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Christen flipped through the notes for the week of segments, chuckling at the segment scheduled for the final day of October. 

“Ghost tour?” Christen asked, lifting her gaze from the paper to look at Crystal, catching her mid bite of one of the bagels that Tobin had brought. “Why are we doing that?”

“Halloween,” Crystal answered with a similarly amused smile after swallowing her bite of bagel. “Our viewers loved our lightning cage visit, so we’ve scheduled some fun segments outside of the studio.” 

“Is the goal tourism? Advertisement? It won’t be scary, so I doubt it will be for entertainment,” Christen pointed out, sipping the crappy coffee and then shooting a quick look over at Tobin, finding the furrow in her brow intriguing. 

“Oh, it’ll be scary,” Omar laughed, patting Tobin on the back. “Stella and I did it last week.” 

“Don’t tell me you both believe in ghosts, Omar,” Crystal said with a laugh, tossing Christen a bagel when she asked for it. 

“Absolutely,” Omar replied with a serious nod. 

“These walks are designed to ramp up the scare and downplay the truth. It’s not really that scary,” Christen chuckled with a shake of her head. “It’s a performance.”

“Is it at night?” Tobin asked, clearing her throat as she voiced the question. 

“Yes. We will shoot it the night of the thirtieth, then play it the morning of Halloween so we all can have a day off,” Crystal answered, earning herself cheers and hoots from the gathered crew. 

“Cool, cool,” Tobin nodded, looking back down at the information with a continued furrow between her eyebrows. 

“Do you want to do something else?” Christen asked, directing her question to Tobin, who sat at the table near her, a few seats away. 

“No, it’s fine. Ghosts are very…halloween-y,” Tobin replied with a shake of her head. 

“And this morning, we are hyping the segment, so we will be telling ghost stories between the two of you and then taking callers with ghost stories. So prepare for spooky,” Crystal interjected, getting to her feet. “Talent off to make-up and wardrobe. We’re on in under an hour.”

With everyone dismissed, the meeting room cleared out, both Tobin and Christen falling into step outside the room as they both headed to the wardrobe department. 

“You afraid of ghosts, Heath?” Christen wondered, knocking her shoulder into Tobin’s with a smile. 

“Me?” Tobin scoffed, shaking her head quickly. “No way.” 

“Good. Because I’ve got a ghost story that would make the most nonbeliever a believer,” Christen hummed, sticking her hands into the pocket of her sweatshirt. 

“I thought you sounded like a nonbeliever in there.” 

“I’m not a believer and I’m also not a nonbeliever,” Christen chuckled, waggling her brows playfully. “I’ve just got this story that’ll make your the hair on your arms stand up.

“Great,” Tobin hummed, scratching at the back of her neck. 

“Scared?” Christen wondered, pursing her lips in amusement. 

“Ghosts…maybe give me a bit of a scare, okay?” Tobin admitted, clearing her throat once more. 

Christen grabbed a hold of Tobin’s sleeve and pulled her to a stop, bringing them face to face in the hallway. 

“I can tell Crystal to send us on…a pumpkin pie tasting tour instead,” Christen offered in a quiet voice. 

“It’s fine,” Tobin waved off. “She’s already got it planned. If I wanted to argue for something else, I should have read the schedule last week.” 

“Plans can change. They can change today,” Christen murmured, holding Tobin’s gaze as she kept a hold of Tobin’s sleeve, running it between her pointer finger and thumb. 

“It’s just a ghost tour. I’ll keep it together,” Tobin assured quietly. 

“You sure?” Christen asked, giving Tobin one final moment to back out. 

“I will be a grown-up adult woman, and then I will go home and leave all the lights on, curl up under a blanket, and watch a harmless Disney movie.” 

Christen cracked a smile, her eyes crinkling. “I’ll bring you a coffee the next morning. Check in on you,” she offered, finally dropping her hand away from Tobin’s sleeve. 

“Oh? You want to just find a breakfast place at a reasonable hour? Really celebrate the holiday?” Tobin asked, cocking her head to the side. 

“We could do that,” Christen nodded, her smile growing. “Maybe a haunted bakery or something.”

“Sounds spooktacular,” Tobin hummed, sending a wink in Christen’s direction. 

Christen let out a soft laugh as she led the way to wardrobe. 

“I lied. I like pumpkin pie. Let’s do pumpkin pie,” Tobin whispered as soon as the lights were shut off and then turned on again. 

“You’re going to be fine,” Christen whispered back, knocking her shoulder into Tobin’s. “Hold my hand if you get scared.”

“I’m brave. I’m strong. I’m fully capable of being an adult,” Tobin muttered, making up new affirmations. 

Christen knocked her shoulder into Tobin’s again, looking around the Moore Theater, the first stop on the walking ghost tour they were on this evening. They had two camerawomen with them, aimed at recording their reactions to the stops on the tour. 

The tour guide, a young man named Calvin, led them around the Moore Theater, describing how Mr. Moore himself haunted the theater, checking to see if audiences were entertained. He was seen as a benevolent spirit, something Calvin assured them a few times. But he did inform them that in the 70s, there was an interrupted seance, which kept a ghost portal open to any spirits that wished to pass through it. 

Christen was trying to focus on the history lesson from Calvin, when she felt Tobin tense beside her, their shoulders coming into contact. 

“Good?” Christen murmured, covering her mic with her hand so it wouldn’t pick up her voice. 

