“So I did a thing,” Tobin said as soon as she took her typical seat in Dr. Colter’s office.
“I’d like to buy a few adjectives,” Dr. Colter replied with a chuckle.
“A very cool, extremely scary, hopefully not detrimental thing.”
“You went on a real date, didn’t you?”
“Yes, and not like the dates I’ve been going on to get you off my back. It was with Christen,” Tobin explained, practically jumping out of her seat.
Dr. Colter offered Tobin an amused smile.
“So you two are seeing one another?” Dr. Colter wondered, her lips pursed and her notebook closed as she focused on Tobin.
“Yes. We talked through everything, and I apologized. And now we’re seeing each other…if a lunch date and then a dinner date and a scheduled third date constitutes seeing someone.”
Dr. Colter chuckled and nodded. “It sounds like it to me. How do you feel about the third date?”
“She’s planning it, so I feel less stress in that department but still general jitters,” Tobin replied.
“General jitters are good and normal. What do you like most about her?”
“She’s…real. What I like most is what scares me the most. She’s real and genuine, and she wants real and genuine in return,” Tobin answered around the lump in her throat.
“Are you ready for that?” Dr. Colter asked gently.
“I want to be.”
“But are you ready for that right now?”
“It’s been three years. I’m tired of that one moment controlling everything. I want to be ready, and I want it to be her. She said she’s willing to be patient,” Tobin mumbled, running a hand through her hair.
Dr. Colter silently appraised Tobin for a few moments and asked her final question.
“Are you ready for that for her or are you ready for it for you ?”
“For me. I feel like I’m ready to try. I wouldn’t have asked her out if I didn’t feel ready,” Tobin answered.
“I'm glad, Tobin. I truly am.”
“You’re not just saying that to gas me up?” Tobin wondered, all of her fear and worry evident on her face.
“That would be a highly unethical and terrible thing for someone in my position to do. I’m happy for you as your therapist and I’m happy for you as your friend. Being ready to try is all I’ve ever wanted for you, Tobin.”
“Thank you,” Tobin replied, sinking back into the couch in slight relief. “She’s really beautiful. Inside and out,” she added quietly.
“Does she make you feel that way?” Dr. Colter asked, more as a friend than a therapist, a fond smile on her face.
“Yeah, she does,” Tobin nodded.
“That’s fantastic,” Dr. Colter grinned. “I'd like to add another affirmation to your list then. After I am worth people's time, I want you to say to yourself, ‘I am ready to be worth my own time.’ Think you could do that?”
“I can do that,” Tobin agreed, feeling a familiar lump form in her throat.
“Want to try it once for me?” Dr. Colter asked softly.
Tobin swallowed thickly, not wanting to cry for the millionth time in this office, not today when she felt lighter than she had in years.
“I am ready to be worth my own time,” Tobin echoed, letting the affirmation settle deep in her chest.
“She’s not going to fix you, because you don’t need to be fixed. She’s not going to give you the answer to the question you’ve been torturing yourself with, because that answer isn’t one she has or one you need. She’s hopefully just going to keep making you feel beautiful and worthy. Because you are ,” Dr. Colter said fiercely, holding out a box of tissues. “I’m proud of you and I'm happy for you.”
“I don’t want her to fix anything. That’s not on her. I just…I really like her,” Tobin murmured, unable to stop the small smile that slipped onto her lips.
“I hope your third date goes just as well as the first two,” Dr. Colter said in reply, unable not to exhale deeply in gratitude that Tobin looked so calm and peaceful about this.
“Me too,” Tobin grinned, squeezing the pillow she had in her lap.
Christen kept her eyes on the papers in her hands, situated on her end of the orange couch.
It took everything in her not to look over at where Tobin was getting her makeup touched up by Stella. She didn’t want to see Stella leaning into Tobin’s space. So, she focused on the agenda for the show to come and willed away the slight flicker of jealousy.
They’d agreed to keep it professional at work, but that didn’t mean their flirty banter went anywhere. It was still there, an undercurrent in their daily segments every day so far this week. And if Christen found Tobin annoyingly charming before, now she found Tobin endearingly charming.
It was a lovely combination. Except when Stella was batting her eyelashes and giggling.
Christen rolled her head from side to side then resisted the urge to crumple the papers in her hand. Instead, she kept her eyes downcast as Tobin walked over to the orange couch and flopped down just like she always did.
“I think she missed a spot,” Christen commented nonchalantly.
“Where?” Tobin asked, lifting her hands to her face and feeling for a lack of foundation.
Christen looked up and arched a brow. “It’s a spot she clearly wanted to get.”
“What?” Tobin asked, still moving her hands under her jaw where Stella had applied makeup to match Tobin’s face and neck.
Christen leveled Tobin with a disbelieving look. She then quickly checked their surroundings and finding that they were in a pocket of privacy, she leaned closer.
“You’re not allowed to be this adorably aloof just because we’re seeing each other now. Stella still wants to…score in the Heath goal,” Christen whispered before sitting back and looking back down at the papers in her lap. “And it might not have bothered me before, but it bothers me now.”
