Chapter 1: Left For Denver
meeting for divorce, mattress on the floor, and mountains, so many fucking mountains
here you go! happy anniversary to us and all of you!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Christen wasn’t sure if funny was the word for it, but seeing her entire marriage and life for the last six months itemized and categorized on a series of pages in front of her was definitely something.
“Ms. Press would like the Chagals and she’s willing to give up the vintage pinball machine,” Crystal said, getting a nod of confirmation from Christen.
“Deal. Chris always liked those paintings best anyway,” Brooke replied with a shrug.
Crystal hummed and crossed that item off the list in front of Christen, already moving on to the next one.
“My client would also prefer to keep the wedding china and the season tickets to the Center of Performing Arts,” Crystal continued.
“Ms. Landers is willing to part with the china and the tickets, but she would like to keep the BMW,” Brooke’s lawyer, Percy, conceded.
“Which one?” Christen wondered with an almost amused half-smile.
“The red one,” Brooke grinned.
“I get the blue,” Christen shot back.
“I expect nothing less,” Brooke teased, pouring herself and Christen more water from the pitcher on the table.
Crystal made a note of that in her file, relaxing just a bit at the cordiality between the two women.
“Why do you two need me and Percy again?” Crystal joked, elbowing Christen playfully.
“I think it’s more for show than anything else,” Brooke laughed, lifting up her glass of water almost in a cheers for Christen.
“Her mother insisted,” Christen corrected, lifting her water in turn and taking a sip.
“It’s payback for not having Chris sign a prenup,” Brooke added.
Christen chuckled and then gestured to the last item on Crystal’s list, the one thing she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get. It had the potential to wipe away the smiles and polite laughter the four of them shared, making her tense up slightly in her chair.
“You’re scared. What is it? I thought we agreed I get the cat,” Brooke said, lowering her glass back onto the table and watching Christen closely.
“Nacho is all yours,” Christen said with a shake of her head.
“I’m not willing to give up the beach house. That’s a hard no from me. I know you like it there, but that’s the only thing I really want-” Brooke started, crossing her arms over her chest.
“If I may interject,” Crystal interrupted. “Chris doesn’t want the beach house. She wants The Avalanche.”
Christen waited with bated breath, ready for Brooke to shut her down and send them into serious, bitterly contested, divorce-like arguments.
But it never came.
“Oh thank God,” Brooke breathed out. “It’s all yours. Absolutely! I have no idea what I’m doing with it anyway. Pretty sure I bought it to impress you, and I still don’t understand offsides. Can I still have season tickets?”
“Yes, but you’ll have to sit in the stands, I’m keeping the box,” Christen replied with a small smile of relief on her face.
“You don’t want your favorite ex-wife to sit in the box with you?” Brooke asked with another teasing grin.
“I can’t stand you,” Christen joked, softening her words with a wink.
“You’ll miss my obnoxious game commentary when I’m in the stands. Hopefully, you’ll find someone who can take my place,” Brooke hummed, drumming her fingers on the table.
“And hopefully you'll find someone to take mine,” Christen acknowledged, siding the small jewelry pouch across the table with her engagement ring and wedding band in it.
“Shall we sign some paperwork and get some lunch? It’s on me,” Brooke asked, pocketing the rings that she’d bought for Christen.
Crystal nodded and slid Christen a set of papers while Percy slid Brooke some. “Sign these and you’re both officially divorced,” Crystal said.
“You want the wedding day cufflinks back?” Brooke asked, reaching into her pocket.
Christen shook her head and finished signing the paperwork. “Dear God, no. Keep those gaudy things.”
“Shoulda known we’d get divorced when you told me an outer space-themed wedding was a bad idea,” Brooke laughed, signing her own name on the line.
“Nothing out of this world about our marriage,” Christen replied with a laugh of her own.
“You’re still one of my best friends, and I’m glad we both get another chance at something out of this world,” Brooke said, handing the pen back to Crystal.
“You’ve got the beach house and I’ve got the Avalanche. I’d say we’re set,” Christen grinned. “So, lunch on you?”
“Absolutely. Percy, Crystal, would you like to join?” Brooke asked, clearly in an amazing mood post-divorce.
“Love to,” Percy agreed.
“Girl, I was already invited. It was implied,” Crystal scoffed, shooting Brooke a smile and packing up the paperwork in her briefcase.
“You love me too, Dunny,” Brooke hummed before kissing Crystal’s cheek.
“I’d like you more if Chris had fought you for the pinball machine,” Crystal teased as she got to her feet.
“You both can come over and play with it whenever you want. Nacho too,” Brooke assured.
Crystal looped her arm through Christen’s and followed Brooke and Percy to the door.
“Wherever we’re going, I need a burger,” Christen sighed, feeling a little tired from parsing out who got what for the last few hours, despite the amicable nature of it all.
“We’ll go to the ridiculously expensive burger place. Oh, and about the Avalanche,” Brooke threw over her shoulder, smirking to herself and waiting for Christen to get interested.
“She tells me now,” Christen grumbled, narrowing her eyes at the smirk on her now ex-wife’s face.
“You’ll like what I have to say,” Brooke sing-songed. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for the team aside from letting you be the owner.”
As the four of them stepped into the elevator, Christen arched a brow at Brooke and waited for the ‘best thing’ to be revealed.
“What’s that hotshot player’s name who plays...is it winger?” Brooke asked, her forehead wrinkling in thought. “I bought her rights in a trade. She gets here tomorrow.”
Tobin had finally let herself cry. She’d kept up a tough appearance for her practice with her team. She’d done one last very brief interview. She’d packed up her house and sent everything to Denver.
And once all that was done, once she was on a mattress in an apartment in Denver, with boxes surrounding her and her furniture haphazardly placed in rooms, she let herself cry. She let herself eat the biggest cheat meal she’d had in years and cried on a mattress, unable to watch mindless TV, since her internet wasn’t yet set up.
And now, dressed in her favorite pair of Nike sweatpants, her most comfortable US Soccer sweatshirt, and a pair of Jordans, not her typical practice gear, her eyes felt puffy and raw.
She stared at the stadium from inside her car. She stared at the stupid mountain emblem on every fucking surface of the stadium. She stared, knowing full well that the same emblem was about to be on all of her practice gear and her jersey and her travel bag and burned into the inside of her eyelids for eternity.
And for the first time in her entire career, Tobin wondered if it was time to just retire. She could coach. She could coach somewhere. Maybe she could be happy coaching. Maybe.
But she also knew that the pain behind her eyes and the ache in her throat wouldn’t go away if she retired. It wouldn’t go away because she’d lost something she had been sure of. She’d lost a sure thing. The proverbial rug had been ripped out from under her, and there was no way to scramble across the floor and find that same rug again. It was gone. It was done. And now she was a fucking mountain.
A knock on her window had her nearly jumping out of her skin.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” Tobin croaked, rolling down her window.
A young woman, decked out in royal blue, Adidas Avalanche attire, stood next to her car with a large smile on her face.
“I’m Phoebe. I do all the social media for the team. I recognize you from the gifs I had to make,” Phoebe said in a chipper tone.
“Fantastic,” Tobin replied, forcing a tight smile. “I’m Tobin.”
“I know!” Phoebe grinned, gesturing for Tobin to follow her. “Come on, I’ll show you inside. ”
With a long sigh, Tobin rolled up her window, switched her car off, and followed behind with her bag of gear that she needed for practice.
Christen had just finished her second ristretto of the morning when one of the executive interns, a delightful young man named Connor, poked his head into the conference room that was doubling as her base of operations today.
“Alec is here,” Connor announced.
“Send him in,” Christen replied with a polite smile, setting down her cup and smoothing out the front of her button-up.
“Would you like me to stay right outside...just in case?” Connor asked with a sheepish smile.
“Just have security on stand-by,” Christen chuckled.
“Of course, Ms. Press.”
“Christen is fine,” Christen corrected.
“Right, sorry,” Connor nodded, moving back outside and making way for Alec to walk in decked out in team gear with a whistle around his neck.
Christen let her face fall into an impassive expression, one she usually reserved for her actual workplace. She was the CEO of her own company, an elite interior design firm, so she had plenty of experience handling difficult personalities, entitled individuals, and especially entitled men.
“Press, nice to see you’re settling in,” Alec murmured as he moved into the conference room and dropped into a chair.
Christen casually took some papers out of the folder in front of her and then sent them sliding down the smooth wood of the conference room table.
“What the fuck is this?” Alec asked, glaring down at the papers.
“In your four-year tenure as head coach, we’ve had an 8-12-76 record. Out of the ninety six games you’ve coached, we’ve averaged two shots on goal and conceded over one hundred. Instead of, I don’t know, doing your job, you somehow convinced my ex-wife to increase your salary, decrease the players’ salary, and spent more time flashing that fake Rolex on your wrist out at nightclubs than you have coaching my team,” Christen said.
“It’s not a fake,” Alec protested, pulling his sleeve over his wrist.
“When you wrote it off as an expense for your position and filed that with the front office, it wasn’t hard to piece together that the watch was fake,” Christen replied smoothly.
“This team would be nothing without me. Your wife wouldn’t know football if it bit her in the ass. I carry this team,” Alec insisted.
“On the contrary, they’re currently nothing with you, as documented on the pages in front of you. Lucky for the team, I know football, and I am very ready to carry this team away from the damaged reputation you’ve given them,” Christen said, her voice leaving no room for argument. “This is your notice. You’re fired, Alec.”
“You bitch!” Alec hissed, tossing the papers across the table.
“The Denver Avalanche wishes you the best of luck on your next venture,” Christen replied, not reacting to the outburst and merely signaling for Connor through the glass wall of the room.
“Excuse me, Mr. Dixon but Ms. Press has a few more meetings scheduled this morning. I’d be happy to show you to HR and help you get some paperwork-”
“Oh, fuck off!” Alec yelled, shoving his chair back.
Christen quickly shot to her feet, moving between Alec and Connor, not needing this to become more explosive than this already was.
“If you’re not out of here in ten seconds, I’ll get someone to make you leave. Don’t make me bring out the expense list again. You really don’t want me to go through that with a fine-tooth comb called the IRS,” Christen said, her jaw tight and her brow arched in a challenging manner.
“Have a fan-fucking-tastic season. I hope Heath breaks a leg or something. She’ll be carrying you without me, and she’s thirty. Amazing prospects,” Alec growled, shouldering past Christen and Connor as he left the building.
With a sigh, Christen moved back to her chair at the far end of the conference table. She rubbed at the side of her neck, already feeling a knot of tension forming.
“I think Tobin Heath is getting her gear, but once she arrives would you like me to send her in?” Connor asked.
“Send Laura in before her? And after Ms. Heath arrives, go grab some breakfast,” Christen instructed.
“Thank you so much, Ms. Press,” Connor replied, gushing at Christen’s new leadership.
“It’s Christen, and take everyone in the front office with you,” Christen added, turning back to her computer as Connor left.
“We’ve got your practice gear here,” Audrey said with a cheery smile as she put a folded pile of clothes on a table. “Socks too,” she added, putting a pile of white Adidas socks on the table next to the royal blue and gray clothes. “And we also have travel gear here. Some nice joggers, a jacket, sweatshirt, scarf, gloves. Phoebe showed you around, right?”
“Yep, it’s pretty standard no matter where you are,” Tobin sighed, hating that she had to wear royal blue every day for the foreseeable future.
“I’m sure you’re more experienced than we are, but if you have any questions at all, everyone here is super friendly,” Audrey assured, not noticing the absolute torment Tobin could feel rolling around inside of her.
“I’ll be sure to ask. Thanks for the clothes,” Tobin mumbled.
“Oh, I almost forgot. Here’s your duffel for traveling too,” Audrey grinned, pulling out a large duffel and beginning to pack Tobin’s new clothes in it.
“Boss wants you upstairs before the first practice to say welcome,” Phoebe said, poking her head into the room and smiling another way too happy smile at Tobin.
“Great, I’ll head up there now,” Tobin replied, leaving her full duffel bag on the table to get later.
“I can show you!” Phoebe offered.
“Thanks,” Tobin murmured, trying her best not to take anything out on these very helpful people.
“I’ve been dying to head up there and meet the new owner anyway. We’re all so excited she’s here. We never saw our last one,” Phoebe rambled as she led Tobin through the facilities toward the executive end of the building.
“She’s new?” Tobin asked. If things had been bad yesterday, they were just getting worse by the minute. Of course, she’d been traded to not only a shitty team but also a team with a brand new owner.
“Started this morning, just like you! Word on the street is,” Phoebe lowered her voice and leaned close, “she got stuck with the team in the divorce. But you didn’t hear that from me.”
“Lovely, so she was forced to take on the job,” Tobin grumbled, trying to take a deep breath and keep in the scream she felt in her chest.
Phoebe shrugged and then led them up two flights of stairs, the stairs becoming carpeted on the second flight.
“This is the executive level. Management and coaches have offices here. The owner - well, historically, the owner doesn’t keep an office here, but our new gal might do things differently,” Phoebe explained, opening a door and leading Tobin into a posh-looking management space.
The carpet was the same royal blue colors as the Avalanche crest, and the walls were adorned with art and professional photographs from the games. Each office space was separated by glass walls, and the overall vibe was welcoming.
“If you want to sit here, they’ll be ready for you,” Phoebe added, pointing to a row of chairs outside of the conference room at the back corner of the floor.
“Cool,” Tobin sighed, settling in a chair and leaning her head back against the wall.
“Oh, fantastic! You’re here,” Connor gushed, interrupting Tobin’s moment of possibly finding some peace or at least pretending this was just a nightmare. “You have no idea how excited I’ve been to meet you, Tob- Ms. Heath.”
“Nice to meet you too…” Tobin answered, forcing her eyes open and a tight smile onto her face.
“Connor. I’m Connor. This is so cool.”
“Nice to meet you, Connor,” Tobin responded, shaking Connor’s hand quickly.
Laughter from inside the conference room drew their attention.
“Let me check with Ms. Press and see if she’s ready for you,” Connor said, hurrying to the conference room door and knocking softly.
“Fuck me,” Tobin muttered under her breath, pressing her head back into the wall again.
Connor opened the door, allowing the conversation from within to bleed out into the hallway.
“- and I swear, that asshole was stealing money from the organization! I thought he was going to pop a vein when I threatened to show him the expense report -”
“Ms. Heath is here,” Connor interrupted, causing the laughter and the story from inside the room to stop.
“Send her in,” the sweet voice instructed now that her story was interrupted.
Connor nodded and stepped back, gesturing at Tobin to head in. “Have fun! I think you’ll really like them.”
“Thanks,” Tobin forced out, walking into the conference room and feeling like she was on her way to hell.
The royal blue carpeting stayed the same in the conference room. The walls were painfully white with hardly any decoration. There were large windows on two walls and an oval table in the center. Papers littered the table and artwork sat against the walls, waiting to be hung.
It seemed like everything here, not just in the conference room, was just kind of thrown together, like a staged set.
The locker room was small, the kit room wasn’t organized, the hallways were loud. It didn’t feel normal. But who was Tobin to even know what that meant? Her normal was Portland. Her normal had been a red and black uniform and yearly championships. Her normal had been huge banners with her face on them and fans in stands who held signs saying, ‘I want to be just like you when I grow up.’
“You must be Tobin Heath,” Christen said, standing up from her chair and approaching the woman hovering in the doorway.
“That’s me,” Tobin greeted, chewing on the inside of her mouth as she looked at the two women in the room.
“I’m the team’s owner, Christen Press, and hopefully I’m not the first one to say welcome to the Denver Avalanche,” Christen said as she held out a hand for Tobin to shake.
“Thanks. You’re definitely not the first. You’ve got some very friendly employees,” Tobin mumbled, taking the offered hand and shaking it.
“I only kept the ones that I felt contributed to the right culture, on and off the pitch,” Christen replied with a firm shake of Tobin’s hand before dropping it. “Speaking of which, meet our new head coach, Laura Harvey.”
“Nice to meet you,” Tobin said with a wave in Laura’s direction. “I thought Alec Dixon was coaching here.”
Christen moved back to her chair at the head of the conference room table. “He was until about thirty minutes ago.”
“Must have missed him leave,” Tobin hummed, looking over her shoulder at the now-closed door and the intern looking through the glass at them.
“Nobody’s missing him,” Laura quipped, earning her a soft snort from Christen.
Tobin just hummed again as she moved over to a chair, leaving plenty of room between herself and the other women.
“How’re you settling in?” Christen asked, taking in the dark circles under Tobin’s eyes and the heaviness in her shoulders.
“I got in yesterday. Everything seems pretty normal. Football’s football, right?” Tobin answered without really answering, too busy taking in the royal blue gear this new coach was already wearing and the royal blue blazer Christen was in. It was all too much. It was too much blue, too many mountains, too much change, too soon.
Christen and Laura shared a quick look before Christen moved her gaze back to her newest player.
“Can I be frank with you, Tobin?” Christen asked, steepling her hands in front of her mouth.
“I have two pet peeves in this world, and Laura here can attest to both of them,” Christen explained.
Laura hummed and nodded. “That I can, Press. That I can.”
“I can’t stand soggy croutons in a salad, and I don’t put up with bullshit. So, I’ll ask again, how are you settling in?”
“I’ll be great after I finish moving in,” Tobin said with a forced smile.
Christen dropped her steepled hands away from her mouth, putting them on top of the table in front of her. She arched a brow in Tobin’s direction, a direct challenge to Tobin’s answer, and waited.
“Word to the wise, Heath, that eyebrow thing? It means business,” Laura chuckled, watching the interaction with amusement.
“Look. I don’t need you to fake whatever this is. I’m here to play, and I’ll do my job well. I always do my job well. You don’t need to pretend to care about me or my life off the pitch. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even get closer to the championships this year than you ever have,” Tobin huffed, leaning back in her chair and clenching her jaw.
If she just focused on the biting anger in the words, Christen might have felt offended. Especially at the insinuations Tobin was making about her and her job and her team. But she picked up on the emotion beneath the anger. She could hear the hurt in Tobin’s voice and she knew why it was there. She’d read enough about Tobin Heath’s departure from Portland to understand on some level.
So instead of letting the words cause her to react in the way Tobin was clearly inviting her to, Christen remained calm.
“I’m sorry for the circumstances that brought you here. Believe what you want to believe, but I truly am sorry for all of this. If there’s anything Laura or I can do to make this transition or your tenure here with the Avalanche more amenable, please do not hesitate to ask.”
“Will do,” Tobin muttered, forcing back the ache that was trying to choke her and send more tears down her face.
Laura gently rapped her knuckles on the table and got to her feet. “Time to hit the pitch, Heath. Games start soon and we’ve got a team to meet.”
Laura moved to the conference room door and saluted Christen as she went to leave.
“Thanks for the call, Boss.”
“Thanks for picking up, Laura,” Christen replied with a fond smile.
Tobin stood up from her seat, intent on following Laura out of the office and finding someplace to relax before practice started.
“Yes?” Tobin answered, turning around to look at her new boss.
“Put on your gear. You’re part of the Avalanche now,” Christen said with a small nod. “There’s nothing to be done about it, nothing you can do to change it. But if you give us a chance, maybe you can try to make the most of it?”
“Wonderful advice, thanks,” Tobin breathed out, leaving before Christen could say anything more.
“Watch this,” Emily Sonnett grinned at the rookies, grabbing two water bottles from the bench. She snuck up behind one of the veteran players and sprayed water on her back, making the rookies cackle and the rest of the team roll their eyes.
“You suck, Sonny!” Caitlyn yelled, running after a giggling Sonnett.
Tobin watched from the sidelines, stretching like she did before every practice and game, only this time she was in royal blue leggings and a gray windbreaker with a new crest. The only things that actually felt the same were the number seven on all of her gear and the pair of orange Nike cleats on her feet.
“The altitude will be an adjustment,” Laura observed, coming to stand right next to Tobin on the side of the practice field.
“Yeah,” Tobin nodded, tugging at her gray, Adidas neck warmer that felt just a little too tight on her neck.
“What do you make of them?” Laura asked, nodding in the direction of the women who were all goofing around on the practice field.
“They’re young,” Tobin shrugged. “Probably could be faster than the average team if they focus.”
Laura hummed thoughtfully. “They don’t seem focused to you?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a coach,” Tobin murmured, rolling her head from side to side to try and relieve some stress.
“I’m not the only one out here who knows the game. These ladies could learn a lot from a player like you. If you gave a shit, that is,” Laura remarked bluntly before walking toward the team.
Tobin took a deep breath and sank into another stretch. She did give a shit. She gave a lot of shits. She didn’t want to be on a losing team, on a team that wouldn’t get a spot in the playoffs. She wanted this team to grow and get better, and of course, she’d help her teammates out. That didn’t mean she wasn’t allowed to be a little pissed that she’d been handed off like a chess piece for five young players and a chunk of money.
“Good morning!” Laura greeted cheerfully, stuffing her hands into her coat pockets. “You seem like a lively bunch and I’m very excited to get to work with all of you. I’m Laura Harvey, your new coach, and today, I thought we’d have a bit of fun.”
“Sweet!” Cat yelled from the back of the group, slinging her arms around Sonnett and Andi.
“Partner up!” Laura yelled after clapping her hands. “One partner on the other’s back. Ten seconds. Go!”
Tobin had been wrong. Christen’s fake office hadn’t been hell. This was hell. She watched as rookies threw themselves at other players, bracing herself for someone to try to launch onto her.
“Hey, buddy,” Sonnett grinned. “You a top or bottom?”
“Hey, Sonny,” Tobin sighed, a tiny but still genuine smile slipping onto her lips.
“Most women would kill to jump on me, so whenever you’re ready,” Sonnett grinned, holding out her arms and turning her back to Tobin.
“Shut up and mount me,” Tobin snorted, elbowing Sonnett in the ribs.
Sonnett whooped and jumped onto Tobin’s back. “Whatever it is, you suckers are going down. I’ve got Toby!”
Laura looked around with a grin, seeing everyone paired up. “All right, all right. Now, partner on top, cover partner on the bottom’s eyes, and direct them to one of the goals. Use nice, direct, specific communication.”
“Shoulda jumped on you,” Tobin groaned as Sonnett covered her eyes.
“We can do that next time,” Sonnet teased, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s head.
From the top row of the stands beside the training fields, Christen watched the team laugh and joke around as they moved around the field. Naturally, her eye was drawn to Tobin, the star player who Brooke was convinced would help them to a winning season.
Christen knew about Tobin Heath’s skill, her talent, her ability. She’d seen it on television and on fields for years. She also knew that whatever direction she and Laura wanted to take the team this season, Tobin Heath would be the key to that.
But from the looks of things, Christen really had her work cut out for her.
Tobin peeled off the royal blue tank top she’d worn underneath her quarter zip and windbreaker and the royal blue leggings. She tossed them into the laundry hamper in the locker room and grabbed her towel, heading for the shower and praying that she could wash every feeling and emotion down the drain.
She didn’t hate the team. She didn’t hate practice. Laura was a fine coach, and the pitch was nice. But Tobin was twenty-eight, no longer the superstar rookie at Portland. And she wasn’t sure that she could invest the kind of energy and love and commitment to another team, not when she could very well be told to pack up her life and fly across the country at any minute.
She’d been naive to settle down and plant roots. She’d been an idiot to suggest her family come out to Portland for her nephews and niece’s summer break from school. And now she had a box full of Portland gear sitting in her apartment’s living room, a mortgage on an empty house in Oregon, and a phone that wouldn’t stop buzzing with either fans who were mad at her for leaving or mad at Portland for trading her.
Those feelings wouldn’t wash away, and they wouldn’t disappear because of a decently okay practice. They wouldn’t go away even after she slid into her own clothes again, hair still damp and clean.
“Some of the team’s grabbing some lunch after this, do you wanna come?” Sonnett offered.
“Thanks for asking. I still have a lot of unpacking to do, so I’ll just see you tomorrow,” Tobin mumbled, fully aware that she was going home to take a nap and maybe order some food.
“Maybe next time, Toby,” Sonnett said with an understanding smile. “It’s good to have you here.”
“Next time,” Tobin nodded, grabbing her bag and heading out of the locker room.
please be nice to us, we're very fragile lol. chapter 2 will be coming soon...
thanks for joining us on another fic journey 💚
-sam & emma
Chapter 2: High Hope
press time, photoshoots, and prayers
second and final chapter of the day!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Christen hung her head as the third goal hit the back of the net. The score was already 3-0 and they were barely half an hour into their first season game.
After taking a deep breath, Christen lifted her head and readjusted her large-framed black sunglasses.
It was just the first game. Laura had arrived less than a week ago, and Tobin wasn’t even on the field yet. Christen just had to trust the process. Even when that process included major bumps in the road like heading into the locker room at halftime 3-0 down against Kansas City.
She watched with tension in her shoulders and her arms crossed over her chest, too anxious to sit as the game resumed. She looked around at the mostly-empty stadium, mainly filled with Kansas City fans who’d made the trip, at the bored security guards, at the lackluster energy that seemed to permeate the arena. It would take a miracle for her to turn this around with the season already started.
“What the fuck kind of call is that?” Tobin yelled, almost standing up from her seat when Sonnett was carded for a perfectly good tackle.
When the referee tilted the yellow card at Tobin in warning, she slumped back in her seat, muttering a halfhearted sorry.
“Heath! Warm-up,” Laura called down the bench from her spot atop a cooler.
“Thank God,” Tobin sighed, beginning her warm-up along the sidelines as her eyes stayed trained on the ball. She was dying to get on the field, to feel somewhat normal after so much change. She wanted to make this game less of a slaughter, and she wanted to do it now.
So, she warmed up quickly and efficiently before stripping out of her royal blue puffer jacket and joggers. She kept her gloves on and hurried to Laura’s side, waiting to get on the field.
“And in the 52nd minute, your Denver Avalanche are making their first substitution. Out comes Sarah Funk and on goes Tobin Heath. Let’s make some noise for her Avalanche debut!” the announcer's voice echoed around the stadium, evoking uninspired applause from the meager crowd.
“Hate it,” Tobin muttered to herself as she ran to her spot on the field.
It wasn’t Providence Park. It wasn’t loud and chaotic and full of red smoke or singing fans or waving flags. There were more empty seats than people, and most of those people were either friends of players, accompanied by little kids, or asleep. There wasn’t an electric energy or a palpable excitement. It was mediocre, and Tobin hated it.
That being said, she was pretty certain this crowd had never seen a goal, and she was determined to change that tonight.
Within the first few seconds on the field, she stripped a KC player of the ball and weaved her way up the field, pulling her best tricks and her quickest moves. She looked to the right and didn’t see anyone she could pass to, so she readjusted her hips and sent a perfect shot into the upper ninety from over thirty-five yards out.
In the executive level box, Christen felt her jaw drop at the utter audacity of the shot.
Nobody else in the world would have taken it. There was traffic in front of her, a good keeper in the net. Not to mention Tobin was nearly forty yards from goal. But Tobin had taken the shot and given the Avalanche their first goal of the season.
The cheers from the handful of fans were drowned out by the generic celebration music playing through the stadium, something Christen made a mental note to talk to the facilities manager or Phoebe about. But there were cheers nonetheless and Christen found herself clapping along with the fans.
“That’s how it’s done!” Sonnet yelled, clapping Tobin on the back as she hugged her.
“Let’s get another,” Tobin mumbled, ready to get back in the game despite the near dogpile that her teammates were trying to create.
Christen blinked away the flashes of the cameras pointed at her and tried to hear the question the reporter was shouting at her.
“You’ve only been the owner for a week. What are your goals for your team in the next few months?”
“I think the biggest thing for me is creating a new identity for us here. A lot of teams and fans and football journalists look at us as the punching bag of the league, and I want to rewrite that narrative. With a new head coach in Laura Harvey, new staff behind the scenes, and some fresh faces on the roster, I hope to do just that. I want us to be a winning team and my goal is to make it to the NWSL Playoffs in November,” Christen answered, leaning away from the microphone stationed on the table in front of her once she’d answered.
At the laughter from the journalists in the room, Christen bristled a little bit. But thankfully, Laura was there to add her voice to the mix.
“Laugh all you want, journos, but Press has got my vote. If she says we're making it to the playoffs, we’re making it to the playoffs,” Laura announced with a smile.
The journalists murmured in response and then turned their focus to the third person on the panel.
“Tobin, what’s it like transitioning from the top team in the league to the lowest-ranked?”
Tobin arched a brow and cleared her throat before she leaned forward. “Football is football no matter where you go. I’m looking forward to growing a strong team here.”
“How does this team compare to Portland in other aspects?” another journalist threw out.
“You know, most teams and facilities in the league are pretty similar. Same kind of camaraderie between players. The staff here is extremely welcoming. And with Laura at the helm, I’m sure a winning mentality will grow,” Tobin answered before sitting back in her chair.
“So you don’t believe a winning mentality already exists?” the same journalist pressed.
“I don’t think there has been. But I think there have been a lot of changes here, so we’ll have to wait and see. I’m certainly ready to win,” Tobin sighed, wishing she could be anywhere else.
“With a brand new coach and a green owner?” came a voice from the back, making the media chuckle. “Good luck.”
“I’ve never shied away from a challenge,” Tobin shrugged, ignoring the cameras and staring at the door that led to the hallway and out of the media room.
“Any other questions you have can be directed to our media office,” Christen announced, pushing her chair back.
Tobin stood up from her chair and headed to the door, followed closely by Laura and Christen. She stopped short outside the locker room, able to hear the commotion coming from inside.
“Why are they celebrating?” Tobin asked, turning to look at the two women behind her.
“Best scoring margin in a losing game we’ve had since the inaugural season,” Christen explained tiredly.
“Congrats,” Tobin mumbled, pushing the door open and letting the noise level grow as she moved into the locker room.
Christen sighed and leaned against the wall next to the locker room. She rubbed at her neck and wondered if she might be in a little over her head here.
“She has a chip on her shoulder, but at least she can perform in a game,” Laura hummed, taking her spot beside Christen.
“Doesn’t matter how phenomenal she is if she doesn’t elevate those around her,” Christen pointed out, wincing a little at the stress she could feel in her neck.
“She’ll get there. We’re in week one. She’s probably still got furniture to buy for her place,” Laura assured, trying to be optimistic.
Christen brightened at the comment, looking over at Laura with a smile. “Do you think if all of that moving stuff was off the table, she’d adjust quicker?”
“She had a home taken from her, I’m sure she just doesn’t feel at home yet,” Laura nodded.
“Well, then I think we’ve got a home to build,” Christen replied, feeling hopeful once more.
“Ms. Heath!” Christen called out, hurrying from her royal blue BMW over to where she could see the brunette sauntering through the parking lot.
Not getting a response, Christen slipped out of her heels, grabbed them in one hand, and jogged across the pavement.
“Ms. Heath! Tobin!” Christen tried again, gaining on Tobin now, nearly catching up to her. Once she had, she reached out and tapped Tobin on the shoulder.
“Jesus fu-” Tobin gasped, ripping a headphone out of her ear. “Headlines are gonna read that the owner of the Denver Avalanche gave me a heart attack.”
Christen chuckled and caught her breath. “I wanted to ask how your weekend was and if you’re finding the apartment the team got for you, comfortable.”
“Yeah, it’s a good apartment,” Tobin nodded.
Tobin couldn’t stop the slightly sheepish look that slid onto her face. “What do you consider unpacked?”
Christen let out a warm laugh and carefully slid back into her heels. “You’re in what, a two-bedroom, one and a half bath, off downtown right? 1200 square feet?”
“Uh...are you this invested in all of your players’ apartments?” Tobin asked, tugging the zipper on her quarter zip up to her chin.
“All of my other players don’t need help settling in. When I’m not here, I run an interior design and decorating company, so I thought I’d offer to help you get as settled as the rest of the team,” Christen offered with a bright smile, trying not to get distracted by Tobin’s big brown eyes and the casually-styled soft waves. Those things had been easy to ignore while she was standing across the conference room or sitting in the box of the stadium. But up close, they were easy to see and easy to find...interesting.
“Really?” Tobin asked, tilting her head to the side slightly, unable to not feel a little guarded. A part of her knew that she’d never feel at home sleeping on a mattress on the floor, but she wasn’t sure if she would do well if she suddenly had furniture and felt at home at a team where she could get traded on a whim.
“Right, your whole speech on fake kindness and not caring and whatnot,” Christen mused, taking a step back. “I hear you. Just know I’m not like that and the offer stands.”
“I…don’t really like super bright colors when it comes to furniture. Maybe warm colors but nothing crazy bright,” Tobin said, adjusting her bag on her shoulder. The pull to actually have a bed and a dresser was too strong. Living out of a suitcase was too hard.
Christen’s smile was tinged with victory as she grabbed a business card from her back pocket and held it out for Tobin to take.
“Come by my office after training and we can talk about it.”
“I don’t like chevron either,” Tobin added, a very small, hardly detectable smile sneaking onto her lips as she took the offered business card.
“How about royal blue? A fan of that yet?” Christen wondered, flicking her gaze down to the royal blue joggers Tobin was wearing.
“I’ve never been a fan, but here’s to trying,” Tobin shrugged.
“All we can ever do is try,” Christen replied with a smile. “I’ll see you later, Ms. Heath.”
Tobin took the elevator up to Christen’s office, completely devoid of anything royal blue now that practice was over. She’d opted for black jeans and a white shirt, and she was glad she had since this building seemed fancier than she’d first expected.
When she stepped off the elevator, she wished she’d worn dress pants or a button-down or something because suddenly she was being offered sparkling water infused with lemon by someone named Bridgette, and she wasn’t sure if she was even in the right place.
The lobby was decorated with soft but fancy-looking furniture. The colors were neutral and easy on the eyes, gentle greens and grays. A receptionist sat at a desk with a headset in place and her fingers dancing over a computer keyboard. Pictures lined the walls of perfect kitchen designs, living room set-ups, and bedroom decor.
And Tobin only had to wait a moment, she’d only taken one sip of water and dropped onto a plush chair before the receptionist was calling her up and telling her she could head on back to Ms. Press’ office.
She knocked on the door and waited for the familiar ‘ Come in!’ before she pushed it open, water still in hand.
“You have a knack for hiring employees,” Tobin commented, holding the water up and smiling despite feeling a little awkward in such a fancy place with hair still damp from her after-practice shower.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t responsible for hiring you. That was my ex-wife,” Christen replied with a short huff of laughter. She abandoned the binders of swatches on her desk and stood up.
“You saying you would have gotten someone better if you’d done the hiring?” Tobin asked.
Christen shook her head and gestured for them to sit at the small sofa under the window overlooking downtown Denver.
“I would have paid you more and changed the team colors to your favorite,” Christen joked, finding herself grateful that Tobin seemed to be relaxing more every single day, and that right now, she didn’t look ready to bolt.
“Orange jerseys would make quite the statement, but I don’t think orange carpeting would look great in the administrative part of the stadium,” Tobin hummed, looking at the mountains she could always see in Denver.
“Orange. I’ll remember that,” Christen said in reply, reaching out for some mock-ups she’d made today with Tobin’s comments in mind. “So I drafted these up really quick on my lunch break. You can take or leave anything I created. It’s your space and it’s meant to be reimagined with your home in mind.”
“I don’t have a home,” Tobin murmured. “The sectional looks big,” she added, keeping her eyes on the living room design.
Christen decided not to touch the home comment, not after hearing the raw pain in Tobin’s voice when she said it. Instead, she handed Tobin the pages and sat back.
“It is big. Do you like the way the room’s set up? Do you want more light? More floor space? Less?”
“I like the sectional. I’m big into lounging. Can the coffee table be a circle?” Tobin asked, staring at the way Christen had designed the room with a dark gray sectional, two small leather chairs, a patterned rug, and a part TV stand part bookshelf.
“Of course,” Christen nodded, grabbing a pen from the table in front of them and stealing the page away from Tobin. She carefully redrew the coffee table to fit what Tobin wanted and then handed the page back. “What else do you want changed or altered?”
“I don’t know if I need to change anything else,” Tobin answered, holding her bottom lip between her teeth as she thought. “Is it weird if I ask to feel the fabric of the couch and the rug before I make the purchase?”
“It’d be weird if you didn’t,” Christen chuckled, getting to her feet and grabbing two rings of fabrics from her desk. “Let’s see,” she hummed, checking the number on the couch fabric. She flipped to number eight and then handed the ring of fabric over to Tobin. “The couch will feel like this, but the color is about ten times darker.”
Tobin ran her fingers over it a few times and then nodded her approval. “It seems like a good couch is hard to find sometimes.”
“You just have to know where to look,” Christen replied with a smile, holding out the next ring of fabrics. “This is your rug. I chose something on the softer side. I took a guess that you’d prefer that.”
“Very good guess,” Tobin breathed out, sinking her fingers into the soft fabric. “I’m barefoot at home most of the time.”
“Then you’ll love this fabric,” Christen nodded.
“Good choice,” Tobin agreed, handing the swatch back.
“Thank you. I’ve got good working relationships with the best furniture and rug places in town, so if you really want to make that house a little more like a home, I can give you all the contact numbers you’ll need,” Christen offered.
“I’ll definitely hire you to design it, but you don’t need to go crazy. It doesn’t need to be a home. I just would like to stop living out of boxes,” Tobin replied, glancing back out at the mountains.
Christen winced just a little bit, an apologetic look on her face. “I actually can’t be hired by you. Conflict of interest. That’s why I did it on my lunch break.”
“Oh, gotcha,” Tobin nodded.
“But the work’s basically done and if I happened to have already called the warehouses to get these pieces set aside for you, that’s not a breach of any contract that I know of.”
“So, I can’t pay you,” Tobin said, her eyebrows furrowing at the response.
“No, but you can try to enjoy your time with us at the Avalanche,” Christen replied.
“You could just ask for two goals at the next game. That I can try and do,” Tobin sighed, feeling the same ache in her throat and chest that she’d felt since packing up her whole life.
“I shoot for the moon, Tobin. That way, even if I fall short, I’m in decent company with the stars,” Christen hummed, knowing she was going to have to do more than get Tobin’s apartment situated to get her star player comfortable here in Denver.
“Live, laugh, love. Are we speaking in cheesy quotes now?” Tobin asked, a tight smile in place.
“That’s just how I talk. So, try and enjoy the team, okay? And if you need anything else, my door is always open,” Christen said, a small smile offered to Tobin in return.
“I will bother you if I need something,” Tobin promised, pushing up off the couch. “Thanks for breaking your contract and drawing me an apartment.”
“Technically, nothing is broken. But you’re welcome,” Christen replied, watching Tobin awkwardly shuffle toward the door with a smile on her face.
“Is this really necessary?” Christen asked, plucking at the royal blue Avalanche home jersey with PRESS on the back that she had been forced into. “They have my headshot, why do they need more promotional photos?”
“You look great,” Phoebe called out.
“It’s all in team spirit, right?” Laura chuckled, letting a woman dab her nose with a makeup brush.
“Yeah, yeah,” Christen grumbled good-naturedly, secretly loving the feeling of being back in a football jersey after years of not wearing one.
“So...anyone know where Tobin is?” Phoebe asked, putting Tobin’s folded uniform on the bench that Laura was sitting on.
Christen pointedly looked over at Laura, as if Laura was supposed to have tabs on her at all times.
“I talked to her yesterday about this. I emailed her again this morning. She knows where we are and that she’s late,” Laura said, holding her hands up in defense.
“So, she’s being purposefully difficult?” Christen asked with a sigh.
“Maybe she had car trouble?” Phoebe offered, trying to give Tobin a plausible excuse.
“Or…traffic?” Connor added.
“Or she just doesn’t want to be here,” Christen said, letting out another, longer sigh, having thought she’d made headway with Tobin by helping her with the apartment. But, apparently not.
“I don’t get it,” Laura said with a shake of her head. “She’s great with her young teammates. She pulls through on game days. But she’s just…”
“Disconnected,” Christen supplied with a sad shake of her head.
“I don’t know how to get through to her. Part of me doesn’t want to make this any worse than it seems to be for her, especially when, for the most part, she’s doing her job,” Laura explained, glancing down at her phone to check the time.
Christen dropped down onto the bench next to Laura, holding Tobin’s jersey in her lap.
“We need investment, and I don’t just mean from her. From fans, from people with the purse strings. I think she’s the player to do it for us, she just has to want it,” Christen observed, unconsciously smoothing her hand over the HEATH printed on the back of the jersey.
“Well, we’re about to lose her to a camp,” Laura hummed.
Christen looked over at Laura curiously. “It’s not a Fifa window.”
“Well, no, but there’s a camp in less than a month, and I know for a fact that she’ll be called up,” Laura clarified, leaning back against the wall.
“If it’s the week of the 19th, we might make an enemy before we make a friend,” Christen sighed for the millionth time that day. “We’ve got six players gone already.”
Before Laura could answer, Phoebe was clapping her hands together.
“Let’s get started without her. We can do individual shots with you both and then do group shots once she gets here. Laura, do you want to go first?” Phoebe asked.
Laura stood up and let the photographer position her in front of the camera. She smiled for pictures and moved her arms when the photographer asked. And halfway through her session, Tobin strolled in with a coffee cup in hand and a beanie on her head.
“Uniform’s on the bench,” Phoebe announced while she made boomerangs for the team’s Instagram.
Christen took a deep breath and stood up from the bench with the jersey in hand and walked over to Tobin.
“Nine o’clock means nine o’clock,” Christen advised with a polite half-smile.
“Sorry. Traffic,” Tobin said from behind her coffee cup.
Christen eyed the steam rising from the coffee cup, the timestamp on the sticker on the side of the cup, and narrowed her eyes. “Traffic does taste extra caramel-y. Be on time, Tobin,” she replied, tossing the jersey at Tobin, who scrambled to catch it.
“Yes, ma’am,” Tobin answered with a small, two-fingered salute. “I’ll go change and get pretty.”
“Be back in ten or I’m sending Phoebe to get you,” Christen warned as she walked off.
“But how will I get my hair perfectly tousled?” Tobin smirked, moving toward the locker room with her uniform before Christen could say anything else.
