head, “it was like everyone left Portland to come up here,” she complains. “We crawled.”

Amy gives Ashlyn a good natured push with her shoulder, “It wasn’t that bad,” she says, “if I remember correctly, we had to wait for a certain someone to get their shit together before we could leave,”

Ashlyn looks appropriately guilty as Amy and Christen chuckle.

“So,” Christen smiles at Tobin, “how was your day?”

“It was good,” Tobin nods, shifting to relax in her chair, “went into the office, left around eleven, got here, set up the booth, chilled for a little bit and did the opening,”

Christen makes eye contact with their server who comes over and asks Tobin if she would like something to drink. Tobin orders a beer and asks for a menu.

Amy and Christen order salads, Ashlyn a burger and Tobin gets a hot pretzel. They visit for a bit, Christen smiling when she says she can’t wait to attend Tobin’s session. Tobin blushes and Amy senses it, changing the subject to the sessions she thinks she’ll go to. Ashlyn explains to Tobin that the three of them go to different sessions so they have a greater amount of information to bring back to their school district.

Tobin shares with them a few of the teachers she knows who have sessions and how impressed she is with their presentations. She pulls out her copy of the program from her backpack, showing them the session descriptions. Ashlyn snaps photos of them, saying she’ll check them out and see if she can attend.

When the check comes, Tobin reaches for it, while the others protest.

“It’s my work card, don’t worry,” Tobin explains.

“But this wasn’t a business dinner or anything,” Christen argues.

“Hey Ash,” Tobin says, trying to control the smirk on her face, “how’s PERT working out for you so far?”

“Oh, it’s great,” Ash shrugs, “I like how quick I can enter everything,”

Tobin nods, turning to Amy, “Amy, has PERT met your expectations?”

Amy smiles, knowing what Tobin is doing, “It’s one of the best pieces of software I’ve ever seen,” she says, “since I’ve customized it for each of my classes, it just gets easier to use,”

Tobin pulls her wallet from her backpack while she holds the holder containing the check, she slips her work credit card into the top. She turns to Christen, “We totally had a work meeting,” she grins.

Christen shakes her head, smiling at her. “Incorrigble,” she says, sipping her cocktail.

Amy and Ashlyn decide they are going to go to the hot tub for a little while, leaving Christen and Tobin. It’s raining out pretty hard, so they end up in Tobin’s room and it doesn’t take long for them to be on the small couch making out.

It’s starting to get late, both of them are tired and tomorrow will be a busy day, so Christen reluctantly stands to go.

“You wanna stay?” Tobin questions, “We could just snuggle,” she says as she stands up.

Christen frowns, “I want to,” she says, “I really do, but I’m here with them and if I don’t stay…”

Tobin hugs her, “I get it,” she says softly, placing a soft kiss on the corner of her lips, “It’s work, I understand,”

Christen looks at her, “I can’t wait for Friday,” she says, a small smile on her face.

“Me too,” Tobin smiles back at her. Christen leans in and kisses her once more, “Goodnight, babe,”

“Goodnight,” Tobin replies, following her to the door, “let me know when you get to your room, okay?”

“I will,” Christen promises as she opens the door, “I’ll see you sometime tomorrow,” she says, “sleep well,”

“You too,” Tobin says, standing in her doorway and watching as Christen leaves. She turns when she reaches the elevator, giving her a wave and then disappearing from her view.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Thursday morning is busy, Tobin spending her time talking to many teachers and administrators, explaining the PERT curriculum, inviting them to attend her session and showing off new products she has on display in her single booth. She sees Ashlyn, Amy and Christen around ten o’clock, the three making a quick visit into the exhibit hall in between sessions. Ashlyn eyes Tobin with Christen with their shoulders together looking at something in one of the catalogs, both blushing, leaning over to whisper to Amy, “They totally haven’t yet,”

Amy slightly nods her head as she casually leafs through a Portland P.E. catalog, “Totally,” she confirms. Then she looks at Ashlyn, “What about you and Ali?” she questions.

Ashlyn’s eyebrows raise, “Well, she’s a lady, see,” she explains hurriedly as Amy laughs. “Yeah, right,” Amy snorts, “Third date, huh,” she says to her.

Ashlyn looks at her, “Second and we never speak of this again?”

Amy nods, looking back down with a smile on her face.

“Ready?” Christen asks, smiling at them, “Tobin is going to join us for dinner tonight,” she babbles, “She said she knows a cool place by Pike’s Market if we didn’t want to go somewhere else,”

“I’m fine with wherever,” Ashlyn shrugs as they begin to leave the exhibit hall, “I want to see Pike’s Market,”

“Same,” Amy nods, then she points, “I think we go this way for the sessions.”

They separate and head off in different directions to the sessions they want to attend, agreeing to meet up for lunch and plan their afternoon.

 

 

XXXX

 

Christen sucks on her straw as she sees Tobin walk up to them in the lobby. Ashlyn suggested they get a drink since they came down a little early and Amy and Christen agreed. Tobin is wearing a t-shirt and jeans, a snapback on her head and carrying a hoodie. She looks so comfortably casual yet so sexy.

As Tobin approaches, she sees they haven’t seen her yet and it gives her time to check out Christen. She’s wearing her dress slacks she wore during the day, simple strappy sandals and a dressy top. She looks casual and elegant, perched on a chair in the lobby, her purse in her lap and a drink in her hand. As she steps closer, Tobin smiles when she catches
Christen’s eyes, her smile widening when she sees Christen very obviously checks her out. She straightens up a little, giving her a little head nod in silent greeting.

They say their hellos and finish their drinks and walk out onto the crowded street. None of the three teachers have been up to Seattle before, so Tobin plays tour guide as they walk down the street towards Pike’s Market. She encourages them to come down here for breakfast tomorrow, telling them how there are plenty of places to eat that are open in the morning. It's cheaper than the hotel and usually better food. It’s only a short walk of a few blocks and the famous lights come into view.

They walk around the inside, window shopping the stores as they casually stroll through the market, the strong seafood smell intermixed with the various smells emanating from the other stores they pass. Tobin leads them to a restaurant, climbing up the stairs and waiting or a few minutes before they get seated along the window, right on the water.
As the server asks them for their drinks, Christen asks if they can have four separate checks, sending Tobin a shrug and Tobin smiles and nods. She understands. They have to return to school with receipts of their meals since the district is paying for it. They all order seafood dishes and talk centers on the presentations the teachers attended. When the meals arrive, talk shifts to the Thorns, their playoff chances and what are plans for Halloween. Ashlyn announces she is having a Halloween party and they are invited. They make plans to take a haunted hayride at the apple orchard, Amy telling them Kelley mentioned she would be texting them the details.

“Is it a costume party?” Tobin inquires, looking at Ash, watching as the woman smiles devilishly.

“Oh, of course it is!” Ashlyn chuckles, rubbing her hands in anticipation, “Can’t get in without one,”

Amy turns to Christen, “You and Tobin should do a partner costume,” she nods at her, “like Batman and Robin or Disney characters or”

“Xena and Gabrielle,” Ashlyn chuckles.

“Woah, wait,” Tobin says, “I think Chris and I will decide our costumes,” she grins at her, then looks at Ashlyn, “are there prizes?”

“Uh huh,” Ashlyn nods, “Funniest, Scariest, Sexiest and Best Overall,”

Tobin nods, a slow grin forming on her face as Christen shakes her head, “I’m not wearing a sleezy outfit Tobin,”

Tobin puts her hands up, “I didn’t say anything,” she defends herself, “you pick the category you want to win and we’ll figure it out together,”

Ashlyn laughs loudly, “That’s rich!”

Amy laughs as well, elbowing Christen, “Last year Tobin came to Ashlyn’s party dressed as a serial killer,”

Christen’s eyebrows shoot up, completely not expecting Tobin to dress like that, her reaction only makes Ashlyn and Amy laugh harder as Tobin smiles and shakes her head, rolling her eyes.

“She had Fruit Loops stuck to a sweatshirt and carried a plastic knife,” Amy explains.

Christen looks over at Tobin who shrugs her shoulders, suppressing a grin and giving her another eye roll.

“I bet you can’t come up with something even close as awesome as Ali and I,” Ashlyn states boldly.

Tobin looks at Christen, gives her a wink and then turns to Ashlyn, “What do you want to bet?”

With a smug look on her face, Ashlyn toys with her glass as she thinks, “Dinner at Le Pigeon,” she offers.

Tobin shakes her head, “Think bigger,” she says confidently, “it’s gotta be worth my time,” she chuckles.

“Fine,” Ashlyn grins at her, “a weekend in Bend,” she says, “at one of the resorts,”

Tobin nods, “That’s a good one,” she says, “too bad it won’t happen,”

“Tobin,” Christen interjects, thinking this might be going too far.

“What do you want from Ash and Ali when we win?” Tobin asks, a glint in her eyes.

“I don’t know,” Christen confesses.

Tobin leans in closer, whispering in her ear, “How about they watch the dogs for a ten day vacation in December?”

Christen looks at her, her eyes wide, “Really?” She whispers back. Tobin nods. “Would that be okay?” Tobin asks shyly, looking at her fondly. Christen leans closer to her, “It’s not during Christmas, is it?”

Tobin shakes her head. “Before,” she says, “second week into third,”

Christen mentally checks her calendar, “Okay,” she smiles widely. She can’t believe she just agreed to go on a ten-day vacation with Tobin in December. That is, if they win the Halloween Costume Award.

“Ash, you sticking around here during December?” Tobin asks.

“Yeah,” she replies, looking at her suspiciously, “what?”

“When we win,” Tobin smiles at her, “we want you and Ali to watch Christen’s dogs for ten days in December.”

“Oh, this better be good,” Amy grins at them all as she rubs her hands together.

“You’re on,” Ashlyn agrees, extending her fist for Tobin to punch.

“Excellent,” Tobin smiles as she seals the deal. She’s satisfied because win or lose Ashlyn and Ali will watch the dogs and they’ll get to go to Bend. If Tobin loses they go as their prize, if her and Christen win, they’ll go as a thank you for watching the animals. She’ll talk to Ash later and set it up with her and let everyone think it’s a big bet while they’ve made their own arrangements between themselves. She knows Amy will spread the word about the bet and their friends will hype it up.

She’ll explain it to Christen later, right now, she enjoys seeing Christen’s look of shock on her face.

“Where’s the vacation?” Amy asks.

Tobin shrugs casually, “We’ll figure it out,” she dismisses, then looks at Christen, “we’ll talk later.”

Christen looks at her, “Guess we need to figure out a costume,” she says as a grin forms on her face.

“We do,” Tobin smiles at her, “we’ll nail one,”

Christen raises a finger, “I am not wearing anything slutty,”

Tobin frowns, “Ah man,” she says jokingly, “I was counting on that to win!” she laughs as Christen shakes her head and slaps Tobin’s shoulder.

 

Back on the street, Ashlyn and Amy head into one of the many chocolate shops, intent on getting a treat for dessert. Tobin and Christen hang back for moment.

“What is in your head, Tobin Heath?” Christen asks, smiling at her, “I never seem to know what’s up your sleeve,”

“Sorry,” Tobin says apologetically, “it just popped in my head,” she explains, “I’m going to chill on vacation in December and the thought of you coming with just sort came to me,”

“I’d love to come with you,” Christen says, “where are we going?”

“Hawaii,” Tobin says wiggling her eyebrows at her.

“Tobin!” Christen exclaims, “What?”

Tobin nods as they slowly walk towards the chocolate store, “I go away to recharge every year,” she shares with her, “and I’d already booked this, can I use my miles to book your flight?”

“I don’t know,” Christen frowns, not wanting Tobin to pay for everything, “Only if I can split the hotel with you?”

Tobin scrunches up her mouth, “That’s on points too,” she answers, “but,” she holds up a finger, “how about you pay for a few dinners and excursions?”

“I’d like to keep it even,” Christen states, “this seems unfair,”

“We’ll make it fair,” Tobin promises, “and I’ll make sure Ash will watch the puppies, no sweat.”

“I can ask Kelley,” Christen offers.

Tobin just gives her a smile, “I have a plan,” she confides. “Ash owes me,” she explains, “I’ll give her the Bend trip for her and Ali as a thank you and a Christmas gift,”

“Tobin, that’s a lot of money!” Christen protests.

“I know,” Tobin nods at her, her tone serious, “would you mind if we talked about this later? Either tonight, alone or tomorrow?”

“Tobin,” Christen sighs.

“I promise I really want to talk to you about it,” she sincerely insists, “just not here,”

Christen sees how serious she is, so she relents, “Okay,” she says slowly, “but we will discuss this,” she states as Tobin nods.

“Come on,” Tobin pulls at her hand, “I want some dark chocolate,”

 

 

“So, talk to me,” Christen invites as she curls her feet under herself on the couch they’re sitting on, nibbling on some of the chocolate Tobin purchased and sharing a milk in a plastic bottle Tobin stopped in the gift shop to buy.

Tobin looks at her, suddenly feeling tongue tied and shy, “Well, I,” she starts, then shakes her head immediately, this isn’t the way to start, she thinks, “you see,” she tries again, huffing when she sees how Christen is looking at her expectantly as she slowly chews on a piece of chocolate. When she doesn’t speak, unable to figure out how to exactly bring this up, Christen begins to get nervous.

“Tobin,” she says softly, “what it is?”

Tobin looks at her, sucking her lower lip in and chewing on it as she forces herself to speak. She shifts on the couch cushion, turning to face her, “I don’t tell many people this about me,” she begins, “I have in the past and it’s made them treat me differently,”

She sees how she has Christen’s full attention, she’s looking right at her, nodding for her to continue.

“You see,” Tobin nervously scratches at the back of her neck, it’s a habit she has when she’s feeling uneasy.

“You don’t have a health problem, do you?” Christen asks quietly, “Something I should be aware of? Or an STD?”

Tobin’s eyes widen, “No, no, no,” she says hurriedly, “nothing like that, I swear,” she says, running her hand through her hair. “The thing about Hawaii and Bend and Halloween,” she starts, feeling some comfort from Christen’s gentle look and her greenish eyes urging her to speak, “like, every year for awhile I’ve gone on a vacation, usually by myself after the catalog is done so I can relax and regroup from the stress of it, the traveling most of November and the first week of December, making sure I met deadlines, it’s just draining,”

Christen nods, “I would think so,” she agrees.

“I can afford it,” Tobin continues, “just like I can afford to buy your ticket to Hawaii, get us the best costumes of whatever you want for Halloween and send Ash and Ali to Bend,” she explains.

“You have money?” Christen asks slowly, her brow knitted in trying to follow along.
“I do,” Tobin confirms, “and I like to have a good time with my friends,” she says, dropping her eyes for a moment and then looking up at her, “and special people in my life.”

Christen gives her a soft smile and scoots closer to her, reaching a hand out and letting Tobin grab on it. Tobin instantly feels more at ease.

“Money makes people weird,” Tobin sighs, “so I don’t talk about it much at all,” she says.
“That’s understandable,” Christen nods, “I imagine people might change their perception of you,”

Tobin looks at her earnestly, “Has it for you?” she questions and Christen can see how vulnerable Tobin is right now.

“No,” Christen states firmly, “if this had come up a month ago, before I really knew you,” she shrugs, “it might have,” she says honestly. She takes a breath, gathering her thoughts, “I’ve seen how generous you are,” she says, “it’s just in your nature,” she says, “you don’t flaunt it, I’ve never seen you flash money around, or make anyone feel badly,” she continues, “you’re one of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” she says, smiling at her, “and you go out of your way to make people feel comfortable. You never gave me a vibe that you had money or you spent it recklessly. You could have called some crew out to your house to clean up everything when the tornado came through. You didn’t. You could have taken your truck to the shop to fix it properly when I hit it. You didn’t. You’re a very down to earth, authentic person, babe, and I’m grateful you didn’t say anything sooner, because now that I know you really well, it doesn’t make a difference to me.”

“Thank you,” Tobin says, giving her a small, thin lipped smile, “it was a problem with my last girlfriend,”

Christen tilts her head, “I thought you broke up because she moved for her job,”

“That was part of it,” Tobin nods, “but she threw me having money back in my face,” she explains, “she didn’t understand why I work, why I wouldn’t just leave if I loved her,”

Christen frowns, “I’m sorry,” she says genuinely, “that had to suck,”

Tobin frowns at the memory, “It did,” she agrees, “it really hurt, you know? I thought she understood, the money was, is, just a thing, it’s not what controls me, I wasn’t raised like that,”

“It shows,” Christen states, “I never would have known it unless you said something,” She thinks about what Tobin said, “Tobin, you said your last girlfriend didn’t understand why you work.” She pauses for a moment, looking at her carefully, “Do you not need to work? Like, are you rich?”

Tobin blushes deeply, “Yeah,” she nods, “I’m pretty wealthy,” she says, “if I didn’t want to work, it’d be no problem.”

Christen nods, carefully thinking of her response. She can see how nervous Tobin is and she doesn’t want her to think this would change things or make her like her more because she has money. “If anything,” she says slowly, looking into Tobin’s warm brown eyes, “the fact you care so much about your job and do it so passionately says so much about your character. You have a good head on your shoulders,” she gives her a reassuring smile.

Tobin exhales loudly, “Well, I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about,” she says quietly, “like, a month ago,” she clarifies, “I didn’t think it would be a problem, but I wanted you to know before Saturday,”

Christen raises her eyebrows, “And what is Saturday?” she questions.

“We’re staying somewhere nice,” Tobin says, “and I’m taking you to dinner somewhere that’s…nice?” She’s not sure how to describe the place. “It’s a four-star place,” she rushes, “and it’s Italian. Is that okay?”

“It’s fine,” Christen nods, “but I do want to pay for some things,” she clarifies, “I can afford to,” she says, “and we’ll talk about Hawaii, too, okay?”

Tobin nods her head. “Yeah, sure, but I’ve got the hotel and our dinner, okay?” she says, “we can work out the other stuff,” she says, looking down and then up at her again, “I just want you to enjoy something special with me,”

“Okay,” Christen agrees, “we can do this,” she says, “but let’s talk it out first before you do anything like this in the future, okay? I’d prefer it if you didn’t make this a habit, alright?”

“Yes, of course,” Tobin agrees, nodding at her, “I just really wanted this weekend to be special for us, okay?”

Christen smiles at her and runs her hand along Tobin’s jaw, “It would be special anyway, just because we’re together,” she says, “even if we camped in the woods.” Then she smiles, giving her a special smile, her eyes growing this darker green, “Can I say that I’m really excited about Saturday, though?”

Tobin hasn’t ever seen that smile before, nor how Christen’s eyes darken, they change so fast and so beautifully, going from a grey to greenish with her eyes narrowing on her with desire and lust, Tobin could easily get lost in them. Those eyes and that smile, fuck, she wants to see this again and again.

“Of course,” Tobin stares back at her, entranced, her voice low, “I am too,”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

“Okay,” Tobin says through her headset microphone, smiling to the large ballroom filled with Physical Education teachers, “as we wrap up the session with a cool down, I’ve put up a slide with my email,” she informs the crowded room. “If you’d like the session handout with the additional bonus games, shoot me a message. Please use the subject Seattle handout. If you have a question on something, please subject me Seattle question, okay?”

“Now, we’re going to stretch a little after that running around,” she grins as she walks amongst the teachers sitting on the ground.

Christen watches from her seat, a chair she was lucky enough to get and not be forced to sit on the floor. The room is packed with people, sitting on the ground, leaning up against the wall, crowding themselves in to take in the session.

If she’s being honest with herself, Christen was getting pretty turned on watching Tobin in her element. She was so easy going, roping in volunteers to play the games, how she broke down the tactics and purpose of the activities, explaining how it was tied in to the curriculum in such a manner that it wasn’t a heavy handed sales pitch.

The teachers laughed with her when she failed to make a basket and she cracks jokes, keeping them entertained as they plowed through integrating the physical play with cross-curricular concepts. She invited one of the teachers to choose a game to play with the equipment in the room, handing over her headset to let the man explain the game and set it up. She had him run through the game, it was a relay game that his kids loved to play. After the teachers played it, Tobin asked the group playing what sort of educational twist could be added that wouldn’t take away from the fun of the game.

They brainstormed together, Tobin skillfully leading the way until they found a cool math concept to add. The teachers played the game with new concept included and the crowd could see how it didn’t affect the original much. The players were still getting their heartrate up and fulfilling their physical activity for the period. Tobin had closed the session with this, letting everyone leave with the thought of how they could impact their classes with meaningful cross curricular topics that would tie onto their grade levels. When she humbly and genuinely thanked everyone for coming to her session, the room burst into applause, many of the teachers rising out of their chairs.

People volunteered to pack her bags up of the equipment as she was surrounded and Tobin asked them all to come back to the Portland P.E. booth and she’d answer as many questions she could.

Christen slowly collects her belongings, keeping an eye on Tobin leaving the room, being trailed by teachers. The next session is slowly trickling in and she can hear those around her speaking so highly of Tobin and how she presented her session. She smiles to herself, feeling proud for how well Tobin did, feeling a surge of emotion, feeling special that she knows Tobin.

She walks out to the exhibit hall, she doesn’t have another meeting for the day, in fact, Tobin’s session was the second to last slot for the day. After another hour, the convention is over. Following Tobin’s suggestion, she had stowed her suitcase in her booth under the table this morning. Tobin had checked out of her room this morning, same as Amy had for her and Ashlyn. She’ll help Tobin pack up and load the van and then they are free for the weekend.

As she walks to the exhibit hall, thinking she would walk around for a bit, she stops and purchases a couple of water bottles, having a feeling Tobin would be thirsty after all of the talking she’s been doing today. She enters the exhibit hall, choosing an aisle to walk down, checking out new products and some vendors selling clothing, meandering towards the Portland P.E. booth. She’s not surprised to see the crowd spilling in the aisle, smiling when she hears Tobin’s laugh.

She doesn’t want to intrude, respecting that Tobin is working, but she catches her eye, holding up the water bottle. Tobin’s eyes go wide, mouthing a desperate ‘yes please’ to her, so Christen nudges her way through to teachers to hand her the bottle.

“Excuse me,” Tobin politely says to the group sees speaking with, turning to Christen, “Thank you so much, I am dying,” she rolls her eyes, smiling at her.

“No problem, I’ll see you in a bit,” Christen grins, smiling wider when Tobin gives her a wink before turning back, unscrewing the cap and taking a drink.

Christen wanders away, not really looking at the booths, finding herself by the tables of the closed concession stand, dropping her bag on the table and sitting down. She takes her phone out, so it looks like she’s doing something, holding it front of her but not focusing on her email. She thinks about what Tobin shared with her last night. She doesn’t feel Tobin would let money come between them. She hasn’t been doing anything crazy with her, impulsively buying her gifts or anything like that. They’ve taken turns cooking, paying for meals when they go out, drinks and the like. If Tobin wants to pay for the hotel and dinner tomorrow, she’s fine with it. She had planned it and Christen doesn’t want to argue about it.

Hawaii, that might be different. A ten day trip. Granted, Tobin said she was using miles, but still, she doesn’t want to make things like that become habit. Christen doesn’t want Tobin to ever feel she would expect her for those types of things. She feels confident they will talk and work it out. Christen makes a good salary, she can afford to take vacations and have fun within reason. Her parents did a good job of teaching her about money. She looks at her phone, realizing the exhibit hall closes in ten minutes and decides to walk back near Tobin’s booth. The aisles are much less crowded with teachers, nearly deserted, as she makes her way back to the booth. She smiles as she sees Tobin deflating a ball in her hands, squeezing it together as she stares at her table, looking tired.

“Hey, do you sell left-handed tennis racquets?” Christen jokes as she approaches, seeing Tobin turn quick, startling her.

Tobin laughs, “Yeah, I have four kinds,” she replies.

“You are a rock star,” Christen nods at her, “It’s pretty hot,” she adds quietly.

“You liked that?” Tobin arches an eyebrow at her.

“Oh yeah,” Christen says, stepping closer to her. Not close enough to be unprofessional, Christen doesn’t know how out Tobin is in her job.

“Well, maybe later,” Tobin leans towards her ever so slightly, “maybe I can give you a private session,”

“Some one on one instruction?” Christen teases, smirking as Tobin’s cheeks heat up.

Tobin looks her over, biting down on her lower lip before nods, “Uh huh,” she replies.

“We’ll see,” Christen shakes her head, then looks around the booth, “Okay, put me to work, let’s get out of here,”

There weren’t too many balls and other items left as Tobin had sold them to teachers at the end of the day. Christen is tasked with fitting the remaining balls in one of the rolling bags while Tobin takes down her popup display and loads the empty ball cart with supplies and a box of extra catalogs. Within an hour they had the company minivan loaded and were pulling out of the parking garage, destination the W Hotel.

Tobin lets the valet park the vehicle, making sure her and Christen had their backpacks and suitcases before entering the swanky lobby. Christen offers to stay with the luggage and sit on a long greyish vinyl bench seat that runs along one wall while Tobin checks in, taking her time to soak in the atmosphere of the hotel. The stainless steel design with colorful lights wrapping around the circular fireplace. The low key bass line softly thumping in the piped in music, noticing how casual yet professional the staff is dressed.

Shortly Tobin appears by her side and Christen immediately sees how tired she is. “Ready?” Tobin quietly asks, a hand over her mouth to hide her yawn. Christen rises from the surprisingly comfy couch, picking up Tobin’s pack and handing it to her. She retrieves her own and they both pull their suitcases, Tobin leading her to the bank of elevators.

She notices Tobin enters the keycard into the slot before punching in the floor number, noting it’s the second from the top. Neither speak as they ride up, both are feeling drained from the past two days. Tobin politely holds the door for Christen to exit first, then leads her to the left all the way to the corner suite.

They enter, both of them exhaling with relief, Tobin looking around, “Woah,” she utters quietly. The room splits to the left or right, the left leads to a hallway, the right into the living room. Tobin looks over her shoulder, giving Christen a smile, “Let’s check this place out,” she suggests, rolling her suitcase to the side and setting her pack on the floor. Christen follows suit and takes a hold of Tobin’s hand as they explore where they’ll be staying for the next two nights.

The living room features a wraparound grey couch, deep enough for them to lay on comfortably, a purple cushioned bench seat along the wall underneath the large window showing a city view. Stepping further in, the small area of floor to ceiling windows shows more of the city, a small desk up against the window with a stylish chair paired with it. Christen doubts she’ll do any work, she’s meeting with Amy and Ashlyn Monday night to review the convention and gather the session materials so she can send out a district wide email to the P.E. staff.

Stepping past the desk is the bedroom, a leather chair with no arms and a small ottoman in front of it along the ending part of the floor to ceiling windows. The bed must be a California King, it’s massive with a stylized one piece artsy fake wood headboard and two small couches at the end of the room beneath another window. Upon seeing the bed, Christen can feel what little remaining energy she has leave her body. There’s a wall across from the bed, squeezed between the windows with a large flat screen tv at the perfect height to view in bed. To the left of the bed is a door, tucked in a corner and they both walk towards it.

The bathroom is incredible. Their eyes are drawn to the large window, seeing the water beyond them under the bathtub, complete with a cushioned headrest. The white porcelain of the bath a stark contrast to the beige tiles and paint of the room. A large glass enclosed shower is to the right of the tub, a spacious counter with double sinks lines the left side below a large mirror that takes up most of the wall. The toilet is closer to the door, enclosed in it’s own little room within the bathroom.

“This is sweet,” Tobin murmurs, “I can’t wait to take a shower, I feel so gross,”

Christen nods as she looks around, “Very nice,” she smiles at her, “why don’t you grab a quick shower and we can take a nap? I’m pretty tired right now,”

“I tell you,” Tobin says as they walk back towards the entrance to grab their luggage, “these conventions just suck the life out of you,”

“Whether you attend as a teacher or an exhibitor,” Christen agrees, “Ash and Amy and I stayed up talking the past two last nights. Then all the meetings today,” she shakes her head, “my mind is mush.”

Christen changes into a pair of shorts and a tank top and lounges in the bedroom on the couch, going through her phone. She wants to wait for Tobin before she gets in the bed. She discovers when Tobin says she’ll be quick, she’s quick. Not ten minutes later she pads barefoot into the bedroom, her hair up in a messy bun looking longingly at the bed. She’s wearing a faded Thorns t-shirt and a pair of boxers.

She yawns and looks over at Christen on the couch, “Chris, would you like a water or something to drink?”

“I’ll take a water, please,” Christen smiles, abandoning her phone on the couch and standing up, stretching with her arms above her head. Tobin enters the bedroom and hands her a bottle, then moves to the bed, looking on the side table. She presses a button and the shade lowers to darken the room.

“Oh, nice,” Christen says, taking a drink and then setting the bottle on the table on her side of the bed. They flip the comforter down, both getting under the covers, both moaning appreciatively as they get comfortable. They both move towards the middle of the mattress, seeking one another, wrapping arms around each other and tangling legs together.

Christen’s head rests Tobin’s shoulder, Tobin is slightly on her side, her left arm snaked under Christen, holding her and her right hand resting on her hip. Christen has her right arm under Tobin’s pillow, her left hand resting on Tobin’s sternum.

“Should I set an alarm?” Christen asks quietly, hoping Tobin says no so she won’t have to get out of bed to get her phone.

“Nah,” Tobin mumbles through a yawn, “room service,”

“Okay,” Christen smiles at her sleepiness, leaning up to place a soft kiss on her lips.

“I’m so tired,” Tobin whines, the issues a long exhale.

“Go to sleep, babe,” Christen says, shifting her hips so she’s on her side more.

 

When Christen wakes, the room in almost completely black. A sliver of light filters through the hallway from the living room, only brighter by a little bit. She’s facing away from Tobin, she must have rolled over in her sleep, perhaps growing too warm from her body heat. She slides over to the edge of the bed, going up on one elbow, reaching her arm out to feel for the lamp on her bedside table. She winces as the light fills the room, blinding her. Cocking an eye shut and squinting her other eye, she clicks it again, pleased with the bulb growing softer. She yawns as she leaves the bed, intent on retrieving her phone and seeing what time it is. She shivers as she walks over the couch, picking her phone and squinting at the screen. It’s only seven-thirty.

They had laid down a little after five yet Christen feels as if it’s the middle of the night, she’s so disoriented. She returns to bed, sliding under the covers, warming up again, looking over and giggling at Tobin. She’s sprawled on her stomach, lying at an angle. One foot is sticking out from under the covers, hanging over the side, her head partially covered by her pillow. She scooches over next to her, her hand rubbing Tobin’s back.

“Babe,” she says softly, snaking her hand under Tobin’s shirt to feel her soft skin, “baby wake up,” Tobin doesn’t move, still deeply sleeping. Christen rakes her nails on her back with just a touch more pressure, loving how Tobin’s skin feels, hoping that she’ll soon have a chance to touch her more intimately.

Tobin moves, shifting her hips, issuing a groan, her arm moving as she rolls over, eyes still closed. Christen lets her hand pull back from under her shirt, yet still keeps it on her torso, resting on her stomach. Tobin mumbles something but Christen can’t understand it. “What honey?” she asks.

“I need to get the balls for the session,” she says, frowning into her pillow.

Christen shakes her head, “You did your session already,” she says, letting her hand drift to Tobin’s side, feeling how Tobin flinches. She must be ticklish there. She persists her movements until Tobin is blinking at her.

“Hey,” she greets sleepily as she squints at her, “what time is it?”

“It’s around seven-thirty,” Christen replies, “you hungry? You want to look at Room Service?”

“Yeah, I’m starving,” Tobin replies, giving her a smile, “you sleep good?”

“I did,” she replies, “I don’t know what woke me up, but I feel good,”

“Me too,” she nods, stretching under the covers, “you hungry?”

Christen nods solemnly, “I might need to get into the snacks in your backpack,” she says, her lips curling into a small smile. Tobin smiles back at her, “I’ll go find the menu,” she says, flipping the covers back, “although lying here with you is wonderful,”

“Food first,” Christen chuckles as she sits up, “I’ll be right back.”

Christen uses the toilet and freshens up, brushing her teeth and washing her face, feeling much more awake now. She finds Tobin near the desk, flipping through a rather imposingly thick leather book. Tobin turns her head as she approaches, “There’s so much and I’m so hungry,” she pushes it across the desk towards Christen, “You look,” she says, “I’ll be right back.”

Christen turns to watch Tobin head for the bathroom, so she opens the menu. Remembering that dinner tomorrow is Italian based, Christen thinks she’ll go for a seafood dish. She wanders from the desk, deciding to look out at the city as the sun is lowering in the sky.

Tobin announces her exit from the bathroom, “I want a steak,” she declares, making a beeline for the menu, scanning it and nodding approvingly. “Chris? You know what you want?”

“Yeah, I’ll do the broiled seafood platter,” she replies from the window in the living room.

“Perfect,” Tobin steps back so she can see her from the desk, “maybe we can share a little? Surf and turf?”

Christen smiles, “Sounds good.” She can hear Tobin on the phone placing their orders. She gets lost looking out, watching the traffic flow down below, lights coming on as dusk approaches. She feels two arms around her, holding her gently, Tobin’s head brushing back her hair to place gentle kisses on her neck.

“It’s so beautiful,” Christen murmurs as she looks out.

“I’ll say,” Tobin whispers against her neck, her hot breath sending a shiver down Christen’s spine. She turns her head and Tobin’s lips are there to greet her, making her smile into the kiss. As Tobin lightly cups Christen’s breast, Christen lets her hands rub Tobin’s outer thighs for a bit before turning to face her. She walks Tobin backward to the sofa as they kiss, both of them falling onto the cushions, their kisses growing more urgent. They roll on their sides, hands roaming as they kiss. They lose track of time as they explore each other more boldly than have before and just as Tobin shifts to slot her leg in between Christen’s legs, there’s a knock at the door.

Both of them groan with frustration at the interruption and Tobin reluctantly leaves the coach as Christen straightens her shirt, making sure her hair is in order. She chuckles as she sees Tobin escorting the waiter to the table in the room, her hair slipping out of the bun, her shirt crumpled. Tobin finds her wallet while the server places the covered dishes on the table and opens a bottle of wine. He insists on Tobin testing the wine to be sure it is acceptable and she does.

Christen arches an eyebrow at Tobin who shrugs her shoulders as she sloppily signs the receipt, slipping the server some cash on the way out. She smiles brightly as she approaches the table, Christen walking over to it as well. She chuckles at the sight of her.

“What?” Tobin questions, looking at her expectantly.

“Um, your shirt,” Christen gestures, Tobin looking down and seeing how one side is folded up exposing her skin, she flips it down.

“Ready to eat?” She asks excitedly, as Christen still laughs quietly.

“What now?” Tobin asks, frowning, smoothing out her shirt.

“Babe,” she says, “your hair…”

Tobin’s hands go to her head, frowning as she looks for a mirror. “Why didn’t you say anything?” she complains, chuckling when she sees how ridiculous she looks.

“It happened too quick,” Christen defends, coming up to her as she walks back to the table, kissing her gently.

“Well,” Tobin says, giving Christen a lopsided smile as she sits down next to Christen, “it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve looked ridiculous in front of a stranger.”

Christen lifts her the cover of her plate, “Oh, this one is yours,” she says. They switch plates and begin to eat. They talk about what they want to do tomorrow, Tobin gets up and finds the remote for the TV, finding the Seattle information station and they watch it as they eat. The decide if they’re up early enough, they’ll find somewhere near the hotel for breakfast and shop around the area more than they did last night. They’ll decide on somewhere for lunch and then they’ll had up towards Chihuly’s Garden and the Space Needle area. Depending on time, they might stop at the Pop Museum or just head back to the hotel and get ready for their evening.

“That was incredible,” Christen declares as she sets her fork down, “I’m so full,” she says as she leans back in her chair. She watches as Tobin finishes her last piece of steak, giving her a smile as she sets her fork down.

“Really, good,” Tobin comments when she finishes chewing, lifting her glass of wine and finishing it, “did you want something for dessert?”

Christen shakes her head, “There’s no way I could eat another thing,” she says, finding the cover for her dish and placing it over her plate.

“Neither can I,” Tobin says, doing the same, “but I thought I’d ask,” she covers her mouth as she yawns again, “I’m still so tired,”

“Why don’t we relax on the couch and watch something?” Christen suggests.

Tobin nods, “Will you hold the door open so I can put the tray in the hall?” she asks. Christen helps her get their plates on the tray and holds the door open while Tobin sets it down on the carpet in the hall. Tobin finds a blanket in the bedroom closet and they snuggle under it. They watch the local news to get the weather report for tomorrow. The forecast calls for clear skies until after midnight when the threat of rain heightens. Christen scans the channels and finds a Disney movie that’s almost over. They watch the end of Finding Nemo, teasing each when they tear up when Dory and Nemo reunite with Marlin. They make jokes about being old as they shut the TV off and agree to go back to bed for the night.
Under the covers as they kiss each other, they whisper how excited they are for tomorrow.

 

XXXX

 

 

It takes almost everything Tobin has within her to resist joining Christen in the shower the next morning. She’s been teasing her playfully, suggestively, giving her lingering looks and then a pouting face when Tobin refuses.

“Chris,” Tobin whines, kissing her gently, resisting the urge to give in, “babe,” she says, “I just really want our first time to be special,” she kisses her again, “and in a shower, that just doesn’t cover it,”

Christen looks at her guiltily, frowning with the corners of her lips turned up, “You’re right,” she sighs, kissing her back, “but know this,” she says, giving her a sultry look as she steps out of Tobin’s arms, lifting her shirt and taking it off to expose her bare breasts, “we’re getting naked tonight.” She punctuates her statement by tossing her shirt at Tobin’s face, walking with a certain sashay, her hips swaying as she walks confidently to the bathroom. Tobin holds the shirt, a stupid grin on her face, then lifts to shirt to her nose, inhaling deeply. She tosses it on the bed, whistling a peppy tune as she goes through her luggage to find an outfit for the day.

 

They walk hand in hand two blocks south to a French bakery housed in the Fairmont hotel, enjoying a good coffee and excellent pastries. From there they stroll down 1st Avenue, stopping in the North Face store to browse around. They’re lucky enough to catch the first tour of the morning discovering the history of Seattle’s Underground. After an hour spent walking through the tunnels below the streets hearing tales of the city’s past, both of them are hungry. It’s a short walk to a pub that offers lunch and they each get a beer. They order a half dozen oysters and tray of cured meats and cheeses to nibble as they talk.

“So, can we talk about Hawaii?” Christen asks as she sets her beer down, “I’m in to go,” she clarifies, “but I want it to be fair,”

Tobin nods, “Well, I’ve already used my miles for the room, so what about you paying for fun stuff?”

Christen nods, “I could do that,” she says, “but I will pay for my flight, alright?”

Tobin presses her teeth together, nodding, understanding where she’s coming from. “How about I book it, so we can sit together and you can pay me back?” she asks, looking at her with a hopeful expression, “I can do it when we get back to the room, if you want.”

“Let’s go over the dates one more time and then yes,” Christen nods at her, “maybe I’ll look at some of the things we might want to do?”

“That would be cool,” Tobin grins.

“What would you be doing if you were going alone?” Christen asks curiously. She wants to know what type of vacation Tobin would plan for herself.

“Honestly, the first few days I’d lay around, napping,” Tobin confesses, “after a couple of days, I would usually get up early in the mornings to surf, then chill for a while. I would bring some books to read, I always bring my sketchbook,” she shares, “I would take walks or go hiking, think about things, how the year has gone, what goals I have for the next year, what I want to do with my life.”

Christen looks at her thoughtfully, “Are you sure you want me to come?” she asks genuinely, “That sounds like you do some serious contemplating while you’re alone.”

Tobin catches how serious Christen is, looking at her just as thoughtfully, “I really do want you to come with me,” she states slowly, “if you’re cool with hanging out for a couple of days, then doing stuff.”

Christen considers it, “I like the idea of relaxing for a few days,” she agrees, “we could do half day things, or morning things or whatever,” she says, leaning to kiss her softly, “mostly I just want to do things with you.”

“I very much want to do things with you, too,” Tobin smiles at her, kissing her. “I very much want to see you in a bikini.”

Christen gets that look in her eyes, the one Tobin hasn’t seen much, a mix of lust and fondness and humor. “I’d very much want to see you out of a bikini,” she smirks at her.

Tobin’s eyes open a little wider at Christen’s brazenness, those brown orbs flashing around the shop to see if anyone heard her. Then she collects herself, running her tongue along the inside of her cheek as she thinks of her reply. “If I remember correctly,” she says slowly and quietly, “weren’t you the one who said that teasing isn’t nice?”

Christen gives her a challenging stare, watching as Tobin’s tongue darts out to lick her lower lip then her teeth come over to bite down. She pulls the skin back slowly releasing her lip as her eyes crawl over Christen sitting next to her. Christen can feel her gaze as if she were touching her and shivers.

“Maybe you said that because you like to be teased,” Tobin says quietly when her eyes finally become level to hers, boldly looking at her lustily, “Chris,” she breathes quietly, shifting her shoulders in this little French bistro, still leaning in close to her, “do you want me to tease you tonight?” Before Christen can form a reply, she speaks again, her voice low and just above a whisper, “Do you want me to touch you and taste you again and again and again until you think you’ll go mad?”
Christen’s mouth goes dry, she swallows hard, her mouth hanging open. “Yes,” she breathes.

Tobin smiles as she lifts two fingers to close Christen’s mouth, leaning in to kiss her softly. “Good,” she says, leaning away from her and pushing her chair back from the table. She stands up abruptly, “We should head out if we want to get up to Chihuly’s Garden,” she says, smirking at her.

Christen blinks rapidly, becoming aware of where they are. In public. In a bar. For a moment there, she felt they were alone. She hears Tobin’s melodic laugh and looks up sharply, seeing her grinning wildly down at her. Christen scrunches her mouth up, glaring at her as she shakes her head, gathering her purse and standing up as well.

“You’re awful,” she states as she follows Tobin out to the street, she grabs Tobin’s shoulder, stopping her on the sidewalk. Tobin looks startled, as if she’s possibly pushed it too far and upset her. Christen wraps her arm around Tobin’s waist, pulling them together, kissing her hard as her hand grips Tobin’s ass. “You better keep that promise, Heath,” she says to her, a grin spreading across her face. Tobin smiles, then yelps as Christen smacks her ass hard.

Christen finds Tobin’s hand, pulling her down the sidewalk, “Let’s hit this garden,” she says commandingly.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Are you kidding me?” Tobin questions breathlessly, her head on a swivel. Their walking through the exhibit of Chihuly’s glass sculptures. Christen thinks the glass is impressive, but she’s left feeling a mix of deep emotions watching as Tobin is blown away from the displays. They leisurely stroll hand in hand through the outdoor garden, pausing to take photos of the installations and themselves smiling together. Tobin speaks excitedly about the color compositions, the use of light and how each piece is balanced.

“It’s just beautiful,” Tobin says, shaking her head, “I want to do something like in my backyard,” she comments, “I mean, not on this scale, but something…impacting. Integrating the colors, the wildness, these shapes…”

“I can’t wait to see what you come up with,” Christen smiles, squeezing her hand.

 

Tobin notices how tight Christen is holding her hand as they stand in the express elevator that’s lifting them up to the observation deck of the Space Needle. She glances over and sees how Christen’s eyes are focused on the lights above the elevator door indicating the progress to the floor. Tobin squeezes her hand, doing it repeatedly until Christen looks at her. Tobin sticks her tongue out, trying to cross her eyes. Christen giggles at her silliness, “Stop,” she says mildly when Tobin continues with the goofy faces. When the doors open, Christen feels better, no longer edgy from the elevator.

“Did that make you nervous?” Tobin asks caringly. She had guided them to the side, away from the crowd.

Christen nods, “Little claustrophobic,” she frowns.

“I’m sorry,” Tobin frowns at her, “I didn’t know,”

Christen shakes her head, “I never mentioned it,” she says, “and it doesn’t always happen. I think there were just too many people in there.”

“You okay now?” Tobin is looking at her with concern, “We can leave if you’re uncomfortable,”

“No, no,” Christen smiles at her, “I’m okay,” she assures her, “and I’m not afraid of heights,”

“If you’re sure,” Tobin doesn’t look convinced. Christen grabs her hand, “Let’s go see Seattle, babe,” she says, leading her to the doors to the observation deck.

 

“Stop!” Christen holds her hand up, blocking Tobin’s view of her face. Tobin lowers her phone, “I can’t,” she confesses, “you look so beautiful,”

Christen frowns at her, “I think you have enough,” she says, blushing at her, “you’ve been taking pictures of me all day,” Tobin just shrugs, “Okay,” slipping her phone in her pocket. Christen puts an arm around her, tugging her close, “maybe some later, alright?”

Tobin nods at her, then gives her a smile and wink, letting her know she’s fine with it. They step onto the outdoor deck, walking to the rail and looking over to see the expanse of the city. They enjoy the view for a few minutes, walking around the circular deck, feeling the wind blowing a stiff breeze. They go back inside, lingering near the elevators, Tobin waiting until she sees only a couple of people step onto a car. She signals the operator, guiding her and Christen over to step in the car, pleased Christen won’t suffer the ride down in a crowded small space. Christen flashes her a grateful smile, once again squeezing her hand in appreciation and thinking of how thoughtful Tobin is to her.
Tobin checks her watch when they leave the Space Needle, “So, it’s almost five,” she comments, unsure how long Christen prefers to prepare for their date.

“We should head back,” Christen says, swinging their hands as they walk, “I don’t want to rush getting ready.”

“Sure,” Tobin grins, pulling her phone from her pocket to order an Uber.

 

 

Tobin gets her tie perfect, making sure it’s straight before slipping the vest on. She smooths her tie flat, then buttons the vest up, flips her collar down and checks herself in the mirror. She affixes her watch on her right wrist, double checks her cufflinks are secure and folds up the clothes she wore earlier.

She walks into the bedroom, tosses the clothes on top of her suitcase, then leaves, not wanting to surprise Christen if she exits the bathroom unexpectantly. She enters the living room, preparing a whiskey and soda to drink. She stirs the ice in the glass, removing the small straw and taking a sip. She has music playing, linking her phone to the sound dock in the room, idly tapping her fingers on the bar as she looks out the window.

The more she stands there, the more nervous she grows. She prays that Alex has guided her with the correct choice of her outfit for tonight. She prays Christen likes it. She wants to look attractive for her. She spent significant time on her hair, putting loose curls in it and carefully applying some light makeup. She raises her glass once more, downing the remainder of the beverage with three large gulps.

Tobin turns her head to look over at the bottle of bourbon on the bar counter, considering making a second drink. She’s nervous. She shakes her head, deciding against it. She wants a clear head for tonight. She’ll probably have some wine with dinner, maybe a drink during the show afterwards, but she doesn’t want to be drunk. She wants to remember every detail of this night. Especially when they return to this room.

She busies herself gathering her wallet, room key and phone, slipping the items in her trouser pockets. Patting the outside of them out of habit. She leans against the bar, absentmindedly spinning the ring on her right middle finger. Her ears perk up when she hears some noise from the bedroom over the music.

“Honey?” Christen calls out, “I’ll be just a minute,” she says, “are we good on time?”

Tobin looks at her watch, it’s just a little after six, “We’re perfect,”

“Okay,” Christen calls back.

Tobin pulls her phone out, sliding it on and cutting off the music. She’s not sure what she’s feeling more of: being nervous that Christen might not like her outfit or excited to see Christen dressed up. She thinks back to the day they first met, Christen was wearing one of those pencil skirts that showed off her hips and curves and calves. Her stomach tightens up as she hears the click clack of heels on the floor approaching her.

Tobin’s mouth drops open, her eyes focused on Christen when she appears in the doorway of the bedroom. She’s wearing a maroon long sleeved dress with a modest neckline and comes down just above the knee. Christen’s hair is curly and flowing, a thin gold chain around her neck. When Tobin’s eyes lower she sees the goldish strappy sandals on her feet.

“You look amazing,” Tobin utters, a smile filling her face, making her eyes crinkle.

Christen blushes shyly, her head slightly down, her eyes peeking through her lashes to look at her, “You like it?”

Tobin nods, “Very much,” she says, “you look stunning,” she smiles at her, “just gorgeous.”

“You look fantastic,” Christen smiles at her, “come out from behind there, let me see you,” She walks over towards her, looking her up and down as Tobin stands before her. “Babe,” she says softly, “you look so fucking hot in this outfit,” she husks.

“You like it?” Tobin asks, a wave of uncertainty washing over her, “I brought a dress too, I could change if you think it’d be better.”

“Oh no,” Christen shakes her head slowly, her eyes traveling up and down Tobin’s body, “this is…” she smiles at her, “you wear this so well, baby,” she says, her hand traveling to Tobin’s side, “you look so incredible,” she kisses her softly, “you’re beautiful.”

Tobin smiles, pleased she’s made the right choice, “Thanks,” she says, puckering up and kissing her back, “I’m glad you like it,”

“Truth be told,” Christen smiles at her, “I saw a photo of you wearing it,” she admits, “and I thought you looked amazing in it.”

Tobin smiles, reminding herself to thank Alex later. “You ready?” she asks.

“Yes,” Christen nods, jutting her elbow out for Tobin to link her arm through. Tobin pauses to put her jacket on, Christen just oogles her some more. They leave the room and walk to the elevator. As they hold hands while riding the elevator to the ground floor, Christen turns to Tobin, “Wait, you said you wear dresses?” she asks.

“Yeah,” Tobin nods and then shrugs, “not all the time, but I like to dress up,” She sees that Christen has sucked in her cheeks as she looks at her, her eyes crawling Tobin her.
“Why?” she asks her, “Does that surprise you?”

Christen smiles at her, “Honestly? Yeah, a little,” she admits, “I’ve only seen you in casual dress before and you wore pants,” she says, “so I guess I latched onto the idea that you always dressed that way,”

Tobin gives her a small smile, “Well you’re not too wrong,” she says, “I mean, I like to be comfortable,” she says, “but I do have a feminine side that I’ve fully embraced.”

Christen gives her an exaggerated wink, “I can’t wait to see it, babe,” she says.

Tobin laughs and shakes her head, “Maybe I’ll surprise you one day,” The elevator doors open and they enter the lobby, Tobin pulls out her phone to order an Uber, knowing the cars are close by since there’s so many hotels in the area. She feels Christen grab her arm, "I know what we should be for Halloween," she announces, her eyes are roaming over Tobin's body.

"What?" Tobin questions, thinking it's so random.

"We should be like, gothic period vampires, you wearing a suit like this and I'll wear one of those Victorian dresses with the corset." She says excitedly.

Tobin smiles, "I love it. I'll call my friend Jamie, she works in the theater department over at UP."

"Really?" Christen claps her hands together, "That would be amazing!"

Tobin gives her a big smile, "Are you sure you want to be vampires? We could be zombies too,"

Christen shakes her head definitively, "No. I want to be a vampire," she says, leaning close, kissing her lips, "then I can suck on your neck all night and I'll be in character."

"We might not be there for long then," Tobin gulps, thinking about it.

"We only have to stay long enough to win," Christen smiles at her, batting her eyelashes.

Tobin chuckles, shaking her head, "I think the car is here,"

 

 

It’s a nondescript building with a pale pink door, Tobin chats with the hostess and Christen isn’t paying attention, she’s looking around the interior and not seeing Tobin slip the woman some folded bills with a wink as soon they’re being led through the tables. The hostess smiles widely at them, suggesting they sit next to each and they’ll receive the best view in the house. Tobin thanks her graciously, pulling a seat out for Christen to sit, slipping off her jacket and placing it on the chair next to her and she sits down.

A bucket on a stand containing a bottle surrounded by an ice tube appears nearly instantly, a smiling woman announcing she will be their server. “My name is Morgana and I’ll be delighted to see to your every need,” she says, her voice low and sultry as she looks over both women, a twinkle of amusement and charged sexuality in her eyes.

“Wonderful Morgana,” Tobin replies easily, “what would we have here?” she gestures to the silver bucket.

“Oh, this,” she says dramatically, “is an off dry Reisling from V. Sattui wineries,” she explains, opening the wine with an expert twist, “it’s from 2004, one of their best years.”

Tobin looks over at Christen, smiling and looking expectantly at her, “Would you like some wine, babe?”

