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Fade into View

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“I had a great time,” Tobin said as she pulled her car up to the curb and pulled some hand lotion out of her console, distractedly putting it on instead of offering to walk this woman to the door. 

“Would you like to come see my…drapes? They’re new. Just came in,” the woman offered with a casual smirk, her fingers dancing across the door handle, her heavy gaze on Tobin. 

“Oh, I wish I could,” Tobin replied, shooting her the most apologetic look she could muster. “I’ve got a really early day tomorrow. Maybe next time. I’ll call you.” 

“I sure hope you do,” the woman said with another smirk, sliding out of the car and heading toward the building. 

Tobin offered a wave and then pulled away, not waiting for the woman to get inside. She turned up the music in her car and found the nearest place to pull over. With deep breaths and her eyes closed, Tobin repeated the words she’d written down and said a million times with her therapist. 


I am confident. I am smart. I am funny. I am kind. I am desirable. I am worth people’s time. 


With a long and loud release of breath, Tobin popped a piece of pineapple flavored gum into her mouth and headed back home, trying to forget the fake and meaningless conversations she’d put herself through tonight. 

She pulled into the garage and wandered into her house, flipping on a few lights and ditching her leather jacket and keys on the kitchen counter.

Tobin’s house was her most prized possession. It was hers and only hers. She’d saved money to buy a house, opting to pay a mortgage when most of her friends were buying Rolex watches. 

It was a modern house, but it was warm. There were large windows in almost every room that let in plenty of light. She’d picked up a few plants that were thriving in the sunroom at the back of the house. Pictures from her days on the pitch with friends from the National Team were on shelves and framed on a few walls. And tons of photos of her family littered her house. 

Her house was a home. It was lived in and loved. The couch was large and soft; her bed was cozy and warm; her kitchen was functional and cheery. It was home, and it was Tobin’s space. It was her one space that didn’t get invaded. Ever. 

She dropped down onto the couch and pulled one of her favorite fuzzy blankets over her body. She dug beneath the couch cushion to produce the TV remote and turned on ESPN, letting the sound drone through the house and send her to sleep. 

She hadn’t lied. She did have an early day at work tomorrow, starting with a meeting. More than that, though, she hadn’t wanted to spend any more time with anyone else. She hadn’t wanted to pretend any longer or worse let the façade slip. 

She just needed her couch and her TV and her alone time. She needed to end her night just like she ended every night. Alone. 

Seattle at four in the morning was peaceful and quiet. Serene. The rain could be heard pitter-pattering on the sidewalk, creating a soothing symphony. 

Christen loved the rain and the serenity and the soothing symphony. She loved Seattle and her trusty bike that she rode almost every single day to work. She loved her job at Seattle News Network. She loved co-hosting their morning segment, The Emerald View, with Tiffany. She loved working some juicy morsels of news into their jovial, cookie-cutter program. She loved getting coffee with the producer of her segment slash best friend, Crystal, once the show was over. She loved almost everything about her life here. 

What she didn’t love was the envy. The deep, dark, twisting envy she felt every time she was finished with her morning program, heading out of the news building downtown, only to be passed by the anchors and journalists assigned to the evening news. The prestigious news. The real news. 

She envied them. Every single last one. And she especially hated every newscaster who’d been given their job solely based on the size of their fan base and obnoxiously charming grin. 

Christen had gone to school and studied and worked her ass off to be here and stupid jocks on the sports desks or bottle blondes with dimples on the weather segment got their jobs for no good reason. Not like her. She’d gotten to co-host The Emerald View because she was good at her job. She’d gotten it for a damn good reason. 

And maybe the hate and envy was a little aggressive. She was self-aware enough to recognize that. But Christen was the type of person who trusted the process. She trusted that if you put your head down and did the work, you got what you deserved. 

So, at four fifteen in the morning, she left her bike in the parking lot and shivered in her jacket as she walked up to the SNN building on a chilly September morning. She hung up her coat once inside and cheerfully greeted the security guard before heading to hair and make up. She plastered on a large grin and greeted the cameras with her classic, “wake up and smell the coffee, Seattle! It’s time for The Emerald View . I’m your co-host, Christen Press,” as their program began. 

She’d worked her ass off to be here and she knew her break was coming. She knew she was destined for a desk upstairs, for the nightly news any day now. 

But then Crystal dropped the bomb of all bombs on her after their program had wrapped and the cameras were off. 

“So, Tiffany took a job in Atlanta,” Crystal said, keeping her best ‘don’t panic’ smile on her face as she sat in her desk chair across from Christen.  

Christen blinked her eyes a few times, not exactly processing the words. She dropped slowly down into the chair in Crystal’s small office, her mouth working to form words, her brain working to form thoughts. 

“Tiffany- Atlanta- huh?”

“Apparently they offered more vacation time,” Crystal explained, repeating what the executive producer had told her. “But don’t worry. We’re finding you a new co-anchor. Well…Larry is. He’s picking a co-anchor.” 

Christen felt every ounce of hope she’d woken up with this morning completely slip away. 

She was the one who was supposed to be moving up. She was the one who had been on The Emerald View for three years. She shouldn’t be the one being left behind. 

“Crystal, I- I need a minute,” Christen said suddenly, jumping to her feet and breezing out of the office. She walked through their small studio space, past interns and production assistants, past the camerawoman congratulating Tiffany on her new job. 

She shoved through a stage door and then moved into the wardrobe department. 

Crammed between a fur coat and a pastel green pantsuit, and thankfully given a moment alone by the wardrobe department lead Jess, Christen crumpled. She felt a little bit of love for the life she led here drain out of her. With her head dropped on her crossed arms, she wondered why the hell she continued to trust the process. 

All she could do was pray Larry didn’t find her a shit co-host. That would be too much to handle. 

“You’re kicking me off?” Tobin asked, leaning forward and crossing her arms over Larry’s desk. “I’m the only actual athlete who works the sports desk.” 

“And we’ll ask you to come in for soccer games and what not,” Larry promised. 

“I told you the day I came in hungover was a one-time thing,” Tobin assured, hoping to talk her way out of this. “Larry, I’ll get your kid Wambach’s jersey signed and framed for Christmas this year. Come on.” 

“SNN has a policy and you had little respect for said policy. You’re lucky they didn’t fire you. The people upstairs were satisfied with my alternative,” Larry sighed, undeterred by Tobin’s charming words and offer. 

“Does she want Alex Morgan’s?” Tobin begged, pulling her phone out of her jacket pocket. “One call and she can have a private training session with her too.” 

Larry shook his head and then slid a folder across the desk. 

“You’re moving to mornings for the foreseeable future. Their show’s in trouble and your ‘stans,’ as our social media intern dubbed them, will bring needed traffic in. If viewership isn’t up in eight months, it’ll be cut,” Larry explained. 