Tobin nodded, but her eyes were wide and moving around the room. 

“And anything can come through this portal, in any moment it chooses. Would you like to visit the location of the seance?” Calvin offered. 

“Of course!” Christen assured, waggling her brows excitedly for camera one as she moved to follow Calvin, hearing Tobin shuffle behind her. 

Calvin led them to the stage, directing them to the middle of it.  “Behold. The portal,” Calvin said dramatically, gesturing right at center stage. “I’ll give you all a moment to get acquainted with it.”

Christen eyed the teleprompter that the camerawoman with camera one held up, reading the words off. 

“This first stop on the ghost tour is just the beginning. It gets even spookier than a ghost portal, which we hope you’ll stick around to see,” Christen said, keeping a smile on her face. “How are you feeling about this, Heath?”

Tobin held up a thumbs up and forced a smile for the camera. “I’m so ready to be scared.” 

Just then, the lights in the theater went out, something the camerawomen had prepared for, keeping Tobin and Christen illuminated with small lights. 

“Spooky,” Christen chuckled, making a slow circle to see if anything was visible in the near darkness. “How’s the scared level looking for you? Because I’m feeling like Calvin just cut the lights to be funny.”

“I hate it here,” Tobin muttered under her breath, crossing her arms defensively over her chest. 

It only took a moment. And maybe if Tobin had been thinking logically, she would have called it a draft. But the air around her right elbow suddenly felt cold, and then she felt just the slightest brush of something…maybe a hand. 

A scream left Tobin’s lips in an instant, and she was hurrying across the stage and away from the spot she’d been occupying, a blush heating her cheeks at the ridiculousness of the entire situation. The blush got even worse when she realized she’d gone straight across the room and latched onto Christen’s hand. 

“And it seems to me like we’ve had our first paranormal experience. Let’s hope my co-host can survive the next four stops,” Christen said for the camera, giving Tobin’s hand a reassuring squeeze. 

“We’re out,” one of their camerawoman instructed. The lights from the cameras remained trained on them as the recording stopped, both camerawomen taking a short break. 

“Well, your lung capacity is something,” Christen murmured, turning to look at Tobin as she squeezed her hand gently again, not daring to let go when her heart was fluttering at the feeling of Tobin’s hand in her own. 

“This was a sadistic idea. Who pitched this?” Tobin whined, not caring in the slightest about being ‘cool’ anymore. 

“Four more to go. Then we’re done,” Christen promised, her thumb moving across the back of Tobin’s hand. 

“I’m never gonna sleep,” Tobin sighed, hanging her head for a moment before she really felt a hand on her shoulder. “Jesus!” she yelped, spinning around and seeing Calvin. “Warn a person, dude. Not cool!” 

“Sorry,” Calvin chuckled. “We blew a fuse. We can head on to the next stop on the tour. Unless you’re too…scared?”

“We’re not scared, thank you,” Christen huffed, signaling for the camerawomen to start rolling again. “Onward, Calvin,” she said, turning to shoot a smile at camera two before pulling on Tobin’s hand so they could follow their tour guide. 

An hour, five stops, twelve screams, and one moment where Tobin almost jumped into Christen’s arms later, the tour was over. 

They returned to where they’d all parked near the Moore Theater around midnight, the camerawomen and boom operator leaving quickly with smiles and waves for the two hosts before leaving. 

“Not gonna lie, that last place gave me the heebie-jeebies,” Christen said with a shudder, sticking her hands in the pockets of her leather jacket as she and Tobin lingered near her bike and Tobin’s car. 

“Did it?” Tobin asked, her eyes wide and unseeing as she remembered the jump scare at the end of the tour. 

“Yeah. My heart is still racing,” Christen nodded, taking a hand from her jacket pocket and holding it against her chest, able to feel the way her heart pounded beneath her hand. 

Tobin huffed out a pained laugh. “You don’t have to pretend, although I appreciate the attempt.” 

“No, seriously. I hate jump scares,” Christen admitted, finding Tobin’s gaze. “I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight.” 

“I don’t know if I’ll sleep for the rest of the week,” Tobin chuckled weakly, putting her hand over her own racing heart. 

“You made it through. That counts for something,” Christen complimented, managing a smile for Tobin as she put her hand back in her jacket pocket. “I really thought you were going to ditch me when we hit that alley near Pike’s Place.”

“I went into fight or flight, and I froze,” Tobin teased, a small smile slipping onto her face. “Can we carve pumpkins next year?” 

“You want to be around next year?” Christen wondered, her eyebrows lifting in surprise, the makings of a smile on her face. 

“Uh…unless I’m being fired and haven’t been told yet,” Tobin replied, her forehead scrunching at the surprise on Christen’s face. 

“Not that I’m aware of,” Christen rushed to say. “I just- we’re the morning show. Surely, this isn’t the end for someone like you at SSN. We’re a stepping stone, not a destination.”

“I’m not a journalist,” Tobin said, shaking her head in further confusion. “And I don’t see this as a stepping stone.” 

“What do you see this as?” Christen wondered, her voice soft, her expression vulnerable. 

“At the beginning, I was…upset. I just…didn’t want to talk about anything other than soccer. But honestly, working in sports reporting was miserable. I didn’t enjoy my coworkers. It wasn’t fun to watch people play like I used to. And I didn’t expect to enjoy this kind of reporting. This kind of show. I didn’t expect to like getting up so freaking early and going to work to talk about pretty much everything except what I actually know. I don’t have plans to leave, if that’s what you’re asking,” Tobin answered, meeting Christen’s vulnerability with her own honesty. 