Christen smiles, “Yes, please,” she replies, she brushes her shoulder against Tobin’s, “you know this is my favorite,”

Tobin gives a quick nod to Morgana and then leans over to Christen, “I want nothing but the best for you tonight, babe,” she gives her a soft kiss.

“Pulling out all the stops?” Christen murmurs, beginning to get the feeling that Tobin has done a little something for them to get special treatment.

“Just for you,” Tobin smiles sweetly, thanking Morgana for the wine.

“Would you two like me to take a photo?” Morgana asks, “You both look fabulous,” she appreciatively.

“Wanna, babe?” Tobin asks, pulling her phone out when Christen nods.

Tobin throws her arm around Christen’s shoulders, her fingers lingering on the exposed skin. Christen’s dress has a nice expanse of skin that Tobin lets herself lazily explore as they pose. Christen leans into her, both of them smiling brightly as Morgana snaps a few photos.

“Thank you very much,” Tobin smiles up at their server.

“I’ll be back shortly with your menus,” she announces, “and then, if you’d like, I’d like to invite you to tour our facility.”

Both of the women’s eyes pop open at the invitation, neither one expecting it. Tobin glances at Christen, who gives her a slight nod.

“Sure,” Tobin replies, “that would be so interesting.”

Morgana smiles and steps away from the table, leaving Tobin and Christen alone. The room is filling up, they both look around, taking in the grand interior. Gold chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling, the crisp white walls and the hard wood wide planked floor. Interesting paintings adorn the walls, pulling for their attention. They are located to the left of a small stage and looking up they could see some trapezes hanging from the ceiling.

After they place their orders, the follow Morgana through the building, hearing the history of the restaurant, viewing the busy kitchen, stopping to be treated to a taste of a few appetizers. They visit the wine cellar where another taste of a vintage wine is had. They meet a few of the performers for tonight’s show, shaking their hands and wishing them luck.

It’s only minutes within sitting back down at their table that Morgana returns with their meals. They share tastes of one another dishes, Tobin offering up some of her parpardelle Bolognese and Christen sending her a few forkfuls of linguine with baby clams. Dinner was completed with palate cleansing salads, then a sampling of desserts.

They’ve worked through the first bottle of wine, sipping water while they finish their meals. Neither of them want to be sloppy drunk even with eating such a large meal. They decline a second bottle, opting for non-alcoholic versions of a few cocktails.

They get handsy under the table during the show, both of them feeling the effects of the other’s touches. Hands roaming on thighs, Christen’s foot rubbing against Tobin’s right leg. As the show is ending, Tobin is tapping her left foot, impatient to leave and get back to the hotel. Christen is feeling the same, the sexual tones of the show, the skin the performers are showing are having it’s effect on her.

When Mogana appears to present the check, Tobin handles it quickly, being sure to add a very generous tip to the woman.

Morgana is grateful upon her return, smiling brightly and profusely thanking them. They stand from the table, each of them shaking the young woman’s hand, thanking her for her wonderful service and the tour. Tobin shakes the hand of the hostess, thanking her for a wonderful evening.

The rain has held off as they exit the building, both feeling full from dinner and horny from the show.

“Uh,” Tobin squeezes Christen’s hand, “you want to walk a little before getting a ride?”

“I’d like that,” she agrees, “I feel so full, I’d like to walk it off a little,”

“Same here,” Tobin says, walking them towards Pike’s Market.

“Thank you very much for tonight,” Christen seriously, “it was pretty amazing,” she smiles at her.

Tobin grins, “It’s fun to do that sometimes,” she admits, “I don’t do it often,” she says, “but there’s something about sharing really cool experiences with those you care about.” She shrugs, “I just, I don’t know, it tickles me.”

“I loved sharing tonight with you,” Christen seriously, “I felt like a princess,”

The wind picks up as they near the water and Tobin notices Christen shiver. She stops walking and drops her hand, removing her suit jacket and placing it over Christen’s shoulders. “Thanks, babe,” Christen says quietly, using her fingers to pinch the jacket closed against her.

They end up not speaking as they lean against the fence rail of the pier, both lost in their thoughts as they gaze out at the water.

“I’m a little nervous,” Tobin declares suddenly, still facing the water when Christen looks at her.

“Me too,” Christen admits, “I want to be good for you,” she says, letting her hand run up and down Tobin’s arm. Tobin turns to face her, nodding, “Me too,” she says, “it’s been a while since I’ve been with anyone.” Christen knows this, they’ve spoken about their relationships often.

“Well, let’s just agree to talk about it,” Christen suggests, “tell each other what we like,”

Tobin looks surprised, “You’d be okay with that?”

Christen draws closer, kissing her gently, “I think it will be hot,” she whispers against her lips, “telling you what to do to me, letting me finally live out the fantasies I’ve been having of you fucking me.”

Tobin lets out a shaky breath, stepping back from her, shoving her hand in her pocket and dropping her phone in her haste to get it out. “Shit,” she curses, bending to pick it up and order the Uber. Once she puts her phone away, Tobin reaches for Christen’s shoulder, pulling her close and kissing her passionately. They kiss urgently, both worked up, but the way Tobin is kissing her right now, it’s leaving Christen dizzy. Tobin guides her to the sidewalk just as the car pulls up.

It’s a quiet ride to the hotel, both of them anxious and excited. There’s a palpable buzz between them sitting the backseat, dressed so nicely and underneath lustful and carnal thoughts that are swirling in their minds.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

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As soon as Tobin shuts the door to their room behind herself, Christen is pressing up against her, kissing her passionately. Her hands are all over, moving quickly in her rush. She backs Tobin up against the wall, moaning into her mouth. They kiss with a burning need, the two knowing tonight they will consummate their feelings towards one another. Tobin breaks contact, dropping her head to Christen’s neck to plant a series of kisses. Her right hand gathers a healthy amount of Christen’s curly hair, pulling her head back to expose her neck. Christen’s hands go still, her mind suddenly blank, only the feeling of Tobin touching her and the growing dampness between her legs.

After a few minutes, Tobin slows down her kisses, trailing up from Christen’s neck, to her jaw, then a slow steady kiss on her lips. Christen opens her eyes, seeing Tobin looking at her hungrily. “Bed,” Tobin says and it sounds a little forceful, filled with desire. Her tone really turning Christen on. She takes Christen’s hand leading her through the darkness to their room, lit from the large windows that allow the light from the city below and the moon above.

Once in the bedroom, Christen drops Tobin’s hand, walking to the side of the bed and turning on the lamp. “I want to see you,” she says, her voice sounding wrecked. Tobin nods and moves to unbutton her vest. “No,” Christen shakes her head, “I want to,” she says as she comes to stand in front of her at the foot of the bed.

Tobin stands there with her arms to her sides, looking at her with such affection, Christen starts to tremble. “Tell me what you want,” Tobin husks. “Kiss me,” Christen urges, her fingers nimbly unbuttoning Tobin’s vest as they kiss. Her hands run under the vest, feeling Tobin’s strong frame, landing on her breasts, massaging them gently through her shirt. Tobin issues a short moan, her hands now squeezing Christen’s ass while Christen removes the vest and loosens Tobin’s tie. She whips the tie over her shoulder, making Tobin chuckle, then she unbuttons the shirt. Tobin removes her cufflinks and sets them on the bedside table, which really turns Christen on even more. Christen gathers the material, pulling the shirt up from where Tobin had it tucked in her pants.

They’re still kissing, Tobin’s hands now cupping Christen’s face while she’s unfastening Tobin’s bra, Tobin quickly ridding herself of it and flinging it to the floor. Christen pulls back to look at her, shirtless, Tobin’s chest heaving as she stares back at her breathing through her open mouth. Christen guides her to the bed, she sits on the end, pulling a still standing Tobin by the hips in front of her. She pulls at the belt, slowly sliding it through the loops of her trousers to free it, then the button of Tobin’s pants, she feels Tobin brush through her hair with fingers as she works the zipper down. She pushes the trousers down over Tobin’s hips.

“Fuck, Tobin,” Christen groans upon seeing the snug boyshorts she’s wearing that are hugging her hips and thighs. She’s certain she’s soaked through her own thong, and seeing Tobin like this she might even leave a spot of wetness on the comforter when she rises. “Lift a foot,” she commands and Tobin complies, allowing her to remove her dress sock. She had already kicked off her shoes by the door. She lifts her other foot, beginning to feel overwhelmed at being naked in front of Christen.

Christen looks up at her, “Tobin, you’re beautiful,” she says, her voice is raw and cracking. Tobin takes her hands and lifts her to stand, kissing her hard. “What do you want?” Tobin asks between kisses.

“Take my dress off,” Christen requests, turning around so Tobin can unzip her. Tobin carefully pulls Christen’s hair to the side, allowing her to attach her lips to her neck, nipping and sucking as she unfastens the small hook at the top and slowly lowers the zipper. Her free hand roams along Christen’s side, holding on to her hip and then leaves to gather the material and let it flutter to the ground. She kisses her shoulder, gently biting at the base of her neck, being careful not to leave marks. Her hands feel the material of her bra, circling around to the front to grip her breasts, squeezing them, then splaying her fingers to tease at her nipples. She smiles against Christen’s neck when she feels the nubs harden at her touch.

“What’s next?” she questions, wanting to hear Christen’s voice.

“Take off my bra,” Christen groans, rubbing her ass against Tobin’s front, her hands snug on Tobin’s hips. Tobin skillfully unfastens the restrictive piece of clothing, ghosting the straps down her arms and tossing it to the floor. She hooks her fingers through the strings of the thong, lower them over Christen’s hips, slowly kneeling down as she removes the garment. Her hands run over Christen’s bronze, smooth skin, loving how soft she feels. She places kisses on her thighs, inhaling the scent of her sex.

She kisses just above her pubic bone, then stands before her, a questioning look on her face. Christen raises her hands to cup Tobin’s face, “Take me,” she urges as she leans in to kiss her. Tobin guides her onto the bed, kissing her, letting her hands explore her bare skin. She’s distracted by Christen’s breasts, how dark her areolas are, how the skin puckers and how large her nipples are. Tobin’s nipples are small by comparison and she’s a little self-conscious of that. They never seemed to get larger, but then again, she’s still wearing the same bra size she did when she was sixteen. But Christen’s nipples, she’s drawn to them, wanting to suck and bite on them, roll her tongue around them.

So, she does. While one hand is teasing Christen’s left nipple, her mouth is placing delicate kisses around her right breast, then zeroing in on the standing bud, hearing Christen gasp as she suckles it like hard candy. She loses herself in it, zoning out in the bliss and power she feels making Christen moan under her touch.

“Tobin,” Christen cries out, her hips grinding against the firm leg she slotted against her dripping pussy. “Tobin, please!” she begs, “I need you to touch me,” she says, “I need you in me,” she pants, her hands pushing at her shoulders. Tobin frustrates her, taking her sweet time as she slowly glides fingers over her abdomen, placing delicate kisses on her skin as she settles herself between her legs.

She runs two fingers through her slit, forward and back, then circles her opening, looking down to see how swollen her labia is, how it’s all slick with wetness. She inserts a finger in her and Christen freezes, gasping and then slowly moving her hips. Tobin guides her finger slowly, setting a lazy rhythm, wanting to draw this out, inhaling Christen’s earthy scent, not wanting this to end without having a chance to taste her. She shifts on one elbow, leaning her head forward and darting her tongue to run it over her clit. She pulls her finger out only to add one as she slowly pushes inside her.

“Oh, Tobin, God,” Christen groans, “faster, please, faster!” she urges, her hips moving sharper, trying to draw her fingers in deeper. Tobin picks up the pace, glancing up and seeing Christen breathing noisily as her fingers pull at her own nipples. Tobin feels a spasm of desire shoot through her, actually jerking her own hips involuntarily. Her own breathing picks up as she watches how Christen’s forehead furrows as she takes deep inhalations, watching how Christen’s chest rises and falls, how her breasts sway with her movements.
She begins to curl her fingers deep within her, eliciting a loud moan from Christen, slowing down the frantic pace she set as she slowly twists her wrist, circling her fingers within her. Christen mewls with each pass, rotating her hips counterclockwise to how Tobin is making her circular passes within her.

“Oh God,” Christen cries, “oh, fuck!” she exclaims, lifting her hips off the mattress, “Don’t stop, baby, don’t stop!”

Tobin doesn’t stop, instead she circles her wrist again, then pauses to curl her fingers again and again at Christen’s g-spot, making the woman writhe beneath her.

“Tobin!” Christen cries, “Yes!” she exclaims, “Fuck, yes!” Her voice is growing higher in pitch, her moans and gasps filling the room, music to Tobin’s ears.

It’s when Tobin tongues around her clit, Christen loses all control, her legs quivering, a hand forcefully pressing Tobin’s face into her crotch. “Fuck, Tobin,” she says loudly, “suck on it!” she encourages, “Suck on my clit!” she pleads.

Tobin does as told, feeling a spasm of her own as her hips twitch from Christen speaking so directly, taking her clit in her mouth swirling her tongue around as she sucks for all she’s worth, feeling the mattress jerk with how Christen’s legs flinch and shake. “I’m…I’m…” Christen let’s out a loud moan, freezing in place for a moment, then collapsing on the mattress, breathing hard. Her hands limply fall beside her on the mattress, her legs going slack, slightly bent. Tobin looks up and sees how Christen’s chest is heaving, how she’s coated in a thin layer of glistening sweat. How amazingly beautiful she looks post orgasm. She’s breathing through her mouth as she tries to catch her breath, her eyes closed, droplets of sweat of her forehead.

Tobin slowly withdraws her fingers, seeing how wrinkled the tips are from Christen’s moisture, licking at them to get one last taste. Her face is wet and growing sticky, she’s a mess. Her own crotch is drenched, she feels like she’ll come with the first contact she feels down there. She’s trembling slightly, feeling a new closeness to Christen now. Seeing her so vulnerable, so needy and so fucking sexy.

She waits for her to open her eyes, “You okay?” she asks, giving her a smile.

“I’m very okay,” Christen returns her smile, looking very satisfied and letting her eyes run over Tobin’s body that’s now hovering over her.

“I’ll be right back,” Tobin says, ducking in to kiss her lips quickly and then pushing herself off the bed. She washes her hands and face, then runs the cloth through her folds and on her thighs to clean herself up a bit. She rinses the cloth with the warm water, wringing it out and bringing it with her. She kneels on the bed, crawling to Christen, laying down on her side, gently washing in between her legs.

“Thanks, babe,” Christen says quietly, raising her arm to latch her hand on Tobin’s shoulder and pull her closer. She kisses her softly, “That was amazing,” she smiles at her, “you’re amazing.” She kisses her once more.

“You’re amazing,” Tobin confesses, “and so beautiful,” she says as she runs her hand lightly on her torso, “I love how you feel,”

Christen looks at her, running her tongue over her lips, “I can’t wait to see how you feel,” she says, pushing on Tobin’s shoulder and suddenly moving on top of her, “and taste,” she says as she leans in to kiss her.

For the first thirty seconds after she came, Christen thought she was going to pass out right then and there, but hearing Tobin speak so heartfully to her and how she cleaned her up so caringly just stirs something deep within her. She doesn’t want to inflate Tobin’s ego just yet, but that was the best orgasm she’s ever had in her life. Maybe it was because she told Tobin exactly what she wanted and while Tobin was pretty intuitive to her desires, she believes that’s true to some extent, but she feels certain it was because it was with Tobin. Tobin, who she is growing so fond of, who she can picture herself loving and being with for a long time.

These thoughts are running through her head as she kisses her passionately, a hand on Tobin’s breast, massaging it and making Tobin squirm and moan in her mouth. She doesn’t think to ask her what she wants, she just moves, needing to please her, needing to make her come. She increases the intensity of her kissing, then breaks free to dip her head, kissing along Tobin’s jaw, then her neck, pushing herself lower to take one of Tobin’s breasts in her mouth.

“Chris,” Tobin breathes out, arcing her back, a hand rubbing lightly along Christen’s side, “that feels so good,” she says, threading a hand through Christen’s hair, making Christen shiver at the sensation.

Christen doesn’t want to waste time, she can smell Tobin’s scent, it’s heady and alluring and calling to her. Impulsively, she dips two fingers down to run through Tobin’s folds, raising her fingers to her mouth and licking them. “Oh, honey,” she says, her voice low and raw, “you taste amazing,” she says, leaning in to kiss her, their tongues intertwining. As they kiss, Christen guides her fingers back through Tobin, circling her clit, feeling how Tobin moves beneath her.

She enters her with two fingers, plunging them in deep, circling her wrist to stretch her tight walls.

“Ah,” Tobin whimpers, breaking the kiss as her head presses into the pillow, “oh, Chris,” she shudders, “yes, that feels so good,” she’s huffing as she breathes through her mouth, “so good,” she encourages, “right there,” she huffs, “oh God, yeah,” she slowly moves her hips beneath Christen.

“You like that?” Christen questions, slowly increasing the circular movement her wrist is making, “You like me inside you?” She asks as leans further up Tobin to lick at her ear, “Do you want me to fuck you like this?”

“Chris,” Tobin whines, “move your hand,” she urges, “please,” she urges, thrusting her hips sharply.

“Like this?” Christen questions, licking the shell of Tobin’s ear as she removes her fingers from her.

“Ah, Chris,” Tobin pants, “please, stop teasing!”

Christen chuckles, “You’ve teased me all night,” she counters, slowly using her fingers to slide up and down Tobin’s slit, pausing to circle her clit. She takes mercy on her, kissing her deeply as she enters her, slowly fucking her. She feels how wet Tobin is, hears her heavy breathing intermixed with soft moans muffled into the pillow, her head to the side, eyes clamped shut.

Christen increases the pace, pausing every so often to curl her fingers and she smiles to herself at Tobin’s sensual reaction. Tobin’s hands have fallen to the mattress, gripping the comforter, Christen sees how Tobin’s arm muscles flex and tense as she continues to plunge her fingers into her. Tobin’s cries are growing in frequency, she sees how Tobin’s throat works, making it hard for her to resist claiming it.

It occurs to her that she never asked Tobin what she wanted, she didn’t wait and ask how Tobin liked to get off, she just sort of took over. She doesn’t even know if Tobin prefers being penetrated over using her mouth. She can sense Tobin’s close and feels they’re too far gone to stop and ask right now, so she’s not sure if she should keep doing this or something else. Tobin honestly sounds as if she’s enjoying this and she knows she would say something if it wasn’t working for her. She really wants to taste her though, she doesn’t want this to end without her tongue touching her in the most intimate way.

Quickly, she pulls back and slides down, suddenly needing to taste her. Christen glides her tongue around Tobin’s clit, hearing Tobin’s strangled cries as she continues to curl her fingers into her. She dips lower, inhaling her musky scent, a mix of earthiness and sweetness, her tongue swirling as she sucks on her clit.

“Oh fuck, Chris!” Tobin exclaims, “Oh babe, yes,” she says breathlessly, her legs quivering, another strangled moan coming from her followed by a string on unintelligible words mixed with quieter curses. Tobin’s body goes slack, her chest heaving, mouth open, eyes closed. “Babe,” she pants, “that was,” she swallows, “so good,”

“I wanted it to be good for you,” Christen says quietly, feeling suddenly shy and vulnerable, “I want to be good for you,”

“Come up here,” Tobin gestures lazily with a hand, kissing her when Christen slides next to her on her side, “you are good for me,” she says, still breathing a little heavy, “but you were good for me before we even got to Seattle,” she says truthfully, “you were good for me a months ago,” she admits.

Christen smiles down at her, her head resting in her head, elbow propping her up. She studies Tobin’s face, seeing how sincere she’s being with her. It gives her strength to speak, “I was still a little nervous,” she confesses, “then I sort of forgot to ask you what you wanted and took control,” she says, “and I wasn’t sure if you liked that sort of thing,”

Tobin wipes her hair back from her face, letting her hand rest on the pillow, “It was kind of hot how you took over,” she smiles at her, “I like it,” she says, “it’s pretty fucking hot,”

Christen smiles at her, “Okay, I just want to be”

“Kiss me, babe,” Tobin cuts her off, ending her worries with her warm eyes, puckering her lips together.

They kiss and then Christen lays her head on Tobin’s chest, feeling her chest rise and fall easily now, feeling Tobin’s fingers trailing along on her back in a random pattern. They lie there for a few moments, just enjoying the closeness, both blissed out and reflecting on this new level they’ve taken their relationship.

Christen thinks she’ll just close her eyes for a moment, savoring in the glow. She hears Tobin sigh contently, imagining she’s doing the same.

A deafening blaring makes both of them shoot up on the bed, looking startled at each other.

“What is that?” Christen yells, trying to be heard above the two tone noise.

“A fire alarm,” Tobin yells back, looking worried.

“Please exit your rooms using the north stairwell,” A voice broadcasts from an unknown speaker, “Do not use the elevators. Please take the stairs on the north end. Refer to the map on the back on the door to room to locate the north stairs. If you need assistance, please call the front desk. This is not a drill, please exit your room immediately.”

The message is repeated as they both look at each other, mouths open, as if they need a minute to digest what is spoken to them. The message repeats over the noise and quickly they spring from the bed.

“Go wash up,” Christen orders, speaking loudly over the incessant noise of the alarm, “I’ll get you clothes,”

Tobin trots to the bathroom, peeing and then washing up quickly. They fumble pulling on bras and t-shirts, sweatpants and gym shoes, grabbing hoodies and their backpacks.

“I’ve got our phones and chargers,” Christen states as she hurriedly shoves them into her pack. Tobin hands her a water bottle from the bar, putting one in her pack. She runs back to the bathroom, returning with two of the larger hand towels, “Put this in your pack,” she advises.

“Ready?” she asks, trotting back to the bedroom to her pants on the floor and grabbing her phone, wallet and room key from her pocket. Christen nods and Tobin firmly grabs her hand, cautiously feeling the door first, then slowly opening it and looking down the hall. Other guests are standing in the hall, speaking with each one another, irritated at the noise and disturbance in their rest.

Tobin ignores them, passing quickly as she speed walks with Christen trailing behind, giving a glance over her shoulder, reassured to see the people slowly following. Tobin pauses at the stairwell door to properly adjust her backpack and put her hair in a ponytail, nodding at Christen to do the same.

“We’ll just go nice and easy,” Tobin shouts, opening the door and grabbing for Christen’s hand. They both realize they’re on the second to the top floor and the lobby is twenty-five floors below them. Tobin sets a decent pace, they both have a hand on the railings, Tobin’s right gliding along the inner portion of the stairs and Christen left on the outer as they descend. Christen moves behind her when they encounter others in the stairs going slower them.

“You okay?” Tobin questions as she looks over her shoulder, slowing down a little. They’re on the twentieth floor.

“Yeah,” Christen nods, grateful her and Tobin run together a couple of times a week. She knows Tobin runs almost every day, but she thinks she’s keeping up pretty well so far.

They fall in step with another couple, a man and a woman, their feet all moving in sync and keeping the same rhythm as they move down the stairs.

“Is that smoke?” the man questions after they pass a few floors, stopping to sniff. Tobin stops as well, looking over the railing the and seeing wisps of smoke drifting up. The lights in the stairwell fade on the floors below.

“We should cover our faces,” Tobin says, shrugging off her pack, she sees how the woman looks terrified. “Hey man, hold up a sec,” she instructs, unzipping her pack and pulling out the towel. Christen quickly takes off her pack and grabs her towel as well.

Tobin produces the utility knife she used for cutting down boxes from her booth to slice the towel down the middle making two long strips. She hands them to the woman, “Hang on,” she says as she cuts the next towel.

She folds the towel, “Chris, can I have your water?” Christen hand it over and Tobin carefully pours water out to dampen the towel. Tobin takes a sip of the water and offers it back to Christen. Christen takes a drink as Tobin hands the man her unopened water.

“Thanks,” he says gratefully, opening it, “we should get moving,” he suggests, taking a few gulps and handing the water to the woman who drinks as well. “Keep it,” Tobin instructs as she slides her pack on. The group descends the stair covering their mouths and noses with the towels as the smoke thickens around them. Tobin is still gripping Christen’s hand, both of them doing their best to fight the growing panic buzzing through them.

Two floors down they meet a firefighter in his bulky jacket wearing a mask. He instructs them to continue down, offering them a few hits from an oxygen tank he has with them. He commends them for covering their mouths and noses and assures them the air quality will improve a few floors below and the fire is under control.

They keep going.

Single digits now, the smoke begins to recede, although they still keep their mouths covered, eyes irritated and watering from the smoke, picking their way down the mostly empty stairwell. They stop for a few minutes to catch their breaths and drink some water to clear throats.

“What’s your names?” the woman asks Christen.

“I’m Christen and this is my girlfriend Tobin,” she introduces them.

“I’m Krista and this is my husband Aric,” she says, her voice a little muffled by the towel, yet still heard over the blare of the fire alarm. They exchange handshakes and Aric thanks Tobin for the towels and water. They get moving again, meeting more firefighters in the stairwell who direct them to the lobby.

As they finally enter the ground floor, the group is met by medics who insist on checking them out. They sit them down in the lobby, checking blood pressure, heart rates and blood oxygen levels, doing it twice since the first two categories were so elevated from coming down twenty-five stories and stress. They give them eye drops to soothe the irritation from the smoke. They make them sit for a few minutes, idly talking before returning to give them another round of testing. Satisfied they haven’t inhaled any dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, they’re directed to the main lobby.

As Christen looks around, she watches how one of the female employees is looking around then recognizes someone and rapidly moves across the room. She’s surprised when the woman lays a gentle hand on Tobin’s arm.

“Ms. Heath?” she addresses her.

Tobin turns, giving her a small smile, “Hey, Marcy,” she says tiredly.

“I’m so sorry for this inconvenience, is everyone with you alright?” she questions, glancing at Christen and Krista and Aric. The four of them are sweaty and gritty from the smoke. Tobin nods.

“If you’ll come this way, we’ll get you comfortable,” Marcy offers, “unfortunately, it will be a little while before we can release anyone back to their rooms.” She gestures to her to follow.

Tobin begins to walk and Christen sees Aric and Krista hesitate, “Come on guys,” she says, “you’re with us,” The two shrug and follow.

Thankfully the fire alarm has been shut off, although it’s still ringing in their ears as they follow Marcy to the bar, gratefully sliding into seats around a table. The TVs have been turned on to a local news channel, showing the scene of the fire.

“Stay put, I’ll be right back,” Marcy states, whisking away out of view.

“Oh, it feels good to sit,” Krista says as she sets her backpack on the floor.

“You guys run?” Tobin asks, glancing at them and they nod. Aric grins, “I can’t imagine how I’d feel doing that if I didn’t, how about you two?”

Christen feels shell shocked, she can’t believe this has happened and just a glance at the others lets her know she’s not alone. They all look shaky as the reality of what has happened sets in.

Marcy returns carrying a tray with glasses and two pitchers of water. The four are quiet as they chug the water, then Tobin explains how her and Christen run. She gets Aric and Krista laughing telling the story of how Khaleesi broke her wrist one of the first times they met.

Christen blushes with embarrassment, then owns it, laughing it off. “If that wasn’t bad enough,” she chuckles, “just wait until you hear this,” she says, “the first day I met her, I walked in on her when she was changing her clothes and had her shirt off,” she says. She continues to tell the story of hitting Tobin’s car and goes into detail about the incident in the park.

Marcy returns with damp face towels and packages of wipes, urging them to use them to clean off. Tobin gets her to the side, speaking quietly to her, Christen watches Marcy nod and smile and pat Tobin’s shoulder and disappear again. She wonders what that was about.

Tobin casually leads the conversation as they wipe their faces and clean off their hands, asking Krista and Aric what brings them to Seattle and Christen soon realizes how she’s skillfully setting them all at ease. The two are P.E. teachers, having come from Tacoma to the convention and splurging with a room here for their anniversary and staying for the weekend. Krista blushes when she tells Tobin she was at her session and praises her for wonderful it was. Christen jumps in to second the motion, making Tobin blush, and she explains how they’re here for convention and the weekend, gushing about The Pink Door.

Marcy appears with a platter in her hands, setting it down and passing out small plates and silverware. She leaves the platter in the center of the table. It’s loaded with an assortment of fruits, meats and cheeses, with ten triangles of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“Is everyone okay?” Krista asks Marcy, looking up at her fearfully.

“Yes,” Marcy replies, “I’m told it was an electrical fire in one of the service rooms on the fifteen floor,” she states, “everyone evacuated safely from there, someone was in the hallway, returning to their room and saw the smoke. They pulled the alarm and knocked on doors to get everyone out.” The four relax in their chairs, feeling better about sitting here enjoying themselves. They’d all feel terrible if someone were hurt or worse.

Marcy looks at her watch, “The Fire Marshall said it would be about two hours before you can return to your rooms,” she states, “May I send over a server to take a drink order?”

“I could use a drink,” Aric states, “maybe a couple,” he nods his head. The others agree that a drink sounds good. Tobin passes the wine list to Christen, urging her to pick something and they’ll get a bottle. Aric declares he’d prefer a whisky and Christen reviews the wine choices with Krista.
Christen glances around the bar, seeing only a handful of tables occupied. Marcy is checking on one of them, while another male is checking on another. She wonders why the bar isn’t full of people from the rest of the hotel.

Time passes quickly as the four eat and talk, discovering that Krista and Aric are fans of the Seattle Reign, Aric fake gagging when he tells Tobin how he saw her Thorns pin on her backpack. Tobin chuckles and tells them they’re coming up for the last match of the season in two weeks. Aric and Krista insist their group come to tailgate with them and the four exchange phone numbers.

Christen stretches her legs, groaning when she feels how stiff they are. The others tentatively stretch theirs, frowning at the discomfort. Aric has another drink and the women order another bottle from their server, who is very obviously one of the concierge workers, dressed in his uniform, being pulled from his position.

Marcy stops back to check on them and her and Tobin have a quick, quiet conversation with Marcy nodding and smiling. “Should be a little while before I can release you,” she says, “I’ll go check with the Fire Marshall and see what he thinks,”

They’re finishing the last of their drinks, the platter of food has disappeared, all of them having an appetite after the impromptu workout when Marcy returns with a clipboard in her hands.

“Okay,” she says, “for your inconvenience, we’re going to comp tonight’s stay,” she states, “we’re truly sorry this occurred and we appreciate your understanding. Since it’s nearly four in the morning, we’re allowing a late check out, if you would vacate your rooms by two o’clock, we’d appreciate it. Also, since, you all walked down from the top floors, we’d like to send over a couple of masseuses to give you in room massages tomorrow morning, after the complimentary breakfast we will serve you in your rooms.” She hands Christen and Krista menu sheets, “Please complete these and hook them on your doorknobs tonight.”

“Thank you so much,” Aric exclaims, “it’s too much,” he protests as he shakes his head.

“No, it would be only right in our eyes,” Marcy states, “we want to do right by you.” Christen sees how Marcy glances at Tobin who’s give a slight smile. She thinks it’s a little suspicious.

“Well, thank you very, very much,” he states, standing up and shaking her hand. The others stand well, shaking her hand. Christen notices how Tobin discreetly passes something to Marcy during their handshake. Her suspicions are aroused once again, thinking that Tobin may have a hand in this. They gather their bags and walk towards the exit. As they pass the man who served them, Tobin stops to thank him, shaking his hand and Christen sees how she discreetly tips him.

It stirs something in Christen, this light and fluttery feeling in her chest and belly. She’ll ask Tobin later if she arranged the late checkouts and the comped room for Aric and Krista, if she had Marcy arrange for the massages and breakfast and put it on her bill. She noticed how she slightly nodded to Marcy a couple of times. She realizes this is what Tobin meant about how she uses her money to give experiences and here she is most likely giving one to complete strangers without any desire for fanfare. Tobin takes her hand when they get in the elevator and Christen looks at her, giving her a look that mixes her suspicions with an inquisitive gaze. Seeing how Tobin blushes and looks down, biting on her lip, confirms it. She squeezes Tobin’s hand, not saying anything as they walk to the elevators. They chat a little while the car ascends, Krista and Aric confirming tailgate plans and then they hug it out when they reach the twenty-third floor where they get off.

“It doesn’t smell,” Tobin observes as they exit the elevator two floors higher and walk to their room, looking around as if searching for signs of the fire or residue. There isn’t any. She keys the lock and they enter their room, both sighing as they shrug off their backpacks. Christen pulls Tobin in and hugs her tight, cradling the back of Tobin’s head close to her own, rocking slowly as her hand rubs up and down on Tobin’s back.

“I got really scared when we saw the smoke,” Tobin says, her voice muffled against Christen’s neck.

“Me too,” Christen agrees, “but you were so smart to think of bringing those towels and the waters, babe,” she says. She feels Tobin relax into her and she smiles to herself.

“I think I read it somewhere, a long time ago,” Tobin shares, “I travel so much, I always think about the what ifs you know?” she pulls her head back to look at her. “First the tornado, then a hotel fire,” she shakes her head, “are we in some weird Final Destination thing?”

Christen chuckles, “I don’t know about that, hon, ” she says, walking them further into the room, “I just know that you have something in you that doesn’t let you show your fear or panic even if you’re freaking out and I’m so grateful for that because I was on the verge of losing it and you kept me calm.”

Tobin smiles at her, “Thanks, babe,” she says, then she yawns, “I’m dead,”

“We should shower,” Christen advises, “and choose our breakfast,” she says as her lips in curl into a smile, “and thank you,”

“For what?” Tobin asks innocently.

“Breakfast, the massage, the food and drinks and whatever else you set up with Marcy,” she answers, pulling on Tobin’s hand to lead her to the bathroom.

“Oh that,” Tobin starts, “uh,”

Christen stops walking to kiss her. “Did you pay for Aric and Krista’s room too?” she asks, “And ask Marcy to tell them it was comped?”

“See,” Tobin starts to explain and Christen quiets her with another kiss.

“That’s what I thought,” Christen grins at her, “You’re something else, babe,” she says and lifts her shirt over her head, pulling off her bra and exposing her bare breasts, “let’s shower,”

Tobin stands there, her mouth slightly open, transfixed by Christen’s breasts until she elbows her. “Oh, right,” Tobin says quickly, “shower.”

Christen turns and looks over her shoulder as she walks down the narrow hallway, looking Tobin and up and down, “I’ve been wanting to fuck you in the shower since we first got here,”

Tobin lets out a breath as she follows her, thinking she’s very grateful for the late check out.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

“Whew,” Christen pants, swallowing hard and grinning at Tobin, “You just keep surprising me,” she says, letting her head fall back on the pillow as Tobin climbs up from in between her legs lying next to her on her side, her hand sprawled flat on Christen’s stomach.

Tobin breathlessly grins back at her, her eyes shining with a mix of pride and desire, “You just keep giving me these clues,” she says, taking a breath, “on what drives you wild,” she leans down and kisses her, “and like I’ve said before,” she grins at her, “learning is fun,”

“Oh, you,” Christen giggles, lightly swatting at her with her hand, then raising that hand to Tobin’s jaw and holding it lovingly, she glances over to the bedside table at the clock, “The caterers should be here in half an hour,”

Tobin lets a huff out as she hangs her head, resting her forehead on Christen’s chest. It’s the next Saturday and dinner with friends is tonight. With the caterers arriving soon, it’s starting now. Tobin lifts her head and kisses Christen softly, “I’m going to shower and get dressed,” she says, “you take your time,” she kisses her again, “take a bath, take a little nap, just relax, there’s no rush for you to be ready anytime soon,” she says, “everyone is coming over in a couple of hours,”

Christen lifts her head to kiss Tobin, running her hand down Tobin’s torso as she leaves the bed, watching her naked form walk to the bathroom. She considers for a moment of joining her in the shower, but nixes it, knowing Tobin should get ready and be prepared to meet the catering crew. She pulls the wrinkled sheets up over her chest, thinking about tonight. Tobin’s avoidance of discussing the menu has raised her suspicions once again.

She had come over on Thursday after work for dinner and to help Tobin hang the fabric in the barn, arranging the tables and leaving space for a small dance area. The first part of the week was busy for both of them, Tobin staying late to catch up on her catalog work and disburse sales leads to the sales team, Christen meeting with Amy and Ashlyn on Monday night to share information on sessions and then Christen spending Tuesday and Wednesday night preparing an information packet for all of the P.E. teachers in the district with the new information they had gathered. It included new game ideas, new products they’d seen and recommendations on new articles to read. So, Thursday night was a flurry of activity, beginning with a quick dinner that Christen picked up on the way over, working in the barn and then a couple rounds of sex before she left for the night. She came over last night with the dogs, Tobin had made dinner and they made cool wood centerpieces for the tables. They were both were tired from the week of playing catch up at work, so they went to bed early, although they stayed up a good portion of the night pleasing one another.

The Thorns were playing an away match tonight, an earlier match in Chicago so Tobin would have it streaming on the very large TV in the barn when everyone was arriving and through the appetizers and drinks before dinner. She was planning to serve dinner just after the match, playing some soft music while they gathered. She had told everyone that dress code was proper wedding guest attire, giving everyone a chance to dress up. They all excitedly agreed, loving the idea. They all asked what they could bring and Tobin insisted she had it all covered. She wasn’t happy that her yard still had a bunch of wood strewn about waiting to be cut into smaller pieces for her firepit, but then reasoned they wouldn’t be in the way for the evening and since they were placed further into the yard.

They had done a few last minute things this morning, then opted to take a nap which led to a couple rounds of sex. Christen could see Tobin was tired, explaining that this was the start of her crunch time which would last until right before Thanksgiving. Christen suggested they make no plans for tomorrow, just a day of doing nothing and Tobin readily agreed.

She’s still lounging in bed when Tobin reappears who stops in her tracks to look her over, “You look so comfy,” she says, a smile spreading across her face, “maybe I’ll just let them figure out whatever they need on their own,” she wiggles her eyebrows.

“Go,” Christen commands, “but put on clothes first,” she says, eying the bra and snug boxer briefs she’s wearing that make her look so tan against the brightness of the white fabric.

Tobin chuckles, slipping on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, finding her slides and a sweatshirt, then pausing the near the door, “I like seeing you chillin’ in my bed,”

Christen smiles, “This has to be the most comfortable bed I’ve ever been in,” she admits, “although that one at the W was pretty nice.”

Tobin laughs, “It’s the same bed,” she says as she slips the sweatshirt over her head, “I bought it off their website after I stayed there last year,” she explains, “the bedding too,”

Now it’s Christen’s turn to laugh, “You bought a hotel bed?”

Tobin folds her arms and leans against the door frame, “It’s nice, right?” She looks at her pointedly, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, it’s…” she shakes her head, “yeah, it’s amazing,” she laughs.

Tobin tilts her head, “I think they’re here,” she says, “I’ll see you in a bit,”

 

As Christen finishes drying her hair, she smiles how Tobin has quietly gotten some of the toiletries Christen prefers now on her sink counter. After she had stayed over a few nights, first her shampoo bottle had appeared in Tobin’s shower. She reciprocated in her own shower with the bottle Tobin uses. After that, it became a game of sorts. Now both of them had their stuff at each other’s place. Christen unplugs the dryer and wraps the cord up, opening the drawer to put it away.

She applies some light makeup, thinking about the care Tobin put into creating this event tonight. How invested she was in making it special for her friends. How generous she is to them and so grateful for their friendship. She thinks about how Tobin invests in a person, truly wanting to know about their interests, their thoughts on a variety of topics, hobbies and having fun with them.

Following Tobin’s easy nature, Christen has gotten closer with Kelley, Ashlyn, Julie and Heather, discovering interesting things about them, learning how they react to instructions when they’re in meetings, sharing cool articles or books she thinks they’d enjoy. She’s grown closer to Allie and Alex, realizing what good people they are, how caring they are of their jobs and friends and families. Out of all of them, she’s closest with Allie and Kelley. Outside of Tobin, they get her, they get her need for having quiet time, for not always having to go do something exciting, hanging at the dog park or getting coffee and discussing world topics.

Tobin barrels into the room, “Chris?” she calls out, “how’s it going?”

“I’m done,” Christen announces, snapping shut her mascara and setting it in her makeup bag. She exits the bathroom to find Tobin removing her outfit for tonight. Tobin looks over and freezes as her eyes crawl over Christen who is wearing a navy dress. The sides have cutouts with a neckline that tastefully displays more than a sliver of cleavage. When Christen gives her a slow twirl, Tobin sees the dress is nearly backless, coming down to just above the base of her spine.

“You are beautiful,” Tobin praises, “absolutely gorgeous,” she shakes her head as she smiles at her, her eyes shining with happiness, “I really love that dress,”

Christen beams at her, “Thank you,” she says demurely, walking over a bit haughtily, fingering Tobin’s shirt, “I think you’re a little under dressed for the occasion,” she teases, giving her a peck on the lips.

“I’ll remedy that in a few minutes,” Tobin grins at her, “that color on you is stunning,”

“Look,” Christen says as she reaches for something on the bed, “I have a shawl,” she giggles, letting it around her shoulders and crossing her arms and twirling around.

“That looks so pretty,” Tobin says, her head slightly tilted and enjoying how happy Christen is.

“Okay,” Christen says, “you get ready, and I’ll see you out there,”

“Yes ma’am,” Tobin salutes, “the bar is open so just ask them for whatever you want,” she says, “I’ll be out there in twenty minutes, tops,”

Christen nods and leaves the bedroom, deciding to feed the dogs, opting to keep them in house for a while, maybe letting them out during the match. She doesn’t want them to bother the caterers. She sets to getting the food out for them, both of the animals instantly come to her side, acting as if they haven’t eaten in years, issuing soft barks and whimpers while their tails slap against Christen’s legs. “Okay girls,” she says, walking over to the mat and placing their bowls down, “time to eat,”

She stands and watches them as they gobble up their food, the noise of kibble bits clinking on the metal bowls, Morena doing her weird growl/talk as she eats. Christen shakes her head at them, then walks over the large front window, her hand drawing the sheer curtain back to look out on the front lawn. There’s no remnants from the tornado, the landscaping crew had carefully leveled the divot left from the tree and replaced the broken area with sod. It looks good. Christen can see the front of the catering vehicle peeking out from the side of the house. They must have backed in.

She looks down at her watch, their friends should be arriving in ten minutes or so. She considers what to do, then walks to the kitchen counter, grabbing her phone. She scrolls her social media just to kill time. She doesn’t want to go outside without Tobin, she wants to be surprised with her by her side, so she can enjoy the reaction. She smiles, thinking about what Tobin is wearing tonight.

At the beginning of the week, Tobin had asked her if she knew what she was wearing. Tobin stated she was unsure if she was going to wear a dress or slacks. “Babe,” Christen had said, “I’m sure you’d look amazing in a dress, but would you wear another suit? You’re so hot in a suit.” Tobin had grinned at her, “I’ll wear whatever you want, baby,” impulsively kissing her lips, “Could you send me pic of your dress color? I don’t want to clash with you,” Christen agreed, kissing her back and sent her a photo of the dress. She knew Tobin wouldn’t be able to see the cutouts, so that would be an added surprise to her.

She can hear the clunky low heels of Tobin’s dress shoes on the hardwood floor as she comes down the hallway, entering the living room, her vest undone, tie loose around her neck, her suit coat slung over her forearm as she buttons the neck of her shirt. She’s wearing light grey suit with a black long sleeved button up, her tie the same bold navy as Christen’s shirt.

Christen smiles as she approaches her, her hands up to tighten the tie around her neck, “You look fantastic,” she says leaning in to place a gentle kiss on her lips, “let me help,” she insists, smoothing the tie and fixing her collar. She nimbly buttons the vest up, her hands lingering on Tobin’s sides, “You wearing this just does something to be me, babe,” she confesses, pressing herself against her, “you look so fucking hot.”

Tobin smiles as she kisses her softly, “I intend to do something to you later,” she jokes, wiggling her eyebrows at her, “But I want to wine and dine you first,”

Christen smiles back at her, “I look forward to it,” she says simply, reaching up to smooth out her vest on her shoulders, “seriously, though,” she says, “you look really pretty in this,” she says, giving her another soft kiss, “I like how you left your hair down with those loose curls,” she kisses her again, “I think something in my brain will snap when I finally see you in a dress,”

Tobin steps back, her face a little flushed from her praises, “Thank you babe,” she says as she slides into her suit coat, “you let me know if you get chilly,” she advises, “I put the heat on low in the barn,” she grabs her wallet from the kitchen counter, pulling some bills from it and placing in her pocket.

“Wanna see how it looks?” She asks Christen, her eyes shining brightly with excitement.

“Let’s go,” Christen smiles with a nod, sticking her elbow out for Tobin to slide hers through and escort her outside.

Tobin introduces Christen to the staff, greeting the two chefs and the servers and the bartender. Christen gets a sneak peek of the printed menu, raising her eyebrows at the choices. Tobin certainly has gone all out tonight. The two accept a small plate of assorted appetizers, then a glass of wine. Tobin asks them if they need anything, inviting them to use the restroom in the barn. She also urges them to eat as well at dinner time, saying she’d feel terrible if they were hungry. The staff is friendly, courteous and very professional.

“Oh, are you guys fans of the Thorns?” she asks, looking around at the assembled staff. They all nod their heads. “Okay,” she smiles, setting her drink and plate down, slipping behind her outdoor stovetop and unlatching a sliding door on the back wall to reveal a flat screen TV. “I’ll put the match on out here too,” she smiles at them. They give her high fives and then Tobin and Christen enter the barn through the side door with their drinks and appetizers.

“Oh, I have something for you,” Tobin says, walking towards the fridge and pulling something out, she turns back looking at her shyly, “I got you a corsage,” she states.

“Oh, Tobin!” Christen gushes, watching as she removes it from the clear plastic container, “how beautiful!”

“I figured a wrist one would be best,” she explains with a hint of nervousness in her voice, “would you like to wear it?”

“Of course I would!” Christen exclaims, “it’s gorgeous and so delicate.” She extends her arm and watches as Tobin slides on the corsage. The corsage has tiny flowers woven together that have light blue centers and darken to navy. “What are these?” she asks as she studies them.

“It’s a mix of poppies and forget me nots,” Tobin explains, relieved that Christen responded so positively. Christen looks in the container, “Is this for you?” she asks, lifting out a matching boutonniere. Tobin nods and Christen smiles as she pins it the lapel of Tobin’s jacket.

“Thank you,” she husks at her, kissing her, “this is very sweet of you,” she hugs her.

Tobin takes her hand, “Let’s go take some pictures!” She drags her over to a photobooth she had rented without her knowing. “Tobin!” Christen exclaims, “This is outrageous!” she’s got her hands up and is looking at her while she laughs. Flash! “What the?” Christen looks and realizes a photo has been taken. “Tobin!” she points her finger accusingly at her and now Tobin is only laughing harder, her hands up in surrender. Flash! There’s goes another one.

Tobin wraps her arms around her, shifting her so they’re both looking at the camera, Christen turning her neck to look up at her, Tobin smiling down. Flash! They giggle and kiss as another goes off.

Tobin walks her forward to reset the machine, then they scoot back, Tobin resting her chin on her shoulder as another one is taken. Then she slides out from behind her, leaving her hand on Christen’s warm back. They’re just looking at each other with soft smiles on their faces, feeling a rush of happiness as the last photo is taken.

Before they can look at the photos, Ash and Ali appear with Heather and Dave behind them. Tobin slides the photos into the pocket of her suit coat, reminding herself to look at them later. Over the next few minutes everyone has arrived, most of them being dropped off by Ubers, having no intention of being sober when the night ends.

 

“How was it?” Tobin leans over, brushing her shoulder against Christen, looking at her intently.

“Tobin, this might have been the best steak I’ve ever eaten,” she replies, “and the mushrooms,” she shakes her head, “morels? They were delicious.”

Tobin beams at her, pleased she enjoyed it so much. “How was the tuna?” Christen asks.

“It was awesome,” Tobin says, leaning in her chair and rubbing her stomach, “I might not be able to eat dessert,”

Christen’s eye flash haughtily at her, she leans over to whisper in her ear, “You better have room to eat something later,” she smirks as she leans back in her seat.

Tobin sucks in her cheeks, puckering her lips for a moment as she looks at her. Then she smirks back at her, “Don’t you worry,” she says, placing her hand on Christen’s thigh, letting her fingers settle dangerously close to her center. She lightly starts a circular pattern with her fingertips, turning her attention to say something to Kelley who’s sitting across from her with Emily. Christen can last all of a minute before she’s squeezing her thighs together, trapping Tobin’s hand between them. She expects her to stop moving her fingers.

She stifles a noise in her throat, reaching for her glass of water to cover it when she feels Tobin dig in a little deeper, her strong, long fingers stroking her thigh. Christen drinks her water and sets down the glass, glancing over to the next table, seeing Julie laughing with Zach and Heather and Dave. She picks up her wine glass and slides her chair back from the table, Tobin looking over at her.

“I’ll be right back,” Christen announces, feeling Tobin retract her hand as she stands up. She walks over to the other table, intentionally standing there with her back to Tobin. While she chats with the others, she makes sure she moves slowly, sensually shifting her weight. She takes a few deep breaths, arching her back as her hand grips the back of Julie’s chair. When she lets go of the chair, she runs a hand through her hair, shaking it out on the side.

She feels a cool hand on her back, turning to see Tobin next to her, saying hello to Zach and asking him how it’s going. They talk about the Thorns victory and the next match against Seattle. The whole group is heading up there and staying overnight. They didn’t want to take any of the buses going up due to them leaving at different times. She tells them about meeting up with Aric and Krista.

Tobin and Christen look at each other, neither one having told anyone about their experience in the hotel.

“So, we met them in the stairwell of the hotel,” Tobin explains, “and we just sort of hit it off,”

Julie narrows her eyes at Christen and then Tobin, “There’s more to this.”

Tobin shrugs, and Christen takes over. “Well, the fire alarms had gone off,” she explains and begins to tell the story.

“What, your hotel was actually on fire?” Heather bellows loudly, her eyes wide.

“Wait, what?” Kelley yells from the other table.

“Their hotel was on fire!” Julie shouts back. Chairs are moving and soon everyone is crowded around the table.

“What the hell happened?” Ashlyn asks.

“Okay, the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night,” Christen starts, “so we got our backpacks and the Girl Scout here,” she jerks her thumb at Tobin, “grabbed water and towels and we headed for the stairs.”

They take turns telling the tale, picking up seamlessly from one another, as if they’ve told this story multiple times before. They explain how they were on the second to the top floor, Aric and Krista joining them a few floors down. How scared they were when they could smell smoke and realized this wasn’t a drill. Christen took over telling how Tobin cut up the towels and used the water and how they encountered the fireman. Tobin told them about getting checked over by the paramedics and needing their eyes washed out. She glossed over how Marcy took such good care of them, just saying how they hung out in the bar while smoke was being cleared from the floors. Christen picked up on how she told it, not wanting them to know about the obvious special care they were given.

“The two of you,” Ali shakes her head, “are something else,”

Tobin shrugs and spots the servers coming in with dessert and comments they should head back to their tables.

“What are the chances of being in an actual hotel fire?” Kelley asks as they sit back down.

“I don’t know,” Tobin shakes her head, “but I’d like to think I’ve been in one and it won’t ever happen again.”

Christen pats her leg, “Same here,”

 

 

“I like dancing with you,” Christen murmurs into Tobin’s ear as they slowly move around the dance area, “I like being in your arms,” she says, sighing and placing her head on Tobin’s chest as they glide along.

“Me too,” Tobin says and kisses the top of her head.

Tobin surveys the crowd, smiling when see realizes everyone is dancing. A little while after dinner, she asked Ashlyn to play one of her dance playlists, starting off with something slow. When Ashlyn insisted on bringing or doing something for tonight, that was what Tobin had requested and Ashlyn happily agreed.

They dance for two songs, then Tobin excuses herself to check on the staff as they were packing up. She invites them to come to the barn for a drink before they depart. Christen stands near the door, watching as Tobin approached each of them, shaking their hand and most likely pressing a tip into their palm. The bartender brought in the open bottles of wine, liquor and mixers, setting them by the fridge with a sleeve of plastic cups. Once they were packed up, they came in and gathered by the fridge, drinking beers. Christen came up and thanked them for a wonderful meal, drinks and service and many of the others followed suit.