“But…I won’t be cut, right?” Tobin asked, swallowing thickly at the obvious threat. 

Larry just grimaced. “Soccer will always need your voice, but I can’t promise a return to a desk.”

“Jesus, Larry,” Tobin sighed, dropping her head on Larry’s desk. “Your kid’s gonna hate you when I tell her what you turned down.” 

“She’s into basketball now. If you knew Sue Bird, we’d be having a different conversation,” Larry replied with a wry grin.

“I do, but you’ve missed your shot,” Tobin smirked. “Who am I working with for this morning gig?” 

“Crew should all be down there. They wrapped their ‘Wednesday with Wendy’ segment an hour ago.”

“Who the hell is Wendy?” Tobin grumbled as she slipped out of the office, winking at Larry’s receptionist and making her way to the elevators. 

“Good girl! Now, sit,” Christen grinned, holding up a treat in the air and making the Golden Retriever sit dutifully on the studio floor. 

It had been odd to do the morning segment without Tiffany, but at least she’d had Wendy with her. She’d even gotten to bring the adorable dog onto the plush orange, velvet couch with her that she always sat on for the show. She was sure that was Crystal’s doing, a small peace offering after her co-host abandoned her. 

Christen handed Wendy the treat, making the dog wag her tail and munch happily. 

“Maybe you could just host with me? I’ll even teach you Tiffany’s part. I say, ‘Wake up and smell the coffee, Seattle! It’s time for The Emerald View . I’m your co-host, Christen Press.’ Then you say-”

“And I’m Tobin Heath,” Tobin grinned, flashing her bright teeth. “Cute puppy.” 

Christen’s fist instinctively tightened, squeezing the other treat in her hand and reducing it to crumbs. She knew that voice. That warm, honeyed voice that made her skin crawl. She knew that voice and she had no clue why she was knowing it right now. 

“Lost, Heath? Get off on the wrong floor?” Christen managed, dropping the crumbs out of her hand and petting Wendy’s head as she licked the crumbs up. 

“Nope,” Tobin practically purred. “I’m here to help you keep your show. Consider me your knight in shining armor.” 

Christen barked out an unamused laugh. The sound was brittle and biting. 

“Yeah, and it’ll be sunny all year in Seattle. Oh, and the Mariners will definitely have a winning season,” Christen mocked, clearly not believing a word Tobin said. She straightened up and fixed Tobin with a cool glare, her stomach twisting uncomfortably at the sight of the charming grin on Tobin’s face. 

She’d once found it irresistible. With stars in her eyes and a quickening heart and a flush in her cheeks, she’d tried to talk to Tobin. To befriend her. To…test the waters with the recently retired professional soccer player who was about to get a sports broadcasting position at SNN. 

Fate had stuck them in the same elevator onTobin’s interview day, and Christen had said words. Stumbled over them, really. It was awkward and a little dorky, and she’d managed a sentence or two or three. 

But Tobin hadn’t given her the time of day. She’d been clipped and short. Brusque, in fact. Rude. Her words haunted Christen to this day. The stars in Christen’s eyes had quickly dimmed, snuffed out completely once Tobin dismissed her and snatched the wind from her sails with barbed words. 

Three years later, nothing about Tobin made Christen’s heart race or her cheeks flush. Not really. Now, Tobin Heath just made her irritated and irritable and it was still not even nine in the morning. 

“I don’t know,” Tobin chuckled, running a hand over the dog’s head. “The Mariners aren’t looking half bad. But I was told the morning show usually keeps sports out of the broadcast.” 

“Just go back upstairs to where you somehow managed to snag a desk despite lacking any real journalism skills,” Christen replied, taking a step back and guiding Wendy back with her, away from Tobin. 

“No can do,” Tobin winked, dropping her bag on the floor for emphasis. “I’m officially at your service. I’m here to bring the ratings back up.” 

“My karma is not this shitty,” Christen mumbled under her breath, her stomach sinking with every word that left Tobin’s mouth. “And our ratings aren’t down. Well, not that down. We’re in a minor slump. That’s all,” she added in defense, Wendy’s soft fur keeping her grounded instead of flying off the handle like this news threatened to send her. 

“I heard it’s a dangerous slump, but not to worry,” Tobin smirked, striding confidently to the orange couch and bouncing down onto it. “Comfy,” she observed. “They really spoil you guys down here, don’t they?” 

“Crystal!” Christen yelled, her eyes falling shut as she pinched the skin of her wrist, hoping she would wake up from the nightmare in her bed. When she cracked an eye open and saw Tobin still bouncing on the orange couch in her spot, she realized she was living her nightmare. 

“Hey!” Crystal called out, her voice lilting nervously. “You found each other.” 

“I’ve taken about all I can take this week. Please, please tell me she’s not my co-host. Please?” Christen begged, pointedly looking away from Tobin and at Crystal, her expression pleading. 

“Larry said she was the best choice,” Crystal murmured under her breath. 

“That’s not even remotely possible. She’s not the best choice for this show or for me,” Christen shot back, her voice hard, her thumb soothing the part of her wrist where she’d pinched herself. 

“She’s got fans. And she brings in a sportier group of viewers,” Crystal explained, waving back at Tobin who was waving from her spot on the couch. 

“She’s got an ego that I don’t have the time or patience to battle,” Christen ground out. “I won’t work with her.”

“Well, we’re doing a run through with a test audience soon. And if it goes terribly, Larry will find someone else,” Crystal promised. 

When it goes terribly, he better find me someone I can work with. A real journalist,” Christen huffed, narrowing her eyes in Tobin’s direction before looking back at Crystal. 

“Just do your job. It’ll all work out,” Crystal promised, readjusting the headset she was wearing. “She can be nice…sometimes really nice.” 

“Never to me,” Christen snapped, frustratedly pulling her hair into a bun. 

“Jealous?” Tobin grinned, having stood up and wandered closer. 

“You’re not worth the energy, Heath,” Christen quipped with a bored look on her face. 

“You seem to be expelling a lot,” Tobin whispered, leaning closer to Christen as she spoke. 

“Whatever gets your ass back out the door of my show,” Christen whispered back, her eyes narrowing into slits as she refused to back away or back down. 

“Gum?” Tobin asked, holding out a piece of pineapple flavored gum. “You’ve got coffee breath.” 

With an undignified huff, Christen spun on her heel and stomped away. 

“She’s just really protective of the show,” Crystal said in explanation, a weak smile on her face. 

“No worries,” Tobin replied, giving Crystal a million-dollar smile. “It’s a great show. I do have one question.” 

“Fire away,” Crystal nodded, readjusting the clipboard in her hands. 

“Who the heck is Wendy?” 

Crystal nodded at the Golden Retriever who had followed Christen as she walked away. The dog now sat with her head in Christen’s lap as Christen got her makeup touched up. 