“I don’t take people on dates who are dating other people. It’s a rule,” Tobin shrugged, replying nonchalantly. “And I’m kind of busy these days.”
Christen pursed her lips and lifted a hand to tousle her curls as she got comfortable on the couch.
“Busy? Is that so?”
“Mhm,” Tobin nodded. “I have dates to plan and work and a golden retriever to pick up for Wednesdays with Wendy.”
“That is quite the packed schedule,” Christen hummed with a small smile playing at her lips.
“Plus, she’s not on my list,” Tobin whispered, winking over at Christen.
“You have a list?” Christen wondered, her eyes sparkling and her stomach flipping at the wink Tobin shot her.
“Oh, yeah,” Tobin nodded, still keeping her voice conspiratorially quiet.
“Pray tell, who has made it onto such an illustrious list?” Christen asked, her voice matching Tobin’s in volume.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Tobin teased, her smirk morphing into a dopey smile.
“In fact, I would,” Christen grinned.
“It’s a very selective list. So selective, in fact, that only one name is on it right now,” Tobin hummed, running a hand through her hair as she spoke.
“Just one? Must be some person,” Christen murmured, unconsciously sliding closer to Tobin.
“She is,” Tobin replied as she messed with the collar of the button-up Jess had put her in.
Christen clicked her tongue and scooted even closer, knocking Tobin’s hand away.
“You’re wrinkling it,” Christen said softly, straightening Tobin’s collar for her, dragging her fingertips against the side of Tobin’s throat in the process.
“It’s itchy,” Tobin mumbled, feeling her heart speed up with Christen’s touch.
“Do you want to change?” Christen wondered, smoothing the collar out before lifting her eyes to meet Tobin’s.
“Five minutes!” Crystal called out.
“I’m gonna tough it out, it seems,” Tobin chuckled.
“I can stall,” Christen offered with a playful smile as she scooted back to her side of the couch.
“I’d love to see that,” Tobin grinned, “but I think I can manage. Maybe I’ll surprise folks at home and change during a commercial break,” she teased, draping her arm over the back of the couch, her index finger brushing against Christen’s back.
“I’d love to see that,” Christen whispered with a playful smile, fighting off a shiver at Tobin’s touch.
“Oh, really?” Tobin asked, cocking her head to the side and smirking over at Christen.
“I’m sure that’s very shocking,” Christen chuckled, biting back a large smile when she saw their sound guy move onto the stage to get them both situated with mics. “Hey Danny,” she greeted.
“You can keep flirting. Don’t need to stop on my account,” Danny laughed, handing Tobin her mic so she could thread it under her shirt.
“Flirting? Who’s flirting?” Christen wondered with an innocent shrug and a smile.
“I don’t even know how to flirt,” Tobin added, smiling sweetly.
“It’s definitely not in her skill set,” Christen added with a wink for Tobin.
“Whatever she’s doing seems to be working for you,” Danny chuckled, handing over Christen’s mic and then checking to make sure Tobin’s was on.
Christen blushed and clipped the mic to the lapel of her blazer.
“I’m wearing her down,” Tobin said to Danny as she flashed Christen a smile.
“Seems to be working both ways,” Danny offered with a laugh before walking off now that both mics were on and functioning.
“You’re going to get us caught,” Christen whispered to Tobin, covering her mic and fixing her blazer at the same time.
“You were the one fixing my collar, Ms. Handsy,” Tobin whispered back, covering her own mic.
“You were the one making it hard not to be handsy,” Christen shot back with playfully narrowed eyes.
“Mhm,” Tobin hummed with an eye roll.
“I didn’t want you to be itchy,” Christen continued with a smile.
“I’m sure,” Tobin replied, wiggling her eyebrows a little in Christen’s direction. “You’re very thoughtful.”
“I’m nothing if not thoughtful,” Christen grinned.
“The most thoughtful,” Tobin grinned, her index finger brushing against Christen’s shoulder as she spoke.
“How do you feel about seafood?” Christen asked, knowing they had moments before Crystal would start their countdown and wanting to make the most of them.
“I’m a fan,” Tobin answered. “Are you gonna make that joke where you eat something and open your mouth to show me?”
“The goal is for you to find me attractive, so…no,” Christen chuckled, catching Crystal’s eye and giving her a nod.
“I already do,” Tobin whispered, brushing her finger against the back of Christen’s shoulder once more and then turning toward the camera.
Christen’s blush stayed in her cheeks through their introduction and the start of their Tuesday morning show.
They shared blushes back and forth for two weeks. Each of them found time to plan dates. Christen planned a dinner at a seafood restaurant, followed by Tobin taking her to one of her favorite diners, followed by an evening spent baking cookies at Christen’s house.
Each date left Tobin feeling slightly less nervous about planning another one but slightly more terrified at the idea of Christen getting even closer and having a greater ability to wreck her if she left.
The nerves did nothing to curb Tobin’s desire to spend as much time with Christen as possible. It was exhilarating to make Christen laugh, one of her full-bodied laughs that made her reach out for Tobin’s arm to stay standing. It was addicting to feel Christen’s hand in her own or brushing across her back or tucking hair behind her ear. It was incredible to hear what Christen was thinking or ask Christen questions about her life and her thoughts and her dreams.