“Good,” Christen nodded, clearing some of the emotion from her throat. “I’ve just started getting used to sharing the couch with you. Would hate to have to get used to someone else.”

“I’m sure that’s a very difficult part of the job,” Tobin observed, watching Christen’s face and all the emotions behind her eyes. 

“At least you’re not half as bad to look at as some of my other co-hosts,” Christen said with a teasing half-smile. 

“Steve,” Tobin hummed, a knowing look on her face as she nodded. 

“You’ve got a decent smile too. Much better than Tiffany’s,” Christen added, her tone staying light even as her eyes remained full of emotions that went far deeper than what they were talking about. 

“You’re a lot better to look at than Lance from sports reporting,” Tobin grinned, flashing Christen her smile. 

“After wardrobe and make-up get to me, I agree,” Christen chuckled. 

“No,” Tobin said with a shake of her head. “First thing in the morning before you even get inside and hang up your coat.” 

“I think the fear you experienced this evening is getting some wires crossed for you,” Christen said with another soft laugh, her cheeks filing with the faintest blush. 

“I think you’re deflecting because you don’t want me to pay you a compliment,” Tobin responded. 

“I’m deflecting because…I’m right,” Christen replied stubbornly with a small shrug of her shoulder. 

“Isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder?” 

“Not when the beholder thinks of me like a cactus,” Christen murmured with a wink, taking a step back toward her bike. “Breakfast tomorrow?”

“Cacti can be beautiful,” Tobin argued. “Beautiful and prickly and sometimes a little dangerous.” 

“I’m thinking…paranormal pumpkin pancakes,” Christen said, avoiding the topic of beauty all together. 

“Whatever you want,” Tobin sighed, unable to fathom why someone like Christen didn’t believe she was beautiful. 

“I’ll text you the address of the café,” Christen grinned, slipping her helmet on but keeping the visor up so she could see Tobin. “Happy Halloween, you scaredy cat.”

“Happy Halloween. Get home safe,” Tobin echoed, unlocking her car and tossing her jacket into the passenger’s seat. 

Christen’s bike roared to life as she turned the handle. She shot Tobin one last smile before flipping the visor down and then peeling out of the parking lot, a blur of leather. 

Tobin followed shortly after, heading in the direction of her own home and wondering the entire drive what she could do to hold up a mirror so Christen could just see what she saw. 

Tobin tugged at the hem of her navy dress as she got out of the car. It was short and maybe showed a little too much considering it was November, but it was also SNN’s annual gala, and Christen was going to be there.

She was past lying to herself. She was past convincing herself that what she picked out to wear wasn’t, at least in part, chosen for Christen. She’d given up pretending because every day at work just made her like Christen that much more. 

She walked into the building, following the signs to the elevator and pushing the button for the top floor where the gala always took place. 

Christen slipped into the elevator right as the doors were closing, her hand holding up the skirt of her floor-length dress. When she saw that Tobin was in the elevator with her, she chuckled. 

“I had a feeling you’d be in a shade of blue,” Christen murmured as she moved to stand next to Tobin, letting her dress fall back into place. 

“I like being predictable,” Tobin teased, smiling over at Christen. “You pop in red,” she added, her smile morphing into a small smirk. 

“I know,” Christen replied with a matching smirk, her eyes flicking down to take in the tight-fitting dress clinging to Tobin’s body before meeting her eyes again. “Larry was rather insistent that we both make an appearance tonight. Think he just wants us to show our faces, or does he have something up his sleeve?”

“I really hope he just wants our faces present. I’m aiming to shake some wealthy people’s hands, steal some cream puffs, and then eat them in my sweats at home.” 

“I’m just here for the open bar,” Christen replied with a shrug. 

“Oh, really?” Tobin asked, turning to look at Christen. “I bet tipsy you is very fun to party with.” 

“You won’t get to see her. You have a date with your sweats and absconded cream puffs,” Christen pointed out with a grin. 

“Maybe I’ll choose you over cream puffs tonight,” Tobin hummed, letting her eyes move down to take in the dress for just a moment. 

“Are you sure? Cream puffs seem like they’d be to die for.”

“I can go to a bakery any day. I’m not sure I can drink with you whenever I feel like it,” Tobin replied. 

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Christen said quietly, her smile softening for a moment before the elevator dinged. 

“What’s your drink of choice?” Tobin asked as they stepped into the party, loud music from a live band echoing throughout the top floor. 

“I won’t give you all the answers. Just no dark liquor,” Christen chuckled. 

“How do you feel about margaritas?”

“Doesn’t feel like a margarita place to me. Go for something with vodka. That’s the last hint I’ll give you,” Christen murmured with a playful smirk, sliding the back of her hand across Tobin’s before melting into the crowd and joining the party. 

Tobin pursed her lips as she headed to the bar. If asked a couple months ago, at the beginning of her time on the morning show, she never would have believed that she’d be guessing what Christen liked, ordering a drink for Christen, and then carrying that drink across a crowded floor in the hopes of satisfying her. The slight desperation to get this right, to satisfy her, in more ways than one, felt dangerous. But she couldn’t bring herself to care. 