“I’ve gotta win over two co-workers?” Tobin groaned playfully. 

“You’ll have better luck with the dog,” Crystal chuckled, patting Tobin’s arm. 

“What does Press like? Chocolate? Flowers? Pretzels? Wine? Any athletes that tickle her fancy?” Tobin asked, flashing a smile at Christen in response to the glare she was getting. 

With a laugh, Crystal replied, “You could get her her favorite meal in the entire world and she’d toss it in your face because you gave it to her. Trust me, you won’t win her over.”

Tobin couldn’t help but wonder what she’d done. Other than becoming her co-worker, and passing her a few times in the halls, Tobin hadn’t really interacted with Christen Press. She couldn’t for the life of her understand why someone would dislike her so vehemently for no reason. 

“Go see Stella for your makeup. We’ll do a studio audience dry run in an hour,” Crystal said, offering Tobin one last small smile. 

“Glad I wore my lucky socks today,” Tobin hummed as she bent down to pick up her bag. “Looking forward to working with you Crystal.” 

“Just between us,” Crystal said, lowering her voice and leaning closer. “Christen hates pineapple. So maybe don’t chew gum while you work together?”

“Who hates pineapple,” Tobin gasped, holding a hand over her heart. 

Crystal shrugged and then stepped back. “See Stella for makeup,” she said, giving Tobin one last nod before moving away and calling out instructions to the people on the studio floor. 

Tobin made her way down the hall toward makeup, ditching the gum that she’d been chewing into the nearest trash can as she walked. 

“No way. Get up,” Christen said, motioning for Tobin to stand. 

“Excuse me?” Tobin laughed, draping an arm over the back of the couch. 

“That’s my spot,” Christen replied, feeling her jaw tighten at the casual aloofness Tobin exuded. 

“It’s just a couch, Press,” Tobin grinned. “And I saved room for you.” 

Christen rolled her eyes and caught the eye of one of the production assistants. 

“Hey, Mickey? Can you grab me that armchair from the storage room, please?” Christen asked with a sweet smile. 

“Sure, Chris,” Mickey nodded before hustling to the storage room. 

“You think I have cooties?” Tobin asked, giving in and reaching for her pack of gum in her jacket pocket. 

“I think breathing the same air as you is an ask too big for my Wednesday afternoon,” Christen deadpanned. 

“Lots of people would kill for it, any day of the week,” Tobin murmured, absentmindedly tousling her hair. 

Christen splayed a hand over her heart and mockingly gasped. 

“Aren't I just the luckiest woman in the world, then? Sharing oxygen with someone like you . Someone so in demand.”

“You’re feistier than I usually go for, but I try not to be too picky,” Tobin grinned, pulling her feet up onto the couch and sitting crisscross applesauce. 

Christen smoothly dropped into the armchair Mickey had just finished setting up for her. She crossed her legs, one knee over the other, and fixed Tobin with a scathing look. 

“This might come as a complete shock to you, but not everyone is dying to be a notch on your bedpost,” Christen huffed, offended at the blasé offer. 

“Obviously I know that, Press,” Tobin snorted. “Straight women exist…supposedly.” 

“As do I. So don’t say something like that to me again,” Christen said in a low, warning voice. 

“No dates with Press, got it,” Tobin smirked, keeping her face schooled and unfazed. 

Christen rolled her eyes and fixed the fabric of her skirt as she looked over at the people filing into the studio seating. She saw Crystal shoot her a hand signal for ‘ two minutes to go ’ and nodded. 

“Since this will be your first and only time on that couch, a little word of advice,” Christen offered, her eyes moving back to Tobin. “Don’t deviate from the teleprompter. It makes the writers upset.”

“What if I think of something really funny?” Tobin asked, shooting a lopsided smile at Christen. 

“Trust me, you’re not that funny.”

“You’re fantastic for the ego,” Tobin laughed, leaning back into the couch cushion and waving at a few fans who were in the audience. 

Christen didn’t bother replying. She simply readjusted her skirt one final time and then looked at Crystal. As she watched Crystal count them down, Christen did what she always did right before the show. 

She closed her eyes, mumbled a few words under her breath, and clicked her heels together once. 

“Three…two…” Crystal counted down, pointing at Christen and Tobin as the lights went down and The Emerald View jingle began.

Right on cue, the lights went up, illuminating the stage Christen and Tobin were sitting on. Christen fixed the camera, which was really more for show than anything because of the test audience, with a smile, reading the familiar words off the teleprompter.

“Wake up and smell the coffee, Seattle. It’s time for The Emerald View. I’m your co-host, Christen Press, and-”

“I’m Tobin Heath,” Tobin smirked, her smile only growing when a few people in the audience cheered. 

Christen managed to keep her smile on her face as she breezed over Tobin’s too early introduction. 

“-and as you can see, I’ve got a new co-host with me this morning. She comes to us from our very own sports broadcasting team, and we here at The Emerald View are lucky to have her.”

Tobin fist pumped as people in the audience clapped. “Be careful,” Tobin chuckled, completely going off script. “Chris really hates it when you deviate from the teleprompter, and I didn’t see audience applauds there.” 

Christen felt her eye twitch as she tried, again , to stick to the teleprompter. 

“Tobin has some pretty big shoes to fill in Tiffany’s absence, but she’s more than capable of waking up Seattle by my side,” Christen continued, nearly eye rolling the quick script the writers had whipped up for this test audience. 

“Or from all the way over here on the couch,” Tobin teased. 

At that, Christen looked away from the teleprompter and fixed Tobin with a murderous look hidden behind a smile. 

“Someone’s ego was too big. It took up the whole sofa,” Christen replied, ignoring the chuckling from the audience. 

Tobin just winked at Christen, her smile widening at the comment that wasn’t on the stupid teleprompter. 

“I was a complete saint,” Tobin gasped playfully. “I even offered you a piece of my favorite chewing gum, and you declined.” Tobin turned toward the audience and leaned forward as if she were sharing a secret. “I understand that pineapple-flavored gum isn’t for everyone, but Chris hates pineapple, apparently.” 

Christen’s cheeks filled with a light blush as she worked through her momentary surprise. Apparently Tobin could still make her face flush and that just filled her with an even more intense feeling of irritation.  

“Artificial pineapple. I hate artificial pineapple,” Christen clarified in defense of herself. 

“See, it’s important to really get to know your coworkers and work on those communication skills,” Tobin replied. 

“You and I aren’t coworkers,” Christen pointed out with an arched brow as she uncrossed and recrossed her legs. 

They were so off script, it had the crew scrambling but Christen couldn’t stop. She couldn’t stop giving as good as she got. And Tobin was giving it good. 

“Yet,” Tobin hummed. “But if this beautiful audience decides to torture you for the rest of time, I’ll be your morning show buddy for the foreseeable future.” 