“Great, now Christen, put your arm on Tobin’s shoulder,” the photographer coached from behind the lens.
Christen awkwardly lifted her arm and tried to set it down naturally, resting her elbow on Tobin’s shoulder and dropping the side of her head in her hand.
“How’s, umm, this?” Christen asked with a small throat clear.
Tobin let out a soft snort and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Uh...Tobin, why don’t you do it instead?” the photographer suggested.
Christen let out a frustrated huff and dropped her arm from Tobin’s shoulder. “I can just be done. I’m sure you have one workable shot at least?”
Without hesitation, Tobin propped her arm on Christen’s shoulder and smiled an easy, relaxed smile at the camera, her hand hanging easily in front of Christen’s shoulder while her other hand stayed on her own hip.
Christen wasn’t just caught off guard by the casual way Tobin touched her, but also by the comforting radiance that seemed to shine from a smile Christen had never seen before. She knew she had an awed expression on her face as she looked over at Tobin, her hands naturally falling to her hips, but she could do little to stop it.
“Great, Christen just smile this way and we’ll get a few shots.”
Christen cleared her throat again and looked over at the camera, doing her best to smile and follow instructions, trying not to think about the way Tobin sort of smelled like lavender and freshly cut grass.
“Why don’t we get some cheering?” Phoebe suggested, which gave Christen the cue to step aside and relax.
Hardly missing a beat, Tobin took her hands and held them in fists. She opened her mouth as if cheering and let her eyes crinkle playfully.
“She’s good at this,” Phoebe commented to Christen and Laura under her breath.
“She’s had a lot of practice,” Laura murmured, watching Tobin change positions again, now juggling a soccer ball for the camera.
“Work it, yeah, great,” the photographer complimented, moving through the different poses with Tobin quickly. “Last one is dealer’s choice. Whatever you want to do. You can kiss the crest or-”
Tobin put the soccer ball on her head and balanced it, a goofy smile on her face as she did it. It was something she’d done before. She’d posed like this for the National Team and a couple of times for Portland. It was easy and on brand and kept her from kissing a crest that she didn’t feel connected to just yet.
“Great! That one’s great. You’re gonna have little kids practicing that at home,” the photographer encouraged as he snapped the last few pictures.
“And Sonnett and Cat,” Laura quipped, earning chuckles from the Avalanche staff.
“Is there anything else you need?” Tobin asked, absentmindedly juggling the ball again.
“Training’s in an hour,” Laura offered in way of an answer.
“You’re done,” Christen added, focusing on the email she was trying to type on her phone.
“Think fast!” Tobin joked, kicking the ball in Christen’s direction.
Christen barely looked up from her phone before she trapped it smoothly, despite the bootie heels she was wearing. She juggled it a few times and then let it fall to the floor.
“Google doesn’t lie,” Tobin grinned, still feeling a little playful after the shoot. As much as she really didn’t love media days and getting makeup done for pictures, she did love talking to the photographers and coming up with poses.
Christen offered a tight smile and then sent the ball rolling across the floor toward Tobin.
“Don’t be late for training,” she offered before turning on her heel and walking away.
“There’s a lot of traffic from here to the practice field,” Tobin muttered to herself as she juggled the ball and walked back toward the locker room.
Tobin woke up under a pile of blankets and holding onto a couch cushion, her TV still playing some replay of a Premier League game. The sun was setting outside, proving that her nap had turned into a much longer nap than intended. And if it hadn’t been for her ringing phone on the coffee table, she probably would have slept through the night.
“Hey Tobin, how are you?” Pia greeted.
“I’m great! How’re you doing?” Tobin answered, trying to put some pep in her voice. She’d been waiting for this call, praying for this call, dying for this call. National Team camp would be normal. She just wanted to feel normal again.
“Good, good. Excited for things to start again,” Pia replied in a slightly evasive tone of voice.
“Me too. I’m really eager to get in some minutes with the team,” Tobin agreed, pulling at a loose string on one of her blankets.
“About that...” Pia sighed.
Tobin felt her smile fall, her momentary hope disappear.
“You weren’t released to us since it’s not a Fifa window, which is totally fine. We just are bummed not to be able to call you into this next camp,” Pia explained.
“I think there’s been a mistake, right? I can talk to them.”
“No, I talked to...Christen, I think her name was. She was very precise in her words and wasn’t persuaded. I respect her desire for the team to stick together this early in the season, but we’ll miss you.”
Tobin clenched her jaw and forced away the frustrated, angry lump in her throat. Of course, Christen wanted her to stay. It was always like this. Stay or go, it was always someone else who got to pull the strings.
“I planted the seed for August, but you never know,” Pia added.
“I’ll water the seed, and...September is for sure,” Tobin forced out, feeling her cheeks flush with frustration.
“Keep working hard, Tobs. I’m proud of you,” Pia said in a soft voice.
“Thanks, mom ,” Tobin chuckled.
“I’ll call you in a few weeks, and maybe I’ll catch the Seattle game in May.”
“Hope to see you there,” Tobin murmured. “Talk to you soon.”
First thing Monday morning, Tobin was parking her Mercedes in the lot and making a beeline across the parking lot and into the administrative part of the stadium, directly to Christen’s new office. She ignored the members of the staff who tried to talk to her or ask her how her weekend was. She ignored Connor when he told her Christen was on a call. She had tunnel vision, and she wasn’t about to stop when she’d been raging for sixteen hours.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Tobin spewed, slamming the door behind her and walking closer to Christen’s desk.
Christen let out an audible sigh. “I’ll call you back,” she mumbled into her desk phone before hanging it up.
She eyed the tempest of a woman in front of her and knew exactly why Tobin had come storming in. She didn’t even have to ask.
“No, I’m not,” Christen replied simply, straightening her back and lifting her shoulders up so she was sitting as high up in her desk chair as possible.
“You’re- you’re ruining my career. You’re taking away one of my chances to play with my team,” Tobin continued, feeling her blood pulse in her ears.
“The next Olympics is in three years. The World Cup is in over a year. The team’s qualified and this is more of a ‘let’s get together and drink protein shakes’ sort of camp than anything substantial. You don’t need to be there,” Christen reasoned, having spoken with the National Team coach, Pia, about what Tobin missing camp would mean for her career and being assured it would have no detrimental impact.
“ Every camp is substantial!” Tobin argued, her voice rising in pitch more than volume, something she’d always hated. “This team isn’t good. It’s unfocused. It’s sloppy. And I get that you’re growing it, but me being here or not isn’t gonna give this team a win.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way. I believe the opposite, and that’s why I’m keeping you. You being here inspires the team to be good. Sure, we’re rough around the edges, but the National Team wasn’t built in a month, and neither are we,” Christen replied, her hands balled into fists in her lap.
“You didn’t have a right to do that without talking to me,” Tobin said, her jaw clenching tightly as she spoke. “Your whole spiel about caring? About being genuine? That’s a load of shit. It’s the same as it always is. You want to keep me here for your benefit. I get it, but don’t lie to me and say I’m not a pawn.”
“You are not the only person on this team, Tobin. You might not care about anybody else here, but I do. I’m not keeping you here for my benefit. I’m keeping you here for the team,” Christen managed to reply. “And next time you want to berate me for making decisions I am entitled to make as the sole owner of this team, please schedule an appointment.”
“No thanks,” Tobin mumbled, moving back out of the office and pretending that she couldn’t see the staring interns.
“Would you like some tea, Ms. Press?” Connor asked, poking his head into Christen’s office.
Christen offered Connor a sad half-smile. “I’m okay. Would you please just touch base with the players who are out of town this week? And make sure the flowers reach the Steele family today. I know Mattie was getting there this morning at some point,” Christen advised in a tired voice.
“Of course,” Connor nodded. “I’ll do better with visitors next time. She’s faster than she looks on TV.”
Christen managed a strained huff of laughter. “That she is.”
“Fuck,” Tobin muttered to herself after scoring her second goal of the game and equalizing.
She wasn’t about to play poorly to prove a point. That wasn’t her style, and she still wanted Pia to see her performing well. But a part of her also wanted to prove herself right, to show Christen that her presence wouldn’t change the team’s success. That was proving difficult since she kept finding weaknesses in the Spirit’s backline.
Despite the mid-week game and the six players missing from their roster, the Avalanche were playing the Spirit in a well-contested, fairly even match.
“There it is, Tobin! Keep it up!” Laura yelled from the sidelines, clapping enthusiastically.
Tobin ignored Laura and focused on the ball and her teammates on the field. One young player, in particular, was on her mind and had been for the past couple of weeks. Cat had been seemingly down, unable to find the back of the net, and Tobin was dying for those slumped shoulders to disappear.
Even if she didn’t care about the Avalanche or Denver or Christen Press, she cared about footballers and growing the sport. She cared about her teammates. So, as soon as she received a pass from Andi, she was racing up the field toward the goal. She faked a defender out and then slotted the ball through the legs of a second defender directly into Cat’s path. And like magic, like one of those full-circle moments, Cat sent the ball into the back of the net, her shoulders immediately straightening and her arms reaching out for Tobin in celebration.
“Holy crap, I did it! We did it!” Cat screamed.
“You just put us in the lead!” Tobin cheered, squeezing Cat tightly before the rest of the team joined in.
While Andi, Sonnett, Caitlin, and the rest of their teammates joined in on the celebration, Tobin couldn’t stop her eyes from moving up toward the box seats. She couldn’t stop herself from glancing at the owner’s box where one figure stood watching. If it hadn’t been for Cat’s pure joy, Tobin probably would have cursed that last goal and the smug smile she knew was on Christen’s face because of it.
“Last question,” Christen announced, taking a sip of her water as she sat next to the MVP of the game, their rookie, Cat.
“You had a pretty meager-looking bench tonight. Any injured players we need to worry about?”
“We had six players with excused absences for this game. A few had family emergencies, and the others I am not at liberty to discuss. While we missed them all tonight, we know they’re with their families, which is where they need to be,” Christen explained, looking around the media room at the journalists. “I am extremely proud of my team, especially the ones who had to give up international duties to stay here so that their teammates could take care of things at home. Their selfless choices help keep this team what it is at its core — connected.”
Cat and Christen stood up from their seats and headed to the locker room. Cat found her place at her locker and Christen stood in front of the group of players, some more clothed than others and all of them beaming with their win.
“Sorry to interrupt, I just wanted to congratulate you all on your first win of the season. It certainly won’t be our last. Enjoy yourselves tonight,” Christen said, offering her team a nod and a small smile, pointedly avoiding looking over at where Tobin lounged against her locker in a sports bra and a towel slung low across her hips.
“But not too much,” Laura added, narrowing her eyes at Sonnett and making a few players laugh.
Laura and Christen swiftly departed, Christen moving faster than Laura, leaving the team to continue their raucous celebration.
Cat shucked off her cleats and shinguards before moving across the locker room toward Tobin.
“Thanks for the assist. Should have been you in with the media,” Cat said with a large smile.
“I disagree. You scored our game-winning goal,” Tobin replied, her smile soft and genuine.
“Yeah, but you gave up a National camp to stay with us when we needed the players,” Cat countered.
Tobin ran a hand through her hair and held back the slight wince. She hadn’t given it up. It had been taken. She hadn’t been a team player by choice. She’d been forced into it, and she didn’t deserve a thank you for that.
“You don’t have to be modest about it. Christen explained it to the journalists and stuff. I just think that’s super cool of you to stay. We need you here,” Cat said, knocking her fist into Tobin’s shoulder and then turning around to head back to her locker.
And just like that, her frustration and rage and annoyance were replaced with guilt.
Tobin quickly changed clothes, feeling like too much of a dick to actually celebrate with her teammates. She didn’t know where her other teammates were, but she hadn’t fully realized that Christen had needed her to stay for the right number of players to even be able to put someone in every position on the field. She hadn’t realized that, and now she just wanted to go back to her apartment and lie down on the stupid couch Christen had picked out for her and pretend she hadn’t been a jerk when she really had.
“I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” she announced, slinging her bag over her shoulder.
“Party hard, Toby!” Sonnett called after her.
“Tacos and a bath? Sounds perfect,” Tobin teased back. “Be safe tonight, Sonny.”
Tobin walked down the hallway, swinging her keys around her finger. She pushed open the door that led to the parking lot and froze, seeing Christen Press sitting on the trunk of her BMW, with her head tilted back to look at the sky.
“Meditating?” Tobin asked, pausing midstep.
“Praying. Sort of. I don’t do it in the traditional way, but I still do it,” Christen corrected, her eyes still on the sky and her hands tucked under her legs.
“Praying for...more wins?” Tobin wondered aloud.
“For our team. Mattie’s grandfather is in the hospital, Sarah’s sister got into a nasty car accident, we have three girls who all had funerals on the same day for various family members, and Jessie needed to go donate bone marrow for an operation her mother’s having. I’m praying for them,” Christen said softly, her voice even and slow.
Tobin closed her eyes and actually winced this time, dying to just smack her head against her steering wheel and then go home.
“So, um...I kind of had a feeling I was a dick a moment ago, but I’m sure of it now,” Tobin murmured, pressing her index finger against her temple as her head started to ache.
“You were upset. Rightfully so. I’m ruining your career,” Christen replied, shooting Tobin’s words back at her with a sadness in her tone. “But you’re not the only player on this team, and they got to me before Pia did.”
“I wish you’d told me. Not in specifics. But I wish you’d told me that you needed me because you didn’t have the numbers. That doesn’t mean I was entitled to be an assho- jerk,” Tobin said quietly.
Christen sighed and looked away from the cloudy, night sky. She focused on Tobin, a sorrowful shine in her usually bright green eyes.
“One day, I hope you’ll choose to stay not because we need the numbers, but because you want to be here. Yes, I could have told you, but it wouldn’t have made a difference.”
“I probably wouldn’t have stormed into your office and yelled,” Tobin replied, shoving her hands into her pockets.
“You probably would have, because two days ago you were thinking in terms of ‘I’ and tonight, I feel like you’ve graduated to terms of ‘we,’” Christen hummed, offering Tobin a small, tight smile before looking back up at the cloudy night sky.
“I’ll add my teammates to my prayers tonight too,” Tobin mumbled, starting to move to her car. “And for the record, I don’t think you’re ruining my career.”
“Maybe I’ll believe you tomorrow,” Christen called out softly.
“Maybe I’ll be on time tomorrow,” Tobin countered with a tiny smirk.
“Miracles do happen,” Christen replied, dropping her gaze down to where Tobin was slowly backing up toward her car.
“In that case, maybe you’ll join training sometime. Dust off the Stanford gear,” Tobin suggested, raising an eyebrow at Christen.
“Don’t count on it,” Christen chuckled.
“What is it you say?” Tobin teased, a genuine smile on her face. “All I can do is try?”
Christen watched Tobin give her a charming little wink before sauntering off to her car. And if her heart was beating a little faster in her chest, she attributed that to the lasting adrenaline from their first season win, not to Tobin.
and we've got some mutual ground and a mutual understanding! onwards...
we'll update this by the weekend! thanks for reading!
-sam & emma
Chapter 3: fire
mistaken socks, meals with the team, and mutual appreciation
happy Sunday folks!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After two ties and another win, Christen had to realize the other shoe was going to drop. Things were going well. Too well. Tobin seemed to be embracing the ‘we’ over the ‘I’ mentality, she was showing up on time for events and trainings. The team chemistry was getting stronger every week.
Christen was a fool to think their upward climb would go unencumbered. She just never expected the other shoe to drop quite like this.
The team was out at training, and from what she could see through her office window that overlooked the training facilities, it looked like they were playing capture the flag. Christen had wrapped up two difficult clients this morning and even had time to squeeze in breakfast with Laura.
It was all off to a wonderful start.
“Hello, Ms. Press?”
And then came the shoe.
Christen turned around in her desk chair, looking away from the training field and over to Connor, who hovered in the doorway.
“Christen,” she corrected with a fond smile for the hundredth time.
“Right, sorry,” Connor nodded. “There’s a call on line three for you. Cameron with Adidas.”
Christen nodded, hit the button for line three, and picked up her desk phone.
“This is Christen Press.”
“Hi, Ms. Press. I’m wondering if you’re at the stadium today.”
“I am,” Christen replied, confused about why someone from Adidas was on the phone.
“Well, a colleague of mine has seen some of the photos of your players at training. Whoever your social media director is, they’re very quick at updating the team’s Instagram stories. Unfortunately, we were pretty sad to see that one of your players is in Nike gear,” Cameron explained.
“That’s not possible,” Christen asserted, already pulling out her phone to text Phoebe to take today’s Instagram stories down. “We enforce a strict adherence to uniform policy because we have such a great sponsor in Adidas, and we wouldn’t want to wear anything else.”
“I’m sure you do. Other brands on our sponsored teams are definitely not something we like to see, especially when the Nike gear is on a player of such high caliber and with so many fans,” Cameron continued.
Christen bit back a growl of frustration and forced herself to take a deep breath. “Cameron, I assure you, it was a simple case of mistaken gear grabbed from a locker. I will personally ensure it never happens again.”
“Great. I wouldn’t want to bother you on a busy workday again,” Cameron responded.
“And I would hate to take away from your busy workday again. Thank you for the call,” Christen said into the phone, turning around to glare through the window at the gathered group of women on the training field in the distance, knowing exactly who the high-caliber player was.
“All I’m saying is I was a hit at the club we went to last week,” Sonnet assured, keeping her arm slung around Tobin’s shoulders as they walked back toward the locker room.
“I’m sure you were,” Tobin laughed. “Sorry I missed you in your element.”
“Next time, you’re coming and we’ll find you some woman to take home and have fun with,” Sonnet grinned, only stopping when they nearly bumped into Christen. “Sorry, Boss,” Sonnett directed at Christen.
“I need to speak with Tobin,” Christen managed to say, trying to keep her cool. “Alone.”
“Have fun in the principal’s office,” Sonnett sing-songed, getting a smack in the arm from Tobin.
“What’s up?” Tobin asked, pushing some baby hairs away from her still slightly sweaty forehead.
“Field. Now,” Christen managed, stalking past Tobin back toward the empty training field.
“I have a feeling you aren’t wanting to dust off the Stanford gear and play,” Tobin mumbled, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth as she followed Christen back toward the field.
Christen toed off her heels and moved onto the grass, her arms crossed over her chest and her shoulders tense as she kept her back to Tobin.
“I thought you and I were building a rapport. I thought we had an understanding .”
“We are...right? What did I do?” Tobin asked, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion.
Christen turned and slowly eyed Tobin from head to toe. She looked past the Adidas training top, the Adidas shorts, her eyes getting stuck on the stupid swoosh at the top of the white, calf-height socks Tobin was wearing.
Seeing that Cameron had been right, Christen felt her shoulders get even tenser. “You stopped showing up late, you stopped going out of your way to remain disconnected from players and staff, and then you do this!”
Tobin looked around the field and then back at Christen, her head tilted in complete confusion. “You lost me. I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“We have a contract with Adidas. A very tenuous, barely staying above the water contract, which is very much in jeopardy right now because one of our star players chose to stroll up to training today in Nike socks,” Christen snapped, her frustration getting the better of her.
Tobin immediately looked down at her socks, seeing the swoosh and feeling her stomach churn slightly with guilt. She hadn’t meant any harm. She hadn’t even noticed the brand when she’d pulled them on.
“What happened? Did something make you unhappy? Did we do something wrong? Did I do something wrong?” Christen asked, her arms still crossed tightly over her chest.
“I packed my bag in the dark this morning,” Tobin murmured, bending over to fold her socks down and cover the swoosh.
“You...packed in the dark?” Christen parroted, her brow furrowing and the fight slowly draining out of her.
“My lightbulb in my bedroom went out. I didn’t have a spare. I should’ve checked. I- They’re both white socks. I didn’t notice,” Tobin explained, feeling her cheeks flush at the admission.
Christen covered her face with her hands for a moment before pushing them through her hair, shoving her curls away from her face.
“Got it, okay,” Christen acknowledged. “Just please don’t do it again?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I’ll hide the Nike socks,” Tobin nodded before the smallest smile made her lips twitch.
“This isn’t funny. We almost lost Adidas because of your lightbulb blowing out,” Christen said, but the smile she was fighting off took the sting out of her words.
“It’s someone’s job to zoom in on my socks,” Tobin whispered as if the whispered words would make laughing about it okay.
Christen continued to fight a losing battle against the amused smile that wanted to make its way onto her face.
“A whole department is probably dedicated to you,” Christen whispered back, playing along.
“So, they would probably notice if I wore my Nike neck warmer next practice? It’s much more comfortable than theirs,” Tobin teased, her smirk full and unwavering.
Christen held up a hand, her pointer finger raised. “Don’t you dare. I’m not cleaning up another mess.”
“It gets me face time with the boss,” Tobin shrugged.
“I told you, my office is always open,” Christen replied, bending down to grab her heels.
“I like the field better,” Tobin hummed, looking around the field again.
“Me too,” Christen admitted as she gazed at the perfectly cut, green grass and the painted white lines.
“All I’m saying is you could join us for a practice or two,” Tobin offered again, leading the way back in the direction of the locker room.
“Get us into the top seven in the table, and we can talk,” Christen promised, falling into step with Tobin and ignoring the way it felt to be near her.
“I’m not late. I’m not late. I’m not late,” Tobin repeated, moving past a flight attendant and scanning the plane for an empty seat.
“If you’re not here fifteen minutes early, you’re late,” Laura grumbled from her spot next to the assistant coach. “Grab some seat and let’s fly.”
“Understood. At least I made it,” Tobin mumbled, a sheepish look on her face as she moved past teammates and found the last empty seat next to none other than Christen Press.
Christen looked up from her book, at her watch, and then up to Tobin’s sheepish expression.
“I’m not late,” Tobin said for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning.
Christen moved her wrist to show Tobin the face of her watch. “Not what this tells me.”
“Hey, look what I got though,” Tobin smirked, lifting up her right leg and tugging the leg of her Avalanche joggers up to show off the Adidas socks.
Christen peeked down and let out a laugh. “If I had seen little swooshes, you’d be riding in the baggage compartment.”
“I put all the swooshes in a different drawer of my dresser so the mistake won’t be made again,” Tobin promised, dropping her foot back down and taking her seat next to Christen.
“My busy schedule appreciates that,” Christen hummed, moving her attention back down to the book in her lap.
“I’m just so scared of your wrath that I had to make sure the swooshes never made an appearance again,” Tobin joked, pulling a packet of gum out from her backpack.
Christen cracked a smile. “I had no idea the power I hold. Single-handedly dissolving your professional relationship with Nike.”
“Well...my sports bra is still Nike, but Adidas doesn’t have to know about that. Gum?” Tobin asked, holding out the small package of gum.
“I didn’t know anyone still chewed Juicy Fruit ,” Christen chuckled, taking the offered piece since she was desperate to get the mental image of a Nike sports bra out of her mind.
“It’s delicious,” Tobin shrugged, popping a piece of gum into her own mouth.
Christen found herself agreeing, and told Tobin as much. “It’s not bad,” she hummed, her eyes still moving across the page of her book in her lap.
“Are you excited for the Windy City?” Tobin asked, situating herself more fully in her seat and buckling in.
“I haven’t watched an away game in person yet, so I’m excited for that,” Christen replied, turning the page in her book.
“Gotta say, the booing is my favorite part,” Tobin chuckled.
“I’ll make sure to do it extra loudly then,” Christen joked, shooting Tobin a quick flash of a smile.
“You're gonna boo me when I score a goal for your team?” Tobin scoffed, turning her head to look at Christen.
“ Our team,” Christen corrected, her smile never falling.
“Mhm. You booing might really hurt morale,” Tobin teased, enjoying the way she could see Christen’s lips turn up in a smile.
“Not the way to motivate my players?” Christen teased back, sinking into this easy banter she hadn’t yet experienced with Tobin for such an extended period of time. It was always there, in quick flashes and brief moments. But now they had a few hours next to one another on a plane and Christen could already feel the way the banter was making her stomach flutter.
“I’m afraid not,” Tobin shook her head, noticing more than ever before just how green Christen’s eyes were, probably because of the soft green sweater Christen was wearing. “I’m much more motivated by reward.”
“So...if we beat the Red Stars, the club will treat all players and staff to a steak dinner. That sort of reward?”
“That seems like a very expensive reward,” Tobin hummed.
“I made out like a bandit in the divorce. I don’t even know what to do with the money left over after donating half of it,” Christen replied with a small laugh.
“And here I was just thinking you could order cupcakes or something after we win,” Tobin said with a grin.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Christen smirked.
“Congrats on such a lucrative divorce,” Tobin murmured, watching Christen intently.
Christen closed the book in her lap and gave Tobin her undivided attention. “You don’t have to do that whole ‘pitying look in the eyes' thing. It wasn’t messy or tragic. It was...a scarcity of love and connection. We weren’t right for one another and we’re much better as friends.”
“I’m not pitying you. I know the feeling. My ex-wife and I were the same way,” Tobin replied with a shrug.
“How long were you married?” Christen wondered, not going so far as pity, but feeling her eyes soften with empathy.
“Seven long years,” Tobin sighed.
“Young marriages don’t always last,” Christen observed. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m fucking with you,” Tobin said with a tiny smirk.
Christen went from sympathetic to mock-scandalized in a second. She let out a scoff and lightly elbowed Tobin in the shoulder.
“Rude,” Christen chuckled.
“I’m constantly late and forget to change lightbulbs,” Tobin teased with a playful smile. “Who would marry this?”
“Maybe someone who’s good at telling time and doesn’t mind changing the lightbulbs,” Christen replied, her tone going for playful to match Tobin’s, despite the heaviness that settled in her heart at the slight pain in Tobin’s usually warm brown eyes.
“Haven’t met her,” Tobin sighed, leaning back in her seat and letting her eyes flutter closed for a moment before she opened them again.
“Yet. There’s always hope,” Christen murmured, sitting back in her seat as well and turning away from Tobin.
“I’m pretty annoying. It would be a tall order,” Tobin hummed.
“So find somebody tall,” Christen quipped, opening her book once more.
“How tall are you?” Tobin asked with a smirk, very aware that it was flirty and very aware that it would make Christen roll her eyes. But she couldn’t really help it. There was something extremely interesting about Christen, something Tobin didn’t seem to be able to resist.
Christen did in fact roll her eyes and prayed that her blush wasn’t noticeable. “I’ll wake you up when the drink cart comes around,” she replied, reaching out to tap the neck pillow in Tobin’s lap.
“I’ll leave you to your book,” Tobin said as she pulled her pillow around her neck and let her eyes close again.
And once Christen was fairly certain Tobin had fallen asleep, she mumbled to herself, “I’m tall enough.”
“I love you, Toby! I really do!” Sonnett yelled, throwing her sweaty jersey at Tobin in celebration.
“We eating tonight, ladies!” Andi cheered, eliciting a chorus of whoops from the team.
Laura and Christen entered the locker room amidst the celebratory, impromptu dance party and laughed quietly to themselves.
“All right, all right,” Laura yelled, holding out her hands so the team would settle down for a moment. “I want to take a moment and reflect on the game. How’d it feel out there tonight?”
“Fucking great,” Caitlin laughed while pulling off her socks and tossing them in a laundry bag.
“For the first time in club history, we’re on an unbeaten streak. Five games in a row. And why do you think that is?” Laura asked, sharing a proud smile with Christen.
“Tobin,” one of the rookies said, pointing at where Tobin was sitting in her sports bra and sliders.
“No,” Tobin said with a shake of her head, busying herself with her socks.
“Care to elaborate, Heath?” Laura wondered, grinning across the locker room.
“You’re gonna make me,” Tobin sighed, sitting back up and looking at her teammates. “Our passes are cleaner. We aren’t giving up after the first half. We’re not letting the other team have high quality chances, and we’re finishing our chances. The mentality’s completely changed.”
“And is that all thanks to you, Heath?” Laura joked, making a few people on the team chuckle.
“No,” Tobin scoffed. “You want me to kiss your ass and say it’s the coaching?”
“I was hoping for a little team camaraderie moment, but I guess we can only win on so many fronts tonight,” Laura laughed, clapping her hands together and shifting focus away from Tobin. “What I think Heath was getting at is it’s not just one player that’s made the difference. Every single one of you is bought in and committed to the vision Christen and I have for this club. Keep buying in, keep giving us your very best, and we will make playoffs at the end of the season.”
“I said the words our and we multiple times. Was that not clear?” Tobin teased, her smile growing into something lopsided and playful.
As Laura laughed, Christen took a small step forward and interjected, “Well, we and our are headed out for a nice dinner, courtesy of the club. So get changed and congratulations on the outstanding win tonight.”
“God, I love the Press era,” Sonnett sighed, clapping her hands together in excitement for dinner.
“You know the rules, ladies. No hard alcohol, no extravagant desserts, and if anybody orders a wimpy salad, you’ll hear from me,” Laura declared from the head of the long banquet-style table in the private room of the steakhouse.
Beside her, Christen stifled a laugh. She then got to her feet to join Laura and added, “but please order whatever you want. Go nuts.”
“That’s dangerous, Ms. Press,” Cat warned from her spot at the table.
“Christen,” Christen corrected with a smile. “I pay for your steaks, you can call me Christen. And please order anything off the menu. You all deserve it.”
“Truffle fries?” Tobin asked loud enough for Laura to hear.
“Only if we're sharing, Heath!” Laura called back as she and Christen sat down.
“No dice, Harvey. Christen and I decided to share truffle fries on the flight here,” Tobin grinned.
“I’ll order them for us,” Christen replied with a smile of her own before returning her attention to the menu in her hand.
“You just like being a shit, don’t you?” Laura asked, making Tobin laugh.
“She’s a shit who scored three goals tonight,” Sonnett interjected.
The waiter started to go around the table and take orders, and when he got to Christen, Christen lowered her voice and added something more than truffle fries to her order, gesturing at Tobin while she spoke to the waiter.
“Of course, Ms. Press.”
“Thank you,” Christen murmured in reply, handing the waiter her menu.
“Did you ask him to poison mine?” Tobin whispered, her energy still insanely high after such a good game.
Christen rolled her eyes, the corner of her mouth lifting into a smile. “Just had to let him know who was getting the truffle fries.”
“I heard your booing today. It really motivated me. Who knew?” Tobin said softly, letting her voice get drowned out by her teammates’ loud talking.
“I thought I’d add my own flare to it. Throw in some jeers and rude nicknames as well,” Christen played along, knowing full well she might have been the loudest one in the entire stadium to cheer every time Tobin scored.
“Is it you who called me an asshole after the second goal?” Tobin teased.
Christen tapped her finger against the tip of her nose in thought. “Might have been me...or was it the chant ‘Sloppy Tobs’ after the third goal? I honestly can’t remember.”
“That wasn’t even creative,” Tobin scoffed, a laugh slipping from her lips.
Christen gasped in mock offense. “I worked hard on that one.”
“You have time before the next one to really brainstorm some good insults,” Tobin assured, ignoring the slightly curious look Laura was shooting her from the head of the table.
Christen let out a sweet, melodic laugh at the comment. “Unfortunately, I won’t be at the next two games. But don’t worry, I’ll ensure the booing continues in my absence.”
“Hope I can perform,” Tobin hummed.
“So, Heath, has Christen told you how we know each other?” Laura interjected, still looking between her boss and star player curiously.
“Nope,” Tobin shook her head, reaching for her water glass to cool off the warmth she could feel in her chest just from talking to Christen.
“Buckle up, it’s a story,” Laura announced, launching into it and stealing Tobin’s attention for a bit.
Laura was halfway through the story, and had just gotten to a rather hilarious part, when the food started to come out. Steaks and seafood dishes were set in front of every player, Laura, and Christen, with Tobin being the only one without food yet. And then the waiter who took their orders came out with a plate.
“Here you are,” he said with a smile, setting a plate of cupcakes in front of Tobin. The entire team noticed and broke out in laughter.
“I didn’t order that,” Tobin laughed, staring at the dessert that definitely wasn’t the steak she’d ordered.
“I thought you preferred cupcakes post-win?” Christen asked with a teasing smirk on her face as she took a sip of her wine.
“Take one and pass it, Heath. You definitely don’t get all of those,” Laura instructed, eliciting an eye roll from Tobin as she picked a chocolate cupcake and handed the plate to Sonnett.
Once the plate of cupcakes was being passed around, Christen signaled the waiter to deliver Tobin’s actual order, with a heaping basket of truffle fries on the side.
“Thank you,” Tobin said with a small smile.
“You’re welcome,” Christen murmured, focusing on her meal as she tried to convince herself she would have pulled the cupcake stunt with any other player on the team, and not just Tobin.
Crystal walked toward the couch where Christen was sitting and moved her attention to the TV screen where the Avalanche were battling against Orlando, the score still 0-0.
“Why are you watching the game on my TV when we both know you could be in your cushy box with a much better view?” Crystal wondered, handing Christen a beer.
“I can’t go to all the home games,” Christen said, like that explained everything.
“Why? You literally own the team,” Crystal asked as she dropped down onto the couch next to her best friend.
“With distance comes perspective,” Christen replied after a long sip of beer.
“That sounds like bullshit. Are you already tired of owning it?”
“No!” Christen huffed, looking quickly over at Crystal before moving her focus back to the TV. “And it’s not bullshit. I needed some space from...the team. For reasons I don’t want to discuss.”
“Which one is it? Number 11 looks like someone you’d go for. Or is it someone on the staff?” Crystal asked, focusing on the TV screen more than she had since the game started.
Christen sighed as the universe chose that moment to put Tobin on the screen, a close-up shot of her fixing her baby hairs as she lined up to take a free kick.
“Well, hello,” Crystal hummed.
“Meet the reason for the space,” Christen grumbled, leaning back into the couch cushions as she drained her beer.
“Do we like her or not like her?” Crystal asked, watching as Tobin wiped her forehead with the bottom of her jersey.
“ We can’t feel any sort of way about her. I literally sign her checks. Brooke is such a shit for buying her rights,” Christen complained.
“Is number 7 married?” Crystal asked.
“No,” Christen replied, watching Tobin curl in a perfect cross that Cat barely missed getting on the end of.
“Is she a lady-loving lady?”
“Does she flirt with you?”
“We...banter,” Christen replied with a slight flush creeping up her neck. “Meaningless, pointless bantering.”
“Okay, so in a perfect world you’d…” Crystal prompted.
“Yup,” Christen nodded, not needing to fill in the blank for either of them.
“Are you really her boss? Because it looks like Laura’s her boss,” Crystal pointed out, seeing Laura yell something to Tobin on the screen.
“I own the team she plays for, so yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m her boss.”
“How bad would it be if you traded her?” Crystal asked.
“Out of the question,” Christen shook her head, the idea of Tobin leaving making her stomach churn.
“Because you want to see her every day?” Crystal grinned, elbowing Christen in the side.
“Because her last team traded her without warning and I won’t put her through that again,” Christen corrected, elbowing Crystal back. “And I don’t see her every day.”
“You want to,” Crystal said without a question in her voice.
There were quite a few things Christen wanted. Yes, she wanted to see Tobin every day. But she also wanted more than that. She wanted to explore the hard, muscular curves above Tobin’s hip bones that she'd caught peeks of in the locker room. She wanted to commit to memory the way Tobin’s casually tousled hair felt between her fingertips. She wanted to learn about each and every one of Tobin’s smiles and laughs. She wanted things she shouldn’t want, and she didn’t have to hide that here, sitting next to her best friend.
“You’re really into her,” Crystal sighed, reaching out for Christen’s hand. “I can see it. You get that look on your face.”
Christen sighed and clung to Crystal’s hand. “I’m flirting with a dangerous daydream, so...that’s why I’m watching the next home game from your couch too.”
“What happens if the two of you, you know, cross the line?” Crystal asked, watching Tobin dodge around defenders easily on the TV.
“It’s taken six games and an insane amount of PR to get this club back into a positive standing. If I cross that line, all that hard work would have been for nothing.”
“But if you don’t cross that line you, and maybe she, will be miserable,” Crystal pushed, ever the romantic.
“Does she look miserable?” Christen asked softly, smiling fondly at the screen as Tobin sent a slotted shot into the bottom corner of the net, beaming at her teammates as she celebrated.
“Honestly, she looks a little tense. She probably needs to get laid,” Crystal smirked, knocking her shoulder against Christen’s.
Christen just shook her head and slipped her hand out of Crystal’s. “The team’s playing well, she’s playing well, and I’ve got a call tomorrow with the investors. This boat is not going to be rocked.”
“I’ve heard that sex benefits performance,” Crystal sing-songed.
“This boat is not going to be rocked,” Christen repeated, ignoring the way her body and her heart cried out in disagreement.
“Neither is your world if you don’t open yourself up to it. You’re my best friend and I want you to be happy.”
“I am happy,” Christen replied, reaching out for the remote to turn the volume up, hoping that would bring an end to the conversation.
“Did you see her six pack? Cause, damn,” Crystal whistled, leaning back against the couch and slinging an arm along the back of it.
Christen grabbed a pillow from the couch beside her and covered her face with it, stifling her pained, I wish I had never seen her six-pack, whimper.
Tobin was halfway through a bowl of oatmeal and her first cup of coffee when she saw Megan’s text. It was easy to ignore. It was a link to a Buzzfeed article, something that Tobin didn’t really care about opening or interrupting her quiet morning for.
The second text was harder to ignore.
Yo, your new boss made quite the list 👀
Open the gd link and then tell me you’ve gotten the chance to bask in her beauty in person
So, Tobin put her spoon down and opened the link, rolling her eyes at the headline. Of course, someone at Buzzfeed had gotten bored and made a list of The Hottest Professional Sports Team Owners. Tobin scrolled through the list, and there, ranking at number three, was Christen Press.
“She should be the top one, not third,” Tobin mumbled to herself as she looked at the pictures Buzzfeed had chosen.
Does she wear those chunky black sunglasses to every game? They cute
I don’t know. Ask her.
Or you could ask her and then ask her out
Pretty sure that’s frowned upon...
But isn’t a woman like that worth the frowns?
I’m a pain in her ass
You could be so much more than that, Tobs. ayyyy 👅
Goodbye, Pinoe. Have a great day :)
Get it on with number three 👅 👅 👅
Tobin put her phone face down on the table, trying to resist the urge to open the link again and look at Christen’s pictures. It wasn’t like she hadn’t thought about that. She had.
She’d thought about Christen in very unprofessional ways, ways that Laura would kick her ass for. She’d tried not to, but she couldn’t always stop herself from thinking about Christen’s long legs and slender fingers and soft lips. She couldn’t always stop herself from imagining what it would be like to sink down between Christen’s legs and feel Christen pull her hair, begging for more.
And thinking that way was terribly dangerous, since Tobin saw Christen every week, typically more than once. She saw her, and Christen was professional and put together and a rule-follower, all things that Tobin had to respect. For as long as Christen signed her paychecks, Tobin was pretty sure that any advance she made would be completely rejected.
Stop overthinking it and test the waters. You never know until you know!!!!
Testing the waters could get me fired soooo, bad idea
Remember what I taught you? Pull out the Foolproof™️. Trust me. You pull that out and you’ll KNOW if she’s into you
I hate when you make me think about doing something stupid
You’re welcome, bish. Report back 👅
“They were amazing tonight,” Laura said to Christen as they walked toward the locker room together.
“I’m glad this game worked with my schedule. It was tough not to be here the past few games,” Christen replied, unconsciously fixing her hair and straightening the collar of her turtleneck.
“I definitely appreciate how hands-on you are with the team,” Laura commented before she reached for the locker room door and walked in.
“I- uh-” Christen faltered, nearly tripping over the lip of the doorway when she caught sight of Tobin lounging on the bench in front of her locker.
Christen felt her eyes lock on the water droplets slowly trailing down Tobin’s flexing abs before she looked down at the tiny pair of sliders Tobin had on. The bottoms were rolled up, leaving her legs on prominent display. And all of that was definitely something Christen had seen before and somewhat easily ignored.
But right now, Tobin was post-ice bath, and so Christen noticed the water line halfway up the material of Tobin’s sports bra, the bottom half wet from the icy water. More than that, though, she noticed how the chill from the ice bath and the thin material of Tobin's sports bra made it easy to see her-
Christen snapped her attention to Laura, thankful for the turtleneck which was hopefully serving to hide the flush creeping up her neck.
“I- uh- reports. I have to go- um, reports,” Christen stammered, spinning quickly on her heel and breezing out of the locker room.
“You okay?” Laura asked, her words hardly even reaching Christen who was moving as quickly as her heels allowed.
Christen just threw a hand up in reply and waved Laura off before disappearing around the corner.
Tobin had seen it all. Her eyes had been trained on the door, just waiting for Christen to show up. And Megan’s foolproof plan hadn’t failed. She’d seen Christen’s eyes move up and down her body. She’d seen Christen's eyes darken and her pupils dilate before her quick retreat. So, she knew that even if there was nothing else, Christen was at least attracted to her.
Nice win tonight. Also, the point is for you to suck…among other things 👅
Foolproof was enacted
Nothing like a post-ice bath stiff peak to test the waters. Never fails!!!
I feel skeevy
“Hey, Christen,” Tobin murmured, leaning forward over Christen’s shoulder.
Christen startled hard enough to spill her iced tea all over her lap, her dress pants now soaked with cold tea. She’d been feeling jumpy since the locker room incident a few days ago, and it clearly wasn’t any better today.
“Shit,” she sighed, quickly grabbing some napkins.
“Oooh, sorry,” Tobin winced. “I have pants. You can have my pants.”
“It’s okay,” Christen replied, dabbing at the spilled tea.
“No, really,” Tobin insisted, digging through her backpack. “I have joggers. They’re even Adidas.”
“Miracles happen,” Christen joked, balling up the now-wet napkins and dropping them onto the seat next to her.
“Here,” Tobin offered, holding out a pair of black Adidas joggers with the Avalanche crest and the number 7 on the left leg.
Christen eyed her outfit -- the heels, the royal blue coat with the light gray button-up.