Everything about Christen was overwhelming in the best way possible, and as scared as it made Tobin sometimes when she was alone in bed at night and over-thought things, the fear didn’t keep her away.
She couldn’t stay away.
“See something you like?” Christen asked, her voice amused as she leaned against the doorframe, her eyes on Tobin and the way she was completely zoned out on her bookshelf.
“Yes,” Tobin grinned, turning her head to look at Christen.
“What caught your eye?” Christen wondered, gesturing at the bookshelf before pushing off the doorframe and setting the wine glasses she’d filled onto the chest near the door of her office.
“You have a book with my face on the cover,” Tobin mumbled, shooting Christen a goofy smile as she pointed at a book about the USWNT’s Olympic Gold Medal win in her last Olympic Games.
“I thought I put that away,” Christen blushed, grabbing the book from the shelf and holding it behind her back.
“You don’t have to hide it,” Tobin chuckled, stepping forward and trying to reach behind Christen.
Christen moved back and avoided Tobin’s grasp, keeping the book behind her back as she dodged Tobin, a small laugh leaving her lips.
“Oh, yes I do!”
“Why’s that?” Tobin laughed, lunging forward and getting an arm around Christen’s waist. “Did you take notes in it?”
“No,” Christen flushed, managing to twist in Tobin’s grasp to keep the book behind her back.
“Did you?” Tobin asked, getting a hand on the book, her body moving even closer to Christen’s.
“No!” Christen protested with a huff of laughter.
“Did you draw little hearts?” Tobin asked with a cocky smirk.
Christen’s back hit the wall, the book and Tobin’s arm trapped behind her back. Her blush deepened, not just from what she was trying to hide in the book, but also from their proximity.
“No,” Christen managed, her eyes locked with Tobin’s as her chest rose and fell rapidly.
“Can I see it?” Tobin whispered, leaning forward and brushing her lips across Christen’s cheek and toward her jaw.
Christen’s breath stuttered as her eyes fluttered shut, a familiar heat prickling across her skin at the feeling of Tobin’s lips.
“Umm, if you- if you want,” Christen breathed out, her voice low and hoarse. She had to remind herself to stay still, not to reach out, not to touch. It was at Tobin’s speed, at Tobin’s pace. Tobin had admitted to feeling anxious about certain things, about being physical and intimate, and Christen respected that. So, she hadn’t initiated anything since their kiss on their first date. Tobin had kissed her a few more times since then, but only briefly, fleetingly.
“Did you take notes?” Tobin repeated, getting the book out of Christen’s grip and setting it on the nearest side table, her other arm wrapping around Christen’s waist.
“You signed it,” Christen mumbled, her cheeks heating even more.
Tobin cocked her head to the side, both arms now around Christen’s waist, keeping Christen pressed against the wall with her body.
“Yes,” Christen whispered, her arms still resting by her sides. “I waited for two hours at a Barnes and Noble near Pike’s Place.”
“Was I an ass?” Tobin asked quietly, tracing her nose along Christen’s cheek.
“No. It was…five or six years ago. You were shy. Sweet. I barely got four words out but you smiled anyway and it was…you’ve got a great smile,” Christen said softly, her hands flexing at her sides as she melted into Tobin’s touch.
“I always felt really uncomfortable at those signings,” Tobin admitted, leaning back to look at Christen but keeping her arms in place around her.
“You hid it well,” Christen complimented.
“I didn’t really understand why people wanted to wait in line for my signature,” Tobin murmured, tracing her fingers along Christen’s spine.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t in line for your signature,” Christen replied, shivering at the feeling of Tobin’s fingers tracing over the back of her sweater.
“Mmm, Carli’s? Megan’s? Ashlyn’s?” Tobin guessed.
“I just really like lines,” Christen teased, finally moving her hands to Tobin’s hips, gently holding onto the woman in front of her.
Tobin’s breath hitched in her throat at the contact, and she sank even closer to Christen. “Lines are fun,” she mumbled, brushing her forehead against Christen’s.
“Totally,” Christen whispered, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s and keeping her hands still, squeezing Tobin’s hips gently just once. “I like lines, and I had a really big crush on this winger who played for the Reign. So it was worth the wait.”
“You had a crush on me then?” Tobin asked, her voice full of awe.
“Yeah…so there are some hearts in the book but in my defense, I was twenty-four,” Christen blushed, running her thumbs across the soft material of Tobin’s button up.
Tobin couldn’t hold back the dopey smile that spread across her lips or the way her hands were now splayed across Christen’s lower back holding Christen flush against her own body.
“Hearts near pictures of me?” Tobin asked at a whisper, her lips now a breath away from Christen’s.
“No comment,” Christen whispered back, but the smile threatening to break out across her face gave her away.
“So, you’d be completely jazzed if I had an extra jersey and said you could have it?” Tobin chuckled, letting her eyes flutter shut as she sank into this kind of closeness she hadn’t felt with another person in years.