“There goes that ego, taking up even more space. You don’t have the capacity to torture me,” Christen said, her smile like ice and her eyes sparkling dangerously. “Don’t flatter yourself.”

“Well, speaking of torture, the next few days are going to be pretty chilly,” Tobin said, glancing at the teleprompter that was moving a mile a minute and catching a bit about cold weather. 

“I’d suggest more than a light jacket. Maybe a scarf or a beanie,” Christen tacked on, seamlessly sliding back into things. 

“It’s days like these that I’m happy I’ve retired from the game,” Tobin murmured, slouching even more comfortably into the couch. “I’d be a popsicle if I were out there in shorts.” 

“I’m-” Christen faltered, her eyes skimming across the words on the teleprompter. She refused to say I’m sure your fans miss you in those shorts. You were one of the greats.  She couldn’t do it. Instead, she decided to be the one to go off script this time. “-going to enlighten our audience and tell them a little known fact about you, Heath. Since you graciously gave them one about me.”

“Fantastic,” Tobin said, paying close attention to Christen.  

A million things ran through Christen’s head. Things she could say, things she could expose. But she wasn’t cruel. She wouldn’t parade Tobin’s womanizing behavior in front of the audience. Tobin did that herself with the amount of women she dated in the building. Christen wouldn’t drag Tobin’s name through the mud for the horrible interaction they’d had three years ago. She would do something else though. 

“She’s left-handed, but if you irritate her enough, or push her buttons in just the right way, she signs something for you with her right hand instead of her left,” Christen said, her eyes on the audience and their captivated faces. 

Tobin let out a loud laugh at that. Christen wasn’t wrong. She wasn’t sure how Christen knew that, but she was right. It was a stupid thing Tobin did to kind of be a dick when people frustrated her or wanted too much from her. 

“And I’ll tell you one last thing. Since you’ve all been such a wonderful audience,” Christen continued with a smile. 

“Oh God,” Tobin mumbled, running a hand over her forehead and feigning worry. 

“She’s definitely not my morning buddy, but let’s give her a round of applause for trying so hard to be.”

A chorus of applause and wolf whistles and cheers echoed around the studio space as Crystal signaled to cut the cameras and the prompter. 

“And we’re out!” Crystal yelled. 

“What kind of basket would you like when they announce that I’ve got the job?” Tobin asked with a smirk. 

Christen let out an amused huff and got to her feet. 

“Since that’s literally never going to happen, I have no qualms about requesting something hand-woven and full of mini muffins,” Christen quipped, her fake smile dropping now that the cameras were off. 

“Hand-woven,” Tobin whistled, pushing up from the couch. “That’s a tall order, Press. They don’t pay me that much.” 

“They won’t pay you for this job, either. Best of luck in your future endeavors, Heath,” Christen said, turning on her heel. 

“Hey, Press,” Tobin called after Christen. “Maybe for the real deal we can color coordinate,” she offered, pointing at their clashing outfits. “I pop in all blues.” 

Christen simply rolled her eyes for the millionth time since Tobin Heath walked into the studio. 

Do you?” Christen asked mockingly, flicking her gaze down to Tobin’s blue button up and shaking her head before sauntering away from the staged set up. 

Tobin couldn’t help the small smile that slipped onto her lips at the way Christen responded. It was clear that Christen Press was the only person she’d met in a very long time who didn’t want anything from her. Hell, Christen didn’t want anything to do with her. And Tobin kind of loved it. 

Christen wouldn’t ask her to go to the most expensive restaurant for a date. She wouldn’t ask her for an autograph or beg her to FaceTime a relative who was a big fan. Christen was a breath of fresh air in a world that sometimes only seemed interested in taking things from Tobin. 

So, while this was a punishment and while Tobin couldn’t think of a more boring segment to work on, she was glad it was Christen. She was overwhelmingly relieved that she’d get to sit next to Christen, who hated her guts, every morning instead of someone who just wanted to use her for something. 

“I’d start looking for a hand-woven basket,” Crystal chirped, tugging her headset around her neck and fixing Tobin with a slightly pained smile, like she knew Christen would hate this but the decision was already done. 

“Awesome,” Tobin chuckled. “I know a guy.” 

Christen washed down the mediocre danish with a lukewarm cup of coffee as she occupied her typical spot at the large table The Emerald View team used for their weekly meetings. 

The news of Tobin’s hiring was still causing bile to rise up in her throat on occasion. It still had fire licking up her throat and frustration causing her fists to clench. 

She felt ridiculous and Crystal had even called her as much. But she had a right to dislike Tobin. She did . People who got a cheat code at life and jumped the hurdles everyone else had to go over were irritating and infuriating. People who rejected polite attempts at conversation and rudely snapped in response at you in an elevator were also irritating and infuriating. 

So, yes Christen felt ridiculous but she also continued to feel irritated and oddly angry. She had a feeling she’d be like this for the foreseeable future. 

With a sigh, Christen got to her feet and walked over to the craft services table. She refilled her cup of lukewarm coffee with warmer, still crappy coffee. 

“Good morning,” Tobin sing-songed, walking into the room with a huge basket of muffins in one hand and a box of bagels in the other. 

“Not anymore,” Christen grumbled under her breath, stirring creamer into her coffee and returning to her chair at the head of the conference room table. 

“Hand-woven as requested, Press,” Tobin grinned, placing the basket on the table in front of Christen. 

Christen looked from the basket of muffins up to Tobin’s annoying smirk. 

“You can sit over there. This end of the table is full,” Christen replied, sipping her coffee and pushing the basket away from her. 

“There’s no one else in here besides us and Omar,” Tobin responded, dropping into a seat close to Christen but not right next to her. “Want a bagel, Omar?” 

With another sigh, Christen let her eyes fall shut and leaned her head against the back of the seat, cradling the coffee cup to her chest. 

“Yo, thanks Heath!” Omar grinned, looking up from his notebook. “Feel free to ad lib today. You brought blueberry bagels,” he added, snagging a bagel from the box. 

“Will do,” Tobin laughed, pushing a tub of cream cheese toward him. 

Christen audibly grumbled at Omar’s offer, remembering how she’d only gotten the same offer from the writer after six months of hard work on the show. 

“I’d appreciate it if you would sit on the right end of the couch today,” Christen said through gritted teeth, hating the warmth she could feel coming from the woman next to her and the occasional whiff she caught of whatever spicy cologne Tobin wore. 

“Are you joining me on the couch?” Tobin gasped jokingly. 

“Larry doesn’t want us to come off as disconnected.”

“Larry’s an ass,” Tobin sighed. “You want to race to the couch to see who gets there first?”

Christen blinked her eyes open only to narrow them in Tobin’s direction. 

“Are we some kind of joke to you?” she snapped, her grip on her styrofoam cup tightening. 

“Be careful with the Styrofoam. I popped one of those in my mom’s car once, and she’s never let me forget it,” Tobin whispered. 