“I really don’t know if they’ll go,” she said with a weak, half-smile, getting to her feet and grabbing the empty cup and used napkins.
“Black pants go with everything. You’re literally wearing black pants right now. These are just airplane appropriate,” Tobin said, her face still holding an apologetic smile.
“My typical pants aren’t airplane-appropriate?” Christen countered with an arched brow, making no move to take the offered joggers.
“They’re like...conference room pants. These are comfy,” Tobin explained, still holding out the joggers she was offering.
“My conference room pants are comfy,” Christen argued, finally taking the joggers since she really didn’t want to be on an airplane to New York in tea-soaked dress pants.
“They’re also wet. I’ve got to stop doing that to women.”
Christen felt her cheeks flame. “Thank you for the joggers,” she managed to get out before she hustled over to the nearest restroom to change.
The fact that she had to go commando in the joggers thanks to the amount of tea spilled that had also gotten her underwear wet? She chalked that up to the universe being cruel.
“So, before I made you spill tea all over yourself, I was trying to point out that I was twenty minutes early to the gate,” Tobin said as she looked over at Christen on the plane, the two of them sharing a row again.
“I appreciate your timeliness and your restraint about making more wet jokes,” Christen replied, flipping through some mock-ups on her iPad. She had to admit, it was far more comfortable to sit here in joggers than it was in her typical dress pants.
“I’m keeping them in,” Tobin smirked. “You look comfortable.”
“Our issued gear is top of the line,” Christen acknowledged, smoothing out the soft fabric of the joggers.
“You look nice in my number,” Tobin hummed, moving her eyes to the book in her lap that she wasn’t reading at all and hadn’t been since takeoff.
“I’ll travel home in a different number. Can’t show favoritism,” Christen replied with a small smile, barely paying attention to the schematics for one of her client’s bedrooms on the screen. It was hard to when she kept catching whiffs of lavender from the joggers she was wearing, something she was starting to associate solely with Tobin.
“But seven’s a lucky number,” Tobin gasped, ever playful and teasing when it came to talking to Christen.
“Not mine,” Christen chuckled.
“Hmm...we don’t have that number,” Tobin sighed. “Maybe I can get Audrey to get you some gear. I can be very persuasive.”
“I have no doubt about that, but I really don’t need it. I’ve got a certain wardrobe to show up in on game days.”
“Says who?” Tobin asked, cocking her head to the side in curiosity.
Christen looked up from the iPad and shrugged. “The next youngest owner is sixty-two. At an owners event last month, I was turned away at the door and told that players weren’t invited in. So, I wear power pantsuits and devastatingly high heels in hopes that they’ll take me seriously,” Christen explained.
“Sounds like they’re jealous that you’re a young, fit, attractive owner,” Tobin commented, watching the way Christen’s lips were turned down. “I hear wearing high heels can give you bunions.”
Christen let out a soft snort. “I don’t wear them often enough to experience any long-term health effects.”
“I like that you latched onto bunions and not that you’re an attractive, fit, young owner,” Tobin smirked.
“I don’t take compliments well. I never have,” Christen admitted, leaning back against the seat and resting her head against the headrest.
Tobin hummed softly but kept her eyes on Christen, following the curve of her jaw and noticing the light freckles on her nose and cheekbones.
“You’re beautiful, and they’re jealous,” she murmured before forcing her eyes back to her book.
Christen found it hard to focus on anything besides the thundering of her heartbeat in her ears and the flip-flopping of her stomach. She might not take compliments well, but damn, did she like hearing them from Tobin.
“Thank you,” Christen whispered softly, looking back down at her iPad.
“See, you took that compliment like a champ,” Tobin chuckled, her smile growing to its full size.
“Maybe it has less to do with the compliment, and more to do with the complimenter,” Christen mused under her breath, unconsciously tracing her thumb along the 7 on the pants leg of the joggers.
Tobin knocked her leg into Christen’s, wanting more than anything to cross a line that she knew she couldn’t uncross, a line she wasn’t sure Christen would want to cross with her.
“Yeah?” Christen asked, looking up from her iPad.
“Just saying hi,” Tobin mumbled, keeping her knee against Christen’s despite the hammering in her heart.
Christen offered Tobin a small smile before looking back at her work, pressing her knee against Tobin’s purposefully.
Christen knew she had an incredible capacity for stress.
So, with two essentially full-time jobs, her ability to compartmentalize and time-manage was a gift. But there was only so much she could take before she started to approach a threshold. And this new client and her unwavering opinion about her kitchen cabinets was threatening to send Christen careening past that threshold.
“Mrs. Lang, I appreciate the thoughts about using gold finish on the cabinets, but we’d previously discussed sourcing the material for the custom cabinets and using recycled plastic,” Christen said, hoping her voice would be picked up by the speaker in her headphones.
Since she was swiftly approaching a dangerous level of stress, she was currently running laps around the practice field, which was thankfully empty as the team had an off day.
“Stanford’s pride and joy has returned to the pitch?!” Tobin called out, shielding her eyes from the sun and dropping the large bag of soccer balls that she’d grabbed to practice on her own.
“I’m sorry, would you hold for a moment, Mrs. Lang?” Christen asked, pulling her phone out of her leggings pocket and putting the call on hold. She pulled her headphones out of her ears and jogged over to where Tobin was standing.
“Sorry. I didn’t realize you took calls on runs. I’ll shut up,” Tobin said, smiling sheepishly.
“Just stressful ones. The field’s yours, I'll run around the outside,” Christen replied.
“When you’re done, some of these have your name on them,” Tobin offered, tapping the toe of her cleat against a ball.
Christen just shook her head and backed up toward the edge of the field again. “You keep trying. It’s an endearing quality.”
“I’ll give you cupcakes or yell insults, whichever works for you.”
“My rewards aren’t either of those,” Christen chuckled.
“Fries? I saw you smash those truffle fries at the restaurant,” Tobin guessed.
Christen shook her head and put her headphones back in. “Best of luck trying to guess it. Nobody ever has.”
“A foot rub? It’ll help with the bunions!” Tobin called out, her smile growing.
Christen laughed before taking her phone out and pulling the call off hold. “Sorry for the pause, Mrs. Lang. Now back to recycled plastics,” she said as she started to run.
Tobin started with a dynamic warm-up, all the while making faces at Christen to see if she could make her laugh. She did a few times and took pride in that.
She stretched and jogged a little bit before lining the balls up along the eighteen-yard box. And then, she did something she’d never tell Megan Rapinoe about. She peeled her tank top off, dropped it in the grass, and started taking shots in her sports bra and her shorts.
All the while, she glanced over at Christen just to see if she was watching.
But Christen wasn’t. She was sitting at the halfway line, off of the field, her phone held to her ear and her head in her other hand, her headphones discarded on the grass beside her, her focus nowhere near Tobin.
After fifty shots, Tobin turned around and walked toward Christen on the field. She flopped down on the grass beside her while pushing sweaty hair away from her face. She looked at Christen from her spot lying sprawled on the grass and saw the stressed wrinkle between her eyebrows.
“If you really feel that strongly about it, I have other designers in the Denver area I can send you to,” Christen sighed, rubbing at her temples.
“You tell ‘em,” Tobin murmured, pumping her fist in the air.
Christen managed the ghost of a smile for Tobin before focusing back on her phone call.
“Unfortunately, the consultation fee and the fees for the work my team and I did are nonrefunda- yes, it’s specified in the contract,” Christen said. “If that’s the case, I would be happy to have our corporate lawyer go over the contract with you.”
Tobin reached out and squeezed Christen’s knee for a moment, shooting her a tight smile.
“Great. I hope that the next designer will be better suited for what you- oh okay, you hung up,” Christen mumbled, pulling the phone away from her ear and tossing it into the grass. She covered her face with her hands and let out a long sigh.
“What a bitch,” Tobin scoffed, pushing herself up into a sitting position.
Christen hummed in agreement, keeping her face in her hands.
“Want to kick balls with me?” Tobin asked using one hand to tug at one of Christen’s wrists.
Christen let Tobin’s gentle grip pull her hands away from her face, knowing now there was no way to hide the shine of frustrated tears in her eyes.
“You go. I’m good here,” Christen replied in a thick voice, causing her to clear her throat.
“When I was told that I’d been traded and needed to pack my bags pretty much within twenty-four hours...all I wanted to do was this. I just wanted to get out all my frustration and cry and kick as hard as I could,” Tobin admitted, looking across the field at the balls she’d lined up again before coming over to Christen’s side.
“Did it help?” Christen asked softly.
“I didn’t get to. I had to rush home and pack after my last training. I cried in my new apartment the night before my first practice here. But kicking a ball as hard as I could here did make me feel better,” Tobin sighed, breathing in the fresh smell of the field that smelled the same no matter where she went to play.
“I’m sorry that happened to you,” Christen murmured, finding it easier to focus on Tobin’s pain than her frustration that paled in comparison.
Tobin just shrugged. “Sorry enough to indulge me and kick a soccer ball?”
Christen blew out a long breath, wiped at her eyes, and then got to her feet. “I haven’t kicked a ball in six years,” she warned, wiping the grass from her leggings.
“I won’t watch. I’ll turn around if you want me to,” Tobin promised, hopping to her feet.
“I’d appreciate that,” Christen chuckled, falling into step with Tobin as they walked over toward the goal.
“Can I peek on the third shot?”
“The fifth and no sooner.”
“Fine,” Tobin laughed. “I’ve seen you play, though, so don’t be shy.”
“I’ve seen you play, so keep your back turned,” Christen shot back, lining up behind one of the stray balls outside of the eighteen. “And when did you see me play?”
“The internet exists,” Tobin snorted, not even shying away from the fact that Christen now knew she’d done more than just Googled. She’d YouTubed.
“Do you look up all of your club team’s owners?” Christen wondered, sending a shot into the goal. It wasn’t spectacular or special, but it hit the back of the net.
“Just the ones who make Buzzfeed articles,” Tobin answered, her words spilling out without thought.
“You saw that article?” Christen laughed, lining up behind the next ball. “Phoebe sent it to me, and she was thrilled I’d made the list since it’s good PR.”
“Yep, Pinoe sent it to me,” Tobin hummed. “I wasn’t impressed.”
“Oh?” Christen asked, feigning nonchalance as her third shot sailed into the back of the net.
“They need a new fact-checker.”
“How so?” Christen wondered, cringing when her fourth shot went way over the crossbar.
“Number three? Come on,” Tobin scoffed, keeping her eyes on the empty goal across the field and not on Christen.
“Yeah, little high, huh?” Christen hummed, her fifth shot finding the net again.
“Too low. I would’ve put you at one. Can I turn around now?”
Christen hummed in acknowledgement and ignored the fluttering in her heart. Instead, she sent the sixth shot screaming into the upper ninety.
“Six years of no practice and that’s what you can do?” Tobin gushed, clapping her hands for the beautiful goal.
“I, uh, used to do this one move where I drove down the flank, cut back across the face of the goal, and sent the ball into the far post. Want to see?” Christen asked, unable to deny not just how good it felt to expel her frustrations by shooting, but also how good it felt to be on the receiving end of Tobin Heath’s compliments.
“Yes, please,” Tobin nodded, her smile growing to its full, toothy size.
“Maybe you’ll learn a thing or two,” Christen grinned, grabbing a ball and dribbling it over to the corner of the eighteen.
“Feisty,” Tobin chuckled as she moved out of the way for Christen to take her shot.
When she finished the move, a little bit of rust in the speed of her cuts and the strength behind her shot, and the ball sailed into the bottom corner eliciting an elated roar from Tobin, Christen knew she was undoubtedly screwed.
things are progressing! yay!
we'll be back soon with Ch. 4. sam is coming to see me Thursday, so we'll try to post Ch. 4 before then! thanks as always for reading.
-sam & emma
Chapter 4: Full Circle
new destinations, needing ice, and never doing that again
happy 1st day of preseason!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“So, we have a little schedule change,” Laura announced at the end of training. “Our game against the Reign has been switched with our game against the Thorns, so we’re going to Portland this weekend and Seattle the following week.”
Tobin leaned back and felt her head smack against the side of her locker. She wasn’t ready. She’d been trying to be ready for this, but she wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready to be in the guest locker room at the stadium she’d called home for seven years. She wasn’t ready to see the fans cheering for a team she was no longer on.
Tobin shoved her cleats into her bag and pulled on her slides, not bothering to change out of her practice gear before she stood up from her seat and moved out of the room in the hopes of getting to her car and back to her apartment before she completely lost it with emotion and nerves and anxiety.
But as she turned the corner and found Christen and Phoebe chatting, she realized she wouldn’t be getting to her car unseen.
Phoebe saw her first, her face lighting up. “Tobin! Perfect timing!”
At the mention of Tobin’s name, Christen turned around and saw the brunette in her practice gear, and felt a smile make its way onto her face.
“Perfect timing for what?” Tobin asked, feeling her chest tighten with rising anxiety.
“We think goal songs specific to each player would really appeal to our fan base, the Snow Shoers,” Phoebe explained.
“That’s what they’re called?” Tobin shook her head.
“Name pending,” Christen offered with an affectionate eye roll.
“Goal songs sound great. Nice job. That’s why they pay you guys the big bucks,” Tobin mumbled, trying to sidestep the conversation.
Christen felt her brow furrow at the tone in Tobin’s voice. “Phoebe, we’ll continue this in my office. I’ll be right behind you.”
Phoebe nodded and scampered off, leaving Tobin and Christen alone in the hallway.
“Is everything all right?” Christen asked, lifting a hand as if to reach out and touch Tobin’s arm before realizing what she was doing and slowly lowering her hand back down.
“Yep, I’m good,” Tobin nodded, pulling her water bottle to her lips and taking a long sip in hopes of dislodging the lump in her throat.
“I thought we were past you bullshitting me,” Christen replied softly, concern making her green eyes darken in color just a bit.
“I’m not. I’m just- I need to go home and get ready for the travel weekend,” Tobin murmured, adjusting her bag on her shoulder to keep busy.
“Seattle should be lovely this time of year,” Christen nodded, still not entirely convinced by the charade Tobin was putting on.
“It isn’t Seattle. Schedule change. I think Laura’s still here if you need to ask her about it,” Tobin forced out.
“I wasn’t made aware of this. Where are we going?” Christen asked.
“Portland. I gotta go,” Tobin croaked, moving down the hallway toward the door that led to the parking lot.
Christen felt her stomach drop at the revelation, turning to watch Tobin leave with a heavy heart and a worry lodged deep in her chest.
Tobin’s leg was bouncing up and down incessantly. She hadn’t been able to stop it all morning. She was wired and anxious and so incredibly uncomfortable because she knew that seeing her city, her home, was going to make her chest ache more than it had in a long time.
Christen slid into the seat next to Tobin, holding a small, paper box in her hands. She noticed the tension in Tobin’s frame and the anxiety rolling off of her, and she just hoped she’d be able to help in some small way.
“You were right about the joggers. I can’t travel in anything else now,” Christen hummed, buckling her seatbelt.
“Sorry,” Tobin murmured, trying to give Christen a small smile.
“Don’t be. I’m the one who’s sorry for not returning your joggers yet. Audrey said my pair is on backorder,” Christen replied softly.
“You can keep mine,” Tobin said, glancing at her number on Christen’s right leg.
Christen cleared her throat and held out the small box. “It’s a victory in my book that you even got on the plane, considering this isn’t going to be an easy trip. So, here,” she hummed, waiting for Tobin to take the box from her.
“Laura will kill me if I eat this,” Tobin mumbled, a tiny smile finally slipping onto her face as she looked down at the chocolate cupcake with bright orange icing.
“You’ll run it off,” Christen shrugged, feeling that tiny, genuine smile hit her right in the heart.
“I’ll tell her the owner insisted,” Tobin teased weakly.
“I do insist. I just want to make this trip as painless as possible for you,” Christen said with an empathetic half-smile.
“It’s good,” Tobin garbled with a bite of cupcake in her mouth. She slid lower in her seat when she saw Laura stand up to get something out of her bag in the overhead compartment.
Christen chuckled and playfully lowered in her seat as well, keeping her eyes on Tobin. When she noticed the bit of orange icing on the tip of Tobin’s nose, she cleared her throat and then reached out to wipe it off. She used a napkin to get the icing off of her finger instead of doing something foolish like lick it off of her thumb.
“Sorry, you just had some...evidence of the taboo cupcake on you,” Christen murmured quietly.
“You want a bite?” Tobin asked, holding out the cupcake.
“It’s all yours.”
“It’s the orange color isn’t it?” Tobin chuckled.
“It’s the fact that you haven’t bounced your leg once since I gave it to you, actually,” Christen replied with a small shake of her head.
“What’s your reward?” Tobin asked, having been thinking about that frequently since shooting practice with Christen.
“You’re not getting it that easily,” Christen said, chuckling lightly.
“What if I do this?” Tobin asked, starting to bounce her leg again, this time by choice.
Christen reached out and stilled Tobin’s leg. “I’ll tell you some other time,” she said softly, retracting her touch quickly. She reached into her bag and pulled out her iPad. “Let’s watch Miracle . I downloaded it onto my iPad thinking you’d need a nice inspirational distraction.”
“Thank you,” Tobin sighed, leaning a little closer to Christen in preparation for the movie.
Whatever tenuous calm Christen had managed to wrangle out of Tobin on the flight to Portland was all but gone now.
As she watched from a box in Providence Park, her chunky sunglasses covering her eyes, Christen realized this match was just going to go from bad to worse.
Tobin had started the game heated. She’d been repeatedly booed and jeered by the Portland fans, most of them convinced she’d left them of her own volition. It made Christen’s skin crawl to hear some of the chants directed her way, and she knew Tobin heard them too.
She’d watched Tobin from the moment the whistle blew, and she’d seen her go from heated and intense, to downright volatile. She was sitting on a yellow card after a fair tackle which the referee unfairly punished, and it was just a matter of time.
Right now, the game was tied 1-1, thanks to a beautiful chipped shot Tobin took from half field, and the tension on the field was nearing a boiling point.
Christen leaned against the railing, too anxious to sit, her eyes trained on her team’s white away jerseys, tracking number seven’s movements around the field.
And then Christen saw Tobin nutmeg two Portland players in a row, and she knew it was coming.
The boiling point had been reached.
One of the players Tobin nutmegged tracked after her, sprinting to catch up to Tobin, and tugged on the back of her jersey. When the referee failed to call the foul, the Portland girl lowered her shoulder and shoved Tobin off the ball.
Tobin soared through the air and landed on the turf, hard, the crowd falling silent.
Christen white-knuckled the railing, concern for Tobin and rage at the other player running hotly through her.
But before she could even really process what was happening, Tobin shot to her feet and got in the Portland girl’s face, the two of them close to blows. It took one word from someone, Christen wasn’t sure which, before the Portland girl shoved Tobin away by the shoulders and Tobin retaliated with a right hook.
Utter chaos descended on the field as the two players were pulled apart by their respective teams, both players being shown red cards and told to leave the field.
Christen watched with a pit in her stomach as Tobin stormed off the field, kicking over a few water bottles before barreling into the tunnel. She was on her feet and leaving the suite before she could even process what she was doing.
Providence Park was like a maze, and even so, Christen tried to navigate it. She wanted to see if Tobin was okay, she wanted to check on her. More so than that, she needed to. She felt compelled to be there by her side right now, a compulsion she wasn’t quite ready to unpack just yet.
But she couldn't find Tobin.
Not in the tunnel, not in the locker room, not in the showers. Tobin was gone, as was her bag of gear from the guest locker room.
Tobin had taken an Uber back to the hotel. She couldn’t sit in the locker room or stay in that stadium. She’d gone straight back to the hotel, stripped, showered in the hottest water she could get, and pulled on her most comfortable sweat set.
And even that didn’t change the fact that she was still in a city that still felt like the ghost of home. She was angry that people didn’t seem to realize that she hadn’t chosen to leave. She was hurt that what had once been a safe place now felt uncomfortable.
More than that, she was furious with herself for letting her emotions get the best of her. The red card meant that she now couldn’t play in Seattle. She couldn’t be there for her teammates. She couldn’t do the job that Christen and Laura expected her to do.
She felt most guilty for disappointing Christen. Christen had gone out of her way to be kind, to look out for her in Portland, and Tobin had messed up. She’d lost her temper and been unprofessional, which most likely just gave all the people in Portland’s administrative offices a good laugh.
Christen was different. She was kind and she genuinely cared, and Tobin hated that she’d probably upset her. So, she waited until there was a knock at her door with the fries she’d ordered from room service, and then, she walked past her teammates' hotel room doors, making a right at the end of the hallway.
She knocked softly on room 315 and waited for Christen to answer, ready to apologize for her behavior, for embarrassing the team and Christen.
The door opened, revealing a haggard-looking Christen. Her face immediately changed, lighting up first in surprise, then relief, then moving into something beyond concern. She looked upset .
Christen simply stepped back and held the door open, waiting for Tobin to move inside.
“I know you’re really pissed. You completely deserve to be. I was reckless and out of control, and I’m sure I disappointed you and our team. I really don’t- I know that saying sorry and putting french fries on your dresser won’t make up for that, but I’ll make up for it. I’ll play-”
“You can leave the fries, but I’m not the person you should be apologizing to,” Christen interrupted softly.
“Yeah, I realize that. Fries are going to every one of their rooms too,” Tobin mumbled.
“Do more than fries. I’ll be here if you want to talk about the game once you’ve said your apologies to the entire team and staff,” Christen replied.
“Yeah,” Tobin nodded, moving back to the open door.
Softening for just a moment, Christen reached out for Tobin’s arm, her hand wrapping around the crook of Tobin’s elbow.
“Come back when you’re done?” Christen asked in a quiet, almost vulnerable voice.
“I don’t need to interrupt your night. I’ve done enough for one day.”
Christen watched Tobin go the same way she came, her shoulders dropping in defeat. She'd made the right decision, sending Tobin away to say her apologies. It was what she as an owner needed to do to maintain the culture she wanted. But she desperately wished she could have begged Tobin to stay so she could prove to her that she didn’t have to carry the guilt of this game around with her.
“Turn it up,” Sonnett called out to Cat, who held the remote in her hand. They were channel surfing, munching on the plate of fries they guessed Tobin had sent them, when they saw a rerun of the post-game news conference from tonight’s match.
Cat nodded and turned up the volume, then hopped to her feet when she heard a knock at the door. She opened it and saw Tobin hovering outside, her hands stuffed in the front pocket of her sweatshirt.
“Come in,” Cat said with a tight smile, leading Tobin into the room as the news conference continued on the screen.
“And how are you feeling about Tobin Heath’s actions on the field this evening?”
On the screen, Christen sat behind a microphone next to Laura, the two of them looking agitated.
“I wanted to apologize to both of you for how-” Tobin started.
“Shhh, we’re watching,” Sonnett interrupted.
“I think you’re asking us the wrong question,” Christen said in response, causing some murmurs to hum through the journalists.
“And what question should I be asking?” the journalist shot back.
“You should be asking how a league that prides itself on ingenuity and forward-thinking, allows its players to be treated like pawns in a chess match. You should be asking me my opinion on free agency and the empowerment of the professional athletes in our league to make decisions about their own careers. I don’t care much for how she delivered the message, but I think Tobin Heath made a pretty clear case for hers. Nobody should be pushed out of their home or their team without their choice, ” Christen replied, getting to her feet and signaling the end of the post-game interview.
A silence descended upon the room as Cat used the remote to mute the TV now that the channel had gone back to its newscasters.
“I wanted to apologize for how I handled myself on the field. I wasn’t thinking about the team, and I’m really sorry,” Tobin apologized, filling the silence.
“It’s like the Boss said, you shouldn’t have been traded like that. We support you,” Sonnett replied with a nod.
“We all do,” Cat chimed in.
“Still shouldn’t have done that,” Tobin said with a grimace.
“Probably not, but it’s cool,” Sonnett shrugged.
“Enjoy the fries. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Sonnett and Cat offered Tobin waves as she walked to the door, leaving their hotel room.
Six waved-off apologies later, and Tobin was back in front of 315, knocking quietly and rocking awkwardly on the balls of her feet.
“Didn’t expect you to come back,” Christen said as she opened the door, her brows knit in surprise.
“I said the apology, but now I’m saying thank you for the press conference,” Tobin replied, offering a tight smile.
“Oh, umm, it’s not a problem,” Christen waved off, leaning against the open door.
“No, it’s...it’s a big deal, and I really appreciate it.”
“I just hope you’re seeing that we’re trying to be a different kind of club,” Christen said in reply.
“I do see that. I’ve been seeing that,” Tobin assured, running a hand through her hair.
“Good. So you know I technically have to say, ‘don’t do that again’ as the owner of the Avalanche, but as...someone who cares, I hope the punch felt good,” Christen grinned.
“Honestly, yes and no. I’m glad I used my right hand, though,” Tobin chuckled, lifting up her right hand where bruises were starting to form around her knuckles.
Christen dropped her eyes to the hand and felt her eyes widen. “Oh my God, are you okay?” she asked, reaching out to take ahold of Tobin’s hand, her touch gentle.
“I tried to ice it sort of,” Tobin shrugged, “but then I got distracted by ordering room service fries.”
“I’ve got ice,” Christen offered, stepping back into her room and letting Tobin’s hand fall from her own. She walked into the room, not bothering to look and see if Tobin had followed her. Instead, she unfolded a cloth napkin from room service and dumped some ice from her ice bucket onto it. “Here,” she said, turning with the wrapped ice in hand.
“Thanks,” Tobin hummed, settling the ice on her knuckles.
“We can go out on the balcony. I have a tendency to fill up every inch of my hotel room,” Christen chuckled, gesturing at the clothes and shoes spread out around the room, leaving no space to sit.
“I can see that,” Tobin grinned, looking at the piles of clothes, a dark, lacy bra definitely on top of the pile which she desperately tried to ignore.
Christen pulled open the sliding glass door and gestured for Tobin to move outside.
“I didn’t get a balcony,” Tobin said, poking out her bottom lip in a fake pout, abandoning the ice on the balcony railing.
“I assumed you wouldn’t want the view. Apologies if I assumed wrong,” Christen replied, joining Tobin at the railing and looking out across downtown Portland, her hands holding onto the railing in front of her.
“You assumed right,” Tobin sighed, looking out at the city and easily picking out her first apartment building and the last condo she’d lived in before buying a house.
Christen found her focus drawn to the woman beside her and not the night skyline. The deep furrow in Tobin’s brow and the thin line her lips were pressed into captured Christen's attention.
“I got our flight time moved up so we leave early tomorrow. No sense in staying in this city any longer than we have to, right?” Christen found herself saying, wanting to fill the silence.
“It’s a nice city,” Tobin sighed, reaching out on the balcony railing and brushing her hand against the side of Christen’s.
“It wasn’t nice to you,” Christen observed in a breathy voice, her pointer finger reflexively reaching out to run along Tobin’s.
“The city itself is nice,” Tobin shrugged. “I lived in that building when I was first drafted,” she added, pointing at the tall building in the distance.
Christen felt a fond smile make its way onto her face as she followed Tobin’s direction and looked at the building. “It looks nice. Would you…if there are places and people you’d like to see, would you want to stay longer? I’m sure I can work something out with the flights.”
“No,” Tobin shook her head. “I hope someday it won’t hurt, but right now isn’t that time.”
Christen let out a soft hum in acknowledgment, looking away from the building and back at Tobin, her pointer finger moving against Tobin’s again in solidarity, in understanding.
Tobin caught Christen’s index finger with her hand, lacing her fingers with Christen’s as she continued to stare across the horizon.
If she’d been smart, Christen would have pulled her hand away and kept things professional. But the draw was too strong, the compulsion too much to deny. Especially now, with the moonlight playing off of Tobin’s tormented features.
“I’m glad I ended up in Denver. Took me a long time to feel that way, but I am glad,” Tobin whispered, squeezing Christen’s hand and finally turning her head to look at her.
Christen let out a shaky breath and unconsciously tightened her hold on Tobin’s hand under Tobin’s intense, watchful gaze.
“I’m glad our club finally swayed you,” Christen replied softly.
Tobin turned her body slightly so that she could look more directly at Christen. She ran her thumb along the back of Christen’s hand, looking into the green eyes that she’d been thinking about for most of her time since moving to Denver.
“I don’t think it was solely the club,” Tobin mumbled, unconsciously moving closer.
Christen couldn’t help but move closer as well, even though she knew she shouldn’t. It felt inevitable, the erasing of space between them. She was answering a siren’s call, unable to do more than lean into Tobin.
“I’m happy you came to Denver,” Christen whispered, standing so close to Tobin now that their noses almost bumped, their bodies almost coming into contact.
Tobin reached up with her left hand and cupped the side of Christen’s face before she leaned forward and finally pressed a soft kiss to Christen’s lips, something she’d been thinking about for an embarrassingly long time.
She’d underestimated just how soft Christen’s lips would feel against her own and just how sweet her lips would taste. She hadn’t thought about how amazing Christen would smell because she hadn’t been this close to her before.
It took all of Christen’s strength to pull back. To put a stop to the kiss she desperately wanted to continue. Kissing Tobin had felt perfect and right and she was a fool to have let it happen.
“We can’t,” Christen breathed out, her forehead pressed to Tobin’s, her free hand gently gripping onto Tobin’s waist.
“Right, yeah,” Tobin nodded, wanting the complete opposite because her stomach was flipping and her heart was racing for more than just one kiss.
“God, we can’t,” Christen sighed, her eyes squeezed tightly shut as her lips tingled and her heart cried out for more.
Her hand flexed against Tobin’s hip, and she wasn’t entirely sure which one of them made the next move, but what only should have happened once, was now happening again. It was as if they had never stopped their first kiss, the two of them seamlessly picking up where they had left off, lips pressing softly, chastely against one another’s.
And in hindsight, Christen realized it was entirely her fault for the kiss moving into something more.
Without conscious thought, Christen parted her lips and deepened the kiss, moving her hand to grip tightly onto the front of Tobin’s sweatshirt, pulling on the soft Adidas material and bringing their bodies flush together.
Tobin’s arms were around Christen in a second, grasping at her back and pulling her impossibly closer. Her tongue was brushing along Christen’s bottom lip and a soft moan was slipping from her lips into Christen’s mouth.
Christen moved her hand into Tobin’s hair, finally running those effortless waves through her fingers like she’d longed to as she matched Tobin, pace for pace.
Gentle nips of teeth and teasingly slipped tongues through parted lips were traded back and forth as hands roamed and the crackling tension between them was finally explored.
And Tobin never wanted to stop exploring. She sucked gently on Christen’s bottom lip and slid her hands up and down Christen’s sides, squeezing her hips with each pass of her hands.
A few times she felt her thumbs catch on the hem of Christen’s sweater, but she didn’t allow herself to fully slip her fingers under the fabric, to feel Christen’s warm skin against her own. She held her hands back but that didn’t mean she kept her tongue from sliding along the roof of Christen’s mouth. It didn’t stop her from trailing her lips along the underside of Christen’s jaw, down to her pulse point, and back up to her lips, nipping and kissing and soothing Christen’s skin with her tongue.
Christen had never felt this level of desire in the wake of someone’s touch. Her heart was racing and her skin was tingling and she felt hot all over. She could feel every single place where Tobin was touching her, every single place where Tobin’s lips or tongue had been. She was both completely grounded and present, while also completely transcending out of her own body.
And she couldn’t find it in herself to bring a stop to this.
Christen pivoted and pushed Tobin against the balcony railing with her hips as her lips marked a blazing trail down the hard line of Tobin’s jaw. She gently nipped with her teeth and soothed with her tongue as she moved down Tobin’s throat, smiling a bit to herself when she could feel Tobin’s fluttering pulse beneath her tongue.
Tobin couldn’t stop the way she was clinging to Christen or the breathy gasps that were leaving her lips. She couldn’t stop the heat that was coiling low in her stomach or the warmth she could feel radiating from between her legs.
Christen swallowed the next breathy gasp with her lips, kissing Tobin in a desperate sort of way she couldn’t fully understand. It was as if she were trying to seize the moment while she could, clinging to it so tightly because she was afraid it would slip away.
So, she made the absolute most of it.
She pressed Tobin back against the railing and snaked her hands beneath the hem of Tobin’s sweatshirt, gripping tightly onto her bare sides and sighing at the warmth radiating off of Tobin’s skin. She explored every inch of Tobin’s mouth, earning more sighs and gasps with every flick of her tongue against Tobin’s.
With a tentative touch, Christen ran the pads of her fingertips across flexed and tensed abs, charting across skin she’d seen one too many times and finally got to feel. And she wished for time to freeze so she could stay suspended in this moment forever.
Tobin couldn’t hold back the moan that fell from her lips at the touch. She’d wanted this touch. She’d wanted to touch. So, she slid her own hands under Christen’s sweater and matched her touch. She kissed down the column of Christen’s throat, walking her back toward the door to the hotel room and pressing her against it as she touched and kissed with more passion than she ever had with someone.
“Wait- shit- why do you have to-” Christen gasped, a war waged between continuing and stopping as she leaned her head to the side to give Tobin more room to work.
“What?” Tobin asked, pausing with her lips on the corner of Christen’s jaw, her tongue still moving, still soothing a spot where her teeth had just scraped.
“You’re so good at that but we- we can’t ,” Christen said with a breathy sigh, somehow finding the strength to put a pause to this.
If they hadn’t moved toward her room, she might have indulged a little bit longer. But the intent was clear, as was the desire. And even if they both wanted it, they couldn’t continue.
She slowly removed her hand from beneath Tobin’s sweatshirt, loosening her other hand from the hair at the back of Tobin’s head. She gently cradled Tobin’s cheek and pulled her away, leaning her forehead against Tobin’s and taking in a few deep lungfuls of air.
“Are you sure we can’t?” Tobin asked, letting out a quiet, hoarse laugh. She pulled her own hands away, straightening Christen’s sweater and resting her hands on Christen’s now fully covered hips.
“I want to,” Christen whispered, a shaky breath leaving her lips as her hands cradled Tobin’s cheeks. “But you’re…I sign your checks and four hours ago you punched a Portland player because you’re still hurting. So as much as I want to, we can’t.”
Tobin let out a long breath of air that definitely came out like a whine. She squeezed her eyes shut and let go of Christen’s hips, opting to stick her hands into her pockets so as not to do anything that Christen had just stopped.
“I’d still want to kiss you if I hadn’t punched a player,” Tobin mumbled, still feeling her lips tingle with all that they’d touched.
Christen managed a small smile, tracing her thumbs across Tobin’s cheekbones reverently.
“I’m still going to want to kiss you even though I sign your checks,” Christen admitted softly.
“We could just kiss really secretly,” Tobin sighed, leaning into Christen’s touch.
Christen let out a soft laugh, dropping a fleeting kiss to the corner of Tobin’s mouth just because her resolve was already weakening.
“I don’t think it would be good if we got caught doing that,” Christen replied softly. “And as much as I love being around you, you have to go or I’m going to…not be able to stop myself from kissing you.”
“So, you’re gonna be super strong and not do this again?” Tobin asked, taking a step back and reaching for the door that led into the hotel room.
“We can’t,” Christen repeated, her hands falling to her sides.
“That wasn’t the question,” Tobin grinned, sliding the door open and stepping into the room.
“It wasn’t a fair question,” Christen called after Tobin.
“I’m just asking if you’re gonna have great willpower and never do that again? Because I’m planning on wooing you,” Tobin shrugged, shuffling backward toward the door, her lips set in a playful smile.
“I’m a very strong-willed woman,” Christen said, crossing her arms over her chest and going for calm and collected. But the blush in her cheeks and her kiss-swollen lips made her look far more affected than she wanted.
“And if I said that I’m planning to pursue you, would you be upset?” Tobin asked, leaning back against the door with her hand poised on the handle.
“I would remind you that we really shouldn’t be pursuing anything,” Christen replied, knowing her answer wasn’t really an answer. Again. “I’m your boss.”
“That wasn’t really my question. Would you like me to not pursue you?” Tobin asked, clarifying what she was asking.
“Tobin, I…” Christen sighed, her green eyes flashing with hope while her arms remained tightly crossed in front of her chest. “Of course I want you to, but I can’t-”
“Let me know if that changes,” Tobin interrupted with a nod, pulling open the hotel room door and slipping into the hallway.
will they...won't they...to woo or not to woo...
you'll probably find out the answers in the next few chapters! we'll post another one soon :)
-sam & emma
Chapter 5: You Make It Real
morning after, merch, and meetings in the gym
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The next morning, Christen tapped her fingers across her bent knee, looking out the window of the plane. She wondered if the seat next to her would be occupied by the woman she’d fallen asleep thinking about, the one who’d left tattoos of her touch behind.
And then she caught a whiff of lavender and she had her answer.
Tobin sank down into her regular seat and slid her backpack under the seat in front of her. She flipped open her book and scanned the first page, trying her best not to freak out the woman next to her while simultaneously attempting to come up with a plan to convince Christen that she might be worth the risk.
“Good-” Christen paused to clear her throat, her voice having come out far breathier than it should have. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” Tobin sing-songed, shooting a lopsided smile in Christen’s direction. “Sleep well?”
Christen blushed and shook her head, moving her attention back out the window.
“Tossed and turned. You?”
“Slept like a baby, and by that I mean I woke up like three times and then had to go on a walk and listen to music before I could fall asleep again,” Tobin teased.
“I’m sorry it was a restless night,” Christen replied, her fingers tapping along her knee as her stomach flipped.
“That’s okay. I’m looking forward to getting back home and taking a nice long shower and sleeping in my own bed,” Tobin sighed, leaning back in her chair to stretch her back a little.
Christen couldn't help the way her eyes flicked over to focus on the barest hint of tanned skin between the waistband of Tobin’s joggers and the hem of her shirt that was riding up due to her stretch. She could still remember the warmth that had radiated off of Tobin’s skin, the way she was the perfect combination of hard muscles and soft curves.
A small patch of bare skin and Christen was immediately thrown back to last night, causing her heart rate to pick up, her tongue darting out to wet her lips.
“Do you have any fun plans for when we get back to Denver?” Tobin asked, settling into her chair again but beginning to run her fingers through her own hair and push it off of her shoulder.
“Um...what?” Christen asked, completely unfocused on the words coming out of Tobin’s mouth as she watched Tobin’s fingers run through her hair.
“Do you have anything fun planned for when we get back home?” Tobin repeated, still touseling her hair.
“No, uh- I don’t- uh, no plans,” Christen managed, swallowing thickly and physically having to force herself to look away from Tobin’s slightly damp hair, wanting nothing more than to run her fingers through it again.
“A lazy Sunday?” Tobin wondered aloud, sitting so that her knees were far apart, one almost touching Christen’s.
“I have work to catch up on,” Christen said in reply, bending down to reach into her bag and pull out her iPad.
“Speaking of,” Tobin hummed, turning to look at Christen. “Do you think you could give me the number of that contractor you know? I’ve been thinking about remodeling the bathroom and making the shower a little bigger. It really only fits one person right now, and a bench might be nice.”
Christen jerked at the insinuation behind Tobin’s words, accidentally smacking her forehead against the tray table as she pulled out her iPad. She sat back and held a hand to her forehead, narrowing her eyes in Tobin’s direction.
“Are you okay?” Tobin asked, keeping her face looking as innocent as possible.
“You’re going to be like this all the time now, aren’t you? With the innuendos and the touseling,” Christen whispered in accusation.
“I don’t really know what you’re talking about,” Tobin whispered back. “Do you want me to find another seat?”
“Do you want to find another seat?” Christen asked, her voice impossibly quiet, her hand still pressed against her smarting forehead.
“Not particularly. I’m really comfortable right here,” Tobin answered, flipping a page in her book for emphasis.
“Just know two can play at this little game you’ve got going on,” Christen said softly, dropping her hand to her lap and wincing at the sting of pain in her head.
“That’s kind of the point. I’m hoping you’ll decide to play and we can continue what was very responsibly stopped last night,” Tobin murmured so quietly that Christen had to strain to hear.
“We can’t, so just stop touseling your hair and I’ll be fine,” Christen grumbled, scrolling through some emails on her iPad.
“Fine, stop doing that thing with your lip,” Tobin huffed.
“What thing? I’m not doing anything.”
“That thing where you purse your lips when you’re wanting to get work done,” Tobin explained.
“Well, I’ll stop that if you stop unnecessarily flexing your biceps,” Christen shot back in a low voice.
“I’m not flexing,” Tobin snorted. “I’m a professional athlete.”
“I’m very aware.”
“You could be even more aware if you want,” Tobin sing-songed as she slipped her bottom lip between her teeth.
Christen shifted a little in her seat, feeling that same heat prickling across her skin at Tobin’s words and the gentle bump of Tobin’s knee against hers.
“Tobin,” she said in warning. “No lip-biting either.”
“What about breathing? Can I do that?” Tobin asked with a playful smirk.
“Somehow, you also manage to make that attractive, but alas,” Christen murmured, her lips twitching up into an amused half-smile. “Breathe away.”
“What’s your lotion? Lemon? Orange?” Tobin wondered.
“Cucumber and aloe,” Christen whispered in reply.
“There has to be something citrusy in there,” Tobin muttered mostly to herself, her eyebrows furrowing in thought.
“There’s grapefruit in my hair product,” Christen hummed, smiling a little to herself at how distraught Tobin looked over trying to figure out where the citrus notes came from.
“There we go,” Tobin nodded, her forehead relaxing as she sank back in her seat.
“I know what you’re doing, and it’s not going to work,” Christen murmured, a sad hint to her voice.
“What am I doing?” Tobin asked, focusing all of her attention on Christen, her eyes wide and searching.
“You’re making it impossible to stick to the responsible decision,” Christen replied, her eyes holding Tobin’s.
“Does the responsible decision make your stomach flutter? Does it make your chest warm up? Will it make you smile so hard it hurts? Will it keep your bed warm and take you out to dinner?” Tobin argued softly, letting a few of her thoughts out since she’d spent most of her night making pro and con lists, only to come up with the decision that she just wanted to see where this could go, screw the responsible decisions she should probably make.