“Jazzed would be underselling it. But you don’t need to- whatever you’re comfortable with,” Christen amended quietly, leaning her head back and away from Tobin’s so she could tilt up to press a soft kiss to Tobin’s forehead. “Whatever you’re comfortable with,” she repeated, whispering the words into Tobin’s skin.
“You want a Reign jersey or a National Team jersey?” Tobin asked, unable to stop herself from leaning forward and kissing the edge of Christen’s jaw.
Christen pressed her smile into Tobin’s hair. “I wouldn’t say no to either,” she hummed.
Tobin grinned before she continued to drop kisses along Christen’s jaw, taking her time once she got to the corner of Christen’s jaw.
“God, Tobin,” Christen breathed out shakily, her grip on Tobin’s hips tightening.
“I really want to kiss you before dinner gets here,” Tobin whispered as she worked her way slowly toward Christen’s lips.
Christen gasped softly when she felt Tobin’s lips move over her chin with no hesitation as she continued upward. Her grip on Tobin’s waist tightened and her heart sped up in anticipation.
“Is that okay?” Tobin asked, hovering a breath away from Christen’s lips.
“Yes,” Christen whispered in reply, not daring to cross the final bit of space between them, knowing it had to be Tobin who did.
Tobin erased the last bit of space, slotting her lips with Christen’s in the gentlest, most intentional kiss she’d ever given. Her arms kept hold of Christen, her fingers continued to move along Christen’s spine, and her lips moved slowly against Christen’s.
The kiss had Christen’s stomach flipping and her heart hammering in her chest. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but it was perfect in its brevity. The brush of their lips was soft, shy. A little hesitant, exploratory.
Breaking the kiss, Christen leaned her forehead against Tobin’s and let out a shaky breath, her lips tingling and her skin prickling and her heart soaring.
“I like kissing you,” Tobin murmured as she bumped her nose against Christen’s.
“I like kissing you . But whatever you’re comfortable with, when you’re comfortable with it,” Christen breathed out, the corner of her mouth lifting into a small smile.
“Where did you come from?” Tobin hummed, reaching up and tucking a curl behind Christen’s ear.
Christen lifted a shoulder and leaned into Tobin’s touch.
“I’ve been here,” Christen replied softly.
“I’m glad you kept the book,” Tobin whispered before pressing another kiss to the corner of Christen’s mouth.
“Me too,” Christen murmured, turning her head to capture Tobin’s lips with her own. She wanted another kiss. And another. And another. She wanted as many as Tobin would give her. Kissing Tobin was a dream.
Tobin felt herself sink into Christen’s arms. Her heart raced each time her lips touched Christen’s. Her entire body felt warm and light, longing to touch and hold and stay in this moment for as long as she could.
In hindsight, it was really only partially Christen’s fault for what happened next. It was on Tobin for being so irresistible and charming and also sweet and shy all at the same time. But it was Christen who moved to deepen the kiss, her hands moving up Tobin’s sides as her tongue swept along Tobin’s bottom lip and into Tobin’s mouth. It was Christen who accelerated things, despite being so cognizant and careful for the past few weeks.
But again, Tobin was irresistible and charming and sweet and shy, and Christen was only human.
It was when Christen’s hands wandered a little further down her back, when they tugged at Tobin’s sweater that Tobin felt her stomach tense slightly.
“Chris,” she mumbled against Christen’s lips.
“Sorry. I’m- I’m sorry,” Christen blurted, dropping her hands quickly down to her sides and moving back so rapidly that she bumped into the wall behind her.
“Don’t be sorry,” Tobin insisted, reaching for Christen’s hands to put them back on her waist. “You’re the one being accommodating. You don’t need to be sorry.”
“You’re very easy to get lost in,” Christen sighed with a small, apologetic half-smile, barely holding onto Tobin’s waist, not wanting to touch too much or too hard.
“I want you to touch,” Tobin whispered, keeping her hands on Christen’s as a slight blush heated her cheeks.
“Where?” Christen whispered back, allowing herself to add a little more pressure with her touch, leaning back into Tobin once more.
“Here is good. I’ll tell you if I need the brakes to be pumped,” Tobin promised, leaning her forehead against Christen’s.
“Hips, good,” Christen acknowledged, nuzzling her nose along Tobin’s. “Ribs?” she asked as she slowly moved her hands up Tobin’s sides, not going too high.
“Good,” Tobin hummed, taking Christen’s bottom lip between her own in a soft kiss.
Christen smiled into the kiss and then moved her lips down Tobin’s cheek.
“Jaw?” she mumbled into Tobin’s skin, her lips painting murals across Tobin’s skin, tracing the hard line of Tobin’s jaw from the left side, right below her ear, all the way over to the right.
“Good,” Tobin breathed out, tightening her grip on Christen.
“Neck?” Christen wondered, continuing her path as she placed gentle kisses along the side of Tobin’s throat, first the right and then the left.
Christen ignored the impulse to suck on Tobin’s neck or flick her tongue across Tobin’s pulse point. Instead, she kept her lips soft as she kissed back up, over Tobin’s jaw, and recaptured Tobin’s lips with her own.