Christen let out a scoff and set the cup down with a thunk on the wooden table. 

“You can’t just come in here with your big brown eyes and your silly little anecdotes and ruin the good thing we’ve got. People love our show. We might not have millions of followers, but we have loyal viewers. We aren’t a vacation or a game for some washed up athlete to fuck up because she wants a thrill. Enjoy the coffee. It sucks,” Christen said, her words rushed and clipped. 

She pushed back out of her chair and marched around the conference table, settling down on the far side, completely opposite to where Tobin sat. She crossed her arms defensively, tried not to feel a little bad for snapping like that, and closed her eyes again, waiting for everyone else to show up for the meeting. 

“You catch the Storm game last night, Omar?” Tobin asked, completely pushing away Christen’s words despite how hard they’d hit her. 

“Bird was on fire!” Omar cheered as he finished adding cream cheese to his bagel. 

Tobin just nodded as her affirmations spun through her head. I am confident. I am smart. I am funny. I am kind. I am desirable. I am worth people’s time. 

“She played really well,” Tobin agreed. 

Crystal and the rest of the producers quickly filtered into the room, causing Christen to open her eyes and focus on the task at hand. It was easy to ignore Tobin, especially since that god awful basket with those muffins blocked her from view. She was able to sink into the familiar routine of Crystal going over the plan for their show for the next three days. And for a few brief moments, she was able to forget about the fact that she’d have to co-host a show she really cared about with a woman who didn’t seem to care about a thing. A woman she’d been ready to avoid for the rest of her life and career. 

“One hour until cameras! Talent, off to wardrobe please,” Crystal said as she wrapped up the meeting. “And please stick to the script today, yeah?” she added with a pointed look at Tobin. 

“Me?” Tobin asked, holding a hand over her heart and feigning surprise. “I would never.” 

“I’m watching you, Heath,” Crystal warned with a grin before moving out of the room with the other producers in tow. 

Christen got up from the chair and checked her watch, seeing it was only 5:07 in the morning. Letting out a soft groan, Christen rubbed at the knot in her neck and started walking toward the door. Early mornings for the morning show always felt early. But with Tobin now invading her space and her segment, it felt particularly early. 

“Sooo, I’ve thought long and hard about it-” Tobin started before Christen cut her off. 

“My allotted time to talk to you starts at 6:00. And not a minute earlier.”

“You don’t have to answer,” Tobin grinned, almost skipping to catch up to Christen. “You wearing blue today? I bet you’d pop in blue too.” 

Christen simply kept walking toward wardrobe, her jaw clenched and her hands stuffed into the front pocket of her sweatshirt. 

“I was thinking blue and green look nice together. Maybe wardrobe will let me have a say. I wanted to talk to someone about the orange couch too,” Tobin hummed, knowing she was getting under Christen’s skin. 

Christen pushed open the door to wardrobe, not bothering to hold it so it swung back toward Tobin’s face as she moved into the room. 

“Jess! I’d like to be in red today,” Christen called out. 

“Oooh, sexy,” Tobin crooned as she shoved the door open fully and followed behind Christen. “Who are you trying to impress, Press? Oh, that’s cute. ImPRESS.” 

“For the love of God !” Christen snapped, whirling around and narrowing her eyes at Tobin, something she was doing far too often now. “Give me five minutes of fucking peace and quiet. Please?”

“Jess, what compliments red?” Tobin asked, flashing Jess a big smile. 

“How does blue sound?” Jess asked, handing Christen a red pantsuit and a black, silk tank top to wear underneath it. 

“Awesome, you’re the best,” Tobin beamed, dropping down onto a chair. 

Realizing her request for peace and quiet would go unheeded, Christen snatched her clothes from Jess and moved into the small changing room, pulling on the red pantsuit and slipping into a pair of heels before emerging once more. 

“Got another shade? I think this red is a little bright for me,” Christen said, fiddling with the sleeves of the blazer. 

“I don’t know. I like it,” Tobin smirked. 

“I’m not talking to you. Actually, it’s safe to assume that unless we’re on camera, I’m never talking to you,” Christen replied coolly, looking at Jess expectantly. “I feel like Heat Miser. I was hoping for a maroon.”

“Great movie,” Tobin said, drumming her fingers against the sides of the chair. “Can I be Snow Miser?” 

With her fourth eye roll so far this morning, Christen shucked off the suit jacket and dropped it into Jess’s hand, leaving her in a thin, silk black tank top. 

“Maroon, please. And yellow or purple also looks great with red, so feel free to put her in orange or green or anything that doesn’t look good,” Christen said with a smile for Jess. 

“You ever thought about wearing just the slip? That might up the ratings,” Tobin smirked, very aware that she was being a dick. 

Christen leveled Tobin with a bored look, her hands on her hips as her mouth remained pressed into a thin line. She wasn’t going to even dignify that with a response. 

“You’re a pilates person, aren’t you?” Tobin pressed, offering a quick thank you when Jess handed her a navy blue turtleneck sweater and some black dress pants. Without hesitation, she swapped her sweatshirt out for the turtle neck, used to changing in front of people because of all of her time spent in locker rooms. 

Christen’s bored expression never faltered as she slipped on the maroon suit jacket and took the matching pants from Jess. 

“You look like Fester,” Christen deadpanned, spinning on her heel to go back into the dressing room to change pants. 

“He’s the best Addams,” Tobin countered, shucking off her joggers and leaving herself in only boy shorts. 

“He’s an idiot who should have trusted his instincts instead of marrying the first woman who made him feel something below the belt,” Christen replied through the closed changing room door. 

The comment was innocent enough, but it had Tobin clenching her jaw tightly and forcing her brain to sink back into affirmations. If she tried hard enough she could be in Dr. Colter’s office with sun streaming into the room and plants lining the window sill. 


I am confident. I am smart. I am funny. I am kind. I am desirable. I am worth people’s time. 


It didn’t work. 

She yanked on the dress pants, dumped her own clothes on the chair she’d been sitting in and left the room, only stopping for a moment to grab the Chelsea boots Jess held out for her.  

The slamming of the door startled Christen enough to peek her head out of the dressing room. Not seeing Tobin there anymore, she grinned. 

“I should have talked about Fester a while ago,” she chuckled to herself, leaving the dressing room in the maroon pantsuit and enjoying the merciful silence in Tobin’s absence. 

“Make sure you get my nose,” Tobin grinned as she overtly flirted with the makeup artist who was touching up her makeup before the show. 

“I have gotten it,” the makeup artist, Stella, giggled, moving her brush up to Tobin’s nose and playfully swiping across it. 

“Maybe I just really want to keep you here,” Tobin whispered, winking as she spoke. 

Stella blushed and picked up the mascara. “Hold still or you’ll mess me up,” she whispered back, leaning in close. 