Christen nearly faltered at that moment. In the face of such raw vulnerability and want on Tobin’s face, in the face of such honesty and genuine desire, she almost caved.
But then she caught sight of Laura sitting across the aisle from them, a pointed arched brow aimed in Christen’s direction, and Christen immediately sat back in her seat, putting some distance between them.
“No, it won’t do any of those things,” Christen admitted softly, turning her attention back to the iPad. “But there’s no way around it.”
“Okay,” Tobin sighed, reaching into her pocket and pulling out Airpods to tune out the rest of the flight.
Tobin knocked three times on Christen’s office door, shooting a smile at Connor when he waved.
“Did you just say ‘yeah’?” Tobin teased, poking her head inside Christen’s office. “I could be the president of U.S. Soccer.”
Christen looked up from her paperwork and felt a smile stubbornly make its way across her face.
“My apologies, your Highness. You may enter,” Christen replied jokingly.
“Happy birthday,” Tobin said, holding up an Avalanche backpack and carrying it over to Christen’s desk.
Christen felt her forehead furrow. “It’s not my birthday,” she pointed out, warily eyeing the backpack.
“Well, you can’t keep the wrapping, since it’s my travel bag, but everything inside is for you,” Tobin said with a lopsided grin.
“We’ve established it’s not my birthday, so why did you fill your travel bag with stuff?”
“I’ve waited long enough to give this to you, so pretend just for the moment and open it,” Tobin chuckled, rocking onto the balls of her feet in excitement.
Christen shook her head affectionately at the way Tobin could barely contain her elation and opened the backpack.
“Is this…” she trailed off, pulling out black Adidas joggers, a royal blue Adidas sweatshirt, and a short-sleeve white Adidas t-shirt.
“Much comfier to travel in? Yes, it is,” Tobin nodded.
“But we don’t have a number 23,” Christen said with a wrinkled brow, smoothing her thumb across the number on the leg of the pants.
“That’s you. Look,” Tobin answered, reaching out for the t-shirt and showing the small word Owner underneath the number 23. “Special order.”
Christen delicately folded the travel gear and set them on top of the table, finding herself a little choked up at the sincerity behind the gesture.
“I don’t quite know what to say,” Christen managed, offering Tobin a small smile.
“Well, if you hate them, I’ll pack it up and leave. If you love them, I’ll tell Audrey we did an awesome job. She really did the leg work. I just made the request.”
Christen knew it was probably the wrong decision, but she stood up from her desk anyway. She pulled Tobin in for a quick hug, not letting herself relax into the embrace like she wanted to, but needing to convey her gratitude in this way.
“Thank you,” Christen whispered fiercely, before pulling out of the hug and moving back behind her desk, putting some much-needed space between them.
“No problem,” Tobin said with an easy smile. “Keep my joggers too. I got a replacement.”
Before Christen could fight the offer, Tobin was whistling as she walked out of her office.
Tobin had found a way to derail her every single day of this week so far.
Monday was the sweet gesture with the travel gear. Tuesday was a particular brand of torture because training that day involved shirts versus sports bras, and Tobin had found a way to exist in just a sports bra all of training. Which Christen had a perfect view of from her office window. On Wednesday, Tobin had sent her french fries and a cupcake with the promise to figure out her ‘thing’ someday soon.
And today was Thursday and Tobin was still doing it, derailing her week.
Phoebe had come in with the rough cut of the goal songs that each member of the team selected. Except they were missing Tobin’s, so naturally, Phoebe had to bring Tobin in.
Christen tapped her fingers along the wooden table in the conference room as she waited for Phoebe to return with Tobin, the goal song for Emily Sonnett coming from Phoebe’s computer.
“You can literally pick a random song,” Tobin insisted as she followed Phoebe into the room in her training gear, cleats still on her feet and tracking grass onto the carpet.
“That takes away the whole point of an individualized goal song!” Phoebe disagreed.
“She’s not wrong. You could just tell us your favorite song and we can use that,” Christen offered with a soft smile on her face as she looked over at Tobin.
“I don’t have a favorite song that’s appropriate for all ages,” Tobin admitted with a sigh.
“Been there with Sonnett already,” Phoebe shuddered, pulling her laptop in front of her. “Come on, give us something, Tobin.”
“Fine, what are your favorite songs?” Tobin asked.
“ Brutal by Olivia Rodrigo,” Phoebe said with zero hesitation. “That could be a good goal song. Good beat.”
“Oh, that is good,” Tobin hummed, smiling at Phoebe before she spun in her chair and raised an eyebrow at Christen.
When she realized Tobin wasn’t going to let her off the hook, Christen sighed and tried not to blush.
“Um, You Make It Real by James Morrison,” she offered in reply. “But it’s slow, so it wouldn’t really work.”
“Great! Let’s go with that one,” Tobin clapped her hands, pushing out of her chair and standing up. “Are we all set?”
“Are you sure you want to use that?” Phoebe wondered as she looked up the song.
“ Make it Real or whatever sounds good,” Tobin assured with an easy smile.
“ You Make It Real ,” Christen corrected, shaking her head slightly at Tobin.
“I’ll make it real on the pitch,” Tobin grinned, making her way through the door and back to the locker room.
“That’s not a goal celebration song,” Phoebe said, playing the music out loud for Christen.
“She’ll learn that the hard way,” Christen chuckled, feeling her heart do that stupid fluttering thing it did whenever Tobin did something sweet.
“I just hope she isn’t our only goal scorer on Saturday,” Phoebe laughed, adding the song to her list.
The first time Tobin scored and You Make It Real blasted through the stadium, Christen had nearly laughed so hard she cried.
Tobin’s face was priceless. She looked mildly horrified, definitely shocked, and utterly perplexed at the song choice.
The fan’s reactions were priceless as well. The first time the song played, the entire stadium had fallen into a confused silence, a stadium that got fuller and louder every week.
By the third goal Tobin scored, the fans were singing along with James Morrison, but Tobin still looked like she regretted the goal song choice, especially when Sonnett kept running past her singing it at full volume.
“You busy?” Laura asked, knocking on the doorframe to Christen’s office.
“I’ve been busy since April. What’s up?” Christen replied, shooting Laura a tired half-smile.
“I wanted your input on a decision. There’s an impromptu National Team camp.”
“Who would they ask for?” Christen wondered, already knowing the answer but trying not to let her disappointment show.
“Sullivan, Macario, and Heath,” Laura answered.
“Let them go,” Christen replied softly.
“Are you sure? It isn’t a Fifa window, so it’s up to you.”
“Ask them if they’d like to go. Give them the choice,” Christen offered. “I won’t make it for them again. They’re not pawns in a game.”
“You say that a lot. Who put that bug in your ear?” Laura asked, taking a seat across from Christen’s desk.
Christen leaned back in her desk chair, starting to roll up the sleeves of her button-up painstakingly slowly.
“You two seem close,” Laura observed, smiling softly so as not to freak Christen out with the statement.
“Laura,” Christen sighed with a small shake of her head. “Not the tree to bark up, okay?”
“All I’ll say is...it might go against contracts and maybe even my personal beliefs that I have about business and pleasure, but as long as it’s...caring then I won’t-”
“Oh my God, Laura,” Christen interrupted with an embarrassed laugh.
“I’m on your team, and I love you and I tolerate Tobin. I wouldn’t say anything if something was going on. That’s all,” Laura promised.
“Nothing’s going on,” Christen assured with a small, sad half-smile.
“You’re sad about that,” Laura said matter-of-factly.
“Don’t you have players to inform about National camp?” Christen pivoted, not wanting to allow herself to entertain any ideas about Tobin Heath.
“I’m here if you ever need to talk,” Laura sighed, getting out of her chair and leaving Christen alone.
When the door shut, Christen let her forehead fall to the desk, a tired sigh leaving her lips.
Ignoring the kiss she’d shared with Tobin and what it sparked within her was exhausting. Ignoring how she felt and what she felt for Tobin was even more exhausting. Tobin was just everywhere, with that damn smile and those soft eyes and Christen was only human. She was human and she knew what it felt like to be touched by those strong hands, to be kissed by those rough yet soft lips. She was only human and her defenses were crumbling.
In search of some zen, Christen got up from her desk and grabbed her gym bag.
“So, there you have it. The choice is yours,” Laura announced, looking around the locker room at the three players.
“Seriously?” Tobin asked, wide-eyed and confused.
“That was the message from the top down,” Laura nodded.
“Hell yes, I want to go,” Cat grinned. “It’s my first call-up.”
“I’m in too,” Andi agreed with a smile of her own.
“Me three,” Tobin nodded, slinging an arm around Cat’s shoulders as the younger player practically vibrated with excitement.
“I’ll tell Christen to waive you three for next week then,” Laura replied, getting to her feet.
“Can you tell her thank you for giving us the choice?” Tobin asked.
“I’m not USPS. Deliver the message yourself,” Laura tossed over her shoulder.
“I love you too, Harvey!” Tobin called out, her smile infectiously big.
“Will you tell Christen for us, Tobs? I want to go and get some extra shooting practice in,” Cat said, jumping to her feet and grabbing her cleats from her locker.
“Sure. I am USPS,” Tobin joked, heading out of the locker room and toward the stairs that led to the administrative part of the building.
“She’s not in her office,” Connor offered with a smile.
“Where is she?”
“Gym. Take the elevator down two floors, then turn right,” Connor instructed.
“Admin has a gym?” Tobin asked.
“Admin gets everything,” Connor joked with an eye roll.
“All right. Thanks for the info,” Tobin laughed, running to catch the elevator before the doors closed. She rode down two floors and then went to her right, already seeing Christen through the glass window of the gym, bending into a position that Tobin didn’t think was possible.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Tobin breathed out as she pushed through the door into the empty gym.
Christen was in tight-fitting leggings and a tank top. Her hair was piled in a bun at the top of her head. She was balancing on one leg and doing some weird twisty thing with the other. And Tobin was only human. She couldn’t help thinking about Christen’s slightly sweaty skin, about Christen’s flexibility, about her muscles, about how she’d look doing other strenuous activities.
“Don’t freak out and spill tea on your pants,” Tobin said, announcing her presence in the gym.
Christen smoothly moved out of the pose, having heard the door open, so she wasn’t startled by the announcement. She was just a little surprised that Tobin was in the admin gym in the middle of the day.
“That was one time,” Christen replied, letting out a deep breath and fully coming out of her meditative state. She opened her eyes and looked over at Tobin with a small smile.
“I wanted to say thank you,” Tobin said, trying to ignore the heat coiling low in her body.
“You don’t have to thank me for being a decent human being,” Christen pointed out, lifting the hem of her tank top and wiping away the sweat collected on her forehead.
Tobin stepped back and nearly knocked into an elliptical. She grabbed onto it to steady herself as she moved her eyes away from Christen’s abdomen and up to her eyes.
“Well, thank you anyway because lots of people aren’t decent. Cat, Andi, and I appreciate it.”
“Selfishly, I wanted to release them and not you,” Christen admitted with a small shrug.
“Why’s that?” Tobin chuckled, her voice coming out slightly strained.
“I’ll…miss you,” Christen said simply, her hands falling to her hips.
“I’m gonna miss you too,” Tobin admitted, absentmindedly wetting her bottom lip.
Silence descended upon them as they looked at one another, so much passing between them with just a look. Wants and desires and emotions hung in the air.
And Christen was only human, and she was going to miss Tobin terribly.
“I know I’m sweaty, but can I give you a hug goodbye? A week and a half is a long time to go without your near-daily ‘look at my Adidas socks’ announcements,” Christen asked with a small smile playing at her lips.
“Sweaty is a normal occurrence in here,” Tobin forced out, stepping forward and feeling an ache build between her legs, one that she’d been feeling since the balcony. She walked closer to Christen, trying to ignore every single thought she had about Christen that wasn’t workplace-appropriate.
Christen met Tobin halfway, sinking into the hug easily. Her arms wrapped around Tobin’s neck and Tobin’s wrapped around her waist, their entire bodies pressed flush together in the hug.
“Be safe. Play smart,” Christen whispered.
“Don’t get too stressed out,” Tobin whispered back.
“No promises,” Christen chuckled, tucking her face into the side of Tobin’s head, burying her nose in Tobin’s hair.
“If you get a dick client, send them to me,” Tobin murmured, squeezing Christen tightly, her hands splayed across Christen’s back.
With another chuckle, Christen leaned back, completely meaning to unwind her arms from around Tobin’s shoulders and step back, but finding herself caught in Tobin’s soft gaze instead.
“And make sure to go to the practice field and de-stress if you need to,” Tobin added, forcing her eyes to stay on Christen’s and not flick down to Christen’s lips.
“It won’t be the same without you,” Christen said softly, staying in Tobin’s arms for just a little bit longer.
“For the first time, I thought about saying no,” Tobin admitted, matching Christen’s volume.
“The Avalanche will be here when you come back,” Christen replied with a fluttering heart, her eyes inadvertently dropping to Tobin’s lips before rising to meet Tobin’s eyes again. She meant something else, she wanted to say something else, but still, she hesitated.
“Right,” Tobin nodded, letting go of Christen and running a hand through her hair. “I’ll see you- all of you in a couple of weeks then.”
Christen could only let Tobin turn and walk a few steps away before she erred on the side of foolishness again. Her damn defenses had crumbled and she wasn’t hesitating any longer.
She reached out and wrapped a hand around Tobin’s wrist, pulling her back around. She didn’t give Tobin a chance to question it before she was pulling Tobin in with a hand around the back of her neck, crashing their lips together.
Tobin sank into the kiss, picking up right where they’d left off in Portland. Her kisses were soft but needy. Her hands wandered over Christen’s thin workout shirt. And the sighs that fell from her lips were uncontrollable. She’d been longing for this since she’d left Christen’s hotel room in Portland. She’d been thinking about Christen’s lips and hands on her body, dreaming about them, hoping for them.
“I’ll be here,” Christen breathed out, panting the words against Tobin’s lips. “When you get back, I’ll be here.”
“Now I really don’t want to go,” Tobin mumbled into the tiny bit of space between their lips.
With a soft laugh, Christen left a lingering kiss on Tobin’s lips and then took a small step back.
“The sooner you go, the sooner you’re back,” Christen murmured, her cheeks flushed and her green eyes sparkling.
“That’s definitely not how it works, but I appreciate the sentiment,” Tobin grinned, stepping back and leaving even more space between herself and Christen. “I’ll see you in two weeks.”
“See you in two weeks,” Christen nodded, hoping that the ghost of Tobin’s lips on her own wouldn’t fade for the entirety of the time Tobin was gone.
We hope you enjoyed Chapter 5!
We talked a lot yesterday about feeling overwhelmed given expectations of us posting this story, as well as others. If you were on Tumblr, you know what we're talking about. Yesterday we saw a few messages expressing disappointment that we weren’t posting, which didn’t feel great. While we felt a lot of support from a majority of the anon messages in our inbox, the others left a bad taste in our mouths. We’re people who have lives and responsibilities and struggles that don’t have to do with writing.
We think we are both in a place right now where we need to take a tiny break. We’ve been dealing with a lot outside of the fic world, and while writing has been an escape, posting has become more stressful than joyful. And that’s not something we’ve ever wanted to happen.
As Glennon Doyle would say, you should disappoint everyone else before you disappoint yourself. We don’t want to sacrifice ourselves to meet expectations. We’re just gonna take a little break while we re-fill our own emotional buckets and deal with some personal stuff.
We will be back, we promise!
-sam & emma
Chapter 6: Fall Into Me
ex-wives, evasion, and explanations in a bar
Hi everyone! Here is a chapter for your weekend. We hope everyone is staying safe, healthy, and as happy as possible given the state of the world. We love you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Woah! Snazzy office,” Brooke cooed from the doorway.
“How’d you get up here?” Christen laughed, standing up from her desk chair.
“Connor loves me,” Brooke chuckled, hurrying into the room and shutting the door behind her.
“Clearly security doesn’t respect my ‘do not ever let this person enter the premises’ notices,” Christen joked, moving around her desk and leaning against the front of it.
“Ha. Ha. Ha. You’re so funny, sweetie,” Brooke grinned, opening her arms to hug Christen.
Christen stepped into the familiar embrace and patted Brooke on the back. “Not that I’m complaining, but what brings you in?”
“Can’t a woman want to see her ex-wife and give her a hug?” Brooke teased, leaving a tiny kiss on Christen’s cheek.
Christen grumbled good-naturedly and wiped at the lipstick on her cheek. “You know I hate that.”
“Sorry,” Brooke smirked. “I was actually hoping to ask for a favor?”
“There’s the ex-wife I know and tolerate,” Christen grinned.
“You love me. You’re just not in love with me because I’m a shit and we stopped lusting after each other,” Brooke hummed, already messing with a paperweight on Christen’s desk.
“What’s the favor?” Christen asked with an affectionate shake of her head as she watched Brooke move around her office.
“I was hoping I could come to the game Friday night,” Brooke said, smiling over at Christen.
“Of course, you can.”
“Can I...sit in the nice seat? I promise not to talk during the game.”
Christen narrowed her eyes. “You want to sit in the box with me?”
“Yes, it’s so much nicer than general admission seating. I’ll be quiet as a mouse,” Brooke promised.
“You better be,” Christen warned.
“I just want to see the amazing things you’ve done with the team. I’ve heard some great things,” Brooke said.
“Top seven through the middle of August isn’t half bad,” Christen beamed, beyond proud of the accomplishments of her team this season.
“I went out with this girl a few nights ago, and she told me about how many more fans were coming, so I figured it would be nice to check it out myself and see what magic my ex-wife has done,” Brooke added, reaching out and squeezing Christen’s hand.
“The seat is yours if you want to come see the magic,” Christen replied, squeezing Brooke’s hand in return.
“You’re my favorite ex-wife, and I love you,” Brooke cheered, wrapping Christen up in another hug.
“Love you too,” Christen said with a roll of her eyes, patting Brooke on the back as they hugged again.
“I’ll see you Friday and duct tape my mouth,” Brooke sighed happily, nearly skipping to the office door.
Christen watched her ex-wife go with a shake of her head, moving back around her desk. She grabbed her phone from where she’d abandoned it, pulling up the U.S. National Team Instagram she’d been lowkey stalking for almost two weeks.
She’d gotten glimpses and brief snippets of Tobin at camp from whoever ran the social media for the National Team. They were never long enough, but just seeing her in the back of a video or in a short interview had Christen beaming and counting down the days.
The Instagram story the team had posted two hours ago was about Tobin, Cat, and Andi arriving back in Denver, so Christen knew they were back. Probably already with the team or doing recovery, but they were back, and Tobin was back, and Christen felt like she could breathe a little easier.
The kiss in the gym two weeks ago hadn’t been planned, and she wasn’t entirely sure what it changed. She promised to be there, but she wasn’t sure how to navigate the murky waters or if she should give up her ‘ we can’t do this ’ stance completely. But she wasn’t worried about it right now. All she cared about was seeing Tobin again.
“I told Tobin to wait, but she said she’d just come by later,” Connor said, poking his head into the office after Brooke had left.
“Tobin was here?” Christen asked, shooting to her feet and dropping her phone to the floor, the National Team Instagram story continuing to play.
“Yeah, she came by, but she said you looked busy and said she didn’t want to miss practice with the team,” Connor nodded. “I also got a call from a possible sponsor. I told them you’d call back.”
Christen wanted to go after Tobin, to drag her into the gym or some storage closet or the elevator and hug her and tell her how much she missed her.
But Tobin had training and she had a sponsor to call.
“Send me the sponsor’s information,” Christen said, sitting back down in her chair and vowing to see Tobin later.
Tobin had avoided every inch of the stadium that wasn’t a field or the locker room. She’d jogged from the locker room to her car after practice, not wanting to bump into Christen after the image of Christen hugging a woman, of that woman kissing Christen on the cheek, a woman who Connor had explained was her ex-wife, was burned into her brain. She’d just needed to go home, shower, and try and forget that she’d seen it.
Day two, she’d run from her car to the locker room for recovery. It had been short and sweet and easy, followed by lunch with a few teammates. And game day was so busy that Tobin didn’t see Christen at all until she was sitting on the bench and looking up at the owner’s box.
Because of National camp, she, Cat, and Andi were sidelined, not even in cleats or a uniform. They were in warm-ups and street shoes, cheering on their teammates as they faced Louisville. Tobin tried her hardest to focus on the team, to cheer when appropriate, but that was hard to do when her eyes were stuck on Christen’s box, where Christen and another woman, who looked a lot like Christen’s ex-wife, sat watching the game intently.
No matter how much she tried to remind herself that Christen had told her it was unprofessional and something they couldn’t do, it still stung a little to see Christen with someone else. It hurt more than she’d expected to see that Christen wasn’t there when she got back. It hurt even more than she was letting herself feel on the bench under the stadium lights. It hurt, and she was just biding her time until she could go home and openly be sad about it.
“Who are you right now?” Brooke snorted, elbowing Christen in the arm.
Christen blinked and focused on the game, forcing her gaze away from Tobin’s slumped form on the bench.
“What do you mean?” Christen asked, pretending like she had a clue how the Avalanche had stolen the ball from Louisville and were now on the counter.
“You’re usually the one staring at the game, and I’m usually the one zoning out.”
“I am staring at the game,” Christen scoffed.
“You’re staring at the bench. Who’s on the bench?” Brooke asked, leaning forward to get a better look.
“Ten players on the game roster and three that just returned from National Team duty,” Christen replied, hoping Brooke would just drop it.
“Why isn’t my star player playing today?” Brooke wondered, staring down at the field. “She’s number seven, right?”
Christen tucked some curls behind her ear and cleared her throat. “She just came back from camp. She has a game off to recover, same as the other two players who were also at camp with her.”
“Where is she on the bench?”
“The one in the baseball cap,” Christen said, not even needing to look back at the bench to know what Tobin was wearing.
“So, how long have you been sleeping with her?” Brooke asked with a smirk, playfully knocking her shoulder into Christen’s.
Christen flushed and a mock offended scoff left her lips. “I’m not sleeping with her!” she protested, a bit too loudly since the people in the boxes adjacent to theirs shot her weird looks.
“Relax. I believe you, sweetie,” Brooke whispered. “How long have you been wanting to sleep with her?”
“That’s just-” Christen huffed, crossing her arms over her chest, “-besides the point. It doesn’t matter how long because it shouldn’t- can’t happen.”
“Well, that’s pessimistic,” Brooke scoffed.
“Realistic. You gave me the team, a star player, and screwed me in the process, so thank you for that.”
“How on earth did I screw you? I gave you a team that you’ve made way more lucrative than I ever did and a hot woman for you to have fun with, and I didn’t even know it when I traded for her!” Brooke said in her own defense.
“You can meet her after the game,” Christen sighed, turning her attention back to the game.
“Great! I want to meet the woman my ex-wife wants to bone,” Brooke announced, leaning back in her chair.
“Please behave,” Christen begged, shooting Brooke an exasperated look.
“Me?!” Brooke gasped, holding a hand over her heart.
“Please?” Christen asked softly, her eyes pleading.
“You like her. You want to more than just bone her,” Brooke observed, wrapping an arm around Christen’s shoulders and squeezing gently.
Christen felt her cheeks flush again as she sank into Brooke’s side. “Like I said, I’m screwed,” she grumbled, her eyes drifting over to look at Tobin on the bench once again.
“Great game,” Tobin complimented, squeezing Sonnett’s shoulders as she walked past toward her locker.
“Missed you out there!” Sonnet called after Tobin.
“You clearly didn’t,” Tobin grinned, loving the energy that her team had after their 1-0 victory. “You want to get dinner after this?”
Laura captured everyone’s attention with a few claps of her hands, ending the chatting around the locker room.
“Before you all go out and responsibly celebrate this win, I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to our old owner, who has kindly graced us with her presence,” Laura said, stepping to the side to let Christen lead Brooke into the locker room.
“Great win tonight, team,” Christen beamed, looking around the locker room at the sweaty, happy faces.
Tobin kept her eyes on her Jordans, unable to look up at the owner of that sweet, soft voice.
“This is Brooke Landers. She owned the team the past few years, but I won you guys in the divorce,” Christen chuckled.
“I love watching you way more now that I don’t have to do the paperwork,” Brooke teased, making a few of the players laugh. “You all played great tonight. So...who wants to go out for a celebration dinner? And by dinner I mean clubbing!”
"Within reason,” Christen warned, a sentiment Laura echoed.
“It’s on me. Don’t worry,” Brooke beamed with a wave of her hand.
“I love the Press Era!” Sonnett whooped, already pulling off her cleats and shinguards.
“Sweet!” Caitlin added as the rest of the players hurried to shower and get ready, leaving the three players from National camp sitting in the locker room.
“My star purchase,” Brooke greeted, stepping up toward Tobin with her hand outstretched and a wide smile on her face.
Tobin offered a tight smile, not liking the term star purchase at all. She stood up from her seat in front of her locker and offered a hand for Brooke to shake.
“Maybe don’t call her a purchase, Brooke,” Christen advised, moving to hover just behind Brooke, her eyes settling on Tobin for the first time in days. It was weird not to have seen her up close until now, and Christen wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the distance between them and the distance in her favorite pair of brown eyes.
“She gets it. It’s funny,” Brooke grinned.
“It’s not,” Christen pointed out.
“It’s fine. Good to meet you. Thanks for buying me or whatever,” Tobin mumbled, reaching into her locker to look for a change of clothes once Brooke was finished shaking her hand.
“Umm, how was camp?” Christen asked, trying to catch Tobin’s eye.
“It was fine,” Tobin shrugged as she pulled out a pair of black jeans.
“It was awesome,” Cat tacked on from her own locker.
Christen offered Cat a smile. “You should stop by my office next week and tell me all about it. You too, Andi.”
“Like coffee with the boss instead of biscuits with the boss. This is super Ted Lasso,” Andi laughed from the other side of the locker room.
“I love that show!” Brooke gushed. “I’m totally the Keeley to Chris’ Roy Kent.”
Christen rolled her eyes at the comment, laughing softly along with the rest of the people in the locker room.
Tobin pulled out a shirt and turned around to walk to the back of the locker room. She didn’t really feel like changing in front of Keeley and Roy tonight.
“Coffee with the boss next week?” Christen called after Tobin, hoping to get some sign that things were okay between them now that Tobin was back from camp.
“Sure,” Tobin answered, trying to figure out how she could get out of this team clubbing.
“I swear, she was acting weird!” Christen shouted to Brooke in the deafeningly-loud club, her words a little slower after her third mule.
“Are you sure she’s into you?” Brooke asked, staring at where Sonnett was trying to get Tobin to dance.
Christen felt her bottom lip poke out in a pout, something that never happened when she was sober.
“Maybe she isn’t,” Christen sighed, stirring the ice around in her cup. “She kissed me like she was though.”
“You two kissed?! Tell me everythin-”
“Are you two like reverse divorcing?” Andi slurred, leaning over Christen’s shoulder.
“No,” Christen shuddered, making a face at the question.
“Absolutely not,” Brooke answered at the same time.
“We don’t love each other,” Christen explained.
“But you’re so cute together. You’ve got that chemistry,” Andi sing-songed, drunk after only half a beer.
Christen and Brooke shared an amused smile before looking back at Andi. “You know that feeling when you find someone and the whole world gets peaceful and safe and settled?” Christen asked before taking a long sip of her mule.
“We never had that. It was chaos all the time and then boredom,” Brooke finished for Christen.
“It wasn’t real,” Christen threw in.
“Damn, now I have to tell Sonny and Toby that we aren’t gonna get to go to your reverse divorce party,” Andi sighed.
“Wait, they think we’re-” Christen paused, gesturing between herself and Brooke.
“Well, yeah. I mean, you’re a little touchy and way friendlier than most divorced couples. You have lipstick on your cheek,” Andi explained, pointing at her own cheek.
“Fuck, Brooke, you know I hate it when you do that!” Christen complained, getting a napkin wet and wiping at her cheek, getting the burgundy color off her skin.
“Sorry, but you get a funny look on your face when you’re annoyed,” Brooke smirked, getting the last bit of lipstick off with her own thumb.
It took a little longer than it should have for Christen to realize the implications of Andi’s words, but in her defense, these mules were strong.
“Oh fuck,” she gasped, her eyes widening in realization.
“What?” Brooke asked, waiting on another drink from the bartender.
“Tobin thinks we’re reverse divorcing,” Christen said with a panicked look on her face.
“Ooooh,” Brooke groaned, making a face at that. “Well, that’s unfortunate. Why don’t I go find someone to dance with and you enjoy this predicament.”
“Sonnett won’t leave her side. Take her,” Christen suggested, downing her drink for the last bit of liquid courage she’d need.
“At your service. I love blondes,” Brooke grinned, following Christen onto the dance floor and making a beeline for Sonnett. She shimmied up to Sonnett and Tobin, leaning close to them and clearly asking to cut in.
“Bye, Toby!” Sonnett declared, moving away with Brooke.
“See you tomorrow,” Tobin chuckled, ready to head out of the bar and get back to her car. She’d hardly been drinking, and all she wanted to do was get home and lie down on her soft couch.
But a hand wrapping around her wrist stopped her. Tobin turned slowly, a pained look on her face.
“Hey,” Tobin mumbled, her eyes moving around the room instead of focusing on Christen.
“Will you come with me?” Christen asked, having to shout over the music that was even louder out here on the dance floor.
“I was gonna head home,” Tobin replied, her voice hardly loud enough to be heard.
“What?” Christen yelled, not catching a single word Tobin said and not nearly sober enough to read lips. Lips that she really shouldn’t have been focusing on right then.
“I was gonna- You know what, sure,” Tobin said louder, not feeling like she had enough willpower to deny Christen, especially not when Christen was touching her for the first time in weeks.
Christen beamed at the response and laced her fingers with Tobin’s, tugging Tobin off the dance floor. She led them up a small flight of stairs to a quieter part of the club. The second floor had a few booths and another bar, but the lack of a dancefloor meant most of the patrons were downstairs.
With surer steps than she felt, Christen led Tobin to the booth in the corner, thankful that there weren’t really any other people up here, giving them some semblance of privacy. She pulled Tobin into the booth with her, keeping their hands clasped as she got settled near Tobin, her body turned toward the brunette.
“It’s quieter up here. Gives us a chance to finally talk,” Christen said softly, no longer needing to shout. She subconsciously ran her thumb along the back of Tobin’s hand, her eyes trying to meet Tobin’s, which continued to skitter away from her.
“Yeah, it is,” Tobin agreed, finally letting her eyes still on Christen’s hand that was holding her own.
“I, umm, I’m not reverse divorcing,” Christen blurted out when she realized Tobin wasn’t going to say anything else.
“What is a reverse divorce?” Tobin asked, her eyebrows scrunching together in confusion.
“Andi said you and Sonnett thought Brooke and I were reverse divorcing, but we’re not,” Christen clarified.
“I definitely didn’t use those words,” Tobin insisted, her cheeks flushing a little at how straightforward Christen was being. “I think I said something like making amends.”
Christen wrinkled her nose at the thought of doing that with Brooke. “Gross, no,” she scoffed. “Definitely not. We’re divorced with a capital D.”
“You had lipstick on your face for like an hour and a half,” Tobin mumbled, feeling like a child with a first crush.
Christen sighed and dropped her face into her free hand, some unintelligible grumbles leaving her lips before she looked back over at Tobin.
“I hate when she does that. I wouldn’t if you did it, but you don’t even wear lipstick, so it’s not like you could,” Christen lamented with a pout.
A tiny smile slipped onto Tobin’s lips at those words and the way Christen was pouting.
“I missed you,” Tobin murmured.
Christen’s face immediately lit up, her pout long gone. “I missed you too,” she hummed in reply, a dreamy, albeit drunk, smile on her face.
“How much have you had to drink?” Tobin asked, very aware that Christen’s eyes were glassy and her words were slurring.
“One for every day you were back in Denver and I didn’t get to kiss you,” Christen admitted, the pout back again in full force.
Tobin’s cheeks flushed at that response, and she had to hold herself back and not move closer and kiss Christen right then in the club. “Do you need a ride home?”
“I’m not leaving this booth until we’re okay,” Christen said with a shake of her head.
“There’s a we ?” Tobin asked, flipping Christen’s hand over and running her fingers over Christen’s palm and the inside of her wrist.
Christen’s brow furrowed in thought, which looked incredibly challenging post-four mules.
“I still think we could get in a lot of trouble if there’s a we,” Christen said slowly.
“Maybe we should talk about a we with a sober you,” Tobin replied with a soft smile.
Christen grumbled and made a face. “Sober me is a stickler. I don’t care about the rules or the trouble right now. Carpe diem! Seize the date with a beautiful woman!”
“I’d definitely love that, but I don’t want drunk you to wake up sober and regret seizing the date.”
Christen got that thoughtful look on her face again, her eyes falling to watch Tobin’s fingertips trace across her palm.
“I could never regret you,” Christen whispered, her words not slurred, instead spoken with such certainty and truth.
Tobin felt her heart flutter in her chest at those words. She couldn’t stop herself from holding onto Christen’s hand, glancing around the second floor of the club, and then pulling Christen’s hand up to press a kiss to the back of it. She moved her lips over each knuckle, then to the palm of Christen’s hand, and finally to the inside of her wrist.
“We can talk more about an us tomorrow. You’ll tell me all about rules and trouble, and I’ll try to convince you that we can work around it.”
“You won’t have to try very hard to convince me,” Christen said in a soft voice, a reverent look in her eyes as she gazed over at Tobin.
“I have a full water bottle in my car. If you drink it before we get to your house, I’ll kiss you goodnight,” Tobin teased softly, lacing her fingers with Christen’s again.
Christen beamed and leaned closer, pressing her lips to Tobin’s cheek before leaning back.
“There, now you have lipstick on your face and it’s mine,” Christen grinned.
“Cute,” Tobin chuckled with a shake of her head. “Let’s get you home.”
Christen chugged the entire water bottle in the first five minutes of the drive and spent the remainder of it trying to convince Tobin to let her give Tobin a kiss goodnight before they got to her house.
“I’m operating heavy machinery, and you’re very distracting,” Tobin warned, laughing as Christen tried to lean over the console.
“Thank you,” Christen said with a smile as she leaned over and put her head in Tobin's lap, maneuvering so she was looking up at her.
“You’re a very cute drunk,” Tobin whispered, driving one-handed so that she could brush her other hand over Christen’s forehead, pushing baby hairs away from her face.
“It’s the ginger beer. I don’t know what it does to me,” Christen sighed, her eyes fluttering shut at the feeling of Tobin’s fingers against her skin.
“It’s very cute,” Tobin grinned, scratching gently at Christen’s scalp as she drove.
“I’m a little more sober now, and I still wouldn't regret it,” Christen announced in a soft voice, letting out a tiny yawn.
“You’re sleepy,” Tobin hummed, looking down for a moment at just how adorable Christen was mid-yawn with fluttering eyelids.
“I’m staying awake for a goodnight kiss.”
“I better make it a really good kiss,” Tobin said quietly, turning onto Christen’s street.
“It will be. You’re more talented at kissing than football,” Christen hummed with a sleepy smile.
“Yeah right,” Tobin snorted, squinting a little to see house numbers in the dark.
“I speak the honest to God truth,” Christen affirmed with another tiny yawn. “1087 is my house. It’s got your lucky number in it.”
“It does,” Tobin murmured as she pulled into the driveway, leaning forward to look at the house. “This is huge.”
“I divorced well,” Christen replied with a shrug, not moving from her spot.
“I’ve seen your company’s reviews. It isn’t just the divorce,” Tobin said, looking at the two-story gray house that was modern and tasteful, surrounded by a green lawn and colorful flower beds.
“You Googled me a lot,” Christen said with a giggle.
“I really missed you these past two weeks. What else was I supposed to do?”
“I watched every U.S. Soccer Instagram story like forty times just to see if I could see you,” Christen admitted, reaching up and running her thumb along Tobin’s chin.
“Maybe I should just give you my number next time,” Tobin offered, putting the car in park and focusing all of her attention on Christen.
“Give it to sober me. I won’t remember numbers right now.”
“I knew you weren’t sober,” Tobin laughed, continuing to run her fingers over Christen’s forehead.
“Not right now I’m not. But I am more sober than I was at the club,” Christen argued, dropping her hand from Tobin’s chin and letting her fingers catch in the collar of Tobin’s shirt.
“Mhm,” Tobin hummed, looking at the way Christen was flopped over the console. “How are you comfortable?”
“I’m not,” Christen replied with a smile and another giggle.
“You want to sit up?” Tobin asked with what she was sure was a dopey smile.
Christen nodded and then moved back into the passenger’s seat, surprisingly gracefully. She rolled her neck from side to side and then twisted her back a few times before letting out a sigh.
“Might hurt tomorrow, but it was worth it,” she hummed.
“I’ll have to rub your back and your feet,” Tobin whispered.
Christen shook her head, smiling over at Tobin. “Nope, those aren’t it either.”
“Those aren’t the reward? What if I just want to have an excuse to touch you and a massage sounds like a good excuse.”
“You don’t need an excuse to touch me,” Christen replied softly.
Tobin unbuckled her seatbelt and slipped out of the car, jogging around the front to get to Christen’s door faster.
“In that case,” she breathed out, leaning forward and catching Christen’s lips in a kiss that she’d been wanting to give her for three days. She unbuckled Christen’s seatbelt while her lips and tongue moved against Christen’s, and then she slowly pulled Christen’s legs out of the car and helped Christen stand up, their bodies pressing against one another with ease.
“You didn’t say goodnight. It didn’t count,” Christen murmured with a small smile, her arms looped around Tobin’s neck.
“That was just the practice one,” Tobin mumbled back, chasing Christen’s lips for another kiss.
Christen immediately deepened the kiss, her lowered inhibitions allowing her to move faster and go further than she had before. She traced her tongue along the roof of Tobin’s mouth as she danced her fingertips along the back of Tobin's neck, feeling the other woman shiver against her at the sensation.
Tobin’s hands wandered over Christen’s hips and sides, dipping questionably low on Christen’s lower back as she nipped at Christen’s bottom lip and traced it with her tongue.
“Yeah, you’re better at this than football,” Christen mumbled against Tobin’s lips, sliding her free hand down the front of Tobin’s t-shirt and moving it beneath the hem of the shirt, her hand settling against Tobin’s side.
“Maybe if you decide that you want to do this tomorrow too, I can come over after practice,” Tobin husked, tracing the tip of her nose along Christen’s.
“What time is it?” Christen asked softly, bumping the tip of her nose against Tobin’s.
“Umm...12:47,” Tobin answered, glancing down at her watch.
Christen grinned and pulled Tobin back in for another kiss, this one slower and sweeter, less rushed.
“It’s already tomorrow and I still want to do this,” Christen whispered into the space between their lips.
“Yeah?” Tobin whispered back, reaching up to tuck curls behind Christen’s ears.
“You make it real,” Christen said in reply, leaning into Tobin’s touch and turning her head to press a kiss to one of Tobin’s palms.
“The song?” Tobin asked, a full-bodied laugh falling from her lips.
“Don’t laugh, I was trying to be romantic,” Christen mumbled with a small pout.
“Chris, the song confused every fan. That is not a goal celebration song,” Tobin chuckled, pressing her forehead against Christen’s.
“Yeah, you shouldn’t have picked it,” Christen acknowledged with a chuckle of her own.
“I really wanted to woo you,” Tobin murmured. “I was pursuing you. I’m still pursuing you.”
“Consider me wooed, with you about to be wooed back,” Christen replied with a smile still tinged with a little bit of drunken dopey-ness.
“You can woo in the morning,” Tobin said softly, kissing Christen’s forehead and then both of her eyelids. “Right now, I owe you a good night kiss.”
“Give it to me at my door?” Christen asked, inclining her head at her house.
“You read my mind,” Tobin whispered, wrapping an arm around Christen’s waist and leading the way up the path to the front porch.
Thanks for reading!
We are slowly easing back into posting, but the next month will be hectic for us. So please be patient. Our hiatus is technically over, but our updates will be slow to come. Thank you all for your patience and support.
-sam & emma
Chapter 7: Starlit Afternoon
cures for hangovers, conference calls, and couples that Buzzfeed deems hottest
Happy ACFC game day!
“Another ristretto please, Connor,” Christen called through her open office door, her sunglasses perched on her face and her office lights off.
She was nursing one of the worst hangovers she’d had since college, and yet despite the pounding headache and the queasiness in her stomach, she hadn’t stopped smiling all morning.
Some things about last night were blurry, and she’d have to ask Tobin why her back was hurting, but she remembered the important parts. She remembered telling Tobin she wanted to do this and that she could never regret choosing Tobin.
In the light of day, there were contracts and the media and the workplace to consider, but Christen was ready to consider it. Tobin was worth more than considering it. She was worth it all.
“Ms. Press?” Connor said softly from the doorway.
“Christen,” she corrected with a small smile, not even lifting her head up to look away from the spreadsheet she was looking at.
“Would you mind if Tobin Heath delivers the ristretto? She said something about coffee with the boss.”
Christen schooled her features and glanced up, giving Connor a small nod.
“She said yes,” Connor whispered loudly, holding up a thumbs up for Tobin before she walked in with a coffee cup in hand.
“Hangover express?” Tobin asked, handing over the coffee and dropping into a seat.
Christen took off the sunglasses and winced at the sunlight that filtered in through the window behind her.
“Thank you for the coffee,” Christen said with a small smile.
“I have something for you,” Tobin chuckled, digging through her backpack and pulling out the bottle that she typically drank protein shakes from. “Hangover cure made by yours truly.”
“Do I want to know what’s in that?”
“Best not to ask, but it’s all edible and won’t hurt you.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” Christen teased, grabbing the bottle and letting her pointer finger trail across Tobin’s as she did so. “How are you this morning? Sleep like a baby last night?”
“Didn’t wake up once. I crashed hard and slept in, something you don’t seem to have done,” Tobin answered, leaning back in the chair and stretching her legs out in front of her.