Tobin let the dogs out to run around for a bit while people were still hanging in the barn. They had danced for hours it felt, Christen taking off her heels after a few songs. A steady stream of Ubers soon arrived to take everyone home, thanking Tobin profusely and exhorting what a wonderful time they had as they left. Christen called to the dogs as the two slowly made their way to the house, the four entering just as a light rain begins to fall. Tobin checks the front door and locks the kitchen door as well and then she fills the water dishes for the dogs while Christen gives them treats.

“You know,” Tobin says, wrapping her arms around Christen from behind, “it wasn’t fair how much you teased me tonight,” she says, using her head to nudge away her hair and kiss her neck, “letting me touch your skin so much with those cut outs on this dress,” she murmurs in between kisses as her moves to the spot where she feels Christen’s hot skin on her side.

Christen turns in her arms to face her, “It’s criminal how hot you are dressed like this,” she says, fingering the button of Tobin’s vest. “I didn’t want to let you leave the house,” she husks, lifting her hand to cup Tobin’s breast, “we should take this to the bedroom,” she proposes.

“I like that idea,” Tobin agrees, taking her hand and leading her down the hallway.

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen can hear the dogs barking when she exits her vehicle in Tobin’s driveway. It’s Saturday and she had run out to do a few errands before the Halloween party tonight. Tobin suggested she drop the dogs off and she would tier them out so they wouldn’t be destructive while they were gone.

She can hear the dogs barking and Tobin laughing as she nears the yard and pauses before the gate to survey the scene. Tobin is dribbling a soccer around, laughing as Khaleesi and Morena attempt to steal it from her. Christen watches how Tobin so easily lifts the ball, juggling it and keeping it away from the paws of the dogs. She’s impressed with her talent, remembering from playing pick up with her how she easily made defenders look foolish when they went on one. She moves with such grace, she thinks to herself, unlatching the gate and entering the yard.

“Hey you!” she calls out, smiling when Morena breaks away to run to her.

“Hey!” Tobin replies, turning to jog to her, although Khaleesi darts in front of her, sending her to the ground once again. “Woah!” she yells, tumbling to the ground, rolling a few times before lying dramatically on her back.

“Are you okay?” Christen asks, running to her side, relief when she hears her laughing.

“I’m fine,” Tobin chuckles, raising her hand for her to help her up. Christen pulls her up, looking her over, “Really?”

Tobin barks out a laugh, “That Khaleesi,” she chuckles, “she knows how to take me down,” She gives her a kiss, “Did you get done everything you wanted to?”

Christen nods, “Yes,” she replies, “the guy said it’s just a belt on my vacuum, so he’ll have it done on Tuesday. He has to order the part,” she explains, “and I picked up my dry cleaning, got my oil changed, found that book on meditation I wanted at the library and now I’m here,”

“Cool,” Tobin smiles at her, “we have time for a late lunch and then we’ll go see Jamie and get ready for tonight.”

“I can’t wait!” Christen cheers, “I love the dress she has for me,” she says as they enter the house, then she gently pushes Tobin against the wall in the living room, staring at her hungrily, “but I love the outfit she picked for you more,” she says and kisses her passionately.

“We’re gonna smash it,” Tobin predicts, a grin forming on her face, having shared her plan about the Bend trip for Ali and Ash in exchange for watching the dogs while everyone else thinks it’s a big bet.

 

 

“Please put your glasses back on,” Christen urges, “you’re going to give me nightmares,”

“Babe, I can’t while I’m driving,” Tobin tries to reason with her, “I need to see and those glasses are dark.”

“Well, stop looking at me,” she says, “it’s too freaky,”

“May I remind you,” Tobin turns to her, her eyes wide open, “you’re wearing them as well,”

“Stop!” Christen slaps her shoulder, “Just drive,” she commands, turning her face to look out the passenger window. Tobin just chuckles. They’ve spent the last two and half hours with Tobin’s friend Jamie at the theater department of the University of Portland getting makeup applied and their costumes fitted.

Tobin had ordered special prescription lenses for herself and Christen that had spooky red irises to complete their look of Victorian vampires. They had stopped by earlier to get their teeth casted for make realistic fangs.

 

“Woah,” Ashlyn says as she looks the two over, “holy shit!”

Tobin is wearing a fitted black period three suit, looking elegant complete with a top hat and cane while Christen has a beautiful red silky corseted dress with the large hoop skirt and layers of fabric and a large delicate fancy red hat with layers of black netting covering her face. Tobin is looking at her with a complete lack of emotion, her eyes hidden by her period round rimmed sunglasses. Both of their faces are pale and upon closer inspection and good lighting, their bluish veins tracing across their face, neck and hands.

“Happy Halloween, human,” Christen murmurs, “could you kindly point us to where you keep the fresh blood?”

“Oh shit,” Ashlyn laughs, looking down at her outfit.

“What are you?” Christen asks, breaking her aloof character.

“A dolphin trainer,” she replies, “wait,” She runs to the living room and returns with an inflatable dolphin on a string, “Flipper, sit!” she commands, and pulls on the string.

Tobin cracks a smile, “This was the ultimate idea?”

Ash shrugs, “You should see Ali,” she wiggles her eyebrows. “Come on in,” she swings her arm, gesturing them to make themselves comfortable.

Tobin hands her a case of her favorite beer and Christen is carrying a bottle whiskey and a bottle of wine. They move slowly through the room, greeting everyone in character, getting compliments on their costumes.

“Yo, Tobes!” Kelley greets, hanging an arm on her shoulder, “You look pretty awesome!”

“Thank you,” Tobin replies, giving her a big smile and showing her teeth.

“Holy shit!” Kelley exclaims, “Are those real?”

Tobin frowns at her, “Yeah, I had them filed down,” she says, pushing her shoulder, “goofball, they’re like a mouthpiece.”

“That’s pretty awesome,” she admires, nudging her side, “couldn’t convince Press to wear something slutty, huh,” she looks over to where Christen is speaking with Ali, who is a Lifeguard in a rather racy swimsuit, and Heather who is dressed as a police woman.

“I heard that, O’Hara,” Christen calls out, turning her head to give her a smirk.

“You need a drink,” Emily announces, appearing next to Tobin. She’s wearing a long white dress. Tobin greets her and then looks between her and Kelley. “Who are you guys supposed to be?”

Emily frowns and shoves Kelley, “See? I told you nobody would get it!” Kelley is wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt with pants, she has a cut on her cheek and bandage on her arm.

“We’re Romeo and Juliet, idiot,” Kelley says with exasperation, “Dicaprio?”

“Oh,” Tobin nods, “I get it now,” she grins at them, “Spot on,” she tips her hat to them. “I’m going to get a drink,” she says, moving to the kitchen.

She hears Emily as she walks away, “I told you we should have been Minions!”

 

Tobin is mingling with Allie and Bati and she looks around, “Where’s Alex?”

“Right here,” she replies, and Tobin turns to see her wearing a Thorns kit and Servando dressed as referee.

“Nice wig,” Tobin grins at her black long hair pulled in a pony tail. “Who are you?”

Alex just turns around so she can see.

“Sinc! Nice!” Tobin laughs, “That’s awesome!”

“How can you see in here with those glasses?” Allie asks, “It’s so dark in here,”

“Yeah, I should take them off.” Tobin says, pocketing them.

 

Christen is in the backroom with A.D. and her wife, Rose and a bunch of others when they hear a bloodcurdling scream. They all rush out to see what’s going on. She sees Tobin is standing in the middle of the living room, Allie is cowering into Bati and Alex is huddled behind Servando who is laughing his ass off.

“What’s wrong?” Ali yells, bewildered.

“Look at her fucking eyes! Tobin, what the fuck!” Abby yells.

Tobin is grinning with her fangs out, making eye contact with everyone.

“Ew, Tobin,” A-Rod frowns, “put your glasses back on.”

“I love it!” Heather says, moving to stand in front of her, “Where did you get them,”

As Christen enters the room, she gives a smirk to Tobin who gives her a wink. “Julie?” Christen questions, “will you help me take off this hat? I’m getting so hot in it and my neck hurts from holding it up,”

“Oh, sure,” Julie helps her lift it, Christen keeping her eyes on the floor until she looks up at her quickly, grinning maniacally, “Thank you, human!” she growls.

“Eeeek!” Julie screams, stumbling back from her and pushing Kelley towards Christen as the room erupts in laughter.

It was at that point the party began to get out of control with Halloween hijinks.

 

“Oh my gosh,” Tobin laughs as they enter her house, “I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time,”

Christen is giggling, “I feel bad for scaring Julie so badly.” “Yeah, you sound it,” Tobin laughs as she tosses her keys on the table, bending to pet the dogs. Khaleesi comes over with her tail wagging and as soon as she looks up at Tobin she whimpers and skitters away.

“She’s scared of you?” Christen frowns, “come here Momo,” she calls, the dog approaching her and then running out of the kitchen to find Khaleesi.

“We should get out of these,” Tobin frowns.

“It did earn us this, though!” Christen smiles as she raises the plastic trophy for Best Costume they won.

“You scared the shit out of Crystal,” Christen chuckles.

“Yeah, she didn’t talk to me the rest of the night,” Tobin grins, “she stayed on the far side of whatever room I was in,”

“Her making the cross and calling the Lord,” Christen laughs, shaking her head, “and poor Morgan!

“I did feel bad about that.” Tobin says genuinely, “It sounded like a good idea at the time,”

“It was Kelley’s idea for you to hide outside when she was coming up the walk,” Kelley had insisted people hide when Morgan arrived with Lindsey and some others. Keely hid behind one of the cars in the driveway, while Tobin hid in the shadows on the porch.

Morgan dropped two bottles of wine and broke the heel of her shoe fleeing from Tobin.

“The flashlight under the chin was a brilliant idea,” Christen nods at her.

“That was Ali’s idea,” Tobin shares as she begins to undress. She helps Chris out her corset and the dress. They get into t-shirts and sweats and together they wash off the makeup, remove their fake teeth and the contacts, much to their relief. Then they brush their teeth and get ready for bed.

Finished and nearly ready for bed, Christen lets the dogs out, coaxing them out from under the bed and letting them sniff her while Tobin places the costumes in their garment bags to return to Jamie.

Once settled in bed, they kiss. “You know what vampires do,” Tobin husks as she kisses Christen’s neck. Christen firmly pushes her away, looking at her sternly, “You will not bite my neck,” she says, “I can’t go to school with a bitemark.”

Tobin smirks, “C’mon on,” she drawls, “I’m not that kind of vampire,” she says smoothly, inching closer to her, her head dipping down to nip at her breast.

“Oh,” Christen says, shifting and pushing her chest out, “well, then by all means.”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

“Tobin, honey,” Christen frowns at her, “what’s wrong?” She doesn’t understand why Tobin is being so listless and non-talkative. She’s at Tobin’s house to drop the dogs off while she goes home to visit her family for Thanksgiving. It’s Wednesday night and she’s got to boogie to the airport to make her flight.

“Nothing, babe,” Tobin replies, giving her a half-hearted smile, “I think maybe I’m just run down, you know? I’ve been super busy for the past few weeks,” she explains. She really does feel awful, but she doesn’t think it’s because of a germ that’s infected her.

“Oh no,” Christen laments, “maybe I should stay here,” she says, bringing her hand to her forehead, “I should take care of you if you’re sick.”

“Oh, no, no,” Tobin says, “I’d feel worse if you skipped out seeing your family because of me,” she shakes her head, “I’m just going to chill here all weekend,”

“You’re going to Alex’s tomorrow, right?” Christen confirms, it upsets her to think Tobin would spend Thanksgiving Day alone.

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, knowing there’s no way she’s going. She can’t face her coworkers right now. She must have an awful look on her face because Christen again places her cool hand on her forehead, judging for a fever.

“You don’t feel hot,” she murmurs, looking at her intently, “but you look really pale,”

“I’m just tired,” Tobin says, “it happens this time of year after the catalog is finished,” Tobin explains, “I’m just wiped out,” she says. She intentionally opens her eyes wider, trying to look more perky, “I’ll snuggle with the pups and go to sleep early and I’m sure I’ll feel much better tomorrow,”

“If you’re sure…” Christen isn’t convinced, she’s frowning at her. In her time knowing Tobin, she’s never seen her sick.

“Yeah, babe,” Tobin nods, giving her a hug, “you should head out, so you’re not rushed to catch your flight.”

Christen places a soft kiss on her lips, “Please take it easy,” she urges, “you’ve put in so many hours this month,”

Tobin nods, “I will,” she says, “believe me, I’m planting myself on that couch,” she gives her a quick peck, “say goodbye to your babies,” she says with a small grin, knowing Christen couldn’t leave without one last goodbye to her dogs.

 

“Let me know when you land, babe,” Tobin calls out as Christen waves goodbye. She watches as Christen gets in her car and backs out the driveway and pulls away. She shuts her front door, turning to the dogs who are standing behind her. “Well, it’s just us for a few days,” she says, slightly smiling when Khaleesi wags her tail. She settles onto the corner of the couch, Morena and Khaleesi jockeying for position to lay next to her. Kahleesi wins, earning her the right to lay half on the couch cushion and half on Tobin’s lap. Morena, being pretty smart, lays on Khaleesi’s back, making sure her paw is touching Tobin’s arm. Normally, Tobin would be delighted with the animals, however, she doesn’t even realize what they’ve done. Her mind is just still trying to wrap around what she was told at the end of the day. Her boss had called her in, shutting his door, praising her for an excellent job in her handling of the catalog. They talked about the tradeshows and conventions the company had attended in the fall, how most of them were successful. He praised her for her outstanding sales of the PERT curriculum, how she outsold Allie in sales of it.

Then he grew serious, telling her how she had become a confidant and he’d grown to trust her judgement. That’s when Tobin got nervous, seeing his expression and recognizing his nervous tics acting up. He asked her if they could keep this between them, he didn’t want anyone knowing this information until he announced it after Thanksgiving.
Tobin nodded in agreement, he’d told her confidential things before, sales figures, budget issues, import totals, tax information. This wasn’t anything new, except he seemed nervous.

“I sold the company.” He had said, unable to look her in the eye. “The new company will acquire it December first. We have a written agreement to stay in this building for one year until they’ve completed their new facility and then they’ll begin shifting personnel.”

It had taken Tobin a minute to speak. “And where is the new facility located?”

“Omaha, Nebraska.”

“Oh,” Tobin had said, stunned. She knew she was biting her lower lip, unable to help making the gesture. Her foot was tapping as well.

He went on the explain that buyers had been approaching him for years and now was the time to sell. During the recession, the price offered had dropped, but now, it was just the time. He was still young, only fifty, but he wanted to retire. He would be leaving March first, staying on for a few months during the transition.

“I won’t be here when you tell them,” Tobin had stated, “I’ll be in Texas, at a convention.”

“I wanted you to hear it from me first.” He stated.

“I appreciate it,” she had said, “and congratulations. You deserve it, you’ve built this place up into something you can be very proud of.”

He had given her a sad smile, “You’re a big part of it,”

Tobin silently nodded.

He went on to explain how he had named her as a key player in the company and she would be assured of a job, she wouldn’t have to worry about it. There was a strong chance that she would be able to telecommute and stay in Portland. Not all of the details had been worked out, but they would be over the next year. After their chat was over, Tobin numbly went to her office, immediately packing her backpack, needing to leave. It was late in the day anyway, so her heading out wouldn’t draw any suspicions. Plus, it was a holiday weekend. She put on the most cheerful face she could muster, wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving as she left.

She doesn’t remember the drive home, she was in shock. She drove home on autopilot. All she could think of were her friends, her coworkers who she knew would be freaking out over the news. Allie and Bati were thinking of trying to have a baby. So were Heather and Dave. Ali lived with her brother Kyle, sharing an apartment. Alex lived on her own. Portland wasn’t a cheap city to live in.

She feels physically ill as she sits on the couch, absently stroking Khaleesi’s fur. She doesn’t need her job, she can afford to never work again. Her boss doesn’t know that, hardly anyone does. Just Allie and Alex. And now Christen. But she loves her job, she loves how she juggles many different projects at a time, traveling, giving presentations in schools and at conventions. She’s made so many incredible friendships there. She’s grieving for the loss of it before anyone knows it’s happening.

She sits there with the dogs in silence, the animals sensing her mood, her mind just running through all sorts of scenarios. Her boss had mentioned the name of the company bought Portland P.E., they were a big corporation. SchoolMart attends some of the same conventions and Tobin would see their booths fairly often. Mostly they sold medical supplies to schools but over the years they had purchased up a bunch of smaller companies to shape them into a one stop shop for school needs. Medical supplies, desks, tables, science equipment, textbooks, janitorial supplies and more. You name it, they had it. Now they have the physical education component to complete it. She thought she remembered one of the reps she spoke mention they had over three hundred employees. They were a corporation. With corporation rules and not ever really knowing all of your coworkers. Gone would be the small, family oriented company they had in Portland.

Her phone rings. It’s Christen.

“Hey,” Tobin greets her quietly, thankful she didn’t Facetime call her.

“Hi, babe,” Christen greets just as quietly, “I’m waiting to board, but I wanted to hear your voice. How are you?” Her concern is nearly overwhelming to Tobin, it touches her deeply.

“I’m okay hon,” Tobin replies, “just wiped out. Once I get back from the Texas convention it’ll be much better. Work won’t be so crazy and then we’ll be in Hawaii,”

“I hope so,” Christen sighs, “I don’t like that you don’t feel well,”

“I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow,” Tobin says, “oh, I was able to get the flights changed,”

“Oh, really?” Christen’s voice is excited.

“Yeah, it was no problem,” Tobin smiles a little. “I can’t wait to meet your family,” Her and Christen had discussed the holidays and Christen was going to see her family in California. Tobin would be in Portland, with her family coming for Christmas. They both wanted to meet each other’s families, they both felt they were at the right place in their relationship for that to happen. They figured out if they flew into LA a day early before their flight to Hawaii, they could spend the day with Christen’s family and if Christen returned a day earlier from being in LA for Christmas, she could meet Tobin’s family who would still be in town.

“I can’t wait for you to meet them!” Christen chatters, “And I really can’t wait to meet your family either.” She pauses for a moment, “I was able to change my flight home,” she says, “so I’ll be home the morning of the twenty-seventh.”

“Awesome,” Tobin says, mustering up some excitement.

“Should I call you when I land?” Christen asks, “You might be sleeping,”

“You can call,” Tobin says, “I want to know you got there safe,”

“Okay,” she says quietly, “did you eat anything for dinner?”

“Uh, no,” Tobin replies, “but I’m going to have a little something now and then just lay around. I’ll feed the puppies too,” she smiles, wanting Christen to know she’s not too sick to take care of her babies.

“Okay,” she replies, “babe, please don’t go running tomorrow, don’t push yourself,”

“I won’t Chris,” Tobin says, “I’m going to hard chill and not do anything to get my heartrate over twenty,”

Christen giggles at that, “Tobin, you wouldn’t be moving,”

“Exactly,” Tobin says, grinning a little know, feeling slightly better just from talking to her.

“They’re calling my flight,” Christen sighs, “babe, I have to go,”

“Safe travels hon,” Tobin says, “I’ll talk to you later,”

 

XXXX

 

 

Tobin sounds much worse that she feels when she calls Alex in the morning, reluctantly cancelling on her for Thanksgiving dinner. Alex is sympathetic, knowing how much Tobin has worked and seeing how tired she’s been. She promises to send Allie over with a plate of leftovers and urges her to do nothing today. Tobin couldn’t face her friends with the knowledge she has now about the company being sold. She wouldn’t break her promise of confidentiality with her boss, even though it was awful keeping this to herself. She didn’t want to tell Christen this while she was trying to enjoy her time with her family.

She does go for a short run, taking Morena with her to complete the short loop of the garden trail. She needs to sweat to work out her feelings, finding comfort in the physical release. She’s on her couch, wearing her glasses, her hair still damp from her shower and wearing an old sweatshirt, huddled under a blanket on the couch with the dogs, just nodding off with the football game on her TV when Christen Facetimes her.

“Hi,” Tobin greets, her voice low and subdued.

“Hi!” Christen says, her smile faltering when she looks at her, “How are you?” she asks, her voice turning soft and concerned.

“Okay,” Tobin says, “how are you? How’s the fam?”

Christen doesn’t want to talk about that though, she’s too concerned about Tobin still. “You’re not feeling better today, are you,” she sadly notes, her mouth dipping into a frown.

“Not really,” Tobin replies truthfully and it’s true. She still has the hollow feeling in her gut, the one you get when you hear awful news and still haven’t gotten over the shock and surprise of it.

“You’re not going to Alex’s huh,” Christen figures, seeing how Tobin’s dressed and knowing she should have been getting ready to leave for Alex’s house.

“Nah, babe, I’m not,” she says, “besides, I don’t think the girls will let me,” she gives her a little grin, flipping the camera view to show how Morena is sprawled on her stomach with her head on her chest and Khaleesi is lying on her side in between Tobin’s legs with a paw almost hugging her calf.

“Aw,” Christen coos, wishing she was there to take in the adorableness of it all. And to take care of her girlfriend. Tobin flips the view and Christen looks her over. Tobin’s still pale, she has this expression on her face she can’t pinpoint, it’s not exactly like a feeling crappy one, but more like a mix of sadness and grief. She realizes she hasn’t seen Tobin when she’s sick, so she might just be reading it wrong though. “Have you eaten?” she asks, she’s still feeling a little tipsy from their breakfast that included several pitchers of mimosas.

“I have,” Tobin replies, then she squints at her, “are you buzzed?’

Christen can’t help but giggle, loving when it makes Tobin smile, “A little,” she admits, “we had mimosas with breakfast,”

Tobin chuckles, “Nice,” she says, happy she’s having fun. “You look so pretty,” she says, smiling at her affectionately.

Christen blushes, “You look so” She stops, turning her head quickly. “Is that Tobin?” a female is asking. Tobin watches as there’s a tussle for the phone, hearing Christen arguing with the woman. “Stop, she’s sick!” she says, and suddenly a new face is on the screen. The two argue as the phone jostles, Tobin clearly hearing Tyler issue a deadly warning. “Stop it or I’ll tell Tobin about the spelling bee!”

“Hi, Tobin!” she says, “I’m Tyler, Christen’s sister,” she introduces herself.

“Nice to meet you,” Tobin says politely, grinning as she hears Christen trying to get the phone back, reaching for it. Tyler turns to her, “Stop it or I’ll really tell her about the spelling bee!” she threatens again and Christen goes silent. Tobin raises her eyebrows about this. “Is that Tobin?” another voice calls out and soon Tobin can see another face squished into the view. Tyler is in the middle, with Channing, who has introduced herself on one side and a pouting Christen on the other.

Tobin tiredly smiles at three, easily answering the slew of questions Tyler and Channing ask her. “So, Christen said you guys met through work, you came in and did a presentation,” Channing says, glancing over to her sister, “so, how did you finally start dating?”

“Uh,” Tobin utters, looking and seeing some panic on Christen’s face, feeling the need to tease her a little, Tobin smiles, “I’m sure Chris would love to tell the tale of how we got together,” she smirks at her, “all of it.”

Grudgingly, Christen starts the story with them going out after the presentation, skipping over the part of her walking in on Tobin with her shirt off. Tobin sends a sly wink at her while Channing and Tyler are looking away. Suddenly there are two more faces leaning over the back of the couch to get in the view. Tobin meets Stacey and Cody, who insists on being called Big Daddy, much to the dismay of his daughters. Tobin wishes the call had come later if she knew she was meeting the parents, dressed as she is, but then lets it go. Stacey asks about the dogs, Christen had mentioned Tobin was watching them so she flips the camera view once more, letting them say hello to the beloved dogs. Hearing them calling, Morena only twitches her ears without moving to respond and Khaleesi gives a feeble tail wag from her spot stretched out in between Tobin’s legs.

Channing gets them back to the story, smiling smugly, since she knows most of this story, so Christen tells the tale with Tobin adding some clarification of the night at the bar. They tease Christen for hitting Tobin’s car, Tobin interjects how it wasn’t that bad, how she able to pop out the dent. When Christen explains the next morning, they look at Tobin with horror, Tyler asking how bad her wrist was broken. Tobin deflects, saying she was lucky she’s lefthanded and it wasn’t a big deal. She praises Christen’s cooking and how sweet it was for her to come over and feed her. She doesn’t catch how Stacey and Cody look on with satisfaction at her replies, she was too busy smiling at Christen.

Christen declares the story is over, swiping the phone from Tyler’s hands, leaving the couch and going outside. “I’m so sorry!” she exclaims with a frown, “I didn’t know they would do that!”

Tobin laughs, “It’s okay, babe,” she says, “they’re all so nice,” she says, then smirks, “except they teased you so bad.”

“I can take it,” Christen finally laughs, “Why do I feel that nothing will be normal for us?” she questions, beaming at her.

“Because nothing really has been?” Tobin asks back as they both laugh.

Then Tobin yawns, feeling sleepy, still smiling as she looks at her, “You are just so gorgeous,” she muses.

“And you are delirious,” Christen shakes her head, “go to sleep,” she orders, “I’ll call to check in later, alright honey?” Tobin laughs as she hears Tyler and Channing mocking Christen, using funny voices repeating alright honey. Christen glares at them and then focuses back on her.

“Have a fun day, babe,”

“I will,” Christen says quietly, “you make sure you’re eating and drinking, you don’t want to get dehydrated,” she reminds her.

“I will, sweetheart,” Tobin smiles tiredly at her.

“Get some rest, I’ll talk to you later,” Christen says quietly.

“Okay,” Tobin murmurs, her eyes nearly closed.

When they get off the phone, Christen makes her way to the kitchen where Stacey is slicing up the potatoes, she looks over and sees how serious and concerned her daughter is.

“Everything okay honey?” she asks, stepping aside when Christen elbows her way in to take over the task.

“I’m just worried about Tobin,” she confesses as she concentrates on her task, “I’ve never seen her sick before,” she says, “so I don’t know how serious it is,”

Her Mom smiles at her, “Honey,” she says, laying a hand on her shoulder, “It looks like she has a cold and is very tired,” she says, “you told me she was working so many hours for the past few weeks, I’m sure she’s just exhausted. Mentally and physically.”

Christen gives her a smile, “Yeah, I’m sure your right,” she says, “but it just seems like there’s something more?”

“What do you mean?” Stacey asks.

“She just seemed really upset about something last night,” Christen explains, “I don’t know, maybe I’m just analyzing it way too much,”

“Ya think?” her Mother grins at her, “I’m sure she’s just tired, sweetie,”

Christen shrugs her Mom’s arm off her shoulders, getting busy chopping the potatoes, “I’m sure you’re right,” she says, “she’s just so perceptive to my moods and feelings, I guess I’m just wanting to be sure I’m not missing her signals,”

 

XXXX

 

 

“Harry, you look horrible,” Allie states flatly as she pushes past Tobin, “are you throwing up?”

“No,” Tobin replies, closing the door, “I just feel like shit,” she says, slowly following her to the kitchen. Allie unpacks two bags, looking at her, “Do you want something to eat now? I’ll make you a plate,”

“Yeah, I could eat something,” Tobin says, “just a little bit though,” she says as she sits down at the table, holding her head in her hands. She’s silent as Allie rattles on about the day, who was at Alex’s house, how domestic she was becoming.

“She even had a cheese and sausage platter,” Allie laughs, “and it wasn’t store bought.”

“She’s getting there,” Tobin says quietly, “she was super nervous about Servando coming today,” Yesterday, Tobin had talked Alex off the ledge while they ate lunch. She wanted the day to be perfect. Tobin had reviewed the menu with her, suggesting she write out a time line of cooking times of her different foods so she had something to refer on Thursday and take some of the stress off.

“He’s such a good guy,” Allie nods as she pops the plate into the microwave, “I like him, he was so sweet and helpful all day,”

“He’s a good guy,” Tobin agrees, “I think he’s good for her,”

Allie smiles knowingly at her, “I think he’s the one,”

Tobin smiles at her, “Yeah, you might be right,”

The microwave dings and Allie removes the plate, bringing it over the table with a glass of water and silverware. “I’m gonna head out,” Allie announces, “Bati’s in the car.”

“Al, you didn’t have to make this if he was waiting,” Tobin sighs, “I could’ve done it,”

“Don’t worry, he’s on his phone,” she says, “I’ll let myself out,”

Tobin follows her to the door, “Thanks for coming by with the food,” she says, giving her a hug, “I appreciate it,”

“Take it easy,” Allie advises, “I know you’re beat,” she says. She knows Tobin is just exhausted from wrapping up the catalog and preparing it for print. Ali is too, the graphic designer had tediously prepared over three hundred pages of products, making sure the images were correct, the correct prices inserted and so much more. Then her and Tobin and some others had to proof read the entire thing.

“I’ll talk to you soon,” Tobin says, “thanks again.”

Tobin lets the dogs in from the backyard, wiping their paws and then she takes her drink and plate to the couch, doing some channel surfing before settling on a show about wilderness survival. Contestants were paired with partners and were trying to survive living in the woods. This season, they were celebrity contestants paired up with survival pros.
She watches as she eats, finishing half the plate, she’s just not hungry. She gives Morena and Khaleesi bits of turkey and some veggies before going to the kitchen and scraping the plate before setting it in the dishwasher. She settles back on the couch, stretching her legs out and pulling the blanket over her as the dogs rearrange themselves to get comfortable.

 

Tobin’s fast asleep when her phone rings, using her hand to pull it out from under the pillow, squinting as she answers. “Hello?” she asks, her voice cracking and low, filled with sleep.

“Hi baby,” Christen greets, “were you sleeping?”

“Yeah,” Tobin says as she shifts onto her back, feeling one of the dogs moving off the couch, “what time is it?”

“Eleven,” Christen answers, “I have you on Facetime, sweetie,”

“Oh,” she fumbles with the phone, squinting at her, using a hand to find her glasses. She blinks at her, “wait, is it Friday?” She sees that Christen is sitting on a deck in the sunshine and her own living room is bright.

“Yes, honey,” Christen replies, “did you sleep there the whole night?”

“I think so,” Tobin says, rubbing her face.

“Oh honey,” Christen frowns, “your back is going to be sore,”

Tobin sniffs and stretches a little, “I’m sure I’ll be okay after a hot shower,” she says, “how are you?”

“I’m good,” she says, “missing you,” she smiles.

“I miss you too,” Tobin smiles at her, “the puppies miss you too,”

Christen smiles at her, “Did you have a good night?”

“Yeah,” Tobin says, “Allie came by with leftovers and I just chilled on the couch,” she rolls her eyes, “obviously.”

“Sleep good?”

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, “I was dead,” she yawns, “how was the rest of your day?” There’s something in Tobin’s tone that’s off. She knows she’s upset with something, but she doesn’t know how to bring it up. Tobin just doesn’t seem like herself, even if she’s sick, even if she just woke up. Something isn’t right.

“Oh, it was wonderful,” Christen gushes, “my grandma came over, my sisters and some cousins I haven’t seen in over a year. We had a really nice day,”

“I’m glad,” Tobin smiles softly at her, “did you guys go out for Black Friday?”

Christen nods, smiling triumphantly, “We did and I got some great deals!” she says excitedly, “I got almost all of my Christmas shopping done!”

“Woah,” Tobin says, slowly moving to sit up, “how long were you out for?”

“Actually, only like, three hours,” Christen says, “then we went for breakfast at three in the morning,” she sighs, “I’m ready for a nap now though,”

“Can I say I miss napping with you?” Tobin asks quietly, looking at her with such affection, a small smile on her face.

“You can,” Christen nods, “I miss napping with you too,” she says, “are you just going to lay low today?”

“Yeah,” Tobin yawns, running a hand through her hair, “I just have no energy,” she confesses, slowly standing up, walking to the kitchen, the dogs following her, slipping past to stand near the kitchen door. Tobin opens it to let them out. “I’ll find something to binge watch and eat something for breakfast.”

“Or lunch,” Christen smirks at her, “sleepy head,” She knows Tobin likes her sleep. So far, she seems as if that’s what she needs when she’s not feeling well. Christen isn’t positive, but she’s tucking it away to remember.

“Yeah, I have those leftovers,” Tobin nods, moving to the fridge, pulling Tupperware containers out and setting them on the counter.

“I’ll let you go,” Christen says, yawning now, “I’m going to take a nap and then we’re going out for dinner,”

“Sounds nice, Chris,” Tobin smiles, “I’ll see you Sunday night,”

Christen nods, “I’ll see you then,” she says, “I’ll call you later,” she says, “before I go to sleep,”

Tobin’s mouth twitches with a smile, “I’ll look forward to it,”

“Bye, honey,” Christen says, “relax today,”

“I will,” Tobin nods, “believe me. I’ll see you later, babe,”

 

It’s after Tobin eats and lets the dogs in, wiping their paws from the rain, that she really starts to think. Everyone at work is going to be so freaked out. There wasn’t a whisper of this happening, it’s totally out of the blue. During the recession, people had quietly discussed the possibility of the company folding if things didn’t get better, but with their media group and Allie coming into the sales force three years ago, things were going well. She’s pissed this has happened, but she’s more upset for her friends. The stress they’re going to face on Monday. She won’t be there to comfort them. She’ll be on a plane when they’re learning this news.

She doesn’t think any of them would want to relocate to Omaha. Omaha is definitely not like Portland. At all. It’s a cool college town but doesn’t nearly have the uniqueness of the City of Roses. These next few weeks are going to be awful she thinks glumly. With Christmas coming. The timing of this just sucks. If only her boss had said something to her, fuck, she would have bought the company. Not that she’d have wanted to run it, she’d still do her job.

Should she say something to Alex and Allie, she wonders. She shakes her head, I told him I wouldn’t. I can’t break that trust, even with this news. Good thing I can use being so tired and maybe being sick as an excuse to not see them this weekend.

Frustrated and upset, Tobin decides she should do something with herself, she’s too awake and her mind is swirling to take another nap. She walks to her room and changes into her raggedy paint stained jeans and sweatshirt, thinking some art therapy would help.

She grabs her phone, sticking it in her back pocket, “Come on girls,” she calls to the dogs, “let’s go to the barn,”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

“Have you eaten lunch yet?” Christen asks Tobin. It’s Saturday, the twenty-sixth of December and Christen is a bundle of nerves.

“No,” Tobin replies, “I’m in the barn painting, I’ll go in a little while,”

“Okay, just don’t forget to eat, alright honey?” Christen persists, having a strong feeling Tobin will forget, getting lost while she paints.

“Yeah, babe, I will,” Tobin promises.

“Okay, honey,” Christen says and they disconnect their call, Christen nodding, satisfied she can pull off her plan. When she spoke with Tobin last night, again she couldn’t shake the strong feeling that something was wrong. She gathered her courage to ask her if something was wrong and Tobin denied it, just repeating how tired she was. But what got her was the pause. Tobin was silent for a moment, not too long, but just enough for Christen to feel she wasn’t being truthful.

It wasn’t as though Tobin was upset with her, Christen knows Tobin would address any issue she would have between them. She’s a talker, she shares her feelings. This is something else. Maybe her family. She would talk about that, she thinks. She thinks she would talk if something happened with her friends. This has to be something else. Maybe her job, she wonders. She knows Tobin loves her job, so she just doesn’t know. The thought strikes her that maybe because it’s bad news Tobin is unwilling to speak of it, since she’s here with her family and doesn’t want to upset her.

She guides her car to Tobin’s favorite take out place, ordering soups and sandwiches and then heading to her house. After speaking with Tobin last night, she had talked with her Mom, sharing her thoughts, how she just can’t shake her feeling that Tobin needs her for some reason. Her Mom smiled and told her she shouldn’t fight her gut instincts, so Christen changed her flight and hopped on the first one back to Portland this morning.

 

Christen parks low in Tobin’s driveway, wanting to keep the surprise for as long as possible, walking to the back, hearing music drifting from the barn, loud and fast, seeing the barn door slightly rolled away. She silently opens the gate and closes it behind her and walks to the door. Tobin has her back to her, painting on a large canvas, using wide strokes, almost angrily attacking the surface.

Doubts creep up in Christen as she leans against the doorjamb, bag of food in hand. What if Tobin is just tired and not feeling well, she wonders, is this too much then? What if she wants space. She considers maybe going back to her car and texting Tobin, maybe this isn’t what she wants. No, she tells herself, you can hear it in her voice, something is wrong.

Trust your gut.

Morena sees Christen at the door, springing up and running to her, Khaleesi following her quickly. The dogs are whimpering and talking to her as she pets them. When she straightens up, she hears the music stop and sees Tobin looking at her. Her mouth has dropped open with surprise since she wasn’t expecting her until tomorrow night.

“Chris?” she questions quietly, a shocked expression on her face as she grabs a towel from her easel and wipes her hands as she approaches her, “What are you doing here, babe?”

“I’ve brought lunch,” Christen answers, holding up the bag, giving her a small smile, “and I missed you.”

“Chris,” Tobin whispers as she stands in front of her, then Christen takes a step towards her, spreading her arms and Tobin falls into them. Tobin sighs deeply as Christen holds her, nuzzling her lips against her neck, then giving Christen a soft kiss. She pulls her head back, kissing her again.

“Can you stop your painting to eat or should we wait?” Christen asks, smiling at her.

“Let’s eat,” Tobin grins at her, rubbing Christen’s upper arms, “I’m so happy to see you,” she pecks her lips again.

They eat at the kitchen table, Tobin asking her more about her visit, her Black Friday experience and how her family is doing. She laughs when Christen apologizes again for Tyler commandeering her phone and practically interviewing her. She brushes it off, telling Christen the pressure is off for when she meets them in person now.

They move to the couch when they finish eating, Christen sitting close, twisted to her side to face Tobin. She extends her hand to place it once again on Tobin’s forehead feeling for a fever. She doesn’t warm, but she’s still so pale. Her hands glides to Tobin’s cheek, holding it there and looking at her, she does look tired. But there’s something more. She decides to go for it.

“Babe?” she asks, her voice quiet and low, her eyes searching Tobin’s face, “I know you’re tired and maybe fighting a bug or something,” she says slowly, “but I can’t shake the feeling that you’re struggling with something else right now. You seem really off,”

Tobin’s eyes shift down as she sighs heavily, then sucking her lower lip into her mouth as her top teeth rake over it. She releases her lip and frowns, then looks up at her with a mournful expression. “It’s a work thing,” she says, her voice cracking. She clears her throat, looking at Christen seriously, “I need you to not say anything to anyone if I tell you this,” she states, “it hasn’t happened yet and people won’t know until Monday.”

“I won’t say a word, Tobin,” Christen nods slowly.

“And if anyone does say anything to you,” Tobin winces, “you need to act surprised. Because if they know you know, they’ll know I knew, you know?”

It takes Christen a moment to follow what she just said. “You have some insider news to something and if I’m asked, I need to act as if I didn’t know this?” She clarifies and Tobin nods solemnly. “Okay, I can do that.”

Tobin takes a deep breath, holding it for a moment and then slowly releasing it. “My boss sold the company,” she states, “he told me Wednesday at the end of the day. Wanted me to know ahead of time since I’ll be in Texas when he tells the rest of the staff on Monday.”

“Oh honey,” Christen murmurs, leaning in to hold her, “I’m so sorry.” She scoots closer and takes Tobin’s hand, rubbing her thumb across her knuckles. “And I’m just so upset about it,” Tobin continues, “the company that bought us is this huge corporation and they want to move it to Omaha next year.” Christen hums, acknowledging her without speaking, she sees how Tobin’s cheeks have flushed with emotion, her neck growing red.

“I just feel so bad for everyone,” Tobin sniffs, “they’re all going to freak about this. The stress is going to be so bad,”

“I’m sorry, babe,” Christen says tenderly, shifting again and pulling Tobin in her arms, her hand stroking Tobin’s hair, “I wish it were different.”

“So do I,” Tobin says miserably, “I just feel so bad,” she sniffs, “I mean, I can do whatever,” she mumbles, “but the others can’t.”

“Mmmhmm,” Christen nods, sighing and squeezing Tobin closer, kissing the side of her head. She feels Tobin’s chest hitch as she softly weeps, her feelings overwhelming her. They sit there for a few minutes until Tobin feels she can speak again. She explains the whole story to Christen, why Christen can’t say anything to Kelley or Ash or Kyle, not until the news is public. How her boss will stay on until March, the company will stay in place for the next year. Christen lets Tobin talk about all the scenarios she can imagine happening, knowing she’s been holding this in and letting it stew since Wednesday with no one to talk to about it. She lets her vent until she grows silent.

“Why wouldn’t you call someone in your family?” Christen asks, “Can you not talk to them about stuff like this?”

Tobin pulls free from her arms, staying close but now sitting up so she can look at her. “They wouldn’t get it,” she admits, “I mean, they would to an extent, you know? But neither of my parents work anymore, and my one sister has a gym, my other sister is a stay at home mom, I mean that’s a job enough and my brother is trying to make the PGA tour for golf and is into photography.”

“You’re the only one with a nine to five,” Christen realizes as Tobin nods.

“Alex or Allie would normally be my go to,” Tobin admits, “and I obviously can’t tell them, and I didn’t want to lay this on you while you were visiting your family,”

Christen nods, “That was considerate,” she says, “but I knew something was bothering you, I could just sense it. You don’t have to worry about upsetting me with whatever is going on with you, I want you to be able to tell me, okay?”

“I will,” Tobin nods, “I promise,” she says, “I guess I also just needed a little time to process it?” she nods at her, “Like, it was so unexpected and I was caught so off guard.”

“That’s understandable, babe,” Christen gives her a small smile, wanting to convey she isn’t upset with her, “This is a big deal,” she acknowledges, “and it’s probably going to take you more time to fully accept it and grieve it and be angry about it, I get it.”

Tobin gives her a grateful look, “Thanks, babe,” she says, “I guess I’m struggling with how to navigate this,” she reaches over and takes Christen hand in hers.

“A similar thing happened to my Dad,” Christen comments.

“Big Daddy?” Tobin asks with raised eyebrows and a half smile.

Christen rolls her eyes, “Yes.” She shut her eyes and shakes her head, “You know, if you call him that, he’ll never let us forget it.” She opens her eyes to see Tobin wiggling her eyebrows. “Stop!” Christen lightly slaps her shoulder, “Anyway, he’s in the financial markets and the company he worked for got bought out.”

“Yeah, what did he do?” Tobin asks.

“He read up on corporate takeovers and mergers so he was prepared for what the new company would likely do,” Christen informs her, “he explored his options, whatever they would or could be. He knew he was in charge of his destiny and prepared himself for how he wanted that to look. By learning what he could about mergers and takeovers he reduced his stress about the fear of the unknown and that allowed him to clearly think about his future.”

Tobin’s eyes pop open wide, “Huh,” she says, clearly not expecting that. She looks at Christen as she lets it sink in. Then she slowly gives her a small smile, “Big Daddy is a smart cookie,” she says, flinching as Christen delivers a series of light slaps at her head and shoulders until they’re both giggling.

After they calm down, Christen pulls Tobin in her arms, lying back on the couch with Tobin mostly on top of her. Tobin is sprawled across her, her head resting on Christen’s chest and shoulder. Christen is holding one of Tobin’s hand while her other hand wanders on Tobin’s back under her shirt, her nails lightly scratching her back.

“Seriously though,” Tobin breaks the silence, “your Dad is a smart guy. Instead of wallowing he did something positive for himself,” she says glumly, her voice low and rough.

“Sweetheart,” Christen says, “I’m sure he wallowed, you’re allowed to feel upset about stuff like this. You’ve worked there for a long time and invested yourself into it and gave a lot of effort to the company for it to succeed. It’s okay for you to grieve that it will be changing.”

“Yeah,” Tobin sighs, “I just hate that it will go from this cool, laid back place and be turned into this like, structured business only type atmosphere. I mean, people bring their dogs to the office.”

“Honey,” Christen says, “you don’t know that for sure,” she says, “this company might be pretty cool too, even if it’s large.”

“Yeah,” Tobin sighs again, “you’re right,”

“Do you think you can nap for a bit?”

“Yeah, you wanna here or the bed?” Tobin asks. “Here, I like how you feel,” Christen replies, sliding her hand from under Tobin’s shirt to reach for the blanket on the back of the couch. Tobin grabs it too and they cover themselves. Before Tobin settles back on her, she looks at Christen.

“Thank you,” she says, her brown eyes showing such affection and sincerity, “it means so much to me that you cut your stay short to come back,”

Christen smiles at her, reflecting the same expression, using her hand to push Tobin’s neck towards her and kiss her. “Go to sleep,” she says whispers.

Tobin lays her head down, her hand snaking up to cup Christen’s breast over her shirt. They lay there until Tobin continues to shift around, unable to get comfortable.

“Honey?” Christen questions.

“My mind won’t stop,” Tobin groans, “I can’t relax.” She feels Christen’s fingers on her chin, urging her to lift her head.

“Kiss me,” Christen commands, the arousal she’s felt since she saw Tobin in the barn flaring and burning through her. She knows what Tobin needs to clear her mind and she’s more than happy to commence. Tobin kisses her, softly, slightly surprised when she feels Christen’s hand on her back of her neck, keeping her in place and then the persistence of her tongue along Tobin’s lips, seeking entrance. How Christen’s free hand grabs hold of Tobin’s breast, massaging it roughly. How Christen shifts her legs, forcing Tobin to move hers so she can slot her own in between. Christen’s hand leaves her neck, moving down to her hip, gripping it tightly and tugging down, urging Tobin to rut against her bent leg.

“Uhm,” Tobin moans into Christen’s mouth as her center rubs along Christen’s firm thigh. She scoots down a little and glides herself along Christen’s leg, feeling herself grow wet as her desire ignites. She arches her back as Christen slides her hand under her shirt, teasing her sensitive nipple with her fingers. “Chris,” she groans, hanging her head next to Christen’s neck, her hot breath hitting Christen’s skin.

Christen moves her hand from Tobin’s hip, sliding down just a little to give herself better access as she fumbles her hand under Tobin’s sweats, finding the elastic of her underwear, flattening her hand to slide underneath. She circles her fingers around her clit, feeling her shudder with the contact, moving her hand in time with Tobin’s thrusts along her leg. “Mmmm,” Tobin moans as she moves along Christen’s leg, “Chris,” she groans, finding Christen’s mouth and kissing her passionately. Christen slowly moves her fingers down, entering her and feeling how Tobin quickly pumps her hips around her fingers, how her need is so great, her hot exhales filling the quiet of the room.

Tobin breaks the kiss, “Oh fuck, Chris,” she says as she begins to pant, Christen looking up and seeing a fine bead of sweat on her forehead. She curls her fingers within her, making Tobin freeze in place, arching her back, her hips bucking as she throws her head back, her mouth hanging open, eyes clamped shut as she falls apart. Christen thinks she’s never looked more beautiful than in this moment. She collapses onto Christen, her chest heaving as she catches her breath. Christen wipes her fingers on the material surrounding her, slipping her hand free from the confines of Tobin’s pants. She kisses the side of Tobin’s face sweetly, pulling the blanket off them so they can cool down.

“Chris,” Tobin says, drawing out her name, her voice low and rough. Christen kisses her again, “Just sleep, babe,” She feels how Tobin molds to her body, completely relaxed as she easily drifts off to sleep. It’s then that Christen knows she made the right decision to come back early and talk with her. It’s not the sex, it’s the connection with Tobin’s mind. She’s been learning how to read her, her gestures and her body language. Learning her tendencies and habits, learning how Tobin is a tactile person, hence the sex, but it’s the cuddling and touching too.

She knows Tobin is doing the same, tucking away the information she’s learning about her. She sees it. The almond milk that is now in her fridge. A new yoga mat for when she stays over and wants to stretch and do her meditation in the morning. The whole bathroom thing. And then there’s the unspoken things, like telling her the details of a day planned together not leaving things to surprises. Planning their week together, discussing the menus for dinner each night, their weekly pick up soccer night and the other one she does with the guys. Being understanding when she just wants to relax and do nothing. How she knows that from just looking at her still amazes Christen.

She kisses the top of Tobin’s head, letting out a happy sigh with a smile on her face, shutting her eyes and taking in just how content she feels in this moment. She’ll think about how she can support Tobin during this whole company buyout later, right now she just wants to revel in this feeling of holding her in her arms.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“I’m sorry,” Alex says, her tone upset and sad, “I wanted to tell you, I really did, but I couldn’t.”

Tobin sees the regret and remorse on her face, “I get it, Al,” she says quietly, “it must’ve sucked to keep that to yourself,”

Alex looks down, “Allie knew too,” she says quietly, looking up earnestly at Tobin, “Her big contracts with the park districts and schools were being renewed and they needed to new owner’s information on them,” she hurriedly explains.

Tobin nods, understandingly, “Ah, yeah, that makes sense,” she murmurs, still upset with the news of the company buyout. Her and Alex have been on Facetime for a half an hour, Alex repeatedly apologizing to her about knowing the news ahead of time. Tobin is in Texas for her conference. Now learning Allie knew as well, it doesn’t make her feel a whole lot better, but she’s a little comforted that they’ve had time to think about their next moves.

“So, what do you think?” Tobin asks, “What are you going to do?”

“Well, I’m not going to Omaha!” Alex snorts, rolling her eyes, “My position in AR is redundant,” she says, “I’ll start looking for something after Christmas.”

Tobin frowns, “Here in Portland?” she questions.
Alex smiles, “Yeah,” she says, “maybe I’ll take some classes again,” she says, “sharpen my skillset.”

Tobin nods, biting her lower lip, looking pensive.

“What?” Alex questions, “What are you thinking of doing?”

“I don't know,” Tobin says, “I mean, if he would have said something, maybe I would have bought the place, you know?” her frustration coming through.

Alex rolls her eyes again, “And what would you have done with it? Run it? No way,” she chuckles, “Tobin, your heart is in the right place, but being a business owner isn’t in your wheelhouse.”

“Well,” Tobin smiles a little, knowing she’s right, “maybe I would have had you run it,”

“Yeah, right,” Alex now laughs.

“I’m serious, Al,” Tobin insists, “you could do it. You have all the skills, social, economical, emotional,”

“And business?” Alex questions, “you’re reaching, pal.”

“No, I think I’m on to something,” Tobin grins at her, “Alex Morgan, CEO.”

“Have you been drinking already?” Alex questions, shaking her head at her, “It’ll never happen.”

Tobin grows serious, looking at her, “If I came across something, you think you’d at least listen?”

It takes Alex a moment to realize she isn’t joking, peering at her intently and seeing how serious she is. “I’d always listen to you, Tobes,” she says as she nods. “You thinking of something?”

Tobin shrugs, “I don’t know,” she says, “just, Chris and I have been talking for the last few days and I just have a million thoughts in my head right now, you know?”

Alex nods, “I know that feeling,” she agrees, “it was so hard to only be able to talk to Allie about it.”

“What is she thinking?” Tobin asks, wondering what her plans are.

“Her and Bati are toying with the idea of going back to New York,” Alex informs her, “they aren’t sure, they love it here,”

“I hope they don’t leave,” she sighs, “that would suck. Bati has a great job at Adidas.”

“I’m sure they’re not going to make any decisions for a while,” Alex assures her, “and everyone else is just in shock, so nobody knows what they’re going to do.”

“Yeah,” Tobin says glumly, “it sucks.”

“We’ll get through it,” Alex says with a confidence Tobin doesn’t have, “I know something will just come up and click,” she says, “for both of us.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think I’m there just yet,” Tobin admits, “this still hurts.”

“I know,” Alex says quietly, “I know it’s all you’ve known,” she states, “you need time for it to sink in.”

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, she looks at her watch, “listen, I got to go, the opening is starting soon,”

“Okay, yeah,” Alex says, “have a good show and I’ll talk to you later,”

“Yeah,” Tobin says, sliding off her hotel room bed, “and Al?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for talking me down,” Tobi says heartfully, “I’ve been a mess, but you’ve been a big help.”

“I’m sure Chris was too,” Alex smiles at her. Tobin smiles back, “Just like I’m sure Servando was to you,” she says.

“We’re pretty lucky,” Alex beams at her.

“Yeah,” Tobin says, her smile growing, “we really are.”

 

XXXX

 

 

“I’m so glad to see you,” Tobin says as she wraps her arms around Christen, “I missed you,” she says as she places a gentle kiss on her lips.