“I can hold you still,” Tobin chuckled, putting a hand on Stella’s hip. 

“That’s messing me up too,” Stella admitted with a blush, swiping mascara onto Tobin’s eyelashes with a concentrated pout playing at her lips.

“I’m sorry,” Tobin said innocently, squeezing Stella’s hip once and then letting go. 

“I didn’t say you had to stop,” Stella flirted with a smirk, starting to add mascara to Tobin’s other eye. 

Tobin let out a laugh and then put both of her hands on either hip. “I’ll keep you really steady.” 

A few moments later, Christen rounded the corner and couldn’t stifle her fifth eye roll. 

“Stella, your boyfriend probably wouldn’t love this situation you’re in. And I happen to like Omar. He’s a good writer and we’d hate to lose him,” Christen sighed, shaking her head at Tobin’s hands splayed across Stella’s back, skirting dangerously low. 

“I was just helping,” Tobin said, holding her hands up defensively. 

“Sure you were,” Christen huffed, dropping down into the free chair to Tobin’s left. “Day two and you’re already causing issues. Unsurprising.”

“I was just being friendly, Press,” Tobin scoffed. “Maybe if Stella had told me about Omar I would have asked him to hold her steady.” 

“You were being friendly. I was flirting shamelessly,” Stella shrugged, stepping away from Tobin with a smile. “Omar knows you’re on my list.”

“Oooh I love a good list,” Tobin smirked, pushing her hand through her hair to tousle it. 

Christen covered her face with her hands and wished to be anywhere else, with anyone else. She stifled her growl behind her hands. 

“You’re at the top of mine,” Stella winked, moving over to Christen after pulling the cover out of the neck of Tobin’s sweater so no makeup got on her clothes.

Tobin stood up and walked around to look at Christen. She put her hands on Stella’s hips as she smirked at Christen. “I think she’d look great with some blue eyeshadow.” 

“Go flirt with another woman on the studio floor,” Christen dismissed, tucking a napkin in the neck of her suit jacket as Stella started to put foundation on her. “Or better yet, just go. Literally anywhere else.”

“Stella’s at the top of my list, though,” Tobin teased before she stepped away from both women and wandered away to find a water bottle. 

Stella’s blush was obvious as she continued to apply Christen’s makeup. 

“She’s not worth the heartbreak, honey,” Christen advised with a click of her tongue. 

“Agree to disagree,” Stella laughed, digging in her makeup bag for Christen’s preferred mascara. “I don’t want her near my heart enough to break it. That’s all Omar’s. I just want to know if the rumors about her in bed are true.” 

“What do the rumors say?” Christen asked curiously. 

“I’ve heard she’s quite the giver, and I’ve also heard she keeps up with her training just for endurance in bed,” Stella whispered as she worked. 

There it was, the usual flash of irritation. Tobin Heath and irritation were basically synonymous for Christen now. They had been for years. 

“Enjoy yourself, then. Could we do more of a winged eyeliner today?” she asked, changing the subject quickly. 

“Sure,” Stella nodded. “Who are we impressing today?” 

“There’s never anyone you need to impress more than yourself,” Christen replied, closing her eyes and letting Stella get to work. 

Ten minutes later, she had her makeup done and she was floating across the studio space, shuffling through some notes on the general direction for the show today. She was so engrossed in the papers that she didn’t notice someone occupying her end of the couch. 

She sat down, hitting pants and legs instead of the velvety cushion. She immediately yelped and ungracefully pivoted onto the cushion to the left. 

“Who am I? Mia Thermopolis?” Tobin teased, her eyes crinkling as her smile grew. 

Christen groaned and scooted as far away from Tobin as humanly possible on the couch, her attention dropping back to the papers in her hand as an embarrassed flush crept up her neck. 

“That’s my spot,” she grumbled, trying to focus on the words on the papers in front of her. 

“Why an orange couch?” Tobin asked, bouncing up and down on the cushion. 

“Not my call,” Christen replied distractedly. “It was here when I joined Steve and then it was still here when Tiffany replaced Steve. Now…it’s here for you too, I guess.”

“Steve was gross,” Tobin sighed, rolling her head a few times to loosen her neck. 

“Mhm,” Christen hummed, suppressing a small yawn as her eyes glazed over at the sight of another…normal program. No news. Nothing world changing. Just weather and commentary on the awards shows coming up. 

“Do we have to talk about recipes?” Tobin asked, peeking over at the papers Christen was holding. 

“Mhm,” Christen hummed again, angling the papers away from Tobin’s gaze. 

“What about like…that oil spill in the gulf? Is that worth mentioning?” Tobin asked, raising an eyebrow in Christen’s direction. 

“24/7 Breaking News covered it as it was happening. We don’t really do that on this show,” Christen managed to reply, her jaw tightening again and making the throbbing in her temples get a little worse. 

“Oookay,” Tobin hummed, beginning to tap her feet on the studio floor. “So we’re like…people’s breather. We bring joy.” 

“I bring joy. You bring whatever it is you’re selling at the moment,” Christen replied swiftly, stacking the papers and handing them off to a production assistant with a smile. 

“You think you’ll ever get tired of this?” Tobin asked, gesturing between the two of them. 

Christen looked from Tobin’s outstretched hand up to her brown eyes. 

“I’ve been tired of you. This is exhausting, and frankly, not what I wanted. Any other questions, Heath?” 

“Have you seen a doctor?” Tobin asked with a tiny smile on her lips. 

“Excuse me?” Christen countered with a dangerous narrowing of her eyes. 

“The stick is probably really uncomfortable. I’m sure a doctor would be willing to help,” Tobin smirked, flipping an arm over the back of the couch. 

Christen’s entire body tensed as she prepared to hurl something equally hurtful and painful back. 

“You are such a little-”

Crystal clapped her hands and gave both Tobin and Christen bright smiles, ignoring the tension between them. 

“Thirty seconds, team! Go razzle-dazzle them!” she said before flitting off. 

“Do you need an extra pillow to sit on?” Tobin asked, smiling even bigger. “That might help.” 

Christen didn’t stoop to Tobin’s level. Instead, she silently flipped Tobin off and then prepared for the start of the show like she always did. 

She closed her eyes, mumbled the words she always did, and then clicked her heels once, the noise of the crew getting ready to start the broadcast fading into the background. 

Crystal counted down, the lights dimmed, and then the cameras rolled. The jingle played, the lights came up, and Christen beamed at Camera Two. 

“Wake up and-”

“Smell the coffee, Seattle. It’s time for The Emerald View, ” Tobin interrupted, her smile now megawatt. “I’m Tobin Heath, and this is my co-host-”

“Christen Press. I’m not used to going second, so, better not get used to first, Heath,” Christen quipped, her look one of warning as she glared over at Tobin with a fake smile on her face. 