Tobin liked the banter she shared with Christen. She liked the back and forth game. She liked the teasing. She really liked Christen. 

So, Tobin ordered two different drinks, both something she could see Christen possibly drinking, one that was ordered more for the name than the taste. She carried them through the crowd, side-stepping some people dancing and others reaching for hors d’oeuvres. She found Christen near a window at the back of the executive floor, her eyes trained on the rain slipping down the window. 

“You wanna have sex on the beach?” Tobin asked at a whisper, almost close enough for her lips to touch the shell of Christen’s ear. 

Christen’s eyes widened in shock for a moment, her lips parting. But then she caught sight of Tobin and the drinks in her hands and let out a breathy chuckle. 

“I’d rather be a cosmo girl,” Christen said, accepting the reddish-pink drink Tobin subsequently held out for her. 

“Hmm…I guess I’ll have sex on the beach then,” Tobin sighed, winking at Christen before she took a sip and stepped to the side, giving Christen more room. 

“I’d expect nothing less,” Christen hummed, sipping her drink and keeping her eyes on Tobin the entire time. 

“You’re a cosmo woman. I see that,” Tobin nodded, leaning her shoulder against the window. 

“Oh, really? What do you see?” Christen challenged, already feeling the vodka and triple sec hit her and make the world seem just a bit fuzzier and a bit funnier, Tobin’s entire being even more enticing too. 

“A little fruity, sometimes sweet. You’ve got a…zing to you though.” 

Christen pursed her lips in amusement and took another sip of the drink, the sounds of the party around them completely fading away. 

“You’re definitely not a sex on the beach woman,” Christen observed, nodding at the orangey-red drink in Tobin’s hand. 

“I thought I’d give you options,” Tobin shrugged, having stopped herself after one sip of the sweet drink. 

Christen noticed a waiter approaching and smoothly lifted the drink from Tobin’s hand. She handed the drink off to the waiter and offered him a dazzling smile. 

“Could I please have a water? Thank you so much,” Christen said, getting a nod and a blush from the young man as he hurried off. She turned back to Tobin and took another sip of her drink. 

“Well, he seemed interested in sex on the beach,” Tobin scoffed, rolling her eyes a little at the server. 

“He’s bringing you a water. Be nice,” Christen chastised with a playful glint in her green eyes. 

“He’s bringing you a water.” 

“True, but I’m then passing it off to you. Saved me a trip to the open bar to get you something you’d actually want to drink.”

“Water is my cocktail of choice,” Tobin chuckled, her smile growing. 

“I figured as much,” Christen murmured, finishing off her cosmo with a satisfied hum. 

“You figured,” Tobin echoed, keeping her eyes on Christen as if she could look long enough and figure Christen out. 

Christen’s eyes lost their playfulness for a moment, her expression turning serious. 

“I’ve seen some self-destructive spirals before, and they have common ingredients. I figured…it might be the same for you. So I asked for a water,” Christen explained in a soft voice, holding her empty glass against her chest. 

“You’re very observant, but I already knew that,” Tobin complimented, not arguing against Christen’s observation at all. She was right. There had definitely been an abundance of alcohol for the first year of her self-destruction. There were still moments of over-indulging. It had led to her removal from the sports segments. 

Christen noticed the waiter approach again, and traded her empty glass for the water. 

“Thank you,” Christen hummed with another smile before turning back to Tobin, her smile softening. “Here,” she added at a whisper, her complete focus on Tobin. 

“Thank you. He’s this close to asking for your number,” Tobin said, holding up her index finger and thumb with very little space between them. 

“He’s going to be sorely disappointed when I don’t give it to him then,” Christen replied with a shrug, leaning her shoulder against the windowed wall and starting to spin a ring around her middle finger. 

“He doesn’t make the cut?” Tobin asked, unconsciously moving closer. 

Christen shook her head, the movement slow. She pulled her bottom lip between her front teeth as she watched Tobin take another small step closer, further bringing them into their own private bubble at this party. 

“Pity for him,” Tobin hummed, wetting her bottom lip as she watched each of Christen’s movements. 

“Do you know what people say about you?” Christen wondered, completely caught in Tobin’s gaze. 

“I can imagine. What have you heard?” 

“Womanizer. More dates than a calendar. Physical…talents beyond the soccer field. A- umm,” Christen cleared her throat, ignoring the blush creeping up her neck. “A giver. But I can’t square those with conflicting reports about total lack of follow through. Somehow, you’re everyone’s favorite player, but to me, it doesn’t actually seem like you are.”

Tobin felt her throat grow thick at the complete honesty in Christen’s voice. Christen was even more observant than she’d imagined. She seemed capable of seeing right through her. 

“Sorry, vodka makes me a little too chatty,” Christen added, trying to wave off the comment and retreat from this path at the surprise she could see in Tobin’s eyes. 

Tobin nodded slowly and then leaned forward so her lips were once again close to Christen’s ear, making Christen’s breath catch audibly. 

“Perhaps if a womanizer is someone who goes on many dates, that would apply to me. But I don’t give without thought. I give when I’m certain I’d like to give, when I’m positive that it will be more than just one night of giving.” 

Christen released a short breath, her heart hammering in her chest at Tobin’s words and proximity. 

“I see,” Christen managed, her voice coming out a little strangled. 

“I don’t sleep around, despite the reputation I’ve seemed to garner,” Tobin added before leaning back again, her shoulder against the window. 