“Work doesn’t end just because I overindulge,” Christen shrugged, taking a quick sniff of the hangover cure and cringing. “Are sure this won’t kill me?”
“It doesn’t taste good. It won’t kill you, and you don’t have to drink it all. I usually start to feel better after only drinking a quarter of the bottle,” Tobin assured, watching Christen grimace at the thought of drinking it.
Christen blew out a long breath and then readied herself to drink it. She plugged her nose with one hand and upturned the bottle with the other, managing to chug about a third of the bottle before she had to tap out.
“Fuck, that’s disgusting,” Christen choked out, setting the bottle on the opposite end of her desk, not intending to drink anymore.
“Give it half an hour,” Tobin grinned. “You should chase it with coffee.”
Christen was already picking up her ristretto and taking a long gulp of it, her disgusted expression morphing into relief once she’d downed a few gulps of the coffee.
“So...are you unhappy about overindulging?” Tobin asked slowly, unsure of how to casually ask if Christen still felt like giving this a shot or if it had been the alcohol talking.
Christen hid her smile behind her coffee cup, taking another sip before setting it down on the desk in front of her.
“What time is it?” Christen asked.
“It’s still today and I still want to do this,” Christen said softly, her stomach flipping at the admission.
“In that case,” Tobin beamed, “you’ll want to look at the gross hangover cure again.”
Christen reached out for the bottle and turned it around, catching sight of a sticker on the side of it.
If found return to Tobin. (503) 619-4877
“If I call this, it’ll go to you?” Christen asked, looking up at Tobin with a similarly beaming smile.
“Yes,” Tobin nodded. “I’m sure you have it already in a file somewhere, but this felt slightly more special, gross drink notwithstanding.”
Christen let out a warm laugh, tilting her head to the side a bit as she gazed at Tobin.
“This isn’t going to be...easy or public or probably what you deserve it to be,” Christen acknowledged.
“Or you,” Tobin added, scooting her chair forward just slightly.
“But I want to try. All we can ever do is try,” Christen said, getting up from her desk chair and moving around the front of it, leaning against the front of her desk and bringing herself just a little closer to Tobin.
“I don’t need easy. I’m actually a very private person. And while I don’t know if I deserve you just yet, I’d definitely like to try,” Tobin responded, keeping her eyes on Christen’s.
“In that case, allow me to introduce you to my favorite part of my office,” Christen said, moving off her desk and over to the far corner, next to a bookshelf and a few posters from past Avalanche seasons.
“A bookshelf,” Tobin observed, following Christen to it despite her confusion.
“Nobody can see this part of my office from the hallway,” Christen replied, leaning back against the wall and smiling as Tobin got closer.
“I love this bookshelf,” Tobin grinned, propping a hand on the wall beside Christen and leaning close. “Good morning,” she murmured.
“Good afternoon,” Christen corrected in a quiet voice, reaching out to gently grab hold of Tobin’s hips.
“I missed the good morning kiss, though. I have to make up for that before I get the good afternoon one.”
“I won’t fight you on it,” Christen chuckled, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s and finding herself completely enamored with this adorably romantic side of Tobin.
Do you want to go out on a ‘stay at home’ date?
My answer hinges upon your answer to this question:
Will I have to drink that gross hangover thing again?
Are you hungover and in need of help?
Then no. I can offer better drinks
I’d hope so, considering you’re supposed to be wooing
I have a surprisingly extensive wine collection for someone who rarely drinks
Maybe I’ll bring the drinks since I am also supposed to be wooing you
Are you worried about my taste in wine?
On the contrary, I’m hoping to be as impressive as your wine collection
You’re very impressive. You have me sitting in an empty locker room because I don’t want to put my phone down and drive home
Want to be even more impressed?
Cell phones have this amazing ability to connect people while otherwise occupied, via phone calls
Mind blown, right?
So sassy. You want me to interrupt your workday with a call?
Give me five minutes and we can talk while I “peruse” the travel itineraries and expense reports for September.
Tobin finally put her phone in her pocket and grabbed her bag, heading out of the locker room and to the parking lot. By the time she had her bag in the back of her car and her seatbelt buckled, it had been four minutes and a few seconds. So, Tobin drummed her fingers on the steering wheel and waited.
She didn’t particularly want to seem overeager even though she was. She wanted to seem calm and relaxed about everything despite having spent the day thinking about kissing Christen and being alone with her in a space where they could actually show their true feelings for one another.
Suddenly, her passenger’s side door was pulled open and Christen slid into the seat.
“Sorry, the elevator took forever,” Christen huffed, dropping her bag and her heels onto the floor of the car in front of her.
“Is this what people are calling phone calls now?” Tobin asked with a dopey smile as Christen pulled one bare foot onto the seat and tucked her leg under her.
Christen rolled her eyes and put her seatbelt on, fighting off a smile of her own. “Start driving before I kiss that smile off your face and blow our cover on the second day.”
“The boss is bossy, who knew?” Tobin teased, backing out of her parking spot and following Christen’s request.
“I could always just ask to get out here and walk back to the office if you don’t like the surprise visit?” Christen teased back, pulling out her laptop and returning to the expense reports she did actually have to look over.
“I love the surprise visit. Where would you like to go?” Tobin asked as she pulled out of the parking lot. “Are you doing work?”
“I wanted to see you, so I’m working from home for the rest of the day,” Christen replied.
“Your home or my home?” Tobin asked, slowing down before choosing to go straight or turn toward her apartment.
“Your call. It’s your date from home day,” Christen grinned, reaching out to squeeze Tobin’s leg softly before returning her focus back to her computer.
Tobin thought for a moment and then moved into the turn lane to head to her apartment. “You haven’t seen your fancy design job in person.”
“Let’s remedy that then,” Christen hummed, sinking happily into the passenger’s seat of Tobin’s car.
“Just give me one second,” Tobin said, slipping into her own apartment and leaving Christen in the hallway, probably about to protest.
“Shove everything into the closet!” Christen yelled teasingly through the closed door, holding her heels in one hand and her bag in the other.
Tobin wasn’t messy , but there was organized clutter. She raced into her bedroom and threw the pile of dirty clothes into the hamper. Then, she put as many dishes as she could into the dishwasher before ditching the rest in organized piles in the sink. While Christen laughed from the other side of the door, Tobin threw a blanket slightly more neatly over the back of the couch and then skidded to a stop and opened the door with a smile, her breathing a tiny bit more labored than usual.
“May I come in?” Christen asked with a playful smile on her face, leaning against the doorframe.
“Welcome,” Tobin grinned, stepping aside and giving Christen room to come in.
Christen vaguely recalled the mock-ups she’d done for Tobin a few months ago, and she was fairly certain Tobin had taken every suggestion she’d made. The space looked lived-in and homey, the small bits of mess making it even more welcoming. The pile of shoes near the hall closet and the soccer balls on the living room carpet made Christen smile.
“Looks like a home to me,” Christen observed, ditching her heels next to the pile of running shoes and Nikes.
“Nothing homier than an under-the-table design that goes against a contract,” Tobin hummed.
“You paid. We’re top six in the league,” Christen grinned.
“I don’t think I paid. You made a good program,” Tobin shrugged, watching Christen in her space and feeling her stomach flutter in the best way, in the way it had been since kissing Christen for the first time.
Christen shrugged off the compliment, moving past Tobin into the apartment. She walked into the living room, dragging her fingertips along the soft material of the throw blanket slung across the back of the couch as she looked around.
“I should have gone with a different pattern for the rug, I think. It clashes a bit,” she murmured, almost to herself.
“You didn’t get a chance to walk the space. Plus, I kinda like it,” Tobin assured, ditching her bag from practice in the front closet.
“Did you really remodel your shower?” Christen asked with a smirk, leaning a hip against the back of the couch.
“Yes,” Tobin answered with a smirk of her own.
“That wasn’t just...suggestive flirting?”
“Oh, it was completely suggestive. I already had the contractor’s number, and the remodeling was in the works. I just wanted you to know about it,” Tobin admitted.
Christen cleared her throat softly, feeling Tobin’s words dance across her skin and encourage her slow-burning desire to burn hotter and brighter.
“I didn’t stand a chance,” Christen replied with a small shake of her head, knowing a light blush was heating her cheeks.
“Neither did I,” Tobin murmured, walking across the room and wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist.
Christen couldn’t deny how natural it was for her own arms to find their way around Tobin’s shoulders. It was like second nature to hold Tobin close, to exist so intimately in her space.
“You should work from home more often,” Tobin whispered, leaning forward to brush her lips against Christen’s forehead, along her eyebrows, down the bridge of her nose, across Christen’s cheekbones.
“You make a very compelling case,” Christen whispered back, her eyes fluttering shut at the feeling of Tobin’s lips on her skin.
“I can be very convincing,” Tobin hummed, trailing kisses along Christen’s jaw and down the side of her neck.
“Can we please stop talking about work?” Christen sighed happily, lolling her head to the side to give Tobin more room to work.
“Mhm,” Tobin mumbled, continuing to move her lips until she was nibbling softly against Christen’s collarbone, her hands tugging gently at Christen’s shirt so that her thumbs could slip under the hem and rest against the top of Christen’s hip bones.
Christen settled one hand dangerously low on Tobin’s lower back, the other threading into the slightly-damp waves at the back of Tobin’s head and scratching gently against Tobin’s scalp.
“I have a vague memory of telling you you’re better at this than you are at football,” Christen husked, feeling a breathy gasp leave her lips when Tobin sucked none-too-gently on a spot below her collarbone.
“I remember that,” Tobin teased, slipping her tongue into the hollow at the base of Christen’s neck.
“I was definitely right,” Christen chuckled, her voice low as her grip tightened on the back of Tobin’s head.
Tobin just hummed as she moved to the other side of Christen’s neck, flicking her tongue against Christen’s pulse point as her hands slid up to Christen’s sides.
Christen bit back a moan at the delightful combination of sensations that came from Tobin’s tongue and her strong hands flexing against her ribs.
“Do not start something we can’t finish before my conference call at four,” Christen panted, her words holding a warning that her own hands weren’t following.
“You want me to stop?” Tobin asked, stilling her lips right below Christen’s ear.
“Are you getting a weird sense of deja vu, too?” Christen asked, turning her head to press a fleeting kiss to Tobin’s cheek.
“Yes,” Tobin answered, pressing her smile against Christen’s skin before she removed her lips and stood up straight.
“Then you’ll know I don’t want you to stop, I just need you to if I want to get any work done,” Christen murmured, pulling Tobin back in for a brief kiss, no more than a gentle brush of lips.
“I can let you get work done. I’ll be super quiet, and I’ll give you feet of space,” Tobin promised, moving out of Christen’s arms.
“No need for feet of space,” Christen said with a smile, delighting in the flush she could see in Tobin’s cheeks, the one she knew she had in hers as well.
“Do you want a smoothie or something?” Tobin asked, unable to wipe the ridiculously happy look off her face.
“If you’re making one, that sounds good,” Christen nodded, grabbing her discarded bag and setting up shop on the couch.
“Is there anything you’ll be upset about being in your smoothie?” Tobin asked, moving through the kitchen to get the ingredients that she usually used.
“Nope, surprise me,” Christen said with a smile, watching Tobin move around the kitchen instead of looking down at the laptop in her lap.
“Who’s the conference call with?” Tobin asked, feeling her smile get bigger whenever she caught Christen in her periphery, sitting in her space, on her couch.
“The leaders of our fan base, community outreach, as well as local sports activists,” Christen answered.
“Super interesting,” Tobin teased, putting frozen fruit and some kale into the blender along with some protein powder. “Do you have to show your face or is it just a call?”
“We have these bi-monthly, and we always are on video, so,” Christen replied.
“I’ll hide,” Tobin chuckled.
“Actually…” Christen trailed off, checking a few things on her computer. “Your input might be beneficial. We’re discussing strategies to grow the game in the community, and we’ve been brainstorming partnerships that would help us put on a few clinics. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts on the potential of the ideas we’ve been bouncing around.”
“Ah, now I see why you snuck into my car,” Tobin smirked before turning the blender on.
Christen narrowed her eyes at Tobin playfully, having been cut off by the blender.
“It’s thick,” Tobin hummed as she repeatedly pressed the pulse button.
“I’m sure it is!” Christen called over the mechanical whirring with a laugh.
“So you want me to talk to people about growing the Denver football scene?” Tobin asked, finally shutting the blender off and grabbing glasses from the cabinet.
“We’re going to pitch you some ideas, and I want your honest feedback,” Christen corrected, having already sent off an email to the women she was meeting with in a few minutes to let them know about the change in plans.
“Okay,” Tobin nodded, sticking a straw into each smoothie and carrying them over to the couch.
Christen got up with her laptop right as Tobin set their drinks onto the coffee table.
“We’re not videoing in from the couch,” Christen chuckled, walking over to the small dining room table Tobin had.
“You want me to video from a different room?” Tobin asked, her smile playful.
“No, just don’t do anything with your hands off camera,” Christen warned, equally as playful.
“Now that’s even more tempting than it was five seconds ago,” Tobin teased, putting coasters down before setting the smoothies on the dining room table.
Despite the temptation, Tobin did keep her hands to herself during the conference call. Christen and the other women on the call were quick to discuss their ideas for community engagement, a plan which would need to be spearheaded by a select few players on the team. They would start with skills clinics, completely open to the public, and hopefully grow that into an academy program which would be completely funded, so anyone could participate.
“And that’s what we’ve been talking about, really, since May-ish?” Christen finished, sharing excited and proud smiles with the other women on the call before looking over at Tobin. “What do you think?”
“I love it. It’s exactly what I would have wanted as a kid, and it’s something a few clubs have started to do. I helped with Portland’s clinics.”
“The goal is to dismantle the pay-to-play system here in the Denver area with this academy, but that will take at least a few years,” Christen replied, something the other women on the call echoed.
“It’s the right goal, though. Coming from a privileged background shouldn’t be a prerequisite for success in football,” Tobin added, forcing herself to keep her heart eyes off of Christen.
“Exactly!” Christen grinned, going off on another tangent that led into aspirational goals for growing the other areas of the sport — the fan base, the community outreach, hiring practices.
Her passion was palpable and it was easily picked up and carried by the other women on the call, each of their unique backgrounds and voices lending to the conversation and elevating it.
And Tobin couldn’t stop herself from falling a little more for the energetic way Christen gestured with her hands as she spoke or the way she had to take deep breaths after finishing a long-winded explanation. Tobin couldn’t stop herself from reaching out just a little bit and brushing the tips of her fingers against the side of Christen’s knee under the table and far away from the camera’s view.
“All right, well that’s our hour. I won’t keep you. Let’s plan for this meeting to happen in person in two weeks, okay?” Christen asked, her hand hovering over the keyboard to end the call.
“Thanks for letting me crash,” Tobin added with a genuine smile.
“Come anytime!” one of the women called out, earning a few laughs from everyone on the call.
After saying their goodbyes, Christen hung up the video call and closed her laptop, sinking back against the chair she was sitting in with a happy smile.
“You’re cool,” Tobin murmured, tracing her fingers over Christen’s knee.
“That's what happens when you show up to a meeting with the team’s leading scorer on the call with you,” Christen chuckled, looking over at Tobin with a grateful smile. “Thanks for indulging me and my passion project.”
“I was calling you cool because of your project,” Tobin said softly.
“It’s early days yet, so we’ll see what happens when we take it to investors,” Christen replied, reaching down to catch Tobin’s hand and thread their fingers together.
“You could just say, ‘Thank you, Tobin. I am cool. Glad you noticed,’” Tobin teased.
“Thank you, Tobin. I am so cool. I am glad you finally noticed,” Christen teased back.
“Do you have more work to do?” Tobin asked, lifting Christen’s hand up to her lips.
“I do have something I need to do,” Christen sighed.
“Call a sponsor? Schedule a media day? Design a living room?” Tobin guessed.
Christen clicked her tongue and got up from her chair, pivoting a little and sinking down into Tobin’s lap, her arms falling onto Tobin’s shoulders.
“Keep guessing,” Christen grinned, dodging the kiss Tobin was going for and ghosting her lips across Tobin’s cheek.
“Player relations?” Tobin wondered, letting her hands settle on Christen’s lower back before they sank lower.
“Getting warmer,” Christen chuckled into Tobin’s skin, nipping gently at the back corner of Tobin’s jaw as she used her grip on Tobin’s hair to move Tobin’s head to the side, giving her more room to work.
“Relations with one specific player,” Tobin husked, squeezing Christen’s ass and pulling her closer in her lap.
“Warmer,” Christen murmured, sucking at the sensitive spot beneath Tobin’s ear.
“Care to share?”
“I don’t think I need to explain it further,” Christen said with a breathy laugh, taking Tobin’s earlobe between her front teeth and tugging on it gently, rolling her hips down into Tobin’s teasingly just once.
“No, you don’t,” Tobin rasped before standing up from the chair with Christen still in her arms. She walked over toward the couch and laid Christen down on the cushions before propping one of her knees on the couch and hovering over Christen.
“We could order take out?” Christen suggested with a smile, fisting her hand in the material of Tobin’s t-shirt to pull her down.
“We can do that,” Tobin nodded, catching herself on an elbow so she wouldn’t smush Christen.
“Mind if we order in a little bit?” Christen asked, tangling her legs with Tobin’s and lifting her head up to nuzzle Tobin’s nose.
“It’s kind of early for dinner,” Tobin mumbled, catching Christen’s bottom lip between her own and kissing her with more passion and desire than she thought possible.
Despite the take-out boxes littering the kitchen island, the two of them had plated their food and Tobin had even grabbed a few candles and thrown them on the dining room table.
They sat across from each other, knowing they’d be too tempted not to eat if they sat next to one another. Their feet continually touched under the table as they talked about everything and nothing, starting at where they’d grown up and spiraling into their favorite summertime activities and the best kinds of milkshakes.
If Christen had any worries that their easy banter would slip away once they acted on the tension that existed between them, they were proven to be ill-formed. It seemed as if the banter was even easier now, words shared between them effortlessly as they slipped into this new level of intimacy.
Conversation and quips continued as they did the dishes, as they both pretended to pay attention to the movie Tobin had flipped on, as they sat pressed up against one another on the couch, the soft throw blanket over their laps.
It was simple in a way Christen had always longed for it to be with another person. She felt at ease, comfortable. She wasn’t second-guessing her words or her decision to reach out and tuck a wayward strand of hair behind Tobin’s ear. She just was in the moment and feeling more like herself than ever before.
“You’re very fun to spend time with,” Christen hummed, still completely turned away from the TV, her focus on Tobin.
“Lounging on a couch at 7:00 on a Friday night?” Tobin chuckled, draping an arm over the back of the couch and around Christen's shoulders.
“Yeah,” Christen nodded with a small smile. “Best date I’ve ever been on.”
“This is the best date I’ve ever been on too,” Tobin admitted quietly, leaning over to kiss Christen’s shoulder.
Christen let out a long breath and ran her fingers through the soft strands of hair at Tobin’s temple.
“You really aren’t going to mind how complicated this will be to navigate?”
“I’m pretty sure most rela- things between two people are complicated,” Tobin answered, feeling a blush rise on her neck.
“The relationship itself won’t be complicated, everything outside of it will be,” Christen pointed out, using the word Tobin had shied away from with a matching blush in her cheeks.
“I’m a professional athlete who unfortunately sometimes gets recognized off the pitch. Everything is complicated, and every relationship is complicated.”
Christen leaned her head onto Tobin’s arm along the back of the couch, continuing to brush her fingers through the hair at Tobin’s temple.
“Did anything about tonight feel complicated?” Christen wondered in a quiet voice.
“No, this is easy. Being with you is so easy and natural,” Tobin whispered, pulling her arm closer around Christen’s shoulders.
“I agree,” Christen whispered back. “So, let’s try not to let all the other complicated business outside of us, complicate us . It won’t always be easy, but I think it’s worth the work and the risk.”
“You really liked the sushi, didn’t you?” Tobin teased, leaning forward and pressing her forehead against Christen’s.
“I liked who I shared sushi with more,” Christen replied softly, a smile making its way onto her face.
“At work, we work. And when we’re not at work, we’re just...this. You and me…and occasionally sushi,” Christen murmured.
“At work, we work,” Tobin agreed, leaning forward and kissing Christen’s neck, all the way up to the base of Christen’s ear. “Unless you need someone to organize your bookshelf.”
“Exactly. You’re a footballer, and I’m the owner of your club and we- um, we- should keep our- our hands and other- umm, parts to ourselves,” Christen sighed happily at the feeling of Tobin’s mouth on her skin once more. “As often as we can.”
“As often as we can,” Tobin hummed, sucking gently on the underside of Christen’s jaw, just soft enough not to leave a mark.
“We can talk about the rest of the rules later,” Christen decided, pulling Tobin’s head away from her neck and capturing Tobin’s lips with her own.
“I love rules,” Tobin mumbled against Christen’s lips, her head foggy with desire.
Thankfully, there were no rules to abide by on their own personal time.
“We’re back in Buzzfeed!” Phoebe sing-songed, joining Christen on the top row of the stands overlooking the practice field.
“Oh yeah?” Christen wondered, moving her attention between the designs in her binder and the players on the field. Well, one player in particular who kept shooting her surreptitious smiles and winks every so often.
“Yep, our star player made the list,” Phoebe hummed.
“For what?” Christen asked, watching Tobin receive a pass, do a few moves, and send a shot blazing into the back of the net.
Phoebe quickly scrolled to the top of the list and read it aloud, “50 hottest young queer relationships to keep an eye on.”
Christen went rigid beside Phoebe, quickly snatching the phone out of her hand. She scrolled past pictures and descriptions, her stomach tightening with worry.
Maybe they hadn’t been careful enough.
Maybe someone had seen them out somewhere. They had accidentally run into one another at the grocery store three nights ago and they’d definitely kissed in the bread section.
“She’s number thirteen.”
Christen relaxed when she realized the photo beneath number thirteen wasn’t of her and Tobin. But then she felt something prickly and irritating replace the worry in her gut.
“Who even is this with her?” Christen asked in a tight voice, taking in the casual arm slung across Tobin’s shoulder and the way Tobin was leaning into the other woman’s space. It made her skin crawl.
“Fiona Crawford,” Phoebe answered.
“Huh,” Christen managed, keeping in every other comment she wanted to make as she handed Phoebe back her phone.
“Apparently, Fiona spent Christmas with Tobin’s family last year. Kinda shitty for Buzzfeed to assume they’re dating, but they do make an adorable couple,” Phoebe commented, scrolling further down the list to see other couples.
“I’ve seen better-suited couples,” Christen said nonchalantly, taking a few, calming deep breaths.
“Like Ali and Ashlyn, I know,” Phoebe sighed, getting to the number one spot on the list and looking down at the picture of Ali and Ashlyn.
“Definitely,” Christen replied, her eyes lifting from her binder and finding Tobin juggling a ball on her own, working on a few moves. “Was that all, Phoebe?”
“Yeah, should I repost this or is it an invasion of privacy?” Phoebe asked, holding up her phone for Christen to see.
“Invasion of privacy. Don’t post it,” Christen replied quickly.
“Got it,” Phoebe said, pocketing her phone. “Are you okay?”
“I didn’t have lunch, so I think I’m a little hungry,” Christen said, standing up with her binder. “Want to go get some Thai?”
“Oh, that sounds amazing! And I can show you the posts I’ve designed for Halloween, which I’m very aware is more than a month away.”
Christen shot Tobin one final look, still feeling stubbornly irritated and more than a little jealous about a stupid article, and led Phoebe away from the practice fields.
Tobin was attempting to make dinner. She’d diced an onion, only knicking her finger twice, taken a break to put a BandAid on her finger, chopped up some bell peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and was now she was trying to get one of her gas burners to light in order to boil water for pasta.
She’d made a New Year’s resolution to try and cook more, but so far, she’d been pretty unsuccessful, making inedible dishes, burning her dinner at the very last minute, or just being lazy and ordering in from a spot on the couch.
This dinner seemed slightly more successful than usual. Maybe it was the happy mood she’d been in that was motivating her to actually cook and even enjoy it. Maybe it was practice that had left her energized. Maybe it was the music playing from a bluetooth speaker on the coffee table. Regardless of what it was, Tobin knew for a fact that it was Christen Press who was making her face hurt from smiling so much.
“Who is Fiona Crawford and why was she at your family's Christmas last year?” Christen asked the moment she stepped through the front door, dropping her purse on the counter and locking the door behind her.
“Hi, how was your day?” Tobin laughed, pouring pasta noodles into the now boiling water.
“Oh, lovely. I saw a wonderful Buzzfeed article that featured you and your girlfriend, Fiona Crawford, in it. How was yours?” Christen replied sarcastically with a huff.
“Are you jealous?” Tobin snorted, tossing the now empty plastic bag that had held pasta noodles into the trash can.
“Says the woman who ignored me for almost a week because my ex-wife was hanging around,” Christen pointed out, leaning against the counter with her arms crossed.
“Touché,” Tobin conceded, moving to place a soft kiss on Christen’s cheek.
“Ex-wife? Ex-girlfriend? Ex-fuck buddy?” Christen guessed, not uncrossing her arms just yet.
“Current friend. Ex-nothing,” Tobin answered, heading back to the stove to stir veggies. “She didn’t spend Christmas with my family. She and her very private boyfriend asked to use my family’s beach house, so I showed them around, kind of like an Airbnb host, before going to my sister’s.”
“Well, Buzzfeed sucks and their article made my Thai taste bad,” Christen grumbled.
“We can get Thai that tastes better,” Tobin grinned. “I don’t know what I’m doing over here.”
Christen managed her first smile in hours and pushed off the counter, joining Tobin by the stove. She encircled Tobin’s waist with her arms, propping her chin on Tobin’s shoulder and looking down at the various pots and pans.
“It looks right to me. Did you salt the pasta water?”
“Is that a thing?” Tobin asked, her eyes widening as she reached for salt.
Christen reached up and caught Tobin’s wrist. “Can’t add it once the pasta’s in.”
“I’m...not entirely sure, to be honest,” Christen chuckled. “Go ahead.”
“Trying to make up rules,” Tobin scoffed, putting salt in the water and then turning to focus her attention on Christen.
“At least I don’t fabricate relationships in a published article,” Christen pointed out with a smile.
“I didn’t do it,” Tobin laughed, turning her head and pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek.
Christen moved her head to the side and caught Tobin’s lips in a kiss, sinking into the sweet feeling that always accompanied kissing Tobin.
“You like me,” Tobin mumbled.
“Mhm,” Christen hummed, deepening the kiss with a few brushes of her tongue along Tobin’s bottom lip.
“You were jealous,” Tobin added, her lips quirking up into a smile.
“Mhm,” Christen hummed again, moving back in for another kiss.
“You barged into my place to ask about someone I literally only talk to at camps.”
“And now I’m trying to kiss you in your kitchen, if you’d be so kind as to stop talking,” Christen teased.
Tobin turned around in Christen’s arms and sank fully into the kiss, sliding a hand to the back of Christen’s neck and scratching gently at the base of her head.
“Thank you,” Christen said with a smile.
“Thank you ,” Tobin replied before brushing her tongue along Christen’s bottom lip.
They ended up burning the veggies and pasta, too caught up in each other to notice, and had to order Thai food for dinner, which tasted much better than the Thai Christen had for lunch.
Chapter 8: Yours in the Morning
locker rooms, LEDs, and late nights
Happy Friday! We hope this starts your weekend off well :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“We’ve got a difficult road schedule ahead of us, so take the remainder of the weekend off and rest up. Hard-fought draw against a very talented Courage team tonight. I’m proud of you,” Laura said to the team in the locker room before walking out. Christen offered the entire team a smile, lingering for a split-second longer on Tobin than anyone else, before following Laura out.
Tobin leaned back against her locker, feeling a familiar and welcome ache in her legs. She couldn’t stop the smile from forming on her face because she knew she’d get the entire weekend to spend with Christen at one or both of their places. They’d order dinner and watch movies and maybe take a next step that they’d both definitely been moving toward.
It was the thought of an uninterrupted weekend that motivated her to stand up and reach into her locker for her change of clothes. She walked back to the showers and sank into the warm water, hurrying a little more than usual because she wanted to go home and see Christen in an environment where she didn’t have to be professional.
But when she lifted her shirt off of the pile of clothes, a hotel room key sat on top of her jeans. For a moment, she was confused, but then she flipped the key over and looked at the Sharpie scrawled on the back in Christen’s neat handwriting.
Wear something nice, xx
If she’d been hurrying before, she was sprinting now, digging through her locker for a slightly nicer shirt and a pair of socks. She didn’t have the kind of clothes she would have worn if she were at home, but she felt okay with her black jeans, button-up, and Chelsea boots.
“Looking snazzy, Toby!” Sonnett called out, still taking off her game uniform.
Tobin just grunted, trying to will away the impending blush as she shoved her wallet and the room key into her back pocket and picked up her bag.
“Make good choices!” Andi chuckled.
Tobin sent a wave over her shoulder as she left the locker room, intent on getting to her car before anyone else could say anything. She drove slightly faster than usual to get to the hotel, throwing a thank you at the valet attendant as she jogged into the hotel with her bag on her shoulder.
She pulled out the room key, reading the room number before selecting the 11th floor in the elevator. And although she wouldn’t admit it, she ran down the hall to room 1126, only pausing once she was outside to run a hand through her hair and take a deep breath.
Tobin pushed the door open and felt her heart flutter.
The lights were dimmed low and soft string music was echoing around the large suite. Candles were set up on almost every flat surface available, all of them lit and bathing the room in a soft glow.
She stepped into the room and set her bag down, all the while unable to close her mouth which had definitely dropped open upon entering the room. She’d only been in a couple hotels this nice and never with anyone she cared about. It was a gesture full of surprise and romance and sweetness, and Tobin felt herself fall further for Christen and the way she was clearly being wooed in return.
“You’ve got a great surprised face,” Christen whispered, having snuck up behind Tobin and wrapped her arms around her waist from behind. She dropped a quick kiss to the side of Tobin’s neck and sank into the feeling of finally having Tobin in her arms, having considered watching Tobin work her magic on the field from afar a wonderful brand of torture.
“You’re great at surprising,” Tobin whispered back, turning in Christen’s arms and finding her lips as soon as she could.
Christen chuckled at the almost urgent way Tobin’s lips moved against hers, knowing there was no need to rush.
“Easy, we’ve got dinner plans,” Christen murmured, softening the kiss as much as she could.
“I missed you,” Tobin hummed, now dropping lazy kisses to every part of Christen that she could reach.
“Mmm, I missed you too,” Christen replied with a smile.
“You snuck into my locker,” Tobin said, reaching up to brush Christen’s hair away from her face.
“I own the locker, so,” Christen chuckled. “I thought it would be all right.”
“More than all right,” Tobin agreed, completely captivated by the woman in front of her.
“Want to go see where we’re eating dinner?” Christen asked, her green eyes sparkling.
“Yes,” Tobin nodded, stealing a quick kiss before stepping back.
“You can leave your bag. We have the room for the weekend,” Christen grinned, stealing a kiss of her own.
“Oh, really?” Tobin asked, raising her eyebrows and suddenly running through what kind of underwear she’d packed in her bag.
Christen nodded, her smile turning almost a little shy. “We don’t have to stay the whole time if you don’t want to.”
“Is that a serious concern?” Tobin asked, rolling her eyes at the thought. “I want to spend the entire weekend with you.”
With a small sigh of relief, Christen’s smile moved away from shy and toward something more resembling dreamy.
“But, uh...quick question so we’re on the same page. Are you planning on spending most of it naked? Because I only have like one other change of clothes in there,” Tobin said with a smirk, catching one of Christen’s hands with her own.
“I only have these,” Christen grinned, gesturing at the clothes she had on.
“Naked it is,” Tobin sighed happily, pulling Christen closer again. “Going to dinner is gonna be a challenge.”
“The fake candles will still be on when we get back. I got the ones with the long-lasting batteries,” Christen hummed, backing them slowly toward the door.
“Champagne?” the waiter asked, looking between the two women. Christen raised a brow in Tobin’s direction, silently asking if she wanted any.
“Sure,” Tobin nodded, keeping her eyes on Christen as the waiter poured champagne into their glasses.
After taking their orders and leaving the champagne in an ice bucket next to the table, the waiter headed back inside.
“Did you rent the entire roof?” Tobin asked, looking around at the empty tables and the market lights.
“I asked very nicely to have the roof to ourselves,” Christen shrugged with a smile, gazing across the table at Tobin.
“Divorce money?” Tobin asked, tilting her head to the side.
Christen tapped the tip of her nose, acknowledging the truth behind the question.
“I’m sure the ex-wife would love that,” Tobin mumbled.
“She probably would. She could tell right away how I feel about you,” Christen chuckled, reaching out for her glass of champagne.
“Pinoe could, and she isn’t even here,” Tobin admitted, picking up her own glass.
“To those that could see it and to us for doing something about it,” Christen said softly, holding up her champagne flute for a cheers.
“I’m very glad we did something about it,” Tobin whispered, cheersing before she sipped from her glass.
“So…” Christen trailed off as she set her glass back down, sliding the stem between her fingertips. “Fifa window’s coming up. I hear the National Team is going to France and Germany.”
“Yes,” Tobin replied. “Two weeks again. We have friendlies.”
“I know, Pia asked for you, Andi, and Cat,” Christen hummed. “Two weeks is a long time.”
“It feels longer now,” Tobin agreed.
“It doesn’t have to,” Christen said with a nonchalant shrug and another sip of her champagne.
“How so?” Tobin asked
“It just so happens a few of the owners were thinking of making the trip to Europe to keep an eye on their players and look at international talent. I merely suggested it be an official thing on the owner’s call yesterday and some people jumped at the idea. So, quite a few of us are now headed to France and Germany,” Christen explained with a coy smile, partially hidden behind her champagne flute.
A huge smile broke out across Tobin’s face, crinkling her eyes with its size. “That’s a really responsible thing for owners to do.”
“I thought so too,” Christen beamed. “Plus, I didn’t want to be away from you for two weeks. But I left that part out on the owners’ call.”
“I don’t want to be away from you either. And traveling around Europe with you sounds amazing,” Tobin sighed, reaching across the table for a moment to trace a finger over the back of Christen’s hand.
Christen quickly caught Tobin’s hand in her own, keeping their clasped hands on top of the table since they were the only ones outside.
It finally felt like a real date, like they were just two people who had met one another in some innocuous way and were now sharing a meal because they couldn't fathom not spending time together.
It felt nice not to have to hide it for a night.
“See? Told you they’d still be on,” Christen chuckled, letting the hotel room door fall shut behind her before she moved forward and joined Tobin.
“L.E.D.,” Tobin hummed, feeling a tiny bit of nerves in her stomach.
Christen nodded and slid her hand into Tobin’s, giving it a gentle squeeze. “How are you feeling after the game tonight? I didn’t ask at dinner. Your college stories were too distracting.”
“Physically, mentally, or emotionally?” Tobin chuckled, turning her body to face Christen’s.
“All of the above,” Christen replied, reaching out to run her thumb along the small bruise she could see forming on Tobin’s arm from a player grabbing her during the game earlier.
“Well, I’m happy with the tie considering the kind of work the team did. I’m more awake than I normally feel after a game, probably because of the hidden hotel key,” Tobin murmured with a laugh. “And I’m a normal kind of sore.”
“This might be totally out of left field but…” Christen trailed off, swallowing thickly for a moment as her eyes moved up and down Tobin’s body before lifting to meet her eyes again. “We could take a bath? Or- well, you could take a bath if you wanted to. I can read or something. I just grabbed this muscle soak thing at the store the other day, knowing this game might be a tough one and I wanted you to feel better. So that’s an option...or, a few options I guess,” she finished rambling, a fierce blush heating her cheeks.
“Do you want to take a bath?” Tobin asked, smiling at the endearing rambling, having not expected it from someone as confident and put together as Christen.
“I asked you first,” Christen replied with a small smile.
“I’d love to, but I don’t really want to take one alone.”
“I was hoping you were going to say that,” Christen said softly, pulling on their joined hands and backing up toward the bathroom.
Christen had set some of the L.E.D. candles up in here as well, on the off chance Tobin took her up on the bath offer. She left the main lights off, letting the soft, warm glow of the candles fill the space.
She was going to let go of Tobin’s hand to get the bath drawn, but Tobin simply held on, so with a small smile, Christen pulled Tobin over to the large, free-standing bathtub and used one hand to start filling it with warm water, stirring in the muscle soak mix she’d set nearby.
“It shouldn’t take long to fill,” Christen murmured, shaking the water from her free hand and turning back to face Tobin, already finding Tobin’s eyes on her.
“I won’t be too slow, then,” Tobin whispered, letting go of Christen’s hand and moving her hands to Christen’s hips, the silky material of Christen’s dress smooth beneath her touch.
She stepped forward, leaving a quick kiss on Christen’s lips before settling her lips on the column of Christen’s neck, her hands continuing to explore every inch of the dress and every curve it was covering. She moved her hands teasingly to the back of the dress where the zipper rested before moving her hands back to Christen’s hips. And all the while, her lips left a blazing trail of kisses over Christen’s neck and chest.
“You look nice in green,” Tobin mumbled while moving her hands down Christen’s thighs toward the hem of the dress.
“Wait until you see what I have on underneath,” Christen replied, her own hands as adventurous and teasing as Tobin’s. She had deftly undone the top few buttons of Tobin’s shirt all without Tobin even noticing, working her way through the buttons quickly.
“You’re impatient,” Tobin hummed as she tugged at the hem of the dress, pulling it up so that the fabric collected higher up on Christen’s thighs.
“So are you. It doesn’t come off that way,” Christen chuckled, finishing unbuttoning Tobin’s shirt.
“I know,” Tobin mumbled, sinking down onto her knees with a smirk. She pressed her lips to Christen’s legs slowly and purposefully and tortuously, nipping at soft skin and soothing it with her tongue.
Christen’s hand found its way to the back of Tobin’s head, the other reaching behind her and finding purchase on a towel rack. She was already unsteady on her feet, and it had everything to do with the sight of Tobin kneeling on the floor in front of her and the sinful things she was doing with her mouth down there.
Tobin moved her lips inward, moving up to the black, almost sheer underwear Christen was wearing. She could feel the heat between Christen’s legs, making her own thighs start to feel slick with want. But she kept herself slow. She kept her lips slow as she reached down and helped Christen out of her heels one at a time.
And then she heard a sigh fall from Christen’s lips, one that sounded kind of like a whimper, and she couldn’t stop her lips from moving even closer, only pausing at the edge of Christen’s underwear to look up at the woman above her for permission.
Christen had her bottom lip pulled between her teeth, her chest heaving with labored breaths, but the message was clear in her green eyes and in the way she shakily nodded her assent.
Tobin licked Christen over the underwear, tasting her through the sheer fabric and immediately wanting to taste again. She licked a few more times until Christen was yanking at her hair, and she got the message. Tobin pulled Christen’s underwear down her legs, unable to hesitate because Christen was pulling her mouth right back between her legs.
Tobin licked through Christen’s folds again, tasting her even more fully. She circled Christen’s entrance with her tongue before moving back to Christen’s clit, flicking her tongue quickly and steadily, not pausing as she reached out and shut off the water so the tub wouldn’t overflow. Her hands found the back of Christen’s thighs as Christen rocked into her mouth, and Tobin wanted to do this for the rest of the night and the weekend and as long as Christen would let her.
Christen’s grip on the towel rack and the back of Tobin’s head tightened to an almost painful level as Tobin swiftly built her toward an edge she longed to topple over.
She couldn’t quite comprehend the incoherent words that were falling out of her, but she knew they were probably incomprehensible. They were a mixture of every expletive she knew and Tobin’s name and quite possibly a few near-shouts of encouragement.
But either way, Christen’s grip and her words all pointed to one thing: she was nearing an orgasm that had the potential to ruin sex with anyone else for her, and she was very much okay with that.
Tobin felt Christen clench tightly. She saw Christen’s legs and hips start to spasm. She heard the change in pitch of Christen’s moans, and she knew Christen was falling, completely knocked over the edge and experiencing waves of pleasure.
So, Tobin kept her tongue moving softly, helping Christen ride out her orgasm. She kept her hands firmly on Christen, not letting her fall despite her shaky legs. And when Christen started to catch her breath, Tobin placed kisses on both legs and ran her hands softly over Christen’s skin.
“Good fucking God,” Christen panted, leaning her head back against the bathroom wall as she tried to regulate her breathing.
“I thought about waiting until after the bath, but I jumped the gun,” Tobin mumbled against Christen’s inner thigh, still leaving soft kisses there.
“Jump away,” Christen said with a breathy laugh, using the grip on the back of Tobin’s head to encourage her to stand up.
“Can I take your dress off?” Tobin asked with an almost shy smile now that she was standing up in front of Christen with evidence of Christen’s desire on her chin.
But Christen didn’t let Tobin linger in that shyness. She chased it away with a passionate kiss and confident hands ridding Tobin of her button-up.
“So long as you let me...jump the gun too,” Christen murmured against Tobin’s lips, dancing her fingertips teasingly along the waistband of Tobin’s jeans.
“Of course,” Tobin whispered, reaching around and pulling on the zipper, revealing Christen’s back. “You can jump the gun whenever you want,” she added as she pulled the straps of the dress down, helping Christen step out of it as she eyed the matching black bra that did little to cover Christen’s breasts.
“In that case,” Christen said with a delighted smile, her grip on Tobin’s hips firm and encouraging her to back up against the glass wall of the shower a few feet away. “I feel like jumping.”
Christen left a lingering kiss on Tobin’s lips, teasingly flicking her tongue against Tobin’s before she was unbuttoning Tobin’s jeans, slowly dragging the zipper down as her lips moved from Tobin’s jaw to her pulse point.