“I thought since it’s my first day, you’d cut me some slack,” Tobin winked, soaking up all of the hatred Christen was shooting her way. 

“It won’t be your first day for long. So soak up the slack,” Christen replied smoothly, her eyes moving back to the teleprompter. “And the sun. We’re expecting a nice heatwave this weekend. Unseasonable for this time of year. What’ll you do with the sunshine?” she asked, managing to sound somewhat genuine as she read the question off the prompter. 

“I’m definitely planning to play a few pick-up games and then go out with friends,” Tobin said, reading off the teleprompter and holding back an eye roll. 

“Of course you are. Since you’re such a giver ,” Christen said before she could stop herself. She cleared her throat and then read from the teleprompter. “I know you didn’t ask, but I’m planning to head to the art walk downtown with my sunshiney days.”

“That’s the annual fall festival. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday this week between 9:00AM and 5:30PM. Chris, I didn’t even know you were into art,” Tobin added, turning away from the teleprompter and Crystal’s warning look. 

“That’s because we don’t know each other,” Christen hummed, pointedly keeping her attention off of Tobin. “The best thing about the fall festival-”

“Isn’t it funny that people work in the same building for years and don’t know each other until they share a couch?” Tobin asked, interrupting Christen. 

“It’s hilarious in fact. I’m howling on the inside,” Christen deadpanned. 

“You seem thoroughly amused,” Tobin chuckled. “I gotta say, your sense of humor is one of the things I appreciate most about you.” 

“I wasn’t aware we were at the appreciation stage of our couch-ship,” Christen quipped with an arched brow, now turning away from the teleprompter as well. 

“I move quickly. You know what they say about U-Hauling when you share a couch on day one,” Tobin replied, ignoring Crystal who was clearing her throat off screen. 

“The U-Haul breaks down on the highway and the couch-ship never recovers? The matching flannels are held hostage by one of us while the shared fanny pack and favorite granola are held for ransom by the other?” Christen wondered dryly. 

“Well, you’ve got this all planned out. I call the flannel,” Tobin smirked. “Speaking of road trips,” she moved on, still ignoring the teleprompter. “I know you were planning to go to the beach before the big oil spill. You and I were talking about that earlier, and I guess I just wanted to know your take on it all.” 

“Umm-” Christen faltered, her easy facade slipping as Tobin completely threw her for a loop. She uncrossed and recrossed her legs as she fidgeted on the couch. “The oil spill?”

“Yeah, the one down south. I guess it’s hard to keep track when there seem to be so many lately,” Tobin sighed. 

“Too many. The one off the coast of Southern California yesterday released thousands of gallons of crude oil into the coastal waters,” Christen replied, uncertainty coiling in her stomach as Tobin moved them away from their snarky rapport and the boring teleprompter. “But we should really talk about the sculpture booth at the art walk. They’re a local artist who tries to capture the beauty of the world around them in the clay and stone they work with.”

“I’m all about capturing beauty in the world, since most of our natural beauty is being polluted,” Tobin responded, giving Christen an out along with an opportunity to talk about something actually important. 

“How do you capture beauty?” Christen wondered, her appraising gaze locked on Tobin. 

She reminded herself this was an act for the camera. Tobin was selling the good co-host act. Tobin was selling it well. It didn’t mean anything that she’d brought up oil spills or seemed to genuinely mean what she’d said just now. 

So, even if it was just an act, she acted right alongside Tobin. 

“Well, I used to capture beauty on the pitch. I liked entertaining people. Now, it’s beauty in art and in recognizing natural beauty as well as other artists’ beauty. That’s why I’m so excited about the art festival and also so disheartened about the spill.” 

“Somehow, I’m going to wind up running into you at this art walk, aren't I?” Christen sighed, a polite half-smile on her face. 

“We could carpool,” Tobin offered with a beaming smile. 

“You wouldn’t fit on the back of my Triumph Bonneville,” Christen quipped, her half-smile still in place. 

“What if I hold on really tightly?” Tobin countered, her voice definitely flirty. 

Christen pretended to think about that, pursing her lips. 

“Sorry, still no,” Christen replied, an amused sparkle in her eye. 

“I’ll have to bring you another muffin basket, won’t I?” Tobin asked, knocking her knee into Christen’s. 

Christen stifled an eye roll and looked back to the teleprompter. 

“You wondering where she got those mini muffins? Stay tuned after these commercials,” Christen said with a smile. 

“Aaand we’re out!” Crystal called, signaling for a quick change of camera angles. “Back on in twenty!”

Christen turned her head to glare at Tobin, waving off water from an intern. “What happened to no deviations from the teleprompter? What the hell was that about the oil?”

“You deviated first,” Tobin scoffed. “I’m a giver ? What does that even mean?” 

“Really? You’re going with the ‘you did it first’ defense?” Christen shot back, ignoring the giver comment. “How old are you?”

“You can’t seriously tell me that you aren’t bored to death,” Tobin whispered for only Christen to hear. 

“This morning show matters to a lot of people. So I grin and bear it and talk about art walks. You should too,” Christen hissed. 

“Fine,” Tobin huffed, leaning back against the couch and crossing her arms. 

“Such a child,” Christen grumbled, pinching the bridge of her nose as she leaned into the couch cushion. 

“Ten seconds and we’re back!” Crystal yelled, a chaotic rush of people milling about the studio space. 

“Stick to the script, Heath,” Christen sighed, her eyes closed. 

“Yes, ma’am,” Tobin groaned, tousling her hair again. 

“And don’t flirt with me. It just makes me dislike you more.”

“I’d never flirt with you,” Tobin insisted, making a face at the idea. 

“What if I hold on tightly?” Christen quoted, dropping her hand and arching a brow in an accusatory manner in Tobin’s direction. 

“Sweetie, you wouldn’t be able to,” Tobin smirked, clearly unable not to flirt despite knowing it was a stupid idea. 

Christen wasn’t like the women she wined and dined. She couldn’t just shut off the flirting. Christen was just a little too confusing and challenging and annoying. 

“I’m not usually the one who needs to hold on,” Christen shrugged, sitting up right as Crystal finished the countdown, her typical camera-ready smile on her face. 

“Must be taking home the wrong people,” Tobin muttered, her hand covering the mic on her collar. 

The rest of the show went exactly how it started. 

Tobin deviated from the teleprompter. Christen deviated from it as well. They got more caught up in bickering and bantering about the topics at hand then actually reading the words written for them. 

But by the end of the hour, it hadn’t been mind-numbing or cringey to watch. The entire crew, Crystal included, were a little enraptured with the display on the orange couch. 

“I disagree,” Christen said with a shake of her head as she gestured at the basket of muffins one of the interns had rushed onto the set after their second commercial break. “The best muffin was definitely the Apple streusel or the pumpkin.”