“I missed you too,” Christen smiles at her, tilting her head as she looks at her, “how are you doing?” she asks, seeing how Tobin still looks tired although her color has returned.

“I’m kind of beat,” she nods, “but two more days and then our butts will be on a beach!” she smiles at her.

“I’m so excited!” Christen grins, “I have so many things to show you that we might want to do!”

“Oh yeah?” Tobin smiles as she kneels to pet Khaleesi and Morena who are trying to get past Christen to lick at Tobin. She looks up at her, seeing how she’s just got this adorable smile on her face, “What?”

Christen shrugs, still smiling, “It just tickles me how much the girls love you,” she says, and how much I love you, she thinks to herself.

“Well,” Tobin says, grinning at her, giving each dog a few more pets and then gets to her feet, “they’re easy to love,” she says simply, especially since I love so you much, she thinks to herself.

They look at each other for a moment, just smiling at each other. Then Christen spreads her hands, “Welcome home!” she yells, laughing and pulling Tobin into a hug, lifting her and swinging her around.

“Chris!” Tobin squeals, laughing when her feet hit the floor, “What’s gotten in to you?”

“I don’t know!” she laughs, her eyes shining with joy, “I’m just so happy to see you!” She feels like her heart is bursting, being so happy to see her. Maybe Tobin giving her a key to her house also has something to do with it as well.

“I am too,” Tobin says, hugging her again, burying her head in her hair against her neck, “so much,” she says. She nuzzles against her, inhaling her scent, the light perfume she wears that makes Tobin’s head spin a little. She sighs deeply, so happy to be in her arms. She can just feel how the stress she’s felt today melt away. She pulls back and looks at her, “You really don’t know how happy I am to be home,” she says seriously, “this trip was nuts,” she shakes her head.

Christen raises her eyebrows, “What happened today?” she asks as she lifts the strap of Tobin’s backpack, sliding it down her arm and setting it on the wing chair. Tobin takes the hint and removes her jacket, opening the closet door and hanging it up. She kicks off her gym shoes, smiling at her Christmas decorations.

When her and Christen woke from their nap this past Saturday, Christen begged Tobin to pull out her Christmas decorations and put them up. They played holiday music, reminiscing about past holidays as kids, favorites gifts they received, favorite gifts they’ve given to others. They laughed and talked and enjoyed themselves and it was the perfect activity to do. Tobin felt lighter than she had the past few days and she owed it all to Christen.

Christen was fascinated with the Tobin’s decorations, the majority of them were from the fifties, some showing wear, most in pristine condition, carefully packed with tissue in the original ornament box. Tobin explained they were mostly from her grandparents, when her grandfather had passed away, Tobin was the only one interested in them. Christen had gushed about Tobin’s sentimentality, asking her to tell her a few stories of how grandparents had decorated their home when she was youngster. Tobin gladly told her how every year, her family would come over to their house, helping bring up the decorations from the basement, unpacking them while listening to Christmas music, her grandmother would make popcorn and they’d eat more than they’d ever string up. Her older sisters would carefully place the breakable ornaments high up on the tree. Tobin couldn’t wait until she was old enough to have the responsibility. It came when she was twelve and she took it very seriously. The next few years, her sisters weren’t there, part time jobs and then college took them from attending. It would be just her and her brother until her turned fifteen and whined not to go. Tobin always went.

The two sat crosslegged on the floor, surrounded by decorations and boxes as Tobin told her story. She told Christen how after her grandmother passed away, she hung out with her grandfather, loving his company. He was retired, having sold his business and found himself at loose ends with too much time on his hands. He was an active man and Tobin would easily convince him to go on hikes and go fishing, the two nearly inseparable her senior year of high school. How much it meant to her that he would attend most of her soccer matches in her senior year of high school.

Tobin admitted how school wasn’t her thing, she struggled through her classes although she was diligent with her studies. She confessed this to her grandfather the summer of her junior year when she was worried about college and her parents maybe forcing her to go. She adamantly didn’t want to, she didn’t think it was for her.

He encouraged her to find a job, something part time in an area that suited her, sitting with her reading the want ads and going online for jobs in Portland. He encouraged her to fill out the application at Portland P.E., knowing her love of sports would be a benefit.

Christen thought that was wonderful and the two assembled the antique plastic tree that looked incredibly realistic. They chatted about family, each talking about traditions and how they changed over the years. Both of them mourned the loss of their grandfathers, Christen telling Tobin about him. It was a great conversation and enough time had passed that they could speak of the good times without being emotional.

They interior of the house was decorated and it was tasteful and timeless. Tobin had purchased some of her own items that blended well the antiques, giving the look an appealing funkiness of old and new. It was her style.

 

Now, as Tobin glances around, Christen leads her to the couch, shushing the dogs and pointing to the two dog beds that Tobin had added to the living room. Tobin sees a bottle of wine on the coffee table with two glasses. Christen pours them each a glass which is unusual for a Wednesday night after nine o’clock. Tobin cocks an eyebrow at her as she accepts her glass.

“I was thinking of staying tonight,” Christen comments as she crosses her legs.

“Oh,” Tobin nods, “yeah?” she smiles at her. They still don’t often spend the night during the work week.

“Uh huh,” Christen nods, taking a sip of her wine, stretching her sock clad foot to rub against Tobin’s shin, “I missed you,”

Tobin leans in and kisses her softly, “I missed you,” she says, “it felt weird to sleep alone,” she admits. They rarely sleep together during the work week, they’ll talk every day and see each other most days, but they still go out on their own with their own friends or work gets in the way. It’s casual and easy and suits them both fine.

“I know what you mean,” Christen says, kisses her back, and then sipping her wine and extending her arm so her hand can play with Tobin’s hair. “So, tell me what happened?”

“Oh, that,” Tobin sighs, rolling her eyes, “so I was just getting ready to take down my booth,” she starts, “and this guy comes over from SchoolMart, that bought us.”

“They were there?” Christen is surprised.

“Uh huh,” Tobin nods, “I didn’t go down his aisle the whole show, I didn’t want to talk to him,” she says, shrugging, “It’s still too fresh.” She takes a drink of her wine, “So, he comes over, like swaggering, all full of himself, picking up a catalog and looking through it, frowning as he flips the pages. So, I just say hi and start packing while he’s standing there. Then he starts talking,” she huffs, aggravated, “and he’s like, I can’t wait to sell this stuff, and he hasn’t introduced himself or anything, but I’m really not in the mood to being social with him you know?”

Christen nods, she realizes it has to be touchy to be approached like that.

“So, then he starts talking about how his group can get so much more stuff in the catalog, we repeat so many products and it’s wasted space. Then he’s wondering why certain foam balls are more money, grinning at me, asking if we’re making a huge profit on them.”

Christen frowns, her teeth showing, knowing this isn’t going to end well. “You didn’t yell at him, did you?” she asks quietly, thinking she would probably snap at this doofus.

“Oh, no,” Tobin says, her jaw tense, “I just let him talk, and now he’s asking me why we offer such a wide variety of basketballs and explain that each state has a certain ball each state adopts as the official ball for elementary, middle school and high school play, and also certain customers are brand loyal so we offer a nice variety in a multitude of price points. He rolls his eyes, saying that’s too much inventory, and I just say, well it’s our second highest selling category but what do I know.” She finishes her wine, licking her lips,
“So he introduces himself, giving me his card, he’s the Midwest sales manager or some bullshit. Then he has the nerve to say next year the booth will be bigger with more staff that can sell ice to eskimoes. He picks my card up and asks if this is me and I say yeah,” she says, clenching her fists, “and then I told him to have fun while he runs the catalog into the ground and maybe he should try to learn the P.E. industry so he doesn’t come off as such an idiot.”

“Tobin!” Christen exclaims, bringing her hand to her mouth.

“Yeah, I know,” Tobin frowns, “but he was such an asshole. Anyway, I told him I need to pack and if he thinks these teachers won’t recognize you’re trying to sell crap to them he’s got another thing coming. Then he left.”

“Oh, honey,” Christen frowns, “that’s awful.”

“Yeah,” she says lowly, “if he’s a representative of how this company operates, I want nothing to do with it,” she says.

“Are you going to tell your boss about it?” Christen asks, curious if she will. Tobin shrugs, “Maybe,” she says, “probably, just to see his reaction.”

“Well, tomorrow should be interesting, huh?” Christen asks.

Tobin leans her head back on the couch, “I think you’re right.”

“Let’s go to bed,” Christen stands up abruptly, “I don’t want to stay up late,” she says, extending her hand, “I’ve got plans for you,” she smirks at her as she pulls Tobin up.

 

XXXX

 

 

“First class? Really?” Christen looks over her glasses at Tobin as they settle into their seats on the plane.

“Nothing but the best for you, babe,” Tobin grins, pushing up her glasses and pulling her hair into her funky bob/half pony thing she does. Christen still can’t understand how she pulls it off and looks so good. They’ve stowed their backpacks and Tobin is ready to stretch out, but she can’t before they take off. She gets distracted with the champagne, downing it quickly and trying to sneak Christen’s. Christen has her book and phone and earbuds, ready to read for a bit or listen to a podcast. Tobin has her earbuds, intent on napping as soon as she can.

She knows Tobin is tired, her last couple of days have been emotional and eventful. Thursday she did meet with her boss, handing over the business card of the guy from the new company and telling him the story of his visit to her booth. Her boss was shocked and upset by it, but he chastised Tobin for being rude to him. He urged her to set aside her emotions and predisposition of how this new company operates, reminding her that she would be employed by them. Tobin apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again. Later that afternoon, he informed her she had a half an hour to prepare for a conference call with their marketing department. When she questioned why she had so little time to prepare, he explained he forgot to tell her when he got the email, he’s just been so busy. That night, Tobin quietly raged about how pissed she was at him taking their side.

She met Allie and Alex for breakfast the next morning before work, the three of them commiserating with how in one weeks’ time their boss was so stressed out he was making everyone miserable. During her morning, she got a phone call from Jesse, the creator of PERT. She was confused with an email she was sent, a new contract that Tobin knew nothing about. Normally Tobin would be copied on everything sent to PERT, especially the contract, she wrote the original one last year. This new contract wanted her to agree to be exclusive only to Portland P.E. for the next five years. Tobin told her to hang on, she got up and closed her office door, then sat back down to talk. She told her not to sign it, respond that she received it and would get back to them. Tobin asked her if Steve had called her to let her know he sold the company and he hadn’t. Jesse emailed her the contract, Tobin emailed it to her burner email and told her to hang tight.

Christen didn’t see Tobin that night, as she was packing for their trip and Tobin spent the evening speaking with Jesse while she packed. When they were together Friday night, Tobin told her how she was considering something big. She was thinking of joining Jesse as her sales lead. Maybe even buying her out. A lot of things were up in the air, they were just talking right now, but Jesse was upset that Tobin’s boss was pulling this five year exclusive thing out of thin air. Christen asked her if this was something she really wanted to do or if it was an emotional response to him selling the business. Tobin looked shocked at her suggestion, she actually flinched when she said it. She took a minute, thinking it over and quietly admitting that it was a possibility and she was going to think about it while they were in Hawaii and figure it out. Her and Jesse would talk and see what they could come up with.

So, here they were at a cruising altitude, sipping champagne and relaxing, heading to Hawaii where Tobin would make some decisions about her time at Portland P.E. and figure out her path.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

As they navigate from the airport to the resort, Christen is thankful she has the resort address and reservation details. Tobin is rapidly fading, even though she slept through most of the flight, she looks exhausted and Christen can clearly see how much she’s struggling to physically make it to the room. Once they arrive, she perks up a little, touring the bungalow with her, explaining it’s the same one she’s stayed at for the last three years. She points out little details of the place, showing Christen where the room service menu is, the map of the resort, the view from the veranda of the ocean that is just yards away.

Once she shows her the bedroom, Christen can see how her shoulders slump and that’s when she guides her to the bed, pulling the light comforter back, encouraging her to kick off her sandals and slide under the covers.

Christen tours the bungalow once more, taking her time and smiling at being in such in beautiful place. There is a large living room adjacent to the open kitchen area and upon checking the cabinets, she’s surprised to see them stocked with familiar items. The fridge contains juice, water, beer, some packaged chicken and steaks. There’s a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter and a gift basket with bottles of wine and an assortment of cheeses and nuts.

Tobin doesn’t stir as Christen unpacks most of her large suitcase, hanging up clothes, putting more in the dresser and organizing her toiletries in the bathroom. She changes into shorts and a tank top, deciding to sit out on the veranda and read her book. She grabs a beer and finds a little bowl to put some macadamia nuts in and heads out.

A few hours later, after demolishing the entire package of nuts, Christen decides to wake Tobin up so they can eat dinner. She enters the bedroom, tilting her head as she pauses to look at Tobin. It appears she’s in the same position from when she first laid down, on her stomach, head to the side, a hand under the pillow and her legs splayed out under the comforter. She’s on the near side of the bed, so Christen approaches and kneels down, laying a hand on the mattress.

“Tobin,” she calls out softly, using her fingers to pull some loose hair from Tobin’s face, “Tobin, honey,” she calls again. Tobin makes this high pitched squeak, frowning a little and shifting her head. “Tobin,” Christen repeats, “come on, it’s time to wake up, we need to eat,”

“Sleep,” she croaks, “so tired,” she says, sniffing and lifting her hand to rub at her face.

“I know, baby,” Christen says tenderly, “but you need to eat something,” she states, “you haven’t had anything since breakfast,”

Tobin groans, rolling onto her side, sighing again and opening her eyes to squint at her, “Hi,” she says, giving her a soft smile.

Christen smiles back, “Hi, sweetheart,” she says, “you wanna look at the room service menu? Just tell me what to order and you can sleep a little more,”

“What time is it?” she questions, rubbing at her eyes.

“It’s almost seven,” Christen replies, rising up from her knees, “I’ll be right back,” she leaves the room and retrieves the menu, coming back to find Tobin yawning and sitting up against the headboard.

“I’m sorry I slept so long,” she apologizes, looking at her with regret.

“Nonsense,” Christen shakes her head, “you’re tired,” she states, moving to sit next to her on the bed, scooting over so their legs and shoulders are touching, “it’s okay,”

Tobin gives her a grateful smile, “Thanks,” she says, taking the menu she hands her.

“I’m thinking either the Miso Butterfish or the Braised Short Ribs,” Christen informs her.

Tobin purses her lips together, nodding as she looks over the menu, “Wanna split them and get the Yellowfin Sashimi appetizer?”

“Sounds good to me,” She replies, leaning over to kiss her lips, “I’ll call it in,” she says, sliding off the bed and leaving the room.

 

 

“That was amazing,” Christen declares, leaning back on the patio chair and pushing her plate away. They had dinner on the veranda, enjoying the ocean scent and the warm breeze.

“Both the fish and beef were outstanding,” Tobin grins at her, “full?”

“So full,” she sighs, grinning back at her, “I was so hungry,”

“You should have woken me up earlier,” Tobin frowns, “or just order something for yourself,”

“It was fine,” Christen shrugs, “I ate all the macadamia nuts, then realized how hungry I was,”

Tobin nods, “Want to help me get all this back on the tray and then go take a walk on the beach?”

Christen smiles, pushing her chair, “Yeah, babe,” she says, “that sounds nice.”

After Tobin calls room service to let them know the tray is ready and the two leave the bungalow from the patio, walking just yards to the surf, letting their feet feel the water as they walk. The sun is low in the sky, casting blinding ripples of light on the ocean waves.

“Can I ask you something?” Tobin squeezes Christen’s hand.

“Of course,” she smiles back, but her smile fades slightly seeing how serious Tobin is.

Tobin stops walking and looks at her, “Do you think I have a savior complex?”

Christen raises her eyebrows, taken aback by her question. “Um, no, I don’t,” she answers slowly, “I do think you’re empathetic to your friends and family and have an honest motivation to help them through tough times,”

“You don’t think I use my money to make things better, no matter what the price is?” Tobin asks, searching her eyes.

“I haven’t witnessed you doing that,” Christen replies honestly, looking her in the eyes, “and I certainly don’t feel that you would do anything like that to feed your ego or anything or make yourself out to be the hero.”

Tobin is nodding slowly, listening to her, then she bites her lip, pulling it in as she thinks. She starts to walk slowly, still holding Christen’s hand.

After a few minutes, Christen is curious. “Do you think you have a savior complex?”

Tobin looks at her sharply, “No, I don’t,” she says, then she drops her eyes, “someone said it to me once,” she adds softly.

Christen suspects it was her ex-girlfriend, thinking maybe it was something said in the heat of an argument, just by Tobin’s reaction and her tone. “Well,” she says, squeezing Tobin’s hand, “whoever said that is full of shit.” She declares with authority. She continues to rub her thumb over Tobin’s knuckles as they walk, not feeling the need to speak more on the topic. She feels Tobin will bring it up when or if she wants.

 

XXXX

 

The next day is a repeat of the first day, Tobin sleeping most of the day, Christen reading, napping and laying on the beach in the sun. She doesn’t mind at all, it’s relaxing and she didn’t even realize how much she needed to just do nothing until then. Her last few months have been busy, the stress of finding a new job, the move to Portland and adjusting to a new city. She’s so thankful for her group at the school, mostly Kelly, Ashlyn and Kyle. They’ve helped her adjust, honestly excited to have her there, and of course becoming friends with them has been wonderful.

On the third day, Tobin sleeps until eleven, then asks her if she wants to go eat somewhere. They both explore the resort, stopping for drinks in the bar, then eating at the casual outdoor restaurant, looking out at the ocean. They change into swimwear and play in the ocean for bit, then come back to their bungalow to shower. That leads to a bout of sex in the large shower, which leads to another round on the bed.

They nap after, both spent. When they get up, they sit on the veranda and Christen reads while Tobin has her nose in her phone. She’s jotting down notes in her journal, sometimes frowning and sometimes looking inspired. Once again, Christen refrains from asking questions, feeling secure Tobin will speak when she’s ready. Tobin falls asleep outside, frowning and flinching, obviously having a dream of some sort, mumbling and sighing noisily. Christen doesn’t wake her because she doesn’t seem too upset, thinking maybe it’s part of her process in gaining clarity in what’s on her mind.

She’s getting good at trusting her gut and it makes her proud. That’s why she doesn’t wake her, unless she grows agitated or very upset. She’s continually impressed with how perceptive Tobin is to her needs and moods and she’s finally feeling close to being on the same page with her in that regard.

She finishes her chapter and wakes her, Tobin waking a little confused and sleepy and just wanting to snuggle with her with for a bit. They go back into the bungalow, where she buries herself in Christen’s side while Christen scans the channels, awake and not feeling sleepy yet. She murmurs to her of wanting to do things on the island, maybe tomorrow afternoon but definitely on Thursday. Christen asks her what she wants to do and just smiles and tells her to pick whatever she wants. Christen agrees and lets it go, figuring it’s Tobin’s way to let her take the reigns for the day.

She stays up for another hour or so, leafing through the pamphlets to consider what they should do. She thinks a snorkel trip would be fun during the late morning, they could get lunch and then do the luau the resort provides that evening. Happy to have a plan, she heads for bed.

 

XXXX

 

 

The next morning, Christen watches Tobin sleep, daylight was creeping in through the windows, it had to be around six in the morning and she was wide awake. Even though they had spent little time actually sleeping, Christen feeling the delicious soreness in between her legs as she sits on the bed. She’s contemplating doing some yoga, since Tobin, thoughtful as ever, had made sure the resort provided a mat in their cabana upon their arrival. She refrains from reaching out and running her hands on Tobin’s strong back, instead admiring her physique with her eyes. A couple of weeks ago when she had stayed over, Christen wanted to go on a run, but it was chilly and raining sheets and she didn’t want to deal with it. Tobin offered her to use the treadmill in her basement, saying she wouldn’t mind getting in a workout either. She found it quite difficult to concentrate as she ran, her eyes glancing over to watch Tobin lifting weights. Her workout was quite impressive and it was very distracting watching Tobin’s muscles rippling as she worked out.

She smiles, thinking about how she attacked her in the shower after, unable to control her desire, needing to feel her all over, her hands on her skin, her silky soft skin with the underlying powerful muscles beneath. The memory spurs her into action, slowly sliding from the bed, quietly pulling open the drapes in their over front room, opening the windows to hear the waves.

She visits the bathroom to grab a towel, then her suitcase, still on the floor and uncharacteristically still half unpacked, rifling through it to find what she wants. Grabbing the items, she climbs back on the bed, setting them to her side as she slowly lowers herself next to Tobin. She pauses to put her hair back, using the band around her wrist and then begins placing gentle kisses on her back, working her way up, pulling Tobin’s hair to the side to expose her neck, latching her mouth on as she runs her fingers over her torso.
Tobin exhales deeply, moving her neck for Christen to have better access, her eyes still closed. She’s not sure if she’s dreaming or if this is really happening. Her body is growing warm, Christen’s fingers feel so good lazily running along her side, each pass going lower to her hip. “Mmmmm,” she moans, not wanting to move but wanting Christen to pick up the pace a little, she’s feeling herself grow wet, the knot low in her belly growing. She feels Christen’s weight shift, both of her hands snaking to her breasts, pressing her chest on her back, gliding slowly up and down on her.

“You like that, baby?” Christen’s hot breath is in her ear, making Tobin shiver, her tongue licking at her before dropping down to her neck while her fingers are teasing her nipples.

“Oh, God, Chris,” Tobin groans, “don’t stop,” she says, shifting her legs wider with need. One of Christen’s hands begins to move lower, teasing Tobin for a moment before sliding in and running two fingers through her folds. Tobin arches her neck to bring her head off the pillow, letting out a loud breath as she exhales. She feels dizzy in the best way right now, slowly grinding her hips for more pressure from Christen’s fingers, reveling in the feeling.

After a minute, Christen shifts as well, moving down kneel with her thighs on her calves between Tobin’s legs. She’s using her nails to rake long strokes down Tobin’s back, loving how the goosebumps pop up on Tobin’s flesh. She then grips her ass, deeply massaging the strong muscles, before using her hands to spread Tobin’s ass, pushing her hips up to lick through her center.

Tobin issues a deep groan, “Fuck,” she utters, “that feels so good, Chris,” she breathes out, keeping her hips raised as Christen angles her head and fucks her with her tongue. She pulls back before Tobin wants her to, “Chris, please,” she begs.

“You want something more?” Christen questions teasingly.

“Yes, please,” Tobin pleads, “fuck me,” she breathes harshly.

“You want the cock, baby?” Christen offers, rubbing Tobin’s labia with her thumbs as she holds on to her ass.

“Oh yeah, babe,” Tobin spits out, her need so intense. Christen grabs a pillow, “Lift,” she commands and Tobin raises from the mattress as she slides the pillow under her hips. She slowly strokes Tobin with two fingers as she inserts the Feeldoe into herself, letting out a moan of her own as it enters her. She knows Tobin won’t need any lube, she’s soaking wet. Christen scoots up against Tobin’s ass, holding the silicone cock and lowering it to rub it against Tobin’s slit. She slowly moves back and forth, a gentle easy pace, feeling the little rubber ridges against her own clit, making her issue a soft moan. Slowly she scratches her nails down Tobin’s back, then she uses one hand to guide the member into her.

Tobin can’t control the noise that’s coming from the back of her throat as she feels the cockhead entering her. Her hands grip the sheets, bunching them up alongside her head, raising her hips up to accept the length as Christen slowly guides it into her depths. Christen pauses to give Tobin a minute to adjust to the feeling, counting her inhales in her head as she massages Tobin’s hips. Then she starts to slowly pull back and then push forward again, a smile crossing her face as she closes her eyes and lets her hips move.

“You like how this cock feels, baby?” Christen asks, her voice low and sultry, then she moans herself because the little silicone nubs are hitting her clit just so.

“Feels so good,” Tobin breathes, spreading her legs just a little more.

After a few minutes, Christen bends forward, planting her hands to the sides of Tobin’s torso, then lies on her back without stopping her easy thrusts. She lets her head fall forward, turning her face to rest her cheek on Tobin’s glistening back. Her hands dip under to once again grasp Tobin’s breasts, making her smirk when she hears Tobin’s groan as she flicks her nipples. She increases her pace, letting her hips snap just a little and then she lets them rotate a bit. She lifts her head, kissing up Tobin’s shoulder, getting to her neck where she bites her sharply, then soothes over it with her tongue.

They both lose time with how long Christen keeps up the easy pace, working Tobin up and gently easing off to bring her down. Christen hasn’t let Tobin cum yet, taking this slow and gentle, letting them both just enjoy the feel. She’s fucking her sensually, using some of the tantric principles of pleasure she’s read about. She pauses her thrusts, growing still within her, lazily licking at her neck. Tobin lifts her head, twisting her shoulders to find Christen and kiss her passionately.

“Fuck, Chris,” Tobin mutters, “should I turn over?”

“No,” she replies, suddenly needing to get off, “I wanna take you from behind,” she declares firmly, “kiss me,” she commands and Tobin willingly complies. After they kiss, Christen pulls away, getting up on her hands, then her knees, delivering a sharp smack on Tobin’s ass, “In the air,” she orders, pulling Tobin’s hips up as she starts to thrust into her again. Tobin goes up on her knees and forearms, bracing herself as Christen begins to move harder. Christen can hear the short breathless cries from Tobin each time she plunges into her with the slap of her thighs against Tobin’s ass.

“So close,” Tobin pants, slamming her head into the mattress, swearing into the sheets. The feeling of being filled up, the delicious sensation of the cock moving through her tight rings, hitting her g-spot is making her sweat and shake. Hearing Christen beginning to moan as she repeatedly slams the cock into her, being in this position where Chris has all the control, it’s becoming too much for Tobin. Christen’s close too and knows her release will happen from watching and hearing Tobin come undone. She leans forward, gripping Tobin’s shoulder with one hand, pulling her up, reaching up to gather her wild mane of hair, gripping at the base of her neck, tugging it back, flattening Tobin against her chest, using her other hand to reach down and circle Tobin’s clit. She feels Tobin’s hand on the outside of her thigh, one on her wrist keeping her hand in place, Tobin’s hips jerking with her and legs are quivering.

“Oh, fuck…” Tobin moans, losing her balance as she falls forward, Christen easing her onto the mattress, still in her. Tobin groans when she falls on her, then Christen gives her four sharp thrusts, moaning loudly as she comes hard, hearing Tobin cry out, flinching and jerking beneath her as the aftershocks course through her. Christen is panting, her cheek on Tobin’s back, feeling how Tobin’s breathing rapidly. Her hips jerk from an aftershock, making them both cry out softly.

Christen pushes herself up, leaning over to grab the towel and spread it under Tobin’s hips, then she slowly pulls out from her, watching a trickle of fluids escape with the Feeldoe. She grips the base and pulls down, letting it slide out from within her, making her issue a soft moan. Using the edge of the towel, she wipes herself and then Tobin, wrapping the dildo in the towel and tossing it off the bed. Then she lies next to Tobin, facing her.

Tobin is lying there, her breathing now steady, eyes closed, her hand near her head, her other hand sprawled out to the side. Christen lays her leg over one of hers, snuggling close, both of their heads on the mattress, the pillows having been tossed to the side.

She studies her face, how her cheeks are red from exertion, her face coated with a light sheen of sweat. Christen notices for the first time since last Friday, Tobin’s face isn’t lined with worry. She’s peaceful. Tobin twitches her nose, her hand moving, a finger scratching at the side of it. She drops her hand down and sniffles and Christen thinks it’s the cutest thing she’s ever seen. Then Tobin slowly opens her eyes, the one against the mattress is kind of smushed down.

“Morning,” she says sleepily, her voice low and hoarse.

“Hi, beautiful,” Christen whispers, raising her hand, her finger lightly bopping the tip of Tobin’s nose. They both giggle a little.

“Well, that was an amazing start to our day,” Tobin arching an eyebrow, “how you feeling?”

“I feel great,” Christen replies, finding Tobin’s hand and linking them together, “that was wonderful,”

“You were a little bossy,” Tobin smirks, “I liked it,”

“Sometimes you need it,” she replies with a smirk as well.

Tobin rolls her eyes and snorts, “You got that right,” she chuckles.

“Can you sleep?” Christen asks and then yawns as she relaxes, “I think I can for a while,”

“Yeah, me too,” Tobin nods slowly, “I gotta pee first,” she states, slowly extricating herself from Christen’s limbs. Christen’s eyes follow Tobin as she crosses the room and disappears from her view. She shifts on the mattress, smiling as she lets out a contented sigh, feeling spent and still buzzing from her powerful orgasm. Sex with Tobin is only getting better.

When Tobin returns, crawls into bed, leaning towards Christen, “Will you kiss me, please?”

Christen smiles widely as she reaches forward, kissing her. It’s a soft lingering kiss and Christen can taste the minty toothpaste on Tobin. When they break, Tobin rolls over onto her back, scooting close to her and Christen gladly places her head on her chest, wanting to feel the steady rise and fall of her breathing. They listen to the ocean outside their bungalow, the waves crashing on the shore allowing them both fall asleep quickly.

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen walks through the open sliding glass door, spotting Tobin on the large cushion, sprawled on it, her arm hanging over the side, drink in hand, looking so relaxed. She snaps a quick photo of her with her phone, then walks out on the veranda, taking a minute to look at the ocean before standing next to her.

“How’s it going?” Tobin asks, looking up at her, squinting from the sun.

“I’m good, babe,” she smiles down at her, “you?”

Tobin nods, then pats the cushion next to her and Christen sits down, “It’s so beautiful here, isn’t it?”

Christen nods, “It is,” she agrees, “what’s your plan for the day?”

“Wanna go for a swim?” she asks, then sees that Christen is dressed for the day, “or not,”

Christen pats her leg, “Go swim,” she says, “I think I’m going to check out the resort a little,” she says, standing up, “do a little scouting around for somewhere to eat later,”

Tobin grabs at her hand, “Are you sure?” she asks, looking at her intently.

“Yeah, babe,” Christen nods, an easy smile on her face, “go do your thing,” she says, “swim, nap, whatever you would normally do,” she leans do and kisses her, then straightens up, holding up her phone. “Just text me if you want to meet up, I might do some shopping,”

Tobin doesn’t look convinced.

“Honey,” Christen sits back down, placing her hand on her leg, “it’s fine, I want you to relax and rest and sleep and do whatever you need to do to,” she assures her, “I’ll go wander around, check things out and later, if you want, we could to go out for dinner,” she says, “if not, we’ll do room service. We talked about this,”

Tobin licks her lips and slowly nods, “Okay,” she says, scrunching up her mouth, “let’s go out for dinner, say around seven? I’ll make sure I nap and stuff and get ready,”

“Okay, we’ll do casual tonight,” Christen agrees, squeezing her leg and standing again, “I’ll see you later, babe.”

“Alright,” Tobin says, taking a sip of her juice, “I’ll text you later,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

After a satisfying meal at one of the resort bars and a couple of games pool, in which Christen embarrassingly wiped up Tobin in the first game, badly enough for her to demand two rematches only to hit the cue ball once each game before Christen ran the table again, the two are strolling hand in hand along the lit path back to their bungalow. Christen could tell Tobin was tired but she was determined to hang out for a bit. The air is warm, probably only in the seventies, but it feels warm to them now that the days and nights in Portland are in the fifties.

They take their time while having sex with one another, slowly building each other up multiple times before pressing further to their release. It’s soft and meaningful. They sleep with Christen holding Tobin, the dark haired woman sensing Tobin needs it. Without saying anything, Tobin has been subdued, still being social and having a good time, teasing Christen while they played pool, pouting exaggeratedly as she racked up her losses at the table. But there’s a certain reserve about her, it gives Christen the impression that Tobin’s thoughts about her job aren’t very far from her. So, she distracts her, shaking her ass lining up her pool shots, seductively using the pool cue, letting her hand dip down to touch Tobin ass. She cracks jokes that are as corny as hell, making Tobin laugh and ask her if she gets them from Big Daddy or does he have better ones. She keeps her distracted and works for a bit.

Christen understands what she signed up for or at least she believes so. Tobin is here to decompress and clear her mind and recharge from the whirlwind that has been her life for the last two months. Processing the sale of the company is just an added unpleasant bonus. She’s not sure exactly what she can offer to help Tobin through this, but she firmly believes she should just trust her gut and her heart.

The next day, Christen lets Tobin sleep in the morning. She does her yoga, she meditates, establishing her routine once again, clearing her mind. When her stomach won’t stop rumbling, she eats breakfast alone, raiding the stocked kitchen and making an omelette and a dish of fresh fruit, eating while she sits on the veranda, watching the ocean and beachgoers. There are some surfers in the water that catch her eye and she watches how they ride the waves, impressed with their balance and skill.

After she eats, she changes into her bikini, taking her book and sunglasses on the veranda and lying on the cushions, stretched out while she reads. She drifts to sleep for a little bit until the sun grows too hot on her, waking her up to retreat to the shade of the veranda. She enters in the bungalow, stopping to check on Tobin, smiling when she sees her sleeping form, spread out, a foot hanging off the bed, her hair wildly splayed on the pillow. She quietly steps to the foot of the bed, snapping a couple of pics on her phone before going to the kitchen and retrieving a water bottle. She’s back on the veranda, engrossed in her book when she hears Tobin speak through the open windows of the bedroom.

“Chris?” she calls out, sounding confused.

“I’m out here, honey,” Christen calls back, looking expectantly over to the sliding door for her entrance.

Tobin appears in the doorway, holding a bottle of water looking at her sleepily, “Hi,” she greets, squinting at her.

“Hi, sweetie, how are you?” Christen asks as she sets her book down and stands up to walk over to her. She gives her a peck on the lips and a hug, “Did you sleep well?” she asks as Tobin lingers in her arms. She feels Tobin nod against her neck and side of her head. “How about you freshen up and I’ll make you breakfast? Or maybe brunch, I’m kind of hungry too,”

Tobin pulls her head back to look at her, “Bacon?”

Christen can’t help but smile, “Bacon it is,” she chuckles, “and some fruit and some other stuff, I’ll figure it out.”

Tobin gives her a quick kiss, “Thank you,” she says, her voice hoarse and low, “I’ll be quick,”

It’s only about ten minutes later when Tobin shuffles into the kitchen and immediately helps Christen finishing their brunch. Christen notices she’s still yawning as she works, quietly slicing the strawberries Christen washed, occasionally brushing against Christen’s shoulder. It’s then that Christen decides Tobin should just chill again today and she’ll just go shopping. Just from her quick glances as she removes the bacon from the frying pan, she can tell Tobin needs it.

After a few sips of coffee, Tobin become more vocal. She asks Christen her plans for the day and Christen chuckles as she tells her about the stores located on the other side of the resort that one of the concierge workers her told her about. Tobin surprises her by mentioning maybe they could book a snorkel tour on Thursday and then go to the luau the resort holds nightly. Christen beams at her, telling her she’s already made the reservations yesterday. Tobin grins at her and follows it up with suggesting they go through the pamphlets Christen brought back to the room she received the other day and decide what else they want to do. They both finish their meals with more gusto, smiling at each other and talking about whatever comes to mind.

 

XXXX

 

 

The heavens had opened upon Christen’s return to the bungalow and just as she was about to text Tobin, the woman came in through the sliding door off the veranda dripping wet, breathing heavy with a wild grin on her face.

“Hi!” she exclaims, her eyes wild, slicking her hair back, “How was shopping?”

“Where were you?” Christen asks, “You’re soaked.”

Tobin shivers suddenly, rubbing her upper arms, “Let me get dried off and I’ll tell you, okay?” she asks, waiting for christen to nod and she trots off the bathroom. Christen checks the open windows to see if any rain is coming in, shutting the ones on the side of the living room. Then she goes to the kitchen, opening one of the bags she brought in and removing a six pack of beer and some snacks. She puts the beer in the fridge and places the snacks in the cupboard.

Tobin eyes the bags on the chair in the living room as she passes, looking at Christen expectantly. “Whatdya get?” she asks, smiling at her.

“Where were you?” Christen asks, lifting an eyebrow at her.

“Oh, yeah,” Tobin nods, “I was a couple of miles down the beach,” she says excitedly, “there’s a super cool cove over there,” she nods at her, “we should check it out.”

“Sounds neat,” Christen agrees, “we should check the weather and see when it will clear up,”

Tobin grins, “So, how was shopping?” she asks, nods towards the bags.

“Oh! I got you something!” Christen exclaims, “I found this awesome vintage store,” she says as she gets up from the couch, grabbing the bags and bouncing down on the cushion next to her. “I found some gifts for my family,” she says excitedly, smiling widely at Tobin, “I think they’ll like them!” She begins to dig around the bag, one by one showing Tobin the neat items she’s found and who she intends to give them to.

In her last bag, Christen pulls out a long flowy sundress, mostly white with yellow, red and light orange hibiscus flowers on it. “This is for me,” she smiles, standing up and holding it in front of her.

“That’ll look wonderful on you, babe,” Tobin looks up and down, her eyes crawling over her appreciatively.

“Thank you,” she smiles, teasingly posing, swaying from side to side for her. Then she sets it down, pulling another out. “I found something for you,” she announces, unfurling the
fabric to show a short sleeved classic Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirt. It’s also white and has two lines of light tan hibiscus flowers going down the front in an understated manner.

“Chris, it’s awesome!” Tobin exclaims, standing up to look at it. Christen hands it to her and Tobin carefully feels the silky fabric, then holds it up to herself, “How’s it look?”

Christen smiles broadly, “Terrific,” she says, “you’re gonna look so hot wearing those with your khaki shorts and sandals.

“I’ll wear it to the luau tomorrow night,” Tobin grins at her, “will you wear your dress?”

Christen nods, “I will.”

Tobin gives her a quick kiss, “Thanks, babe, I love this shirt,” she says, holding it front of her at arms- length to look it over approvingly. She drops it to her side, still holding it and steps forward to wrap her other arm around Christen, pulling her close. “Thanks, babe,” she says seriously, “I really love it,” she says smiles at her and then gives her a lingering kiss.

“You’re very welcome,” Christen replies with a smile, looking at her, “I like picking out clothes for you,” she admits.

Tobin gives her a closemouthed smile, her eyes full of amusement, “You do?” she asks, rubbing Christen’s sides.

“I do,” she nods, “not gonna lie,” she says, letting her hands fall to Tobin’s ass, “I find it a turn on,”

“Is that so,” Tobin says, kissing her softly, “then we certainly have to go shopping,” she kisses her again, “but only if I get to buy clothes for you, too,” she grins, smacking Christen’s ass.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

“Back to reality,” Tobin frowns as she slides into her seat and buckles her seatbelt.

Christen frowns, “Yeah,” she says as she sits down after stowing her purse, “good thing I don’t go back to school for a few more weeks,” she grins.

“At least I don’t go back to the office until Monday,” Tobin comments, scrunching up her nose with disdain.

“How are you feeling about that?” Christen asks. It’s the first time she’s directly addressed it. Since Tobin brought it up, she figures it’s the proper follow up question. The times before, it was mostly Tobin venting about it, so she held back from asking questions.

“Well,” Tobin says, squirming in her seat to get comfortable, “I think I’m going to stick it out for a while,” she says, “it won’t be a year until major things start happening, so I think I’ll go with the flow,” she frowns, “Unless Steve continues being so crazy, then I’ll have to really think about it.”

“Did you talk to Jesse about the contract?”

Tobin nods, “Yeah, I did,” she says, “I told her about the sale of the business too. We talked for a while when you were shopping a few of those days,” she grins at her, “she asked for my opinion and I told her she shouldn’t agree to an exclusive deal. It would limit her abilities to get the products out there. Having it sold only through herself and Portland P.E. without giving her the option to sell it through other vendors is ridiculous.”

Christen nods, “Have you thought about what you might do next year as well?”

“Jesse and I talked about me joining her and promoting PERT,” she answers.

Christen smiles, “Tobin, you would be so awesome doing that,” she says, squeezing her hand, “it would be perfect for you.”

Tobin smiles at her, “Yeah, it would be a sweet gig,” she says, “Jesse would love it, since she’s still teaching and doesn’t have time to fully promote it.”

They turn their attention to the flight attendants as they run through the safety features of the aircraft and prepare for takeoff. Christen leans over to watch the islands disappear from view and then settles back in her seat. “This was a wonderful trip,” she says, leaning over and kissing Tobin, “thank you for inviting me.”

Tobin smiles, “Thank you for your patience the first couple of days,” she replies, “I think we really made up for it after though,”

Christen gives her a slightly exasperated look, “First of all,” she says with what Tobin calls her teacher voice, “you told me ahead of time what you would be like,” she says, “and it was fine. I really enjoyed having some time to explore on my own, yet still come back to you. I was able to read a couple of books I wanted to, took some time to relax. It was fun. Secondly, I loved everything we did.” She smiles broadly at her.

Tobin smiles, “What was your favorite?”

“You have to guess that,” Christen replies, smirking at her a little.

“Okay,” Tobin says, dragging out the word, thinking for a moment. “The luau when they pulled you up to dance?”

Christen shakes her head, “That was your favorite,” she jokes.

“Can’t argue with that,” Tobin quips, then scrunches her mouth as she thinks, “seeing the sea turtles and whales?” Christen shakes her head.

“The hike we did?”

“Going over to check out Waikiki?”

“That dinner on the beach?”

“Paddle boarding? When we stayed up talking and watched the sun rise?”

“That one was good, but no.” Christen answers with a head shake.

“The night we stayed in and got drunk?”

Christen giggles and shakes her head.

Tobin looks around and then lowers her voice, leaning in close to her, “The time you had me, you know?” she asks hurriedly, referring to an evening that Tobin had tied her up and used the Feeldoe on her.

“No,” she says, smiling, “but we’re definitely doing that again.”

Tobin thinks for a moment. “When we went to the animal shelter because you missed the dogs?”

Christen just keeps shaking her head, her smile growing wider the more Tobin keeps questioning her.

“Chris,” she whines, giving her the look that makes her melt. “Come on, tell me.”

“You want to know what the best part of this whole trip was?” Christen asks, “My most favorite thing about it?”

Tobin nodding, “I do,”

Christen raises their joined hands, kissing Tobin’s knuckles, “My favorite thing about this trip,” she says, looking at Tobin with such joy in her eyes, Tobin can’t stop smiling, “was waking up next to you every day.”

Tobin feels as if her heart could burst in her chest, seeing how Christen is looking at her. The happiness she’s feeling is so great. “Mine too, babe,” she says, feeling the prick of joyful tears in her eyes, “mine too,” she says, leaning over to kiss her softly.

“Honey?” Christen looks at her seriously, “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, babe,” Tobin replies, tilting her head when she sees her serious expression.

“I know you really like doing presentations and working with schools,” Christen begins, “and you like to travel to different cities and all of that,” she licks her lips, feeling uncertain about how to exactly bring this up without upsetting or offending Tobin.

“What is it, babe?” Tobin asks, twisting in her seat to look at her closely.

Christen twists to face her as well, “It’s just that you’re in such a unique position,” she opens with, “you kind of have the opportunity to like, have a do over, you know?”

Tobin is steadily looking at her, “Okay,” she says slowly, not really understanding her just yet.

“You have the ability to do anything in the world you would with your life,” Christen says, keeping her voice low, “are you sure there isn’t something else you’d want to try than selling the curriculum?”

Tobin’s eyes widen as she speaks, “Like what, though?” she asks, “This is all I know,”

Christen smiles at her, “You have so many interests, babe,” she says, “what about art or soccer?”

Tobin grimaces, “Art?” she squeaks, “Chris, I don’t know if I have it in me to hear people’s opinions on how much I suck,”

Christen shakes her head, “What about soccer? You’re easily the best player in the league,”

“Babe,” Tobin shakes her head at her, “even if that’s true, what would I do with that? I’m twenty-five years old, no college experience.”

“The Thorns hold open tryouts,” Christen replies with a shrug.

Tobin’s mouth drops open.

“You play every session at pick up, you’re in better shape than anyone that plays,” Christen continues, “even HAO,”

Tobin’s mouth is moving but she can’t produce words.

“All I’m saying is you shouldn’t sell yourself short,” Christen says, squeezing her hand, “think big. Think of your dreams. What you want to do. You can afford to find the best trainers and coaches to get you ready to tryout if you really wanted to if your dream is to play for the Thorns. If your dream is to paint, you can find the best teachers. You’re just in this incredibly awesome position to go big and do exactly whatever it is you want. So, chase it.”

Tobin looks at her, her eyes still wide. “I never thought of it that way,” she says softly, “I guess I’m so stuck in the company and working and everything it kept me from even thinking of doing something completely different.”

Christen smiles at her, leaning over to kiss her softly, “Whatever you want to chase,” she says quietly, “I’ll be right here,” she squeezes her hand again, “every step of the way.”

The both settle back in their seats, reclining them to relax, still holding hands. Christen closes her eyes, thinking a lot about love as she slowly drifts off to nap. Tobin’s head is turned out the window, watching the clouds, thinking of her dreams.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Wait, slow down,” Tobin says, looking up at Ali, “they want to what?”

“We have a video chat in ten minutes with the new graphics people to talk about how we do our catalog.” Ali informs her, looking frazzled and quite unhappy.

“When did this go down?” Tobin asks, bewildered, it’s her first day back and she hasn’t even had a chance to check her emails from the over the weekend yet, she’s only been at her desk for ten minutes. While she was gone, she did check them daily although since the catalog is complete, she’s not in touch with the vendors right now so she didn’t have much going on.

“Our beloved leader just told me,” Ali snorts, rolling her eyes. She’s referring to their boss, Steve. Even thought the company has been sold, he is still the president of the company until he steps down in March.

“Where is he?” Tobin demands, rising to her feet.

“He left,” Ali shakes her head, “he told me about the meeting and said he had to go because he has another ‘meeting’,” she air quotes, looking pissed.

Tobin sighs as she sits down, feeling frustrated. She looks at Ali, “Well, I guess we’re winging it then,” she says wryly.

“We’ll look like fools,” Ali mutters, crossing her arms and frowning.

“Well, let’s do it in your office and we can look like fools together,” she suggests, grabbing her catalog notebook and her coffee.

 

 

Ali closes the video screens and glances at her clock, “That was two hours of Hell,” she states flatly, swiveling her chair to face Tobin. Tobin nods glumly. The two are silent for a minute.

“I don’t want to work for them.” Ali states, “Not if that’s how they run their department.”

Tobin nods at her, “It appears I do the job of five separate people they have.” She says, “What are they going to do? Make me choose one? I mean, if I had to only talk to vendors everyday, I’d go crazy,” she vents frustratedly, “or just write copy? Man, that would kill me,” she sighs noisily.

Ali nods with her, “Yeah, I like that I can go right to you for images and samples,” she says, “not have different people for each category. I don’t like it. It just seems like it would take longer to get everything I need.”

Tobin leans back in her chair, “We’re spoiled,” she sighs, “we had it so good here,” she says mournfully.

“I mean, I love that they have the latest software,” Ali reasons, “and the chat room feature is cool, except I don’t know why they just don’t use email, but the huge screens they have!” she chuckles, “I’m jealous of their computers.”

Tobin gives her a head nod, “They got all the shiny stuff,” she agrees, “their photobooth for products is pretty awesome,”

“But there’s no passion,” Ali says emphatically, “they admitted they don’t even know what half of the products they sell are or have a clue what they do,”

Tobin lets out another noisy sigh, “They’re all just little gears of a monster company,” she says, “and have you looked at their catalogs?”

Ali nods, crinkling her nose with distaste, “So boring and sterile,” she says, “even the preschool one, it doesn’t look happy,” Tobin nods in agreement.

“Did you see how they reacted when I told them what software we were using?” Ali asks.

Tobin laughs, “Yeah!” she cracks up, “They looked horrified!”

“Oh, that’s ancient,” Ali mimics the reply of the art director they were in conference with.

“And when we told them how we print the pages for proofreading,” Tobin laughs, “they couldn’t speak!”

“You don’t do it on a screen?” Ali mimics the art director again. Then she slaps Tobin’s shoulder, “Then you said we live under rocks in Oregon!”

“Hey!” Tobin recoils, laughing, “You were the one who said we didn’t get good internet connections because of all the trees!”

The two are laughing hard, tears in their eyes when Ali’s door opens, Allie poking her head in. “Are you two okay in here?” she questions, looking closely at them.

That just makes them laugh harder, until Allie slips in and closes the door behind her. Tobin and Ali give her a condensed recap of their meeting.

“They think we’re hicks,” Ali declares when she has herself under control.

“They pretty much looked down on every procedure we have to produce the catalog.” Tobin states.

The side of Allie’s mouth curls into a snarl, “That sucks,” she growls. “The sales team had a meeting with their team just now,” she states and shakes their heads, “what a clusterfuck they are.”

“No wonder Steve has been so off his rocker lately,” Ali comments.

“He has?” Tobin questions, looking between the two.

“You haven’t gone through your bin yet, huh,” Allie frowns at her. Tobin shakes her head, “No, why?”

“It’s full of memos,” Ali informs her, rolling her eyes.

“Memos?” Tobin is bewildered. They rarely ever receive memos unless it was important.

“Uh huh,” Allie nods, “we have to copy him on every outgoing email from here on out. He states, that as the president of the company, he needs to know exactly what we are doing.”

Tobin rolls her eyes, “Great,” she snorts.

“The worse thing is he doesn’t even look at them,” Ali states, “I sent him an email, about the print job for the catalog, they had a question about it, he claims he never saw it.” She says with frustration.

“It appears he is a little overwhelmed, huh?” Tobin guesses.

“He’s so stressed out it’s awful,” Allie says without a hint of sympathy, “he’s taking it all out on us.”

Tobin’s first day back only gets worse after that. When Steve returns from his meeting, he stands over her desk, listing out a series of reports he wants before Christmas. When Tobin questions why he needs them now instead of January when she normally completes them when they have the full year of sales completed, he gets short with her for questioning him and tells her to just do it and leaves.

Mad as hell, Tobin writes in her notebook the list of items he wants, shaking her head at why he would want to look at this now, thinking how all the sales numbers would be skewed when compared to prior years. She makes a list of questions about the reports, since he was vague.

Still pissed, she types out a very professional email to him, listing out each report and the questions about the information he wants on them. She’s feeling petty and knows she could walk to his office and ask him, but after how he spoke to her, she doesn’t want to see his face.

“Hey, Tobin?” Ali asks from Tobin’s office door, “You have a minute?”

Tobin nods, seeing how Ali’s eyes widen at the expression on her face. “You okay?”

“Just got my first taste of Steve’s madness,” is her clipped response.

Ali’s grimace turns into a frown, “I can come back,” she says hesitantly.

“No, it’s cool,” Tobin gestures to her, “shut the door,” she says as Ali comes in.

“I was wondering about some reports,” she says, “I guess he hit me after you,” she shakes her head, “He wants me to pull our website numbers,” she says, “that’s all he says. Pull the numbers. Like, what does he want? Monthly sales? Views per page? Sales per state?”

Tobin is nodding with her, “Yeah,” she says with aggravation, jerking her thumb at her monitor, “I’m sending him a very detailed email asking exactly what he wants since he was vague and didn’t want me to ask him questions when he was here.”

“Ooh, I like that,” Ali comments, leaning in to look at the monitor, “oh, you are being just a tad bit snippy here, Ms. Heath,” she grins at her.

Tobin nods, “I can play asshole right back at him,” she states firmly, “and I’m not doing anything until I get an email back from him,” she grins back at her, “I don’t want to give him the wrong report.”

Ali looks at the monitor, “You know what?” She looks at Tobin, “It’s not worth working here if he’s going to be a monster like this until he’s gone,” she says sadly, “I don’t need this type of stress in my life, especially if SchoolMart isn’t going to hire me.”

Tobin nods, frowning at her, “I’m getting that feeling too,” she agrees, “hence this,” she nods at her monitor.

“I’m going to that too,” Ali says, “and I’m going to start looking,”

“I don’t blame you,” Tobin says sadly, “this isn’t fun anymore, even when it’s doing this stuff,”

Ali nods, “I love it here,” she says, “but he’s just…” she shakes her head, then she wipes her eyes, “I don’t need to work anywhere that makes me cry,” she chuckles darkly.

Tobin stands up and hugs her, suddenly feeling very convicted in working with Jesse with the curriculum. “If I come up with something, you want in?” she asks her, “I know I could use you,” she shrugs, “I’m not sure yet what I really want to do, but I think PERT would be amazing and Steve is dicking Jesse over with an exclusive clause in the contract. They’re going back and forth right now.”