She charted across newly-revealed skin, using her lips and her tongue to traverse hard muscles and softness. She didn’t linger like she wanted to on Tobin’s breasts, knowing she’d have time later and not wanting to stop to remove the sports bra now. Instead, she continued her path downward until she was kneeling on the bathmat in front of Tobin, her tongue teasingly dragging across tensing abs.
Looking up at Tobin through her lashes and already finding her looking wrecked and wanting, Christen bit back a smile.
“May I take your shoes and jeans off?” she asked with a husky timbre to her voice.
“Please,” Tobin practically croaked, already extremely turned on and dying for Christen to jump the gun a little faster.
Christen sat back on her heels and gently removed the boots Tobin was wearing, setting them aside. She then did the same with Tobin’s socks, making sure they were right-side-out before leaving them folded on top of the boots.
“Seriously?” Tobin chuckled, brushing hair away from her face.
Shooting Tobin a small smile, Christen sat back up and moved her hands to the waistband of Tobin’s jeans.
As she agonizingly pulled the jeans down Tobin’s legs, she greeted each new bit of skin she revealed with brushes of her lips. She was impossibly slow, taking her time as she kissed down Tobin’s thighs.
“I don’t think I was this torturous,” Tobin almost whimpered, holding onto Christen’s shoulder and feeling the ache between her legs start throbbing.
“Problem with the pace?” Christen asked, whispering the words into the inside of Tobin’s left knee, the jeans almost down past her calves now.
“I’m dripping for you,” Tobin husked, reaching back with her free hand to find purchase on the shower door.
Christen softly groaned and decided to move a little faster, pushing Tobin’s jeans down to her ankles and tapping the back of Tobin’s calf. With Tobin’s help, Christen got the jeans off and instead of folding them like she’d planned, she immediately moved her mouth between Tobin’s legs. She ran her tongue along the waistband of the boyshorts Tobin had on, her hands holding Tobin’s hips steady. She dipped her fingertips into the waistband of the boyshorts and looked up in question.
Tobin nodded, her bottom lip trapped between her teeth as she held back the slew of noises she could feel rising in her chest.
In a matter of seconds, the boyshorts joined the jeans and Christen was finally tasting Tobin. It wrenched a deep moan from her lips as she completely fell for Tobin’s taste, her tongue sliding through wet heat with ease.
Tobin felt like she was blacking out, like she was already climbing to an edge that she didn’t know existed. And she couldn’t hold back the noises anymore. She couldn’t hold back the keening groans or the gasps or the expletives, and she didn’t mind one bit that they spilled out unfiltered.
With a firm grip on the backs of Tobin’s thighs and a tortuous pace set by her tongue, Christen worked Tobin up quickly, already deciding to do this many times over before the night was out.
“Fuck, ba- Chris,” Tobin moaned, tangling her fingers in the curls at the back of Christen’s head.
It didn’t take a genius to know what Tobin had wanted to say, what Christen was dying to actually hear fall from Tobin’s lips. It was a slip-up Tobin had made a handful of times these past few days, and Christen decided that she was going to finally hear it. And she was going to finally hear it right now.
Moving her right hand between Tobin’s legs, Christen kept circling Tobin’s clit as she dipped her middle finger inside of Tobin, pulling it out teasingly before sliding it fully in, curling as she did so.
“Oh God,” Tobin panted, rocking down into Christen’s hand.
It was almost what she wanted. But it still wasn’t that one word. So, Christen redoubled her efforts, keeping her thrusts in time with the rolls of Tobin’s hips. She started to flick her tongue against Tobin’s clit instead of circling it, and that seemed to do the trick.
“Fuck, baby. Right there. I’m so close,” Tobin whined, holding tightly to Christen as her legs shook. “Baby, don’t stop.”
Hiding her satisfied smile between Tobin’s legs, Christen only needed a few more flicks of her tongue and thrusts of her finger before Tobin was falling apart, a choked groan leaving Tobin’s lips as she did so.
Christen coaxed Tobin through the lingering waves of pleasure before gently removing her hand from between Tobin’s legs and peppering soft kisses along the inside of Tobin’s still-quivering thighs.
“You’re really good at that,” Tobin mumbled, blinking through the haze of bliss as she scratched gently at the back of Christen’s head. “Like really really good at that.”
Christen blushed a little at the praise before sitting back on her heels and sliding her finger into her mouth, licking it clean.
“Oh God,” Tobin moaned again just at the sight.
“Bath?” Christen wondered, still kneeling on the floor and looking up at Tobin with a large smile.
“Yes, please,” Tobin nodded, reaching down for Christen’s hands to help her off the floor. She gently unclasped Christen’s bra and slipped it off her shoulders, taking a moment to press soft kisses to Christen’s breasts. Christen returned the favor, laughing quietly when the sports bra ruffled Tobin’s hair.
When they were both on their feet and fully unclothed, Tobin led Christen to the tub. She helped Christen in first before settling in behind her, Christen’s back pressed into her front.
Christen slid her fingers between Tobin’s, skimming their clasped hands gently across the surface of the water that had chilled into a comfortable warmth instead of an uncomfortable heat.
“The fans are going to sing that song forever now,” Christen mused quietly, referencing the multiple times they’d sung “ You Make It Real” during the game, despite Tobin not scoring tonight.
“I’m not changing it,” Tobin hummed, pressing her lips to Christen’s shoulder.
“It’s still not much of a goal song,” Christen pointed out.
“It makes me think about you,” Tobin murmured, tracing her nose up the side of Christen’s neck. “And that’s energizing, so it does the job.”
“Energizing, huh?” Christen teased softly, continuing to move their hands across the water.
“Isn’t that what a goal song is supposed to do?” Tobin chuckled, propping her chin on Christen’s shoulder and breathing in the soothing scent of Christen’s lotion.
“I suppose so, baby,” Christen replied with a slow smile, pulling their clasped hands down into the water and resting them against her stomach.
“Hmm,” Tobin sighed, burying her face in Christen’s neck. “I like thinking about you after I score a goal, baby .”
“I like that you do,” Christen hummed, sinking further into Tobin’s arms.
“Plus it’s your favorite song and I’m your, off the record, favorite player,” Tobin teased, pressing her smirk into Christen’s skin.
“You were one of my favorites before you came here. That’s why Brooke bought your rights,” Christen admitted with a flush creeping up her neck. “She knew I liked the way you play the game.”
“Your ex-wife bought me as a gift for you?” Tobin snorted, tightening her arms around Christen.
“No, she just- I spent years talking about how you were the perfect player to build a team around, and I guess she actually listened,” Christen whispered, her tone betraying a little of her embarrassment.
“I’m glad she listened. I really love playing for you,” Tobin murmured, dropping a kiss onto the back of Christen’s neck.
“Until you ask to be released or need to go for your career, I’m going to fight to keep you here. I’m not going to let what happened in Portland happen to you again. I’m too selfish to let you go,” Christen whispered, leaning her head back against Tobin’s shoulder and turning her face towards Tobin’s neck.
“You’re gonna be fighting to keep a really old player around, then,” Tobin hummed, kissing Christen’s forehead softly. “People are gonna think you’re crazy.”
“I don’t care,” Christen said softly, her eyes fluttering shut.
“You like me,” Tobin breathed out against Christen’s forehead, her thumbs rubbing softly at Christen’s stomach.
“I do,” Christen murmured with a sweet smile playing at her lips. “You’ve said that a few times. Are you surprised?”
“Mhm,” Tobin sighed, letting her eyes close as she soaked up all the warmth from the bath and from Christen.
“Why are you surprised by that?” Christen wondered in a gentle voice, squeezing Tobin’s hand in her own.
“I’m constantly late and travel all the time and forget to change lightbulbs and wear the wrong socks,” Tobin teased, her voice slow and quiet.
“That is a tall order…” Christen mused. “Good thing I prefer heels that make me tall.”
Tobin let out a soft laugh, squeezing Christen even closer. “I don’t know how you stand those every day.”
“Makes it easier to change lightbulbs,” Christen teased, dropping a kiss to the underside of Tobin’s jaw. “And I might have noticed your eyes wander a little more when I’m wearing them.”
“My eyes wander no matter what,” Tobin snorted, rolling her eyes at that.
“I noticed that too,” Christen replied with another kiss to Tobin’s jaw.
“Yours do too, especially when you come by the locker room to congratulate us on a game,” Tobin smirked.
“Watching you play is hot,” Christen admitted with a blush. “It takes a lot of restraint to walk out of the locker room.”
“You’re very strong,” Tobin replied with a teasing lilt in her voice.
“I’m also really good at keeping you on time, traveling with you, and changing lightbulbs. The socks thing you’ve done all on your own,” Christen hummed, moving her lips down Tobin’s neck and finding her pulse point.
“I don’t know about that. I fixed the sock issue because you got so upset, so really that’s you too,” Tobin murmured, lolling her head to the side.
“Then why is it so surprising that you’ve completely captivated me?” Christen whispered into Tobin’s skin, flicking the tip of her tongue against Tobin’s racing pulse.
“Have you seen yourself? You made a Buzzfeed list full of attractive people,” Tobin scoffed, her voice coming out shakier than intended as Christen worked.
Christen hummed into Tobin’s neck, turning her hips just a little so she was sideways in Tobin’s arms. “I did see that.”
“Shoulda been number one,” Tobin husked, moving her hand down Christen’s body.
“Am I number one to you?” Christen asked, continuing to map her way up and down Tobin’s neck.
“On every list,” Tobin mumbled, tracing her fingers along Christen’s inner thigh.
“And you’re number one on mine. Don’t ever doubt that,” Christen murmured, completely turning now so her legs were bracketing Tobin’s hips and her body was flush with Tobin’s. She looked down at Tobin, a soft smile on her face as she readied herself to say more, to be cheesy and romantic, and then she felt Tobin’s hand drift higher up her thigh.
“You’re wet, baby,” Tobin whispered, her fingers finally high enough on Christen’s thigh to feel the want between her legs.
“Have you seen yourself?” Christen parroted, her hips jerking down into Tobin’s hand, her heart happy and full and teetering dangerously on the treacherous slope toward love.
Tobin placed soft kisses along Christen’s spine, moving up her back slowly and sleepily. The sun hadn’t even fully risen outside, but Tobin had woken up with her arms wrapped around Christen’s waist and her leg slotted between Christen’s. She’d woken up to what had become her favorite smell, her face buried in Christen’s curls. And all she’d wanted to do was press kisses into Christen’s skin.
“Mmm, what time is it?” Christen mumbled sleepily, still barely awake.
“Early,” Tobin said a little sheepishly, pushing Christen’s hair aside and kissing up the back of her neck.
“Why’re you up so early?” Christen asked with a little yawn.
“I wanted to kiss you,” Tobin whispered as she dropped down on the mattress and wrapped her arm around Christen’s waist again.
Christen burrowed into Tobin’s embrace with a smile. “I could wake up like this more often,” she whispered back.
“At your service,” Tobin chuckled, nuzzling her nose into the back of Christen’s neck.
“How’s every morning sound?” Christen wondered with a happy hum, threading her fingers through Tobin’s that were resting against her stomach.
“We can start with that,” Tobin teased, dropping a kiss behind Christen’s ear.
“What else can we start with?” Christen asked, lifting Tobin’s hand and pressing a kiss to Tobin’s palm.
“Well, I’m also a big fan of falling asleep with you, not just waking up,” Tobin murmured. “You talk in your sleep.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” Christen replied, sleepily kissing down Tobin’s palm and across her wrist.
“It’s really adorable. Were you dreaming about ordering chairs for a living room last night?” Tobin asked with a laugh.
Christen chuckled and kissed the pad of Tobin’s thumb. “Mhm, and then I was running through the airport to catch a flight to France, and somehow you got them to hold the plane for me. So we sat together in first class.”
“That’s very chivalrous of me,” Tobin grinned, starting to kiss Christen’s neck and shoulders again.
“Excuse me, it's my turn to sleepy kiss,” Christen hummed, dropping kisses to each of Tobin’s fingers before flipping Tobin’s hand over and starting to brush her lips along the back of it. “You had your turn.”
“We can just simultaneously give kisses,” Tobin murmured, lifting her head enough to find Christen's pulse point and flick her tongue over it.
Christen let out an adorably sleepy harrumph and rolled, sending Tobin onto her back on the bed, allowing Christen to crawl on top of her.
“You got to wake me up in the best way, let me do the same,” Christen said with a smile, lifting Tobin’s hand back to her lips as she sat up on Tobin’s hips.
“Fine. Only because we have the entire day to spend in this bed,” Tobin relented, her heart fluttering as Christen looked down at her.
“All night too,” Christen whispered into Tobin’s skin as she bent down and moved her lips up Tobin's forearm, across her bicep, and over her shoulder, intent on kissing every inch of Tobin’s skin before the sun finished rising.
Tobin wasn’t necessarily keeping count, not really, not actively. But she was certain that Christen had tumbled over the edge of ecstasy at least eight times since they’d woken up this morning. And she was an athlete. She was competitive. She wanted to get to double digits at least before breakfast.
But right now with her mouth on Christen’s clit and two fingers buried inside of her, a question entered her brain, and without thought, the question fell from her lips, stilling her tongue and her fingers.
“So, we’re exclusive, right?”
If the question had been anything else, Christen would have let out a frustrated growl at the sudden lack of friction from Tobin’s tongue and fingers. She was impossibly close to the ninth and even if she hadn’t thought it possible to come apart this many times in such a short amount of time, it was with Tobin touching her.
But now Tobin had stopped and asked her a ridiculously sweet, sweetly ridiculous question. So instead of feeling frustrated, Christen gazed down at Tobin with a smile, brushing some flyaways from Tobin’s forehead.
“It’s only you for me,” Christen whispered in reply, her voice slightly deeper and huskier due to their morning activities.
Tobin nodded softly before pressing her tongue against Christen’s clit again, her fingers moving with a little more enthusiasm.
“Tobin?” Christen managed to ask as Tobin’s tongue had her toes curling again.
“Are we- um, are we exclusive to- to you?” Christen gasped out, feeling her back arch off the bed and her grip on the bed sheets tighten.
With her fingers still moving, Tobin looked up at Christen, a dopey smile on her face.
“I only want you.”
Christen beamed at the response and then was swiftly ushered over the edge, her eyes holding Tobin’s and Tobin’s name slipping from her lips. She toppled and trembled, and all the while, she held Tobin’s gaze and saw everything she felt reflected back at her.
“That’s good to know,” Christen panted, a sated warmth filling her body once more. She tugged Tobin up and kissed her long and hard, communicating with her mouth what her words, and Tobin’s words, had already confirmed - they were each other’s.
“Very good,” Tobin agreed, her hand already moving down, sneaking between Christen’s legs.
Christen wrapped her fingers around Tobin’s wrist and chuckled into the kiss. “I believe you just had your turn...quite a few times in a row. I’d like you up here,” she hummed, leaning out of the kiss and putting her free hand on Tobin’s hip, gently pulling up to give Tobin the idea of where to move.
Tobin raised her eyebrows at Christen’s request. She brought her fingers up to her mouth and sucked them clean, loving the taste of Christen.
“ Up up?” Tobin clarified.
“ Up up,” Christen grinned, tapping Tobin’s hip again.
Tobin pressed a kiss to Christen’s lips before she sat up on her knees and held onto the headboard, moving so that her knees bracketed Christen's head.
“I’ve only gotten you to seven, and I’m all about keeping things even,” Christen hummed, nipping gently at Tobin’s inner thighs.
“Are you keeping count?” Tobin gasped, a playful lilt in her voice. “So competitive.”
“Says the professional athlete who is also keeping count,” Christen teased, running her tongue along Tobin’s inner thighs, getting dangerously high with every swipe.
“I’ve gotta get you to ten before breakfast, baby,” Tobin rasped, forcing herself not to rock down into Christen’s mouth just yet.
“Oh baby, I’m going to get you to eleven from right here,” Christen murmured, shooting Tobin a smile before finally burying her tongue between Tobin’s legs.
Look out for more fun!
Chapter 9: Paris
caring, coming home, and a couple book
Hey folks, hope you enjoy this fluff :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was bound to happen eventually.
Weeks of stolen glances in shared spaces, of sneaking over to each other’s places and enjoying nights together in bed, or in Tobin’s revamped shower, or in Christen’s backyard hot tub. Weeks of accidentally being unable to keep away from one another at work, leading to brief kisses near the bookshelf in Christen’s office, a handful in the elevator, and one particularly daring one in the empty locker room. All of it done in secret like they’d agreed. But they grew comfortable and relaxed, knowing that National Camp was a few days away and an entire two-week stretch in Europe awaited them.
So while it was bound to happen eventually, it definitely didn’t come up in the way Christen expected it to.
Christen had been working overtime to get things settled with her company in anticipation of this somewhat impromptu trip to Europe. It had led to a lot of late nights and not a lot of free time, but it was worth it to know she would be able to enjoy her time with Tobin across the pond. But those late nights and lack of free time were wearing on her.
She had dark circles and bags under her eyes, a permanent crick in her neck that no amount of Advil or trying to rub at it would fix, and she hadn’t been able to spend a slow morning in bed with Tobin like she’d wanted to.
She was holed up in the conference room, surrounded by paperwork, missing Tobin and wishing for another cup of coffee, but she’d sent Connor and the rest of the group to lunch a few minutes ago, leaving her alone.
“May I enter?” Tobin asked, poking her head into the room, her hair still wet from the shower she’d taken after practice.
Christen’s head shot up and a tired smile made its way onto her face. “You’re a sight for sore eyes,” she said softly, nodding at Tobin to come in and close the door behind her.
Tobin had to close the door with her foot because of the two coffee cups in her hands that she’d had Doordashed just a few minutes ago. “So are you. You’re not taking breaks.”
“I have to get all of this done before I go follow my favorite player to Europe,” Christen replied with a sigh, the ghost of a smile on her face.
“Extra shot,” Tobin hummed, putting the coffee cup in front of Christen on the conference table.
“Marry me,” Christen mumbled under her breath, picking up the coffee and taking a long sip.
“I should ask Connor how many times you’ve said that to him when he brings you coffee,” Tobin teased, dropping her bag in a chair and ditching her own coffee on the conference room table.
Christen took one more sip before putting her cup down next to Tobin’s. She got up and immediately moved into Tobin’s arms, feeling some of the weight and stress leave her the instant Tobin’s arms wrapped around her.
“I’m exhausted,” Christen whispered, tucking her face into the crook of Tobin’s neck.
“I know,” Tobin murmured, stepping out of Christen’s embrace and pulling Christen’s chair out further for Christen to sit down again. “That’s why you’re gonna sit and finish whatever is left while I rub your neck. And then I’ll drive you home, and you can take a bath while I order whatever you want for dinner.”
“Did I say ‘marry me’ already?” Christen asked with a teasing smile.
“Mhm,” Tobin chuckled, leading Christen back to the chair and brushing Christen’s curls to the side as her fingers settled on the tense muscles in Christen’s neck.
“I want to say it again,” Christen said with a soft groan as Tobin found the spot in her neck that was causing her the most pain, her eyes fluttering shut.
Tobin leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to the top of Christen’s head as her thumb dug into the tight muscle.
“Sorry, when I’m tired I have no filter and I definitely just said something far too intense for being together only a month,” Christen sighed, going boneless at Tobin’s touch. She reached back and gently held onto Tobin’s forearm with her hand, just wanting some more contact.
“I’m intense about you,” Tobin mumbled, running her fingers from the top of Christen’s neck and down to her shoulders.
“Me too,” Christen admitted, tracing her thumb in slow circles across Tobin’s arm, feeling the muscles tensing and working.
“Very intense about you. So intense that I’ll offer a full body massage tonight. Not in the conference room, obviously,” Tobin smirked, kissing the top of Christen’s forehead.
“Good God, you’re perfect,” Christen hummed.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Tobin chuckled, moving her hand to get another knot.
“I would,” Christen said seriously, angling her head to look up at Tobin with a smile.
“I got your email about-” Laura said, freezing in the doorway, her eyes moving between Tobin’s hands on the back of Christen’s neck, the blissed-out expression on Christen’s face, and Christen’s hand rubbing up and down Tobin’s arm.
Yeah, it definitely wasn't how Christen expected it to happen.
“So, that’s what the PT told me to do,” Tobin said, dropping her hands from Christen’s neck with a sheepish smile and a dark blush.
Christen sighed and stood up, offering Tobin an affectionate half-smile. “Cute, but Laura can stand bullshit no better than I can,” she said softly.
Turning to face Laura, Christen crossed her arms defensively, finding herself in a somewhat protective stance as she stood, half-blocking Tobin from Laura’s view.
“So, I got your email. I was just checking on transportation for the Orlando game. Thought I’d catch you before you leave,” Laura continued, not sparing a second glance for Tobin.
“Phoebe and Connor are finalizing it still, since I won’t be with you all for the away game. I put them in charge,” Christen replied with a slight edge to her voice, still unsure where Laura stood and what she thought about what she’d walked in on.
“Have you asked Audrey about the patches for jerseys from the new sponsor?” Laura asked.
“The new machine is coming in tomorrow morning, so all the equipment will be set for when you leave,” Christen said.
“All right, enjoy your night,” Laura nodded.
“Laura,” Christen called out, stopping her friend from leaving.
“It’s...caring. So I hope this can stay between us,” Christen murmured, her eyes pleading and her hand sliding into Tobin’s as she spoke.
“I already told you that, and I can see that it’s caring. But don’t lie about physical therapy, Tobin. It’s a serious profession. I was just starting to like you,” Laura said with a tiny smile as she walked out the door.
“Well, that was terrifying,” Tobin muttered, gripping tightly to Christen’s hand.
“She asked me about you a while ago. It probably wasn't a shock to her,” Christen said, turning around to face Tobin, holding their clasped hands to her chest.
“Sorry,” Tobin replied with a tight smile.
“Why?” Christen wondered with a tilt of her head.
“Because I came in here with massage plans and outed us,” Tobin answered, tucking a curl behind Christen’s ear as she spoke.
“To Laura. It’s okay, baby,” Christen assured, stepping a little closer to Tobin.
“Did you hear that?” Tobin asked with a bigger smile.
Christen felt her brow furrow slightly, even as she smiled hesitantly back at Tobin.
“She’s starting to like me.”
With a huff of laughter, Christen slid her arms around Tobin’s waist and pressed a kiss to her cheek.
“I definitely expected to get caught in some other compromising position, not a neck massage,” Christen hummed.
“I think it’s better that Laura didn’t see my tongue in your mouth,” Tobin laughed.
“Better for her . That sounds nice for me,” Christen grinned.
“Let’s go home, then. I’ll even let you pretend to do work so that you feel less stressed,” Tobin teased, tightening her arms around Christen.
“I need to do work for an hour if I let you drag me out of here now,” Christen sighed.
“You can have an hour. I’ll get you dinner and keep up the neck massage,” Tobin agreed, sneaking a quick kiss on Christen’s cheek.
“Red or blue?” Christen asked, stepping out of the bedroom and holding up two different sets of lingerie she’d bought specifically for this trip.
“Blue, don’t give your girlfriend Portland energy,” Crystal teased from her spot on the couch. “Or wait, take both. That’s more of a maroon anyway, and it’s two weeks.”
“I have a forest green and a dark gray too!” Christen called from the bedroom, discarding the red and blue ones on the bed.
“Take them all. You two have loads of energy,” Crystal grinned, glad to see her best friend happy and blushing and nervous over someone again.
“I feel like I’m packing for a month,” Christen sighed, looking at the piles of clothes on her bed before moving out of her bedroom and over to the couch.
“It’s better to be over-prepared than needing to borrow Tobin’s clothes,” Crystal advised.
“I do that for fun,” Christen grinned, picking up her wine glass and the bottle, refreshing both of their glasses.
“You have it bad.”
Christen blushed and took a sip of her wine. “I have it worse than bad.”
“The sex is really good,” Crystal said, no question in her voice.
“ Everything is really good.”
“So, it isn’t just sex?”
Christen leaned her elbow on the back of the couch and propped her head up in her hand, her legs folded beneath her as she faced Crystal.
“Do you remember what you told me when I showed up at your house and told you I was divorcing Brooke?” she asked softly.
“Good riddance?” Crystal teased before she got a more serious look on her face. “I said that you deserve someone who makes the emptiest parts of you feel like they’re overflowing.”
“She does that,” Christen whispered, her throat getting a little thick with emotion at the admission. “Everything just feels like...more with her.”
“You’re falling hard,” Crystal observed, her eyes softer than they had been a moment ago.
Christen let out a shaky breath and sipped her wine. “I already have,” she admitted quietly.
“Can I be in this wedding too?”
Christen huffed out a choked laugh and set her wine glass down, blinking away the handful of tears in her eyes.
“I accidentally asked her to marry me two days ago when she brought me coffee,” Christen blushed.
“That’s a little quick,” Crystal snorted.
“You know how I get when I’m sleep-deprived!”
“Well, did you freak her out?” Crystal asked.
“She said she was intense about me,” Christen hummed, a giddy smile on her face.
Crystal buried her smile into a pillow that she’d been holding. “You realize Brooke’s gonna take responsibility for your second marriage?” she mumbled, a muffled laugh audible through the pillow.
“I’ve already prepared myself for the lifetime of gloating,” Christen replied with a laugh of her own.
“So, Tobin is great and intense about you and thoughtful. And judging by the pile of lingerie, I’d say good in bed?”
“She makes it real,” Christen nodded, pushing the backs of her fingers against her warm cheeks.
“Has she ruined it for you with everyone else?” Crystal pried.
“Oh, yeah,” Christen replied quickly, no shame in her answer.
“So, when is she coming over tonight? Do I get to meet her?” Crystal asked, tossing the pillow aside.
“She specifically asked if we could all have dinner before we left,” Christen grinned.
“ And she wants to meet the friends? I love her,” Crystal gasped, her smile now beaming.
Christen just nodded, not needing to say something like me too , especially since it hadn’t been nearly long enough for that.
Tobin had snuck away from the team. They’d had a morning practice, more for the purpose of getting everyone out of bed and fighting jet lag than actually getting real practice in. But after that practice, she’d showered as quickly as she could and bypassed her teammates who wanted her to come get brunch with them.
She’d ignored Pinoe’s knowing look and Ali’s pout. She’d dropped her stuff at the hotel and called a car to take her to the airport, using her very broken French to explain that she was picking someone up, not flying out.
It had only been a day, maybe even less than twenty-four hours, since she’d seen Christen. They’d said goodbye the morning of her flight. Tobin had forced herself out of Christen’s warm bed and even warmer arms to actually make her flight. And she’d spent the hours in the air thinking about just how far gone she was.
It was too soon and too fast but it was happening nonetheless. She’d fallen for Christen, harder than she had for anyone else. Sleeping alone now felt uncomfortable. Finding pieces of Christen’s wardrobe in her laundry now felt normal. Hearing her mom ask about Christen on the phone made her heart flutter at a ridiculous speed. Feeling Christen snuggle closer in her sleep gave her more peace than she’d ever felt before.
When she’d been traded, Tobin had felt like her home had been stripped away and stolen, like she’d no longer find a home again after feeling so betrayed.
But Christen was home.
Her laugh and the way she talked in her sleep and her toiletries in Tobin’s bathroom and her shoes on the floor and her favorite foods in Tobin’s fridge and pantry, Christen was home and she was everywhere.
It was fast and terrifying and wonderful and breathtaking and sacred.
And now that Tobin had spent a day without her home, now that she was waiting at baggage claim, she was dying to pick her up at the airport and hold her home in her arms.
Christen trudged away from customs and headed for baggage claim, her phone in her hand. But when she realized she hadn’t gotten an international data plan, she sighed and pocketed it.
She had no clue how she was going to get in touch with Tobin now that she was in Paris. She knew the hotel that the U.S. team was staying at, and had gotten herself a room there too. But what was she supposed to do, wander the halls and yell Tobin’s name? Like that wouldn't bring security down on her.
Christen was still wrestling with that dilemma when she felt two arms slide around her waist from behind, causing her to immediately tense up.
But then she felt the familiarity in the embrace and caught hints of lavender, and she realized exactly who it was.
Turning around, Christen threw her arms around Tobin’s shoulders, pulling her in for a fierce hug.
“I didn’t know you were coming to get me,” Christen mumbled into Tobin’s temple.
“You gave me your flight number,” Tobin said, sighing happily as she sank into Christen’s arms.
“You told me you had training,” Christen countered, pulling Tobin impossibly closer.
“I did have training. It’s over now, though.”
With a happy sigh of her own, Christen peppered kisses over every inch of Tobin’s face that she could comfortably reach in such a tight hug, her lips moving from the corner of Tobin’s jaw, across her cheek, and up to her eyebrow.
“I missed you,” Tobin breathed out.
“I missed you too,” Christen replied, continuing to drop kisses on Tobin’s face, not having to second-guess a single kiss thanks to the anonymity a foreign country provided them.
“One day and I missed you,” Tobin chuckled, taking a hold of Christen’s face and pressing her lips against Christen’s.
Christen sank into the kiss, grateful she’d had the presence of mind on the plane to brush her teeth since Tobin seemed very content to embrace the chance to kiss in public now. And who was Christen to deny her when this kiss felt like coming home?
“The other owners are very concerned that I’m holed up in my hotel room, doing work,” Christen chuckled, leaning into Tobin’s side as they strolled down a cobblestone street in the heart of Paris.
“They’re probably feeling really inferior. The youngest owner is a much more focused person than they are,” Tobin hummed, leaning over to place a kiss on Christen’s temple.
Christen chuckled and pulled on their loosely tangled hands, redirecting Tobin toward a shop she wanted to go into. They stepped through the doorway of the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, the two-story shop bustling with people and crammed with books.
“What do you like to read? Give me a genre,” Christen asked, looking over at Tobin and reaching up to fix the beanie on Tobin’s head that was a little crooked.
“Fantasy,” Tobin answered with a goofy smile.
“And I really love a good historical fiction book. Meet back here in ten? I’ll find you something fantastic ,” Christen murmured, feeling that goofy smile make her heart flutter.
“I’ll find you something...historically fictitious?” Tobin chuckled, already searching the shelves for a historical fiction sign.
“We can pick out a book together when we’re done solo hunting,” Christen replied, kissing Tobin on the cheek before drifting away and disappearing behind a bookshelf.
Not two minutes later, Christen popped back up by Tobin’s side with a thoughtful look on her face.
“Do witches count as fantasy for you?” she wondered, holding a book behind her back.
“Sure,” Tobin grinned, holding a stack of books as she read the back of one.
Christen’s eyes widened at the stack, an enamored smile playing on her lips. “Didn’t I say one?” she chuckled.
“I’m narrowing down. Unless you want them all,” Tobin answered.
Christen tilted her head and read the titles along the spines. “The bottom two I’ve read, the top one I didn’t hear good things about, and the one in the middle I have never seen before.”
“Have you ever thought about how historical fiction books are kind of depressing?” Tobin asked, putting three of the books away that Christen had mentioned.
“Not all of them are. There’s a nice sense of adventure in a lot of them. Far away places, thrilling expeditions,” Christen explained, leaning against the bookshelf, still holding the book she’d picked out for Tobin behind her back.
“Well, then I picked depressing ones,” Tobin apologized, putting down the three books she’d picked that Christen hadn’t immediately vetoed.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, I want to see which ones you grabbed,” Christen said softly, her words keeping Tobin from abandoning her choices.
“One’s about a ship of refugees that sank during WWII. Surprisingly, it’s geared toward young adults,” Tobin said, sliding Salt to the Sea toward Christen.
Christen tucked the book she’d found for Tobin under her arm and then took the offered book, flipping it over to peruse the summary.
“This one I haven’t actually read, but Louise Erdrich is great,” Tobin mumbled, handing The Night Watchman to Christen next.
“Wholeheartedly agree,” Christen hummed, taking the book as well with a small smile.
“This is about sisters in the Dominican Republic under Trujillo’s dictatorship. Like I said...depressing,” Tobin said, feeling a little shy about her choices as she handed Christen In the Time of Butterflies .
“I’ll get them all,” Christen decided, cradling the stack of three books to her chest. She then handed Tobin the book she’d picked out. “I didn’t get any backup ones, so if it doesn’t sound interesting, I can try again.”
“You don’t need backup ones,” Tobin replied with a shake of her head, opening the cover of The Discovery of Witches to read the summary on the inside.
“It’s a blend of history and fantasy. I read it a few years ago, and there’s a whole series if you get into it,” Christen explained, watching the curiosity light up on Tobin’s face.
“Isn’t this a TV show?” Tobin asked as she looked at the first page.
“They adapted it, yeah. The book’s better in my opinion,” Christen replied.
“Books are always better.”
“So you’ll read it?” Christen wondered with a shy smile.
“Yes, it’s a perfect pick,” Tobin nodded. “And I don’t have to check three books in my suitcase,” she added a little sheepishly.
“I don’t mind,” Christen hummed, leaning forward and kissing Tobin softly. “Want to go pick out a book together? You’ll have to check it in your suitcase, though.”
“I get responsibility of our couple book first?” Tobin gasped, wrapping her arm around Christen’s waist as they perused more books.
“It’s a joint custody agreement, so don’t go getting any ideas of keeping it forever,” Christen teased, maneuvering them over to the poetry and short fiction section.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Tobin murmured, pecking Christen’s cheek and pulling a book of poetry off the shelf.
“Do you like poetry?” Christen asked softly, observing Tobin casually flip through the book one-handed.
“Most of the time,” Tobin answered, pausing on a ridiculously sappy poem.
“When do you not?”
“It’s not when it’s who . Some poets just don’t do it for me,” Tobin explained, shrugging her shoulders gently. “Do you like it?”
“I do,” Christen nodded, gently taking the book from Tobin’s hand and closing it. “So, I know you probably won’t like that one, if my feeling about you and poetry is correct.”
“Which one would you suggest?” Tobin asked, watching Christen closely as she searched.
Christen led them down the aisle a few steps, looking at the books on the shelf. And then she saw a familiar author with an unfamiliar book title and she let out a hum.
“Have you read any of Mary Oliver’s poems?”
“Is it bad if I say I’ve only read the Wild Geese one because of high school English?” Tobin asked, pressing her forehead into Christen’s shoulder.
“What about Pat Parker?” Christen chuckled, having seen a book next to Mary Oliver’s that she thought Tobin would like even more.
“Never heard of her...him...them?” Tobin murmured.
“Her,” Christen corrected with a smile, reaching out for the book of Pat Parker’s poetry.
“Is she a favorite?” Tobin asked, glancing at the book cover.
Christen closed her eyes and recalled the start of a poem she’d read many times. “M y lover is a woman, and when I hold her, I feel her warmth. I feel good, feel safe,” she murmured softly.
“That kinda sounds gay,” Tobin teased, smirking at Christen before she pressed another kiss to Christen’s cheek.
“She was an activist in the ’70s who wrote some very gay stuff,” Christen chuckled. “But everything she writes about is...real. It’s not waxing about the way leaves fall or ripples move across the surface of the lake or anything like that. It speaks to the heart of human existence.”
Tobin stared at Christen for a moment, stars in her eyes and butterflies in her stomach. And then she leaned against the bookshelf and looked at the book of poems. “Pat, would you like to be our first couple book?”
Christen let out a warm laugh and reached up to cradle Tobin’s cheek with her free hand.
“Let’s go buy these, and then maybe we can read some poems near the Notre Dame,” Christen hummed, completely enamored with the woman in front of her and knowing she was so far gone, there was no way to ever turn back.
Christen had to sit on her hands to keep from clapping so enthusiastically. She was sitting with the other owners who’d traveled to Paris, the five of them sitting in a box together. And while they seemed into the game, they definitely weren’t as invested as Christen was.
But she couldn’t express how invested she was in front of them.
So she sat on her hands and hid behind her large black sunglasses, simultaneously hoping Tobin scored and didn’t score, so she wouldn’t be faced with what to do if that happened.
But of course, Tobin had to continue to be her perfect self and score right before halftime.
Tobin didn’t think it was possible, but she missed her goal celebration music. She missed the way the fans in Denver would sing it, the way it made her think of Christen. That being said, without the music, she still thought about Christen. And in a moment of thinking about Christen, a moment of caring about Christen, Tobin lifted her hands to make the shape of a heart. To spectators and fans and teammates she was celebrating the goal, but she knew the heart was for Christen. And she knew Christen would know that.
The only other person who knew it was for Christen was Pinoe who made a face at Tobin like she was gagging and then ruffled Tobin’s hair. Tobin hadn’t told her anything, but Pinoe knew Christen was there, and she knew Tobin was now constantly busy between trainings and meetings. She knew and she smirked and she teased under her breath, all things that instead of bothering Tobin just made her heart flutter with the knowledge that she and Christen were together.
They spent the entirety of their two weeks doing things they couldn’t do in Denver. While they were still careful, especially in and around the hotel and football stadiums, being far away from home allowed them to be a little more open. Tobin was able to take Christen to dinner at an actual restaurant without renting out the entire space. Christen was able to show Tobin her favorite café in Paris and hold her hand on top of the table.
They took walks through busy parts of the city, their hands swinging between them. They wandered museums and perused stores, all the while able to relax, not looking over their shoulders and checking that they were alone.
It was bliss.
And there was an expiration date because no matter how much they both loved the bliss, the slight anonymity available, they had to go home after their two weeks were up. Even though they got to go home and crawl into bed together, sleeping off their flights and their jetlag, they’d both gotten a taste of what it could be, of what it wasn’t.
And because of that, there was a longing to feel that bliss again, a longing that couldn't be fulfilled, a longing when Tobin wanted to check out a local bookstore and couldn’t ask Christen to go with her, a longing when Christen wanted to go to her favorite restaurant and sit in her regular seat with Tobin but couldn’t.
Thanks for reading as always! -sam & emma
Chapter 10: On Your Way Home
rash arguments, the R word (retirement), and restaurants
Hello, everybody! It's been a hot minute. Life comes at you hard sometimes, and we've been trying to relax/de-stress, especially with all that's going on in the world. That being said, we miss posting and all of you, so here's a chapter!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The longing got worse when Tobin’s mom called. It got worse because her mom was finally coming to visit Denver and she was dying to meet Christen. It got worse when her mom finally got to meet Christen at Tobin’s apartment, and Cindy whispered in Tobin’s ear that she loved her.
“Why don’t I take you both out for dinner on me?” Cindy asked.
Christen winced and shared a quick look with Tobin. “I’d love to, but…we can’t exactly be out together,” Christen explained. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t...understand,” Cindy said slowly, looking over at Tobin.
“We don’t really go out,” Tobin mumbled, trying to focus on anything else but the longing.
“We can’t. With my position as the club’s owner and all that,” Christen added, her stomach twisting with a familiar guilt, the one she’d been feeling since they returned from Europe. It got worse every day that they resorted back to their routine, with nights in and clandestine moments. And she could see the toll it was taking on Tobin.
“So, you don’t date?” Cindy asked, her forehead getting more furrowed.
“Why don’t we order in or something,” Tobin suggested, busying herself with unloading the dishwasher because this entire situation made her chest ache.
“No, let’s…go. Out. It’ll be fine,” Christen offered, her worried, watchful gaze on Tobin.
“We can order in,” Tobin repeated, making Cindy’s head whip around between the two women.
“Tobin,” Christen sighed, not wanting to have an argument she’d known was looming in front of Tobin’s mother, especially not after meeting her for the first time.
“Your brother actually told me about a really great restaurant that doesn’t do seating. They do pick up and delivery only,” Cindy offered softly.
“Cindy, we can find a place to sit down. The last thing I’m sure you want to do is come to town and eat in an apartment,” Christen said, shooting Cindy an apologetic smile.
“The dining room table is fine. You picked it out,” Tobin huffed, stacking another plate on top of the growing pile she was pulling out of the dishwasher. “Shit, it’s dirty,” she muttered, reloading the plates even faster than she’d unloaded them.
“We can eat at the dining room table tomorrow,” Christen offered, standing up from her spot on the couch next to Cindy and moving into the kitchen. She placed a gentle hand on Tobin’s shoulder to get her to stop messing with the dishes.
“I’ll…get a sweater,” Cindy mumbled to herself before slipping down the hall toward the guest room.
“Just do what you’re comfortable with. My mom doesn’t need to go out . It’s not a big deal,” Tobin said, her voice quiet and her eyes still moving.
“It isn’t just me whose comfort I’m thinking about,” Christen argued softly.
“I’m fine. I’m great. Nothing’s stopping me from going out,” Tobin blurted out, feeling her throat grow thick.
Christen narrowed her eyes and let her hand fall from Tobin’s shoulder.
“I hate it when you bullshit me, Tobin. You know that,” Christen said, her voice low.
“I’m not bullshitting,” Tobin argued.
“Well, you’re not fine or great. And I’m the one stopping you from going out. So, yeah you are bullshitting me,” Christen replied, her arms crossing over her chest defensively.
“Fine, I’m not great. But it’s not just you who’s stopping me. I’d also like to not be seen as a player who’s just screwing her owner,” Tobin hissed, hearing her mom moving around in the guest room.
The words stung, even if they were truthful. Christen felt them land like small blows on her heart, hearing the entirety of everything they’d done together, reduced to a handful of words that didn’t even scratch the surface of who they were.
“You won’t have to worry about that tonight, then. Tell your mother I’m sorry. Something came up at work,” Christen said softly, grabbing her purse from the counter. She slipped into her shoes and offered one final look from the door, sighing when she still saw the stubborn set of Tobin’s jaw and the pointed avoidance of eye contact. She didn’t bother lingering, pulling the door shut behind her.
“First fight?” Cindy observed, her sweater folded over her arm as she walked back into the room.
“That obvious?” Tobin sighed, dropping her forehead to the counter as she let the frustration drain out of her and leave her just feeling like a jerk.
Cindy hummed and walked over to her daughter, rubbing a soothing hand over her back.
“I don’t think I appreciated how difficult this is for you two. It must be frustrating, but I’m sure you’re both more frustrated with the circumstances than each other,” Cindy offered.
“I’m not frustrated with her. I’m annoyed that I can’t do what I could do with relationships I cared less about,” Tobin explained.