“So nobody makes the cut?” Christen wondered, swallowing thickly, still a little dazed from the way it had felt for Tobin’s breath to ghost across the shell of her ear, from the way she could feel Tobin’s body heat from the way they stood so close together. 

“Typically, I date a little meaninglessly,” Tobin admitted, lifting her glass of water to take a sip. “The right person would make the cut. Easily.”  

“I see,” Christen repeated, wishing she hadn’t finished her drink so fast so she’d have something to hold, something to distract herself with. 

“Water?” Tobin offered, holding up her glass. 

Christen shook her head and started to spin her ring again, the motion mindless. 

“I think I’ll get another drink,” Christen replied, her entire being protesting leaving this back corner and leaving Tobin, but she needed something more to take this edge off. She couldn’t be slipping back into old habits, into old feelings. She shouldn’t be. 

“I’ll be here,” Tobin murmured, her eyes stuck on Christen’s, as if she could look long enough for Christen to get the message that she could be the right person, that Tobin already found her meaningful. 

Christen took a few more moments before she had to force herself to walk away, breaking their long bout of charged eye contact. She moved toward the open bar and prayed that another cosmo would help her forget the way Tobin’s smile had always made her stomach flip, just like it was starting to do once again. 

“I need a word,” Crystal said as soon as Tobin had left the room to head to wardrobe. 

Christen sat back down in her chair, placing her empty cup on the conference room table. 

“What’s up?” Christen asked, tilting her head to the side with the question. 

“This is me speaking mainly as your best friend but also a little as your producer.” 

“Okay…” Christen trailed off. 

“You need to get this out of your system. Both of you. Just…do the deed,” Crystal sighed, pressing her hand against her forehead. 

“I’m sorry, what?” Christen asked in clarification, her forehead furrowing in confusion. 

“I saw both of you at the gala last week. I was worried I might not get out of there before you tore each other’s clothes off,” Crystal said, arching an eyebrow at Christen. 

Christen felt the lightest blush beat her cheeks as she dropped her eyes away from Crystal’s. 

“That’s ridiculous,” Christen scoffed weakly.

“How? How is that ridiculous?” 

“Because that’s not- it’s just chemistry. That’s all. You see it every morning for the cameras,” Christen explained as she finally met Crystal’s gaze again, a little stubbornly. 

“Really? That’s all?” Crystal huffed, an almost amused smile sliding onto her face. “Tobin Heath stared at your ass for a solid five minutes at the gala when you went to the bar. I watched it. Three people tried to talk to her in that amount of time, and she couldn’t pull her eyes off of you.” 

“I- Well- you know I have a great ass. I can’t fault her for having eyes,” Christen replied with a shrug, crossing her arms over her chest. 

“You both look like horny teenagers who are dying for your parents to go out of town so you can fuck,” Crystal said as bluntly as possible. 

Christen’s eyes widened in shock at the choice of words, causing a scoff to leave her. 

“Crystal, it’s not like that. The crush remains in the past and it’s…just chemistry.”

“So you don’t like her? Or want to…get it on?” 

Christen rolled her eyes, standing up from the table and snagging her empty coffee cup. 

“If you don’t like her, then I need to be talking to her and telling her to keep it together,” Crystal added, standing up with Christen and grabbing her tablet. 

“It’s helping the ratings. So just leave it be, right?” Christen said, her stomach dropping at the idea that Crystal would talk to Tobin about this. 

“So, you want to torture an obviously into you Heath for…ratings?” Crystal clarified, narrowing her eyes at Christen. 

Christen let out a small sigh and checked over her shoulder to ensure they were alone in the conference room and no one was in the hallway outside. When the coast was clear, she stepped closer to Crystal and let her stubbornness melt away, revealing how she truly felt about it. 

“Speaking to my best friend, I’m…I’m in deep trouble here and I’m just trying to stay afloat. I don’t know what she feels or where she’s at, but I’m right back where I was three years ago. I’m just glad she hasn’t noticed the stars in my eyes and my heart on my sleeve yet,” Christen admitted at a whisper with an almost sad, half-smile on her face. “But I’m handling it. It’s fine. It helps the ratings, right?”

“Speaking as your best friend, she’s a complete goner for you. The entire crew can see that. I heard Stella complaining about it last week,” Crystal whispered, pulling her friend in for a hug. 

“It’s hard to get behind that concept. It’s much easier to long for someone in silence and host a morning show with them, hoping they won’t notice the way you look at them,” Christen sighed, squeezing Crystal in a hug before taking a step back. “But I can see if I can dial the…chemistry down a notch or two for the cameras, if that’s what you’d like as my producer.”

“Chris,” Crystal exhaled, shaking her head. “I don’t care about the cameras. I care about my best friend being happy. And there’s a brunette down the hall with stars in her eyes just for you, and I don’t want you to miss out because you’re scared.” 

“Thanks for the advice,” Christen said with a small smile, not planning on heeding that advice one bit. “I need to get to wardrobe.”

“See you out there,” Crystal replied, easily seeing the disbelief in Christen’s face. 

Christen tugged at the back of the collar of her blouse, feeling the tag continue to scratch her. She shifted on the orange couch in discomfort as she continued to prep for the show this morning. They were doing an advice day, where callers could phone in with their questions, and she and Tobin would give as much advice as they could. 

“You okay?” Tobin asked, reaching without thought to the back of Christen’s collar to try and help poke the tag under the collar.