Ali looks at her, “I’ll ride or die with you,” she says, nodding at her.

“Good,” Tobin says, “I’ve got an idea, and if Jesse with PERT agrees, we could do something pretty special.”

“Let me know how I can help,” Ali states, “I’m in.”

“We’ll probably have to stick around until the end of February,” Tobin cautions, looking at her intently.

“I can do it,” Ali says determinedly, “I’ve got two weeks vacation at the end of January,” she says.

“Okay,” Tobin nods, “I’ll let you know as soon as I know something concrete.”

She finishes her email to her boss, still pissed about how he treated her. Uncharacteristically, she spends the rest of her day sorting through files, occasionally looking for a reply from him and finding none. Before she leaves, she takes a few folders home with her, a slow beginning of her exodus from Portland P.E.

 

XXXX

 

Tobin is hugging me for an unusually long time, Christen thinks as they stand in the front entrance of Tobin’s house. Actually, she thinks, it’s more like clinging, she considers, moving her hand to rub her back. “How was your first day back?” she asks hesitantly.

“I don’t want to go back,” is Tobin’s muffled response and there’s such sorrow and frustration in her voice, it upsets Christen.

“Oh, honey,” she soothes, “what happened?”

Tobin slowly draws back to look at her, Christen frowns as she sees the tears streaking across her face. “It’s horrible,” she laments, her chin quivering, “everything is changing,” she says, sniffing, “they’re taking over everything,” she says, her features twisted with grief, “Steve was being a dick to me today,”

“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry,” Christen exclaims, pulling her back in to hug her tightly, hearing Tobin let out a sob. Khaleesi and Morena are right there, looking worried and making noises, nuzzling Tobin’s legs, aware something is wrong. Christen shoos them away and they retreat into the living room, sitting stiffly near the coffee table. Christen guides Tobin to the couch, sitting down together, still holding her.

“Everyone is so stressed out,” Tobin shares, “they want to change the insurance, the payroll system, the attendance policy,” she sniffs, “all the stuff that happens in a takeover is happening now,” she says, wiping at her eyes with the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

She looks at Christen, “It’s no fun anymore,” she says miserably, “Steve is going crazy, he’s putting these demands on everyone, he’s making everyone’s jobs harder and he’s being a dick about it to them.”

“I’m sure that had to be hard to come back to,” Christen murmurs beside her, running her hand on Tobin’s leg.

“Yeah,” Tobin sighs, “you know, everything I read about corporate takeovers is happening, like in the exact order of most of what I’ve read,”

Christen smiles in spite of herself. “What?” Tobin questions sharper than she intended. “Sorry” she mumbles.

“It’s just that I’m proud of you,” Christen states with a shrug. Tobin looks at her intently, “Huh?”

“You are being proactive,” Christen states, “you prepared yourself for this happening, you’re just feeling the shock of it occurring,” she says, “you’ll notice you haven’t ranted about the payroll, the insurance or attendance policy changes, just the fact that they’re happening,”

Tobin’s mouth drops open slightly as she realizes what’s she saying, “Yeah,” she says, surprised, “you’re right,” she gives her a small lopsided grin, “huh,” she says.

“Now you have to decide what you want to do,” Christen states, “your happiness lies in how you deal with this, you can play the game or take your ball and go home.”

“It’s just changing so fast,” Tobin says, “who knows what is going to happen tomorrow,”

Christen nods thoughtfully, “Isn’t that part of life, though?” she questions, “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, babe,” she says, “therefore you shouldn’t dwell on it, just live it,”

“Yeah,” she says, “I think I’m going to talk to Jesse and see how she’s feeling about everything,” she shrugs, “I just hope things don’t get worse,” her shoulders slump, “I guess I just need to get a thicker skin when Steve acts like an asshole.”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen believes Tobin is determined to not let her work situation ruin the holiday season. It’s not that she’s hiding anything from her, Christen just feels Tobin is glossing over the amount of stress in the office that she and her friends are feeling. She’s made a few comments, talking about how stressed out Steve is and how she feels bad that he feels that way, although it’s something he’s brought on himself. She thinks Steve might be regretting the decision to stay on while the transition occurs, he’s under the gun to provide sales numbers and reports to his new bosses.

She’s at her house tonight to celebrate their first Christmas together. She leaves for LA tomorrow to spend her holiday with her family, then returning to meet Tobin’s family on the twenty-seventh. Right now, they’re almost finished washing the dinner dishes, Tobin had grilled steaks and fresh veggies on her outdoor grill, saying a taste of summer in December was fun.

Tobin kept the portions intentionally small, they split the steak and a baked potato, only had a few grilled veggies, Tobin explaining she wanted them to able to munch on treats for the rest of the night. Christen laughed at her, thinking it was adorable, also remembering the crab dip she made and the cookies she couldn’t resist at the bakery she brought over.
They both agreed to be casual and comfortable tonight, Christen coming over in her fleece leggings and one of Tobin’s sweatshirts, Tobin in jogging pants and a t-shirt and flannel shirt. She was next to her in the kitchen asking what she could do to help. Tobin explains the split steak and potato, asking her to take care of it. As Christen was doing that, she notices Tobin was cutting the other steak into thin slices, then chopping them into smaller pieces. She then takes the remaining vegetables and cut them up as well.

“What are you doing?” she asks. Tobin grins at her, “Christmas dinner for the pups,” she explains, retrieving their food bowls and evenly portioning the steak and veggies into them.
Christen just stands there, watching her make the special meal for Khaleesi and Morena. Before she leaves her side, Christen reaches over and grabs Tobin by the front of her flannel, pulling her close and kissing her passionately.

“You’re so good to my babies,” Christen says. Tobin just smiles and shrugs and feeds the dogs.

 

Now they’re on the couch, both of them eying the packages under the tree marked with their names. Christen lifts her wine glass, savoring the taste. Tobin has once again surprised her, opening a bottle of Christen’s favorite wine from the winery in Napa.

“Let’s sit on the floor,” Tobin suggests, sliding off the cushion of the couch and scooting over to the tree. Christen stands up, finding her phone and putting on her Christmas playlist, setting the volume low for a nice background. She sits on the rug next to Tobin, knocking their shoulders together as she settles herself. Tobin laughs, laying a hand on her to make sure she doesn’t knock over her wine.

“You good?” she laughs, her eyes shining bright with excitement.

“Yeah,” Christen laughs, feeling giddy. A wave of emotions washes over her, “You know,” she says, her smile not leaving her face, “this is kind of big,” she says quietly, “our first Christmas.”

Tobin’s smile reflects the knowledge that she knows this as well, “Yeah,” she says, handing Christen her wine glass, “here’s to many more,” she offers, raising her glass. Christen touches her glass with her own, then they both take a sip of their wine.

“These last four months have been pretty amazing with you, Chris,” Tobin says, wrapping an arm around her shoulder, pulling her close, “I’m so grateful to have met you.” Christen looks at her, she sees she’s biting her lip, a sign of nerves.

“Me too,” Christen agrees, leaning in to kiss her softly.

“Chris,” Tobin says, there’s a little waver in her voice and when Christen leans her head on Tobin’s shoulder, “Yeah?”

“You want to know why I made Christmas dinner for Khaleesi and Morena?” Tobin asks, eying her intently.

“Why’s that, babe?” Christen questions, tilting her head to look at her, seeing how her eyes are so warm and inviting.

“’Cause I love them,” Tobin confesses with a small smile, bringing her fingers up to Christen’s jaw, looking at her earnestly, “and I love you,” she declares, searching her face.

Christen can’t help the smile on her face or the tears in her eyes when she sees how Tobin is looking at her, “I love you, too, babe,” she replies, “so much,” she adds, raising her fingers to hold the side of Tobin’s cheek, leaning in to kiss her. She feels how Tobin’s strong arms embrace her as they kiss and she lets her free hand move to run along Tobin’s side.

“You know what else I love?” Christen questions, unable to let the smile leave her face.

“What’s that?” Tobin grins at her, looking so fucking happy Christen’s heart swells with emotion.

“I would love to see what’s under the tree,” Christen giggles, pushing Tobin to the floor and tickling her sides as Tobin squeals and squirms beneath her. Khaleesi and Morena comes over, licking Tobin’s face, wanting to join the fun.

When Christen finally stops tickling her, she smooths Tobin’s hair down, looking at her lovingly, “I love you,” she says in a sing song voice.

Tobin chuckles, “I love you, too,” she says, shaking her head and grimacing as Khaleesi licks her face. “You should open this first,” she says, crawling over to the tree, gesturing for Christen to follow. She pushes over a heavy wrapped box.

“What is this?” Christen asks, lifting it and frowning from the weight.

“Look at the tag,” Tobin smiles, wiggling her eyebrows.

Christen searches the box of the box and finds the tag next to the red bow. She smiles broadly as she reads it’s from Tobin to Khaleesi and Morena. She looks up at her, Tobin smiling and nodding at her to open it. She carefully opens the box, “This is for you Khaleesi,” she says, “and Morena too!”

It’s a wooden chest, closed with a brass latch. The box looks like it was made in the time period of Tobin’s house, it’s wood smoothed over and naturally darkened with time and use.

“Open it,” Tobin gestures with her hands, excited for her to see what’s inside. Christen opens the latch and finds it filled with dog toys, packages of the same treats Christen buys for them and two wrapped soft items. She looks at how Tobin is smiling, so happy with herself that Christen laughs, “This is so awesome,” she says, holding up the two gifts, “what are these?”

“Those are for the pups,” Tobin answers, “and this chest is going to go right there,” she points to the wall of the living room near the kitchen, next to where the mat is laid for the dogs’ bowls.

“Aw!” Christen exclaims, hugging the two wrapped packages, “you’re so sweet!”

Tobin just gives her a toothy smile, pointing to the packages, “Open them!” she demands excitedly.

Christen tears into the package marked for Morena, peeling off the paper to find a dog coat and booties. “Tobin!” Christen looks at her as she fiddles to open the bag it’s in, “This is amazing!” She unfurls the coat, it’s a light tan with a fleece lining and matching booties. She hurriedly opens the one of Khaleesi, finding it to be a dark tan with light trim, the booties a deep brown. “Thank you!” she exclaims, hugging her, “come here Morena,” she calls, then tosses the jacket to Tobin, “Khaleesi,” Tobin calls as the two attempt to put the coats on them. Christen gets her phone and shoots video as they laugh as the two dogs struggle to walk around the living room in their new booties.

“I don’t want them to be cold this winter,” Tobin explains, “and when I saw these, I just knew,”

Christen once again pulls Tobin to her by her shirt, kissing her again, “Thank you, babe,” she says, feeling so happy.

“Alright,” Tobin says, “come here Khaleesi,” she calls, “let’s get you out of this,” Once they gets the dogs out of their coats and booties off, Christen finds two bones in the chest and offers them to the dogs.

Christen reaches under the tree and drags a wrapped box and hands it Tobin. “Open this one first,” she says.

 

An hour later, the two are back on the couch, sitting side by side. Tobin is reading through the pamphlet from the new camera and lenses Christen gave her. Christen had also given her a set of expensive paint brushes and Christen is still marveling over the painting Tobin had given her. She had painted a sunset scene from a photo Christen had taken in Hawaii that she declared as her favorite ever. She knew Tobin had been painting most evenings to alleviate her stress from work. She’s blown away from it. Tobin had also gotten her a lovely cashmere sweater, some books on meditation she wanted to read and an ornate wooden box with crystals and a salt lamp. They both found the gifts touching and right up in their interests and were truly touched by the thought put into their gift selection for one another.

Tobin sets her booklet aside, then reaches over and lifts the painting from Christen’s hands with a smile. She sets it on the floor against the couch, then leans over to kiss her. Christen smiles during the kiss, shifting her weight and ends up straddling her, holding her face with both hands as they kiss passionately. “Thank you so much for your gifts,” she murmurs in between kisses, “they were so thoughtful, I love them,”

“I love the camera,” Tobin replies before kissing her again, “I’ll only take pictures of you,” she says, letting her hands grasp Christen’s breasts, “you’re my favorite thing to photograph.” She starts to kiss her neck, nipping at it, finding that spot that makes Christen feel so weak with pleasure.

“Tobin,” Christen moans, feeling the haziness of desire cloak over her, “Tobin, we should-”

The dogs have been running around the couch in circles, Morena chasing Khaleesi who has one of the new toys from Tobin. They’re playfully barking and growling when they play tug of war with the toy and when Khaleesi wrestles it from Morena, the chase is on. Tobin doesn’t stop kissing her, not even when Christen turns to the side a little to issue a warning to the dogs.

“Where were we?” she questions, bringing her hands to Tobin’s chest.

“Either we stay right here or go the bedroom,” Tobin husks against her neck, feeling her desire flooding through her body. She slides them over so she’s on top of Christen and now Christen has moved her hands to grip Tobin’s ass, roughly massaging it and pressing her against her body. Tobin grinds her hips into Christen, moaning at the contact.

“I love you,” Christen utters as her mouth finds Tobin’s, kissing her passionately, shifting her leg in between Tobin’s and pressing against her. Tobin arches her back, going up nearly vertical and letting her head fall back just as Khaleesi comes sailing through the air, Morena right behind her, colliding into Tobin’s head and chest, sending her off the couch, her head smacking against the hard wood edge of the coffee table.

“Ow!” she yelps as she hits the floor with a thud, Morena landing on top of her, making her groan and curl into a ball. Morena scrambles off her, her nails digging into Tobin,
“Fuck!” she cries, flinching.

“Girls!” Christen shouts, scrambling off the couch, glancing at Tobin on the floor, curled on her side. “Outside!” she orders, trotting to the kitchen door, yanking it open and yelling at them again. She slams it shut with anger and fright, praying Tobin isn’t injured badly.

“Tobin!” she cries out, her emotions a jumble as she kneels down next to her. “Tobin, let me see,” she says, trying to pry her hand from her head.

“I think I’m bleeding,” Tobin mumbles, releasing her hand from her right temple so Christen can inspect it.

“You are,” Christen frowns, “wait right here, don’t get up,” she orders, Tobin can hear her rummaging in the kitchen as she lies on the floor as she clutches her head. She tries to opens her eyes and realizes she needs to move the couch and clean out the dustballs. There’s a few dog toys lodged under it as well. Her eye is watering and hurts from what she thinks was Khaleesi’s nose nailing her and she feels a headache blooming and her chest feels like it’s on fire from where Morena scratched her. She moves her legs experimentally, wincing as she feels a sharp pain in her knee, most likely from slamming it on the hardwood floor.

“Okay,” Christen says, a little panic in her voice, “can you sit up?”

Tobin feels Christen hands on her pulling her up into the sitting position. Christen moves the coffee table back, stepping over Tobin’s legs and sits on the it to look her over. “Are you dizzy?” she questions worriedly.

“Nah,” Tobin says and clears her throat, “I think she got me in the eye,” she mumbles. She hisses when Christen presses a cloth against her head.

“Sorry,” Christen says mournfully, her eyes filling with tears.

“It’s okay, babe,” Tobin reassures her, placing her hand over hers on her head. “Let’s go to the kitchen,” she suggests, “there’s better light there,”

“Okay,” Christen agrees, moving off the table and helping her up. She keeps a hand on Tobin as she hobbles over to the kitchen and heaves herself into a chair. Tobin cleans the blood off her hand with the damp cloth, giving Christen an amused look as she approaches with the First Aid Kit.

“What?” Christen looks at her, flicking open the small metal box. Tobin reaches in it to pluck out the small mirror, gazing at her cut on her temple.

“That might need stitches,” Christen comments worriedly, ripping open a gauze pad and handing it to her.

“Could you get my glasses and my contact case?” Tobin looks up at her, “I should probably take my contacts out,” she looks in the mirror, “my eye is swelling a little,”

Christen nods silently and trots out of the kitchen. When she comes back holding Tobin’s contact case and her glasses, she sees Tobin is laying out some bandages on the table.
“Here,” she offers, setting the items on the table, “what can I do?”

“Here,” Tobin hands her the mirror, “if you could hold this, that would be great,” she says as she takes out her contacts, then rips open the first bandage packet.

“Let me put on some disinfectant,” Christen insists, rooting around the first aid kit to find the small tube and a Q-tip. She applies it gently, not wanting to hurt Tobin.

“What are those?” Christen questions, looking keenly at the unusual bandage.

“These are butterflies,” Tobin explains, tilting her head slightly and applying the first one. “I use these instead of stitches,” she glances up, “it’s fine,” she says, grinning a little, “just need some Tylenol and I’ll be good as new,”

“I’ll get you some ice,” Christen states, turning and finding a freezer bag. Tobin is crumpling the wrappers and standing up to toss them away. She catches Christen around the waist, “I’m fine,” she says, using one hand to reach into the cabinet to grab her Tylenol. She swallows them down with some water and then takes the ice bag from her hands. She holds Christen hand and leads her back to the couch.

She starts laughing when they sit. “What?” Christen asks sharply, finding no humor in her getting hurt.

“That was hilarious,” Tobin chuckles, smiling at her, “she totally took me out!”

Christen isn’t smiling. Tobin pulls her close, “Babe,” she says, “come on, you have to admit, it’s funny,”

Christen allows a small grin on her face, “Only because you aren’t seriously hurt,”

“Guess the kids didn’t want their Mama to get busy,” Tobin teases her, her one eye twinkling with amusement, the other covered by the ice bag.

Christen rolls her eyes, “You have a demented sense of humor,” she says, shaking her head.

“You want some cookies?” Tobin asks, “Oh, wait, you brought that crab dip, right?” she starts to get off the couch but Christen firmly puts her hand on her leg, “I’ll get it,” she says as she stands, “you stay there and try not to hurt yourself.”

Christen comes back a few times with the dish of dip and crackers, two plates, then two full glasses of wine. She grabs the remote and looks over at Tobin. She has her eyes closed, the ice bag perched on her face.

“Are you awake?” she asks, watching as a smile spreads across Tobin’s face. “I’m awake,” she says, “I think I have like five more minutes for this,” she points to the ice bag.

Christen reaches down to lift the canvas that Tobin painted her, binging it up to her lap to look at it again. “This is really beautiful, babe,” she comments quietly as her eyes scan over it once more, “there’s so much detail,”

“I’m glad you like it, sweetheart,” Tobin smiles at her, “I can’t wait to play with my camera,”

“You know, one of the features is that you can send your photos to the cloud to save them,” Christen mentions, “I thought that was pretty cool,”

Tobin removes the ice bag, leaning over to kiss her, “I love it,” and says and kisses her again, “and I love you,” she smiles and leaves the couch to dump out the bag.

Christen look her over, “You’re going to have a shiner for Christmas,” she frowns, “I hope your family doesn’t think I abuse you or something,”

Tobin laughs, “Babe, they won’t!” She shakes her head, “Please don’t think like that,” she looks at her, “it was an accident and when I tell them how Khaleesi broke my wrist, they’ll think it’s hilarious!”

Christen doesn’t look impressed with her answer.

“Babe,” Tobin says quietly, “it’s okay, really.”

“I’m going to trust you,” she replies, “and not let this bother me,”

“Thank you,” Tobin smiles at her and then puckers her lips for a kiss. Christen can’t resist and kisses her.

 

Later, the two are in bed, lying there spent from their passion, the sweat drying on their naked bodies as Tobin lazily traces patterns on Christen’s upper arm as she snuggles on her chest. “I don’t want to leave,” Christen confesses, “I want to stay here with you,”

“Aw babe,” Tobin says, kissing the side of her head, “you’ll be back soon,” she says quietly, “I can’t wait for you to meet my family,”

Christen cranes her neck to look up at her, “I can’t either,” she smiles at her, puckering her lips for another kiss.

“I can’t wait when we can have them both over together,” Tobin says dreamily, “that’s gonna be so rad,”

Christen smiles, thinking of holidays with both families, how that would look.

“We could decorate the barn, put a Christmas tree in it,” Tobin continues, “and exchange presents out there and play cards and stuff,”

“Babe, I can’t wait, either,” Christen smiles at her, “I love it,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Oh, Mom, the house looks so pretty,” Christen comments as she trails behind her heading to the kitchen. “What a beautiful arrangement!” she exclaims, walking to the island and peering at the holiday flowers in a festive Christmas vase. “Who are they from?” she looks at her Mother, seeing her grinning broadly.

“Look at the card, dear,” she answers, still grinning.

Christen searches and finds the card, “Aw,” she says, looking up and seeing her Mom now smiling widely at her, “She’s very sweet,” her Mom says.

The impressive flowers were from Tobin, delivered yesterday, her card wishing the Press family happy holidays. Christen whips her phone out to send a photo of them and text her, a smile plastered on her face.

“She’s such a nice person,” her Mom continues, “so down to earth,” she chuckles, “her and your father really hit it off,”

Christen smiles big, thinking of Tobin’s first time meeting her family in person before they went to Hawaii, “She really played up the Big Daddy thing,” she laughs, “they’re so alike in many ways,”

“I was thinking that too,” Stacy replies with a smile, “she’s good for you,” she says, giving her a hug, “I’m so thrilled you’re so happy,”

“Thanks, Mom,” Christen says, hugging her back.

 

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

“Oh my gosh, Tobin!” Her sister Perry exclaims, “She is gorgeous!” she’s looking at a framed photo of Tobin and Christen taken at The Pink Door. She moves to look at another one, this one from the thank you dinner after the tornado. Tobin comes up next to her, handing her a glass of eggnog. “Tobin, you in this suit,” Perry lets out a low whistle, “you look fantastic!” she looks over her shoulder, “Hey, Katie! Come see Tobin in a suit!” she calls to their other sister, “And her girlfriend!” she says loud enough for their brother Jeffrey to hear in the kitchen. Tobin is shaking her head, eyes closed, waiting for them to start in on her.

“You could pull her?” Jeffrey asks her, his mouth open as he looks at the photo again, “What the fuck, Tobin,” he says, offering her a high five, “She’s hot!”

“And she’s taken,” Tobin responds, slapping his hand. She takes another sip of her eggnog, “Per, what can we spike this with?”

“And watch your language!” Perry scolds Jeffrey. “Brandy,” Perry replies absently, still inspecting Tobin’s photos in the living room.

“Actually, let me pull up this recipe,” Katie offers, “do you have rum and cognac?”

“Cognac?” Tobin makes a face, “What am I, a seventy year old?”

“Where do you keep your booze?” Jeffrey questions, opening cabinets in the kitchen.

“In the barn,” Tobin replies, “come on, I’ll show you,”

“What’s this?” Perry questions, standing next to the wooden box on the floor near the dog bowls.

“Oh, that’s for Khaleesi and Morena’s stuff,” Tobin replies, pulling on a pair of snow boots near the back door. The dogs are hovering near her, waiting on any chance to go outside.

“They’re so well behaved,” Katie comments.

Tobin snorts, “Who do you think gave me the shiner?” she shakes her head and laughs, “and broke my wrist!”

“Wait,” Katie frowns, “when did you break your wrist?”

Tobin hands her a sweater, “September,” she says, “you coming with?”

“To see your barn?” Katie’s eyebrows are high on her forehead.

“We’re all going,” Perry commands, a glint in her eyes, “we can do some shots.”

“I like that idea!” Jeffrey cheers, his hand on the door. “Let’s get our Christmas Eve rolling!”

 

 

“Why are you working?” Katie questions as she gazes at the canvases lining the walls and ceiling of Tobin’s barn, “You should be painting,” she turns and smiles at her.

Tobin gives a shrug, “Maybe one day,” she says, “come on, the bar’s over here,”

Tobin ends up turning the heat on in the barn and they stay out there for hours. Over drinks, they catch up with each other, going deep into topics. They ask Tobin about her job and what it means now that the company is sold and what she’s going to do. Tobin deflects, she’s still unsure, but unhappy that her boss is being such a jerk. She shares that she’ll make a decision before the end of January unless things continue to go downhill.

They ask about Christen and want to hear all of the details of how they met again, Jeffrey cackling about her breaking her wrist from Khaleesi crashing into her. Perry, like the big sister she is, teases him about his girlfriend and the three women grill him about her. Katie laments being single although there’s a guy she’s dated a couple of times who could be very nice. She’s just unsure and doesn’t know enough about him yet. Perry is happy with her boyfriend, she thinks they’ll be doing holidays together soon, she confides in them that she did a background check on him before she told him about having money and how he thought it was no big deal. He was more interested in learning if she was planning on expanding her gym or possibly making it a franchise. They talk about the idea of it, Perry still uncertain and wanting to learn more if her gym was niche enough to survive in the market.

They go in the house to make dinner, deciding to go back to the barn and watch Elf on her big screen. After dinner, Jeffery says he wants a rematch from last year in cards and Tobin breaks out a deck, the movie running unwatched as they play. The card game turns into drinking games and soon the are playing flip cup and laughing at how horrible Tobin is playing the game.

Feeling sentimental, they start talking about Christmas from years ago and that leads the four back into the house to get gloves and hats. It’s after midnight on Christmas Eve and they are on Tobin’s front lawn building a snowman. Perry is passing around a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps she brought with from the barn as they play in the snow. Things get blurry after that and nobody is in any sort of shape to drive so they decide to sleep over and stumble into the house, waking the dogs.

After sorting out sleepwear and Tobin finding enough toothbrushes for everyone, Jeffrey crashes on the couch with Khaleesi to his delight, Perry and Katie and sleep in the guest room and Tobin finds herself snuggled with Morena in her own bed.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Oh. My. God!” Perry exclaims the next morning from the living room, looking out the front window, she turns to face the three in the kitchen, laughing hard, “Where did we get spray paint?”

“What?” Jeffrey asks, rolling off the couch and coming to the window and looking out. “What the fuck?” he laughs.

Tobin and Katie join them, taking in the scene on the front lawn. There’s a large snow woman, the breasts give it away, with arms raised above her head. Spread out in front of it are at least a dozen smaller snow people, complete with little stick arms, four of them with gloves on and four others with their hats from last night, arranged as a choir. Their bodies are spray painted with bright red paint, red rimmed mouths open as if they are singing with the main conductor appearing to have a snow crown.

Katie turns to look at them all, "We have to do this next year," she says, grinning at them, "we have to have a sleepover just like this from now on,"

They all nod with bright smiles.

The four of them crack up, the hazy memory returning to them. They eat a light breakfast for their delicate stomachs, drinking Gatorades before having coffee. Tobin’s siblings leave to go back to their hotel to shower and get dressed for the day, promising to return before their parents arrive in the early afternoon.

Before she showers, Tobin trudges outside, chuckling to herself as she takes a few photos of the snow choir. Once back inside, she sends a couple off to Christen.

Tobin: Merry Christmas! Let the angels sing!

She’s carrying her phone with her to her bathroom when it goes off.

Christen: I have no words.

Tobin: We may have been drinking last night. Like. A. Lot. LOL

Christen: Ya think? When did you do this?

Tobin: Sometime after midnight last night. It’s a little hazy.

Christen: How are you feeling baby?

Tobin: Not gonna lie. Pretty hungover.

Christen: Aw! Did you have fun?

Tobin: So much! Did you last night?

Christen: Yes! I retained my title as Monopoly champ. All is well.

Tobin: Hope that doesn’t affect the gift giving from your family.

Christen: I won fair and square. No tears from anyone this year. It was all good fun. Except for when Channing threw her hotels at me. But that was funny as hell.

Tobin: I’m going to shower now, I’ll talk to you later okay?

Christen: Wow! You really had a late start! Feel better and I’ll talk to you later- and Merry Christmas, babe, I love you.

Tobin: I love you too, can’t wait to see you in a couple of days!

Christen: Same here! Go shower! It’ll help your hangover!

Tobin is all smiles as she undresses and turns the shower on.

 

 

“Have you been drinking?” Their Father addresses them over his glasses, sniffing the eggnog in his hand.

“Yes, sir, we have,” Jeffrey nods and gives him a salute. “Hair of the dog,” he explains with a lopsided grin.

“You two have some catching up to do,” Perry adds with a giggle as she hands a glass of eggnog to her Mom.

Tobin is in the kitchen, smiling as she stirs the mashed potatoes, “Katie, this can go the table,” she says, sticking the spoon upright in the mound of potato goodness. She takes the roasting tray from the oven, peeling off a piece of foil to cover the prime rib roast she’s made. She glances at her Mom who is smiling at her.

“What?” Tobin asks, a small smile on her face.

“Just watching you,” her Mom replies, “you’ve got this down well, young lady,”

Tobin smiles at her as she removes the roasted vegetables from the oven, “I learned from the best, Ma,” she says, “I’ll always be grateful to you for letting me help in the kitchen,”

“Is there anything I can do, honey?” her Mom asks, setting her glass of eggnog down.

“Will you make the gravy?” Tobin asks, “I can’t get mine quite like yours,” she holds up a whisk.

Her Mom steps closer, taking the whisk in hand and slipping an arm around her, “I’ll show you how,” she says warmly, then looks around, “Have I ever told you how much I love your home?” she asks, her eyes focused on the Christmas tree, smiling fondly at it. “You still have Grandpa’s decorations,” she says softly.

“That’s his tree, too,” Tobin nods, feeling emotional, maybe from the booze, maybe from the holidays, she doesn’t know, “I miss him, Ma,” she says quietly, sniffling, “Grandma, too,” Tobin feels her Mom squeeze her side tighter, “I know sweetie,” she says, “I do too,” She knows Tobin has always been the most sensitive of her children. Especially since she was so close to her Grandparents.

“Hey, what are you two doing?” Katie asks, coming near the stove, Tobin turns away to face the cabinets, “Mom, what spices do you need?”

“Perry, come here,” Her Mom calls out, “I’m going to show you girls how to make my gravy,”

“Hey, what about me?” Jeffrey asks indignantly, “That’s pretty sexist, I like to cook,”

“Then get over here,” Cindy laughs, “Tobin we’ll need a little salt, onion and garlic powder, some flour and we’ll go from there,”

Tobin nods as she faces the cabinets, discreetly wiping her eyes, and gathers the items.

“I learned how to make this gravy from your Grandma,” her Mom begins as she inspects the items in front of her, she pauses to smile at each of her children, “here’s how we do it,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Merry Christmas, sweetie,” Tobin smiles at Christen, “did you have a good one?” It’s late and through their texts throughout the day, they had agreed to Facetime at bedtime.

“Merry Christmas,” she smiles back, “I did, we had a great time today,” she says, “how about you?”

“It was so much fun,” she says, “we ate too much, drank too much and then ate again,” she chuckles, “oh, and my brother is in love with Morena,” she adds.

“Oh, is he now?” Christen questions, “Have they been good?”

“So good,” Tobin nods, she’s still a little tipsy, “what did you think of their pictures?”

Christen laughs out loud, “Where did you find those hats?”

Tobin giggles, “I went to PetSmart,” Tobin had dragged Perry outside to take photos of her with the dogs, so she could send photos of her and the dogs wearing Santa hats around the large snowman.

“They looked adorable,” Christen grins, “everyone loved it!”

They talk about the highlights of their day until they both grow tired. They each refuse to hang up first and end up both falling asleep while the Facetime App drains their phones the next morning.

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen finds it endearing that Khaleeesi stays by Tobin’s side after they hug in greeting when she enters her house two days after Christmas. The humor leaves when she spies Morena, her baby, sitting next to who she assumes is Tobin’s brother on the couch, glaring at her and issuing a series of woofs and whines, yet not leaving his side. She drops to a knee, holding her hand out searchingly and when neither dog approaches, she looks up at Tobin “What have you done to my babies?” she accuses, almost glaring at her.

Tobin gives her an amused look, which slightly pisses Christen off as she watches Tobin move to the couch, letting Morena sniff her hand, the dog leaping off the couch to follow, Khaleesi gets a sniff and when Tobin stands next her side, she transfers a few dog treats from her hand to Christen’s. Suddenly both dogs are crying and whining, tails wagging and slapping as they both gobble the treats and lick at Christen’s face, nearly knocking her off her knees.

She’s embarrassed when she realizes this has all gone down in front of Tobin’s family who are politely smiling at her. She scrambles to her feet, brushing at her pants, certain her face is beet red. “I’m so sorry,” she says quickly, her eyes wide, looking between Tobin and the rest of her family.

“Oh sweetheart, it’s fine!” The woman who must be Tobin’s Mother says, smiling gently at her, her eyes warm and brown like Tobin’s, instantly setting her ease. “We’ve been telling Tobin she’s spoiling the dogs too much!” she teases her daughter who just slowly shakes her head, a smile on her face.

Meeting the Heath family involves hugs. Lots of hugs. They’re a family of huggers and, with the exception of her Mother, Tobin’s siblings all manage to tease Tobin during their greeting hugs. Even her Father. It’s all good natured and she can feel the good vibes surrounding in the living room. Tobin gently removes her coat, giving her a soft kiss, brushing her lips in greeting as she moves to hang her jacket in the closet.

Christen places each hand on Tobin’s checks, examining her eye and temple, looking it over critically. “How does your eye feel?” she asks quietly.

“It’s fine,” Tobin smiles at her, “I iced it a little Christmas Eve and the swelling went down the next day.” Below Tobin’s eye is a bruise, deep purple and red with just a little puffiness. Her cut is still bandaged, but the area around it doesn’t look swollen any longer.

Tobin slips her hand in hers and leads her to the kitchen, offering her a drink, her Mother, who insists she call Cindy, politely offering a nice spread of appetizers. She is hungry, not having eaten since breakfast before heading to the airport to fly in. It’s just past noon and she glances over to see covered pots and skillets on the stove. She arches an eyebrow at Tobin as Perry offers her a margarita, explaining they were having tacos for tortilla wraps before they had to leave to catch their flights home later in the afternoon. It all clicks then, the chips and salsa, the guac, the merriment in everyone’s eyes, a mix of tequila and amusement at her entrance.

“I hope you’re not mad Morena loves me,” Jeffrey brushes against her shoulder, his tone teasing.

She looks him over for a moment, just long enough to make him and Tobin start to sweat before she grins at him, “I can see you’re a charmer, just like your sister,” she says, then she eyes Tobin, sending her a wink, “you both have a way with women.”

The group howls with laughter, Katie high fiving Christen and Jeffrey laughing the loudest. “Tobes, she’s perfect for you!” he laughs, then turns to her, “Please tell me you keep her in check just like that,” he says to Christen, looking hopeful. Christen gives him a sly nod and they all laugh again, Tobin shaking her head, knowing Christen has captured their hearts just like she has her own.

Lunch is easy and comfortable, the Heath family genuinely interested in Christen and her job, family, schooling. It never feels like an interrogation, just a fun, light conversation, going around the table. Christen asks Tobin’s siblings about themselves, and her parents as well. Christen and Perry chat about yoga and she learns Perry lives only forty minutes from her parents’ house near LA and her gym is only twenty minutes away. Katie and her bond over tennis, Katie having played in college. Jeffrey is a deep well of Tobin facts he gladly shares with her of embarrassing stories that makes Tobin’s face turn red as she laughs. Cindy and Jeff are warm and personable, very down to earth and kind. It doesn’t take long for her to feel extremely comfortable with Tobin’s family.

When they’ve finished eating yet haven’t left the table, Christen smiles over at Tobin who returns her smile. Tobin is positively beaming at her, her smile wide and her eyes shining with happiness. Both in their own little world, neither notice how the others have caught them, glancing at them as they keep up their conversation. Perry elbows Tobin, whispering something to her and Tobin puts her head down, leaning over to listen and looks up at Christen and smiles.

Christen looks away to take in everyone and then she clears her throat a little, letting her eyes fall on Tobin. “I have to ask you something,” she states.

“What, babe?” Tobin questions, tilting her head, trying to read her expression.

“So, you really didn’t give me any details when I asked before,” Christen slowly smiles, “but could you please explain why there is a choir of thirteen snowpeople on your lawn?”

“Yes, Tobin,” her Dad chimes in, giving her and interested look, leaning his arms on the table, “do tell how that happened,”

“Yes, sweetheart,” Her Mother adds, resting her chin on her hand, “I’d like to hear how that came about,” she shifts her eyes and gives Christen a sly grin, “especially the little one holding the bottle of Schnapps.” This family loves to tease, just as much as Christen’s own and she’s loving it.

Immediately, Tobin, Katie and Jeffrey point to Perry, “It’s all her fault!” They exclaim.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Babe, your family is so nice,” Christen says, her head resting on Tobin’s chest, half of her body sprawled on top of her. They’re lying on the couch, intent on napping for a little bit. Tobin is playing with her hair, her fingers lightly running over her scalp, she hums as she keeps doing it.

“I’m lucky,” she says quietly, “even though I’m wired a bit differently from them, they love me,”

Christen sharply turns her head up to look at her, “Hon?”

Tobin shrugs, “Being gay in a Christian household wasn’t super easy for a while,” she explains, “high school wasn’t always the most fun for me,”

Christen shifts so she’s sitting more upright and can look at her, “How so, babe?”

Tobin shrugs and frowns, “It was mostly me,” she says, “I really internalized the thought of being gay,” she explains, “so I kind of struggled with it for a while.”

“Oh,” Christen says softly, trying to think of Tobin being at odds with her family. From just meeting them today and seeing the obvious love they have for one another, it’s difficult to imagine.

“Yeah,” Tobin says, “I really had a hard time getting my head around the idea that it was okay to be gay and be a Christian.”

“Oh,” Christen says, knowing how important her faith is to her, “was your family not supportive?”

Tobin chuckles, “Actually, they totally were,” she says, “once they found out. Perry actually sat me down and basically drew it out of me that I liked girls and telling me liking girls was fine,”

“She did?”

“Uh huh,” Tobin nods, a small smile on her face, “I thought I was being so secretive and nobody knew but I think she knew before I did that I was gay. She basically told me that if this was the way I was wired, then God knew it before I was born, so what type of God would do that and not accept it?”

“Woah,” Christen says, curling up her legs and slowly rubbing her fingers on Tobin’s forearm, “that was pretty deep.”

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, “and then I talked to my Mom and she was totally cool about it. When I told her about how I thought our church would be mad, she actually laughed, and I was like what? But she told me there were plenty of people who went to our church that are gay,”

“Aw,” Christen smiles, “how sweet,”

“Yeah,” smiles at her, “my Dad, I think he was more confused than upset and he was quiet about it for long time. It wasn’t until my Mom made us all go to a Pride Parade and my Dad saw the PFLAG floats and parents just walking around offering hugs to kids who couldn’t hug their own parents because they wouldn’t accept them. He actually started tearing up when he saw that and he just stood behind me hugging me for so long during the parade, just holding me, it was just something else. That night, me and him went outside, kicking a ball around and he told me how much he loved me no matter who I loved and he would always be my Dad and be proud of me.”

“Hon,” Christen says, wiping the tears at her eyes, “that is so amazing,”

“Yeah,” Tobin sniffs, “it was and I really needed that validation from him to know it was okay and it just like, set the dominoes in motion that everything would be fine and just ignore those who didn’t agree.”

“So, everything is good now, right?” Christen wants to know.

“Yeah,” Tobin grins, “I mean, they don’t totally get me but that’s fine, I don’t totally understand them sometimes either. But it’s never been of source of contention if that’s what you’re wanting to know.”

Christen nods, “I was,”

Tobin smiles, “How about with your family?”

Christen laughs, “I knew when I was fifteen,” she says, “but it wasn’t until I was sixteen that I just told them I liked girls over boys one day during dinner.”

“You just were like, pass me the corn, and hey I like girls?” Tobin chuckles.

Christen chuckles with her, “Pretty much! Homecoming was approaching and my Mom asked if I was going,” she shrugs, “so I just told them.”

“What did they say?” Tobin eyes her intently.

“They all knew by then, I’m sure, so it wasn’t a shock.” Christen shares, “Channing was like, cool, do you have a crush on anyone and pass me the breadsticks.”

Tobin looks at her wide eyed, “Really?”

Christen nods, “They were awesome,” she says, “I’m so grateful it was so easy,”

“That’s awesome, babe,” Tobin says and leans in to kiss her.

Christen smiles and kisses her back, then she looks at her, arching an eyebrow, a sultry look on her face, “Wanna go do some gay things with me?” she suggests.

Tobin studies her, her eyes growing dark, “Are you suggesting something in the bedroom or like, going out an buying some new flannel shirts?”

“Bedroom,” Christen nods, a slow smile spreading across her face.

“Oh yeah,” Tobin smiles back at her, “I think I was starting to get withdrawals from you,” she says as she stands up, stretching her hand for her to take.

Christen stands next to her, “Let’s go get super gay together,” she chuckles.

“Super duper,” Tobin adds, pulling her along.

 

XXXX

 

Tobin finds her short week after Christmas hasn’t softened Steve’s maniacal drive. Since he’s considered an employee of SchoolMart, he has bosses to report to now and a set amount of vacation days. He can’t casually take off days whenever he wants anymore like he did when owned the company. It appears to Tobin and her coworkers, this is not a fun thing for him anymore.

Alex nearly has a mental breakdown trying to assemble all of the financials for the end of the year reports. Steve is making her do strange reports she’s never done before and things are getting a little contentious between them. Then he comes back to have her do additional reports since SchoolMart wants the normal ones she usually does. So, she’s basically doing everything twice and it’s really pissing her off.

Ali is going crazy sending over version after version of newly designed business cards, letter heads and marketing materials with Portland P.E. stating it’s a SchoolMart company. They need to be reviewed by a committee of SchoolMart people and all of them have opinions on changes to be made. It’s frustrating and Steve is no help, just telling her to make the changes requested and send the ideas back to them for approval. So, she’s spent her days redoing things that they keep changing.

Morgan Brian is trying to work with their logistics manager to combine their shipping volume to get better freight rates but things aren’t going smoothly. She thinks the SchoolMart person is intimidated by her since she knows her shipping stuff inside and out. The person she’s dealing is becoming more and more defensive and unwilling to cooperate.

Crystal Dunn in purchasing is doing her best to patiently explain the hows and whys of the uniquely seasonal products she brings in. Having to explain herself to four different purchasing agents from SchoolMart is testing her deep well of patience. Especially since they refuse to work as a group.

Allie Long feels guilty because SchoolMart has left sales alone for now, but she’s feeling the stress of everyone else. Lindsey is an inside salesperson and feels like she’s drifting along without knowing what her future will be. Emily is in the same boat as Lindsey.

As the office manager and HR person, Abby is nearly pulling her hair out with the structural changes for insurance, payroll and the time cards. Add on the pressure of hearing everyone complaining about Steve and worrying about the company and their jobs, she’s very stressed out.

Tobin hates it, she really does. She hates seeing everyone so freaked out and how Steve has changed so rapidly. Tobin has a long talk with Jesse explaining her vision of what she thinks PERT could become. She convinces Jesse to come up to Portland to meet and she would buy her plane tickets and she and her wife could stay at either a hotel or Tobin’s place, on her. They would review Tobin’s idea in much more detail and would nail down how they’d make it work. Jesse hesitantly agrees, telling Tobin she thinks this is too good to be true, but she trusts her. She says she’ll get back to her about dates when her wife gets home. Before she leaves for the day, she goes through her desk drawer, selecting a few files and stuffing them in her backpack. Her exodus from the company continues.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen notices Tobin’s change in temperament when she comes over that night. “What’s up with you?” she asks, feeling Tobin is about to burst wanting to tell her something.

“I’m going to quit,” Tobin smiles at her, “and Jesse’s coming up here at the end of the week and we’re going to talk about making PERT happen.”

Christen’s eyes nearly pop out of her head, “This is quick,” she says, “are you sure?”

Tobin nods, “Yeah, I talked to her for about two hours today,” she explains, “and we agreed we would work together, but she’s coming to hear my bigger plans.”

“Your bigger plans?” Christen asks skeptically. She hasn’t heard these plans yet.

“Yep,” Tobin grins, “big plans.” She spreads her out wide, “Huge plans. Huge!” she laughs, “And we’ll stick it to SchoolMart along the way.”

“Tobin!” Christen exclaims, “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to invest in PERT, Jesse will be the main content creator. I’ll kind of be in sales and marketing and make sure everyone is trained in the content and we’ll have a staff of sales people and a graphics department and all sorts of things,”

Christen smiles,” You’re sure about this?”

“Well,” Tobin scratches the back of her neck, “we’ll find out this week,” she says, “I’m going to have some of the gals over and see who wants to get in on it.”

“From Portland P.E.?” Christen asks, her eyes wide.

“Yep,” Tobin nods, “nobody is happy there,” she explains, “Steve is stressing everyone out, SchoolMart doesn’t appear to want anyone from our company,” she shrugs, “so…we’ll see.”

Christen nods slowly, “And you feel you’ve given this enough time to make sure this is exactly what you want to do?”

Tobin nods at her, “Yeah, I really do,” she replies, “I really want to still do something positive with my life and I really like doing the sessions and meeting people and I really believe in Jesse’s curriculum.” She pauses for a moment, “I feel like this is something that would potentially change kids lives, you know? Make a difference.”

“How much travel are you envisioning?” Christen asks curiously.

“Actually, I don’t know,” Tobin hesitates, “I want to do this because I really believe in this product and I think my big plans for it would become something huge. I want this to happen even if I’m not super involved. There’s something else I want to concentrate on for myself.”

“And what is that?” Christen asks curiously.

“I want to get in shape and try out for the Thorns this spring.” Tobin answers adamantly, “I really thought about what you said when were coming back from Hawaii,” she says, “and if I don’t try this, I think I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”

“Oh, honey!” Christen exclaims, hugging her, “That’s amazing! It’s so exciting!”

Tobin smiles at her, “I just want to try,” she says, “I’ve always kind of regretted not going to school for soccer, you know?”

“I thought you didn’t want to go to college,” Christen tilts her head at her.

“I had offers to play,” Tobin explains, “and I turned them down. I just wasn’t in the right headspace then,” she shrugs, “my Grandpa got sick right after I started working at Portland P.E. and it messed with my head pretty bad. I didn’t want to leave.”

“I could understand that,” Christen nods, “you would have been miserable,”

They sit for a minute, taking it in. “So, how are you going to make this work?” Christen asks, “Starting a business and training for tryouts?”

“Allie will be the sales lead, I’ll train everyone about the curriculum, after that, I’m doing my own thing,” Tobin explains, “I’ll work with Ali and Alex on finding a building, but for now, they could work out of the barn until we get a place and all the licenses.”

“Will it be a conflict of interest doing this with Portland P.E. selling it?” Christen prudently asks.

Tobin shakes her head, “Nah,” she dismisses it, “Steve is pressing her to sign off on the five year exclusive contract letting Portland be the only company to sell it. She’s not going to do that and is going back and forth him. She told me if he keeps pushing, she’ll pull out of selling to him totally and that would really screw him over.”

Christen’s eyes go wide, “Can she do that? She has a contract, right?”

Tobin looks at her with a gleam in her eyes, “Yes, she does,” she smirks, “a contract I wrote. It’s valid until January 31st unless a new one is signed. That’s why Steve is pushing so hard. Asking for an exclusive for a year, yeah, sure. But five years?” she shakes her head, “No way. As the owner of a singular product line, it’s stupid. You don’t want to rely on one company promoting your stuff, especially now with SchoolMart. They carry thousands of products, it could get lost in the shuffle. ”

“She’s got him by the balls,” Christen murmurs, realizing how Jesse has the advantage.

“Yeah, and with how Steve is treating everyone, I know he’ll be so stubborn that he’ll overstep and Jesse will tell him one year only or she won’t sell at all to him because he’s being a dick.”

Christen scoots closer, rubbing her hand on Tobin’s leg, “So when does your training start, stud?”

“I took a half day on Wednesday to meet with a trainer,” she replies, “he’s the strength and conditioning coach for the Thorns and has his own gym.” She shrugs, “I figure I’ll just tell him why I’m really there and show him how serious I am and go from there.”

Christen nods, “Well, anything I can do to help,” she smiles at her, her eyes narrowing a little, “like massages and stretching, hot showers, soaking in the tub,” she kisses her, “I’m your woman.”

Tobin smiles at her, “Thank you,” she says, looking at her seriously, “without you I wouldn’t be doing this. I won’t let you down.”

Christen shake her head, “Honey, you’re not going to let me down. It doesn’t matter to me if you make the team,” she says, “I mean, I know it would be amazing, but you just trying is what this is all about. No regrets.”

Tobin bites her lip as she nods, “Yeah,” she says, “no regrets.” She looks over at her, “You know this will take up a lot of my time,” she says slowly, “with getting PERT off the ground and I imagine I’ll be doing workouts twice a day and stuff,”

Christen nods, “I understand,” she says with a small smile, “we’ll just keep talking about schedules and work something out. I’m not worried about it, honey.”

Tobin smiles and leans over to kiss her briefly, “Thanks, babe,” she says, looking deeply into her eyes, “I love you.” She bites her lower lip for a moment as she thinks, “I’ll make sure I delegate stuff,” she says as she nods, “so I don’t spread myself too thin and you and I won’t be seeing each other and stuff.”

Christen nods, “We’ll cross those bridges together, alright? Let’s not worry about it now, but we’ll make a game plan as things come together.”

“Thanks, babe,” Tobin smiles at her, “I’m super excited about this,”

Christen grins back at her, “So am I.”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

“But you can’t leave, I’m counting on you.”

“I am leaving,” Tobin replies to Steve. She’s handed over her letter of resignation and Steve has been trying to convince her to change her mind for the last half hour. “The stress created by this takeover is not healthy for me.”

“But it’s just some growing pains,” Steve replies earnestly.

Tobin shakes her head and stands up from the chair she was sitting in his office. “I don’t think you understand,” she says evenly, “how you present these growing pains makes all the difference in the world.”

“You need this job.” He says, offended. “What are you going to do?”

“I do not need this job, Steve,” Tobin replies just as curtly, “and it’s no business of yours what I do.”

“You better not go to a competing company!” He exclaims.

Tobin laughs, “It wouldn’t matter if I did. I do not have any type of non-compete clause. I’ve never signed any such document from you.” She curls one corner of her lip sardonically, seeing how he is seething. “I didn’t want it be this way,” she says quietly, stepping to the door.

“Why don’t you just make today your last day then,” he says scornfully.

Tobin shrugs and grins at him, “Sweet,” she steps to his desk, grabs her letter and scratches out the perfunctory date two weeks from today. “Let me just make copies for HR,” she says and leaves his office.

She makes two copies, pops back in to his office and drops the original on his desk. “I’m grateful for my time here, you know,” she says quietly. “But going from a family type company to this corporate thing,” she shakes her head, “it’s not my style.”

He looks up at her, “I didn’t want it like this,” he confesses.

Tobin frowns at him, “Neither did I,” she says, “thanks for everything, Steve, we had some awesome times.”

Steve sighs, “We sure did,” he says, frowning as he looks around his office.

“Later,” Tobin says and exits his office, whistling a peppy tune as she returns to her desk. She’s removed all personal items and all of the files and reports she wants, she’s got all the contacts she’s interested in and the only thing she can think of doing is to clean her office a little. She had prepared herself just in case of this exact scenario. She’s a little surprised he didn’t tell her to leave immediately.

Forty minutes later she’s walking out a full garbage bag out to the dumpster when she spies Steve getting into his car from the warehouse. She heads back into the office and looks around. “Hey, Linds, is he gone for the day?”

Lindsey looks up from her screen, “Yeah, said he has meetings for the rest of the day.”

Tobin nods, a plan coming to mind. “Sweet, thanks,” she says and returns to her office. She grabs a copy of her resignation and brings it to Abby, their office manager and HR person.

“So, Abs,” Tobin says after she knocks on the doorjamb, “got a minute?”

“Sup, Tobes?” Abby asks, looking her over, “What did you do?”

Tobin grins and shrugs, “I did a thing,” she says, unable to keep her grin into spreading from the cheesy grin on her face.

“What?” Abby demands, “I know this look, you give this look right before you nutmeg someone.”

Tobin enters the office and shuts the door behind her, “I quit and today’s my last day.”

“What the fuck Tobin!” she shouts.

“Keep it down!” Tobin exclaims, cringing, “Geez!”

She looks at the letter, “He made you change it to today?”

Tobin nods, “He was a little upset.”

“That fucker,” she mutters, “he’s been such a jagoff,”

“Listen,” Tobin says quietly, “I want you to come to my place Friday after work,” she says seriously, “I’ve got something I want you to listen to.”