“I’m sorry. I’ll stick to the good,” Christen whispered against Tobin’s lips before sinking back into the next kiss.
“There isn’t good or bad,” Tobin promised. “It’s all good. It’s all more than good.”
“And it’ll be good when you’re ready for more,” Christen added, leaving one final kiss on Tobin’s lips.
“It’ll be more than good. What is it with the use of good? That's such a weak word. That doesn’t explain anything that you do,” Tobin hummed, brushing her thumb along Christen’s bottom lip where some chapstick was smeared.
Christen chuckled and pursed her lips to leave a kiss on the pad of Tobin’s thumb.
“Getting philosophical on me, Tobin?” Christen teased.
“You bring it out of me,” Tobin grinned, keeping one arm around Christen’s waist as she reached for the book. “Now where are these hearts?”
With a groan, Christen buried her face in Tobin’s neck to hide her embarrassed flush.
“How is it not ‘Most Athletic’? That senior year superlative was tailor-made for you!” Christen scoffed with a smile, looking over at Tobin as the cameras rolled on their newest segment.
The writers had suggested a walk down memory lane of high school, and both of them were hard pressed to reject the idea. So now, they were sharing the orange couch in outfits designed by Jess meant to mirror clothes they would have worn in high school, going through memories and old yearbooks for all of Seattle to see. Tobin was in a Letterman jacket and a UNC t-shirt, while Christen was in a Princeton sweater, which was black along with the rest of her clothes. She’d had a bit of a grunge phase for a while in high school, which Jess had loved putting her right back into.
“I was gone most of the time for soccer tournaments, so ‘Most Likely to Miss Graduation’ was actually more accurate,” Tobin shrugged, an amused smile on her face. “I didn’t miss graduation, though. My mom wouldn’t let me.”
Christen laughed and then leaned forward to grab her mug of water from the table in front of the couch.
“If you could give yourself a superlative now, what would it be?” Christen wondered, mindfully having to look at Tobin’s eyes and not let her focus drop to Tobin’s lips.
“I don’t know,” Tobin mused, leaning back against the couch and thinking for a moment. “Maybe ‘Most Likely to Bring Snacks’? I’ve pretty much proven that with Beginning of the Week Bagel Breakdowns.”
“That does strike me as particularly accurate,” Christen replied, her smile softening for Tobin for a moment before she looked back to the camera. “What do you think, Emerald City, what should be Heath’s superlative? Call in with your answers on the next commercial break coming up right now!”
“This is about to be cringy or wildly inappropriate,” Tobin sighed as soon as they went to a commercial break.
“I’m not excited for all the thirsty PTA moms to come after you, but what can we do?” Christen said quietly with a teasing smile.
“PTA moms?” Tobin laughed.
“PTA moms, retired women in their silk pajamas and robes, sports fanatics, early risers. Everyone’s coming out of the woodwork for you and your superlative,” Christen chuckled.
“So, what superlative would you give me?” Tobin asked with a smirk.
Christen covered her mic, mirroring Tobin’s smirk.
“Most Likely to make me-”
“Ten seconds ladies!” Crystal yelled.
“I’ll tell you later. Or show you. Either one,” Christen whispered, shooting Tobin a quick wink before uncovering her mic.
“Our first caller is Jean from Dayton,” Tobin said with a flush in her cheeks and a camera-ready smile on her lips.
“Hi there! I thought long and hard about this, and I have to say that your superlative Ms. Heath would have to be Most Likely to make a girl swoon. You’ve got real gumption!”
Christen hid her smile behind her hand as she watched Tobin’s cheeks fill with a pretty blush.
“Thank you, Jean from Dayton,” Tobin murmured.
“Call in anytime, Jean. You make my co-host blush,” Christen tacked on with a breathy laugh. “In fact, let’s see how many blushes you folks can get from her. I’ll keep a count!”
“Absolutely not,” Tobin scoffed, reaching for her water to cool down. “Let’s talk about your superlatives, Press.”
“No, no, no this is way more fun! Martin from Seattle, you’re next,” Christen hummed, looking into the camera with a smile. “What’s my co-host’s superlative?”
Tobin jerked up in bed at the sound of her phone ringing. For a moment she panicked, thinking that she’d slept in and was missing work. It was dark enough outside to believably be a work morning, but it was Sunday, the one day she attempted to sleep in despite having trouble. And a phone call at 5:10 in the morning was not something she expected.
“Are you okay?” Tobin rasped into the phone.
“Put on something warm that you don’t mind moving in. I’m picking you up in ten,” Christen said cheerily into the phone, sounding very much awake despite the early hour.
“Who hurt you?” Tobin groaned, burrowing back under her covers.
“Come on. Please? For me? I’ll even ride over on the bike,” Christen replied, her voice lilting like she was trying to be persuasive.
“On a bike?” Tobin asked through a yawn.
“ The bike. The Triumph Bonneville,” Christen hummed, her smile evident in her voice.
“No pedaling?” Tobin hummed, sinking into her pillow.