Christen felt heat prickle across her skin when Tobin’s fingertips brushed against the back of her neck. 

“Fine. Just a scratchy tag,” Christen replied, hating that her voice came out so affected, so breathy. 

“You want me to pull it off?” Tobin asked, pushing Christen’s curls off of her shoulder. 

Christen couldn’t even form words, not when Tobin’s free hand was now cradling the side of her neck and Tobin was pressed nearly completely against her side. She barely managed a nod before she squeezed her eyes shut, hoping her breathing didn’t sound as ragged to Tobin as it did to her. 

“You can blame me if Jess gets upset,” Tobin whispered right before tearing the tag off. She kept her arm around the back of the couch as she tucked the tag into the back pocket of her pants. 

“Oh, I will,” Christen replied, clearing her throat and returning her focus to the paper in her lap. “But thank you.”

“I’m already on thin ice because I ate a bagel in wardrobe last Wednesday,” Tobin grinned. 

“It’s like you’re asking to be punished,” Christen chuckled, sinking into their easy rapport as Crystal’s warning fell to the back of her mind. 

“Now, that sounds kinky,” Tobin teased, her index finger brushing against Christen’s shoulder. 

Christen let out a warm laugh and ignored the goosebumps that broke out across her skin at the feeling of Tobin’s touch against her shoulder. 

“It is advice day, I have to be ready for anything,” Christen hummed, a smirk playing at her lips. 

“You’re always prepared,” Tobin complimented, leaning back into the couch. 

“For almost anything,” Christen nodded, accepting the mic and battery pack from the sound guy. She clipped the battery back to the waistband of her dark wash jeans at the small of her back and then hooked the mic on the collar of her blouse. “Did you prep?”

“Me? Always,” Tobin nodded, shooting Christen a goofy smile. 

“Likely story,” Christen chuckled. 

“I’ll try to think on my feet,” Tobin assured. 

“Do try,” Christen challenged teasingly, a smirk making its way onto her face. 

“You have any lunch plans after this?” Tobin asked, shifting a little so her knees were turned toward Christen, her body completely open to Christen. 

“Not a one.”

“Do you want lunch plans after this?”

“Depends on quite a few factors,” Christen replied. 

“Care to share so I can try to accommodate?” Tobin asked, watching the crew move around as their minutes before going live dwindled. 

“I would, but…” Christen trailed off, noting the time. “We’re about to go live,” she added with a grin. “I’ll keep you in suspense for an hour.”

“You always do,” Tobin huffed, her smile growing as the lights got brighter and Crystal’s countdown became a silent one with her hand. 

The familiar jingle played as camera two moved closer to the stage, trained on the two of them. 

“Wake up and smell the coffee, Seattle. This is the Emerald View. I’m one half of your favorite morning show team, Christen Press,” Christen introduced, pausing to give Tobin her chance to speak as well. 

“And I’m the more obnoxious half, Tobin Heath,” Tobin said, adding in the obnoxious part herself. 

“Can’t argue with that word choice. We’ve got a special segment for you this morning. We will be taking calls for the whole hour for something Tobin and I affectionately call, Advice with Us,” Christen continued, reading off the teleprompter and adding a few words here and there to make it flow. 

“They shot down my idea of calling it Emerald Explanations and Explorations. I don’t work with an alliterative bunch,” Tobin sighed, feigning disappointment. 

“That was miles better than your other suggestion, but we won’t get into that so early in the morning,” Christen ad-libbed, shooting Tobin a smile. “Call the number at the bottom of your screen to get a chance for some advice. But before you all get some advice, Tobin and I will be getting some from each other,” she added, reading off the teleprompter and feeling a flicker of surprise since she hadn’t read about this in the notes for the program. 

“Oooh what kind of advice do you need, Press?” Tobin asked. 

“I’ll leave you in suspense momentarily, since it seems you also need some advice this morning. What can I help you with, Heath?” Christen countered, her smile never faltering. 

“Hmm…have you ever had a crush?” Tobin mused, not letting her racing heart keep her from voicing a somewhat honest request for advice. 

“Haven’t we all?” Christen replied, shifting a little on the couch as she looked at the camera and winked before looking back at Tobin. 

“I mean, yes,” Tobin chuckled, shooting the camera a smile. “But it seems like crushes get a lot harder after childhood’s over.” 

“In what way?” Christen wondered, grabbing her mug of water from the table and taking a sip of it. 

“Well, when you’re a kid, you can just write a note and hand it to your crush and run away on the playground. Adulthood’s a lot harder. You have to know if they’re interested. You have to know if you’re their type. You have to know if they're single. You can’t just hand over a note, especially if they’re kind of your friend.” 

“I suppose that’s true,” Christen mused, unable not to feel that fluttering in her heart as Tobin continued to speak. 

“It’s a conundrum,” Tobin shrugged, putting her other arm on the back of the couch as she relaxed into the cushions. 

“Are you admitting to having a crush on live television?” Christen wondered, cradling the mug to her chest as she eyed Tobin curiously. 

“Maybe,” Tobin sing-songed, smiling at the camera despite the tiny blush on her cheeks. 

“So what advice can I give you?” Christen asked. 

“How would you suss out the situation?” Tobin wondered, turning her head to look at Christen. 

Christen let out a thoughtful hum as she set her mug down once more. 