“A motivational speaker to deal with this shit?” Abby asks, half joking.

“No, a job.” Tobin replies.

Abby looks at her for a moment, “I’ll come and listen.” She says, “What time?”

“Right after, we’ll eat too,” Tobin smiles, “just, huh, keep this on the down low, will ya? I’m not asking everyone.”

“My lips are sealed.” She promises.

“Thanks,” Tobin grins and opens the door, “I’ll talk to you later,”

Tobin stops by Alex’s office, making her call Allie, Ali, Emily and Lindsey in. She tells them how she resigned and today is her last day. She tells them about Friday night, the three Al’s having an idea it’s about PERT but not saying anything. After she does that, she finds Morgan in the warehouse and together they get Crystal from purchasing and Tobin invites them to her place. Tobin knows Christie in AR is looking for another job in the corporate sector and Shannon is going to quit soon and stay home with her kids for a while. She thinks this will be an awesome core group to start with.

When she gets back to her office, she calls Megan Klingenberg, their IT person who comes in when things go wrong with their computers. She plays soccer with them and is aware of what’s happening with the company. She’s been complaining about her job lately, posting availability on LinkedIn so Tobin knows she’s looking. They chat for a bit and then Tobin invites her to her place Friday night. Kling accepts, she trusts Tobin and is willing to give a listen.

Having those tasks completed, Tobin finishes cleaning out her office and begins to say goodbye to her other coworkers. She eats a leisurely lunch with Allie and Alex, talking quietly about PERT and gauging their interest. She tells them that Jesse will be there on Friday and she sees how they get excited. With nothing left to do, Tobin pops back in by Abby and tells her she’s going to take off. She makes one last round to say goodbye and leaves the parking lot, looking back feeling good and excited about the future.

When she gets home, she texts Jesse that she quit. Jesse confirms her arrival time, insisting on renting a car so her wife can check out Portland while they’re working. Tobin tells her how Christen offered to take her around and they can figure it out when they meet on Friday afternoon.

She calls her lawyer and her financial advisor, asking if they would want to do lunch this week. They’re both open tomorrow so they agree on it. She wants to set the wheels in motion that she may be making a large purchase and would need some advice on how to navigate getting business licenses and such. They both recommend a realtor to her, saying she’s highly professional and knows her stuff. Her lawyer says she’ll email her the contact info.

When she gets off the phone, she’s excited so she grabs her laptop and sits in the kitchen, looking for warehouse availability. She makes some notes on some places she wants to check out, thinking a few of them would suit the purpose she has in mind. She doesn’t want just an office space, she wants something larger, something where they could do trainings in on the physical side and the computer side. It’s around two thirty when her phone chirps, she sees it’s Jesse.

“Yo, what’s up?” she answers.

“I did it.” Jesse says nervously, “Tobin, I did it. I emailed Steve back and told him I was refusing to renew the contract on grounds of the five year exclusivity clause he added. I'll only sell to him if it's for one year with no exclusive.”

“Jesse, you did the right thing,” Tobin says, “with how many other products SchoolMart sells, how do we know the curriculum wouldn’t get lost in their stuff? And just the little I’ve interacted with them, they wouldn’t know what to do with it. They wouldn’t train their sales staff on how to sell it.”

“You’re right,” Jesse says, “and I trust you.” She pauses for a moment. “I’m sold on the idea of having a satellite office in Portland,” she says, “but what are these plans you have?”

“Just putting things in place to get this curriculum in every school we can,” Tobin replies confidently, “I have a vision and I want to share it with the group and get everybody on board and hear feedback and we’ll go from there.”

Jesse is quiet for a minute. “You really think it’s that good?” she asks with uncertainty.

“I do. My friends do. The people I’ve sold it to do. Jesse, this is good stuff.” Tobin assures her.

Tobin can hear Jesse take in a deep breath and let it out. “Okay.” Jesse replies. “I’m in for it all,” she then laughs, “whatever the hell you’re thinking!”

They sign off with the promise to call if something comes up before Friday.

Feeling energized Tobin goes to her fridge, needing to do something to stay busy. It’s her turn to cook so she inspects her choices and pulls out what she needs. She looks at the clock, she’s got two and half hours to have it ready before Chris comes over. She gets to work.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Hi babe,” Christen greets her, eying the clock and seeing she’s home early. She’s taking off her coat when she spies Tobin’s backpack and a box lying on the floor near Tobin’s boots she kicked off. Usually Tobin doesn’t leave things lying around.

“Hi, babe, how was your day?” Tobin greets coming from the kitchen to plant a kiss on her. She hugs her tight.

“It was good,” Christen replies, feeling like something’s off, “how was yours?” she asks, knowing Tobin’s been stressed at work.

“I had the best day!” Tobin pulls back to exclaim, beaming at her. Christen smiles at her, surprised at her answer.

“Really?” she asks, slightly doubtful.

“Yeah, and I’ll tell you all about it in the barn,” Tobin says as she peels away from her, returning to the kitchen to load covered dishes on a tray.

“We’re eating in the barn?” Christen guesses as she follows her to the kitchen.

“Uh huh,” Tobin replies, that look of happiness not leaving her face. “Puppies too,” she adds as she stands next to her. “Will you hold this so I can get my boots on?” she asks, offering her the tray.

Christen takes it and watches as Tobin slips them on before taking the tray back and gesturing with her head for her to leave through the back door.

 

“Oh, Tobin!” Christen quietly exclaims, seeing how she has arranged a singular table lit by candles and the lights dim. It’s warm in the barn, the low hum of the heaters can be barely heard over the soft music playing.

Christen’s favorite wine is on the table, the bottle open to breathe. The table is draped in linen, the place settings laid out across from one another. Glasses she had never seen before were in place, fine crystal no doubt.

“What is all this?” she questions, watching as Tobin sets covered dishes on the table, just like the style they use for room service. She notices there are four, then smiles as she watches Tobin place two of them on the floor for Khaleesi and Morena.

“This,” Tobin smiles at her, “this is to new beginnings,” she spreads her arms wide, walking around the table to embrace her. “I quit today,” she says excitedly, without remorse, “I gave him two weeks notice, but he was being an ass and said make it today. So, I did.”

“Oh, honey,” Christen responds, a little unsure. She’s slightly confused as to why Tobin seems so, well, giddy.

“So, tonight, we celebrate the start of something new,” she continues, “and I want to share with you my idea and hear your opinion.”

“Of course,” Christen smiles, “I’m happy that you’re out of that toxic environment,”

“So am I,” Tobin agrees, “I didn’t realize how bad it was until I left this afternoon,” she says, moving to her side and pulling out the chair for her. She pushes in the seat, then uncovers the dish.

“Is this?” Christen looks at her plate, then up at Tobin who is sitting down and lifting the lid on her own plate.

“Yep,” she grins, “chicken marsala,” she confirms. It’s one of Christen’s favorite dishes. “It’ll probably be the last time I have it for a while,” she adds.

“Why’s that?” Christen questions, lifting her fork and knife.

“I’ll be in training,” Tobin reminds her, “gotta watch my intake.”

Christen nods, “Well, I’ll be willing to cook whatever you want,”

“Thanks, babe,” Tobin says genuinely.

While they eat, Tobin explains how her talk with Steve went and the rest of her short day. She tells her about contacting her lawyer and financial advisers and getting in touch with a realtor. She tells her about her conversation with Jesse and how she refused to renew the contract with the five year exclusive clause.

“How do you think you’ll be able to fit in training?” Christen asks, after hearing her tentative plans.

“Well, I’ll may end up doing some training at night,” Tobin says slowly, uncertain as to how she’ll take the news.

Christen nods, half expecting it already. Tobin only has a few months to get in tip top shape. “Well, listen,” she says, “by the way, this is absolutely delicious,” she sidetracks, “but if you’re needing someone to feed you balls, I’m your girl,”

Tobin’s eyes go wide, “Really?”

“Babe, like I said, I’m here for you,” she smiles at her, “and if that means taking some evenings to kick a ball around, I’m in.”

“Thanks, babe,” Tobin smiles at her, her eyes shimmering, “I really appreciate it.”

“You know,” Christen contemplates, “I bet Kelley and HAO would be willing to help,”

Tobin grimaces, “I don’t know,” she shakes her head, “I don’t know if I want everyone to know what I’m doing.”

“Tobin,” Christen looks at her, “just think of who your friends are. You have forwards, defenders, two goalies,” she shakes her head, “hell, one of them might want to try out too!”

“I need to find someplace to do that,” Tobin murmurs, her mind trying to think of indoor places she rent time.

“I’ll help you,” Christen offers, “we can look around.”

“Okay,” Tobin grins. “How about I do the presentation and then we can have dessert?”

“Sounds good,” Christen agrees.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Tobin!” Christen gasps, looking up from Tobin’s phone showing a building Tobin thinks would be perfect for the company, “That building costs almost twenty million dollars!”

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, “I know,”

“Honey,” Christen grabs her arm, “can you afford that?” They’ve never spoken specifics of Tobin’s net worth. Christen thought it would be nosy of her to ask. Especially since Tobin rarely speaks of it.

Tobin smiles, “I can.”

Christen eyes go wide, “And you’ll still be okay if this all doesn’t work out?”

“Oh yeah,” Tobin nods at her. “No problem.”

Christen stares at her, “Babe,” she says quietly, looking over her shoulder as if someone was eavesdropping, “just how much money do you have?” she whispers.

Tobin looks at her a little uncomfortably, scratching at her back of her neck like she does when she’s feeling uncertain, “About eighty mil,” she answers just as quietly.

“Oh,” is all Christen can say. Then she laughs. Loudly. “And we’re sitting in your barn!” she bellows, rising from her chair and pulling Tobin from her seat, hugging her tight, “I love you!” she exclaims, squeezing her tight. Tobin’s arms are at her sides, she’s so confused by Christen.

Christen feels it and pulls back, keeping her hands on Tobin’s biceps. “Babe,” she smiles at her, looking at her so lovingly, “you are something else,”

Tobin gives her a half smile, still confused by her reaction.

“You are so down to earth,” Christen explains, “you never give the impression that you have so much money.”

Tobin shrugs, “It’s just money,” she replies, “I mean, it’s a thing, like, and it doesn’t dictate who I am. Sure, it let’s me be generous, but like, I don’t lord it over people.”

Christen guides Tobin back in her seat and then grabs her chair and pulls it next to her and sits down. “You’re going to have to tell the group though, right?” She questions, “I mean, they’ll need to know how this whole thing is being funded.”

Tobin nods, “Yeah,” she says, biting at her lower lip as she thinks, “it’s actually in a trust,” she explains, “and however it was made, there are a few layers to go through to find my name.”

“Oh, that’s smart,” Christen brightens up, “so, people can’t find out with a Google search?”

“Not very easily,” Tobin nods again, “my Grandpa set it up like that so none of us would be targeted or anything when we got the money.”

“What a smart man,” Christen says softly, “to protect you like that.”

Tobin smiles at her, “He would have really liked you,” she says, tears threatening in her eyes, “you would have made him laugh.”

Christen finds Tobin’s hand and squeezes it, “He sounds like a special man.”

Tobin just nods and flicks a finger under her eye, “He was.” She pauses for a moment, “So,” she says slowly, “what do you think about the plan?”

“Well,” Christen sits back in her seat, “first and foremost, it’s more than fair to Jesse. I like that you leave the door open to collaborate with other teachers under the PERT brand to gain new materials so the pressure is off her and it then allows you to market the curriculum as teacher created. That’s smart. I love how you’ve thought ahead to include space in the building create video content.” She pauses for a moment, “But the part about pricing!” she smiles at her. “That’s so clever.”

Tobin has a section broken down of the actual costs of the curriculum, then a sliding scale of offering the curriculum at various prices and the adjoining subscription price for the licenses of content updates. Most technology expenses, like licenses, come from different budgets in schools. That would make it easier on P.E. teachers to convince their administrations that the curriculum is valid and worth the money. Having those yearly subscription monies coming in, it would allow them to keep the PERT prices down, so the main curriculum software price could be lowered. Depending on how many units they sold, eventually they could offer the curriculum for free and districts would only have to pay for the two day training and upkeep on the subscription for updates.

Each subscription came with one license allowance, meaning it could be used at one school. If a district had for schools in it and they were all going to use the PERT curriculum, they would need four licenses. Tobin had calculated that if they sold 800 subscriptions they would be in the black, covering all of the estimated expenses.

This past year, the combined sales of Allie, Tobin and Jesse equaled three hundred and fifty. That was with the three of them essentially doing it part time because of their other responsibilities. Having more salespeople, targeting larger school districts and going to more tradeshows and conferences to gain more exposure, it would be a doable goal.

“As a department head,” Christen continues, “I love the idea of using the technology funds for the subscription. Those budgets usually always have room and the price is reasonable per license compared to other school subjects and most of the time, there are more grants available to schools for technology. Some of the other ones- they’re so expensive! So, I would lean towards that.”

Tobin grins at her, “I knew you would,” she chuckles, “actually that’s part of why I put this in here. If we want to target schools in lower economic areas, this would be our best bet.”
“And I like how you suggest to allow to PERT related products as an add on, making unique games teachers can purchase separately.” Christen grins at her, “I imagine there’s plenty of teachers who have great ideas for products and games.”

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, “and those are the kind of teachers we would want to get involved,” she says, “those with that passion, you know?”

“You daydreamed about this for along time, didn’t you?” Christen accuses her, a smile on her face.

Tobin nods guiltily, “I did,” she admits, “I just thought of what if, you know?”

“I like that you have big dreams,” Christen says, leaning in and kissing her, “it’s so sexy.”

Tobin kisses her back, “You’re so sexy,” she husks, twisting to hold her as she kisses again.

 

XXXX

 

 

“So, what do you think?” Tobin asks warily as she looks around at those gathered. It’s Friday and Tobin has just completed her presentation.

She sees Alex looking at the screen thoughtfully, Allie is nodding, a small smirk on her face. Ali, Kling and Jesse are writing in their notebooks, scribbling quickly. Lindsey and Emily have their heads close, whispering to each other just like Morgan and Crystal are. Abby is leaning back in her seat smiling widely at Tobin.

Tobin takes a seat and a long drink of water while they are processing everything. Then Alex speaks.

“I’m in.” she says directly. “But,” she holds up a finger, “I’m thinking I’ll do AR and AP until it becomes too much, right?”

Tobin nods, “That’s what I was thinking,” then she smiles, “want to go warehouse shopping?” Alex smiles brightly back at her as she nods.

“We should make a list of what the building needs to have,” Morgan suggests, “like we should have a dock, we should allow for warehouse space for products and shipping materials.”

“Yeah and we should have storage for chairs and table and equipment that isn’t being used.” Allie adds.

“Okay,” Tobin smiles, “let’s make a list.”

 

After they’ve completed what they feel are the necessities of their dream building, they all grab beers to celebrate. Abby sips her beer and looks over at Tobin. “So, Tobes,” she calls out, getting everyone’s attention, “you haven’t told us one slight detail that is very important.”

Tobin looks up, tilting her head and racking her brain for what she’s missed. “What’s that?”

Abby leans forward in her chair, giving her a steely look, “Two questions: what’s the salary and how the fuck are we going to pay for this?”

Tobin’s mouth drops opens, her face flushing, “Oh, yeah,” she says slowly, “well, she scratches at the back of her neck, “see, I will.”

You could hear a pin drop with the immediate silence.

“Come again?” Abby asks, looking very intimidating.

She looks around the barn at them before she speaks. “I’ve known most of you for a long time and I trust you keep will this confidential. I don’t tell people this because I like my privacy and the world doesn’t need to know my business.” She takes a drink of her beer. “I have a trust fund that will more than cover the expenses of this endeavor.” Tobin states directly, straightening up with confidence. “My lawyers will be talking with Jesse’s and will negotiate terms for the investment that are reasonable, the trust will own the building and the company will pay a decent rent.”

“You’re rich?” Crystal asks, a look of astonishment on her face.

“I have money,” Tobin nods, reaching down to pet Khaleesi who is sitting next to her.

Tobin moves to her laptop and pulls up the budget sheet she created. She tabs the document to find the position page with job titles and responsibilities and the salaries.

“I was thinking of this.” She states when she clicks on it. “We’re all going to be working our asses off to make this happen. There will be travel for some of you, we’ll do equal company bonuses, and of course reimburse any expenses you have for company use.”

The salaries were double of what she had estimated each of them were currently making. Yes, she was overpaying them a bit, but her faith in their work ethic would make it pay off.

Alex swallows, “Well, that would be acceptable.” The others nod with her, stunned at the figures listed.

 

“I really like the idea of using the workout space for low priced soccer training,” Allie states, to get back on track, “I think targeting the lower economic parts of the city is smart.”

“I just feel soccer should be available to everyone, you know?” Tobin says quietly, “but I realize in this day and age of clubs teams and stuff, players need the extra coaching to get recognized.”

“Hell, you should hire some of the Thorns players to do clinics,” Kling states, “some of them need second jobs, the league still pays shit.”

“It’s a thought,” Tobin states quietly. She doesn’t want to say anything about her goal of trying out just yet. She looks at her watch, “Why don’t we talk about job responsibilities in the house? Chris and Flynn should be back soon with the food,” Flynn is Jesse’s wife who is out with Christen, checking out the city.

Once in the house, Tobin feeds the dogs as everyone settles around the table. Talk flies of who should do what, what the office needs would be, logistical issues, internet access and computers, purchasing and so on. Questions arise about business licenses, inspections and when they think they would actually move in to a facility. Decorating, office furniture, painting, are discussed. Graphic and social media content follows.

They discuss how they would approach selling the curriculum directly in the area. Competing against Portland P.E. They talk about when they would quit. Jesse explains that as soon as they have the investment agreed upon, they could become employees of PERT. It might be by the end of next week. Nether her or Tobin thought there wouldn’t be any problems, it’s only a matter of paperwork.

Abby offers to look into health insurance, it’s something she’s done for Portland P.E. so she’s familiar with it. Tobin adds that she wants to offer a 401K that everyone could roll over into from the one at Portland P.E.. Kling offers up ideas for new interactive content, using iPads for the students to take their quizzes on them with multiple choice for instant grading.

Together they shape the vision and mission statement of the company. Allie suggests they consider wording their advertisements to include it’s a woman owned business. That would open the doors of opportunities to fulfill state contracts across the country.

The group tosses around the idea of all turning in their resignations on the same day to Steve, weighing the pros and cons and if they wanted to be that vindictive. They decide Alex and Allie will go first, then Abby so she can work on the all of the paperwork and business end of things, the rest will hold out for as long as they can, most of them using up vacation days until they’re ready.

Christen beeps in the driveway, letting them know she’s returned with Flynn and they help them bring in trays of food from one of Tobin’s favorite restaurants. Before they make plates, introductions are made, then they all raise a glass.

“Here’s to an exciting new venture,” Jesse toasts, “we’re gonna kill it.”

“Cheers!”

 

XXXX

 

 

“So, its really happening, huh?” Christen questions as she lets her fingers trace along Tobin’s sternum. The night is over. They’ve all agreed verbally to commit and would wait until they hear from the lawyers that it was a go.

“Uh huh,” Tobin replies sleepily. It’s late. The group stayed for hours, all eagerly discussing the possibilities of this new business. Not much alcohol was consumed, all were focused on raising new ideas of how to make them unique in the world of curriculums.

“I’m so happy for you, babe,” Christen says, placing a soft kiss on Tobin’s cheek. “Good night.”

“G’night,” Tobin sighs wearily, half asleep already.

 

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

Christen enters her apartment, immediately seeing Tobin asleep on the couch, kneeling down to quietly greet the dogs. She gets off her coat and boots, carrying her backpack to her kitchen table and setting it down on a chair. She gives Khaleesi and Morena treats, then sees the food bowls on the counter. She feeds them and then turns her attention to her girlfriend.

It’s been two weeks and Tobin is exhausted. She’s been working out twice a day under the instruction of Garga Caserta, fitness coach to the Thorns for the last twelve days. It’s taken Christen a little bit of patience to adjust to this new schedule but knowing there is an end date in sight helps. She knows Tobin is doing her best to make time with her, sleeping over many nights since her place is closer to the gym.

It’s been an education for both of them. After the first week, Garga saw how focused and serious Tobin was about her commitment to his program and he began to respect her drive. This last week, he incorporated new workouts and even though Tobin knew she was in good shape, she realized very quickly how many muscle groups she hadn’t been using.
Many evenings were spent with Christen massaging her body, most times Tobin being too tired and sore to even make a single sexual comment.

Between her training at the gym and looking at real estate properties and getting PERT off the ground, Tobin’s days are packed. Christen has spent quite a few evenings catching up on her shows with Tobin lying across her lap dead asleep. Usually Tobin would be up and cooking dinner by now, she notes as she crosses her small living room to kneel in front of the couch near Tobin’s head. She must be really tired.

“Babe, wake up,” Christen gently calls, rubbing Tobin’s forearm with her hand, “come on honey,”

Tobin groans and sniffs, shifting her head to bury it into the pillow, yet remains dead to the world. Christen smiles at her, feeling for her. If what she’s doing now is close to the two a day trainings she suffered through in college, she has her sympathy. She stands up, deciding to make dinner and then haul her off the couch. At the counter, she notices Tobin had pulled out the veggies for dinner, already chopped already in a bowl on the counter. She figures she was waiting to get the food going when she came home.

Christen has just started back up at school, enjoying the long winter break and not enjoying the hyper kids she faced today who were bouncing off the walls from pent up energy of being back in school. She’s settled into her this second semester pleased that majority of the district P.E. teachers are on board with PERT and have been using the curriculum. That hadn’t been the case in her other school near LA. She met much resistance when she tried to enforce the teachers to use their existing curriculum. It had been a frustrating ongoing battle for three years.

Working here was a breath of fresh air compared to back then. Almost everyone was engaged with the curriculum, sharing new games they’ve played, interacting with their peers. Their institute days have become filled with non-stop talking, teachers sharing ideas, making handouts and talking about conferences they want to attend. They’ve been working with other teachers to get ideas for grade appropriate learning, using math formulas, maps of the state and country, spelling lessons and social skills. The administration has seen a rise in test scores, although they aren’t publicly willing to admit it’s because of PERT, there is much talk that it’s helped tremendously.

It’s not that there isn’t any stress to her job, but Christen feels that it’s normal, doable work-related stress. Worrying about certain students, making sure she has her lesson plans set, concerned about what the yearly equipment budget will be. She has to admit, when she leaves work, she usually can leave it all there and that’s a wonderful feeling. Especially now. Because now she has the energy to devote herself to supporting Tobin for these next few weeks as she works her ass off to ready for tryouts for the Thorns.

Their friends are getting suspicious. Tobin has missed a few nights of pick up soccer, leaving her to explain why she wasn’t there. Kelley, Heather and Ashlyn are the most persistent in hounding her for answers. At first, she explained she was looking at real estate for the building, but now they’ve narrowed it down to two sites and are just waiting for the zoning commission to reply if they are able to use the space how they want. Just last night, the entire group complained about how they haven’t seen her in almost two weeks. She was going to have to talk her about it tonight.

 

With dinner finished and plated on the counter, Christen heads to the couch for attempt number two in waking her up. She sits on the edge of the couch, running her hand on Tobin’s side over the blanket.

“Tobin,” she gently calls, “it’s time to wake up. Dinner’s ready,”

Tobin groans, then mumbles into the pillow, shifting from her side to her back, yawning before opening her eyes and blinking sleepily up at Christen. “Hey babe,” she croaks, “how was school?”

Christen smiles and leans down and kisses her softly, “I had a really nice day,” she replies, “come on, dinner is ready.” She pats Tobin’s stomach and then stands.

“Oh,” Tobin moans, slowly sitting up, “babe, I was going to cook,” she says frowning and slowly stands up, “it’s my turn.”

“And I wanted you to sleep,” Christen smiles back at her, “so I chose to cook. It’s okay,” she says pulling out the chair and placing a hand on Tobin’s shoulder to guide her into it, “we’ll get back on a schedule when things settle down. No worries,” she assures her and takes her place next to her at the table. “So, explain your text to me,” she begins, “you said Garga invited you to train with him and a few others tonight?”

Tobin’s face comes to life, her eyes go wide and light up, “Yeah,” she says excitedly, “he wants me to come and do some ball drills and kick it around.”

“Honey, that’s great!” Christen is excited for her, “Did you mention about how you’re nervous about doing training drills?”

Tobin nods as she chews, once she swallows she takes a sip of water. “This chicken is awesome babe,” she comments, “Yeah, I told him about how I haven’t done any organized training like, to prepare for how they’ll be at the tryouts. He told me to not worry,” she nods her head, “he said the Thorns staff break down everything really well and it’s not a big deal. He said we’ll get to some agility drills they do and he’ll ask around about ball drills.”

“That was nice of him,” Christen smiles, having a feeling Tobin has charmed this man with her honesty and work ethic. People just naturally like her, her easy going nature, her quick smile that can cure whatever troubles you and infectious laugh.

“Yeah, so I need to be there by eight and he said they hang out until like nine-thirty.” Tobin informs her, “Do you mind if I crash here tonight?”

“Sweetie, you don’t have to ask,” Christen smiles at her, “do you have clothes for tomorrow morning?”

“Yeah, I packed some extra stuff.” She replies. “This chicken is so good,” she shakes her head, “what did you do to it?”

“I followed that recipe from the blog you sent me,” Christen answers, “it turned out very good.”

“Oh, I’m not doing anything Saturday night and nothing at all on Sunday,” Tobin says, looking up at her, “Garga said to take a little break and take it easy. He’s confident we’ll get there for February.”

Christen is liking Garga more and more she discovers, and she hasn’t even met him. “Well, we should do something low key,” she suggests, “Kelley is having some people over Saturday night, we could go there for a bit. I’ve been interrogated why you haven’t been at soccer. I think you need to tell them.”

Tobin twists her mouth up as she considers, then she sighs deeply, her shoulder slumping, “Yeah, I think you’re right.”

“Tobin,” Christen says nudging her arm, “they’re going to want to help you. You know that.”

Tobin sniffs, nodding her head, “I know, they’re awesome like that,” she says, “I just thought it would be sweet if somehow I made the team and could surprise them.”

“They’re too smart for that, sweetie,” Christen shakes her head, “you need to tell them.”

“You’re right,” Tobin sighs, “I will. I feel kind of bad for ghosting on them lately.”

 

XXXX

 

 

“Well if it isn’t Tobin Heath out from under her rock!” Kelley calls out loudly as her and Christen are taking their jackets off and tossing them on the pile of coats stacked on a large cardboard box in the hallway.

Tobin grabs the bottle of wine and the carton of fresh apple juice they brought, holding them in each hand and spreading her arms. “In the flesh!”

Kelley approached her and sees the apple juice, looking at her questioningly. “What’s with the juice? You off the sauce? I’ve got a bottle of Jack here for you,”

“Yeah,” Tobin lowers her arms, “I’m not drinking right now,” she says, a surge of nerves twisting her in her belly.

“What’s going on Tobes?” Alex asks with concern, walking towards her and Christen. Tobin glances at Chris, who gives her an encouraging nod.

Kelley gives a half turn back, “Cut the music,” she says, then faces Tobin. “What’s going on?” she asks, her concern evident.

“Uh,” Tobin says, looking around. Everyone is there. Ali and Ash, Allie and Bati, Serv and Alex, Heather and Dave, Emily, lingering by the kitchen with Morgan, Crystal and Lindsey, all of them looking concerned.

“Are you pregnant?” Emily yells from across the room as the others laugh.

Christen reaches for Tobin’s hand and gives her it a squeeze. Tobin nods, “So, well, I’ve kind been busy, see,” she begins, “on a new project.”

“You’re not going to do PERT?” Crystal asks with raised eyebrows and a frown.

“Oh, no, yeah, I’m in for PERT,” Tobin says quickly, “this is something totally different. Just, like, I’ve, I’ve had this dream, see and now, now is my shot to go for it and I don’t want to have any regrets if I don’t.”

Alex slides in next to her, first looking at closely Christen who gives her a small closed mouth smile and then at Tobin, who’s turning red and having trouble looking at any of them.

“What is it?” Alex asks softly, her voice low and raspy, “You can tell us,” she says reassuringly, her hand rubbing Tobin’s upper arm.

Tobin glances at her and nods and then takes a deep breath. She lets it and looks at the floor, “I’mtrainingtogetinshapeandtryoutfortheThorns,” she says quickly in one breath.

It’s so quiet the only noise heard is the noise from the icemaker in Kelley’s kitchen.

“Wait, what?” Alex furrows her forehead.

“You’re gonna try out for the Thorns?” Ashlyn shouts, “Dude! That’s awesome!”

“That’s what you’ve been doing? Training?” Kelley asks, bending down to catch Tobin’s eyes and grinning at her.

“Yeah,” Tobin says quietly.

“That’s fucking amazing!” Allie bellows. “Harry! Why didn’t you say something?”

“Yeah, why’ve you been so hush hush?” Morgan chimes in. All of them are staring at her.

“Well,” Tobin shrugs, scratching at the back of her neck, “it just seems like a pipe dream, and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

Alex is hugging her from the side, squishing her, “It’s not a pipe dream,” she whispers in her in ear, giving her a tug, “you got it?”

Tobin barely nods before Christen let’s go of her hand and pushes her shoulder towards her friends. They surround her, asking her about what she’s been doing and Tobin is trying to answer them all.

“Guy, guys, guys!” Heather shouts, “Give the girl some room,” she commands, “let’s all get a drink and some food and talk about this,”

Once everyone was settled in the living room, some on the floor and the rest squeezed together on the couch and two chairs, drinks and snacks in hand, Kelley shouts to them to be quiet.

“Okay, now Tobin,” she says, “why didn’t you tell us sooner you were thinking of this? We’d totally help you train, fuck, we’ll stop playing pick up for the month to get you ready.”

Tobin shrugs, taking a sip of her apple juice, “I really didn’t think about seriously until a few weeks ago,” she replies, “it never entered my head until Chris told me to really make sure I was doing what I wanted.” She’s half on Christen’s lap.

“So,” Alex draws out the word, “what about PERT?”

“I’m totally in it,” Tobin confirms, “I might not be able to get out and sell and do as many presentations, but I’ll make sure certain you guys know it like the back of your hand.” She looks around, “If, and I mean a really big IF, I make the team or practice squad, I’ll be around to keep up with stuff and when the season is over, I’ll take on the tradeshows and stuff,” As she’s speaking, she doesn’t see how Christen is smiling proudly behind her.

“We’re going to rock it, Harry,” Allie says firmly, “and you’re going to rock your try out. Now, tell us, how can we help? Shooting drills, passing drills?”

The women organize two nights a week to assist Tobin with her workouts. They’ll use the one night they normally play, and Tobin will rent time for the other night. After they’ve sorted out those details, talk turns to the NWSL and how they think the Thorns will look in the upcoming season.

 

“That went well,” Tobin smiles over at Christen as she guides her truck back to her home. She squeezes Christen’s hand, “thanks babe,”

Christen smiles at her, “Feel better?”

“I do,” Tobin admits, “you were right.”

“Ah,” Christen sighs, smiling at her, brushing her fingers on her shoulder, “anything else on your mind we can take care of?”

“No,” Tobin chuckles, “I think I have a clean slate,” she says, “my friends know I have money, I’m going to work doing something l love, and I’m training hard to follow my dream,” she says. When the truck is stopped at a red light, Tobin looks over at Christen, “What about you? Are you living the dream?”

The light changes and Tobin focuses on the road, then glances over when Christen hasn’t answered. “Babe?” she questions. Looking over once more to see Christen deep in thought.

“Oh,” Christen shales her head, “right.”

“Hon?” Tobin asks again when there’s no response.

“I think I am,” Christen replies honestly, “I’m happy, the dogs are happy,” she squeezes Tobin’s hand, “you’re happy. I think I’m doing what I should be doing right now.” She looks over at her, giving her a dazzling smile, “I feel like we’re both busy and doing things we love and it’s all exciting and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.”

Tobin smiles at her, “Me too,” she says as she drives, “I’m so grateful for you babe,” she continues, “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for you and I’m so, so grateful with how understanding you are about the craziness right now. I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Christen replies, “and it’s easy right now, we have a big picture. And if the big picture changes, whether you make the team or not,” she shrugs, “we just reevaluate and go from there.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Tobin’s teeth flashes before the looks back to the road.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Tobin!” Garga calls out, Tobin swiveling to turn and look at him. She’s in the shooting gym, dumping the ball bag out getting ready to take some shots and do some drills. Try outs are a week away and she’s been gearing up for next weekend.

“Sup?” she asks, seeing a few women filter in.

“Come here,” he says, gesturing to her, “I want you to meet some people.”

Tobin almost drops her water bottle as she approaches. Emily Menges, Katherine Reynolds and Christen Fucking Sinclair are looking at her. Keeping her shit together, Tobin approaches them, “Hey,” she greets, “I’m Tobin,” she offers her hand to Emily. They shake and introductions are made, the women all just using their first names.

Tobin turns to Garga, “So,” she says, scratching at the back of her neck, “what’s going on?”

Garga smiles at her, “Thought your workout would be more effective with a few more people. You’ve been kicking my ass too much. You could use more of a challenge.” He heads for the door, “Ladies,” he looks at the three Thorns, “don’t go easy on her,” he smirks and leaves the gym.

Christine smirks at Tobin and gives her a head nod, “Let’s see what you’ve got, rook,”

“Uh,” Tobin mumbles, “listen, I’ve only played up through highschool,” she says nervously, “you’re gonna hafta show me your drills,”

“No problem,” Emily slaps her back as she walk past, “let’s go through the stretching and get rolling,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Are you okay?” Christen asks worriedly from the couch when seeing Tobin’s pale face and slightly glassy eyes when she enters through the kitchen door.

“Uh, yeah,” Tobin says distractedly, dropping her bag on a kitchen chair and approaching her, giving her a soft kiss.

“How was your workout?” Christen inquires as she slides her legs off the couch and pats the cushion next to her for Tobin to sit.

“Uh,” Tobin says looking perplexed, “it was surreal,” she leans against her.

“Why’s that?”

“I did drills and shot around with Emily Menges, Kat Reynolds and Christine Sinclair.” Tobin replies, sounding as if she doesn’t believe it herself.

“Woah,” Christen didn’t expect that, “how’d it go?”

A slow smile spreads across her face as she looks at her, “It was pretty amazing!”

Christen launches herself on Tobin, hugging her and kissing her, “Oh, honey! I’m so happy for you!”

Tobin is laughing, “Yeah, they were super cool, and so nice! I told them right away I didn’t know any drills and they were like, that’s cool, we’ll show you. We kicked it around, did some drills and then did some two v two.”

“And?” Christen is nodding at her, “How did it go?”

“I held my own,” Tobin nods proudly, “I didn’t make a fool of myself.”

“Did they take it easy on you?” Christen asks prudently.

Tobin nods, “Yeah, at the beginning,” she says, “but after I nutmegged Emily, that changed.”

Christen’s smile falls into a frown, “What happened after that?”

Tobin side eyes her, “I nutmegged her again and then got Kath too,”

“Aaaahhhh!” Christen yells, flinging herself on Tobin’s lap and kissing her passionately, “Sweetie, I’m so happy for you!”

Tobin kisses her back just as passionately, “Thanks babe,” she says, her hands finding Christen’s ass, “I really needed something like tonight. It showed me I just might have a shot.”

“Did you score?” Christen smiles at her, her eyes taking in how happy she is.

“Oh yeah,” Tobin nods slowly at her, “I scored,”

Christen places her hand on Tobin’s jaw, leaning in to kiss her again, “Wanna score again?”

Tobin wiggles her eyebrows and slides them forward, gripping Christen’s ass and lifting her off the couch and walking to the bedroom. “I’m gonna go for a hattrick,” she says in between kisses.

 

XXXX

 

 

“So, Tobin,” Christine or Sinc, as she told her to call her says, “how is it that you’re just now trying out for the Thorns?” The two are having coffee after a light workout the day before the try outs. It’s the second to last week of February and Christine has been regularly working out with Tobin this past week. Today they went out for coffee after.

“Well,” Tobin shrugs, taking a deep inhale, then letting it out slowly, “I guess I got caught up in my job, I got it my junior year of high school and loved it, and then the company recently got bought out and my girlfriend encouraged me to really think about what I wanted to do with my life and I wanted to try so thirty years from now I wouldn’t look back and feel regret.”

The Canadian eyes her carefully, thoughtfully. Then she smiles, “Well, I’m glad you’re here now,” she says, “giving it a shot. You’ll rock it, don’t let your nerves get the best of you.”

“Thanks,” Tobin says shyly, “It’s been super cool working out with you and Em and Kath,”

Sinc laughs, “You might think so,” she says, laughing harder when she sees Tobin’s look of horror on her face. “I mean, Em and Kath are pissed that you keep nutmegging them!” she laughs, “It’s hilarious!”

Tobin’s face burns the blush she’s sporting. “It’s all good,” Sinc assures her, “I told them I’ll never tease them unless you make the squad,” she chuckles, “then I’m telling everyone, right after you nutmeg the whole team!”

Tobin smiles, nodding bashfully, “Aw, man,” she says, “I don’t know about that,” she says.

“Just listen to the instructions and play,” Sinc suggests, “just tell yourself it’s a training just like you’ve been doing. Don’t worry about the coaches or anything else. Just play the ball.”

“Thanks,” Tobin smiles, touched that she’s taking time out of her day to spend it over coffee and give her a pep talk. They’ve only trained together a half dozen times and have gotten along pretty well.

Sinc looks at her watch, “I’ve got to go,” she says, taking her phone out and handing it her, “Put yourself in there,” she says, “whatever way it works out let’s hang out sometime, eh?”

Tobin passes her own phone to her and then enters her info. They smile.

“You know, my friends have been so freaked I’ve trained with you,” Tobin confides, “every week at pick up, they’re asking what we did and stuff.”

“You play pick up, too?” Sinc asks, her eyes bright.

“Yeah, over at Underdogs right now, when it gets nice again, we play at Stott.” Tobin replies.

“Let me know when next week,” Sinc nods, “me and a few will come by, get some touches.”

“Sweet, I will,” Tobin grins at her, knowing how her friends will freak out.

Sinc surprises her with a hug, “I’m not wishing you good luck,” she says when she pulls back, looking at her steadily with that fire in her eyes that Tobin has seen on TV watching Thorns matches, “you have it in you, just do your thing.”

Tobin can only nod, then Sinc gives her light punch in the shoulder and leaves with Tobin standing there, frozen on her spot for a moment. She shakes her head and gathers her cup and backpack, letting out a deep sigh as she heads to her truck. Now I know how the players feel when Sinc is talking to them, she thinks, riding on a wave of confidence. I can do this. She stands a little taller as she walks, nodding to herself. I got this. Whatever way it ends, at least I can say I tried.

 

XXXX

 

 

Christen is so horny it isn’t funny. She’s not exactly horny in that she needs to get off herself. She needs to get Tobin off. She wants her. She needs to please her. She wants tonight to be all about her. It’s the night before her try out for the Thorns. She wants her to know how proud she is of her before she attempts to make the team. That’s why she’s got dinner on the seat next to her, having texted Tobin and telling her she was stopping to pick up pasta for tonight’s meal, knowing it would be the right choice for her.

She kisses Tobin intensely upon greeting her. She’s at Tobin’s place tonight since it’s closer to Providence Park. The dogs are already here, Tobin had stopped to pick them up after her last workout this afternoon. She’s gently pushing Tobin back up against the fridge and feels how she’s trying to hold on to her as she kisses her so forcefully.

She breaks contact, eying her lovingly, stroking the side of her cheek with her fingers. “Hi baby,” she coos, “how was your day?” she asks innocently.

Tobin blinks a few times, “Uh, it was fine,” she replies, cocking her head to the side, “yours?”

“I’ve been thinking about you all day,” Christen purrs, letting her hand slip down and lazily massage Tobin’s ass. It’s so firm from her increased workouts. Tobin’s whole body has changed in the two months she’s dedicated to getting in shape. She’s bulked up a little and has become so much more defined.

She sees how Tobin gets that look in her eyes as her eyelids drop to just over half open, a slight smirk on her face, “Is that so?” she questions, her voice low and slow, coming out like a drawl that sends another spasm of desire through Christen.

Christen grins at her, her eyes never leaving those brown orbs that convey so much emotion. “Dinner first,” she insists, stepping away from Tobin’s grip, “I got you your favorite,” she says, haughtily turning to the counter to unpack the bag.

“Chris,” Tobin says with that low pull in her voice, the one full of desire.

Christen glances over her shoulder, “We should eat while it’s hot,” she says primly, her eyes still alight with fire, burning into Tobin, teasing her with the promise of what’s to come, “will you feed the dogs while I get this ready?”

She turns, but she can see from the corner of her eye how Tobin runs a hand through her hair, flustered and turned on. She hears Tobin shuffling behind her as she empties the bag, knowing Tobin is thinking of how she’ll tease her tonight for her being so obnoxious right now. Little does Tobin know, Christen has plans for her.

Christen is up to something, Tobin thinks to herself as she feels Christen’s fingers, yet again, brushing along her thigh as they sit on the couch eating dinner. She glances over at her, seeing how Christen has this sly look on her face and she thinks she’s pretending to be so engrossed in what’s on the TV. Tobin must be looking at her for too long because she looks over, slightly amused and gives her a small grin.

“What is your schedule for tomorrow, babe” she asks her.

“I’ll probably get up at six-thirty,” Tobin replies, “so I have enough time to digest and stuff.”

“What do you want for breakfast?”

She shrugs, “Maybe just oatmeal and some fruit,”

“What time are you leaving?”

Tobin lowers her near empty plate and turns slightly to her, “So, I figure if I get up at six-thirty, eat, shower and get dressed, I’ll have time to chill and leave at eight.”

Christen nods, “Sounds good,”

“So, guess who I went out with for coffee today,” Tobin grins at her.

“Who?”

“Christine Sinclair,” Tobin shakes her head, “can you believe it?”

“Honey!” Christen exclaims, “What did you talk about?”

“Just stuff,” she says, “she’s super cool, so down to earth,” she shrugs, “we talked about Portland, she wanted to know what I did for a living and then gave me a pep talk,”

“Aw, that’s sweet,” Christen smiles at her.

“Yeah, it was,” Tobin agrees, “she could tell I’m pretty nervous, so…”

“You can only go out there and do your best,” Christen states firmly, “the rest is out of your hands. You do the best you can during the tryout and go from there. Leave it all oout on the pitch.”

“Spouting that wisdom,” Tobin smiles, then nods, “I’m trying to keep that in mind.”

“So, we should go to bed early,” Christen suggests, leaning forward and standing up, holding a hand out to take Tobin’s plate. Tobin keeps her plate and opts to stand up as well,
“I’ll get the dishes,” she comments, leading the way to the kitchen.

They clean up together, then Tobin mumbles something about wanting to look over the drill sheet she received from the Thorns two days ago. She has it memorized, she’s done the drills multiple times, so she feels confident she’ll get through them, yet it feels comforting to check in with it once again.

Christen lets the dogs out and then disappears into the bedroom. After a while she reappears and slides onto the couch, grabbing the remote and flicking around. After a while, Tobin sets the papers down, looking over and Christen smiles at her.

“Let’s go to bed,” she suggests, giving her a head jerk towards the bedroom.

“It’s still kind of early,” Tobin demures, thinking maybe she’ll check her email and see about the closing date on the warehouse or if Alex has emailed her any questions.

“We’re not going to sleep,” Christen states with a sly look as she stands up, holding her hand out. Tobin smiles and stands up, taking her hand and following her to the bedroom. They detour to the kitchen to let the dogs in, wiping off their wet paws and giving them treats. Tobin gives them each a Kong toy to chew on with organic peanut butter in the hole to keep them occupied for a few hours.

 

“This is all about you,” Christen announces as she closes the door behind them, “I want you to just let go and enjoy,” she says as she steps in front of her. She places her hands on Tobin’s hips and leans in to kiss her. “You need to take these off,” she murmurs, lifting the hem of Tobin’s shirt and helping her out of it. Then off comes the spots bra, the training pants and those boxer briefs that drive her wild. She leads Tobin to the bed, patting the blanket she spread over the comforter for her to sit down. Tobin does so, taking in the lit candles and how the air in the room is infused with a pleasant scent from and incense burner.

“Undress me,” Christen directs as she stands before. Tobin smiles at her, “Sure, babe,” she agrees, placing her hands on her hips and softly pulling at the nylon material of her loose warm ups pants she wears to school. She glides them down her hips, slipping them off one leg at a time as Christen lifts each leg, balancing herself with a hand on Tobin’s shoulder. Tobin lets them fall to the floor, moving her hands up to grip Christen’s ass, squeezing it over her underwear, then sliding her hands underneath and drawing the garment down. Christen leans down and kisses her, then quickly rids herself of her socks and kneels before her.

She looks up at her through her eyelashes, “Take off my shirt and bra,” she says with an alluring smile, full of promise of what’s to come next. Tobin complies, leaning forward to kiss her softly, then trailing kisses down her neck. Christen places her hands on Tobin shoulders as she rises, leaning to thrust her chest in her face. Tobin gets the hint and kneads one of her breasts while taking the other in her mouth, using her tongue to twirl around the already hard nipple.

Christen slowly rises from her knees, extending her hand, “Come on,” she encourages and Tobin willingly takes hold of her hand and follows her to the master bathroom. When she walks in, she sees the shadows of the candle flames dancing on the walls as Christen leads her to the tub full of bubbles. Slowly they get in, Christen first, guiding Tobin in front of her as they sit and recline in the hot water.

Christen gathers Tobin’s hair, swiftly putting it up in a bun so it doesn’t get wet. Then she wraps her arms around her as she leans back, pulling Tobin onto her chest.

“This is so nice, babe,” Tobin murmurs, turning her head and puckering her lips for a kiss. Christen kisses her gently, then pulls her shoulders under the water a little more.

“I just want you to sleep well,” she says quietly, “and be rested for tomorrow,”

“Thanks, babe,” Tobin says heartfully, “I love you so much,”

“I love you too,” Christen replies, “and I am so proud of you for doing this, honey.” She feels how Tobin takes in a deep breath, releasing it slowly and how her body gets a little heavier in her arms as she relaxes.

“Can I ask you something?” Tobin asks, her left hand slowly traveling up and down Christen’s thigh.

“You know you can sweetheart,” Christen smiles, feeling relaxed as well.

“Have you thought about what you’re going to do when your lease is up in August?”

Whatever Christen thought Tobin might ask her, this was not any of the subjects she considered. “I haven’t seriously, yet,” she replies honestly, “the place is okay,”

“I just want to put this out in the universe for you to consider,” Tobin says seriously, and Christen can feel her stomach tightening in anticipation of what’s coming next. “Maybe in the next few months when you get in the mode of thinking about it,” Tobin says, “maybe you would consider moving in here,”

“You’re asking me to move in?” Christen questions, unable to hide the grin on her face.

“I’m asking you to consider it,” Tobin corrects, “I’d love for you to move in,” she says, “but if you don’t think we’re at that point,” she pauses, “I would be okay with it,”

“You’d be okay with it?” Christen questions again, now moving her right hand on Tobin’s belly.

“Yeah,” Tobin shrugs slightly, “I don’t know if this type of thing has a timeline,” she says, then she turns her head, “I don’t know if you have a timeline on this, I’ve never done it before.”

Christen impulsively kisses her, “Babe,” she says, the grin still on her face, “I have to admit,” she says quietly, “I’ve daydreamed of what it would be like to live with you,”

Tobin smiles slowly at her, arching an eyebrow, “Yeah?”

Christen nods, “Yes,” she replies, “and I think,” she leans in and softly kisses her again, “it would be amazing.”

Tobin full on smiles at her, “You do?”

Christen smiles back at her, “I do,” she nods.

“So, you wanna move in here?” Tobin asks, her eyes sparkling at her.

“I really do,” Christen replies, leaning her head in to give her al lingering kiss.

“I love you so much,” Tobin shakes her head, “you’re pretty amazing.”

“I love you too,” Christen replies, “and don’t sell yourself short. You’re amazing yourself.”

Tobin lets out a deep breath and relaxes against Christen’s chest, “It’s going to be so awesome waking up next to you every day.”

“I can’t wait, babe,” Christen says, letting her hand travel up to lightly caress Tobin’s breast, “I really can’t.”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

“And I packed you some granola bars and some water and Gatorade for afterwards so you’re not starving on the way home, I put it in your gear bag already.” Christen states as Tobin is checking her bag once more, making sure she has everything she needs.

“Thanks, babe,” Tobin says, looking up at her, “I appreciate it.” She slings the strap of her bag on her shoulder, “I gotta go,” she says, stepping close to kiss her, “and thank you for last night,” she smiles, “it was incredible,” she smiles, referring to the bath and the amazing oral sex Christen insisted on giving her before they went to sleep.

Christen smiles, “Remember to have fun,” she states, “and just soak it all in,”

“I will,” Tobin promises, kissing her once more, “I love you,”

“I love you,” Christen walks with her to the door, “knock them dead!” She calls out from the doorway, “Don’t forget your helmet!”

Tobin had decided to bike over to the park, it was fairly close and she didn’t want to deal with trying to park. She also didn’t want Christen to drop her off and pick her up, claiming the ride would give her time to pysch herself up and the ride back home would give her time to decompress. It’s in the mid-fifties so her thick hoodie is perfect and it’s not too cold that she’d need gloves.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Tobin skids to a halt, dismounting her bike and leaning it against one of the u-shaped bike racks just outside the door to the Timbers Office gate on 20th Avenue. It’s here that she should enter the park, so she collects herself for a minute, slowly removing her helmet, then her heavy hoodie, fixing her ponytail and taking a few deep breaths as she locks her bike and then heads in. She’s greeted by some friendly staff members in the entrance directing her to the sign in table.

She signs off on the insurance form and a release for filming. Apparently, tryouts are filmed for further review and all participants must sign off beforehand. Once she’s returned the forms, she’s given a large numbered sticker to put on the front of her training top. Tobin presses it on and is directed to a group of other hopefuls gathered near the hallway. The woman unrolls a strip of athletic tape and Tobin writes her last name on it in bold letters and the woman applies it to her back. The group is led through the halls, turning a few times to reach the tunnel to the field.

As they filter out onto the pitch, Tobin glances around at the near empty stands, thinking of how wild it is that she’s here doing this. It feels strange to be in the park and it be so quiet. It’s almost a reverent silence. They’re given instructions of where to stow their bags and told they should get ready and they’ll begin the stretching portion momentarily. Tobin glances around as she gets her turf cleats on, glad to see a few faces she thinks are around her own age. She imagines there’s over a hundred women assembled here. She’s looking around as she follows the stretching routine. There’s hardly any talking, the vibe Tobin gets is everyone is in their own zone. She smiles to herself, thinking of Christen encouraging her to soak in all in.

After the warmups, they get sorted into groups and begin passing drills. Tobin introduces herself to her teammates and after looking rather shocked, they introduce themselves to her. They get a good energy going and when they get to rotating through for shooting drills, Tobin finds herself calling out to them when they hit nice shots and soon the whole group is encouraging each other.

They get sorted into new groups, doing short sided scrimmages. Tobin is having fun, she feels like she has the ball on a string, her passes are spot on, her shots curling beautifully. When they ask for volunteers to take corners, Tobin raises her hand.

 

 

“The one in the orange cleats,” she says, elbowing the man next to her, “watch her corners,” The small group watch as Tobin sends in another beautiful one, meeting the head of one her teammates who puts it in the back of the net. They are huddled way up high in a box above the pitch.

“I’ve been watching her,” he replies mildly, "she's hard not to miss."

“She plays like a Brazilian,” one of the other women enthuses, “I’d love to see her go against Marta,”

“I’m telling you Mark,” Christine Sinclair says, “she’s the real deal.”

Mark Parsons looks at her, “Where she been?”

“Working, playing pickup,” Sinc answers. “Just watch, that’s all I’m saying,”

They all watch as Tobin gives high fives to her teammates when they take a short break. “Team player,” Mark murmurs.

“Just wait until you see her go one v one,” Emily Menges says, “she’ll make them look like fools.”