“Nope. We aren’t working until we get where we’re going,” Christen promised. At the sound of Tobin letting out another long hum, she added, “Don't do that. Don't sleepy sigh at me. Get up, get up, get up! I’ll be there in ten, and you better not be in bed.”
“Hmm, I always figured you’d want me in bed someday,” Tobin mumbled, her eyes already closed again as sleep took her.
Ten minutes later, Christen unceremoniously ripped the comforter off the bed, chuckling at the inhuman growl Tobin let out now that her cocoon of warmth was gone.
“Up and at ‘em!” Christen beamed, appreciatively looking at what Tobin’s boxer briefs and sports bra left uncovered.
“Down and at ‘em,” Tobin huffed, tugging the covers back up and reaching for Christen’s hand.
Christen hesitated before tangling their fingers together and perching on the edge of the bed near Tobin’s curled up form.
“Want to stay in bed? Even with the Triumph parked outside?” Christen wondered softly.
“How’d you get into my house?”
“You told me your spare key was under the garden gnome with the mushroom hat. Was that- I just assumed since you told me where it was last week I could use it?” Christen asked, her forehead scrunching. “But now that I say it out loud, that’s sort of like an invasion of privacy, right? So I’ll just go back to the porch and ring the doorbell,” she added, moving to slip her hand out of Tobin’s.
“No,” Tobin whined, holding tighter to Christen’s hand to keep her close.
“It’s really okay. I’m sorry, I-”
“Shhh,” Tobin breathed out, finally blinking her eyes open. “Did you open every door in my house until you found my room?” she asked with a laugh.
Christen’s blush was answer enough as she stayed perched on the edge of the bed, her thumb moving across the back of Tobin’s hand.
“Where’s the bike going?” Tobin asked, rolling so that she was on her back and looking at Christen.
“Discovery Park. If you want. It’s really pretty at dawn,” Christen explained with a small smile, unable not to find Tobin’s bedhead and sleepy grin adorable.
“Ooookay,” Tobin sighed, squirming out from under the covers and sitting up next to Christen. “Do you want coffee while I get dressed?”
Christen shook her head and leaned forward to kiss the corner of Tobin’s mouth.
“I had a cup already. I’ll make you some though. Also, you’re adorable in the morning,” Christen murmured as she left one final kiss at the corner of Tobin’s mouth before leaning back.
“That’s a very sweet lie. Thank you,” Tobin chuckled, slipping from bed and digging through her dresser for a shirt.
“Not a lie. The dried drool and messy hair are doing it for me,” Christen teased, getting up and walking to the bedroom door. “Want to split a banana too? I saw some in your kitchen.”
“Sure,” Tobin grinned, tugging her t-shirt over her head.
Christen offered Tobin one final smile before making her way back downstairs. She flitted around the kitchen, finding the mugs after a long search and then taking a little longer to figure out the coffee machine. But once she had, she watched Tobin’s mug fill up with hot coffee as she tapped her fingers across the countertop.
She let out a startled noise that bled into a happy hum when she felt two arms wind around her middle, Tobin’s face pressed into the back of her neck.
“Good morning,” Tobin whispered into Christen’s skin.
“Good morning,” Christen replied softly, folding her arms over Tobin’s. “Coffee’s almost ready.”
“I half expected to find you with a Gold Medal around your neck,” Tobin teased, dropping a few kisses to the back of Christen’s neck.
“Maybe next time,” Christen chuckled, shivering at the feeling of Tobin’s lips on her skin. “I wasted most of my alone time down here finding your mugs. Over the stove is an interesting place to keep them.”
“I don’t know how to organize kitchens,” Tobin admitted sheepishly.
“It’s endearing,” Christen replied, leaning her head back and angling it to kiss Tobin’s cheek.
“My silverware is in the drawer under the oven,” Tobin added with a goofy smile.
“You’re kidding,” Christen said with a laugh.
“Is that a bad thing?” Tobin asked, burying her face in the side of Christen’s neck.
“It’s a thing about you that makes me like you more,” Christen admitted, loosening one of her hands from Tobin’s arm so she could move the mug away from the coffee machine. “Is your milk in a cupboard somewhere or is the fridge your go-to place?”
“Ha. Ha,” Tobin scoffed, letting Christen go and walking over to the fridge for milk.
“Hey, I wouldn’t judge. To each their own place for their milk,” Christen teased, leaning a hip against the countertop and watching Tobin move around the kitchen.
Tobin pulled out the milk and poured it into her mug, all the while unable to hide the small smile on her lips, one that was there this early in the morning because of Christen and her gentle teasing.
“What are you smiling at?” Christen asked in a soft voice.
“You’re just cute,” Tobin shrugged. “You sure you don’t want coffee?”
“I’m good,” Christen waved off with a smile. “Thanks for letting me bother you this early in the morning on a non-work day.”
“You aren’t bothering me,” Tobin replied, unable to hold back the soft moan at the first taste of her coffee. “Not when you make coffee this good. What did you do?”
Christen’s smile turned playful and bright. “Secret,” she whispered.
“Do you wear a helmet on your bike?” Tobin wondered, asking questions now that she was more awake.