“Are you kidding me? Double devil chocolate is superior. That’s why I put double the amount in there,” Tobin huffed, taking a bite of the muffin she liked best. 

“That’s also why you should have grabbed more napkins. You’re wearing half of the double devil chocolate,” Christen replied breezily before looking at the camera for her typical sign-off. “Grab that next cup of coffee, Seattle. It was a pleasure to share our morning with you. See you tomorrow.”

“Bye,” Tobin mumbled through her mouthful of muffin, her hand moving into a shaka sign. 

“Cut!” Crystal shouted, causing Christen to let out a bone deep sigh. 

“Thank fuck,” she grumbled, dropping her face into her hands as a flurry of activity filled the studio space. 

“You’re not supposed to eat in wardrobe,” Jess sighed, getting a sheepish smile from Tobin as soon as Jess said the words. 

“But Press took a bite,” Tobin mumbled, swallowing the last bit of muffin and then trying to brush the crumbs off of the clothes. 

“I don’t make a mess of things,” Christen huffed, getting to her feet and fixing Tobin with a look. “I’d suggest clearing your afternoon.”

“What? Why?” Tobin asked, holding her arms out while Jess wiped at her sweater. 

“Larry’s going to chew us out for that,” Christen pointed out, already feeling the throbbing in her head deepen into an ache behind her eyes and in her temples at the thought. “He’ll probably do it soon. By noon at the latest.”

“I’ll send him a basket too,” Tobin grumbled, finally having enough. She pulled the sweater off and handed it to Jess, leaving her in just a sports bra. Tobin stalked out of the studio and toward wardrobe, intent on getting into her joggers as quickly as she could. 

Christen and Tobin rode the elevator together up to the executive level offices. Christen busied herself on her phone, not bothering to offer Tobin a second glance or a barbed word. Doing it for an hour at 6 AM had been plenty. And she was painfully reminded of the last time they’d shared an elevator, her stomach full of knots as they climbed higher and higher. 

They stepped out of the elevator and were led to Larry’s office, finding it empty. 

“Have a seat. He will be right in,” his assistant said with a warm smile before leaving the two women alone. 

With a heavy sigh, Christen dropped into one of the two office chairs, preparing for the inevitable. She figured her three-year tenure on the morning show would keep her safe, but she had a feeling that stunt this morning would cost Tobin her job. She felt a small kernel of guilt for that, but she didn’t let the kernel grow. 

“This was a treat. Truly. I hope you’re happy wherever you end up,” Christen said, her focus still on her phone as she scrolled through Twitter. 

“Did I like…run over your dog or something?” Tobin asked, slumping low in her own chair and looking over at Christen. 

Christen met Tobin’s gaze with her brows knit and her lips parted in shock, scandalized at the question.

“That is not an appropriate comparison to make,” Christen chastised. 

“You’re acting like I murdered your favorite dog in cold blood,” Tobin repeated, lounging now so that her sneakers were pushed up against the base of Larry’s desk. 

“Take that back ,” Christen scoffed, offended for hypothetical dogs everywhere. 

“What did I do? Did I sleep with you and forget?” Tobin asked, moving her lips into a smirk. If Christen hated the persona she embodied during the day, then Tobin might as well really sell it. They’d probably be fired and never have to see one another again anyway. 

Christen suffered through another eye roll. “Yes, Tobin. We totally slept together and that’s why I can’t stand to be near you and your colossal ego,” she replied sarcastically. 

“I don’t think so. If we’d slept together, you’d definitely be nicer to me,” Tobin grinned, now tapping her toes against the wooden desk. 

“Nice isn’t the same as kind. And kindness is a two-way street,” Christen said quietly, rolling her shoulders and sitting up straighter in the chair. 

“I’ve been nothing but kind to you. I bought you muffins and a ridiculously expensive basket,” Tobin huffed, dropping her head back against the back of the chair. 

“Those aren’t acts of kindness. Those are simply nice, surface-level acts meant to buy my good graces,” Christen pointed out with a shake of her head. 

Thankfully, she was saved from saying anything else by Larry walking into the office. 

“You two!” he grumbled, his face drawn in anger. He dropped heavily into his desk chair and glowered at the two women. “I only have one thing to say about your little display this morning.”

“I will pull all my cards and get your kid a FaceTime call with Messi,” Tobin blurted out, finally sitting up in her chair. 

Larry let the two women sweat for a second before his face broke out into a large smile. 

“Brilliant. You two were brilliant ! The network loved it. The execs upstairs loved it. Your chemistry? Off the charts. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it,” Larry grinned. 

Christen, once again, was having trouble keeping up with the sudden turn of events. She blinked rapidly, her forehead scrunched in confusion. 

“Brilliant?” Christen parroted. 

“Chemistry?” Tobin echoed, cocking her head to the side and looking at Larry like he’d officially lost it. 

“My wife has never, and I repeat never watched the morning show. No offense, Press,” Larry replied with an apologetic grimace for Christen. “But this morning she called me and sang your praises for an hour. Then my college buddy did the same thing for another hour. Then my mom, then my son. You somehow tapped into every age range possible, and we here at SNN want you to keep tapping.”

Christen spluttered and shook her head, planting her feet on the carpeted floor and leaning forward. 

“This has got to be a fluke, Larry! Unusual traffic isn’t uncommon. You can’t seriously be considering letting this…thing continue?”

“Chemistry?” Tobin repeated, still completely confused and floored at his first statement. There was absolutely no way anyone thought they had chemistry. Christen hated her, and honestly, after working with her, Tobin wasn’t crazy about Christen either. 

“Head back downstairs and start working with Dunn and Omar on this new direction for The Emerald View . Less structure, more chemistry,” Larry said with another large grin. “Keep up the good work you two!”

“Chemistry?” Tobin muttered to herself as she pushed up from her seat. 

“Enough with that stupid word,” Christen sighed, getting up from her chair as well. “Repeating it won’t make it any less weird.”

“You two are a riot,” Larry chuckled, making both women scrunch their foreheads in confusion. 

“Cute how you thought I’d get fired,” Tobin hummed as soon as the two of them stepped into the elevator. 

“Cute how a single word utterly shocked you to your core,” Christen quipped in reply, leaning back against the wall of the elevator, her arms crossed over her chest. 

“What? People thinking you and I have chemistry doesn’t weird you out?” Tobin huffed, arching an eyebrow and looking over at Christen.  

“Chemistry doesn’t exist. What people saw this morning was a well-acted ignoring of my dislike for you clashing with your inflated sense of self. We don’t have chemistry. We have a morning show,” Christen replied, squeezing her elbows as she tightened her arms across her chest. “Might as well try to make it great.”

“Never thought I’d have a morning show,” Tobin smirked, deciding to quit trying to win Christen over. “Mornings with Tobin, not just for a select few now.” 

All Christen could muster was a tired groan as the elevator took them back downstairs.