Sinc laughs, “Just because she did it to you?”

“Shut up,” Emily growls, but a smile is on her face.

 

 

Tobin almost feel bad after nutmegging yet another defender. Once she gets the ball back, she looks up and sees her forward making a run and she slides a perfectly weighted ball for her to one touch in stride and blast it at the net. They blow the whistle and gather the teams, encouraging them to take a water break.

“Heath!” one of the coaches calls out, waving her over.

“Hey,” Tobin greets them, squirting some water in her mouth.

“You play forward too?” he asks, looking at her over his clipboard.

“I have,” Tobin nods, “I’m usually a middy, but I’ve played forward and right back.”

He nods, “Get in with the forwards this next round.”

“Sure thing,” Tobin nods with a smile and then turns and trots back to her group.

They switch more players within the two groups before starting up again. They have at least six stations of small sided games going on, the mini fields all lined with short cones.
On one play, Tobin gets into the box with the ball, seeing two defenders converge on her and the other striker lingering nearby. She angles over and then flicks a back heel pass her teammate fumbles from not expecting it, turning the ball over.

When the mini games are over, they blow the whistle and meet in the center of the pitch. One of the coaches informs them they would receive an email tonight to letting them know if they are invited back for tomorrow. They inform the group to rest up. Tomorrow will consist of more in depth drills and designed plays and then the beep test. After that, they thank everyone for showing up and dismiss them.

Tobin and others linger on the pitch, doing some stretches afterwards. When she retrieves her bag and helmet, she smiles at the note Christen attached to her little baggie of snacks, eating a granola bar as she slowly finishes up and changes into her gymshoes and slides on her thick hoodie.

She makes her way out of the stadium, feeling as if she’s floating as she makes the quick ride home.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Ooooohhhh!” Tobin groans loudly, “Oh Chris,” she moans, “don’t stop, that feels so good,” Christen is presently stretching out Tobin’s left leg, moving it slowly to really get a deep stretch. Tobin is on the floor, on top of Christen’s yoga mat, freshly showered and Christen has insisted on helping her stay loose.

“Okay?” Christen asks after a few minutes, looking down at her, giving her an expectant look.

“Yeah, thanks,” Tobin replies, sticking her hand for Christen to pull her up.

“How do you feel?” Christen asks, curious as to how she felt after the tryout.

“Pretty good,” she nods, “They’ll do a beep test or something tomorrow,” She had received an email earlier in the evening from the Thorns, inviting her back tomorrow for the rest of the tryouts.

Christen frowns, “That sucks,” she crinkles her nose at the memory of the tortuous test she suffered through in college.

“I think I’m going to go to bed, babe,” Tobin says, coming close and hugging her, “thank you for today,” she says, “I really appreciate everything you’ve done,”

When Tobin had arrived home after the try out, Christen had an ice bath prepared for her, having run out to the liquor store to buy some bags of ice and fill the tub with cold water. She had food for her, Gatorade and a foot massage. She helped stretch her out early in the evening and now right before bed.

Christen pulls back and kisses her, “It was my pleasure,” she says, “I’ll be in in a little while,” she says.

“Good night,” Tobin smiles and kisses her softly.

“Good night,” Christen smiles back, “sleep fast,” she says, watching as Khaleesi follows Tobin to the bedroom, intent on getting some snuggle time with her.

 

Christen will always get a flutter in her chest when she slides into bed and Tobin senses her in her sleep, reaching towards her. She rolls on her side, Khaleesi groaning as she moves to the foot of the bed as Christen embraces Tobin, placing a soft kiss on her forehead before she settles in.

 

XXXX

 

 

Tobin opts to drive the next morning, feeling she wouldn’t want to pedal home on her bike after doing a beep test. She’s done four of them with Garga during her training, pleased to see progress with each one she’s taken. He’s never told her where she stands on the level of the pros, just telling her she’ll be fine.

She’s so focused, she doesn’t realize she’s the last player still running during the test. It’s pretty quiet on the pitch, nobody here is encouraging her on, so she digs deep and imagines voices in her head of Kelley and HAO screaming at her for one more, of Christen shouting to keep pushing. She only can hear the beeps, she doesn’t hear the voice listing the level and when she finally bows out, she falls on her knees, panting on her hands and knees, crawling to line up once more. She gets to her feet and the beep sounds and then sees the coach walking towards her, a smirk on his face.

“Nice job,” he says, clapping her on the back, then turns to the small group. There’s only about twenty players here today, compared to the over one hundred from yesterday. It makes Tobin feel good that she at least made the cut for the second day.

With the hope of possibly receiving yet one more positive email from the Thorns, they were handed each a bag of Thorns swag, a training top, scarf, water bottle, and a magnet of the upcoming season schedule. This time, they were told it could take a week for hear back. The were assured everyone would be contacted with an answer one way or the other.

 

 

“I’m so tired,” Tobin whines from the couch, “let me sleep,”

“Ice bath,” Christen says sternly, “come on, let’s go.”

“It’s so cold,” Tobin whines, slowly getting up from the couch.

“You’re a furnace, you’ll live,” Christen says, unable to stop chuckling at her.

“You’re right,” Tobin sighs heavily, leaning against her as they walk to the master bathroom, “it’s for my own good,”

“Yes, dear,” Christen smiles at her, “get those clothes off.”

Tobin warms up quickly after the ice bath when Christen joins her in the hot shower and then drags her naked self onto the bed and fucks her senseless.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“So?” Kelley questions as she slides into the chair across from Christen’s desk. She’s looking at her expectantly.

“What?” Christen asks, taking a sip of her lukewarm coffee. They have a planning period right now at school, usually the time they both wolf down their lunches since they have recess duty right after lunch, making their own lunch time short.

“How did she do?” Kelley asks, “Did she make the team?”

Christen smiles at her, “She made it to the second day of the tryouts,” she explains, “and she’ll hear one way or the other if they want her. It could be for the practice squad, they don’t just hand out contracts to the team.”

“How did she think she did?” Kelley asks, “Were there Thorns players there? Was Mark there?”

“Why don’t you just call her?” Christen arches an eyebrow at her, “She’ll be glad to tell you,”

“Okay,” Kelley nods, “we should get together soon anyway, hang out, you know?”

“We could do a game night at her place, if you want,” Christen offers, knowing Tobin wouldn’t mind at all.

“Yeah, that sounds awesome!” Kelley agrees excitedly, unwrapping a granola bar and beginning to wolf it down. “As long as you promise not to play Monopoly,” she says with a full mouth.

Christen rolls her eyes.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“So, that’s how you enter the grades,” Tobin finishes, looking over to see Alex lift her head to nod at her.

Lindsey elbows Emily, “You got it?”

“Yeah, it’s easy,” she replies, “what about Allie?”

“Yep,” she grins, “no problem.”

“Tobin, this is one of the easiest platforms to use,” Kling states, “we can totally tweek this however we want.”

“Sweet,” Tobin grins, “I’m glad Jesse choose it, because it’s not too scary for those teachers that aren’t into tech much.”

The group is in Tobin’s barn, reviewing the PERT software. The five women have left their jobs, now becoming official PERT employees. Kling left her IT place, gladly putting it in the rearview mirror of her life.

Tobin nods at them. “Okay,” she says, “see the tab in the bottom corner? That lets you edit the grades.”

They all nod. This is the second training meeting of the entire curriculum they’ve completed and they all feel comfortable with it.

“So, Harry,” Tobin says, “you ready?”

“Yep,” Allie says, flicking the remote and putting a map up on the screen, “what do you guys think of this?” she asks. “I think it only makes sense for us to focus first on Portland, get the rest of the schools that don’t have PERT already and get them on board. They’re smaller districts we didn’t target with Portland P.E.. So, we tackle those and then just keep expanding the circle. Keep it local for now and then just focus on the west coast first.” Allie has taken the lead as Sales Manager, working with Tobin and Jesse to map out a controlled growth effort for PERT. She dove into it, relishing the opportunity to showcase her organizational skills and set realistic goals for the team.

The groups in approval.

“We were able to snag two booths at the National P.E. convention,” Tobin states, “that’s the last week of March in Denver. Since' we were so late in registering, they're kind of in a crappy part of the exhibit hall, but if we make the booth pop, people will stop by. Ali is working on getting all the stuff we need for the booth, a new display, banners, doing the handouts. She’ll need you guys to proof read stuff and she’ll bring it next week.”

“It was too late for us to get a session or a demonstration spot, so we’ll just be winging it with our booth,” Tobin continues, “I’m going to talk to Chris and see if we can get parent approval and have Kling come in and shoot video of the kids playing PERT games so we can have a monitor in the booth.”

“If it goes well,” Kling says, “and I get a good group of kids, then maybe we’ll talk to their parents and use them for a series of videos and build on that.”

“Once the warehouse is up and running, we can invite kids in to shoot our own videos however we want,” Tobin adds.

“I wonder if Steve is going,” Alex murmurs, “I wonder what he’ll think,”

Allie smirks, “He’ll flip his lid,”

“I talked to Morgan,” Alex says, “she doesn’t think he’s heard about us doing this yet,”

Morgan and Crystal are still working at Portland P.E. having been spared most of Steve’s wrath to date.

"Tobin," Alex says hesitantly, "what are you going to do if you make the team?"

Tobin shrugs, "Well, obviously I won't be able to spend as much time on this as I would want," she says slowly, "but I want to be involved as much as possible, helping to get this off the ground, you know?"

The group nods understanding her position right now. Tobin gives them a nod, "So," she says, "we have to start thinking about the building and how we want to lay it out.”

They all nod and look at the blueprints Tobin scanned in once they put a bid on the building. They were waiting for the closing date to be announced. They had gotten all of the zoning changes made, the licenses were in place to be submitted once they took possession of the building.

 

 

XXXX

 

It’s Thursday night and Christen can feel the anxiety radiating from Tobin as she drives them to their pickup match tonight. She glances over and sees how Tobin’s leg is bouncing and she’s chewing on the inside of her cheek as she looks out the windshield, her expression troubled.

She hasn’t heard anything from the Thorns organization yet. Even an email just thanking her for her time and try again next year. Nothing. Radio silence. Christen knows it’s slowly killing Tobin, this state of not knowing, even if it’s bad news. She had suggested she email them back and Tobin replied adamantly she wouldn’t. Only if she hasn’t heard anything by Monday. The coaches had told the group it could take a week and she wants to respect that, even if it meant she was having trouble sleeping every night, tossing and turning, thinking about the two days of the tryouts, what mistakes she made, mentally reviewing every drill and shot she took.

Christen had texted Kelley and the rest of the group telling them Tobin hadn’t heard anything yet so they would be aware when they arrived tonight. To their credit, the banter is normal as it is every week, HAO teasing Kelley that she’s going to nutmeg her, Ashlyn declaring nobody will get a ball past her.

“I’m a brick wall!” She exclaims, standing there and flexing her arms, grinning maniacally at them.

“You look like a lunatic,” Christen announces with a smile as her and Tobin walk up, “what parent would want you to teach their child?”

“None,” Ashlyn sasses back, “I eat the children,” she grins at them, “they make me strong,”

“Yes, they do,” a voice with a thick German accent says from the side of them, “I eat them too,”

All heads turn to see Nadine Angerer of the Portland Thorns grinning at them. “This is pick up, yes?” she asks, looking at them expectantly. They all nod their heads dumbly.

“We’re just stretching out a little,” HAO finds her voice, “you’re welcome to play,”

Tobin gets her shoes changed out and starts juggling the ball, just wanting to play and forget her worries for a while.

“Can we get in, too?” a voice asks.

Christine Sinclair, Emily Menges and Kathryn Reynolds are there, “Sup, Tobin,” Emily calls.

Tobin turns, her eyebrows shooting high. “Hey guys,” she greets, dribbling the ball towards them, “you wanna play?”

“Yeah,” Kat says, “Em wants to stuff you,” she grins, “get back at you for nutmegging her.”

“You nutmegged Menges?” Kelley’s mouth drops open.

“Hey, I wasn’t the only one,” Menges shakes her head, “hi,”

“Nice to meet you,” Kelley says, shaking her hand, “I’m Kelley.”

While introductions are going around, Sinc motions for Tobin to come sit next to her. She pulls her turf shoes out and hands her a folded piece of paper. “This is for you,” she says, shoving it at her. Tobin sits down and carefully unfolds the paper, her eyes scanning the document.

Christen is watching out of the corner of her eye as she finishes putting her shoes on. The rest of the group is mingling around the Thorns players. She gets closer to them, still keeping Tobin and Sinc in her view.

Tobin looks up at Sinc, “Uh, what does this mean?” she asks her slowly.

Christine gives her a big smile, “It means you get to train with us for the next four weeks until they make the final roster.”

Tobin’s eyes go wide, “For real?”

Christine nods, “For real,” she confirms. “You’ve got a shot to make the roster.”

“Holy shit,” Tobin whispers, looking at the paper again, “I can’t believe it.”

“You deserve it,” Sinc says, giving her a small smile, “you keep bringing it and make it hard for those coaches to not want you.”

Tobin nods, “I will,” she grins, letting out a breath, “you ready to start?” Sinc nods. Tobin stuffs the paper in her bag and they join the group to loosen their muscles.

To their credit, once the ball is put in play, the group of friends lose any feeling of being starstruck from the Thorns players. They end up having a great session, filled with trash talk and good natured ribbing as they play.

Alex is sitting next to Tobin on bench while they take a shift break. She elbows her, “You make it?” she asks. She had seen Sinclair pass a piece of paper to her.

Tobin sucks on her on her lip as she nods, “Uh huh,” she shifts her eyes over to look at her without moving her head.

Alex nods, taking a sip from her water bottle, “so, that’s like working out with them and trying to make the roster, right? You didn’t make the team yet,”

“Exactly,” Tobin murmurs, “I have four weeks to prove myself with them,”

Calmly Alex places her arm behind Tobin’s back and Tobin thinks she’s going to give her a hug, when in fact, Alex locks her arm around Tobin’s neck, pulling her towards her in a headlock, “I knew you could do it,” she whispers in her ear and then her free hand is tickling Tobin’s side.

Anyone looking towards the ruckus would have no clue what was going on except they were messing around. That’s exactly what Christen thinks as she spies them from across the pitch, then gets her eyes back on the game.

“Stop, Lex!” Tobin shrieks, squirming away from her, unable to get loose, “Stop!” When she does, she’s smiling widely at her, “I’m really proud of you,” she says quietly as Tobin adjusts her shirt and takes a drink of water.

“Thanks,” she says, giving her a closed mouth smile back, “I can’t believe it,”

“When are you telling everyone?”

Tobin shrugs, “Maybe at the bar?” she says, looking at the pitch, her eyes following Christen in particular, “I gotta tell Chris first,”

“You want me to announce it?” Alex asks, putting her hands together as if she’s in prayer.

“Sure,” Tobin says, partly relieved, “but it’s only to train with them, nothing is set. It won’t be until the roster is officially released. I suppose they could drop me at any time,”

“Got it,” Alex nods, then she elbows her, “Can I tell them about the building too?”

Tobin chuckles, “Of course,” she says, “I don’t know how much everyone knows about PERT though,” She knows Christen had told her coworkers about Tobin leaving Portland P.E. but she’s unsure how detailed she got with them about her plans. And how everyone else had resigned from there to start up PERT in a warehouse on the edge of the city.

Tobin is still looking at Christen play when she turns and looks over at her. Tobin gives her a wide smile, unable to contain herself and she watches how Christen smiles back, as if she's put two and tow together and knows she's made the preseason squad. Tobin flashes her a thumbs up and Christen responds with her awkward wink as she moves itno position.

When their time for the pitch is up, they gather along the sidelines as another group comes on to warmup, changing shoes and grabbing their belongings. Sinc, Nadine, Emily Menges and Kat agree to join them for a drink and Allie tells them where they’ll be going.

They spill into their regular bar after soccer, laughing about the match, grabbing a few pitchers of beer and finding tables to shove together. Sinc is sitting across from Tobin and Christen, with Menges and Kat on one side and Kyle, Ali and Ashlyn on the other. Nadine is next to Ashlyn, talking about tattoos.

“I should be thanking you,” Sinc says warmly, extending her hand to Christen, who shakes it slowly, “Why?” she asks, confused.

“Tobin says you encouraged her to try out,” Sinc grins.

“Well, it’s not like I made anything yet,” Tobin says dryly.

“If I was coach, you’d be a lock,” Menges states with authority, “even if it was just to piss off defenders.”

“Here, here,” Kyle raises his glass of water, “she’s a menace.” He sends a wink over to Tobin.

“No, no, no,” they hear HAO saying to Nadine, “don’t bet her that,” she’s shaking her head. They look over and see Kelley is giving Nadine an expectant look.

“We don’t have practice tomorrow,” Nadine grins at her, then she looks over at them, “Em, you drive me home?”

“Oh boy,” Menges says under her breath, rolling her eyes good naturedly and catching the set of keys flying at her, “of course.”

Christen leans over to Ashlyn, “What is going on?”

Ashlyn looks over at her, then flicks her eyes at the rest of them, “Kelley challenged Nadine to a shot contest.”

“Kelley, you have to work with small children tomorrow,” Christen warns. Kelley waves her hand at her, “I got this,” she says confidently as Sinc, Menges and Kat start laughing. “I’ll even let you pick the shots.”

Nadine grins and rubs her hands together, “We bet, yes?”

“What do you want to bet?” Kelley grins at her. Sonnett is rolling her eyes in her seat next to her.

“This will be good,” Kat nods, grinning around the table as they all lean forward.

“You come to the match, yes? Thorns?” Nadine asks.

“I’m at every one of them,” Kelley boasts proudly.

“You make a sign,” Nadine says, looking around the table, “Pen and paper?” Christen digs around in her purse and pulls out a pen and small notebook.

“You carry a notebook, Grandma, really?” Tobin grins at her. “Shut up,” Christen nudges her, smiling.

Nadine is writing something down and slides the notebook to Kelley. Kelley reads it, grinning. She tears off the paper, stuffing it in her hoodie pocket and writes something on the notebook. She passes it back to Nadine who reads it and laughs, nodding her head and ripping the page from the book and handing it and the pen to Ali, who passes it back to Christen.

“What are you betting?” Alex wonders aloud.

“You’ll find out at the home opener, when Nadine loses this tonight.” Kelley grins and Nadine and the Thorns players laugh. They watch as Kelley and Nadine go up to the bar to order some shots.

“You know,” Kat says, leaning in and looking around the table, “Nobody on the Thorns will go drink for drink with her anymore,”

Menges laughs, “Yeah, I’ll be impressed with Kelley if she can hang,”

The rules established between them were that after each shot, the person would have to drink a full glass of water. Any visits to the bathroom would be supervised to make sure there was no vomiting. Peeing was allowed. The water breaks were to allow for the booze to hit in between drinks and minimize the possibility of alcohol poisoning. They shake hand while grinning wildly at each and lift their shot glasses and toss it back.

After watching them for the time it took to take four shots, the group goes back to having conversations, pausing when Kelley loudly announces it’s shot time. “Goonies never say die!” she proclaims, lifting her glass and swallowing it down.

It’s been almost two hours and they’ve closed out the bar tab, the group sitting around and finishing the last of their drinks. Kelley is having trouble standing without a lean, slinging her arm around Sonnett for support. She goes to take her shot and chokes on it a little, setting the half full shot glass down, “I give,” she says defeatedly, sending her fist out across the table for Nadine to punch. Nadine downs her shot to prove her victory and with a devilish smile taps her fist.

“Good going,” she says approvingly, “you’re a good one. Better than the Thorns. Not the best ever, but very, very good.” She laughs. Kelley gives her a lopsided, drunken smile, then turns to Sonnett, “Aren’t you proud of me, honey?”

Sonnett laughs, “I’m so proud, babe,” she says, dragging her off the barstool, “and I’ll be super proud of you if you don’t puke tonight.”

Kelley waves her hand wildly, “O’Hara’s never puke,” she explains, “we only puke and rally.”

Nadine looks perfectly fine, although her eyes are bright and she doesn’t stop grinning.

“Oh, yeah,” Alex says, slapping her forehead, she stands on the footrest of her chair, “guys, Tobin made the cut to try to get on the preseason roster,” she announces, “she has almost a month to try and make the full team.”

A loud cheer goes up and everyone congratulates Tobin, swarming around her, giving her hugs and slapping her back. Christen is standing near the Thorns players when Sinc nudges her, “We’re all pulling for her.”

Alex whistles to get their attention, “Also,” she says, smiling widely, “we closed on the building today,” she announces, “it’s officially ours!”

“I can quit!” Crystal cheers, jumping up and doing a dance.

“So can I!” Morgan proclaims, leaving her chair and dancing with Crystal.

“Wait, wait, wait,” A-Rod says, looking around, “what do you talking about?”

Eyes turn to Tobin for an explanation. She looks around, realizing they are waiting for her to speak. “So, uh, a few of us are working for the this PERT curriculum company,” she says, “and we got an investor to buy a building and we’re going to be working out of there.”

“So, you guys left Portland P.E.?” A-Rod questions, looking at Alex and Allie who nod.

Allie quickly explains how they are going to focus around the city first and then expand throughout the state and eventually the west coast.

Sinc gives Tobin an amused look, “What are you going to do if you make the roster?”

“Play footy,” Tobin grins and then shrugs, “and I’ll be around in the offseason to help out more,” she says, “these guys know what they’re doing,”

They group stands up to leave together, milling around to say their goodbyes. Nadine is hugging Tobin, wishing her good luck on Monday her first official training with the team.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

The next morning, Christen walks down the hall carrying a tray with two coffees in one hand and her iPad in the other, wanting to stop by and see how Kelley is doing before their day starts. She peeks in to the gym, surprised to see it dim, the big lights aren’t on, just the small booster ones are. For a moment she thinks Kelley called in today, but she would have heard about it by now. She already checked her emails and would be informed by the front office if that were the case.

She looks on the far end of the gym and Kelley setting up a utility light stand. She walks across the hardwood floor to her.

“Good morning, sunshine!” She greets Kelley loudly, making her jump.

“Jesus, CP, what the hell?’” she mutters, “Is one of those for me?” she questions, already reaching towards the tray.

“Closest one,” Christen confirms.

“You’re a Godsend,” Kelley sighs, “thank you so much!” She carefully lifts the drink from the holder.

“What are you doing today?” Christen asks, glancing around the gym.

“Oh,” Kelley shrugs, “it’s too cold to take the kids out,”

“It’s February,” Christen observes.

Kelley frowns and nods at her, “It’s too cold to take the kids out, so we’re going to do a blacklight fitness space safari on the moon.”

Christen raises her eyebrows at her.

“It’s an obstacle course with planetary fact sheets to complete.” Kelley explains, then she grins at her, “Plus no bright lights.”

“How’s the hangover?”

Kelley shrugs, “I’ve had worse,” she admits, “but it’s not too bad.”

Christen rolls her eyes at her, “I’ve got to go,” she says, walking away, “hope the kids aren’t too loud,” she grins at her over her shoulder.

“My headache is almost gone!” She shouts after her.

“Doughnuts are in my office,” Christen shouts back.

“You’re a Godsend, Press! A Godsend!” Kelley yells.

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

In the second week of preseason training, the group went on a two day team bonding trip to Astoria, stopping at the famed Camp 18 for brunch and then heading to Fort Clatsop for a hike to the coast. They were on the fort to sea trail, talking amongst one another while they walked along the trail. Tobin found herself at the front talking about surfing with Mana Shim until they saw the trail was flooded. Tobin hopped on the fence and began to edge her way along, trying to see how deep the water was around the curve ahead of them and how long the trail was flooded out. Mana didn’t have the patience, so she just waded out, passing by Tobin as the team cheered.

It took Tobin five seconds to decide to pull up her leggings and jump down into the water and follow her. Upon seeing the beach around a few corners, it was worth the water freezing her toes. They mingled around on the sand, someone producing a frisbee and tossing it around, others strolling along the waves.

Tobin stood with her feet in the water, staring out at the ocean, the waves coming towards her.

“What are you thinking right now?” a voice asks from her side. It’s Nadine. She turns and gives her a shy smile, “How grateful I am,” she replies honestly, “this is an amazing experience and I’ll always carry it with me,”

Nadine nods at her, then looks at the water. “It’s a special thing,” she says slowly, “and takes a special person to live it.” She nudges her, “You are a special person, Tobin,” she nods slowly, “you keep up what you’re doing and good things will come.”

Tobin nods, “Thanks,” she says, “this has been so rad.”

“Group photo!” someone shouts and everyone begins to gather. Tobin and Nadine join them, smiling while multiple photos are taken.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“It’s pretty cool, babe,” Tobin says, she’s sitting on the floor in the hallway of the hotel for a little privacy. She’s been rooming with Jane, one of the other walk ons this trip. Tobin thinks of her as a girl because she’s young and rather immature and Tobin has overheard her talking to her friends about all of the Thorns players and what they’re like. Some of her answers aren’t very flattering and Tobin feel are downright untrue.

“We should go to Astoria sometime,” she continues, “it looks like a cool town,”

“We can, I’ve never been,” Christen smiles at her.

“How are the puppies?” Tobin asks.

Christen pans her phone on them, sleeping on the couch. “They miss you,” she confesses, “they keep looking around the house for you.”

Since their conversation the night before Tobin’s tryout, Christen has rarely spent a night in her apartment. She stops by to pick up clothes and drop some off, but it’s pretty clear she’s kind of moved in. The two times Tobin has brought it up, Christen has demurred, telling her they can talk about it seriously when Tobin knows for sure if she’s made the team or not. Tobin had agreed and one day after practice and while Christen was at work she made space for Christen’s clothes in her closet, transferring out some of her stuff into the guest room closet. Then she cleared out two of the four drawers in her dresser for her items as well. She thinks if they moved Christen’s dresser to her house, it would fit along the short where she has a chair she doesn’t use and would go well with her furniture. She even thinks the dresser would fit in the back of her truck.

Tobin yawns, “We did this cool teamwork activity tonight,” she says, “we got in small groups and told our stories of what brought us to this place.”

“Hmmm,” Christen hums, “sounds interesting,”

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, “like, we went so deep,” she says, “it was raw and honest and everyone just so open to each other. They really make you feel safe, you know? To like, talk about yourself. It's a great atmosphere, kind of like how our group is with PERT."

“It sounds like a good group of people,” Christen replies softly, yawning slightly.

“Yeah, they are,” Tobin says, “you know, next week Kat is hosting a dinner at her place,”

“I remember you told me,” Christen acknowledges, “Tuesday, right?”

Tobin nods, “Would you be cool if I had everyone over sometime?”

Christen smiles, “Of course, sweetie,” she says, “maybe you could do paint night or something too,”

“Yeah, that would be cool,” she says, looking at her, “I love you,”

Christen smiles widely, “I love you and I miss you,” she says, “and I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”

“Same here,” Tobin says, “I should go,” she nods, “we both should go to sleep.” She smiles at her. “I love you, have a good night, give the puppies kisses for me.”

“I will, babe,” Christen promises, “love you,”

 

XXXX

 

 

“Fuck!” Kendall Johnson curses, pivoting to recover and catch Tobin who has just faced up against her, nutmegged her and moved to deliver a cross to Sinclair who puts the ball in the back of the net. It’s Tuesday and the Thorns are having their last practice before their first preseason match. "Damnit Tobin!" she yells and when glances over after the play she sees the big smile on her face.

“Beauty,” Sinc says, slapping Tobin’s hand, “I’m not sure what was prettier, the cross or the meg,”

“Cycle out,” Mark Parsons calls, “next group in!”

The offensive group trots off the pitch, huddling around the tray of water bottles.

“How many does that make?” Emily Menges elbows Tobin. Tobin shrugs, “I’m not counting,” she replies.

“KJ makes it twenty-four,” Sinc answers. “And you won’t get it,” she grins at Tobin, “you’ll never meg me,” she smiles with the challenge.

“Yeah, we’ll see,” Tobin shrugs again, keeping it low key. Tobin has been having the time of her life. She’s surrounded by women who have the same passion for the game. This goes way beyond the spirit her friends play with, this is living and breathing soccer.

“Who’s left?” Rhian Wilkinson asks, “You and?”

“Nadine,” Sinc grins sardonically.

The group laughs.

When Tobin came to the first preseason practice, she kept a little to herself, listening carefully, following directions. She shagged balls, offered water bottles, cheered nice plays. She ran her ass off and practiced with everything she had in her. She was stunned when the team had their fitness testing day and she scored in the top three on the beep test. This time, the team was cheering everyone on, giving them that extra push to keep going. The whole atmosphere of the team was inclusive and Tobin loosened up after a couple of days, opening herself up and chatting with everyone and getting to know them. Now they laugh and joke all the time, getting serious when they need to.

Tobin is juggling the ball on the side, doing some tricks as they wait for their next round.

Rhian looks over at her, elbowing Sinc, “Look,” she says, “that ball’s on a fucking string,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

 

The whistle blows and the referee waves to the midline for the sub to enter. Aloud cheer goes up when the sideline ref holds up the board, indicating Tobin Heath was coming on to make her first appearance in the preseason match against the Chicago Red Stars during the Tillamook Preseason Tournament. The Thorns are losing 2-0 in the 70’.

Tobin trots on, taking her place on the left side, up top. Sinc gives her a head nod and points to her mark. Tobin doesn’t hear the loud cheers or sees any of the signs being held up by her friends. She’s laser focused on her job.

She’s up against the talented Arin Gilliland, feeling the occasional elbow to her ribs and going to ground a couple of times. She’s just feeling her out, she’s watched film on her, trying to pick up her tendencies before she really lets her have it. Her opportunity comes in the 85’ when she receives a long ball from the midfield that she chests down beautifully, pivots and charges down the pitch. Without changing her pace, she slips the ball between Arin’s legs, blowing past her and sending a perfectly weighted ball into the box to Sinc who buries it past Naeher to get one back. The crowd goes wild as the Thorns swarm around Sinclair who finds Tobin and crushes her in a hug, swinging her around before dropping her and slapping her back as they trot back to reset.

In the stands, Christen has tears streaming down her face, she’s so unbelievably happy. She’s got her hands clasped together under her chin, unashamedly letting the tears fall down her face. Kelley is hopping up and down next to her, chanting with the crowd but Christen can only focus on Tobin down on the field. She looks so natural on the pitch, Christen is just so damn happy for her. Even if it doesn’t work out, if Tobin doesn’t make the team, she realizes she would be willing to follow Tobin wherever she may go to keep this dream going. Find another team in another city. Whatever she wants. She loves her so much, she’ll do it for her.

She’s so in her head, even though she’s watching the match, she almost misses when the Thorns come down the pitch, building up their play. Tobin gets free and shoots the ball wide, but it’s deflected by Colaprico and the Thorns have a corner.

There’s a moment of confusion as Mark is yelling at Tobin to take the corner and she’s nodding and trotting over to serve the ball. The match in now in the 89’ and the Riveters are loud as they chant. Tobin raises her right arm, signaling her readiness for the corner. She takes her approach and lofts the ball in, spinning it towards the goal, meeting the head of Sinc who is off her feet unmarked in the box, who flicks it in the goal.

The crowd goes nuts, Tobin is pumping her arms, screaming in excitement, walking with a swagger towards the rest of the team. Sinc is pointing at her as she runs over, smiling wide.

They regroup and stall for the two minutes of extra time and take the point happily, thrilled to come back from being two goals down.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Tobin’s eyes search the stands, looking for the section Christen told her they would be sitting in. She sees the group, thankful they didn’t bring any of the embarrassing signs they threatened to last night. She makes her way over, the crowd has filtered out, not too many people remain. She’s listened to Mark’s post-match talk, she’s done her stretches and drank her post workout drinks. She’s not sure what to do, feeling strange about scribbling her name on jerseys and posters and scarves. Sinc was kind enough to stick by her side, leaning into her ear and encouraging her that it was okay to respond to the fans and sign.

Now she’s standing on the cement around the pitch, looking up at Christen’s beaming face. Tears prick at her eyes from the sight of her, seeing the love and pride in Christen eyes. Tobin smiles big at her, swiping back the loose hairs on her face, feeling breathless.

“Nice match, stud,” Christen nods at her, playing it cool.

“Come here,” Tobin says, leaping up to grab on to the grandstand bars and pull herself up. Christen leans down and cups Tobin’s face, kissing her passionately. When they break, she presses their foreheads together, “I’m so fucking proud of you, Tobin.”

“Thanks, babe,” Tobin’s voice wavers, “it’s been so awesome.” She’s not taking this moment for granted, she knows she hasn’t been named to the roster and this may be her only time to ever have this experience in her life. Her chest is bursting with emotions and she’s struggling to keep it together.

“Heath!” a voice calls out, Tobin gives Christen a wink before she lets go of the rail and drops to the ground, she turns and is met with a cooler filled of Gatorade being thrown at her.

“Nutmeg Queen!” Hayley Raso screams, spraying her water bottle at her. The team crowds around her, spraying her down until the converge to give her hugs and high fives. Tobin gets jostled around from the group of enthusiastic soccer players, before most of them head for the locker rooms.

Sinc is there, looking up at Tobin’s friends, “Hey, thanks for coming,” she says.

“They’re coming back too,” Tobin says, jerking her thumb up towards the stands. Yesterday Tobin invited the team back to her place after tonight’s match. She figured she might never get a another chance for it happen.

“Cool,” Sinc smiles, looking back up at them, “we’ll see ya later, eh?”

Tobin looks at Christen, “I’ll see you back home, okay?” Her arms are crossed and she's shivering.

Christen smiles, “Okay, babe,” she says.

Tobin gives a wave to her friends as she trots to the locker room dripping water and Gatorade all the way.

Alex grabs Christen’s arm pulling her close as they make their way from the stands, “Home?” she questions with a smile.

Christen blushes as they walk towards the exit, “I’ve been staying there a lot,” she admits, then she grins at her, “I’m moving in when my lease is up.”

Alex smiles wide, jumping up and down, “I’m so happy for you guys!” she exclaims, “That’s so exciting!”

“Thanks,” Christen says, still smiling, “it’ll be right around ten months,”

“That’s great.” Alex grins, “Are we grilling tonight?”

Christen nods as they head to the parking lot.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

Tobin ends up driving some of the Thorns over, realizing they don’t own vehicles and carpool places. They end up arriving first, Tobin pulling her up in the driveway, passing Kelley’s and Alex’s vehicles, parking it next to Christen’s. The dogs are barking, paws up on the fence, tails wagging with excitement.

The barn doors are open with the heat blasting her friends are already there, music playing and laughter filtering out into the driveway.

“You have a barn?” Kat asks, looking up at it.

“Yeah” Tobin replies, “it’s one of the reasons I bought the place.”

“Nice,” she says, trailing behind her.

“Bathroom is over there," she points, "and the bar’s over there,” Tobin points to where her friends are gathered, “hey guys!” she greets.

“Well if it isn’t Hobin Teeth!” Kelley teases, winking at her, “we’re doing victory shots- who’s in?”

“We are!” Kat yells back with a smile, pulling Michelle Betos and Steph Catley along. A cheer goes up when they draw near, handshakes and introduction being made.

Satisfied they’ll be alright, Tobin heads into the house, looking for Christen. She finds her in the kitchen, pulling out food from the fridge with Alex, Ali and Allie.

“Hey guys,” Tobin greets, setting her bag on the dog box and walking over. She wraps her arms around Christen and nuzzles into her neck, “Hi,” she murmurs. Christen turns her head and puckers her lips, “Hi, baby,” she smiles at her, “how you feeling?”

“I feel great,” Tobin says, reaching around to snag a cut up carrot piece. “I’m starving, should I start the grill?”

“That would be great,” Alex says, “I’ll bring the veggies out first, they take longer.”

“Okay,” Tobin says, then turns to look at them, “thanks so much for coming out tonight,” she says sincerely to the four, “it really means a lot.”

Allie gives her a hug, “We’d have been there anyway,” she chuckles, “you being on the pitch was a bonus!”

Tobin rolls her eyes as the others laugh, stepping away and trying to untangle herself from Allie who is holding her tight, “You love me,” she croons, grinning at her.

“I do,” Tobin admits, lifting her hand to use a finger and bops her on her nose, “let me go and you’ll eat sooner.” Allie’s hands fall from her, “I’m starving, Harry,”

“On it,” Tobin calls, leaving out the kitchen door.

She turns on the kitchen lights in the yard, fires up the grill and lets it warm up. It’s getting chilly out, so Tobin goes back in the house to get a hoodie.

“Babe,” Christen calls, “these trays are ready,”

“Sweet! Thanks,” Tobin says, “you want a hoodie? It’s getting cold,”

“Yes, please,” Christen answers, feeling an elbow from Allie, “Aw, she’s so sweet,” she giggles, teasing Christen.

Christen rolls her eyes but knows it’s true.

Tobin stands up on a chair, whistling for their attention. "Hey guys," she calls out, "I just wanted to thank you all for coming over tonight. To my friends- you guys being at the match and supporting me as I follow this dream has been so amazing to me. I'm grateful to each and every one of you and I love you y'all very much. To my new Thorns friends," she says, "I don't know how long this dream of playing with you will last," she shrugs, "but I'm so grateful for the chance to share a pitch with you and get to know each on ya's. It's been an awesome ride and I don't ever want to get off!" she smiles down at everyone. "Grab some drinks, the food is ready, Thorns eat first- they won!"
She hops down and pulls Sinc up and directs her to the food table, calling out to others as they cross the barn.

 

“Tobin,” Sinc nods at her, “you guys sit here,” she offers, gesturing to the empty chairs. She’s at a table with Menges, Kat, Crystal and Allie.

Tobin and Christen takes their sets, HAO joining them as they eat.

“This is really too generous,” Emily comments, “thank you so much, this food is awesome!"

Tobin just shrugs, “Welcome,” she murmurs with a smile. .

“She does this,” HAO explains, “she like to treat her friends,” she says, “oh, Tobin, you should have them for a paint night!”

“Paint night?” Kat asks, looking up, “You painted all of those?” she asks, using her fork to point to the ceiling.

Tobin nods, “Yeah, I usually do a thing a few times a year,” she says quietly.

“It’s so much better than the ones you go to at bars,” Christen enthuses, “I went to the Halloween one, it was so much fun!”

Sinc just looks over at Tobin, shakes her head slightly and then smiles, “Maybe we can do something like that,” she nods.

“What?” Tobin asks, suddenly feeling nervous.

“You’re a woman of many talents,” Sinc states, “and a great cook.”

“You know, Stacy, Leslie and Jane didn’t come tonight,” Kat says quietly.

Sinc shrugs, “This isn’t a mandatory meeting,”

Emily Menges rolls her eyes, then chuckles, “They hate you,” she points her fork at Tobin.

“Me?” Tobin’s eyes go wide, “Why?”

The three Thorns players laugh, sharing looks.

“Tobin,” Kat begins, smiling widely, “if you hadn’t noticed, you have been regularly making them look like fools in practice.”

Tobin frowns, “Aw, man,” she sighs.

“Hey, it’s not your fault,” Sinc says reassuringly, “you’re bringing it, they’re not. Don’t let that affect how you play.” She points her fork at her for emphasis, “Ever.”

Christen rubs Tobin’s back, feeling how anxious she’s become. “You’re right,” Tobin admits, scrunching her face in a frown with her forehead furrowed, “but that sucks.”

“Don’t worry about them,” Menges waves at her, “just do your thing.”

 

The night was fun, nobody got out of hand and it was relaxing to see how the players seemed to naturally mix with Christen and Tobin’s friends. Kelley and Nadine agreed to a shot rematch after the Thorns first home victory. Mana Shim was hanging out Ashlyn and Kelley, talking about surfing, a mix of players were talking to Julie, Kyle, Zach and A.D. When Christen walked by, she heard that they were P.E. majors in school and were curious about the schools in Portland.

 

XXXX

 

The next morning, Tobin joined the team for recovery and a film session to prepare for their final preseason match on Sunday.

Tobin had listened to Sinc, Emily and Kat from Friday night, mentally preparing herself before every practice, giving it her all. Her game plan is to hustle on every play, always keep moving, always look for an opportunity. She repeats it to herself as she laces up her boots.

During practice scrimmage on Friday, she’s coming up the wing, looking to cross to Sinc or Mal Weber. She glances up to calculate her shot, then back down, accelerating forward.
She makes her shot and takes two steps with her eyes on the ball and then feels pain ripping through her lower right leg. She cries out as she crumples to the ground, clutching her shin, curled up in a ball.

“Fuck!” she curses under her breath, praying her leg isn’t broken. She hopes the pain will diminish with a little time. She felt hands on her shoulder and opens her eyes to find Kat looking concerned. The trainer comes out and Tobin hears yelling in the background as she tries to focus on the trainer’s questions. They hustle her off the pitch, practically carrying her off to get her seated on the training table behind the bench to look her over better.

Mark even comes over and looks concerned. When Tobin lowers her sock, they all could see the three angry red stripes already bruising on the outside of her calf from the cleat of Jane’s boot. Tobin hisses when she sees it, growing pissed at how high it was on her. Talk about a late tackle.

“Okay, let’s check this out,” Pierre, the head trainer insists, gently palpating the area. He squeezes the top of Tobin’s leg, just below her knee, watching her reaction carefully. Then he squeezes her leg just above her ankle, looking at her intently.

“I think it’s okay,” Tobin suggests, hoping that speaking it into existence will make it true.

“You’re not showing any radiating pain from a fracture,” he replies, nodding at her, “if there was one, you’d be off the bench yelling when I squeezed.” He frowns as he looks at it, “That’s gonna bruise like hell,”

“Can I stand up?” Tobin asks, “I think I can put weight on it,” Pierre nods, stepping and watching how Tobin gingerly sets her legs down, then stands up. She nods, walking around slowly.

“Do a little jog,” he suggests and Tobin does, thankful she doesn’t any pain.

“Can I go back in?” She asks hopefully, nodding at him, “I’m good, I swear.”

“Yeah,” he agrees, “just see me or Bailey afterwards, we’ll get some ice on it and ultrasound,”

Tobin is pulling her sock up and shoving her shinguard inside, “Sweet, thanks, dude,” she grins at him, trotting back on the field, looking towards the coach running the scrimmage. She jumps back in and finishes the workout.

They review some the designed plays, the offense testing the defense with Mark heading the offensive unit. He tells them what he wants to see, calling out the players he wants on the pitch for this particular drill. Tobin’s up front with Sinc and Mal. They run through a few different plays, some successful, some not, but the repetition is beginning to click and they are starting to create good chances. He explains how he wants Sinc and Tobin to overlap, to be able to move freely on the pitch and them needing to be aware of each other’s position so they can slide into the vacancy.

On one play, Sinc goes wide to follow Kat who’s come up with the ball, so Tobin goes to the middle, making a run into the box. A floating cross comes in and Tobin readies herself to leap and head it, but the ball goes way over her head, past her and as she turns to face the right, she’s met with blinding pain in her ribs on her right side that sends her to her knees. Leslie had stepped off her line to cover the cross, sending a hard elbow into Tobin as she twisted to cover the ball.

Tobin’s holding her side, blinking rapidly and catching her breath.

“You okay?” Steph asks, bending down and looking at her, her hand on Tobin’s shoulder.

“Yeah, just need a sec,” Tobin replies.

“What the fuck, Leslie?” Emily Menges yells out angrily, “What was that?” Kendall Johnson is shushing her and pushing her back, “Keep your mouth shut,”

“I was just going for the ball,” Leslie replies coolly, “Sorry Tobin.”

“No worries,” Tobin replies just as coolly, feeling that maybe it wasn’t an accident. She shakes her head and slowly stands up, giving a thumbs up to Pierre and Bailey who are looking on earnestly, speaking quietly to one another without taking their eyes off the pitch.

She returns to her group and they reset to run another play.

 

 

Freshly showered, Tobin is lying on the training table, icing her leg and ribs. She’s only wearing short and a sports bra bundled under a blanket, feeling cold when Sinc enters, looking around and approaching her.

“Are you alright?” she asks, glancing down at the icebag strapped to her lower leg.

“Oh yeah,” Tobin nods, “I’ll be fine,” she assures her.

Sinc nods, her jaw tense and her eyes looking angry. “Okay,” she says after a moment, “rest up and I’ll see you tomorrow,”

“Hey,” Tobin says, getting the vibe of her being so pissed off, “it’s just a couple of knocks,” she says, “no big deal.”

“Yep,” she nods, “see ya later,” she says and turns to leave.

“Later,” Tobin calls, looking over at Bailey the other athletic trainer in the room. She shrugs and Tobin does as well, beginning to chatter.

“You only have five more minutes,” Bailey says, “then you’re done.”

“Thanks,” Tobin nods, wrapping the blanket tighter around her.

 

 

Once in her truck, Tobin blasts the heat, still chilled from the ice. Her side is sore, but she doesn’t feel any lingering pain in her leg. As she drives, she wonders if it was just a coincidence that both of her injuries were due to Leslie and Jane. She brushes it off, reasoning that they’re in the same boat as her- trying to make the team and playing hard.
Once she gets home, she’s greeted by the dogs, bringing a smile to her face. She lets them run out in the yard, knowing she’ll have to wipe their paws from the wet ground. She enters the kitchen wanting to snack on something before she takes a short nap.

 

XXXX

 

 

When Christen enters the kitchen, she greets the dogs who are quietly at the door, tails wagging. She’s quiet, feeling pretty sure Tobin is on the couch where she normally naps after practice. She kicks off her boots and sheds her coat, opting to hang it on the back of a kitchen chair. She notices some papers on the table, the top one reading Injury Care and her eyes go wide. She quickly walks to the living room, sitting on the edge of the couch to examine her.

Tobin is lying on her left side, her left hand tucked under the pillow, her right arm bent and her hand under her cheek on the pillow. She’s covered by a heavy blanket and looks fine to her.

“Hi baby,” Christen greets quietly, extending her hand and rubbing Tobin’s right side over the blanket.

“Ugh,” Tobin grunts, flinching as her eyes fly open and her hand moves to grab Christen’s hand.

“What’s wrong?” Christen asks, startled, her eyes wide.

“I took a shot to the ribs,” Tobin replies, twisting and groaning as she slowly sits up, “hi,” she smiles at her, puckering her lips. Christen leans in and kisses her softly.

“Are you okay?” she asks worriedly, looking at her with concern.

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, wiping at her cheek with her sleeve, “it was a rough day.” Then she rubs her eyes and then gives her a small smile, “I’m okay, though.”

“What happened?” Christen asks, scooting to sit next to her.

“Oh, this was a play in the box and I got hammered by the goalie,” Tobin explains, “just wrong place, wrong time,” she doesn’t want Christen to worry about Tobin being targeted so she doesn’t tell her that part. She’s not certain it was anyway so she lets it go.

“Let me see,” Christen orders, pulling at Tobin’s hoodie. Tobin allows her to lift it high, raising her arms and holding the hem up so she can inspect her side. She sees her frowning, how her eyes express her concern and sadness.

“Does it hurt to breath?” she asks quietly, remembering her past bruised ribs from soccer, back in her college days. Bruised ribs sucked.

“No, it doesn’t,” Tobin says, taking a deep breath without wincing. “It pulls a little bit, but it’s not bad at all,” she says, “I think I got super lucky.”

“Do you need to ice?” Christen asks, “I know there’s some ice bags in the freezer in the barn,”

Tobin nods, “Yeah, I brought one in when I got home,” she states, “I’ll ice after dinner, I have to do my leg too,”

“Your leg?” Christen’s eyebrows raise, her arms crossing her chest.

“Yeah,” Tobin says, running her hand through her hair, “took a cleat,”

Christen sucks in air, making a hissing noise, “Ooooh,” she frowns, her forehead furrowing. She hisses again when Tobin pushes up the fabric of her sweats to show her. Tobin nods at her as she pulls the pant leg down.

“I’m gonna get started on dinner,” Tobin announces, “how was your day?”

“Well, I didn’t get physically assaulted,” Christen replies dryly, “no bruises to report.”

Tobin grins at her, “Well, that’s no fun,” she looks over her shoulder as she walks to the kitchen, “chicken tacos okay tonight?”

Christen nods, “Sounds good,” she says, “I’m going to start laundry or do you want a hand?”

“I got this, babe,” Tobin replies as she begins to pull ingredients from the fridge. She can’t stop smiling at how domestic this feels. Chris doing laundry while she makes dinner. This is a happiness she doesn’t ever want to lose. She hears Christen’s voice drifting from down the hallway as she sings a song from the Hamilton soundtrack, making Tobin smile even more. It’s Christen’s recent obsession, even though she hasn’t seen the play yet. They intend to go when it comes to Portland. She grabs her phone, connecting it to her sound system and finds the soundtrack, cuing it up. She loves Christen’s singing voice and how animatedly she sings these songs, wanting her to be able to belt it out. She turns the volume up and presses play.

 

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

 

Tobin is standing there, staring at the handwritten lineup, her mouth hanging open upon seeing her name in the starting lineup. She hears others coming into the locker room behind her and scurries to her locker, not wanting to look like an idiot.

In a flash she’s got her phone out.

 

Tobin: I’m starting today!

Christen: Oh honey! I’m so excited for you!

Tobin: This is crazy! Why are they starting me??

Christen: Um…because you’re hot wearing the uniform?

Tobin: Very funny. I’m kind of freaking out here

Christen: Relax babe. You’ve got this. You worked hard for the start. You deserve this. Go have fun with it.

Tobin: Thanks babe.

Christen: And Tobin?

Tobin: Yeah?

Christen: Assist= 1 orgasm & Goal=2

Tobin: Looks like I’m gonna score today!

Christen: Good luck! I love you!

Tobin: I love you so much!

 

Tobin smiles at her screen, she definitely needs at least an assist tonight. A goal would be amazing. Get your head in the match, she thinks to herself. She looks around the locker room as her teammates filter in. Well, she’s nobody’s true teammate yet. She hasn’t been added to the official roster. She takes it in for a moment, looking around, hearing the music playing and grinning at Steph dancing with Mana and Michelle Betos, the backup goalkeeper.

This is the final preseason match, rosters would be announced tomorrow on Monday. She looks around the locker room again, Leslie is gone, she was dismissed yesterday before practice. Jane was gone the day after the late tackle. It’s amazing how something like this could be taken away so quickly, she thinks as she strips off her shirt and throws on her warmup top. Focus, just keep your focus on your job tonight. She looks at the clock and starts moving, knowing she has to hit the trainer’s room and get her ankle taped like she usually does.

Tobin smiles widely as her name is called and a cheer goes up from the crowd, she waves to the bleachers of the college campus pitch, instantly seeing Kelley holding up a large sign that reads ‘Tobin Heath= Nutmeg Queen’. She shakes her head at them, feeling a surge of emotions. She sees Christen bundled up next to Kelley, smiling widely and holding her phone up to film this.

Tobin turns to face the flag and places her hand over her heart, lowering her head and doing her best to clear her mind. She thinks of Mark’s last words in the locker room, the game plan fresh in her head. She thanks God for this opportunity, tells Him how grateful she is to be here. She follows her teammates in a line to tap hands with the refs and then holy shit, Tobin realizes, I’ve just tapped hands with Hope Fucking Solo and Megan Rapinoe. It take her a moment to refocus, shaking her head as they trot to huddle up.

Once they’re in the huddle, Tobin has one hand on Mana’s shoulder, her head up, leaning over to listen but letting her eyes wander. She makes eye contact with Chris and smiles, she smiles wider when Chris blows her a kiss. Tobin gives her a wink and turns to focus her attention back to what Menges is saying.

 

“You got this, rook,” Sinc places her hand on Tobin’s back as they walk on the pitch, “just play your game,”

“I got this,” Tobin nods, looking at her, turning to face her, doing a quick body shake to lose her nerves, raising her fist, “Let’s fucking do this!” she yells.

Sinc grins wildly, smashing her fist into Tobin’s. “Fuck yeah!” she shouts, her eyes blazing. Tobin trots to her position, bouncing on her toes awaiting kickoff.

The crowd is chanting already, the drums are beating, it’s pumping her up, she’s ready to go and Sinc taps the ball back to Menges and the match is on. Tobin feels jittery until she gets her first touch, completing a pass to Mal out wide. Then a calmness settles over her just as the team creates a rhythm. Things are going to plan. They are poking at the defense, testing areas like Mark said, fiding open spots to exploit.