“Of course. I have one for you too if you want to ride with me.”
“Bedhead and helmet hair all in the same day,” Tobin sighed dramatically. “There goes the mystery.”
Christen chuckled as she moved over to where Tobin was standing near the fridge, looping her arms around Tobin’s waist and bumping her nose against Tobin’s gently. Christen caught Tobin’s lips in a quick kiss.
“I like you. Bedhead and helmet hair and all.”
“What sparked the early morning date?” Tobin asked as she left one more kiss on Christen’s lips before quickly drinking her coffee.
“You have to promise not to laugh.”
Tobin silently held out a pinky as she continued to drink, wanting to get out and start the date as soon as possible.
Christen grinned and locked her pinky with Tobin’s.
“I re-read your team’s book the other night and you wrote this part about lighthouses. You said something deep about them that I can’t remember right now. Discovery Park has Lighthouse Loop and I thought we could walk it,” Christen murmured with a shy, half-smile.
“I said something deep about lighthouses?” Tobin asked before she drained the rest of her mug and put it in the sink.
“Yeah. Something about how you liked them because they symbolized both isolation and connectedness. They reminded you that you weren’t alone, even if you thought you were. You were someone’s lighthouse,” Christen replied with a small shrug. “I don’t think I’m remembering it right, but that was the gist, I think?”
Tobin felt her stomach tighten a little at the explanation. She’d said that when she’d been in a committed relationship, thinking about proposing and shopping for rings on free weekends. She’d said that when she’d felt like someone else’s lighthouse, like someone else’s home.
Reading the look on Tobin’s face, Christen was quick to add, “But we don’t have to go. We can- I mean I can leave you to your morning. I didn’t- I just assumed you liked lighthouses? Which again, saying this out loud makes me feel like I didn’t entirely think this morning through.”
“I want to go,” Tobin assured, looping her arms around Christen’s waist. “A sunrise sounds good today.”
“We don’t have to,” Christen repeated, her hands settling on Tobin’s shoulders.
“I want to see the lighthouse,” Tobin promised, leaning forward to kiss Christen softly.
Christen sank into the kiss, following Tobin’s lead and matching her pace. The feeling of Tobin’s lips on her own was familiar now, but it still carried with it a novelty that had her stomach fluttering and her head getting fuzzy.
It was a little dizzying when Tobin kissed her like this, with confidence in her lips and desire in her touch. It reminded her of the dressing room. It had Christen rushing to keep up, not wanting to push too far or too fast. It had her contemplating if seeing the lighthouses was even worth it now that she was pushed up against the kitchen counter and Tobin was holding her with strong hands against her lower back.
“Thank you for waking me up,” Tobin whispered against Christen’s lips.
“Anytime,” Christen whispered back.
“I really like you,” Tobin added, almost quieter than a whisper.
The fluttering in her stomach and the fuzziness in Christen’s head got worse at Tobin’s sweet words. She felt them hit her lips and wrap around her heart, pulling a smile out of her easily.
“I really like you too.”
“Okay, cool. Just checking,” Tobin murmured, slipping an index finger under the hem of Christen’s shirt so that she could feel her skin.
“Was that a worry?” Christen hummed, moving her hands up and down Tobin’s shoulders.
“Of course not,” Tobin said with a shake of her head.
“Tobin,” Christen replied softly. “Was it?”
“No,” Tobin murmured as she buried her face in Christen’s neck.
“Tobin,” Christen tried again, holding her close. “Real answer.”
“I wouldn’t call it a worry,” Tobin shrugged, squirming impossibly closer to Christen.
“What would you call it?”
“Something I’ve…thought about a few times,” Tobin hummed, dropping a kiss to Christen’s neck. “Shall we head out?”
“Hey,” Christen whispered, keeping Tobin close. “What have you thought about?”
“I don’t, like… It freaks me out when I feel like I’m running the race faster than everyone else,” Tobin admitted, forcing down the thickness in her throat and the ache in her chest.
“I’m running it with you. I promise,” Christen replied softly, nuzzling Tobin’s nose. “I’m right here.”
“Sorry,” Tobin hummed, squeezing Christen once and then leaning back.
“Don’t apologize,” Christen whispered, cradling Tobin’s cheeks in her hands. “I’m right here with you.”
Tobin didn’t have words. She didn’t have a proper response to the way Christen always seemed to make her feel. She didn’t have a way to express this odd sense of safety that partially terrified her and partially soothed her.
So, she leaned forward and found Christen’s lips again in a slow, intentional kiss, her hands fisting at the back of Christen’s shirt.
Christen sighed into the kiss and immediately deepened it, slipping her tongue through Tobin’s parted lips as she gripped tightly onto Tobin’s face, keeping her close. They traded kisses for a few more moments in the kitchen before they had to break the kiss to catch their breath.
“How many women’s numbers have you gotten with this bike?” Tobin teased quietly.
“Do you really want to know?” Christen chuckled, stealing one more kiss.
“Maybe not,” Tobin grimaced, leading the way through her house toward the front door.
“Would you believe me if I said none?” Christen wondered, grinning at Tobin as they moved through the front door and out toward the bike parked on the curb.