“I believe that there is only one true way to know for sure whether your crush is requited,” Christen replied, moving her attention between Tobin and camera three. “And this goes for those playground crushes and for crushes in your adulthood as well. It’s fool proof.”

“What’s the secret?” Tobin asked, watching Christen intently. 

“The Duchenne smile,” Christen answered simply, offering no other explanation but voicing the words as if she were telling something groundbreaking. 

“Excuse me?” Tobin huffed, letting out a soft laugh. 

“Have you never heard of this?” Christen wondered, leaning closer to Tobin as if they were gossiping, which in a way, they were. Only they were getting paid for it and doing it on camera for thousands of viewers. 

“No, did I miss something in school?” 

“Maybe while you were racing away after handing over the note, you missed the way this crush of yours smiled. It’s a completely involuntary smile, not something forced. It’s the most natural expression of enjoyment only experienced in times of genuine happiness. Their eyes crinkle, their face brightens. The Duchenne smile is what you should be looking out for,” Christen advised with a waggle of her brows for Tobin before she looked at the camera. “This advice is for any of you harboring those hidden feelings. If you’re worried about someone feeling the same way, keep an eye out for the way they smile at you. A true smile can’t hide how they truly feel.”

“Interesting,” Tobin hummed, pursing her lips in thought. She couldn’t figure out if she’d gotten that kind of smile from Christen yet. She’d for sure given it. 

“And look at that, it’s time for our first caller. Camila, you’re on the air,” Christen greeted, sinking back into the couch and feeling Tobin’s hand brush against her bare shoulder. 

“Mine’s kind of similar to Tobin’s actually. It’s definitely a crush. I’ve got a huge crush on someone. And that someone happens to be a coworker. That just complicates everything, right? Would you guys go for it or just try to find feelings somewhere else?” Camila asked, making Crystal clear her throat a little awkwardly. 

“Thank you for your question and your vulnerability, Camila,” Christen replied easily, smiling at the camera before looking over at Tobin. “What do you think, Heath?”

“Uh…I think weighing the risk is good. What kind of rules does your workplace have? That’s a good place to start,” Tobin answered, running a hand through her hair. 

“None. I…checked,” Camila admitted with an embarrassed laugh. 

“That’s good,” Tobin nodded as her heart raced in her chest. “Then…why not go for it, right? Look for that Duc…the smile thingy. Life’s short, and love’s hard to find.” 

“Duchenne,” Christen supplied. “And I agree. You can’t control when or where someone comes into your life, but you can control what you do when they do. So I also say go for it. Why not?”

“Oh, awesome. You’re right. I should go for it,” Camila muttered, her voice holding a bit of hysterical excitement. 

“And if you ever do decide to say something, don’t follow Tobin’s example. Don’t run,” Christen suggested with a laugh. 

“Little Tobin. Young Tobin. She did that. Not this Tobin,” Tobin argued, a pout fixed on her lips. 

That only caused Christen to let out another laugh. 

“Thank you, Camila, and best of luck!” Christen said with a smile for the camera. “Up next, Roger from Spokane. Hi, Roger and welcome to the Emerald View.”

“You can hear me?” Roger asked, his voice hinting at his older age.

“Yep, we can hear you, Roger. You’re with us. Live,” Tobin answered. 

“Well, isn’t that something,” Roger chuckled. “I wasn’t exactly planning on phoning in or anything, but my daughter watches your show and she brought me my newspaper this morning. So when I asked her for some help, she suggested I call you two lovely ladies.”

“What’s your question or situation for us to give hopefully decent advice for?” Tobin asked, smiling at Roger’s sweet voice. 

“Tomorrow is my wife’s and my fifty-first wedding anniversary. We’ve done every present in the book, so now I’m a little stumped as to what to get her this year,” Roger admitted with a long sigh. “My mind ain’t what it used to be, so my imagination isn’t helping much. And the Google suggested things I don’t think my June would like.”

“I don’t know if we will be more helpful than Google, but we will certainly try our best to be,” Christen replied, completely charmed by this older gentleman who phoned in. “Have you considered that maybe your gift doesn’t have to be something tangible, like a cookbook or jewelry, but could be more of an experience?”

“Well, I have, but last year I did that, and June had gotten me a very nice watch. I think she was a little disappointed, even though she’d never say that,” Roger sighed. 

“Do you know what the traditional present is for a fifty-first wedding anniversary?” Tobin asked, an easy smile on her face. 

Christen turned to look at Tobin, surprised that she knew that well enough to advise Roger. 

“Can’t say that I do, Ms. Heath.”

“Photographs or cameras. That’s the theme. Depending on your budget, there are a lot of great gifts for that theme,” Tobin hummed, smiling as if Roger were actually there with them. 

“Well I’ll be darned. That’s a wonderful suggestion. She’s been wanting to get new photos of us taken. Nice ones, where you ask someone besides your grandson with his iPhone to take them,” Roger replied, sounding a million times lighter. 

“If you want to go fancy with picture frames, there’s this cool picture frame that all of your family members can send photos to, no matter where they are. You’ll get new photos in your house all the time,” Tobin suggested, reaching out for her mug of water. 

“You could always do both. A photo shoot and a picture frame,” Christen added with a warm smile for the camera. “And if you call the studio back at the end of this hour, I can give you some recommendations on local photographers that won’t break the bank.”

“You two are even sweeter than Chelsea described,” Roger said, his voice sounding like he was just beaming on the other end of the line. 