The difference between Seattle and Chicago is the rivalry. Tobin has witnessed it from the stands herself many times before, watching as players get taken down without a call. Something about these two teams brings out rough play. It’s not dirty, but whoever is on you definitely lets you know they’re there.

Tobin has gone to ground a few times, thankful she’s on grass. A quick look down and she sees how the side of her socks have grass stains and her legs are wet and a little muddy. She gets to her feet and runs up field just in time to receive the ball from Kendall, already anticipating a Reign player on her and kicking out a quick, short back pass to herself to create space and accelerate down field.

Nobody is there yet, so she pauses down by the eighteen, keeping an eye on her defender and seeing Sinc streaking down the middle with Mana on the far side. There’s a ton of Reign defenders entering the box, so Tobin moves towards the endline with now another defender joining in the fun. Tobin faces up against them, not seeing anyone close by and free for a pass. She scoots to face the defender on the line, flicking the ball over her and running out of bounds and back in to claim it, looking up and seeing no red Thorn jerseys, just a sea of white an blue.

They’ve crowded her near the six yard box, all of them positioned to defend the cross they know is coming. Tobin decides to go for it. It’s an impossible angle, but she rips a shot to the far post in the upper corner, praying it curls enough to get in. She gets jostled just as she shoots, hitting the turf hard. She looks to see what happened and hears the roar of the crowd and then she’s pulled up by her teammates who are laughing and hugging her.

“That was fucking insane!” Mana screams at her, crushing her in a hug. Sinc is cradling her head, strong arms around her, guiding her out of the scrum. “Fuck Tobin!”

“Fuck yeah!” Tobin yells, energy coursing through her, “Let’s fucking go!”

The first half is a battle, the play is so fast, it’s like when Tobin plays with the guys and they’re on fire. The hits are just as hard. She can feel her already bruised ribs, getting a couple of more shots to them. It’s not stopping her though, the adrenaline is flowing too much. They get a few chances at the net, but Hope is making some incredible saves. Seattle scores on a defensive breakdown, evening the score. They go into half with their heads held high, determined to get another goal. Tobin is supposed to come out at the half, but Mark tells her she’s staying in for another fifteen minutes. That fires her up even more, straightening herself up to stand straight, nodding eagerly.

“Get me a goal, Tobin,” he says urgently, “help get that ball in the back of the net.”

“Yes, sir,” Tobin says, feeling another surge of energy coursing through her. She trots back out onto the pitch, hearing Kelley screaming ‘I love you Tobin!’. She smiles when Kat gives her a playful shove as they get to their positions. Play resumes and the Reign are just as serious to get another goal as the Thorns are. Jess Fishlock nearly gets the go ahead with a screaming rocket that somehow Nadine deflects away to bounce out for a corner kick.

Megan Rapinoe takes the corner, sending in a curling shot that’s ricochets around the box being headed by multiple people from both teams before it gets cleared to Mana Shim, who pivots and begins to streak downfield. Tobin joins in the rush to get down there, feeling some discomfort in her ribs from her exertion as her arms pump and legs move covering ground. It’s her and Mana coming into the eighteen a two on one with Hope facing them. Mana makes a couple of moves before passing to Tobin, who now has a defender on her and she prays Sinc is on her way as she edges to the center of the box, hearing Sinc call out her name.

Tobin turns her head slightly and sees her out of the corner of her eye, sending a quick backheel flick to her that she takes two steps to meet and blasts it into the upper ninety, just past Hope’s outstretched hand. Tobin raises her hands above her head as she sees the ball blast past her, turning jut in time for Sinc to crash into her and swing her around.

“Fuck, yeah!” they scream in unison, wild smiles on their faces as they get mobbed by their teammates.

As they trot to reset after the goal, the ref blows the whistle and points, and when Tobin looks, she sees her number on the board for substitution. The Thorns fans cheer as she trots off, seeing it’s the sixty-third minute, trying to buy some time.

She gets to the sideline, slapping hands with Jodie Taylor who rushes onto the pitch. Marks steps out to pat her back and tell her good job, the other coaches doing the same. She’s handed a pinnie and a water bottle as takes her seat on the bench, her body buzzing and adrenaline flowing. She eventually reaches for her jacket and slips on her warm up pants, the afternoon is chilly and the wind has picked up. It’s still a beautiful sunny day though, slouching in her seat on the bench to watch the Thorns hold off the Reign and win the match.

She follows everyone out on the pitch to shake hands, giving high fives to players she’s watched on TV or from the stands in Providence Park for the last few years. She doesn’t say much, just a nod to those who look pissed off and a good game to others. They all retreat to hear Mark’s observations, Tobin getting a callout for her goal and assist. When he releases them, a hand grabs her shoulder and she turns her head to Sinc grinning at her.

“Way to go, dude,” Tobin says, smiling at her, “you kicked ass out there.”

“So did you,” Sinc grins, she turns and nods her head and waves her arm. “Pinoe!” she calls, sliding her arm around Tobin’s shoulders and guiding her towards the short haired blond. “Do you mind if I invite a few others over to your place tomorrow for the paint thing?”

“Yeah, that’s cool,” Tobin nods, “no problem.”

“Uh, you have enough supplies?” Sinc asks, being considerate.

“Yeah, I bought a couple of cases of canvases and have plenty of paint.” She informs her, “It’s cool,”

After having so much fun at Tobin’s last week and hearing about the paint night ‘s that she does, Emily asked her if they seriously could do one soon, explaining that it’s important for them to be together at the beginning of the season. Tobin accepted it, thinking that even if she didn’t make the team, she’s made some pretty decent friends along the way and it would be cool to hang out. It might take the sting out of not making the roster.

“Yo, Sinc,” Megan Rapinoe smiles genially at her, “you really had to do that?” she shakes her head, “All you forwards,” she tsks.

“Pinoe,” Sinc says, “this is Tobin,” she introduces her, “Tobin, meet Megan,”

“Nice to meet you,” Tobin says, extending a hand. Megan grabs it and shakes it firmly, releasing it and giving her a smirk, “She’s the Brazilian from Portland you told me about?” she asks Sinc and shakes her head as Sinc nods.

Tobin’s eyebrows raise slightly hearing this, looking over to Sinc who is grinning broadly, “Yep and she’s ours,”

“Sure,” Megan smiles widely, nodding her head, “for now,” she looks at Tobin, “Seriously, dude, you’ve got a great game,” and taking a sip from her water, “and some sick moves.”

“Thanks,” Tobin says shyly, “so do you,”

Megan barks out a laugh, “I try,” she says good naturedly, “please don’t tell me you watched me when you were a kid,”

Tobin laughs, feeling more comfortable, “Nah, I was watching Sinc when I was a kid,” she teases.

“Oh, burn!” Megan bellows, laughing hard.

“I’ll get you for that,” Sinc laughs, dropping her arm from Tobin’s shoulders, “you do know I’m the Captain of this team, yes?”

Tobin chuckles, “How many laps did that cost me?”

“What’s so funny?” A voice calls out making the three heads turn. Hope Solo, Jess Fishlock, Rachel Corsie and Kim Little approaching with a few others she doesn’t recognize.

“You guys hanging out tomorrow?” Sinc asks, looking at them.

“Yeah, we don’t go back until like seven tomorrow night.” Hope replies.

“You guys wanna do a paint night in the afternoon after recovery?” Sinc asks. “There will be booze,” she grins.

“Oh, ya got one of those people coming in to teach ya’s how to paint?” Jess asks.

Sinc points to Tobin, “This one,” she explains, “she’s a true Renaissance woman, plays like a Brazilian, paints like a classically trained French artist and yet tells the dumbest jokes ever,”

Megan looks around at her teammates, “Whaddya think? Should we consort with the enemy?”

They agree and Sinc tells Megan she’ll text her the address and they go their separate ways. Tobin and Sinc pause to sign a few scarves of the scant crowd that has remained. Tobin stops to raise herself up on the railing to kiss Christen, telling her she’ll be out soon from the locker room.

Tobin and Sinc are the last Thorns to leave the pitch, walking side by side.

“That was okay, right?” Sinc clarifies, “I didn’t mean to just spring that on you,”

“No, it’s cool,” Tobin says, “I’ve got plenty of supplies, plenty of room, I’ll just defrost more steaks and fish and chicken for tomorrow,”

“You seriously don’t have to cook,” Sinc says, “We can just order out,”

“It’s fun,” Tobin insists, “I don’t mind.”

“Well, I’m giving you cash tomorrow and some of us will come over early to help you set up and cook and stuff.” Sinc states with a finality that Tobin doesn’t question.

“Cool,” she nods as they turn into the locker room.

“There she is,” Emily Menges announces, “took you forever,” she says, swiftly taking her arm, “come on,” she guides her away from her locker. Kat Reynolds locks on to her other arm, firmly gripping her.

“What is going on?” Tobin asks.

“You don’t get to ask questions,” Sinc says, picking up her phone and quickly texting someone.

“That’s right,” Mana Shim says from behind Tobin, slipping material over Tobin’s eyes.

“Guys,” Tobin says, slowly being led somewhere, “what are you doing?”

“Silence, rookie.” Mana orders, stifling her laughter.

They walk a short distance and Tobin feels the flooring change. Are we in the showers, she wonders as she stands there.

“Just a minute,” Sinc says, “someone take off her jacket and boots,”

Tobin feels hands on her feet, nimbly unlacing her cleats, ordering her to lift a foot and laughing because they want both feet raised at the same time. She distracted yet still hears footsteps and whispers. She feels like she’s surrounded in a crowded space. Then her jacket comes off.

“Guys,” she says, trying one more time.

“Just stand there and look pretty,” a voice says, she thinks it’s Steph’s. “I swear, how does someone look so good after playing?”

She hears Sinc directing people to stand somewhere and she hears shuffling around her.

“Okay,” Sinc says, “Tobin, would you please kneel.”

Tobin sighs, and slowly kneels down, feeling the towel under her knees. “Okay,” Emily and Kat’s hands are still on her shoulders.

“When I asked Tobin what she had been doing,” Sinc starts, “she replied, working and playing footy. If you don’t know already, the place where she worked got bought out and we can all tell she’s not made for corporate life, so she quit. Her amazing girlfriend encouraged her to follow her dreams and that led her to tryout for Thorns.”

“This woman,” Mark takes over, “comes to our tryouts as the second oldest person there. She has no collegiate experience, no professional experience and yet beat out one hundred and fifteen others to be in this position tonight.” Tobin feels both of the women give her shoulders a squeeze.

"Kneeling in a shower, blindfolded,” Mana jokes and everyone chuckles.

“Tobin’s passion for the game, her talent, her work ethic, her team centric personality are the core values of being a Portland Thorn.” Mark states.

Tobin tenses up, could this really be happening, she thinks, feeling so disoriented the longer she’s blindfolded.

“Tobin, in the three year history of the Portland Thorns, we have never had a walk on go as far as you have. I am so proud and happy to have the pleasure of announcing that we are tendering you a contract to join the Thorns for this season. Welcome to the Thorns, come see me tomorrow before recovery.”

Wild cheers go up and Tobin is suddenly getting drenched sticking her hands up to block whatever is being sprayed on her. Hands come back on her and the blindfold is ripped form her head, just as buckets of water are thrown at her.

“Aaaahhhh!” Tobin shouts, trying to shield herself.

Sinc opens a bottle of champagne and sprays it at her, handing it over to her to drink the remnants.

“Speech! Speech! Speech!” the group chants.

Tobin stands up and wipes her face and eyes, “This is unreal,” she says, looking around, “I kinda can’t believe it,”

“Believe it,” Mark says, “you earned this,” he looks around the room, “and with that, we’re out of here, and I don’t want to know what happens!” He steps forward to shake Tobin’s hand as do the rest of the coaches.

“Now, it’s just us,” Mana says, clapping her hands together and rubbing them. “Let the hazing begin!”

Tobin eyes go wide, fearful of what could happen. Everyone laughs at her.

“Relax,” Sinc says, putting a hand on her shoulder and shoving a bag at her, “open it,”

Tobin looks at her and then the bag, reaching in and slowly pulling out red material. It’s a Thorns jersey, the one they’ve seen that hasn’t been officially unveiled for the 2015 season. “Look at the back,” Sinc smiles at her, stepping back and watching as Tobin lifts it in front of her to see her name on the back of the jersey emblazoned with number seventeen.

“Woah,” she whispers, tears coming to her eyes, looking up and seeing everyone smiling at her. As she looks around the room, she sees Alex, then Kelley and Allie and finally Christen all of them tucked in the back, standing on chairs. The first three are holding their phones up to record, Christen is just standing motionless, watching Tobin. When they make eye contact, both smile widely, Tobin swiftly walking to her, shouldering through her teammates, Christen stepping off the chair, her arms outstretched engulfing her in a hug.

“Babe,” Tobin gets out, she’s choked up, all of her emotions rising, pressing her lips against Christen’s. “Oh, babe,” she says, tears streaming down her face, “I love you so much,” she says, kissing her again, “and all of the things you did for me while I was trying to do this, you sacriaficed so much, and I love you for it, you never complained, you never got mad, you were always so supportive,” she kisses her again, pulling back and needing to get this out, “and you were always my greatest cheerleader, encouraging me when I was down, being so positive, and I will take it for granted all that you do,”

“Oh honey,” Christen sniffles, smiling through her tears, “I’m so proud of you,”

“I’ll always try my best to make you proud of me,” Tobin insists, “I’ll be a good teammate and always try my best to make time for just us, I’ll always work hard and I’ll always remember to feed to the dogs,”

Christen laughs and kisses her, “You did it, my love,” she says, smiling at her, radiating her love for her.

Tobin shakes her head, “No, babe,” she says, sniffling, “we did it,” She kisses her once more and then she looses it, sobbing into her as Christen rubs her back.

“Holy shit,” Kat says, wiping her eyes, “you guys,” she sniffles.

“Talk about relationship goals,” Mana murmurs, elbowing Sinc and wiping at her eyes.

“Alright,” Sinc says, “let’s get changed and get out of here,” she suggests, wanting to give Tobin a little privacy.

Alex takes Tobin’s arm and she lifts her head, giving her a smile with watery eyes. The five shuffle near the entrance, huddling together.

“I’m so proud of you,” Alex hugs Tobin, not caring that she’s drenched in champagne and water. “I knew you would rock it,”

“Thanks,” she says, squeezing her tight, “thanks for everything.”

“Harry,” Allie says, pushing Alex out of the way, crushing her in a hug, “you’re going to be the best Thorn out there,”

Tobin laughs, “I don’t know about that,” she says, “but I’ll work hard everyday to be my best,”

“Tobin, you fucking scored on Hope Solo!” Kelley yells, “Hope fucking Solo!”

“I can’t believe it!” Tobin shakes her head, untangling herself from Allie to hug her, “It’s like a dream, you know?”

Kelley hugs her, “You’re going to fucking kill it,”

Tobin smiles, “I’ll do my best,”

Alex looks around, “We should head out,” she suggests, “you need to change.”

“Yeah, okay,” Tobin says, moving to kiss Christen again, handing her the jersey, “I’ll be quick,” she says, looking at her friends, “we’ll meet you there?”

“Sure thing,” Allie says, smirking at her, “no stops along the way for a quickie,”

Kelley and Alex laugh as they shove her out of the locker room.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Tobin lifts an eyebrow at Christen.

She shakes her head, “I want to take my time with you,” she says, kissing her gently, “I’ll be in the car,”

“Okay babe,” Tobin says softly, “I love you,” she kisses her once more.

“I love you too,” she says, “dry your hair a little, it’s cold out now,”

“I will,” Tobin promises, taking a deep breath as she leaves and then turning to walk back to her locker, stripping off her wet jersey.

It’s not until she’s almost finished getting dressed that Mana elbows her, “Hey, how long have you and Christen been together?”

“Seven months,” Tobin replies, slipping on a beanie.

“What does she do?”

“She’s a department head for P.E.,” Tobin replies, “that’s how we met, through my old job.”

“Cool,” Mana smiles, “you guys seem so happy together,”

Tobin flashes her a smile, “She’s pretty awesome,”

“Happy for you,” she smiles back at her.

“You got someone special?” Tobin inquires, slipping into her untied Air Jordans.

“Back home, Hawaii,” she replies, with a half smile.

“Long distance,” Tobin frowns as she nods.

“But she’s coming over for the home opener,” Mana smiles at her, “and staying for almost three weeks, during our homestand,”

“Awesome,” Tobin grins at her, “I can’t wait to her,”

Just as people look ready to go, Tobin steps into the middle of the locker room, “Thanks you guys,” she says, making eye contact with them all, “this was super special and I really appreciate it,”

“Just wait until the hazing begins,” someone giggles and Tobin rolls her eyes.

“We’ll see you tomorrow, rook!” Sinc says, “Remember recovery at ten,”

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“I just still can’t get over you scored on Hope Solo!” Kelley states once, Sonnett rolling her eyes next to her. “What? She’s an awesome goalie and fucking hot!”

“I swear you have a crush on her,” she says dryly.

Kelley looks over at her, “I can look,” she says, “it’s not like I’ll ever meet her or something,”

“Too bad you have to work tomorrow,” Tobin says as she finishes chewing, wiping her mouth with a napkin, “most of the Reign is coming over to my place to paint,”

Kelley drops her fork. “She’ll be there?” her eyes are wide.

“Kelley, you will be at work,” Christen reminds her, “and you will be there for the whole day.”

“But, it’s Hope Solo,” Kelley whispers.

Sonnett crosses her arms, “Uh huh,” she frowns.

Kelley looks over at her, “Oh baby,” she says hurriedly, “you know I’m yours and yours alone,”

“But, it’s Hope Solo,” Sonnett mimics, glaring at her.

“Yeah, Kel,” Allie says, “you might not want to fangirl in front of your girlfriend.”

Kelley slides her arm around Sonnett, kissing her cheek. When SOnnett doesn’t react, Kelley kisses her neck, moving up to whisper something in her ear. Sonnett’s eyes go wide, her face turning red and she nods, giving Kelley a nod and letting her give her a quick kiss.

“Do we want to even know what that was?” Servando asks, leaning over to whisper.

Tobin shakes her head, “Not me,”

The rest of the group that was at the match had left right after it was over to secure a few tables to push together at the diner they liked to go to. They had cheered when Tobin and Christen arrived, congratulating her on making the roster.

“Serv,” Tobin says, “Al told me your firehouse is doing a pancake breakfast next Sunday?”

“Yeah,” Servando smiles at her and then at Alex and back to her, “seven to eleven, all you can eat pancakes and some sausage and drinks.”

Tobin looks at Christen, “I’ll check my schedule,” she says, “I want to come but I don’t know what’s going on yet.”

“I’ll come,” Christen states, “either way, I’ll be there,”

“Yeah, we’re in too,” Dave says, “I love me some pancakes,” he grins.

HAO rolls her eyes, “He’s a pig when it comes to pancakes,”

“I bet I can eat more pancakes than you,” Kelley challenges Dave.

“You’re on,” Dave replies instantly, “there’s no way.”

“Okay, okay, okay,” Alex interjects, witness to many of Kelley’s challenges, “here’s the rules: eating normally, like how many pancakes in an hour, not a ten minute thing or something ridiculous. We don’t need either of you choking to death. We’ll pick an official counter for each of you and you have to do something, like to raise money.”

“How about five bucks for each pancake?” Dave offers.

“I’m in,” Kelley stand up to lean over and thrust her hand at Dave and shake his hand.

“I’ll sponsor five bucks per pancake for Kelley,” Allie offers. The rest of the table gets into it, choosing sides and making side bets and the winners donate the money to the fire department. Servando’s eyes are wide.

“Yeah, we’re like this all the time,” Tobin smiles at him.

“You guys are pretty awesome,” he says, looking at Alex and grinning wildly. “Oh, I’ll make a designated place for the competition.”

“Who are you backing, Tobes?” Crystal asks, peering down the table at her.

“Oh, that’s easy,” Tobin grins, “both.”

 

XXXX

 

 

When they get home, Christen lets the dogs out and Tobin goes right the kitchen cabinet and pulls out the peanut butter. She walks over the chest and finds the Kongs for the dogs and returns to the kitchen to stuff them.

“Whatcha doing?” Christen asks, knowing the answer, just teasing her.

“We’re going to be busy,” Tobin says seriously, her dark eyes glancing up at her, “and I don’t want any interruptions.”

"Oh, that's right," Christen slowly looks her over, "I seem to recall I owe you for my motivational text,"

"That's right," Tobin smiles at her, her eyes growing darker by the second, "I believe the number you're looking for is three,"

 

 

XXXX

 

 

It’s around nine o’clock when Tobin and Christen emerge freshly showered from the bedroom after a serious bout of lovemaking. Tobin sees her phone has blown up, messages from her sisters, her brother, her parents, some friends and cousins she hasn’t heard from in a while.

“What’s wrong?” Christen asks when she sees Tobin’s worried expression.

“My phone is full of calls,” she answers, looking up at her, “like it’s mostly my family, “ she says, “I hope nothing bad happened,” she goes to her voicemails, pressing one and putting it on speaker.

“Tobin Powell Heath!” It’s Perry’s angry voice, “You’re playing with a professional soccer team and made Sportscenter highlights? Um, you neglected to mention it last week when we talked. Call me, goofball! Love you!”

Christen looks at her, “You didn’t tell your family?” she gapes at her.

“I didn’t want to jinx it,” Tobin explains sheepishly, “they would think I’m crazy,”

“Well, now you can tell them you made the team,” Christen chuckles, “and you didn’t have to buy it!”

“Really?” Tobin frowns at her, “that’s not nice,”

“Oh, my poor baby,” Christen coos, sliding closer to her, “I was teasing babe,” she says, “I apologize,”

“Okay,” Tobin says, but she’s still pouting.

“What can I do to make it better?” Christen asks, using a high pitched voice, running her hand along Tobin’s inner thigh. Tobin stills it with her own hand, “Not that, babe,” she says, “I’ll need to walk tomorrow and if you start up again, I don’t know if I’ll be able to.” She grins slightly at her.

“How about a kiss?” Christen proposes, puckering her lips. Tobin leans over and kisses her. She looks back down at her phone, “Oh dear,” she says, “my family made a group text,”

Christen laughs, “Have fun with that, babe,”

 

XXXX

Chapter Text

.

 

“Tobin’s going to drop me off at the tailgate,” Christen confirms with Alex. It’s just after lunch and the afternoon of the Thorns home opener and she’s on the phone, finalizing plans. “That is if she ever gets out of the bathroom,” she says worriedly.

“What’s wrong?” Alex gasps, “Is she okay?”

“She’s nervous,” Christen sighs, “and has been puking since breakfast and I don’t know how to help her,”

“Sit tight Press,” Alex says, “I’m on my way.”

Christen sets her phone down, looking down the hall from the kitchen to where the bedroom is, unable to hear anything. Tobin admitted earlier she was nervous, her leg was bouncing every time she sat down but she was either unwilling or unable to share with Christen why. Feeling rather helpless and torn between wanting to give Tobin some space and to help her, she’s undecided in what to do.

She slowly walks down the hall and hears Tobin retching in the bathroom, cringing at the violent noise. She enters the bedroom and pauses near the closed bathroom door.
“Honey, can I help you?” she asks.

“Uh,” Tobin coughs, “I’m okay, I’ll be out in a few,”

“Okay,” Christen replies, thoroughly unconvinced. She turns and leaves the room, ending up sitting on the couch and listlessly watching TV. This is not how she thought Tobin’s first matchday would go. She reasons that it’s probably not Tobin’s ideal way to spend her morning and afternoon when she should be relaxing with her.

Five minutes turns into ten and Christen is getting worried and thinking maybe she should go check on her again when she hears a knock at the kitchen door. She spies Alex and Allie as she opens the door.

“Where is she?” Alex asks warily, looking around.

“Bathroom,” Christen points down the hall, then calls the dogs to let them outside.

 

 

Alex opens the bathroom door to find Tobin sitting on the floor next to the toilet, her knees drawn up, elbows resting them and her head in her hands. She lifts her head slightly and sees it’s them, then sighs and scrunches her head down further.

Alex sits down next to her, Allie across from them.

“Remember when you we were at that show in Chicago the morning your first presentation?” Allie asks, referring to a tradeshow many years ago. “You were barfing all morning before session?”

“Gross,” Alex murmurs and Tobin sends her a sharp look. “Sorry,” she shrugs.

“What did we talk about?” Allie asks, glaring and making a face at Alex who mouths another sorry.

“We talked about how much I prepare myself for the presentation,” Tobin sighs.

“And how you had watched videos of other presenters, you had index cards just in case you lost your place,” Allie states softly, “and how you knew everything like the back of your hand,”

“Yeah,” Tobin acknowledges, lifting her head up, “I did.”

“So, how is this different?” Allie questions, not letting Tobin answer, “You’ve practiced with the team for almost two months now, you’re in the best shape of your life, your talent level has grown exponentially,” she shrugs, “and you’re ready to go out there and give your best effort.”

“Yeah, I know,” Tobin says, huffing a little, shaking her head.

“What is it?” Alex asks, slowly sliding her arm around her, “what’s in your head?”

Tobin looks at her and then Allie, shrugging a little, “Maybe a fear of the unknown?”

“Like, how the match will play out?” Allie asks, leaning forward a bit.

“Maybe?” Tobin questions, “I can’t put my finger on it,”

“You remember when you were getting ready to help your Grandpa when he got really sick?” Alex questions, “Like, at the end?”

Tobin nods solemnly, “Uh huh,”

“Remember how the three of us talked about the unknown then?” Alex continues, “And how we only have control over what we can control and that’s ourselves and how we respond to what’s happening?”

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, making eye contact with them both, “you guys really pulled me off the ledge that night,”

“This is kind of related, isn’t it?” Allie asks, “This type of fear of the unknown?”

“Like not making a fool of yourself, making a terrible mistake in the match? Disappointing us? Disappointing Chris?” Alex asks.

“What if I go out there and suck?” Tobin questions, “What if I miss a sitter?”

“Then you try again,” Allie states assuredly, “you work as hard as you can,”

“You don’t take any plays off,” Alex joins in, “Tobin, you’ve put so much of yourself into this,”

“Like, this is the real deal,” Tobin says vehemently, “This is it, a pro match, not preseason, not messing around.”

Allie and Alex nod, “And you belong right there on the pitch,” Alex states, “Tobin, they choose you.You worked you ass off to make the team. You are now a pro athlete. You can do this, you earned it and you are talented enough to be there. Forget not playing college or going overseas or whatever else, you’re Portland’s finest from off the streets.”

Tobin looks at them, her head slowly moving back and forth between them. “You make me sound homeless,” she says with something close a grin on her face.

“We should make a poster of that!” Allie cackles.

“Yeah, Kelley won’t show us the poster she’s making,” Alex states, rolling her eyes, “it’s the one from her bet she lost to Nadine.”

Tobin eyes them both, “Isn’t it weird that we’re all kinda friends with them now?”

Allie and Alex grin, “Sorta?” Alex shrugs her shoulders, “I mean, they’re just people you met, who have an unusual job.”

“Yeah, they poop and hair bad hair days and get coffee like we do,” Allie grins at her.

“Am I being an idiot?” Tobin asks with a sigh, leaning her head back against the wall.

“No,” Alex assures her, “I mean, you should probably stop puking,” she wrinkles her nose.

“It’s just gonna be another game of footy, right?” Tobin says, feeling better.

“Once that whistle blows, it’s all business, Tobes,” Allie nods back at her.

Alex stands up, “Come on,” she says, sticking a hand out, “you need to show Christen you’re alive,”

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, reaching for her hand and standing and helping Allie up. She hugs Allie and then Alex, “Thanks guys,” she says as they slowly exit the bathroom, “I was way too in my head,”

“No problem,” Alex smiles at her, “now, relax, maybe have sex, and we’ll see you at the park,” Tobin is rolling her eyes.

“Ah,” Allie grins at her, “you should brush your teeth first,” she advises, “puke breath is not gonna turn on Christen,”

“You don’t know that,” Tobin mumbles, turning around back to the bathroom.

Christen is looking over her shoulder from the couch anxiously as Allie and Alex come down the hall.

“She’s fine,” Alex declares, “just don’t let her get in her head.”

“Remind her when the whistle blows, it’s just footy,” Allie adds.

Christen lets out a deep sigh, “Thanks guys,”

“We’ll see you in a few hours,” Alex says,

“Have a good afternoon!” Allie giggles and waves as they leave.

Tobin comes down the hall a few minutes later, slowly lowering herself on the couch next to Christen. She reaches for Christen’s hand. “Sorry,” she says quietly, “I was really in my head, worrying about things I can’t control,”

Christen squeezes her hand, feeling Tobin will still speak.

“And I didn’t mean to make you feel like I was shutting you out or anything,” she says, looking at her earnestly, “I hope you didn’t,”

Christen smiles, “No, I was worried about you though,” she admits.

“I’m sorry,” Tobin says heartfully, “I might need a couple of games to get this down,”

Christen turns on the couch, running her hand on Tobin’s forearm, “Maybe we should create a pre-game routine,” she suggests, her eyes darkening, “you know, I hear athletes like routine.”

“Chris,” Tobin says, looking pained as she sees the desire on Christen’s face, “I need to rest,”

Christen stands up, gripping Tobin’s forearm and pulling her close, “I’ll be doing all the work,” she says breathily, “you’ll just lie there,”

“Babe,” Tobin weakly protests, but Christen is kissing her neck in that spot that makes her knees go weak. She moves up her neck and kisses her.

“Come on,” she says, giving her arm a tug, “and thank God you brushed your teeth!”

“I used mouthwash, too!” Tobin rolls her eyes.

 

 

XXXX

 

“Oh, God!” Tobin cries out, writhing beneath Christen who quickly slides down to suck on her clit.

“Chris” Tobin starts but is cut off from the deep inhale as her orgasm rushes through her, freezing her in position. She’s stretched out flat on her back, hands grasping the corners of the pillow under her head, legs spread wide. Her heels are digging into the mattress, her chin jerks forward onto her chin, her legs quivering and hips flinching. She collapses back on the mattress, a deep low groan passing her lips. She raises one hand up to wipe the sweat on her forehead back into her hairline. She swallows hard as she pants, trying to regain her breath. Without moving her head, she eyes Christen as she slowly climbs up from in between her legs, wiping at her face and looking at her with hunger blazing in her eyes.

“Babe,” Tobin gets out, reaching for her, gliding her fingers over her warm bare skin.

“You like that, baby?” she grins at her, placing a quick kiss on her lips.

“Oh yeah,” Tobin smiles at her, “you’re amazing,” she says as she rubs her hand on her torso.

Christen angles herself to the side and pulls at Tobin’s shoulder, “Come on over here,” she instructs, “go to sleep, you can nap for three hours,”

“Did you”

“Yes, I set an alarm,” Christen assures her, “I probably won’t nap for long, don’t worry, you won’t be late.”

“Thanks, babe,” Tobin sighs, snuggling against Christen’s warm chest, her hand gripping one of her breasts.

 

XXXX

 

 

“Now remember,” Christen says, kissing Tobin once more, “an assist is one and a goal is two,”

Tobin smiles widely at her, “Got it,” she says, “I’m going for a hat trick tonight!” she jokes. She holds Christens’ forearm, not letting her out of the truck. “Seriously though,” she says, her voice and demeanor changing, “thank you so much,” she says softly, “for today, for every day. I love you.”

Christen kisses her, “I love you, too,” she smiles at her, “go get ‘em, Tiger!”

Tobin nods and smiles as she watches Christen leave the truck and head into the parking lot where their group is tailgating. She looks before joining traffic and pulls into the lane, carefully navigating her way to Providence Park. She pulls into the players’ lot, showing her pass to the security guard and parking along the fence. She pulls out her ear buds, not wanting to have to speak if someone yells to her, feeling a little nervous about having to make the long walk alone down the barricaded street to the players entrance.

It’s a little cool, so she pulls her beanie down on her head, snuggling her shoulders a little to get her hoodie around her neck more and then decides to go. She gets out of her truck, grabs her gear bag from the backseat and heads over to the exit.

“Yo, Tobin!” a voice calls out. She swivels her head and sees Sinc and Mal getting out of Sinc’s car. “Wait up!”

Sinc is smiling as they approach, “You didn’t think we’d let you do your first walk alone, did ya?”

Tobin smiles back, “Thanks, man,” extending her fist for a knuckle bump.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“You excited?” Mal asks her as they pull on their warm up tops.

“Yeah, it’s going to be wild,” Tobin grins, "it’ll be weird watching from the bench as opposed to the stands."

Mal cocks her head as she looks at her, “Huh?”

“You know,” Tobin gestures with her hands, “It’ll be like having pitchside seats, inside of being up high,”

“Did you look at the lineup?” Mal asks, squinting at her.

“Uh, no?” Tobin says.

“Sinc!” Mal yells loudly, “Will you help this hopeless rookie, please?”

Sinc comes over, looking between the two, “What’s up?”

Someone

,” Mal jerks her thumb at Tobin, “didn’t look at the roster.”

A smile spreads across Sinc’s face and she shakes her head, tsking. “Come here,” she says, putting an arm around her and guiding her to the wall, “look.”

Tobin looks up and sees her name. “What the fuck?” she whispers and looks over at her. Sinc smiles, “You earned it,” she says and slaps her back.

Tobin doesn’t have time to text Christen, rushing to get her ankle taped and go through her pregame stretching before heading out to the pitch for warmups. The crowd sounds so loud and when she has a moment to look up, she sees the stands aren’t filled in yet with many at the concessions and filtering in the stadium. Warmups go fast and Tobin is feeling loose, her touches are great, her shots on target. When they get to the close six yard drill, Tobin slots the ball between Nadine’s legs. She’s nutmegged her.

“Finally got ya!” she calls out and sees Nadine shaking her fist at her, a smile on her face.

The assistant coach calls them in to the locker room, Tobin playing with an errant ball as she trots towards to the sideline. She sees Sinc just ahead of her so she moves to the side of her. “Hey, Sinc!” she yells, sending the ball in between her legs, causing her to stutter step.

“Fuck!” Sinc curses as the team chuckles, “Tobin!”

Tobin laughs, “Saved the best for last!” she says, Sinc coming over and putting her in a headlock as they enter the tunnel.

 

Mark’s talk is concise and to the point, very straight forward. They all know their roles, they all know what’s expected of them. Mark does tell Tobin specifically that she would be taking all free kicks and corners, his lips curling into a smile when he reminds her. Emily Menges gets them riled up, passionately speaking of defending out home and not letting anyone come in and score. They were the only ones allowed to score in this building. They are tough and won’t give in.

Tobin is kicking out her feet, swaying side to side as she waits in the tunnel, realizing there’s a small girl next to her. “Hey, how you doing?” she asks, “I’m Tobin, what’s your name?”

“Kaylee,” she replies shyly, looking up at her.

“Hi, Kaylee,” she says, “you ever do this before?” The small girl shakes her head. Tobin smiles wide, “Me either,” she admits, “I’m a little nervous,” she says, “are you?” The girl nods.

“That’s awesome!” Tobin grins at her, “If we’re both nervous, you what that means, right?”

“No, what does it mean?”

“When two people are nervous about the same thing, you can’t be nervous anymore because you have a buddy. Will you be my buddy going out there?”

She nods her head, “Sure,”

“Awesome,” Tobin nods back at her, then she shakes her legs out and rolls her shoulders, “Holy cow!” she exclaims, “I don’t feel nervous anymore, do you?”

“I do,” Kaylee frowns.

“Here, maybe you should do what I did,” Tobin suggests, showing her how to shake her legs, the girl mimicking her. Tobin then rolls her shoulders and then adds some stupid silly looking dance moves and soon Kaylee laughing along with her.

“Here we go!” A male voice commands and the line starts moving.

Tobin grips Kaylee’s hand, “You good?”

“Yeah, Tobin!” she laughs, “You’re so silly!”

 

Tobin has no clue the Thorns social media staff was behind them, filming the whole exchange. They were focusing on Tobin, building her story of being a hometown rookie player.
Tobin and Kaylee enter the pitch, the noise thunderous as they walk out. Tobin goes through the line, slapping hands and finds Kaylee looking for her, putting her hands on her shoulder, squeezing them a little.

She feels a chill run down her spine as the National Anthem plays and she places her hand on her heart, tapping two fingers along just to keep something moving and contain her excitement. She thanks Kaylee afterwards before the little girl runs off the pitch and Tobin follows her teammates to slap hands with the refs and the members of the Orlando Pride.
They take their team photo and then huddle up for last minute words. Again, Tobin is on the outside, a hand on someone’s back, half listening, her eyes scanning the crowd. She looks towards where she knows her friends are, biting her upper lip and holding back a grin when she sees two rows holding up posters that spell out Tobin Heath Nutmeg Queen.

A warmth fills her chest and the team yells Thorns and now she’s heading back on the pitch to start the match.

She can’t believe how loud the crowd sounds, even though she’s been here so many times before. It just sounds so different on the pitch.

“You ready?” Sinc elbows her, looking her over for signs of nerves.

Tobin grins, “Let’s play some footy!”

Sinc holds up a fist, “Fuck yeah!”

“Fuck yeah!” Tobin yells back giving her knuckles a tap.

The first half is a blur, Tobin being pulled down, tripped up and having her jersey nearly ripped off her. She’s granted many free kicks in return, although nothing has come from them. The Thorns seem a little off, their timing just a half step behind from dominating the match. The Pride know they are outclassed and had decided to just try and foul everyone in hopes someone losses their temper and gets a yellow.

Tobin gets her knee bandaged during the half, she’s got a lovely turf burn from one of the plays that sent her sprawling. Monica, the Brazilian defender also gave her an elbow shot to her cheek and Tobin hopes it doesn’t bruise. Her teammates aren’t faring any better, they are bruised and battered as well, getting quickly patched up by the medical staff. Mark changes up the game plan, using their speed as a weapon. He encourages the midfield and defenders to send long balls over the top for the forwards to track down. Instead of building up plays, he tells them it’s the fast breaks and one touches that will get the job done.

 

“Well, what the fuck,” Kelley frowns, “they’re knocking the shit of out them,” she complains, “is their game plan just to foul them?”

Christen nods, after spending most of the first half cringing every time a Thorn was taken down, especially Tobin, she’s pissed at Orlando. “How are there not any yellow cards yet?” She questions unhappily.

Ashlyn lays her hands on Christen’s shoulders from behind. “I predict the Thorns are going to come out and kick their ass second half,”

“Well, they better do something,” Alex frowns, “someone’s going to get really hurt out there.”

Allie and Bati come back from the concessions, passing beers down to them.

“We’ll find out, soon,” Kelley shrugs and then chugs the rest of her beer and then starts on her fresh one.

Perry looks over her shoulder below the in front of them looking at Christen, “They’re so rough,” she frowns, “why isn’t Tobin hitting them back?”

Christen’s row smiles at her, “She doesn’t want to get a foul,” she explains.

“She prefers to make them look like fools,” Kelley informs her, giving her wicked grin, “you’ll see.”

Christen had texted Perry and as a surprise to Tobin, her whole family is here to support her. Tobin had explained she was told the first home match was family and friends night, so the team wouldn’t go out as a group afterwards. They normally do it after certain matches, not every single one. So Christen had told Tobin she would take care of inviting everyone back to her barn to hang out afterwards and not to worry about food and drinks, she’ll take care of it. Last night, when Tobin was at her team dinner and film session, Christen, along with Allie, Bati, Ashlyn, Ali, Alex and Servando had prepared the barn and many more were pitching in food and drinks. They would have enough time after the match to go home and grab whatever they needed and then come to Tobin’s house.

 

One minute after the kick off of the second half , Catley has the ball just outside the eighteen, sending a long liner downfield that Mal easily tracks and traps, she quickly passes it to Sinc who gets a shot off but Bledose saves it. Minutes later, Tobin has the ball, coming into Orlando’s half and Monica is already on her, darting at her feet. Tobin easily nutmegs her, hearing her swear behind her as she crosses to Sinc who bends a low liner that skims along the turf and past a diving Bledsoe for the first goal of the night.

Mayhem erupts in the stadium as red smoke pours from the stands, the chants and cheers loud as the team huddles together in elation. Sinc gets close to Tobin as they trot back, leaning to speak, “You’ve got her frustrated,” she says, “now get her pissed.” Tobin sees her wild grin and nods back at her, extending her fist, “Fuck yeah,” she grins back.

She gets her chance in two minutes, when she has her back to Monica, trying to edge closer to the box and free herself up to send a cross. She winces as she feels Monica elbowing her in the back, flinching and then passing the ball to back to McCall Zerboni in the midfield. She bounces away and then McCall passes it back, and Tobin heads in again.
Monica smirks when she puts her feet together and Tobin’s meg attempt makes the ball roll a few feet again, Tobin traps it, glancing up to see the six yard box filled with hovering Thorns players. She’s got to get the ball to them. She fakes another nutmeg and Monica’s feet slide together and Tobin pulls an elastico, the ball swiftly moving from right to left with her toe on it, and she races around the Monica as she falls, unbalanced to ground, getting free and lofting the ball in the box. The ball gets headed away, back to Emily Menges with Sinc at the eighteen now, so Tobin edges in to the front of the goal.

The Sinc sends in a screamer that ricochets through five players and the ball lands at her feet. Her back is to goal, everyone is covered on front of her. She makes a split second decision and back heels the ball through Monica’s legs and Bledsoe who wasn’t expecting it. She’s just scored.

She looks over her shoulder to see Bledsoe on the ground and the ball in the netting and raises her arms as her teammates converge on her. Orlando players are swearing and things are heating up. They head back to the center circle to reset the match.

The game resumes and Orlando presses hard, getting a few chances that are turned away. Tobin is notices it’s the sixty-fifth minute and looks towards the bench, but there’s no players up. Maybe she isn’t coming out, she thinks.

When she gets the ball again, Monica comes in with a very late tackle, sending her to the ground, gripping her shin in pain. It really hurts and she’s squeezing it hard, praying for the pain to abate. The trainers come out, giving her a once over and soon Tobin is sitting up, sipping some water and nodding she’s fine. She limps off the pitch, then jogs a bit, nodding to Mark and giving him a thumbs up. She’s standing next to the fourth official when she hears the announcement that Monica was given a yellow card on the play. With all of the commotion, she hadn’t noticed earlier.

She’s back in the game, weaving through players, passing the ball to build up play. They’re resorted back to their original game plan, using it as a time waster to run off the clock. Orlando is still aggressive and Tobin’s not the only one getting tossed around. Four more yellow cards are issued in a span of fifteen minutes.

While Sinc is down being tended to for a late tackle, Tobin lingers nearby, sipping water. Mal is next to her. “We need two more,” she says firmly, her eyes blazing, “let’s show these bitches who we are.”

Kat nods her head, her demeanor calm, “Long ball coming at you,” she says to Mal. Emily nods, “Fast break,”
Sinc is up and heading to the sideline, the cheers for her loud. Play resumes and Tobin takes the free kick, sending it to McCall and she passes it Mal who takes a shot that gets saved. Orlando comes back hard, weaving through their defense and their shot gets deflected by Nadine and Kat corrals it, turning quickly and sending it downfield blindly. Mal is streaking after it, taking one bounce to control it, deeking past her defender in the eighteen and ripping a shot past Bledose.

The crowd goes wild. Thorns are up 3-0.

The Thorns don’t let up, they kill the time off skillfully, taking the ball to the corners, and that’s where Tobin is, when Monica shoves her off the ball. Tobin stumbles and recovers, running after her, zooming in to lift the ball away and circling back. Monica follows with Australian Laura Alleway, both of them converging on Tobin. Tobin backs up, passing the ball between her feet, dancing with it, taunting the two.

She spies Sinc lingering at the eighteen yard line, dancing back and forth as well, faking her defender. Tobin steps up to the two women, head faking right and then letting her body go left, but Monica is there, so she backs up again to reset. Quickly she charges them, then flicks the ball, executing a perfect rainbow over their heads, bullying her way between them to tame it on the other side, swiftly passing it to Sinc.

Sinc takes a second, moving to her left seeing Tobin coming forward and Mal on the other side, she twists as if she’s passing to Mal when she hips flick hard and pulls her shot across her body into the far side of the net.

It’s 4-0.

 

Tobin receives roses along with Sinc and Mal for their goals. She receives a rose crown for being player of the match. They’ve done their thanks to the Riveters, joining hands and throwing them up and down as a team and it feels so surreal to Tobin, as if she’s dreaming.

Kat points up to the bleachers, “Look!” she elbows Nadine, “Is that Kelley?”

Sure enough, there’s Kelley in the stands holding a sign high above her head.
“I lost the Nadine Angerer Shot Challenge (And Lived To Tell The Tale)” Nadine reads, barking out a deep laugh and sending two thumbs up to her. Tobin swears she sees her sister Katie for a fleeting second but shakes her head and gets pulled into a hug from Nadine. When she looks up again, she sees Christen smiling at her. Tobin lifts her hands, cupping them into a heart. Christen mimics her gesture and Tobin thinks she’s mouthing an I Love You.

Signing autographs is very strange to Tobin, smiling politely at the little kids and scratching her first name and the number seventeen on jerseys and scarves. She makes her way through it quickly and she’s feeling uncomfortable, so she ducks into the tunnel and heads for the locker room.

 

 

“Christen, thank you so much for getting this together,” Cindy says, giving her a side hug, “Tobin always talks about how your mac and cheese is amazing,” Christen grins at her.
The Heath women are in the kitchen with Christen, Allie, Alex, Kelley and Sonnett, prepping the food to be cooked on the grill. Jeff, Jeffrey, Bati and Servando are firing up the grill outside and making sure the chafing dishes in the barn are heating up.

Cindy suggests to Christen to delegate tasks to the group, being sensitive and not wanting to take over whatever the young woman has planned. Gratefully Christen smiles at her, appreciating her calmness and taking a moment to calm herself.

“Me and Kelley will get these trays outside into the chafing dish,” Alex suggests, pointing to the counter.

“That would be great,” Christen nods, taking a deep breath, “okay, if someone could get the lettuce chopped up for a salad, it goes in this bowl,” she instructs and continues to add a few more.

Once the kitchen is clear and almost everyone is outside, Christen turns to Cindy, “Thank you,” she says, stepping forward and giving her a hug, “I needed a guiding hand,”

Cindy smiles at her, “I’ve been there before,” she says simply. They both turn when they see highlights reflecting on the living room drapes.

“Ooh, is she home?” Cindy asks, walking to towards the front door. She pulls it open to find some people she doesn’t know.

“Hello,” A man’s deep voice greets.

“Dad?” Christen yells, trotting to the door that Cindy has opened wider.

Christen sees her parents and sisters Tyler and Channing enter. She introduces them to Cindy, shocked that they are here in the living room.

“What are you doing here?” she asks, looking with large eyes between them.

“Oh sweetie,” Her Mom says, stepping close to hug her, “we couldn’t miss Tobin’s first match!”

“Oh, Mom,” Christen quivers, hugging her hard, “that’s so sweet of you guys, you were at the match?”

They all nod, “We have to leave tomorrow, but there was no way we would miss it,” her Dad says happily, “Don’t you know how much we’ve missed watching soccer?”

“What the,” Tobin mutters from the kitchen door, “what are all of you doing here?” she asks, looking completely shocked.

“Tobin!” they all cheer, most of the raising them their hands.

“I can’t believe it,” Tobin says, blinking back tears, “you all came for the game?”

“Oh, honey, of course we did,” her Mom says, walking to her and hugging her. It takes Tobin a few minutes to greet those in the house, wiping her eyes from the shock and overwhelming outpouring of love in the room.

She finds Christen last, Christen, who stood off to the side, a smile on her face, soaking it all in.

“Hi, babe,” Tobin whispers, holding her close, “how are you?”

“I’m okay,” she whispers back, giving Tobin a soft kiss, knowing most everyone is watching them, “how do you feel? You were tossed around out there a bit,”

“I’m just fine,” Tobin smiles, missing her softly, “did you plan all of this?”

“I invited your family,” she admits, smiling at her, “but my family surprised me,”

“Oh, wow,” Tobin chuckles, squeezing her tight, and letting out a deep breath, “is everyone else outside?”

“Yeah,” Christen nods, “we should head out there,”

“Come on, lovebirds!” Perry calls out loudly, “I hear the food is ready,”

Tobin straightens up, “I’m starving!” she announces, getting a laugh from them. She slides her hand down to find Christen’s and they walk out together.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Kelley,” Tobin says, sipping her beer, “Nadine was still laughing at your sign in the locker room,” she chuckles. “She says you’re crazy and she loves you,”

“Did you tell her I want a rematch?” Kelley questions with raised eyebrows.

“No,” Tobin shakes her head, “but I did tell her to expect you to want one,”

“Good enough,” Kelley nods, looking satisfied, “I’ll crush her.”

“Just like you crushed Dave with the pancake contest?” Sonnett rolls her eyes and laughs.

“Hey,” Kelley says defensively, “he cheated,” she points at her, then at the rest of them, “he has a bigger mouth,”

Christen rolls her eyes, “Debatable,” she murmurs as she lifts her beer to her mouth and takes a drink.

“Hey!” Kelley frowns at her as they all laugh.

 

 

XXXX

 

 

“Oh, this feels nice,” Tobin groans as she settles on her back in back in bed. It’s late and everyone is gone from the barn party. Tobin’s sisters and brother are spending the night, Jeffrey on the couch and girls in the guest room.

“You getting stiff, honey?” Christen questions as she slides under the covers and edging closer to her.

“Not too much,” Tobin replies sleepily, “thanks again for helping me stretch,”

“Well, it’s my job to help you stay in tip top shape,” she replies with a smile, lying on her side and looking at her lovingly.

“I need to give you a raise,” Tobin smiles at her, her eyes half lidded, sleep coming soon. Now that the excitement and the adrenaline rush of the game and after party have worn off, Tobin is exhausted. She smiles at her, “I love you,” she says, a lone tear streaking from her eye.

Christen scoots closer, “I love you,” she says just as softly, leaning in and kissing her, “now, we should go to sleep,” she pulls her pillow closer, settling in near Tobin’s side. “I might have to start a chart,” she says absently.

“Hum? Of what?” Tobin asks tiredly.

“The orgasms I owe you,” she giggles, letting her hand rest on Tobin’s chest, fingers between her sternum.

“Oh, those,” Tobin says, “I think I’m a little drunk,” she announces in the darkness.

Christen signs and hums, “Me too,” she agrees, “your sister Perry is a troublemaker,”

“Her and Kelley get along entirely too well,” Tobin chuckles with her eyes closed. She moves her right arm under Christen’s pillow and brings her hand up to caress Christen’s shoulder.

“That was so cool of your parents and Tyler and Channing coming,” Tobin says, a smile on her face, “that was such a surprise.”

“I know,” Christen agrees, “I had no clue,” she admits, “and wasn't it great with how they got along with your parents? They looked like they all had a great time,”

“Yeah,” Tobin nods slightly, “they really did,” she says and then chuckles, “At least my Mom didn’t bring a one of my baby books,” she says, “I think I’d die,”

Christen laughs that musical giggle that makes Tobin’s heart speed up, “I’m sure now that they’ve exchanged numbers, they’ll plan it for next time.”

“Can we agree right now to not tease each other too much?” Tobin asks, “Because I was such a dork as a kid,”

Christen chuckles, her tiredness catching up with her, “I won’t tease if you won’t,” she says, “although I reserve the right to some laughing.”

“We can laugh,” Tobin chuckles with her, “but no taking pics to text out,”

“Oh, Hell no,” Christen laughs, “I don’t want anyone to see me with pigtails and cornrows,”

They both laugh quietly and settle down, Tobin shifting her hips a little and letting out a sigh.

“I’m so grateful for you,” Tobin says, her voice cracking, “I love you so much and I’m so happy you’re in my life.”

“Tobin,” Christen says, her voice carrying as much as urgency she can muster with how tired she is, “baby, you bring me so much joy and I love you so much, and if you were to ask me why, we’d never get to sleep tonight.” She lifts her head and kisses her, “Now, let’s stop talking and go to sleep,”

“Okay, babe,” Tobin agrees with a yawn, “I love you,”

“I love you, baby. Goodnight,”

 

XXXX

End of Part 1