“Absolutely not. You don’t need the bike to get numbers,” Tobin insisted, locking the door and following Christen to the bike.
“Only number I’m interested in is yours,” Christen hummed, holding out a helmet for Tobin.
Tobin watched Christen park the bike, very aware that she was ogling. There was no way that Christen hadn’t gotten numbers from women with this bike. Especially not when Christen’s hair was completely unaffected by the helmet that she’d worn on the way to Discovery Park. Tobin, on the other hand, had immediately pulled on her orange beanie as soon as she’d pulled off her helmet and her helmet hair had elicited a laugh from Christen.
She watched Christen walk up to meet her at the start of the trail, and as soon as Christen took her hand, Tobin had no regrets about the early wake-up call.
“Come on, the actual view is a few miles in,” Christen hummed with a teasing smile as she squeezed Tobin’s hand gently.
“Agree to disagree,” Tobin smirked.
“Disagree then,” Christen chuckled, leading them down the trail.
“Well, we didn’t have the same view,” Tobin reasoned playfully. “My view was very satisfactory.”
“Only satisfactory? Damn,” Christen playfully sighed, snapping her fingers in an oh well gesture.
“I don’t think I’m supposed to respectfully objectify you, at least aloud, before the twentieth date,” Tobin hummed.
“I thought they changed the rule to the nineteenth date,” Christen mused, swinging their clasped hands between them as they walked among the trees.
“In that case,” Tobin murmured, slowing her pace slightly to glance at Christen’s backside, “your ass on that bike. Wow…”
“Just a wow? I expected more. I wore my best-fitting yoga pants,” Christen teasingly sighed, a light blush in her cheeks.
Feigning a frustrated growl, Tobin tugged Christen close, the two of them almost stumbling off the trail. She slotted her lips with Christen’s, lavishing Christen’s lips with soft kisses and nips and brushes of her tongue. She poured every ounce of desire she had into each kiss and let her hands wander hesitantly down over Christen’s hips, settling low enough on Christen’s back that it couldn’t be considered Christen’s back. It was more than just ‘ wow ,’ and Tobin let her hands and her lips express that.
“I think I’m going to wear these more often,” Christen husked, sucking in deep breaths once she’d disconnected their lips. She pressed her forehead against Tobin’s and kept a light touch against Tobin’s hips, leaning back against the tree Tobin had her pushed up against.
“I won’t complain,” Tobin murmured, slowly moving her hands back up to Christen’s waist but keeping her close.
“I’m definitely not going to either.”
“Good to know,” Tobin hummed, her smirk morphing into something dopey as she took Christen’s hand and led the way back along the trail.
“So…what do you think about the segment proposals for next week?” Christen wondered, still feeling warmth in her cheeks and tingling in her lips as they strolled along the dirt path.
“I think Larry’s lost his mind if he expects me to make a fruit parfait on live TV,” Tobin answered with a roll of her eyes.
Christen chuckled and leaned closer to Tobin. “I might have pitched an alternative to the parfaits.”
“It’s more fun to just wait and see,” Christen teased.
“Are you deviating from our regularly scheduled programming?” Tobin gasped playfully.
“It’s possible,” Christen grinned.
“That’s okay, I have a surprise for you for our Wednesday show,” Tobin said, watching as the sky started to lighten, the sun still not peeking up from the horizon yet.
“For me?” Christen asked quietly, pulling them to a stop near the water and the lighthouse to watch the sunrise.
“Mhm,” Tobin nodded. “I got Crystal’s permission, so don’t worry about me getting either of us into trouble.”
“Wouldn’t want my cohost to go anywhere,” Christen murmured, squeezing Tobin’s hand.
“How the times have changed,” Tobin chuckled, turning her head to press a kiss to the side of Christen’s head.
“Change is the only constant,” Christen observed softly, leaning into Tobin’s touch.
“You’re very wise,” Tobin murmured into Christen’s hair.
“Or maybe I just say things in a certain tone of voice that makes me seem wise and all-knowing,” Christen joked, loosening her hand from Tobin’s so she could wrap her arm around Tobin’s waist.
“I don’t think so,” Tobin whispered, dropping a few more kisses to Christen’s head. “Thank you for waking me up for this,” she added, watching the first bit of sunlight peek over the horizon and shine across the water.
“I thought it would be a nice way to spend a morning together. No cameras, no teleprompters. Just us,” Christen replied, a smile tugging at her lips.
“And surprisingly I still got to sleep in,” Tobin chuckled, squeezing Christen close.
“You would have slept until noon if I hadn’t woken you up, huh?”
“Absolutely not. I wish,” Tobin sighed. “The morning show is ruining that ability for me.”
“At least we look ‘wow’ doing it,” Christen teased, turning her head to drop a kiss to the corner of Tobin’s mouth.
“Just wow?” Tobin teased right back, her lips twitching up into a small smile.
“Wow is just the start,” Christen hummed, dropping soft kisses across Tobin’s cheek.
Tobin turned her head to find Christen’s lips, sinking into the kiss instead of focusing on the sunrise.