“Maybe that’s a conversation you two need to have,” Cindy replied gently. “And conversations are best had as soon as possible. So let’s go grab some takeout and get enough for Christen too.”
“I’ll take you out tomorrow,” Tobin promised, standing up straight and wrapping an arm around her mom.
Tobin climbed out of her car and looked at the house. The porch lights were off, the kitchen light at the front of the house was off, and aside from a small lamp on the upstairs landing, Tobin couldn’t see any other signs of life.
She’d felt guilty as soon as she’d snapped at Christen, as soon as the door had closed, as soon as she’d let out the frustration that had been building. And she’d spent her evening coming up with an apology with her mom and talking about the frustrating situation that they were in.
So now, armed with way too much food, Tobin walked up to the porch and pulled out her phone. She dialed Christen’s number, not wanting to ring the doorbell and freak her out at this hour with her porch lights off.
“Hi,” Christen greeted, her voice quiet as she picked up the phone.
“Hey,” Tobin breathed out, pressing her forehead against the front door. “I’m really sorry.”
“I’m the one who should apologize. I know you said I’m not the one stopping us from going out, but I am,” Christen sighed.
“I told you that I want to be with you in any capacity. If that means eating at home and watching a movie, that’s what I want. I only want you.”
“I wish it were simpler. That we could be as open as we want to,” Christen murmured, the sound of running water in the background.
“Me too,” Tobin agreed quietly. “But I still think this is worth all the privacy.”
“I… I'll never regret you,” Christen said into the phone.
“I could never regret you either, and I’m- I need to say this to your face. Can you get the door?” Tobin asked, picking up the bag of food.
“Umm…the spare key is under the flower pot. I’m not exactly clothed,” Christen said with a small, embarrassed chuckle.
“Are you about to shower?” Tobin asked, lifting up the flower pot and grabbing the key.
“I do my best thinking in there,” Christen hummed in reply, the sound of water shutting off easily heard behind her voice.
“The clothes can be optional, but the food might get cold if you decide to take a shower first,” Tobin said as she pushed the door open.
“I’ll meet you downstairs,” Christen replied, hanging up the call.
A few moments later, Christen came down the stairs in a fuzzy robe and a pair of UGGs, her curls piled on top of her head in a messy bun. Her face was scrubbed clean of make-up, but her cheeks were a bit splotchy and her eyes were a bit red-rimmed.
“Baby,” Tobin said softly, moving around the kitchen island and approaching Christen slowly.
“I listened to really sad Taylor Swift music, so don’t read too much into it,” Christen said with a weak chuckle and a small smile.
“I’m still sorry,” Tobin murmured, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist and holding her gently.
“Don’t be. They were as much my fault as yours,” Christen whispered, losing herself a little in the comfort of Tobin’s embrace.
“I’m not screwing my team’s owner,” Tobin mumbled against the shoulder of Christen’s robe.
“Technically, you weren’t exactly wrong. It was the word ‘just’ that gave me pause,” Christen replied softly, whispering her words against the side of Tobin’s head.
“I’ve completely fallen for you. Nothing about that is just screwing,” Tobin whispered back.
Christen released a shaky breath and tightened her arms around Tobin. “I’ve fallen too. You’re not alone in that,” she murmured, feeling her heart race with the admission.
“And I’d rather eat takeout with you right here until the day I retire than go out to a fancy restaurant with someone else,” Tobin added, pressing a soft kiss to the side of Christen’s neck.
“Me too, baby,” Christen agreed, running her fingers through Tobin’s hair and growing calmer by the second, now that Tobin was here and they were okay.
Tobin kept her arms secure around Christen, both of them burrowing into one another. She ran her hands up and down Christen’s back, infusing apologies into her touch.
“Are you hungry?” Tobin asked, her voice soft and low.
“You got Thai, didn’t you?” Christen mumbled against Tobin’s neck.
“I got so much. You have a thousand options. Thai curry, truffle fries, mac and cheese, cupcakes, tacos. And I can order anything else. I realize none of that goes together,” Tobin whispered, feeling her cheeks flame at the insane amount of food she’d picked up from three different restaurants. It was a little excessive, but she’d been in fix-it mode.
“You’re perfect,” Christen sighed, leaning back to kiss the twin blushes on Tobin’s cheeks. “You didn’t need to get all that.”
“I’m definitely not perfect. I just wanted to get you something you really wanted, and I didn’t know what you’d be in the mood for,” Tobin mumbled.
“You,” Christen whispered, pressing her forehead against Tobin’s and nuzzling Tobin’s nose. “I’m in the mood for you.”
“You have me, and I’m always in the mood for you,” Tobin whispered back, catching Christen’s lips in a soft, slow, gentle kiss.
“Okay let’s talk worst-case scenarios. What’s the absolute worst that could happen if someone sees us eating a nice seafood dinner with your mother?” Christen asked as she poured fresh berries into the two bowls of oatmeal she was preparing.
“Baby, we don’t need to,” Tobin said, a sleepy yawn slipping from her lips.
“Shh, we’re hypothesizing,” Christen replied with a wave of her hand, using the other to sprinkle brown sugar onto their oatmeal.
“Okay…they ask why we’re eating dinner with my mother?” Tobin offered.
“Which naturally leads to questions about the nature of our relationship,” Christen added, throwing a dash of cinnamon onto Tobin’s oatmeal and then sliding the bowl in front of her on the counter with a quick kiss to her cheek.
“Yep, and I guess worst case they tell a journalist or something. It’s not like we could lose jobs, right? We’d probably just have to do some HR paperwork. Thank you for the breakfast,” Tobin mumbled, stirring her spoon in her bowl.
“Sure thing, baby. And I don’t think we could lose jobs. I mean you certainly wouldn’t,” Christen hummed in reply, fixing Tobin’s coffee for her and then sliding that next to the oatmeal. “Worst I can imagine is the news breaks, it’s a PR shit storm. I’m forced to give the team back to Brooke who, through no fault of her own, would probably accidentally undo all of the work I’ve just done. You would be hated by some and loved by some. I’d most likely be hated by all. And I would get painted poorly by journalists and the media and the greater football community.”
“I don’t want you to,” Tobin said, a serious look on her face.
Christen shrugged and added some honey to her oatmeal before sliding it in front of the empty chair next to Tobin. With her fixed coffee in hand, she joined Tobin at the counter.
“I really don’t. We don’t have to rush anything. I’ll probably retire in like six-”
“Do not say the R word in this household in the light of day,” Christen gasped, turning her wide-eyed look to Tobin.
“Will you not want to date me when I’m R-worded?”
“Of course I will,” Christen assured, reaching up to brush her thumb along the smile lines next to Tobin’s mouth. “I just can’t think about not watching you play. It hurts to consider it.”
“Okay, well all I’m saying is we aren’t in a rush. We can wait for the R word and eat dinner with my mother in like six or seven years,” Tobin problem-solved, shrugging as if it were no big deal.
“Tobin,” Christen huffed out a laugh, shaking her head at the ridiculousness of that. “Even if that is the worst case and it does happen, it’s worth it to have dinner with your mom.”
“We can have dinner with her. We can light candles and make the dining room table look fancy,” Tobin assured, not wanting Christen to be uncomfortable at all.
“I’m going to make a reservation at a nice place downtown,” Christen replied, taking a sip of her coffee. “It’s worth the risk, Tobin. We can’t hide forever.”
“Ask if they have private rooms,” Tobin muttered. “I’d like you not to get in trouble because of me.”
“I will ask,” Christen nodded. “But trouble’s worth it for you.”
“Are you going to keep saying that in hopes that I’ll believe it?” Tobin asked, reaching out and pulling Christen’s chair closer.
“Is it working?”
“It certainly makes my heart beat faster,” Tobin said before leaning over and kissing the corner of Christen’s jaw.
“Then it’s working,” Christen hummed with a small smile.
“Is something wrong with your eyes, Tobs?” Cindy asked as she looked across the table at Tobin in her dark sunglasses.
“No, I’m trying out this new lifestyle where you cut off one of your senses so food tastes better,” Tobin answered.
With an affectionate eye roll, Christen pulled her napkin into her lap. “We are in a private room, baby, and we showed up separately. You can take them off.”
“Mom, if you had the weight of someone’s career on your shoulders and you also were really into them would you take your sunglasses off?” Tobin asked, getting a small laugh from Cindy.
“My career is in interior design, not owning a football club,” Christen argued playfully.
“But you love the club,” Tobin countered, slipping her sunglasses down her nose a little and tilting her head down to look at Christen.
“I do,” Christen conceded. “But there’s more to life than loving a football club.”
Tobin let out a breath as she took the sunglasses off and stuck them into her suit jacket pocket. “Tell that to the Snow Shoers or whatever it is the fans call themselves now.”
“I think she’s saying that you’re more important than the club, Tobs,” Cindy chimed in with a smile, her eyes moving between Christen and Tobin.
“Thank you, Cindy,” Christen grinned, handing over a menu to Tobin’s mother.
“You two are gonna be besties,” Tobin said as she reached for her water glass and put her free hand on Christen’s thigh under the table.
“A shared love bonds,” Cindy hummed, perusing the menu.
Tobin choked slightly on her water but covered it up with a small cough.
“You called us besties, you asked for it,” Christen chuckled, pulling Tobin’s napkin off of her plate and holding it out for her to take.
“Thank you,” Tobin murmured, setting her napkin in her lap and looking at the menu. “Look, truffle fries and molten lava cake. We’re set.”
“Want to share?” Christen asked with a smile, looking over at Tobin and dropping her hand onto Tobin’s, which was still on her thigh.
“Yes, Laura would kill me if I didn’t, and I love sharing with you.”
“Since we’re the non-athletes at the table, maybe you and I can share the whiskey bread pudding for dessert,” Cindy offered with a warm smile for Christen.
“That sounds wonderful, Cindy. Count me in,” Christen replied, feeling Tobin start to play with her fingers under the table.
“From what I’ve heard, you seem to like my daughter,” Cindy said with a smile as Tobin groaned.
“You’ve heard correctly,” Christen hummed, opening her palm fully so Tobin could trace her fingertips across it.
“Well, if you don’t have plans we’d love to see you during a holiday or two. You can be the actual girlfriend who’s caught at the beach house,” Cindy smirked.
“Oh, so you read that article too?” Christen laughed.
“I like to keep up on my news,” Cindy chuckled, “especially when it involves Tobin.”
With another laugh, Christen shot Tobin a quick smile before looking back at Cindy.
“I’d love to come for a holiday or two. Thank you for the invitation.”
“So, you were married before?”
“Mom,” Tobin choked out.
Christen caught Tobin’s hand under the table and gave it a gentle squeeze to let her know it was all right.
“I was. She actually owned the team, and I got them in the divorce. We’re still friends, just not right for one another,” Christen replied.
“Tobin told me she called her a star purchase,” Cindy said with a slight frown on her face.
Christen cringed at the verbiage. “Brooke’s always has a tendency to put her foot in her mouth, so I’ll just apologize for the phrase and hope it never comes up again.”
“I’m just trying to freak you out and be the intimidating parent,” Cindy grinned.
“It’s working. I think I’m sweating a little,” Christen chuckled, taking a sip of her water.
“You don’t need to worry about me. I already love you. I told Tobin that within the first thirty minutes of meeting you. It’s the siblings who’ll give you a hard time,” Cindy assured.
“I’ve been properly warned, as has Tobin. I have two sisters of my own,” Christen said, shooting Tobin a wink.
Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, the rest of dinner went swimmingly. And the next day, no Buzzfeed articles or blurry Twitter photos surfaced.
Hope you enjoyed that! This story isn't super heavy on angst, largely because we have two very angsty stories in our arsenal that we wrote around the same time, and this one was more of a reprieve for us. We're working on the end of YBBMB still, so that'll come sometime this summer. CYFNF will be updated next sometime soon. Until then, stay safe, and remember the sun always rises lol. Love y'all!
-sam & emma
Chapter 11: I Ain't Ever Loved No One
staying warm, sharp pains, and surprises on Appreciation Day
We meant to post this after the last ACFC game, but.....life.... So, here's this chapter before the next ACFC game!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
By the second week of October, the Avalanche had completely turned their season around. They had five games left and a real shot at making the playoffs, since the top six teams made it and they were sitting at fifth.
But their final five games were going to be some of their more difficult challenges. They had to face the Houston Dash twice, a scrappy Chicago team once, a tough Washington Spirit once, and of course, the Portland Thorns in their final home game of the season.
Tonight, the weather forecast for the game was brutally cold and the game forecast was a brutal battle against the Dash.
“Bring your hand warmers if Laura subs you out, okay?” Christen murmured, pulling the sides of Tobin’s puffy coat together and zipping it up for her.
“You packed them for me,” Tobin grinned, leaning forward and kissing Christen gently.
“I’m just worried about you staying warm,” Christen shrugged, stealing another quick kiss.
“I’ll stay as warm as I can, and then we can come home and make hot tea or something.”
“I thought you were going to say make out,” Christen teased.
“Baby, I’ll be doing that in the driveway before we even get out of the car,” Tobin smirked before stealing another kiss.
With a soft laugh, Christen gave Tobin one final kiss, lingering in it and the feeling of Tobin’s lips pressed against her own before leaning back.
“Go. Don’t be late,” she whispered, reaching up to cradle the corner of Tobin’s jaw, brushing her thumb tenderly along Tobin’s cheekbone. “Be safe. Play smart,” she added, just like she did before every game.
“Stay warm in your fancy box,” Tobin teased, taking off her own scarf and wrapping it around Christen’s neck.
“I’ve got Tobin Heath’s scarf, I’m set,” Christen teased right back.
“See you after. I love you,” Tobin said, pulling open the door and jogging toward the stairs to get down to the locker room before Laura yelled at her.
Christen’s eyes widened as the three words settled around her in her now silent office. Her heart was hammering, her stomach was doing backflips, and she felt like she’d completely stopped breathing.
Tobin loved her. Tobin loved her and it was the single greatest feeling in the entire world.
“I love you too,” she whispered with a beaming smile, one that made her cheeks start to hurt. She knew Tobin was long gone, not able to hear the words, but she wanted to say the words anyway.
And she couldn’t wait for the game to be over so she could say them back to Tobin.
“Watch the jersey tugging, ref!” Laura bellowed from her place on the cooler, anxiously twisting her hands in front of her as the game raged on in front of her.
They were down 3-2 in the final twelve minutes of the game, and the Dash weren’t letting up. No matter what the Avalanche threw at them, the Dash had an answer. Points-wise, they needed at least a tie tonight, so Laura took a bit of a gamble.
“Cat,” she called out, gesturing the younger player over. “Go in out wide for Heath, but stick her in the middle and let’s pull Hank out. Tell Heath to play as high as possible and press everything. We need a goal.”
When the ball went out for a throw-in, Cat switched on and gave Tobin the message.
“Can you sprint for eleven minutes?” Cat asked. “That’s all we've got left and we need a goal.”
“Got it,” Tobin nodded, holding up a thumbs-up for Cat. She felt completely wrecked, bruised and tired and ready to go home and crawl into bed with Christen, but she could do eleven minutes. She wanted the goal. She was dying for the goal, ready to push her body to its limit for the goal.
The stadium was electric, despite the conditions. The fans were loud and had been all game, enthusiastically cheering on the Avalanche while also booing the Dash respectfully.
But now, with Tobin high-pressing the Dash backline with Cat and Caitlyn’s help, the fans came alive with a chant everyone in the stadium was very familiar with. A chant that had the bundled-up owner in her box jumping in on.
“ I'm running to you, baby! You are the only one who saves me! That's why I've been missing you lately! 'Cause you make it real for me! ” the fans cheered, encouraging Tobin to keep sprinting and putting pressure on the defense.
The chant added fuel to the fire and helped Tobin get just enough of a touch on a lackadaisical pass from the center back toward the center midfielder. The intercepted pass landed right at Andi’s feet, who drove right at the defense.
Tobin curled her run in behind the center back, receiving Andi’s slotted pass between the backs easily.
She could see the Dash goalkeeper charging off her line and knew she had a split second to redirect the pass into the back of the net before the keeper would be able to get a touch. So, she flicked the ball up into the air, chipping the goalkeeper.
She didn’t have time to watch the ball hit the back of the net, because before she knew it, she hadn’t jumped high enough to clear the sliding goalkeeper.
Tobin’s cleat clipped the goalkeeper’s shoulder, causing her to twist in the air. She tried to catch herself with her right foot, but the force of her landing sent a sharp pain through her knee. She landed in the grass, her nose taking most of the force since her hands were too slow to catch herself. She didn’t cry out or scream. She just grimaced against the ground, feeling an ache start to form in her knee, sharp pains appearing every few seconds, getting worse as her adrenaline started to slow down.
James Morrison echoed through the stadium, deafening cheers mixing in with the goal song as the Avalanche fans cheered.
But Christen hadn’t even gotten to the point of cheering. She’d been on her feet the moment she saw Tobin trip over the goalkeeper, and she stayed standing, gripping tightly to the railing as she watched Tobin stay down.
“Get up, get up,” Christen whispered under her breath, quietly begging Tobin to be okay.
No matter how many times Christen repeated those words and sent up silent prayers, Tobin didn’t get up.
Tobin rolled over in the box, groaning when she felt wet liquid slide from her nose across her cheek and toward her ear. She lifted a hand up to her face, pulled it away, and looked at the blood that was obviously gushing down her face.
“Hey, Cat,” Tobin called out, pushing herself up a little more.
“You’re good, stay there,” Cat said, holding Tobin by the shoulder and encouraging her to lay back down.
“I think I should be subbed,” Tobin mumbled, cringing when she looked down and saw bloodstains now on her jersey.
“Yeah, the trainer’s coming out now to get you taken off,” Cat replied, her brows creased with worry.
“I don’t want to be carried off. I’m good,” Tobin argued, putting her left foot a little more firmly under her.
“Tobin, stop,” Sonnett said firmly as she arrived and crouched down, not letting Tobin try something stupid like standing up on one leg. “Let the trainer check you out, dude.”
“It didn’t even pop,” Tobin grumbled, feeling more sharp pain move through her knee.
“That’s a good thing. It’s gonna be fine, even if your face looks a little fucked right now,” Sonnett said with a tight smile. “You’re gonna be fine.”
“I’m a catch,” Tobin joked, smiling around the blood that was pretty much spread across the bottom half of her face at this point.
Once the trainer got there, she probed Tobin’s knee, twisting it and bending it. And when she gave Tobin a look, Tobin knew she wouldn’t be walking off the field on her own. Sonnett and Cat helped her hop off on her left leg, her right leg bent and useless at this point until the trainer could take a better look at it back in the locker room.
The moment Tobin had been helped off the field, Christen was out of her seat and hurrying out of the box.
“Ow ow ow. Okay, yep. Still ow,” Tobin groaned, lying down on the table and squeezing her eyes shut.
“Good news is, it’s not a tear, Heath. Just a minor sprain,” the trainer said, sitting back and taking her hands off Tobin’s knee.
“Fantastic,” Tobin sighed.
“Bad news, you’re out for two weeks. Week and a half at the very minimum.”
“But it feels great,” Tobin lied with a tiny pout.
“I’m going to find you some crutches and a towel for your face,” the trainer said with a shake of her head, getting to her feet.
“I hate crutches,” Tobin muttered under her breath, touching her nose a few times and pulling out the blood-soaked tissues the trainer had basically shoved up her nose.
The trainer paused in the doorway of the training room, surprised at having opened the door to find a very distressed-looking Christen Press.
“You lost, Ms. Press?”
“Uh, no. I’m here to check on Tobin,” Christen replied, her jaw tight and her lips pulled into a thin line.
“Your first big injury since starting,” the trainer hummed. “Pretty great record if you ask me.”
“It’s broken now, though. So can I-” Christen faltered, gesturing behind the trainer.
“Heath, do you mind a visitor?” the trainer asked, getting a thumbs-up from Tobin right before she sneezed and made more blood start to flow.
“Jesus Christ,” Tobin groaned, trying to slip from the table and reach the box of tissues.
Christen wasn’t going to wait any longer for the trainer. She breezed into the room and grabbed the tissues Tobin was reaching for, taking some out and handing them to Tobin.
“Lay down,” Christen said softly, her face etched with concern. Her eyes traveled up and down Tobin’s body, over the bloodstained jersey and the ice bag on her right knee, looking for any other injuries.
“Nothing’s broken,” Tobin assured, her voice a little nasally as she held tissues over her nose.
Christen wanted to reach out and help, to brush the sweaty baby hairs off of Tobin’s forehead and kiss her and hold her and take care of her. But she could hear the trainer moving around nearby, so she stuck her fidgeting hands into her coat pockets.
“Are you-” Christen cleared the emotion from her throat, making her voice come out softer, “are you okay?”
“Yeah. My knee’s sprained, and my nose is bruised, but I’m okay,” Tobin nodded, grimacing a little at the way that made her nose ache.
“Is the…ice making you cold?” Christen asked because honestly, she didn’t quite know what else to say. She knew there was nothing she could say to make things better. She couldn’t take away the pain. She couldn’t heal Tobin any faster.
“I’m okay. Glad I don’t have a mirror,” Tobin joked, trying to lighten the mood.
Seeing Tobin shiver ever so slightly, Christen took her hands from her pockets and unwound the scarf from her neck. She gently slid it around Tobin’s, tying it in a loose knot and using the proximity to run her thumb tenderly along Tobin’s jaw briefly.
“You look beautiful,” Christen whispered, trying her best to smile, knowing it came off more wobbly than she wanted.
“Tell that to the look on your face,” Tobin whispered back, reaching a hand out to squeeze Christen’s hip once.
“Just because I’m worried about you, doesn’t mean you don’t look beautiful,” Christen argued softly, yearning to catch Tobin’s hand and cling to it.
“I’m ready to go home,” Tobin mumbled, moving her hands back to rest on her own stomach.
Christen nodded shakily and then looked over at the trainer.
“All right, Heath. No driving for you, so get a ride home, use your crutches, and ice once more before you go to bed. Both your knee and your nose. You’ll probably swell,” the trainer instructed, leaning two crutches against the table.
“Thanks,” Tobin sighed, pushing up off the table and grabbing a hold of the crutches as she sank down onto the floor. “I’m gonna wash my face too.”
“Good idea,” the trainer laughed.
“Does she have to go see a doctor or anything?” Christen asked, not reaching out to help Tobin get settled with the crutches like she wanted to.
“We’ll keep an eye on her, and unless things look worse tomorrow or the next day, she should be just fine,” the trainer answered.
Tobin started crutching to the locker room, having to move around concerned teammates to get her bag out of her locker.
“Sonnett,” Christen called out from the door to the locker room, her worried gaze trained on Tobin.
“Boss lady,” Sonnett replied as she walked over to Christen.
“Would you get Tobin’s bag for her? And help her to the parking lot? She’ll try to do it all herself and she shouldn’t,” Christen said softly, still not looking away from the blood staining the front of Tobin’s jersey.
“You’re right,” Sonnett nodded, moving away from Christen. “Hey, Toby! Christen just said I have to help you shower.”
“No she didn’t,” Tobin huffed, struggling to put her bag over her shoulder.
“Okay, I yield. But she did say to help you with your bag to the parking lot,” Sonnett said, sliding Tobin’s bag from her arm and putting it onto her own.
“Thanks, Sonny,” Tobin sighed, crutching to the door as a few other teammates said goodbye.
Christen was waiting for them in the parking lot, having pulled her BMW as close to the door as possible. The passenger side door was open and Christen was fighting the seat to get it moved back as far as possible, so Tobin would have legroom.
“Sweet! You get to ride with the boss,” Sonnett commented as she walked to the back and tossed Tobin’s bag in the trunk.
Without exchanging more than a few words, Christen helped Tobin slide into the passenger’s seat, unable not to let a few of her touches linger. Despite knowing Sonnett was still standing there, Christen tucked the crutches in next to Tobin and then leaned forward to press a kiss to her forehead.
Christen shut the car door gently, turning to face Sonnett, ready to launch into the spiel Laura had saved her from.
“Congrats,” Sonnett said simply, a shit-eating grin on her face.
“Keep it to yourself, please?” Christen asked softly.
“Will do. Take care of my friend,” Sonnett replied with the most serious expression Christen had ever seen on the blonde’s face.
“I will,” Christen promised, equally as serious.
“Drive safely and have fun with Carrie,” Sonnett teased, motioning to her own nose to reference the blood on Tobin's face and then spinning on her heel and heading back into the locker room.
Christen rounded the car and slid into the driver’s seat, still feeling a knot in her chest that had yet to loosen, despite knowing Tobin was, for all intents and purposes, fine.
“Yours?” she asked softly, looking over at Tobin.
“My what?” Tobin asked, turning her head slowly to look at Christen.
“Yours or mine, baby,” Christen clarified with a tight half-smile.
“Either one,” Tobin shrugged, sinking back into her seat.
“Fewer stairs at yours, so I can take you there,” Christen offered.
“Okay,” Tobin murmured, reaching out and resting her hand on the console. “Plus I don’t want to get blood in your sink.”
Christen huffed out a slightly pained laugh as she pulled away from the curb, driving slowly and carefully. Once they were out of the parking lot, she slid her hand into Tobin’s and squeezed gently.
“I wouldn’t mind.”
“I feel gross,” Tobin said quietly.
“I’ll get you set up in the shower when we get there. Good thing you have the bench seat,” Christen murmured as she navigated them toward Tobin’s apartment complex.
“That was not the intended use,” Tobin chuckled, lifting up Christen’s hand to kiss it and then thinking better of it.
“I know,” Christen replied, pulling Tobin’s hand and leaving a kiss on the back of it since Tobin couldn’t.
“Did we tie?” Tobin asked, focusing on Christen’s profile as she drove.
“I...don’t know,” Christen admitted, her shoulders falling a little. “I didn’t check. I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry? I’m the one who freaked you out. I can tell because you’re all tense and you aren’t looking at me for longer than like ten seconds,” Tobin sighed, squeezing Chrisen’s hand twice.
Christen blew out a shaky breath and tightened her grip on the steering wheel, willing the tears blurring her vision of the road to clear.
“Was it wiping out in the box or the L-word?” Tobin asked, putting her other hand on top of Christen’s so that her two hands were enclosing it.
Thankfully, the parking lot of Tobin’s apartment complex was right around the corner. Christen quickly pulled them into it and parked the car, trying to breathe past the knotted worry in her chest.
With tears blurring her vision, she turned to look at Tobin, reaching out to cradle her jaw just like she had before the game. But now, her thumb moved across Tobin’s cheek and she brushed over dried blood and sweat.
“You scared the shit out of me,” she whispered hoarsely.
“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. It slipped out. I meant it, and I wouldn’t take it back, but I can-”
Christen shook her head, the motion jerky and quick. “Tobin, you wiping out in the box scared the shit out of me because I love you too.”
“Oh…yeah?” Tobin asked, her voice wobbly.
“Yeah,” Christen replied with a few tears slipping down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry I scared you,” Tobin whispered, catching the tears with her thumb.
“Don’t do it too often, okay?” Christen asked with a weak, watery smile.
“I’ll try not to,” Tobin promised, tracing her finger over Christen’s cheekbone and down her neck.
“Good, because I really love you,” Christen said softly, her green eyes shining with unshed tears and unadulterated joy.
“I really love you too.”
“Let’s get you cleaned up so I can kiss you properly,” Christen whispered, running her thumb over the dried blood still covering most of the bottom half of Tobin’s face.
“You don’t want to kiss this?” Tobin asked with a smirk.
“Honestly? I love you enough to,” Christen chuckled.
“I love you enough not to ask you to,” Tobin teased, pushing open the door and slowly getting her crutches out.
Christen tsked and hopped out, hurrying around the front of the car to slide the crutches out. She gently guided Tobin to her feet, only leaving her side to grab Tobin’s bag from the trunk.
Together, they slowly made their way into the building, riding the elevator up to Tobin’s floor, and walking the few feet from the elevator to Tobin’s door.
Christen left Tobin’s bag on the counter and then pushed the growing pile of shoes in front of the closet out of Tobin’s path.
“Shower, ice, food, or washcloth first?” Christen asked as she hovered by Tobin’s side.
“I want to kiss you, so washcloth,” Tobin answered, crutching toward the bathroom and immediately dropping down on the edge of the new bench in her shower.
Christen grabbed a washcloth from under the sink and ran it under warm water in the sink, getting it damp. She then moved over to where Tobin was sitting, carefully kneeling between her legs so as to not jostle her ice bag-wrapped knee.
With gentle strokes, Christen washed the blood and sweat and a few flecks of dirt from Tobin’s face. She held onto the side of Tobin’s neck, her thumb slowly moving along the underside of Tobin’s jaw as she worked, cleaning Tobin’s face completely.
“If I could make a request,” Christen hummed, running the washcloth over a stubborn bit of dirt on Tobin’s chin.
“What’s that?” Tobin asked, reaching out and wrapping her hands around Christen’s back to pull her a little closer.
“No more blood, please?”
“I will also try my hardest with that,” Tobin promised.
“Thank you,” Christen murmured, wincing as she had to move closer to Tobin’s nose, which was definitely swelling a little bit. “This won’t feel good, baby. But I’ll be as gentle as I can.”
“It’s okay, nothing will feel worse than knowing I won’t be going down on you tonight,” Tobin teased, grinning at Christen.
“God, I love you,” Christen breathed out with a small smile, starting to clean up the blood from around Tobin’s nose.
“I love you t- ow,” Tobin grimaced.
“I know, I know, I’m sorry,” Christen cooed softly, her face flickering with empathy.
“I can’t believe they said it isn’t broken,” Tobin whined as Christen continued working.
“Good thing it isn’t. That would mean no going down on me for a while,” Christen teased quietly, cleaning up the last bit of blood from beneath Tobin’s nose and above her lip.
“I’d find a way,” Tobin said, leaning forward when her face was finally clean and pressing the lightest kiss to Christen’s forehead.
Christen leaned back to discard the washcloth on the counter and then reached out to cup Tobin’s cheeks, lifting her head.
“We need to get some ice on that,” Christen murmured, running her thumbs delicately across Tobin’s cheekbones.
“You don’t like the nose job? I think it looks kinda nice,” Tobin mumbled.
Christen leaned forward to press the lightest kiss to the bridge of Tobin's nose, then brushed her lips under both of Tobin’s eyes, where she knew there would be bruises tomorrow morning.
“You look beautiful,” Christen whispered as she left soft kisses on the swollen sides of Tobin’s nose. “You’re the kind of beautiful that women write poetry about.” She finished her path after leaving two final kisses on Tobin’s cheeks, leaning back just a bit.
“That’s you,” Tobin argued, tucking a curl behind Christen’s ear. “You’re so beautiful.”
With a soft smile, Christen leaned into the touch. “Shower, ice, or food?”
“Ice and food. I’d like to end the day showering with you,” Tobin replied. “You were really hating being an owner tonight, weren’t you?”
Christen managed a small nod in reply, the sad, half-smile on her face answer enough.
“I’m really glad you came down to the locker room, though,” Tobin mumbled, moving her hand to the back of Christen’s neck and scratching gently.
“Where else would I go?” Christen asked softly.
“I was counting down the seconds until I got to see you after they got me off the field,” Tobin admitted, leaning forward and kissing the corner of Christen’s mouth.
Christen turned her head the slightest bit to bring their lips together. She made sure to steer clear of Tobin’s nose and kept her lips gentle.
“I got there as quickly as I could,” Christen whispered against Tobin’s lips. “And I’m not going anywhere. You’re going to have a tough time getting rid of me.”
“You’re gonna make me ice everything before bed aren’t you?” Tobin chuckled, not minding one bit that Christen wanted to take care of her.
“You bet your cute ass I will,” Christen replied with a small chuckle of her own.
“I really love you,” Tobin whispered, pressing her forehead against Christen’s.
The fluttering in her heart was a feeling Christen wasn’t sure if she was ever going to get used to, especially when Tobin said those words to her.
“I really love you too.”
Tobin moved around the kitchen on one crutch, spatula in hand and a breakfast scramble cooking on the stove.
It had been three days of Christen caring for her, helping her into the shower, getting her meals, fluffing pillows on the couch, and doing dishes. And Tobin wanted to repay the favor somewhat.
She’d left Christen fast asleep in her bed, determined to be as quiet as possible and make Christen breakfast and coffee that she could enjoy when she woke up.
And while a part of her knew that Christen would complain about the slight weight she was putting on her knee, hobbling around the kitchen, she was hoping Christen wouldn’t see it and give her that look that just screamed ‘You’re going against doctor’s orders.’
She especially knew that Christen would yell at her if she woke up and saw her, completely crutchless with a tray of food in her hands, limping into the bedroom. But she still did it.
Christen had her arm stretched out across Tobin’s side of the bed, her hand fisted tightly in the bedsheets. Her brow was furrowed as she slept, and short puffs of air escaped her parted lips. It wasn’t a peaceful sleep by any means.
Tobin set the tray on the bedside table and sank down onto the corner of the bed, running her hand over Christen’s head. She leaned down and pressed a kiss to Christen’s forehead, happy that her nose was finally starting to hurt less.
Scrunching her face slightly, Christen let out a sleepy noise and unconsciously curled closer to where Tobin was sitting, her hand loosening in the sheets and her brow unfurrowing.
Tobin smiled at the way Christen gravitated toward her. She moved her lips down the bridge of Christen’s nose, over a cheekbone, against the corner of Christen’s mouth, waking her girlfriend up in her favorite way.
“I could get used to this,” Christen mumbled in her slightly deeper, morning voice, repeating the words she often said when she was gently roused from sleep with soft kisses.
“Mhm,” Tobin hummed, kissing the other corner of Christen’s mouth.
“Let me get up and make you coffee,” Christen replied, her eyes still closed and a small smile playing at her lips.
“No need,” Tobin murmured, connecting her lips to Christen’s jaw.
“What do you mean?” Christen asked, her brow furrowing again as her eyes slowly blinked open.
“I made us coffee,” Tobin answered, moving her lips to the corner of Christen’s jaw, leaving a trail of kisses in her wake.
Christen let out a long sigh and gently pushed at Tobin’s chest to get her to sit up.
“What?” Tobin asked, blinking through the cloud of desire now in her brain.
“You walked without your crutches, didn’t you?” Christen said with an arched brow and a disappointed frown.
“No,” Tobin lied weakly.
“Baby,” Christen huffed, sleep completely gone from her eyes now.
“I can’t carry a tray while crutching. It hardly even hurt,” Tobin argued.
Christen looked ready to fight her on it, but then she realized what Tobin had said. “A tray? Why did you need a tray?”
“I made you breakfast,” Tobin admitted, her smile sheepish as she pointed over at the tray.
Christen turned to look at the two plates of veggie and egg scramble and the two cups of coffee and despite her lingering frustration about her girlfriend's disregard for medical advice, she could feel herself softening.
Rolling back over, Christen reached up and cupped Tobin’s cheek gently.
“You’re sweet, and I love you. But please don’t walk around without your crutches again?”
“What if it’s for something really important?” Tobin asked, leaning into Christen’s touch.
“That’s when you crutch to the really important thing,” Christen replied with a small smile.
“What if I need to pick up the really important thing?” Tobin argued playfully, a small pout forming on her lips.
“That’s when you yell for me,” Christen hummed, her thumb moving tenderly along the no-longer swollen part of Tobin’s cheek.
“Okay. There’s gonna be something important today,” Tobin said with a secretive smile.
Christen felt her eyes narrow playfully. “And you won’t try to get it yourself? You’ll let me get it and you’ll keep weight off your knee?”
“I’ll let you get it,” Tobin sighed, leaning forward so that she was partially on top of Christen.
“Thank you for breakfast and for coffee,” Christen breathed out, tilting her head up to kiss the tip of Tobin’s nose.
“Thank you for everything,” Tobin replied.
“Oh, I haven’t given you everything yet. I’m just getting started,” Christen grinned, shooting Tobin a slightly sleepy attempt at a wink.
“I decided yesterday that today’s Christen Appreciation Day,” Tobin informed Christen as she rolled over to get onto her side of the bed.
“Is that so?” Christen played along, watching Tobin carefully to make sure she wasn’t jostling her knee.
“Mhm, it’s my favorite day of the year,” Tobin nodded sleepily, curling into Christen’s side.
“Better than Christmas?” Christen asked, sliding her arm around Tobin’s shoulders and pulling Tobin close.
“Yep, because today’s for the woman I love.”
“Well since it’s my day, how about you go back to sleep for a little bit? I didn’t get to wake up holding you,” Christen murmured, leaning down to press a kiss to Tobin’s forehead.
“Breakfast will be cold,” Tobin grumbled, already burrowing her face into the side of Christen’s neck.
“Microwaves exist,” Christen replied with a small smile, already feeling Tobin go pliant against her.
“I love microwaves,” Tobin mumbled sleepily, twisting her fingers in Christen’s t-shirt as Christen buried her face in Tobin’s hair.
“I’m supposed to yell?!” Tobin called out as she crutched to the front door of her apartment.
“Even on those you’re fast,” Christen grumbled, hurrying to move the laptop and blanket off her lap. She rushed to her feet and down the hall, beating Tobin to the front door. “Back to the couch and the ice please,” she said with a quick kiss to Tobin’s shoulder.
Tobin pouted but did as she was asked, crutching back to the couch and the ice pack Christen had insisted she use.
Christen affectionately rolled her eyes at the grumbling she could hear coming from Tobin before she pulled open the door. She felt a flicker of surprise at the sight of the flowers on the welcome mat.
“Did the team send you more flowers? I swear, we could start our own shop,” Christen chuckled, bending down to pick up the vase of gorgeous lilies. She walked them into the living room and set them down on the coffee table.
“You didn’t read the card,” Tobin said with a smile.
“If it’s your card, I didn’t want to intrude,” Christen replied with a chuckle of her own.
“It’s Christen Appreciation Day. Those aren’t my flowers.”
“You were serious about that?” Christen asked, feeling a safe and happy warmth spread across her chest.
“I don’t joke about Christen Appreciation Day,” Tobin scoffed, closing her book and focusing on Christen.
Christen offered Tobin a small, grateful smile before pulling the card out of the bouquet. She opened it and decided to read it out loud.
“Chris, Thank you for putting up with this stubborn patient and for loving me back. Love, Tobin.”
Christen moved around the coffee table and sank into the couch by Tobin’s side, kissing the corner of her mouth.
“I’ll always love you back. Thank you ,” Christen murmured, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s cheek.
“I’m really grateful for you,” Tobin whispered, practically pulling Christen into her lap as they found one another’s lips in a soft kiss.
For the next few hours, the doorbell continued to ring and Tobin continued to call out for Christen to get it, even if they were right next to each other.
After flowers came the very expensive and very thoughtful box of chocolates. Then it was lunch from one of Christen’s favorite places, then a dozen royal blue balloons, then dinner from a place the two of them longed to eat at together in person.
Each trip to the door made Christen’s heart flutter and her cheeks ache from smiling so much. She did feel appreciated, and more than that, she felt loved.
But when the doorbell rang for the final time after dinner was done and the dishes were put away, Christen didn’t just feel loved. She felt understood.
“Last one?” Christen wondered, situating the pillow beneath Tobin’s knee and moving the ice pack away so she could kiss Tobin’s knee, replacing the ice pack quickly after.
“Last one,” Tobin confirmed.
“Want to yell? For old time’s sake?” Christen teased, still kneeling on the floor in front of the couch.
“Babe! I’m supposed to yell instead of walking on two legs!” Tobin yelled, her smile growing as she did.
“Best one of the day,” Christen complimented, standing up and leaving a kiss on the top of Tobin’s head.
She walked the familiar path to the door, moving around the strings of the balloons that were floating up toward the ceiling.
When she pulled the door open, she gave the delivery woman a warm smile.
“Thank you,” she said, grabbing the slightly heavy paper bag and waving goodbye to the woman. “Feels heavy, baby. What did you get?” she wondered as she walked back into the apartment.
“It isn’t edible,” Tobin replied as she peered over the back of the couch.
“Interesting,” Christen hummed, walking around the couch and sitting on the floor in front of it. She playfully shook the bag and smiled up at Tobin. “Can I open it?”
“Please do,” Tobin answered, sitting up a little more to watch.
Christen opened the paper bag and pulled out some tissue paper, discarding it on the ground. She then reached in, and when she felt the glossy cover and the tell-tale shape of a book, she beamed.
She quickly pulled the book out, nearly unable to contain her excitement.
“You got me a book!” she said, already pulling open the cover to read the summary on the inside of the jacket. “This sounds fantastic,” she gushed.
“It’s non-depressing historical fiction, and it was just released, so I had a feeling you wouldn’t already have it,” Tobin explained, beaming at the excitement she could see on Christen’s face.
“Baby, this is…” Christen trailed off, finally moving her eyes away from the book and up to Tobin. Her gaze was soft and her smile was a bit awestruck, like she couldn’t quite believe Tobin had gotten this for her.
“I was trying to save the best for last,” Tobin said, her face dopey and lovestruck.
“You found it,” Christen hummed, holding the book to her chest and propping her chin on the couch cushion.
“Found what? Your version of what cupcakes are to me?” Tobin asked, reaching out a hand and cupping Christen’s cheek.
“Yeah, this is my reward. It’s what I get myself after finishing a particularly great project, and my parents used to always take me to a bookstore right after games when I’d scored or my team won. Books are my thing,” Christen confirmed in a soft voice.
“Well, this morning while waiting for the coffee to brew, I might have also set out some bubbles for a bath. I thought you might want to soak and read and relax,” Tobin murmured, brushing her thumb across Christen’s cheekbone.
Christen let out a happy hum and looked up at Tobin with so much love, she felt like it was just filling every single part of her up.
It made her think of what Crystal had said to her, bringing an even bigger smile to her face. Because this was just another way Tobin made her life feel less empty, feel a bit bigger.
“You make the emptiest parts of me feel like they’re overflowing,” Christen whispered, turning her head to kiss Tobin’s palm before looking back up at her.