“I’m the sweet one, Roger,” Christen teased, shooting the camera a wink. “I’ll look out for your call.”

“Thank you so much, Ms. Press,” Roger replied. “Bye-bye now.” 

“We’ll be taking more calls after this short commercial break,” Tobin said once the line went dead. 

“We’re out!” Crystal called, people and cameras already moving in preparation for them to come back from commercial. 

Christen held a hand to her chest and turned to shoot Tobin a smile. 

“How cute was he?”

“Adorable, but come on, dude. An anniversary comes every 365 days. Don’t wait until the day before,” Tobin sighed, shaking her head. 

“Hey, some people only work on a deadline,” Christen pointed out. “Don’t do Roger dirty like that.”

“I love Roger, but we wouldn’t want June to feel like an afterthought.” 

“How could she when she’s going to get a free photo shoot done for her anniversary?” Christen countered with a soft smile. 

“You are the sweet one,” Tobin hummed, her smile growing and her eyes crinkling in that smile Christen had been talking about. 

“Don’t you forget it,” Christen winked, subconsciously leaning in a little towards Tobin. 

“Lunch is on me if that helps sway you,” Tobin whispered, leaning right along with Christen. 

“I’m not swayed just yet. Keep trying,” Christen whispered back. 

“Your choice of cuisine,” Tobin added to sweeten the pot. 

“Closer and closer to swayed,” Christen murmured with a small smirk. 

“You can…ask me to wait in my car while you eat?” Tobin guessed, her eyebrows scrunching together in confusion. 

Christen let out a laugh as she looked over at Tobin with nothing hidden, the stars were in her eyes and her heart was on her sleeve and she knew it was painfully obvious. 

“Back in ten!” Crystal called out, shooting Christen a slightly warning look. 

“Are you Ducceeny smiling at me?” Tobin asked, softer than a whisper. 

“No,” Christen replied, equally as soft. “And it’s Duchenne.”

“So, it’s just me,” Tobin nodded before turning to camera one and smiling brightly. “Welcome back to The Emerald View!” 

Christen was completely caught off guard by the statement, barely managing to fix a smile on her face and look at camera one as well. 

“Our next caller is Monica from Puget Sound. What can we help you with this morning, Monica?” Christen read off the teleprompter, grateful for the words she didn’t have to think about. 

“Well…this is a little weird and maybe awkward, but I’m a baby gay,” Monica said, already chuckling as she spoke. 

“Cool,” Tobin nodded, her smile never faltering. 

“We’ve all been there,” Christen added, fixing the camera with a reassuring half-smile. 

“I’m trying to figure out how exactly you know if you’re a top or a bottom or how you figure out if someone else is a top or bottom. Or is that all just made up?” Monica asked, making Tobin’s cheeks flush even though it wasn’t her question. She couldn’t help that her first thought was of Christen, even if it shouldn’t have been. 

“Well, I’m certainly glad we have such an early time slot because this answer is definitely not safe for work,” Christen replied with a soft laugh. “Thank you for asking it, Monica.”

“Thanks, Mon Mon,” Tobin grinned. 

“Want to take the reins on this one?” Christen smirked, arching a brow in Tobin’s direction in a slightly challenging manner. 

“Oh? Am I the expert?” 

“That was a top test, Monica, and Heath didn't pass. So, I’ll start,” Christen said with a smile. 

Tobin let out a loud laugh before pushing her mug out of the way and propping her feet up on the coffee table. 

“Feet down, you heathen,” Christen chastised with an eye roll before looking at the camera. 

“Make me,” Tobin smirked. 

“Another top test, one I won’t fail,” Christen replied, smoothly shoving Tobin’s feet off the coffee table. “So, the whole top/bottom business is a complicated topic. I suggest diving into queer discourse and history to get all of the necessary backstory. But, honestly Monica, it seems to me that those are just two more labels people can attach to behaviors or personalities, in and out of the bedroom. If a label works for you, work it and use it. If it doesn’t, don’t stress about it. What matters most is what works for you and your partner,” she added, hoping Stella’s make-up job was covering up the blush in her cheeks and the mic couldn’t pick up the way her heart was pounding. 

“So, I shouldn’t be stressing about that,” Monica sighed, her voice sounding relieved. 

“Absolutely not. Tastes and preferences and even behaviors change over time. They’re fluid. So, for example, I could have been considered a power bottom in one relationship and then a service top in another, all depending on how I was feeling at the time, what I liked, and who my partner was and what they liked,” Christen explained. 

Tobin reached for her mug and started drinking her water, praying that she could dislodge the thickness in her throat at Christen’s response. 

“Heath? Anything to add?” Christen asked, arching a brow in Tobin’s direction. 


“Nothing at all for Mon Mon?” Christen wondered with a playful glint in her eyes. 

“I find that most people enjoy the ability to be both, even if they prefer one over the other. It’s always good to be in a relationship safe and comfortable enough to move between those more concrete labels whenever you feel like it,” Tobin said, forcing out something so she didn’t just look like a deer in the headlights. 

“Have fun and explore, and be safe,” Christen added with a nod. “Anything else on your mind, Monica?”

“No, that was perfect. Thank you both,” Monica gushed. 

For the next forty minutes, they continued to answer questions, some like Roger’s, and some like Monica’s, leaving the both of them shifting around on the couch and blushing.