“You do that for me too,” Tobin whispered back.
We hope you enjoyed this latest chapter! Please stay safe. We love you all and will be back in a few days for something special...we just can't remember what it is...😉
sam & emma
Chapter 12: better with you
return to play, ridiculous requests, and really professional
the fact that we had T play for Laura in this fic and now she's going to go play for her... unreal
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Whatever pretenses they’d been operating under of their ability to keep their relationship under wraps before Tobin’s injury, we’re basically thrown out the window now.
Tobin was driven to the stadium every morning by Christen and driven home every afternoon or evening by her too. Christen stopped in for PT sessions to check in on Tobin; Tobin took lunch in Christen’s office.
They weren’t being obvious, but they weren’t hiding it as well as they had been.
“You’re a very hands-on owner, aren’t you?” the trainer observed with a knowing smirk.
“We made you sign an NDA right?” Christen wondered, watching Tobin and another trainer complete some band exercises.
“Signed it before I started work here,” the trainer nodded.
“Good. In that case, I’m not here as the owner,” Christen said softly, wincing a little at the grimace of pain on Tobin’s face.
“Noted,” the trainer hummed.
“She’s a hands-on girlfriend,” Sonnett cooed through the open door that led into the training room.
“Sonnett,” Christen sighed, narrowing her eyes at the woman in the doorway.
“She’s gonna trade you,” Tobin warned, cringing as she pulled her leg against a resistance band, her knee moving more fully than it had in the past week.
“Don’t tempt me,” Christen called out teasingly, shooting Tobin a reassuring smile as Tobin continued to work through her PT exercises.
“It’s good you’ve been hands-on,” the trainer said, looking over at Christen. “Tobin told me you’ve been making her actually use crutches and ice her knee.”
Christen nodded, watchful gaze still trained on Tobin. “How do you think she’s recovering? It’s so hard to gauge for me. She looks better and acts like her knee feels better, but I just don’t know.”
“She definitely puts on a brave face, I think,” the trainer admitted. “But she looks strong doing these exercises. I think she can start relying less on the crutches but still take it easy.”
“She is strong,” Christen hummed with a proud smile before her smile faltered just a bit. “But she keeps asking about returning to play in time for Portland in two weeks. I’m running out of excuses to give her.”
“I think she can return to play. It’ll probably be the first game back, and I wouldn’t play her the whole ninety minutes, but if she keeps doing exercises at home and resting, she should be ready,” the trainer replied.
“I think she’ll love hearing that,” Christen observed, her smile returning when she saw Tobin finish her exercises and high-five the trainer exuberantly.
“Love hearing what?” Tobin asked, slipping her hand in Christen's.
Christen squeezed Tobin’s hand and offered her a soft smile.
“You might be back in time for our last home game,” Christen hummed in reply.
“Thank God,” Tobin groaned. “Do I get to ditch the crutches too?”
Christen checked with the trainer, who gave her a smile and a nod, before answering. “Soon. A few more days at most.”
“Like two?” Tobin asked, poking out her bottom lip and making the trainer chuckle.
“That might work on me, but it won’t work on her,” Christen laughed softly.
“I don’t know. I think I’m growing on her. Right, Eileen?” Tobin said with her biggest smile.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Eileen rolled her eyes. She looked from Tobin to Christen. “Make sure she keeps icing and doing her PT at home. And…you two make a lovely couple. Crutch safely,” she added before she walked out of the training room.
“Thank you,” Tobin said with a light blush on her cheeks.
“I think I’ll have to prep an internal email or something,” Christen whispered, running her thumb along the back of Tobin’s hand.
“We could just send a Christmas card after the season’s over,” Tobin teased, leaning forward to kiss Christen’s cheek.
“Matching sweaters?” Christen teased back, ignoring the slight flicker of worry in her chest about more people knowing.
“Absolutely. Is there a baby or a dog we could borrow?” Tobin asked as her eyes crinkled.
“I’m sure we can ask around,” Christen replied with a laugh.
“Or...we just don’t say anything because you’re getting that crinkle between your eyebrows.”
“Shh,” Christen hushed with a shake of her head. “I’m fine. I’m just worried about it. I always am. I don’t want it to hurt you or your career.”
“We won’t say anything then,” Tobin said with an easy smile.
“Maybe once the season’s done, it’ll be less of a shock,” Christen mused.
“Like I’ve said the R-word will happen at some point. A Christmas card announcement can wait until then,” Tobin whispered, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own.
“I really want to be able to hug you after games. I don’t know if I can wait that long,” Christen sighed, keeping her voice quiet.
“Then we’ll figure it out, step by step,” Tobin promised.
“I’ll see you after training? Take it easy, okay? Don’t try to juggle with your good leg again,” Christen warned, shooting a quick look around and seeing no one else in the training room, she dropped a fleeting kiss on Tobin’s cheek.
“I will be so careful, especially since I got cleared to,” Tobin started, leaning forward and lowering her voice to whisper in Christen’s ear, “go down on you.”
Christen felt the tops of her ears turn red as both embarrassment and desire flashed through her quickly.
“You did not ask the trainer that,” Christen whispered back, squeezing Tobin’s hand in warning.
“Of course, I didn't. I’m at work,” Tobin scoffed. “She just happened to mention that my nose was no longer swollen or even bruised. So, I made the jump for her.”
Christen let out a small sigh of relief, a coy smile playing at her lips. “In that case, be super careful today. It’ll be Tobin Appreciation Night tonight.”
“I plan on appreciating you a lot too,” Tobin grinned, moving to the door as the last of her teammates filed out onto the field.
“I think you’re more nervous than I am,” Tobin said from behind her coffee mug that she’d taken to Christen’s house and kept in her cupboard. She watched Christen pace back and forth on the other side of the kitchen island, her hand nervously spinning a ring on her finger.
“Nervous is too simple a word for everything I’m feeling,” Christen replied with a tight smile, continuing to pace.
“I promise not to punch anyone,” Tobin said for the third time since waking up that morning.
“I’m not worried about that,” Christen huffed out a strangled laugh.
“Okay, I’ll put my hands out faster this time and avoid hitting my nose if I fall,” Tobin tried again, putting her coffee cup down and watching Christen a little more closely.
“I’m also not worried about that,” Christen shook her head, finding the pacing to be pointless. Instead, she grabbed her empty mug next to Tobin and walked over to the coffee maker, busying herself by making another cup.
“Would you like to talk about it?” Tobin asked.
Christen put her hands on the countertop and hung her head, her back turned to Tobin.
“I’m worried about your knee and going back too quickly. I’m worried about you playing against them. I’m worried about you not playing against them too. I’m stressed about ensuring our spot in the playoffs and about a million other little things. But mostly, I’m just...I love you and I don’t want tonight to be any harder for you than it has to be,” Christen said softly, finishing her ramble.
“Well…” Tobin hummed, slipping from her chair and slowly walking around the island. She lifted her left leg and balanced only on her right. “The knee isn’t a worry. And if anything happens on the field that makes it feel wrong, I’ll let Laura know. We will get to the playoffs, so don’t stress about that. We’ve got that easy. And as far as playing or not playing against Portland? Trading me without warning hurt, but they’re not my team anymore. They don’t feel like my team. I just want to play football, and I’d like to win.”
Christen offered Tobin a small nod and a small smile, feeling some relief from the easy way Tobin was moving around on her knee and had been for the last few days.
“Baby,” Tobin breathed out, wrapping her arms around Christen. “You don’t need to worry. Ninety minutes and then we’ll come home. I’ll even ice my knee again afterward if that helps.”
“I don’t know, I just- I have a weird feeling, that’s all. Just promise to be careful? Be safe and play smart,” Christen murmured, leaning her forehead against Tobin’s.
“I will,” Tobin promised, rubbing her hands up and down Christen’s back.
“And don’t punch anyone,” Christen added with the ghost of a smile as she nuzzled Tobin’s nose.
“I won’t. I need my hand tonight,” Tobin teased, stealing a kiss.
“Brent,” Christen greeted politely, shaking hands with the owner of Portland.
“Lovely to see you again, Christen.”
Christen hoped her fake smile would communicate that she felt the same, when in reality, she really didn’t.
She disliked most of the Portland management and members of the front office and had never particularly warmed up to Brent like she had to some other owners who were actually passionate about changing the league and the game for the better.
“I hope the hot coffee in your box will keep you warm. It’s a cold one tonight,” Christen said, taking her hand back and sticking it into her coat pocket, Tobin’s Avalanche scarf around her neck to keep her warm.
“I appreciate the coffee. Very hospitable. I’m excited to see your team. You really took some underdogs and made something. And hopefully, Tobin keeps her temper in check tonight, right?” Brent said, chuckling like it was a joke.
“I’m very proud of everything my team’s accomplished,” Christen acknowledged, checking the immediate flash of anger that ripped through her. “You were fools to let Tobin go. She found a home here and we’re thrilled to have her. Temper or no temper. Don’t catch frostbite,” she tossed over her shoulder, walking down the carpeted halls toward her own executive-level box.
When she got to her spot at the edge of her box, near the railing, she could see the team going through the last of its warm-ups.
Her eyes found Tobin, just like they always did. She was bundled up beneath a beanie and a neck warmer and a puffy coat, and she looked happy. She didn’t look burdened or haunted like she had before their last game against Portland, and it had Christen breathing a little easier as she settled in to watch the chilly evening game.
It had been Tobin’s best game since joining Denver.
She’d scored a goal, assisted three more, and tracked back to defend more times than she could count. And she hadn’t been able to resist. After doing an interview and listening to Laura post game, she was lying in the center of the now empty field, staring at the first few flakes that were falling from the sky and feeling impossibly warm and comfortable and at home.
“Praying for another win?” Christen called out, burrowing a little deeper in her coat as she walked out onto the field, the grass crunching a bit under her feet.
“I don’t need to,” Tobin grinned, propping herself onto her elbows so she could see Christen.
“No?” Christen wondered with a smile of her own.
“Not right now. I’m soaking this one in,” Tobin answered, unable to stop her beaming smile.
“It was a great one,” Christen hummed, stopping near Tobin’s feet. “I’m really proud of you.”
“Me?” Tobin asked, holding a hand over her heart in surprise.
“You,” Christen chuckled, her cheeks starting to hurt from smiling so much.
“Do I get a reward?”
“Cupcakes on me?” Christen asked.
“Cupcakes on you,” Tobin smirked, pushing up off the ground to stand up.
Christen wrinkled her nose with a laugh. “Sounds like I’d get frosting everywhere and I don’t know how comfortable that would be.”
“I’d get it off of you, baby, but how about we just get some dinner and share a cupcake before the nudity,” Tobin whispered, dying to reach out and touch.
“Go shower. I’ll be out front,” Christen whispered back, her eyes holding the same yearning for contact.
“I love you,” Tobin hummed, moving around Christen and heading toward the locker room.
“I love you too,” Christen called after her softly, watching Tobin walk off with a smile on her face.
It wasn’t until Christen was checking her email two days later, having needed to go into her actual company’s office for meetings, that the odd feeling she’d had finally made sense.
In her inbox was an offer.
An offer that if this were strictly business, if she handled the Avalanche like she handled Reimagined Spaces, she would take in a heartbeat.
But this wasn’t just business and it hadn’t been for a long time. And now, Christen was definitely a little fucked.
“That means what I think it means, right?” Christen asked, her chin propped on her crossed arms, which rested on the conference room table.
She was looking across the table at Laura, who was reading through the paperwork she’d gotten in her email this morning.
“Yeah, they’re offering you two players, a first-round draft pick, and a lot of allocation money,” Laura nodded, staring down at the offer.
“Which is basically what we offered them for her in March,” Christen said, no question in her voice.
“It’s way more money than what Brooke offered for her,” Laura murmured.
“Right,” Christen breathed out, her eyes falling shut as a sigh left her lips. She lifted her chin just enough to drop her forehead onto her crossed arms.
“They’re offering some good players. If you want my professional opinion, the team would do well with these players. We wouldn’t take a hit, and we’d have money to invest into the team and any kind of project you want to work on here,” Laura said, flipping through the paperwork as she spoke.
“What if I want your personal opinion?” Christen asked quietly, her chest tight and her heart aching.
“Tobin’s a great player. She’s a leader on the team, and she means something to people here. I’d talk to her before I make the decision. I guess at the end of the day, you’re looking at maybe making an obvious choice or putting the culture of the team and your own happiness first.”
Christen let out a shaky breath and lifted her head, fixing Laura with a teary look. “That’s what I thought. Thanks, Laura.”
“She’s in a lifting session,” Laura added as she slid the paperwork back to Christen.
“I...I can’t send her back there,” Christen whispered, taking the paperwork with a slightly tortured look on her face.
“You have my full support,” Laura assured.
“Even if I turn down the offer?” Christen asked.
“Full support. Don’t ever tell her, but I kinda love her. I love the way she helps the younger players and I love the way she cares about my friend. So, to me, she’s more valuable than a flashy trade.”
Christen nodded and offered Laura a tense smile, knowing that whatever decision she ultimately made, it would have a litany of consequences.
“Will you send her up when lifting’s over?”
“Sure,” Laura nodded, getting up from her chair and heading out of the office.
“Am I in trouble?” Tobin asked, peeking into the conference room, more tentative than usual.
“No, but close the door?” Christen replied, nodding at the empty spot across the table from her, the one with the paperwork sitting in front of it.
“What’s wrong?” Tobin asked, leaning back against the door and staring at the table.
“Sit and read,” Christen said quietly.
“I’m getting deja vu,” Tobin mumbled, swallowing thickly as she sat down and looked down at the papers, her stomach churning and her lips turning down.
“A long time ago, I told you I’ll do whatever I can to keep you here. But I’d never stand in the way of something you want or something that would be good for your career. You should have autonomy here. It’s your choice,” Christen murmured, watching Tobin’s face change as she read through the paperwork.
“You can’t resist this,” Tobin said, a sad smile on her face as she lifted up the paperwork. “The money alone would set up your community outreach plans.”
“I don’t care about the money or the irresistibility of the offer. It’s your career. It's your choice,” Christen repeated softly, her shoulders holding tension and her hands twisting in her lap.
“I mean, you know what I want, but I’m not gonna be the reason you choose an almost thirty-year-old player over a fortune and two players under twenty-three,” Tobin replied with a shake of her head, trying not to let her throat grow thick. “You won’t- I’m sure we can make things work a few states away.”
“Do you want to stay?” Christen asked, her words holding a slight vulnerability, needing to hear what Tobin wanted.
“Of course, I want to stay,” Tobin murmured, her voice breaking at the end of her sentence. “But this is a great trade for you.”
Christen let out a small sigh of relief at Tobin expressing her desire to stay. “It’s not, though. Not for me.”
“Okay, for the team,” Tobin clarified, her eyes watering slightly mostly because of the frustration she felt at Portland trying to get her back.
“In some capacity, yes. There would be benefits to agreeing to this trade,” Christen nodded. “But I’m not going to take it.”
“You don’t- You don’t need to do that because of me. I’m- It’s part of the job. I can- I’ll be fine.”
“Tobin?” Christen asked, trying to get Tobin to look at her, trying to bring Tobin away from something she was trying to convince herself she had to be okay with.
“Yeah,” Tobin whispered, her eyes counting the zeros behind the seven on the paperwork.
Christen got up from her chair and moved around the conference table, leaning against it next to where Tobin was sitting. She gently put two fingers under Tobin’s chin and lifted her head, their eyes locking.
“You’re not a pawn. You get to choose. And if you’re choosing to stay, I want it to be for more than just me,” Christen whispered back, tenderly running her thumb along Tobin’s chin.
“Before Portland, I didn’t have a home base. I traveled and lived out of a suitcase and stayed in player housing. And then I got comfortable in Portland and I bought a house and I made a home base. I thought it was home, and then it was taken,” Tobin explained, her eyes still watery as she spoke. “Denver isn’t home. My home is you now, and that means that no matter where I go, I’ll have a home. I want to stay because I want to wake up with you every day. But I also want to stay here because I want to be in royal blue when the Avalanche is at the top of the table and when Cat gets a golden boot and when we win the playoffs.”
“Then you’ll stay, and I’ll tell Portland to go fuck themselves,” Christen murmured, brushing a stray tear off Tobin’s cheek. “Because I want to wake up with you every day too.”
“That’s a lot of money to say go fuck yourself to,” Tobin said softly, leaning into Christen’s touch.
“I don’t care. I’m not going to regret this decision,” Christen replied, moving her hand to cradle the corner of Tobin’s jaw now.
Tobin let out a shaky breath and squeezed her eyes shut. “I’m sorry.”
“For what, baby?” Christen asked, forgetting about the fact that they were in the conference room and people were in the office and technically they’d agreed to only work at work.
“For- Maybe it’s stupid but I pursued you and made this decision 5,000 times harder for you,” Tobin answered, resisting the urge to reach out for Christen’s hip.
“This decision isn’t hard,” Christen countered softly. “And neither was the decision to jump into this with you. I’d choose you a million times over. I’ll never regret that choice or you.”
“How much work do you have to do before you’re finished for the day?” Tobin asked.
“I need to tell Portland to fuck off, and then I need to draft an internal memo about my decision to keep my girlfriend here in Denver,” Christen murmured with a small smile, running her thumb along Tobin’s cheek.
“I’ll take a really slow shower then,” Tobin hummed. “Either that or I’ll sit in the locker room and save the shower until we’re home.”
“Save the shower,” Christen suggested.
“I’ll see you when you’re finished lighting all of Portland’s plans on fire,” Tobin whispered, looking over her shoulder at the glass wall before she kissed Christen’s cheek.
“That’s going to feel so good,” Christen grinned. “And being able to be more open around the Avalanche facilities will be nice too.”
“I’ll probably still have to organize your bookshelf if I want to make out with you,” Tobin teased, catching Christen’s hand in her own to squeeze it softly.
“Probably,” Christen chuckled, running her thumb in slow circles across Tobin’s cheek.
“Thank you,” Tobin murmured. “For giving me a voice and a choice.”
“You’ll always have that here, and with me,” Christen replied, bringing their clasped hands to her lips and brushing them across the back of Tobin’s hand.
“I’ll go get my stuff ready to go,” Tobin said, feeling her heart flutter at the sweetness and honesty of Christen’s words.
“Any particular message you want me to give Portland when I call?” Christen asked with a playful smile, watching Tobin get up from her chair and shuffle backward toward the door.
“You want to just email them a picture?” Tobin asked, sticking her tongue out and flipping the bird.
“Hold that!” Christen laughed, pulling out her phone and snapping a picture. “Perfect. I’ll just put ‘Fuck Off Thorns’ in the subject line?”
“Really professional, baby. I love it,” Tobin complimented.
“I do what I can to keep earning your love,” Christen replied teasingly, beaming at Tobin and feeling impossibly lighter now that Tobin was staying, and Tobin was staying by choice.
“Did you not just hear me call you my home? The love has been earned. It’s intense,” Tobin grinned, reaching for the doorknob. “You want Thai? I can order while I wait.”
“Marry me,” Christen said in that teasing way of hers she often did whenever Tobin suggested the food she’d been craving or brought her coffee when she needed it.
“Since you asked so nicely,” Tobin teased back, pulling open the door and slipping out.
two more chapters to go! much love to you all.
Chapter 13: Favorite Place
phone calls, persuasiveness, and playoffs
a lil update to celebrate Tobin touching a soccer ball again today ✨
The decision to keep Tobin in Denver was easy, as easy as her decision to fall in love and choose love with Tobin.
Everything after the decision was not.
She had to fight off subsequent offers from Portland, turning each one down, citing team chemistry and player wishes. She had to have Phoebe draft press releases to get ahead of the media shit storm that would descend if these negotiations went public. She had to get all her ducks in a row.
And then Brent called.
“Our answer is still no,” Christen said into her phone, holding her heels in her left hand as she walked the perimeter of the empty training field.
“I understand that you’re a bit new to this position,” Brent sighed. “So, I’ll offer some advice from experience. You don’t turn down the kind of money we’ve offered. We’re doing you a favor by taking her. You’re getting the good end of the deal.”
“You’re doing me a favor? Why so generous, Brent?” Christen asked, unable to keep the bite out of her words.
“Consider it a warm welcome to the league. I’ll be frank with you, Heath is washed up. She’s got a weak back and a weaker ankle. She’s already almost thirty. One more bad tackle, and she’ll be using a walker and-”
“Washed up equals eighty thousand in allocation money, two rookies, and a first-round draft pick?” Christen shot back, interrupting what she was sure would be a well-rehearsed plea, one that was supposed to make her feel like she was winning with this deal. But Brent sorely underestimated her, and her love for the woman in question.
“Press, you’re gonna be the most criticized owner in the league. Don’t make a stupid mistake because Heath sometimes gets lucky and can score a flashy goal or two,” Brent nearly growled.
“There were only two mistakes made in this entire arrangement. You made the first one by letting Tobin go, and you just made the second one assuming that all Tobin brings to a team is a goal or two. Don’t bullshit me, Brent. You’re not getting her back. You don’t deserve to,” Christen replied, her voice calm and cool, yet with an air of strength that dared Brent to continue to fight her on this.
“I’ll give you forty-eight hours to change your mind,” Brent countered, the wind out of his sails.
Christen let out a humorless laugh as she started another lap around the field, her bare feet padding across the grass.
“I don’t need forty-eight hours. The answer is no and it always will be no. Don’t call me, don’t reach out to me, don’t pretend like you have any power or control here. This is my team and you don’t get a say in who goes and who stays. Tobin stays, Brent. Good luck in the playoffs,” Christen said, hanging up the phone before Brent could reply.
A pair of strong, solid arms slowly slid around Christen’s waist, taking advantage of the empty training field and the rest day for the entire team.
“That was very sexy,” Tobin hummed, squeezing Christen once before letting her arms fall away.
“I’m so annoyed,” Christen replied, sighing at the situation and at the lack of Tobin’s arms around her.
“Why be annoyed with someone else’s desperation?”
“Because he acted entitled, and you’re your own person. You choose what you want your career to look like, nobody else. He might be desperate but he got under my skin,” Christen grumbled, sliding her phone into her back pocket as she continued her laps around the field.
“I can tell. You’re walking very quickly,” Tobin grinned, keeping pace with Christen’s steps.
“Sorry,” Christen sighed, slowing her pace. “We’ve got playoffs. Can’t let you overdo it walking laps with me.”
“I love walking laps with you,” Tobin replied, knocking the back of her hand against Christen’s. “And I’m sorry Brent pissed you off.”
“It’s okay. He took enough of my day already, and I don’t want him to take away any of this time I get with you. Speaking of, what are you doing here?” Christen asked, shooting Tobin an enamored smile. “Rest days are meant to be restful.”
“I’m resting. I’m in my lounge sweats,” Tobin scoffed, tugging at the pocket of her sweatpants. “It was too quiet at home.”
“Home?” Christen clarified softly with a racing heart, knowing full well she’d left Tobin in her bed at her house this morning and not across town at Tobin’s apartment.
“I mean…the house. The house that you live in was quiet, and I…You know, sometimes it can be too quiet to rest. Sounds totally weird, I know. It’s a fact though. Basically science. Do you have lunch plans?” Tobin rambled, well aware of the dark blush that was heating her cheeks and her neck.
Christen reached out to grab onto Tobin’s hand, pulling them to a stop. She laced their fingers together and drifted closer, close enough to lose herself in the sparkle of hope nestled in Tobin’s brown eyes.
“I know you said I’m your home, but…that can be too. If you want it to be,” Christen said quietly, too afraid to speak any louder and shatter the serenity of the moment. “I don’t mind if you call it that, because I’ve been thinking of it like that.”
“I’m there more than the apartment, no offense to the beautiful interior design,” Tobin murmured as she brushed her thumb along Christen’s hand.
“None taken. All I wanted, even then, was to give you a home since once had been taken from you. I just…never expected this,” Christen replied with a gentle squeeze of Tobin’s hand. “I never expected to be a home.”
“No pressure,” Tobin chuckled. “You can always tell me to spend some quality time at the apartment when you need.”
“Baby, I’m not asking you to live with me yet. I’m just saying you’ve got a home with me, more so than just right here,” Christen said, quickly bringing their clasped hands up to her lips and brushing a kiss across the back of Tobin’s hand.
“I love you,” Tobin breathed out, her stomach flipping like it was the first time saying those words, not the thousandth.
“I love you too,” Christen whispered in reply.
“Are you free for lunch?” Tobin asked, refraining from kissing Christen right there on the field. “It’ll help you forget Brent calling me…old? Washed up? Injury-prone?”
“The self-restraint it took not to correct him and call you sex-in-cleats…” Christen trailed off with a chuckle. “Want to go get tacos?”
“Can we makeout in the car?” Tobin asked with a giddy smile on her face.
“Did you hear the sex-in-cleats, part?” Christen hummed, a matching smile on her face.
“How long do you have to work today?” Tobin asked, letting her eyes track down Christen’s body.
“I think…” Christen trailed off, feeling heat prickle beneath her skin at the unabashed way Tobin was eyeing her. “I’ll work from home the rest of the day.”
“It’s a rest day, so I guess I can work on my back,” Tobin sighed, her smile morphing into a smirk.
“On your knees too. Gotta make sure you stay limber,” Christen teased.
“You’re the boss,” Tobin teased back, stepping back toward the admin building.
“That’s what they tell me,” Christen chuckled, following Tobin toward the building with a smile on her face.
“How many goals do I need to score to convince you to go on a vacation with me post playoffs? No work included,” Tobin asked, as she inched her lips closer to where Christen wanted her.
“Umm…what?” Christen managed, unable to form a coherent thought since the moment they'd gotten home, Tobin had stripped her bare and was now taking her sweet time bringing her to release. It would be infuriating if it wasn’t so goddamn sexy.
“Vacation post-playoffs. You. Me. A sandy beach. The sun,” Tobin murmured, punctuating her words with light kisses at the apex of Christen’s legs.
“I could be into that,” Christen replied, squirming under Tobin’s teasing ministrations.
“Could be?” Tobin asked, stilling her lips and using her hands to push Christen’s legs further apart.
“Potentially,” Christen breathed out, clinging to the last vestiges of control she had in her current position.
“What could convince you?” Tobin asked softly, just barely dipping her tongue into the molten heat between Christen’s legs.
“You could- umm, think of some- some things,” Christen gasped as she writhed and her hips bucked, her grip on the sheets and Tobin’s shoulder tightening.
“What kind of things?” Tobin wondered, her voice husky, as she dragged her tongue through Christen’s folds.
“You’ve got a- a wonderful mind. I’m sure you can- oh fuck- you can think for yoursel- Jesus, Tobin,” Christen panted, pleasure building up her spine with every exploratory swipe of Tobin’s folds.
“All I could think about after you left for work this morning was this,” Tobin hummed, brushing her tongue over a sensitive spot. “Tasting you.”
“Fuck,” Christen all but whined, lost to the sensation of Tobin’s tongue between her legs and the euphoria coursing through her.
“Do you ever have a fantasy where I take you on your desk?” Tobin asked with a tiny smirk before burying her mouth between Christen’s legs.
Christen couldn’t have held off her orgasm even if she’d wanted to. The images that swam through her mind at Tobin’s words, images she’d definitely thought about once or twice or dozens of times, carried her swiftly over the edge Tobin had been keeping her on. She came loud and hard and gave the answer Tobin had wanted, all without uttering a single word.
She panted and tried to catch her breath, one arm flung above her head as her chest rose and fell. She traced her fingertips along Tobin’s shoulder and up her neck, gently carding her fingers through Tobin’s hair as she came down from her high.
“That’s a yes?” Tobin whispered as she licked Christen’s inner thighs clean.
“Yes,” Christen finally said once she’d properly caught her breath. “Yes, I do.”
“I think about it nearly every time I enter your office,” Tobin hummed, peppering soft kisses over Christen’s legs. “Both offices. More realistic at the Reimagined Spaces office, though.”
“You should come and visit me tomorrow at the office. We can work more on this convincing me to vacation with you thing,” Christen hummed happily, gently scratching at the back of Tobin’s head to get her to move up.
“Oh, really?” Tobin groaned, slowly moving up Christen’s body. “You’ll send the nice employees with the fancy water on a lunch break?”
“I might just give them the whole day off,” Christen grinned.
“That’s what a vacation would be like,” Tobin murmured, hovering over Christen and looking at the smile on Christen’s face.
“You’re doing a very good job of convincing me,” Christen hummed, reaching up to cradle Tobin’s jaw.
“You can pick the place, and I’ll get plane tickets and a hotel settled,” Tobin continued, really hoping Christen would say yes to a trip just the two of them.
“You know you can ask me anything and I would say yes,” Christen said softly. “I do want to go, I just need to make sure things are taken care of here.”
“Well, if you’re needed here, I guess I’ll have to fill your living room with sand and spend the week in a bikini anyway,” Tobin teased, lowering herself just enough to kiss Christen.
“Now that’s tempting,” Christen chuckled, moving her free hand between their bodies and teasing her fingertips across Tobin’s hips. “But it sounds messy. A vacation sounds better for my living room rug.”
“I’m great with a vacuum. It’s one of my many talents. It’s why you keep me around,” Tobin smirked, lowering herself again to drop a few kisses on Christen’s neck.
“Hmm…” Christen trailed off, sinking two fingers into the wet heat at the apex of Tobin’s thighs. “I think I keep you around for more than that.”
“I score goals sometimes too,” Tobin mumbled against Christen’s neck, her hips already rolling into Christen’s hand.
“You do more than that, baby,” Christen promised, teasing around Tobin wanted her most.
“I fold your laundry because it’s your least favorite chore,” Tobin husked, tightening her hands in the pillow beneath Christen’s head.
“You do more than that,” Christen whispered, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s before sinking into a quick kiss.
“Sometimes I take out the trash when you’re comfy on the couch,” Tobin added.
“You love me,” Christen chuckled against Tobin’s lips. “You love me and you make it real.”
“What you’re saying is I’m basically your home,” Tobin grinned.
“Now you’re getting it,” Christen said with a small smile as she sank two fingers inside of Tobin, curling them expertly and making Tobin gasp against her lips.
“So much for a rest day,” Tobin groaned as her hips jerked forward into Christen’s hand, pushing Christen’s fingers deeper with each thrust.
All Christen could do was smile as she chased another kiss and slid another finger in, swallowing Tobin’s subsequent moan.
Thanks to their high seed, the Avalanche hosted the first round of the playoffs in the first week of November. It was bitingly cold, snow flurries falling from the sky.
And they were losing 2-0 to the Reign by halftime.
It was no one’s fault really. It was just one of those games. An own goal off a corner kick, a great shot by Megan Rapinoe in the 43rd minute. The Avalanche had no answers for the questions the Reign kept asking, and halftime couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We can’t buy a break tonight,” Andi grumbled, holding back from chucking her water bottle against her locker in frustration. “They’re killing us out there.”
“It wouldn’t be a fun game to watch if it were easy,” Tobin replied before downing a mouthful of water.
“It’s not a fun game to play right now either,” Cat sighed, her head hanging as she dropped into her chair.
“This is why we play. We all want hard games and impressive football. They’re knocking on our door with quality football, and we need to answer the door this next half,” Tobin responded, patting Cat on the shoulder.
“Heath’s right. It’s a new half and we’re going out in a 3-4-3. Press everything. Make them make mistakes. Dictate the play and for God’s sakes, shoot the ball, yeah?” Laura announced, earning a few chuckles from around the room. “Especially you, Heath. Get your head in this game and out of the stands,” she added with a pointed look before departing the locker room with her assistant coaches.
“You have seemed a little distracted, bud,” Sonnett hummed under her breath, straightening her socks next to Tobin.
“I’m- Me? I’m…I’m super focused. You’re the one making faces at fans,” Tobin sputtered.
“She’ll be more impressed if you score, so stop checking the box every two minutes,” Sonnett whispered.
“You’re a dick,” Tobin grumbled, spraying her water bottle at Sonnett.
“You’re infatuated, and you need to be in-this-game-uated,” Sonnett replied with a wink, dodging the water easily.
“Fine. She needs to stop looking nice when she comes to games,” Tobin muttered to herself more than to Sonnett.
The Avalanche took the field after halftime, the subs and Laura and the staff all bundled up to combat the cold. The half started slow thanks to the snow falling from the sky, but it quickly picked up in intensity.
From her box, Christen watched on with a churning stomach, bundled up in a parka, Tobin’s Avalanche scarf, and two heated water bottles under her jacket. She was freezing but she couldn’t focus on the cold. Her team had her attention, especially number seven.
Tobin had seemed a little off tonight, a little distracted. On more than one occasion, Christen had caught Tobin staring up at her box. While adorable, it was costing them. Tobin’s lack of focus led to a lack of focus for the group.
So when Tobin looked up at the box after five minutes had passed, Christen quickly waved and then pointed at the field as if to say, Hey, remember there’s a game going on!
And then Tobin had beamed, a goofy, big grin and Christen’s churning stomach settled. In that moment, Christen knew they were going to win.
Forty minutes later, the Avalanche had come back to beat the Reign 4-2 off two goals and two assists from Tobin.
Seventy minutes later, the locker room was empty and the team had all left to celebrate, minus one who was still in the showers, so Christen sat at Tobin’s locker and waited.
Tobin slowly walked out of the shower, her towel wrapped around her and secured under her right arm. She was whistling softly and her goofy smile was still in place.
“Why aren’t you out buying everyone a steak dinner?” she asked as soon as she saw Christen.
“Oh, I am. They have my credit card,” Christen said with a laugh, her eyes dutifully staying locked with Tobin’s and not falling to track the droplets of water across tanned, shower-flushed skin.
“That’s very dangerous. I hope Laura’s the keeper of the card,” Tobin chuckled.
“She is,” Christen nodded. “I wanted to wait for you. Congratulate you on a great game.”
“A great half,” Tobin shrugged, continuing her walk across the locker room to her locker.
“A great game ,” Christen corrected with a smile.
“You were distracting. Shoulda had sex this morning. I’ve learned my lesson about playing while horny,” Tobin sighed dramatically.
Christen’s cheeks flushed as she stood up, her arms easily winding around Tobin’s shoulders and pulling her in for a hug.
“I’m like the Michelin man with all these layers. I don’t know how I distracted you,” Christen murmured, holding Tobin close despite the wet hair and the damp skin.
“You’re sexy in everything,” Tobin mumbled against the hood of Christen’s jacket. “Plus, I know what’s under it all.”
Christen let out a soft snort and tightened her arms around Tobin.
“You did play great, and those hearts were a nice touch after the goals. You know how to make a girl feel special,” Christen hummed, dropping a kiss to the side of Tobin’s head.
“I know by contract I play for you, but I play for you too,” Tobin whispered, closing her eyes and breathing Christen in.
“That’s really sweet,” Christen whispered back with a fluttering heart and a smile on her face that was so big, it hurt a little.
“You make me mushy,” Tobin breathed out against Christen’s neck.
“I don’t know about that…” Christen trailed off, moving her hands up and down Tobin’s back. “You feel pretty rock solid to me,” she teased softly.
“I’m a puddle of mush,” Tobin hummed.
“I know I should let go and let you get dressed so we can go home, but I don’t want to just yet,” Christen admitted quietly, the words whispered into the wet hair at the back of Tobin’s head.
“So don’t,” Tobin replied, tightening her arms around Christen. “Who’s gonna kick us out? You’re the boss.”
They ended up staying in the locker room until well after Tobin’s hair had dried, their arms around one another the entire time.
The good mood didn’t last. It was shattered three days later on a brisk evening in Harrison, New Jersey.
After the game, Tobin stood under the spray of the shower head replaying every single time she’d lost the ball. It was a habit. It was something she’d developed early on in her career. And it did help. It helped to go over things during practices after heartbreaking losses.
It didn’t help to go over them in the shower of a guest locker room.
But there wasn’t much logic guiding her, so she replayed the moments where she should have done better.
And of course, with the water now cold and her thoughts spiraling out of control, she started to wonder if she was just a little too slow, a little too rusty, maybe a little too…mature to be keeping up with some of the younger players.
Logically, she knew it wasn’t all on her. It fell on all of them. It was on their center back for fouling Allie Long and giving Gotham a penalty. It was on some of their younger players for misreading passes. It was on the ref for not calling some obvious fouls.
Logically, she knew that.
But if Tobin ever played the blame game, which she rarely did, it always fell on her own self.
She didn’t want to have to see her teammates on the flight home the next day. She didn’t want to hear Laura try to bolster them with a pep talk. And she certainly didn’t want to see any kind of disappointment on Christen’s face.
She’d been brought to Denver to get them to playoffs, and while they’d made it to playoffs, she didn’t feel like she’d done enough. They were out before the finals. They were done. The season was over, and Tobin didn’t feel like she’d done enough.
She’d begun her time in Denver hating the Avalanche, and now she felt like she’d done a disservice to the team. Her team. A team she wanted more than anything to take to the very highest level.
“Baby?” came a quiet, tentative voice from outside the shower curtain.
“Almost done,” Tobin mumbled before tipping her head back and letting the cold water wash over her face.
Christen let out an audible sigh, easily heard over the sound of the shower. And then came other sounds, less easy to identify. Some zips, a few thuds, a handful of huffs of frustration.
And then, in just her thermal leggings and a long-sleeve, Christen slipped behind the shower curtain, pulling it closed behind her.
“You can head to the hotel,” Tobin insisted, pushing strands of wet hair off of her forehead and trying to block Christen from the cold water.
Christen just shook her head, her soft green eyes holding Tobin’s gaze.
“I just lost track of time,” Tobin added quietly.
“I know, my love,” Christen whispered, stepping closer to Tobin and framing her face with her hands. “I know.”
“You’re gonna get your clothes wet,” Tobin argued weakly, stepping back slightly.
“I left the majority of them outside the shower,” Christen replied, her hands on Tobin’s face gentle but firm, moving with Tobin as she stepped back. “I’m here, and I’m sorry it hurts. I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry? I’m the one who should be sorry,” Tobin said, shaking her head.
“I’m sorry because it hurts,” Christen repeated softly. “And you have nothing to apologize for. You gave me more than I could have ever hoped for.”
“But I wanted to win it all. That was my job,” Tobin whispered with a wobbly voice.
“We’ll win it all next season,” Christen promised, ignoring the chilly water and the way it was getting her clothes wet. “But I think we won something else pretty spectacular along the way, don’t you think?”
“I’m still sorry,” Tobin murmured.
“I’ll never regret you or anything else that happened this season,” Christen said, stroking her thumbs along Tobin’s cheekbones. “I don’t want you to either.”
“I brought an extra change of clothes,” Tobin offered, squeezing her eyes shut and leaning forward to press her lips to Christen’s forehead.
“I wore so many layers, I have three outfits out there,” Christen admitted with a breathy chuckle.
“You can change and get warm, and I’ll finish moping,” Tobin said softly.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Christen whispered, ghosting her lips across the tear tracks under Tobin’s eyes. “I’m here. I’m right here.”
“I really wanted you to get that trophy,” Tobin whispered back.
“I haven’t had time to build a trophy case yet, so it’s a good thing we didn’t,” Christen teased gently, bumping the tip of her nose against Tobin’s. “It’s okay, baby. I promise.”
“I’m ready to go home,” Tobin said, moving her face into the crook of Christen’s neck.
Christen held Tobin as tightly as she could, as if by sheer will she could heal the hurt she could hear in the voice of the woman she loved.
“Want me to try to get us on a flight tonight?” Christen asked softly, starting to run her fingers through Tobin’s wet hair and gently detangle it.
“I’m disappointed in myself, but I think it’d be worse if I didn’t fly home with my team,” Tobin sighed.
Christen smiled just a bit, having hoped Tobin would say that.
“I agree…and you shouldn’t be disappointed. I’m proud of you,” Christen murmured.
“Hey, Chris,” Tobin murmured, twisting her fingers in Christen’s shirt.
Christen barked out a quick laugh and walked them backward out of the stream of cold water. She pivoted so that the shower was spraying her back with water now, not Tobin.
“Let me get out and get you a towel, okay?” Christen asked, dropping a kiss to the side of Tobin’s head.
“Do you want my extra pair of joggers?” Tobin asked as Christen turned the water off.
“I was wearing these under my jeans, so I’ll be okay,” Christen chuckled with a slight flush in her cheeks.
“You’re adorable,” Tobin grinned. “How many hot water bottles did you have this time?”
Christen’s blush deepened as she leaned out of the shower and returned with a towel.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” Christen teased as she held open the towel for Tobin to step into.
“Two?” Tobin guessed playfully, finally looking at Christen with her typical warmth.
“Four,” Christen admitted with a smile.
“Where’d you manage to even put them all?” Tobin wondered with a laugh.
“I’m a woman of many talents,” Christen winked, wrapping the towel around Tobin and drying her off quickly but tenderly. “Want me to grab your clothes, baby?”
“Will you get my black joggers and the sweatshirt I might have…borrowed from your closet?” Tobin asked, a sheepish smile on her lips.
With a short huff of laughter, Christen nodded and then playfully ran the towel over Tobin’s head, fluffing and drying her hair.
“I’ll be right back,” Christen promised, leaning forward to drop a kiss on Tobin’s cheek before slipping out of the shower. She grabbed a towel for herself and dried her wet shirt and leggings as she walked over to the empty away lockers. She snagged the clothes Tobin specified from the bag in Tobin’s locker and then walked back to the showers. “I wondered where this sweatshirt went!” she called out playfully, standing outside the closed shower curtain as she waited for Tobin to step out.
“I wanted…It’s hard when we travel for games and stay in hotels and I have to sleep alone,” Tobin admitted shyly, taking the offered clothes once she’d dried off and squeezed the excess water from her hair.
“Why do you think you’re missing your U.S. Soccer hoodie?” Christen countered, equally as shy.
“Our flight’s early tomorrow. Once we’re back in Denver, do you want to spend the whole day at home in bed?” Tobin asked as she tugged Christen’s sweatshirt over her head.
“Nowhere else I’d rather be,” Christen murmured, changing back into her dry clothes quickly.